The word “outsourced” makes some business owners curious and others nervous when it comes to IT services. “MSP” is another term floating around, and you might also come across “IT-in-a-Box” when you go looking for help with your systems. Managed IT (our favorite code phrase) can mean a lot of things. If you’re a manufacturing or distribution company, then IT services might mean, among other things, industry-specific Cloud or Hosting platforms.
When Nobody Sees the IT Stop Signs
When it comes to your ERP and IT systems, you need effective stop signs that work both internally and externally. Your cybersecurity infrastructure can keep your team safe and productive while also keeping the bad guys out. Cybercrime is a 1 + 1 relationship. If you didn’t have a team to be hacked, then you wouldn’t ever need to worry about adding a hacker to your network.
Stop Sign 1: Your company’s IT services need to ensure that your employees are traveling through safe pathways and that they know when to stop before falling into the webs of ransomware or other destructive malware.
Stop Sign 2: Your team’s mobile devices, laptops and desktops all make friends on a daily basis. This is essential for business growth. Because of this, IT services ideally provide a clear STOP sign for potential trespassers—a bold indication that cyber tricksters will not be tolerated, even on the fringes, and will not be unknowingly welcomed in by your team.
A Wanted Man or a Wanted Spam?
But how do you know if your system has a “Most Wanted” sign that’s attracting criminals rather than telling them you already know they’re the lawbreakers? When it comes to business, you’re continually building relationships, and hopefully these become lifelong friendships. You trust your most valuable data to your IT talent. When it comes to managed IT services, business owners and other decision-makers might squint at the cyber lineup and not know whom or when to choose. Here are 4 signs your staff would benefit from a partnership with a managed IT and cybersecurity firm:
High-value IT projects, best done internally, are distracting your key players or forcing them to work long hours.
IT operations are unpredictable or unreliable, causing project or system failures, yet you don’t want to grow or change your employee pool.
IT costs are variable or steep, and you’d like a more predictable budget.
Security and compliance issues are overwhelming your team.
Every second of the day you rely on experts to protect you. The meteorologists warn you of bad weather. The firefighters alert you when it’s a fire risk to roast a s’more. The doctors warn you of heart attack predisposition. In regard to IT, the challenges you face include ransomware that could destroy the business you’ve worked so hard to build. This holds true whether you’re a DoD manufacturer, a medical clinic, an accounting firm, a lollipop distributor, a small-town bank… the list goes on. Because the hackers are always available to friend you, you’re always risking adding them to your inner circle, making your 1 + 1 relationship one of IT enemies, rather than friends. A 1 (your team) + 1 (EstesGroup Managed IT services team) relationship will keep your IT math simple, your budget profitable, and your company safe.
Private cloud deployment is changing the way manufacturing and distribution companies install applications and store information. While this is an exciting move for any business, the step from on-premise to cloud infrastructure can come with unexpected costs. Many companies expect, and easily budget for, typical costs associated with the move to private cloud, but hidden expenses often blur into the fine print of the original pricing model. Thus, it’s important for a manufacturing or distribution business to budget wisely when moving from on-premise to private cloud infrastructure.
Cloud costs vary according to several different factors, and data comes into play at all levels. A company is its historical data applied to its future, or potential, data. Private cloud protects the data of a business while also utilizing it in real-time, and this cloud data normally exists in one of three states:
Data moving in. This is data as it moves into the storage location or as it is being uploaded. This process is also known as data ingress.
Data moving out. This is data as it moves out of the storage location or as it is being downloaded. This is sometimes referred to as data egress.
Data “at rest.” This can be data residing in a static manner in the storage location and not in transit on the network.
Data In, Data Out
Not surprisingly, costs are tailored around these types of data. Storage budgets are related to the costs of data that is physically being held at a location. Normally, the storage of “at rest” data receives the most attention, as cloud providers offer various pricing structures based on how much data is stored, where the data is located, how often it needs a backup, how often it tends to be accessed, and how quickly it needs to be retrieved.
Many cloud providers do not charge customers for data upload or ingress, and the reasoning is obvious: the more data you upload, the more you get charged for “data at rest.” But one of the most significant hidden costs of the cloud relates to data egress charges—the charges leveled by your cloud provider for accessing your own data.
Think of your old phone bill before the cell phone revolution—each call outside the local area was billable, and the costs varied according to the duration of the call and the location to which the call was made. Egress charges work similarly and are based primarily on the amount of data transferred. Over time, this becomes a matter of dialing for dollars. Should the data transfer increase, the charges will follow.
