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How Construction Companies Can Manage Cloud Sprawl

Sept. 20, 2022
Cloud sprawl is the unchecked proliferation of an organization’s cloud services or workloads—and it carries significant risks.

By Michael Lepper

Contractors create and share so much data as a project progresses, it can be a challenge to manage all of your online data-sharing platforms. It’s a common problem sometimes known as “cloud sprawl.” With bidding records, plan outlines, and legal documents to be stored, cloud technologies are needed to keep this data visible and accessible between teams.

However, without the proper management, cloud sprawl can delay teams and increase costs and security risks—which is why it’s crucial to learn how to handle it. Read on to learn more about it and how you can prevent it at your company.

What is Cloud Sprawl?

Cloud sprawl is the unchecked proliferation of an organization’s cloud services or workloads.

In construction, this appears when different departments use different cloud providers or fail to communicate and align their cloud environments. Since these solutions are not connected and team managers may be unaware of another department’s cloud solution, more and more cloud servers are set up until a company is wasting IT resources running and maintaining these services.

Contracting firms are beginning to develop more strategic IT initiatives to manage their data. In fact, 61% of contractors reported they have a formal IT plan to support business objectives and 7% plan to create one in 2022, according to the 2022 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Sage.

Contractors who do not take advantage of cloud management could be affected by the negative effects of cloud sprawl.

Risks of Cloud Sprawl

The organizational risks of cloud-sprawl can affect contractors in different ways. Let’s explore some of them.

Reduced Productivity

The current labor shortage affects plumbing and HVAC contractors as much as other industries. Workers already struggle to meet deadlines and are required to do more work as companies compete for talent. Add to this disjointed communication and data-storage systems, and the timeline for a project expands even more.

Plumbing contractors, for example, often run several projects at multiple sites. If team members have inconsistent data because of disconnected cloud servers, finding the correct project plans or communicating over multiple channels to discuss which server is used prolongs the pre-construction timeline.

Reduced Cloud Benefits

The cloud can have many benefits for contractors including increased communication, better department connectivity, higher employee satisfaction, and improved processes.

However, data silos—disparate data systems run by different company departments—and worker confusion can arise when a contractor is managing multiple cloud servers.

With cloud sprawl, projects would be divided with each server handling a section of the data, undermining the benefits a cloud solution was supposed to offer in the first place.

Data analysis can help contractors improve their workflows and make better decisions, but with data spread out among many servers, any data analysis would be unreliable or inconclusive.

Increased Costs

Contractors are already dealing with higher expenses due to the labor shortage and the spike in construction material prices. Paying for not only one, but many cloud servers increases costs even more.

Paying for each individual cloud server instead of investing in a robust, cohesive solution would be akin to using individual trucks to transport each of your team members to the desired location. Fuel would be wasted, projects would be delayed because of different arrival times, and resources would be unnecessarily squandered.

When a contractor uses various cloud servers, the same logic applies. All your company data could be in one server where it is easily accessible by the relevant teams. With the right cloud solution, data can be organized and securely shared, while IT costs are reduced.

Decreased Security

Hackers deleted 90% of E. R. Snell Contractor Inc.'s data backups and encrypted the company’s on-premise servers in 2020. Although the company had cyber insurance in the shape of an anti-virus system, hackers were detected too late—when the contractor was alerted, the malicious actors had already asked for ransomware payment.

Cybercriminals can take advantage of poor access management—the tracking and controlling of user accounts—and bad password to compromise employee accounts and breach a contractor’s network. Additionally, safeguarding multiple cloud servers which may contain copies of the data demands more resources and monitoring from cybersecurity personnel.

Without proper cloud management, contractors using these solutions are at increased risk of cyberattacks. The likelihood of one happening increases with more cloud servers storing copies of data, especially if the management of those servers is spread amongst multiple departments and individuals.

How to Prevent Cloud Sprawl

The risks above can be minimized with a set of standards contractors can follow to streamline workflows, maximize benefit, and reduce security vulnerabilities.

Unify Your Data

Company leaders should delineate a plan for centralizing all their data and resources. Alignment with the IT department would help to develop a solid strategy that takes into consideration stakeholder as well as technical needs.

Find a reliable cloud service provider who will help you maintain your data and workflows centralized to avoid relying on multiple cloud servers. This will also increase the speed of operations since departments leaders will clearly understand where the needed data is stored.

Organize Your Data

Since cloud sprawl happens due to teams adding data to the cloud without a methodical system, a vendor who can help your teams stay organized will help.

A well-structured cloud system also speeds up operations because there will be less time reuploading and downloading data from multiple sources.

Client relationships will be stabilized as well since inconsistent information can often lead to frustration.

Benefit from Access Management

Poor access management caused the E. R. Snell breach discussed above. Contractors should procure a cloud vendor that puts emphasis on user access management as well as proper password hygiene—using long, unique passwords and changing them regularly.

Human error causes 82% of company breaches. Therefore, a cloud vendor that is tactical about which user gets access to what information will minimize the chances of stolen contractor data.

The cloud can also help your company have a solid disaster recovery plan. When cybersecurity standards are followed, a cloud is the go-to solution when other storage servers have been compromised.

Increase Communication

In construction, numerous teams collaborate throughout the different stages of a project. Better communication between team leaders increases the benefits of using the cloud. Quicker project deployment, scalability, and efficient sharing of workloads can be achieved with a single cloud solution.

Mechanical contractors, for example, often interact with other contractors during the different stages of construction. Having a cloud system with a safe and accessible mobile solution will help these teams stay connected, even when they’re working in the field.

Strong password and compliance policies will reduce any risk associated with a mobile cloud server.

Conclusion

A cloud service is not a luxury, but a necessity in the construction industry. However, cloud sprawl is a challenge that affects contractors by reducing the advantages of their solutions.

Cloud sprawl can cause delayed projects, higher costs from multiple vendors, and increased security risks. Without a well-managed cloud solution, contractors are less likely to see the many benefits of the cloud.

Unifying and organizing company data, maintaining communication, and implementing strict cybersecurity policies can decrease the risks of data sprawl and keep a company better connected and safe.

Stakeholders should consider investing in a managed cloud vendor who can aid them in keeping their data organized, safe, and accessible. This way, contracting firms can focus on efficiently continuing projects without having to worry about the state of their data.

Michael Lepper serves as Vice President of Sales, Southern Illinois, at Impact Networking. With more than 10 years of experience in business technology sales, his core strength is in analyzing, strategizing, and presenting complex business solutions for successful digital transformation. He is a trusted advisor to key decision-makers and brilliant thought leader with a proven client record of being an innovative problem solver designing optimal solutions with a focus on business impact, cost effective technology, and sustainable long-term growth. Michael joined Impact Networking in May 2010 and was named a partner in 2016. 

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