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How To Begin Your Software Selection

How To Begin Your Software Selection

Toward a Simple Software Selection Process

A very typical software selection process begins by clicking on “I am interested” after reading about a software product. Someone replies, and pretty soon a salesperson has you convinced their product will have you living the Life of Riley.

Is that narrative oversimplified? Maybe, but all of us have followed that process at times and possibly even with enterprise-level software products such as Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP solutions

ERP Software Selection

A simple selection process can work because there are many very good systems on the market, and they are flexible enough that good value is there for many businesses. None of us knows what we don’t know. Choosing an off-the-shelf software could lead to an 80% or even 90% satisfaction, but the 100% solution we hoped for could be beyond reach.

Software Selection First Steps: Look Inward First

Rather than taking a chance, consider yourself, your business, and your co-workers. You might have had past success at developing workarounds to resolve little shortfalls in software. The cost wasn’t too high, and the work still got done. There is nothing wrong with this approach and possibly a lot right. The workaround gave someone in your business a successful win. You did not need to pay any additional money to arrive at your satisfactory solution.

The Old ERP & the New ERP

On the other hand, you might want to replace an ERP that your business has used for many years, and although it began as off-the-shelf, you have modified and customized it over the years. Your users are comfortable with the software, and their work gets done well. That legacy system is not available now and can no longer be maintained. Do you want to get another similar system and begin again to modify and customize it?

Software in the Cloud

Today we need to consider the platform in addition to the software itself. In the past, companies bought software and installed it on in-house servers and managed the system internally. However, many ERP systems run in the cloud now. 

Cloud-ready software, like SYSPRO or Prophet 21, requires substantially less money up front and the maintenance is provided as a part of the ongoing fee. For many the total cost of ownership is much less than running a system on your own server.

But What Cloud?

There are several varieties of cloud, beyond cumulus or cirrus. A very common option is a shared system provided by the software company. The software is a single instance and each multi-tenant customer has secured storage for their own data. You set your own configurations and can personalize user interfaces. But little or no customization is available, as that single instance is shared. Integration of other systems might be possible, but automatically updating files or uploading data from another system will be tightly controlled by the software cloud managers.

A second option is single tenancy where you have your own instance of the software in the cloud and your data is similarly secured. Here your options to customize or integrate are a little more flexible, but the ongoing cost is higher.

The third option is to purchase the on-premises version of the software but install it in a cloud server. With this option, the system is yours to customize or integrate as your business needs. But the system is yours so that your business also must manage ongoing maintenance. You have many options related to the software and to the platform. 

Consider carefully how your system will work best for your needs and with your style of operating. Only after knowing your own business and its culture and style should you begin a search for your future software.

Do you need help with software selection or management? Contact us now, chat with us, or ask an expert about IT or ERP. We love to talk about ERP software. EstesGroup provides a unique value to businesses like yours: we understand your software and its underlying technology. Learn more about our EstesCloud managed services and how EstesGroup ERP & IT consultants work together to help you optimize your infrastructure so that you can focus on the work you love while we secure your foundations.

 

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Managed Services vs. Break-Fix IT

Managed Services vs. Break-Fix IT

What happens when break-fix IT breaks?

As a business owner, you make daily decisions on how to serve your customers and how to improve your company. As part of this, you choose partners and solutions to create a support system that guarantees the quality of your work. A business process review is a popular step in the direction of improvement. For IT support services, small and medium-sized companies often fall into a costly “break-fix” cycle. Business owners can quickly end this break-fix madness by partnering with a managed services provider for affordable, reliable IT plans that are based on unique needs.

Managed Services IT Backup Cloud on Desktop

What is “break-fix” IT?

If a computer or a phone breaks or a server goes down, do you call around until you find someone who can fix the problem? This is break-fix IT. You go about your business, and when something breaks, you pay someone to fix it.

Large companies often have an in-house break-fix team that can manage everything from mobile phones to on-site servers, but these tasks need to be balanced with more complicated demands. No matter what your company size, break-fix IT is expensive and stressful. Managed IT services provide a way for you to break the break-fix cycle while lowering both risks and costs. You can even move to a more competitive managed cloud environment via new cutting-edge hosting solutions.

