Multifamily In The Cloud: How Cloud Computing Can Provide Cost Effective Property Management Solutions
MultiHousing News ran a recent article discussing ways cloud computing is transforming apartment management. Instead of needing to install hardware and software to manage disparate parts of apartment management, with cloud computing managers can increasingly outsource execution of programs related to managing data and delivering services. The term “cloud” management comes from the cloud-like symbol that visual thinkers often use to symbolize the Internet when they make charts. “The principle behind the cloud” says Wikipedia, “is that any computer connected to the Internet is connected to the same pool of computing power, applications, and files.” The principle behind cloud managing, then, is that managers in different places can draw on the same pool of management services that relate to keeping apartments in great shape and residents happy.
Perhaps you are already using cloud applications and don’t even realize it. Amazon.com’s new ‘Cloud Drive’ offers 5 GB of free online storage with unlimited access from any computer! You can keep important files but also music in this free drive (and more storage is available for a minimal fee) – upload and download to and from it anywhere you have a computer – and never worry about losing stuff. Are you a Pandora listener at work? Here’s a great way to listen to 5 G of your own music. On the job market and need to keep your resumes and paperwork readily available at all times? Amazon’s Cloud Drive to the rescue!
More related to Multifamily – what about keeping all your backups in a common cloud drive? This way, everybody has access to leases, forms, and documents in case paperwork gets misplaced.
The benefits of cloud management? Reduced cost, and people running each individual system who know the system frontwards and backwards. If you outsource your IT infrastructure, for example, people who are real IT experts can handle IT problems—probably much faster and better than you could’ve. And this will free up your time as a manager to be able to deal with other issues that do require your specific knowledge of your company and/or your residents.
Another example: if your housing servers are managed on the cloud, those who run the service will be responsible for backing everything up and for hiring technology people (if necessary) to customize the service to meet your specific needs; again, these cloud companies—sometimes also known as external service providers, or ESPs—will know more of the nitty gritty about servers than you ever would. Plus, since it’s their business, it’s unlikely they’ll forget to do routine tasks such as backups that could fall by the wayside if left to you (one busy apartment manager!) to do.
Using online property management systems for management tasks keeps your staff small and able to attend to immediate customer service needs. Typically you won’t need to know how to run the system; rather, you’ll just need to know what you want it to do, and then someone else who is well trained will be responsible for execution and delivery. You’ll have to hire fewer people (hiring your cloud company/companies instead), buy fewer specialized computing gizmos, drives and add-ons, and download, install and learn fewer new software programs.
Property management and cloud computing are natural partners: many property managers are often far from the “main office” anyway. Instead of each location having all the software and hardware that could possibly be needed for each part of the job, working off a single “cloud” location where everything is centralized will be a time- and space- saver for most companies—and probably a money-saver and stress-reducer, too.
Of course, there are possible downsides, but they can be controlled. It boils down to this: your managers need to be better communicators working with remote/cloud team members. Some tips for managers?
- Be sure to define clearly what you need when you have conversations with cloud partners
- Set in place processes and rules so that you’re consulted at critical points by cloud partners (or, conversely, so that people on the cloud know what to bother you about and what they’re empowered to make decisions about on their own)
- Be sure cloud contacts have backup systems in place and be sure you’re not trusting just one person at a company (if that person quits, your company will be in trouble)