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The Business Case for Deploying Epicor ERP in the Cloud Part 3 of 3

  • 22 July 2015
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Categories: Epicor

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ERP and the Cloud

Your IT Department is Capable of So Much More

Most organizations that choose to deploy on premises ERP solutions turn to their internal IT departments to provision all necessary infrastructures and provide ongoing service and support. Many Epicor customers have world class IT departments who perform flawlessly across every task required to install and maintain an enterprise-wide system, such as Epicor ERP.

If you are fortunate to have such an IT team that has additional capacity, and is highly qualified across managing servers, databases, and networks (as well as application tuning, report writing, licensing compliance, application monitoring, installing upgrades, and ‘help desk’ functions), then you are a good candidate for on premises deployment of Epicor ERP.

However if your IT staff is already at capacity, or if you consider your IT department more strategic to your mission and don’t want them ‘racking and patching’ servers, or if they aren’t equipped in all of the dozen skills typically called on at various points in an ERP life cycle, then you may be a better candidate for cloud deployment.

Make no mistake—opting for a cloud deployment doesn’t mean your IT department is no longer needed. Their roles simply move up the value chain, spending less time managing servers, and more time provided high value services to your line of business users, such as building performance dashboards, or writing custom managerial reports.

Indeed, Epicor recognizes the critical role played by IT in every one of our deployments (both SaaS and on premises), and counsels business decision makers to bring IT to the table early in the ‘cloud or on premises’ conversation. Take the time to understand how IT can best support you across all three deployment models, and ensure that IT priorities are reflected in your deployment decisions. Chances are you’ll find that your talented IT resources are being under underleveraged, spending too much of their precious time ‘keeping disks spinning and lights blinking’. Many Epicor customers discover that migrating to the cloud is an ideal opportunity to better align many your existing IT resources to business objectives by pushing ‘low level’ and routine Epicor ERP management tasks onto our Epicor SaaS administration team, whose work scales across hundreds of other customers.

The net result is dramatically greater value per IT administrative resource, better alignment between your IT and your business objectives, and an Epicor ERP deployment that is being managed, serviced, and optimized by the very company that wrote the application and knows how to take care of it best.

Another IT conversation critical to have when making the ‘cloud or on premises’ decision surrounds scalability and elasticity of demand. Cloud based Epicor ERP deployments allow you to add (and remove) users in single-user increments, allowing you to take into consideration small changes to your ERP deployment, and factor in system variability such as seasonality. This isn’t generally as simple when deploying on premises. With on premises deployments, your IT team will need to procure hardware (servers, routers, storage, etc.) to support the peak number of potential concurrent users (the ‘high water mark’), resulting in idle software and hardware capacity at all but the busiest of times5. The same is true for all necessary supporting licenses (such as Microsoft Windows Server Client Access Licenses, Microsoft SQL Server licenses, etc.) as well Epicor software licenses. Because many IT investments have long lead times and step-function scaling scenarios, running your Epicor ERP system on premises may require thoughtful management by your IT team to achieve the same level of agility provided by the cloud. Deploying in the cloud pushes the responsibility for planning this scale onto Epicor, allowing you as a customer to focus on your primary business objectives, not your hardware performance specifications, system architecture, or license compliancy.

One final IT-centric consideration when making a cloud/on premises deployment decision relates to your corporate perspective on ‘staying current’ with your enterprise applications. One of the more compelling cases for a SaaS deployment (especially a multi-tenant deployment) is the ‘friction free, automatic updates’ benefit. With Epicor SaaS administrators deploying every upgrade shortly after each development and testing cycle, it creates the advantage of being able to immediately benefit from every new feature with each new release—without any administrative work on your part. Indeed, for many customers, the ability to automatically ‘absorb’ these updates can create a massive improvement over the status quo, where it’s estimated that two-thirds of midsized businesses are running outdated versions of their ERP software.6

Customers whose business needs are much more static, or have a policy to roll out updates only after lengthy technical review may find this ‘instant and automatic’ upgrade model less compelling, and may find that the ability to control their Epicor ERP environment more closely makes the case for pursuing an on premises deployment or single-tenant SaaS deployment model.

Data Centers, Data Residency, and Relentless Data Security

Given the criticality of a company’s ERP system to their ongoing operation, customers are justified in asking the question “Is my ERP data safe in the cloud?”

A decade ago customers worried that “if the internet goes down, our business goes down!” Thankfully, those early days of frail networks and computing platforms are long behind us. The data centers that house Epicor ERP are world class data center standards (Tier 4 facilities, SOC type 2 and 3 validated, certified as SSAE16 and ISAE3402 formerly SAS 70), and audited annually for ISO 27001, 14001, and 9001 compliance7), built to withstand attempts at both physical and electronic penetration, and with multiple levels of redundancy across power, cooling, and network circuits. Security and operations staff are on site 24X7X365, with facilities boasting multiple redundant electrical and internet connectivity paths.

