Vesica Blog - Taking museum and art collections to the cloud

April 11, 2012

Museum Technology: Adopt and Adapt

Filed under: Museums & Exhibitions,Technology — Tags: , , , , — Asif N @ 12:55 pm

In last month’s post “What would you save? Museums or Libraries?” I said I would talk about basic tips and ideas to help make museums efficient. These will range from a variety of topics, ranging from technology to operational efficiency to marketing. But we’ll start with technology – as it’s really quite a simple one.

As the title of the post says, museums, like most well run businesses, need to adopt and adapt to technologies instead of creating because technology itself is not a core part of their business model. What do I really mean by this? I mean that museums should, for instance, adopt the cloud, adapt to a business model that supports cloud technologies and saves them millions each year instead of investing (or rather expending) a ton of cash on procuring hardware and software that will need to be replaced in a couple of years. If a European bank is comfortable making the move to the cloud, museums can and should rest peacefully about their fears of security. After all, museums do not carry the same level of sensitive data that banks do, despite whatever irrational, unrealistic arguments might exist against that statement. Even if those arguments are to be entertained, most cloud or SaaS providers have gone through PCI compliance at some point, which means the risk is negligible.

Back to the topic at hand, museums are not in the business of technology. They should, therefore, stop spending resources and money on trying to develop technologies and instead work with existing providers and businesses in the marketplace to further technologies useful to them and reduce costs. This is really quite a simple principle and applies to all businesses in general. Take Vesica, for instance. Just because we are a software company that employs developers doesn’t mean we should start building accounting software to manage our financials. Instead, the efficient and business-wise thing to do would be to use accounting software built by another provider specializing in accounting software, preferably cloud / web based, so that, among other things, it is updated automatically with the latest regulation and laws necessary for the accounting function of the business to run smoothly. We could certainly venture into building our own accounting software, but to what end – that’s not our expertise and would be an inefficient use of available development resources.

Similarly, a museum with limited resources should focus on what its goal is and what it is good at – be it delivering an engaging user experience, conservation and preservation of history, education; whatever that goal is – instead of trying to pioneer new technology. If museums, both large and small, stopped consuming resources on trying to pioneer technologies and instead used what is available efficiently and tried to scale it, many of them can save thousands or millions of dollars each year – sadly, though, for many, expending budgets is about satisfying the ego, not bettering the cause of the institution.

Of course, I say this in an environment where research has led to less clarification. More and more organisations and businesses get involved with museums each year, and each of these proposes their own meta data or management standard, rules and methodologies to better run museums and manage collections, or innovative ways to engage with visitors. Whilst discussion and research is necessary to develop viable solutions, much of the discussion is theoretical and generally does not lead to substantial benefits to museums.

At the end of the day, the motto of this post is to say that the museum should focus on buying and using technology that is useful and delivers value for money. Being state-of-the-art, new, cool or wanting to own the latest hardware from Dell and Microsoft is just not reason enough to be wasting money in the 21st century. That’s what the dot-com bubble of the 1990s was for and persistent pursuit of such unwarranted goals will only lead to the shutting down of museums, albeit for no good reason.

 

January 27, 2012

Why SaaS is good for Museums?

I’ve been asked this question 4 times this month already – and the simple answer is that museums, like all other organisations, should focus on what they do – not on software maintenance.

Of course, there is always some context to such questions, so here is some perspective. Typically, many museums, when they ask such a question, think about external funding from governmental organisations to start digitising their collections and feel that they may not be able to get funding to rent a SaaS application to document, archive and digitise their collections. Whilst that may be true in some cases, it is 2012 and such funders and funding organisations need to get with the plan. If they want museums to get more mileage for their money, in majority of the cases, SaaS makes perfect sense – financially and technologically. In my experience, it is simply a matter of communicating this to the funding organisation. At the end of the day, funders want museums to get the most from their investment, not to acquire something that they own and which will become redundant in a short period of time and may require expensive maintenance.

By choosing SaaS to document their collections, museums are, in essence, hiring an external company to build, operate and maintain a system for them — letting the provider make the investments in equipment and software, as well as staff needed to operate the software and related hardware. SaaS vendors like Vesica will deploy, maintain, update, and optimise your collection management applications, along with providing the infrastructure required to run them, while you maintain complete control over your applications and data.

