Your dispatch system is outdated, and you know it’s time for an upgrade. (Or if you’re unsure, check out 5 signs to upgrade your CAD system.) Now you must decide to go with an on-premises solution or a cloud-based CAD system. While they each have pros and cons, cloud is the clear winner. Here are six reasons why.
Whether your PSAP suffers a COVID-19 scare or is ravaged by a natural disaster, there are plenty of reasons you might need to relocate your communications center. Having a cloud-based CAD system like Axon Respond future-proofs you from such situations.
“In most cases, having dispatchers work remotely when you have an on-premises solution is really not possible,” says Jason Tillman, director of product marketing for Axon Respond. “Cloud-based CAD systems, on the other hand, naturally lend themselves to giving dispatchers the ability to access your CAD from anywhere you want them to work — at home, spread out between stations or offices, etc.”
Just think of the staffing implications of having this type of flexibility. Let’s say half your telecommunicators come down sick or your department is severely understaffed. Rather than pulling dispatchers in at their overtime rate, you could contract with another jurisdiction to cover shifts. And forget having to pay for drive time. They could take calls and handle dispatch from wherever they’re at with minimal setup.
On-premises dispatch systems require constant maintenance in the form of equipment replacement and firmware updates, eating into both your capital and personnel budgets. And when the system goes down, you have to wait for your IT administrator to fix it, which, depending on time of day or night, may require a callout. Plus, there’s the cost of added security surrounding the physical equipment. Still, you can’t protect against every threat.
“If you have all your dispatch hardware in a backroom or the basement somewhere … what if there’s a flood, a hurricane or an earthquake?” Tillman says. “You may have a backup somewhere, but you’re going to have a lot of downtime switching over to it.”
In contrast, cloud solutions like Axon Respond are housed in highly secure off-site locations. If a server goes down, the system automatically switches over to a different one to maintain connectivity.
“With the cloud, you can ensure operational continuity,” Tillman says.
When it comes to on-premises CAD systems, costs can vary widely from year to year. The up-front costs for a new system are sizable and difficult to carve out room for in budgets, which is why many agencies operate with severely out-of-date communications software. And it’s difficult to predict maintenance costs, because you never know when equipment will need to be replaced.
Cloud-based CAD systems, however, are simple to budget for. That’s because they are based on a straightforward subscription model. You pay per number of licenses you require. So unless you plan to increase or decrease your communications staff by a large percentage, you’ll always know how much your system will cost you.
Let’s say you do get approved to hire additional communications staff. You may then also need to request budget for additional hardware — and time to set it up — depending on the number of seats you’re adding. But with the cloud, all you have to do is contact your provider. Access can be granted nearly immediately, so new dispatchers can begin training right away.
Updating a traditional CAD system can be costly.
“Oftentimes these on-premises solutions are highly customized,” Tillman says. “So you can’t just run an update like you would on your home computer. Chances are, you’re going to have to get a consultant to come out and do those updates for you.”
Yet many updates are for security purposes and may even be federally mandated. And don’t even think about getting new features or functionality without paying a pretty penny. It’s different, though, with cloud-based Axon Respond.
“We’re constantly enhancing our software and adding new features,” Tillman says. “You’d be hard pressed to find any on-premises solution that does the same without additional cost.”
Continual updates means your communications staff — and ultimately your officers and citizens — benefit from always having access to the latest technology. And because we release updates incrementally, no change is ever so large to require retraining of staff.
“In contrast, when you replace a traditional CAD system that you’ve had for 10-plus years with a new one, technology will be very different,” Tillman says. “It’ll be like going from Windows 95 to Windows 10. That’s a major change, and your staff would have a lot to relearn. It will take them time to become as proficient as they were at the old system.”
With an on-premises solution, your IT staff needs to take the system offline to install updates. They’ll schedule updates to happen at a typically slow time of day, but things rarely go as planned. Cloud-based CAD systems like Axon Respond, however, push out robust and more frequent updates than on-premises systems, meaning there’s less downtime.
“We did a survey and found that almost a quarter of agencies experienced CAD outages — whether for security updates, maintenance or some other reason — about once a month,” Tillman says. “That’s insane to me. CAD is a life-and-death tool. That would be like a hospital being out of service once a month. It’s just plain unacceptable.”
If you’re ready to make the switch to a cloud-based CAD system, we can help. Contact us to learn more about Axon Respond.