Management Speak – love it or hate it, there is no getting away from it. The latest term doing the board room rounds is ‘cloud computing’, which apparently is the future of IT. However, cloud computing comes under many other more self-explanatory aliases which arguably have been doing the rounds longer , Software As A Service (SaaS) and plain, old fashioned “hosted service” being two examples. One could get confused and it’s no wonder that people are often unsure of what might benefit their particular needs, but come now it is important we are ‘moving forward’.
It is probably a good start not to get hung up on names. The term ‘cloud’ really refers to the internet and ‘cloud computing’ is about trusting more of your materials and services to sit out there and so reduce the number of PCs and servers you would need in-house in order to manage these materials and services yourself. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons for both approaches.
In an effort to simplify matters for you, a Skyline License includes its full suite of functions regardless of whether it is run from external servers or installed on your own in-house system. The decision is will be largely driven by the role you see for your organisation.
For some businesses, understandably, the decision to benefit from ‘cloud computing’ is not based purely on cost. For organisations that wish to maximise the benefits of integration with internal databases and networks the decision is often dictated by company security policies set by the IT Department. This could mean installing Skyline on an in-house Server within the company’s secure firewalls.
If sensitive data is part of your web presence, then outsourcing hosting duties does entail assuming some risk. While hosting entails a promise to protect the security and privacy of customer data, it is always very difficult in this day and age to 100% guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong. Customer’s own facilities may not be 100% safe either, but there is an element of comfort in feeling it's under your control.
Another appeal of the in-house license is that it can make it easier for individuals to benefit from Single Sign On or LDAP. This is the ability for users to be automatically given access to the service, without the need to log on each time, such as is required when using outside commercial websites, meaning on less user name and password to remember. Not only does this make it quicker for users, it also means they hardly notice the transition and the effect can be made even more seamless if you choose to have the service redesigned with your own internal branding.
However, increasingly many of our customers are opting for a hosted solution and this is reflected in external trends too. According to a recent report by the Aberdeen Group, nearly 70% of small and medium sized businesses outsource some or their entire web hosting needs. This increase reflects a growing number of customers recognising the benefits of leveraging technology to streamline their own operations.
Many companies operate with a small number of IT staff or without any at all. Even with those businesses that can support their own hosting demands, there is still the requirement to ensure security, reliability and scalability. The prospect of having these responsibilities and costs taken away from you can be an attractive proposition.
An important advantage for many companies is that the initial set up costs of a hosted service are significantly lower, avoiding the need for investment in equipment and software. A hosted service still represents a monthly cost, but it does allow you to spread the investment.
It is also worth noting that with an in house license you still have on-going costs such as IT support for the Server hardware, its operating systems and security, and as your business grows, updating and upgrading the system. Outsourcing might then enable a company to reduce costs and free up assets that could have been allocated to capital expenditures.
By opting for a hosted service you also ensure that you will be able to cope with fluctuations in demand for your service. For example, Skyline is designed to enable you to develop from a simple single site installation to international print operations supporting multiple web sites and Print Rooms. Therefore, as your business grows, there is the potential to require a more rapid deployment. Our hosted service is run from a multiple server farm meaning you take advantage of separate dedicated Servers for web pages, SQL database, documents storage and PDF processing. This architecture means that as demand in the service grows the hosted service will be able to respond and this is a level of resilience that would be difficult to replicate in-house.
In the end, there are advantages to both and a business should consider the cost and feasibility of hosting in-house versus the cost to outsource in terms of its own very personal set of circumstances, facilities and ambitions. Really it’s just about ‘360 degree thinking’!