Why should a museum choose a SaaS model? To enhance the user experience, gain remote access, attain service guarantees, achieve compliance, and off-load the many IT responsibilities that aren’t core components of their operation. Spreading infrastructure, development, maintenance, and future innovation costs across a broad base of users and museums means that you can access tools available to large museums tools that would otherwise be out of reach. SaaS essentially allows museums to take advantage of the “pay as you go” model, freeing more time, money and resources for productive tasks. Finally, SaaS applications can be be affordable for smaller museums too. Unlike typical software, SaaS applications require little or no investment and do not tie museums in to long term commitments.

Blackbaud, a SaaS provider of fundraising / CRM software for charities and nonprofits, has a wonderful whitepaper on the benefits of SaaS. To sum up the 7 big benefits Blackbaud mentions:

  • Little or no upfront investment
  • Reliable cost forecasting – affordable and fixed subscription fee model
  • No extras needed – no need to purchase new or proprietary software or hardware
  • Up-to-date technology – SaaS vendors keep your applications up-to-date – it’s how they keep your business, year on year
  • Security and reliability – SaaS vendors maintain compliant, secure, sophisticated and high-capacity infrastructure which becomes available to you without any extra cost
  • Remote access – as long as you there is an internet connection, your staff can access the service
  • Scalability – SaaS apps are flexible and and can help you grow quickly, typically with a few clicks or a phone call – without having to buy additional expensive hardware or software

Still have questions? Our team is here to help – so comment away!

July 5, 2011

Vesica is now available on AppDirect

Filed under: News,Technology — Tags: , , , , — vesica-press-releases @ 5:28 pm

July 1, 2011 – Vesica is now available via the AppDirect marketplace.

AppDirect is a free web-based application which allows you to use and manage web-based applications from anywhere in one simple and secure site. It’s also a marketplace that provides the latest web-based applications. It really is based on the concept of simplifying the use of software on the internet, so we’re glad to be a part of it.

“The integration with AppDirect is another step towards increasing the global awareness of Vesica,” says Asif Nawaz, Founder and Chief Software Architect at Vesica. “With AppDirect’s single sign-on functionality, museums and other art, heritage and cultural organisations can now fully benefit from the use and pricing structure of SaaS applications without the hassle of  managing cross application usernames, passwords and security controls.”

Vesica is the first art collection related application on AppDirect.

Already use AppDirect? Sign-up for Vesica on https://www.appdirect.com/apps/552.

For further information, please contact the Vesica office on +44 (0) 20 8133 8050 or .

June 5, 2011

In the game of browsers, Chrome Wins @ Vesica

Over the last few days we’ve released several updates to the platform, with the result that we’ve been testing vigorously across all the latest browsers. Whilst Vesica works in Firefox 3.5 and 4, Opera 10+, IE 8 and 9, Safari 5 and Chrome 11 along with most tablet PC browsers, Chrome reigns supreme (at least on Microsoft Windows).

I’m not going to go into details of performance, because the difference is really quite obvious without having to measure seconds and milliseconds. Here’s a brief run down of why Chrome really is superior browser:

  • Pages just load faster. Doesn’t matter whether they are heavy on JavaScript or HTML 5. In Chrome they load faster than in any other browser.
  • No JavaScript Lag. I really had high hopes for IE 9 and Firefox 4 here, and whilst they perform vastly better than their predecessors, they simply do not do as well as Chrome does. For instance, the Vesica piece editing interface uses multiple JavaScript / JQuery tabs and accordions with multiple dialogs – compared to Chrome, all the browsers  will have some lag. Even if it is not very noticeable in FF 4 and Safari unless you specifically compare with Chrome, it is there.
  • Smoother Animation. Again, this may have a thing or 2 to do with JavaScript loading better, but all JQuery and HTML5 animation is far better and smoother on screen with Chrome than it is with any other browser.

Whilst I had high hopes for IE9 and Firefox4, I was a little disappointed. Although IE9 really does have great standards compliance and some FF plugins are virtually unparalleled, Chrome just delivers a far more superior experience for an application like Vesica.

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