Do I Need a Website or a Software Application?

 

Google has estimated that there are at least 1 trillion webpages on the Internet and billions of websites. Websites are so ubiquitous and familiar that whenever a company decides to automate some process or system, the question is often asked, “Should we build a website?”

This same question often arises when strata corporations see the need to automate and otherwise improve and streamline communications amongst their council members, owners/residents and property management companies.

To answer the question whether a website is the best tool or some other solution is needed, there are two questions strata council members should ask themselves:

Mini-Government

A condo board or a strata corporation is like a mini-government. It has corporate and personal property to maintain and protect; bylaws to govern and manage both the property and the residents’ who use it; security and bylaw enforcement issues, liability issues, and so forth. It is critical that the appropriate software application is used to facilitate all of this activity.


1. What are we trying to accomplish? What problems are we trying to solve? What are the benefits we hope to achieve from this exercise?

A well thought-out answer to the above is critical to answering the next question. Based on the strata corporation’s needs—today and 5 years from now . . .

2. What type of software application is best designed to meet these needs? What are the dangers of making an uninformed decision?

Most strata councils think that a website is what they need. There is, however, a world of difference between a small or even medium-sized business and a strata corporation. Unlike a business, a condo board / strata corporation is like a mini-government. It has corporate property to maintain and protect; personal property to protect; it has bylaws to govern and manage both the property and the residents’ who use it. Part and parcel of this mini-government are security issues, bylaw enforcement, liability issues, the constant movement of people in and out of the complex, and the importance of meeting their changing needs.

To keep this mini-government functioning, there are thousands of communication points that occur every month of every year between all stakeholders. These lines of communication are like the arteries, veins and capillaries in our bodies. What informed property managers and strata councils are beginning to realize is that they need a better heart to keep these lines of communication flowing, and to share, store and manage the tens of thousands of communications.

Unfortunately for many strata councils who have opted for the website option, they soon realize that it just does not work they way they had hoped for.

Why is a website the wrong tool for strata corporations?

 

Let’s illustrate the answer. Building a website for a strata corporation’s communications needs is much like using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to do word-processing. Excel can provide rudimentary word-processing, but it is the wrong tool for this application. It only makes sense to use a software program such as Word which has been uniquely designed for this type of work. Just because a person could use Excel doesn’t mean they should.

Another comparison is that strata corporations hire property management companies to help manage their properties. Why don’t strata corporations hire engineering companies or construction companies to manage their properties? The answer is obvious—property management companies have specialized expertise and experience uniquely developed for this purpose. Likewise, websites are not the right tool for managing the communication needs of strata corporations.

Essentially, the tool that the strata corporation uses for its communications is an extension of its physical entity. And just as the bylaws that are enacted are designed to protect the physical location and people involved in the Strata corporation, so there should be the same level of attention given to a strata corporation’s online presence, with all of the liability and other issues that it entails. So if Bylaws protect your physical location and complex, what do you need to have in place to protect your online presence?

CERNO SOFTWARE: WEBSITE OR SOFTWARE APPLICATION?

 

Cerno Software looks like a website. Isn’t it just a version of a website?

It is accurate to say that Cerno Software lives on the Internet, and is what is referred to as “cloud-based.” But it is not a website. It is a software application that is web-based. Therein lies the critical difference.

The best way to think about the difference between a software application (web application), and a website is to ask yourself what is it being used for; or what is its purpose. If the sole purpose is to market or advertise a service or product, then we call those websites.

However, if the purpose is utility in nature, designed to solve a problem or make one’s job/life easier, then it’s more accurately described as an application.

Let’s consider a couple of examples. Park Insurance has a website (www.parkinsurance.ca), and not a software application. The primary purpose of Park’s website is to inform/market its insurance products and services to people who are searching on the Internet for insurance. Park’s website is not meant to become a communications hub between its many policyholders, appraisers, contractors, and others.

Google’s Gmail on the other hand is a web or software application because its primary purpose is to allow you to send and receive email. You could argue that Gmail is marketing to users through their ads and links to other products, however, Gmail itself is an application.

