Don’t Go Mobile Without the Cloud; Everything You Need to Know About Cloud-Based Construction
One app download at a time, mobile devices have revolutionized the construction industry. At the forefront of this change, cloud-based construction management apps are providing significant productivity improvements on jobsites. Is your construction technology up to speed?
Like most things in life, not all apps are created equal, and a construction app that doesn’t include cloud–based project management capabilities might be bottlenecking your team’s efficiency.
So, if it’s on your mobile device, it’s automatically part of the cloud, right? Not always.
It’s easy to be deceived; both cloud computing and mobile computing involve initially accessing the Internet with a device and using wireless systems to get to your files and data. While a construction app or software might look like it has all the bells and whistles with a sleek interface, without being powered with cloud computing, it’s a lot like using a pen without the ink. If you want to work and collaborate remotely, visit a jobsite and have the details you need or even communicate with your team while you’re at a conference or on vacation, you’ll need both a mobile device and a cloud–based construction management platform to get the job done.
So, how many construction companies are benefiting from end to end use of cloud computing on their projects? According to a recent study from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 85% of construction contractors use or plan to use cloud-based solutions. While this statistic is promising, looking at the extent of cloud usage paints another picture. In fact, the survey cites that only 10% of contractors say they use software apps that are fully cloud-based
Whether your company is fully immersed in cloud–based construction management software or just starting to dip your feet, a thorough understanding of how the cloud enhances your project is critical to staying ahead in the future of the construction industry. In our post, we’ll help you understand the difference between a pure mobile app and cloud–based software. We’ll also explain the specific benefits of the cloud for the construction industry and your projects.
Mobile vs. Cloud Computing in Construction: How to Determine the Difference
Although there is overlap, plain mobile apps vs cloud–based project management apps are distinctly different and construction professionals today are finding unique jobsite benefits that only the cloud can offer. However, while they are two different types of technology, when they are used together, they allow you to access the data you need from anywhere.
The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the role they play in communication:
- Mobile computing includes the devices you use to access the internet. This could be a phone, tablet, or laptop.
- Cloud computing is the virtual storage space that holds your applications, files, and data and allows you to securely access it when needed.
When choosing a construction app for your cloud projects, it’s not about choosing mobile over the cloud or vice versa. The sweet spot involves the combination of these two technologies: mobile cloud computing (MCC). But before we get into the benefits of combining mobile and cloud computing technologies, let’s take a closer look at their differences.
Mobile Computing: The Basics
“Mobile computing” is a broad term that describes the different types of devices that allow you to access the Internet and your data, no matter where you are in the world. With a connection and a connected mobile device, you can access your data.
With mobile computing, workers can perform tasks from home, from across town or even around the world with ease. Mobile computing also enables connectivity; if you use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network from your cell phone, laptop or tablet, then you’re engaging in mobile computing, whether you realize it or not.
At home or work–and even in some public places–you can connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot or network to access the information you need with a mobile device. If you’re in your car, elevator or remote area with no access to Wi-Fi, then your device will use a wireless network (if one is available) to connect.
If you’re like most people, you have a smartphone handy all the time; this device is at the heart of mobile computing and serves as a gateway to the cloud. However, one major downside to just using mobile computing is that it’s possible to lose the connection. Everyone has experienced a mobile drop out at some point or another. This can be a huge inconvenience if you are relying on a connection to complete work or access a needed file in a timely manner.
Cloud Computing: The Basics
“The cloud” does not refer to weather patterns. The term actually refers to the storage space that holds your data, applications, images, and more securely in place until you need to access them. If you’ve used Google Drive or Apple Cloud, you have already been using an app-powered with cloud computing.
One of the most valuable aspects of devices powered with the cloud is the ability for you to switch devices and have the same information. So, if you’re getting information on your tablet and then switch to your smartphone, if you are using a cloud-based application, you can seamlessly pick up where you left off.
Besides being able to access your documents at any time, the number one benefit of cloud versus mobile computing is security. For instance, when you need to view a file, download a photo, or call up a schematic, you use a connected device, to access your secure cloud storage and acquire the piece you want. Your items are stored safely in what amounts to a virtual filing cabinet until you need them. If you’ve ever had a hard drive meltdown or lost your smartphone (that was not backed up by the cloud), it’s easy to see the benefits here.
