Specialist applications hosting provider, C24, delivers hosting for many of the top ERP platforms

June 16, 2015

Nucleus Research publishes its Leader Quadrant for ERP vendors, and C24 delivers hosting for many of the top right providers deemed as “Leaders” and “Experts” in their field.

C24 is a specialist applications hosting provider, based in the West Midlands.  They provide hosting for business critical applications from their two enterprise-grade data centres in the Midlands.  C24 specialises in ERP hosting, due to the complexities involved in designing, implementing and delivering hosted ERP solutions.

Nucleus Research highlighted a handful of vendors to be in the top right of their Value Matrix Quadrant for ERP, showing the brightest and best of the ERP vendor world.

C24 is specialised in hosting many of these vendors for clients across the globe, including, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle ERP and Epicor.  C24 delivers this hosting in partnership with specialist ERP consultancies who are expert in delivering the software layer.

The report from Nucleus Research showed that C24 is at the forefront of the ERP hosting industry, working with Leaders and Experts in the ERP arena to deliver secure, business-critical ERP hosting to clients of all sizes.

Head of Sales and Marketing at C24, David Ricketts, commented, “It is great to see so many of the vendors we work closely with to deliver specialised ERP hosting solutions are recognised as Leaders and Experts in their field.  This goes to show that C24’s strategy of working with a small number of focused ERP specialist partners to deliver bespoke ERP hosting is the right approach and recognised by the industry”.

 

About C24

C24 Ltd is a specialist managed service and hosting provider, with a focus on big data and business analytics.  We tailor our solutions primarily to sectors deploying complex ERP systems where we have particular experience and expertise.  C24 designs, manages and delivers critical business applications to over 100 countries for our global customer base.

Our focus on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions means we partner with some of the world’s leading ERP vendors, across Microsoft Dynamics AX and JD Edwards, to deliver bespoke hosting solutions within our enterprise Midlands based datacentres.

 


Perspectives on…Accenture’s take on Cloud ERP

June 9, 2015

After reading a recent report from Accenture on considerations for Cloud ERP projects, we collected a few key points from the paper that are particularly pertinent to SMB and Mid-Market customers who are considering putting their ERP into the cloud.

Here is the link to the original paper.

 

Software companies are leading the change, not just consumers

The report identifies that software companies are often the instigators of change when it comes to how ERP is delivered.  Rather than consumers pushing for more choice in ERP delivery, it appears that software vendors are moving funding away from on premise services and directing investment towards the development of SAAS products.  This has a two-fold benefit for SAAS vendors: they get to sell more of the solution (not just the licences), and, as more organisations purchase from them on a multi-tenant platform, the cost per tenant goes down – resulting in higher profits or the ability to offer more competitive pricing.

Accenture highlights two types of Cloud ERP models that are emerging from suppliers:

  • Less sharing, dedicated infrastructure, more expensive, highly specialised and tailored.
  • More sharing, multi-tenant infrastructure, quick to deliver, flexible.

 

Cost is still a motivator for the cloud

As more Cloud ERP solutions are implemented, we see further information being produced about the true costs of cloud services.  Accenture’s study shows that Cloud ERP solutions don’t just affect the hardware layer, but have financial repercussions across the entire platform.

Costs which are typically lower within a Cloud ERP model, compared to a traditional on-premise ERP deployment:

  • Hardware
  • Hardware management software layer
  • IT personnel, resources, support desk
  • Implementation and migration services
  • Consulting
  • Training on new solution
  • Premises to house and deliver IT from

 

In fact, the study found that software licencing costs were actually higher in a SAAS model, but this takes into account the underlying hardware hosting so works out significantly cheaper overall.

 

Most companies will end up with a 2 tier ERP solution

Due to the complexities of existing ERP operations, the acquisition of multiple companies or subsidiaries and the sunken costs of legacy ERP systems, Accenture predicts that many businesses will end up with a 2 tier approach to their ERP platforms.

This will likely encompass existing ERP platforms for the core business location, and Cloud ERP for smaller subsidiaries or acquisitions that may not require, or be able to cope with, the complexities of an enterprise, legacy ERP system.  This is good news for Cloud ERP vendors as it helps companies to transition in their own time to an ERP model which works for them, without losing out on significant investments already made to their existing ERP platforms.

 

Cloud ERP suits SMB and Mid-Market perfectly

Accenture found that companies operating with a turnover of less than $750m (to put that into perspective there are over 5000 companies worldwide with over $1bn turnover according to Bloomberg) are best suited to Cloud ERP platforms, as their general business processes should be relatively simple and their IT departments are usually more affected by IT cost pressures than their larger counterparts.

