When I co-founded A Suit That Fits, I was working as an IT Manager in a medium-sized company with around 200 staff. It was in 2006 and cloud computing – or the practice of storing companies’ data in a secure online facility – was in its infancy. Everything was hosted internally. We paid for the connection costs, the server costs, the repair costs, and we upgraded and maintained the servers (including a file server, an exchange server – email/calendar/tasks – a bespoke application server, a telephone server, and probably a few more that I can’t remember). The entire team used to spend most of their time on Google trying to find odd little error and bug fixes for all of these servers. In short, it was a big job.
Luckily, just as we started A Suit That Fits, cloud computing was beginning to gain some traction. Cloud computing is a buzz phrase that really can over-complicate what it actually is. In fact, practically all of us have been using cloud computing. Cloud email applications such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail have been around for years and now it is second nature to us all.
It seems to me that the only time the “cloud” buzzword is used is when we relate this kind of thing to businesses.
Our whole focus at A Suit That Fits was always to make tailoring accessible. We didn’t want to become a company that spent lots of time and money (that we could be spending on our product and customer service) fixing servers. So we looked at solutions where this time would be minimised. What’s more, our fantastic team of tailors in Nepal needed to work on the same system.
The first system that we arranged was Google Apps. Google Apps is now far more comprehensive than it was back when we started out in 2006, but essentially it covers all things that a business should need – aside from bespoke business applications. It hosts your emails, tasks, an internal instant messaging system and calendars, to name but a few things. It is free up to a certain number of users, and it can scale as your business grows.
This gives us the power to communicate with our tailors on a very personal level. The system was quick to set up, and we’ve been working from it ever since. There are lots of benefits to having applications based in the cloud and here are a few of the reasons why it is so useful to us:
If you have an offering that you want to dynamically expand, and all of your systems are based on the web, then you can easily roll out your next branch from anywhere with an internet connection. This has given us unlimited options on how we choose to expand.
Less need for back-ups
When you have systems based online, then you know that you’re not the provider’s only client. You can feel comforted knowing that their reputation is based on your data being safe and secure. Nevertheless, it’s only right to back up critical data periodically (although thankfully we’ve never had to go back to these).
Upgrading takes time. On cloud systems new features seem to simply appear every now and again– and someone else has done all the work.
Working with remote units
At A Suit That Fits, we probably wouldn’t have been able to start our business without great communication links between the customer and the individual stitching the customer’s order (in fact, that’s probably why our concept was the first of its kind). Having things based online gave us the edge that we needed.
Many people feel cloud security is an issue – they ask questions such as: “How do you know someone else isn’t accessing your data?” My view on this is really simple – I trust the engineers at Google and other cloud providers to make my data secure, more than I trust myself. The world of IT changes so quickly, it is almost impossible to keep up to date with all of the security fixes you would need to do if you were to host your own server. They have a huge interest in keeping the data secure and, so far, they’ve done a pretty good job.
We now have all of our systems based in the cloud. This has given us the flexibility to ensure that any IT team we choose to recruit can look at creating new systems to make tailoring accessible rather than maintaining existing ones – and spend more time on making our customer journey even better.