Construction Software and the Cloud

Below is my recent post to a discussion on the Construction Financial Management Association @CFMA website. The large software companies are making a big push to move clients to their hosted applications and are using "cloud" as a catalyst for new sales opportunities.   -Greg


We are a managed service provider and cloud integrator who specializes in construction.  There is a misnomer about cloud that is confusing a lot of people primarily because of the marketing behind the term.  If I may, I'd like to provide some facts around the subject to separate out sales marketing from actual function.

First, the experience your remote users will have using any application across the Internet in the field depends on these factors in order of importance:

  1. The quality and speed of the Internet connection in the field
    1. No matter if on premise or cloud if the end user does not have a fast, quality connection the field experience will be poor; cloud or no cloud.
    2. Web services uses a browser like Chrome or Internet Explorer and requires higher bandwidth but is more tolerant of data faults.At worst you may lose data being entered by having to refresh the screen often but you won't be logged out of the session.
  2. The method the software is being "presented or delivered" to the end user device. There are two primary technologies for presenting or delivering an application remotely, Microsoft Terminal Services and Web Services.
    1. Terminal services uses "thin" technology meaning it is passing screen information which does not require much bandwidth but it is very sensitive to the quality of the Internet connection. Any quality issues will result in the screen completely hanging up and having to log in multiple times to complete a task; cloud or no cloud.
      1. This is true whether the application is on your server or the providers "cloud" servers.It is the exact same technology just a different destination address.

Most of the tried and true software use Terminal Services to deliver the application.  This is because the software is written using Microsoft development code and is highly compatible with Terminal Services.   Cloud service presenting software that runs in a Windows environment typically has a higher cost of ownership than premise software because you are paying for two additional vendor profit centers, hosting and network administration, in addition to Microsoft cloud licensing.

Upstart software companies mostly program natively for the browser because they don't have legacy software to contend with.  These services are truly cloud because they typically run on shared infrastructure in places like Amazon Web Services.

Premise solutions can provide a significant cost savings but are more reliant on a good managed service partner to proactively maintain and support the application.  In every case, you will always need a local managed service provider to administer your network, PCs and peripherals which is not included in cloud contracts.  This fact is often overlooked.

Ultimately, the devil is in the details.  Controllers are typically detail people.  However, salespeople who are representing cloud service are typically not detail people.  The details you are accustomed to and take for granted look very different in a cloud model and the salesperson is not built, nor inclined, to engage in these details pre-sale.  What is typical is a painful post-sale learning curve and possibly buyer's remorse if not implemented for the correct reasons.  The sales folks are rarely giving you the right reasons, just the most compelling sales message like,  "you can will save a lot of money and get rid of all your servers."  This is simply untrue, but sounds really good to business owners!

I can elaborate further and answers any additional questions you or anyone else interested in this discussion may have.  There is no magic bullet or overreaching "right answer," as the best fit for your organization needs to be tailored to you.   The underlying technology has less to do with a successful implementation than a well-planned project with all the due diligence performed up front.   Most construction companies don't have internal resources who are qualified or the time to properly perform this due-diligence.

Thus we are pretty busy these days as construction technology guides companies.  But we can think of nothing less important than helping construction companies make the best choices for their organization, no matter the underlying technology.


Greg Gurev
Head Sherpa
Wilmington DE
(302) 781-3006

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