Many hail software hosting to be the wave of the future. The concept of software that runs on a remote location accessible from any Internet-connected location is just too powerful to pass up. Businesses around the world have adopted the concept. Hosted software allows companies to pass over the investment of an internal server infrastructure. Software as a service allows companies to outsource the hardware and software maintenance for a fee. Is hosted software going to be the way of the future?
Barriers to Entry
Most of the traditional barriers to the adoption of cloud software have been solved. Fast and constant Internet connections are all but ubiquitous in the business world, meaning there’s already a guaranteed level of connectivity to your software platform. On the other end, cloud services offer guaranteed uptime, meaning the software is always there to be reached. The speed of the hardware and software combine to make sure that there is little to no operational lag in using a hosted software solution. Cloud hosting solutions allow remote data storage in addition to software as a service, eliminating the need for personal databanks.
In fact, the one barrier to entry that still exists is the idea of cloud security. When a business controls its software, hardware and data all with an internal system, there’s no question about data security. Outside attackers can’t access internal networks if there’s no Internet connection involved. Unfortunately, today there almost has to be an Internet connection involved somewhere. This limits the options to either an internal or an external connected solution. Internal solutions require maintenance to be kept up to date, patching security holes and avoiding possible vectors for infection or attack. With a cloud hosted software solution, all of that maintenance is done on the host’s end. After all, their business depends entirely upon their security. Modern technology and trends indicate that cloud hosted software is just as secure, if not more so, than in-house connected networks.
The Mobilized World
Hosted software is in the unique position that allows it to service the entire modern business world. Cloud software, designed properly, works with all of the modern devices. Many people like to dream big and claim that the era of the desktop, in-home PC is over. Their idea is that tablets and smartphones, these omnipresent digitally-connected devices, will take over as the sole computing and communications devices around the world. Really, with the hardware requirements for complex software served by a remote cloud facility, what’s to stop such a situation? In reality, there will always be a presence for in-home computers, business computers and other local solutions. Tablets and mobile devices will continue to grow, both in power and in prevalence, but they will never completely eliminate the PC. Too many legacy applications run on such specific hardware to allow complete adoption.
The Hybrid World, The Hybrid Cloud
As with many new forms of technology, the solution is likely to be a form of hybridization. As pointed out on InformationWeek, switching entirely to the cloud has its issues. When a company providing a critical piece of software goes under today, most of the time you can find third party support and keep the legacy system running. If you’re running a hosted software solution and the company providing it disappears, you’re left high and dry scrambling to find a replacement.
As time goes on, there will be more and more adoption of the SaaS business model, alongside the other XaaS models. Something high-profile will happen to draw away consumer interest and cause some moderate fallout. This will likely be a catalyst that draws businesses back away from hosted software and into a hybrid approach. Critical business processes are too essential to be left entirely to a cloud host that can disappear at any moment. These processes will be relegated to in-house technology. Other applications, those with important uses to a global base of employees, will remain on the cloud as a perfect distribution model.
The Oncoming Future
Hosted software is an incredibly beneficial option for brand new businesses and emerging markets. An internal IT infrastructure costs a lot of money to set up, from buying the hardware and software licenses to training and maintaining IT employees. A cloud-based solution with a platform accessible from anywhere makes it immediately enticing to new businesses. The likely growth of these markets will continue to grow hosted software, though as some of these companies reach a critical mass, they may find that the available hosted software options no longer meet their needs. At that point, hybridization comes in and a small, lean internal IT department may be born. Will this happen to every company? No, but it will certainly happen to a few.
Both sides of the coin will move towards the center. Established businesses with internal IT will downsize their network and move some of their software to the cloud. They will likely have great success in doing so. Meanwhile, new businesses will develop the need for features and facilities that can only be offered by internal networks. The middle ground, as a hybridized global network, is where the immediate future lies.
The world may never reach a level of technological integration dreamed of by William Gibson. That kind of total Internet integration is the stuff of science fiction; it’s simply too impractical from a business standpoint. What we’re looking at in the future is a world of small, discrete IT departments running the few legacy programs that require such hardware, while the cloud hosted software handles daily transactions, development and data hosting.