The cloud is a wonderful way for small/mid sized HVAC companies to really and truly make a serious change to the way they work and manage their business. Adopting a well designed cloud solution to manage assets, workflow, scheduling, F-Gas compliance and staff will have long lasting beneficial effect for any company that are forward thinking enough to realise that the crazy spreadsheets and “Only I know how to do it” systems will ultimately be their demise in a world where young and tech savvy startups are appearing daily just waiting to out tweet, out market and out price you!
What is the cloud?
Put simply, Cloud is a way of delivering software via the Internet rather than more traditional methods of installing software on computers from disks or downloads. There are also some cloud based models that use Internet based software and a combination of locally installed software and/or mobile apps. These are a kind of cloud “hybrid”.
What are the main benefits of a cloud solution over traditional software?
The benefits are numerous.
- Lower CAPEX costs
- Faster deployment / lower risk
- Low or nil running and upgrade costs
- Easy to expand if you choose the right provider
- Lower cost backup and security
- Always upto date
- Available on almost any Internet connected laptop or tablet
To explain these benefits further:
Lower CAPEX costs are a common feature of cloud solutions. Because the software is usually shared across many users, it costs less for the provider to “setup” your software. In fact setup is often “Instant” and requires little more than a simple signup process to begin using the software immediately. This means fast deployment times and low risk as many providers offer free or close to free evaluation periods.
Once you find a solution you get along with, rolling out across the company is usually a simple administration process rather than a technical one. In a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, you simply choose a payment option that suits your needs and begin using on a fixed cost or pay as you go basis. Adding more engineers, assets and other information as you are required to. The provider expands your storage space and computer resources to serve your needs so you only pay for what you need.
The same is to be said for upgrades to hardware. A reliable provider will be undergoing constant hardware expansion and upgrading to their servers which in turn means you get the best experience possible at a fraction of the cost of setting up “Bare Metal” (servers in your building or data centre)
Most cloud services will include automated backup features as part of the SaaS model. This means the provider takes responsibility of at least ensuring your software and settings are backed up and ready to restore on demand. Further to this some providers will give you the option to download copies of your data to store offline as well.
A modern hosting provider will usually have far better backup facilities than the average business can ever hope to achieve.
Software has always been subject to updates! In fact it always will be. Cloud makes this an almost irrelevant consideration. As new versions of the software are developed and bugs are fixed, they are rolled out onto the cloud in such a way that the end user is always using the latest and best version of the software.
Last but not least is availability… This where cloud wins hands down every time. Getting access to your software is usually as simple as launching a browser window on your laptop or tablet. A well designed cloud platform will have some form of resilience built in that enables the main function of the software to work whilst not connected to the internet or in bad signal areas. But lets face it, if you think how many hours you have lost to restarting windows and how many times you honestly don’t have an Internet connection then cloud really has very few drawbacks.
What are the drawbacks of cloud?
There really are none, but if you had to pick one then it would be concern over privacy. By that I am talking about the dreaded idea that someone else might see your data. My answer to that would be “Stop worrying”. A really well developed enterprise cloud solution is far less likely to be a privacy issue than your 5 year old, out of date laptop with free AVG virus killer and 300 malware issues.
If you are still not convinced that cloud can make a difference and you are asking yourself “Whats the catch?” then why not read Pitfalls of migrating from paper to mobile for AC & Refrigeration engineers which covers some of the less commonly discussed considerations as well as discussing ways to make your first step into the cloud.