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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
I just need to get this off my chest – so bear with me.
First off, I’ve been doing sysadmin work for scores of years now, and the idea of backups, business continuity, and “bad guys” isn’t new. However, this week it was brought to a new and interesting head for one small business.
Rewind the clock two years and we were in the conversation with this business about where they host their “golden nuggets” of their business, what servers did what, where were the users, how did the backups fare, state of malware, web filtering protection, etc. You know, all the “normal” stuff any qualified IT provider would ask a prospective customer. “We’re fine” was the answer – they had an in-house IT guru watching all that stuff. However, they did make a (wise) decision to host their ERP solution with us.
Last week, our monitoring went suspiciously quiet, it looked like the company went on vacation, or they had fallen asleep at the keyboard. I reached out to the company, and was informed that they had been the victim of the latest ransomware attack, and all their documents were encrypted and unusable. Thankfully, since they were hosting their ERP system with us, that was safe from the attack. All their ERP data was secure but everything else they controlled was locked. Backups proved unreliable or inaccessible, so the ransom was paid. The company got lucky and the recovery key worked and they got their documents back. What they didn’t get back was Active Directory. Ouch! Nobody could login, even though their documents were back on a server, nobody could access them.
A week later, a new domain, and new profiles on everyone’s desktop, new shares, new permissions, and they were back up and running. After everything, the company is back to doing business, but it could have been a much worse situation. A critical note: the ERP system was never at risk and no ERP data was lost since that was safely stored elsewhere.
Moral of the story:
Test your backups. Not just documents, but the whole server. How long does it take to get it back? It should not be more than a few hours.
Just because you can restore files doesn’t mean you can go out, buy a new server and restore your existing workload onto a new server.
If you can’t live without it, and you don’t have the in-house expertise to manage it – outsource it! Let the pros handle the critical IT while you do what you do best: making essential product and making your business grow.