General trends in technology over the past decade are beginning to have a big impact on HOA management. Very few software titles catering to the needs of property management were available up until fairly recently. If you attend conferences technology topics are inevitably on the speaking agenda, and trade show floors are dotted with software vendors (it’s not just landscapers, law firms, and banks filling all those booths anymore).
Two major trends are having the biggest impact on property management companies; cloud computing and mobile technologies. Let’s take a moment to consider each of these trends:
“In the cloud”, or “hosted” are terms that simply mean, on another computer or server, accessed remotely. Dropbox, and iTunes are common examples of the cloud in our everyday lives. The trend of putting everything in the cloud is saving businesses on IT hardware and personnel costs. Rather than maintaining everything on an internal server, companies are able to offload file storage and maintenance of expensive hardware to external vendors.
Property management companies can benefit from using cloud-based software for its operations in a few important ways:
- Cost-cuts: As everything transitions to hosted applications, IT costs go down.
- Disaster Recovery: Cloud-based software is more disaster-proof than locally installed products, which means no more manual backups or worrying about data loss.
- Global Access: The cloud allows business operations to become mobile.
Consider all of the gadgets made obsolete by smartphones (check out this link to see a list of, “50 Things Your Smartphone Replaced”). The near ubiquity of smartphones and their power to replace so many of the rad tech toys of the past have driven a trend of mobility. While we might enjoy streaming videos and catching Pokemon on our phones, this trend has had a powerful impact on businesses. A host of mobile applications make work more productive with anytime access to files, emails, and client data in the cloud.
The mobile trend for property managers is easily seen in the growing number of mobile apps and mobile websites for conducting property inspections, communicating with homeowners, and managing vendors. These apps help automate inspection and other tasks and ensure a more uniform enforcement of HOA rules.
With both trends, cloud and mobile, access is the two-edged sword of benefit and liability. With any solution you adopt, be sure to understand what precautions the vendor takes to keep your data safe and secure. Data encryption should be a standard for hosted software to ensure that all traffic between your computer and the remote server is uncompromised. Fully redundant backups should also be a standard practice for any hosted solution so you can rest assured that your data is recoverable in the case of a disaster.
Embrace these technological trends and empower your business by outsourcing the server and making your managers mobile. Just make sure to ask the right questions of any software vendors you consider, such as:
- What encryption standard is used?
- What is the disaster recovery plan?
- Has the plan been tested, and is it tested periodically?
- How frequent are full system backups?
- Are backups redundant (data is backed up to multiple servers in separate geographical locations)?
- What security measures are in place to identify and prevent hack attacks?
- What is the guaranteed up-time of the system?
- Has the system ever had unscheduled outages?
We’re at an exciting point where current and future trends promise to transform businesses and our lives. The HOA industry has been slower than some industries to adopt new technologies, but property management companies no longer have the luxury of waiting; being competitive means staying on trend with technology.