Today, I want to answer a few of the questions that we often hear from clients and perspective clients when they are considering making the switch to the cloud. Since this blog post is a little bit longer than normal, and I know everyone may not want to read through the whole thing, I’m going to make it easy for you to quickly skip to the information that you’re most interested in. Below is a list of questions covered in this blog. Feel free to click on any one of them to be taken directly to that question and its answer.
- What is the cloud exactly?
- I often see the term SaaS used in discussions about cloud computing. What does it mean?
- What are the main differences between purchasing and deploying software as a service versus on premise?
- When I purchase software as a service do I have control over the implementation and configuration of my software?
- Are all cloud business applications created equal?
Q. What is the cloud exactly?
A. In simple terms, the cloud is just a name for computing resources that are being provided from a remote location (not housed within the 4 walls of your office, as an on premise system would be). It can be used to describe all sorts of services, some of which you’re probably already using, such as photo storage from services like Shutterfly or Snapfish, music storage from Amazon or Apple and document storage from Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
Similar to these consumer services, over the last several years businesses have started to move some of the software that they depend on, like ERP or CRM to the cloud, rather than running it on their own servers as was traditionally the case.
Q. I often see the term SaaS used in discussions about cloud computing. What does it mean?
A. SaaS is an abbreviation for the software as a service licensing model that has become popular with the rise of cloud computing. When you buy software this way, you pay a monthly fee based on how much you use it. Oftentimes your usage is determined by how many users you have or how much computing resources your organization consumes. With this type of software license there is no upfront license fee and no hardware or software to buy and install on premise.
Q. What are the main differences between purchasing and deploying software as a service versus on premise?
A. There are several differences between SaaS and on premise business applications. The main ones include:
- Purchasing – Traditional on premise deployments require that you pay for the business application license and any additional hardware or software needed to run the system up front. Whereas with SaaS, all of your operating costs are rolled into a monthly fee paid to your cloud service provider. Many businesses on a tight budget prefer SaaS because they can get the software they need right away, without having to wait until they have saved up enough to purchase expensive infrastructure all at once.
- Installation speed – Implementation is somewhat quicker with SaaS software versus on premise installation, but not as quick as some suppliers would like you to believe. Obviously, if you choose SaaS deployment you don’t have to spend time setting up your own hardware and then installing the supporting software it needs to run. But, all other implementation tasks are the same no matter whether you are deploying your software on premise or in the cloud.
- Maintenance – On premise business applications require a lot of ongoing support and maintenance (backups, disaster recovery, making sure proper security controls are in place, fine tuning the servers to improve performance, load balancing to meet demands), all of which can be very costly and time-consuming. With cloud business applications all of these things are taken care of for you and included in the monthly fee you pay your cloud service provider, usually at a savings when compared to what it would cost you to do these things on your own.
- Scalability – With cloud business applications you can add or remove users and hardware etc. quickly and painlessly. All it usually takes is a phone call to your provider who will modify your service and adjust your fee accordingly. On the other hand, with on premise deployments scaling your software up or down is not particularly easy. If you need to add additional users, you must usually purchase additional software licenses (and pay for them upfront). Additionally, you may also find that your hardware will need an upgrade to support the increased traffic to the system. And, when it comes to scaling on premise systems down, you cannot return licenses that are no longer being used and therefore won’t see any immediate savings.
Q. When I purchase software as a service do I have control over the implementation and configuration of my software?
A. That depends. There are two main types of SaaS deployments, single tenant and multitenant. With single tenant SaaS your organization’s unique copy of the software and your data is maintained completely separately from any of your provider’s other customers’. While you can’t control the implementation and configuration of the software as much as you can if you are deploying it on premise, single tenant cloud deployments do give you some control over these things.
With multitenant SaaS deployments there is only one copy of the software and each company using it has its own secure database attached to it. The upside to this is that all users are always kept up to date with the latest enhancements and bug fixes. But on the other hand, this deployment method offers users limited control over software configuration and sometimes integrating it with other systems can be difficult.
Q. Are all cloud business applications created equal?
A. Absolutely not. Because of the popularity that cloud applications have gained over the last few years, many legacy software providers have attempted to “cloud wash” or re-engineer their products for the cloud. Many of these products require that you install client software on your PC or mobile device in order for them to be accessible. Others utilize special to serve up webpages to the user. The problem with both of these approaches is they do not deliver speed or responsiveness of a true cloud applications. True cloud solutions require no other software than a web browser. They have been designed and built from the ground up for the web and therefore are responsive, which means their screens will automatically adjust to fit the size of whatever device you are accessing them from (PC, tablet or smartphone).
I hope I have helped to clear up some of your confusion around the cloud. Still a little confused about what is the cloud, or how does it work? Leave your questions in the comments below.
If you would like to learn more about the cloud, what it is and how to tell if it is right for your business, please take a look at
If you are in need of a partner to help you get to the cloud, we can help! We offer a wide variety of cloud solutions and have the expertise to help you choose the one that best fits your needs.
By: Laura Schomaker, Intelligent Technologies Inc., a North Carolina Acumatica and Microsoft Dynamics partner