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Should my business be in the Cloud?

Should my business be in the Cloud?

IRIS Enterprise Software Australia consultant, Rupert Ralston, has extensive financial management software experience in the SME space. Working with organisations throughout Australia Ralston encourages efficient business practices through more intelligent and automated systems. In this guest article, he examines Business Intelligence and how ‘KPI’s’ can be used to your competitive advantage.

The latest trend, fad or direction is towards “The Cloud” with a rush by many vendors to promote their “cloud solution”. The question that many businesses are today posing is should everyone be taking their business to “the cloud”?

The short answer is no.

Businesses have been inundated by the marketing surrounding the cloud, and it’s fair to say there has been some standout successes to date. Some of the common cloud solutions to arrive on the scene so far are accounting, CRM, HR, project and document management, but is it really wise to have your entire operations managed in the cloud? The answer to this will not be the same for all businesses.

To start with are these bad products? The answer fairly should be no, these are not bad products, so why would we suggest there are problems? This is the bigger underlying question that people often don’t consider.

If we look at accounting software you can start to see where some of the solutions on the market are having success. They are targeting micro businesses, over half of whom previously were only using Excel or pen and paper to manage their accounts. This is generating a lot of buzz and press but it is also wrong to assume that this is automatically the best solutions for all types of businesses. In the world of accounting it is certainly not one size fits all.

At the micro business level it would be fair to say that online accounting rocks – if you are a small business owner and the business has few transactions that need to be recorded – a corner shop perhaps, then an online solution is probably pretty good – the issues of backups etc. are not yours, and your accountant can look at things remotely.

However if your business processes a lot of transactions that need to be recorded – perhaps an importer bringing product in from overseas and then on selling it to a number of customers, you will probably need more information – such as stock on hand, landed cost and who has bought what. At this point you have probably gone past the scope and practicality of a cloud solution.

We say this because as soon as you are processing data that the business needs to operate with such as stock on hand and credit information on customers you really need that data available – not tomorrow when your internet connection is restored. Before you throw the “but I can access it from home” argument do you really want to be driving backwards and forwards from home to process orders? Exactly. That is why we say you have really gone past the scope of a cloud solution in practical terms.

Sure you can point to a large multi-national that run “on the cloud” but their budget for infrastructure to keep those connections alive is probably enough to run a small country.

Assuming you are in the middle then you need in all reality to be looking at systems in the mid-range. These systems will still allow for remote access, and even accept data input from web page collection points, but they are not hosted in the cloud, rather in your office. This means when the internet stops, your order processing continues.

Systems catering specifically for the mid-range are available in Australia. An excellent example of a good mid-range system is one that allows you to host your data locally whilst allowing for remote users from anywhere in the world. And best of all – these system scale up to hundreds of users.

So, coming back to the original question – should your business be on the cloud? Well it depends on which end of the scale for accounting software your business sits at in the above two examples – if you are not sitting more or less at the small business end of things you should probably review mid-range systems that you host yourself (or at a data centre for you) but which cater for your specific needs, rather than looking for an online one-size-fits-all solution.

IRIS Enterprise Software helps Australian businesses increase performance through efficiency gains, increase income through better use of data and provide a full range of systems such as business intelligence software tightly integrated into core financials to compliment your organisation. www.irissql.com

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