Tech

An application in the Cloud or just hot air?

A lot of people have been throwing the word “Cloud” around these days. Everyone claims they have a Cloud-based application. We certainly do with ParagonERP. But what exactly is a Cloud-based system? Well, it turns out it’s not that simple. And because it’s not that simple, lots of people use its complexity to obfuscate the truth. Not every application that’s accessible through the web is truly a Cloud-based system, meaning that a lot of these applications can’t actually boast the benefits that Cloud-based applications have to offer. Many of them are just hot air.

So what makes an application good Cloud-based software?

Client-side vs. server-side

Before we get into the meat of it, we need to explain a concept first – client side vs. server side. When something (a piece of code or a user request, for example) runs client-side, it uses up processing capacities on the user’s end. Basically, it’s a bunch of code that is transferred from a web server to the user’s computer over the Internet and is run directly in a browser. Server-side, on the other hand, occurs when a script or piece of code is run on the server itself. The benefit of running things server-side is you can capitalize on huge processing power that servers offer, while running things client-side have benefits of speed and efficiency but overall have less power.

Now that that’s settled, let’s get to the meat of the matter. A truly Cloud-based application is designed for you to have a local user interface that runs quickly and efficiently while all the heavy processing and data storage takes place in a Cloud environment that is accessible from anywhere in the world, using any device that is connected to the Internet.

When the user interface is client-side, but processing and data storage occurs server-side

Did you notice the three unexplained jargon terms stuffed into that sentence? User interface, processing and data storage? Whether you call it Cloud-based or not, an application’s performance and experience are heavily reliant on where each of those three things reside.

The user interface contains all the screens and the things that you as a user interact with; think of an app installed on your phone.

The data storage is exactly like it sounds, the physical location of the information your software uses. Much of the value of the term “Cloud-based” resides in having your data in the Cloud. It means that you can access it from anywhere in the world. It also means that your application has to be built well so that only the minimum relevant data is transferred back and forth as needed. Otherwise the performance is slow.

The processing should be shared by the user interface and the server. While some processing like major data calculations, is better handled by the big resources of the server, some is better handled where the user is located physically.

cloud

The bottom line is that well designed Cloud-based applications place resources to limit what gets transferred back and forth across the Internet between the server and the user. The bottleneck is usually your constantly variable Internet connection, so a good application minimizes reliance on that.

The Facebook or banking app on your phone are both examples of pretty decent Cloud-based applications. The interface runs on your mobile device while accessing all the data that is stored on Cloud servers and executing most of the heavy processing on the server-side too. If you have to use a remote tool to connect to a server where you then run your client, it’s not a well-architected Cloud solution. Doing this is usually an attempt to take older technology and shoe-horn it into a new platform without redesigning it. It can go alright for a while but it will often have problems and not be a long-term solution.

Now that we know what a good Cloud-based system is, why is the Cloud actually beneficial?

Cost savings

  • Cloud applications tend to be offered through a SaaS payment model. Basically, you pay a monthly subscription fee for the service, so you end up with predictable costs over time.
  • Because you don’t have to purchase the hardware, hire an IT team or maintain an entire IT infrastructure, your upfront investment is cheaper.

Greater security

  • With your data hosted in a Tier 1 Datacenter, your data is much more secure because it’s better protected from viruses, hackers, natural disasters and power outages. The Cloud hosting infrastructure provided by Tier 1 Datacenters are far more robust and redundant than anything you could host yourself.
  • That also means that server upkeep, virus recovery, backups and redundancies are no longer your problem.

Smoother day-to-day operations

  • The Cloud is highly elastic and will scale up or down depending on your needs at that moment. If you suddenly need a new server or virtual machine, the Cloud’s got your back. At the same time, if you find that you don’t need as much data storage, with the Cloud, it’s easy to scale down.
  • Automatic updates and upgrades are smoother and less disruptive to your day-to-day operations.

Increased accessibility and mobility

  • Your team can access your system anywhere in the world, using any device or browser, as long as they’re connected to the Internet.
  • Increased mobility and accessibility to help globalize your business.

Simpler implementations

  • Cloud implementations typically take less time.
  • Because you’re free from hardware hassles and constraints, they’re also way cheaper.

Don’t let the hot air woo you

Only you can decide whether the Cloud is the best fit for your business. But to actually reap the benefits, a properly designed Cloud-based system is the way to go. There are a lot of legacy ERP systems out there that claim they are Cloud-based but are really just the same old system that is now accessible over the Internet using dated tools like Remote Desktop connections. There’s a lot more to being a truly Cloud-based application the way ParagonERP is: for it to offer the benefits of the Cloud, all the data must be stored and processed on Cloud-based servers while the user interface is run on a web browser.

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