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.