Cloud production is a something we have been talking a lot about recently. We’ve debunked cloud myths. We’ve shown the business benefits. But let’s back up a bit. What exactly is the cloud and how is it used?

At its simplest, the cloud is regular business computing administration and productivity done using any device connected to the Internet. This can be a smartphone, tablet, or laptop—or any combination thereof—that gives users the freedom to access applications and files from virtually anywhere at any time.

The cloud is nothing new. If you stream music using Pandora or Spotify, you are using the cloud. If you stream movies or TV shows using Hulu or Netflix, you are using the cloud. If you use services such as Dropbox or Box to transfer large files, you are using the cloud. If you are sending or receiving email, watching webinars, or using Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications, you are using the cloud.

In a B2B environment, there are three primary ways of using the cloud:

  • To store files
  • To run programs
  • To subscribe to cloud-based services

Let’s look at each briefly.

Storing files.

The first way to use the cloud is to store files. This can be for simple backup purposes, allowing you to replace important files if your computer’s hard drive crashes, your computer gets stolen or damaged, or some other calamity renders your local files inaccessible. By storing your files in the cloud, you can retrieve them if you need to.

Files can also be centralized in the cloud so they are always available to other devices. When you do this, there is no need to sync files from computer to iPhone to iPad and back to computer again. This also ensures that each device is accessing the most recent version of a file.

Files stored in the cloud can be shared with others, whether they are JPGs for use on the web, TIFFs for high-res design files, or PDF X-1a files ready for press.  They can be final print documents, templates, web documents, or Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents for sales and office use.

Running programs.

The second way of using the cloud is to run actual programs. Rather than installing a program on your computer, you log into a website and run the program from there. There is nothing to install except perhaps a small desktop widget. This also means that you are always running the most current version of the software without having to buy or bother with upgrades.

Subscribing to cloud services.

A third way of using the cloud is to subscribe to services that didn’t exist before the advent of the cloud. For example, a business with multiple locations can now do instant time tracking, payroll, or have multi-office communications using video. The next time you call your local phone or cable company for support, the CRM system that shows your account history can be accessed by a CSR wherever he or she may be—whether in the corporate headquarters, a remote or home office, or even overseas. Staff members can work from locations that are hundreds or thousands of miles apart as if they were just down the hallway from one another. (Project collaboration is a perfect example of this in the printing industry.)

Cloud services don’t always require constant connection to the cloud to function, however. Most also offer offline access and editing so you can continue to work even if you do not have an active Internet connection.

This simplified definition of the cloud plays an important role in helping the printing industry transition to a cloud-based infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be complicated. These are simple ideas, many of which we have adopted anyway. Once we demystify the cloud, we become open to the advantages it offers our businesses every day.


Source:  Adapted from Cloud Production: A New Path to Profitability (How to Benefit from Cloud Automation), by Slava Apel and Joseph W. Webb, Ph.D., 2017.