Archives for January 2014

On-Premises or Cloud ERP? How to Decide.

Once available only to larger companies, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is no longer out of reach for small to medium business.  With so many choices now available, it can be a challenge to evaluate and choose a solution that will be a good fit for your company.  One of the first things to consider is whether to run your ERP system on-premises or go with a “cloud” – or SaaS (Software as a Service) solution. As with anything else, it’s important to weight the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

The big advantages of on-premises deployment of an ERP system is that it allows you to keep your business data in-house and close to its original source. Assuming you have the proper controls in place, you shouldn’t need to worry about data leaks or security threats. If your company works with a lot of very sensitive business data, this might make the most sense.

Generally speaking, your Value Added Retailer will provide you with all the help you need setting up and configuring the system. (At Accountnet, when we work with clients to deploy in-house ERP software, we also provide for the training of users and stakeholders.) However, beyond the initial set-up phase, you will likely need in-house IT personnel to manage the system so it’s important to assess whether your IT staff has the time and necessary capabilities.

There may also be higher up-front costs involved with implementing on-site ERP because you pay for the infrastructure – that is, the servers and data storage.  And oftentimes a company will try to forecast these requirements for several years into the future, so you can end up paying for capacity that never gets used.

The last, but possibly the most costly, reason for avoiding on-premises systems is that if something goes wrong, it’s on you to deal with.

The big reason most small businesses are moving to cloud computing is that these systems are hosted elsewhere – the headaches involved with server maintenance are somebody else’s.  Routine maintenance, data back-ups, equipment upgrades – all of these functions are taken care of by the provider.  Cloud systems also tend to be less expensive, because you only pay for what you use.  Most services, including Microsoft Dynamics GP, allow you to easily scale up as your business needs change.

Critics of cloud ERP argue that when you house the system, you know that it’s physically secure because you control who accesses the system and physical space. With cloud-based ERP providers, you can’t know how safe your data really is. But there is an argument to be made for cloud providers being more secure than your own internal systems, especially if you don’t have sufficient IT resources to conduct regular security audits.

If you’re confused about the best solution for you, contact us at Accountnet.  We can help you with a free needs assessment and make recommendations that best fit your budget.

Business Intelligence: What is it and What Does it Mean for the Small to Medium Business Owner?

Since the introduction of VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 in the early 1980s, small businesses have relied on spreadsheet software programs for budgeting and forecasting — and in many cases the spreadsheet remains the standard tool for analysis and reporting today.  Most business professionals understand how to use Microsoft Excel, and a well-crafted Excel spreadsheet solution may be all the technology that an SMB needs to get started in business. However, as your business grows you may face greater complexities. Maybe you operate in multiple locations or across multiple currencies; maybe you are facing a software audit, or perhaps you are in an industry that requires compliance with regulations like Dodd Frank and HIPAA.  If you find yourself facing these types of business challenges, maybe it’s time to move from spreadsheet-dependent processes toward more sophisticated planning and forecasting tools.

BizNet business intelligence tools | Accountnet, New York, NY

Today’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems offer robust financial reporting capabilities and quick consolidation of financial data which allows finance departments to focus more on key performance indicators instead of having to attend to manual data exports and analysis. New Business Intelligence (BI) reporting software not only provides more and better details of your organization’s data for analysis purposes, it also encourages more input from management. SMBs are increasingly looking for BI reporting software that can be used by managers and other nontechnical users and vendors have responded by making BI tools that are easier to use and more affordable.  Newer technologies such as cloud solutions with web and mobile interfaces, collaborative decision-making, improved data visualization are making BI tools much more attractive to SMBs.

Purchasing BI reporting software definitely represents an investment of both money and time, so before investing in BI tools, it’s important to think about what data you have and what answers you’re looking for. If you don’t keep or have access to quality operational data, then it probably doesn’t make sense to purchase BI software. Or if the volume of data is small enough that one person can look at it and reach accurate conclusions, then you can probably get by without a report writer. However, if your company is ready, then BI reporting tools can help you increase your business’s market share and compete with larger shops. The intelligence gleaned can provide insights into trends that otherwise can’t be seen — for example, the cost of acquiring new customers over time.  If you’d like to learn more about how ERP and BI tools can benefit your bottom line, contact us at AccountNet for a free Needs Assessment.