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How cloud computing saves businesses big money

Cloud computing has long been a hot topic, but many still don’t grasp what it is or understand the cost savings associated with operating in the cloud. It’s not a sci-fi term, it’s a simple tech term that can save businesses big money.

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Hot topic: cloud computing

Everyone is talking about cloud computing – AGBeat first wrote on the topic five years ago. It’s been a long-standing hot topic and it’s not hard to see why. Cloud technologies offer many key benefits to businesses both small and large.

A simple definition of cloud computing without getting too technical is software that’s hosted on the internet. It’s the ability to access data and applications from anywhere you have an internet connection. Conversely, software not on the cloud is software that’s downloaded on a computer. Let’s explore cloud computing in a bit more depth and why it may be a good idea for you to move to the cloud.

One key benefit is reduced cost. With a system hosted on the internet (think of a web-based real estate CRM), upgrades, product enhancements, and support are included. There’s also less capital investment required because of the fact that the pricing structure for a web-based system involves a monthly subscription fee and little or no upfront cost. And oftentimes, you’ll actually save a lot of money in the long-term as well – when you purchase a product and have to pay every year for support and upgrades, it can be extremely costly.

Risk, commitment, mobility, and security

Cloud based technology also involves less risk and commitment. Let’s say you purchase a PC-based software solution and you then realize you made the wrong decision. At this point, there’s nothing you can do other than eat your losses and move on. Cloud computing utilizes a “pay as you go” model meaning that as soon as you want to stop using the technology, or feel it’s not right for you, you can usually cancel without a penalty.

Moreover, cloud technologies are more secure due to advanced security technologies that cloud-based systems employ and the frequent real-time data backups that occur. Your data is much more at risk on your PC than when it’s not hosted online, in the cloud.

Mobility is another key reason why you should consider a move to the cloud. When your data is hosted on the internet, you can access it from wherever you are, provided you have an internet connection. Think about the convenience this affords. Imagine working on your CRM from your iPad or tablet. Cloud technology also allows for greater team collaboration as multiple team members can access and work on the system at the same time, regardless of where they happen to be located.

Lastly, when you’re required to download software to your computer(s), this takes up space on your hard drive. With cloud technologies, you don’t have to worry about running out of space. Furthermore, you’re able to store more data on the web than you can on a private computer system.

A business decision

Smart business decisions mean making the right choices when it comes to technology. Key considerations like cost effectiveness, accessibility, and security should drive decision-making. It’s very possible you’ll realize that moving to the cloud and transitioning to a cloud-based business model is the right decision for you and your business.

Matthew Collis is part of the Sales and Marketing Team at IXACT Contact Solutions Inc., a leading North American real estate CRM firm. In addition to overseeing many of IXACT Contact’s key sales and marketing programs, Matthew works with REALTORS® to help them achieve their real estate goals through effective contact management and relationship marketing. IXACT Contact is a web-based real estate contact management and marketing system that helps REALTORS® better manage and grow their business. The system includes powerful email marketing capabilities and a professionally designed and written monthly e-Newsletter.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Roland Estrada

    March 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I like the cloud concept to a degree. For example syncing services such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud and others. Where I personally draw the line is CRM. I don’t care for the idea of paying someone to host a database that I already own. Part of that is a personal gripe – it grinds me that so many utilities in real estate demand a monthly fee. You get nickel-and-dimed to death.

    I run Daylite as a client and server solution on my Mac mini. I can access my data base from anywhere via my iPhone or iPad. I can also access the full program form home on my laptop. One key feature of Daylite I would never give up is the ability to tag every email that is sent and received to an individual, a transaction or both. I can then delete the emails and they are permanently store in Daylite. And by the way accessible on my phone or ipad. There are some things cloud based CRMs just can’t do.

    Real Estate Success Tools (REST), is another similar solution that runs on Mac and Windows.

    Remember, unless you are a large corporation, data takes up a very small portion of your disk space.

    • Matthew Collis

      March 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      Roland, thanks for your comment. I know you’re a big proponent of Daylite from past comments you’ve made on my columns and I’m glad you found a solution you like. With cloud-based CRMs, yes there is a monthly fee but very often this is less expensive than paying upfront to own a system. Why? Customer support is free as well as continual product upgrades and enhancements. At IXACT Contact, we’ve done many analyses for customers and we found that compared to many other CRMs where you pay upfront to own the system, the cost savings long-term is much greater with a web-based solution like IXACT, where a monthly fee is involved. Think of Microsoft, for instance, and how often you’re often required to pay for upgrades. Charging an upgrade cost every year is how people are often nickel and dimed to death by software companies.

      • Roland Estrada

        March 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

        Matthew, I can appreciate your viewpoint, but I’ve never paid for a Daylite update update or for updates to REST when I used that program. As far as paying for Microsoft updates, well that’s why I own Macs.

