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Walter Nowocin

Metrology

Eleven Benefits of the Cloud for Calibration Management Software Systems

Software as a service can help reduce costs and provide a more robust platform

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 13:03

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was directed by the federal government to define cloud computing to assist federal agencies in implementing cloud architectures.

In 2011, NIST published NIST SP 800-145—“The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing” and defined cloud computing as: “A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.”1

There’s much to learn about the benefits that this business model can bring to organizations. Cloud computing will transform how you do business. This article explains the benefits of using a cloud architecture for calibration management software systems. The following benefits and topics will be discussed: work from anywhere, always on, reduced IT costs, scalability, automatic updates, reduced coordination costs, improved quality control, disaster recovery, environmental sustainability, increased competitiveness, stronger security, and compliance considerations.2

Background

In addition to providing the definition for cloud computing, NIST has defined the cloud-service models and the cloud-deployment models. Each model brings benefits to the IT infrastructures that host calibration-management software systems.

The SaaS cloud service model is the typical model used to host calibration management software systems and is defined by NIST as: “Software as a Service (SaaS): The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.”1 

With this cloud service model, IT groups can focus on supporting business operations while the day-to-day activities of maintaining the database IT cloud architecture are performed by the cloud service provider.

The public cloud is the typical cloud deployment model used to host calibration-management software systems, though other models may be used (see figure 1 for a typical architecture). NIST defines the public-cloud deployment model as: “The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.”1



Figure 1: Public cloud network

In a public cloud deployment model, the architecture can be composed of both single-tenant customers and multitenant customers. In each case, the public cloud provider is responsible for the security of data between one customer and other customers as well as the operations of the public cloud network. What may not be easily apparent to the casual observer is that in a public cloud deployment model (see figure 1), all of the hardware (e.g., servers, databases, hosting internet connections) is owned and maintained by the cloud provider, which is why IT groups are so excited about converting to a cloud architecture model as quickly as possible.

We’ll now review the 11 benefits of having a cloud network model for hosting calibration-management software systems.2

Work from anywhere

Using the SaaS cloud service model with a public cloud-deployment model, calibration management software system users aren’t restricted to a PC in a work office. Instead, they can connect from anywhere, using just about any device that can connect to the internet (see figure 2).

The basic hardware and operating system are irrelevant to the end user, who will access the cloud service via a web browser or application. The cloud network allows increased freedom to respond to work activities from any location to keep instantly up to date with clients and co-workers. This increased mobility gives employees a better work-life balance; when employees are happier, the workplace is more productive.3


Figure 2: Customer public cloud network.

During Covid-19, companies using a cloud network were able to more rapidly transition to a work-from-home business model and to sustain the productive work conditions over a long period of time. This benefit alone highlights the value of having a cloud network structure in place.

Always on

Cloud services have gotten to the point where any data and applications you have saved to the cloud are available at any time. Forgot an important file or document at work? Well, you no longer have to rush all the way back to the office to download the file from your desktop computer if you’re on the cloud.

The cloud is always on, so if you have an internet connection, you have access to all of your files or applications anytime that you need them.4

Cloud computing may seem complicated, but it has fewer operational issues than an on-premise infrastructure due to the “thin-client” design. Because the cloud runs on its own servers through a cloud service provider thar can focus on making the cloud stay online and bug-free, it’s more reliable than your own, on-location server. In fact, the minute a problem arises, the cloud service provider is already looking for a fix. If this was your remote server, you would have to file a claim with tech support and have the IT department assign someone to look at it according to the priority level of the ticket. And with lower priority levels, IT issues can turn into larger ones that take more time and money to resolve.4

The always-on resource availability is why many businesses have switched from the traditional on-premise infrastructure to cloud computing. Cloud providers ensure that their software is extremely reliable with 99.99 percent uptimes or higher. And some SaaS networks have offline availability, meaning that your business never has to stop, no matter what else is going on. And, no more downtime waiting for systems to reboot.

