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Data Center Strategy: How To Cloud Up For Uptime

Data Center Strategy: How To Cloud Up For Uptime

A Cloud is a Data Center and a Data Center is a Cloud?

Cloud applications ultimately sit upon the foundation of a server stack. You can view a cloud-based server as someone else’s computer, and picture these servers housed in a data center, which is their most likely location.

A data center can be simply described as a specified space within a building designed to securely house computing resources.
Data Center Considerations

Servers

Power

Communication

A large data center normally involves an extensive open area, which is divided into racks and cages, to hold the servers themselves, as well as the power and communication connections used to link each individual server with the rest of the data center network. This network would reside in a building with sufficient architecture to allow for rapid data communication, and similarly high-performing connections to the outside world.

The building itself is normally a large and highly secure edifice, constructed from reinforced building materials, as to prevent physical compromise. It is often located on a campus that is itself physically guarded with high fences and rigid gates.

Server

PHYSICAL SECURITY 

DATA CENTER HARDWARE

Cloud Security

CLOUD-BASED SECURITY

DATA CENTER STRATEGY

The Servers Themselves: What Is In Your Data Center?

Inside the building (the data center) exists a complex cooling and ventilation system, to prevent the heat-inducing computing devices from overheating. The campus is supported by redundant power systems, to allow the network to run, even if the main power grid experiences interruption or shutdown. The inner workings of the data center are designed to prevent downtime, but the materials used in construction can vary. Consider a pencil made from wood vs. a pencil made from plastic. Consider further a pencil manufactured from metal built to protect a thin and fragile graphite fragment. 

The ways in which end users can attain access to the resources in a data center can vary due to the fact that cloud provisioning can occur in many layers.

Option A: Cloud Provider = Data Center

Sometimes the cloud provider is itself the data center. Most often this is the case when you want to use server space from a data center, or else wish to collocate your hardware in a data center. For instance, as a customer, you might procure new hardware and move it to one of US Signal’s data centers in a colocation arrangement. This allows you to benefit from US Signal’s physical security, network redundancy, high-speed fiber network, and peering relationships, to allow for a broad array of high-speed communications. 

Option B: Cloud Provider = Data Center Management Firm

Sometimes the cloud provider is an organization that manages the allocation and management of cloud resources for you — they serve as an intermediary between the end customer and the data center. For instance, EstesGroup partners with US Signal. We help customers choose the right server resources in support of the application deployment and management services that we provide for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) customers.

Moreover, not all data centers are created equal. Data centers differ in countless ways, including (but not limited to) availability, operating standards, physical security, network connectivity, data redundancy, and power grid resiliency. Most often, larger providers of cloud infrastructure actually provide a network of tightly interconnected data centers, such that you’re not just recruiting a soldier — you’re drafting an entire army. 

As such, when choosing a cloud provider, understanding the underlying data centers in use is as important as understanding the service providers themselves. That said, what are some of the questions that you should ask your provider when selecting a data center? 

Is the provider hosting out of a single data center or does the provider have data center redundancy?

Geo-diverse data centers are of great importance when it relates to overall risk of downtime. Diversely-located data centers provide inherent redundancy, especially beneficial when it comes to backup and disaster recovery.

But what defines diverse? One important consideration relates to the locations of data centers relative to America’s national power grid infrastructure. Look for a provider that will store your primary site and disaster recovery site on separate power grids.

This will bolster you from the potentially of an outage to one of the individual grid locations. Think of the continental divide. On separate sides of the divide, water flows in one of two directions. When it comes to national power grids, support comes from different hubs. Look for a provider who has redundant locations on the other side of the divide to protect you in the event of a major power outage.

Are they based on a proprietary data center, collocated, or leveraging the state-of-the art technology of a leading data center? 

A provider of hosting services may choose to store their data in one of many places. They may choose to leverage a world-class data center architecture like US Signal’s. Conversely, they may choose to collocate hardware that they already own in a data center. Or they may choose, like many managed services providers do, to leverage a proprietary data center, most often located in their home office. 