The physical construction of the data center, the internal security, and the protocols relating to physical and network access are all core elements of Epicor “hardened data center” practices. There is little doubt that these data centers, combined with our operating and security protocols result in an environment that is vastly more secure and reliable than most companies can justify building to house an on premises 7 deployed Epicor ERP system. Ask yourself “Just how secure is our existing data center and ERP data?” Most companies can’t independently answer that question—and many who can will admit that their ERP data—arguably the most mission critical of all their systems—resides on a server that may or may not have been recently audited for security vulnerabilities or potential hardware weaknesses.

Quite simply, the expense and complexity of delivering the same level of data center security and availability provided by Epicor data centers is cost prohibitive to all but the most sophisticated of companies.8

No matter if you host your own Epicor ERP systems on premises, or subscribe to our SaaS services, data security and privacy are legitimate concerns under either deployment model. Ironclad safeguards need to be in place to ensure the safety of your mission-critical data. Physical and network security are only part of the equation, however.

Epicor conforms to industry norms of providing a 99.5% Service Level Agreement9 (SLA) (SaaS deployed systems will be accessible 99.5% of the time outside of scheduled maintenance windows.) We pride ourselves in exceeding this commitment to our customers, and are so confident in our ability to deliver on this contractual commitment that we ‘put our money where our mouth is’, and provide financial penalties against ourselves (payable to the customer) in the event that we fail to deliver on this 99.5% availability commitment.10

This service-level agreement is an important consideration in deciding between deploying Epicor ERP as a SaaS application or on premises. If your IT department is able to provide the same service-level agreement (without placing an operational or financial burden on their budget), than you’ve certainly got availability parity with the Epicor cloud. However, many internal departments are not staffed, resourced, or equipped to provide such as service-level commitment to internal customers. The reality is that many IT departments aren’t even able to regularly report on their system up time to internal management.

The invisible and dynamic nature of cloud deployments can sometimes introduce confusion as to the actual physical location of any given customers data. At some level, customers can be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t matter—so long as it’s available on demand in a timely fashion, the physical location of the 1’s and 0’s of their ERP data just don’t matter.

While convenient to think at that simplistic level, it ignores a number of key considerations.

  1. Physical location will oftentimes define performance. To minimize any system latency, Epicor generally locates customer databases in the data center that is physically closest to them, although other technical and business issues may supersede this rule of thumb. However, even when we deploy customers in a geographically nearby data center, that is still ‘further across the network than the server room down the hall.’ As a result, customers need to work with Epicor SaaS Operations to optimize their network and computer configurations to optimize system performance.

 

  1. Most cloud based Epicor ERP customers have their data located in the same country as their physical head office. That generally simplifies legal protocols relating to data privacy and protection. However, customers in highly regulated industries (Defense Contracting, Medical Records, Financial Services, etc.) may need to conduct additional due diligence to ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements. (See separate documents published by Epicor on our Service Organization Controls and Data Center Overview.)

Beyond the physical residency of the data is the disaster planning and readiness protocols. Epicor has disaster mitigation and recovery protocols that are dramatically more sophisticated than those practiced by most customers. The Epicor multi-tenant data centers (each located hundreds of miles apart from one another) replicate their data in near real time to another ‘hot backup data center’ that exists solely to act as an additional layer of insurance against a catastrophic disaster disabling an entire data center. In the unlikely event of such an event, customer data is rapidly restored from this independent data center to a surviving data center by Epicor operations staff, resulting in customers experiencing little down time.

In Closing

This document is intended to act as a catalyst to inspire many of the critical conversations that customers need to have when decided between deploying their Epicor ERP system as an on premises solution, or under a single- or multi-tenant SaaS subscription. We recognize that the right deployment model for any organization depends on the characteristics of the company, its technical resources and skills set, its business objectives and its industry. Epicor is committed to supporting our customers across any of our three deployment models.

Most importantly, it is critical for customers to recognize that some competing vendors who have built a business model around a single deployment model will often trap customers into a situation that denies them the opportunity to future proof their business though freedom of choice, and freedom to scale and grow.

We welcome the opportunity to further discuss the best deployment model for your business. Epicor ERP is a recognized leader across all deployment models, and it’s likely that we see many organizations similar to your own. This experience in matching your business needs to the most appropriate deployment model is what you should expect from a strategic vendor such as Epicor.

 

About Epicor

Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering business software solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industries. With more than 40 years of experience, Epicor has more than 20,000 customers in over 150 countries. Epicor solutions enable companies to drive increased efficiency and improve profitability. With a history of innovation, industry expertise and passion for excellence, Epicor inspires customers to build lasting competitive advantage. Epicor provides the single point of accountability that local, regional, and global businesses demand. For more information, visit www.epicor.com.

 

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