These days, everyone’s talking about cloud computing. It can be difficult to understand exactly what that means. Once you do, you have to figure out how best to do it without breaking your business’s budget. Cloud apps are any software or applications that you utilize but do not have to store the data yourself. An everyday example is social media. When you log into your account and post vacation photos, you’re use the power of cloud computing.
This differs from cloud storage, which is a service that you pay for to have another company store your personal or business data. Cloud storage eliminates the need for large memory capacity in each of your computers or to house data storage servers onsite at your office or workspace. That makes a lot of sense in this digital age, where mind-boggling amounts of data are created each day. But why use cloud apps, some of which are referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service)? Doesn’t it make more sense to want to own the software that you and your employees use every day?
Cloud apps and SaaS are a popular business model because they are easy to set up and can be used across multiple interfaces, such as phones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. Because they are often user-based, you can have one license for an employee to install the app across all their devices. This also makes SaaS scalable with your business—you can add features, users, and licenses as you add employees or expand your enterprises.
Cloud-based apps and SaaS can also be a time-saver. The software and apps update regularly, which helps keep you productive. They save money, too. Not only do you not need to purchase and house the hardware and servers that would store all that data, but SaaS can fit into your budget as an operating expense. When you purchase perpetual or proprietary software, that could become a capital expense and needs to be budgeted differently.
While the benefits of using cloud apps and SaaS are wonderful, you should be aware that there are also some things that could trip you up. Subscription-based services may not be as cost-effective over the long term as perpetual software, despite being able to budget them as operating expenses. If the costs go up, your budget goes up, as opposed to the one-time capital expenditure of perpetual software.
Downtime is also something to stay aware of because, with SaaS, downtime is out of your control. If the app is down for maintenance, you’re down for maintenance. You’re also in a bit of a bind if there is an internet outage. When you’ve got perpetual software, you can continue working and saving your data onto your own hardware. With cloud-based apps, you’re out of luck until the internet is restored.
There are A TON of cloud apps and SaaS out there for you to choose from, and if you’re going to be paying subscription and licensing fees, you want to pick apps that will give you the best value. First, decide which apps and software are must-haves. Do you need a workflow app? What about communication, social media, accounting, or industry-specific apps that help you do business? Make a list and number your top priorities so you can choose what to focus on. Maybe you can spend a little more money for the best features of one app but only genuinely need the basic features of another.
Comparing the costs and features of available apps with the same essential functions can help you choose the best value for what you need and want to spend. Is the long-term cost feasible with your operating budget? Will you get all the features you want for your money? An excellent way to determine actual value is to read reviews. Seeing what other businesses in and out of your industry think of an app or SaaS can go a long way in helping you decide what will work best for you.
If you’re still feeling unsure about cloud apps and SaaS, it’s okay! There are a lot of choices out there. You don’t want to pay for something you don’t need, or that doesn’t have the features you want. Free trials are great, too. But then you have to remember to cancel before you get charged, and frankly, sometimes seven or fourteen days isn’t long enough to know if a particular software will be right for your business in the long term.
A managed services provider, or MSP, can help you work through these types of decisions. Having experienced IT professionals to partner with makes all your software quandaries easier to solve. They bring the knowledge and tech-savvy that can distinguish a good value from a bad proposition. If you’d like to chat with an IT pro, get in touch! We’re always available to talk about your business’s needs. We’d love to partner with you to get your IT on track now and for the future.