Software applications are also usually designed, compiled and built from scratch using a variety of software programming languages whereas most websites are typically built on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Tumblr, Joomla, or sometimes from a combination of HTML, CSS and Javascript. Nonetheless, software applications tend to be longer and more complex in design, architecture and development.

In this case, Cerno Property Management Software is a software system and not a website. Cerno was developed to serve as a communications centre for property management companies and strata corporations, including one-on-one communications, group communications, restricted and secure communications, document sharing, storing and management.

If it was as simple a designing a website, we would have simply done that. We wouldn’t have invested the resources to develop a specialized software application. However, we spent the past 6 years, working with property management companies, strata agents and councils, as well as their associations to develop just the right system for their business.

“BUT, WE JUST WANT A WEBSITE!”

 

If a strata council simply wants a “face” for the corporation, with a few pictures of the complex and not much more, then a website may be a good option. But it is the wrong tool for more serious communications needs, not to mention the legal ramifications of just putting information about the strata corporation online, which can be far reaching.

In our experience, those strata corporations that have a website are now calling us because they realize that what they have is inadequate for their needs.

“BUT I STILL WANT A WEBSITE!”

For those who insist on a website for their corporation, just a word to the wise . . . here are the usual options that a strata council has to choose from when they decide to have a website built for their strata corporation.

A Friend of a Friend

Cerno Property Management Software

Cerno Property Management Software is fully customizable to each strata corporation and property management company. Therefore, you get all of the graphic design and layout features, pictures and video options that a traditional website offers. Unlike a website, however, Cerno provides a complete communications system that:
• Ensures secure and easy document management, file sharing, and storage
• Lower operational costs
• No email overload; faster, easier, trackable communications
• Reduced liability
• Peace of mind


Cost for the Website = $200. Everyone has a helpful friend who always wanted to try his or her hand at website development. They’ll take on building your website as a hobby challenge. However, it’s good to ask yourself what does this helpful “volunteer” know about strata corporations? Or, the Strata ACT? Provincial and federal privacy regulations? Online security requirements? How hard are they going to work to complete your site? What if it breaks, will he/she be available to fix it? And the list goes on. In short, even if they have a little experience in building a website, are you going to trust the future of your strata corporation (your mini-government) to his experience? Besides, a website is the wrong tool for a strata corporation.

Strata Council Member

Cost of the Website = $1,000. Ralph is a retired computer network administrator and is ready to help out any way he can. So, he’s more than willing to build your strata corporation website. In fact, he suggests that he can use a template (he can get a good deal on it at $69). All he has to do is just build it up into a custom designed site for the strata corporation. And how hard can that be? Time for a reality check. Although Ralph worked with computers he was a network administrator and not a web designer or developer. Technologically, these are worlds apart from what Ralph used to do. There is a lot more to building a website than picking a template, choosing your favourite color, adding the strata corporation’s logo and some pictures. Ralph is confident that he can learn as he goes. But are you really sure you want Ralph to build the heart of your strata corporations communications system? (For other guiding questions, see “Friend of a Friend” above.)

The Phonebook Company

Cost of Website = Free. It can’t get much better than this—free! Here are a few facts about the Phonebook Company option: Did you know that even though you pay them to build your site, you don’t own it? You’re leasing it. Stop paying your $50 a month “hosting fee” and your site disappears along with all the information in it. Also, your site is built on the back of the Phonebook’s website. Why is this bad? Because search engines think your website is just some information the phone book is putting out for them to index their site not yours. This is one of the worst options out there for you. If you’re seriously considering this option, STOP. Call the “Friend of a Friend” (the strata council member’s nephew) and engage him to do your website. It may take much longer but at least you’ll own it.

Fancy Marketing Firm

Cost $20,000. This is the deluxe option. This isn’t surprising; after all someone has to pay for their trendy offices and luxury cars. You quickly realize that the $20,000 they’re charging to build your website should cost significantly less.

