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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.
On Cloud 9
Cloud-based systems also let users store and access workout data that can be sent from a piece of cardio equipment to a smartphone or tablet. Members can store workout goals, chart progress through a series of classes or personal training sessions and use cloud-based systems to schedule, reschedule or cancel appointments. Ties to Facebook and Twitter accounts help the club spread the word on member preferences and recommendations.
Andy Wigderson, vice president of sales and marketing for Houston-based fitness software vendor CSI Software, says these types of interactions are “systems of engagement,” made possible by cloud-based services, as opposed to static data residing within a specific club or location that must be parsed and broadcast from that one location or database to members. Given the ease of scalability and the cost-efficient nature of cloud-based computing, Wigderson suggests all facilities, both large and small, will continue to move to the cloud now and in the future.
“We are at the point where we are pretty much only offering the cloud,” Wigderson says.
Even some equipment manufacturers have gone to the cloud. Technogym, Cesena, Italy, for example, offers its mywellness apps as cloud-based programs. The cloud-based systems are used for the member experience but also for the asset management system for club operators. Precor’s Preva system, which is an entertainment system for members and an asset management system for club owners, also is cloud-based.
Piringer sees the growth of cloud-based computing among fitness clubs as inevitable and inexorable.
“We are seeing a lot of facilities embracing this concept,” he says. “Most of the holdouts are from companies that are technology-impaired anyway. When they are asked to adopt the new platform, it is not the cloud itself they are resisting but rather resistance to new technology directions. The main benefit is that you don’t have to manage your IT infrastructure. It frees you up from having to learn about what the next different version of Windows is.”
Zagrodzky says that the only potential drawbacks to cloud-based computing are concerns about data security and the potential for Internet outages.