Last week, I gave a presentation on cattle management in the cloud to attendees at the 2012 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course. Below is an excerpt from that talk that I wanted to share for those that were not able to attend.
If you’ve read any main stream media publication lately, you’ve probably seen articles referring to “cloud computing”, “web applications, or “web-based software”. Before you can evaluate if cloud-based software is right for you, it’s important to understand what it is.
Internet-based “in the cloud”
You will see the terms “cloud” and “web-based” used to refer to Internet-based software because the software can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Internet connections supported by most cloud applications can range from high-speed to satellite and also include 3G/cellular.
Accessed via web browser
Instead of downloading and installing software, cloud software is accessed by any modern web browser in the same manner that web-based email such as GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook and AOL are accessed. This makes it easy to access your records since there is no software to download or install.
Limited offline capabilities
When using cloud software, it is important to consider offline scenarios such as power outages as well as use in areas without Internet. Some customers will export information to PDFs, spreadsheet, and even paper printouts.
Monthly all-inclusive subscriptions
Many desktop-based softwares, including previous versions of CattleMax, are priced with a large up-front cost plus an additional fee for add-ons such as online backup service and additional licenses. In addition, upgrades were priced with a slightly smaller cost every few years.
On the other hand, cloud-based software is priced at a smaller ongoing monthly fee that includes online backup, upgrades, and other components that were previously priced separately. This pricing structure helps all customers better manage budgeting while ensuring they are always using the latest version of the software.
Questions from the talk
- What about security? – It is important to talk with any cloud software provider and ask about security practices. Questions to ask would be regarding both the software technologies used by the vendor as well as the security policy of the hosting provider where the software is hosted.
- What about privacy? – Your records are your private information so you should be able to decide if and how they are shared with others. This is commonly handled through user accounts that you can assign to others.
- Is it more expensive? – Actual difference of cost out of pocket will vary with each operation. Do keep in mind that the actual price of software is one of only three components in any cattle management software (setup time and maintenance time being the other 2).
- What if I stop using the software – Having an exit strategy is important with any software program, desktop or cloud-based. It is essential that you have a way of exporting your records to formats both usable by you as well as your next software program. Remember that it’s your data, not theirs.
On Thursday, we will publish the second part of the talk that covers the Benefits of Cloud-based Agriculture Software.