Cloud computing is the concept of storing and accessing data over the internet, negating the need to keep programmes locally on a hard drive. Where “hard” IT based environments are available only on a single device cloud programmes can be accessed at any time and on any device.
“The Cloud” can be considered another word for the internet and dates back to the 1950s; schools and businesses would use large scale mainframes which resembled basic server rooms. The term was originally used in diagrams to describe the movement of data from internal file centres to external “clouds”.
Modern cloud computing is increasingly becoming the norm and focuses on convenience, cost saving, and compatibility. Cloud computing seeks to shift focus from Hardware to Software.
The three main branches of Cloud Computing are:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
A standardised computer infrastructure owned and hosted by companies such as Amazon or Rackspace and rented to customers on-demand. Unlike traditional software purchases the user is normally charged based on how much of the provider’s resource is allocated and consumed. IaaS often provide the backbone of the client’s online presence.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
The customer purchases a platform on which they create their own software or applications using the tools or storage facilities of the provider. Typically these custom programmes can be deployed, tested, hosted and updated from a streamlined environment.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Sometimes referred to as “On-demand Software” SaaS solutions are a web based service which provide access to software remotely. These solutions often cost less than traditional applications as the price is based on a monthly subscription fee as opposed to a software license. Since SaaS products are hosted remotely by the provider the IT maintenance costs are also often considerably lower.
Customer Relationship Management suites are increasingly based in the cloud and are usually in the form of a SaaS model. There are several key benefits to a SaaS CRM solution hosted in the cloud:
Convenience- In order for a CRM database to work efficiently it has to be constantly available and accessible to users. A Cloud based system allows salespeople and service representatives to access client data any time, any place and on any device
Security- A key benefit of having a database hosted entirely by the CRM provider is the ability to set levels of access. Security roles can be allocated to members of staff and limitation of data access assigned. Most CRM solutions are hosted from secure data centres and the fact they are available online eliminates the need to store data on portable devices which may be compromised or lost
Flexibility- Unlike traditional hardware Cloud CRM is simple and inexpensive to install. Once data is uploaded the systems are usually ready to go. Cloud CRM is also highly scalable and can be expanded as the company grows without the need for a new programme or a time consuming upgrade. Clients can often expand their system almost instantly
Reliability- There is usually considerably less down time since all maintenance is handled internally by the provider. This also means updates and upgrades to the product are free, fast and more regular. Solutions will never become outdated or insufficient as they are constantly evolving at no inconvenience to the client
Solid Disaster Recovery- Perhaps the most prominent benefit to SaaS solutions is the nature of cloud storage. SaaS suppliers ensure all data is rigorously backed up since any loss of information would be catastrophic for the company
Cloud computing is split into three main groups: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and Saas (Software as a Service) CRM solutions usually come in the form of a SaaS solution
The key benefits to Cloud CRM are Convenience, Security, Flexibility and Reliability
CRM databases based in the cloud are available to clients any time, any place and on any device