Peering through the clouds

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For medium sized businesses contemplating making the move into the cloud, many questions rear their ugly heads and the answers at first glance may not seem entirely clear. However, a chat with Paul Goepfert from Pronto Software provides an excellent opportunity to answer the most pressing questions.

ERP Channel: Can you provide any statistics? For example, what’s the percentage split of on-site versus cloud for your customers? And what’s the growth rate of the cloud side of the business?

PG: We are certainly seeing increased interest in a cloud solution, customers who go for this option often have some specific needs. For example, the Retail Prodigy Group, who runs several Nike stores in Australia chose a fully hosted solution as they prefer to leave IT to the experts and focus on their core business. They have found this option saving them substantial upfront IT investment and assists in keeping on-going costs down.

ERP Channel: What are advantages of the cloud solution compared to the on-site solution?

PG: A cloud solution gives users the option to outsource the maintenance and maximise the effectiveness of their technology investment. For small to mid-sized companies with minimal in-house IT resources, outsourcing allows them to concentrate on their core business. It is a simplified, easy-to-use IT set up that can help save on overheads. If you choose a fully hosted model, data is stored as if it were on a server in your office. This lets you retain full ownership of and access to your data in a standard format should you change your IT infrastructure.

ERP Channel: What are the disadvantages of the cloud solution? Are there circumstances in which you would recommend an on-site solution rather than the cloud?

PG: Before embarking on a cloud solution, customers need to do their due diligence in terms of where their data is stored, security, access/uptime issues, software upgrade paths etc, and work with a trusted vendor with strong credentials. In cases where there are specific needs for example, sensitivity of data or detailed customisation of the software is required, an on-site solution may be more suitable.

ERP Channel: Are cloud vendors encountering much customer resistance to migrating to the cloud? If so, what are the reasons that customers give for staying with an on-site solution?

PG: There is no such thing as a one-size fits all solution, cloud must form part of a flexible solution to customers - otherwise there will be resistance because customers demand flexibility.

ERP Channel: There seems to some concerns about cloud applications in general, including: How can users be sure that their data is secure? What can users do to protect themselves against outages or, worse, permanent shutdown of    the service? How would you respond to these concerns?

PG: Yes, customers exploring cloud applications will benefit from digging deeper questions around:

  • Where the data is stored, for example, overseas governments frequently have the right to access all data in their countries.
  • Piracy of data – some countries may not have laws stopping this

Customers do feel reassured when their data is hosted in an Australian data centre and managed by an Australian provider which means prompt service response, therefore reducing the risks regarding data security, downtime and privacy.

ERP Channel: Do users want a facility to allow them to access cloud applications via smartphone or tablet? If so, are there security features or do you provide recommendations to prevent data loss/theft?

PG: Yes, you should be able to access applications via mobile devices and we work with our clients to define security features like encryption to best meet their legal and company policy for mobile device usage within the business.

ERP Channel: Do you have any other thoughts about the increasing popularity of the cloud, and on the position of cloud providers in this market?

PG: Cloud certainly offers many advantages and it is worthwhile for companies to review it as one possible solution for their business needs. Implementing an ERP solution is a big step, requiring considerable planning, so do consider working with a vendor who is collaborative and focused on listening to your needs rather than pushing you towards one path versus another.

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