by Cassandra Balentine
Part one of two
Software and workflow tools are facing a shift. Legacy, on premise systems compete with newer cloud-based, open systems. Depending on your company size, industries served, and IT confidence, shifting to the cloud may be an appealing path.
Workflow software updates typically require a significant fiscal and resource investment. Therefore, the decision to adopt a new solution or platform isn’t always simple.
The notion that the company’s data is somewhere outside of their firewalls is a big hinderance for many print providers that have yet to embrace the cloud.
Renee Hesseling, product manager, EFI Productivity Software, feels that there is usually a discussion about security. Print businesses are often hesitant to store data off-site with the thought that it would introduce a risk of losing data with the failure of a cloud server. “However, what has proven to be the more accurate case is that cloud resources, which are covered by redundant backups in multiple locations, can offer a more secure solution in terms of preserving data than storing everything on a server within a print shop,” he attests.
Michael Wemhoff, marketing graphic designer, PrintReach, understands that the idea of having another company running a significant portion of your workflow may seem disconcerting at first. However, he assures that the benefits outweigh those fears, and any cloud hosting company serious about staying in and growing their business will take your data and its security extremely seriously. “The future lies within cloud-based installations, and in order to stay ahead of the game it is worth looking into cloud-based solutions. Not only will you receive superior technical and customer service, but also updates and features that further enhance and secure your software,” he comments.
“Paradoxically the two main concerns we’ve seen are about ensuring easy access to the company’s data, and also about ensuring data security and appropriate governance,” shares Lee Ward, chief business development officer, Tharstern. While cloud-based data is often accessible via APIs, it’s not as convenient or as simple has having a local database. “Other companies, with strict governance surrounding their data-mailing, ticketing, etc.—will need to put extra work in to move such data to the cloud and maintain existing standards. However, with the right skills and approach both of these can be managed.”
He says the other concern he’s come across is that cloud systems can be perceived as having less functionality than the more established on-premise applications. “This can be true in some cases, but in reality cloud solutions can be as varied as on premise applications in this way. Yes, there are a growing number of cheap, low-end solutions out there that are cloud based, but there are also more comprehensive cloud-based solutions too. As with anything, it’s about reviewing all the options available and choosing a solution that aligns with your business’ needs and vision.”
Vince Tutino, product management director, Rochester Software Associates (RSA), also sees concerns typically center around security, which they thoroughly address. “RSA solutions offer advanced security with NIST-compliance, vulnerability scanning, and penetration testing, hosting on Amazon’s Web Services in SOC compliant data centers, and individually hosted instances—not SaaS. RSA’s trusted practices are tailored to meet the security needs of the most secure industries and our solutions are deployed in highly secure environments like Fortune 500, financial, and government entities.”
Gerald Clement, partner, Computer Productivity Services Inc., says many are concerned about the stability of some applications on a new platform, integration, quality of support and customization, annual subscription pricing changes, and protection of data and trade secrets in the cloud. “As these cloud platforms mature we expect most issues to be resolved,” he adds.
Therese McGady, marketing manager, Aleyant, shares that customer relationships and determining who will manage this new service are the primary concerns. “The truth is that this software actually helps PSPs offer enhanced customer service by enabling customers to order and reorder at their convenience. Another plus is that this software does not require programming skills, so an IT specialist does not need to be hired to manage this new service.”
Tony Tarpey, COO, Presswise by SmartSoft. admits that in Presswise’s case, it is widely promoted as a cloud-based MIS. “Therefore, most prospects we speak to are comfortable with the cloud so we don’t hear too many objections to it by the time they engage with us. That being said, we do offer the option for a customer to self-host the application. Possibly the main reason they want to do so is to have more control over their data, and not having it on a third-party server, although we run a state-of-the-art cloud computing platform that allows us to provide our customers with the security and redundancy they would have to invest significant resources in to purchase and maintain.”
Mick Rowan, product director, printIQ, also doesn’t really see any hesitation from customers in relation to moving into a cloud environment. “However, we offer cloud-based and local installations so it’s up to the customer to choose what suits them best.”
Ehsan Elahi, senior consultant, Print Management Information Systems, points out that it is always best to clarify with the provider about your data so that there are no last minute surprises. “Find out what kind of security they have in place and most importantly, you must have a backup internet connection in case your primary internet goes down. “It’s always a good idea to get frequent backups of your data. Use these tips and the cloud will treat you well.”
Benefits and Advantages
With data security and accessibility fears addressed above, there are several standout benefits that cloud-based MIS functions offer.
“The benefits of using a cloud application include avoiding the expense of on-site hardware and real-time maintenance at the hosting facility,” offers Hesseling.
Access is a key advantage. Elashi exclaims that with a cloud-based software, you can have access your system and keep a check on your business from anywhere, provided that you have internet connectivity.
“Cloud computing allows staff to operate from any location providing they have an internet connection,” says Rowan.
Ward sees the main advantages deriving from the remote access they provide and the ability to use the software on any size screen.
Additionally, Elashi points out that you do not need to spend thousands of dollars to invest in new server hardware or IT to maintain and perform backups of your server.
“Cloud-based solutions offer the benefit of reduced IT burden—a scare resource for many print providers and in-plant print centers,” notes Tutino. He says cloud systems can be less expensive and are often faster and easier to deploy that a solution hosted on-site.
“There can also be lower costs, especially because you don’t have to worry about having as many on-premise servers that need to be powered, cooled, maintained, and backed up. This is great for companies who don’t have the IT skills in house to look after technical equipment in this way,” agrees Ward.
Tarpey says upfront costs are often much lower with a SaaS model and it never charges ‘upgrade’ fees when a new version is released, so customers always have access to the latest tools and features.
“Working in the cloud we can deploy updates and enhancements organically and with greater efficiency to our customers. Response times and enhancement requests are shorter and we are able to be nimble and scale our business as we need to,” shares Tarpey.
“Since we provide all the hosting technology and maintain PressWise, we bear the costs to maintain the system. There’s no need for customers to buy expensive hardware and retain dedicated IT resources, which can be quite a significant expense,” says Tarpey.
The ability to easily integrate with multiple third party systems is another benefit.
“A small provider with limited in-house information technology needs and expertise can get access to some pretty powerful capabilities, for at least some of their needs,” agrees Clement.
Automation is also key. Cloud-based solutions provide the ability to create a leaner workflow with less touch points, comments Rowan.
Cloud concerns are waning as the advantages continue to offer stronger appeal. In part two of this article series we discuss the impact of the pandemic on cloud demand.
Read part two of this two-part series, COVID and Workflow.
Mar2021, DPS Magazine
workflow, cloud, security, print workflow