Cloud ERP vs. Hosted ERP Software – Understanding Your Options

Cloud Deployment Options eBookWhen you are selecting a new ERP software system today, there are more options to consider than ever before.  Not only do you need to select an ERP system that has the functionality and usability that is going to make a beneficial solution for your business, but you also need to decide how that ERP software is going to be deployed – or where the data is going to be stored and how the system is going to be accessed.

As Voltaire (and Uncle Ben from Spiderman) says, “with great power comes great responsibility.” When it comes to ERP software, the power of choice you now have in your deployment option comes with the responsibility to learn about those options and truly understand them so that you can make the best choice for your organization.

To better understand all of your options, get a complimentary copy of our eBook: Understanding Cloud Services Deployment Models & Licensing Options When Selecting ERP

Of all of the options available, the two that raise the most questions are Cloud ERP and Hosted ERP, more specifically, “what is the difference between them?”

Both Cloud ERP and Hosted ERP are options available through Private or Hybrid Cloud deployments.

Hosted ERP – You may see the term “Hosted ERP” used interchangeably with “Infrastructure as a Service” or “IaaS.” IaaS means that you purchase and own your ERP software licenses, that your server licensing needs are leased through your cloud services provider. This can lower your up-front, out-of-pocket costs by removing the need to update existing or acquire new hardware infrastructure at the beginning of an ERP implementation project.  IaaS can also reduce your ERP implementation timeframe because your cloud provider will already have a proven methodology in place for installing your ERP environment. When you use a Hosted ERP or IaaS deployment for your ERP software, you will pay annual software maintenance fees as well as optional software support plans if desired.

Cloud ERP – The term “Cloud ERP” could refer to any of the deployment options for ERP solutions available, but most often it is referring to “Software as a Service” or “SaaS ERP.”  SaaS ERP enables you to lease your ERP software and the infrastructure that supports your solution, like servers, back-up, disaster recovery, etc.  This option is typically priced on a per user per month basis.  With this option, if you decide to move your ERP system on-premise or to change cloud providers, you will need to purchase the software (this option does not exist from all Cloud ERP providers so it is critical that you understand up-front who owns your business data and how to take it with you if you need to change deployments or providers.)

To get an outside, experienced perspective on whether or not your business is a good candidate for a Cloud ERP or Hosted ERP solution, request a Cloud Impact Assessment today!

Remove Barriers to Better Distribution Analytics

Only 12% of distributors report relying on analytics for all of their sales, marketing and operational decisions, including pricing and product and customer selection, according to the 2014 State of Analytics in Distribution report by Modern Distribution Management.

If you are not part of this 12% and you don’t have analytics to help you make these critical business decisions, then you are essentially guessing, which is not going to lead to great results.  Also, if you don’t have analytics to inform your decisions, then the odds are good that you aren’t going have great analytics to assess the results of those decisions.  Without analytics, it can become easy to get stuck in this cycle and continue to use ineffective processes and miss out on opportunities for your organization to grow.

So, what is getting in the way of great analytics for your distribution company?

If you are like most distributors, you’ve likely run into one of these barriers to better analytics:

  • Weak technology infrastructure
  • Lack of correct talent to use the data
  • Inefficient means of capturing and analyzing data

Removing these barriers can be a challenge, but will pay off with enormous dividends once you are effectively analyzing your business data.  Here are some ideas for moving past these barriers and achieving analytics success:

Consider new options for upgrading your infrastructure.  Yes, updating your technology infrastructure can be expensive and time consuming – but it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.  With the proliferation of cloud technology, you can store information in online data warehouses or move some or all of your business systems to the cloud so that the burden is no longer on your in-house hardware. There are a lot of options and it can be difficult to know what combination of online and on-premises systems and storage will work best for your business, so consider working with a business consulting partner that can help you identify your best options.

Assess your existing staff and identify opportunities for improvement.  By taking an in-depth look at the skill-sets of your people, you can see if you have the right talent in place but perhaps they would benefit from some additional training, if you have the right people in the wrong roles and can make adjustments, or if you need to recruit some individuals with the analytical skills or knowledge of your technology to help bring your organization up to speed analytically.

Determine if you need to change your processes, add on to your solutions, or replace them.  Sometimes an inability to capture or analyze your data is simply a matter of not aligning your business systems with your business processes.  If this is the case, you can assess your processes as well as the data that they produce and adjust your use of your systems accordingly to make the most of what you have in place.  However, a new feature or new system is often required in order to attain the level of data collection and analysis that you need to really make an improvement to your business.  If you are in this position, work with a trusted partner to assess your current business management systems and identify new add-ons or solutions that can help you reach your analytical goals.

