Nowhere do acronyms and buzzwords get thrown around more than in the world of business IT & software! The terms ‘cloud computing’ and ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), have been a round for a few years now, but they may still be new to you.
Even if you’ve heard about ‘the cloud’ and SaaS, you may still be wondering exactly what it is – and more importantly, if it’s something you should be considering for your business.
In these short videos, you’ll get an overview of what SaaS is, how it works in conjunction with cloud computing, and also whether it’s right for your business.
In recent times, we have all become familiar with cloud services and the idea that not everything needs to be on the server within a business. A new addition to these style of services is known as the Software as a Service or SaaS. But what is it and what potential pros and cons are there for the average business? We had a brief look at SaaS in a previous post, but we wanted to go into things in a bit more detail, looking at the pros and cons, so you can decide if it’s someting that might be right for yiur business.
For many years, the model was simple – if you wanted a piece of software, you bought it to install on your system, with an on-premise license that incorporated the number of users within your organisation. This meant that the software seller got a big payment from you at the beginning and then hoped you took upgrades and add-ons during the life of the software. The biggest problem with this was that the business could find it had spent a lot of money on software and it didn’t do what they needed. The initial cost also priced out small and even medium sized companies.
The development of the internet, with high speed connections and reliability of service, has forever changed how businesses obtain and use software. The newest version of these concepts are the Software as a Service distribution model and this is becoming increasingly popular with businesses around the world. It allows both businesses and consumers to lease pieces of software that are delivered over the internet. The flexibility and affordability of these service mean that revenues from SaaS look set to reach $106 billion by next year, a growth of 21% over 2015.
All of this sounds great for businesses but then natural scepticism comes on – is it really as good as it sounds? What are the downsides?
Firstly, the pros in favour of using SaaS. For starters, affordability is definitely a huge benefit for any size company. Because the software is leased rather than owned, the pricing is completely different. Ongoing subscription fees, often on a monthly basis is the normal payment method and allows businesses to pay for only what they need rather than a set package. It is also simple to increase the license if you add more employees or decrease it if you reduce your numbers.
The internet basis of the software makes it quick to install and to update and is easy to move from one location to another if your employees work in different locations, such as working from home.
The biggest potential problem with SaaS is that if you lose your internet connection, you lose the ability to access the software. So while your business may be able to operate without the internet, you could be hampered by a loss of software.
Infrastructure needs also to be good enough to handle the software needs and if you are based in an area with limited bandwidth, then operating these internet-based software programs may be tricky or time consuming.
The biggest worry about the internet in general is security and this concern can also effect cloud systems and SaaS software. This can be as much with the business themselves as with the software and up to date security protections are essential for both parties.
There’s lots of great things about being a freelancer but without doubt one of the downsides is doing your own accounts – unless of course you’re an accountant yourself! For this reason, many people are turning to software to deal with their accounts and to make the whole job much easier, whether completing self-assessment or handing the information over to an accountant to finish the process. Here we look at a few the best.
Why use software?
When you are self-employed, you want to save as much money as possible and doing your own books is one area that seems pretty straightforward. Read HMRC’s website or gov.uk and it will tell you all you really need is a spreadsheet showing incoming and outgoing amounts. But what this doesn’t tell you is what you might be entitled to claim for against your tax payment and any items you need to include that you may not realise. For this reason, many freelancers are now using a combination of a good piece of software and experienced contractor accountants to ensure they are paying the right tax. Getting the right accounting advice for Contractors is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most from your software, and taking advantages of all the allowances that are available to you.
KashFlow is a piece of account software designed specifically for freelancers and for small businesses. It is a web based system that also comes with a number of big name apps including for the iPhone and Android – allowing you to add information from a smartphone or tablet. It has balance sheet, expense tracking and invoice facilities as well as producing profit and loss statements.
The package has a free trial available and there is no credit card needed to try this while you then pay a monthly subscription starting from £5 a month. In terms of support, the package offers a knowledge base with video tutorials to assist users with any problems. There is also both phone and online support available.
QuickBooks is designed for small and medium businesses as well as enterprise users and as well as offering the software to download, it also has both an iPhone and an Android app to use with smartphones and tablets. It has a no credit card required free trial and then is subscription based, with prices from £6 a month. It also allows the creation and management of invoices.
Support is both on the phone and online while there are also a number of video tutorials for users to get to know the system. As with some of the other cloud-based accounting system, there are QuickBooks packages that allow access for your chartered accountants, to make your end of year accounts and tax returns even more painless.
