Conducting Shop Business Remotely
Working remotely (at home or from any location) can be advantageous. There are 'free ways' and a very costly way of achieving 'mobility' so it will pay to consider the (free) alternatives compared to the multiple costs and risks of 'cloud software' before deciding how to go about computing remotely.
The information on this page is long and detailed. If you were just looking for a summary of 'cloud software', here it is:
Web-based software exposes your business to Internet security issues and potential data loss. Large monthly fees (paid to a complete stranger) don't guarantee your safety, security or privacy. A commercial-grade Internet connection and anti-virus program are necessities.
Let's get real: The Chinese hacked into super-secure U.S. government computers with apparent relative ease. Should we be convinced that our businesses are safe from hackers and viruses?
If you visit websites, receive emails or just leave your computer connected to the Internet, your computer is in the viral pipeline and any free anti-virus program (and most paid ones) won't prevent disaster.
Give serious consideration to trust, cost and reliability before adding new 'web-based' unnecessary risks and exorbitant expenses to your operation:
To Whom Are You Entrusting Your Business?
Who is the person in charge of the web-based (cloud) software? How long has he been in the consignment-software business and how long will he remain? How many people are in the 'company'? 1? 2? 3?
Who Controls the Software?
'He' does. You are out of control. If 'he' gets on the wrong airplane or just finds a better pursuit, you're out of luck and software support - back to buying and learning the store-based program you probably should have purchased in the first place.
Is Your Data Safe?
Your data is only as secure as the guarantor's willingness and ability to stand behind his promises and pre-sale comfortings. If 'he' is an LLC or corporation, quite likely there are no assets backing up hollow promises.
Heads up! When you connect your business to the Internet, you're plugging into a whole world of bad guys whose daily pleasure is to attack American businesses.
Even the providers of the best anti-virus/anti-malware programs won't guarantee that your computer and your data are safe.
You can guarantee safety and protection from predators by installing software on your shop computer, and keeping the computer disconnected from the Internet. That is the only guarantee that you won't get hacked.
If any salesman trying to sell you on web-based software assures you that it is safe, ask him to personally guarantee that in writing and demonstrate that he has the assets to back his promises.
If it's not enough that you would be handing over the security of your business to a complete stranger who is totally incapable of protecting you, then please, read on...
Extremely High Cost
A handful of programmers have rushed web-based consignment software to the market with visions of high profits dancing in their heads. It goes something like this:
"If I can sell 100 store owners on paying me $100 per month each, that's $10,000 per month income to me with an overhead of no more than a couple hundred a month!"
They aren't about to mention how to remotely access store software and information for free.
Instead, they suggest "getting started for just $99". It's $99 per month if you have fewer than 150 consignors and if you have more than 150, it's $149. That's today's price. What will be the future price once we are locked into the software, and is anyone really fooled by '$99 to get started' when just the 5-year cost is ($149 * 12 * 5) = $8,940? Update 7-1-15: The vendor has backed off of this pricing model, no doubt having met with stern resistance by stores to be bilked for exceeding a low number of consignors, but it's still $99 per month!
An Internet connection is required to connect to the web-based computer, and an additional backup connection might be warranted. (One vendor suggests using a cell phone as an Internet-connection backup) when (not if) the site or the Internet are not available. Most assuredly trying to run a database program through a wireless cell-phone conneciton will be completely frustrating.) On top of that $100-$150 per month for the use of the web-based software, how much more cost lies beneath the surface to get connected and stayed connected to your shop software and information?
Free anti-virus software doesn't cut it for a commercial operation. Using any free anti-virus program is inviting attackers into your computer, especially if you're connected over an unsecure wireless Internet connection. Add $75 per year or so for good viral protection (which you should have anyway). But don't you know that there will be shop owners out there who will cut corners and employ inadequate protection measures - and they will be accessing the same web-based computer that your data is stored on.
