Debunked: The 6 Most Common Myths About Cloud Computing

To the surprise of almost no one, cloud computing has arrived. In the past few years, storing data and running software in the cloud it went from a relatively new and unusual trend to a reality for some of the biggest software providers in the world. Companies from Microsoft (Office 365) to Adobe (Creative Cloud) now base their core products on data that’s stored on remote servers.

But despite its rapid spread, the concept of data stored remotely, on servers not under your control, is still a scary proposition for many business owners. We’ve sung the praises on cloud computing repeatedly on this blog, but that matters little if you’re worried that your data unsafe or difficult to reach. So we’re here to alleviate your worries: if any of the below 6 most ideas about common cloud computing have crossed your mind, we’ll tell you why they’re myths.

Myth #1: In the Cloud, Your Data is Unsafe

Let’s start with the most common factoid of them all: the idea that when stored remotely, your data is less safe than on your servers. This may have been the case early on in the trend, when providers were still figuring out just how to use the service and keep data secure. In 2015, however, the idea of data insecurity is just that: an idea that’s not based on reality.

Of course, it’s easy to feel worried. Storing your data remotely means giving up control, which almost automatically increases the perception of a lack of safety. The reality, however, does not support that perception.

Statistics show that only 2 percent of businesses experience breaches in their cloud data, a number that’s almost identical to on-site data or software hosting. The difference is that your cloud provider and your own company share responsibilities for data storage and safety, meaning that breaches are more easily accounted for. Looking at it from this perspective, that means your cloud data is actually more secure than it would be on your own server.

Myth #2: Your Data Will Become Public Knowledge

Closely related to the first myth is the idea of many that storing your data or running your software remotely means it will be more easily accessible by the public or government. This idea gained momentum in recent years, as a number of government-related scandals showed the extent to which agencies like the NSA store private information.

Without getting into too much of the legalities involved, it’s important to note that this is not true. In the cloud, your data will be subject to the same privacy laws as it would be on your own server, the only potential difference being the jurisdiction of the data center on which it is stored. So while you may want to check into just where your data will end up, rest assured that it’s no less private than it would be on your own server.

Myth 2: Cloud Computing Harms the Environment

Another common belief among business owners is that cloud computing harms the environment. It originates from organizations like Greenpeace, who are worried about the carbon emissions emanating from data centers, which are significantly more harmful than the ability to store your data and run your software on your own computer. Even large publications like Time Magazine picked up this narrative last year.

Again, though, the idea of environmental harm is not quite in line with reality. As it turns out, studies have consistently found that these same data centers cut energy costs by almost 90 percent. A single data center may burn significantly more energy than your company’s server, thus making it seem like you’re harming the environment. But in reality, that same facility also hosts data for countless other businesses and software solutions, making it ultimately almost twice as energy-efficient as the non-cloud alternative.

Myth 3: Cloud Computing Costs Jobs

Here’s another popular idea that keeps businesses from taking advantage of the ability to store data and run software remotely: analogous to the manufacturing industry, the increasing automatization of data processes means fewer jobs for IT professionals.

If you’re been reading this far, you won’t be shocked by the following statement: the reality is far different from this myth. In fact, IT jobs are set to rise significantly thanks in large part to the increase in cloud-related jobs. Almost 4 million professionals work in these types of jobs today, and that number is expected to grow 22 percent by 2020.

Myth 4: Migrating to the Cloud is a Hassle

Next, let’s address a more practical concern of many business owners. You may not be concerned that cloud decreases the safety of your data, harms the environment or costs U.S. jobs. Instead, you simply think that it would be too much of an effort to move your data to the cloud, or to begin using cloud-based software instead of your own servers.

We won’t deny that the initial transition is an effort. But it’s well worth it: we’re willing to bet that the increased accessibility and decreased server responsibility means that within a short amount of time, your gains will begin to outweigh your efforts.

This is true both for moving data to the cloud or beginning to use cloud-based software. After a short transitional phase, you’ll begin to appreciate the fact that you can access your data or use your software no matter where you are, while at the same time not having to spend valuable resources on server management. Instead of turning into a hassle, the initial effort will pay off sooner than you think.

Myth 5: Cloud Computing is Just Getting Started 

Another reason you may shy away from the cloud is that you want to wait until the technology has reached maturity and its infancy-related bugs are ironed out. Newsflash: we’re already there. As we alluded to in debunking the first myth, cloud computing is far from a new concept.

Depending on which event you want to call the definite starting point, the technology began as many as 30 years ago, and the term “cloud computing” was first termed in 1997. A 2012 study determined that cloud computing is at least close to maturity. If you’re waiting for the technology to become more mature and iron out its kinks even further, you may be waiting forever.

Myth 6: “The Cloud” Is a Definitive Entity

We’ll end with the most convoluted myth, and one that we admittedly perpetrated in this blog post. It’s tempting to talk about cloud computing as a single entity, which is the same no matter for which purposes it’s used. In reality though, “cloud computing” simply stands for the concept of storing data (or running software) remotely. Everything else entirely fluid, with different rules and regulations applying to your specific use of the cloud.