Decisions, Decisions

So, when deciding on what tool you will use and who will build your strata corporation’s communications system, here are some questions to answer:

  • How knowledgeable is that person regarding:
    • Day-to-day lines of communication within a strata corporation, and the people issues that impact these communications
    • How conversant are they with the impact that strata or condominium legislation has on information sharing online and off-line?
    • Are they familiar with the application of provincial and federal privacy regulations for information sharing online and offline?
    • Are they cognizant of the liability issues that are germane to strata corporations, and how to pre-empt the possibility of lawsuits when developing your online presence?
    • Realistically speaking, how available and for how long with the person who builds the website be around for fixes, upgrades, storage issues, and other problems?

NOW A WORD ABOUT SECURITY

 

Security of information is on everyone’s mind. And so it should be. Whether it is security when sending emails or sharing files over the internet, transacting business or doing online banking—security is the number one issue. Everyone understands the need for anti-virus programs on their personal computers. This need is escalated when a company or corporation is gathering, storing and sharing confidential information about its customers, or in the case of a strata corporation its owners/residents and other stakeholders.

How has Cerno Software addressed this issue? One of the answers is by using 256-bit encryption. Here is an easy to grasp explanation of encryption and the different levels to it.

Encryption is a mathematical process of coding and decoding information. The number of bits (40-bit, 56-bit, 128-bit, 256-bit) tells you the size of the key used for the encryption. Just like typing in a longer password makes it harder for a hacker to figure it out, so a larger encryption key has more possible combinations and is therefore harder to crack. In fact, 128-bit encryption is one trillion times stronger than 40-bit encryption.

Bank-Level Encryption

Online Security

Online security is a specialized field. The harsh reality is that the majority of website designers and developers are just that—designers and developers. They are not security specialists and therefore the majority of sites offered or developed for strata corporations provide rudimentary security at best.


When a person conducts an online financial transaction with their bank, the institution is using 128-bit AES encryption. How secure is 128-Bit AES encryption? If someone were to somehow intercept the data, it would take multiple supercomputers decades to decipher a 128-bit encryption.

So, how do data breaches occur that we hear about in the news? In most cases, it is human error. The persona may have been careless with their PIN numbers or passwords; or they didn’t bother to set-up and use available password protection features on their computer when sharing confidential data; documents containing confidential information are not shredded before they’re discarded. In some cases, the person is disgruntled with their employer and for payback they breech confidential company data and share it with others who use it for criminal purposes.

Websites are particularly notorious for lacking needed security features. Online security is a specialized field. The harsh reality is that the majority of website designers and developers are just that—designers and developers. They are not security specialists and therefore the majority of sites offered or developed for strata corporations are rudimentary at best.

The reality is that it is extremely rare to find a website developer who understands the strata and property management companies’ needs, and the level of security that is required.

Cerno Software and Security

What about Cerno Software? Cerno uses 256-bit encryption, which is a higher level of encryption than the banks! Why? The creators of the Cerno software projected into the future and concluded that it is better to add it now, rather than be forced to add it later. There is a reason that 256-bit AES encryption is available. It is starting to be used by more software developers. Internet security (or the breakdown of it), happens fast. Cerno Software decided to be on the leading edge in this regard.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this question:

Who does a strata corporation want to entrust to build the heart of its online communications network?

 

HOW CERNO SUPPORTS PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANIES

 

Identifying a strata corporation’s information sharing needs and then selecting the right tool to make it happen represents a learning curve for strata council members. It can also be a challenge for property management companies to educate strata council members on the technical issues involved.

Cerno Software’s representatives are pleased to work along with property management companies to facilitate this educational process. How?

  • We offer property management companies the benefit of inviting us to attend one of the strata council’s meetings to describe the available technology options and their relative strengths and weaknesses . . .
    • Without any obligation to choose Cerno Software
    • At no charge to them or to the property management companies

Our participation in such a meeting would be the same as when a representative from the police/fire department is invited to speak to the strata council on security and fire prevention issues. Similarly, a Cerno representative makes a brief presentation to review the options/needs and answers any questions.

Call us toll-free for a 20 minute Demo:

1-604-339-6590

back to top