Signs you’re in a break-fix IT model:

  • Unpredictability across departments: Your technology fails, and all departments spin into chaos.
  • Downtime: Unexpected software and hardware failures reduce productivity and increase costs.
  • Lost revenue: Downtime is only one part of the problem, especially when a security breach is the cause of shutdown.
  • Outages: If the network is down, how can your employees support your customers?
  • Stress: The inherent stress of a break-fix IT strategy can result in high turnover and toxic work culture.

Managed IT Services that End Break-Fix IT Unpredictability

Managed Services Provide Unbreakable IT Solutions

While the break-fix model may work for a time, it ends up costing more than you plan for. This might lead you to consider hiring new in-house IT staff. However, a managed service provider can give you the same talent at lowers costs, and the services are 24/7/365 — and you don’t have to pay for benefits, vacation days, sick days, training, and everything else that supports an in-house IT department.

EstesGroup wants you to find the best IT services for your business. Learn more about our flexible IT solutions today.

Ready for a managed cloud solution that lets you completely focus on your business while EstesGroup IT & ERP specialists manage your infrastructure? Get a free demo of ECHO, our EstesCloud hosting solution. Learn more about SYSPRO hosting, Sage hosting, Epicor hosting, and Prophet 21 hosting today.

3 Signs It’s Time For a Server Upgrade

3 Signs It’s Time For a Server Upgrade

Is Your Server Seeing Stars?

Sometimes called a “super computer” or simply a “computer bigger than yours,” a server is a technological infrastructure that hosts a shared resource pool. Servers become more complicated as small businesses grow and require multiple pieces of hardware to support company software. A multi-site company might have multiple servers at each location to support various types of users, devices, and software interactions. Many of us never physically see the servers that support our personal devices, yet our data is available across phones, laptops, tablets, and desktops. Unfortunately, old servers put our data at risk. Is it time to take a good look at a server upgrade?

Server Upgrade IT Strategy Team

Sign #1: The Word “Outdated” Comes to Mind When You Think About Your Server

A timely server upgrade can increase profitability by giving you a competitive edge since a server upgrade is most often a “profit now, profit later” occasion. For example, Section 179 allows business owners to upgrade technology and write off purchases. Business growth is challenging, and investments can be risky, and there are programs in place that acknowledge and assist with this reality. Like you might replace an old furnace or broken window when the timing is right for tax deductions, you might replace old technology when your CFO or accountant sees an opportunity to take advantage of a tax break.

Sign #2: You Find Yourself Questioning the Security of Your Data

A handful of “S” words haunt the security issue, with servers as the first serve. When looking for signs of server insecurity, also inspect system assessment history, speed issues, storage requirements, and sensitivity of information handling.

Is your current server architecture safe from hackers? Ransomware is becoming an amateur hacker’s play now that Cybercrime as a Service is becoming a popular business exchange on the Dark Web. SaaS (Software as a Service) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) cultures increase the risk as they both allow more complex interactions with your network.

How much of your data is sensitive, and can your servers keep up with compliance regulations? If your office handles medical information, you’ll need technology solutions that comply with HIPAA. The acronyms of compliance are often industry-specific notations that change yearly to adapt to new threats.

Backup management and documentation strategies need to be supported by a network that can process information swiftly and without risk of data loss. Storage needs increase as devices become more interactive, and physical servers don’t offer the same flexibility as virtualized servers, so this is also something to take into consideration as you question data security. No room in the server means no data saved for your future. Inadequate or improper data storage can become a costly mistake that can lead to significant strain on your budget.

Sign #3: You Worry About Stability & Know a Server Upgrade Could Help

If you have a physical server to maintain, you know the burdens of cooling costs, fire alarms, and on-site security systems. Your server room is vulnerable to both physical and virtual attacks. Business owners rarely have time to analyze every file created, and every company click needs to be protected from malware and other threats. Ask yourself a few questions to see how much you know about the stability and accessibility of your backups:

  • How do you archive company information?
  • What are the greatest risks to your servers?
  • If you need to upgrade your technology every 5 – 10 years, when will your servers need to be replaced so that you can stay competitive amid advancements?
  • How long would it take to migrate your data to another physical server? Would it be more efficient to migrate data to the cloud? Is your data already somewhere in the cloud?

Now Is the Time To Take a Closer Look at Your Server

Unfortunately, on-premise servers fail, and routine assessments are necessary. EstesGroup can help. Our IT specialists are here 24/7 to provide recommendations for IT infrastructure, maintenance, testing, & more.