SMB companies who are looking to make savings across their IT can generate savings through implementing their ERP in the cloud according to Accenture’s findings, especially as SMBs have limited scope for finding economies of scale within their IT systems compared to larger multinational corporations.

 

But what about the risks?

Accenture highlights a few key risks that should be investigated before jumping headfirst into a Cloud ERP service:

Governance: Which parts of the ERP system should be ‘locked down’ for certain users across the business to reduce risk?  If a solution doesn’t allow for tailoring access for certain users, then it may not have the flexibility and scalability required when extending access out to branches and subsidiaries.

Vendor Lock-In: With such an important bank of information, it is critical for businesses to understand how they could migrate their ERP data to a new vendor, should the time and requirement arise.  If you find yourself in a situation where data can’t be extracted easily at the end of a contract, then that would be an incredibly painful and disruptive exercise for the organisation.

Integration Risk: Should you require a 2 tier approach to your ERP strategy, then how well can your new Cloud ERP solution integrate with your existing ERP platform and other IT operations?

 

The ‘cloud community effect’

Accenture predicts that multi-tenant Cloud ERP services will bring about wider benefits than purely financial savings.

It sees multi-tenant environments fostering a ‘cloud community effect’ where tenants can work collaboratively with each other, or where suppliers can offer more services, spread across existing platforms.  Additionally, updates or changes that affect a large number of tenants can be implemented quickly, such as mass updates following industry or country regulation changes.

This shared approach to working extends even further, and Accenture sees that, in the future, ERP software vendors and service providers will form “collaborative commercial relationships” in order to deliver higher quality services to their joint clients.

The original paper from Accenture can be accessed in full here.


Free vs. Paid Analytics: Can you afford not to take a holistic approach to business intelligence

June 5, 2015

The freemium software model has created a rich ecosystem of tools that anyone can access, from consumers to large corporations – going some way to democratising access to analytics for all users.

As a business intelligence solution provider, C24 evaluates the market daily to look at what can be integrated into our existing BI solution, BI24.  One of the things we hear regularly from customers (before they go on to purchase from C24), is, “why should I pay for business intelligence software when there are so many free apps available?”.

This is a great question, but there’s no simple answer.  There are many great free business intelligence apps and tools which we ourselves use in the day to day running of our business, for instance, foller.me is a great tool which analyses your Twitter followers and feed patterns.

However, we see that very often, many free apps only solve one data challenge.  In the example of foller.me, the focus is very much on Twitter; what your followers are doing and saying, and their demographics.  For a business with a fairly modest social media strategy, the freemium model may require 5 tools to analyse activity across different social media platforms.  Layer on top of that your customer data, supplier info, CRM and invoicing systems – and the number of tools required to gain an accurate view of your organisation increases rapidly.  You almost need an analytics tool to manage your analytics tools.

We actually recommend our clients use standalone free apps to link in with our holistic BI solution, so that they can explore different info, through different mediums in select areas – without it becoming an onerous and overwhelming task.

So why do we think that a comprehensive BI tool is important for your business when starting out on your business intelligence journey?

 

Integration

As most free apps are often designed to deliver one standalone service, such as reporting and dashboards, or social media reporting, many tools are not built with integration in mind.

Data may be held within the tool itself with no possibility for extracting information, or, it may be possible to extract the data into a spreadsheet.  Yet this still leaves you with the problem of trying to integrate multiple spreadsheets and lines of info into one stream of data that you can use to view your business’ entire situation.  Very often, you just end up with different siloes of information that allow you to analyse trends on their own, but are not layered against the backdrop of your overall business.

 

Ease of Access

Some free tools offer the ability to have multiple users linked to an organisation, who can log in and update information across a shared platform.  This usually transfers into a paying model once a certain threshold of users is reached so scalability is an important factor to consider.  Yet, many free apps are linked to only one login (therefore one employee), so it holds information with one employee – not allowing concurrent logins for multiple users across the business.  This may be suitable in a one office model, but spread across multiple offices and a diverse range of data sources and the solution quickly becomes unsustainable.  Having a BI tool that can be overlaid across multiple data sources and types, with access granted at different levels throughout your organisation means you have a ‘single version of the truth’, which is really what big data is all about uncovering.

 

Complexity

Some tools deliver dashboard functionality.  Some tools offer data visualisation.  Some apps show real-time trends emerging through graphical data patterns.  If big data is really a key strategy for your organisation, then do you really envisage your teams logging in and out of different tools to achieve these different data outcomes?

And, if you are planning to start offering data analytics capabilities out to end customers so that they can view their own information in real-time, then you will need a tool that can pull all of this information together via one interface.

