Software as a Service for Wastewater Management

The Pros & Cons

The advent of laptops ushered in the first wave of portable computing.  However, backing up and synchronizing data with office servers quickly became an issue.  Furthermore, if you use software that is shared with other users in your organization, you were still require to be “wired” to your local network.  Enter Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) — the ability to securely work from anywhere, have full access to enterprise applications, and take IT support out of the equation. SaaS is changing the way many organizations are choosing to do business.   You can now work from your laptop seamlessly in the field, or any remote location, and go right into your critical applications.   Now that RedZone has adopted the Software-as-a-Service model (via our acquisition of ICOMMM, an asset management software company), we thought we would feature the pros and cons of SaaS this month.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Ever use Google Docs or Google Earth?  These are Software-as-a-Service applications served over the Internet.  In the case of Google Earth, the software resides locally on your computer and synchronizes with Google servers to literally provide the entire world to your desktop.  It also allows many different users to share content with each other, and even allows you to access the same data from various computers.   You don’t have to store massive map files or worry about keeping up with updates or have special hardware — you just launch the application and you’re off and running.   The Software-as-a-Service model allows many more users to benefit from the best available and traditionally expensive technologies, usually at a very affordable price (as costs are distributed over a large number of users.)

Most of the objections to SaaS are based on perceived security issues, data access & ownership, and integration concerns.  These can usually be effectively addressed, and in many instances, can improve on the degree of security, access, and integration required. Like Google Earth, some applications address these issues by having the software and data working locally but synchronizing globally (“works locally / synchronizes globally”).  This allows users to always have direct access to their data, while the major hardware, software, and IT support are maintained at the “SaaS level.”  SaaS is also “greener” because it depends on fewer human and electronic resources.

Old-fashioned, or “isolated” software applications

In the water and wastewater industries, critical applications such as mapping and GIS, CMMS and CCTV inspection viewers are usually limited to a few high powered workstations that have the proper software licenses installed.  In some cases only a few people will ever need access to these applications; however, more and more organizations are working to extract the true value from that information by sharing it.

There is still value to maintaining isolated software. If you are stuck in O’Hare airport and don’t want to pay the fees to get on the Internet through their provider, having local access to MS Office gets your work done.   On the other hand, if you were depending on Google Docs  (Software-as-a-Service) to do your work, you’d be out of luck because an Internet connection is required to access the software.  That’s why a “works locally / synchronizes globally” approach provides the best of both worlds.

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