Thanks to a cloud infrastructure, it is possible to offer Product Information Management in a data secure and location-independent manner.

Benefits only - why PIM is better off in the cloud

After an initial reticence, German companies have now discovered the advantages of the cloud. Not only office applications and standard programs are being used in the cloud. Special applications are also migrating from in-house data centers to the network. And for Product Information Management (PIM) this makes good sense.

Author: Stephan Lamprecht

As shown be a 2019 Bitkom study, a real run on the cloud has broken out in German companies. Three out of four companies now rely on computing services from the cloud.

The Cloud as basis for digitalization

Not surprisingly, at closer look, the basic advantages of the cloud are obvious: scalability, flexibility and cost advantages speak for cloud computing. Whether virtual servers or desktops, storage space or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions: in some cases, cloud applications can be adapted to a higher demand within a company within a few minutes.

Often it takes only a few mouse clicks to create additional user accounts or call up additional computing or storage capacity. This enables companies to react to changing conditions and business requirements. Compared to operation in an own data center, the cloud is hard to beat in terms of flexibility and scalability. Since no hardware must be purchased, cost advantages and thus savings potential are achieved. In times of tight IT budgets, this is a weighty argument in favor of the cloud. „Viamedici Software GmbH recognized cloud as a driver of digital transformation years ago. For our customers, the question is no longer whether the use of the digital cloud makes sense, but rather how to realize this goal“, explains Jürgen Müller, CEO Viamedici Software GmbH. 

In some industries, the cloud is also creating conditions for new business models and digitalization. More and more brand manufacturers and industrial companies are discovering the benefit of direct sales. Marketplaces and shopping portals are then connected centrally to their own IT systems via the cloud. Using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, companies can seamlessly monitor and document their supply chains. This issue affects the pharmaceuticals sector, for example, because a certain temperature must be maintained constantly when transporting sensitive medications. Temperature-guided environmental measurement can of course also be monitored using the cloud. The connection and use of interfaces via the cloud facilitate cooperation between established companies and start-ups in many industries - an important step towards more agility.

The Cloud is secure

Security concerns are often seen as a major obstacle on the way to the cloud. The in-house data center is often considered by business owners and management to be the most secure form of data processing.

"On-premises is more secure than the cloud", this equation is one of the myths surrounding cloud computing. Public cloud offerings from the USA certainly do not enjoy the best reputation among security experts in this country. But if you choose a cloud partner who offers high-quality services, you can also expect high-security standards that can usually never be achieved in a local IT infrastructure.

Premium providers who work with companies from the energy industry or health care sector, for example, maintain data centers that are similar to the high-security sections of prisons, if only for compliance reasons (e.g. IT security law). No one can get in or out unseen and unrecorded. This precludes corporate espionage directly in the data center. „For our customers, data protection and data security with simultaneous flexibility in terms of costs and user management are fundamental arguments for switching to the cloud. The Viamedici Cloud currently offers the only comprehensive worry-free package for every PIM project - with the rating limitless security, limitless flexibility", says CEO Jürgen Müller.

Analogously, this also applies to the data access itself. Data is stored separately for each client and thus for each customer in a highly encrypted and redundant form. Trustee models sometimes even ensure that access by law enforcement authorities, for example from the USA, is impossible. If personal data, i.e. of customers, is processed in such an infrastructure, companies are responsible for maintaining a high level of protection in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). For this reason alone, it is advisable to choose providers who operate their data centers in Germany. It facilitates the checking of security measures directly on site which is not possible with a server location abroad.

Cloud infrastructures are superior 

However, security plays a major role not only in the storage of data. So-called "man-in-the-middle attacks" are feared, whereby attackers attempt to gain access to the information stored in the data center when it is accessed externally. This can be prevented if the transmission path is completely encrypted. The exchange between an employee's computer and the server can be secured against external access by means of a VPN connection, often referred to as a VPN tunnel. Premium providers offer these VPNs when booking cloud resources.

CIOs and IT managers know that with every percentage point in the availability of data and services, the cost increases proportionally. Many cloud providers automatically offer 24 hour access, 365 days a year, with over 99 percent reliability in their tariffs. Implementing such availability on-premises is technologically demanding and - above all - cost-intensive. 

Clearly, the cloud can be superior to your own data center if a potential provider is closely scrutinized. This should include all aspects of the offering. It must be considered that a provider who ends up using Amazon's (AWS) or Google's infrastructure for cost reasons will make itself dependent on these companies - while at the same time losing data protection sovereignty.

The extent of this dependency is now evident in many places, such as in the power outages that have occurred around the data centers of US companies. For private users, it is merely annoying if the streaming provider of choice has problems or if there is no access to the documents stored on the Internet hard disk. For businesses, this can quickly turn into a costly disaster.

Data flood under control: EAN, barcodes, dimensions and digital asset management

Omni-channel strategies, the triumph of the platform economy, more and more marketplaces and a growing number of touchpoints with consumers: The world for retailers and brand manufacturers is becoming fragmented and more complex. The importance of "raw material" often only becomes apparent when the company is struggling with the effects of complexity. Product data - the information surrounding the goods sold - is needed in every channel and along many process chains (value chain/supply chain).

Article descriptions, EAN, barcodes, dimensions or product images are some examples of such data. Product information, including the corresponding technical data sets as well as the so-called digital asset management, must be available for all channels in an up-to-date and granular form. But each channel requires different preparation. Those who sell internationally also need this data in other languages. It is an enormous effort not only to make the product data available (for distributors, service providers, agencies, etc.), but also to monitor its quality. This is exactly what a Product Information Management, or PIM system, does. It saves a lot of work in marketing, product management and sales. Just one example: How often must product images be sent to partners, agencies and service providers for the production of advertising material, postings for digital communication channels and marketplaces? In PIM, these assets are managed centrally. And they are always available there in the current version. Modern systems can also supply different channels via docked cloud infrastructures. The systems’ performance and the validity of the data sets set new standards and make it possible to take advantage of the new business ideas mentioned above.

Advantages of the interaction between PIM & Cloud

The central data storage in a data center guarantees the highest security standards and quality requirements.

A PIM specifically designed for the cloud combines the advantages of both worlds. No hardware must be purchased, no installation on own machines is necessary. This relieves the burden on the IT department and those responsible because no further specialists are needed and administrators do not have to be trained. Of course, the PIM in the digital cloud also combines the popular advantages of an on-premises solution, such as our in-house Enterprise-Product-Management-System. Another advantage of a cloud solution; as mentioned above, companies can combine the advantages of other applications with Product Information Management. Thus, it is possible to store relevant data records and information in real-time with high performance using Data Store - via cloud even worldwide.

Thanks to central data storage in a data center that meets the highest quality standards, mission-critical and sensitive product data is available in a fail-safe and highly available manner. In direct comparison with on-premises solutions, data protection is simplified because the stored cloud data is backed up on-site.

The PIM works as soon as the users to access it have been set up. Time-consuming configuration on a dedicated server is thus eliminated. And when accessing the stored data via external channels, the PIM uses encrypted paths. The valuable information remains protected from unauthorized third parties. Thanks to the cloud, employees can access product data at any time and from any location, regardless of what it is needed for.

Product Information Management and the cloud are thus the perfect link and are clearly superior to locally installed solutions.

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