So whether we’re talking about cloud-based subscription software or remote data centers makes a significant difference when determining just what “cloud computing” actually stands for. Only one thing remains true unequivocally: cloud computing is no longer a trend; it’s a reality, and your business will be better served by ditching the myths above and considering it to increase your success.

For more information about cloud computing and how your business can benefit from the technology, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to help you debunk myths, while at the same time taking your business to the next (remote) level.

 


SaaS Tips: Five Ways to Reduce Churn

SAASChurn is a dreaded word for SaaS managers. Simple put, churn is the rate at which your customers cancel their recurring SaaS subscriptions. However, effectively measuring and coming up with a strategy to reduce churn is not so simple. It involves a strategy that permeates the entire digital life cycle. From the moment a prospect becomes a customer, a strategy must be in place to keep them on board, and hopefully upgrade or upsell them down the road. SaaS success hinges not only on customer retention, but generating new revenue as well. Churn, however, is at the center of both success metrics. Consider five ways to reduce churn in your SaaS company.

 

Identify Who is High Risk

A key to decreasing churn is to identify high risk customers. The best place to start is with your customers that are leaving. Create an exit survey to collect data. Ask why they are not renewing. How often did they use the software? How many employees used the service? Combine this data with demographic information you should already have, such as the type of business, number of employees, geographic location or age of company. This demographic data will help you create a profile of a high risk customer. Going forward, when new customers subscribe with a similar profile, you’ll know you need to act fast and give them a little more attention to keep them around. Or, you may be able to develop a specific feature tailored to that demographic. If small businesses in a certain niche industry tend to drop, consider their exit surveys and focus on the development of a new feature that might earn their loyalty. You may even discover that a certain age demographic is most likely to drop. Trending these factors will help you develop communication methods aimed at that specific group.

Focus on Education

To instill loyalty, customers must feel like they are getting more than they paid for. Exceed their expectations. Instead of focusing on upselling existing customers, focus on educating those clients to ensure they are getting the most from the bucks they are already spending. Specifically focus on education tools for your high risk customers. Create weekly blogs or e-newsletters that feature how-to guides or FAQs. Offer online videos or live video training classes that feature your product or tips and tricks for their industry niche. For example, if your SaaS product features an engagement or social media module, walk your small business owners through this tool. Show them how easy it is to engage their customers. Go beyond the simple functionality of the product. Feature general marketing or engagement tips they will find beneficial too. Use your educational tools to become your client’s trusted advisor. If you sell a product that features a social media tool, you should be an expert on all things related to social media marketing. Get your customers excited about the future by organizing webinars that discuss new features that are in development. It’s a great way to build anticipation and get valuable feedback.

Make Upgrading a Natural Process

Upgrades are an integral part of growing and expanding your SaaS business. It’s much cheaper to upgrade an existing customer than to recruit a completely new one. However, to upgrade you have to keep your existing customers first. A customer that has upgraded is more invested in a product than a customer with the most basic subscription. An upgraded customer has seen the value and has moved out of the “high-risk” zone. Thus, upgrading your customers is critical to reducing churn.

An effective upgrade strategy involves helping customers get all they can out of their current plan. You are helping them grow into needing the next. One huge pitfall among SaaS providers is not including enough value in the basic subscription. They mistakenly feel like they should withhold the truly valuable features as an incentive for the customer to upgrade. This faulty reasoning leads to increased churn rates because customers don’t see any value. Conversely, when a customer sees incredible value in the product they’ve purchased, they naturally will see the value in upgrading to the next level.

Encourage Interaction

Be proactive about engaging your customers. Reach out to them. Offer incentives for them to communicate their thoughts. Here are a few ways to do it.

  • Surveys:Surveys aren’t just for your customers that are leaving. Keep them short, 10 questions or less. Carefully draft questions that will give you insight into how your customers are using the product and what improvements they would like to see. If the user chooses to not remain anonymous, contact them with a thank-you e-mail and follow-up with their specific concerns or requests. Make sure they know their feedback is valued and used. Be sure good and bad feedback is acknowledged. Remaining silent leaves a very bad impression.
  • Social media:Include social media in your branding campaign and in your education strategy. Draw attention to blog posts, how-to guides and industry trends through your social media feed. Utilize social media polls to gather feedback from past and present customers. Set up contests with free product giveaways for participation.
  • Feedback bar:Include a feedback bar or forum directly within your product so users can quickly be heard. It’s a great way for users to interact with each other and get tips from their peers. However, be sure an employee monitors the dialogue to ensure all questions are answered accurately. This will also give you insight into what features may need improvement. If customers constantly have issues with the same feature, maybe it needs to be more intuitive or customers need to be better educated.

Offer Rewards

We already talked about giving your high-risk customers a little added attention. However, don’t overlook your most-valued, loyal customers. They need to feel your love too. The most basic loyalty reward is to offer customers buying an annual subscription a reduced rate compared to those that are billed monthly. Go a little further by giving your annual renewals a free add-on to try. Show personal interest by making it something specific to their industry. Ask your loyal customers to try a new beta product and provide feedback. Give them some free usage for their time and insights. Other rewards to consider are those related to a referral program. Integrate with your social media campaign by offering clients a free add-on for sharing their positive feedback with their social media followers. Ask a long-time user to be a guest blog writer. They will get added visibility and so will you. Get creative. Think beyond simple discounts or giveaways.