Colocation is not uncommon among first steps in the cloud. If you own hardware already, and would like to leverage a world-class data center, colocation is a logical option. But for cloud providers, owning hardware becomes a losing war of attrition. Hardware doesn’t stay current, and unless its being procured in large quantities, it’s expensive. These costs often get passed along to the customer. Worse still, it encourages providers to skimp on redundancy, making their offerings less scalable and less robust in the event of disaster events. 

Proprietary data centers add several layers of concern to the colocation option. In addition to the hardware ownership challenges, the provider is not responsible for all the infrastructure responsibilities that come with data center administration, such as redundant power, cooling, physical security, and network connectivity.

Moreover, proprietary data centers often lack the geo-diversity that comes with a larger provider. Beyond infrastructure, security is a monumental responsibility for a data center provider, and many smaller providers struggle to keep up with evolving threats. In fact, Estes recently onboarded a customer who came to us due to their Managed Service Provider’s propriety data center getting hacked and ransomed. 

Is the cloud provider hosting out of a public cloud data center? 

Public cloud environments operate in multi-tenant configurations where customers contend with one another for resources. Resource contention means that when one customer’s resource consumption spikes, the performance experienced by the other customers in the shared tenant will likely suffer. Moreover, many multi-tenant environments lack the firewall isolation present in private cloud infrastructures, which increases security concerns. Isolated environments are generally safer environments. 

Is the cloud provider proactively compliant?

Compliance is more than the adherence to accounting standards — it is a means to guarantee that your provider is performing the necessary due diligence in order to ensure the business practices of an organization do not create vulnerabilities that can compromise the security and reliability assertions of the provider. What compliance and auditing standards does your cloud provider adhere to?

Is your cloud provider compliant according to their own hardware vendor’s standards?

Hardware providers, such as Cisco, for instance, offer auditing services, to ensure their hardware is being reliably deployed. Ensure that your provider adheres to their vendor’s standards. How about penetration testing? Is your provider performing external penetration testing to ensure PCI security compliance? In terms of industry standard compliance frameworks, such as HIPAA, PCI/DCC, and SOC I and SOC II, ensure that your provider is being routinely audited. Leveraging industry standards through compliance regulation best practices can go a long way to make sure they are not letting their guards down. 

What kind of campus connectivity is offered between your data centers and the outside world?

Low national latency is of utmost importance from a customer perspective. Efficient data transfer between the data centers themselves and from a given data center to the outside world is fundamental to a cloud customer. Achieving transactional efficiency is achieved in multiple ways.

For a network to be efficient, the data itself must take as few “hops” from one network to another. This is best achieved through tight partnerships between the data center and both the national and regional ISPs that service individual organizations.

Within the data center network, an efficient infrastructure is helpful. US Signal, for instance, has a 14K mile network fiber backbone connecting its data centers and connecting them to regional transfer stations. This allows US Signal to support 3 ms latency between its 9 data centers, and to physically connect with over 90 national ISPs. This results in an extremely low national latency.

What kinds of backup and disaster recovery solutions can be bundled with your cloud solutions?

Fundamental to a cloud deployment is the ability to provide redundancy in the event of a disaster. Disaster recovery is necessary to sustaining an environment, whether on premise or in the cloud. But a disaster recovery solution must adhere to rigorous standards of its own if it is to be effective. Physical separation between a primary and secondary sight is one such baseline need. Additionally, the disaster recovery solution needs to be sufficiently air-gapped, in order to hit your desired RPO and RTO targets, while avoiding potential cross-contamination between platforms due to an event of hacking, viruses, or ransomware.

What kinds of uptime and reliability guarantees are offered by your data center?

