Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing services, such as software services (known as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS), over the Internet. While cloud computing has been around for a long time, the supply chain industry has typically been slow to adopt the technology.
The situation is now starting to change, with recent reports estimating that the value of cloud-based supply chain management solutions to exceed $11 billion by 2023. The sizeable projected investment is because supply chain managers are beginning to realize that cloud computing and SaaS offer several critical business advantages. Let's consider five of the most important ones.
1. 24/7 availability of data
Supply chain managers are dependent upon uninterrupted access to data that is available around-the-clock to make decisions about the allocation of supply and demand. Losing access to this data, even for a short period, can seriously disrupt the ability of companies to achieve on-time fulfillment, resulting in significant adverse monetary consequences. If a company store’s a large proportion of supply chain data on the company's internal (i.e., on-premise) servers and systems, there is always a risk of losing access to the data, or ‘downtime,' due to factors such as IT failures or electricity outages.
By contrast, if an organization accesses supply chain data through cloud computing services, the risk of downtime is minimized, because cloud computing incorporates many fail-safes to ensure the 24/7 availability of data. For example, in general, the data is stored on several different servers, such that if one server goes offline due to an IT problem, the data remains accessible via the other servers.
2. Streamlined collaboration
Ineffective communication between supply chain partners, such as vendors and logistics providers, often bottlenecks the speed of supply chain management; this is because partners tend to use different systems and sets of datasets, resulting in misunderstandings and miscommunication.
Cloud computing breaks down information silos and resolves these issues, by allowing all partners to access the same set of data through one cloud-based platform, at any time and in any place. Communication is streamlined, as everyone refers to a single source of truth, increasing business agility significantly.
How, then, can your business protect itself from the risks of such overwhelming supply chain disruptions? The key is to see them coming before the mainstream news media even start covering them.
3. Substantially reduced maintenance costs
If an organization wants to manage all of its supply chain data using on-premise systems, the cost of doing so can be very high, since the company has to purchase expensive computing equipment on which to store and access the data. The expense is further accentuated by needing to employ IT staff to maintain the systems and repair any issues that arise.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, eliminates the need to purchase expensive local hardware or to hire IT staff to manage and access supply chain data, since the data can be obtained through the Internet using inexpensive devices such as laptops. Organizations typically have to pay a subscription fee to access supply chain data via cloud computing, but this fee is a small fraction of the cost they would incur if they wanted to maintain their data internally. The costs saved can then be allocated to initiatives which grow the business, such as marketing.
4. Robust cybersecurity
Cyber attacks, which involve hackers attempting to damage or destroy a computer network or system, cost the global economy an astonishing $817 billion a year. The supply chain industry is a particularly vulnerable target, as Symantec’s 2018 Internet Security Threat Report disclosed a 200% rise in supply chain-based cyber attacks this year. The impacts can be particularly devastating for companies if hackers manage to delete or degrade critical supply chain data.
A good cloud computing service, such as Microsoft Azure, has built-in cybersecurity features which protect against cyber attacks, including intelligent threat detection, which rapidly detects potential threats and prevents them from undermining sensitive company information. Storing supply chain data on local systems instead of on the cloud means relying on internal security protocols to combat hackers, which is a significant risk since internal security features are unlikely to be as robust as those provided by an IT expert like Microsoft.
5. Powerful analytics
Cloud computing utilizes the power of many computer servers in parallel, which means that cloud computing can offer large processing capability compared to using local IT hardware. The processing capability provided by cloud computing enables supply chain managers to perform sophisticated analytics on supply chain data, including prescriptive and predictive analytics. Prescriptive analytics evaluates real-time data to make recommendations on how to optimize supply chain processes, whereas predictive analytics evaluates data to predict potential trends and disruptions in the supply chain, allowing companies to take action to mitigate any negative consequences. Such analytics empower companies to stay ahead of their competitors by making data-driven decisions.
World-class cloud computing
Gravity Supply Chain provides SaaS supply chain management solutions that are powered by Microsoft Azure's cloud computing service. Microsoft Azure ensures that Gravity Supply Chain customers can store, access and share supply chain data through a world-class cloud computing platform which offers all of the benefits described above.
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