Cloud Helps Long Term Care Centers Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Growth

According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of elderly Americans will triple in the next 35 years. That statistic represents the opportunity for tremendous growth for long term care centers.  However, if your business doesn’t have flexible and scalable processes and technology in place, you won’t be able to effectively capitalize on this growth opportunity.

WSJ Stat Shot

A great, and cost effective, option to give your long term care business that flexibility is deploying your business management solutions in the cloud.  A cloud business management system enables you to add and ramp up new users or additional hardware space quickly with little-to-no up-front cost.

There are three different ways that you can leverage the cloud for your business management systems – Public, Private and Hybrid.  These options can be a little confusing, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand your options and which might be most beneficial for your long term care business.

Get your complimentary copy of “Understanding Cloud Services Deployment Models & Licensing Options When Selecting ERP” today!

6 Reasons Your Business Should Consider Moving to the Cloud

Cloud for BusinessAccording to some estimates, up to 75% of SMEs are currently utilizing online storage of data, known as cloud storage, and utilization of web-based programs and services in some form.

Are you? If not, you could be missing out on some big cost savings, not to mention reducing IT-related headaches.

6 reasons your business should consider moving to the cloud:

  1. Cloud Deployment Options eBookCost savings. Reducing costs is often cited as the #1 reason many businesses start using the cloud. Getting in the cloud allows you to tap into your cloud provider’s existing hardware and technical expertise, meaning you pay a fraction of what you otherwise might to maintain these IT resources yourself.
  2. Easier access, anywhere. Cloud storage and software platforms can usually be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as the user has an Internet connection. This means you’ll never realize you left an important document on your other computer back home or in another office and be without the ability to access it. Applications hosted on the cloud can also be run from any compatible device, so if you need to upgrade systems, you won’t need to worry about also upgrading software (more on this later).
  3. Better security. It may sound counter-intuitive, but independent studies consistently show that solutions hosted in the cloud provide better data security than if these processes are kept in-house. Any cloud provider worth your time has several dedicated security experts, who are constantly assessing potential threats to their (i.e., your) data and systems, and can keep up against threats much more efficiently and effectively than you or your smaller team of IT staff.
  4. Scalability and flexibility. If you’re like most businesses, you experience a defined sales or activity cycle, where your IT systems are used more heavily than at other times of the year. Instead of buying computing resources to cover you for a busy season that could only be 1 week every year, many cloud providers allow you to upgrade your share of their resources for a short time, so you’re only paying for high capacity solutions when you need them.
  5. Assistance when disaster strikes. In the unlikely event your cloud provider does have a security breach or a serious downtime event, you can be assured (if you’ve partnered with a reputable provider) that you won’t lose any data, and your systems will be restored quickly. Instead of waiting hours or days for your internal IT team to diagnose and repair the problem, your provider’s team of dozens of experts will work around the clock to get things back up and running smoothly, ASAP. This advantage is greater if you’ve partnered with a provider that services both your hardware and software, meaning they can troubleshoot getting systems back online from a physical standpoint as well as restoring full functionality to needed applications—together.
  6. More time to focus on key business objectives. Ultimately, cloud allows you as a leader in your business to focus on more important tasks than wondering if your IT systems are up to date. Besides saving your business money, the cloud also delivers you increased peace of mind, so you can focus on serving your customers and growing your business.

As a cloud service provider with expertise in both systems and hosting environments, Socius can deploy your business applications in a secure, flexible and efficient cloud environment. Our variety of cloud services means that no matter your business goal, we can provide a service to get you there. Click here to learn about the different types of cloud deployments, and how they can help you improve your business processes.

Our Top 10 Tips for Picking a Cloud Provider

Picking a Cloud provider is a critical business decision that will have a far-reaching impact on your organization.  Recently, Quick Cloud Computing put together these 10 Tips for Picking a Cloud Provider.  While we thought these were great pieces of advice, we thought you might benefit from a little more information, so we put together this follow-up response:

1)       Evaluate the Cloud Providers Data Center Infrastructure. Ask about data center physical security, cooling infrastructure, redundant power, back-up power, stand- by generators and IP network redundancy. You should request documentation supporting their data center. Private cloud providers should offer redundant data centers outside of their primary data center location. Socius Cloud Services co-locates at Expedient data centers.

2)       Ask about Data Center Certifications. If you are looking for a quality provider, the data center must be SSAE16 compliant.  Socius Cloud Services data center is SSAE16.

3)       Technical Support. A responsive support team is what is required for any Cloud environment to be successful. Make sure you know how to contact support when needed. At Socius, we take pride in getting to know our clients and making sure they do not feel like a number. Our technical support team is ready help you.