All of the above aspects of a data center architecture should ultimately result in greater uptime for the cloud consumer. The major public data center providers are notorious for significant outages, and this has deleterious effects on customers of these services. Similarly, smaller providers may lack the infrastructure that can support rigorous uptime standards. When choosing a provider, make sure to understand the resiliency and reliable uptime of the supporting platform. EstesGroup can offer a 100% uptime SLA when hosted in our cloud with recovery times not achievable by the public cloud providers.

Uptime has a planned/unplanned component that must also be considered. Many larger cloud providers do not give advanced warning when instances will be shut down for upgrades, which can be extremely disruptive for consumers, and result in a loss of control that conflicts with daily business initiatives. Ensure that planned downtime is a service that is communicated and understood before it happens. 

How scalable is the overall platform?

Scalability has to do with flexibility and speed. How flexible can the resources of an individual virtual machine (VM) be tweaked and how quickly can these changes be made. Ideally, your cloud provider provides dynamic resource pool provisioning — this allows for dynamic allocation of computing resources when and where they are needed.

Some provider environments support “auto-scaling,” which can dynamically create and terminate instances, but they may not allow for dynamic resource changes to an existing instance. In these cases, if a customer wishes to augment resources of any instance, it must be terminated and rebuilt using the desired instance options provided by other providers. This can be problematic. Additionally, provisioning, whether to a new VM or an existing one, should be quick, and not require a long lead time to complete. Ensure that your cloud provider specifies the lapsed time required to provision and re-provision resources.

What are the data movement costs?

The costs associated with the movement of data can significantly impact your total cloud costs. These are normally applied as a toll fee that accumulates based on the amount of data that moves over a given time. So these costs can be unpredictable. But what kinds of data movements occur?

  • Data ingress: data moving into the storage location, as it is being uploaded.
  • Data egress: data out of the storage location, as it is being downloaded. 

Data centers rarely charge for ingress movement — they like the movement of data into their network. But many will charge for data egress. This means that if you want your data back, they may charge you for it.

Sometimes these fees even occur when data is moving within the provider’s network, between regions and instances. If you’re looking for a cloud provider, check the fine print to determine whether egress fees are applied, and estimate your data movement, to understand your total cost. EstesGroup gives you symmetrical internet data transfer with no egress charges, so your data movement does not result in additional charges. This means that your cloud costs are predictable.

Does the cloud provider offer robust support?

Downtime can come from one of many situations. Your ISP could experience an outage, and may need to fail over to your secondary provider.  Or you may encounter an email phishing scam resulting in a local malware attack.  Or you may experience an outage, due to a regional power grid issue. In these extenuating circumstances, you may find yourself in need of contacting your cloud provider in a hurry.

As such, you’ll want a provider that offers robust pre-sales and post-sales support that is available 24/7/365. Many providers offer high-level support only if you subscribe to an additional support plan, which is an additional monthly cost. Wait times are also an issue — you may have a support plan, but the support may be slow and cumbersome. Look for a cloud provider that will guarantee an engineer in less than 60 seconds, 24/7/365.

Are you ready for a tour of one of the best data centers in the world? Meet with the EstesCloud team to get the right cloud strategy for your business.

Doctor Who Regeneration for Digital Transformation

Doctor Who Regeneration for Digital Transformation

Regeneration as a Metaphor for Digital Transformation

As a Canadian living in the American diaspora, I’ve had fun, at times, playing with my adopted country’s misconceptions of my homeland. I once convinced a room full of Texans that I had a pet wolf back home, à la Jon Snow, and that I culled dinner from the nearby caribou herds with a hand spear. Easy pickings, they were — the Texans, not the caribou.

But as a Canadian, I’ve also fielded my share of awkward questions, most often in relation to my country of origin and its relationship with its ancestral United Kingdom. To summarize: no — we don’t send tax dollars to the queen anymore. And no — I couldn’t give a rip about Harry and Meghan. But when it comes to contextualizing Canada’s relationship with the UK, I often find myself quoting Robert Frost, who was himself quoting an Englishman, when he said, “Canada ripened off the tree — you fell off green!”

