Configuration to the cloud Cloud configurator: Safe to Fly?

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1 Configuration to the cloud Cloud configurator: Safe to Fly? e-con Solutions Pieter Versloot June, 2013

2 Taking Sales and Product configuration to the cloud: Safe to Fly? Over the past few years, there s been a plethora of research and development around cloud computing, and more and more solutions are appearing on the market tagged as cloud-based applications. For many, the cloud still remains somewhat mysterious. We re well informed about information transfer and integration for grounded databases and users work regularly with portal based and mobile access to information that comes from those databases. Working with an online database can still seem a risky proposition-for security, reliability, and performance. Before jumping into the cloud (or jumping to conclusions), let s take a look at cloud-based ERP and gauge the promise of using the cloud for sales and product configuration. First, a brief overview of cloud-based ERP It s likely you already know that cloud applications are delivered to companies through providers online computing platforms and services centers. Cloud computing is mostly used to sell hosted services, where the Application Service Provisioning Client runs server software on a remote location. Such services are given acronyms like 'SaaS' (Software as a Service), "PaaS" (Platform as a Service). End users access cloud-based applications through a web browser or a light-weight desktop or mobile app while the business software and user's data are stored on servers at a remote location. Let s turn to cloud-based ERP. Here, we re talking about an approach to enterprise resource planning that uses these platforms and services to optimize business processes with more flexibility and potentially lower costs. For some industry experts, the promise of cloud computing is that it will provide an opportunity for business to completely transform how it uses and pays for information technology. For example, cloud services for ERP applications might eliminate the need to purchase costly server and storage hardware and maintain it onsite which, in turn, can dramatically reduce operational expenditures (OPEX). The cloud doesn t whisk away all implementation issues; industry experts note that the problems associated with ERP software deployments -- such as integration problems between ERP modules and a company s legacy systems -- would simply transfer to cloud deployments. Benefits of cloud-based computing for ERP 1 st benefit: More room to breathe: scalability With cloud computing, applications, servers or power can be scaled up within minutes. If needed, additional data space and computing power can be set up quickly, using a straightforward process. That s an advantage you won t find in a traditional data center that would require at the least intense IT overhead, and likely additional hardware and software. For example, if your organization experiences a rapid increase in data volumes or even number of users, the issue can be resolved quickly, without disrupting operations, at a relatively low cost. Cloud computing can also handle what is sometimes called seasonal impact, where companies need more computing power in specific circumstances for example, high season for sales, or the end of a month or quarter, when there s lots of reporting and perhaps additional users working with applications. Cloud providers can manage seasonal impact without disrupting operations and they also can help businesses avoid undue overhead for hardware and licensing. Business can keep running smoothly and cost-effectively. That s a major benefit. 1

3 2 nd benefit: It s everywhere! And it s fast If you re in the cloud, all software comes through the Internet, so you truly can work anytime, from any location as long as you are connected. Whether you have 2 employees or 150 employees, if users and IT staff have a device from PC to laptop to mobile phone to tablet they can connect securely to the Internet and access not just information, but full solutions. Applications can be accessed and used effortlessly. For companies with limited IT resources, cloud based solutions and serves minimize the need for IT knowledge and expenditure the SAAS provider takes care of issues at the host level. If you do work with an IT staff, a cloud environment also enables them to simplify administration, connect and integrate solutions with existing applications, and even develop quickly and at lower cost than you d experience in a local environment. That ease of access and agility frees everyone to spend more time mapping changes in the marketplace to the organization there s more time to plan and optimize business processes that lead to success, and to understand what technology innovations will help the business move forward in the marketplace. Potential risks for cloud-based ERP 1 st risk: security and cyber-attacks on data in the cloud Are your data and knowledge safe in the cloud? Much of your organization s data is confidential, from sales figures to personnel information. Even without cloud computing, protecting information is a difficult task. We ve seen that with the information, it s all too easy to gather information that threatens privacy. At the level of individual privacy, research firm Forrester has marked specific countries for potentially threatening the privacy of citizens. That threat affects businesses just as much or more, and from an untold number of sources, from hackers to enterprises that make it their business to steal information. The best-in-class cloud service providers take careful and constant measures to protect business data, and at the same time help businesses meet increasingly strict standards for data transparency. They need also to meet standards for provider transparency governments want a lot of information about how providers are managing and delivering services. Cyber-attacks are a constant threat and challenge but at the same time, numerous government agencies want the ability to breach security as a protective measure. There s definitely good reason to feel cautious about utilizing cloud services for ERP. But keep in mind that SaaS providers are also working extremely hard to make online services safe and secure from the attacks we don t want, but open enough to meet regulations that permit sanctioned parties to track data and ensure that both businesses and providers are complaint and legal. It s a tough balancing act, but it does not need to invoke extreme fear. Web services are well established for ERP, businesses are using SaaS, and technology innovations never stop. But it s reasonable for businesses to feel hesitant about entrusting all their data and processes to a hosting provider. The cloud is here, but so is the big question mark about security. It s going to be interesting to watch how the question gets resolved. 2

4 2 nd Risk: Moving from one cloud provider to the next Another large risk follows from the security issue. We all can change software vendors or providers. But when that provider actually holds your company s data, there s a risk that not all data will be properly transferred or archived so that it can only be accessed by your business. In the worst case scenario, your former vendor could, for example, share sales data with interested parties. There are strict guidelines in place to ensure you don t run into this issues, but it s essential that you work with providers with a proven track record for helping keep data secure for server-based computing. You may have entire ERP areas written in the cloud. They need to demonstrate what measures they take to protect and transfer data under all circumstances, including scenarios where you change vendors. But what do you want? Are you ready for a cloud-based sales and product configurator? e-con is committed to developing and offering cloud readiness to customers we see great benefits that are emerging for companies using cloud-based computing, and increasing ability to minimize risks. Indeed, our sales and product configurator is aligned with the Dynamics NAV 2013 cloud offering so that customers can choose to use a sales and product configurator that works with cloudbased applications. However, our configurator still requires deployment as an on-premise solution. It s your opinions and needs that are going to determine e-con s future in the cloud. We can remain an on premise solution with the ability to connect with the cloud. We could offer a cloud-based configurator that connects to both on-premise and cloud ERP. We can offer a cloud-based solution that connects only to cloudbased ERP. We could also simply offer subscription-based licensing. What are your thoughts about the issues we ve discussed and the possibilities that lie ahead? We care about your opinions, your insights, and welcome discussion about current cloud-based computing and the future of cloud itself. Success depends on you your use of the cloud, and your readiness to tell us what you want and need. 3

5 Proven. Expert. Future-Proof. Since 1999, the team behind e- Con Solutions has been developing configurators that streamline quote through aftersales service for a broad range of manufacturing, retail, and distribution industries. Today, the e-con Sales and Product Configurator is the solution of choice for more than 180 customers in 25 countries. We are well-recognized for our deep knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, and CRM, as well as for innovation that makes e-con an excellent stand-alone configurator. e-con Solutions is head quartered in Veenendaal, the Netherlands, and is a Microsoft Silver Certified Partner. We sell our solutions primarily through our partner channel of certified Microsoft Dynamics and independent partners, and as a direct reseller. More information about e-con Solutions 1

6 demo.e-consolutions.com Newtonstraat HP Veenendaal The Netherlands Tel +31 (0) Fax +31 (0)

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