The future is written in the cloud
Before buying new software packages, business owners always have to ask themselves: what kind of hardware will I need to run it? How secure is my data? And who will provide support if something goes wrong or updates are required?
Cloud technology makes these questions a thing of the past. When infrastructure, platforms, applications and data are located in a data centre and are available online, software simply becomes a service where the availability is the responsibility of the supplier. This is called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and it has a lot of potential, particularly in relation to standard processes such as accounting, customer management and encryption.
“The SaaS solution era has begun,” says Jérôme Vial, Business Developer at SolvAxis. The Swiss software company’s Amanda package was the first completely cloud-based accounting solution on the Swiss market.
Amanda was developed specifically to meet the needs of Swiss SMEs with between five and 50 employees. The solution takes into account national VAT regulations, includes accounting templates and covers other back-office requirements with modules, such as time tracking, invoicing, online banking and customer management. Amanda is run from one of Swisscom’s high-availability data centres, which guarantees that data is stored in Switzerland.
In total, 400 companies already use the tool, with 50 new businesses climbing on board each month. They’re predominantly service providers from sectors such as IT, consulting, graphic design and architecture. They benefit from the five main advantages that SaaS has over in-house solutions:
- Cost: With SaaS solutions, there is no need to purchase local servers or enter into service level agreements. The applications are accessed exclusively via the internet.
- Liquidity: SaaS solutions won’t break the bank, because the rental costs are paid periodically – usually monthly – and can be calculated months and years in advance.
- Scalability: The costs and functionality of an SaaS program can be tailored to the customer’s needs and changed quickly if necessary.
- Administration: Creating backups and installing updates are a thing of the past. Both processes are automated and carried out by the service provider.
- Mobility: SaaS solutions such as Amanda are browser-based and provide centralised access to files and reports, whether it is from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. This ensures that all external partners and authorised managerial staff are always up to date.
For Jérôme Vial, the future belongs to SaaS, particularly when the programs feature the latest user navigation and resemble familiar smartphone interfaces.
“Business owners can now do a lot of things themselves, instead of having to rely on specialists,” says Vial. This increases efficiency significantly and reduces the workload of professional accountants, who subsequently have more time for highly qualified tasks, such as creating cash flow statements, evaluations and business plans for innovative projects.
And full cloud solutions also make it possible to combine existing tools with other applications using predefined interfaces. This level of interconnectivity – which is par for the course in cloud computing – enables users to link their accounting software with their encryption software or a B2B platform at the push of a button.
About 20 cloud-based business apps are already available in the SME Business World Marketplace, which are being linked with one another progressively.