Column: Real Clients, Real Stories
From the December 2010 Issue
It wasn’t supposed to be this clear. Our prospect was a healthcare provider, and in the past companies like this always bought their business management systems and paid VARs like us to install it on their server, set it up and train them how to use it. This company didn’t have a server.
It seemed it would suit them fine if they didn’t have to buy a server or hire someone to handle the whole infrastructure. This was a startup, a hospice provider with big plans for growth, funded by investors whose top priority was financials. They needed reporting flexible enough to slice and dice information by company, area, location and more. Their office space was temporary, cash flow had to be managed, and most employees worked remotely.
They wanted to be live January 1 with a system that could consolidate their companies, account for partial ownership percentages, grow with their needs and closely monitor their personnel investments in the company. The solution also had to be robust enough to deliver on all the pieces startups try to handle, without a lot of overhead. It had “cloud” written all over it. We had the ERP system that fit their needs and the flexibility to offer options for “deployment” and investment including working in the “cloud.” The company agreed: They chose to “rent” their ERP software for a flat monthly fee, which also included all the latest versions of Microsoft Windows, Office, SQL and SharePoint. The software would be hosted offsite by a company with the resources and redundancies to protect their data. The hosting company maintains the server, and it is both accessible and secure. And the client still got the benefit of our expertise for set up and training and ongoing consulting.
This example of a clear cut path to hosting software in the “cloud” is not to suggest that a tsunami of Software as a Service (SaaS) will overwhelm us in the New Year. It is, however, another sign that we will continue to see waves of this in 2011. And it’s fine, because we now have more “deployment” choices to meet different business needs.
Our sales effort with the hospice startup was in stark contrast to our efforts at the same time with a distributor of pumps. They had a relatively new server in house and ran all their business from one location. They were an established company with IT resources and cash in the bank for the investment. For them, the traditional on-premise solution where they “buy” the software, install it on the server at their office and run it over their internal network was the right option.
Then there was the mortgage company, a longtime client looking to cut their overhead costs as they faced new realities of their industry. They owned their servers, still liked the idea of owning their software, but were anxious to reduce their IT staff. It was the on-premise deployment that was fueling their discussions, and in the end they opted to move their server to a hosting site and have the service provider take responsibility for their servers. We’re still there to support their ERP system, and the hosting gives us the same accessibility as before.
Based on the activity of the last quarter of 2010, it is clear that our offering of expanded “deployment” options is growing and maturing. That means greater opportunities for those who are open to the variety of tools available to meet changing business demands.
Industry buzz about cloud computing (also referred to as SaaS, Software plus Services and Hosting) reflects the growing interest and greater acceptance of “deploying” software over the Internet. Those who think it might just be a fad are overlooking that most of us already have a foot in the cloud if we access Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Evite, Flickr, Google docs, remote backups or a host of entertainment options.