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10 Advantages of Cloud Computing for Engineers

The engineering sector is dynamic - the industry may boom, or economies may lull, or projects may extend well over planned deadlines. These fluctuations in workload also mean fluctuations in workforce requirements as your demand for manpower and resources shifts from project to project. These factors can dramatically affect your own budgets and personnel pressures as your company grows and slows to accomodate.

It makes sense then that you should have systems and processes that adapt and flex as your business needs do, without the walls buckling or bulging around you - and it is exactly this kind of dynamic business environment in which cloud computing can really shine.

Why move to the cloud?

Here are a few reasons why it’s time for engineers to build a bridge and join the migration to the cloud.

1. Stay ahead of the game

I know that the idea of updating or replacing long-standing systems can seem daunting. However, with technology moving at rapid speed, cloud computing allows you to keep your business ahead in your industry, without having to invest in expensive equipment or get your head around complicated systems. Cloud solutions give you access to the infrastructure equivalent of a large corporate company on a small-business budget, leaving you much better positioned for growth.

2. Software that scales its service to suit your business

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Cloud software can offer you incredible flexibility, allowing you to rapidly adapt your systems to support your current business circumstances. When you subscribe to various cloud services, you only need to sign up for the functions you require, and you can increase or decrease your use - and your spend - according to the demands of your business.

For example, Auckland-based engineering firm, Steelcraft, credits cloud computing job management software as being fundamental to supporting their company’s growth, “It enabled us to grow as a business. We would never have been able to grow as rapidly - going from six to eighty staff within two years. It would have been impossible to track and then invoice on our old system.”

3. Mobile systems that work wherever you need to

Accessibility will be a game-changer for your engineering operations. Being able to access your data and systems from anywhere, anytime, on any device, will undoubtedly lead to an increase in productivity in your business. This is because all your documents, client information and project collateral is available, wherever you or your employees are working.

Whether you are on-site, at your desk or away from the office, you can:

  • access and update project information
  • order supplies or request services
  • track time
  • input timesheets
  • pay bills
  • collaborate with colleagues

For example, Stilwell Engineering, an engineering firm based in London, finds this remote access invaluable - their financial director lives in Birmingham but can still log in to their cloud-based workflow and accounting software and see what’s happening in the business at any time, from wherever he is located.

4. Document Sharing & Storage

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Engineers often need to send or share large documents with colleagues or clients. However, the seemingly small task of compressing files can become a frustrating and time-consuming job for even the most computer-savvy of engineers. Cloud document storage options are a more cost effective way of storing and instantly accessing plans, product data sheets, sitemaps, instruction manuals and application specific information.

5. Full job visibility and effortless collaboration

Faster collaboration means faster decisions. With project-related documents updated in real-time, multiple stakeholders can efficiently view and evaluate changes, and expedite the decision-making process without unnecessary to-ing and fro-ing. This transparency reduces the likelihood of miscommunication, double-handling and errors, ultimately reducing man-hours and costs.

6. Job management in one place

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It’s time to ditch the piles of paperwork, double-handling of information and inefficient filing systems. With cloud-based job management software you can manage the whole process - from quoting, to costing and time-tracking, through to invoicing - in one place.

Andy Johnson, a project manager for Stilwell Engineering explains the value of using cloud-based job management software in their engineering firm - “Within our industry the value lies in effective project management of the job. The designers, the client, the builder are all wanting information and in WorkflowMax everything is in one place, so when the client calls we are fully prepared”.

7. Highly secure systems

Not surprisingly, the thought of handing the keys to your data over to another company may trigger alerts for you. However, it’s important to understand that providers build their business on a rock-solid reputation, and therefore it’s in their best interests to have highly reliable security measures. Economies of scale work to your benefit here; cloud software providers have the resources to invest significant money in ensuring their servers, data centres and connections are completely secure and constantly available.

8. Reduced overheads

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A 2013 study of 1300 companies conducted by Rackspace found that 88% of cloud users achieved cost savings, while 56% agreed that cloud solutions had helped them boost profits. Not only will you save on IT-related costs such as servers and cumbersome computer systems that quickly out-date, you’ll also reduce your need for IT support - 60% of the survey respondents said cloud computing had reduced their need for an IT team to maintain infrastructure. Providing that you select the right software vendor, you essentially have professional IT and software expertise available to you on demand to assist you. Most cloud providers offer predictable monthly costs based on the services you are actually using, and you are not tied in to any long-term contracts.

9. Real-time reporting

You know that crystal ball you’ve always wanted? Cloud solutions have the ability to offer you the next best thing. Real-time reporting through job management or accounting software takes the guesswork out of budget planning by giving you valuable insight to help you make more informed decisions to strategically drive your business growth.

For example, you can:

  • Identify where you’re making the most money
  • Find out who your most profitable employees are
  • See profitability across clients,
  • View estimated hours for a project against actual time
  • Add custom fields to create your own reports

This reporting can also give you the competitive edge “If a client comes back to me and says ‘I want a job report mentioning this, this and this’ - no one else can produce that report unless they are using software that offers real-time reporting” explains Darren George, director at Steelcraft Engineering.

10. Disaster Recovery

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Because your data is hosted on external servers, should your premises fall victim to theft, fire, flood, technology outage or any other unfortunate circumstance, business-as-usual operations can continue without disruption to you or your customers - a huge benefit for the deadline-driven engineering world. Many Kiwi companies made a move to cloud computing after the Christchurch earthquakes highlighted the business continuity benefits of using external servers.

Cloud-based software has the potential to revolutionise the way that your engineering firm does business. Through increased efficiency, speedy collaboration and effortless file sharing, you’ll outclass competitors and impress clients - all while reducing your own administration time. The ease-of-use that cloud computing provides allows you to instead focus on your core competencies, without the distraction of technology and operational hiccups, so you can get back out into the field.

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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