You are viewing our site as an Agent, Switch Your View:

Agent | Broker     Reset Filters to Default     Back to List

"The Cloud" 101

July 13 2012

Prabakar Mahalingam of GoPaperless Solutions says:

3943 cloud on computer screen 200pxYou've heard so much about "the cloud," but do you really understand what it is and what the impacts are for your business? Maybe it's time to get back to the basics – with a crash course in Cloud Computing 101.

Definition

The cloud isn't up in the air; it's actually a bunch of servers in a data center, somewhere on the ground. What most real estate agents need to understand about cloud computing is that it is essentially any form of computing (particularly applications or storage) that takes place on the Internet. It's obviously more complicated and technical than this, but that other stuff matters for our developers – not for you, the end consumer.

Use in Real Estate

Each industry leverages cloud computing in a slightly different way. Some of the primary uses for real estate include:

  • Storage – Saving and accessing data is one of the primary applications of cloud computing in any industry (just look at the popularity of Dropbox). In real estate, this is certainly true as agents seek to store signed documents, forms, contracts, photos, and other crucial information. The online vault is an example from our Real Estate Dashboard solution, where agents can access their contracts and documents anywhere, anytime, plus provide permission-based access to their clients and contacts.
  • Fax – Sending and receiving fax electronically with cloud-based systems can help agents reduce the waste and inconvenience of paper fax. This is one of the popular features in our REDfax solution.
  • Electronic signatures – Many applications for obtaining electronic signatures have moved to a cloud-based design.eSignOnline is a good example of this. Our solutions for obtaining electronic signatures and managing the documents related to real estate transactions are built for agents who like to stay mobile. These agents are switching from their desktop at work to their iPad in the field. A cloud-based solution allows them to do this without losing data. Being a paperless agent is really about being mobile and leveraging the cloud.
  • Transaction management/document management – Some applications for transaction management and document management live online and store related data online.
  • CRM solutions – Tools for managing customer relationships (CRMs) save a great deal of data – contact information, marketing plans, template emails, etc. A cloud-based model means this data doesn't have to be stored on a computer's hard drive and can be accessed on-the-go.

A variety of other real estate technology solutions are cloud-based; this list is certainly far from complete. However, those are some of the most popular categories that are shifting toward the cloud.

Benefits

The advocates of cloud computing can reference a variety of benefits. Perhaps this explains the explosive popularity of cloud-based technology. Some of the benefits you'll hear mentioned most often are:

  • Information can be accessed anywhere, from any device. Because information and applications live online with cloud-based technology, it is device-neutral. Whether you're a Mac or a PC doesn't matter.
  • Reduce clutter and free-up space on your device. Rather than using your computer's memory to store the data, the information lives online.
  • Save time and avoid the annoyance of downloading updates. Because the applications live online (not on your computer's hard drive), you open the most current version every time.
  • Collaboration is easier with cloud-based technology. If information is stored online, anyone (with proper login credentials) can access it when needed. This makes it easier to work with others, particularly when you're not often in the same place at the same time. And, of course, it solves the problem of trying to send large files via email.

Considerations

So what do you need to think about when you're considering a cloud-based solution? Here are a few topics to ask the vendor about:

  • Security. This is pretty obvious. You want to know that no unauthorized persons will have access to your information. Technology vendors can do incredible things to protect your security, even when your data is living online. But it's still important to ask what steps the company has taken to ensure your clients' privacy. Data that is stored on the cloud is encrypted to protect the data. For example, our company, GoPaperless Solutions, stores all servers and data at a SAS70-Type-II colocation hosting facility with unsurpassed security and redundancy to ensure the highest possible standards and uptime. The data center is in compliance as an accredited colocation home for any Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA-compliant organization.
  • Reliability/Accessibility. You should be confident that you will be able to retrieve your information and have access to your applications when you need them. You don't want to be wondering about whether you can rely on your cloud-based technology when you're trying to do business.

Conclusions

While the cloud has myriad benefits to offer and the flexibility to perform countless functions, the key is to find technology you can trust. Don't be afraid to ask vendors as many questions as you'd like until all of your concerns have been addressed. We've spent a good deal of time "with our heads in the cloud," so don't hesitate to get in touch with us for assistance!

Other articles of interest: Top Producer IDX | Birdview IDX