There’s no doubting the advantages ‘anything-in-the-cloud’ brings but, for Sage Partners without specialist cloud knowledge, the technical realities are not always that simple.
Sage 200 Standard is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud product and runs on a cloud provided by Sage.
With Sage 200 Professional, some form of server and workstation is required for operation. In legacy systems, this was a LAN server stack containing at least a Domain Controller and a SQL server, and any supporting servers which were connected to workstations to which Sage 200 Professional client software was installed.
In more recent years, workstations have been connected to a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server to support remote access and/or resolve speed and performance issues. With a cloud platform, this development is taken one stage further.
Typically, new Sage 200 SQL databases are installed on a SQL server sitting within a cloud datacentre, with RDP servers and other support servers added. Rather than any connection by cable or Wi-Fi to workstations, all access is based on RDP sessions occurring on the RDP server. There are several variants on this theme, including using Citrix in place of RDP or using Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) in place of RDP, but the result is broadly similar.
Migrate your Sage ERP to the cloud - a customer’s perspective
There are many advantages cloud brings over legacy LAN and for customers, it should be a simple path. Here are six good reasons why the most forward-thinking customers are looking to make the move and the technical challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a good experience for them.
1. Remote Access
The performance will be much the same for a user accessing the system from a few miles away as that experienced by a user on another continent, providing the users have high-quality internet connections.
This is because, within cloud data centres, internet connectivity is generally a priority with extremely large bandwidths available compared to when LAN systems provided remote access - typically over a limited internet connection which led to poor user experiences.
The equipment is extremely high quality and is upgraded and replaced regularly to ensure customers continue to receive the best possible performance at the point of use. This can be further boosted with good use of load balancing, which spreads loads across multiple machines to provide the best possible performance to every user.
3. Technical Support
Because all users are sharing equipment, there’s far less complexity than was typical in LAN environments, where users would be using multiple workstation hardware and different versions of operating systems and software. Historically, this set a significant challenge for technical support engineers trying to find unexplained or unusual problems experienced by one user and not another.
In the cloud environment, when an issue is encountered, it will generally affect all users, which means it’s a priority to find and fix it. The advantage is that one repair will resolve the issue for all users.
The saving grace here is that such problems are a great deal rarer than they are in a physical LAN environment and, typically, a cloud system can expect to be available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Another great advantage of technical support is the option to copy a cloud environment. It’s possible to replicate every aspect of a cloud system, making upgrades easier to test and a great tool if experimental support work needs to be carried out without impacting the daily users.
Some consider the cloud to be a greater security risk than the LANs they replace, but this is usually born of ignorance and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. There are many reasons why they’re a far more secure place for companies to run their IT.
Firstly, cloud data centres have only one purpose and this means that, except for very large companies, they frequently host multiple customers' environments. Common sense should say that security is, therefore, a major priority for cloud providers. As a result, their internet connections are highly protected, often using far more sophisticated tools and devices than would ever be cost-effective for a single on-premise LAN system.
Secondly, all data centres are typically protected against data loss and downtime. This normally means having on-site power generation, access control and fire suppression – again far more than is typically seen for protecting an on-site LAN system.
Thirdly, there’s redundancy. By its nature, a cloud system is built to 'failover' in case of issues, either to other hardware elsewhere in the same data centre, or to another site in an entirely different geographical location. This means the loss of a critical server through damage, component failure or other cause will typically lead to only a few seconds of interruption that the users may not even notice. This is in contrast to a similar failure on a LAN, which could lead to days of downtime.
Lastly, there’s confidentiality. Because no data is stored on local computers and laptops (or shouldn’t be) then if a workstation goes missing due to theft or loss, there is no threat to the company data.
5. Lower Hardware Costs
Cloud platforms are not low-cost. However, the cost can be offset by savings elsewhere. One example of this is the knowledge that users’ computers, both workstations, and laptops, do not carry out the processing.
Attaching a high-speed computer and a lower-powered computer to a cloud platform will result in both seeing the same performance when operating cloud software. The advantage of this to customers is that it can slow down their replacement cycle for desktops and laptops.
Scalability is still a relatively unused advantage of the cloud. It’s important to be aware that increasing the resources of a cloud IT system, such as adding processors, RAM or disk space, can often be achieved with little or no interruption to service levels.
Also, because of the subscription-based nature of cloud services, this can often be temporarily increased for seasonal peaks or specific events and then reversed to revert to the lower level and cost as before. This opens up an opportunity for short-term performance enhancements but, because it is an idea that didn’t exist in the LAN scenario, it is still not yet common practice.
What we think
With the right technical advice and provider, the cloud can be an easy journey and will bring many advantages to your customers. Although many Sage partners have experience deploying the cloud through Sage’s own portal, through a partner and/or by providing their own hosting solutions, Paradise can supplement these other offerings by giving more choices. This can be achieved by offering help with workload to make Cloud easier, giving more choices in different platform options, catering for all budgets, offering simplified pricing, etc.
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