Project management in the clouds…

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Cloud computing is the latest trend in the IT world. Corporates are excited, not only about saving money, but also about being able to concentrate on their core business, while leaving the increasingly complex world of IT to the experts.

While potential savings vary, it is estimated that using cloud software can save upwards of 40%. Once you figure in the cost of servers, operating system software, databases, data center space, network access, power and cooling, and other costs that accrue for onsite computing, the savings can go up to 77% when a company switches its entire IT solution to the clouds.

Essentially, cloud computing allows a user with just a screen, keyboard and internet connection to work from anywhere, any time. And its not just about saving money, productivity is enhanced because there is no need to ever update software, the latest version is always available.

With the responsibility of managing the service or application falling to the cloud vendor, companies no longer have to employ or contract people to install and update software, install and manage servers or run backups.

The concept of cloud computing is also a welcome addition to the world of project management. No doubt, one of the reasons that many companies still manage their projects in Excel spreadsheets is the high cost of professional project management software.

Project management software can cost anything from R10 000 per licence upwards. While discounts are available for companies buying multiple licences, this still translates to a significant investment when you have numerous people needing access to the software.

But there are some potential downsides to consider before switching to cloud computing.

The most obvious concern is that when you have no internet connection you are not able to access your stored software or data. But, while this is a significant consideration, it is unlikely in our ever increasingly mobile world that you would be without any connection at all for any length of time.

With certain products – like Microsoft Project Online, and Sciforma S4 – it is possible to work on your data when offline and then sync when back online.

The other obvious concern about cloud computing is security and many companies may be reluctant to commit their data to something as nebulous as a far off server, often in another country. That being said, established, reliable cloud computing vendors are well aware of this concern and have invested heavily in the latest, most sophisticated data security systems available.

And finally, before switching to a cloud solution, it pays to make sure that you are comparing apples with apples. Some cloud computer vendors offer a ‘pay only for what you use’ solution but, according to IT researchers and advisors, Gartner, this simply isn’t true because, in most cases, some degree of commitment to a predetermined contract independent of actual use is expected. So to be sure that you are really saving money, you need to explore the pricing plans and details for each application carefully.

Having said all of this, there can be no doubt that cloud computing is here to stay and it can offer significant benefits to business users.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.