If you have not heard the term Cloud Computing by now then you have either been on a very long vacation to a deserted island or you probably still use a typewriter instead of a computer. Either way you have managed to dodge one of the latest buzzwords in I.T spheres with great talent.
Cloud computing is basically computing on the Internet. However, although you generally experience cloud computing via a web browser, we are not just talking about browsing web pages on the internet for information purposes but rather performing software application functions that have traditionally been executed with software and data that is installed/located on your computers own hard drive. The latter is known as desktop computing.
An example of Cloud Computing versus Desktop Computing would be Google Docs (Cloud) versus Microsoft Office (installed on your computer). With Google Docs both the ability to edit documents and the documents themselves are located on a web server hosted by Google. With Microsoft Office you will purchase a CD (or download the install file), install the software on your computer and use the features on your computer and save the documents on your computer.
With companies like Google we are seeing an exponential increase in the rate that desktop functionality is moving onto the web (cloud). In fact Google’s Chrome Operating System is an attempt to replace your desktops Windows (or Mac OS) environment with a Web Browser, from where you will conduct all your normal computing functions online. Google’s App Store provides a number of web based application to be used in their web environment.
I for one have become a big fan of cloud computing but have to come to realise that cloud computing, although excellent for certain types of functionality is not best for every type of function.
In this article we will look at some of the pros and cons of Cloud Computing versus Desktop Computing and see what implications this has for your spa.
The nature of your work
The nature of the work you are performing will dictate to a large extent whether it should be desktop based or cloud based and in my opinion the following functionality should be desktop based:
You may be surprised that I say bookings must be desktop based but if you remember when you first moved from your manual bookings book to computerised booking you will recall the fear and uncertainty about the event of the computer crashing and you not having a book to fall back on. Internet connectivity if far less reliable especially in South Africa and you will experience downtime (even if you don’t notice it) at least once a day on your own Internet connection.
The claim that online software providers will make is that they boast 99% uptime on their servers. This is great, but it is not generally their internet connectivity that we are worried about it is your own. I have seen businesses whose Internet has gone down for weeks on end, either due to cable theft or some other problem with their computer or their method for connecting to the internet.
In my opinion bookings should be a hybrid solution, which we will talk about later.
Daily sales transactions is another function that I believe should be hosted locally. The reason being is that transactions need to be posted real time and if your own internet connection goes down then you will not be able to post transactions for clients and will therefore not be able to print them a receipt, update their history etc. This will have a knock on effect to stock control and day end cash ups, amongst other things.
I believe that the following can or should be available on the web (cloud).
Because reports are not real time transactions that need to get posted while a client is standing in front of you it means that they can be web based. The nature of working with reports is that you view them at random times and in random places. For example, you may be on holiday and want to know how your spa is doing, then a web based report will be perfect. You may also want to work from home after hours and web based reporting ability will make this possible.
If your own internet connection goes down it is not generally the end of the world because you can usually either wait for it to come back on or connect to the internet using an alternative method like a cell phone / 3g connection or even a wifi hotspot at a coffee shop.
Renting space in the clouds
Cloud computing is also referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). This implies that rather than paying an upfront fee for a software package and receiving a CD or downloadable install file you are rather just paying for the service of renting space and functionality on someone else’s computer.
The down side is that you generally need to keep paying for the service and do not really receive any ownership of your software. Therefore it’s more of an expense than an Asset.
If you stop paying you stand the chance of being cut off from your data, whereas with desktop computing your data is on your hard drive and you generally have easier access and more control over it.
I believe therefore that a hybrid (combination of desktop and cloud computing) is the ultimate solution for a spa. This will allow the core transactional activities to take place without effect from internet connectivity and still give you the freedom of getting information wherever and whenever you desire it.
A hybrid solution will even make possible the ability to show bookings on the web but also have them locally available on your own computer and thus daily trading will not be affected by internet connectivity.
The hybrid solution does require that your own computer acts as a web server or sends data to a web server so that it can be viewed on the web. This will depend on the capabilities of your software provider and their method for making this possible.