 

Holistic and aggregated

The beauty of C24’s approach to big data is that we are constantly looking for ways to integrate new data sources into our overall Bi24 tool – which sometimes involves making use of free analytics tools to drive data collection, whilst displaying the results through our business intelligence app interface.  This makes it simpler for clients to aggregate all of their data, whilst getting the different features from one tool.

As technology becomes ever more integrated into our day to day business activities, we envisage more tools being developed, and likewise more add-ins being developed for our analytics tool.  For instance, many teams now use virtual collaboration solutions for managing projects and teams – how are these currently integrated into your resource planning strategies?  And as customers increasingly engage with suppliers over social media, how are these streams being overlaid with buying patterns and existing customer service channels?

We think the future of analytics will change how we see and use data compared to even today, nevermind ten years ago.  But as the market expands and scales out, you need to think about how you manage the complexity of multiple analytics applications – can they really answer those big questions that you originally devised a BI strategy to find out?


Business Analytics and The Customer

June 2, 2015

In the past, customers used to rely on the expertise of a salesperson to help them find what they wanted in a store. Today’s customers, however, are bombarded with options and information when they look to make a purchase.

C24 know your customer

Despite the huge increase in available information, customers instead struggle to find the products that will suit them best.  Fortunately, the advances in technology, data collection, and business analytics are now making it possible for businesses to improve customer experience. With today’s technological advancement, data has become the currency of the digital economy. Many businesses are collecting their stockpiles of this currency via business analytic tools, CRM systems, and loyalty programs, among others. Customers are also more willing than ever to share what they think about a product and their experiences via social media and forums. This allows businesses to gain customer feedback on their products or services, and at the same time provides customers with more information before they make a purchase.

 

Know Your Customer

Advances in information technology allows businesses to collect data on their customers and better understand what those customers do, want and need.  Valuable data on customers for businesses can be relatively basic and easy to acquire, often via free or low cost methods. Data can include gender, age, geographical location, interests, and even online browsing activity, layered against more complex data collection resulting from interactions with your company.

Business intelligence software aggregates these different data sources to provide valuable insight into the patterns that mark the behaviour and trends of our customers. The growing availability of social, mobile, and location information also creates new data sets that businesses can mine to extract more information.

Armed with increasingly granular data, businesses can generate customized offers that point customers to the right products, at the right moment. This takes the guesswork out of sales. As a result, businesses can create marketing campaigns that can more precisely target and communicate with the right customers, determine which campaigns have the biggest impact on sales, build stronger relationships with customers, and in the end, increase market share and profit.

 

Keep Your Customer

Recent research carried out by Zendesk, a customer support company, found that customers are more likely to share their bad experiences than the good ones. Zendesk found that 33% of the surveyed customers would share their good experiences with at least five people. However, if the experiences were bad, 54% of the surveyed customers would share their experiences with more than five people. Social media becomes an easy platform for customers to share information and experiences quickly and conveniently. With just a few clicks, news can reach tens of thousands of people, and news of bad customer service tends to reach more ears than praise for good experiences. Also, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it is 6–7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Therefore, it is worth it for businesses to take the time to address unhappy customers and remedy the situation, and avoid any negative word of mouth exposure.

Further to these findings, research completed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project in 2010 found that 58% of Americans conduct online research about products and services that they are considering purchasing. In other words, customers no longer base their purchasing decisions on product price alone. In fact, as pointed out by the Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive and RightNow, 9 out of 10 consumers say that they would pay more to ensure a better customer experience. Major factors that affect their decisions include other customers’ reviews, experiences, and recommendations. With the increased ease of access to information online, consumers can shop around until they find the products and services that suit them best.

In a way, this decreases customer loyalty. Customer experience has become the benchmark for differentiating between companies and brands. Businesses that offer consumers less than idea experiences will see their customers defect to competitors.  Businesses can now spot these trends before action is taken to leave or defect to a competitor through social media monitoring and analysis.

 

Know Your Own Data

What is also increasing is that customers want access to their own data when they need it – often instantly and in real-time. Customers now expect to be able to check the status of their orders, receive updates to their services, and see where their billing is upto – and companies without the ability to generate reports in real-time will fall behind as consumers recognise they can receive a better and more informed service elsewhere.

Even though data sharing between businesses and consumers is not an entirely new concept, it has been primarily focused on customer service interactions. It hasn’t been viewed as a way for businesses to build relationships with their customers and gain insight into how to better market to them. By sharing valuable data insights with their customers, businesses can strengthen relationships and increase their product usage and the overall customer experience. For example, a car manufacturer could monitor customers’ driving behaviours and share tips on how they could conserve petrol usage or become better drivers.

