“The Cloud is here to stay” proclaims Phil Worms, director of marketing at hosting company iomart Group when talking about data connectivity following the launch of 4G in the UK.
“I’ve seen so many terms for the internet over the years, such as The net, Web 2.0 and so forth,” he states when asked what the future holds for the internet and mobile communications.
The Drum is speaking to iomart, the headline sponsor of this year’s Social Buzz Awards, to ascertain the company’s views on how the way that we access; share and store data is impacting on marketing services.
Worms, who has spent nearly twelve years at the company, certainly sees Cloud computing (delivering computing services via the internet) as the key that is unlocking a huge new market.
“The mass adoption stage is now,” he tells The Drum. “Over the past five years business people have begun to understand and embrace technology as the result of the consumerisation of IT. We have got so used to taking up devices, mobiles, laptops, tablets and using services without any thought about how they’re delivered or the technology behind it. This mentality has now seeped into all aspects of the business world and is no longer simply the domain of the IT department. We’ve now gotten to the point where people are wondering why they’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on developing internal systems when they can acquire services online within a few minutes.”
The current generation of marketers is beginning to realise the potential of mobile devices and tablets in getting their messages across to the public, which is increasingly becoming mobile friendly, he continues.
“It’s just there, it’s omnipresent, and that’s why we’re seeing the take-up of the Cloud. It’s a natural extension of what we’re used to at home. If you look at the early adoption curve, which has been quietly building up over the last 18 months, amongst the most vociferous users of Cloud are marketers and agencies. A lot of that is to do with the fact that the campaigns that they are working on are, in a way, selling the technology to their clients. Most consumer campaigns now incorporate social media as a call to action, and are therefore pulling their target audiences towards the net. Agencies have also been amongst the first to recognise that Cloud or on-demand services are perfect for scaling resource to handle website traffic spikes.”
He is also very aware that the uptake in social media use has meant a massive increase in data. The Big Data conundrum about what marketers should do with all of the personal information they are accruing, has created the need for increased data storage which is causing a new headache for marketers. Extremely successful campaigns are generating huge volumes of data and all of this needs to be stored, analysed and archived if it is to be of use.
The issue of network capacity to manage all this data is one that Worms believes will have to be faced by every content provider and big company in the future as streaming and rich content becomes the norm.
“When iomart was formed in 2000, we were the original trialists for broadband in the UK. We were rolling it out when no one had really heard of it. The world was still accessing the internet via dial-up connections and it’s funny that it’s almost come full circle. Going back 10 years we were talking about the benefits of having a broadband connection at home. A decade on, when it’s predicted that 90 per cent of internet traffic within the next three or four years will be streamed or be video content at some level, we’re preaching the exact same message! You only have to look at the rise if the iPlayer, the number of London 2012 live streams at this summer’s Olympics and services such as Sky Go to see this trend. TV has converged, entertainment has converged, static websites are going to be a thing of the past, but they will only thrive if the end user has a hassle free viewing or downloading experience, and this takes huge amounts of bandwidth. You may have the access but can your device physically cope? And more importantly has the content provider got the infrastructure in place to serve an excellent simultaneous multi-connection customer experience? Has it got the speeds to download all of this content, and what size is the Cloud network that I’m connected to? If I’m an agency, I’ve got a multimillion pound advert on there, the last thing I want is for people to log onto it and get the little round circle of moving death.”
Another major issue facing all users of the Cloud is the security of the service and where their data is being stored.
“When I upload my photos to a social media site, I don’t know if they’re being stored in Azerbaijan or London. Frankly, it’s a risk I take but it doesn’t bother me too much as a consumer, although it should! However, if that was my latest advertising campaign which I’d invested millions of dollars into, I’d want to know that all the data and all of the interaction is under my total control. I would want to know where that data is held, is it safe and is it being stored in compliance with all of the legal requirements. This is what will differentiate Cloud services moving forward.”
Worms adds that the issue around security is one that the Cloud industry must still overcome, claiming that people have yet to understand that free and cheap access to the cloud is only available to those who are not being offered high service level guarantees.
“Things like service level guarantees, making sure your data doesn’t leave a particular geographic territory and ensuring that if your websites suffer problems you know who to contact is really important. If I’m a business and I’m online I want to know that I’ve got high availability and 24/7 technical support directly from the data centre that’s supporting my services,” continues Worms who is honest when he admits that with high service levels comes a premium price tag.
Finally, over the controversy surrounding the high prices being asked by EE for the roll-out of its 4G service, the first in the UK, Worms believes that, like every other service, the further it rolls out, the cheaper it will become.
“Inevitably the price of 4G will drop”, he says, “but that still doesn’t get away from the fact that what you’re paying for is speed and capacity on the move. What a business is trying to do is with 4G is replicate the user experience that comes with having terminals on office desks connected by fat pipes to the net.
“4G has got to be proven, particularly within the UK. I do accept that as a nation we are moving far more towards access through mobile devices. Certainly the concept of 4G applies whether it’s mobile or it’s fixed. Bandwidth pipes are going to be absolutely key.”