The term cloud computing is a large, floppy and vague one, covering a whole of host of different concepts and services. However they all have a single thing in common; the use of remote servers which live outside the company structure, rather than using local proprietory servers.
So that’s easy enough to get your brain around. It’s like using a storage facility for all that extra clobber filling up your attic. Or even scribbling a note and sticking it on your fridge for all those important things that just won’t fit into your brain any more. It’s using a space that’s external to your own for storing things/doing things that are of value to you, an intelligent space that not only has spare room, but can do things too!
Even those of you aren’t quite up to speed yet on the cloud computing concept are probably using some of the very common Software as a Service (SaaS) accounts that are so easily available. This is the simplest form of cloud service which allows users to access software via a usage agreement and a repeat tariff (usually monthly or yearly). In a way it’s just like renting a software rather than purchasing it.
Easy examples include the social media platforms that so many of use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Whilst we each have our own account, with our own content that we load onto it, we don’t actually own the space. And whilst these channels don’t make a charge in terms of hard cash for the use of their software services, we would be maybe rather naïve to think that the service comes to us with no charge (what price do you put on your personal information?). There truly is no such thing as a free lunch …
Office software, for the more efficient running of your business is a great, topical and growing area of SaaS investment. There are a multitude of offerings out there including document management, invoicing software, task and project managers, time keeping and staff schedulers, social media schedulers, chat platforms and lots, lots more.
The advantages of using SaaS instead of proprietary software hosted locally?
Low entry costs
Effectively someone else has done all the hard work for you, making the investment in a future product, so you just jump on once the software is all nicely set-up and tested. It’s literally as easy as signing-up and handing over some money. Forget investing in new software, forget investing in new hardware to host/run your new software.
Reduced time to benefit
Chances are others are using the same SaaS too. There will be a whole load of content on the web with lots of juicy info on just how well the SaaS works, and what doesn’t work. With any luck the SaaS developers will be reading that stuff too. This thing is going to have been tried and tested by a whole load of industry-savvy people probably before you ever get anywhere near it. And when you do, (assuming you like what you saw) you just hook up and start getting results from your low investment literally from day one.
Pay as you go for what you use
The basic payment structure for SaaS products is a monthly fee which varies across different packages. So literally, you only pay for what you use. You also know in advance what the cost will be (we all hate those kind of “huge dollar” surprises) and you can stop the contract simply by pulling the plug on your PayPal/Credit card set-up.
Wherever you are. However your connection, Whoever supplied your device. Whatever device it is. If there is a device and it is online, you are good to go! You can access all of your stuff any time anywhere.
The SaaS provider gets to be responsible for upgrades, security, debugging and all that other horrible stuff. This is a biggie. Someone else gets those headaches and sleepless nights.
The less obvious advantages …
If you have done a good job in selecting your SaaS developer then they will already be thinking about integration. As this market sector moves forward and develops we already know that integration will be become a key concept. The ability for SaaSes (what do you suppose that the plural of SaaS is?) to “speak” to each other will become more and more important. You will vastly more appreciate a SaaS that can “talk” than one that can’t.
Need more space? Have you increased your team by 10 people? Convinced after a 6 month trial paying monthly that the service is good and ready to commit for 12 months with discount? Click, click, click, done! Any SaaS worth its salt will have those packages already thought through and you can simply change your package via a few clicks. And if they haven’t thought of what you need most vendors will be prepared to create and package and price just for you.
And you don’t need to buy a new machine for each new user. If they have any old machine with an internet connection, they are good to go!
And on the flip side?
Of course there is a flip side. There always is.
Security smecurity. In our experience, businesses with local servers running proprietary software have a whole load more security issues than the cloud does. It’s that old, old “numbers” factor. A thousand car crashes each day, each with 2 fatalities sounds better somehow that two planes coming down each year, each with 300 hundred fatalities. Go do some maths. The cloud is a mighty attractive place to hack, no doubt about. Whoever gets in will cause some real damage. But who has more to spend on security than Google or Facebook, and who has more to lose than Google or Facebook if security is breached? Case rested.
The cloud is often (usually) far away from the user. If nano-seconds are important to your operations, this might be an issue for you. This is something we have thought about; our business is located in Italy, but we anticipate most users being in the USA, so our cloud is in the USA. Makes it nano-seconds slower for us, but faster for our clients.
Let’s be honest here. If the internet one day just explodes, your tiny little business not functioning, in the grand scheme of things, is a kind of a detail. Take a personal day and go party on the beach.
Switching between SaaS vendors is not happy-making
True. Wisely choosing your SaaS vendor will probably become the skill of the future. You probably don’t want to be loading all your data onto external cloud databases, only to find after 3 months that you chose the wrong service.
Here at Clools, we think about all these issues 24/7. Especially that flip side stuff. It’s a headache (or three) but one we are prepared to take on. Because for a few months now we have bitten the bullet, put our money where our mouths are, walked the tightrope and strutted our stuff. We run our own business using our very own Clools. And yeah, it works!