Many fitness facility owners, managers and staff members appear to be walking around with their heads in the clouds these days. That is where club member data is going, as health clubs increasingly turn to Internet cloud-based computing systems to do everything from manage billing systems to boost membership and promote club services.

Indeed, cloud-based computing, popularized in large part the past few years by companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, puts both data and applications off-site, allowing a club to access all its data and programs via a growing number of devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets) and from any location with Internet access.

“Long gone are the days of being stuck in the back office or tied to the front desk,” says Rachelle Dodge, marketing manager for ASF International, a Denver-based fitness software company. “The cloud has made it possible to work from home, the coffee shop, the studio floor or anywhere you have Internet access.”

Advantages to cloud computing are numerous, says Kyle Zagrodzky, president of iGo Figure Software, Houston. Cloud-based systems, he says, are faster to install, cheaper to maintain and update, let companies roll out new features more quickly, are generally warmly embraced by users (who now have 24/7 access to their personal member data) and promote the club as forward-thinking and member-focused.

Frank Piringer, a marketing implementation manager for fitness software provider EZ Facility, Bethpage, NY, lists some of the ways fitness club activities are opened up using cloud-based computing. Trainers, he says, can schedule and run a boot camp or class outside the facility—on a beach or in a local park— and use a smartphone to register users, take attendance and send data directly to the home club. Companies with multiple facilities can seamlessly offer services and let users schedule classes at multiple locations using a single interface. Clubs can use cloud-based systems to broadcast photos of their clubs, news of events or special offers, send invoices or billing statements and allow customers to log in any time, day or night, to search for club information.