So your auto repair shop management software is in the cloud. What does that really mean?
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Posted on Jan 9th 2020
Here at Autoshopinvoice.com, we get a lot of questions from our customers about the technology behind our software. One of the most common questions we get is about how we manage our customers’ data in the cloud and what the cloud means for them. Below we’ll answer any questions you may have had about the cloud, what the cloud means for your auto shop, and why our team has chosen specifically to create subscription-based product here at autoshopinvoice.com.
What is the cloud?
Let’s say you’re editing an invoice on your computer. You finish your edits and click Save. But where were your invoice’s edits actually saved to? Without the cloud, your invoice would simply be saved on your computer itself. This is known as local storage, since your invoice was saved locally on the hardware you hosted.
An alternative to saving your invoice updates locally would to use the cloud. Using the cloud requires that your computer or device has an internet connection. An internet connection would then connect your computer to separate hardware for storage.
And that’s really all the cloud is; it’s when your computer uses an internet connection to save your work on another server, rather than saving your work locally.
But wait, you say. Why not just save all my work I do on my computer locally? As we’ll see later on, there are many benefits to using the cloud which we’ll discuss further. You may not realize it, but many of the applications and software you already use today are hosted in the cloud. Take Facebook for example. When you do work in Facebook (i.e. edit your profile picture, upload a photo album, or post a status update), all of that work is saved to Facebook’s servers using an internet connection. Without an internet connection, none of your changes to your Facebook profile are saved. The same concept applies for Twitter, Linkedin, and many other common applications you use in everyday life.
How do I know if my data is stored in the cloud?
Here’s a simple question to ask yourself if you’re not sure if you’re using the cloud: “When I’m saving work on my computer, where is my work being saved?
If you need to open up a web browser like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari, type in a website, and type in a username and password to view or edit your work, that’s a good sign that the software is hosted in the cloud.
If you turn off the wi-fi or internet to your computer and still have full access to your previous work, then it’s a decent sign you’re working with local storage. For example, let’s say you’re editing a text document you’ve saved to your computer’s desktop. If you turn off your internet connection, chances are you’ll still be able to continue editing where you left off.
Why should I care about the cloud?
In the old days, it was common for many software programs to be installed through a download disk or CD sent through the mail or purchased from a store. You would need to insert the CD into your PC and spend the next hour or so downloading the software onto your computer. After the software was downloaded, you’d walk through a number of initial setup steps before you could finally begin using your newly purchased software. If you needed the same software on any other computer or machine, you needed to repeat the same steps all over again. If your hard drive crashed or your office burned down in a fire, all of your data on your hard drive was lost.
Nowadays, things are much easier. Software in the cloud can be used from any device with an internet connection. You can also get up-and-running faster, since there is no need to download or install anything to your computer. You also don’t need to worry if your computer crashes or hard drive gets accidentally wiped, since all of your data is accessible through any device with access to the internet. For our customers, this means that all of your invoices, customer data, parts data, etc. is going to be accessible regardless of what happens to your shop’s computers or hard drives.
What are some other common apps that are hosted in the cloud?
Hosting an application in the cloud has become common practice for enterprise software. Here are a few examples of cloud-based software:
Reasons we use the cloud at Autoshopinvoice.com
- It prevents our customers from needing to download or install our software. Since the cloud allows us to host our software, this enables our customers to begin using our application within a few minutes by simply setting up a username and password.
- Our development team can push major updates and bug fixes to our customers quickly.
- New features such as this [link to feature release] can be pushed to customer accounts near instantly.
- It gives our customers more options for how they access our app. Our team can host a single software app that works across all of our customers’ devices and operating systems. This is why our application works on Mac & PC’s, Android & iPhone, and Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.
- The cloud makes our software easy to scale. As we continue to grow, additional customer accounts and server space can be added with minimal effort. This means our customers can continue to have a great experience regardless of the number of people using our application.
- It allows our customers greater flexibility and mobility. In the past, auto repair shop owners and garages that needed to migrate their data to a new computer or a new shop would face a world of trouble. Today, customers can simply login to our application from any device with an internet connection.
Who owns my data?
Perhaps you may be asking, if my auto shop’s data is hosted in someone else’s servers in the cloud, then who technically owns it? My auto repair shop or the company hosting our data?
To put it simply, you own your own data. We at Autoshopinvoice.com will always commit to ensuring that our customers’ data remains exactly that: their data. This means that you as a customer have every right to access, delete, and know what data we host on your behalf.
Data security and ownership are hot topics today. If you’ve kept up with the news, you’ll notice there have been several recent data-related laws that have recently gone into effect: for example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA. We want to be clear: we are not lawyers, so we can not tell you how to interpret these laws. However, we would strongly recommend you review them to stay informed. Here at Autoshopinvoice.com, we can say that our team will make the best possible effort to be good stewards of our customer’s data. Because at the end of the day, we believe that the trust we’ve built with our customers is our highest priority.
Why can’t my repair shop just buy your software instead of paying a recurring fee to “rent” it?
One common misconception about our subscription, cloud-based software is that repair shops must pay a monthly or yearly fee to “rent” our services. However, this is inaccurate. The big difference between a traditional rental vs. subscription software is in the amount of value your auto repair shop gains over time. To give an analogy, let’s say you are renting a house. When you rent a house, you do not receive any additional value from the rental over time. Even if you rent the house for 100 years, you’ll be living in the exact same house in the 100th year as you would the first year (give or take some additional repairs!).
This is different from subscribing to the Autoshopinvoice.com app. When your auto shop subscribes to a cloud based service like Autoshpinvoice.com, your shop gains value over time through bug fixes, patches, security updates, and new feature releases. Imagine if the rental house described above was continuously repaired and had renovations and expansions completed on it throughout the years. Similarly, our software is a living, breathing entity that is constantly evolving to better fit the needs of our customers and their businesses. Our focus is on continuously providing as much value through, design, usability, and engineering for our paying customers. By supporting the subscription software model, you’re helping support these efforts.
A few other helpful definitions
What is software?
At a basic level, software is just a specific set of instructions for computers to follow. Software tells your computer what to do and how to do it. This is different from hardware, which is the physical machinery that actually does the work. Software and hardware work together hand-in-hand to complete different tasks. For example, the web page you’re reading right now was loaded by software which told your computer to load this blog page. The computer or phone screen you’re reading from is the hardware that loaded the page.
What is an app?
An application (or app for short) is a type of software that was made for a specific purpose. In the case of Auto Shop Invoice customers, the Auto Shop Invoice app was made to help auto repair shop owners manage their garage. The app has a lot of different components and features, such as CRM, invoicing, and parts database. However, don’t let this distract you from the fact that it’s all software.
It can be hard to distinguish between software and applications, as the two are often used interchangeably. However, the important thing to remember is that an app is just a specific type of software.
I’ve seen the term CRM thrown around. What does it mean?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. For our purposes, we will define CRM as a way for auto repair shops, garages, and collision repair businesses to manage their interactions and relationships with their customers. The Autoshopinvoice.com app has a built-in CRM that lets our customers easily manage their customers’ contact information and data.
This contact info can then be used in other parts of our app. For example, one of the great things about our invoice builder is that it integrates seamlessly with your CRM and parts & products data. This means you can build invoices quickly using existing customer data from your CRM and existing parts data from the Products section of the app.
Interested in learning more about the automotive software industry? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Auto Repair Shop Management Software for more.