Not too long ago the idea of cloud services as a utility encountered the skepticism of many in IT who had seen too many "Next Big Things" fail to make it beyond the "Next Big Buzzword" stage. Among the skeptics were a number who had themselves led innovation in IT.
Most have recanted. It's become harder to argue with the economies of scale, depth of expertise and range of services cloud providers can muster and pass on to their subscribers.
Today, diverse companies are successfully leveraging cloud services as a utility, shedding capital costs, infrastructure concerns and payroll increases in the process. They've become leaner, more agile and able to exploit a developing skillset, that to be cost-effective relies heavily on rapid deployment and scalability. Pinterest, Netflix, Instagram and Reddit are just a few of the many prominent online companies that have moved a large part of their web hosting to the cloud.
Going Big, Posthaste
The agility the cloud provides has made possible innovative types of short-term marketing campaigns that can raise brand awareness through alignment with public events. Whether planned in advance to coordinate with scheduled events, or mobilized rapidly to respond to breaking opportunities -- nimble, short-term campaigns are one of digital marketing's required competencies.
Consider the cloud-hosted "flash" campaign designed by Outback Steakhouse. During a 48-hour period it gave away one million steak dinners by directing customers via traditional TV and radio media, as well as social and mobile channels, to a special website to register for a free meal.
Outback's marketing team devised and launched the entire campaign within weeks, and at times the campaign drew over a quarter million hits a minute to its site. Those involved say the time and effort that would've gone into preparing and scaling up the on-premises infrastructure to tackle the job would've taken months.
President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign deftly utilized cloud services to coordinate its multichannel effort. Harper Reed, Chief Technology Officer for the campaign, said that there was no way the campaign's numerous rapid deployment and scalability needs could've been addressed without the cloud.
One cloud-deployed app coordinated volunteers' efforts to make get-out-the-vote calls, without requiring them to report to traditional brick-and-mortar call centers. This freed them from the costly infrastructure of hardware and call stations, as well as on-site staff.
Events like the Super Bowl have also become emblematic of the opportunity to engage a wide audience and build brand with a campaign centered on a single, special occasion. One well-known American brewer learned the hard way that its own servers couldn't handle too much of a good thing. After its on-premises deployment crashed from an unanticipated volume of response to a Super Bowl spot, the next year they went with a cloud-based infrastructure that successfully scaled to accommodate what became a viral campaign.
The epitome of a company relying on cloud-services to handle the vast and elastic demand for its digital offerings may well be Netflix. Collective binge viewing of streamed series such as "House of Cards" or "Orange is the New Black" can test the accommodation of a cloud-deployment like nothing else. Yet Netflix relies on its cloud services provider to handle the immense volume of on-demand delivery for selections from its own streamed series and movie library. Its operational model's success so far signifies the revolution in corporate IT brought about by the arrival of cloud-services as a utility.
The Quick and the Dead
A managed service provider can alleviate any concerns regarding the learning curve involved in transferring IT operations to a cloud service provider. These providers specialize and have expertise in managing the digital presence of a wide range of diverse enterprises seeking to reach, maintain and grow their audience across the different digital channels.
In the continuing competition to establish brand and win market share in an age of fickle and impatient consumers, trending fashions and viral campaigns, the phrase "the quick and the dead" takes on a whole new meaning.