Many small businesses often start out recording data in spreadsheets or simple databases like Microsoft Access — information about products, clients, projects, sales, budgets, and financial transactions. But just as your business eventually outgrows spreadsheets for financial data and progresses to a proper accounting package like MYOB, so too will you eventually outgrow your initial database or core business system.
Some of the common growing pains experienced with a spreadsheet or MS Access system are:
- Managing many users: As more users need to access the system, it can be hard to manage who can use the system and what they are allowed to view/change.
- Managing new versions: As you update the system, it can be hard to ensure that all users have the latest version, and to make sure bugs are fixed quickly on all installations.
- Managing data quality: Often a spreadsheet or MS Access system has related data which is located in different places. So how do you maintain the integrity and security of the data while still ensuring that you can use it when and how you need?
Benefits of a Web-Based Solution
The solution we recommend to these problems is to translate your existing system into a web-based application. The main benefits of this approach are:
- Easy user management and authorisation: Because the system is accessed by logging in through a browser, you can easily control who can login and what they are allowed to do.
- Pain free version management: Since the program is centrally hosted, you need only update the software once, and you can be sure that new features and bug fixes will be rolled out to all users immediately.
- Data is complete and up-to-date: All data is stored in a central database, so you will always be looking at the most current information. You will get more value from your data because it is easier to access and of a higher quality.
Concerns with a Web-Based Solution
Business owners will often raise concerns about moving a core system onto the web. Some of the main concerns raised are:
Where is my system and data stored and how do I back it up?
A web-based system can be hosted with a web hosting company or on your own internal office server. Hosting companies can handle backups, usually charging a per GB fee. If you decide host the site yourself, you will need to manage the backups.
What about the security of my data if it is hosted on the web?
If the system is designed and developed correctly then current web technology can be very secure. When designing a secure web-based system, you should take into account the budget, requirements and possible threats, and then build a system to suit.
Will it cost more than the system I already have?
There is no doubt that there will be a significant upfront investment required to replace your existing system with a web-based application. To decide whether the investment is worthwhile, you should consider:
— How much time are you currently spending maintaining your existing system, or using manual workarounds?
— What is the possible cost to your business if you don’t have up-to-date and complete data or if an employee leaves and takes a copy with them?
— How long can your business continue to grow if you don’t upgrade to a system that better manages your processes?
Will I have to rebuild the system in another 5 years?
Information technology moves at such a fast rate that older technology does become obsolete and systems do need to be rewritten.
The use of web-based software for business systems is well established, and is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. The web is a great platform to build on and will provide a platform that will allow your business system to grow and mature for many years to come. It is more likely that your business will change and require a system update within the next 5-10 years, than the use of the web as a business platform will go out of date in the same time period.
Web-based systems are not perfect, but they do solve some of the really difficult problems of desktop-based business systems. 4mation has years of experience building and maintaining core business systems on the web, so if you are experiencing growing pains and would like to discuss your options, or if you have any questions, please contact us and setup a time to speak with one of our friendly project managers who will be able to guide you through the process.