I agree with a lot of the posts here on several topics...
1. Yes, you definitely have to have the basics down before automating. I don't think that is your concern though, even with paper and pencil, you need to have your HACCP, SOPs, CCPs down.
Software providers are only that, they provide you with a tool to make your data collection, analysis, and reporting more efficient and effective. Before any implementations, I always tell my clients that the configuration of the software will be much much quicker and simpler when all the food safety docs and processes are organized because the software gets configured to follow the those processes. For example, limits for different tests/sampling sites/products/ingredients, frequencies tasks or tests are scheduled, etc.
2. Cloud-based systems: I understand your concerns, but there is a very small chance your data will spill. Our system is not cloud-based, but I do know a few things about system that are. Most of these software providers use Amazon or Microsoft clouds which are pretty solid, but of course there is always that small chance issues may come up. Our system is actually installed on computers. Clients have a choice to host their own data, or we can host at our own data centers with tight securities.
3. Safety Chain is very quickly becoming the thought leader in the food safety software industry. They've had longer presence then a lot of the other web-based data management systems. They definitely have most modules down and may be able to manage your whole fsqa program. And of course all this means the cost will be much higher and it will take longer to implement. There are other providers out there that will cost a lot less and have (maybe not all) but most of the same capabilities. If you like I can provide you with a list of software I know of. They all have different strengths and weaknesses as well as price tag ranges.
4. Amount of data to be collected will get bigger and bigger, and let's be realistic, paper-based data collection is going to be a huge headache. Even 1-2 plant companies are moving away from it. At some point, that will be the norm.
Simon, I am also a new user, and I hope my post was general and informative enough not to be sales-y. :)