Get your head around the cloud

Cloud computing is one of those IT buzz phrases that you may think means nothing to you as a marketer

August 26, 2010

By Richard Mullins, director at Acceleration

Cloud computing is one of those IT buzz phrases that you may think means nothing to you as a marketer. In reality, cloud computing can help you to leverage marketing automation technology at a low cost, roll it out quickly and start experiencing its benefits within weeks.

In a world where marketing automation software is no longer a nice to have, cloud computing is fast becoming the key differentiator. Cloud computing can be loosely defined as a technical architecture where business applications are hosted by a service provider and then accessed by end-users over the Internet.

All the computing infrastructure and intelligence (software applications, data and servers) are owned and managed by a third-party service provider and accessed via the Internet using a web browser. Google Mail is a good example of cloud computing. You access your email via your web browser. Your email is stored ‘in the cloud’ and you don’t need to download any software.

Cloud computing allows you to pay for software-as-a-service (Saas) rather than needing to buy licences and install software on your own infrastructure. Many CRM and marketing automation software vendors now offer their applications in the software as a service model alongside traditional licence sales.

Herewith a few reasons why it makes sense to host marketing automation applications in the cloud.

It’s cost-effective, flexible and easily accessible

SaaS applications are subscription-based, so that you pay only for the features you need. Since there is no licence fee, your initial costs are lower. The service provider also manages the infrastructure, which decreases your reliance on an already over-extended IT department and it also means lower total cost of ownership. Your software becomes an operational expense rather than a capital investment.

It gives you control over your data
You can store all of your valuable data with one service provider, and allow multiple agencies to access the information that they need. No longer do you need to have your data spread across systems hosted at the various marketing and advertising agencies you use – you can provide them all with access to the same cloud-based applications. You will be able to provide them with access to data and functionality according to your business needs.

Most SaaS systems also have open data centres that allow for easy data transfer and migration that ensures you the ability to integrate the systems and data that matter. This provides insights and the ability to deliver deeper, more meaningful insights.

It gets you to market fast

A SaaS deployment should be complete in weeks rather than the months or years traditional software deployments take. Time to productivity is fast, which means you start to see a return on investment in months, not years.

It’s less risky
Because there’s no software to download, no software licensing to negotiate and the IT infrastructure is taken care of, it’s much easier for the marketer to make a business case to the IT guys to give a new SaaS marketing application a try. It’s flexible, easier to escape from, has a lower cost and, overall, is a lower risk option for the organisation.

It’s automatically updated
The service provider takes responsibility for adding new releases and feature enhancements to the system. All of your users will always have access to the latest version of the software without your organisation needing to waste the time and take the risks involved in updating the software.

Call in the experts
Today there is a SaaS tool for every critical function that you might need to increase revenue, build customer loyalty, improve conversion rates and test or personalise everything. Assess your SaaS options carefully and use the expertise of a third party consultant to help get it deployed correctly, first time. Within a very short space of time you’ll be able see the value in your business.