The newest creative way to do business is cloud-based computing. It is a paradigm of plug-and-play that promises economy and usability. In cloud-based systems, a large number of systems for data, application and file storage are linked together in a public or private network to minimize transmission, stockpiling, data distribution and application hosting costs. It is based on a philosophy of reuse of IT expertise so that a company can seamlessly cross its borders. Moving from a manual or traditional system to a cloud based system will allow Figura Leisure Center to save on cost as well as better user friendliness. Cloud computing includes several infrastructures including SaaS which stand for Software as a service. Figura Leisure Center has decided that this is what serves their interest the best.
Definition of SaaS (Software as a Service)
SaaS refers to an on-demand service where customers get a complete application. The provider runs a single instance of the application on the cloud which provides service to numerous end users (Armbrust, M. et al. 2010, p. 56). SaaS is accessed over the internet and organizations are required to use the PAYG (Pay as You Go) model by accessing service using a web browser. The applications can be utilized by many different parties and for a variety of the various tasks (Kim, W. 2009, p. 69). There is the elimination of initial costs since the user does not need to install the software nor obtain the licenses as all this are provided for at a fee by the service provider. The service provider too enjoys great benefit as he only needs to run one single instance hence maintenance is easy and specialized (Jensen, M. et al. 2009 p. 113). SaaS means that there is a convenience for the customers as they can access the service using many different devices and anywhere so long as internet connection is available.
Two Key Benefits
The SaaS presents several main advantages for Figura Leisure Centre. Firstly, usage is scalable and updates automated (Cusumano, M. 2010 p. 28). FLC thus saves on cost that is, they can request more storage and more services depending on the time, whether its peak time or not. It provides FLC an opportunity to be very flexible meaning that if their clientele was to increase during the off-peak hours, as is their objective of turning to cloud based system, they could accommodate the influx of these new customers. Automated updates mean that errors can be corrected early and that the service is up to date. There is, therefore, evenness in desired results for FLC customers. These updates are mostly free of charge to existing customers (Kim, W. 2009, p. 71). It means that that no extra cost is incurred to get the updates. Additionally, it means that maintenance of the service lies with the vendor of the service provider which allows FLC to fully concentrate on service delivery without having to monitor the application regularly.
Additionally, the second key benefit to FLC is that it is a tool to integrate the different services offered by FLC into a platform, because of its use anywhere and through any device that has an internet connection (Armbrust, M. et al. 2010, p. 53). Staff can be able to coordinate with each other ensuring there is no duplication of roles. It will also enable staff to be better connected since there is need always to interact as no single department is left isolated which will allow consistency in service delivery. Customers will also be able to get services on demand and can be served at their convenience by any staff since information is readily available. There is synchronization of data in the SaaS platforms (Cusumano, M. 2010, p. 27). Data updated by one employee once it reaches the server all employees can be able to see the updated information. .this will ensure that FLC staff will no longer need to chase customers to make a payment since the system will be available to let them know defaulters.
Three Key Challenges
Data Security is not a guarantee to FLC, current clients, and its potential customers because it is stored at the service provider’s server. Customer’s data especially sensitive personal information is at risk in case of a hack or damage to the servers, which result in issues with the law and government policies due to privacy laws and their abuse. There is no guarantee from the vendor on how he will use information or if he can use this data on the servers as the supplier has full access and may decide to make extra money by providing customers information to advertisers at a fee. Some SaaS vendors have been known to knowingly allow access personal data to marketers who in turn use it to target innocent consumers (Armbrust, M. et al. 2010, p. 53). FLC risks exposing itself to lawsuits in the case that customers feel that they have had their privacy compromised. Also, FLC depends on a good reputation to retain its current customers and attract new customers and will risk losing both in case this data fell into the wrong hands (Takabi, H. Joshi, J. and Ahn, G. 2010, p. 29).
Reliance on the vendor for the service or application has some great disadvantages. That is the service provider can decide to shut his business completely which will mean that all data is lost and will also lead to the closure of the firm as it waits to change vendors or waits for the provider to come back online. The problems that the service provider or vendor experience are ultimately transfered to the client (Dillon T. Wu, C. and Chang, E. 2010, p.32). Also, the vendor forces customers to adopt new versions regarding upgrades (Jensen, M. et al. 2009, p.115). FLC may not need the upgrade, but other clients of the supplier may demand it. This upgrade may cause inaccuracy if it contains bugs or may force FLC to newly train its staff on the use of this new update which will include an incurrence of an unnecessary cost. FLC may not be able to fully customize the SaaS to what they need since they must rely on the provider and if there is no provision, then they must use the application as it is with its limitations.
