Commentary | IT Matters

Moving Logistics Technology to the Cloud Dispels the Fog of Uncertainty

Tags: Logistics I.T.

Joe Pampel, Consulting Director, Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture SunGard Availability Services, 203-750-8176

Cloud computing offers democracy to logistics and transportation providers, putting small and mid-sized providers on the same playing field as large global companies. With a strong technology platform, cloud computing can serve as a logistics company's differentiator for its intellectual capital and other critical information and data.

The advantages for logistics companies of moving to the cloud.

  • Cloud computing often is a more convenient choice because it isn't as complicated and as costly as traditional approaches when a company has its own hardware and facility for storing and computing data.
  • If a logistics enterprise doesn't have its own data facility, a cloud host again can be more affordable because the logistics company doesn't have to spend a lot of money establishing its own data center, buying IT equipment and hiring IT staff.
  • If a disruption or disaster occurs and a data facility is interrupted, a user's own logistics software also can be disrupted, which can prove costly. But a cloud host provider is responsible for making sure that its facility keeps on running should a crisis occur, with backup and other vital services minimizing or avoiding any expensive downtime.
  • The cloud can help logistics providers more efficiently run their businesses. By leveraging a cloud host's global network, businesses can more quickly communicate with suppliers, transportation providers and customers. This improves their delivery schedules, better manages their inventory and prevents last-minute complications. For global logistics providers, the cloud helps better manage chain supplies and export goods that are continents away.
  • With a cloud host, logistics companies also can gain assurance that their server needs will be met should conditions change.

It's cost savings that can prove especially attractive, especially in an industry such as logistics where profit margins usually are thin. With the cloud platform and the right software, users need only buy what they need when they need it.

It also helps that cloud service fees let logistics providers view specific tech charges so they can develop an adequate cost-plus system to ensure a profit margin for the services. It's also easy with the cloud to handle a user's needs as its business grows.

Many logistics providers have hesitated to move to the cloud, worried about losing control of how they service customers and about the safety and security of their data and operations in the cloud. Actually, the cloud can be more secure because, especially with a private cloud provider, more security personnel and capabilities are available to monitor continually for attempted breaches.

Here's some advice for logistics and transportation providers thinking about moving to the logistics cloud:

  1. Do a strategic analysis to determine what you can move to the cloud and what you cannot. Not everything is cloud-suitable. Determine what challenges you may encounter with software, applications and the platform itself. Determine your essentials and if they are a good fit for cloud computing.
  2. If you're moving to an outside cloud host, find out what the host can and cannot do for you. Ask lots of questions and request to obtain and see reports that deal with security and breach attempts, customer complaints, downtime, all fees and any regulatory matters it has encountered. Ask to see printed reports of successful disaster recovery testing. In other words, approach this examination from technical, security and regulatory compliance/data governance. And get references and check them.
  3. Prove to yourself that a prospective cloud service provider has thought through its resiliency and recovery should a crisis occur, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy that adversely affected many data operations in the New York area.
  4. Closely examine the cloud provider's fees and make sure you understand them. Some providers say their service costs a certain amount an hour but forget to tell you about more expensive services that "crop up." For instance, check to see if there's a separate charge to monitor network traffic and handle storage duties. Understand its service license agreement, which covers what the cloud provider does to reimburse you should it not meet its uptime and other obligations.
  5. Check to see what a prospective cloud host can do to help you migrate your data and information to the cloud. Does it have a staff that can help you move your information? The quicker and easier your move, the fewer chances for problems to emerge.

 

Logistics and transportation providers can gain a great deal from moving to the cloud. It can prove an instrumental resource that frees you to handle those initiatives you haven't been able to get to or you hanker to try.