Reduced IT costs

Would you like to make your IT group super happy? Mention to them that you would like to migrate your calibration-management software system to the cloud. The IT group already understands the inherent benefits of moving an on-premise software system to a cloud network. Especially from the self-interested perspective of knowing that they’ll spend much less resource time in supporting your cloud network. You had your IT group at “hello.”


Figure 3: On-premises and cloud computing comparison costs.

Moving your calibration management software system to the cloud would mean that you no longer have to spend money on managing and maintaining the IT equipment and systems that you’re currently running on. Not only will you reduce your hardware and infrastructure costs, but you may also be able to redirect your IT team to other tasks, without impacting the performance of your operations at all.

Almost certainly, however, cloud-based software will be lighter on your hardware. So, instead of going out and buying a desktop tower with an i7 processor, 32 gigs of RAM, and a 1Tb solid-state drive, you can run your calibration-management software system on your bare-bones $150 laptop. Because the actual computing isn’t happening on your device, the hardware doesn’t need to meet the requirements it otherwise would. The more powerful servers and computers located at your cloud service provider will handle all of the heavy lifting, leaving you to work in peace on a device of your choosing.

Essentially, using cloud services means IT groups aren’t having to buy or maintain computing infrastructure. So, no more updating applications and operating systems, buying and maintaining servers, or scrapping obsolete hardware or software. You’ll be able to leverage the cloud provider’s economy of scale because they deliver the same service to a variety of customers.6

Additionally, IT groups will be able to make better use of their capital budgets, and business managers will be able to more easily procure “services” than convince executives on capital expenditures with their inherent exponential costs. (See figure 3 for cloud infrastructure cost savings and efficiency gains provided by Vanson Bourne from “The Business Impact of the Cloud” article.)

Scalability

A cloud network allows you to quickly and easily scale your licenses as your business demands. If you have a sudden spike in demand or downturn (in the case of a global pandemic), licenses can be added or removed to accommodate your current needs. For example, let’s say that your company is going to have a few weeks of increased internal and external audit activity that will require your audit team to access your calibration-management software system more frequently to obtain equipment records. This increased activity will place a high demand on your existing software seat licensing, causing delays in accessing the equipment records. However, with the cloud, you can quickly contact the cloud service provider and increase your licenses for the duration of the demand.

The SaaS cloud service model operates in cloud designs that are scalable and have interfaces with other SaaS offerings. Compared with the on-premise model, you don’t have to buy new server hardware or software applications. You only need to initiate a new SaaS plan, and in terms of server capacity preparation, the SaaS cloud service provider will manage those resources.5

The cloud offers companies more flexibility vs. hosting on a local server. As an example, as you need more bandwidth, a cloud-based service provider will immediately meet that resource need, instead of you having to endure a complicated and expensive update to your IT setup. Your organization’s overall efficiency will be significantly improved as a result of this flexible IT cloud structure. An InformationWeek survey showed that 65 percent of respondents said “the ability to quickly meet business demands” was one of the most important reasons for moving to the cloud.3

Another scalability benefit is the concept of license pooling across time zones. If you have a widely dispersed workforce, say across the United States, Europe, and Australia, there’s no need to purchase licenses for everyone. As the Australian employees log off and go home, the European technicians are beginning to log in, and as the European workers are leaving, the United States workers are coming online. A global cloud network offers a very efficient use of company resources.

Automatic updates

One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is that you will always have access to the latest version of the calibration-management software system. You don’t need to rely on your IT team or perfect timing to roll out updates. You’ll always have access to the latest software application features. The days of being several versions of the software behind will be over.

With the SaaS cloud service model, the cloud service provider upgrades the software, and it becomes immediately available for their customers. No more panic on the timing of the update rollout, and no more decisions on switchover times and worrying if every team member has performed the update successfully and timely.5

Reduced coordination costs

Whether you have internal IT or outsource it, when there’s an issue or it’s time for an upgrade, it takes coordination between diverse players with differing priorities. With the cloud, the cloud service provider handles all aspects required to keep the calibration-management software system up and running, so you can focus on your work, not on bringing the right people together at the right time.

