June 14, 2011, 3:31 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Cloud computing saves resources

Wrigleyville Sports uses cloud computing to save on server maintenance.

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Being closely tied to the Chicago Cubs baseball team, Wrigleyville Sports is used to peaks and valleys in its inventory of sports apparel and accessories—and it’s mostly valleys for Cubs products this year, Dave Weiss,  the retailer’s director of information technology told attendees at today’s Technology Workshop at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “How to make the cloud work for you.”

But because the retailer is using cloud computing from NetSuite Inc., inventory is always up-to-date, whether on its e-commerce site or in stores. Real-time inventory status is one benefit Weiss cited in Wrigleyville Sports’ decision to implement cloud computing, which generally refers to software and applications hosted on remote servers. He embraced the idea of cloud computing because of savings over internally managing technology, and for another reason. “I have a strong technology background but I don’t want to spend my entire day fixing servers and writing code,” he said. Cloud computing solves some of Weiss’s technology problems so he can focus on the business side, he added.

Benefits include fully integrated applications throughout the company, and if a product sells out the system immediately pulls the item off the web site, where Wrigleyville Sports conducts half of its sales, Weiss said. Other uses for cloud computing include running e-mail, sharing documents and conducting meetings.

Wrigleyville Sports is reducing technology headaches and saving money by using subscription-based cloud computing compared with on-premise technology, although Weiss did not disclose any dollar amounts.

Cloud computing savings are tangible, said NetSuite’s Baruch Goldwasser, director of strategy, and a co-presenter at the session. “In cloud computing, the vendor hosts all of the technology and the retailer accesses it over the web. All you need is a browser,” he said. Other benefits include automated technology upgrades, connectivity to any other location or company that participates in cloud computing, and giving clients the ability to upgrade or downgrade as they go along, Goldwasser said.

The subscription model also means low up-front costs. “It’s not five or six figures up-front, you just pay for what you use,” he said.

NetSuite customers include OutbackToys.com, which is saving $100,000 annually compared to similar on-premise technology, multiple e-commerce site operator ClickStop.com, which is saving $70,000 in annual information technology support, and SonomaWineAccessories.com, which is saving $24,000 in support of a previous software application, Goldwasser said.

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