Cloud Computing White Paper….a statement of the obvious.

An article in Accountancy Age “Cloud computing will alter landscape” caught my attention. It is reporting on a recently published white paper by Aqilla which in itself quotes Gartner’s prediction that in the next 12 months we are likely to see a spike in the industry with the market expanding by two thirds to $16bn (£9.6bn) by 2013.

To those of us involved with Cloud Computing, the above is not really a startling revelation – we know the advantages and the benefits. What is interesting however, is the growth, somewhere, in the takeup of cloud computing and SaaS.

I say somewhere because, certainly in the accountancy profession, the growth in takeup is, at best, slow. There are now numerous online providers and the enduser is in fact spoilt by choice. Numerous providers are reporting increases in users and on the continent, Scandinavia and the Netherlands in partcular, Cloud Computing is rapidly becoming the norm.

I am wondering if users and the profession in the UK don’t really realise that they use “the Cloud” in many of their IT activities. A large number of us use Online Banking – one of the first examples of Cloud Computing. The Profession is being forced down the Cloud road (apologies for the mixed metaphor) by none other than HM Revenue and Customs with the online filing of tax and VAT returns.

As I have written previously, the grip on the UK market by Sage is not doing anyone any favours and perhaps if they ever launch their online version the empasis may change.

In the meantime it is down to the many entrepreneurial Cloud providers out there to keep pushing the concept and slowly but surely it will gain traction.

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The “Why” of SaaS

I received a comment to a post that I had made on another site regarding the factors that would persuade someone to adopt SaaS as opposed to a standard onpremise solution.

The comment came from Charles Verrier and his comments so succinctly explain the “Why” of SaaS that they could almost be the definitive justification of the concept.

He starts off by explaining the reasons he chose an SaaS solution for his business:

Responsive supplier
SaaS providers tend to be the ‘new generation’, willing to be much more responsive and open with clients. If I have a question or issue with my software, I can email the developer and usually get a response the same day – not just a call back, but an actual change to the product.

Of course – as with most things – not all suppliers will be responsive but the ease with which amendments can be made is a plus.

He goes on:

Frequency of updates
With the traditional model (which is where I used to work), the release of a new version was a HUGE deal because it was so expensive and time consuming. Duplication and manufacture of CDs, new manuals, new packaging, vast amounts of testing on different versions of Windows, and checking how the new version interacted with our other products on all those different versions of Windows.

From the clients perspective – the upgrade was also expensive – deploying the new software to dozens of PCs across the office. All this meant we didn’t do an update until we had a ‘critical mass’ of fixes and changes that would justify all the hassle – and THAT meant months between updates.

With an on-line model – you don’t have to test operating system or other interaction issues, you don’t have distribution costs, and the client gets the update instantly with no effort. So updates can happen much faster and more frequently.

Speaks for itself really.

He continues:

Improved communication with my accountant
I give my accountant a direct login to my books. They can see what’s going on in my books in real time, from their desks, via a web-browser. No more “send your dataset on a CD please, and don’t do any more journals until I say so”.

excerpt from a phone conversation with an accounts senior recently during my year-end festivities..
Him: “Can you print me a report of how you came to that depreciation figure in the P&L?”
Me: “Why don’t you login and have a look yourself now? – here’s the link”
Him: (pause) “ooh – that’s nice..”

Of course and

Accessible from anywhere
I can update my timesheet, generate and email bills, update my expenses, and reconcile my bank account from any computer – at the client, at the office, or from home.

A major factor and one which the critics of SaaS seem to overlook.

Backups and Security
The SaaS provider is using a ‘proper’ IT infrastructure with good kit in secure data-centres. Most small businesses have a bunch of assorted servers in an old broom cupboard (actually, sometimes it still IS the broom cupboard!)

My data is backed up and secured in ways I could never hope to match, and someone else has the job of managing it all.

I don’t think there is anything else to add!

The Google Operating System – A new beginning?

I thought I would jump in and add my ha’pennyworth to the numerous comments to the announcement, by Google, of the intended launch of their Chrome operating system.

Understandably, the press and the blogging community have had a field day predicting the beginning of the end of Microsoft’s dominance in the PC OS market and the dawn of a new computing age.

Press hyperbole of course, and we know that, in truth, this will not be the case. A market share of 90% plus takes a lot of beating – even if you are Google.

What it does mean, however, is a further push in the Cloud Computing direction. As I understand it the new Chrome OS will be designed to make the internet the virtual desktop and for all one’s documents, spreadsheets and applications to be operated “in the Cloud”.

Exciting stuff and a step that most proponents of SaaS will be rightly excited about. It will be further emphasis of the Cloud concept and another step on the ladder to universal acceptance.

Whilst not marking the end of Microsoft’s dominance – and they surely must be considering something similar – it is perhaps appropriate to quote Winston Churchill when he said:

“….This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end…but it might be considered to be the end of the beginning”.

We shall see.

Saas – the problem with new concepts.

Nothing changes – the reason why we don’t like to try anything new!