Friday, May 1st, 2015
There is a lot of hot air around the term cloud computing within Estate Agency Software. It gets positively sweltering when people add “Web Based Software” and “Software as a Service” (SaaS) to the discussion. Unfortunately the subject gets techy very quickly, which just makes matters more confusing. My hope is that this article will clear the air.
In general, cloud computing can be thought of as any situation where the computer you are using is outside of your physical location. Of course, this is an over simplification… as soon as you type a search in to Google you are using one of their servers to do a search for you, so in theory you are in realms of cloud computing. At this level cloud computing and the internet are virtually synonyms. It is this over simplification that gets hijacked by marketing departments so that they can add yet another buzzword to their adverts.
Perhaps the other Buzzwords are clearer?
Web based software, should be relatively straight forward, as it implies that the interface to the software is held within an internet browser such as Chrome or Internet Explorer. BUT… people also use “web based” to mean accessing the software over an internet connection. I would argue that this stretches the definition past breaking point. In my book, using remote desktop, citrix or screen sharing solutions to access a piece of software over the internet, is not cloud computing. Really, when discussing Estate Agency Software the definition should be focused on the underlying technology that powers the specific software you are using!
Virtual Computers – These are computers that do not physically exist, instead they exist as a file on an even bigger server. This gives some benefits around redundancy, scale and performance. Traditional non-cloud based software can take advantage of some of these benefits by creating virtual versions of themselves. But again, the definition should be focused on the underlying technology that powers the specific estate agency software you are using not the hardware that it is running on.
What about Software as a Service (Saas)? This definition is much less able to be twisted. It implies that you are solely accessing the software over the internet (invariably via a browser) and not any intermediate system. There are many big examples, from SalesForce, QuickBooks to Microsoft Office 365. Software as a Service providers are responsible for maintaining the service, relieving you of the worries around data back up and installing updates.
In summary, the buzzwords are stretched in order to hide the real issues behind the software. The real geeks among us will understand the nuances behind the terms and be able to ask the right question to uncover the issues its hiding. The reality for the rest of us resides in understanding what the software can do for your business. A software product designed to make the most of cloud computing’s benefits will empower a business not restrict it. Not all SaaS products are equal. Next time I’ll try to explain why!
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