Lerch Bates Inc. Building Insight

Global Leaders in Technical Consulting for the Building Industry

Cloud Computing in the Elevator Industry?

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing is quickly becoming the future of Information Technology for small firms.  Cloud Computing is a term that is typically used when leveraging the assets of another firm to host software, hardware, infrastructure, professional services, security, storage, and internet accessibility in an effort to reduce in-house Information Technology expenses, resources, geographical resource needs, and capital investment in infrastructure.   One example includes outsourcing your email hosting to another firm because they have better resources to access the internet, they have generators to keep servers running 24/7/365, and they have expertise to proactively monitor situations.

How will Cloud Computing affect me?

Cloud Computing will likely affect the elevator, field services, construction, facilities management, and architecture industries in the near future.  How?  In an effort to become proactive in all things that involve monitoring the engineering departments, plant management, and resources of a firm, Cloud Computing will allow mobile devices (think iPad) to continuously illustrate the current-state of the entire plant.  HVAC systems, electrical systems, elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, pneumatic tube systems, swimming pool data, IT systems, security systems, telecommunication systems, and all associated assets will be configured on a single display that, when triggered due to a designed threshold being met, will display alerts in a visual communication format.  Workflows will be triggered to issue email alerts or phone calls to the engineer on duty, to kick-off document processes so that work orders are opened, and to initiate a JIT requisition for replacement parts, expert professional services, and pre-approved purchase approvals if the alert is deemed critical.

These workflows can be easily automated to respond to critical situations with pre-determined solutions so that making decisions at midnight while you’re on vacation are already implemented when the problem occurs.  Example; you’ve determined that if there is an air-conditioner that meets a certain threshold, then it triggers an alert to your controller card for HVAC.  The controller card alerts your Microsoft SharePoint site via email.  The email is automatically subjected to a workflow that starts approvals and scripts to order product from the closest Just-In-Time manufacturer for the part that met the threshold.  By the time you arrive the next morning you’ve had a part couriered to you and there is a technician that has been dispatched to install the part by the OEM of the asset.  If you have a goal of becoming proactive in the monitoring of your assets, then you should strongly consider Cloud Computing opportunities.  On a side note, Lerch Bates offers a proactive monitoring service called LiftSense for elevator management.

Why should I consider Cloud Computing?

You should consider Cloud Computing before investing in future software and hardware purchases for your Information Technology department.  New servers, routers, Storage Area Networks (SAN), and software (Exchange 2010, VMware, ERP applications, etc.) are considerable capital investments for small firms.  It is becoming the industry standard to outsource Cloud Computing services for email hosting and I expect that ERP systems will be the next platform to outsource.  Microsoft’s BPOS product is leading the way towards hosting Microsoft Exchange products.  GoogleApps is also making large strides in this marathon by hosting email, instant messaging, and other applications for city-wide installations around the country.  I expect that storage management will be the next big outsourced service for a VMware platform.  Clear Winds out of Birmingham, Alabama, is a firm that will manage your storage networks, as well as Lewan & Associates from Denver, Colorado.  Epicor, the maker of several ERP systems, is beginning to host their own ERP products for small firms and these Cloud Computing opportunities should be closely weighted and scored using scorecards by executive teams.

In the near future (think 2012) I expect that Information Technology departments of small firms (less than 500 employees) will outsource more and more applications and eventually complete infrastructures to Cloud Computing firms.  There is a financial incentive for small firms to outsource their Information Technology departments and when there is a problem the Cloud Computing firms have the best human resources to get fix problems quickly and accurately.  Consider your small Information Technology department of less than ten employees.  Cloud Computing firms typically employee 30-100 of these same experts except these experts have served as Consultants for many small firms so they have the expertise and exposure to hundreds of applications and situations.  The team of Cloud Computing resources is far greater than your small team and they are experts at what they do on a daily basis specific to several explicit technologies whether SAN management, Exchange, ERP applications, SQL, firewalls, or servers.

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