App of the month: This time it’s all about you

Everything? There’s an app for that. Our App of the Month blog has highlighted numerous interesting apps, but this time we want to delve deeper into the topic. We want to probe the gap that appears to exist between business and the apparent benefits of the technology, and sound a warning about the opportunities being lost as a result…

Last week I read an article urging businesses to think harder about computer security. Two of the nuggets it contained were suggestions to lock laptops in drawers at the end of the working day and to put locks on the doors to server rooms.

As far as I could tell, this advice was offered quite genuinely, but it called to mind the old chestnut about arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. That’s because the advice overlooks that fact that computer security has moved on. Physical security is far less of a consideration than it once was, not because it’s any less important, but because the threat from online attack has grown to be so huge.

And yet companies haven’t recognised that shift and the benefits it offers; or at least haven’t reacted to either. It’s all to do with cloud computing, of course. If you understand how the cloud works for business, and your business has committed to it, then give yourself a pat on the back; yours is one of less than three in ten that has done so*.

If, on the other hand, you’re in the 70% that hasn’t, consider how app thinking has changed the world. Our own product Solo Expenses is expense management software successfully used by clients in 92 countries. We’re able to reach across continents to help clients by offering our money management app as a SaaS based expense management app. Not familiar with the SaaS concept? It stands for Software as a Service, and means that you don’t need to have our software on your own hard drive to be able to use it. We have it on a top-security server farm (you’ll know it better as ‘the cloud’), where, with the power of your broadband link, you’re able to dip in and use it whenever you need to, from wherever you happen to be.

Why the cloud is good for business

  1. Lets’ start by saying that some businesses couldn’t exists without it; our cloud based expense management system relies entirely on the cloud for its very existence
  2. The latest software is always available. Upgrades to new versions, as well as security patches, are part and parcel of the ‘software’ rental programme. That means that as users, there’s never a need to debate when to install the latest software, or how to fund it. Take Solo Expenses once again; our expense management software has grown, since its introduction in 2003, to have four service packages geared to the size of the organisation wanting to reap its benefits.
  3. Hardware, what hardware? No need for in-house servers or data storage, because that’s all in the cloud too, so using the cloud means reduced expense on servers.
  4. It’s secure. The levels of security operating on the server farms that form the cloud are far greater than whatever arrangements you have on your own network
  5. And finally, customers can buy your goods from anywhere. Shopping has been the new leisure activity for so long it’s now an old leisure activity, with popularity that still shows no sign of waning. By having a dedicated app of your own as part of your sales armoury, clients are never unable to buy your good and services, resulting in increased turnover and enhanced profitability.

So here’s the big question about computers and the security of your business, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with locking laptops in drawers. It’s this: Can your business afford to ignore the potential offered by technology when it comes to expanding your customer base? And is its security assured in a future where competitors move ahead, Hoovering up new business and leaving you bobbing helplessly in their wake…?

This month’s ‘app of the month’ is therefore yours; either the one you already have, or the one you’re going to create, because of the way they all have the power to change the way business is done. And if your business hasn’t got an app, can you afford not to create one? There was once a time when not all businesses had websites, and look how that’s changed. Ten years from now, we’ll all be doing business with an app… Imagine, having a presence in every town, street, house, pub, railway station, motorway service area, airport lounge… That’s what having an app delivers.

* These stats are from a survey, undertaken by independent merchant banking group Close Brothers, of about 1,000 businesses throughout the UK.