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The Cloud: Color Management and Workflow

Is moving to a cloud-based system the right step for your shop?

Big Picture

The cloud has been a recent buzzword in the wide-format industry, especially during SGIA Expo 2015, with the introduction of GMG’s CoZone, SAi’s Cloud mobile app, and more. Many shops have moved to cloud-based mobile apps to manage or oversee a print job from a separate location, but these apps aren’t driving the in-house printers themselves. Could a cloud-based color management/workflow system be the next step?

Bart Fret, director of large-format sales for GMG, thinks so.

“With a cloud-based workflow system, you do not have to worry about the processing power or storage space of servers when saving jobs. There are no data limits, you don’t need to be concerned about computer performance, and there is no software maintenance on each system,” he says. And he’s right; because there’s no software or hardware to install, users simply need a web browser. “Users always are working on the same system – whether Mac or Windows – which means that there are no specific bugs or characteristics of one operating system or another to worry about. And, with a centralized cloud-based system, every workstation is always in sync. It's a single platform for everybody.”

Fret says the most important aspect is that upgrades and updates happen automatically. And unlike other server-based options, CoZone offers no restriction to the number of users, file sizes, or even storage. The enterprise-level cloud platform is accessible worldwide, day or night.

Sebastien Hanssens, VP of marketing and communications, Caldera, agrees that the cloud brings certain benefits, such as always keeping the user updated and a monthly rent that seems cheaper than a flat fee, “but people want to buy, not rent. Plus, clients are happy with older versions,” he says. Hanssens suggests a better route for a cloud-based system would be digital signage to manage the monitors, but not production.

So, what kind of shop should even be interested? Fret says it’s the larger shops. “They are more often looking into the economies a collaborative workflow can offer. A smaller shop does not collect time as often, and the owners are often working on the shop floor, rather than solely managing the business,” he says. “At larger companies, many different people are working on each job and the company is looking to streamline solutions and really manage people. Larger companies also operate with larger supply chains with more partners. This also changes the level of expectation. Larger clients expect slick, more professional systems.”

Hanssens disagrees. “If you have one or two machines, go cloud based, but the big print shops won’t,” he says. “There’s an internet problem in production studios. If it goes down, everything is down.”

Yet, Fret does say there’s a reason why smaller shops would be interested, too. “Jobs are difficult to complete quickly whether you are large or small. It’s still important for smaller shops to attain faster, more efficient turnaround of approvals with clients,” he says. “This reduces the time they spend chasing changes, and provides better use of valuable people resources. With 'pay as you go' solutions, they also do not have to invest in big capital purchases any more. These services make smaller shops appear larger and more resourceful than they actually are, and enables them to bid for work that they may not otherwise have capacity or expertise for.”

Everyone wants faster feedback and turnaround cycles, and are looking for the cheapest, easiest route to do so. But is the answer the cloud? Is this a move your shop will make?

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