Cloud Services: 4 Benefits for CE Pros
New cloud technology allows integrators to reduce their costs of doing business and their clients’ cost of owning an integrated system.
Even for dealers who don’t acknowledge it today, someday soon we’ll all be doing much, if not most, of our business in the cloud, including business related to home systems installation, maintenance, monitoring, configuration, streaming and home-control functionality.
When evaluating and comparing your options, consider these four key points: upkeep, cost, reliability and convenience.
Reduce Total Cost of Ownership
Cloud solutions (often known as SaaS, or software as a service) are hosted and maintained in off-site server farms by cloud-service providers, who (hopefully) spend every waking hour working on security, redundancy and reliability - so you don’t have to.
As an integrator, you do not have to apply security patches, updates or upgrades. None of the concerns that keep IT managers awake at night are yours to worry about; they reside in the hands of your provider. Better yet, you don’t have to employ an IT technician to conduct regular backups, antivirus scans, system security audits, performance audits, hard drive scans or hardware health checks.
When evaluating cloud-based services, cost must be a major consideration. Capital expenditures can often be reduced, as cloud services eliminate the need to purchase and maintain costly in-house servers.
Learn more about cloud-based content and home control at the virtual trade event CEProLive! October 27, 2011.
Many cloud solutions only require a low-cost appliance to be installed at the client site, keeping the overall cost of ownership down. Furthermore, operating in-house servers can cost homeowners up to $700 per year in energy alone - an expense eliminated or greatly reduced by cloud services and solutions.
If you think this scenario doesn’t apply to you and your customers, consider a traditional in-home video server with multiple client players. Many dealers install these solutions today, and for very valid reasons related to A/V quality, navigation and integration.
But servers and clients require expensive equipment to be installed in the home. That’s just one of the costs. Now add in the cost of shipping and doing inventory on the products; the (potential) cost of hardware failures and corrupted hard drives; and all of the accommodations for overheating such as extra space in the rack, fans, temperature monitors, etc.
Not that you should drop these solutions for Netflix and AppleTV, but even our proud industry is going that direction. Soon you will have the quality of media distribution that today’s dedicated servers provide, with the convenience and lower total cost of ownership associated with AppleTV and the like.
Leave Redundancy to the Pros
Cloud services - the good ones anyway - provide high reliability by supporting the configuration of multiple servers, which allows easy scaling or recovery should one server fail, essentially providing something better than pricey RAID solutions typically used in the home and elsewhere.
The beauty of redundancy is that there is always a safety net. Hosting facilities for cloud solutions have backup power generation, multiple highly available Internet connections, and replicated data centers around the country or globe. If one system (or a portion of one) fails, another can automatically engage and restore connectivity - meaning you and your customers can rest assured that their systems will continue to run without a hiccup.
Any dealer that uses a central monitoring station for security knows how this works. Would you want to build out a redundant, fail-proof architecture at each client’s home? It would be unwieldy, expensive and outside your scope of expertise.
As Convenient as Google Docs
If you’ve used Google Documents, Salesforce.com or other collaborative applications, you understand the convenience of the cloud: You and your colleagues (and partners and clients) always have the latest version of whatever you’re working on; you don’t have to download an application to every computer in the company; and you can access files from any web browser.
Apple’s iCloud and related services will enable the ultimate portability and convenience. Users will no longer need to be tethered to their computer to transfer content. They won’t have to worry about which device is synced with which content, and how much hard-drive space is left for storage.
Good for Business
For your clients, cloud services mean that they - like you - can do more with less.
Clients who previously did not have the budget for expensive equipment such as audio/video servers in the home, or service agreements to keep everything running smoothly, can now enjoy them for a fraction of the price, providing dealers an excellent opportunity to approach past and present customers with fun and exciting solutions.
Although you may lose some hardware revenue in the process, you have the opportunity to earn more for your company’s design, consulting, and implementation services. In order to succeed, though, your team needs to have the training and expertise to recommend and configure cloud-based services.
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A former integrator, Michael Maniscalco is co-founder and vice president of technical operations for ihiji. He served as one of the principal architects of invision, the company’s cloud-based, real-time remote systems monitoring and servicing solution. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ihiji.com. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Michael at email@example.com
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