As technology has become more prominent in the facilities management world, office managers have been hard at work looking for the best possible facilities management software to implement at their companies. FMs' specific preferences vary depending on the sizes of their companies and their specific facilities' needs, but across the board, there are a few noticeable trends emerging.
One big one is the rise of cloud computing. If you work for pretty much any business in any capacity, you've no doubt heard these buzzwords tossed around countless times in recent years. The cloud is the next big thing in corporate America - by putting information online rather than on their local hard drives, employees make it available to everyone, from the co-worker down the hall to the customer across the globe.
According to InfoWorld, cloud computing is still developing as a business tool. Eric Knorr and Galen Gruman, two senior editors at the publication, have opined that as the technology is still in its infancy, IT leaders are still working to develop new applications for it.
"Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities," the source stated. "Cloud computing is at an early stage, with a motley crew of providers large and small delivering a slew of cloud-based services, from full-blown applications to storage services to spam filtering."
More specifically, what is "the cloud," and how does it differ from other online solutions such as software as a service and web-based software? It's a tricky question to answer. Let's explore.
"The cloud" is a vague term. It's becoming less of a specific solution and more of a cliché in the tech world. InfoWorld explained that while people's definitions of cloud computing certainly vary, a typical one is this - anything that uses virtual servers on the Internet is in the cloud.
For example, your email is in the cloud. Your Google Documents page that you use to share information with co-workers - that's in the cloud too. Anything that enables you to save files online rather than store them locally on your machine falls under the cloud computing umbrella.
Almost everyone in business these days is using the cloud, even if they don't realize it. They might not, however, be using these more specific solutions.
Software as a service, SaaS for short, is a particular type of cloud app. InfoWorld explains that SaaS apps are cloud-based apps that deliver a single application to thousands of users, deploying a multi-tenant architecture. In other words, people are able to create, modify, save, access and share their files using a specialized application found on the Internet.
TechTarget recently reported that SaaS is on the rise because it makes it easier for managers in any field to oversee their work. Whether you're in facilities management, human resources, law, finance or what have you, it's easy to collaborate on projects using data that's globally accessible. Updates are automatic, so you never have to worry about downloading patches or installing add-ons.
Web-based solutions are similar. According to InfoWorld, the two are closely related - the difference is that web-based applications aren't necessarily full-blown pieces of software, merely apps that are accessed via the Web. You can use such solutions without using any program but your web browser.
A web-based software is a great resource because it's simple - you'll never have to buy any CDs, download or install anything or worry about upgrades. All you have to do is work.
These three software categories - cloud-based, SaaS and web-based - are all closely related, but there are subtle differences among them. You'll have to decide for yourself which one will work the best for your company's facilities.
If you're struggling with that decision, schedule a demo so we can help you with the process.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.