Cloud computing appears to be taking over the business world, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Managed hosting in the cloud frees companies from having to foot the bill for dedicated servers, allows on-demand access to their data and tools from any location, and in many cases offers more security than on-site hosting can. If you’re considering moving your enterprise resource management (ERP) into the cloud, keeping these things in mind should help make it a smooth transition.
Deciding what you need
The first step will be to understand the types of cloud hosting available. For most companies, the ideal solution will lie in a hybrid of these options, but understanding them will allow you to make the right decision for your business. If you plan to move only your inventory ordering system into the cloud, you will need different security levels and other resources than if you intend to relocate your employment and financial records and systems there as well.
Private Cloud – A private cloud is a virtual server farm built by a service provider who wishes to offer their customers on-demand computing. These are most often utilized by businesses, and they generally require a service contract, signed by both parties, detailing the amount of service to be provided and the length of time it will be used.
Public Cloud – A public cloud is built and hosted by a third party, but unlike a private cloud the arrangement between provider and user is more casual. There is an agreement to accept and payments to be made, but some services are often available for free, as with Google, for example. The Google Drive can be a very useful tool for development, testing, and public server hosting for large numbers of users, and is an example of a completely free public cloud service.
For information that is not proprietary and does not contain any personally identifiable information, this may be a perfectly safe and effective option. However, if your industry has to meet compliance standards, or if you need hosting for more sensitive or confidential data, a private or dedicated cloud will be more secure and more likely to meet the necessary standards.
Dedicated Cloud – A dedicated cloud is built and run exclusively for one customer by the service provider. This is the most secure and customizable option for businesses, since the cloud provider offers the customer a private, virtual server farm, which serves only that customer. The provider can also build or feed in additional capacity for their customer from another private server farm.
Choosing the right company
Once you’ve determined what kind of cloud service will best suit your business, and which ERP applications, if any, will continue to be managed in house, you’ll want to begin the process of finding the right provider to handle your business needs. Choosing a company that values transparency will allow you the opportunity to educate yourself about a variety of features that will make the transition and hosting of your company data safer and more efficient.
Firstly, you’ll want to investigate the reputation of any provider you consider. Understanding how their current and past customers view their performance will give you an excellent idea of whether or not you should place your company’s future in their hands. It will be important to discover whether or not they have the security protocols to meet your needs, protecting both confidential customer information and proprietary business data.
The cloud provider should also have options available that will make planning for disaster recovery easier, such as multiple data centers and wide networks in order to ensure that no matter what else may be happening, your users will still be able to access their cloud environment. A Service Level Agreement should protect you in the event of a full outage by ensuring that you know what the provider’s incident handling process looks like, as well as what steps would be taken to guarantee that it didn’t recur.
Making the transition smoothly
Regardless of whether or not you decide to keep hosting some or all of your ERP applications in-house, or move all of the into the cloud, security and disaster recovery must be top priority for these systems. By their very nature, the loss of one or more of these systems and the data they contain could be crippling to daily operations, and the exposure of confidential or proprietary information can result in even more serious consequences. High quality third party hosting provides expert support from experienced professionals in their field, and can be significantly more secure than in-house hosting.
When changing the management of some or all of your IT systems, it is important to have a clear delineation of responsibility. Making sure that all parties understand who is in charge of which aspects of the project will help to smooth out the transition to a third party. In the event that something goes wrong it will provide a clear chain of command to more easily trace the root of the problem, and to lay solving that problem at the correct feet.
Reanna Gutierrez is the Product Marketing Manager for OneNeck, which offers cloud hosting and application management to mid-level businesses.