Most people believe they need to master “the cloud” in some way to prepare for the future. Truth be told, while everyone should gain an cursory understanding of technology, deep knowledge of how cloud computing systems work will always be reserved for IT departments. Instead, here are the best traits and principles of cloud computing systems that businesses should learn from.
1. Create a global system
In the past six months, we’ve gradually moved from working with a local server for our files to using Dropbox. We can now access and share project work regardless of physical location, device, time, or work environment. Shifting from a localized technology to a globally-enabled solution has drastically cut down time spent on unnecessary communication and manual synchronization – creating small-scale efficiencies is sometimes dependent on thinking globally.
2. Plan scalable solutions
When we recently created a new online research tool, we built it on a cloud environment. The tool tracks the online behavior of web users, and with a click of a mouse, we are able to expand its “capacity” to accommodate anywhere between 1 – 200 research study participants. Rather than having things like sample size dictating significant (and potentially expensive) maintenance needs, we made scale a part of our plans. Adaptivity, or the ability to respond nimbly to future needs characterizes successful companies.
3. Design fail-safe systems
Cloud computing systems often have safety features in place. Creating a fail-safe system doesn’t mean building something that never fails, but building a system that responds to problems in a way that prevents issues from spreading and does not affect other parts of your project. If a cloud system is getting close to overload or technological failure, there is likely a system of alerts and way to reallocate resources dynamically. This lets the show go on and makes problem solving much more straightforward.
4. Create systems that lower costs (and deliver more value to customers)
Integration and scale help drive efficiency – sharing a distributed, decentralized pool of resources bypasses creating and maintaining costly infrastructure. Additionally, cloud computing lowers barriers to entry: no major initial investment and less technical expertise is required to set up and participate in the system. Now shortcuts allow businesses of all sizes to become more competitive and deliver more value to their customers.
5. Learn to share resources
Cloud systems are designed to automatically allocate idle resources where they are needed most. Computing power is liquid and homogeneous, and constantly adapting systems direct the flow of resources to where they can be used most effectively. At the same time, many smaller independent processes can exist on the same physical machine. Organizational planning is meant to help with that; companies could achieve more if they found a way to effectively use each employee’s time by applying their best skills and resources whenever they are needed. Coordinating at the project level to share resources requires a degree of central planning, but the extra effort should be well worth it in efficiency gains.
6. Facilitate Internal Communication
Cloud systems are built with robust APIs (application program interfaces) that facilitate communication between discrete applications and servers. In a broader sense, cloud computing facilitates infrastructure convergence. Bundling multiple IT components (servers, data storage devices, networking equipment, etc.) into a single computing solution makes it easier to create efficient and robust computing solutions. The business lesson here: be ready to deploy cross-functional teams to a wide array of projects, and establish clear and open communication channels to take advantage of your specific mix of capabilities.
7. Monitor Performance
The performance of servers and applications developed in cloud environments can be closely monitored. Engineers often design systems that allow them to pinpoint anything that’s broken within minutes, even down to what application code is slowing down the system. Laying out objectives and measurable outcomes at the start of a project will help you guide efforts. But in order to be fast and nimble when executing any project, you need to strive for real-time measurement that enables insightful analysis about the performance of projects. This gives you fair warning when it’s time to upgrade your process to respond to changes and challenges.