When most people hear the words “QuickBooks” and “online” together, they think of the web-based solution from Intuit called QuickBooks Online Edition. And why wouldn’t they? With the media, industry talking heads, and everyone in information technology discussing cloud this and cloud that, all the attention is going to web-based applications, Software-as-a-Service models, and cloud platforms. While these approaches to business software distribution and delivery are working for a lot of software vendors and their customers, there are a few hold-outs that may be keeping a lot of folks from considering that move to running their businesses “in the cloud”. Intuit QuickBooks desktop editions used to be among this list of applications securely anchored to your local PC, but not anymore.
The desire to have remote and mobile access to business applications and data goes beyond simply getting email or syncing contacts to a mobile phone these days. Business people in all industries are seeing the benefits of using wireless and mobile laptops, tablet computers and smartphones to handle tasks in real-time rather than accumulating paperwork, spending a bunch of time organizing and keying in data, and then submitting the information for batch-processing after the fact. And, with services being seamlessly connected and information being shared and integrated for a variety of reasons, internet connectivity has become almost as essential to most businesses as telephone service. (Actually, in many cases, telephone service IS delivered via the IP network, so maybe that statement doesn’t make as much sense as it used to.) Payroll isn’t calculated in the software, it’s calculated by a service online and delivered through your software. Same with banking, accepting payments, and paying bills – many are processes handled through the software but perhaps not actually happening WITHIN the software on your PC.
As users have begun to realize that, whether they mean to or not, they are essentially “on line” with their business applications and data at some level, the consideration for outsourcing more of their IT operations and working more fully in an online model might not be so bad as long as they don’t have to give up the functionality, usability, and cost-efficiency they have come to expect with their beloved business applications – like QuickBooks.
Service providers recognized this opportunity and developed business models which would give users their desired desktop applications (like QuickBooks!), but in way that seems more like a cloud service. As platform and virtualization technologies have evolved, businesses are finding that there are numerous options, and numerous providers, for getting their desktop and network applications installed in the “cloud”, and delivered back to them as a managed subscription service. It is a model which is growing in popularity and demand, and it makes sense.
Small businesses in particular are moving to the cloud not because they are generally dissatisfied with the products they currently have (there’s a reason Intuit has market share with QuickBooks; there are a LOT of QuickBooks desktop lovers out there). Small businesses are making the move to online and “cloud” models because of the business benefits of getting information when and where they need it. Mobility is driving the cloud, and the cloud is driving software makers to change how they do things.
It will be a while before all the investments are made and man-hours are spent to rewrite or redevelop applications to run on these new platforms and in this new cloud-based service model. In the meantime, ISVs will look to hosting providers of various sorts to help breathe longevity into their solutions while securely embracing their customers and market in preparation for a cloud-based service delivery, and customers will engage with service providers who can supply them with the legacy application hosting and management they require to achieve the level of freedom, access, and mobility they demand.