7 Industries Which Can Immediately Benefit From Cloud Computing
Although we have touched on the South African cloud computing landscape in previous articles, many key industries have yet to adopt any sort of digital-facing strategies, let alone cloud-based ones. Right now, the world is navigating uncharted waters with so many people working from home that many industry-specific tasks have had to be moved remotely. From teachers conducting lessons over Skype or Zoom and using virtual blackboard technology; to healthcare workers working in tandem with content producers to create up-to-date, relevant information about the ongoing pandemic – there are a lot of digital assets flying about. HSC Systems believes that it’s not just small and medium-sized businesses which could be benefiting from cloud computing’s advantages right now. Cloud computing is a horizontal market offering, meaning it can apply across many different industries simultaneously and its benefits are immediate and far-reaching.
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RescueTime, an app which collects data about the applications and websites you use, and then generates reports on that information; published a 2019 Screen Time Stats Report based on data from 11,000 users. They found that on average people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones each day, and most people check their phones 58 times a day – with 30 of those times during working hours (probably a little less during school hours). This is a great deal of time spent on a phone and most high school students probably fall into the 20% of smartphone users who have daily screen time in excess of 4.5 hours. And yet, most high schools only have a website! No blog. No additional online materials. Nothing.
Now, this is alarming for a number of reasons, least of all being that when these pupils get to tertiary education institutes, they will be expected to make use of student portals, and send and receive emails daily – with the expectation that they had enough exposure to them in high school. Wouldn’t it make more sense for schools to start having more digital-facing strategies already? When the pupils are already on their phones so often and so consistently, it would only make sense for the education industry to capitalise on that. A dedicated school VPN where pupils can sign in with their student number, access class notes, collaborate on group work, hand in assignments etc. would work extremely well to prepare them for their higher education future. Universities and colleges usually get this right. But it could easily be started at school.
The financial industry has no qualms with using technology to its full advantage. Algorithmic trading where stocks and other asset classes are traded at such a fast pace by machines can have some dire market repercussions, such as when the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed 800 points in 10 minutes in February 2018. But this is a niche instance of the industry’s tech use.
As we mentioned before, cloud computing is a horizontal market offering. So, when we look at the benefits of cloud computing in the finance industry, we mean more along the lines of hosting operation-critical accounting software in the cloud, with automatic failovers and back-ups, so that there is no downtime. Not only does this decrease the risk of losing any important data, but because cloud computing already comes with features like high-security and 24-hour availability built-in, updates to that data are guaranteed to be accurate and instant. Day-to-day business transactions can be saved to the cloud immediately and inserted into ledgers using advanced API integrations so that once the books have to be balanced at the end of the month, it’s easier.
For the healthcare industry, the benefits are numerous and overarching. Firstly, cloud-computing lowers costs because it provides hospitals and healthcare providers with on-demand resources such as data storage and computing power, and they don’t have to pay for the hardware, maintenance or overheads. This frees up more space for hospital beds and other key technologies such as MRI and X-ray machines which take up quite a lot of room.
The second benefit is the interoperability between different hospitals. If you consider a community cloud deployment method, where a patient’s hospital records can be accessed by anyone with the right clearance. A doctor in Singapore specialising in neurology could consult on a patient based in Cape Town, just by simply logging onto the correct VPN and viewing the concerned patient’s files. No need for her to fly all the way to South Africa before she can make a meaningful contribution to a patient’s care. And since lifesaving is time-critical and highly collaborative, this is a key benefit for healthcare workers.
A third benefit, hinging on the above-mentioned interoperability between hospitals is that cloud computing allows all medical data, from patient files which were used in diagnosis, to files which were archived, to be analysed. Large datasets can be integrated quickly to make new discoveries.
