Businesses and consumers are warming to the concept of cloud computing: user-friendly services like RingCentral, Google Docs and Apple’s iCloud are making cloud adoption simple and painless. And, tellingly, even risk-averse sectors – utilities, government and banking, among others – are migrating to the cloud, in a sign that it’s becoming more widely accepted.
Below, we examine three industries that are traditionally slower to adopt technology (as compared to other industries) and how these sectors are now embracing cloud-computing.
Cloud computing’s potential in the utility industry is vast. With millions of so-called smart meters – metering devices that provide a real-time demand picture to power providers – deployed around the world in 2011, enormous troves of energy-use data are piling up. Many start-ups (and networking companies like Verizon) are stepping in to offer their organization and analytic services – and among this cohort, cloud computing is a common theme.
Some energy firms, like Tendril, are leveraging the cloud to better engage with consumers. Others, like wireless management solution Proximetry, are using cloud-based platforms to offer utility companies a holistic view of their grid networks.
Additionally, there is broad consensus among industry players that energy data stored in the cloud needs to be kept secure. To that end, efficiency software firm Opower has released a set of “Data Principles” detailing how customer information should be kept private.
Government entities tend to be highly risk-averse. But as cloud-based storage, communications and data-management solutions come into their own, even government agencies are migrating to the cloud.
Underscoring the cloud’s increasing popularity is a recent announcement by Microsoft and the state of Minnesota. The former said it migrated the latter to Office 365, a productivity suite operating in the cloud. Minnesota, Microsoft noted, is the first state to have adopted a totally cloud-based communications and collaboration suite.
The U.S. federal government is acknowledging the cloud’s benefits, too: A coalition of government groups last month released a report detailing cloud-computing best practices. The report aims to help federal agencies adopt cloud solutions with a minimum of headaches, and it noted the myriad benefits the cloud can provide.
“Procuring IT services in a cloud computing model can help the federal government to increase operational efficiencies, resource utilization and innovation across its IT portfolio, delivering a higher return on our investments to the American taxpayer,” the paper read.
The federal government is so bullish on the cloud that it has ordered agencies to consider cloud-based solutions before adopting conventional IT methodologies.
Financial institutions, entrusted with trillions of dollars in assets, can’t afford to take data security lightly. It’s significant, then, that cloud computing is gaining momentum even in the cautious banking sector.
Citigroup, for example, announced early in March that it would be using IBM’s Watson supercomputer (of Jeopardy fame) to crunch huge datasets and perform risk analyses. IBM will be selling Watson’s capabilities to Citi as a cloud-based service, freeing the firm from having to buy and maintain its own supercomputing infrastructure.
At banks in the developing world – where pricey IT investments are a near-impossibility – cloud-based computing is growing in popularity. A 2011 survey (PDF) by Oxford Economics found that 71 percent of emerging-market companies are seriously considering a move to the cloud, against just 46 percent of firms in the developed world.
India’s rural banks – used heavily by the subcontinent’s mostly rural population – may be leading the charge to the cloud. Eighty-one of the country’s 82 regional rural banks (RRBs) have adopted Core Banking Solutions, a platform that stores customer data in central servers rather than at individual branches.
The cloud has the potential to transform the face of the global economy. Already, it’s changing the way business is done in many industries, and its adoption should continue to accelerate. With cloud services providers committed to advanced data security, there’s nothing to fear from a migration into the cloud – and much to gain.