The public has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past five months, but the experience of these past few months has forever transformed the way we conduct business.  

The pandemic has accelerated a digital transformation to cloud computing to meet the changing needs of our society. 

What exactly is “the cloud?”

The term “cloud” is used frequently, but what exactly does it mean?  In a nutshell, “cloud” is the word used to describe the use of hardware and software from a network, usually the internet. The cloud-shaped symbol is meant to convey the concept of an offsite infrastructure that enables the work of the hardware, software and computation remotely. Basically, cloud computing is computing running over the internet from a data center, not out of your office.

In the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded onto a physical computer or server in their building.  Now, cloud computing lets people access the same things through the internet.  The “computing” takes place on a remote machine.  Data that is collected is stored and processed on remote servers, called cloud servers.  The device accessing the cloud (the PC or laptop in your office) does not have to work as hard.     

With more and more data being processed in the 21st century digital era, it is too difficult for organizations to keep all of the data—information, programs and systems—up and running in-house.

Most people are already are using cloud services without even thinking about it.  They utilize a cloud system when they use Gmail, Google Drive, TurboTax, iTunes, Facebook and Instagram.  These are all cloud based applications, in which users send their personal data to a cloud-hosted server that stores the information for later access.  This is even more important for businesses that need to be able to access large amounts of data over a secure and reliable online network connection.   

Why the pandemic has accelerated the move to the cloud:

The pandemic onset quickly and unexpectedly shifted organizations to the use of a remote workforce with the mandated closure of offices and businesses.  Office closures were not the only disruption, however.  Government shutdowns and quarantines also created a spike in e-commerce, with more people buying more items online; home entertainment, with audiences no longer visiting public venues; and virtual health care, with more patients seeking online medical assistance.  Basically, organization and societal continuance during the pandemic has depended on cloud computing.  With many organizations being forced to make this adaptation, others are now contemplating this move because of the numerous benefits of moving to the cloud.   

The benefits of cloud computing:

Reliability – With your computing needs moved to the cloud, hardware is “virtualized” in a data center.  This system has fewer operational issues than other infrastructures.  It is consistently more reliable than your own on-location server.  This is because a cloud runs on its own servers through a company whose only job is to make it functional and bug-free.

Efficiency and cost – An organization using a cloud system will spend less money on server equipment and less on in-house IT expertise to maintain it.  A company using cloud computing can instead utilize the expertise of the cloud provider’s staff of professionals.  This comes with the added benefit of reduced energy consumption which lowers a company’s energy costs.     

Data Security – Cloud systems offer advanced security features and measures for cloud data protection. With a remote workforce, it is more secure to have data and applications in a data center than to have it on PCs and servers in a physical office location.

Compliance- Since all data is collected and stored in a central location it is easier, especially using apps available today, to comply with government regulations.  According to a survey conducted by the cloud-based marketing company Salesforce.com, 91 percent of those surveyed said the cloud makes it easier to meet government compliance requirements.

Scalability – A cloud system can adjust to the changing needs of the organization using it.  It can quickly and efficiently scale up or scale down in size and offerings with the change in demand.

Mobility – Users can access the cloud from anywhere.  Additionally, most cloud providers have a number of regionally located data centers, providing service and security in different time zones.   Users can connect to a virtual office and can connect anytime, anywhere.

Disaster Remedy- On premises servers are more susceptible to physical problems and damage like hurricanes, power failures and theft.  Another Salesforce.com survey reported that 20 percent of cloud users said they had disaster recovery in four hours or less, while only nine percent of non-cloud users were able to say the same thing. 

Control and Collaboration – You have greater control over and visibility of your data. You can see who is connected in the cloud more easily and facilitate much greater collaboration of users. The cloud allows for greater quality control because a business can minimize inconsistent reporting with all documents stored in one place in a single consistent format.  This allows for consistency in data, helps avoid human error and provides a clear record of document revisions and updates.

Agility – Developers can make frequent improvements to applications for their customers and then can deploy those improvements to customers during the course of the day.  This gives users access to automatic updates, the latest technology, upgrades to servers and computer processing power.

Competitive Edge- The cloud offers world-class enterprise technology, allowing business owners the ability to get ahead of the competition.  Basically, it gives businesses the ability to prevent problems that hinder on-premises systems.      

ScrapWare Corporation, a Maryland-based company providing software to the scrap metal recycling industry, has customers using both on-premises and a cloud-based software solution. 

After evaluating the advantages, an increasing number of its customers are moving to the cloud.

Joe Floam, founder and president of ScrapWare sums it up.  “Someone working at home for a company with an on-premises system has to connect to the corporate network or use a corporate desktop to do their work.  That’s a complication and expense for their employer because the company has to pay for and maintain all that infrastructure.  That complication and expense goes away with the cloud.  The cloud enhances reliability, flexibility and security.  Our customers can focus on their business and leave the infrastructure, platform and software issues to the cloud.”

ScrapWare Corp., of Rockville, MD, has been providing software to the scrap metal recycling industry for over 30 years.  ScrapWare uses an Oracle database to provide a cloud-based software solution to manage all aspects of a recycling business.  With numerous modules, extensive technical support, remote installation and online training, ScrapWare helps recycling companies with compliance, efficiency and profitability.   Check out ScrapWare’s website, read the user testimonials, and see its offerings for your recycling software solution.

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