Look To The Cloud

Many years ago, Bank of America faced a data crisis in the growth of the check industry. By 1952, check usage in its branches doubled to over 21,000 per day, or 8 billion instruments per year.  Internal estimates pegged the growth to hit 20 billion by 1966 and the army of bookkeepers it employed to manage and record every check (with a high degree of accuracy) simply could not keep up.  The banking industry went to electronic recordkeeping, a means that changed the way American did business. It was literally a sea change, and today that same industry handles a staggering 300 million transactions every 24 hours.

Such is the sea change facing today’s business community-not in checks, but with data.

One of the most challenging cost centers in today’s tech climate is the cost of maintaining information. From ETL’s (extract, test, load) to short and long term storage, the cost of hardware, middleware, and software needed to keep up with a continuously expanding data universe is scary to many companies.

And it should be. Decisions made with 2012 in mind may be all but useless in a few short years.

In 1981, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was quoted as saying that “640K (memory) ought to be enough for anybody”.  Like many good quotes, Gates never said it, of course, but the decision at the time was discussed.  “I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years,” Gates said in a 1989 speech.  “A move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time.  Well, it didn’t – it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem.”

The technology industry has grown beyond all expectations in the shadow of a phrase every C-level executive should be familiar with—“Moore’s Law”, which states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. Memory grows, costs decrease, more power to the end user.  A cellular phone in 2012 has more processing power than the Apollo space capsule did a generation go.

Such rapid changes place particular stress on the capital investment of tools needed to store an ever increasing data requirement.  The client-server architecture which so many companies have relied on since the dawn of the technology age is straining to stay afloat, even as the cost of data storage has plummeted.  In 1980, he cost of storing one gigabyte of data cost $2 million.  Today, it is around four cents. The trouble, of course, is that people need a LOT of gigabytes, terabytes, and  yes, petabytes (1,000 terabytes, or approximately 1 quadrillion bytes of data) to run today’s businesses, and mere servers are a poor way of housing such enormous (and increasingly valuable) sums of data.  Years ago, we had a saying in IT for server decisions: “Today’s investment, tomorrow’s door-stop.”

Cloud computing and cloud storage are, for many clients, a means by which a firm can achieve the cost efficiency of data storage without the capital expense of investing in physical servers that will never be enough for the future. To other clients, the concept of the “cloud” is, well, cloudy.

Is it secure?  Is it safe?  What if it isn’t there anymore?  Is it economical in the short and in the long run?

These are all legitimate questions, and there isn’t always one answer.  But these are questions that must be asked by companies straining to meet the increasing needs of a customer base that not only demands access to data, they expect it.  Clockwork Technology has been “in the cloud” for a number of years now, and while we don’t run the cloud, we can provide the resources necessary to introduce you to the products and services which do.

Where would the banking industry be if it manually handled each check, each ATM transaction, each online purpose?  Where will your business be if it relies on yesterday’s technology to solve tomorrow’s challenges?


Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 2)

 Mobile_ClockworkAs airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry standard as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

1. A mobile device is not a web site.  Customers don’t need a mobile site to learn about legal terms and conditions, they need “the three Bs” — book, buy, and board.  To an increasingly tech-savvy audience, simplicity sells.

2. A mobile site can’t be a vanity project.  To embrace economies of scale, m-commerce must be fully integrated with existing ticketing and payment systems.  Building a mobile site and simply treating it as a “one-off” misses the point.  The success of Boltbus, a deep-discount carrier in the Northeast which leverages mobile and web ticketing together, allows it to be more competitive in the market with the established legacy carrier, Greyhound.

3. A mobile solution is not independent of an overall strategy.  The additive costs of technology, from scanners to wireless accounts, must be part of the total cost of ownership.  Simply building an m-commerce site will not meet expectations for revenue collection and recognition that are not easily quantified after the fact.  The ability to balance this opportunity with existing operations remains a challenge across many travel providers.

Lastly, the industry must not underestimate the transformative power of GPS in m-commerce.  E-mail opened a significant B2C opportunity, but it pales in comparison to knowing where a customer is at any one time.  This is especially valuable for partnerships in the hotel and tourism sector.  GPS will make today’s web marketing obsolete, and the time to talk about it begins now.

An AT&T commercial shows the parents of a future U.S. president meeting on a train, but only after re-booking the ticket on a mobile phone.  This isn’t science fiction–embracing mobile thinking today can literally change an industry (and a nation) for the next generation.

Take a look at your m-commerce strategy.  How many of your customers are missing the train?

John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology, LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at john.reagan@clockworktechnology.com


See the previous post in the series here: Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)


Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)

Over the past decade, the travel industry has been fundamentally changed by technology–a perfect storm that reconfigured the buyer-seller relationship, pulled back the curtain of price elasticity, and consigned the downtown travel agency to an endangered species.

Lightening is about to strike twice.

Not that long ago, an “e-ticket” meant a ride at Disnelyand.  Today, it is the accepted mode of travel for tens of millions of air passengers and an increasing number of bus and rail consumers.  Now, in the midst of a move to mobile, transportation companies must be careful not to repackage the past, but to build to the future.

The expectations of the mobile generation are not to read a web site on a phone, but to embrace app technology and personalization.  Without it, travel sites are missing the forest from the trees.

Too many airline mobile sites can best be called a “screen scrape”, displaying a web-based page on a phone but little else.  These sites struggle to build share and reach.

It’s more than just airlines, however.  The combined traffic of rail, bus, and public transit in the U.S. exceeds 300 million trips a year, much of it relying on paper tickets and labor-intensive processes.  It’s not a question of when mobile will energize this sector, but how.

As airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

In part 2, we’ll discuss these three hurdles and how Clockwork Technology can help you get a “jump” on your competition.


John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at john.reagan@clockworktechnology.com