Cloud computing is not quite as omnipresent as the computer in Star Trek, but give it time. Cloud computing, or the cloud, is an interconnected group of powerful computers that collectively store data redundantly, host various services, and provide security.

The cloud has already proven itself by acting as a password-protected hub that offers various services to companies of all sizes. In a few years, it has improved communication among all project team members and streamlined common workflows that are critical for the construction industry.

The cloud is the next technological step, the safe and secure ability to share information and project related data in real time. But it is not merely FTP data sharing; simply transferring of files is not what the cloud is about.

Instead, a proven value of the cloud is owning and using a private cloud-based company account. By representing a company in the cloud, geo-referenced projects (future, current, and completed) now serve as containers for all related files. Plus, since these projects are geo-referenced, they are easily plotted on top of a vivid satellite image that streams in from a separate cloud service. By adopting new cloud-based workflows, the groundwork is laid for a complete project management system that is secure, flexible and that will only grow.

Companies will want to carve out a chunk of the cloud to own and use privately. Think of owning a car versus using public transportation. With a car, there’s the option to leave at will, setting the interior temperature, listening to whatever music, and choosing the route. However, with public transportation there is far less control and a seatmate that may or may not be your preferred choice.

Compared to private cloud-based company accounts, the open Internet can seem like loud and uncontrolled chaos, filled with websites demanding attention, threat of viruses, and daily distractions. The loud and public transportation bus of the Internet has now been replaced with private cloud-based company accounts.

A company that secures and adopts a chunk of the cloud can look back after a year of implementation and see dramatic improvements in workflow and daily processes. A cloud-based business will be faster and more efficient.

The cloud is all about services that provide access and security for communication, office processes, centralized file storage, entertainment, and more. For maintenance and reliability, the cloud features a cluster or hive of interconnected computers that provide true redundancy. If one server goes down the others take over, so a company’s data and archives are never at risk and are never lost.

This is not just in the future -- the cloud is here now. The novelty has faded away and moving forward, the global society will expect the cloud and its services to be constantly available. So how can the cloud help with profitable projects in the construction industry?

Things to know about switching

The term “cloud computing” is a broad umbrella under which many subdivisions fall. Construction contractors, land surveyors, GIS professionals, and 3D model builders will encounter specific cloud-based applications or services being offered via subscription.

One such service is Topcon’s MAGNET Enterprise, which offers the ability to pause and represent companies of all sizes within their own private cloud-based company account. MAGNET Enterprise allows managers to start with a simple street address and quickly create geo-referenced projects with the click of a mouse or tap of the finger. Managers can then assign employees (think permissions) to specific projects and tasks, and instantly have a dashboard to check any project’s status. It functions as a connection hub for collaboration and to keep projects moving forward. Managers can have access to the details of past projects – timelines, who worked on the projects, and costs – which are archived for future reference.

With the cloud, there is the easy access and secure exchange of information between the common organization triangle of manager, office, and field staff for design changes and project updates. Before company accounts in the cloud were available, if there was a need to communicate information to the field such as a design change, there were three options: send an email, deliver a thumb drive, or make a phone call. This took time and impacted productivity and profitability.