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Why Cloud ERP is Right for Your Business

Why Cloud ERP is Right for Your Business

Cloud-based computing allows users to access their software applications on shared computing resources, thus avoiding the costs of managing and maintaining their own data center. It’s an ideal option for those who need guaranteed up-time and want the most up-to-date software applications available. More and more business is turning to cloud ERP software as well, as it provides the anywhere-access of all cloud applications and features a lower up-front investment.

What Is Cloud ERP Software?

ERP software integrates your business processes to foster automated workflows and provides you a full view of all of the various aspects of your business that make it work, including sales, finance, and production. The only major difference between cloud ERP software and on-premises ERP software is the physical location of the software. However, if that physical location is at the vendor’s data center and made available to you through the internet, you are able to access the software from anywhere.

The History of Cloud ERP

ERP software is now entering the phase where data is flowing freely across all aspects of a business and providing the ease and precision of automated workflows. It wasn’t always that way, however.

In the early 1960s, the original ERP was the pioneer computer system installed at a manufacturing plant in order to track materials. Two decades ago, business solutions were maintained on space-eating machines on premises of all types of businesses. ERP software was sold in large, cumbersome packages with questionable functionality.

Customizing that software required hiring someone to configure it through millions of lines of software code. If you had a problem, it would take a team of engineers to figure it out.

There were a number of issues that necessitated the progress of ERP to the cloud. The biggest of those issues is that the expense of the data center, the IT team, space for the computers, the computers themselves, the code writer and the engineers caused the powerful benefits of ERP software to be little more than a dream to everyone but the largest and most profitable companies. Further, the processes of inputting and accessing the information left little room for alternatives, and noncompliance with procedures was high as frustrated employees refused to conform to the system’s process changes.

Benefits of Cloud ERP

In addition to providing a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes, without the demands of on-premises deployment, cloud ERP offers many other benefits, such as:

  • No upfront software licensing fees
  • The vendor handles all software updates and upgrades, meaning you and your employees always have access to the latest versio
  • Access to your data wherever you are
  • You pay only for the cloud services you need and you’re easily able to add more as your business grows or your needs change
  • A fixed monthly rate for the software that you rely on
  • Data is backed up regularly and there is a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Your vendor provides data security and your vulnerability to attacks is diminished, as your data is not located on premises
  • A limited amount of time is needed for implementation, meaning you can take advantage of the benefits of your cloud ERP a lot sooner

Why Cloud ERP Is Right for Your Business

Is your business in the process of growing and, therefore, requires a scalable solution? Do you have limited funds to invest in hardware, software, and IT personnel? Do you want guaranteed up-time and the knowledge that your data is recoverable in the event of a disaster? Do you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly how much you’re going to pay each month for the business technology you require? Are you ready to start using your ERP system as soon as possible? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then cloud-based ERP is a great solution for you. Contact us for more information.

Cloud vs On Premise ERP

Cloud vs On Premise ERP

In-House Hosting Compared to Cloud-Based Hosting

When you hear about Cloud vs on premise ERP hosting, the conversation is about the server infrastructure on which your software applications run, and your data is stored. Both on premise (or in-house) and cloud-based options have benefits and downsides, so choosing between the two often comes down to costs, how much uptime you need, and the other specific needs of your company at this time.

What is In-House Hosting and Cloud-Based Hosting?

In-house hosting means that you house your infrastructure on-premises at your company. You have absolute control over your data, including how it is protected. Cloud-based hosting involves having your applications and data stored on a public or private cloud that is accessible to you over the internet.

The Benefits & Challenges In-House Hosting

Pros:

  • Physical control over your data and backup
  • Access to your data is not reliant on an internet connection

Cons:

  • Requires an investment in hardware and infrastructure, which depreciates rapidly — often within about four years
  • Requires dedicated space at your business, as well as a dedicated IT support team
  • Disaster recovery is difficult and there are no guarantees that your data can be recovered

The Benefits & Challenges of Cloud ERP

Pros:

  • A great option for small to medium-sized businesses who cannot afford the large investment needed to develop, maintain, and secure their data
  • Scalable, meaning that your solution grows along with your business
  • Backup, security, restoration, and support are all provided for you
  • You can back up your data as often as you’d like
  • You can access your data anywhere you are, as long as you have an internet connection

Cons:

  • You can’t access your data without an internet connection
  • You’re limited by internet speeds
  • Although your data is backed up, restoring large amounts of data may take some time, even with a fast internet connection

In Conclusion

When it comes to Cloud vs on premise ERP, there are good and bad points to either option. Cloud-based hosting is a good alternative for small to medium-sized businesses who wish to focus on all of the services that make the business great while resting in the knowledge that the data is monitored and secure. Cloud solutions remove the need to focus attention, time, money, and staff resources on building and maintaining your own personal data center that may “feel” safe, but actually comes with no guarantees.

