Jon Brodkin recently wrote a thought-provoking, if controversial, piece in Network World highlighting the common misconceptions surrounding cloud computing. Even though it seems like cloud computing and cloud applications affect every aspect of our business lives (which I don’t feel is a bad thing), there appears to be a lot of confusion out there amongst business users as to what the cloud actually provides. And oddly enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some IT users that are stumped as well – not by what the cloud can do, per se, but by what it can’t do…which according to Brodkin includes: replacing MS Office, pre-determining legal ownership of IP, and always being cheap.
Jon’s article is less of a celebration of cloud computing and more of a myth-busting “gotcha” segment. I agree that the more information we can share about the intricacies of the cloud and how it compares to traditional on-premise deployments the better, but there is one point in particular with which I take issue, and one point with which I totally agree.
Disagree: Brodkin says cloud computing isn’t as affordable as people think. He uses the example of some cloud apps offering attractive subscription prices and then requiring Internet bandwidth upgrades or bizarre contracts. While it’s up to a customer to read through the contracts they sign (and as a cloud provider I can tell you that no one I know puts out shady EULAs), the Internet bandwidth argument is a little questionable. While bandwidth upgrades can cost upwards of $10,000, it isn’t difficult to find out how much you’ll need for any given cloud app. That’s part of due diligence, and there are thousands upon thousands of cloud applications that will not hog your bandwidth.
Agree: The article’s first contention is that cloud computing will not put IT professionals out of a job and/or make them obsolete. I wish that more IT staffers would absorb this reality and stop worrying that the cloud above their heads is planning to rain all over their careers. “Moving to the cloud” does not need to be followed by IT losing their jobs, and very rarely is. While companies that have been forced to lay off workers due to tough economic times can work more efficiently with collaborative cloud-based BPM solutions (increase productivity, decrease cost) – there will always be a need for management, supervision and technical liaison with cloud vendors. As Brodkin notes, certain skill sets might eventually become less relevant, but employing people with technical knowledge will never fall out of fashion.
By now, the story of Microsoft and T-Mobile’s notorious Sidekick data debacle is well-known; Microsoft’s servers failed on October 2, affecting some of the Sidekick handset users who could no longer access the mobile Internet or email. What really put things over the edge was when the Sidekick server and its backup server became corrupted in the process of restoring customer access, and the users affected by the initial outage saw all of their data erased. This incident highlights the growing debate of SaaS vs. on-premise software – something we see every day with our customer’s adopting workflow automation software.
Traditionalists favor on-premise software deployment because it’s familiar, however, the flexibility of being able to host enterprise applications in-house and customize them to suit a particular environment is tremendously liberating. Having solutions on-premise may seem like a more secure way of doing business – by keeping all data within a company’s physical walls. However, SaaS offers some unique benefits as well. It requires no infrastructure investment and eliminates the need for installations and maintenance, which is very attractive, especially when budgets are a concern.
When events like Sidekick’s data loss occur, it unfortunately reinforces fears about the security and long term viability of SaaS. Asking whether the SaaS model is fallible is like asking if popular websites have ever suffered outages – the answer is yes. Amazon.com, Gmail, even entire countries’ servers have shut down on occasion. Some of the worries over SaaS are legitimate, but it wasn’t so long ago that organizations were questioning the security of doing business on the Internet. SaaS must go through a similar process and earn trust and acceptance, which it will.
Many of our customers have cited “affordability” and “user-friendliness” as major reasons for selecting PerfectForms’ SaaS version. One customer, Trilliant, selected PerfectForms via SaaS for its “simplicity.” Another, Visalia Unified School District, needed a solution that could be easily deployed over a secure Intranet system so they selected an on-premise version.
Offering both on-demand and on-premise gives our customers the ability to choose whichever option they feel best suits their needs. Forcing one model upon customers and prospects doesn’t acknowledge the incredible disparities in size, function and composition that separate different groups.
Remember – whether you’re a startup with 5 employees or a multinational conglomerate of 50,000, choose the software deployment option that you feel will be of the greatest benefit to your organization.
If you’ve made a choice to use or not to use a SaaS application for your business, I’d like to know what challenges you faced in making that decision.
PerfectForms is pleased to announce our release of the Affinity Management Group Success Story.
Through directing sales and creating surveys for numerous Fortune 500 companies, The Affinity Management Group has positioned itself as an industry leader in business consulting and survey services. Affinity’s clients include technology firms, telephony networks, human resources specialists, health care institutions and other professional businesses.
Last year, Affinity reported over 10-15 million dollars in sales for clients, which were primarily driven by client survey solutions. PerfectForms software as a service solution has provided Affinity Management Group with an essential survey framework, which has streamlined workflow – delivering an impressive one-year return on investment – and transformed the way Affinity employees do their jobs.
“Jeff has been a godsend! Whenever I need help with anything, I send Jeff an email and within 10 minutes Jeff is personally on the phone with me to explain how to do it.“
“The service level has been phenomenal!”
-Adrina Patterson, Owner of Affinity Management Group
Other notable case study highlights include:
• Affinity survey response rates have been reported as 4 to 5 times better with PerfectForms than industry norms. The sector typically has a 4 – 8% typical response rate for surveys, but Affinity reports that with PerfectForms their norm for 2008 was a 37% response rate.
• Reduced maintenance costs. All technical problems are easily solved with the assistance of PerfectForms on-demand solutions management staff.
• Reduced loss leads due streamlined workflow. Affinity reports that the workflow management system has prevented items from being misplaced or mismanaged, which has increased productivity and simplified process management.
• Expanded business opportunities. Affinity cites that PerfectForms flexibility allows itself to be adapted to new business processes solutions, reducing costs for deployed software. They are looking at transitioning other existing processes to PerfectForms to create new business divisions.
For the full customer case study, click here