When a small business decides it may be time to implement a cloud ERP solution as part of the company’s IT infrastructure, it’s a daunting task. The number of cloud vendors out there these days is growing rapidly, and the types of services offered are just as varied. The temptation that many IT managers often face is to just accept the lowest bid for a “one size fits all” cloud ERP solution, but will this pay off in the long run?
Quite often, it won’t pay off in the end; to the contrary, this type of decision can often cause the business more harm than good, leading to expensive contract breaches or costs to implement new services that weren’t anticipated during the rollout process.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
Before embarking on a venture to the cloud, a business should decide if the cloud is right for them. Businesses that have satellite offices or telecommuting employees often benefit the most from cloud solutions, while one-shop small offices can often thrive without any sort of cloud ERP solution except online backup services.
Once the decision has been made to move some or all of a business’s IT infrastructure to the cloud, it’s important to understand all of the various choices out there. Does the business need its entire IT infrastructure, including both web and mail servers as well as private domain authentication servers in the cloud?
Is there a need for Software as a Service (SaaS), allowing the business to rent virtual licenses for Microsoft or Adobe products rather than purchasing copies of the software for every computer in the business?
Is Network as a Service (NaaS) something that might benefit the company, or is the business’s network topology already solid and expandable?
The cost of a bad decision
Properly planning all of these choices is crucial, because once the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is signed, it can be difficult and costly to make changes. For example, let’s assume that Business XYZ purchased a “one size fits most” cloud ERP solution that included NaaS as well as the full suite of Microsoft products in a SaaS offering.
Within a few months, however, XYZ realized they weren’t utilizing Microsoft Access at all, and wanted that software removed from the package. With many SLAs, this type of change might constitute a breach of contract, resulting in contract termination or change fees that might have been avoided if the exact software needs had been determined in advance.
Every cloud provider promises different things, as laid out in their SLAs, so Nick Booth of MicroScope points out the importance of understanding these SLAs before the contract is ever signed.
Avoid keeping up with the Joneses
Flustered by all of the choices out there, some IT managers might be tempted to implement the exact same solution that competitors are using. Unfortunately, this is also often a mistake, because the IT manager cannot know that the competing business has the same corporate culture, network topology, and software needs as the business considering a move to the cloud.
Once again, this can result in either costly changes to the SLA or to paying for services that aren’t needed or utilized. Just because one business is using a particular cloud offering doesn’t mean that cloud offering is right for every business in that industry. There are key considerations that each company must evaluate when deciding on a cloud solution, and taking shortcuts by just copying what a competitor has done is often shortsighted and dangerous.
Choose an Independent Third-Party
Once the business has determined that its time to move to the cloud, it’s important to partner with someone who will help make the process go smoothly and cost-efficiently. This is where an independent third-party can often be of service.
An independent third-party, if they are truly independent, will help ensure that the business is choosing the correct cloud ERP solution partner and suite of services. This knowledge will help ensure that costly changes to the SLA aren’t needed before the contract is over, and ensure that the company will get the most out of their ERP solution.
A cloud ERP solution is often the right choice for even a small business, but it’s important to go into the project with “eyes wide open.” Quite often, a “one size fits most” solution might seem to be the most cost-effective route, but changing or adding services later than result in the overall cost of the solution becoming much higher than was originally budgeted.
Saving the bottom line can only be done by properly planning what the business needs from its cloud ERP solution, and then planning the rollout to ensure that everything is done right the first time.