Additionally, the concept of business agility is a key benefit of using cloud services. Because companies pay only for the resources they need, they can move faster on projects and test out concepts without lengthy planning and big upfront costs. If a new application turns out to be a popular solution, the flexible nature of the cloud means it’s easier and quicker to scale up the project.6

Improved control

The cloud enables you to have complete visibility and control over your calibration-management software system data. You can easily decide which users have what level of access and privileges. Typically, change control is built in, so you can always trace who did what and where. There’s nothing worse than conflicting versions of documents and lost work. The cloud allows you to store everything centrally with detailed and documented change control mechanisms. This centralized control ensures that your team is always working efficiently.

Disaster recovery

Things can happen that are out of your control, whether that’s a fire, a natural disaster, or a power outage, which can lead to loss of data and downtime in your business. Typically, with the cloud your data are backed up every few minutes and can be restored to any point within the last month or so, ensuring that all data are safe and accessible, no matter what happens.

A SaaS cloud service model is designed to provide fast data recovery in emergency situations, such as power outages due to natural disasters. Salesforce research shows that “while 20 percent of cloud users claim disaster recovery in four hours or less, only 9 percent of non-cloud users could make the same claim.”3

Environmental sustainability

Because you’re using only the resources necessary for your application to run, you’re reducing the waste that occurs when you have your business systems onsite. By moving your calibration-management software system to the cloud, not only do you gain all of the above benefits to your business, but you’re also helping to have a smaller carbon footprint.

The SaaS cloud service model requires fewer physical servers and databases. This permits companies to significantly downsize their data centers. Fewer servers mean fewer dedicated resources. A study by Microsoft determined that “cloud storage can be between 79 percent to 93 percent more energy-efficient than a traditional on-premise data center.”4 Cloud IT systems support environmental sustainability by powering cloud services rather than physical hardware. The cloud reduces paper waste, improves energy efficiency, and reduces commuter-related emissions because employees can perform work from anywhere with an internet connection.3

Increased competitiveness

Using a SaaS cloud service model allows you to adapt and respond more quickly to changing conditions, and allows you to roll out upgrades quicker and with fewer resources. This ensures that you remain ahead of the pack.

Although cloud computing is increasing in popularity, there are still companies that prefer to keep everything under their infrastructure and control. Doing so places these companies at a distinct disadvantage when competing with companies that have gained from the benefits of the cloud service model. If you implement a cloud-based network before your competitors, your processes will be more mature and efficient by the time they decide to convert over. One research study highlighted this benefit by showing that “77 percent of businesses feel cloud technology gives them a competitive advantage, and 16 percent believe this advantage is significant.”3

If you’re having any doubts about this claim, just consider the companies operating on a cloud network against those working on local networks during this global pandemic. Which company would you rather be working in?

Stronger security

We saved this benefit for last, because we know that security is the elephant in the room when it comes to a cloud network. After all, when your calibration-management software system equipment records aren’t kept securely onsite, how do you know that they’re being protected? If you can remotely access your data, then what’s stopping a cybercriminal from doing the same thing? Well, turns out quite a bit, actually.

For one, a cloud service provider’s full-time job is to constantly monitor security. This is significantly more efficient than a traditional in-house system, where a company must divide its resources between a multitude of IT concerns, with security being only one of them.

RapidScale claims that “94 percent of companies saw an improvement in security after switching to the cloud.” Encryption of data being transmitted over IT networks and stored in databases is the key to this increased security. By using encryption, calibration-management software system equipment records are less accessible by hackers or unauthorized users to view or copy your data. Added security precautions can be set with most cloud-based services by using different security settings based on the user’s security needs.3

Compliance considerations

For companies working in a regulated industry, a qualified, secure environment is essential. Often, companies avoid considering a cloud network due to concerns about security and quality control of records and data. Therefore, there are several compliance considerations to address for these regulated companies.

