As we find ourselves in an increasingly fast-paced and mobile world, our dependency on technology to provide real-time access to information increases as well. One of the most utilitarian advancements of technology towards this end has been the advent of thin client or ‘Cloud’ based computing systems.
In a nutshell: A thin client solution allows a computing device (PC, IPad, IPhone, Android device – aka the ‘client’) to ‘dial in’ to the desktop of another computer (aka the ‘server’). The user can then pass keystrokes and mouse clicks to the desktop of that computer, and receive screen shots of what the resulting screen looks like on the other computer (server) to their local computing device (client). It is called ‘thin’ client because you wind up passing very little data over the internet, just screen shots, mouse clicks and keyboard clicks.
The term ‘Cloud Computing’ appeared around 2006, and encapsulates the notion of thin client computing with the ability to securely store your data ‘somewhere else’. There are a variety of solutions available to your agency that provide thin client access to your local software, and provide automated methods to back up your local data to a secure, offsite location.
Remote Desktop (aka Terminal Services) is probably the best solution thin client solution for multiple remote users to access your local data for long periods of time. It is also the most expensive requiring the services of a local hardware technician, a Server operating system (Windows Server 2003, 2008, etc. which can cost $800 or more), and Remote Desktop licenses – which run about $80-$100 apiece (although you typically get one license for free). The advantages of using Remote Desktop to dial into a Server based operating system are that it is more secure, less prone to data corruption, and does not require a separate computer for each person logging in.
There are less expensive (even free) solutions for people that need to occasionally dial in to the home office, or dial in one at a time. These solutions all require that there is a separate computer at the home office, for each person dialing in. Some of these solutions can be found at: Logmein.com, GotoMyPC.com, Join.me, and TeamViewer.com. Each product has advantages and disadvantages regarding ease of use, reliability, supported client devices, and features; and there are several factors such as how printing and file transfers are handled between the ‘Free’ and ‘Pro’ versions of each software that must be taken into account. If you are considering one of these less expensive thin client solutions, it might be money well spent to hire a tech for an hour or so to help you sort out your options.
Another aspect to Cloud Based computing is the ability to securely backup your data by copying your files over the internet to a secure facility offsite, thus limiting your liability if your local location burns down, or is involved in a natural disaster. Some companies that offer offsite backup solutions for a small fee are Mozy.com, and Dropbox.com. With a little help from a local tech - you can quickly set one of these programs up, and then have peace of mind that your data is stored securely ‘somewhere else’. Just make sure that your tech sets the program up to send the files over the internet at night, otherwise you will see your daytime internet speeds drop dramatically.
Of course Agency Software, Inc. offers turnkey hosting solutions as well. If you'd rather not worry about configuring your Remote Desktop solution, or making sure your data is securily backed up, we recommend the services of EME Cloud For about $30 per user / per month, DJ and his staff will web-enable your Agency Software applications for use on nearly any device, from nearly anywhere in the world. If you have questions, please fee free to give us a call at (800)342-7327 to discuss your Cloud Computing needs.