There has been no shortage of advice given to publishing and print media companies during the past decade and a half on the subject of how to go about modernizing their business models. Companies ranging from the vast and venerable New York Times Co. down to the smallest niche publisher have experimented with an innumerable variety of delivery methods, digital payment structures, workflow innovations, and models for generating advertising revenue; plenty of ink (and e-ink) has been spilled in the process of chronicling those efforts.
One of the more recent movements in the technology sector--which has emerged as a bona fide standard practice in numerous industries--is cloud-based computing. Without even thinking about it, in fact, many of the most routine activities that businesses have come to rely on-think Gmail or Salesforce.com-are built on cloud-based principles, where information, storage, and processing are housed and managed in off-site data centers as opposed to a company's own local servers or hard drives. For publishers contemplating moving aspects of their business practice to the cloud, there is plenty of experience and expertise to rely on during the course of the decision-making process; indeed, they may already be deeper into the cloud than they realize.
There are a number of ways in which employing cloud-based services can help publishers-ranging from publication to design to content management to lead generation to business services. No one solution fits all, of course, so publishers must be well-informed about the potential benefits and pitfalls of making any kind of switch to the cloud.
Writing on his blog, The Shatzkin Files, Mike Shatzkin, who is the founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Co. and is a widely acknowledged thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry, says that the move toward cloud-based solutions in the publishing industry is borne out of a desire-or perhaps even a necessity-to streamline workflows, lower costs, and lighten the load on an organization's need for technical expertise.
"[Cloud-based solutions] don't live on a company's own computers but are hosted by the service provider," Shatzkin writes. "They often don't require an IT department to customize them and they certainly don't require an IT department to keep them up to date. And the best news of all is that they are cheaper to acquire and faster to install in a company's workflow than the systems of the past." John Wicker, who is a client partner at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), concurs with the point that using cloud-based solutions at any point in the publishing workflow is a way for smaller publishers-without the means to implement complex technical solutions themselves-to be able to scale their product and their process much more easily.
SERVERS AND STORAGE
"The smaller the company, the less sophisticated you can expect the IT department to be," Wicker says. "Cloud computing provides those publishers [with] a cost-effective way to gain access to the expertise of professionals, whose sole focus is running and maintaining their technical product with virtually zero capital investment up front."
For instance, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) essentially constitutes a virtual computing environment. It allows customers, on a pay-per-usage basis, to use web service interfaces to launch virtual servers with a variety of operating systems, load them with their custom application environment, and manage their network's access permissions. In practice, EC2 reduces the time required to obtain and boot new server instances to minutes, allowing users to quickly scale capacity, both up and down, as computing requirements change. Users pay only for capacity that they actually use, which can amount to a substantial reduction in hosting costs.
The ability of cloud solutions to scale with much more agility is another aspect of cloud computing that Dougal Cameron, COO of cloud publishing provider Pubsoft, views as one of the cloud's most significant strengths. "Cloud-based computing is generally more flexible than standard software solutions," Cameron says. "This results in a scalability to a publishing house that removes systems as an inhibitor to growth. With cloud technology, someone can access a cloud-based book marketing system in Seattle at the same time a colleague is accessing it in Miami. This means publishers can grow faster, hire better, and pay less."
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)