THE BLOG
30/10/2013 10:52 GMT | Updated 30/12/2013 05:12 GMT

The Cloud - A Perfect Forecast

Named as one of the top five buzzwords for the last five years, the cloud is the latest technology to set the limit for digital-age online-service providers. Companies that wish to reach a higher degree of technological innovation and target a wider audience on the go, are willing to swap their traditional IT for this global phenomenon. With a little brain power on the team, it is an opportunity to get creative as well as save a bit of cash on unwelcome hardware costs.

The cloud differentiates in three ways from traditional hosting, as it is sold for the time the customer needs to use it, its services are flexible and accessible with nothing more than internet access. To get the complicated part out the way, the cloud has three categories - Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), with Amazon Web Services being the largest of this category, which provides full control to access the virtual server (API), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which supplies the provider's infrastructure with tools and software such as those engineered by GoogleApps, and finally Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the service provider is in full control of its infrastructure and data, so their interaction with customers is through a front-end portal. It is the vendor's choice whether or not they want to make their service accessible to anyone on the internet through a public cloud or limit their audience with a private cloud. If all this freedom isn't enough, the vendor can create a virtual private cloud within a public domain - conveying a Russian-doll network concept.

This virtual space for providing customers with a service they can reach from anywhere with a phone or tablet at a high-speed connection is cost-effective for vendors, therefore, more and more companies are switching to the cloud. In fact, latest research from the market analyst IDC shows that the public cloud market will grow by 23.5% annually to reach $107 billion by 2017. With business's innovation exceeding their efficiency, this is four times faster than the growth of the IT industry as a whole.

Taking this a step further, a European fashion brand made their technological expansion plans more manageable by compiling the expertise of the company's IT teams with CohesiveFT, overlaying the public cloud with VNS3 for better security, to create a protected virtual world customers would normally expect to access on their desktop. The brand built the first ever fashion social site and dressed up the shopping experience by providing in-store displays and devices broadcasting live events. As well as communicating on a global scale with partners and customers, with in-store retail and online catalogs users get instant updates from retail locations and availability of new products straight off the catwalk! Avoiding network disruptions and slow connectivity, the cloud was a perfect medium for transmitting the required size of the data and granting unique access to each employee and customer. Internal communication enhanced the workforce of 500 stores with video content and exclusive previews of ad campaigns, arming sales associates with excellent customer service. As a result of this radical adaptation, annual sales have pivoted to more than double of that in 2007 and stocks have nearly increased by 300% in the last three years. The proof is in the numbers.

To further exemplify the success achieved by welcoming cloud technology on board, Condé Nast, the high-end magazine publisher, has proved that the cloud is more versatile than we thought. Since its 11% investment into its client, cloud-based advertiser, Flite, president Robert A. Sauerberg has never looked back. The customer-focused strategy aimed for 'a more scalable, more robust set of digital offerings that meet our consumer's and marketer's needs.' Josh Stinchcomb, vice president for corporate partnerships at Condé Nast highlighted the need to tailor the service for marketers, as he said, 'We do a lot of custom advertising work for our clients,' and suggested that the cloud presents a 'balance between design flexibility and standardization.' The cloud provided Flite's online advertisers to have more freedom of synchronous customisation of text and image on digital ads that allows advertisers to arrange ads in accordance with their popularity in terms of clicks.

In light of the potential for many more IT-based service organisations, in a San Francisco conference with Silicon Valley technology executives this September, Dan Levin, co-founder and COO of Box (a sharing service that uses the cloud principle) is presented with a perfect picture of but one cloud in the sky for the next five to ten years for internet-based service providers. Among these, Evan Goldberg, CTO of finance SaaS provider Netsuite, forecasts that we will see some Fortune 500 companies adapt their entire IT system to the cloud, providing both competitors and customers with confidence of this being a legitimate third-party service. Further, Keith Krach, CEO of DocuSign, an electronic signature provider, views the cloud as positive money-saving measure, as it calls for no cost to keep administrators or operations specialists - to be replaced by developers to change the culture of corporations quickly with this innovation - something 'IT departments have a wonderful opportunity to embrace.'

As the cloud proposes a new means of correspondence, Tony Zingale, CEO of the social collaboration Jive Software, expects the use of email to die down. Zingale warns that 'investing hundreds of million' in cloud technologies for internal communications and analytics is a risky business, as 'when it comes to transacting with customers, partners, suppliers at the point of transaction, it breaks down, they're not trusting in cloud in a serious way.' As with most disruptive technologies, the faith of major players is a major factor for pushing forward a change and adapting better strategies. However, if time to adjust is the only cost, the cloud is well worth an investment.

Sometimes referred to as 'utility computing' due to its pay-as-you-use nature, cloud computing is, on the whole, efficient, convenient and economical for companies. With social media sharing options, company's marketing has the potential to enter their customer's hands, too. According to Gartner's research, 'could computing' is becoming a growing service, changing the infrastructure of flowing information under guaranteed security and unlimited access through an internet connection. With these benefits in mind, one may forget that the real service is not in the immediate technology, but the creators. Companies still need talent and innovation to make a service useable and relevant to the consumer, which calls for appreciation. The new system is an ideal motivator for the next computing generation and start-up organisations - we look forward to a safe flight.

Words by Nicole Stevenson for chloédigital - Fashion Technology London.