Cloud BI? More like Foggy BI.

Characters in movies and television shows can get a laugh lamenting about not understanding the Cloud, but in the business world, you simply cannot afford to not understand and embrace Cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) options.  It makes sense if Cloud computing is confusing to some.  When Business Intelligence (BI) solutions evolved to include Cloud and SaaS platforms, it was a rapid development.  The Cloud might make sense in theory, but in real life, it might seem foggy – or smoggy, at best.  In my experience, there are usually questions regarding cost, security, access and management of data.  I have witnessed a sense of panic related to the overwhelming amount of questions, and it only makes the Cloud acclimation and implementation process foggy – pun intended.  Fortunately, there are several options for Cloud BI solutions, and this article will hopefully give you the foundational information you need to get a head start on comprehending the range of products.  More specifically, I will explore the most important elements of Cloud and SaaS offerings for your accounting and BI needs.

First of all: why has Cloud-staged data management and analysis become so popular?  There are a handful of reasons, but because Cloud computing is hosted by a vendor, you don’t have to install or manage the BI tool.  The third party vendor’s makes money by providing a high performance, quick software experience, so your IT department does not have to oversee and maintain the BI solution, which might otherwise have to compete for priority on the long list of IT responsibilities.  Additionally, Cloud technology can pinpoint when your company’s peak usage times are and adapt to compensate for the traffic.  An element that has been a concern in the past is the concept of security in the Cloud, especially because it is sensitive company data that is going into a digital space.  However, third party vendors have acknowledged that unease and acted, employing modern, airtight security.  And of course, it wouldn’t be a complete conversation without mention of costs.

I’ve written about the difference in on-premises versus SaaS costs – and a quick internet search will probably bring up millions of similar articles on the pricing.  Depending on the source of an article, you are likely to see an angle because third party vendors on both sides are going to argue that their option is less expensive in the long run.  On-premises solution manufacturers are going to assert that, because SaaS costs are never-ending installments, Cloud BI tools are going to be more expensive, when your in-house product can pay for itself within 3-5 years.  On the other hand, Cloud vendors are going to point to hidden costs that come with have your BI tool on-premises: training, consulting, support, licensing, hardware, updating and upgrading.

My recommendation: get out your calculator and do your own arithmetic when deciding if investing in a Cloud BI tool fits into your budget.  Look at the “hidden” or added costs that come with hosting your software on-premises AND in the Cloud and calculate a 3-5 year time span to see what works best for you.  SaaS pricing seems more like paying a monthly lease on apartment – and on-premises is buying a house with cash.  However, a Cloud option might seem worth it in terms of the flexibility, mobility, and a lack of IT management involved.  Another confusing aspect for consumers has been the difference between SaaS and Cloud computing.

To continue learning about what you need to know about Cloud BI options and how to shop for the right solution, you can read the rest of this article here.

Bio: I am an Online Community Manager based in Los Angeles, CA.  I enjoy building community and being inquisitive and resourceful in order to connect people. I have my Master’s degree in writing, and I am focusing my energies online these days. In my free time, I run, hike, explore urban spaces, and look for my new favorite food experience.

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Matt Felzke