Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Cloud can help NZ companies beat the tyranny of distance

In the US, the biggest growth in tech in terms of revenue is from cloud services. It's a big global trend.
Ben Kepes, consultant and investor.
In the US, the biggest growth in tech in terms of revenue is from cloud services. It's a big global trend. Ben Kepes, consultant and investor.

For many of us, the idea of cloud computing - or of storing information in "the cloud" - conjures up images of puffy white balls of fluff containing limitless amounts of information, somewhere in the region just above our heads.

Although the idea may seem complex and unwieldy, the majority of us use the cloud every day.

Facebook, Trade Me, internet banking and Google docs are just some of the daily distractions many of us employ to get through our work day, and the thing they all have in common, aside from general distraction, is that they operate in the cloud.

So what is the cloud? Although cloud computing has been around for almost 12 years, it has only been in the last few years that companies have started to actively brand themselves as cloud-based companies. Think Xero, Vend, and Salesforce.

Essentially the cloud is the storing and accessing of data and programmes on shared infrastructure using the internet as opposed to on owner-operated hardware.

Industry consultant and investor Ben Kepes describes the cloud as analogous to electricity.

"Way back when, before there was electricity everywhere, people would situate their factory next to a river so that they could put a waterwheel in place to turn their machines," Kepes says.

"Then all of a sudden electricity generation came in and we could just get electricity on the lines and use it when we needed it and not when we didn't," he says.

"It removed the need to build our own infrastructure. Same deal with cloud computing." Kepes says that while New Zealand was not a fast adopter of cloud technology, the majority of New Zealand businesses now operate at least some of their operations in the cloud.

"Before Xero, most of us had never heard of the cloud, and ever since Xero's come in and done well, we're now up there in terms of using it," he says.

"In the US, the biggest growth in tech in terms of revenue is from cloud services. It's a big global trend."

A number of larger companies such as Xero and Vend have done extremely well using cloud technology, however Kepes notes that the "more important" aspect of this was from everyday businesses using the cloud to be more efficient.

"There are heaps of examples of plumbers and electricians that are more efficient because they're using tools on the cloud to make their life more efficient," Kepes says.

"Retailers as well - they're in the horrible position of being threatened by big box people but using the cloud, they can get to know their customers and interact with their customers directly, which allows them to be more competitive."

Some of the biggest benefits cloud technology provides for New Zealand businesses are in helping them to be more efficient and allowing them to focus on their core business, as well as being able to collaborate in real time.

According to Kepes the bigger idea is how the cloud can enable New Zealand to compete on a global scale.

"There is a huge ecosystem of tech companies in New Zealand now that are using the cloud and building products in the cloud," he says.

"We're a tiny country at the end of the world but by using the cloud we can overcome a lot of the tyranny of distance and compete on a global stage."

- NZ Herald

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