 

Conclusion

Data is an unlimited resource that will continue to expand as our technology advances. As more data become available, businesses that have systematically gathered data points about their customers can make much more effective marketing and sales strategy decisions. This new level of information also allows businesses to provide a better customer experience, and differentiate themselves from the competition.


7 Reasons Why Our Legal Clients Are Choosing Managed Hosting For Their Practice Management System

June 2, 2015

More and more legal firms are choosing to deploy their core Practice Management Systems via the cloud or on managed hosting, rather than choosing the traditional route of keeping IT infrastructure onsite.  At one time, no one would have considered risking putting their central PMS out to an external hoster – but now it is becoming the norm.

As experienced hosters of a range of Practice Management Systems, what are we seeing as the main reasons firms are choosing to host their Practice Management Systems with a cloud or hosting provider?

 

1. Security

If C24 was running for government, our motto would be “Security, security, security”.  You can never be too careful when it comes to the security of your Practice Management System, as it contains key information needed for your firm to operate.  The security of many hosting providers now outstrips that of traditional in-house datacentres which is why many firms are realising that it’s not only cheaper to run their PMS system externally, it’s also more secure.  How many legal firms have a datacentre that has 24/7 security guards patrolling, highly secure perimeter fencing and strict access policies and guidelines at all times?

2. Multi-location capability

Cloud offers firms more options and flexibility when it comes to organisations who have multiple office locations.  Having servers located in house may work well for a one office firm, but if you need the same resources to be consumed by multiple branches then it can become problematic for IT teams to put in place a solution that is secure and accessible to all users.  Hosting centres can act as the central hub for firms who need everyone on the same page from an IT perspective, but don’t have their own centralised datacentre facility.

3. Choice of suppliers to match your size and scale

Cloud and hosting providers come in many different sizes, shapes and forms – from SAAS players to traditional infrastructure hosting providers.  The beauty of this means that firms have an extensive choice when deciding on the right provider for them, compared to buying hardware from a multinational corporation where the legal firm may be a small company in comparison.  Legal organisations can now choose a supplier who is similar to them in terms of size and scale, whilst leveraging the hosting provider’s own vendor and software relationships.  This works particularly well for firms who may not have a large central hub, but instead consist of a number of smaller branches working together.

4. Software is starting on the cloud, not ending up there

The benefits of cloud for Practice Management Systems is not just being realised by consumers but also by suppliers.  Many software vendors are choosing to develop their solutions straight onto cloud platforms and for some providers it is their only go-to-market strategy.  This is due to the lower entry costs and the ability to offer a more holistic solution to customers.  For legal firms, this means that apps now don’t have to be specially ported and changed to suit the cloud, they are often already optimised for hosted delivery.

5. Real partnerships are becoming more valuable as technology gets more complex

As technology solutions become ever more complex, the value of a trusted tech partner is increasing for legal firms – who require providers to act as an extension of their internal IT teams.  Rather than operating a traditional supplier-customer model for hardware, firms are recognising the benefits that partnering with a hosting provider can bring over the long term – opening them up to new technology options and considerations alongside leveraging other tech solutions across the industry.  Firms can now consume services from a ‘community’ of suppliers who collaborate to offer wider, legal sector specific solutions.

6. Interoperability and integration with other apps becoming more important

Cloud offers a level of standardisation – after all if multiple apps need to sit side by side on a platform, however proprietary the architecture, there must be an element of standardisation in place.  This means that firms can consume other applications alongside their PMS solutions, all delivered through the cloud or under one contract.  And certain hosting providers, like C24, offer firms the opportunity to outsource the entire infrastructure layer to their external hosting centres, leaving internal IT teams free to focus on business-specific activities rather than hardware support and monitoring.

7. Mobile users don’t miss out

Another feature of hosting solutions is the ability to be accessed from anywhere, usually from just a web login or via a remote desktop service.  As more employees work from home and offices become an expensive resource, firms are looking for solutions that align with their mobility strategies, and cloud is often the perfect choice.

 

Did we miss anything out?  What would make your legal firm choose cloud over in-house deployment?

 

 


Leading UK legal start-up selects C24 Ltd to deliver comprehensive hosting solution

June 1, 2015

C24 Ltd has been selected by one of the UK’s largest new start, full-service law firms, Gilson Gray LLP, to provide enterprise hosting services across their entire operations. Gilson Gray LLP are market leaders in delivering a full range of legal services to clients across the UK and are the largest new legal firm to be formed in Scotland in over 100 years.

