Cloud Usage in the AEC Industry: Trends by Firm Size
Facing the monumental challenges of population growth, urbanization, and globalization, the AEC industry must manage increasingly complex data and systems. As traditional data centers are becoming insufficient for the tasks of today’s age, more AEC firms have been turning to cloud-based storage solutions. Microdesk conducted a survey of over 15,000 AEC firms to discover trends in cloud usage in the industry and investigate correlations between percentage of data in the cloud, firm size, and type of cloud solution chosen. Based on our results, regardless of firm size, approximately 2/3 of all AEC firms store data in the cloud; yet firms of different sizes are comfortable storing a different amount of data in cloud solutions. Small firms and large firms are comfortable storing a high percentage of their data in the cloud, finding affordable and suitable solutions for their needs. Medium-sized firms, on the other hand, are struggling to find cloud solutions that suit their budgetary and technical requirements, storing a much more modest percentage of their data in the cloud. In this paper, we analyze these trends and propose best practices for AEC firms to choose effective cloud solutions.
As the AEC industry progresses and tackles increasingly complex challenges in the face of urbanization and globalization, efficiently managing and coordinating systems and data has become essential. Traditional data centers are becoming insufficient to meet these demands, and it has become paramount to update inefficient workflows and insecure platforms. To meet these demands, AEC firms must adopt cloud-based storage solutions.
Given the increasing popularity of cloud solutions, Microdesk’s AEC clients often ask us which solutions similar-sized firms are using and to what extent. We conducted a survey of over 15,000 AEC firms in our database to discover trends in cloud usage, including correlations between percentage of data in the cloud, firm size, and preferred type of cloud solution. In this study, we defined small firms as having 30 employees or fewer, medium-sized firms as having between 31-150 employees, and large firms as having over 150 employees.
Based on our results, regardless of firm size, approximately 2/3 of all AEC firms store data in the cloud. Small and large firms tend to store a high percentage of their data in the cloud, with an average of 51.5% and 55%, respectively. Medium-sized firms, however, store 17.6% of their data in the cloud on average.
Our findings indicate that about 66% of small AEC firms store 51.5% of their data in the cloud on average. The most popular solutions for firms with 30 employees or fewer are file-based transfer solutions, including services like Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive, with nearly 70% of small firms expressing a preference for them. Clearly, small firms have found cost-effective cloud solutions that are sufficient for their needs, even though these file-based solutions are significantly less secure and less efficient than other cloud solutions. While we advise small firms to continue to use cost-effective solutions that suit their needs, we recommend those looking to grow to consider transitioning to more secure cloud solutions.
By contrast, mid-sized AEC firms have been more hesitant about storing their data in the cloud. Mid-sized firms using cloud solutions report storing only 17.6% of their data in the cloud on average, with the median cloud storage percentage at only 10%. It seems that mid-sized firms may not be seeing the value of storing their data in the cloud. Perhaps more rudimentary file-based solutions are not sufficient for their needs, and they may consider more comprehensive solutions like IAAS and cloud storage gateway systems too expensive. However, we believe that mid-sized firms must make the investment in cloud-based services to enhance procedures and increase workflow efficiencies. One viable option may be using the scalable IAAS solution BIM 360 Design. We found firms of all sizes using BIM 360 fairly equally, suggesting that companies can use the solution and grow in size and scale without having to change cloud solution type.
Like small firms, most large AEC firms have been adopting cloud solutions, with about 65% of large firms storing data in the cloud. The large firms who use cloud-based solutions store on average 55% of their data in the cloud, with a median of 62.5% of data in the cloud. While a majority of large firms still prefer file storage solutions, we found that firms in this bracket utilize other kinds of solutions, including cloud storage gateways, such as Panzura, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions like BIM360 Design as well. Large firms have the capital and resources to invest in these more expansive and complex solutions. However, they have room for improvement in how they utilize these technologies, and Microdesk has been collaborating with firms to implement data management procedures to increase efficiencies.
The technology offered by cloud solutions is essential to enhancing day-to-day and long-term company processes and protocols for AEC firms of all sizes. Additionally, the pricing of cloud solutions is expected to decline over time, so we can expect these solutions to become more easily accessible in years to come. As the complexity of tasks expected of AEC firms increases as they confront today’s challenges of globalization and urbanization, cloud solutions are becoming paramount to maximizing workflow, costs, and sustainability.