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When I first got involved selling cloud software to manufacturing companies, it was a TOUGH sell. The typical response I got was that the cloud was not secure, it would get hacked, my IP is too valuable, etc. Many years later, there's a lot more openness to the cloud, but I still run into a good number of companies who don't want to do anything with the cloud when it comes to product designs or product information.

Just recently, I visited a Tier 1 automotive supplier in Detroit, and when I heard "we don't trust the cloud," I thought this was going to be a very short sales call! Seriously though, they did have valid concerns about having their customer's data in the cloud. But it wasn't so much a technical discussion about how secure our product was, but more of an "emotional" view that their customers would be upset having their data in the cloud. And I think that's a big point that cloud vendors like us often forget about. While we could talk for hours about network security, IP lockouts, data partitioning, etc., there's still a gut instinct that there's this data floating out there that could be breached, or that they'd be liable if data was hacked. Only if you address those concerns, can you have a manufacturer really trust the cloud.

So how did we start addressing those concerns? We basically tried to determine what data the automotive supplier was more wary about putting in the cloud. Here's our breakdown of the most sensitive to least sensitive product information that could be put in the cloud:

  • Design source files: does it make sense to have source CAD files managed in the cloud? Typically the answer is no. The files are large, so network bandwidth is always tricky. Plus manufacturing companies are SUPER sensitive about having the actual design files that people could take measurements from.
  • 3D PDF design files: you can print 3D PDFs from CAD files. File size isn't much of an issue, but you can still take measurements from these files. So once again, if you're really worried about security, I'd recommend you leave this off the cloud.
  • 2D design drawings: regular design drawings are worth putting in the cloud. Partners, purchasing, marketing, and others can easily see what a part looks like.
  • Product attributes: part specs, bill of materials, manufacturing data, costs, etc. are all product attributes that are worth putting in the cloud. But make sure you have a cloud platform that makes it possible to hide data like costs from external stakeholders. Last thing you want is your suppliers to see each others' data!
  • Sales and customer data: I'd argue that sales and customer data is the most sensitive data possible, but it seems that no one really cares about that. Maybe it's the fact that companies like banks and Salesforce have gotten us all used to having that type of data in the cloud.

Now if you don't feel like you can have any of that data in the cloud, the cloud isn't for you. And even if you're good with certain types of product data in the cloud, make sure you understand how a company's cloud platform makes your data secure. Of course, at the automotive supplier, we had a super technical discussion where we could answer how our cloud platform handled security in umpteen many ways. But that wouldn't have made sense if we hadn't addressed what data they were really concerned about.

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Miguel Tam

Miguel Tam

Apr 25, 2018