To support such an ambitious and growing business, Gilson Gray LLP needed a comprehensive legal management system which would bring together the administration of their practice operations, financial systems, case management and client relationship systems under one umbrella application and therefore selected Thomson Reuters’ Envision solution, which is part of the Thomson Reuters Elite business management suite for the legal sector.

The new Envision platform will deliver end to end business management services to Gilson Gray LLP to support their growth aspirations in the long term.

As C24 is a trusted hosting partner of just a handful of strategic software vendors, Thomson Reuters recommended C24 Ltd to Gilson Gray LLP to deliver enterprise hosting services across the entire law firm’s operations, hosting not only the Elite platform, but also the Exchange environment and all other business applications. By selecting a hybrid hosting provider to deliver the underlying IT platform for the business, Gilson Gray LLP now have a flexible and scalable technology platform that will enable rapid growth and the ability to flex as the business expands.

C24 Ltd is a strategic hosting partner to Thomson Reuters Elite, and works hand in hand with Thomson Reuters specialists to plan, design and implement complex legal practice management hosting platforms. As a specialist applications hoster, C24 Ltd tailors infrastructure hosting solutions to meet the exact requirements of individual law firms and their practice management applications for optimised delivery.

About C24 Ltd
C24 Ltd is one of the UK’s leading privately owned specialist managed service and hosting providers. Working with businesses all over the globe, the company manages, secures and delivers critical business applications to over 100 countries. Solutions are tailored to each business and range from traditional email hosting to secure back-up and managed hosting of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, business productivity applications and high availability disaster recovery solutions.
For further information please email: dricketts@c24.co.uk
Or visit: http://www.c24.co.uk


Should You Risk Your ERP With The Cloud?

May 28, 2015

How would you feel about putting a mission critical application up in the cloud?  Should all business critical apps remain on premise?  What about ERP – an application that is often the centre of a business’ operations.  Should you risk your ERP system with the cloud?

 

What are the concerns you may have about putting your ERP application into the cloud?

Downtime

Many organisations worry that their IT systems may experience periods of downtime if they are hosted centrally by a public cloud provider – maybe due to being hosted in multi-tenant environments where other tenants can disrupt your own systems or because of strains on connectivity during busy times.  This is obviously a critical issue for organisations who are deploying ERP into the cloud as uptime and availability is key to the smooth running of the business.

Loss of data

How do you know where your data is when it’s in the cloud?  What happens if there is an outage – will your data be lost?  How can you be sure that your information is secure, especially if it holds sensitive customer information from your ERP application?  Data security is an important consideration and maybe the top reason why organisations choose to retain their ERP solution in house rather than put it out to the cloud.

Security

Deploying your ERP solution into the cloud means relinquishing an element of control – whether that’s over all parts of the application or just elements of the hardware layer.  If your hosting provider is in control of your entire ERP system, then how can you be sure that your application is in safe hands and is secure at all times?  How do you know that other hosting clients cannot gain access to your systems?  What are the risks in the event of a cyber-attack?

 

Unfortunately, these issues are also prevalent with onsite, in-house ERP deployments – and sometimes can be riskier than being deployed into a secure, hosted cloud environment.  It obviously depends on your cloud hosting vendor and the way in which they deploy, manage and control their datacentre and IT systems, however let’s look at how C24’s hosting datacentre compares with traditional onsite IT deployments.

Downtime:

C24’s systems are designed to provision against downtime, which is why many of our customers have solutions deployed across both of our Midlands based hosting centres for maximum resiliency in the event of downtime.  The data is all backed up so even if the worse should happen and our datacentres are affected, we can be sure that we have mitigated as much as possible the risk of data loss.

Loss of data:

C24’s datacentres are built to have secure partitions between different clients, so no tenant can access another tenant’s systems.  We have comprehensive backup solutions in place to guard against data loss, and our ERP hosting infrastructures are designed to cope with intensive, mission critical application workloads that produce huge amounts of information.  We run our hosting on enterprise class storage infrastructure, making costly enterprise technology available to a wider audience who would not usually be able to purchase the infrastructure themselves.  And we also offer dedicated and shared options to customers, depending on the level of separation they require from other hosted tenants.

Security:

Do you have guards manning your datacentre 24/7?  Do you have monitored perimeter fences around your DC sites?  Do you have a comprehensive access policy to your datacentres that requires advance booking and pre-identification checks for all visitors?  We do.  We’re not boasting or trying to prove a point, but highlighting that in many cases companies are concerned about the level of security involved in deploying applications in the cloud, but often don’t critically assess the level of security at their own sites – from access policies, through to datacentre security and general systems security to protect against non-authorised employee access to IT.  That’s why we think our hosted ERP solutions are the safest choice available for customers searching for a more flexible approach to ERP delivery.


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