Count on future price increases once you're locked into the software. Because this tactic is so widely perpetrated on businesses, it is an irresistible way of increasing profits for the software vendor, i.e., taking an ever-increasing chunk out of your store profits. They are perfectly aware that most people, once situated in a software program aren't willing to start all over with learning a new program.
Web-based software is purely 'rental software'. For that $100 or more per month, there is no accumulation of equity for you to cash in on at the end of your usage period - however long that may be.
How Reliable is 'The Cloud'?
Your Internet connection must be reliable. (Wireless, dialup, satellite, ADSL and slow DSL won't cut it.) Providers of web-based software must always answer "What happens if my Internet service is down?" One answer was "Use your cell phone!" Really?
Your Internet connection must be fast. No matter how it is sliced, running a software program 'online' is going to be slower than running the same program from a hard drive.
The 'host computer' is where the cloud software is installed and where your data would reside. There are several considerations:
- Speed: You are dependent upon the software provider plowing enough of his big profits into bandwidth (so you're not waiting waiting waiting)
- Redundancy: Multiple daily copies of your data to help protect against data loss
- Protection from hackers and viruses: No guarantees here. If you decide to take your show on the road, hope for small bumps. Be prepared for crevices.
- Internet reliability: The 'new presidential directive' gives government the authority to shut down the Internet and cell phones!
- Hardware issues are more likely when working from a remote computer. Just getting labels to print correctly can be an issue.
The Free Alternative
It doesn't matter how $1200 per year for web-based software is packaged, divvied up or disguised.
It is still $6,000 over 5 years!
Here's a Smart Alternative:
- Buy a program (like BCSS) for a one-time payment ($195-$795).
- You own it and can reuse it.
- There are no ongoing fees.
- You'll be dealing with a long-established reputable software provider.
- Install it on your shop's computer (that you control).
- Don't connect to the Internet except when needed (to be safe).
- Use any of the free remote-PC programs to access the shop computer from any other Internet-connected computer.
- Run the shop computer just as though you were sitting there in front of it.
- Shut the shop computer off when you're done, or set power settings to shut it down automatically.
You'll save oodles of money, maintain control over your business and avoid having to reply upon someone else to perform.
Granted you may not be able to do some things (like print price labels) but such tasks could be done by someone at the shop, or at a later time when at the shop (like printing price labels and tagging items).
Is web-based really worth all that extra expense?
An Obvious Alternative
Use a Laptop!
Today's laptops are reasonably priced and hefty enough to handle a database program for your business, and they afford these benefits:
- Buy a program (like BCSS) for a one-time payment ($195-$795).
- Mobility: The 'computer' can be moved around - in the shop or across town or around the world with your business in tow. No depending upon an Internet connection to get you connected - and keep you connected - to a web-based software and your data.
- Speed: With slower or poor Internet connections, web-based software can be slow - slower than running any program directly on the hard drive of a laptop.
- Take your costly computer and precious data home every night. Now and then a shop is broken into, struck by lightning, flooded...
- Independence: Barring hardware malfunctions you'll always be able to turn the laptop on and get to work. Not so with web-based software that depends upon an Internet connection and a stranger keeping his server up and running.
- Security: No one can access a computer that is not connected to the Internet. Seems these days any computer connected to the Internet can be hacked, including the one belonging to the charlatan down-playing this risk to sell his web-based program.
The Old Way
Buy Copies of the Software
There was a time when it was necessary to install a copy of the shop software on another computer (like the one at home), make a copy of the database at the shop at day's end, carry the database home on a flash drive (or email it to yourself and open the email at home), restore the data at home from the flash drive or email, work at home, backup the data, get it back to the shop, restore the data...
This method may still be necessary where there is no Internet at the shop but outside that situation, no software vendor should be failing to mention alternatives to buying copies of his software.
The demo version of BCSS is the full version of the program. Whether you purchase or not, a free live demonstration is available where a customer rep can log into your computer and speak to you at the same time to help you get going easily.