Why are some agencies adopting records management systems in the cloud?
Advances in technology are benefiting public safety personnel and communities across the nation as agencies adopt innovative tools to aid in protecting and serving the public. Traditional on-premises software systems have been a mainstay for many medium to large agencies for decades and continue to deliver results and new developments in software capabilities. However, these large-scale systems are not always the most practical option for smaller agencies and the communities they serve. Now, an alternative exists, thanks to the continued development of web-based technology and a surge of users in the realm of cloud computing. Web-based software platforms offer many of the same advantages of large, on-premises systems, but at a scale and cost that is manageable for even the smallest public safety agencies.
Purchasing a new software system is a large undertaking for any agency, especially when community and agency size makes it difficult to justify a large upfront cost. A web-based software solution can be an excellent alternative for these agencies because it removes the burden of hosting the database from the agency itself. Instead, the software vendor is responsible for securely storing data and maintaining the physical database offsite. The agency itself does not need to worry about purchasing, storing, and maintaining expensive servers, or hiring dedicated personnel to manage them.
Because web-based systems generally operate using a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, small public safety agencies can avoid purchasing disproportionately large and complex software systems that go beyond the needs of their personnel and communities. The SaaS model instead functions through individual user subscriptions, so each agency pays only for the number of user logins needed. This method makes it possible for an agency with 30 users or an agency with five users to only purchase the amount of licenses they need. Neither need to worry about breaking their budgets for large software packages that might not be fully utilized.
Much like web-based software such as online banking portals, social media networks, and e-commerce websites, many web-based public safety systems are ready for immediate use at the time of subscription. This allows agencies to bypass lengthy implementation processes needed by most on-premises solutions. Web-based systems generally operate very intuitively and require little or no previous software experience, which allows personnel to spend less time training and more time serving the public. The web-based structure also relieves the agency of the necessity of keeping dedicated IT personnel in-house. Instead, the vendor is responsible for maintaining the database, updating the software, and providing technical support.
The SaaS format generally allows access to all software updates in the cost of the subscription, providing public safety personnel with constant access to cutting-edge tools, regardless of location, size, hardware, and date the software was originally implemented. Frequent software updates can be distributed instantly through the cloud with no hardware installation or manual updates required. The vendor simply updates the application within the cloud and every participating agency gains instant access to the new technology. This gives agency administrators confidence that the software they have purchased will not become outdated or obsolete.
The web-based software model also gives public safety personnel the added advantage of built-in data mobility without requiring the additional products often needed with on-premises systems. Any device with an Internet connection can provide users with access to mission-essential information, whether in the office or out in the community. Personnel can use web-enabled laptops, tablets, and even smartphones to access name and vehicle records, follow computer-aided dispatch activity, and even file routine reports in the field. This increases visibility within the community and shortens call response time. Data stored in the cloud is not tethered to any single device or location, but remains accessible to agency personnel from anywhere and at any time.
Public safety agencies of every size can benefit from effective and reliable technology, but traditional on-premises software systems are not always practical options for smaller agencies with limited resources and manpower. Web-based software systems offer an alternative by providing scalable technology without the burden of high up-front costs, inflexible purchasing options, lengthy training and implementation processes, and expensive server installation and maintenance. The flexible, affordable, and intuitive nature of cloud technology provides small public safety agencies across the country with cutting-edge tools that might have otherwise been out of reach.