For more information on our Cloud based hosting services – contact EstesGroup today.

Announcement: EstesGroup Awarded Epicor Managed Hosting Partner Certification

Announcement: EstesGroup Awarded Epicor Managed Hosting Partner Certification

Hosted Epicor Certified PartnerWe are proud to announce that EstesGroup is an Epicor Software Corporation Certified Managed Hosting Partner. EstesGroup is certified to host Epicor ERP and host Prophet 21 ERP systems. 

 

We are the only Epicor Partner to be Certified for Epicor Hosting, Epicor ERP Sales & Implementations, and Prophet 21 ERP Sales & Implementations.

 

This accreditation means that EstesGroup has met and exceeded Epicor Software Corporation’s rigid data center and expertise capability requirements for being awarded Certified Hosting Partner status. To learn more about these requirements please contact us.

 

“We are honored to be an Epicor-Certified Managed Hosting Partner for Epicor Software Corporation, and the only hosting partner to be certified for Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 ERP systems,” said Bruce Grant, CEO of EstesGroup. “Our company has both functional and technical consultants on staff who know Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 systems.  This means we not only know Managed IT, but we know the industry’s best-practice business processes and the underlying software as well. We provide a full-service solution to fit our clients’ needs.”

 

Epicor Software’s Chief Information Officer Rich Murr said, “Epicor and I would like to congratulate EstesGroup for becoming a Certified Epicor Managed Hosting Partner. EstesGroup has a long history in working with Epicor Software Corporation and our clients as a reseller and implementation consulting organization. Last year they became the first and only US Partner to be certified in Epicor ERP and Prophet 21, and now they achieved Hosting Partner for those products as well. EstesGroup continues to provide clients with a solid foundation of experienced consultants and high level hosting standards. We are looking forward to continued growth and excellent service with the EstesGroup team.”

 

EstesGroup is Certified by Epicor Software Corporation to host and manage clients’ Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 ERP systems. As a Certified Managed Hosting Provider, EstesGroup guarantees better than 99.5% uptime Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for clients’ ERP systems (to see EstesGroup’s 99.7% SLA click here).  EstesGroup is also a Microsoft Cloud Services Partner with SQL Administration, Security Administration, O365, MS Exchange, and Disaster & Recovery expertise.

 

To learn more about EstesGroup’s EstesCloud Epicor Hosting, visit our Epicor ERP Hosting page.

Contact EstesGroup today to learn more about Epicor ERP Hosting or Prophet 21 ERP Hosting.

 

 

 

 

 

About EstesGroup

 

Headquartered in beautiful Loveland Colorado, and established in 2004, EstesGroup (www.estesgrp.com) employees averages 25+ years of discrete manufacturing and distribution industry experience which they leverage to ensure client success. Their employees are spread-out throughout the United States which maximizes talent and local presence for their clients. EstesGroup is a certified reseller, certified implementor, and certified hosting provider for Prophet 21 and Epicor ERP 10. They implement full service cloud, hosted, or on-premise solutions based on client needs and requirements.

 

 

About Epicor Software Corporation           

 

Epicor Software Corporation (www.epicor.com) is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and is a manufacturer of Enterprise Resource Planning software solutions. Today, over 20,000 customers in 150 countries around the world rely Epicor’s  expertise and solutions to improve performance and profitability.

 

Epicor and the Epicor logo are trademarks of Epicor Software Corporation, registered in the United States and other countries. Other trademarks used are the property of their respective owners. The product and service offerings depicted in this document are produced by EstesGroup and/or Epicor Software Corporation.

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Recession-Proof Investments: Cloud Computing and the Refrigerator of the Future

We’ve long been told that necessity is the mother of invention, but when necessity is out of a sense of privation, reactions vary. Born and raised into the world of residential and commercial construction, I’ve felt the motion sickness that results from the ups and downs of the building cycle well into my earliest memories. And I‘ve been in business long enough to have stomached enough down-cycles to observe how different companies react to these changing economic climates.

 

As the current bull market gets slowly walked to the slaughterhouse, managers at all levels begin to wonder what it will mean for their own place within America’s larger business landscape. There is always the search for the investments that could be considered “recession-proof”—investments that will yield value during the current crisis, but would also serve as a foundation for future success. Simple cost-cutting is rarely such an investment—it yields short-term savings, but often at the expense of long-term objectives: I’ve never seen a hiker make it to the top of a peak faster by trimming down the soles of his boots.

