“The cloud” is a metaphor used to refer to how storage, servers, applications and other computing resources no longer need to be on-site, or in a physical location.

Cloud technology allows for more “always on” access to networks, because people have the ability to access the cloud, and the information held in the cloud, from any location.

The concept of “cloud computing” has become a bit of a buzzword, but in most cases, people use the phrase in reference to when they access information not on their device (or their network) by using the Internet. One of the simplest examples that many people use each day is web-based email, such as Gmail.

Without the cloud, message could only be managed and sent through a mail client tied to personal computers. Instead – for the great majority of people, if not everyone anymore – emails are managed, stored and sent through the cloud. When needed, web-based email can be accessed from any device or from any location, as long as there is access to the Internet. More and more software products are moving to the cloud and for good reason.

Cloud-based solutions are becoming more popular as it makes enterprise-quality technology affordable for small businesses. The savings is not only in the technology product itself, but in implementation, learning, training and ongoing maintenance and support. Clifford Campbell, CTO at CRäKN says that, “Utilizing the cloud allows a business focus on providing solutions instead of managing servers. We can scale to meet demand and deploy new features as fast as we can develop them.”

The Cloud: Not a New Idea At All

Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, studies the history and trajectory of economic growth and its impacts on society and productivity. In his interview on the Freakonomics podcast, he explains that The Third Industrial Revolution kicked-off with the mainframe computer around 1960. After the mainframe computer came the mini computer, the personal computer and then communication tools that we use with the Internet. “All of these changes radically changed our ability to process information,” says Gordon1.
Gordon, who is author of the book, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” also suggests how digital storage is part of this transformation. “… business practices and procedures have had a complete change from paper and file cabinets, calculating machines and typewriters, into the modern world of flat screens and search engines. And electronic storage and electronic catalogs,” he says, describing the Third Industrial Revolution. “That was a profound transformation that affected the lives of almost everybody who works in an office. It took place over the 25 years or so between 1980 and 2005,” he argues. While the cloud concept may seem relatively new, the transition has been in the making for decades – with cloud computing dating back to the 1970s.

Cloud Vs. Non-Cloud: What’s Right for You?

With more and more businesses moving towards the cloud, it begs the question: what should firms consider when deciding whether to use cloud applications?

Pros: The arguments for cloud-based solutions

Cost Savings: Cloud solutions usually require a low-upfront investment as servers and networks do not need to be purchased or installed. In addition, you don’t have to pay someone to do an installation or maintain the product. Updates and upgrades are typically automatically made – at no additional effort or cost. With cloud computing solutions, typically the same amount is paid each month. There are varying levels of pricing models based on features, volume and/or number of users. No matter what a particular pricing model is, typically the benefit is “pay for what you use and as you go,” making cloud-based applications affordable for small businesses.

More Secure: Making sure that business data is secure is critical to every business owner’s success. Most cloud solutions offer higher levels of security and monitoring than on-premise solutions because cloud-based solutions have experienced IT staff focused on this, versus making it one of ten things that the small business’ IT staff has to worry about and be expert at.

Compatibility: Cloud-solutions also deliver the most flexibility in regard to compatibility. Software solutions that are even a few years old are sometimes dependent upon and/or restricted to operating in certain environments. For instance, some only operate on the Windows Operating System, so those solutions wouldn’t work on a Mac. Given that smartphone and computer technology is changing so rapidly, cloud-based solutions can help prevent the need to invest capital to “keep up” on the hardware side.

Cons: The considerations against cloud-based solutions

Internet Connectivity: The benefits of the cloud are only possible when there is a connection to the Internet. As a result, some organizations have some applications that are in the cloud and some that are not. That said, the fact that the applications can be accessed via the Internet provide the flexibility to use “anytime, anywhere.” And when was the last time you didn’t have an Internet connection?

Control & Customization: When utilizing a cloud-based solution, you or your IT department does not control the update schedule, product roadmap and the solution cannot be customized to your needs. Many small businesses like to customize solutions for their operation. This flexibility and control must be weighed with the challenges of customization, which include increased cost and management.

Switching Costs: While cloud solutions are typically flexible and accessible, with any software (cloud or not) there are switching costs involved should you decide to move to a new product. Many providers still haven’t figured out an easy way to allow you to migrate your data easily. This is not a new problem, but the cloud should actually make this easier and in some cases it has not. So, when considering a cloud-based solution, just make sure that your provider can import relevant data from your old solution and if needed, be able to export data so that you can take it with you if you migrate to a new solution.

It is easy to see how the advantages of cloud-based solutions outweigh the drawbacks. Decreased time, increase in expertise managing your solution and less monitoring and upkeep for you, allow you and your team to focus on your core business. After all, you want to run a funeral home, not a software company, right? FBA

Sources: 1 http://freakonomics.com/podcast/american-growth/

Scott Mindrum Headshot PhotoScott Mindrum is the Founder and CEO of CRaKN, a funeral professional software company that helps funeral homes streamline operations and collect better data & information to better know & serve families.  By training, Scott is a CPA and operations expert and has been in the funeral industry for over 20 years.  Scott was the Founder, CEO & President of Making Everlasting Memories before selling the company in 2012.