Three Basic Models to Navigate the Cloud

In our last conversation we unlocked some of the mysteries of the cloud.  We discovered the cloud is not the data equivalent of a dark alley.  Instead the cloud is made up of secure data centers that are subject to stringent security practices, audit controls, and often represent a level of safety that without proper expertise can be difficult to replicate on premise.  That said if in the market for a new application or reassessing existing systems, it is fair and valid to consider cloud options.  But what exactly does the cloud deliver?

The cloud represents data storage and network infrastructure.  The cloud itself is not a software solution, but a chassis where a solution can reside.  The cloud should be a secondary consideration when shopping for a new ERP, CRM or other system.  In fact, anymore most reputable applications have a cloud based offering or can be “hosted” with a cloud service.  As such the primary concern of any software selection process is to ensure that the needs of the company align with the capabilities of the system.  But a secondary concern is to understand what cloud options are available and there are three basic models when considering the cloud.

SOFTWARE as a SERVICE:  Software as a Service or SaaS is a term coined for a pure internet based software application.  There are numerous applications that follow this model including Quickbooks Online and Dynamics 365.  With software as a service, all that is required is a monthly subscription and internet access.  Typically, the SAAS model provides a basic yet solid solution and is often ideal for smaller businesses that may not require a lot of specialization.  Software updates and upgrades are seamless, done behind the scenes, and there is little to no overhead.  Backups are built into the system and are managed by the software hosting provider.

PRIVATE CLOUD:  With a private cloud, the servers, network and infrastructure that is typically maintained on premise, is now virtualized and maintained in a cloud based data center.  Typically with a private cloud the servers, and related services are leased, and isolated. Monthly subscription fees can vary based on number of servers, volume of data and supporting services.  A private cloud provides the security of an offsite data facility, but still allows the organization to maintain control over its own servers and data.

PUBLIC CLOUD:  A public cloud has some of the same benefits of the private cloud, but instead management of hardware, backups and infrastructure falls under the responsibility of the cloud provider.  As such administrative functions are more restricted.  Yet, applications are still secure and only accessible by authorized users.  Fees may vary based on whether one owns the software license or is using a subscription.  Often providers of public cloud services may specialize in selected applications.

With any cloud offering one should also inquire into audit and security certifications and standard backup offerings.  Likewise business managers should verify contract termination and data transfer procedures as not every relationship is perfect and any organization should have the flexibility to obtain their data and transfer to another provider.

Most dynamics applications are easily accommodated in either a public or private cloud environment.  For more information on cloud services and Microsoft Dynamics products contact Templeton Solutions.

The Recovering Cloud Skeptic

We’ve all met the cloud skeptic.  This is often a long time business owner or manager who is wary entrusting their lifelong work, sensitive data, and livelihood to the ethereal place we call the cloud.  For this manager, the cloud represents risk and loss of control.  Moreover for this person there is a certain comfort in knowing that systems are under one’s own lock and key and premises.  But are they truly safe?

Risk can come from many sources including both natural, as the recent hurricanes have shown or manmade.  In fact in this era systems are under steady assault from viruses, malware, and ransomware, require constant vigilance, and for protection, a level of expertise perhaps not available to the average business.  Faced with these threats managers are reconsidering the cloud.  Security, disaster recovery, efficiency and convenience makes today’s cloud different from just a few years ago.

A significant data migration is occurring today as businesses off load critical systems in exchange for cloud based services.  A better understanding of cloud based offerings makes this possible. The cloud is not a mythical space on the internet.  In reality the cloud is made of secure data facilities specifically engineered for the protection of sensitive information.  These data centers tend to be strategically and geographically dispersed, have built in redundancies, and are designed to provide a very high level of reliability and safety.  In fact in recent years the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has implemented stringent standards for service providers.  SSAE (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements – a fancy word for audit) 16 SOC (Service Organization Control) 2 report is the gold standard for most data facilities.  If considering the cloud, one should verify that the hosting organization has met this requirement.  In fact most adhere to even more stringent standards.

Disaster recovery is another advantage of the cloud.  As discovered during the recent hurricanes, having applications in the cloud provides a significant advantage when it comes to disaster management.  The cloud allows users to work from almost any location ensuring business continuity.  As a result services can continue while vendors and employees are paid.   When main offices are compromised, users may be able to work from home or managers can easily establish temporary offices from alternate locations.  In most cases the only requirement is a reliable internet connection.  Organizations should strongly consider cloud as part of their disaster strategy.

Economies of scale can also be achieved by moving to the cloud.  Most hosting organizations provide services for a monthly fee.  Fee structure can vary based on software subscription and services provided.  To properly assess an investment in cloud services one has to consider not only the monthly fee, but any cost savings resulting from reduced IT staff and investment and maintenance of on premise technology.  Lastly together with economies of scale, there is a convenience factor to having applications in the cloud.  The burden of backups and routine maintenance fall on the hosting provider.  This allows the business to focus on its key mission rather than administrative tasks.

It’s time for the cloud skeptic to wake up.  The cloud is not the scary wild west of the internet.  Instead it represents disciplined, principled data management practices designed with the utmost security and integrity, and for most is safer than on premise solutions.

For more information on cloud services and Microsoft Dynamics products contact Templeton Solutions.

Jose A. Garcia
Director of ERP Solutions
561-798-9988 Ext 207