Wish to know more about server management?

On-Premise vs. Hosted vs. SaaS

On-Premise vs. Hosted vs. SaaS

Which is right for your business? On-Premise, Hosted or SaaS?

Technology changes at such a rapid pace that it can be hard to keep up. Today we are going to dive into the key differences of on-premise vs. hosted vs. SaaS (software as a service) and provide some great reference points that you can align best with your business.

On-Premise, Hosted, Cloud & SaaS Definitions

On-Premise Solutions

The best place is to start with a quick history lesson. Most businesses have some from of IT infrastructure that they leverage that allows them to operate efficiently and effectively. The traditional method that many businesses begin with is on-premise. In today’s world, on-prem deployment is considered a legacy approach. A legacy approach is not always wrong, as an on-premise solution does have its benefits.

Benefits of On-Premise Solutions

  • Increased security since control is controlled locally.
  • Performance can be important to users who have slower internet speeds and for when occasional software requires local installs for best performance.
  • On-premise software usually carries more features due to development cycles.

Weaknesses of On-Premise Solutions

  • Infrastructure: Average server life span is around 5 years and can be shorter depending on growth.
  • Cost: Considered a Cap-X expense and can be more expensive then SaaS counterparts.
  • Security: Endpoints, backups, patch management, etc. — all needs to be considered.
  • Future proofing: Many servers are more expensive upfront than required to account for future growth. If this is not applied correctly during initial purchase, it can lead to increases in long-term spending.
  • Remote access: Unless originally configured, users outside the office (remote workforces) will have a hard time accessing required resources.
  • Performance degradation: Over the course of time, hardware breaks down and will need to be replaced.

Hosted & SaaS Solutions

This is the future of where most businesses are heading. Hosted solutions generally come in two forms: hardware and software. A hosted server is very similar to on-premise as the main difference comes from the server physical location. This generally means that you get the same benefits as the on-premise solution but with far fewer of the weaknesses. SaaS generally refers to software without requiring the infrastructure to run the software but does not always have the same features.

Benefits of Hosting & SaaS

  • Time to deploy: SaaS-based solutions can be deployed almost immediately in most cases.
  • Expense: Upfront costs are low for SaaS.
  • Minimal Infrastructure: With SaaS solutions, hardware requirements are generally taken on by the company offering the SaaS solution. Hosted has the benefit of being able to right-size resources for the organization with the ability to scale on demand.
  • Flexibility: With both SaaS & hosted solutions, you can increase or decrease resources on the fly.
  • Security: Backups and updates are generally applied by the provider. This is not always the case and requires additional costs depending on the vendor.
  • Performance: Both solutions scale and are not affected by hardware degradation, as the underlying hardware is upgraded by either the data center or the SaaS vendor.

Weaknesses of Hosting & SaaS

  • Internet connection: Both solutions require decent bandwidth at location in order to function.
  • Transparency: Data storage with SaaS solution is beyond the control of the business owner. Hosted solutions will disclose where data is being stored.
  • Long-term costs: Upfront costs are generally lower and moved into an operating cost structure which can be higher, especially if on-prem hardware is owned.

Examples of Deployment Options

Scenario 1 – Startup / Small Engineering Consultancy

A small business with 5 people, you have 3 people working in one location, and 2 employees working remotely. You have minimal overhead, and you are expecting to grow quickly, so you need flexible and scalable systems.

What your key systems might look like:

Large Corporate Business Systems

In this example, a hosted, lightweight solution is totally appropriate. It allows you to focus on the business and not have to worry about managing an IT environment. New users can be added in minutes and can access information from anywhere with no specific hardware requirements other than an internet connection.

Scenario 2 – Established Mid-Size Engineering Consultancy

A mid-sized business with 50 people, you have 20 people working at one office location and users scattered throughout the states with no aspirations of any other offices at this stage. You have an established client base you work for and provide some specialist engineering design services which require some specific CAD software.

What your key systems might look like:

Key Small Business Systems

In this example, you probably have an existing investment in infrastructure and are probably already running a Windows network. You are probably also running an intranet and have appropriate network storage and data backup facilities. You have your own or regular IT support so you can manage your own environment. In this case, you may prefer the software to be installed on your network so you can control it. Hosting is less of a benefit for you, but you may still choose this option for convenience if your current environment is not appropriate for the software due to age or if it is already running at maximum capacity. Over the next few years, we will see a lot of businesses in this space start to run a hybrid model of on-premise and hosted software solutions.

