Cloud-based! Cloud-what?

Startups and larger organisations alike are becoming more and more reliant on cloud-based software, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS). One reason for this is that businesses can now reap the benefits of big business infrastructure without having to implement or manage it themselves. Moving away from this cost overhead to focusing on your core business at a price representative of your usage. Sounds great?

So what’s the difference between traditional and cloud software? And more importantly are there any advantages to purchasing cloud-based software?

What is cloud-based software

Cloud-based software uses the same infrastructure as a website, making it available 24/7 via a web browser. It does not require any installation or updates and the management of the underlying infrastructure, as well as new features and bug fixes is completely out of your hands.

More and more vendors are choosing to embrace the model including Adobe, announcing recently that their creative suite of software will no longer be purchased available in-store and instead will be offered as a SaaS solution. 

Demystifying the cloud

Cloud Services models compared

Software product and services model compared

This diagram illustrates the differences in responsibilities and focus between various software “acquisition” models (although with SaaS, the software is not yours to keep). Source: Microsoft

The software supports itself

With cloud software, support moves from being managed by a dedicated team to online, also. There is no longer any need to worry about upgrading or patching software or managing resources and turn over. Providers for cloud software maintains the infrastructure as well as application for you.

However, technical support and customer service has often been seen as the Achilles heel of cloud software due to the DIY mentality.

Software maintenance is a given

Shifting to a cloud-based model also means ending the update cycle which is generally seen in packaged software. Features are added and updates released when needed, surely another reason for many vendors to embrace the model.

Pay for usage, in installments more than upfront

Cost is the first issue most care about when making the switch. Packaged software is sold as perpetual licenses with an up-front cost and often an optional fee for ongoing support or yearly update. In contrast, cloud software is based onto a subscription model where you pay for what you use, in some way.

In the case of Adobe, instead of paying for the packaged software you now can pay a reduced price as a monthly installment. It also allows for more transparency in pricing as opposed to on premises software where there are usually indirect costs associated with staff (software needs maintenance and support), infrastructure (software runs on servers) and rent (servers need space).

Internet access means access to the software

Cloud-based software also helps with remote-access since all that is needed is an internet connection. Packaged software by nature is harder to make available online. Users can also access many (but not all) cloud-based software while on the go via mobile devices and tablets.

A few common gotchas

The cloud has largely transformed the way businesses operate. However, there are issues you need to be mindful of if you’re considering migrating to a cloud solution (or if your software vendors make that decision for you as in the example of Adobe).

Data security increasingly questioned

Data security is often an issue for many as all the data is stored on the vendor’s servers and not your own. Privacy issues are also important, as you can log in from any location over the web and access important data and application, then it is possible that data can be compromised.

Everything that is online is also subject to government agencies sniffing around, as recently highlighted by Seb in his the PRISM leak article.

Internet access means internet dependency

An internet connection is required. Period. so there’s no more working on the plane of from a location with no or limited access.

Other issues include latency (where distance between your office and the servers makes the software feel slow and sluggish), the feeling of being ‘locked in’ (you are more or less in control of your data) with the software and also downtime experienced (decided unilaterally by the vendor).

Most major vendors will have methods to deal with most of these issues. It is up to you to check this also! If you need assistance in maze of the cloud, we can help make sense of this process for you. Just ask!

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Written by

A marketing professional with experience in the technology, research, and information services industries. Lyndal is fascinated by the intersection of communications, technology and the web and how this has transformed modern marketing efforts.