Beyond security, the cloud has a more practical use for ensuring document safety in construction. Many people in construction still rely on paper. Beyond the inefficiencies of finding and updating information in a paper-based system, paper is prone to damage. Whether it’s a serious threat like a fire or even a morning coffee spill, nothing is safe from damage in a paper-based system. Even a laptop can be damaged–your morning latte could actually destroy months of work if it lands on your laptop, not to mention the device itself. Nevertheless, if files are saved in a secure cloud-based system, you could easily pick up where you left off seconds after the accident.
The Benefits of a Mobile Cloud Computing System in Construction
A mobile cloud computing system has many benefits for users and organizations, making it easy for teams in different locations to collaborate. All data and files needed to perform a job or work on a project are all stored in a central location; employees can then use their mobile device to access the files or applications and perform the tasks they need to do to get the job done.
There are many benefits of cloud–based project management systems, including:
- Enhanced accessibility: You can access your cloud applications, files, documents, and projects from anywhere, including your home, jobsites, and client’s offices. A cloud-based system also improves accessibility team-wide. Everyone can see the status of work project-wide.
- No manual updates: Cloud-based construction management applications are automatically updated. Information is also pushed to the cloud in real-time, ensuring your team does not miss any vital information, change, or updates.
- Improved collaboration: When you access a file and make a change, every member of the team can see the updated file instantly. Features like screen sharing and virtual workrooms further enhance collaborative abilities and make it effortless to work as a team.
- Single source of truth: A cloud-based construction management system helps to create a single source of truth on a project. That way, there is one reliable source of data and information the entire team can trust they can work off of, improving consistency and quality throughout the project.
- Added security: You can lose a phone or laptop, but even if you lose the physical mobile device you use to access your data, your files are held securely in the cloud storage space until you need them.
The Benefits of Cloud–Based Construction Management
Specifically, cloud–based construction management is providing the construction industry a world of benefits, making the projects that use them run smoother as a result. Cloud-based construction management refers to more than the systems of storage or devices; it’s about the strategy and processes for managing a construction project.
Cloud-based construction management goes beyond “we need to put this document on the cloud.” It’s a shift of thinking towards, “we need to manage this process collaboratively on the cloud.”
Today’s construction teams already waste significant time searching for data and information. According to an FMI report, construction professionals spend “35% of their time (over 14 hours per week) on non-productive activities including looking for project information, conflict resolution and dealing with mistakes and rework.”
When processes are run with cloud–based construction management systems, it allows teams to save significant time. It’s fast to double-check documents, work orders, and plans from any location, so the relevant data is always available to complete a task. Furthermore, it also prevents long trips to and from the office, simply to deliver a photo or check a measurement.
The enhanced collaboration provided by cloud-based project management makes it easier and more efficient than ever for teams to work together. Changes are tracked, and each team member or supervisor can see work progress from various stakeholders and trades. In the event of a change or critical update, the entire team can be notified at once; the impacted workers can start resolving the issue, while others can adjust timelines and schedules to reflect the pending change.
Another unique benefit of cloud-based construction management is scalability. For growing construction companies, mobile cloud computing makes it easier to take on additional projects when you can place a bid, answer a question or have a needed conversation, even if you are not in the office. Since you have project information right at your fingertips, any mobile device allows you to provide a client or customer with the details they need and ensures you don’t miss out on any opportunity or deadline.
As mentioned, one of the best features of cloud computing for the construction industry is the one thing you don’t think you need until it’s gone: security. Lost or hacked documents are a royal pain, and recovery efforts can be extra burdensome on time and resources if you aren’t backed on the cloud.
By keeping your customer data, financial information, designs and plans and proprietary details safe in the cloud, you can get back up and running fast if something happens to your device or office. If a broken laptop or lost phone is one of your biggest nightmares due to the fact that you could lose hours, days, if not months of work, then a cloud-based construction management system is a must. Accidents and unexpected events just tend to happen, but accessible, off-site storage can’t be damaged if your business has a fire, flood, or another emergency, so you can get back to your real work if there is damage to your office or systems.
Upgrade to the Cloud–Based Construction Management
The results are in: you don’t just need mobile—you need the cloud. You wouldn’t use a pen without the ink, so why would you settle for a mobile construction app without cloud-based project management? Yes, a plain mobile app may look like you have a fully functional tool, but without the crucial component of the cloud, it’s more or less useless.
If you’re not using a mobile device and cloud-based construction management software at your company, it’s time to upgrade or make the switch. The boosted efficiency, productivity, accessibility, and security–and sheer convenience of cloud computing makes it a worthy investment for construction firms of all sizes.
Want to learn how Autodesk Construction Cloud can help your team upgrade your company’s use of the cloud? Learn more here.
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