 

That is, the most reactionary of companies looks to simple knee-jerk reactions to trim costs in order to get in line with shrinking revenues: eliminating optional programs or reducing essential services to their bare minimum. More innovative companies utilize this newfound necessity as a means of transforming their current state by getting ahead of the competition.

 

At the consumer level, the most well-known example of this phenomenon was the advent of the refrigerator. It was the Great Depression, of all things, that led to the broad use of the refrigerator by America’s large middle class. While it was, at the time, a significant capital expenditure for any given household, the refrigerator allowed families to save time and money: the ability to extend the life of the day’s victuals allows families to reduce waste, and thus cut costs, while also allowing them to expend the physical labor that would have been spent on the next meal on other activities. This rendered the old-fashioned ice box obsolete. In this way, times of downturn often have a way of surfacing new innovations—products that outpace their competitors suddenly emerge because the competitive landscape has reduced the viability of their less-innovative competitors.

 

Similarly, as America hit rock bottom in the late 2000s and early 2010s, cloud computing grew rapidly at the same time, as companies looked for ways to reduce cost and risk, while scaling up for the future. In this way, cloud computing may very well serve to become the coming recession’s refrigerator—the tool that will allow individuals and companies to strategically equip themselves not only for the hard times ahead, but also for the good times thereafter.

 

For Epicor customers, cloud computing surfaces as an opportunity to avoid the costs of replacing outdated hardware. Also, by moving installations into hosted environments, customers are able to eliminate the cooling costs required to keep their stacks on ice. Estes Group’s Epicor Cloud Managed Hosting offering (ECHO) is ready-by-design to protect and carry your company through the down-cycles and get you back into the saddle and riding the next bull market to better times. Looking to recession-proof your business? Please reach out to our team, and we’ll help you innovate a cloud computing strategy that will keep you ahead of the storm.

 

Are you looking for cloud computing options, or have questions on how we can help make your systems more flexible? Contact Us today or let us know below.

Data Center Location is Critical to Your Company’s Success and Survival

Data Center Location is Critical to Your Company’s Success and Survival

Looking California When You’re Feeling Minnesota: Where is the Best Data Center Location?

 

For manufacturing companies, the advent of “cloud computing” has raised a lot of questions.  Luckily, you don’t have to wander lonely as a cloud to find answers to your questions surrounding cloud solutions for your business.  Not as complicated as a cumulonimbus or as feathery as a cirrus, a cloud in the field of technology is as simple, or as complicated, as someone else’s computer.  But of the many questions a manufacturer may have, one frequently surfaces in relation to the location of the data: “So where is my data located, anyway?”

 

This isn’t a small squall of a question: if you are looking for an on-premise installation or a server stack in the cloud, your primary and secondary data centers’ location is a decision of atmospheric proportions—one with direct business impact.  

 

Whether choosing hosted or cloud solutions, your data center location is critical.  You must be wary of where exactly your data center servers are located, for all clouds are not created equal.  Downtime is the great fear when it comes to all things computing, and is often the result of natural disasters—and do you remember how long it took to get the power grid functioning in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria?  Clearly, minimizing the risks of mother nature is a central concern.  Let’s take a down-to-earth look at some of the natural dangers facing your company’s data.

 

Earthquakes

 

When I worked in Arkansas a number of years ago, in an area that was on the edge of the New Madrid seismic zone, I noticed the strange cross-bracing in one of the factories, and I asked a local about it.  He explained the seismic risks in the area, and recounted the family lore about the quake of 1812.  Then he looked me square in the eye and said, “Whatever you do, don’t blame Arkansas—it wasn’t our fault.” 

 

It can be a surprise to discover that one the largest earthquakes in North America’s recorded history was not along the California coast but was actually along the New Madrid seismic zone in Missouri—of all places!  This was the quake that briefly caused the Mississippi River to run upstream back in 1812, the year almost exclusively famous for the conflict between America and England.  But while the Americans were locked in battle with the British on the East Coast, they were unwittingly losing the war with nature in the Midwest.   

 

This might serve as a warning if you locate your data center in a seismic zone—if your server gets death-rattled into oblivion, it’ll be your own fault.