FreeAgent is also designed for small businesses as well as freelancers and is a web based software package with an Android and iPhone app as well. It allows creating balance sheets including multi-currency as well as profit and loss statements and sales reporting. It can also integrate with Google Drive and PayPal to simplify processes.
The package is available at a free trial without a credit card and then is subscription based with costs from £19 a month. It also has comprehensive support including online and on the phone while there is a knowledge base to access and video tutorials to help learn the system.
Gone are the days of businesses spending huge amounts of money to buy a software license for a large piece of software. This software would often contain elements the business didn’t need and cost more than they would really like to spend but were left with no option. Today, there are cloud services and software as a service products that mean these days are gone. But buying business software can still be filled with pitfalls and wasted money so here are some top tips to help get the best for your business.
Type of Software
For many businesses, software as a service (SaaS) or other cloud products are usually the way to go. However, there are situations where physical software may still be the best option. One reason for this may be if the business is in an area with slow internet connection speeds – this would mean it would take a long time to upload software and updates. Or it may be that specialist software is required that is still only available via physical software options.
Finding the Right Product
Once the business knows whether they want physical or cloud based software, then the hunt begins. It can be a very time consuming and sometimes confusing job to find the right software and for this reason, many companies choose to get professional help from an IT support company. These are experts who deal with all aspects of software from its acquisition to maintenance and can be a cost effective option to employing someone to deal with the business’s software.
Whether you choose IT support or do it yourself, choose software that offers a top support structure. This covers if something goes wrong but also when there are updates or amendments needed. Look for 24/7 cover in the case of a problem as well as comprehensive solutions for upgrades and updates. Alternatively, if you use the IT support option, discuss their service in this area before engaging their services.
Once you have the software you want, you then need to teach your staff to use it. Look for software that comes with or can provide training for your staff. Ideally this should be using the internet rather than sending them somewhere for an expensive training session, though this may be needed with some specialist software.
After what it does and what it costs, security is perhaps the most important issue for anything computer related today. Knowing that the software has the right security built into it or that it works alongside the software in use is crucial. Cyberattacks are continuing to grow and become more complex so businesses need to know that everything on their systems or that they use is safe and secure.
Choosing software can be a major decision for your business with far reaching consequences. Doing it yourself can work but by using the services of an expert, this can remove the stress of the decision and allow you to focus your attention on other areas of the business.
Ask any software expert and they will tell you that cloud services and software as a service products are the way forward. They are more economical for businesses who can purchase just what they need and are easy to update over the internet. However, they also come with an inherent security risk, as does anything a business does on the internet. So what can a business do make their software as secure as possible?
Both cloud services and hacking are growth industries today with the demand for these easily personalised products increasing alongside the hackers attacking them. Recently, security experts found over twenty vulnerabilities in the popular SAP software that showed a cyberattack could give hackers control of financials, resource management and other operations.
This shows that even the big businesses face security issues. Take eBay, who in May last year advised all its users to change their passwords in light of a possible attack compromising their encrypted password data. In fact, in the US, almost 50% of adults have had data stolen.
To get an idea of just how sophisticated business information security needs to be, just take a look at this short video from HPE that outlines the threat from hacking, and demonstrates how important it is that all businesses start looking to make sure their information is totally secure.
The most important thought to take from all of this is that while you may not be able to totally guarantee the safety of your business software, there is lots you can do to help make an attack less likely or more difficult. While there are simple measures that can be put in place yourself, it can also be an idea to speak to the kind of specialists who provide the IT Services London businesses require, to discuss the security measures they can offer.
Basic tips for new software include changing the default passwords and account names as soon as you install this – by leaving them at the default settings, you are immediately creating a vulnerability.
Once the new software is installed alongside your security software, make sure you keep it up to date and install all security patches. Viruses and malware change on a frequent basis and security companies send out updates all the time to make sure software can deal with them. But if you don’t install these updates, your system could once again be vulnerable.
Speak to security experts about getting encryption software to protect any customer financial information that you hold. Alternatively, outsource payment collection to a third party company such as PayPal that guarantees the security of their payment system and protects both customer and business.
Consider carefully who needs access to sensitive information and how they access it. One of the biggest points of vulnerability for a business system can be staff using their own smartphones for business purposes – these phones won’t have the same level of security as the business system. By limiting the amount of people who access information, you also limit the chance of an error or someone creating a weakness without meaning to.
Security is perhaps one of the biggest concerns facing any business using the internet today. But the important thing for any business is to deal with the issues facing them and not simply hope that they don’t catch the hacker’s eye.