Digital Transformation ERP System Upgrades

Not to get too mired in post-modern discussions on post-colonialism, I will admit that I’ve long held onto my commonwealth membership card over the years, pulling it out whenever it was useful. One such case was the matter of Doctor Who. As part of my cultural inheritance, I was rather fond of that man of manners and madness. As a child, I remember wanting a characteristic Doctor Who scarf for my birthday almost as much as that red Michael Jackson leather jacket that was also popular at the time — the one with all the zippers… ah… the 80s…

ERP System Time Travelers

So when I heard that the latest rendition of the “The Doctor” was on the precipice of a regeneration into a new incarnation, it seemed fitting that my mind would wander into the dimension of digital transformation, and pluck a few parallels where they hung out in front of me. For all you time-travelers out there, the EstesGroup has helped countless companies over the years transition ERP systems that were 40+ years old — systems that go back to the Tom Baker era, if anyone is keeping track. For such companies, the shift from a character-based system to a contemporary ERP is enough to tear a hole in a company’s fabric of time. But what does that mean for a company facing such a change?

System Regeneration

Digital transformation is like a regeneration in the Doctor Who series. ERP systems are a new incarnation of the Doctor — they come into being, replacing their predecessors. They go on adventures, solve problems, and take their companion companies to unexpected places. And in so doing, they amass monumental amounts of experience and ingenuity, and ultimately encapsulate the worldview of the time in their rows and their columns.

The worldviews themselves amount to the business requirements of the organization, as they relate to the system in question. Worldviews are not fixed in time, and evolve gradually, as the system is further modified, fine tuned, reconfigured, and integrated with other systems. While this worldview continually changes, the changes are rarely as abrupt as a new body fitting an old suit. 

A migration to a new ERP system, on the other hand, amounts to a much more radical shift in worldviews. The challenges really have to do with the wisdom and knowledge that is bundled up inside the legacy system, and with finding a way to translate that information into the new ERP system without compromising the integrity of the new system.

Don’t blink — it’s no easy task. In this context, the question you must ask yourself relates to how you approach a regeneration, knowing that it must happen. This might be a good time to lean on the good Doctor for assistance. Fortunately, there are several of them from which to choose:

You might approach the needed changes in the spirit of the Tenth Doctor and simply exclaim “I don’t want to go!” That is, you can fight the new system and cling to the old, as it slips away, like breath on a mirror.

Or you might approach an impending regeneration in the spirit of the Eleventh Doctor, understanding that “times change and so must I.” That is, you can get ahead of the transition and maximize the time you have, to remember as much of the legacy system as possible, such that it is not forgotten in the new system. 

The truth is, regardless of your reaction, some form of digital transformation is inevitable. Any moment now, he’s a’ comin’.

I’ve had many customers migrate simply because the current state was no longer tenable: ancient hardware, out-of-date operating systems, applications lacking the faculties to keep up with the current needs of the business, much less lead them into the future.  

I‘ve also seen customers delay a regeneration until the 11th hour, or a minute before midnight, and have thus dragged into a transformation without preparation. When it comes to transformation, preparation is key. Good preparation allows you to understand the business requirements that underly your legacy system. This gives you a better chance of incorporating your requirements into your new system, without trying to forcibly alter the new system to mirror the old.

In working with system implementations, one comes to understand that over the course of a company’s existence, systems change. And that’s ok, that’s good. You’ve got to keep moving, so long as your system remembers all the systems that it used to be.  

We all wish that our digital transformations would have an orchestral accompaniment as the universe sings our legacy systems to their sleep. The truth is, you have to provide the soundtrack. And that soundtrack is a manifestation of the attitude you bring into your system’s story. The song of your legacy system is ending, but the story of your organization never ends — as long as time passes really slowly, in the right order, and the next season does not get cancelled.

Are you seeking an ERP system or technology update?

