Recently I was at a dealership and one of the IT staff told me he doesn’t trust “the cloud.” That was a pretty shocking statement, because to me cloud computing and storage is far safer and offers clear advantages over a traditional setup of having all your hardware, software, and networking equipment onsite.
Before I get into the benefits, let’s just clarify what the cloud is: a network of servers stored in gigantic data centers that are managed by companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (aka Google), and IBM. The servers are connected to the internet, which is then used to deliver services to your business.
Most dealers already use cloud-based versions of software from their DMS and CRM providers, also known as SaaS, for “software as a service.”
But the cloud is useful for other services that many dealers don’t take advantage of, including:
- Data backups.
- Microsoft Office applications.
- Hosted email.
- File sharing and collaboration.
- File storage.
Leveraging the cloud for these services adds to your bottom line in at least five ways:
1. Reduces infrastructure cost: Going “all in” with cloud-based applications eliminates the need for much of your current hardware infrastructure — desktop computers, racks of equipment in the service room, and universal power supply units.
Onsite infrastructure requires maintenance, software patching, and other time-consuming IT management chores, which means you need to pay an IT staff to manage everything. Leveraging the cloud can eliminate some of this expense.
2. Increases productivity: Cloud-based servers get regular updates to the latest generation of hardware, optimizing performance. Software applications are also continually updated to the latest version.
This means your employees will always have a fast and reliable network, helping to increase productivity and reduce network-related downtime.
Cloud-based providers have teams of certified security experts who proactively protect your data from cybercriminals.
3. Bolsters security: Where do you think your valuable data is safest — in a closet on a server managed by someone without any cybersecurity certifications, or in the cloud managed by security experts at Microsoft or Amazon?
If you chose the latter, you’re correct. Cloud-based providers have teams of certified security experts who proactively protect your data from cybercriminals.
When you run office and email applications on in-house servers, your IT staff is responsible for monitoring data security. Unfortunately, they’re often limited by budget constraints, lack of time, and lack of expertise.
Dealers who use server-based applications are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks because it’s very common for software update notifications to be ignored for days, if not weeks. Ignoring these notifications can lead to data breaches.
Additionally, if your state has recently passed a consumer privacy or data security law, your current IT infrastructure may not be in compliance with security recommendations.
4. Aids disaster recovery: Cloud computing makes data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity more reliable because cloud providers have redundant systems at multiple sites.
If a natural disaster strikes your dealership, at least you don’t have to worry about losing data. As soon as you get electricity and an internet connection, you can be up and running again. If the power remains out in your location, you can access applications from another location, allowing you to keep customers informed.
5. Eases scalability: Cloud-based services are typically self-service and on demand, allowing you to add and drop services as needed. This means you can scale quickly according to usage and needs. If you need more storage capacity or additional software licenses due to growth or an acquisition, scaling is as simple as making a phone call to your provider.
If you’re worried that moving all your applications to the cloud makes you too reliant on an internet connection to do business, don’t be. If there’s ever a catastrophe that takes down the entire internet or power grid, trust me, nobody will be buying or servicing vehicles anyway.
The more you leverage the cloud, the safer your data is. Plus, the cloud eliminates much of the cost and hassle of managing an in-house IT infrastructure.
Erik Nachbahr is president and founder of Helion Technologies, a national IT services provider for automotive and heavy-duty truck dealerships. Email him at [email protected].