What is “the cloud”?
Wikipedia defines cloud computing as “the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a community of end-recipients… Cloud computing entrusts services with a user’s data, software and computation over a network… End users access cloud-based applications through a web browser or a light-weight desktop or mobile app while the business software and user’s data are stored on servers at a remote location.”
CattleMax Online is based on cloud computing technology, meaning that it is accessed via a web browser instead of a downloaded software. Other products available via the web include Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Mint/Quicken, Google’s Gmail, and many more. SalesForce.com, a publicly-traded company and one of the early pioneers in cloud computing, was founded in March 1999 – a few months before we even started Cattlesoft.
This past week, I read a discussion thread on Cattle Today that discussed cloud computing and specifically CattleMax Online. I wanted to address these concerns and welcome any questions that others may have.
Concern #1 – I can’t access my records without Internet
Lack of Internet access is by far the major reason that CattleMax Online is not a fit for some ranches today. Fortunately when it comes to Internet access, the “haves” are increasing daily.
Intermittent or slow access is an issue for some and this is often worked around with printable reports, PDFs, or using EID readers or scale indicators for collecting data in the field. With no software to install or updates to download, as well as being optimized to run over slow Internet connections including 3G/cellular & satellite, CattleMax Online is slow-Internet friendly.
In the event your power and Internet go down, you can access records via a smartphone or tablet using 3G/cell data.
Overall though, you will find that being able to access your records from any computer (work, home, school) or mobile device (at a sale, in the pasture) without the need for copying files or synchronizing data will far outweigh the drawbacks of not being able to access your records in the back corner of the ranch.
Concern #2 – Cloud computing is a threat to our personal freedom
I certainly don’t want to get in to politics here but I will say that whether your information is stored in the cloud, on your local PC, or on the back of a feeds sack on your truck dashboard, access to your information can be obtained via proper legal means.
Also CattleMax Online is a private software rather than a social networking site like Facebook, so there is no communication between customers within the software.
Concern #3 – When someone else has your data, they are in charge
As with all versions of CattleMax since the beginning, your data belongs to you. CattleMax CS data can be accessed via Microsoft Access and CattleMax Online data can be exported to spreadsheets and PDF as well as printed.
What may surprise many is that some desktop cattle software programs actually do prevent you from accessing your data outside of their program, either through proprietary data file formats or security mechanisms on Access databases. I know, as I’ve unsuccessfully tried to help convert a few of their users over to CattleMax.
As far as infrastructure goes, CattleMax Online is hosted at a 24/7 monitored and managed hosting provider located in Atlanta, GA. Data is stored on enterprise-grade hardware running enterprise-grade databases and is backed up daily. All of this is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cost was not a factor in choosing our hosting provider and it is definitely not an insignificant amount.
As I was writing this post, I was reminded of the quote “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” When we started in 1999, we heard some of the same type of concerns about keeping cattle records on a computer instead of pen-and-paper.
- I can’t access my records without your software installed
- Desktop computers are a threat to our personal freedom
- When your data is in someone else’s software, they are in charge
I hope that I have addressed some of the concerns about cloud computing and specifically CattleMax Online. If not, feel free to reply in the comments or contact me directly.