 

 

Tornadoes

 

Nothing can lay your blades out like a deck of 52 quite like a tornado.  Tornadoes pry open buildings like nature’s proverbial can opener, allowing copious rain and debris to decorate your server room like a third grade art project, and you don’t want to see your data garnished with nature’s glitter.  Tornadoes pose a risk not only to your data center itself, but they also tend to knock out your primary—and even your secondary power supplies.  Backup generators are often located adjacent to a building, making them a potential target for mother nature’s twisted wrath.  So while a twister might leave a building unscathed, it might take out your external generator, rendering backup power systems useless.  Of course, that’s a moot point if the contents of your data center are laid out across the lawn like your laundry, for all to see.  Luckily, a proper data center location can help you avoid an unfortunate game of 52-pickup.

 

 

Floods

 

I reached out to one of my customers after a series of tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, and he gave the all-clear: “The twisters missed us, but the water levels are so high, some folks can’t get into work.”  That is to say, a natural disaster can be more sneaky than a weather channel headline.  While things like tornadoes get a lot of attention, water levels can do a lot more damage over time.  As such, one might think twice about locating a data center on a floodplain.  While all my gamer buddies are hyped over water-cooled CPUs, I don’t quite think this is what they’re referring to. 

 

 

Hurricanes

 

Hurricanes amount to the worst of wind and water, with the ability to pummel your data center into paste from above, or dissolve it into a silicon solution from below.  And while the zone immediately affected by hurricanes is rather small, the extended zone where hurricane-related storms transform into inland berserkers is much larger.  Locating your stacks in a place that is far-removed from the hurricane fallout zone will serve you well in reducing wind and water risks. 

 

 

Heat

 

Another sneaky disaster when it comes to all things electronic is heat.  Not too long ago, I was in Charlotte, NC with a coworker.  One morning after breakfast, we were about to head to the customer site when my coworker ran back into the hotel to retrieve his coffee mug, leaving me in the parking lot.  I stood out in the morning heat for maybe a minute or two.  Now, being a Canadian, I generally overheat reading the newspaper, and the morning temp in Charlotte was obliterating.  By the time we got to carpooling, I was already a puddle.  And this was still in the early morning!  Servers are like Canadian consultants—they work better in temperate climates.  When choosing a shack to hang your racks, look to locate it in a place where your cooling systems won’t be fighting a losing battle with the heat index.  Servers generate enough heat on their own—they don’t need any help! 

 

The Cloud

 

While the notion of “The Cloud” brings with it visions of the ethereal, it is in reality quite terrestrial in nature.  Hosting a customer’s ERP system is a huge responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly.  The cloud itself can be just as risky as a hurricane.  As such, the EstesGroup is all about maximizing service while minimizing risk.  In support of our Epicor Hosting initiative, we keep our data center located in Michigan, which has a favorable climate for keeping servers cool as a cucumber, while avoiding the many environmental pitfalls noted above.  Moreover, by having our data center location in the Midwest, we provide centrality that allows us to rapidly service a broad region.  With optimal location and cloud infrastructure, the team at EstesGroup can serve your business needs by providing ideal solutions for your data, regardless of the weather. 

 

If you find yourself looking to the sky for answers to your worldly business questions, please give our team a call.

If Your Software Don’t Dance then it’s No Friend of Mine – Understanding Epicor’s Release Cadence

If Your Software Don’t Dance then it’s No Friend of Mine – Understanding Epicor’s Release Cadence

Don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels

According to sociologists, my brother and I are from the same generation.  Sometimes I wonder… with nine years between us, we occupied two very different points of time, especially when it came to music.  My brother was a man without a hat, a child of the 80s, while I left my toque at home so I could let my hair hang low à la Kurt Cobain.  But in spite of the age gap, we shared an abiding mutual interest in contemporary sounds, and my brother once remarked, when comparing my Pearl Jam to his Bruce Springsteen (Springfield, after all, had been his generation’s Eddie Vedder), that my music was sure easier to dance to.  That was certainly a surprise to me.  I always thought of myself as a double-left-foot biped, and moreover I’ve long suspected that I have no genetic predisposition to dance—our father’s visits to the local dancehalls were to roughhouse, not to two-step, and I’ve often wondered if he only met my mother because he couldn’t find another ruffian to dance with that night.

 

For many years I was close with a World War II veteran who also met his spouse at a dance hall.  As a man of the Greatest Generation, he felt the Great Depression firsthand, served in the European Theatre, and returned to the States to become a successful business owner and family man.  But if you asked him what he really was, he’d tell you he was a dancer.  

 

His greatest joy was to fling himself and his dancing partner across the parquet of a long-forgotten ballroom, with the band laying it down in the corner.  And whenever I’d make it home to see him after an extended consulting gig, he’d ask me if there were any polka bars in the town where I’d been.  It broke my heart to disappoint him that I couldn’t find a polka venue to spend my nights, as his dance hall culture had long since become an American timepiece.  

