A Complete Guide to Cloud Computing for Construction Companies
How to Evaluate Cloud Computing for Construction Companies
Successful construction project management requires attention to a lot of details, and that means that managing the technology to keep track of your information can become a full time distraction.
How can you manage your information, grow your contracting business, and reduce the amount of time and money you spend on IT administration?
Maybe it’s time to consider cloud construction ERP software.
You’ve likely heard that cloud computing has been growing in importance, but what is cloud computing and how can you leverage the technology to benefit your construction company?
Why is there rapid growth in cloud computing in the construction industry?
In construction, digital innovations like BIM, 3D printing, drones, AI, robotics, cloud computing, and mobile are driving a new era of productivity and providing solutions to some of the challenges faced by today’s contractor.
There’s a shortage of workers in construction, which has forced companies to look for tools to help their employees be as productive as possible. Additionally, the average age of construction workers is rising, prompting some companies to use the incentive of digital technologies in order to attract younger, skilled workers.
At the same time, projects are becoming more complex with new safety standards to follow and different materials in use. Contractors are looking for new ways to handle the changes in their industry.
Cloud computing is growing in usage because the technology has reached a level where it’s effective and favorable for the construction industry. The fact is cloud computing provides secure access to business data for construction’s remote workforce which is distributed among multiple projects. Now that there are powerful and affordable mobile devices available for everyone, pervasive wireless access, and highly sophisticated cloud computing options, it is the right time for contracting companies to take advantage of those gains and implement cloud based construction management software.
Cloud computing enables you to run software applications on stronger, more powerful machines and connect to your data using the internet, rather than at an on premise server. What that means in practice is that the labor and cost associated with maintaining company computing hardware and software would change from an internal responsibility to the responsibility of your software provider.
Here are 10 ways that cloud computing can benefit your construction business:
#1 Cloud computing is safe and secure
Security is likely to be one of the first concerns you may have when you’re thinking about moving your construction ERP software and your business data to the cloud.
Ransomware attacks and data breaches involving medical records and credit card information have focussed attention on data security. These news items are bound to create anxiety over the safety of your construction data, but these types of cybercrimes are relatively rare.
Now a majority of security experts says that cloud computing is actually more secure than holding your important business information on a server on your premises. The risk of successful hacking at a data center is lower than on a business server. Moreover, onsite data is vulnerable to physical theft or accidents such as an electrical surge or flooding.
Cloud computing also allows your contracting company a great deal of control over who has access to your business data.
Software makers should build security controls into their cloud based applications. Check to see that you’ll have the ability to control user access to sensitive data (like construction payroll), assign passwords, and send encrypted data.
There are multiple levels of security protection required of any cloud software company. Make sure your software provider follows industry best practices. Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the level of security between your provider’s data center and the internet? Do they meet ISO9001 standards or better?
- Is their data standard built to Tier III design, meaning that there is built in redundancy to account for routine maintenance, cooling, and equipment upgrades?
- Are they certified UL 2755 so that their data components are working together as a single system that’s ready for deployment?
#2 Eliminate costly compliance and maintenance costs
Maintaining and managing your IT systems so that they meet industry requirements is a complex process that takes away time and resources from your primary business. Most construction companies add to their IT infrastructure as they grow, and over time upkeep of legacy systems will grow more convoluted and provide less direct return on investment.
Additionally, contracting companies that work on Federal government projects are required to comply with strong security and IT standards as a condition of the contract, further stretching your IT expenditures and requiring more staff devoted to IT compliance.
With cloud computing, you can offload the risk, time, and costs associated with management of the systems that are critical to your business. In exchange, your IT team will be freed to focus on the best management of the data generated by your daily business.
Here are some benefits to moving your infrastructure maintenance to the cloud:
- Eliminate time and costs for IT management and upkeep.
- Offload repair and support for your outdated legacy hardware.
- Streamline internal IT efforts to analyze and capitalize on the data from daily business.
- Offload compliance risks to your solution provider.
#3 Make upgrades seamless with the cloud
Looking to the future, construction companies are taking advantage of new digital technologies and seeing benefits including long term cost reductions, increased employee productivity, and streamlined business process.
