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What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

ERP Hosting is Better Than a Trip to the Ice Cream Parlor

The age of “mass customization” pervades many areas of our business and personal lives. The general populace has grown accustomed to being able to “dial in” solutions as needed, especially when it comes to products and services. Tailored solutions have become a competitive advantage, if not a necessity, these days, and every cloud provider claims variety and customizability, even in the ever-so rigid atmosphere of SaaS (Software as a Service). If you’re looking for a cloud provider for your ERP (enterprise resource planning) application, do you ask where your new infrastructure team will actually cloud your data?

Ice cream parlors have been playing the variety card for decades. I have always been a fan of a good sundae—a little of this, a sprinkle of that, one flavor, two… the combinations are endless, as are the effects on my palate. But no two ice cream parlors are created equal. Similarly, no two cloud providers are created equal. Sometimes it feels like there are no standards that govern what it exactly means to be “flexible” in the cloud or to have “scalability” in the cloud. Like with ice cream parlors, sometimes vanilla is nothing more than artificial vanilla flavoring. This means that as a cloud solutions buyer, you need to understand the unique build of your server infrastructure before you sign the cloud services agreement.

Cloud Provider for ERP Business Applications

In the cloud computing world, an ice cream sundae model for ERP application deployment is a natural progression of the mass customization movement. After all, flexibility and scalability are defining features of cloud computing.

Nevertheless, the big players in cloud solutions continue to pull us back into a world of vanilla (or vanilla flavoring). Tiered pricing models, service bundles, rigid step-progressions, and consumption models that do not adjust for seasonality leave many cloud customers feeling like they are trapped in an artificial vanilla apocalypse. Cloud computing is defined by its flexibility, but you wouldn’t know this when reading the fine print of your IT service contract.

That is to say, application deployment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, even if your cloud provider is positioning it in that manner.

Some customers, with small footprints and standard business requirements, fit nicely within a software as a service (SaaS) framework when it comes to deploying ERP systems. However, many customers of greater size and complexity struggle with the limitations of SaaS. They want levels of access and control that are not normally afforded by SaaS deployment models. But exactly what a customer wants and needs differs from customer to customer. For suppliers offering very rigid solution sets, this can be a problem. 

Some customers want a level of access and control that SaaS can’t support. They still want their cloud server stack micro-managed, but they don’t have the internal resources to perform the management. These customers lean toward managed ERP hosting, which falls more closely under a platform as a service (PaaS) model, where the solution provider manages the infrastructure and application platform layers, and the customer consumes the final output.  

Other customers have the in-house staff and expertise to manage their own architecture. They want the solution provider to set up an ecosystem, but intend to take ownership and management of that ecosystem thereafter. These folks don’t need managed hosting, as they can perform any micro-management themselves. The solutions to satisfy these customers fall more under an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model, where the solution provider provides the infrastructure, and the management of the application layer is the client’s responsibility.

But such simple distinctions between PaaS and IaaS seem too rigid for many customers. Many customers want something in between. They desire a combination of service, access, control, and responsibility. A sprinkle of this, a dash of that, a little smooth, a little crunchy. 

As a customer, you need to make sure your cloud solution provider can lay out the various features and options that comprise their solution and help you work though a combination that fits your business. This might involve user provisioning, backup and disaster recovery, performance monitoring and tuning, or general application administration. Whatever the case, make sure your cloud solution provider is not trying to drown you in vanilla.

A Few More Clouds (and Cloud Providers) to Ponder

What types of cloud computing would you trust with your ERP software deployment? If you are considering managed hosting, are you looking for other managed services as well, such as cloud security services? Are you looking for a flexible data center for a hybrid cloud deployment, perhaps with pricing on a pay-as-you-go basis. Do you know your hardware and software needs? When you open a web browser on a corporate computer, do you know if any of your business data is kept in a public cloud?

Are you in need of a tailored cloud solution for your ERP application’s deployment?

5 Signs Your Business Needs Cybersecurity Training

5 Signs Your Business Needs Cybersecurity Training

Cybersecurity Education Begins With Ownership

Small and medium sized business owners beware! 65% of attacks that originate in cyberspace are aimed at companies that think they’re too small to be of interest to cybercriminals. If you think you’re at low risk, read on and see why our IT security consultants recommend cybersecurity training for everyone.

Cybersecurity Training Hacker in Network Security Lock

Are you a small business owner? Or are you a once-small company now grown into the medium range of corporate presence? When it comes to cybersecurity solutions for businesses, you always have to structure your services and behavior to prepare as if you’re bigger than you are. This involves a comprehensive security solution that covers your entire company network, from suppliers to employees. Do you have an enterprise-level cybersecurity strategy that protects every connection and end user from digital harm?

