The Cloud: How it differs from off-site servers

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IF you’re part of the 90% of the Automotive Aftermarket who has listed a system change as your top IT priority in the next three years, then grab a Bud-light, cause this ones for you. As you begin the search for a system that will serve your company in the years to come you’ll need to know the difference between off-site and cloud. This will be important because you’ll likely only hear the term “cloud” and you’ll need to know the right questions to ask to find the real McCoy.

Dedicated Servers

Every one in the Automotive Aftermarket knows what a dedicated server is; the thing in your IT closet, or under your counter that scares the… heck out of you. You replace it every 5-years and are supposed to take daily back-ups but you probably don’t. With internet reliability being what it is, you can now upgrade to an off-site server. This allows someone else to maintain back-ups, perform software and firmware updates and ensure active internet and electrical connections. Nice.

However, while off-site servers are certainly a step-up from onsite servers, they’re no more a part of the cloud than a stick-horse is a mode of transportation. It’s still is a single-point of failure and still requires you to install client-based software on each device you want to connect to it. Off-site servers still require scheduled maintenance, software updates, firmware updates and replacement of moving parts such as hard-drives. If any maintenance job goes wrong you’ll realize that at about 8:30AM on a Monday. Not ideal. And now you wait for someone in some place to magically fix it. Of course the biggest problem with dedicated devices is that sooner or later in an effort to ensure ongoing reliability you’ll end up replacing them with precious money you otherwise would have used for retirement.

While you are thrilled you were able to “upgrade” to a system that is eerily similar to the one you had since 1985, the guy across the street just switched systems to something he also claims is the cloud. His new system included no integration fee, no user, terminal or session fees, no software installation and guarantees no down-time. He also can show you the whole thing from his smart-phone and says that whether he keeps it 5 or 15-years he’ll never have a renewal fee of any kind, which means that over the next 10-years, he’ll spend 74% less on his IT budget than you will. Wow.

Cloud Servers

New cloud computing technologies emerged in the late nineties during the dot-com era. 15-years later with Google, Facebook and setting the pace, every business market including the Automotive Aftermarket now has the ability to leverage this technology.

Cloud platforms distribute data and therefore costs across an array of servers, resulting in drastically lower costs-of-ownership for users. Savings from off-site dedicated servers to cloud can result in “… cost reductions of 74%” according to a presentation by Orange Business Services, Nov 12, 2013.

Cloud platforms are server farms that host the solution throughout a spiderweb connection of servers that removes server reliability from the equation. In a cloud platform, solutions are served-up by multiple servers simultaneously, so if any of them fail you’ll never know. Cloud solutions are accessed via internet web browsers and do not require software installation on devices. Updates can be pushed daily with the ease of a new news article posting on a news-site. The SaaS can be accessed from any PC, tablet, smart-phone or other web-enabled device. These solutions are always current, backed up and accessible real-time from anywhere on the planet.

When it comes time to switch from that workhorse software you’ve trusted your business with for the last twenty-years, before you shell out more precious cash, find the cloud solution in your space and see if it’s time you reduce your IT expenses by 74%, eliminate the chance of downtime, and discover the advantages your competitors are already leveraging.