At its worst, this could become a situation of data rationing, where users are instructed to minimize their pulls from the data source, to minimize costs. This is akin to a mother in the 1980s locking up her new push button phone, out of fear that her toddler, enamored with the button tones, might mistakenly dial Hawaii.
Data rationing is hardly the outcome that one would expect from a move to the cloud, yet egress pricing models put companies in a precarious position. This poses a challenge for companies new to the cloud. Customers accustomed to comprehensive local area networks do not always realize the amount of data that leaves one area of the network to be consumed by another, and thus may be unaware of their ultimate egress requirements. Also, companies may have difficulty in predicting spikes in usage. Without understanding when data use may increase, manufacturing and distribution companies will have trouble predicting expenses.
Data Grows on Trees
Companies using applications that operate in a client-server manner may be similarly challenged when they choose to host their server in the cloud. The data requirements of private cloud can be as surprising as they are significant. A client-server application like Epicor ERP, for instance, is a rather chatty application, as it frequently performs “get” calls to refresh data, in relation to other transactions. In such a case, each “get” would entail a “give” in the form of cold hard cash. For companies utilizing manufacturing execution systems in which users are routinely downloading work instructions and product schematics, in support of manufacturing operations, the costs would further compound.
The complexity involved in manufacturing and distribution requires the innovation of private cloud technology. To transition from on-premise architecture, Epicor ERP customers looking to host their application in a private cloud need predictable costs and reliable budgets—a pricing model that does not involve surprise charges linked to the amount of data traveling into or out of the cloud hosting environment. Egress can cause a budgetary mess, but you have the option to choose a pricing model that doesn’t watch your every download move. Your company can have the reliability and innovation of private cloud without any of the hidden data egress costs that currently abound in the fine print of the cloud market.
Not All Clouds are Created Equal: Reviewing Your ERP Private Cloud Options
It’s no secret that cloud computing has been increasingly finding its way into businesses by providing reliable solutions to increasingly challenging problems. But for ERP customers with complex environment maps, an unmitigated move to the cloud might feel risky. For this reason, some customers look for middle options between full cloud deployments and on-premise installations. Private cloud hosting is one such midpoint, and it’s not uncommon for customers to approach the opportunities of cloud computing in search of a private solution. But will this option leverage the obvious benefits of the cloud, while effectively providing the necessary support for your complex ERP ecosystem?
Your ERP installation is rarely an isolated entity—it is part of an integrated ecosystem of applications and processes, with various third parties, bolt-ons, and in-house applications interacting with the core ERP system. As such, an ERP system is not always easily extracted from its ecosystem, as such an extraction is something akin to major surgery. If you’re looking at handling this complexity with private cloud ERP deployment options, there are basically two management directions you can take. You can build a private cloud using AWS, Azure, or Google, or you can work with an already established team of experts in private cloud hosting. Let’s explore these options in greater detail.
Private Cloud in AWS/Azure/Google
The big players in cloud computing entered the application hosting game a while ago – Amazon, Azure, and now Google. The option here would be to build out your virtual machine architecture within one of these clouds, and install your applications within this architecture, while working in turn to integrate your company-specific application ecosystem with the new ERP infrastructure.
While this eliminates the hardware investment of an on-premise install, you are still responsible for all the administration activities, at the server, application, and database levels. And if your Epicor Admin should win the lottery, you are left scrambling for options. If you lack the internal resources and need to bring in assistance in the administration of the application, you are now adding another party to work within this ecosystem. Moreover, to your monolithic cloud provider, you are still just a number, and the service levels you can expect to receive will indicate as much. Will the hosting company be responsive and listen to your apps and your business needs? Is there a human voice to reach out to when issues occur?
Private Cloud Through the Estes Group’s ECHO Managed Hosting
EstesGroup’s EstesCloud Hosting, or ECHO for short, is our hosting platform. For one monthly price, we include all the functionality and support you need to keep your hosted applications running properly for your business. While providing the access level that companies look for in private cloud solutions, we also provide the support and expertise that a big box store cloud partner can’t provide. One phone call puts you in touch with our support team. Well-versed in Microsoft’s full stack, we cover your servers with 24x7x365 EstesCloud Monitoring. We cover the backups and disaster recovery, and we protect your users with EstesCloud identity management under the security of EstesCloud-managed Firewalls.
