Cloud storage makes steady progress in Poland

In Poland cloud storage and cloud services arouse concerns over control and security but businesses are discovering the benefits in cost and customer service

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Europe: CW Europe - October 2014 Edition

Public cloud services arouse suspicion in Poland. The thinking persists that your own servers or datacentre are the best places to store your data.

But that picture is slowly changing and cloud storage is recognised by some as a method that can cut costs and help improve customer service.

More than half (55%) of the largest Polish companies do not process data in the cloud and 40% of them do not plan to migrate to the cloud, according to research by analyst company Audytel.

The dominant concerns are that the move to cloud storage is a big step that surrenders control and security of data to a third party.

“Caution is often a far stronger motivation than the desire to make changes, even if there is the promise of a reduction in investment costs,” says Grzegorz Bernatek, head of analytical projects at Audytel.

Piotr Pietrzak, chief technology officer at IBM Poland, agrees: “Companies are particularly worried about the security of their data, including personal data. They are afraid of big risks lurking in the contract, dependence on the service provider and the lack of control over data that is transferred outside their organisation.” 

The use of the public cloud is very limited in Poland, according to Audytel’s report, Data processing in the cloud in the largest Polish organisations. The predominant model is private cloud, with 75% of respondents indicating its use in their organisations.

Unlike the public cloud, private infrastructure means the user company is responsible for the operation of all key aspects of the cloud: Infrastructure, hardware, server room, implementation and integration services, as well as administration and management of the cloud.

Cloud for primary data

Despite concerns, the number of companies that transfer data to the cloud is increasing every month, according to the Audytel report. In many cases the motivation arises from a need to serve customers more effectively.

It was a desire to serve customers better that prompted Fotosik.pl, an image-hosting website owned by Warsaw-based Digital Avenue, to transfer all data and IT infrastructure to the cloud.

The migration project was a joint endeavour between Fotosik.pl and Oktawave, an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform provider that is part of the K2 Group, a Polish media agency.

Fotosik.pl is a web service for storing and sharing image and video files on the internet. It has hundreds of thousands of users who upload photos and videos.

Maintaining smooth web operations with a large in-house infrastructure and high volumes of data, mostly primary customer data, requires large financial outlays. The company sought to reduce costs, but maintaining its own IT architecture became increasingly difficult as the infrastructure continuously required new investments and the systematic addition of extra file servers.

“At some point it became obvious that we needed to make the change [to public cloud],” says Piotr Bochenczak, CEO of Digital Avenue. “Further investment in more scattered small data servers does not make sense for financial reasons. Therefore, with no hesitation we decided to migrate to the cloud.”

To store all Fotosik.pl’s original data, Oktawave cloud storage was used. Currently it totals about 65 million files, but there is capacity for several times that amount if needed.

As in most such cases, the two biggest benefits of migration are cost savings and increased speed of service to the user.

With the possibility to run any size infrastructure on demand and a setup that allows employees more time for conceptual work, Digital Avenue is now working on improving the existing functionality of Fotosik.pl while preparing a new cloud storage website for professional photographers, as well as those who use hosting services for business purposes, such as auctions.

“With the old solutions we were forced to pay fixed rates for servers. Now we pay for the resources we actually use, so at night, when our users are asleep and don’t use our infrastructure, we pay less,” says Bochenczak.

Cloud archive at InsErt

InsErt is the largest Polish producer of management software for small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of number of licences sold (more than 460,000). Its offer includes systems that provide insight into a company’s sales, warehouse, accounting/finance and HR systems.

Until recently its products ran at customer premises on their own servers, desktops and local network and InsErt software was updated via CDs sent to customers as a part of a paid subscription.

The migration to an upgrade process through the cloud occurred in 2013, says Aleksander Greinert, InsErt deputy director of sales.

We achieved centralised access to our structured data and that meant it could be easily analysed to obtain business advantage

Slawomir Przybyl, application manager, BP Europa SE

“We decided to make this step because the existing form of update was inadequate for some of our customers, and expensive. Our main goal was to streamline the process of distribution of updates to our customers and to facilitate access to changes immediately after new versions were released,” he says.

To create its new solution, InsErt used the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. It was a challenge because Azure was a new technology for InsErt and the company had to learn a lot about its features.

The result has been that more than 20,000 InsErt customers now receive automatic updates from the cloud. The next step was for InsErt to extend the use of the cloud to offer its customers remote backup and archiving services.

“When introducing the automatic update tool, we got to know cloud technology, its features and the payment model. Through this experience we learned that the cloud platform improves our business,” says InsErt's Aleksander Greinert.

“We decided, as a producer of programs in which data is collected, that we should provide our customers with a solution that, on the one hand, ensures a high level of data security, and on the other hand gives them a quick way to restore archived data, ensuring business continuity." 

In partnership with Microsoft the company developed e–Archiving, an archiving cloud service. It is also a method of protecting against data loss due to hardware failure, accidental deletion of files, theft or unauthorised access. This cloud service also provides data protection against internet threats such as viruses and spyware.

“There is considerable interest from our customers in cloud storage services. It confirms that the decision to use cloud computing in backup and archiving was correct. Currently, a project to create our own cloud would not have any business justification. In contrast, the pricing model and scalability of the cloud services available on external platforms enable us to develop our business,” says Greinert.

Cloud backup and data management

BP is one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world. In Poland, it operates more than 450 fuel stations and shops with more than 3,000 employees.

In 2010 BP in Poland began to use cloud–based services for backup and to exchange and share data.

Data processed - names, addresses, products bought and sold, point of sale location, invoice and receipt data, etc - is collected at BP petrol stations and held in iBard24’s System Backup Online provided by iComarch24, a subsidiary of Comarch, one of the largest IT integrators in Poland, based in Krakow.

Data management, exchange and archiving in the cloud was launched after deployment of a special application on the PCs of BP Poland employees, says Slawomir Przybyl, application manager at BP Europa SE.

Now BP employees can quickly send and receive files in any format, with the cloud–based service accelerating the exchange of information between BP Poland headquarter, dealers, and points of sale.

“iBard24 makes the flow of information in the BP network possible on a 24/7/365 basis. It is also a fast, secure and automated process,” says Przybyl.

In 2013 BP cooperation with the provider went a stage further. The original cloud service was expanded by adding Comarch’s Business Intelligence Master Data Management.

This is a cloud service that includes data cleansing. It ensures data standards and quality, prevents excessive proliferation of the cloud database and analyses data according to criteria chosen by authorised users. The new system integrates the data of 65,000 customers with their 93,000 registered vehicles and supports more than 450 BP fuel stations in Poland.

“We achieved centralised access to our structured data and that meant it could be easily analysed to obtain business advantage. An additional benefit is the elimination of unnecessary input of customer data during daily work at each location. Information entered once at any BP fuel station is available to all units of BP Poland, which results in better customer service,” says Przybyl.

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