One of the most common misconceptions about the cloud is that it is the same software we use in the office but running instead on a remote server “out there” on the internet.
This is not true. Cloud software is radically different and its arrival will have a major effect on how businesses operate.
I feel very passionate about this revolution because it is the reason I quit my full-time job – to launch BoxFreeIT, a site dedicated to educating business about cloud software. I believe cloud software will bring an enormous improvement to the way that we work and live.
Here are five reasons why I believe cloud software is revolutionary.
1. Operates automatically
A desktop accounting program is a tool to help you manage your finances. But it requires your effort to make it work. You need to log onto online banking, download transactions in a QIF file and upload it into the accounting program. If you make a sale you have to enter the invoice manually.
Cloud software is another tool that can record the data you enter into it. But they can also keep working on their own with no effort on the user’s part. This is revolutionary.
Daily banks feeds is a great example. Transactions appear magically overnight without the user lifting a finger. Bank rules are another. Cloud software is smart enough to recognise patterns and allocate an expense at BP petrol station to the travel account.
Cloud software can automate sales routines, emailing specials to customers and turning timesheets into invoices.
In short, the cloud is good at eliminating repetitive, boring chores and speeds up business.
2. Connects easily
Cloud software is built to take advantage of the internet. This makes it easier to connect one cloud program to another. In the above example, a spare-parts wholesaler could connect the software that runs its online store to its cloud accounting program so that sales to customers are automatically transferred.
No more manually entering invoices.
Sharing information between business programs has been one of the holy grails of IT and the main task of IT systems integrators. But connecting desktop or server software is a messy and expensive affair. It regularly costs thousands of dollars and can take weeks to complete.
Cloud software is often free to connect, and does so instantly. Cloud integrators such as OneSaas, Zapier and IFTT connect cloud programs that aren’t already linked, either for free or a small monthly charge.
The benefits of connecting programs are enormous but only obvious to businesses that have tried it, which is why it has taken so long for cloud to catch on. Essentially it removes double data entry – and speeds up business.
3. Use it anywhere
Cloud software is usually accessed through a browser. That means if you have your phone with you, you have access to your business information.
But what about VPNs (virtual private networks)? Yes, with a VPN you can access your server in your office while out on the road using your laptop. But did you set it up yourself? Can you do it on your phone?
Cloud software doesn’t require expert knowledge to set up. An independent bookkeeper can open up Quote Roller and shoot off some quotes with his or her tablet on the bus.
The double impact of mobile computing and cloud computing is going to be massive. No need to go back to the office for a missing file or to check a number. All that information is in your hand, wherever you are.
It’s hugely powerful – and speeds up business.
4. Easier to buy
Cloud software is in theory cheaper than desktop software because the software vendor usually runs one big program for thousands or millions of businesses. The costs of developing and operating the software is split among the customers.
But it’s the pricing model for cloud software that makes such a difference. Instead of paying a large amount up-front for a fixed number of software licences, a business can pay a low price on a per-user, per-month basis.
Most cloud software has a free plan or at least a free trial. All you have to do is enter your credit card details, login and start testing. You don’t need to buy CDs and licences, install and configure it on a test server and so on.
In summary: cloud software is lower cost, has no installation process, you can add and subtract licences as needed, and no fixed contracts. (I know, there are always exceptions.)
Ultimately this means that it’s much easier for businesses to try out software that could help them run their business more efficiently.
5. Easier to manage
One of the biggest hassles for business is being responsible for their own data. A business has to make sure it’s secure from theft, viruses and accident.
The problem is that businesses never want to spend money on security because it doesn’t do anything to increase sales. It’s just a sunk cost. And they almost never backup properly.
Oh – except for you? Best practice for backing up an enterprise is to take three copies of your business data, record it onto two different types of storage, and one of those has to be off-site. This has to happen every day.
And no backup is worth anything unless it is tested regularly, say once a month. Otherwise how do you know it will work?
Cloud software takes away from business owners the responsibility for their data. The cloud software company has to make sure no hackers can touch its customers’ data and that it has processes in place to recover all that information if something goes wrong. That may feel scary but who is going to do the best job – a big company or a small company?
Most cloud software companies follow a backup strategy similar to the best practice outlined above. If they don’t they’re soon discovered because hiccups are inevitable in any IT system. The ability to recover without loss of data is the ultimate test. Nearly every small business would fail that one.
Cloud software is built with expensive security precautions, fallback systems for redundancy and fast recovery times. Small businesses aren’t.
So there you have it. Hosted software on a remote server can do some of these things but not all. It won’t do the first two which are the most valuable – operating automatically and connecting easily to other business applications.
Hosted software also doesn’t work as well on mobiles as cloud software. This is another major difference when PC sales have been eclipsed by sales of smartphones and tablets. It’s the future of how we will work.
If you hadn’t already guessed it, businesses using cloud software will operate faster than those that don’t. Which one would you prefer to be?
I love talking about this new future in the cloud and helping create it.
If you do too, stick around and we’ll have some fun.
Image credit: thenews