Everyone is talking about the “cloud”. What is the “cloud”? And why is all my stuff there? Or at least everyone telling me all my stuff should be there?! And if I use an online registration software, why it should be a cloud based registration software.
We are constantly bombarded with a variety of products and companies offering “cloud” services. Amazon, Apple, Google and Dropbox all use the “cloud” as a key feature and selling point to get you to buy into their products. Does the need to be in the cloud extend to registration?
So what is the cloud anyway?
Most people’s basic understanding of it (and it isn’t incorrect) is that the cloud is a place to store your data that isn’t your physical computers hard drive. So if you drop your phone in the toilet or your computer just doesn’t turn on one morning, the data you have saved in the cloud is safe from hardware malfunctions. And while that isn’t untrue, the cloud is so much more than that! Think about the Kindle, for example. When you buy a Kindle book and download it to your Kindle, you can also view the book and the page you last were on on your desktop, phone or any other device with the Kindle application. Amazing!
It’s obvious that the ‘cloud’ is an amazing service for consumers but what about for businesses? What can the cloud do for small and medium size businesses? Is it worth buying into a software that offers cloud based solutions?
The cloud, in essence, is a way for small and medium businesses to cut costs, ensure their data is secure and allow them to focus on their offering to the market and not on technology. Win-win-win! Let’s get into the specifics about what the cloud is, how your business can use it and get to know a little more about the technical details of cloud services and why you should consider them for your business!
Why should you have a cloud based registration software?
Cloud computing, technically, is the ability to run a software or program an offsite server, from many devices and applications simultaneously. Regpack, for example, stores all data and user input in a cloud setting. So the online registration software that is running when you access your data and when your clients complete your online registration process, is all being saved securely in a remote and secure location that has nothing to do with the specific computer that you are using. So someone riding the train home from work with a data connection, another at their desk and yet another at home on their iPad can all access the same information, run reports, view statistics, and communicate with applicants.
So now that you understand what the “cloud” is, why should you, as a small or medium sized business consider implementing a cloud solution? Here are 4 reasons…
1. No hardware or setup costs.
Whether you are a camp, an educational institute, or a non-profit your core business is not technology. Yes… we all use technology and it helps us be more productive. Our phone and computers have become extensions of our brain, but only a small number of organizations can claim that technology is the service they provide. If concepts like Linux Kernel, PHP extensions and database memory caching are not things you talk about regularly with your co-workers chances are you should shy away from anything connected to setting up servers, maintaining databases and controlling apache instances.
Cloud services, however, supply exactly that for you. You do not need to setup any servers, you do not need to buy and maintain hardware and you do not need to take care of hardware upgrades and malfunctions (and the backup schemes that are created to recover from them… more on that later).
So switching to a cloud based data management software will save you a ton of money and spare you headaches and worries. Yes, once every organization had their own servers and managed everything in-house, but that doesn’t mean that this is the best solution for a small or medium sized business, especially with better options, like a cloud solution, available.
Think of it this way: if you had the ability to get a car whenever you wanted, with a snap of your fingers a car appeared, complete with a driver, and took you to the place you needed to go, would you buy a car? Most likely not. Why would you, when you have this awesome magical car showing up to cart you off wherever you need, whenever you need it. No parking issues, gas buying, and yearly maintenance, just the comfort and functionality you want. That’s cloud computing!
(Maybe someday cars will catch on.)
2. Hassle Free Backups!
Close your eyes and think back to 5 or 10 years ago, to a time when you lost some important data on your computer. When you frantically called or ran to your computer whiz friend or colleague that helps you out every time you are in a jam, the first question they probably always asked you was, “Where is your backup?” Sadly the answer for most people is “what backup?” or “I haven’t backed up in 3 months!”
Losing personal information such as a family pictures or a song you bought online is annoying and frustrating of course, but losing business data can be catastrophic for a small or medium size business. You have to backup your business data constantly and in a way that will result in the smallest harm possible to your operation when data loss happens (and don’t say “it will not happen” since hardware, just like cars, do malfunction sometimes).
The problem with backups is that it needs to be all encompassing. It is not enough to just backup your databases and documents once a week. You need to backup the business logic you have created in applications, the permissions you have created for different admins and users. And you need to do all this on a daily, if not an hourly, basis. If you really want to get fancy you would implement a “on change” backup that would backup every time a change in a file, database, or application config is detected.
Implementing this type of backup scheme by yourself will most probably cost you an arm and a leg, and maybe even a finger or toe! You will need to setup backup servers, scheduled tasks and run periodic tests to make sure that the backups worked and they are available when, and if, you will need them.
With cloud computing all this is taken care of without you lifting a finger, or toe. At Regpack, for example, the system itself is backed up with every update, databases are split into multiple instances to ensure redundancy and files are kept on multiple servers simultaneously. The backing up is part and parcel of the way the application works. In addition, all this is kept on a distributed server cluster to make sure that if one server fails another kicks in to make sure nothing is lost.
3. Automatic Upgrades!
“The Social Network” is worth watching if only for the following quote:
Eduardo Saverin: So when will it be finished?
Mark Zuckerberg: It won’t be finished. That’s the point. The way fashion’s never finished.
Eduardo Saverin: What?
Mark Zuckerberg: Fashion, fashion is never finished.
Eduardo Saverin: You’re talking about fashion? Really, you?
Mark Zuckerberg: I’m talking about the idea of it. And I’m saying that it’s never finished.
Your business is never finished. It is constantly evolving and with it the software you use needs to evolve to meet your needs. Software that sits in the cloud is constantly updated with new features, bug fixes and new tools all the time. Why? Because many users just like you have various needs that are incorporated into the software. You do not need to do anything in order to get the new update, you do not need to pay for the update, and since so many people are using the software, you normally do not need to pay for the new features you get. Enough said! (Unlike Internet Explorer, cough cough.)
4. Seamless Team Collaboration
You have applicants registering in the East coast, Asia and Australia for your amazing program. Your staff is distributed in California, Canada and England. How do you make sure that everyone is seeing the correct information all the time and getting the right tools to make the decisions they need to make? How can you accomplish this all this seamlessly, effortlessly and quickly?
The way to do this is to have a centralized online registration software that is constantly updated with new features and a database that talks to all the units in real time. Data in the cloud is always up to date and the most recent version always saved automatically. So several team members can work within the system simultaneously and no one is left wondering what is current, what information may be outdated, etc.
It also means that team members in different locations (or time zones!) can view and work on the same data from wherever they are. Data in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, at anytime of day with the only requirement being an internet connection!
In a business environment today that requires immediate answers, immediate access to data and immediate everything, implementing a cloud solution is the only answer to building and maintaining quality team collaboration and completing tasks on time.
Business today has evolved into a work-from-wherever-you-are kind of environment. People work outside the box, outside the 9-5 work day and they need access to their data on the road, in the office and at home. A cloud based solution for your business is the future of small and medium sized business.
So what are you waiting for?! Learn more about how reporting can be made easier with cloud storage and some research on whether we need to replace cloud with edge computing.