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Cloud-based solutions for the construction industry – How do the applications work?

Unless you are an IT wizard or programmer, the actual workings inside cloud applications (the engines themselves) are going to be of little interest to you. The vast majority of people asking this question want to know what the solution is going to offer in real terms to the users and the organisations that apply them. When looking at how cloud-based solutions for the construction industry work, we can dig a little deeper into what the solutions offer and discuss the possible pros and cons.

Let’s start with the plus sides:

1. Virtual Linking of Construction Sites

Traditionally, status updates required visiting the people on the ground ‘to see for yourself’ the progress taking place. By utilising your cloud functions effectively, progress can be updated, in real time, by the staff on sites across all locations giving accurate and up to date information at all times, that links with your construction ERP platform.

This provides:

  • a constant real time status without the need to carry out physical visits
  • saving vast amounts of time
  • and can give the insights required to manage projects far more effectively from anywhere.

2. Increased Capacity for Data Processing

Extracting the most meaningful insights from a construction project demands that vast amounts of data are processed and interpreted. A powerful example relates to the capture of imagery from a drone inspection where the drone is capturing thousands of images and data (GPS coordinates and measurements) every second. This information is then fed into advanced software that is not able to function on a standard piece of computer hardware but can be sent to directly to your cloud infrastructure where the capacity for processing and storage is (to all intents and purposes), unlimited. Multiply that benefit across all functions and on-site data inputs and the benefits become exponential.

3. Protecting and Sharing Your Data

Regulations, best practice and commonsense dictate that documenting every aspect of a project along the way is essential.

  • When this data is captured locally to be downloaded and stored physically at a later date, a very significant risk of data loss or corruption is present.
  • By uploading this data onsite straight into the cloud, this risk is all but eradicated in addition to making the data instantly available to all stakeholders.

4. Enabling Meaningful Analytics

The development and evolution of cloud solutions can, on occasion, require the users to expand and evolve their thinking and practices. By removing the restrictions of data handling, huge files can be accessed and evaluated from remote locations as the processing power of the device used is not restricted by the capacity of the software and applications that are in the cloud.

As with many aspects of cloud for construction, there is no requirement to physically relocate to base to run analytics and comparisons as all the data and processing power is available in real time, from anywhere in the world (provided you are authorised to access it of course).

We mentioned at the outset that considering the cons is an important aspect in making an informed decision. In reality, however, the potential cons are frequently based on misunderstanding or, dare I say it, slightly outdated thinking related to data solutions and data handling.

1. Is Your Data Secure?

This is a common misconception and is largely related to the perception of giving up physical control of your data. Your data is more secure in a cloud environment. You have already eliminated the potential for physical loss or damage to data by not storing on local devices and the level of security in cloud storage is unprecedented. Due to the sensitive nature of cloud data, the levels of security are in the realms of Fort Knox. Economies of scale allow that cloud server providers can apply the very best and cutting-edge security systems that individual users would likely baulk at trying to pay for and provide for themselves.

2. Do Cloud Servers Ever Go ‘Down’?

It would be impossible to say that any server will never drop out or go down. The important focus should be on the measures in place to cater for such events. As with security systems, cloud data servers have a similar ability to provide redundancy measures and cover for potential server down time which renders this fear moot. Even during its infancy, server outages were extremely rare and for such short timeframes that the benefits dwarfed the potential inconvenience a limited down time might present.

3. It Must be Expensive

Cloud solutions are not cheap, but, when is anything of significant value going to be? That being said, on a like for like basis, they are often less costly than physical server solutions, particularly when you factor in the cost of new and replacement hardware and servicing. Another aspect that counters this myth is also the very real return on investment that the solutions deliver.

4. What Happens if I am in an Internet Blackspot and Can’t Access the Cloud?

This was a far greater problem in the past where internet access was more patchy. There will be ‘dead areas’ however, particularly if you are operating in very remote locations. For that reason, good solution providers have ensured that this is catered for by reverting to an offline capability to kick in where required. This is further supported with the function to transfer any temporarily held data as soon as the internet link is re-established.

This article is intended to help with some of the more frequently asked questions. The specific benefits for your business can be explored by speaking to some of the front runners in Construction Software who have dealt first hand with implementing and operating these systems.

Speak to RIB CCS today and leverage their insights and expertise to ensure you are running at full capacity with the very best tools available and suited specifically for you.

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