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Posted by Kevin Hall

Cloud applications and security in the mines

Traditionally, clients used to put their technology infrastructure on servers at their local premises. They would build a server room and deploy business-critical systems like customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning, and accounting on their local network.

On the other hand, cloud infrastructure means hosting servers and hardware on data centers spread around the world. This gives business the ability to access the same services via the internet. The benefits of this off-premise hosting means no hours installing and configuring systems. Testing and deployment can be done before the business is able to move the next version of the software. Everything in the cloud world happens seamlessly behind the scenes.

Most mining companies are already using some form of cloud infrastructure. However, it is normally not a known fact or a strategic decision to do so. The cloud is pervasive in every area of business, and in some cases the use of cloud is not intended but assumed. This could be like storing information on a Dropbox account for colleagues to download when they arrive on site.

Mining houses are starting to take on cloud applications for services like voice and other GPS-based requirements. As the need to provide connectivity grows, some clients have opted for satellite-based connections due to the lack of fibre infrastructure in the outlying regions of the mining locations. The ability to leverage quality infrastructure without degradation in services has seen some mining houses starting to look at on site applications. This might increase mining productivity due to applications being easily accessed from anywhere in the world.

Cloud is sometimes associated with a lack of control – the classic case of people not being able to see the physical servers in their own server room. So the questions are then asked; where is the information kept, and how can I be sure that there is always security and backups made of my company information?

Concerns vary depending on the type of business and the sensitivity of different risk areas. Most of these fears are not based on facts but perceived risks. Fortunately, these can be alleviated by speaking to the cloud service provider to understand their redundancies and backup procedures.

Cloud provides the decision-maker with the flexibility to pay for what capacity is needed, when it is needed. Business can therefore ensure it is not using capital to provide for growth or expansion before it happens. There are many decisions and thought processes that need to be made before a client should look at cloud. It might sound like a buzz word, but not everything done in business needs to be in the cloud. A strategic migration path based on business needs is often the most prudent action to follow. Scalability and redundancy might be reasons for clients to opt for a service where they know most of the expenses have already been incurred by the provider of the software or cloud infrastructure.

As the cloud becomes an ever-expanding eco system of applications and options, clients are starting to see the benefits of sharing the high cost of fixed infrastructure. Most notably, companies have started using the cloud for office applications like word processing and other basic requirements like CRM and accounting systems. The more complex industry specific systems based on requirements which are more focused on that particular industry, like logistics and insurance-based applications, will take longer to move into the cloud. Although most of these system have development roadmaps based on the cloud landscape of the future.

The cloud is only as secure as you make it. Just like your local server room, the data center where the information is kept needs to be access controlled and the passwords and other security measures need to be strictly enforced. Most cloud providers focus on this area. They understand their clients need to know that the service they provide is business-critical due to the scale of risk. Most cloud providers are able to spend more money on perfecting security systems, as well as employing specialists to assist them in creating a solution which is as safe and secure as possible. As a cloud provider, security procedures are taken very seriously as the business depends on the protection which is implemented. It is well understood that a breach of security could close the doors of any cloud business.

Due to this fact, the provider is focused on making sure this never happens or that the system is compartmentalised enough to ring fence any breach of security on different levels of protection and firewalls.

Your cloud provider should be about 30 percent cheaper than a premised-based system. However, you need to make sure you are comparing the correct features and getting the right comparison. The investment is mostly made in cloud on a monthly or annual contractual basis. This means that one could switch providers if the service or the cost is not aggressive enough to meet the needs of the industry. Not all clouds are created equal. Some providers are not focused on your particular industry and might not understand your business-critical needs. You need to make sure you do not just get a price list, but a deep understanding of their operations and track record, like you would in most other buying decisions.

Elingo provides companies with both cloud and on premise-based solutions, tailor-made to suit the needs of the client. Other companies might steer the client into a specific technology choice. Our experience has taught us that one size does not fit all. Every industry and business has different regulatory and business requirements, which enables us to understand the unique need for the client, and then suggest the best possible solutions and services. Our team of process engineers and business process analysts enable us to understand our clients’ needs and then delve deeply into their complex business, before suggesting a simple solution to the challenges they currently face and could possibly have in the future.