“Software as a Service”

Modern internet browsers and their counterparts on the other end, web services, are capable of bringing complex content to their users over the internet nowadays. Just think of browser games, Google Maps or social media platforms. And obviously, this isn’t a one way street: User data can be saved online and shared with other people. Many software manufacturers these days make use of improved internet connections and performance-capable browsers by offering browser versions of their software. Microsoft’s Office 365 is a popular example. Word or Excel documents can be edited in any modern web-browser and documents can be saved into a private or shared container, no matter if the device you’re using has the software installed or not. This doesn’t only work with simple spreadsheets or documents, but also with whole accounting software suits, customer information or point of sale systems. While data can be saved on your computer, the real benefit starts when it’s saved somewhere in a secure datacentre. As you don’t know where exactly and you most likely won’t care, it’s called the cloud. Customers also don’t buy the software itself anymore but rather pay a monthly or yearly fee for the service, which is why this business model is called “Software as a Service” (SaaS). What sounds like a subscription trap can actually be a commercial benefit for the customer as well.

Benefits for wineries

Forget about backup. If your computer bursts in flames, get another device and continue where you have been before. Next, forget about updates as well. Updates are included in the service fee and you don’t need to buy an update every other year. As the application is hosted at the company you get it from, they take care about implementing new features and enhancements or can activate additional modules you purchase. Things can still go wrong sometimes, but that’s more likely to happen on computers the manufacturer cannot control than on his own devices. That also means that if you ever have a problem, the support staff can help you out without having to see your device. And a device can anything that has a web browser, from a desktop computer to your tablet, smart-TV or smartphone. So for example, using a cloud-based marchandise management system on your smartphone, you can create an offer, check your stock or add customer information on the run. With a cloud based vineyard management system, you can do your documentation while still being in the vineyard, so you don’t forget anything. When you arrive back home, the information on your computer is already up to date. Depending on your financial circumstances, “renting” the software might even save you some taxes, as the fees count for oprating expenses rather than operational expenses (as licenses for software do).

Disadvantages

Cloud software is designed to work online. There are applications that keep an offline copy of your data on the device so you working with an interrupted connection is possible, but if you have an unstable internet connection in general or need to pay high fees to get online, you better stick with an on-premise software solution.
For some businesses it’s also a problem to save sensitive data like finance figures or customer information outside their premises. This doesn’t apply for most companies in the wine business, as a professional datacentre is in general more secure than any office. Still, a trustful vendor is indispensible and needs to be carefully picked.

Choosing the right solution

Besides trust, it is important to choose a vendor with a firm foothold in the industry. If the vendor gives up on developing the solution or even stops the business, your data is at risk. Also make sure to choose a solution that fits your needs in terms of feature set and local requirements (i.e. language-, documentation- or legal-wise). The requirements for wine business between countries are different enough to make foreign solutions either expensive to customize or frustrating to use.
Other than that, the same criteria as for choosing locally installed software applies and is basically determined by the companys objects (wine growing, wine production and/or wine selling/reselling) and other specific parameters (accomodation, number of employees, vineyard size, …).

Some available solutions for wineries and winegrowers

We collected some cloud services we found useful for the wine business and will keep this list up to date as new solutions come to our attention. Please note this is neither a recommendation nor a complete list. If you need help setting up a solution or choosing the right supplier for your venture, please contact us.

Winery applications (Germany)

  • Weinmann – The experienced manunfacturer of wine software is bringing more and more of the core functionality into the cloud version
  • Weinbau-Online.de – The first pure cloud solution for the German market has established itself among wineries and comes with all the features small to mid-sized wineries usually need, including interfaces to several web-shops etc.

Vineyard applications

  • eVineyard – A vineyard management application that helps you coordinate work and workers, keep track of actions, predicts necessary actions in your vineyard based on your actions, weather forecasts or sensors

General office/business applications

  • Microsoft Office 365 – The cloud version of the well-known office suite, with online storage for documents and frequent useful software updates
  • Google Docs – Not as feature-rich as the office suite, but a nice and free (!) entry into working with the cloud