The Impact of Cloud Hosting on Retail

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Technology is changing the retail landscape at a dramatic rate. The proportion of online sales continues to grow (from 2.8% in 2006 to 32.8% in 2020 – source: ONS), there are more ways to sell than ever before and the lines between online and in-store shopping are becoming increasingly blurred. To stay competitive, many retail are now adopting the cloud to free them from the constraints of in-house IT systems, enable them to be more agile and let them take advantage of the latest technologies. Here, we’ll look at how cloud is transforming retail.

Operational integration

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One of the major advantages of cloud over legacy in-house IT systems is that it enables data to be easily unified and systems like communications, marketing, inventory and shipping to be integrated. This provides businesses with a greater understanding of their business and more control over their operations. Instead of separate, disjointed systems, they are provided with a business-wide IT infrastructure that provides operational seamlessness.

As a result, companies are able to make operational savings, teams can collaborate better, new approaches can be developed and customer experiences can be improved.

Better visibility of supply chain and inventory

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With all parts of the business connected to the cloud, retailers can have company-wide visibility of their supply chain and inventory. The cloud-based technology, blockchain, for example, offers retailers a clearer overview of the supply chain, giving them the ability to track the origin and movement of goods and create financial audit trails.

With inventory, businesses can have stock information in real-time, ensuring they have up to date information of what’s in stock and where it is. This can help them maintain stock levels, offer customers click and collect from individual stores and give the company a better understanding of what is and isn’t selling.

Seamless supplier integration

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From the procurement of stock to shipping and aftersales, retailers collaborate with numerous partners to provide services to their customers. Cloud technology enables retail and their suppliers to integrate systems, providing real-time status information. Retailers can know where their incoming consignments and outgoing deliveries are, access data from outsourced communications partners or loyalty programs and share documents with suppliers.

What’s more, some of this information can be used to enhance the customer experience, for example, sharing delivery tracking information and enabling customers to modify delivery instructions en-route, in real-time.

Personalised customer experience

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Not only are customers attracted to retailers that offer personalisation; many are willing to pay more for the experience. Personalisation means the shopping experience is tailored to individual customers; they are given product recommendations and offers that are relevant to their wants and needs and this saves them a great deal of time finding the right items. This convenience makes them loyal shoppers and increases LTV.

The essential ingredient for personalisation is customer data, ideally a complete map of the customer journey. It is here where cloud plays an important role, providing real-time data on browsing and purchasing histories and linking it to all the other information the business holds on a customer to provide product recommendations and other services that are personalised for the individual.

Business intel

Business Intelligence

While retailers gather a lot of valuable data, making use of it has, historically, been hampered because it was stored in different departmental silos, sometimes on separate IT systems. Cloud enables data to be unified, stored centrally and accessed by anyone who is permitted to use it.

As a result, datasets that had previously been kept isolated can be brought together to provide a far more detailed analysis. With cloud’s ability to offer big data analytics, together with advanced technologies like AI and machine learning, the capacity to gain new insights has never been greater. Retail that use the cloud have benefitted from finding ways to save money, improve and automate operations and deliver new and better services for their customers. What’s more, the cloud enables them to do this quicker than ever before, giving the ability to react swiftly to changes in the marketplace.

A cost-effective IT solution

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As retailers become increasingly reliant on IT, many have struggled with the cost. Cloud has enabled these businesses to shrink IT costs considerably. With cloud vendors providing the IT infrastructure, retailers no longer need to purchase and maintain expensive in-house datacentres of their own. The cloud’s pay-as-you-go payment structure is also beneficial, enabling retailers to scale up or down as demand requires, while only paying for the resources they use. And there’s no limit to the resources that are at a retailer’s disposal, should it need them.

Additionally, there are no hardware maintenance costs to pay and the service is managed, freeing up time for IT staff to work on business oriented projects. Even software is less expensive, with many cloud-based apps being open-source and vendors able to offer the most popular proprietary apps at lower costs.


Cloud has become the go-to solution for retails, with migration accelerating significantly since the pandemic. Its ability to unify and integrate systems and data and make use of modern technologies like data analytics, AI and machine learning has provided retailers with better intelligence to improve all aspects of their businesses, cut costs and enhance user experience.