In a nutshell, SaaS businesses grow by increasing revenue and decreasing churn. Understand your customers. What services are most valuable? How do they prefer to be billed? What is their level of technical expertise? Analyze who they are. Build a strategy for education. Help them see the value in upgrading. Communicate effectively and offer rewards. Max Q Technologies understands that to do this successfully, you need the infrastructure to manage billing, recognize revenue and and track customer engagement. Our highly experienced team works closely with clients to customize their subscription management strategies. Track billing, renewals and effectively forecast future revenues throughout the digital life cycle with our solutions.  Contact us to learn more.

 


Signs Your Business Should Switch to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing isn’t just for people on the cutting edge of technology anymore.  These days, many businesses are opting to switch to cloud computing.  In general, they’re finding that it’s a more efficient way of doing business.  Still on the fence about whether or not cloud computing is right for you?  Check out these signs that it’s time to make the switch for your business.

 

Your Employees Work from Multiple Locations

Do you have more than one location for your business?  How is information shared across those locations?  If files are regularly emailed back and forth or your employees often have to contact the other location for vital information, you’re losing time and money.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can make all the information at either location available to everyone who needs it, which means that you’ll be able to cut down on the time spent actively seeking out information.  This will save time and effort on both ends, leading to a smoother, more streamlined ability to share information.

What about mobile employees–that is, those who are on the road, but who still need to access files from the office in order to conduct business effectively?  Not only does cloud computing provide employees with access to all of those files, even the ones that they might have forgotten to add to their laptops or mobile devices before heading away from the office, it permits them to access updates as soon as they’ve been saved to the cloud.  This means that changes in documents can be shared quickly and easily no matter where your employees might be.  Have multiple employees working on or with the same document?  Cloud computing makes it easy for all of them to access the latest version.

You’re Experienced an Increased Need for Security

Is maintaining security within your data infrastructure one of the most difficult challenges for your IT team?  If so, cloud computing might be the ideal solution.  The cloud computing system is set up from the beginning with all of your security considerations in place.  Once you’re ready to implement the cloud solution, all you have to do is move the data over.  It’s already protected with all the security you need that was designed by security experts to ensure compliance in your industry.

Your Business is Experiencing Rapid Growth

Your technology has to be able to keep up with the growth of your business–including your storage space.  When your business experiences rapid growth, it can be difficult to adequately manage the growth of your technology, as well.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of your growing business.  It’s easy to add in virtual machines or virtual storage space as needed.  Experiencing a downturn in business or downsizing your technological needs?  Cloud computing will allow you to easily adjust your technology without having unused equipment sitting around.

It’s Been a Long Time Since You Last Updated Your Technology

Often, your IT department is one of the most-ignored parts of your business.  As long as everything is going smoothly, you don’t want to put more money or effort into your technology needs than is absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, problems tend to crop up when you least expect them–and in many cases, those problems can cause huge expenses when the time comes.  Consider the time lost if your system goes down or can no longer support the demands of your business.  Think about what could happen in the event of data loss.  Now, ask yourself when the last time you updated your technology was.

If you don’t have a good answer to that question, cloud computing might be the best possible option for your business.  You’ll be able to easily update and modify your technology needs without overspending in an effort to make up for past mistakes.  Even better, cloud technology is often very cost-effective, making it the perfect choice for your business.

Your Software is Often Out-of-Date

Updating software in your company sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.  After all, your existing software is working just fine; and training end users to use new technology can be extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, while you’re clinging to outdated technology, your competitors are moving forward with the latest advances, giving them advantages that you didn’t even know they could gain.

Through cloud technology, you’ll be able to quickly roll out software updates and keep on the latest edge of available software.  Not only that, the shared resources utilized through cloud technology will cut down on your software costs.  That means that updating will be easier than ever.

Your Business is Unprepared for the Possibility of Data Loss

Virtual data is often the driving force behind many of today’s companies.  Customer information, sales data, and other information specific to your company need to be available to all of your employees at the flip of a switch or the touch of a button.  What happens, however, if that data is lost?  What if your servers stop working, the computers on which specific information is stored crash, or a power blackout causes your information to be inaccessible?

Through cloud computing, your information is always available.  It’s backed up automatically, so you never have to worry about important data loss.  Not only that, it’s always accessible.  Even if your power is out, employees at another facility or on the road can continue to access relevant information.  Mobile devices will still be able to connect to the cloud, enabling your business to keep functioning.  Lost data means lost time, but cloud computing works to streamline the process and make it easier for your business to keep functioning.

Cloud computing is the answer to a variety of potential technology problems for your business.  While it won’t magically solve all of your problems, it will enable you to streamline operations, reduce cost, and increase the time that your employees are able to spend conducting business instead of searching for data.  If you’re looking for a firm that will provide a quality cloud computing experience, contact us for more information.