UK: Use Cloud Computing To Create Opportunities

Last Updated: 14 July 2014
Article by Chris Knowles

Does your business struggle with out of date software systems? Are you a growing company with complex IT, relying too much on Excel?

If you are looking to upgrade your finance system – or perhaps implement an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system- in order to integrate your core business processes in one software application, cloud technology may be the most effective solution.

A cloud based ERP or accounting system is accessed over the internet, as and when required by the user. The infrastructure is hosted by a third party organisation, removing the need for businesses to purchase and maintain physical IT hardware. The supplier typically charges a monthly or annual subscription fee for the user to access their business applications.

Is cloud ERP for you?

Particularly suited to SMEs and fast growing businesses that require the flexibility to scale their usage as their business expands, cloud ERP systems can simplify the  software implementation and management, by removing the need to design and support bespoke, local infrastructure. In a short space of time, new geographic entities can be ready to do business, from anywhere in the world, using the pre-configured system.

Another key benefit is that cloud systems will always be on the latest version, as upgrades are rolled out automatically when they are available from the supplier. This is unlike traditional software upgrades that often result in costly, time-consuming projects that can disrupt the general activities of the business.

Realising the benefits

Buying a new finance or ERP system is a major investment for any business and Baker Tilly can help ensure that your investment delivers the benefits set out in the business case. Through our partnership with NetSuite, the leading provider of cloud based financial management and ERP software, we are able to help you implement their integrated cloud-based business applications.  Our specialist team will work with you to quantify the potential benefits of the system and support you through project planning, system configuration, deployment and change management.

Privacy and security

One of the concerns often cited by businesses thinking of moving to the cloud is data security. Relying on a third party to store sensitive data may feel initially uncomfortable for many businesses. However, the scale of cloud software providers, who are responsible for the data of hundreds or thousands of customers, means they can afford to invest in security measures which are beyond the reach of all but the largest IT consumers.

'True' cloud versus hosted software

There are two distinct types of cloud based systems. In a hosted arrangement a business buys the software and then pays someone else to host it for them. The hosting company will install the software in their data centre and grant the customer access to it. Hosting, therefore, simply transfers the responsibility for maintenance of the physical hardware, on which the software runs, to someone else.

In contrast, a 'true' cloud platform is one where the business owns neither the hardware nor software, but pays a subscription fee to access a shared version of an application, hosted by a software company. This is often called a 'multi-tenant' system, as all users are accessing a single, shared version (with controls in place to ensure that each customer can only access their own data). Typically, customers pay a regular subscription fee and access the software via a standard internet browser.

This apparently subtle technical difference between the two leads to several commercial and operational implications. One of the most significant is that with hosted solutions the customer is still ultimately responsible for software upgrades and other maintenance.  Many of the hosted ERP packages are just slightly modified versions of older, pre-cloud software. The latest generation of cloud software such as NetSuite and salesforce.com, however, are those that have been designed from scratch, specifically to be accessed via the Cloud. This ensures that their functionality and performance are optimised for this environment.

Next step

If you are planning to change your existing finance/ERP system or are interested in understanding more about our technology services, contact Chris Knowles.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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