A Definitive List of the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing – Part 2

Improves cash flow

The capital investment you put into an on-premise IT infrastructure is normally based on a long-range forecast of what your highest computing demands will be. But what if, as they often do, the estimates turn out to be too high? Then you’ll have to bear with the huge depreciation cost or monthly amortisation of a grossly underutilised asset for the next couple of years.

That’s why a cloud-based IT infrastructure is much better. With its on-demand, utility-based pricing model, cloud solutions provide companies with clearer financial visibility. You spend on something you’ve already fully utilised, not something you only hope to fully utilise in the future.

How exactly does cloud computing’s on-demand, utility-based pricing work? Well, it’s really very similar to the way you pay for electricity. Let me give you an example. In Amazon’s EC2 cloud offering, consumers are billed on what they call a per instance-hour basis.

Meaning, if some of your servers aren’t needed at night and only need to run 10 hours a day, then you can stop those server instances when the day is done. When you receive your bill, ?you’ll be charged the cost of only 10 hours per day x the number of days those servers were operational.

The advantages of OPEX-based IT spending gets even better when we start talking about businesses that experience sudden spikes or seasonal spikes in consumer demand as in the case of retail, marketing, logistics and others. If you’re running any of these businesses and the demand shoots up ?say during the Christmas season, you can readily scale up your servers, memory, storage, and other computing resources to the required capacity. Then when the season ends and demand goes back to normal, you can just as easily release those resources that are no longer needed.

demand and capacity - cloud infrastructure

Compare that with a traditional IT infrastructure wherein you’d have to predict the highest possible computing demand for the next Christmas season and then build an infrastructure that can satisfy it. During the high months, your infrastructure may come out fully utilised. But what about the rest of the year after that?

demand and capacity - traditional IT infrastructure

Since cloud services are delivered and consumed on-demand, you’ll have more cash on hand than if you had invested in an on-premise IT infrastructure. That means more money to finance other operating expenses or other endeavors like Business Intelligence and analytics, marketing projects, sales incentives, IT innovations, store or office expansions, and many others.

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A Definitive List of the Business Benefits of Cloud Computing ? Part 4

Lowers cost of analytics

Big data and business intelligence (BI) have become the bywords in the current global economy. As consumers today browse, buy, communicate, use their gadgets, and interact on social networks, they leave in their trail a whole lot of data that can serve as a goldmine of information organisations can glean from. With such information at the disposal of or easily obtainable by businesses, you can expect that big data solutions will be at the forefront of these organisations’ efforts to create value for the customer and gain advantage over competitors.

Research firm Gartner’s latest survey of CIOs which included 2,300 respondents from 44 countries revealed that the three top priority investments for 2012 to 2015 as rated by the CIOs surveyed are Analytics and Business Intelligence, Mobile Technologies, and Cloud Computing. In addition, Gartner predicts that about $232 million in IT spending until 2016 will be driven by big data. This is a clear indication that the intelligent use of data is going to be a defining factor in most organisations.

Yet while big data offers a lot of growth opportunities for enterprises, there remains a big question on the capability of businesses to leverage on the available data. Do they have the means to deploy the required storage, computing resources, and analytical software needed to capture value from the rapidly increasing torrent of data?

Without the appropriate analytics and BI tools, raw data will remain as it is – a potential source of valuable information but always unutilised. Only when they can take the time, complexity and expense out of processing huge datasets obtained from customers, employees, consumers in general, and sensor-embedded products can businesses hope to fully harness the power of information.

So where does the cloud fit into all these?

Access to analytics and BI solutions have all too often been limited to large corporations, and within these organisations, a few business analysts and key executives. But that could quickly become a thing of the past because the cloud can now provide exactly what big data analytics requires – the ability to draw on large amounts of data and massive computing power – at a fraction of the cost and complexity these resources once entailed.

At their end, cloud service providers already deal with the storage, hardware, software, networking and security requirements needed for BI, with the resources available on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go approach. In doing so, they make analytics and access to relevant information simplified, and therefore more ubiquitous in the long run.

As the amount of data continues to grow exponentially on a daily basis, sophisticated analytics will be a priority IT technology across all industries, with organisations scrambling to find impactful insights from big data. Cloud-based services ensure that both small and large companies can benefit from the significantly reduced costs of BI solutions as well as the quick delivery of information, allowing for precise and insightful analytics as close to real time as possible.

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Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are flexible, inexpensive and easy to use. They are especially handy when it comes to beating report submission deadlines or making impromptu data computations. That’s why office workers, managers and even executives have made spreadsheets their go-to solution for such undertakings and more.

Spreadsheets have become so ubiquitous, that they’ve found their way into a wide range of applications including complex modelling, accounting reconciliations, market data analysis, work flow tracking and monitoring, analytical review and financial reporting.

Unfortunately, organisations heavy reliance on spreadsheets have made these User Developed Applications (UDA) into high-risk office tools. Simple spreadsheet errors like leaving out a negative sign or a cut-and-paste mistake have already caused million-dollar discrepancies. Also, when a fraudulent employee enters into the picture, the risks become unimaginable.

Think TransAlta?s spreadsheet cut-and-paste glitch (the company later called this a ?simple clerical error?) which caused the energy firm a whopping $24 million loss or Fidelity?s overstatement of its earnings owing to the omission of the minus sign on the spreadsheet of a $1.3 billion net capital loss.

In both cases and in many other similar spreadsheet fiasco, the errors played a major role in the organisation’s decision-making, leading to disastrous results including, but not limited to financial loss, shattered investor confidence and public embarrassment.

