Things To Consider When Moving Your ERP To The Cloud
The transition to the cloud is a serious undertaking and one that requires a good deal of analysis and planning, not only on the part of IT managers, but actively by all members of the CxO suite. Acumatica, an industry leader in cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), recommends that this list of questions be reviewed and answered during the due diligence phase: Who is in charge? Is it better to employ cloud-based admin software provided by the cloud host using their subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or should you keep the deployment in-house? If you have in-house IT experts, then keeping the software on-premises might prove advantageous, but if not, or if you wish to minimize your IT costs, then let the cloud host take care of the equipment.
Is it scalable? One of the true advantages of using cloud-based solutions, including business management software, is in its immediate scalability, both larger and smaller, providing more resources when needed, and a smaller, less expensive system when demands are lower.
Is it a web-based solution? Some cloud vendors require their customers to install VPN software, which cuts down on the solution’s ability to be accessed from any location and any device. Cloud-based business software should be about convenience and accessibility, as well as reliability and security.
Does it work with other mission-critical software? If real-time data transfer is needed, then the cloud vendor must be able to provide an API that integrates with your other applications.
Is it customizable? One of the challenges with cloud is that it can be a multi-tenant platform, in which many customers share resources. To keep costs low, cloud providers will offer a single application for all customers to use. This might make needed customization of interfaces and functions difficult.
Is it crash-proof? If there is a major incident that affects Internet access, will you still have access to your data? Data is more secure when it is stored in a Tier 1 data center, but it is essential to ensure that redundancy and failover methods are in place to handle serious threats to data access. This, including a promised percentage uptime (e.g. 99.9%) should be clearly identified in the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
What sort of reporting/communication is provided? A cloud-hosting provider of quality should provide clear reports and guidance covering all aspects of your data, including faults or threats that might be present.
Will we still own our data? Investigate the policies that a cloud provider offers regarding re-installing your data back on your own servers in case you decide not to renew with them. Some charge fees for releasing or transferring data.
Is a cloud ERP system too big for a small company? A reputable cloud provider should deliver an unbiased assessment as to whether off-premises services are necessary. Generally speaking, cloud-based SaaS solutions work well for small companies and startups due to the cost saving and outsourcing benefits. Large companies also benefit, of course, due to flexibility and scalability features.
Will employees working from home be able to access the system? If the ERP system is fully web-enabled, then employees working from anywhere should be able to access the appropriate data without additional upgrades to software or hardware.
What happens to my IT people? Moving to the cloud need not make IT staff members redundant. In fact in most cases it frees these people up to attend to other pressing hardware and software issues, as well as acting as the liaison between the company and the cloud provider.
What should I look for in a cloud-based ERP vendor? As with any major business decision, do your homework. Seek out a company with a strong history of great service, including technical and customer service; research online, and interview existing clients.
Is cloud-based ERP Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliant? A reputable cloud-based ERP provider maintains protocols that meet and/or exceed those required for SOX, and will be able to clearly demonstrate this to you.
Jean Gea, Director of Product Marketing for Kirkland, Washington based Acumatica, puts it like this: “With every passing month, more and more companies, large and small, are discovering that the cloud makes sense as a secure and dynamic place for them to store the data that supports their business. Naturally there are many providers to choose from, and, as with all decisions that affect the future of a business, it is up to the senior decision-makers to find out what needs to be found out. A great provider of cloud services should be there every step of the way to ensure the decision and the subsequent transition is safe, stress-free, and ultimately beneficial.”
Additional information about Acumatica’s cloud ERP services including demos and pricing are available at www.acumatica.com.
By Steve Prentice