Subscription based Computing

A consequence of the internet has been Cloud Computing where end users connect in some way to the internet to access numerous IT products and services.

We recently visited a site where the business owner thought that if he went onto the ‘Cloud’ he wouldn’t have to install software on the local PCs, everything being done ‘in the cloud’.

This isn’t possible with Windows based Cloud architecture with varying levels of Cloud Solutions, but they all have one thing in common, they are subscription based whereby you enter into an open ended contract and pay a monthly fee for each product or service required.  There is often no grace period, so if you miss a subscription the service stops.  (We recently had a site down because a credit card expired and the subscription didn’t transfer to the replacement).

Subscription based computing falls into broadly two categories,  SaaS, Software as a Service, and IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service.

SaaS includes application software like Microsoft Office, Sage Accounts and so on.  SaaS sounds great but one of the obvious issues is maintaining subscriptions from numerous sources.  It may be possible, however, to run your IT entirely on PCs but in practice some software, or data, has to be stored in a central repository and a file server is the best place to do this, if only from security perspectives.

IaaS includes not only direct access to hardware like servers but also utility applications like backup, antivirus and so on.  IaaS could mean you run your IT entirely on a PC based installation but care needs to be taken to ensure that any locally stored data is secure, and a file server is still the best option here.

The current trend in software is to only offer cloud and subscription based solutions, with any existing OnPrem software discontinued, with a fait accompli to end users.

We’ve recently surveyed the market for software to run our business.  When meeting potential vendors the first question we ask is does it work OnPrem. if not we move on.  Why?  Because over time it isn’t cost effective, we want to stay in control of updates and patches and possibly shop around for support.  

Clearly this doesn’t suit everyone, especially companies with minimal OnPrem IT support.

For instance, we have a client with 13 small retail outlets in the Midlands. The cloud based application they use does everything they require, from stock control to word processing.  They have no other software requirements.  SaaS is perfect for this type of installation.  No file servers, no OnPrem backup and so on, (though antivirus is obviously still required).  We simply manage the PCs and printers onsite which is a serious cost saving over their previous solution that required a file server at each outlet.

So, remember, you’ll pay more for SaaS and Iaas, you lose control and you’re probably tied in for support.  But, this could still be a good model for SMEs with multiple sites and remote users. 

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