How Can Cloud Be Better?
It’s been some time since we’ve had an overview of the benefits the cloud provides, and the aspects that need careful consideration. So here’s a few thoughts.
For most people in business, the type of cloud systems of interest are applications such as accounting and CRM, run as “Software as a Service”. For SaaS you have the combination of two distinct elements:
(1) Packaged software
(2) Hosting arrangement to run that software
The hosting arrangement will allow you to access the software from anywhere with an internet connection. Through economies of scale, it will typically provide better disaster recovery, at a total cost usually less than running a basic system in-house. It will also require less administration in-house, which can lead to further savings or better use of people’s time.
However it’s worth understanding both the strengths and the weaknesses of the hosting arrangements. “Security” is always important, and the level provided by each system is different for each aspect of security. These need careful consideration, especially for systems hosted outside the EU such as many of the big names in the US.
Your business may be relying heavily on one or more free services. So these are just as important as the chargeable ones.
However good the hosting arrangements, the packaged software must have suitable functionality and usability. A key advantage of SaaS is that it is usually much quicker and easier to carry out a pilot test. A small system can be ready for configuration in hours or even minutes.
You’ll usually only want to pilot one system. So there needs to be some form of selection process to choose it, be it formal or informal. The functionality of SaaS can match, exceed or fall short of established on-premise software, depending on the market. The bigger the system, the more likely you’ll need to be formal, and also consider more established on-premise systems.
In many cases, a SaaS system is being considered as a replacement for an on-premise system, which would otherwise need to be upgraded. By having a formal specification and test plan, the pilot of a cloud system can be more effectively compared.
So overall SaaS cloud systems can be better and cheaper than equivalent on-premise systems. But it’s worth making sure you get the right functionality, and that you are happy with the hosting arrangements.