Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that cloud computing has almost become the de facto technology approach for both businesses and individuals. Indeed, according to a recent Gartner research report, cloud computing is gaining popularity across a variety of industries for basic business support functions. Notably, the research shows that cloud computing is being used for more than just IT functions. A report by Nucleus Research showed that cloud application projects deliver 2.1 times the ROI of on-premise ones — up a whopping 24 percent since 2012!
As technology develops, different industries are taking different approaches to cloud computing. Highly regulated industries, although eager to explore new solutions, are more focused on security and containment than less regulated sectors such as media and agriculture.
Here’s a snapshot:
- Insurance: According to IBM, there is a massive demand for cloud solutions among insurers. They are exploring cloud solutions to drive revenue, improve customer insights and reduce time to market for products. Here, private clouds are preferred because they’re more secure than public clouds. However, it’s expected that industry association community clouds will increase in popularity.
- Banking: While the banking industry has quickly moved to cloud computing services to drive efficiencies and spur innovation, security concerns have hampered adoption. Interestingly, however, recent reports have indicated that World Bank, Capital One and other banks are ‘moving past their fears about security and regulatory risks’ – and are embracing the business agility of public cloud services. In 2016, the World Bank began migrating several functions to public cloud software and stated an ambitious goal to reduce the bank’s data centre footprint from five to two. According to CIO.com, global banks such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have been using public cloud services to test software. The Cloud Security Alliance reported that although only 32 percent of banks surveyed have a cloud services strategy in place, 61 percent are developing one.
- Mining: Globally, the mining industry has been a leading adopter of cloud computing and SaaS as a means of cutting costs and driving efficiencies. More specifically, cloud computing assists mining companies in keeping track of key resources and monitoring personnel for both productivity and safety reasons.
- Government: While opportunities to use cloud computing in a variety of ways do exist, it’s also misunderstood. Today, the biggest opportunities are in public cloud computing, but many in this industry fear security challenges. According to a report by UCT, adoption is slow within local government. A survey conducted among government users found that they are in favour of leveraging technology and understand both the benefits and challenges. As it stands, poor security is the primary obstacle, and UCT stated that data security would be the major barrier to widespread adoption. By contrast, a Fortune.com report revealed that last year, U.S. government agencies were moving to cloud computing and away from their data centres faster than private corporations!
- Farming: While local adoption of cloud computing in this industry is still slow, global trends are showing that this technology is helping to make agriculture both more precise and efficient – helping farmers to achieve increased profits and higher yields. According to Bizmosis.com, more agricultural enterprises are exploring cloud computing both in the research lab (to help develop better farming techniques) and in the fields. “As technologies improve and more farmers catch on, there is likely to be more ways that cloud computing can help take farming to new heights. These improvements can include introducing mobile devices and sensors capable of sharing data—both of which can be supported or improved by cloud involvement,” the site stated in a blog post.
- Professional services: This industry is investing heavily in cloud computing, with both IDC and Gartner reporting that ‘a significant portion’ of professional services firms have already shifted their infrastructure and ERP applications to the cloud, with many others planning to do so. With cloud adoption, users can access company data without being tied to a specific location or device. This is particularly advantageous for professional services organizations that have a high percentage of mobile workers operating remotely or from client sites. Security is also a major element for this industry, which has pushed cloud software providers to have experts dedicated to maintaining their product – ensuring its availability, and protecting it from malware and cyber-attacks.
Currently, cloud computing (both public and private), is used far more in industries that aren’t quite as regulated.
Here are some of the ways these industries are using cloud computing:
- Media: Cloud computing has proved nothing short of revolutionary for the media industry with service providers and application developers exploring cloud-based ways of enabling multi-screen entertainment. Media executives are looking closely at cloud computing solutions, but security and content protection remain key concerns. However, despite security challenges, media companies are forging ahead and using the cloud to identify their audiences and deliver content in a more efficient, targeted and cost-effective manner.
- Manufacturing: Cloud computing is undoubtedly playing an essential role in enabling the next production revolution. More specifically, cloud computing allows manufacturers to use many forms of new and innovative production systems, from 3D printing and high-performance computing (HPC) to the Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial robots. Also, cloud computing ‘democratizes’ access to and use of these technologies by smaller manufacturers. According to a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, cloud-computing applications will impact virtually every aspect of modern manufacturing companies. “At the enterprise level, cloud computing will impact how companies manage their operations, from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial management to data analytics and workforce training,” it stated. “The cloud will also prove integral to how manufacturers integrate themselves into industrial supply chains.”
- Retail: Increasingly, retailers are recognizing the critical role of cloud computing. According to an Accenture report, the retail industry is quickly adopting the technology, with its investment in cloud technologies ballooning from $4 billion in 2011 to an estimated $15 billion last year. Cloud implementations have been mostly IaaS or PaaS solutions. Security, availability and vendor maturity are all aspects that retailers consider when deciding which functions they want to be deployed from the cloud. Three key aspects are driving innovation amongst retailers – the move to mobile-first customer experiences, harnessing data to design and sell products and monitoring and managing inventory more efficiently.
Addressing Data Sovereignty
As more companies and industries move their data to the cloud, and in some instances, to the public cloud, critical questions are being raised around data sovereignty. In simple terms, data sovereignty refers to the legal principle that information (generally in digital form) is regulated or governed by the legal regime of the country in which that data resides. Under the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act, local companies are unsure if they can lawfully store data outside of the country.
Theo Watson, a commercial attorney at Microsoft South Africa, has advised that PoPI does not broadly prohibit the transfer of data outside of South Africa. Five key conditions must be met under Section 72 of PoPI, but in short, it does not prohibit cross-border data flows. On the contrary, it protects a data subject’s personal information as it moves offshore.
That said, all companies should be up to speed with PoPI and ensure that their data management is professionally managed.