Scenario 3 – Large International Corporate

As part of a global engineering consultancy, your systems are dictated by your owners. They are designed by an internal IT team to fit in with rules and processes as established by an internal governance team. They are very rigid and highly controlled, and most of your systems are on-premise where you have a team of internal IT technicians maintaining them.

What your key systems might look like:

Midsize Business Systems

In this example, the environment and the software are governed by internal policies. These are not agile systems, and they require a large investment in infrastructure. A massive amount of time and effort goes into establishing and maintaining these systems. Eventually, large corporates will start moving towards more agile hosted solution.

EstesGroup understands that not every business operates in the same manner. Some businesses require on-prem solutions while other businesses might be able to increase efficiency and reduce costs by moving to a hosted or SaaS-based solution.

If you are interested in finding out how you can make technology work better for your business, including which solution would fit best, we would love to help by setting up a 100% free business technology assessment. If you have any questions or are interested in find out how to make your business technology operate better, please email Chris Koplar at [email protected] or call 760-216-3452.

How to Create a Strategic BDR Plan

How to Create a Strategic BDR Plan

The Right Data For Backup & Disaster Recovery

For backup and disaster recovery (BDR) planning, you need more than a trusted solution. You need a data center that can’t fail. You need an IT team that won’t keep you up at night. Server room aside, you might want to back up everything, or you might want to delete outdated information. You might fear that your BDR plan will be too expensive if it becomes all-inclusive, or you might wonder if you’re cutting costs while risking a slow restore in the event of a disaster. Fortunately, many IT service plans for disaster recovery often rely on managed cloud services that allow you to scale up or down, adjusting your costs on a monthly, or even daily, basis (depending on your managed IT solution). However, BDR options abound, so let’s look at how to build the right BDR plan for your business needs.

BDR Solutions Across Devices

Choosing BDR

Things to consider when choosing a BDR plan revolve around your own personal preferences regarding on-premise backup vs. cloud backup. Where do you want your data stored? The varieties of BDR options are seemingly endless as we move toward a society that depends on cloud-based technology to enable nearly every aspect of business culture. Your BDR decisions are vital and unique to your company size, geography, climate, and more. Small business technology can help businesses struggling to grow stay competitive, even when business is slow. Larger businesses, especially manufacturers with complex ERP systems, choose cloud-based BDR for peace of mind against ever-evolving threats of cyberattacks and downtime. Across all industries and organizations, good BDR planning promotes the universally desired benefits of reduced risks and lower costs. So, information management similarities and differences in mind, where do you want to save, store and share your company data?

BDR Plan Quick Q&A

  • How much critical data do you need to fully protect?
  • How many users and devices will be affected by your backup and disaster recovery plan?
  • What are your greatest vulnerabilities (natural disasters, ransomware, malwaresocial engineering attacks)?
  • Do you know your RTO & RPO? Do you need DRaaS?
  • What is your BDR training and testing strategy?
  • Have you ever experienced data loss or data corruption? How did you respond? Did you achieve restoration?

Save Your Files & Save Them Again

Where is your data currently stored? In a web-based software? On a server in an office closet? In the basement storage area? In multiple places, including on personal devices (in light of BYOD trends)? You’re not alone if you’re struggling with data management. Likewise, you’re not alone if you’re struggling to choose a BDR solution that will be a perfect fit for your company’s future.

3 Basic BDR Roadmaps

If you want to back up everything, or if you want to back up one file, you have three basic options for saving your information.

  • Cloud services for BDR with true cloud environments and 100% virtual office infrastructure
  • Software solutions deployed on company-owned hardware that stores backups for disaster recovery
  • Hybrid cloud infrastructure that leverages cloud-based software solutions, off-site data centers and external technology specialists

Back up, Data Backup

A common concern is that a cloud-based BDR solution will cause excessive external data center usage, resulting in unforeseen ingress and egress expenses, among other unpredictable costs. The fear of creating luxury backups is real, and business owners have struggled in the past with surprise bills that read like fine-print privacy disclosures. This is why the planning stages of your business continuity strategy are critical in terms of IT budgeting. If you’re concerned about decisions regarding incremental backups, recovery point objectives, recovery time objectives, compliance, and all other backup and disaster recovery choices and expenses, then you’ll do well to first assess your core operations. If migrating to managed hosting, you might choose to waterfall excess data storage (such as old servers or unused servers) away from your cloud solutions. An IT specialist can assess your systems and make detailed server management recommendations.

