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In an independent photography business good cloud software is vital for growth. It helps simplify your workflow, reduces operational costs which in turn lets you focus on winning new business. In fact, it should act as a medium that holds all the aspects of your photography business together and allows everything to inter-operate effortlessly and naturally, as in a living organism. That includes your clients, your staff, retouching service providers and other services that help you succeed, plus your accounting system and of course your web site, image repository and whatever other data-related tools your photography business uses.
A cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) platform built for photography professionals allows you to store your photos in what is essentially a digital storage closet with access via any internet connection. If anything should ever happen to your laptop or camera or to whatever storage device you use, then you’ll still have all of the digital assets you’ve worked so hard on. In fact they will be stored in a location that is not only safe but can be accessed anywhere, anytime and shared with photo retouching experts and others who are involved in producing top-quality digital assets.
All of these capabilities for operating your business function together more or less as a single unit. Plus, none of it requires that you buy computer hardware and software and pay for the ongoing license fees and other costs of hosting a system at your place of business. You are simply renting all of these great services and are able to immediately add more capacity or shrink it down as your needs change – no need to overspend on computer resources out of fear you may outgrow them. A pure SaaS solution is usage based and you can opt out anytime if your circumstances change.
“Gartner defines Software as a Service (SaaS) as software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers. The provider delivers software based on one set of common code and data definitions that is consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers at anytime on a pay-for-use basis or as a subscription based on use metrics.” (https://www.gartner.com).
So what is the difference between on-premise, private cloud & public cloud? The private cloud is one step removed from on-premise software (hosted on your own computers). It is software installed on cloud infrastructure (such as Amazon Web Services – AWS, Microsoft Azure or the Google Cloud Platform) but is still dedicated to you as the end customer. That means all the operational costs of patching and monitoring is on you. A true public cloud SaaS shares these costs across all it’s clients in a multi-tenanted model. So your data is securely demarcated from other clients, but within a shared database and storage environment, processed on virtual computers on top of a layer of physical hardware. Hence operational costs savings can reach 30%.
One big differentiator about public cloud SaaS is that you’re not just paying for hardware and software, but also support services that helps you setup and run your business. Often SaaS platforms create a large amount of synergy between customers so that they can efficiently service a wide range of users with minimum resources and overheads. So in theory, the SaaS business’s costs per customer will reduce as they acquire more customers. This should be passed on to you the customer as we have seen with many public cloud platforms that have applied consecutive price drops like AWS. At Imagecloud we have passed on an average of 200% price drops since the initial cohort of early adopters and we have planned a number of further price drops as we scale out in North America.
A pure SaaS platform should provide good tools and support staff for on-boarding, but also make it really easy to opt out at any point within a 30 day billing cycle and give you the tools to take your data with you. Be mindful of these terms & conditions when signing up to any SaaS subscription. Usage based pricing is usually the best for independent photographers who depend on their own time to bring in revenue. If you have a bad month or need to go on a long break, then paying full price during that period is not a good scenario. It’s also worth asking the SaaS business if they will allow you “park” your membership for a defined period while away.
T-shirt sizing for pricing is common practice in SaaS, which means that you get a reduced usage fee per unit of measure as your volumes grow. The idea behind this is that the average operational cost per unit (eg. campaign, digital asset etc.) should reduce for the SaaS business as you grow your volumes. If you are not getting volume discounts with your current subscriptions, try asking for it, it is mostly justified at certain thresholds.
As the world enters the second decade of the public cloud, we have seen a move from experimentation for dev/test environments of large enterprises to full production systems in the cloud. Small to Medium (SME) businesses being more nimble, have adopted the public cloud a lot quicker as we have seen with the Xero explosion after SMEs had enough of installed desktop accounting applications. Adobe is a great example of the move to the cloud being a win-win for customers and Adobe, as seen in this Computer Wold article. Going to a monthly subscription has made the operational costs more affordable for subscribers, reduced piracy across the board and improved the process of distributing upgrades.
So, the public cloud realm and SaaS business models work very well for improving operational efficiency, reducing costs and delivering specialised digital services to clients. Both the software businesses and the subscribers experience cost and productivity benefits as they grow, plus the process of continuous improvement is part of the culture in SaaS businesses. Good SaaS helps you get your house in order, which in turn allows you to spend more time marketing your business, more time behind the camera and more time recruiting staff in order to grow.
If you have any questions about SaaS for photographers and the concepts covered in this blog post, please reach out to us at Imagecloud on firstname.lastname@example.org