Many business owners will recall when their first in-house computer networks were installed. When the PCs were networked together in an office, it made file sharing and collaboration among team members easier and more efficient. Installing additional applications on the PC was a relatively simple process, and when the new application came with the ability to integrate with another app already on the PC, it was often a fairly simple process to get the two “talking” together. But installing and integrating applications on your personal computer is a bit different from getting multiple applications installed and integrated with a cloud hosting service provider.
In almost all cases, integrating multiple desktop software solutions requires installing those solutions on the same computer so that they can share certain program elements or, at least, share .ini or data files. Application integration is important because it allows different software solutions to work together, communicating data from one application to the other so the information may be used in different ways or for different purposes.
An example of this might be a Microsoft Office integration with QuickBooks, which allows the user to perform a one-click export of QB financial data to an Excel spreadsheet. Another example is the integration between QuickBooks and Fishbowl Inventory, which synchronizes information from the Fishbowl inventory system into the QuickBooks financial software.
In nearly every case where a software program has a software-based integration with another solution, the integration must be installed in the same system as the core solution. In the QuickBooks world, this means that the programs which integrate with QuickBooks must be installed on the same computer as QuickBooks.
In a conventional PC network, the necessity of installing the various software solutions on the same machine is not a big problem as PC software and integrations have been implemented in this manner for years. On the other hand, when the business is considering the option of moving desktop applications to the cloud, it is important to make sure the provider and service will allow all of your products to be hosted. In most cases, this requirement highlights the main difference between a shared service versus a dedicated or server-based solution.
With shared services, the servers are generally configured to offer a strict and limited set of applications to be hosted. The applications on the servers are used by subscribers of the service, and users are limited to accessing only those applications available in the environment. The shared approach is popular with some application hosting providers as it creates an economy of scale which helps providers to earn more revenue on their infrastructure. The trade-off is that a shared hosting solution only works well for businesses with a limited application requirement, and is generally fairly expensive when more users are added to the service.
The need for diversity in hosted application choices, coupled with the need for businesses to keep costs down even as the number of business users increases, are the primary drivers for adoption of dedicated and server-based cloud hosting solutions. When the solution is managed as an entire environment rather than on an exclusively per-user basis, an economy of scale is developed within the organizational IT infrastructure. As the business grows and adds more users and applications, the incremental costs to bring each user or application onto the platform is often far less than a user subscription in a shared solution.
For any business planning to migrate their server and systems to the cloud, the first step is to have a thorough understanding of the applications and integrations the business needs in the host environment, and then to find a hosting provider that can deliver the infrastructure and baseline system administration required. It is unreasonable to expect a hosting provider to be an expert with every software product available, but skilled and experienced hosting providers understand how to generally install and implement most standard business applications and will rise to meet the customer demand.
While no business can guess what their future software needs may be, decisions can be reasonably made based on the solutions currently in use. Finding a provider with a service to meet immediate needs is useful, but businesses change and therefore business requirements change, and it is good to know that the hosting infrastructure and IT services supporting the business can adjust to those changing needs. After all, cloud hosting of applications and data just means the servers and infrastructure are with the service provider and not in the office, but it doesn’t mean businesses can’t have the feature-rich and functional applications their businesses have come to rely on.