Trend 20: Increasing Availability of Low Cost Software & Data Storage Solutions

Jan 24, 2011 Comments Off by

More low cost or even free software and storage solutions are available, many of which are extensible, scalable and supported by global communities of developers. But new opportunities can bring new risks and threats.

Whilst almost every business uses some type of computer software to assist in the operations of their business, many businesses have dozens or even hundreds of different software applications in regular use.

The price of software is continually reducing and the functionality provided by the software is typically increasing. If the functionality is not increasing, it is becoming far more specific to meet the key needs of its intended niche market of user customers. Integration between previously different and disparate systems is becoming increasingly easier to achieve.

This trend has been driven by the various factors including

  • new software programming tools which make programming faster, easier and simpler;
  • the Open Source software movement in which complex software is collaboratively developed by communities of enthusiasts around the world and often distributed for free;
  • the emergence of common global standards; custom-built software developed for single customers being evolved to low-cost products for niche market segments;the ability for software to be easily sold globally with far less marketing and promotion costs;
  • high speed connectivity to allow software to be easily and securely distributed, downloaded and updated; and
  • massive online storage capabilities which provide new capacity for easily implementing and maintaining new and better low-cost solutions.

This has resulted in the increasingly high take up, adoption and usage levels of software platforms that are reliable, proven, scalable, low-cost (and often free) and are also extensible. i.e. they are easily able to be extended in functionality and capability.

Furthermore, these extensions – or plug-ins – are then able to be provided to other users to continue the enhancement, growth and attractiveness of these readily available solutions.

Software as a Service – Some Benefits AND Some Risks

The last few years have also seen the increasing availability of highly functional and scalable Software as a Service (SaaS) hosted solutions that are bought by customers on a month to month basis.

These services generally have no license fees, no set up costs, no implementation time delays, no specialist technical expertise being needed, and no servers or infrastructure needing to be purchased by the customer.

The SaaS solutions are typically hosted in an external data centre or in the Cloud. The low-cost monthly fees can appear to be attractive for business customers who are considering a short-term usage, but SaaS fees paid monthly for many years can become very expensive compared to other options, even when you also include the cost saving from not needing to supply the infrastructure to host the software yourself.

The apparent scalability of the typical SaaS solutions are impressive, but building software system that are reliable and scalable and able to cope with their own possible massive success without crashing is a challenge.

Selecting and then relying on an SaaS system for essential business processes should require more than just faith and blind trust, and many businesses are taking unknown risks, often blindly.

Big SaaS Risk: Your Data

Currently, even more concerning with SaaS hosted options are the questions of data ownership and getting your data back in a readable form. Some hosting companies try to claim ownership of the data, and only send the raw data back in formats that are unreadable without access to the special program software.

Furthermore, many businesses face legal rules covering the need to hold data for seven years, which could mean seven years of ongoing monthly fees even if you have already chosen to move off that particular hosted platform.

Privacy issues are also being raised as systems hosted in another country may be required to allow their government full access to all of your data.

Despite these issues, growth of low cost software and storage solutions continues. Underpinning it all is, of course, the growth of the Internet.

This growth has had an increasing spiral effect with improvements in hardware and connectivity requiring and inspiring the development of more software which results in the ability to do more – which then attracts more users which in turn drives further improvements, more capability and more users, and so on.

There is still a market for individually custom-built software to meet the specific requirements of unique individual customers, but it is a shrinking market.

Look for pre-built, low cost, open systems that can be extended and integrated to give you the functionality you need.

Remember, ‘Open’ generally trumps ‘Closed’, and ‘Integrated’ will increasingly trump ‘Fragmented’.

Questions To Ponder

  1. How many of your software systems lock you in to the software vendor? Are you happy with that?
  2. Who owns your data?
  3. Who selects the software systems for your business?
  4. Can you easily extend your systems and integrate with others?
  5. Are your systems low cost?  Closed or Open?  Fragmented or Integrated?

Go to next trend: Increasing Exposure to Popular Mass Culture

Go to previous trend: The Changing Relevance of Physical Location

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