The internet is relatively slow compared to local networks (Jensen, M. et al. 2009, p. 110). It presents a major problem if there is need to transfer large files from or to the SaaS. It also is a problem if the vendor has too many customers as the servers may go down in the case they are not able to handle the excess traffic or deny access to clients as it waits for decongestion. SaaS also is inappropriate for situations where computation and response time is immediate (Dillon T. Wu, C. and Chang, E. 2010, p. 29) in the case of FLC when they have a customer who demands an immediate response. It is dependent on the architecture that the vendor has invested. Servers need to have extensive capabilities to be able to serve the different clients. Some client computers can act as servers but this lack that capacity and often will crash or is programmed to put some customers waiting as it serves those within its threshold, which results in some delay. Relying on an internet connection also poses a challenge since getting reliable internet service providers is quite a challenge. Depending on the number of users, bandwidth has been known to be slow (Kim W. 2009, p. 67). Staff may also get distracted and use this connection to visit personal social media pages, watch movies and access other forms of entertainment. It will be a hindrance to FLC’s management aim of improving service delivery and customer satisfaction.
Minimizing Impact of Challenges
Securing data is a major factor that FLC management must look at before adopting any SaaS. One way of ensuring that data is safe is carefully scrutinizing the privacy agreement that different vendors have (Dillon, T. Wu, C. and Chang, E. 2010, p. 29). They must make sure that the information remains private and it is not used for any other purposes and that the supplier only stores the data and is liable in case he sells it. They must also take a keen interest in the measures that the vendor has taken to secure his servers against external threats by evaluating the nature of firewall. FLC must also ensure that the provider is relatively significant regarding operation and can afford to hire a large qualified workforce that work daily on the security of the application (Dillon T. Wu, C. and Chang, E. 2010, p. 31). Having a back-up of the data is also advisable. They can decide to rent storage space from other cloud services or can choose to invest in internal hard-drives that can hold all the firm’s data. They can also decide to caution customers against providing very intrusive information about themselves which can be used by hackers to individually target them (Armbrust, M. et al. 2010, p. 54). Some vendors store data with third parties to ensure that even if their servers were to be down, their clients would not be affected and that even if there is a corruption of data, they can retrieve the back-up and resume normal functionality. These third parties are referred to as data escrow services (Jensen, M. et al. 2009 p.113). They consist of firms that specialize in security and are regularly checking weaknesses’ in their firewalls and fixing them. FCL can look for such a vendor.
Minimizing risks posed by overdependence on providers, FLC must conduct due diligence checks on the vendors, that is, do a complete audit of the supplier to ensure that the provider can meet demands of FLC them (Takabi H. Joshi, J. and Ahn, G. 2010, p. 31). It includes checks on their credit worth making sure that they are not going to go out of business soon. FLC also must ensure that they conduct a market survey to determine the reliability of the vendor that they choose in terms of being able to deliver a dependable service to clients. FLC will need to look for a provider with a relatively flexible service which can be customized to suit its needs. This bearing in mind that they want a cloud service which can serve the management, staff as well as customers. It is no small task and requires quite some flexibility for the satisfaction of all parties involved (Takabi H. Joshi, J. and Ahn, G. 2010, p. 28). Also, the service should have an opt out feature in the case that a firm doesn’t want an update or a rollback feature in the case that the company upgrades but then realizes it is necessary to go back to the older version (Jensen, M. et al. 2009, p. 111). It will ensure that the customer, in this case, FLC has the right to choose what he or she needs. It results in more satisfaction hence more commitment and loyalty to the selected vendor.
Diminishing risks caused by reliance on the internet to access service FLC can take a few measures. First is by ensuring that they source for a reliable internet service provider who offers enough bandwidth to handle all their needs. Using several internet service providers (ISP) is also advisable for them and can subdivide data load among them. Dividing data among several internet service providers ensures that an organization is not affected by an individual ISP temporary absence due to maintenance or physical breakdown (Cusumano, M. 2010, p. 29). It also ensures that bandwidth is high since the number of users is less by spreading them to several providers. In case they find that too expensive they can have modems with high bandwidth to service their operations in the case internet connection is lost. Prioritizing particular function calls help solve the lag that is present (Kim W. 2009, p. 69) that is, creating an order of precedence whereby actions requiring immediate responses compile first and those that can wait first. It is possible by using filters which can determine what is urgent and what is not. FLC can also engage experts to restrict access to certain sites using their computers. Restricting access has shown tremendous success in improving efficient use of an office internet connection (Cusumano, M. 2010, p. 28). It is by first ensuring that there are enough machines that can be utilized by the employees and make it an organizational policy for employees to only use devices belonging to FLC, which allows them to concentrate on work fully without any distractions.
In conclusion, SaaS will ultimately improve the way FLC conducts its business and improve service delivery to customers but must take a lot of caution. FLC must invest more in doing research internally and externally to determine the best system that suits them. FLC management must also remember that all technology is very dynamic and keeps changing and improving. The speed of implementation of these changes should be a major determinant of the vendor they chose as this may be the difference that saves them a lot of money. Management must also factor in that any change that occurs, they must ensure that the employees are fully involved as they will be the ones dealing with this new platform daily. They should thus ensure that majority of employees are fully on board with the change and move quickly to allay any fears that they may have by offering adequate training. It will make the transition from the traditional system to that of software as a service smooth sailing and very first.
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