We have experience in moving many customers to a private cloud environment, while working with them to integrate their hosted ERP platform with their family of related applications. With this experience comes the knowledge in working with protocols, networks, VPNs, and database connections, and we leverage this knowledge when engaging a customer.
In summary, some of the benefits of the EstesGroup’s ECHO Private Cloud Hosting solution include:
Known monthly expense, with no large capital expenses
Growth with your business supported by continual and customized service
Proven backup and disaster recovery playbooks
Easy, secure access from anywhere you wish
No Server Maintenance
No need to upgrade or repair hardware
When it comes to deploying your ERP architecture, there are clearly a number of different options, and the implications of the decisions made will have a lasting effect on your company’s future. Are you considering spinning up your own private cloud to host your ERP application? Drop us a line first, and let us help you explore your options.
Interested in learning more about Managed Hosting for Epicor ERP or Prophet 21 ERP?
ERP! ERP! How do I love thee? Let me Count the Ways: A Robust Materials Resource Planning ( MRP ) Engine
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Wizard of Oz. One of my favorite scenes was when the “Wizard” was exposed as the “man behind the curtain,” pulling levers and revealing the secrets of the kingdom. In the business world, this phrase has morphed into meaning a person who elusively controls the intricacies of a large enterprise—and no one really knows the who, what, when, or how of the magic behind the success. MRP (Materials Resource Planning) is like this “man behind the curtain.” Incredibly powerful, MRP manages the forces of supply and demand, keeping everything under control.
There are basically three questions that a manufacturer has, and MRP answers:
What does the customer want?
How many do they want?
When do they want it?
While those three questions seem relatively simple in nature, executing them in an efficient and profitable manner can become an extremely daunting, or even impossible task if you don’t have the correct tools. Fortunately, the Epicor MRP Engine is a highly sophisticated but user-friendly process that can help companies increase on-time performance, lower inventory and improve efficiency. MRP takes all three of these questions and looks at them holistically, to manage all variables that can occur on a shop floor.
What product does the customer want?
To answer this, MRP first looks to see if the part is purchased or manufactured. At the core of the system is the type-attribute of the part. Epicor defines a part in three ways: purchased, manufactured or sales kit. Purchased Parts can have a defined lead-time and are used in determining when product can be available if stock is not available. Manufactured Parts are built-up with routings and bills of materials. MRP will take into account the time it takes for each operation, dependent on the quantity and material availability, to determine when the product will be available to ship, based on capacity on the shop floor. Sales kits can be a combination of purchased and manufactured Parts and will use either or both types of logic to determine availability.
What quantity does the customer need?
Based on demand from forecasts or actual Sales Orders, the system looks at the current inventory level. If there is insufficient inventory, it will suggest to the Purchasing Department to buy some if it’s purchased or will suggest to the Planning Department to create a job to make some, if it’s manufactured.
What is the customer’s timeline?
This is where the Epicor MRP logic will take the first two questions and analyze two things: If we don’t have it in stock, can we buy it in time to deliver it, or do we have enough material and resources available to build how many they want? And it does this by taking into account not just one particular Sales Order, but all of the Sales Orders, and all of the inventory stocking levels and Job demands within a plant. Obviously, this is a very tall order, and in a dynamic manufacturing environment, things are often changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Because the MRP process can be such an intensive hardware resource demand, Epicor can be configured to run on a schedule (often times at night), either by looking at net change (to only work on those things that have changed since MRP was last run) or by being regenerative (to recalculate all demand).
Epicor also has the ability to run MRP for a specific part. Have a customer that needs a part ASAP? Now instead of having to wait for MRP to run, management has the ability to see the potential status of a job in a matter of minutes, and not hours, as MRP only has a single part to analyze. The MRP process can also be limited to a plant, product family, or commodity class—reducing the time and resources required to generate the needed supply records. Epicor MRP also supports multi-level pegging, which gives users the ability to trace the supply to each discrete source of demand. This process also drives the projected Sales Order shortages and is an incredibly powerful tool to manage customer satisfaction.
The Epicor ERP system, in conjunction with its versatile and powerful MRP process, allows your organization to “see behind the curtain” at an organizational level, revealing what the current demands for your products are and if you have the necessary supply to meet demand in a timely and profitable fashion.
There are lots of things to love about Epicor’s E10 ERP application.
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.
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.
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.