How a bespoke cloud system benefited our international translation business

Arek Estall| Theguardian

By the end of 2013, an expected 75% of businesses will be using at least one form of cloud computing, according to the Cloud Industry Forum.

However, on the flip-side, research from Wakefield Research and Citrix shows that 22% of people surveyed are hazy on what cloud computing is all about, having “pretended to know” when the subject has come up.

The technology, which has first-time adoption growth figures of 27% over the past 18 months, is seen as the future by some, and confuses others.

Most businesses that go into the cloud are tired of purchasing and maintaining servers in-house, and they outsource to a big cloud computing factory that does it for them. They pay as they go, only paying for the data that they use.

Our brief was a bit more complex. When Wolfestone started out, like most microbusinesses we relied a lot on Excel, Word and email. The translation industry is heavily document-focused, so in the early days there were files being sent back and forth and saved in multiple locations, and sometimes it was a struggle to know which was the latest version of a certain translation. Throw client edits into the mix and you’re getting into a real mess.

As the company progressed, we knew that to win bigger contracts we needed to modernise our systems. Our aim has always been to become a global business, so systems and procedures are a big focus for us.

In 2010, we began looking for a solution to our needs. The challenge we faced was that our translators, proofreaders and clients were based all around the world. Using translators that are living and working in the target country is a big benefit – they are up-to-date with the latest trends in language and culture. But projects could be held up by waiting for time zones, and it was difficult to monitor progress from Britain when a large document was being worked on in Brazil, for instance.

We decided to take the big step of investing in a bespoke private cloud system called Synergy X. A private cloud means rather than outsourcing to another company, we have our highly encrypted server on-site behind a secure and monitored physical door, securely connected to the internet 24/7. Many companies worry about the security of the cloud, and so did we. Security was especially relevant because we deal with sensitive documents for organisations including a large bank and a military branch. We were satisfied because we have ultimate control over who accesses our servers physically and digitally. We also get all the benefits of being able to have multiple people working at the same time, from anywhere in the world.

Our cloud system allows us to project manage, quote, invoice, manage documents, manage translation memories and glossaries for clients all in one place, at any time and from anywhere. Our system can plug into websites and software, giving our linguists secure access to client documents, without the need for physical document sharing. For example, when our clients update their website, it informs us and we translate the new content.

The business benefit is clear. We no longer wait for time zones, as the cloud technology can be worked on 24/7, and proofreaders can do their job in real-time as the translation is being done. This slashes delivery times – which are now around 60% faster than before the system was implemented – and dialogue between the translator, proofreader and project manager leads to more consistency and better quality.

Implementing the system was expensive and there was a big internal cost. Time was tied up in learning and developing the new way of working. Training was key to successful adoption, as was communicating the benefits of the new way of working. We were fortunate that our staff responded positively to the changes.

We attribute a huge proportion of our growth to the cloud system we developed and implemented. By reducing delivery times, having more quality control over work being done and the opportunity for our linguists to collaborate in real time, we’ve improved our service levels, speed and quality.

The results have been as good, if not better than what we expected. Big companies such as Coca-Cola Enterprises and General Electric switch to us because of our renowned fast turnaround times, and crucially we’re able to keep quality standards high. As we hope to win many more awards as we grow, we’re sure the cloud will be a major factor in that growth.

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