Talk to our consultants now to begin a conversation that will make your system sing. Get help now with business processes, ERP implementation, digital transformation initiatives and digital transformation strategy. Ready for digital transformation in ’22 style? Go cloud, and get ERP business consulting experts for time-consuming hard and soft digital technology upgrades. Create the ultimate user and customer experience with new cloud computing platforms, without losing historical data. Meet customer expectations by combining a new version of your ERP solution with cutting-edge technology and optimized control over both the data migration process and migrated data. Hoping to use a newer version of your software to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic? Use cloud hosting technology to compete with the best of digital businesses, incorporating third-party integrations easily, to maximize machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other cloud-based digital transformation services.

Putting Your Software Testing Strategy to the Test

Putting Your Software Testing Strategy to the Test

Testing is the process that should use the most time in any software implementation. Why test? You selected this software and, of course, it should process transactions, shouldn’t it? Start testing, and some surprises will be exposed.

Software Testing ERP Implementation

Testing basics, testing methods

To begin, you’ll need a testing team and a test suite. Form small teams of people from each discipline. The team leader will be from your implementation team and the remaining people will be on loan from the various functional groups. Select those people with care. They will become your “super user” core of trained people who will help others in their groups use the new software.

Pick any single-step transaction. Accounting might try a simple debit – credit journal entry. Customer service might enter a new sales order. Document the transaction: what general ledger account will you debit and which one gets the credit and how much money? What customer will place the order, what product will they buy, what is their purchase order number, and how much money is the order for?

Go to the transaction screen in the software and enter the transaction. Then enter the results in a log. If the transaction works as expected, record a green result. If the transaction completely fails, record a red result and note why it failed or why you think it failed. Sometimes the result will be yellow as it completed successfully but you found some kind of unexpected caution that probably should be corrected.

Corrective actions

The failure of a test could be a problem in the data loading. Maybe the general ledger you wanted to debit was not in your system. Try to figure out why and ask the data conversion group to correct the situation. When they make the fix, process your test again and now you might get a green result.

An unsuccessful test result could come from a failure in your training. You thought you could enter that new sales order but you need to read the instructions again.

There are many configuration settings in any system and these will affect test results. That sales order test failed because the customer you chose was limited to only buying products in a certain line and you chose a product that customer was not authorized to buy. The data team might have made an incorrect assumption which can be corrected. Their assumption might have been correct based on some other condition you were unaware of. Often more than one setting can be adjusted to yield the results your business needs. Keep the conversation going until a satisfactory result is found.

Test again and again

You performed a test today and gave it a green result. Tomorrow the same test was not green. People from across your business are performing tests in their functional groups and you will find the change they requested to fix their test inadvertently affected your test. This is normal. Your business is complex and the relationships within are also complex. Work through these changes and find what works for your entire organization.

More complex testing

As the single transactions become successful, begin to expand the testing to a series of transactions. You can receive the purchase order, now can you also see the product adding to your inventory and then can you pay your supplier? Late-stage testing might go from receipt of a customer order through producing the order, shipping the order, and collecting the payment.

Automated testing

Manual testing might not be the more cost-effective use of your technology staff’s time. Fortunately, AI-driven types of testing are now available at low cost. Software that can robotically reproduce tests is available and affordable. After the fifteenth time a group runs the same test, boredom begins. The test robot never gets bored. You had nothing but green for those fifteen tests. But only after the 115th test was there a failure because someone made a change. The robot will keep testing all day and night until you turn it off.

Even setting up and monitoring automated testing tools can be time consuming. Begin to formulate the best testing strategy for your business by fully assessing any system software in use.

There are many types of software performance assessments available to your business. EstesGroup’s IT experts are available for everything from basic operating system testing to full audits of your system. Our software testers and project managers can provide continuous testing services and external support when you need it: functional testing, exploratory testing, integration testing, unit testing, system testing, and more. Schedule a software assessment today to begin a conversation about how testing, checking, and testing your software again can help your business.

Ready to test your software in the cloud?

Attend an EstesGroup “Cloud Stories” webinar to learn about customer software journeys.

