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If your main computer crashes, your building burns down, or a severe weather event causes a power outage and you’ve put your data in the cloud, you should be able to go to any device with an Internet connection and access your information.
In an increasingly Web and mobile-based world, it seems as if everything is going “to the cloud.” This term, coined to describe a computing environment where hardware, software and other resources are accessed on-demand over the Internet, is more than the name for a new storage solution.
It literally represents a strategic operational shift in the way companies do business. Nowhere, perhaps, is this truer than for fleet-centric firms such as limousine, charter and tour operators, whose very nature makes mobile access to large amounts of data a big benefit.
Where is the cloud and why should my data be there?
Most fleet operators already are using cloud-based data storage and management solutions, many without realizing it. If you use Gmail, LinkedIn or any Internet-based tool such as a real-time fuel finder on your smartphone, the information you see is being delivered via the cloud. That’s because, despite how it sounds, “the cloud” isn’t a place where data is stored. Rather, it’s a term that describes the method of data storage and retrieval.
All hardware used to store data must be physically located somewhere. Often, that place is a giant data center, with hundreds of storage devices in rows protected by so many fail-safe solutions that we don’t have room to describe them. Consequently, that’s one fundamental argument for implementing cloud-based data storage and management — it relieves your firm of the hassle of data security and backup (provided you work with reputable providers).
If your main computer crashes, your building burns down, or a severe weather event causes a power outage and you’ve put your data in the cloud, you should be able to go to any device with an Internet connection and access your information. The more of your business-support data you entrust to the cloud, the more robust your remote operations can be, which leads us to the next step in cloud-based data management —SaaS (software as a service).
What else can the cloud do?
Although our company specializes in cloud-based vehicle management and maintenance solutions, fleet operators benefit from storing and managing all types of data in the cloud. Beyond mere file storage (e.g. online back-up), many fleet operators reap extraordinary advantages by leveraging SaaS, a computing model where your employees access business-productivity software in the cloud.
(If you think we’re straying here from our initial topic — cloud-based data storage and management — think again. Your files are just random bytes unless you have a program that can structure and display them in a format you can use. Cloud-based software provides optimal access to and management of your data.)
With SaaS, the provider maintains the software installation on its secure servers and delivers it to you via a browser or other Web-based interface. (The best of these solutions are device agnostic — you can access the software from any Internet-connected device, including phones and tablets.)
The provider handles all the patches, updates and upgrades, so you know you are always using the latest, most secure version of the product. Usually for these solutions, you pay a set price per seat (user) or device (mobile, desktop, etc.), or, in the case of vehicle management and maintenance, per vehicle. And, you never have to worry about buying a new software license again.
SaaS solutions run the gamut from CRM (customer relations management) to accounting and beyond. Specialized providers can even deliver access to the applications you use every day in the office, such as Microsoft Word or Outlook, via the cloud. In fact, most applications, other than those that require a lot of computing power or extensive customization, work well with a cloud-based model.