First, ensure that your cloud service provider has stringent security measures in place. During your service-provider audit, look for security certifications. One certification example is the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type II Certification. Imperva describes the five “trust service principles”7 as:
• Security
• Availability
• Processing integrity
• Confidentiality
• Privacy

Another certification example is ISO/IEC 27001:2013—“Information technology—Security techniques—Information security management systems—Requirements.” Advesira, a market leader in providing documentation and online support for ISO 27001, states that the standard “was developed to help organizations, of any size or any industry, to protect their information in a systematic and cost-effective way, through the adoption of an Information Security Management System (ISMS).“8 With either security certification or another widely recognized certification, your company demonstrates its commitment to adhering to stringent security measures while providing a public cloud service network.

Second, to further comply with regulatory requirements, work with your cloud service provider to establish a “single-tenant” cloud deployment model with a dedicated customer server. This cloud structure provides for more security isolation and protection of your calibration management software system data and records.

And finally, include in your supplier/servicing licensing agreement topics such as security certifications, update protocols, validation documentation, and 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.

Summary

A cloud network can be an intimidating concept to consider for a calibration-management software system. Yet, NIST has done a nice job of defining the cloud service model and cloud deployment model to an extent where inherent benefits can be explained and understood. Benefits such as stronger security, work anywhere, always-on, automatic updates, scalability, and reduced IT costs not only excite company IT groups, but should excite calibration-management software system owners as well.

References
1. Mell, Peter and Grance, Tim. “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.” National Institute of Standards and Technology, Sept. 2011.
2. IndySoft. “11 Benefits of Going to IndySoft Cloud.” IndySoft.
3. Salesforce. “12 Benefits of Cloud Computing.” Salesforce.
4. DevTeam.Space. “Top 10 Benefits of Cloud Computing.” Information Age, Jan. 23, 2020.
5. IBM Cloud Team. “Top 5 Advantages of Software As A Service (SAAS).” IBM, Sept. 18, 2020.
6. Ranger, Steve. “What is Cloud Computing? Everything You Need to Know About The Cloud Explained.” ZDNet, Dec. 13, 2018.
7. Imperva. “SOC 2 Compliance.” Imperva.
8. Advisera. “What is ISO 27001?” Advisera.

Discuss

About The Author

Walter Nowocin’s picture

Walter Nowocin

Walter Nowocin is the Life Sciences Product Manager for IndySoft Corporation. In this role, Walter works closely with development, marketing, and sales to ensure that IndySoft is optimized to support calibration quality systems in regulated industries while being compliant with FDA, GMP, and ISO requirements. Walter has over 35 years of calibration experience with Medtronic PLC, the world’s largest medical device manufacturer, as a Calibration Department Manager and with the United States Marine Corps as a Precision Measurement Equipment Lab Master Sergeant. Walter is the Chair of the NCSLI Healthcare Metrology Committee and serves on the NCSLI Twin Cities Steering Committee. Walter has a Masters in Engineering Management degree from St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota and is an Adjunct Professor for the SCSU Executive Masters in Engineering Management degree program. Walter is a Certified Professional Engineering Manager and a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Management.

Comments

Software Providers?

Are there any calibration management software providers currently with cloud computing options available?

Cloud Calibration Management Software Providers

Hi Russell,

Thanks for the question related to my article on the cloud architecture.

I know for sure that IndySoft Corporation out of Charleston, South Carolina has the option for users to operate their calibration management software system on a cloud environment.

We can setup a demonstration for you if interested just send me an e-mail at walter.nowocin@indysoft.com.

Several other software companies also have cloud environments as options:

Gagetrak

Qualter

ProCal

Regards,

Walter Nowocin

864-679-3290

Calibration Management Software Providers

Hi there-

Qualer, here! We offer a comprehensive, cloud-based calibration management platform with features for broader asset and service event management.

To learn more, visit www.qualer.com or contact us directly at info@qualer.com.