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The "Data in the Cloud" Revolution

By October 27, 2010Article

In the world of business, data is king.
Good, reliable data makes your company stronger by making your business more agile, and it can help you stay ahead of your competitors by always keeping you up to date about your customers, business contacts and operations.
So if it is so important, why do we often fail to think of it as one of our most central, valuable and precious business assets? Sure, we worry about its security and about its backup. But it’s not often that we really think about giving the data itself all of the resources necessary to ensure that it is always up-to-date, filtered, clean and business-ready at a moment’s notice.
That’s changing, however, as the idea of Data in the Cloud is becoming part of the modern enterprise IT landscape, particularly in the area of business contacts, sales leads and networking.
Data in the Cloud gives a much higher level of importance to your critical business data by elevating its handling and processing to reflect its constantly changing nature. Data is like a live organism, always growing and changing as information is added, removed, edited and updated. And in the area of business contact and lead generation data, it’s even more volatile as contact info changes constantly due to people changing jobs, employers and locations.
Most likely, though, while this vast contact data pool is alive and mission critical to your business, you’re probably giving it much less thought than you are to your IT infrastructure, from your servers to the data storage systems and the networking architecture.
For your business to excel, however, it’s time for those old attitudes to change.
No longer is your contact and lead generation data just something you need to store and process for the sake of having it. You need to begin looking at it as something you need to feed and care for so it can help your business stay ahead of the competition. You need to keep it accurate and up-to-date and vital so it can give your business the fuel it needs to perform at the highest level
That’s where Data in the Cloud comes in.
How data in the cloud can help your business
With Data in the Cloud, your critical contact data now can be kept fresh and up to date through a vendor whose key job is to collect, clean, freshen, correct and redistribute that core information for their customers. Instead of making those responsibilities the work of people inside your company – if anyone even has the time to do such tasks inside your business – you get all of that information back from your vendor in a form that’s more accurate and ready to use, in a business model similar to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) marketplace.
Companies today go out and get this kind of contact data from vendors who charge them lots of money for printed lists. This contact information makes up the foundation stones for every business-to-business relationship on the planet. The problem with those costly printed lists, however, is that that information is usually out-of-date before the ink is even dry. Worse yet, businesses then put that stagnant information into databases or mailing lists and then forget about it. Then they later do their mailings or calling and find out that much of that information is old and stale. What a shock.
Data in the Cloud vendors make it their business to be centralized clearinghouses to procure and always provide the most current contact and lead generation data that’s available to their customers. Those databases aren’t completely perfect, of course, but they are far more perfect than anything else that exists to keep such volatile, always-changing contact information current.
I believe that Data in the Cloud is going to revolutionize the data business exactly the way that SaaS has revolutionized the software business. The value of Data in the Cloud for businesses that need such services is that they can stop worrying about how to do this difficult job on their own and hand over the responsibilities and stresses to a vendor that specializes in such processes.
Part of the magic of Data in the Cloud is that the raw data can be collected anonymously through a wide range of user companies and databases and can be crunched, reviewed, analyzed and updated to cleanse and ready it for users. I think that this kind of anonymous data collection and sharing will grow because it makes the dissemination of the data more accurate and approachable for users large and small.
How business users rely on data in the cloud
So what’s Data in the Cloud doing for business users today?
Ron Tonini, the CEO of Picture Marketing, Novato, Calif.-based company that helps clients with brand marketing, uses Data in the Cloud to find potential new clients to grow his business. By getting his contact leads through a Data in the Cloud service, he said, he can obtain far more information than he could put together on his own, with far more accuracy than the old paper lists he used to buy.
“I see it almost like lead-generation-as-a-service,” Tonini said. “We knew we needed to find better and more efficient ways to find clients.” Using Data in the Cloud, Tonini can create up-to-date lists of potential clients and then focus on selecting the best ones to visit on sales calls. “Without Data in the Cloud, I would have bought mailing lists, which is terribly inefficient. Data in the Cloud gives me continuity and an ongoing relationship with a growing asset.”
Kat Vasilakos, Sales Development Director for newScale Inc., an IT catalog software vendor in San Mateo, Calif., said her company uses Data in the Cloud because it streamlines the collection and availability and maintains the quality of customer contact information for the bustling business. “If it’s not Data as a service, then you have to go out and get it; which means more work.” she said.
“When it’s delivered as a service, you can just set it up and forget about it. It works for you and adds new data to your Customer Relationship Management application automatically. One of the most important aspects of Data in the Cloud is that as you update your contact and sales lead data using the service, it saves you a lot of time that would have been spent manually creating and maintaining the contact lists. And one of the most important things as a sales person is saving time.”
A major benefit of Data in the Cloud for newScale, Vasilakos said, is that it can be set up to automatically add relevant new lead contacts to the company’s database while also cleaning and maintaining the existing information. If you don’t do that, then it ends up in a big fat mess, which is really what happens in most companies.
The future of data in the cloud
The need for Data in the Cloud and new delivery methods for quality, clean and accurate business data is quite clear in the world of business, from brick-and-mortar stores to online retailers. As a result, it could bring resulting big changes in the software industry as we move from simply selling applications – which are essentially empty containers that must be filled up with data to be useful – to actually capturing, sorting, checking and purifying the data itself as a true service.
Any kind of data can potentially be delivered using Data in the Cloud, from sales lead information to business contacts to credit reporting data, compliance data and much more. Yes, the exact future of Data in the Cloud is still to be determined, but its disruptive nature is already opening eyes as it does innovative new things with a very old commodity – data. Data in the Cloud is here to stay and I believe it will dramatically change what people think of when they think about managing data.
Jim Fowler is CEO of Jigsaw.

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