More and more construction companies now utilize powerful software to analyze project data and make their businesses more efficient. Rapid digitization has provided construction companies with a competitive advantage over old manual processes, but high costs for the maintenance of data and hardware can eat into your profits.
Construction companies know that reducing costs helps their business thrive. It makes sense for contractors to target spending on business areas that driver greater ROI. Instead of devoting financial and human resources to the management of your computing systems, you can shift your staff to data analysis and process management to make the most of your competitive advantage.
Moving to the cloud means you can transfer responsibility for much of your system management to an expert third party for a single line item expenditure. You can review your IT budget to see whether you could recoup some spending gains in the following areas:
- Data storage and service infrastructure.
- Backups, upgrades, and software maintenance.
- Security software and maintenance.
Reducing unnecessary overhead empowers your team to work with the latest, most up to date software and guarantees you’ll never run out of storage capacity for your critical business data.
- Eliminate performance monitoring and security management.
- Reduce overhead spent on unnecessary equipment.
- Re-calibrate human resources to managing data instead of systems.
#4 When it comes to safety, the cloud provides built in peace of mind
When you invest in digital technologies to help you improve your business, you want to ensure that they are always available for you. Your digital tools should be as safe and consistent as any tool in your toolbox.
There are risks to keeping your key business data in your office, including natural disasters such as fire or flood, theft, mistakes, and equipment malfunction. The COVID pandemic revealed the limitations of having key project and client data housed in your on premise servers when your key team members were working remotely.
Cloud computing ensures data redundancy so that your key business information is protected automatically and provides business continuity you can rely on.
If data recovery is necessary, built in system redundancy in the cloud ensures there is virtually no down time. Data centers are often housed in geographic areas less prone to natural disaster, so they are safe repositories of your critical information.
Costs for data redundancy and continuity are bundled into your computing costs along with everything else and you never have to worry about backups, or paying for backup and recovery services, which are specialized IT functions.
Here are some questions to ask if you’re thinking about moving your critical applications and data to the cloud:
- Does your service offer risk management?
- What is the rollback policy in the event of a problematic release?
- Where are the data servers located?
#5 Grow your data capacity at the pace that’s right for you
Most contractors are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and are reluctant to take on the extra cost of IT investments like increased storage until absolutely necessary. Cloud computing is flexible and scalable, which means you can add to your data storage capacity as you need it.
On demand scalability is an advantage for contractors and construction companies that have periods of relatively less business, such as companies that are driven by seasonal workforce or project changes. If your storage capacity is limited by the hardware and systems on site, your productivity can be limited, which might constrain your ability to finish projects faster and preserve your profit.
Scalability is also important for companies that are beginning to grow, whether they are growing organically or by acquisition. Instead of managing a sprawling server system, a cloud based system means you can simply purchase extra data storage as your system demands increase.
Furthermore, cloud storage frees you from the limitations of your legacy hardware systems, so that you can run the most up to date software applications to manage, analyze, and store the critical data you generate in your business. With a switch to cloud computing, you can use this opportunity to overhaul your IT system so that you’re working with the tools that provide the competitive edge you need.
More scalable data storage means:
- No up front investments.
- Increased capacity to create and manage libraries of your project materials
#6 Cloud computing is more reliable. Period.
Although there are occasional cloud service outages that receive a lot of attention in the news, reliability is one of the main reasons that construction companies choose to invest in cloud computing. Most cloud service providers provide Service Level Agreements that pledge 99.99% uptime.
Cloud computing offers a single, reliable way to ensure your database is available from the office and the field. That means that your software will work more effectively, efficiently, and consistently in the cloud, compared with an existing on premises solution.
Here are 3 ways to ensure that you get the most reliable cloud service:
a. To ensure the most reliable systems for your team, and to make sure you have a contingency plan in case you encounter an outage, you can and should work collaboratively with your hosting provider to plan, assess, and analyze the most critical processes in your business. Together you can design and optimize your cloud environment for your working conditions.
b. Working with your hosting provider, you can build out test instances and environments to account for additional reliability.
c. Ensure that your IT departments have a recovery backup plan (https://www.bobsguide.com/articles/where-are-you-going-to-go-when-your-cloud-goes-down/) so that no outage will severely impact your business.