4)       Past Experience with Cloud Services and Dynamics products. New cloud providers are entering the market every day. While the term “Cloud” is fairly new, the problems it solves are not. Seek a Cloud provider who is versed in Dynamics products, like Socius. Some companies look at pure co-location because it may appear cheaper on paper. When you have a Cloud provider who also knows the applications, you save time and money resolving any issues. Most often, application and server issues go hand in hand. Make sure you have the best provider ready to support your applications and infrastructure.

5)       Make Sure You Know What is Included. Is there a per user fee or per server fee? Will you incur additional fees for restoring a database? If you have any questions, are you billed for consulting time? Read the fine print to know what is included. Local providers may offer more options and flexibility than the big national cloud options. Many provide cloud services all in one package.

6)       Ask About Migration Services. Many of the larger co-location cloud providers only provide “do-it-yourself” migration services. If you have any issues or need help doing this service, cost can add up. You may even have to pay for additional Consulting services. Look for a Cloud provider that offers professional consulting services and a strategy to migrate your data to the Cloud.

7)       Make Sure You Know Who Owns the Data. What happens if you do not pay your bill? Will your provider remove access and delete your data? What happens to the customizations you have spent a lot of money developing? There are many providers who state in their Agreement that they own the data once it is put into their data center. Be sure you know your rights to the data.

8)       Analyze the Cloud Providers Entire Cloud Portfolio. Do they offer both public and private cloud options? Do they offer hybrid cloud options? Even though you may only want a single private cloud server today, tomorrow you may require a more complicated cloud solution because of requirements. Socius is ready to help you develop a road map to move all of your applications to the Cloud or just a few of your mission critical applications.

9)       Pick a Provider Who Uses Well-Known Technology Vendors. Cloud infrastructure is only as good as the hardware and network gear it resides on. Pick a provider who uses industry leading vendors for their infrastructure and is partnered with the right support system.

10)    Go With Your Gut and Work With Someone You Like and Trust. Make sure you are comfortable with your Cloud provider. Depending upon your requirements, implementing a cloud project may leave you feeling like you have lost control of your own business. Pick a provider that you trust, one that you are comfortable with and one that understands your business and specific cloud requirements. Look for the trusted advisor you want as an extension to your business. Learn more about Socius and our Cloud services today.

For a better understanding of how Cloud applications will affect your business, request a Cloud Impact Assessment today!

3 Business Processes You Can Take With You with Sage Mobile Solutions

sage mobile salesSay you are using Sage 100 ERP to run the back-end of your business.  It works well and has helped you manage your business data.  However, when your salespeople are at your customer locations, they have to call back to the office and have someone check the system for basic order information, when your service technicians are on-site, they can’t process payments and don’t have full customer service histories available to them, and you are constantly struggling with receivables because you are dependent on paper invoices to receive payments because you don’t have the ability to accept credit cards.

If any of these issues sound familiar, then you should check out the Sage Mobile Solutions.  Even if you have Sage 100 ERP deployed on premise, you can take advantage of these cloud-based subscription services to help you make sales, improve your field service efficiency and collect payments more easily to improve cash flow.  The Sage Mobile Solutions include:

Sage Mobile Sales – this iPad app gives sales reps anytime, anywhere access to customer order history, product availability and an online product catalog so that they can improve your customer’s buying experience.  Sage Mobile Sales enables:

  • Increased sales productivity by giving salespeople the information they need without making phone calls to the office
  • Bigger sales by showing relevant “add-on,” “accessory” and “substitution” products during the sales process
  • Easy and secure payment collection
  • More payment choices, including credit card, on account, and more

Sage Mobile Service – this app empowers field service technicians to be more efficient and flexible in the field leading to better customer service and higher employee productivity.  Sage Mobile Service makes it possible to:

  • Reduce costs and improve customer service with optimized scheduling
  • Help service employees optimize their work day
  • Give employees the information they need when and where they need it
  • Produce higher referrals and repeat purchases
  • Reduce customer disputes over service charges
  • Get paid faster and with fewer disputes by giving customer payment choices including credit card, on account, and more

Sage Billing and Payment – easily and cost-effectively improve the invoicing cycle with this web browser-based application.  Sage Billing and Payment enables you to:

  • Offer the option of electronic invoices and payments, helping reduce costs while improving customer satisfaction
  • Decrease the cost of sending out invoices by over 90% versus paper invoices
  • Reduce the time and expense of filling and storing paper invoices
  • Reduce days sales outstanding (DSO) by delivering invoices in 2 days instead of 5 to 10 days for paper
  •  Receive payments faster than receiving paper checks

See these solutions in action on February 6th at a webinar: Unveiling the Next Big Thing: Sage Mobile SolutionsRegister to learn more!

