Last week’s post focused on research and networking, now that your foundation is set let’s explore the next step. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room … what the fudge is the cloud?
In the simplest of terms, the cloud is a network of servers, each connected to one another. Software and data are circulated across the network of servers and made accessible over the Internet. How you access your software and data remain constant, but they never truly live on one physical server in one location.
At this phase in the technology revolution, if a trucking software (Transportation Management System) provider you’re researching doesn’t provide cloud hosting options, you should probably cross them off your list. At a minimum, it shows they’re not very flexible, and unfortunately, it’s probably an indication they aren’t honestly committed to the future. All modern trucking software (TMS) providers should have a reliable, affordable, cloud option.
Until recently, one of the biggest negatives of moving to the cloud for trucking companies was the cost. However, prices have become more approachable due to increased competition for market share between major players like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. According to business cloud news AWS, Azure and Google have been intensifying their cloud price war lately. If a cloud provider can figure out how to offer the same level of services, only at slightly cheaper rates, than it will become the new standard for the logistics industry.
As an LTL trucking company, or trucking software provider, should you continue to invest in on-premises servers? In general, you should purchase more horsepower than you presently need so you can plan for future expected growth. Consider a new model; only pay for what you need, when you need it. The cloud delivers lower costs than you can get on your own because the usage from millions of customers gets aggregated in the cloud, creating higher economies of scale translating into lower pay-as-you-go prices.
Increase productivity and quickly scale
Your new IT resources (a server for example), are literally just a click away. This means you reduce the time it takes to make those IT resources available to your business from weeks to just minutes. This enables you to gain efficiencies throughout your business.
Re-Focus your IT on tasks that impact the bottom line
By moving to the cloud you can now task your IT staff with building new, revenue-generating opportunities that will increase your bottom line such as integrating API’s for carriers. Stop spending money to support and maintain a traditional on-premises infrastructure. Re-focus your IT on projects that differentiate your business, not your infrastructure.
Connect from anywhere securely
Logistics, by definition, is “the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations”. Logistics requires people to work within that flow, whether in the office or on the go. Your people need access to your system and data from wherever they are, at all times. When you run your trucking business on the cloud you can efficiently and securely access your systems, driving smarter business decisions from anywhere. For instance; LTL trucking companies can run their data entry, dispatching, invoicing, or accounts receivable from anywhere there is internet access. Nothing is dependent on office infrastructure or specific locations.
In the event of a disaster, the cloud allows you to quickly shift resources immediately. The cloud reduces operational downtime from hours or days to just minutes. This enables you to immediately mitigate the impact of a disaster. To achieve this same level of redundancy in a traditional on-premises environment, you would need to replicate your entire infrastructure (a herculean task, and enormous cost for any company). This obviously means you’re duplicating costs everywhere; in resources, maintenance and support.
Now that we have explored the advantages of the cloud, let’s review the disadvantage we mentioned earlier: costs. How can cost be both an advantage or a disadvantage? Two words, knowledge and trust. If you don’t have the proper knowledge, then you definitely need a lot of trust.
To efficiently operate in the cloud requires knowledge and a specific skill set. These skillsets are needed to configure your IT ecosystem in the cloud to get you operational. Additionally, these skills are also needed to manage and maintain that ecosystem, ensuring your network is optimized to deliver the greatest bang for your buck.
The cloud allows you to fine-tune your processes and allocate resources to mirror and/or prepare for workload events. This ability then allows you to pay for only what you need. If you’re not aware of your company’s consumption patterns, then you must trust your provider has your best interests in mind.
To use an analogy; think of your mobile phone data plan, do you pay for the data you use or the amount of data you might use? The cloud creates a very similar relationship. If you’re not aware of the “data” your company is consuming (weekly, monthly, annually), then you’ll most likely end up paying for much more than you need.
Next post we will discuss point 3 – Technology