Ten years ago, the cloud was just a buzzword. Now, it’s a way of life for many businesses. Most people at this point are at least familiar with the idea of subscribing to software that lives online versus installing software locally on their computer. This very blog is being written on Google Docs, software accessed via the internet, and not something like Microsoft Word installed on the hard drive.
In a nutshell, that’s the difference between typical software and “the cloud.” Many people are quite comfortable with things like Google Docs, Canva, or launching Zoom from a web browser. Just like with these consumer-oriented solutions, you might have heard of business software services that utilize the cloud such as Microsoft Teams or Salesforce. These are often referred to as “software as a service,” and typically require a subscription rather than a one-time payment.
While it seems that everything is moving online, there are many options available for the software that businesses need to operate, both cloud-based and locally-based. The question is: Which one is right for me and my business? Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of software as a service.
Pro: no more updates to install
Programs need updates. Hardware needs upgrades. If those programs and computers don’t live in your office, that’s no longer your concern. When Google Docs releases a new feature, there’s nothing for this writer to install; the feature just magically appears the next time the website is launched.
Keeping an office up-to-date, with tons of computers that each have tons of apps installed, can be a headache. That’s especially true when not being on the latest version of a program can mean exposing yourself to security vulnerabilities. It can also mean compatibility issues such as two different versions of accounting software not being able to talk to each other. Using the cloud means someone else handles all that hassle invisibly.
Pro: less hardware to manage
Thanks to services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), servers can be moved to the cloud, too. Things like websites, intranet, internal file sharing, and more no longer necessarily need to be housed in your office. Not only does that come with all the advantages mentioned in the previous section, but it also applies to the hardware as well. There’s no need to worry about your online store going down because the office flooded. You won’t have to shop around for new hardware because the old gear can’t keep up after a few years. When changes happen, scaling up or down can happen on-demand; the cloud service handles it all in the background. This is just one more aspect of the business that the cloud can take off your plate so you can focus on what you do best.
Pro: essentially unlimited storage
Whether it’s in the cloud or in the office, you can always pay for more storage space. The problem with local storage is you don’t always have the room for more hard drives and/or servers. Plus, with more storage comes more hardware purchases, backup issues, and all the time and money costs with implementing it all. With software as a service, getting more storage space is usually just a matter of adding a couple bucks to your subscription fee. Depending on the service, many offer unlimited options as well. The recurring theme with online, cloud based software is streamlining and efficiency. That’s something every business can use more of.
Pro: remote access and collaboration
When software and files live online, multiple people can access projects and work on them from anywhere. In many cases they can even work on the same file at the same time at the same time. With Office365, the whole accounting team can be working on an important Excel document at the same time, with changes synced automatically and accessible from any computer. It’s much more productive and flexible than the common alternative of having crucial programs on a limited number of machines. If Dave in accounts receivable is the only one with the tax software and he’s out sick, everyone else needs to wait for Dave to return before they can get what they need.
Con: reliance on the internet
Live by the internet connection; die by the internet connection. While some software as a service offers an offline mode, you don’t get all the features you’re paying for if the internet goes down. Many services are entirely inaccessible. In today’s world, with broadband and mobile hotspots, this is becoming less of a concern, but it’s still a potential downside. Every business should already have a backup plan with their Managed IT Services team in place, and the more you rely on the internet, the more important it is to have a plan B in case it goes down.
Con: security issues
When software and files are accessible from anywhere, that means they are vulnerable to security issues like phishing or other cyberattacks. An attacker is less likely to walk into an office and gain access to some system in person than they are to trick an employee with a bogus email into giving up their login credentials. Luckily, this is something a Managed Services IT team can guard against with training and security policies.
While the benefits of embracing the cloud and software as a service are many, there are some inherent risks that business should be aware of. Properly mitigated, these risks can be avoided in order to take advantage of the convenience and efficiency of working online. Schedule a free consultation with amshot today to see how your business can take advantage of the cloud to work smarter.