Cloud, cloud, cloud….and some more cloud. Yes Cloud is a word that is everywhere these days and many engineering firms are moving many of their traditional IT functions to the cloud. Probably the most common is Hosted Exchange, perhaps SharePoint or any of the Microsoft Office365 offerings. There are many reasons for moving to the cloud, and I’ll gladly have a debate about pros vs. cons if you care to leave a comment, but I won’t get into that in this post directly.
As an IT professional who has worked directly in an engineering environment for most of my career, I can tell you the cloud makes sense for most engineering firms because to me the cloud simply means outsourcing of services that aren’t directly part of my company’s core line of business. Do I really want to have my own Exchange server, with a dedicated expert on staff to handle all of the day to day management? Do I want to deal with all the licensing, storage, backup and security headaches? Or would I rather let someone who specializes in Exchange manage it for me and free my IT staff up for better, higher value work? To me its a no-brainer.
Moving your Vision System to the Cloud
So if we take the above logic – that moving services to the cloud that are not part of our core business – then we have to pause for some consideration. Isn’t Vision a core line of business system? It houses all of our business information! This is very true – Vision is not some easily outsourced commodity service like e-mail – it is a very specialized system which requires a lot of attention to detail and should have qualified people administering it. So how is moving it to the cloud going to help me?
Well let’s look at some reasons why we would move Vision to the cloud:
- Up time – This is sort of obvious but most reputable cloud server vendors will always be able to provide better up time than your IT Department. I know the IT people out there will cringe to hear that but I’m sorry, I’m putting my bet with the big boys on this one. Server farms with layers of redundancy tend to make me sleep better at night than Joe Systems Admin and his hack solutions.
- Backup/Disaster Recovery – Most cloud based systems offer the ability to take snapshots or image based backups. This makes it extremely easy to revert to a previous version of your server (and your data) very quickly.
- Scalability – Again this is a no-brainier to me. Most Cloud vendors now offer nearly infinite scalability, even on the fly. Need more ram in a server? No problem. Need to throw some more CPU power at a server? No problem.
- Flexibility – Need another server? No problem, clone one in minutes. Only need it temporarily? Easy…turn it up, use it and get rid of it when done.
- Economics – This topic would take a blog of its own to debate but clearly the cloud will drive costs down in the long run. With many vendors charging based on usage (cents/hour) rather than fixed flat rate pricing, you can better estimate costs, and ensure you’re only using and paying for what you need. No more buying servers with future demand in mind. Simply increase resources when and as you need them.
So as you can see that while Vision is not some IT commodity like e-mail, there is a significant portion of it’s upkeep which can most definitely be outsourced to the cloud.
What About Security?
Security in the cloud (and anywhere for that matter) is a valid concern however again this can come down to a simple question: Is my corporate network secure? Most smaller companies and even some larger like to believe that their existing network infrastructure is safer than moving to a cloud hosted system. But I’m willing to bet that isn’t always the case. Very few companies do extensive security penetration testing of their networks. How many have easy physical access to their servers within their facilities? Again I tend to trust the security mechanisms and strategies deployed by companies that make their living in this arena.
To me the issue of security when hosting Vision comes down to following best practices, and in some cases the question of where your data is physically located. For public companies this will be a big concern as some of the larger hosts may have geographical redundancy in their systems that will mean your data may be replicated outside of North America. For Canadian companies, most will want their data to reside in Canada due to the Patriot Act. Fortunately there are a lot of providers out there with a lot of options.
What Are My Options for Hosting Vision?
There are 3 primary options for moving Vision to the cloud:
- Work with a Deltek Partner and have them host your Vision instance for you. Typically the partner does not maintain their own data centers but rather partner with a major hosting vendor. This means they are re-selling you hosting services, at a mark-up, and then managing it for you. Typically this will be a multi-tenant model; meaning that they provision just enough hosted server capacity to meet the needs of their customer base and then load your data on a single SQL Server. Then they segment the web server to serve up each customer’s Vision instance separately according to their own particular URL, etc. Security could be a concern if the people managing the servers aren’t following best practices to keep each client out of each others data. Performance may also take a hit as you have no real control over the amount of resources you are provided with. The partner will want to be careful to only consume just what is required or their margin will take a hit. Make sure you ask for specific details on how they will be segmenting and provisioning resources to your instance of Vision!
- Work with Deltek directly to host your Vision instance. Deltek is promoting this heavily as part of their future roadmap and it makes a lot of sense since many software vendors are moving to a subscription based model. Again Deltek likely has formed a partnership with a major cloud vendor but the difference is they are probably integrated much better with them, including having their own staff working within the datacenter. It’s not clear whether or not this means Deltek will no longer allow the partners to provide hosting solutions to clients or if it will simply make it less economically feasible for them to compete with Deltek in this arena.
- The third option is to work with a hosting vendor directly to setup and maintain your Vision server(s) in the cloud. To me the biggest reason for setting up your own cloud server is control. You can have all of the benefits of a cloud based system and also all of the control:
- You can control the amount of resources you want to pay for.
- You can control things like URLs, subdomain names, etc.
- You have full access to your servers for management just as though it was on-premise
- You have full access to customize and integrate your server and Vision with other systems you use on-premise or in the cloud such as custom applications that work with Vision, custom SQL and custom reporting. (Deltek does offer custom reporting capability in their hosted model however it likely isn’t as open to the client as your own server would be.
What if I Don’t Have Cloud or Server Expertise?
Perhaps option 3 sounds appealing to you but you don’t have the in-house expertise to setup servers or research a cloud vendor. That’s where our expertise can come in handy. We have the IT background, Vision expertise and Cloud experience to help you develop a solution that makes sense to your organization. Whether you just need help finding the right cloud partner, a full server installation or perhaps you’re looking for an experienced Vision expert to administer your Vision system for you, KL Coles ERP can help!
If you have questions about Vision administration, cloud or other IT issues drop us a line: [email protected]