By Derek Kay, business development director, Logistex Ltd.
Meteorologically speaking, as Clouds get bigger and more unwieldy it's often a sign of a storm approaching and this can significantly impact upon those affected by the sudden downfall. In IT terms, Cloud technology refers to applications or software systems that run on servers hosted remotely from the people using them. Users connect to the applications over the Internet.
The benefits argued are that companies don't need to purchase, maintain and upgrade their own hardware. Combined with a 'Software as a Service' (SaaS) payment model, Cloud Technology appears to offer an ideal solution to the ever changing world of IT.
Many will argue that Cloud technology is now robust and that Internet connections are so reliable that you can run business critical applications on the Cloud without fear of their prolonged failure adversely affecting your business. The question is, have too many suppliers moved to Cloud technology too quickly, leading to the beginnings of a perfect storm in the computing nursery that is known as Cloud Technology?
In the global press recently we've been seeing a number of high profile Cloud failures, albeit at present for short periods of time. In August 2013, Instagram, Vine and Netflix were all adversely affected for several hours by software problems at one of Amazon's Cloud datacentres. Earlier in the same month, the Amazon website itself went offline for about half an hour, with a cheery, "Oops! We're very sorry" message being broadcast to frustrated shoppers.
Intel, Google and Ebay have also recently been hit with downtime due to failures in the Cloud technology that supports them. It's easy to sit back and say, "well it was only a few hours, it didn't make that much difference", but those delays were experienced by some of the biggest companies in the world; how quickly would the problem have been resolved for a UK SME who depends on a Cloud-based Warehouse Management System (WMS) to run their operation?
What is the impact to service levels when your eCommerce website can't get access to accurate stock levels because the server farm where the WMS is hosted has a 'glitch'? How many of your customers would smile when told "Oops! We're very sorry, we can't even pick your order, let alone deliver it."?
When you combine the recent reports of Cloud technology failures with slow or intermittent failures in broadband connections, remote hosting of business critical applications doesn't necessarily make sense in a world where customers expect earlier and earlier cut-offs and guaranteed deliveries. Benjamin Franklin famously flew his kite into a thundercloud as an experiment, with so many kites being flown into the IT Cloud, how soon before someone gets a serious shock?
At Logistex we've been developing Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) for over 30 years and our flagship product, LWS Reflex, is a fully featured WMS which has the capability to run both manual and automated warehouse solutions. Customers who use Reflex in a manual operation know that as their business grows, they can take advantage of the use of appropriate automation to improve the effectiveness of their operation, without having to replace their WMS or buy a third-party control system and pay for expensive interfaces.
The response speed to cope
With server costs dramatically reduced in the past 5 years, the security of knowing your operation is not subject to the vagaries of an Internet connection is a small price to pay. Usually deployed on a pair of servers hosted on premise, in a primary and warm standby arrangement, Reflex provides a WMS resilient to hardware failure. On premise servers also means that when automation does become necessary to meet rapidly increasing throughput, the network infrastructure has the response speed to cope. It's also nice to know that while you're running a manual operation your warehouse teams are getting the instant responses on their mobile terminals that can only come from a real time, on-premise WMS.
Having on-premise servers doesn't mean that you can't benefit from SaaS payment models, Logistex has the advantage of being able to offer the security of dedicated on site hardware, paid for either through a rental (SaaS), lease purchase or capital purchase agreement, whichever best suits the customer.
Our customer portfolio includes many household names and growing small businesses and our experience has demonstrated we can provide the best solution on day one and ensure it's still the best solution 25 years later.