#7 Cloud computing is more reliable. Period.
Construction is a mobile industry by definition. Each project is managed in a different location, meaning that the unique infrastructure of a project is assembled as the job progresses. With these kinds of complexities, how do you offer access to key project data to the distributed construction workforce, who have differing needs for software access?
You can transform your ability to connect and access your data with software solutions that are available and accessible in the cloud. That means you can benefit from access to onsite reporting without delays – allowing you to make critical business decisions more quickly.
There are practical benefits of managing your jobs using a cloud computing solution that’s mobile and accessible. For example: ensure the ability to line up key construction deliveries with important project milestones, or you can increase collaboration between your office and work site with mobile timesheets.
But cloud computing offers perks beyond the practical. With truly mobile, accessible construction ERP software applications, you can more easily extract timely intelligence like productivity figures or determine your profitability by construction stage. As well, with a cloud computing system there’s improved capability to store, share, and analyze data from anywhere with any device that can connect to the internet.
Because you access your data via an internet browser, your information will always be available at your fingertips. State of the art or Modern Cloud computing solutions are:
- Device agnostic.
- Data access on demand.
- Reliable, secure and truly available anytime, anywhere.
#8 Data storage in the cloud makes project preservation easy
Construction documentation is notoriously extensive. Contractors are using more digital technologies in construction including building information modeling (BIM) files, site photos, drone footage, and more, the data produced by every construction project is ballooning.
Additionally, storing and managing project data from past jobs can consume huge amounts of hardware space or physical filing space. Nevertheless, contractors are mandated to store documentation for past projects in case of disputes.
With an increasing library of data to manage, many contractors choose to move their data libraries to the cloud. Growing and managing large amounts of data is more feasible with a cloud based computing scenario than managing storage growth on your own premises.
Within the cloud, the key limiting factor for the amount of accessible storage is cost, although cloud data storage costs remain lower than traditional server hardware. That means that even if you’re not ready to adopt a full cloud solution, you can still reduce your costs by moving your oldest files to low cost data storage in the cloud.
Some construction companies with large content management data, larger payroll, or complex business workflows may need more data than others.
#9 No waiting, no lagging, just faster access to your data
Will cloud computing improve productivity?
The short answer is yes. Cloud computing provides better results in latency and speed, and that makes it an ideal environment for the distributed workforce and data demands of construction. Cloud systems are low latency. That means they are fast and can process a lot of data without delay. This is true even when data processing demand increases.
Efficiency is critical in construction. With faster communication and better collaboration, your projects will experience fewer costly delays. Instead of waiting for critical information to be delivered manually from the worksite, cloud computing solutions like Rendra’s StreamBIM make it possible to upload and immediately share project data, such as specs and measurements, building plans, and photographs of jobs in progress, to authorized users.
Any authorized person on your team will have instant access to the work data, which creates big time savings and ensures that jobsites and project managers are fully connected to the back office.
- Cloud based systems are automatically upgraded so hiccups related to outdated software are a thing of the past.
- Eliminate the need to regularly take servers offline for scheduled maintenance.
- Always access the best tools and latest releases, technologies and fixes so you won’t fall behind your competitors.
#10 Boost your competitive edge with cloud computing
In less than a decade cloud computing has become increasingly more important for construction companies in a rapidly digitizing industry. If you have been wondering about the right time to move your construction IT systems and software to the cloud, here’s a quick summary of the benefits you can count on:
Cloud computing means you can shift responsibility for management of your IT systems and instead focus on what you do best: your construction business.
With your hardware and software maintenance and management transferred to a third party, you can be sure that your IT system runs at high availability, and that your data is reliable, scalable, and accessible.
You work with subcontractors all the time because they’re experts at plumbing or flooring or cement work. In the case of cloud computing, you’re essentially subcontracting your data processing, storage, and applications to more powerful means. That means you can be assured that you’ll work with the most up to date, accurate information, and ensure your software tools are up to date and functioning ideally within your existing IT infrastructure.
Finally, contractors can improve their overall productivity and efficiency by using a transition to cloud computing as an opportunity to review existing processes and identify methods of streamlining their business.