Click here (or on the video below if the presentation doesn’t automatically play) to watch a webinar on cloud options for ERP software.

Staff Security Training Tips: What You Get Is What You Click

Staff Security Training Tips: What You Get Is What You Click

Security Training for Your Employees is Critical in Times of Pandemic and Political Unrest

Do you have a “get this spam away from me” approach to digital communication management? It can be tempting to be strict, to set privacy and filtering settings at the max and limit online interactions from strangers. However, our email boxes often lead us to opportunities and relationships that will ensure future business success. With this in mind, we’d like to help you understand how staff security training allows you to keep your business open to outside communication while preventing a data breach.

Staff Security Training Secure Network Secure Server Grid

Digital Stranger Danger

Clicking on links is often something we do without thinking, so it’s important to provide staff security training that truly tests an employee’s impulsive online behaviors. Business owners can incorporate fraudulent link prevention strategies into routine security assessments, testing, and training by hiring a cybersecurity firm to randomly test users. This provides real data about user behavior in both the traditional office and in remote office settings.

Fake Link Identification and Education

Training your staff to know how to see a hacking attempt is considered a proactive cybersecurity strategy. Some business owners out there are comfortable with risk and choose a reactive strategy to security breaches.

Proactive Security

  • Backup and disaster recovery planning
  • Staff security training
  • Network assessments and testing

Reactive Security

  • Paying a ransomware fee to recover business data
  • Issuing a cyber incident alert after a breach
  • Testing backups and live system data for malware after a breach

If your goal is to prevent a security breach, then you need a proactive strategy, and this should entail staff security training.

Malicious Link Monitoring

To some business owners, a “bad” link is anything clicked that threatens privacy. In a world of email communication and marketing (often invited through a subscribe button), it’s best to train staff to recognize fake links, rather than to broadly and strictly limit communication to the outside world. However, robust endpoint security options might be your best option if you own highly sensitive data. You wouldn’t want a potential customer to end up in a spam folder, but you don’t want to risk losing compliance certifications, either. If you give your employees the tools and training needed to recognize hacking attempts, then you can safely do business online without the worries of ransomware.

URL Verification

Our top recommendation is to train your employees to observe all web addresses, or URLs. Phishing attempts often use recognized brands to trick you. With security training, your staff learns how to quickly recognize imitation URLs. Once you recognize the common patterns of cybercriminals, you can easily recognize links posing as legitimate companies. A URL might include an underscore or other symbol that doesn’t appear in the original web address.

Website verification falls into a spectrum of risk — like anything else in the world of cybersecurity. You might decide to train staff to be more aware of common edits hackers make to URLs. You might go further and train users how to right click on the address to gather more information about the hyperlink. You might use tighter measures in order to meeting compliance regulations for handling sensitive data:

  • Anti-phishing software
  • Virtual isolation protocols
  • Outsourced managed IT security

Education is readily available for your staff. The Phish Scale, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is an excellent example of free training available on their website.

Even the most careful clickers can fall into a hacker’s trap. This frequently happens when the name of a legitimate company is used as a malicious hyperlink.

Email Monitoring

How full is your “Junk Email” box? Smart mailboxes usually send suspicious, or unknown, emails to a junk folder. Some programs go one step further and prevent a user from opening a “junk” or “spam” email unless it it first moved to an inbox. Email monitoring software often comes with a free trial period, so you can gauge how effective the solution is at preventing security risks through a spam filter for incoming emails.

How can you prevent your staff from opening junk email? Phishing scams result in more than 90% of security breaches in some geographical areas, with around 3 out of every 4 American businesses falling prey to an email-based cyberattack.

Because of the prevalence of phishing attacks, email monitoring needs to include a human. Software is a step in the right direction, but staff security training makes your cybersecurity solution more effective. 