Supply Chain and Logistics
The supply chain and logistics industry needs cloud computing more than most. The fact that trucks, planes and trains carry freight at all hours of the day, means that they cannot afford to have any downtime in their operations. With the advent of GPS systems, modes of freight transport are now being tracked throughout their delivery or courier journeys. This is particularly important in instances where deliveries are being made to individuals, such as the deliveries Amazon or DHL make. They need to know where the freight carrier is at all times, when the delivery or pick-up has been made, and whether there has been any problem en-route which could lead to lateness. The drivers, train conductors or pilots need to be able to log their details and whereabouts in real-time so that the company can have the correct journey metrics.
The insurance cloud poses many advantages for insurance providers. Firstly, there is a clear improvement in speed-to-market and business growth. Insurers have greater IT capabilities when using the cloud and can work on projects and implement them in a much shorter time than before. They can test, develop and scale services to meet customer needs in days, not weeks, as collaboration can happen between different departments on documents, simultaneously and across different geographical regions. Marketing can be more segmented and targeted to sell new services to relevant clients, and A/B testing can even happen at the same time.
Another benefit is reduced operating costs in terms of call-centres, as less staff will be needed because customers can be directed on-site using chatbots and other real-time, off-site resources. One call centre agent can manage multiple chatbot conversations at the same time, rather than the one-by-one nature of phone calls.
There are also better integration opportunities across multiple products and service offerings. If someone buys a new car, for example, they visit an accredited agent of the insurer, photos of the car are taken to make sure that it is indeed new, unscratched and undented, and those are uploaded to the insurer’s VPN immediately. No forms have to be filled out as the entire process is electronic. And the driver’s licence and licence disk will have been scanned to prove his identity.
The benefits of cloud computing for the legal industry may not seem as clear-cut as the others. What do lawyers do really? They compile documents, argue cases, arbitrate etc., so why would they need cloud computing? The key lies in the previous sentence. With all those documents and contracts flying around, the benefits of cloud computing become more pronounced: security, collaboration and availability.
In terms of security: not everybody can be privy to every detail of every case. The candidate attorneys and the partners cannot share the same oversight over a case’s major points, or else they wouldn’t be where they are in the company hierarchy. The partner will know the more complicated and serious aspects of the case, while the candidate attorneys follow her lead and do the necessary research. This research can not only be made available on the cloud, but it can be annotated and corrected.
This brings us to the second benefit, collaboration: now that the candidate attorneys have worked until 9 pm to compile the necessary information – the last push for them because the partner has to present the case at 9 am the next morning, she can’t really drive back to work to go over it. However, if she just logs onto the company’s VPN and finds the research waiting for her, she can prepare the case in the comfort of her own home, with her family and a cup of tea to boot.
Lastly, the benefit of availability: cases don’t happen once-off. It may take months for a matter to be cleared. This goes for the redrafting of contracts, especially expensive contracts like mergers and acquisitions. The documents created, at whichever stage, cannot afford to be lost. Cloud computing has many fail-safes for this including automatic failover systems and routine back-ups as created by the company and their IT provider in the signed SLA.
Non-profit organisations carry out projects which are large in scale, require a high-level of collaboration and coordination, and which work over multiple geographic regions simultaneously. There is nothing better than cloud computing to meet these needs.
For example, imagine an event such as World AIDS Day. It’s international, it has to happen at the same time, and it involves hundreds of people. How do you coordinate that sufficiently, for a good outcome? Well, as an organisation, you can have a secure VPN setup for all members, as cloud platforms have an impressive amount of storage on hand and can handle millions of people logging onto them simultaneously. Coordination can happen on multiple levels: by region of the world, within countries, and within organisational hierarchies within those countries. Efforts can be made to popularise regions with fewer members to increase the visibility of the cause and event. The avenues are endless. This is only possible through cloud computing.
The Key Takeaway
Now, if you work in any of these industries and are in a position to make any decisions which affect your IT infrastructure, cloud computing’s value-adds should be clear. What’s worse right now is that people are working from home, there is an increased need for all of these benefits because public face-to-face communication has been made illegal by most governments. The world is in lockdown mode, and whether you want to save a life, make sure deliveries arrive at the right place and on time, or simply save all the documents related to the merger of the two biggest pharmaceutical companies in your region – cloud computing is there to help. It should be a serious consideration – now, more than ever.