It seems that many RentPlus 2.0 users have found the benefits of swapping to Storman rather moving to Centershift or a web-based system. In this post, I’ll take a look at why I think this is the case…
I have spoken to many people in our varying global market spaces recently; certainly between 50 and 100 since Christmas and I have noticed that many users of RentPlus 2.0 seem to have found that they like having an application on their own local computer as opposed to running in “the cloud” (a term used to describe applications that run from a server on the internet; generally hosted & managed by a third-party).
This sits very well with Storman, as we have always maintained that the available web technology to provide “cloud based applications” was still in its infancy and prone to a number of problems. It was interesting then, to obtain some real-life feedback from users who have decided to change to Storman from RentPlus 2.0 instead of taking a cloud based option, to see what they thought.
In summary, most of them were broken into the following groups:
- Internet Issues
Ok so let’s look at the first group of users who found themselves in the “Cost” group. Many of these people stressed to me that they liked the fact that they had one capital outlay cost that was up-front and a choice of ongoing costs (should they need).
Let me explain. Many online or cloud-based systems have an ongoing cost component for the “software service” and potentially also a support component as well. Traditionally, a local (or “desktop”) application has also had these but the difference is that the user has a choice.
It goes like this; in a traditional model where the software sits on the local machine (just like Storman does – and RentPlus 2 as well, for that matter), they paid for the software once. The optional costs were for things like support, upgrades, add-ons etc.
The difference now is that with an online or cloud-based model, these costs are built into the “service” fee each month – regardless of whether you use them or not. Therefore many of the people I spoke to felt that they were paying for things that they didn’t want, or need. The traditional method allows for users to pick and choose what they want and therefore this removal of that “freedom” is what the majority of the people who spoke to me were concerned about.
The second group of users were a mixture of items 1, 2 and 4 as they were comparing the ease-of-use. Admittedly, many of them stated that they did see a potential advantage in being able to “access their software from anywhere” – however, many quite rightly pointed out that they could do this anyway using remote login programs already (many of them free & appropriately encrypted for security).
However, concern often came from users who saw a definite drop in the ease-of-use of the software because it came from the cloud and they either had to wait – sometimes minutes at a time – while data loaded and they were concerned that this impacted their customer service.
Coming from a traditional application, it is as fast as it possibly can be because it is located on the local machine and generally the wait would be measured in seconds, not minutes. By far the largest concern was about issue number three, which stems from the fact that the users felt that they had lost control with regards to what version of software was running. As many people would appreciate, the whole point of software is to make a set of tasks easier and add as many features into that software to do this. As a consequence, the importance of upgrades cannot be over stated.
Cloud vs. Desktop
As with any software program, those that are cloud-based have just as many reasons to push out updates as any traditional software package like RentPlus 2 or Storman. However, how this is done is vastly different. In a cloud-based scenario, the user is forced to accept whatever new update is available and as such are very susceptible to problems with the updates.
Some of the more recent users that we have converted have told me that their entire facility could not use their cloud-based management software, as it was down for a full day due to a single update. This brings me to the failing point of cloud-based software; you cannot choose when to upgrade (you just deal with the consequences), there is frequently no rollback process (so you and your company have to stick with it until its fixed and an update – for the original update – is released), there is no chance to test it on a local copy of the database before you upgrade (which would allow you to see if it worked / was suitable for your company and / or staff) and lastly, there is generally no warning – it just happens – meaning ,you cannot train your staff or prepare them for what is coming.
On the other hand, all of the above can be done with a traditional application (like Storman) that sits on your local machine and for my mind, allows me, as an owner, to fully understand what’s going to happen to my business – before it actually happens. That makes me an “active” owner – not a “reactive” one; naturally, the former will be much, much happier.
Go speed, go!
Lastly – the Internet issue (particularly in Australia & New Zealand), is relevant. With a cloud-based model, all of your customer & business data is essentially held in a data centre somewhere and replicates back and forth between the your terminal and the master database. It might sound great that you can login from anywhere but consider for a moment that the replication process now has to replicate “everything” down to you.
I sometimes hear people say “But I am just looking at the data?”. Yes, and when you “just look at it” that’s fine but if you choose to sell a box then you have to wait for all the box-types (i.e. tea chest, port-a-robe, etc) to load and populate the list on the screen. Then there’s the pricing. The stock levels, etc. All of this takes time. The easiest way to make this take less time is to have a faster (or in most cases a “bigger”) internet pipe through which the data flows. This is very often expensive.
I have also had a number of people say “Oh – it’s ok, my internet comes with 100GB of data per month” and they are correct – they do – however that is not what I am referring to here. I am actually talking about the throughput rate (generally measured in megabits, which is different to megabytes – read more about the difference here). As an example, one could say that it’s all well-and-good if you are allowed to use a water pipe for “a trillion gallons” of water each month – but if the pipe is the width of a drinking straw… well, you see where I’m going with this, right?
Quite often, you will find that this throughput (the rate at which the data is exchanged) is quite slow. This, of course, makes things slow and ultimately makes your customers wait. I was speaking with a site in America that couldn’t get fast internet and selling a box took them almost 4 minutes! That’s a long time to wait if you are a customer. With a traditional program located on the computer in front of you, this process would be much faster (as in seconds – not minutes).
So it seems that while cloud-based technology can work for things like email and social networking, when it comes to running a multi-million dollar self storage business or marina, it seems that the cloud may not yet offer anything more than a convenient way to look at your data.
For my money, I know I would prefer an application on a local machine for my business.