Cloud computing is quickly becoming one of the biggest and most revolutionary technological movements in business. “Cloud” is a catch-all term that encapsulates everything from storing files on a commercial service like iCloud or Dropbox, right down to remotely hosting and maintaining the entire internal infrastructure of a Fortune 500 company. At its most basic definition, cloud computing is the outsourced rental of storage or processing resources, as opposed to hosting/managing your own hardware.

Business systems such as ERP or CRM software that are hosted in the cloud tend to follow the SaaS model (Software as a Service). SaaS based licensing tends to take the form of monthly or annual payments, as opposed to the initial outlay of capital that typically is required for on-premise deployments. There is no server hardware to purchase or updates to operating systems and software, this is managed by the software or hosting vendor and is included in the subscription price. The hosting costs of an on-premise implementation that are often overlooked include backups, disaster recovery, load balancing of processes at peak times and security. The beauty of SaaS systems are the economies of scale, to the end user the delivery is similar but often at a cost saving. As a businesses needs change, the SaaS model offers scalability with the addition of users and modules being a quick and painless affair.

There are two types of cloud deployment to be aware of, single-tenanted and multi-tenanted. A single-tenanted implementation is essentially the same as an on-site implementation except that the hosting is outsourced. This, in essence, is the rental of off-site server hardware where a traditional ERP system would be run. Multi-tenanted SaaS software is one underlying application with businesses each having their own separate and secured database. Multi-tenanted SaaS software benefits from the ability to make updates and changes to the core application, and roll these out to users instantly ensuring users are always up-to-date.

When selecting an ERP system for your business, one thing to be aware of is cloud adaptations of legacy software. What vendors will do is take their legacy incumbent ERP software and port it to be used “in the cloud”. In practice these types of solutions require client side software to access the platform, or even a special server to sit between the software and the user. Using this type of system results in a less than ideal user experience, the speed and responsiveness of this type of software will never compare to that of a true cloud solution. True cloud applications need nothing but a browser on the end-users computer, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

Cloud deployments of business systems are an attractive proposition for businesses looking to implement new technology, however with any system decision there are a lot of avenues to be explored. Engaging with an ERP project consulting firm like Alt Shift allows you to leverage our industry experience to find the best possible solution for your business.