Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Marketing on Cloud 9 - Yes please

Marketing on Cloud 9 – yes please

Where would we marketers be without LinkedIn, Google Analytics, Eloqua, SalesForce, Facebook and Twitter? We’d be back in the dark ages, of course, with our competitors eating our lunch!

The way that marketing technologies are used and consumed has evolved considerably in recent years, with cloud computing and web technologies in particular taking off as a means to access information, applications, to get feedback from our customers and deliver new campaigns. So what else can business cloud-computing offer and why should it be embraced by marketers? Equally, what challenges should users be aware of when considering cloud applications and how can these be mitigated?

Put simply, business cloud computing means accessing applications via the internet so that vast amounts of computing resources will reside somewhere else and not on local PCs or servers. This, of course, means that you’re no longer tied to fixed servers, software packages and expensive management costs. From applications for CRM to those for budgeting, planning and collaboration, the cloud delivery model is playing a very central role in the marketers’ toolkit.

So does the way we consume applications really matter for the marketer? The real benefits relate to cost and efficiency which should be welcome news to anyone faced with increasing pressures on budgets. For the business as a whole, it means outsourcing the burden of maintaining servers and applications; as well as saving time and money through replacing the capital expenditure traditionally spent on IT infrastructure with operational expenditure.

For marketers, it also presents an opportunity for improved and streamlined business processes, with the creation and availability of reports, campaigns, customer lists and hefty documents and images and media on demand. With marketing teams now increasingly operating in a 24/7 always-on environment, the cloud can be a route to more efficient collaboration; a crucial factor in an industry reliant on speed and communication. It enables teams to share valuable customer data or analytics so that everyone - be they in different time zones or regions - has access to the same information in real time.

The cloud also provides scalability; you’re no longer tied down to expensive software packages, but instead are able to select the most appropriate on-demand, pay-per-use technologies to fit the particular projects and campaigns. Depending on the size of the project, marketing teams can opt in or out, choosing whether to scale up or down their IT infrastructure.

This all sounds like great news, however there are considerations that need to be made as cloud applications becomes more widespread. One such issue is that of the performance challenges that can be associated with cloud-based applications, including service speeds, response times and increased bandwidth consumption. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting to access an application that is slow to respond or inputting data that takes an age to refresh. This of course means frustration for the user, but can also have a real financial implication – equating to loss of productivity. But we marketers need to access data quickly to make the most accurate and informed decisions.

We marketers are often ahead of the game in making demands on the IT infrastructure; we always have the largest graphics files or need that HD video downloaded in minutes. Some people equate performance with simple bandwidth and many of us have been sent away by the IT department saying that it cost too much to increase the bandwidth to the office. Thankfully, there are now solutions available that can address the performance challenges of applications and content delivered via the cloud and they are not by adding bandwidth, these WAN optimisation solutions make better use of the bandwidth already available and can multiple the throughput tens, hundreds or even thousands of times, depending on the material being transmitted.

In the past, solutions have been unable to optimise applications based in the public cloud where the infrastructure is not owned or managed by the customer. However, new ‘one-sided’ optimisation technologies that only need to be installed at the user’s end of the link (office based) mean that businesses can now accelerate content and applications from the public cloud without having an appliance located in the cloud data centre where that particular service is hosted. So, you can go to your IT department and help educate them on your needs and give them a guide to the solutions at the same time.

Whilst the cloud promises much, the end-user experience is key to its success. The ability to access critical applications at optimal speed, with the assurance that the corporate network can cope is critical. In this way marketers can embrace cloud computing and use critical applications with the speed and ease to experience real business benefits

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