You've probably heard about "the cloud" and been told - with great urgency - that you need to get on it. The truth is that the cloud is complicated and there are only two easy answers...
- The cloud is not right for every shop/situation/location.
- FloristWare puts you in charge and lets you choose as much or as little cloud as you like. Your cloud options are not limited by our architecture or philosophy.
Let's start by defining a few terms...
Local (AKA "On-Premise")
This is what you are probably accustomed to and the way things were done before the cloud. Data (and it could be any kind of data - the actual data in your POS system, backup copies of that system, etc.) that is stored locally or "on premise" is stored on the computers in your store.
It's fast! Data does not have to move back and forth over the internet giving you the best possible performance. It's also "highly available" meaning that if your computer is working you are ready to go - you don't need the kind of expensive high-quality internet connection the cloud requires at all times.
On it's own local computing doesn't provide much backup protection. If something happens to the computer where data is stored (hardware malfunction, virus, fire, theft, etc.) that data is gone unless you have a backup somewhere else.
Data is stored on a network of one or more servers outside your store that has come to be called the cloud. You access it over the internet as needed.
It's safe - whatever happens to the computers in your store your data should be secure.
It's slow - much slower than on-premise. It is "lower availability" in that you absolutely have to have a working internet connection in order to use your system. And you never really have possesion of your data - more on this later.
As you can see each of two methods offer distinct advantages and disadvantages. Neither can be considered ideal on its own.
But they are complimentary and - by using the best of both options (the speed of on-premise with the safety of cloud backups) - FloristWare is alone in bringing you the best of both.
Now let's review how FloristWare covers all the options and make a general recommendation...
All Local, No Cloud
Want to avoid the cloud entirely? Or don't have the kind of internet access to take advantage of it? No problem - FloristWare will keep everything "on premise" and solely in your custody while still providing powerful backup options to keep it safe.
Local With Cloud Backups
This is the best option for most clients. All of your data is local giving you the greatest possible speed and convenience (you don't need an internet connection to use the system) but every night a backup copy is sent to a cloud server for safekeeping.
If something bad does happen we'll get you up and running on the most recent backup, usually withing thirty minutes of having a usable computer ready to go.
This has saved countless clients whose computers were lost to mechanical failure, viruses, fire, etc. We just installed the backup on another machine in their store or a machine brought in as a replacement.
Where do the backups get stored? We offer free secure storage for our clients but you can also have your FloristWare backups sent to a server of your own choosing.
Cloud With Local Backups
This is the exact opposite of the option described above. Your data is stored on a cloud server and accessed over the internet but backups are stored locally on machines in your store. If your internet access is disrupted or the cloud server goes down you can "fail over" to your local backup until the connection is restored.
The option for "true believers" in the cloud. If you have an ultra-fast and completely dependable internet connections and really want to go all-in on the cloud this is the option for you. Your database and all backups will be stored on our secure servers and you never need think about it.
What is best for you?
The cloud is - without exception - slower than on-premise and speed is probably the single most important consideration with a POS system (you, your customers and your employees don't want to be waiting on your POS). Meanwhile the cloud is much better for secure storage - no matter what manner of disaster may befall your computer hardware or store your data is safe in the cloud.
When you look at it like that it's simple: Local with Cloud Backups. This combines the best of both worlds for the highest possible speeds and the most secure possible backups.
The cloud is complicated. We tried (believe it or not!) to keep it simple in the section above and you may have more questions. We have tried to answer the most common ones below...
What is the cloud really? Where is it? What does it look like?
The cloud sounds prettier than it really is - your data still ends up being stored on hard drives. The difference is that are better "enterprise" grade hard drives located in secure data centres. And, in most cases, your data is probably mirrored across multiple drives in multiple data centers for added security.
If you have ever been in a data center (generally hot, noisy and not very pleasant) you are likely to roll your eyes at the idea they have anything in common with clouds.
Why is the cloud slower?
Because nothing is stored locally and all data has to get to and from the cloud over the internet (also called WAN for "wide area network"). That is always slower than just accessing your hard drive or moving information around the LAN ("local area network") in your shop.
If you are only running one station with local data storage it only needs to access the hard drive to get information - this is as fast as it gets. If you are running more than one station the information has to travel over your LAN - a little slower but still very good. It's like a superhighway travelling very short distances with very little traffic.
Once you go out onto the internet everything changes. You have to go much farther and encounter more stops or "hops" along the way, each one slowing things down. And (we're switching analogies here) you are dealing with a much narrower pipe that can handle less information at a time.
How important is the reliability and speed of my internet connection?
If you want to go heavy on the cloud the speed and reliability of your internet connection is absolutely critical. Without an extremely fast internet connection you can't do anything well - you and your customers will always be waiting for the system to catch up. And without a working connection you are dead in the water - you just can't do anything. Not being able to access youtube or email is inconvenient, not being able to access your POS is catastrophic.
If however you take a hybrid approach where you just use the cloud for backups your connection becomes much less important. You don't need connectivity to use your system, just to store the backup - something you normally do just once a day and it's not the end of the world if you miss one. And, since these backups are typically done once you have closed for the day the speed doesn't matter that much either - the backup is taking place while you are driving home for the night.
Why is the cloud better for backups?
The computers found in retail flower shops (and the data stored on them) are very vulnerable. LIke all computers they are susceptible to viruses and malware as well as mechanical failure. They can also be stolen or destroyed by fire, water, etc.
The cloud uses enterprise grade equipment (reducing the risk of mechanical failure) stored in secure data centres (reducing the risk of damage from fire and other elements). In addition cloud data is often mirrored across multiple drives in different data centres so there is no single point of failure.
The cloud is not the answer to everything but it is very good for safely and securely storing backups.
Why is the cloud always presented as the ideal solution for every situation?
Good question! It's a new technology and there is money to be made selling related services (and information about them). And it's an easier sell if it's kept simple as in "the cloud is always best for everything" instead of a more nuanced discussion of what is better in particular situations.
Why are so many POS systems cloud-only?
The reality is that most cloud based POS systems are cloud based by necessity. They were designed this way because it was easier and/or cheaper for the vendor and not because it was the right direction for the client.
For the most part these systems are essentially websites pretending to be extremely basic POS systems and the vendors try and spin that negative into a positive by summoning the aura of "the cloud". It's a little like drop-shippers claiming their flowers are better because they were picked the day before.
Can I be assured of access to my data if it's in the cloud?
With a cloud only system you will never have the data in your custody - you will always have to access it through the cloud and with the blessing of your vendor.
This means you are putting a lot of faith in your vendor and their servers. Remember - their volumes goes way up during flower holidays like Valentine's too and, if their servers are going to fail, they will probably fail under that extra load (which is the worst possible time for you).
And you can't assume they will always allow you access to your data. If your vendor goes out of business, decides to cut you off in a billing dispute or suffers a system failure everything you have in your POS could be gone. Everything.
If my data is in the cloud, does anyone else have access to it?
You can be assured that someone else does have access to your data. How sure are you about what they might do with it? Could they be "mining" it for their own marketing purposes? If they are in the business of order-gathering it's a possibility. If there is a billing dispute could they sell your data to your competitors to recover what they believe they are owed?