 

My crowd, for one, never caught onto it, and I personally never learned how to dance.  I didn’t exactly need to be Jean Erdman to make my way through a mosh pit, and my crowd later gravitated to house and electronica music, where dance meant minimal vertical sufficiency while moving to the beat.  Even still, I found one abiding continuity between my companion’s old-style Polka and my Mosh.  Always keep moving, always keep to the beat.  Or, as he loved to say after reminiscing about his dancing days, “Don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels.”  

 

Good software is like a good dancer—it doesn’t stop moving. 

Has anyone on this dance floor ever worked on a green screen application?  Or does anyone remember the look and feel of Netscape Navigator?   In spite of my nostalgia for 90’s apps, baggy jeans, three-chord anthems, and a full head of hair, I realize that software doesn’t stand still—a software package that can’t dance soon becomes a two-left-feet wall-flower.  And a software package that can’t teach its users how to dance might lose out to nostalgia.  It was the twist that put my polka buddy out for good: “I just can’t understand how a guy can do nothing but put out cigarettes all night on the dance floor and call that dancing.”

 

Fresh off Epicor’s annual Insights conference, I’m ready to tango and tangle with all the new capabilities that are in development or already in the process of being released to the user community.  Needless to say, there is a whole lot of shaking going on at the great Epicor Code Laboratory, where Epicor’s waltzing wizards ply their trade.  And the release of this functionality for public consumption is more than just movement for its own sake.  Like a good ballroom turn, software release requires a cadence, and Epicor has been hard at work perfecting its rhythms. 

 

New releases of Epicor functionality conform to the Major.Version.Release.Update structure. 

For example, a company on version 10.2.300.4 would be broken out in the following manner:

  • Major: 10
  • Version: 2
  • Release: 300
  • Update: 4

 

These different elements are further described below:

 

Major:  

  • Major Product changes occur when fundamental architectural changes are made to the product.  From a customer perspective, a new product level may require significant changes at the database or application server level. 
  • Any customizations in the previous product level need to be retested, and many may need to be rewritten entirely.
  • Significant functionality or user-interaction changes may also be included, which may require retraining of the user community.
  • The most obvious example of this was Epicor’s monumental move from 905 to E10.  This was a fundamental change to the database and all the levels of its server-side business logic. 
  • Major Product deliveries are planned to occur approximately every 60 months. 

 

Version:

  • New versions may have a significant impact on Epicor’s data schema—fields may be added or removed. 
  • These changes may be substantial to BAQs, BPM’s, and screen customizations.  As such, ample testing in a pilot environment should occur prior to deployment. 
  • For example, Epicor’s move from its 10.0 to 10.1 brought with it important improvements in performance, stability—not to mention a ton of new features.
  • New versions of the software are planned to occur every 18 months.

 

Release:

  • Releases are fully-packed new instances of the software, with significant functionality enhancements, but the enhancements are limited as to allow for an easy upgrade process from a prior release. 
  • Releases (or patch-levels) include additive changes to Epicor’s data schema, but no deletions.
  • These changes may have minor impact to BAQs, BPM’s, and screen customizations, but these are smaller in scope and gravity than with new versions.
  • For example, in the .300 version of Epicor’s 10.2 product, Epicor’s License Plating (PCID) functionality was greatly enhanced. 
  • New releases are deployed every 6 months. 

 

Update: 

  • Updates are smaller, release-specific changes, constructed with the intent of addressing issues within the current release.  Changes are restricted to minimize disruption.  As such, technology or schema changes are not present in these packages. 
  • User training is not required for updates—the system will function as it previously had, only with fewer issues.
  • Updates are released every 2-3 weeks.

 

Within this structure, it is important to understand the rationale of Epicor’s release cadence.  The goal of their rhythm is to minimize business disruption, while at the same time quickly providing resolution to issues, and providing functional enhancements at a reasonable rate.  The implementation of this cadence has allowed Epicor to balance functionality and support, while allowing the customer base to focus on running their businesses without interruption. 

 

For cloud customers, these upgrades happen automatically, with prescribed periods set aside for preparation, testing and validation, prior to deployment.  For customers who have the application installed on-premises, the cadence is customer-defined.  I have found that customers who keep their system up-to-date reap the benefits of this decision—new versions are easier to maintain and support, and they perform better and have fewer issues.

 

As such, my advice to customers with regard to the frequency of upgrades is simple: learn how to dance and don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels.

Have a question about Epicor ERP, Prophet 21, or ERP system updating cadence? Let us know.