Every week or two, we get unsolicited phone calls from companies that migrate desktop apps to “the cloud”. It’s known as SAAS (Software as a Service). Usually they ask a lot of questions and try to sound like buyers, before revealing the real reason they called. However, still not as annoying as the almost daily “Hi, this is Heather…” scam calls.
Basically, SAAS means that the Goldenseal app will run on a server somewhere, instead of on your own computer. Your company file will also be stored on a server somewhere, and you’ll run it over the Internet. It’s pretty much like using a website.
The plus side for you is that you can access your data from any desktop or laptop computer that has an Internet connection, and you don’t even need to install Goldenseal. Up-front costs are also lower. The plus side for us is steadier cash flow, since it’s a monthly payment instead of a one-time fee. It’s why QuickBooks is aggressively moving all users to their monthly cloud-based service, and gradually abandoning their desktop apps. A monthly fee is more lucrative than forcing people into upgrades.
The minus side for you is that you can’t access your data if you don’t have an Internet connection (or stop paying the monthly fee). It’s also more expensive in the long run. The minus side for both you and us is that your data is totally dependent on someone maintaining those servers properly. One potential problem is plain old data loss, if there is an unfortunate sequence of events that kills both their main data storage, and the backups. A more subtle (and more common) problem is a data breach, where some stranger suddenly has all your company records.
We do not want to get into the server maintenance business. Even if we have incredibly smart people tending things, there are always smarter people with more time on their hands, trying to breach whatever security we have. It’s just too risky. We don’t want to be worrying all the time about losing or spilling other people’s vital data.
Likewise, we don’t want to be trusting all those small companies who are calling to offer SAAS services. It just adds one more layer of risk, since we don’t know how good they are at security. If they fail, we and our users are the ones that suffer, while they can quietly disappear.
There are a few larger companies that offer SAAS. So far we haven’t done much investigating of their services. It doesn’t make sense to do so before Goldenseal Pro is out the door. The computer industry in general has been very sloppy about data breaches, so even the biggest providers will have some risk. SAAS sounds great in theory, but it adds more failure points.
Our vision for Goldenseal Pro is to let you run your own data server. It will still depend on regular backups and decent network security. Fortunately, both Windows and Mac OS provide those features, without much effort. You really should use Time Machine (Mac) or File History and Windows Backup/Restore (Windows) for all your data, not just ours.
Despite the problems, it still may make sense for us to offer a cloud-based SAAS service, if only because it’s becoming so popular. We’d appreciate hearing opinions about it from users, and potential users.