Friday, February 25, 2011

Love/Hate Relationship with SAAS

I’m already residing primarily in the cloud, and for the most part, it’s delivered its promises. And this is from a guy that spent some considerable time in the dim, dark past as a bean counter, concerned with proprietary data and endless backups. But the lure of working from any device and letting someone else worry about software updates is strong. It’s a hard enough decision to cloud-base your documents and other files in Google Docs or Dropbox. But choosing a business Human Resources Information System (HRIS) or Learning Management System  (LMS) that you don’t host is much more gut wrenching. And the bigger and more strategic the database is that your trusting to someone else, the bigger the wrench.

We’ve got two different Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) models currently here in the hospital. Our Ceridian HRIS is a hybrid. The production database is on remote servers, but we host a “replica” that’s refreshed every 30 minutes. This model gives up the major advantage of not requiring our Information Systems department to dedicate hardware and maintenance. On the plus side, we’ve got access to an exact, full, and fairly current copy of the database, so that as long as we’ve got some SQL programming firepower, we can report anything we like. Contrast that with our ResultsOnDemand LMS from SumTotal. It’s completely remote (no replica). Our IS guys don’t have to do anything except keep our internal PC browsers updated and compatible. The downside is in access to the data. SumTotal gives us a complicated, SRSS soution. The SQL report writer (BIDS) lets us mine our data from a nightly refreshed remote database they call a reporting schema. This contains all the data SumTotal THINKS someone might want. With patience, and an adventurous spirit, we have found most of what we need. But the fact is, the visibility in this part of the cloud is limited, and you’re forced to feel your way at times.

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