At the pre-drupa media international conference in Düsseldorf earlier this month, ‘the cloud’ popped up like a thought bubble in many of the exhibitor presentations. But just what is ‘the cloud’ and how does it affect the print industry?
An internet-based network, the cloud enables businesses to provide on-demand services, storage and other applications remotely – in ‘the cloud’. It’s the next big step in connectivity, whereby digital solutions are easily made available for consumers and clients to use and download, all of which are accessible via desktop-based and portable devices.
A quick canvas of friends and colleagues and it becomes clear that their knowledge of the cloud doesn’t extend much further than ‘storage in the sky!’ and a vague understanding that it’s the mysterious power behind streaming-apps such as Netflix, Spotify et al.
However, given the cloud’s growing popularity across the business world – in 2014, research found that 90% of businesses use some sort of cloud computing and that spending on cloud services is estimated to double by 2018 to $127 billion (£89bn) – it’s worth taking a closer look at how businesses, specifically those in the print industry, can benefit from a cloud-based solution.
The immediate and real power of the cloud lies in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which streamlines the supply-chain from software supplier to business to end user. Take web-to-print for instance; while buying print online has its obvious benefits for both print service providers (PSPs) and print buyers, in reality setting up an effective online store-front demands both financial and resource investment to get it right.
With cloud-based hosting, software suppliers can offer various software subscriptions to customers, whereby users adopt a license model with a lower start-up cost that not only reduces maintenance/administrative costs of the solution, but enables users to scale the solution up and down accordingly, modifying its functionality and so forth. Such flexibility is ideal for businesses that are unable or unwilling to make a sizeable initial investment in an ‘out of the box’ solution that may not fit their specific needs or budget.
While cloud services naturally come with their own set of challenges – from supplier capability and support, bandwidth and of course, security promises – there’s no doubt it will be one of the most-talked about trends in 2016, especially at drupa in June.
Does your business use the cloud? Tell us about your experiences below!