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Why The Cloud Is Here To Stay

Chris Marr is an alumnus of Spektrix.

Cloud computing has revolutionised the way we work (and play) online. But what are the benefits of the cloud for arts organisations?

I’ll start this blog post with a disclaimer – at Spektrix, our product is a cloud-based system. We bloody love the cloud. It makes it easier for our customers to succeed, and allows us to work at the cutting edge of technology in the arts. I’m going to talk about why we’ve put all of our eggs in a cloud-based basket, and why this is the strongest position for us (and all of the organisations we work with) to be in.

What exactly is the cloud?

The cloud is the key to a faster, safer, more efficient way of working via the internet (and it’s not going anywhere soon). Whether for business or at home, the secret to the success of the cloud is its simplicity. Cloud computing removes the need to store your data locally, either your personal data on your hard drive at home, or all of the data you use at work, stored in racks of servers in your building. Cloud-based solutions – like Spektrix, Google Docs or Apple’s iCloud – make local storage redundant. You access these services through the internet, handing over the storage of your data to your supplier. Just log in and off you go.

While plenty of software suppliers might claim to be cloud-based to cash in on the cloud’s popularity, truly cloud-based products work on the principle of multi-tenancy, where the users work with the same version of a system and all receive the same updates. This is central to the benefit of cloud-based systems, and the reason for the flexibility, functionality and reliability I explain below.

Benefit 1: the cloud works everywhere

Once you free yourself from the tyranny of the server room, you’re not tied down to when or where you can use your system; all you need is an internet connection. Chances are, you’ll be able to access everything your cloud-based system has on offer even whilst connected to the internet on the go, whether that’s on the wifi in Starbucks or using a dongle on a train.

As an arts organisation, by getting rid of the servers in your building you no longer bear the responsibility and expense of maintaining these. The moment you switch to a cloud-based system you’ll be saving money on IT staff time, specialist support and electricity.

Benefit 2: it’s easy to update

Compared to other suppliers (who have yet to embrace the cloud…) updates from a cloud supplier will be easy to implement, with no lengthy installations. The cost of these will more than likely be wrapped up in a single service charge too, if your provider works on a multi-tenant, software as a service model, as we do at Spektrix. The cloud is typically pay as you go, so there’s no (or very little) capital expenditure needed to get going.

Whilst, in our case, each arts organisation we work with can customise the reports, segments, seating plans, etc. in the system, they are all on the same version of Spektrix. Users of a cloud-based system can usually expect to see new features and upgrades appear without any installation at all, the next time they log in after a release.

Benefit 3: agility

Our development team at Spektrix love working in the cloud. The cloud allows us to release new updates to our entire client base at once, after a beta testing period with a handful of clients. It’s because of this structure that our developers are able to code and deploy updates to Spektrix much more quickly than developers working on non-cloud-based enterprise solutions. As a result, we’re able to react swiftly to changes in the industry and create new tools, often based on feature requests from our clients, when our users need them.

This flexibility is reflected in how our clients use the system too. Without the lengthy and expensive upgrades of non-cloud-based systems, constantly tweaking and improving how you use a cloud-based solution is manageable with very low risk.

Benefit 4: security

When it comes to security, a cloud supplier takes the lion’s share of responsibility. Cloud providers can put strict security measures in place to avoid any problems; our Spektrix data centre in Milton Keynes, for example, is monitored around the clock, with multiple power back-ups and the biggest security fence we’ve ever seen. I think there are some mean-looking dogs too. By handing the responsibility for managing your data over to your supplier, you also hand over the responsibility to comply with data security legislation that comes with managing a site where large amounts of data are stored and processed.

In the event of a data breach (however extremely unlikely it might be) or another security problem, a responsible cloud provider will have the expertise to deal with issues like this quickly and efficiently. The security risk of managing everything in-house, however, is likely to be much greater.

Benefit 5: collaboration

Sharing a cloud-based system, colleagues can work together on projects in ways that are easier and more efficient than before. You can work on a cloud-based, collaborative project wherever you are, and feel confident that you’re picking up exactly where your colleagues left off. Working in Google Apps like Docs or Sheets, for example, you’re able to collaborate on documents in real-time with your colleagues from within your web browser. The old alternative with Microsoft Word and Excel (before Microsoft embraced the cloud with Office365) meant working on locally-stored files, backing up as frequently as possible and trying to avoid duplicates. The cloud removes the hassle, backing everything up as you go and allowing you to work on one central version of a file or project, with no duplicates.

Benefit 6: scalability

For businesses running their operation using a cloud-based system, perhaps the greatest benefit they enjoy is scalability; suppliers of cloud-based systems can adjust to fluctuations in demand, drawing on the extra capacity in their remote servers as soon as any of its users requires more bandwidth than normal. The easily-scalable nature of cloud-based systems is also often reflected in a pricing model that also scales with the size of an organisation’s business, like MailChimp’s service charge, Office365’s, and ours at Spektrix.

The future of business and personal computing is in the cloud, and we’re not going to let the arts get left behind. Being cloud-based means our users can sell tickets on a market stall, check sales reports on a train, and work from wherever they like, at any time. In essence, it allows the experts in developing and delivering a software solution to focus on producing the best system they can, whilst freeing arts organisations from the problems, expenses and responsibilities of a solution hosted in-house. We’ve got our heads in the clouds here at Spektrix, and it’s flippin’ brilliant.