COVID-19 has brought renewed interest in remote workers, a phenomenon that was unheard of until fairly recently. Several factors have contributed to effectiveness of a distributed workforce, not the least of which is the ubiquity of cloud-based software.

The flexibility of location is just one – albeit, at the moment its highest profile – benefit of cloud software. But there are others. And, taken together, the advantages are so stark that, over the next few years, installed software will disappear altogether

This holds true even for the most specialized and niche business use cases.

Gain Compliance is a testimonial to this: my co-founders and I have spent the better part of four years dedicated to a software solution for a market that is so obscure and low-profile that there hasn’t been a new provider in almost two decadesAs this is a market that has escaped innovation for so long, we spend a lot of time on education. Specifically, there is a lot of misinformation and misdirection (often at the hands of our competitors’ marketing departments) as to what, exactly is meant by “the Cloud.”

Here’s a primer that touches on the confusion that we see in our market:

What is the Cloud?

Cloud-based software refers to applications that run on one of three platforms:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure

These behemoth operations provide an incredibly rich, high-performance, secure, and redundant environment to host and run cutting-edge applications. Everything from Netflix to Intuit to Uber to Fortnite run on these cloud platforms.

So, if you’re evaluating software, and the vendor has built its application on something other than the three platforms listed above, you should have some legitimate concerns as to whether you’re actually, indeed, talking about software that is truly cloud-based.

How do I use Cloud Software?

Importantly, there is a single, straightforward litmus test for cloud-based software. It’s all about how you connect to the application. 

Cloud-based software is accessed exclusively through signing into the application on a web browser.

A Chrome browser and internet connection is all that is required. 

This means:

  • If there is any component installed on your computer, it’s not cloud-based. 
  • If there is a requirement as to Operating System (i.e. Windows 10 vs. Windows 7 or Apple IOS), it’s not cloud-based. 
  • If it requires some sort of VPN or dynamic link to access the application, it’s not cloud-based.
  • If your company’s IT department is involved in installation, maintenance, monitoring, or anything else around the software, it’s not cloud-based.
  • If you ever have to worry about which version you’re using, or have to download the latest patch, or there is any possibility that you might not be using the most recent version, it’s not cloud-based.

How do I move to Cloud-based Software?.

The harsh reality is that, if you have software that you love which is not cloud-based, its days are numbered.

It’s simply too hard and expensive for vendors to support, let alone try to improve, programs which are written on outdated architectures.

After that sobering fact sinks in, here’s a second piece of bad news for you: even if you love your current vendor, you’re likely going to have to find someone new. 

Cloud-based software is a completely different animal. The same team that made your current solution is, commonly, woefully ill-equipped to work in this new medium. There’s no iterating from an installed product to a cloud-based one; you don’t just add one new feature at a time. It’s a fresh start, a completely a new endeavor entirely requiring a new skillset, significant investment, and a lot of time.

So, for this even to be feasible, your vendor should have been beta testing its software in live production years ago. The last place you want to be is using a legacy vendors’ “brand new cloud offering!” that has not been adequately tested. Based on much market data, this often ends very poorly for the early adopters.

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