Ways cloud hosting is similar to Santa

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You might think it Christmas crackers to believe a beardy, old sleigh driver donning a red hat, has anything remotely in common with an internet-based hosting solution – but you’d be wrong. Both of them, in their own unique ways, can bring us many benefits. So, as Christmas approaches and we begin to let our minds wander away from work and towards the festivities, here’s a more seasonal and humorous post for you to enjoy. Here are the reasons why cloud hosting is like Santa Claus.

When it comes to running critical operations, Santa relies on his sleigh just as much as businesses need their applications. Downtime for either can be disastrous. Sleigh failure can result in millions of unhappy children waking up to empty stockings – an unimaginable reputational disaster for the world’s most trusted brand. For others, the standstill caused by server failure not only damages reputations but can also result in significant losses.

Neither Santa nor businesses like downtime

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While Santa relies on magic reindeer dust to keep his sleigh in action, for businesses, the best option is to migrate to cloud hosting where the possibility of downtime due to server failure is non-existent. The virtual nature of a cloud environment means that it delivers consistent performance with guaranteed 100% uptime. This is because its hyper-converged design protects against everything from hard disk failure to an entire server failure, enabling critical apps to be always available.

Reindeer fast performance

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Speed is essential for both Santa and modern businesses. For Santa, dropping off presents to the world’s 2 billion children in a single night means he has to work fast. It’s been scientifically calculated that he needs to travel at approximately 650 miles per second to get everything done in time and to achieve this, he needs more than your average reindeer. Indeed, the average reindeer can only manage 15mph and most of those would be flagging after half an hour of pulling all that weight.

What makes everything possible for Santa is that he uses the cloud. Rather than taking the sleigh over rugged terra firma, riding high in the cloud provides an almost friction less environment to travel and where gravity has less of an impact. This massively improves his speed.

That same cloud, or one very similar to it, can also help boost the speed of your data. Indeed, as data is weightless, it can travel even faster through the cloud than reindeer, almost at the speed of light. And with high-performance servers featuring powerful Intel Xeon CPUs and super-fast SSD drives you can perform critical tasks quicker than an elf can say ‘Merry Christmas’.

Santa has been so impressed with cloud technology, he’s now adopted load balancing to prevent his sleigh tipping over on tight corners. For cloud hosting users, load balancing maximises speed and capacity utilisation so that when servers are busy, the load is distributed. This ensures that no server suffers from performance problems and, with multiple data centres at their disposal, cloud providers can always ensure optimised performance.

Both Santa and cloud hosting save you money

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Whether you are buying presents for your children or cloud hosting for your business, it is important that what you buy offers you value for money. What’s great about the cloud is that you can save on the costs of running a data centre and the capital expenditure needed to pay for hardware. Everything you need is provided by the host. There will be no need to pay for premises, electricity, physical security, maintenance or insurance.

Similarly, with Santa, those who have well-behaved children can save on the cost of buying presents. Instead of spending a fortune on Amazon, simply get your ‘nice list’ kids to write a letter to Santa and put it in the nearest post box. Doing this automates the process of putting presents in stockings and under the tree on Christmas Eve. Although a small delivery fee of a mince pie and a shot of something warming is required, the savings are dramatic, especially when your child has an eye for expensive electronic gadgetry.

Unfortunately. If you have naughty kids, you’ll have to supply your own presents or make do with the small bag of coal that ‘bad list’ children get left.

Both come with expert little helpers

When you have significant workloads, it pays to have experts on hand to help you get things done. Santa, for example, has an army of elves who spend their days creating the presents, wrapping them up and loading them onto the sleigh. They’ll also manage the naughty and nice list and organise the presents in a way that enables delivery to be done with awe-inspiring efficiency.

If Santa has a technical problem, Mrs Clause offers 24/7 support, together with tea and biscuits, to help him find an effective solution. Last year, for example,Rudolph’s nose was a bit dim and Mrs Clause provided the right type of carrot to add to Rudolph’s food ‘til the luminous glow was restored.