If you own a business, you know how precious your data is to daily operations. Profitability depends on good data management behaviors. Because all companies are vulnerable to hackers, your data should be presumed insecure. Cybersecurity should be a proactive approach to cybercrime, rather than a reactive (disaster recovery) move.

Are you on a cybercrime watchlist?

Breaches happen, even to the most prepared companies. Therefore, your risk management policies should be revisited frequently. Business owners should be part of this process. A board of advisors might be beneficial, and it can be cost-effective to outsource this high-level cybersecurity work to a virtual CIO or to a firm with the technology skills that guarantee security for your data.

What happens when a hacker is watching your business?

It takes about a half of a year for business owners to become aware that a hacker has breached the network. It also takes about two months to react to a cyber attack. 

Here are five signs your business is at risk and in need of cybersecurity training:

1. You are a small or medium size business.

Far less likely to report cybercrime to the authorities, small and midsized companies are viewed by hackers as a low-risk target. Manufacturers and distributors are often looking to scale, and maintaining a good reputation is key to a successful future. As a growing business, you wouldn’t want your reputation to include a history of victimization by way of ransomware.

2. You think it’s a small problem or that someone else is addressing the issue of cyber safety.

Fear of expense often prevents small and midsize manufacturers and distributors from securing the technology solutions and services they need to protect their data. A good backup solution isn’t enough, even though this is what many company owners depend on for risk management. When planning your IT department budget, price out outsourced help, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Often, the experts at an IT managed services provider (MSP) will be more friendly to the budget than on-site technology staff.

3. You think you need to cut the IT budget… but IT costs are actually decreasing.

Firewalls and phishing filters are a necessity these days. Due to a mix of popularity and availability, technology cost trends show that business owners can get enterprise-level technology services with affordable pricing. Cloud-based IT services, such as SECaaS (Security as a Service) look at the unique needs of your business and adjust pricing accordingly. Only pay for what you need.

4. Your employees don’t know what they don’t know.

Cybersecurity training might be the most important activity you schedule for the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. The time is now. Hackers take advantage of poorly trained employees on a daily basis. 95% of security breaches are successful because of human error. Train, train, and train again. Technology is an ever-evolving field, and this ripples into the dark web as cutting-edge malware. Protecting your talented staff from the dark web is key to employee retention in today’s culture.

Fortunately, cyber education is often free online. Formal training is easy on the budget. If you have a million customers relying on your manufacturing operations to maintain uptime, your cyber security plan needs to defend more than credit card numbers and social security numbers. You need an IT solution that comprehensively protects the countless connections along your supply chain, right down to the home offices of your remote workers. 

Sign up for a ransomware simulation attack today to see if your employees are ready for disaster. Employees are eager to learn security breach mitigation strategies because their personal information is at risk in the event of a data leak. Information security begins with security training.

5. You’re likely to pay the ransom if you are attacked.

More than half of small businesses pay a ransom. Reasons revolve around damage control: you definitely don’t want your data or your reputation harmed by a ransomware attack, so in the moment you are likely to pay the attacker. If you think you’d be likely to pay a ransomer to get your data back, then you stand unprepared. Once you have a solid cybersecurity plan in place with a crew of talented IT staff to support your solutions, you’ll know that you’ll never pay a hacker a dime of your earnings. In the event that you experience a breach, you’ll know that you have an incident response plan that won’t involve a ransom payment.

Today’s cyber landscape is riddled with massive corporations hitting the news for million-dollar ransomware attacks. When was your last security audit? It’s better to act as a big little company in a technology culture in which the hackers are frequently more skilled than even the best IT staff.

  • Empower your workers with the best solutions so that they can use their talents to their full extent.
  • Prevent identity theft of employees by securing personal data and corporate data.
  • Bring in a white hat hacker to test both onsite and remote cybersecurity solutions and services.

Can your staff respond properly to a data breach? Do you have an incident response plan clearly delineated so that all employees understand your disaster recovery process? Have employees been thoroughly trained to recognize cyber threats lurking in their email accounts as phishing attempts?

Cybersecurity training involves both on-premise and cloud-based breach mitigation techniques. EstesGroup offers coast-to-coast onsite and cloud IT services, including everything from project and budget planning to education and monitoring.

