Traditionally, software buyers had to choose between inexpensive PC-based solutions which offer little functionality and client-server applications which offered additional features but were expensive to implement and maintain. The advent of SaaS (cloud computing) provided solutions which have more features than PC-based products and are easier to implement than client-server.
To be sure, everyone is embracing “the cloud” but all clouds are not the same. Some are better than others, and some should be avoided altogether. Here are a few of the differences…
To review, Good Cloud ERPs offer…
- Improved accessibility – You have access anytime, anywhere, making your life so much easier!
- Less personnel training is needed – It takes fewer people to do more work on a cloud, with a minimal learning curve on hardware and software issues.
- Streamline processes – Get more work done in less time with fewer people.
- Monitor projects more effectively – Stay within budget and ahead of completion cycle times.
- Improve flexibility – You can change direction without serious “people” or “financial” issues at stake.
- Achieve economies of scale – Increase volume output or productivity with fewer people. Your cost per unit, project or product plummets.
- Minimize licensing new software – Stretch and grow without the need to buy expensive software licenses or programs. You “rent” the applications you need and pay as you go (weekly, quarterly or yearly), based on demand.
- Reduce spending on technology infrastructure – Maintain easy access to your information with minimal upfront spending on hardware or infrastructure.
- Globalize your workforce on the cheap – People worldwide can access the cloud, provided they have an Internet connection.
In addition to the above, the Best Cloud ERPs offer…
- You decide where your data lives – Who controls your data? You should. On the public cloud, in a private cloud, or on-premise
- You should be able to customize your applications – You should still be able to do sophisticated customizations, even in a SaaS environment.
- Performance shouldn’t suffer because you are Web-based – Your Cloud choice should meet the most demanding standards needed by high-volume businesses—in addition to providing anytime, anywhere access, from any device.
- You should control when you upgrade, not the vendor – The better cloud ERPs will give you this flexibility.
- Rapid customization – Does it have built-in web-based customization tools that allow you to change the appearance of screens, the business logic, and the database fields? Do updates and upgrades to the core application impact any existing customizations? In a “better” Cloud ERP, they won’t.
- Integration with external systems – All application logic should be accessible using a generic Web Services API.
- Integrated content management system – Does it have an integrated content management system that enables you to keep business plans, policies, forecasts, and procedures online and associate them with financial transactions to deliver a complete view of your business?
- Web-based and priced by the server core – A real differentiator is whether the solution is priced by the user or allows unlimited users. This allows everybody to use it; even vendors, suppliers and partners. Role-based security lets you control which users have access to exactly what data. As more and more users join the system, opportunities for collaboration and efficient information sharing increase. The amount of data circulated over email will decrease and customers will always have access to the latest documents.
- Allow managers to establish teams and approval routes for managing work – Each approval route can generate and assign tasks and monitor wait times to ensure that processes are being completed on schedule. Managers can assign tasks to others and receive follow up reminders.
- It should be designed from scratch as a web-application – A web application designed with this level of sophistication is suspicious of all data coming from a web browser and therefore performs all verification and validation steps at the server. Data is encrypted during transmission using techniques employed by modern banking and healthcare systems, delivering a high level of security.
Also, several client-server applications have been adapted for the web. Applications which have been adapted for the web are not as cost effective as those which are designed for the web. Here’s why…
- Only a subset of features in an application may be available in their web version
- Security is not quite as good as a web-native application
- User interfaces for the client and web are often different, affecting usability
- There may be performance degradation due to the conversion process/protocols
- All application data should be centrally-stored and encrypted to provide a secure environment for confidential and sensitive data – Client-server systems and PC-based systems often rely on device security. Unfortunately, devices often travel with the user into unsecure environments and can be lost, stolen, or recycled without erasing the hard drive.
- It should work in any environment using only a web browser – A well-designed Cloud ERP solution should work with any popular browser, so you can use devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, or other operating system to access critical business information.
The above should help you differentiate between the “good” and the “best” Cloud ERP solutions. The leading providers of cloud business management software empower small and mid-size businesses to unlock their potential and drive growth. Using the world’s best cloud technology, they enable customers to take full control of their business, play to their strengths, and empower the people who impact their business most.
If you would like to do some deeper research on the subject, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the 2014 ERP Technology Value Matrix research paper from Nucleus Research.