A Revolution in Estate Agency Software - SaaS (Software as a Service)
16 April, 2014 | Technology
SaaS - Cloud Software for estate agents
A brief history of computing within estate agency
For a relatively short time software has been used by estate agents (around 20-30 years) and technology has evolved at an astonishing rate. In the very early days there was no such things as PCs (Personal Computers), computing was done by enormous mainframe computers that filled a room. If you needed to access information from another location, there was no internet, so leased telephone landlines were required connecting the mainframe to local dumb terminals (thin client is the technical term but essentially this means no local computing capability) that simply displayed information accessed via telephone line from the mainframe.
Things progressed from early PCs with local computing power and local servers that connected them to each other, but were still restricted in terms of data sharing to different geographic locations by slow connectivity. This was followed by further progression to super-fast PCs and local servers connected to the internet, whilst connectivity was somewhat improved it was still limited and certainly not able to support ‘real-time’ data sharing. Today, as with many things, technology has gone almost full circle. The internet now with its very fast access has revolutionised computing in recent times, to the point that today ‘real-time’ data is available at anytime, from anywhere in the world and on any device (smartphone, tablet, PC). Cloud based software systems can even run on dumb terminals where all processing is done on huge computer systems in the cloud… sound familiar?
In practice, most estate agents still have PC based local office networks, and many still run conventional local server based software systems. Although, as time goes by having web-based software (which is what cloud software is) becomes more and more attractive. There are many benefits from the savings to be made in not continually needing to upgrade local hardware systems to having instant access to your full office system from literally anywhere, to the huge advantages and technological advances of modern intuitive cloud based software systems.
By the very nature of cloud based software, there is no requirement for the lengthy installation processes involved in with conventional, locally installed software systems. No minimum hardware requirements, no upgrading of hardware, no server required, no system down time whilst an engineer installs the software, no installation at all. Cloud systems are effectively websites, you are simply sent a user name, you create your own password and off you go. The real benefit to the estate agent is of course, that all of the above came at a cost, often a very considerable cost, none of which are required for cloud based systems. This represents a very considerable saving for new clients considering cloud software over conventional software, making initial setup cists virtually non-existent. Understanding what the cloud system can do for you and how to do it is critical so training is a requirement and this is often the only cost associated with initial setup.
What is SaaS? (Software as a Service)
SaaS as a business model has seen huge growth in recent years; this trend follows the rollout and accessibility of super-fast fibre optic broadband across the country. The concept is not new, as discussed above, mainframes and dumb terminals or thin clients have been available since the 1960s but it has been the super-fast internet revolution that has brought the hosted software application into the 21st century. Fast broadband offers software developers the ability to build feature rich, intuitive, products with beautiful, image orientated graphical user interfaces. These cloud based systems would have been impossible without access to local super-fast broad.
SaaS (Software as a Service), from an estate agents point of view can be simply explained by thinking about it like this - Instead of having a traditional software system that is installed locally on to your expensive and forever requiring upgrading local computer network. SaaS is simply a software system accessed via the internet, a website, a fairly sophisticated and very secure website but none the less a website. As a website it only requires a web browser to work, no files to install, no local network required, only the most basic computer, tablet (iPad) of smartphone (iPhone) to work. Unlike the traditional software systems where software vendors required large upfront payments, installation charges and ongoing upgrade payments, SaaS is simply charged for by the month, no installation charge, no upgrade charges, just one simple monthly charge.
Benefits of SaaS over traditional installed software systems
Traditional installed software - is normally an outright purchase - Meaning that you pay a supplier for the software, you are then responsible for it going forward (the supplier effectively banks your cheque and walks away). Often payment is required for initial installation, setup, as well as ongoing support and technical help.
SaaS cloud software - simply licenced on a monthly basis, no upfront cost, no installation, no setup, just one ongoing monthly fee that includes all services.
Traditional installed software - is almost always built to run on windows operating systems on a PC/server based local hardware network, so using an iPhone, iPad or even a Mac computer is not an option.
SaaS cloud software - is designed to operate within an internet browser so the device being used is not an issue. Smartphones with an internet browser, tablets, PC or Mac with an internet browser and access to the internet can all access your cloud software system. Learn more > Full internet browsing technology.
Traditional installed software - is generally only accessible if you are in your office, so working from home, checking appointments on the go or seeing how the office is running whilst you’re on the beach is just not an option.
SaaS cloud software - is essentially a website, so wherever you are, as long as you have a device with an internet browser and access to the internet, you can operate as if you were sat at your desk. Learn more > Cloud based software for estate agents.
Future proof software -
Traditional installed software - will often get installed, the supplier will be paid and that’s it. Product upgrades and even bugs can be a chargeable extra and these upgrades can only utilise the system resources of your local hardware, as well as there being a lengthy upgrade process as upgrade files have to be sent or downloaded and installed.
SaaS cloud software - as a service, the software application is identical for ALL users, it is therefore imperative that the software vendor keeps the product at the cutting edge. Ensuring it offers potential, new and existing clients the best software available. And unlike traditional software systems, upgrades are instantly available and to ALL users new and existing. Learn more > Full proof software.
Software/data - backup and security -
Traditional installed software - as traditionally installed software is installed on a local office network, the responsibility for ensuring both software and data are properly backed up is down to the end user. This responsibility, in our experience is rarely carried out correctly, if at all. This can leave businesses exposed to lose of part or all of their data, which is often devastating for the business.
SaaS cloud software - As both software and data are hosted solutions, the responsibility for storage and backup is down to the software supplier. In our own case this is a responsibility we take very seriously, with multiple real time copies of software and data being held in multiple highly secure locations. Learn more > about hosting at Rackspace.