The Cloud, the Cloud, the Cloud—lots of talk, but what’s the reality? Is it just another buzzword? Just another IT “checklist” trend? Actually, no. It’s real and so are its benefits. Cloud ERP provides a real paradigm shift in business software solutions. Here’s why:
Anywhere, anytime access
The Cloud gives you access to your data and accounting tools 24 hours per day, 7 days per week from wherever you are. Analyses can be done from a client site. Managers can stay in the loop while they are on the road. Processes can continue even though key personnel are out of the office. Business intelligence’s original promise of a single version of the truth is truly a reality as employees, customers, and vendors all access the same up-to-date information, at their convenience, whatever the time zone.
The Cloud provides many degrees of flexibility for your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which includes your accounting system and may include integrated operational systems. There is a popular misconception that applications hosted in the Cloud cannot be customized, however, today some ERP Cloud applications can be custom-fit to your organization through vendor supplied development platforms and vendor- and user-created apps. Another misconception is that you get tied to a particular user model for a particular timeframe. Some vendors (take a look at Acumatica, for instance) not only provide the flexibility to switch platforms, but make it easy for you to do so.
Almost no one works in a vacuum. Whether you need to work with someone in the next office or on another continent, the Cloud provides for collaboration in new ways. You can create new reports to share or share analyses using the most up-to-date information available, include others in the review process with everyone on the same page, co-manage human and capital resources, review status and create action plans for major customer accounts, and make group-based decisions on whether or not to switch vendors for a high-profile inventory component. If you have to work together (and who doesn’t?), putting your ERP in the Cloud will allow all of your members to be informed and ready to be valuable contributors to your project or process.
Integration was surely possible before the Cloud, however integrating other third-party or proprietary systems, in the Cloud or on-premises, with your ERP and empowering your staff with self-service access via the Cloud will make integration easier, more efficient, and more accurate. Cloud applications can even be integrated with applications on other Clouds. NexVue implements Cloud-to-Cloud integration and can help you determine how to most effectively exploit your Cloud systems into a single integrated solution.
We hear it all of the time, “We don’t want to put our sensitive data in the Cloud; it won’t be secure.” But the truth is the data on a good host’s Cloud will probably be more secure than on-premises systems at all but the very largest companies. Your Cloud host will have the resources to obtain and maintain the very latest and best security solutions—their reputation depends on it. So for small and mid-sized firms, there is a good chance that you’ll get better security in the Cloud than you will “at the office.” Check with our NexVue Cloud security experts to understand how your Cloud host’s security will impact your organization.
Using the Cloud can give small and medium-sized businesses access to more computing hardware, software, and skilled IT workers than they might be able to conjure up on their own. Because the costs are spread over many organizations, you’ll pay, through your hosting fee, for only the resources you need. Yet you’ll have a whole staff of experienced IT people working on your system. Even when smaller companies have an IT staff, they need to worry about coverage for illness and vacations—not an issue for your hosted systems. And you’ll have room to grow if you need it without going out and buying enough hardware to “grow into.” Go ahead—let someone else do the hardware and software maintenance and use your resources for your business.
Rumor has it that, because the Cloud is “out of our control,” Cloud installations are subject to lower performance and more downtime than on-premises solutions. Actually, the opposite is true. In most cases, since the Cloud host has more resources, they are using newer and more powerful hardware to optimize performance for their customers. If there is a technology problem, there will be someone on hand to get everything up and running as quickly as possible. Once again, your host is in the business of running Cloud solutions—performance is their business.
This is one of the areas where the Cloud really shines. Let’s face it—upgrades are disruptive, costly, and risky. Yet if your Cloud host is your ERP software vendor, all of that goes away. Who better to do your upgrades than the folks who developed them? The Cloud host/vendor has to ensure the upgrades are installed and working before making the switch for its customers.
If your industry has specific compliance requirements, talk to your ERP consultant or Cloud host. Chances are, the Cloud host is already meeting those requirements for another client and/or they are set up to do so. If your Cloud host has taken this on, they will keep up with the requirements and update what they need to in order to comply. Often compliance requirements include things like disaster recovery, backups, security—things they provide as a matter of course.
Running your ERP in the Cloud is going to save you money. Your initial investment will be much smaller because, even if you pay upfront for the license, you won’t need to buy additional servers and other hardware. And if you decide to pay for your software on a monthly basis as well, your upfront investment will be even smaller. But it’s not just the upfront investment—running your ERP in the Cloud can save you money in the long term because you are not paying for hardware and resources on a “step basis.” If you need an IT person, you may hire someone and in the beginning your new salaried employee spends 50% of the time doing critical work and the other 50% of the time doing other work. At that point, you are really purchasing more resources than you need because it’s hard to hire half of an IT person. If you have to buy a new server, you buy one with extra “room” so you can grow without having to replace the server again too soon. But if you run your ERP in the Cloud, you pay for only what you need. And if you need more today and less tomorrow, you can decrease your resources. By running in the Cloud, you will also be using the buying power of lots of clients which is so much more financially efficient.
All that being said, the Cloud is not a magic box and your best bet is to find a very savvy Cloud partner—one with lots of experience who can help you determine if the Cloud is right for you and how to structure your Cloud implementation as well as you Cloud services contract. At NexVue, we have over 25 years of ERP experience working with small and mid-sized companies, optimizing their ERP solutions. NexVue was one of the first Acumatica Cloud ERP Gold Partners and maintains a Microsoft Silver ERP competency.
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