It’s no surprise the global cloud computing market is booming (from $219 billion in 2020 to $791 billion in 2028.) The kinks and security issues associated with cloud data management have been ironed out, and companies of all types are reaping the benefits.
For building product manufacturers, the benefits of cloud computing services include enhanced data security, improved collaboration, lower costs, and rapid adoption of burgeoning digital technologies. We discuss all these and much more in this article.
Should Building Products Manufacturers Manage Product Data On-Prem or in Cloud Storage?
When it comes to data governance, you have two main options: on-prem or in the cloud.
The So-Called Benefits of On-Premises
Most manufacturers manage their data “on-premises” (“on-prem”), which essentially means they buy a server that normally lives in a cupboard in the office, and they store data on it. There are three perceived benefits of this method:
- Security: Bad actors can’t get to it.
- Offline Usage: Your team can use files without an internet connection.
- Internet Storage Costs: You don’t have to pay for cloud storage and the associated high internet connection.
In reality, however, none of these benefits hold in 2022.
These days, hackers can- and often do-find ways to access sensitive data squirreled away on-prem. When it comes to offline usage and internet storage, many cloud files can be accessed and edited offline. And internet storage costs are a fraction of what they once were.
Let’s be real; if your Internet’s down, your back office will grind to a halt anyway. That’s just the reality of the modern working environment and how tied we are to the Internet.
How Does Cloud Data Storage and Management Work
Cloud data management is a way to store and manage your files on a cloud platform (in conjunction with or instead of on-prem storage.) Keeping your files on the cloud means you don’t have to worry about managing a server. Instead, you pay to use a third-party cloud provider’s infrastructure provided to you over the Internet.
Many manufacturers use a PDM and PLM solution, like Autodesk Vault, to manage their design and engineering files. With file storage in a single centralized repository (rather than scattered on servers, shared drives, and emails), they can take control of their product’s lifecycle, automate workflows, and improve collaboration.
Most building product manufacturers use Vault on-prem, but digital leaders in the space use Autodesk Vault as a Service (VaaS) by KETIV, which is essentially Vault in the cloud. Benefits include enhanced data protection, improved collaboration, lower costs, and management requirements. We explore all these benefits in the next section.
How Does Cloud Data Storage and Management Help in Manufacturing?
Digital-first building product manufacturers are already managing their data with a cloud storage service. That’s because cloud data management provides a host of benefits over more traditional models. We outline the four key benefits below:
1. Data Security
According to a recent Forrester survey, more than 75% of respondents in the construction, engineering, and infrastructure industries had experienced a “cyber incident” within the last 12 months. These incidents include:
- Attempts to gain unauthorized access to your data.
- Malicious disruption and/or DOS attacks
- Changes to firmware, software, or hardware without the system owner’s consent.
Ransomware is a particular risk considering the central role of intellectual property in building product manufacturing. A type of malware, ransomware threatens to publish or block access to your data sources unless you pay a hefty ransom.
Many manufacturers wonder if their data will be more or less secure on the cloud. And the debate still rages. The problem is that mistakes can be made on both sides.
On-prem gives you greater control. But this can be a double-edged sword. Who do you “trust” more: a company with billions of dollars resting on the cloud security of your data? Or Dave from IT, who is currently babysitting your server?
I’d rely on the cloud provider. Not only because they’re working 24/7 to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, but the way data centers are organized with multiple servers means that if one server is compromised, your files will be stored safely on another. And because data is backed up automatically, you don’t need to worry about data loss and disaster recovery.
2. Collaboration, Communication, and Data Sharing
Cloud data management provides building product manufacturers with at least some relief from their hiring and retention woes. Granted, you can’t hire remote shop floor workers, but with the right software and cloud infrastructure, you can fill your back-office and engineering roles from anywhere.
Just like public cloud storage, cloud-based PDM and PLM systems are location independent and inherently multi-player. Like Google Drive, they’re accessible wherever and whenever there’s an internet connection. Uploading and downloading files is as easy as dragging and dropping them in and out of folders, with changes synced automatically to every device.
Managing data in the cloud breaks down silos. Your PDM becomes your single source of truth, where you can store all of your engineering, design, and manufacturing files. With data stored centrally, the right person can always find the right information at the right time, in line with role-based access control.
Building product manufacturers with remote engineering teams can benefit hugely from a solution like Autodesk Vault as a Service (VaaS) by KETIV. It makes storing, sharing, and collaborating on CAD files easy. It tracks revisions automatically to maintain data quality and keep everyone aligned (and with automatic file naming and duplicate search, you won’t end up with files that end in things like V2.1.71CA_FINAL(DAVE).
3. E-Commerce and Digital Marketing
Many building product manufacturers are struggling to keep pace with how selling and marketing are changing in the industry. This is partly because-with data stored and managed on-prem-it’s much harder to leverage the SaaS solutions like Shopify and Buffer (to name two of thousands) that make e-commerce and digital marketing way easier to handle.
With data managed in cloud environments, manufacturers can build a tech stack of the most up-to-date low-code and no-code solutions. They can easily share large files with external agencies, partner with online sellers like Grainger, and adopt Industry 4.0 technologies like AI and IoT.
One solution that is changing the game for building products manufacturers is Tacton. With Tacton, manufacturers can embed a 3D visual product configurator onto their website that lets buyers configure the most complex products and receive instant quotes without sales input. In other words: it’s totally self-serve. Product rules created on the back end ensure every configuration is valid. And once a configuration is received, the solution generates all the necessary engineering and manufacturing files.
4. Lower Costs
Higher logistics costs and global competition are squeezing building product manufacturers’ already-razor-thin margins. To stay profitable, they have to cut costs. Shifting to cloud data management can help out because it’s significantly cheaper than on-prem.
Weighing the relative costs of on-cloud and on-prem isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Many manufacturers compare the upfront cost of an on-prem system with the ongoing costs associated with cloud storage and conclude that- all considered-on-prem is the cheaper option.
This is a mistake.
The TCO of a cloud solution is considerably cheaper once you consider all the additional on-prem costs. These include:
- Design: Setting up your on-prem data storage solution requires specialist know-how, which you have to pay for.
- Build: In addition to building the server, you might have to build somewhere for the server to live. Your cupboard might not have the cooling and security you need!
- Deploy: Unlike cloud-based storage, on-prem isn’t plug-and-play. Your server has to be set up by an IT professional, then tested and fine-tuned accordingly.
- Maintain: The annual maintenance costs associated with your server can be as high as 20% of the upfront cost.
- Upgrade: Your hardware has a shelf life of around 5-7 years before it breaks down or becomes obsolete.
- Scale: Expanding server capacity by adding disk space and creating additional containers is another specialist skill and might involve a risky migration. With cloud adoption, you can get additional capacity at the touch of a button.
You should also consider the efficiency, innovation, and customer experience improvements that cloud data management facilitates. All considered, few would argue against cloud technology being the less expensive option.
The Bottom Line: What Are the Advantages of Cloud Storage and Product Data Management?
The inherent usability, agility, flexibility, and lower costs associated with cloud services make it the obvious choice for building product manufacturers, particularly those for whom data security is a prime concern and those planning on hiring remote employees.
The quick provisioning of the cloud-the ability to scale capacity, and add users, customers, and services-keeps you agile in a rapidly changing and fiercely competitive building products market. The ease with which you can integrate new technologies and SaaS solutions helps future-proof your business.