Never has this question been more relevant than now, living and working through this new reality and transitioning to the “New Normal” as a result of this unforeseen and constantly unfolding pandemic.
A big question that Boards and Senior Management Teams up and down the country will be asking themselves is, “do we actually need all the office infrastructure that we currently have?” It’s a conversation many were already having around their IT infrastructure, but it will likely now broaden out, so in my view the outsourcing of IT infrastructure and moving business applications into the Cloud will accelerate. I also think that there will be an awful lot of empty office space over the coming months and years but that’s another topic for another day.
Customers often ask us why they should move their business applications to the Cloud, including, but not limited to financial management applications such as SunSystems®. So I put together a list… Here are my top 10:
- Business Continuity. As I said at the outset of this piece, you never know what’s around the corner. We’ve experienced some short term disruption in the past due to severe weather, transport disruption or acts of terrorism and now a global pandemic. I’m afraid we have to accept this type of disruption is likely to happen more often and we must be ready, or risk the health of our business. On premise does not lend itself well to easy Business Continuity, especially where the technology has moved on so far from the days where your only option was a giant rack of servers in a dedicated room in your building.
- Malicious Actors – it’s a sad fact that cybercrime is on the increase, organised criminals are using increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to threaten and disrupt businesses by invading vulnerable IT infrastructure and mounting ransomware attacks. We’ve seen a worrying increase in the number of our clients that have been attacked in this way bringing their businesses to a standstill and causing huge loss of revenue and unplanned costs. Most SME’s cannot afford the tools, the infrastructure or have the skills to keep their on premise systems safe.
- Data security – related to the point above. These days with data protection regulations being enforced with monetary fines of up to 4% of global turnover, keeping data safe and secure has never been a greater challenge. Having data stored on local servers poses a far greater risk than having it in a data centre, where military grade security standards are a sure way of mitigating that risk.
- Data back-up and Integrity – we rely on our IT departments to ensure our data is a) secure and protected from the outside world and b) it is backed up and integral so in the event it has to be restored we can be confident it will work, and it’s here where most failures happen. Sure data gets backed up by IT, but how often is it actually checked for its restorability and integrity? Not often I would venture. We’ve seen a number of instances where customers have needed to restore data only to find out the automated backups actually haven’t been working for a number of days or weeks or the copies are corrupted. You can imagine the sheer effort and frustration involved in having to re-constitute your SunSystems® data for the past month! Again as part of the managed service for a product like TouchstoneCloud this risk is mitigated.
- Disaster Recovery – by its very nature a Cloud hosted solution offers some DR capability, the level of which will depend on the level of service you subscribe to. Most PaaS (Platform as a Service) offer premium services such as “Hot DR” which means in the event of failure of any part of the system it fails over to a mirrored system with the most up to date applications and data ready to go. You may lose an hour or two as the DR system comes up but that’s the most inconvenience you will suffer.
- Access – under the “New Normal” we need to access our business applications wherever, whenever and on whatever device to ensure we have the flexibility to work away from the office. Sure, you could set up remote access to your office infrastructure but that means adding in an extra layer such as Citrix or Terminal services, which has to be bought and maintained. With the latest versions of SunSystems® and Q&A now being fully web enabled they lend themselves easily to being put in the Cloud.
- Always up to date – one of the most time consuming and costly tasks for any IT department is ensuring that base operating systems and databases are kept up to date with security and patch updates. Yes, some of these can happen automatically even on premise but it can still be disruptive, for example the latest update of Windows isn’t compatible with a particular version of SunSystems® or Q&A. In a specialist Cloud such as our TouchstoneCloud we ensure that doesn’t happen. Add to the OS update the load of updating SunSystems® with patch updates every six months (our suggested minimum), testing it and then deploying it live, you can see how your in-house IT team might struggle, maybe to the point where this doesn’t actually happen. Now go full circle back to my point 2 above, malicious actors, and you have a vulnerable system.
- Scalability – being able to react to a new situation quickly is paramount, whether it’s increasing capacity or sadly decreasing during tough times, that is always difficult when you’ve invested in your own IT infrastructure. Nowadays the watch word in IT circles is “Elasticity” the ability to turn the IT tap up or down. Sometimes you simply need to add more IT horsepower to your system, difficult on premise, quick and easy in the Cloud.
- Cloud Engineering – SunSystems® and Q&A are long established products, current versions up to V6.3 and Q&A 10 are very much designed for on premise use, or to be hosted in a single tenant Cloud. As newer versions come out 6.4 and beyond, Q&A 11.3 and beyond, the product engineering is changing to make them more Cloud efficient, version 7 of SunSystems® will be the first multi-tenant version of the application. Less investment will be made in older versions and any new functionality will come about in patch updates which Cloud users will automatically benefit from, it also means that you will never have to go through another costly, disruptive version upgrade.
- Digital Transformation – you may not think it is high on the list of priorities right now, but current events have, in a many ways, forced the hand of many companies to begin their journey of digital transformation. Maybe not in the most ideal fashion, but like it or not, accept it or not this is happening. Businesses are having to change and adapt rapidly and harness the power of technology, in particular those afforded by a move to the Cloud. To take full advantage of technologies such as big data, data lakes, bi & analytics, business social and AI isn’t something that is easily done on premise and if it is, it is costly, in the Cloud it’s all there “out of the box”, you pay for what you want to use and it’s all managed for you. For SunSystems® and Infor stack users, Infor OS is the technology platform that enables all this to happen in the Cloud.
You will note that cost is notably absent from this list. I’ve done this deliberately as a move to the Cloud shouldn’t be viewed as a cost but an investment for the future wellbeing of your business possibly even the survival of your business, of course there will be monetary constraints but this has got weighed up against the risks of not making such an investment.
I hope the above will help you in your thinking and understanding and if you’d like to learn more about how you can move your SunSystems® & Q&A implementation into the Cloud, we can arrange for you to have a discussion with one of Cloud experts.