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Best Practices for Paying Supplier Invoices in Epicor ERP

There are many challenges when it comes to paying supplier invoices in Epicor E10, Epicor Kinetic (E11), or in Epicor Prophet 21. In simple terms, a company purchases goods from a supplier according to pre-established and carefully-specified terms. In most cases, a company needs to pay them within the specified terms, waiting as long as possible, as to keep the cash flow within the confines of the company’s banking system for as long as possible. 

But the payment must not be so late as to incur the wrath of the supplier and avoid the inconveniences that credit hold will place on subsequent purchases. And the company may elect to take advantage of an early payment discount, if one exists.

Sounds simple enough. But a company also must ensure that invoices are accurate. The amount invoiced must correspond to the quantities that were actually delivered. Some many-to-one complexities muddle the water a bit, given that a supplier invoice may cover several purchase orders and that each PO could be dozens or even hundreds of lines in length.

Supplier Invoices Epicor Kinetic ERP Cloud

Automating the Three-Way Matching Process

At this point, we haven’t even begun to validate the amount that was on the original purchase order. Such is the magic of the three-way match: cross-referencing the information that was on the PO with the information on the receipt and matching both of these with the invoice from the supplier.

The matching process differs by company, as many companies have different rules and tolerances that govern the matching process. This can make the process laborious and time consuming for accounts payable staff, and it’s not uncommon for many accounting departments to spend inordinate amounts of time matching invoices and cutting checks for routine purchases. 

Given that the three-way matching process is largely mechanical in nature, one would think that it could be automated. But what would it look like for a system to perform some of the heavy lifting, allowing your AP staff to focus on the critical few problems, without having to grind thought the invoices that went through without a hitch?

  • Firstly, the system would need to read the invoice. It would need to read and digitize supplier invoices, whether they’re sent as PDFs Word documents, or in some other format.
  • Secondly, it would need to validate the invoice. It would need to review the past POs and match the invoice lines with the corresponding PO lines, whether they come from multiple Purchase Orders or a single PO.
  • Thirdly, they’d need to perform the three-way match. Using the rules that your company has configured, the system would need to compare line items from the purchase order, the invoice, and the actual receipt of goods.
  • Finally, the system would need to generate payment vouchers with the click of a button.

The benefits of such a system should be self-evident. Automation works to secure your supplier relationship, while minimizing invested time and effort. Moreover, such a system would be the kind of repetitive and rigorous data-driven analytical work that computers are made to do:

  • Processing matched invoices
  • Kicking out exceptions

Automation allows skilled staff to focus on the real work, not the grunt work. 

Are you in search of such a solution? Our supply chain automation partner SourceDay will be presenting a webinar entitled “3-Way Matching Success Through AP Automation” with Epicor ERP software solutions expert Jim Frye.  

SourceDay Logo

The webinar will focus on the final stage of the purchase order process: paying supplier invoices. Anyone who’s navigated the perils of accounts payables in Epicor knows the burden of matching purchase orders and invoices. There has to be a better way!

Join Epicor ERP expert Jim Frye to learn how SourceDay helps Epicor customers reduce the time and effort it takes to pay supplier invoices, resulting in early payment discounts, efficiency gains, and hard cost savings. The webinar will cover the following:

The challenges of paying supplier invoices in Epicor
The measurable benefits of faster invoice payment
How to increase operational efficiency and automation

Learn more about Epicor software by attending an EstesGroup Summit! Whether you’re a small business or a global manufacturer or distributor, our world-class enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants can help you with everything from raw materials management to ERP cloud migration. Our Epicor consulting team can help you move from the paper based systems of the past to the cloud based applications of the future.

Brad Feakes SVP of Professional Services

BRAD FEAKES

SVP or Professional Services

EstesGroup

Jim Frye SourceDay Epicor Expert

JIM FRYE

Enterprise Sales Director & In-House Epicor ERP Expert

SourceDay

Phillip Pavelka SourceDay Supply Chain Expert

PHILLIP PAVELKA

Solutions Engineer

SourceDay

Leveraging Union Queries in Epicor Kinetic BAQs

Leveraging Union Queries in Epicor Kinetic BAQs

BAQs — Becoming One Data

A fundamental value of your Epicor ERP system is the data that it holds — all that data sits there, nicely organized and begging for consumption. But good data needs to be converted into information to be of value. As such, getting good data out of your ERP system is key. Often, it takes a good query to perform that information transformation. A Union query is one tool in the Epicor BAQ toolbox that can perform this action.

