Clouds are forming, should we wait for the reign?

Can web-based applications provide for all your business needs? DAVID MARKUS

David Markus Combo

By David Markus

Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud computing is all the buzz at the moment and may well reign supreme in the business world of the future, but should SMEs be looking there for solutions to business problems today?

A quick definition is in order. SaaS refers to applications where one simply uses a feature online without needing to install software.

Google, eBay, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon are all well known consumer-based examples that we all use or have heard of.

Today, many business owners are looking for productivity tools to ensure they remain competitive in the turbulent times ahead. One solution is to implement software that improves business process and ensures your business remains competitive.

Choice lies between traditional software installed on your equipment and SaaS. The problem is how to correctly identify the technology that will give the best value and the best competitive advantage.

I have been dealing with a recruitment firm lately that also works on consulting and other aspects in their vertical market. They could use traditional recruitment software just like their competitors, but have seen advantages in adopting a web-based application that gives them the ability to store resumes online and cross reference those for matching purposes.

Today there are some established alternatives to buying hardware and software to run inside your business that offer significant benefit over doing it yourself. Now there are emerging options for hosted accounting and CRM software. Even ERP and document management can be performed on hosted applications.

By combining features of a well known SaaS CRM application and online content storage and searching, our client has been able to solve their particular issues with a unique solution. Now they can open up in new locations without complex networking or infrastructure concerns and can also access their data from client sites without the major security issues usually linked with remote access to back-office applications, no VPNs or terminal sessions required.

Generally speaking, it is still early days for Cloud computing and it is worth asking lots of good questions before endorsing or dismissing it as an option for your business. For example, it is very important to understand the real costs of infrastructure before committing to the ongoing expense of SaaS. You must also consider integration of SaaS with your existing business applications, and localisation of the applications to Australian conditions and regulations.

 

David Markus is the founder of Melbourne’s IT services company Combo. His focus is on big picture thinking to create value in IT systems for the SME sector.

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