Your BDR Plan Data Core

In a perfect business world, you can back up all of your data and also securely delete it at whim. Unfortunately, the burden of managing data often requires a highly skilled IT team to monitor and safeguard your BDR hardware and software. If you’re not at the point at which you can easily back up everything daily, then you’ll want to ensure you’re protecting critical information.

  • Financial data, including accounting software, invoices, payroll, transactions
  • Customer information and client data, including saved CRM information like prospect notes and lists
  • Critical data from project management activities
  • Employee information, including all HR files that enable operations
  • Paper-based communications, including image saves and scans
MSPAlliance Cyber Verify A Rating Badge Awarded to EstesGroup

A Perfect Plan For Your Business

If you need proactive or reactive backup and disaster recovery services, EstesCloud technology consultants are highly skilled at on-premise, hybrid and private cloud solutions. An IT expert can help you create a penny-wise BDR solution that keeps your data safe.

After The Disaster Plan, The Disaster

After The Disaster Plan, The Disaster

Disaster Plan: Dressed For Disaster

What Happens After You Choose A Disaster Plan?

If you’ve already settled on a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) strategy, you need to know that this is not a “set IT and forget IT” business solution. Yes, you now know that your backups are more reliable. Yes, you know that you have good hardware backing up your data. However, this brings about new focus to your data management activities: training employees, testing backups, and preparing for disasters through routine “fire drills.” Technology gets outdated quickly, so you’ll need to keep an eye on things like server care, cybersecurity, preventative maintenance, software updates, and data storage quality. Tech training is key: a good disaster plan means nothing if your team isn’t solidly prepared for a disaster, especially if it comes in the form of a malicious attack.

 

Training & Awareness

Because technology is always changing, and our world is becoming more digital, staff needs constant training. This is especially true in regard to cyberthreats. Advanced social engineering attacks often result in a data breach. Train your staff on everything from mobile device theft prevention to remote worker security. Your employees are the gatekeepers of your data. Cybercriminals often enter a network by phishing through methods like malvertising. One vulnerable staff member opens your portal to the dark web. Train and test your users. Disaster prevention begins with empowering your team.

 

 

Hardware Maintenance & Testing

A solid disaster recovery plan protects the backup of the backups. Test your hardware and also test the methodology, the infrastructure, and the people backing up your backups:

  • Do you have generators on-site?
  • Do you need backup batteries?
  • How reliable are your cooling systems?
  • Are your fire detection devices up to code?
  • Do you have flexible cloud storage for redundancy?

 

Timely Technology Testing

Your disaster plan should include a testing schedule. Testing should cover everything from user behavior to cloud storage quality. To be certain that your backups are ready and that the guardians of your data are worthy of the task, include the following points in your business continuity strategy:

  • 24/7/365 monitoring of all devices
  • Real-time alerts and incident response
  • Responsive maintenance, patches and updates
  • Continual monitoring of the cyberthreat landscape
  • Penetration testing
  • Disaster response training and cybersecurity training

 

Multi-Location Data Storage

Because natural disasters can quickly level your facilities, include an off-site backup as part of your data management strategy. A good disaster plan lists potential threats and appropriate responses. For example, if your threat is a tornado, an off-site backup is essential, and a tornado drill is also necessary. If your threat is ransomware, then your BDR strategy should include incident response procedures. Do you plan your IT budget with the possibility in mind that one day you might end up paying a ransom fee? Cloud-based backup allows you flexibility and resiliency here. If you know the ransomer doesn’t hold the only copy of your data, then you know you won’t need to pay a stranger to get it back.

What is your disaster plan?

Network Connectivity

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are complex and therefore need a robust disaster plan.

Our IT experts can take you through an ERP hosting demo to show you the power of private and hybrid cloud technology. We can tailor your hosting demo to be industry-specific. EstesGroup’s long history includes thousands of success stories in Epicor hosting, Prophet 21 cloud, and other ERPs (like Sage, QuickBooks and SYSPRO). If you’d like to see how ERP hosting can help your business, please fill out the form below, and our IT & ERP experts will prepare a custom demo.