  • Employees gain email monitoring skills that complement antivirus and malware monitoring solutions
  • Employees learn how to identify the authenticity of websites and URLs, email addresses and emails, phone numbers and text messages, as well as other contact information sources that could be altered to trigger malicious attacks
  • Employees develop intuition for recognition of a cyberattack and learn how to launch a proactive security alert to coworkers 
  • Employees learn how to train and test one another, creating a self-monitoring environment conducive to productivity

Email boxes are a common information security risk for unauthorized access to company information, as well as personal information. View your mail server as a data security risk, and see your junk email folder as a soft problem-solving step toward more robust protection like full server monitoring intrinsic to a private cloud hosted environment.

Cyber threats are getting smarter and can take advantage of an operating system that needs to be patched or of a user mindlessly clicking on a “junk e mail” posing as a junk email. Small edits can help phishing attacks get through even the best software, and can trick even the most suspicious and judicious humans. If you need more robust technical support than your internal IT team can offer, then partner with a managed service provider (MSP) like EstesGroup for expertise when you need it.

IT Support and Staff Security Training Services for Your Business

EstesGroup is a leader in the fusion of cutting-edge enterprise resource planning (ERP), business software solutions, and human talent. If you are concerned about the rise in successful phishing attacks and other malicious cyberthreats, then you should sign up for a free technology assessment today. You are a short phone call away from knowing if you need a more advanced security audit or even a penetration test. For more security tips, please register for one of our virtual events. Do you have an immediate cybersecurity concern? Talk to an IT support specialist now.

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This Old IT: The Modify vs. Rebuild Software Quandary

This Old IT: The Modify vs. Rebuild Software Quandary

When should you start from scratch?

When I was about ten years old, my family lived in an old frame house. I have a lot of fond memories from our time there, but it had some quirks.

New Construction ERP With Blueprints & Project Planning Consultants

Originally a two-bedroom house, a third bedroom had been added onto one side. Built in sort of a lean-to style, the roofline didn’t match, of course. And it was added against the dining room/kitchen side over what was formerly the back door, so you could look out the kitchen window into my parents’ bedroom. It was built on a concrete slab instead of the pier-and-beam construction of the old house, so you stepped down into it, and then there was another back door in the bedroom opening to the backyard. It was an interesting place.

I’m reminded of that house occasionally when I encounter an aging software package that we’re replacing with a modern Epicor ERP system.

When the old stuff was installed, the implementation team made modifications to tailor it to the company’s operation and crafted operating instructions to guide the team. Over the years, the company and its requirements evolved, so more changes and additions were tacked on, old features were abandoned but not removed, and documentation was bypassed in the name of expediency. “Spaghetti Mess” is the technical term for what you get after ten, twenty, or thirty years. That’s just the way of life.

Eventually, a company makes the painful choice to start afresh with current technology and fresh eyes, and we find ourselves on the brink of an adventure. As we all know, adventure is rarely experienced without peril, sacrifice, and hard work. But it also can bring us reward and satisfaction.

When IT comes to IT, our consultants will be there.

The EstesGroup will be excited to be your partners in this journey. Need help with technology solutions or cloud services?  Is it time for help with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system? We’ll be there before you know it!

ERP Shift vs Delete Keyboard

Partner with EstesGroup for your entire ERP journey.

Are you researching Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and seeking help understanding what your ERP vendor has to offer? Software vendors aside, an initial ERP implementation or ERP upgrade should improve your user experience, streamline business functions, and create new management systems that optimize your core business processes. With real-time data, a single system (deployed in a private or hybrid cloud) can be the software program that gets your business beyond the burdens of the computer system itself – meaning that your ERP software gives you a clean solution across all business units and future software development projects. EstesGroup offers custom solutions for your unique business needs.

Watch Joe Trent On “Epicor Kinetic Business Activity Query: Fancy Tips & Nuanced Tricks”

Watch Joe Trent On “Modifying Standard Reports: SSRS Reporting”

What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

What Cloud is Your Cloud Provider On?

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

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

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

Cloud Provider for ERP Business Applications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few More Clouds (and Cloud Providers) to Ponder

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

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