        In terms of upfront costs, REST is around $400 and Daylite $230. Both in my past experience have great free customer support.

        If you are paying say $30 a month for a cloud CRM, you are looking at $360 per year and $3,600 over 10 years. I haven’t spent a dime over my initial investment in Daylite aside from the Touch license. And even that is only $50 per year.

        I think there is a place in real estate for cloud based systems. Agents just need to decide what is best given their unique needs. And most agents I run into don’t even know what’s available that is any good at all. I’ve seen a lot of what is available for agents and most of it looks like it was written in the 1980’s including Top Producer before it went web-based. I do have to commend you for having a slick looking modern product.

        • Matthew Hardy

          March 20, 2012 at 3:49 am

          Purchasing OS-level software for the Mac is indeed great… and the Mac App Store handles updates particularly well. Here’s a list of apps I like:

          Cocktail
          Hype
          OmniGraffle Professional
          Pituresque
          Pixelmator
          RapidWeaver
          ScreenFlow
          TextWrangler
          Transmit
          VMWare Fusion

  2. Matthew Hardy

    March 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    @ Roland

    I concur. It’s silly to me that we’re sold devices with enormous storage capacities then told we need the cloud because we can’t be trusted to backup or understand what an IP address is.

    > monthly fee… nickel-and-dimed to death.

    And the lock-in — hosted vendors that make it difficult to leave.

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How to personalize your site for every visitor without learning code

(TECH NEWS) New tool from Proof lets you personalize your website for visitors without coding. Experiences utilizes your users to create the perfect view for them.

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experiences welcome page

What if you could personalize every step of the sales funnel? The team over at Proof believes this is the next best step for businesses looking to drive leads online. Their new tool, Experiences, is a marketer-friendly software that lets you personalize your website for every visitor without coding.

Using Experiences your team can create a targeted experience for the different types of visitors coming to your website. The personalization is thought to drive leads more efficiently because it offers visitors exactly the information they want. Experiences can also be used to A/B test different strategies for your website. This could be a game changer for companies that target multiple specific audiences.

Experiences is a drag-and-drop style tool, which means nearly anyone on your team can learn to use it. The UX is meant to be intuitive and simple, so you don’t need a web developer to guide you through the process. In order to build out audiences for your website, Experiences pulls data from your CRM, such as SalesForce and Hubspot, or you can utilize a Clearbit integration which pull third-party information.

Before you go rushing to purchase a new tool for your team, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Proof, personalization is best suited for companies with at least 15,000 plus visitors per month. This volume of visitors is necessary for Experiences to gather the data it needs to make predictions. The tool is also recommended for B2B businesses since company data is public.

The Proof team is a success story of the Y Combinator demo day. They pitched their idea for a personalized web experience and quickly found themselves funded. Now, they’ve built out their software and have seen success with their initial clients. Over the past 18 months, their early-access clients, which included brands like Profitwell and Shipbob, have seen an increase in leads, proposals, and downloads.

Perhaps the best part of Proof is that they don’t just sell you a product and walk away. Their website offers helpful resources for customers called Playbooks where you can learn how to best use the tool to achieve your company’s goals be it converting leads or engaging with your audience. If this sounds like exactly the tool your team needs, you can request a demo on their website.

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German company funded to become the WhatsApp for employee messaging

(TECH NEWS) Chat apps have been a staple for online communication, and a new one from Germany is hoping to take the top spot from WhatsApp.

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chat app Flip

It’s insane how many chat programs there are out there.

There’s iMessage/texting, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messaging, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and so much more. But one thing I think is pretty comical is chat trends within businesses and how this kind of software has affected the market.

To give some background, about 2 decades ago, chat was incredibly popular. You probably remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). This was the first online chat tool I used to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues.

In the late 90s all the way through the 2000s, chat was the thing – all the cool kids did it. Of course, most programs were pretty primitive in the early years, only offering group chat and direct messaging.

Despite their popularity, though, chat systems had a brief moment where they faded into the background, which lead to an eventual closure of otherwise popular chat software. Most recently, AIM, which had been holding on by a thread for years, closed after 20 years.

Now, it makes perfect sense why AIM closed. They weren’t able to compete with other devices that had similar built-in programs, like Apple’s iMessage. Eventually, desktop chat’s popularity became a thing of the past. But now we’re seeing a mass resurgence of chat features as businesses and marketers-alike realize the immense power chat software has in a variety of applications.

For example, in the newest wave of online retail selling (eCommerce), which has quickly become a flooded market, companies are looking to differentiate themselves by not only providing your average support (email and phone) but also by including customer-facing chat software, like Zendesk Chat (previously Zopim) and LiveChat, for their customers.

eCommerce is growing in popularity pretty quickly, and given recent trends where businesses are focused on immediate assistance, it only makes sense why they’d consider utilizing chat to assist their customers, and in turn, earn more sales.