Users of cloud hosting also benefit from expert little helpers. Working away behind the scenes is an army of engineers and technicians who ensure that your hosting is expertly managed. They’ll monitor and maintain the servers, update the software, scan for intruders and malware,and generally make sure your hosting is working as effectively as possible.

At the same time, should you have any issues, a good cloud host will provide their own 24/7technical support. While they may not know one end of a reindeer from the other, they will have expert skills in helping you with all your hosting needs and will be available by phone, live chat or ticket.

Wrapping up

So, as you can see, it is possible to compare Santa with cloud hosting. Comparing,however, doesn’t mean you have to choose between them. If you’re clever and have been good all year, you can have both. Now, that is good tidings.

Enterprise cloud hosting migration challenges

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Despite the enormous benefits that the cloud brings, there are several issues that many enterprises face as they transition to this new technology. These include making choices about the right time to migrate, the best way to do it and which services to move. Other issues concern security, the use of managed services and whether to opt for a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach. Here we’ll look at these challenges in more depth.

Planning the move to the cloud

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Research by the Cloud Industry Forum shows that 88 per cent of UK enterprises have now adopted cloud technology with two-thirds expected to expand their use during the next 12 months. In doing so, many will shrink their in-house data centres or close them entirely. The result is that they can scale down or eliminate the expense of paying for the physical premises, hardware, applications and security that a data centre requires and replace this setup with a more agile cloud infrastructure.

The issue is that planning the migration of many different applications from the data centre to the cloud can be a challenge that takes considerable time to carry out and which often stretches already busy IT teams beyond capacity. Indeed, many IT teams lack the skills needed to carry out a successful migration.

The solution is not to undergo this process in isolation. You should find a provider that will carry out the necessary assessments, assist you in designing and developing the infrastructure you will need and which will then plan and undertake the migrations on your behalf.

Finding the right cloud solution

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The cloud provides a range of benefits for enterprises, it’s cost-effective, secure and provides the scalability businesses need to be agile. Finding the right cloud solution, however, can be a challenge. Crucial requirements include ensuring all your applications are ready for migration and finding the best platform on which to host them.

The complexities involved often means that, for some enterprises, standard-package cloud service setups might not provide the best solution for their needs. Increasingly, businesses are looking for service providers that can offer bespoke cloud or hybrid solutions that provide the ideal environment for all their applications.

Managed solutions

IT Managed Solutions - ITMS

Many companies that migrate to the cloud attempt to keep costs down by managing their IT in-house. However, moving parts of your infrastructure to the cloud or to a multi-cloud/hybrid cloud environment can make managing these integrated services more complex. Add to this the constant development of new applications and technologies means that maintaining a highly trained IT team can be very expensive.

By outsourcing your IT management to a credible provider, not only are the on-going training costs reduced, it also frees up your IT staff to concentrate on more business orientated projects which can drive the company forward. Service providers employ certified IT teams who are able to expertly manage all aspects of your solution and are compliant with a wide range of regulations and industry standards.

Cutting IT costs

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As enterprises expand their use of and reliance on IT, one of their biggest challenges is to prevent the costs becoming excessive. Cloud services help reduce costs in a number of ways. Firstly, they reduce the requirement for a large-scale data centre, its ongoing operating costs and the capital expenditure on hardware. The use of managed services can also reduce the need for such a large IT team and the associated training costs. Additionally, the pay as you use pricing of cloud means that costs, as well as services, are scalable, helping you to keep them to a minimum when IT requirements are low.

Data storage and security

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The storage and security of data is a key challenge for enterprises, especially with the increasing number of threats and regulations. Data breaches can lead to huge fines but, perhaps more importantly, can have a devastating impact on the company’s reputation.

While there have been concerns about data stored in the internet accessible cloud, service providers have to comply with strict standards and regulations to ensure customers’ data, such as personal and mission-critical information and intellectual property, is secure.


Migrating to the cloud can bring many benefits, giving enterprises access to the latest technologies, such as the IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis. With so many businesses already employing cloud IT, maintaining competitiveness may rely on such a move. However, migration is not without its challenges as we hope this post has shown. That said, by choosing the right hosting partner, these can be overcome. If you are looking for a cloud hosting provider who can offer the services mentioned in this post, check out our enterprise cloud hosting page.

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