Data Server Epicor BAQs
Within the Epicor Business activity query toolset, Union queries combine multiple data sources into a single results set. Union queries are a great way to combine data from different tables that are, for whatever reason, sufficiently similar as to combine them into a single dataset. Some examples might include:

  • You are using the project module and wish to combine project phases and project tasks into one single set of activities
  • You are tracking the completion of manufactured parts in a mixed mode environment, and need to merge the Job Assembly and Job Material tables
  • You are reviewing sales activity for a customer and wish to combine open orders and open quotes

The UNION command in some ways functions like a JOIN command. It is used to select related information from two related tables. The biggest difference is in how the two tables are related and returned. A JOIN returns multiple table data elements combined into a single row, while with the UNION command, the records from different tables are returned as separate rows. It’s important to note the following: because records from different tables are being combined into a single set of rows, the rows returned need to be of the same data type. We will spell this out further below.

Let’s look at the attached Epicor BAQ example and better understand the UNION command in an Epicor business activity query.

The following query combines three sets of supply-side data into a single dataset:

  • Purchase Orders
  • Jobs
  • Inventory
SubQuery1 is the top-level query. It pulls data from the PartBin and PlantWhse tables:
Epicor SubQuery1
SubQuery2 is a Union query, from the JobPart and JobHead tables. Note: the data types are organized in the same order as the top-level query:
Epicor Kinetic SubQuery2
SubQuery3 is also a Union subquery that returns data from the PODetail and PORel tables:
Epicor Kinetic SubQuery3
Note: UNION command requires all selected columns to be of the same data type. If these returned values are not of the same type, you will receive error messages, per the screenshot below:
Epicor Kinetic Union Command
The value of Union queries is far-reaching. For example, the above query can then be used in a job shortage dashboard, such as the one below. In the following dashboard, the main query returns all past-due job material records where the material’s related operations have been started, but the material has not been issued. The main query published out the material part number, such that the child query can subscribe to this value and present the collected supply for the part in question, whether coming from inventory, from a job, or from a purchase order:
Epicor Kinetic Job

Need help with Epicor Kinetic BAQs?

Epicor Kinetic User Summit Fall 2021

Like BAQs? Looking for more Epicor Kinetic tips and tricks?

Meet us at the EstesGroup Kinetic Summit!

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

EstesGroup is a Cybersecurity Awareness Month Champion

Are you mitigating both old and new cybersecurity threats? Are you navigating the vulnerabilities at both on-site and remote office locations? Are you communicating current best practices for cybersecurity across your employee pool? Cybersecurity Awareness Month, held every year in October, helps even the most informed business owners further secure their operations.

This year’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month initiative highlights the growing importance of cybersecurity by encouraging individuals and organizations to take necessary measures to stay safe and secure in an increasingly connected world.

EstesGroup is committed to Cybersecurity Awareness Month and is a 2021 Champion. We join a growing global effort to promote the awareness of online safety and privacy. The Cybersecurity Awareness Month Champions Program is a collaborative effort among businesses, government agencies, colleges and universities, associations, nonprofit organizations and individuals committed to the Cybersecurity Awareness Month theme of ‘Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.’

Mitigate Threats, Navigate Shortfalls, and Communicate Cybersecurity Policies

More than ever before, technology plays a part in almost everything we do. Connected devices have been woven into society as an integral part of how people communicate and access services essential to their well-being. Despite these great advances in technology and the conveniences this provides, recent events have shown us how quickly our lives and businesses can be disrupted when cyber criminals and adversaries use technology to do harm. We find these security vulnerabilities, while offering actionable guidance surrounding behaviors anyone can take to protect themselves and their organizations.

Secure By Design

What if social engineering attacks, dark web disturbances, and malicious malvertising intrusions into your life simply couldn’t exist? This month, make it a goal to stop them from existing in your business. Here are a few focus points to take into consideration when developing your cybersecurity policies:

  • Understanding and implementing basic cyber hygiene, including the importance of strong passphrases, using multi-factor authentication, performing software updates and backing up data. Creating a disaster recovery plan before a disaster necessitates such actions.
  • Recognizing and reporting phishing attempts whether it’s through email, text messages, or chat boxes.
  • Empowering individuals to not only practice safe online behavior, but consider joining the mission of securing our online world by considering a career in cybersecurity!
  • Making cybersecurity a priority in business by making products and processes “secure by design” and considering cybersecurity when purchasing new internet-connected devices.

If everyone does their part – implementing stronger security practices, raising community awareness, educating vulnerable audiences or training employees – our interconnected world will be safer and more resilient for everyone.

I’m Secure, You’re Secure, We’re Secure

Now in its 18th year, Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues to build momentum and impact with the ultimate goal of providing everyone with the information they need to stay safer and more secure online. EstesGroup is proud to support this far-reaching online safety awareness and education initiative which is co-led by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Is Your Organization Secure?

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