But, although this background gives you some color to the history of chat and messaging software, that’s not exactly what this story is about.

In recent years, especially during the explosion of startups, it has become incredibly clear that companies can easily become tangled in their own company structure.

Sometimes companies hire off shore, sometimes they hire remote workers, and sometimes they simply have departments that are so separated, they never communicate with each other. For example, when I worked at Apple in Austin, Texas (2013-2014), in a large building with 4 floors and thousands of employees spread out all over, it was critical that I kept in touch with my immediate co-workers and other departments.

Apple’s solution (an elegant one at the time) was to suggest we use their native messaging software, iMessage, but even then, I noticed some serious drawbacks. Aside from the many missing valuable features, such as the ability to connect productivity applications (or any applications for that matter) and create more robust, specific group chats, the tool just didn’t feel like something we should be using in a corporate setting, let alone a startup.

And that’s around the time I started to notice new chat software, like Slack, enter the world – software that would improve communication between departments and co-workers, as well as offer the ability to connect important tools via API and, eventually through “app marketplaces”. The shift to app marketplaces was a great one, too, because before it existed (created in 2015), you had to be a developer to make apps work with the tool.

Because of all of this functionality, and the extreme need to stay in touch with all sorts of people that relate to your company or job, Slack has quickly become the chat provider. So much so that it’s now basically a household name and is being expanded to support like-minded communities, like what’s shown on the Medium.com site. In fact, I can confidently say that chat has come full circle in its popularity, for all sorts of applications.

But with Slack growing at an exponential speed (it’s in Silicon Valley’s hall of fame as the fastest growing business app), I’ve often wondered if there are any tools out there that could compare. So far, I’ve not found one, but a recent announcement by Tech Crunch proves that there are other companies out there who are trying to enter the company communication market. One such company, Flip, who is run by CEO Benedikt Ilg, is a Germany-based employee communication application that may fit the bill.

The company was founded in 2018 and received a whopping $4M in funding. They aim to connect employees and teams through their robust application, which offers features such as a personalized business-related news feeds, employee-specific profiles, cross-platform support, personalized branding, and of course, chatting via their messenger tool. They also brag about their security features, an ever-growing concern amongst most business owners.

According to their website, the company employs 19 people and a pretty adorable dog named Hazel (Chief Happiness Officer). It doesn’t look like the app is readily available to the public yet, but I can only hope it will be soon, as they start to use their funding, which was meant to hire more employees and to expand in general.

According to Tech Crunch, “The startup has now secured customers including Porsche, Bauhaus, Edeka, Junge IG Metall and Wüstenrot & Württembergische. Parts of Sparkasse and Volksbank are also among the customer base. Deutsche Telekom is also a partner.”

Needless to say, once this application becomes available, I’ll definitely test it out to compare to my current toolset, which mostly consists of Slack and associated apps/connections.

With any company, communication between departments is crucial to keep all aspects of it working like a well-oiled machine.

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Productivity hacks for tools you already have

(TECH NEWS) No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here. This website gives you productivity hacks to utilize the tools you already have.

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productivity hacks with productivity.so

If you find yourself searching for productivity hacks on the internet, chances are you’re already procrastinating. We’ve all been there and sometimes you do need to invest a little time upfront in order to save time long-term. The problem is that most “productivity hacks” recommend you download a new app or software which means you need to invest time in learning how to use it. All of this strays you further and further from your original goal of working more efficiently and saving time.

A new website called Productivity.so is designed to save you time by better utilizing the tools you’re already using. The websites founders are self-proclaimed productivity lovers who have devoted their own time to collecting a pool of productivity hacks for you iPhone, computer, Gmail, and more. No downloading obscure apps to increase your productivity here.

This website focuses on helping you make your current technology as useful as possible.

It’s a safe bet that there are dozens of ways you could be using your phone, computer, or tablet more efficiently. No one stops to read the instruction manual and even if you did it would only be so helpful because modern technology updates. Everything from your computer to your favorite social media app is constantly pushing out updates with new productivity hacks just waiting to be found.

It’s impossible to keep up on your own! Earlier today I realized you can switch between Twitter accounts by holding down the home button. I use this app every day, but I couldn’t tell you if this a new feature or if I just noticed it.

Productivity.so could be a great way to stay up to date on the latest UX tricks that will help you and your team speed up your workflow. The website currently hosts a small library of hacks that users can browse through. The next great breakthrough in your productivity could be waiting.

The website also offers a free weekly newsletter which promises to send you two new productivity hacks each week. These hacks will be simple tricks like switching between Gmail accounts by holding down your avatar. They’re easy enough that you can start implementing them into your daily routine right away.

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