If these are scenarios your organisation can ill afford, then it’s time to ask yourself: Do the disadvantages of spreadsheets far outweigh their benefits to merit a call for total liberation from them?

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How Energy Management Software Benefits Your Business

We’re in an era of price volatility in gas and electricity prices, coupled with greater scrutiny on the environmental impact of businesses in their day-to-day operations. According to the Department of Energy & Climate Change, the average SME can slash its energy bill by 18-25% simply by installing energy efficiency solutions in their facility. 

Are you looking to improve energy use in your business? Prevent wastage, track consumption, identify opportunities to save on energy and reduce your carbon footprint while at it? It can be a daunting process to do it all manually. Taking those meter readings, preparing spreadsheets and combing through quotes and energy bills to validate them – this is not something you should be enduring in this day and age. Not when there are dedicated systems built for the task. That’s where Energy Management Software (EMS) comes in. 

Importance Of Energy Management Software

Wasted energy = Wasted money

Failing to improve energy efficiency is costing SMEs loads of funds, with it coming to between £5,801 and £12,109 of missed annual savings for individual businesses. These are 18% – 24% of their energy costs. Where do you stand?

Take timers and thermostats for instance. When not properly set and controlled, or even simply forgetting to turn them down when not in the room, it can easily lead to unnecessary costs. How often do your staff forget to turn off the air conditioning when they leave the meeting rooms? Do you account for weekends or bank holidays when setting the controls of the AC? Mistakes like turning the temperature high on the thermostat to “quickly warm the room” are common, yet heating costs go up by about 8% with every 1°C rise.

There are installations that you can make to minimize wastage. For example, the Chinese Contemporary Arts Centre in Manchester is able to save £4,363 annually just by having a £100 timer installed to its heating system. 

Some energy saving measures won’t even cost you a penny. For instance, did you know that you can save up to 30% of your heating costs simply by preventing cold air from entering the building? This means not keeping the doors just open for convenience. So how can you find points of weakness and areas of improvements in your facility? Install an EMS. 

While businesses vary from one industry to the next, energy management basically boils down to:

  • Metering systems where the consumption is recorded
  • Determining how much energy can be saved by identifying opportunities for this
  • Implementing policies and changing existing systems to take advantage of these opportunities
  • Tracking progress after the improvements have been made

 

Benefits Of EMS For Your Business

Data Acquisition – Where accuracy and reliability matters

Energy data comes from different angles and formats. From the building automation systems and IoT devices that have been set up, bills sent in by the utility company to the spreadsheets needed to analyse them – what if you had it all from one point of reference? The EMS gives you a “bird’s eye view” of all your energy data from one interface. It collects the data from any system – and being cloud-based, is accessible from anywhere in the world. 

The ecoVaro data loggers can be connected with the Wi-Fi network of the facility or function independently, depending on your specific requirements. They monitor readings 24/7, retaining the data even when they have been powered off. The end-to-end encryption assures you of the security of the information that is being obtained. 

Integrating the EMS into the existing systems will simplify the data collection process, and even for the cases where there isn’t a direct method transferring the data into the system, the setup wizards that come with the EMS allow you to prepare the required data and import it. 

Data Analysis: From consumption, energy leaks to areas of improvement

The first step is accurately collecting the data. The next step is making sense of it. The analysis modules with the EMS allow you to monitor the energy consumption of the facility in real-time. 

The energy data is displayed in engaging graphics that are easy to understand at a glance. The dashboard setup, with its customised layout, enables you to monitor the performance of the specific information you want, toggling through usage and savings data, to the meters and sites that are being tracked. With the ecoVaro Energy Management Software, you get Consumption Charts, Regression Charts, Cusum Charts and Heatmaps right to the submeter level. This information can be broken down into 15-minute durations, with the daily, weekly and monthly consumption reports. 

Getting everyone on board

Making changes to company-wide energy policies needs to have the different parties on board – from the energy manager in charge of crunching the numbers and presenting the information, the CFO of the business, the staff running day-to-day operations, all through to plant operators for those in industries. An easy mode of communication is needed, that will be understood and availed in reports that can be shared with the relevant parties in the organization. The graphical displays that come with the EMS enable actionable information to be displayed in a simplified manner – that way all members of the business or organization will be able to comprehend it. 

Meet your Energy Goals

The baseline that is created in the EMS is used as a standard when assessing the impact of future changes to the energy consumption. Using the information that has been obtained, the management can set up energy saving policies and implement changes, and track KPIs (key performance indicators) along the way. For instance, the market research company DJS Research installed a timer switch that turns off their two water coolers when they aren’t in use. This action saves them £144 annually, and had already paid for itself within 35 days.   

You will be in a position to assess the actions that provide your business with the best ROI over time, monitoring the progress and verifying the savings from one central dashboard. Cutting costs here will enable you to divert the funds to other areas of your business, including promotions, marketing, and product development.

For businesses in the energy sector- including electric, oil and gas plants, they specifically need carbon emission reports, to pinpoint areas where the building’s energy efficiency can be improved. ecoVaro EMS allows you to set alarms and KPIs in the facility for issues to be identified and resolved immediately they crop up. 

Turn to ecoVaro

EMS systems are used across the board – from optimising energy use in hotel rooms and hospitals, mapping out usage patterns for those in the agriculture and supply chain niches, running facilities for utility providers, all through to increasing the efficiency of equipment operation for business in the food and beverage sector. Want to learn how you can cut down your energy bills and make your business more eco-friendly? EcoVaro’s team is ready to get you started.

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