Article originally published here on MSDynamicsWorld.com on Oct 30th, 2014.
Like many of us, you may be reviewing your list of technology needs for the coming year. Whether it’s to upgrade specific systems, invest in new functionality or restructure support, the cloud plays a role in virtually every technology consideration these days. As the planning season descends upon us, I’d like to uncover some often misunderstood truths that can help when considering moving Microsoft Dynamics applications, or any other system for that matter, to the cloud.
1. No Cloud is an Island, nor should it be.
Some people have a misconception that migrating their Dynamics ERP or CRM application into a cloud environment will break a customization or an integration with other on-premise systems. While some public cloud options might not support integrations or customizations, this isn’t the case when migrating Dynamics ERP applications into a private cloud. In fact, even if you are on Dynamics GP 2010 or 10, you could directly migrate it into a private cloud without needing to upgrade the application or overhaul your traditional licensing. Many private cloud providers will allow for VPN or MPLS connectivity into the cloud environment to truly be an extension of your existing datacenter. With this in place you can more easily migrate additional application workloads to the cloud as it becomes appropriate. Extending your data center with a private cloud allows for integrations with public cloud and on-premise solutions. And delivering a hybrid model - not an island - is the way it should be.
2. The customer is in control, always.
Loss of control is a commonly named fear of IT professionals when evaluating the cloud – especially for mission-critical systems like Microsoft Dynamics ERP. As the executive whose job it is to ensure that systems are reliable and secure, the need for control is essential, because the buck stops with you. When workloads are moved to the cloud, you still have access to back-end systems or database servers. Many private cloud companies, but not all, will give customers complete administrative access into their environment. What this means to you as a cloud customer is that you gain a team of infrastructure experts including SAN administrators, network engineers and database performance ninjas to back up your existing IT teams. You get the benefit of an extended team that manages and cares for hundreds of other customers running the same applications you do to support your business. In addition, your cloud partner will typically leverage support lifecycle protocols such as ITIL to manage the environments so the quality of your service, specifically around system availability and uptime, is improved
3. The cloud can make your organization more profitable
This one sounds like a claim that can’t be true, but research proves that companies running ERP in the cloud are truly more profitable. The Aberdeen group recently published a survey (available here) of midmarket companies running cloud ERP solutions compared with like companies with on-premise ERP. The results were surprising: organizations that had deployed ERP in the cloud experienced nearly two times the improvement in profitability as compared with customers who had deployed ERP on-premise. The study also showed significant advantages in operating costs, scheduled compliance and on-time delivery. Ultimately these benefits were direct results of the agility of an organization’s cloud ERP solution and its improved ability to make key decisions and streamline processes.
4. Your cloud provider helps reduce your risk.
Many organizations with robust IT teams consider whether they should build their own private clouds. Others simply want out of the data center business. If your team is in the first category, then you already understand there are tools out there, like Azure and others, to build your own virtualized private cloud. For certain applications, this may be perfectly aligned to your strategy and acceptance of risk. However, for Microsoft Dynamics, especially ERP solutions, you must evaluate whether you are taking on more risk than you desire. Certain cloud providers are highly certified for specific industry regulations and can also provide high SLAs and low recovery times. This helps you reduce your risk as well as gain a proven process for maintaining the standards and documentation required for compliance reporting. In addition, the provider’s economy of scale is often something an internal team cannot achieve in a practical manner.
5. You will benefit from Microsoft’s ecosystem.
Microsoft Dynamics and all of its industry add-on solutions are not so unlike the explosion of Apple’s iPhone apps. The growth of Microsoft Azure and the maturing market of cloud providers mean that there is a whole ecosystem of cloud-based applications currently available and coming to market. Organizations adopting cloud-based Dynamics solutions can and will benefit from this growing ecosystem of partner and ISV offerings. The key to success is to clearly understand the cloud provider and the model behind its offering to ensure the right security, flexibility, and integration capabilities that will serve your organization well.
If moving Microsoft Dynamics to the cloud in 2015 is a consideration for your organization, what’s next? How do you ensure that your potential cloud provider is providing all the benefits discussed above? Make sure you choose the right cloud model for your application and have flexibility to integrate for the future. For a guide on understanding cloud models and questions to ask your potential provider, view our white paper, "Some Clouds are Meant to be Kept Private."