5 Reasons to Consider Cloud ERP

Over the last few years, more and more organizations have been adopting Cloud ERP (or SaaS) solutions, especially in the midmarket.  While it is important to remember that you should never select a mission critical application, like your ERP system, based solely on deployment method, there are some key benefits to deploying the ERP solution that best fits your business needs in cloud.

The Aberdeen Group identified these key reasons that midmarket organizations are choosing Cloud ERP solutions:

Collaboration – Growth in the number of locations is a huge trend for midmarket organizations.  Along with that comes a greater need to collaborate across those locations.  A Cloud ERP solution is easily deployed across multiple locations and enables all of individual locations’ data to be stored, processed, and reported on from a single central location – giving employees visibility and enhancing business processes.

Scalability – The midmarket business environment requires agility both in the operations of an organization as well as in the systems that support and manage the operations.  That is why the ease of scalability of a Cloud ERP solution is so appealing – it can grow and adapt with the organization.

Global Workforce – An increasingly global workforce, across multiple timezones in midmarket businesses also lends itself to the anytime, anywhere access to real-time data that a Cloud ERP solution provides.

Quick Response – Many midmarket organizations are being limited by outdated technology and infrastructure that forces them to wait for information to be delivered.  However, Cloud ERP solutions make information available in real-time so that business decision makers can respond quickly, all without the expense and frustration of updating their infrastructure.

IT Staffing Issues – Organizations that are struggling to recruit or retain IT staff, those that do not otherwise have a need for internal IT staff, or those that are strapped for cash and unable to hire IT staff just to support their ERP solution find the self-sufficiency they gain by having a Cloud ERP solution that does not require in-house IT support to be a great benefit.

Cloud ERP Drivers

To learn what it would take for your organization to get started using a Cloud ERP solution, request a quote today from Socius Cloud Services.

Infographic: Does Your Company’s Financial Health Need a Boost?

Boost Your Financial Management Infographic

Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 is Now Available!

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the availability of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 R2.  This latest release reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to providing quick to implement, easy to use, and powerful solutions to support the business ambitions of mid-sized organizations.

Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 features:

  • Interoperability with Office 365 which bridges the gap between business data and the ways in which people work. As such, Dynamics NAV can now be deployed as an application to on-premises and cloud-based SharePoint sites, with single sign on and a consistent look and feel across both applications. Deeper data integration capabilities will enable customers to extend Dynamics NAV business processes with SharePoint workflows and Web parts, and take full advantage of Microsoft Excel and the Excel Web App.
  • Enhanced cash management capabilities that will help users better manage risk and drive business growth with features such as automatic and manual payment processing, bank reconciliation tools, and support for SEPA direct debit and credit transfer.
  • Powerful usability enhancements across both the Web and desktop clients which make Dynamics NAV even simpler to use and faster to deploy. A redesigned user experience aligned with Office 365 makes it even easier for people to access, view and edit business data and processes.

These new additions support the myriad new features already present in Dynamics NAV 2013.  See demos of some of these top features hereLearn more about Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013 here or contact your Socius Account Manager to request an upgrade.

Are Cloud Providers a “Conduit Exception” to the HIPAA Omnibus Rule?

Physician Writing in Medical Chart --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisAs an organization that provides health or human services, you are already well versed in all of the HIPAA requirements that regulate your organization.  But are you as confident about the compliance of the organizations that are considered your “business associates?”

As stipulated in the Omnibus Rule, all of your technology providers, including your ERP, CRM, and even Cloud providers, need to work with you to develop and sign HIPAA Business Associate Agreements which define both parties’ roles in protecting personal healthcare information (PHI).  However, there is an exception to the rule that is causing some confusion.

The Conduit Exception is a line in the “Exceptions to the Business Associate Standard” that states that “a person or organization that acts merely as a conduit for protected health information, for example, the US Postal Service, certain private couriers, and their electronic equivalents” is exempt from the regulations.  Many cloud providers believe that this exception applies to them because they see themselves simply as “conduits” for information.

However, according to an article by the BakerHostetler law firm titled, “HIPAA, Business Associates and the Cloud,” cloud providers do NOT fall under this exception.  BakerHostetler maintains that “Under the Final Rule, the conduit exception only includes courier services that transport information (persistent vs. transient opportunity to access PHI). As such, covered entities must ensure that their cloud service providers are safeguarding patient information.”

Therefore, if you are leveraging cloud EHRs, e-prescribing and IT health service desks, or if your back-office systems including your cloud ERP or CRM online solutions contain PHI, then you must have your vendors sign a Business Associate Agreement.

Socius Cloud Services understands our obligations to our healthcare clients in providing HIPAA compliant business solutions.  Contact us to learn more about how to ensure that your cloud providers are not leaving you vulnerable to HIPAA violations.

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