How Do We Keep You Safe?


The BBC has reported in the past few days in their Technology of Business section, that cybersecurity will be the main issue concerning global businesses this year, and that the Internet of Things will only increase this growing threat to security.

It’s obvious really, as more devices and systems become connected, the threat of security attacks will inevitably increase as hackers find more inventive ways to penetrate data.  The BBC suggests the cause is the ‘development of the hyper-connected world’.  As more devices are created, and more ‘things’ become connected, we are then able to interact more digitally and the opportunity to hack/attack increases.  More data is digitised, and more actions are taken on a digital platform rather than in person, by phone or on paper.

C24 Security

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things has seen its share of attacks over the past year.  A report from TrendMicro highlighted that 2015 saw baby monitors, smart TVs and connected cars as the focus of cyber attacks.

Security isn’t just about averting attacks as they occur, it’s about proactively attaining high standards to ensure you can stave off attacks before they cause issues for your technology environment, and consequently, your business.  The EU is also introducing new data protection laws which will come into effect in 2018; further increasing the responsibility on the shoulders of business owners for how they manage their data and systems in the future.

This is partly due to the change in nature of attacks, as industry experts forecast that 2016 will see a dramatic increase in ransomware attacks – where hackers break into systems, encrypt the data and then demand ransoms to decrypt the information.

 

How we keep our customers safe

At C24, we take security very seriously.  It has changed how we run our business, how we build our systems and the choices we make about infrastructure and software solutions.

For instance, we elected not to build our own datacentres and instead rent space out of Six Degrees Group (who recently joined with C24) who have state of the art datacentres, designed for mission critical systems.  Alone, we would have been able to build a datacentre that was leading edge today.  However would it still be leading edge in a years’ time, and then in three years’ time and so on?  Partnering with a specialist datacentre provider was a way for us to ensure we were housing our hosting infrastructure within the most current, enterprise-grade datacentres possible.

We split security considerations into three levels: datacentre, network and data.

 

Datacentre security

We house our hosting infrastructure within the Six Degrees Group datacentre facility in the Midlands.  We initially chose 6DG due to the high level of security externally around the datacentre facility, as very often hosters think about security within their IT systems but don’t extend their thinking to the external datacentre.  Putting your systems within your office leaves you open to potential attacks from disgruntled staff onsite, or the potential for a vehicle to ‘ram’ a building and break into the facility.  This may sound farfetched but many resellers have fallen prey to attacks in which warehouses have been broken into using vehicles to gain entry.

Our datacentres have anti-ram bollards to prevent unauthorised vehicles entering the site, and there is 24/7 CCTV monitoring all around the site to control access.  Perimeter fencing and guards ensure that only people permitted to enter the wider site (not just the building) do so, while all visitors have to prebook access requests and bring along government issued identification otherwise they will not be permitted access inside the datacentre or surrounding offices.  Unfortunately, we sometimes have to turn away customers who have come to visit the site but haven’t brought the necessary ID with them.

 

Network security

Within our datacentre ‘pod’, we ensure the security extends across all of the network layers.  We have intrusion detection and prevention software in place to continually monitor the network for unusual activity.  We perform routine tests to interrogate the network in order to check for potential holes where attackers could gain entry; this ensures we proactively manage network security before issues occur.  Our technical team also monitor the network around the clock to ensure systems are operating as they should and no unusual activity is being reported.

When setting up a client’s hosted infrastructure, we split our network into VLANs so that each client has their own private network that cannot be accessed by other customers.  This separates everything out to add increased security to our hosted infrastructure delivery.  We also use VRF (Virtual routing and forwarding) technology to segment network paths.

To reduce the possibility of malicious attacks on clients’ websites, we employ Webscreen Technology to guard against flood and applications layer distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.  Hackers sometimes use bots to ‘flood’ websites to bring them down or slow down the service, making it unusable for real users.  Our DDoS security technology averts these attacks by having the system ‘learn’ which IP addresses to trust and which to drop in the event of an attack.

 

Data security

Whilst we deliver hosting to the infrastructure level, we do not directly handle clients’ data, however we do have a number of processes internally to ensure that, as a company, we adhere to data protection guidelines and keep our customer data safe.

We have data protection policies in place that govern how we consume, process, collect and store customer data and our utilisation across the firm of Citrix desktop technology means we are able to take data away from the individual PC or laptop in the event of the device being stolen or lost, and keep information at the datacentre level where it can be managed and monitored centrally.

 

You can’t always be prepared for every type of attack, but it’s important when you speak with a hoster or Software-as-a-service provider that you ensure they have covered off the issue of security across a range of areas, not just within the systems itself but the physical infrastructure that prevents the outside world getting into your data.

Security is often only important after you’ve been through an attack and resolve to never let it happen again, but with the Internet of Things increasing the array of devices that can be accessed by hackers, from within your home to the datacentre, IT Managers will need to be looking at how this new trend could affect their day to day operations and how to control the devices and appliances across the workplace that IT may not have visibility of.

 

Image provided courtesy of Holly Victoria Norval.

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Cloud ERP Trends *infographic*


C24 ERP Infographic by C24
C24 ERP Infographic by C24

Enterprise Apps Are Upwardly Mobile


C24 Ent Apps Blog 4 - Mobility

 

As employees demand more from their corporate IT systems, mobility will inevitably increase in importance as mobile or remote working becomes the norm in most workplaces.  Users will expect to access their applications from wherever they are, whether that is at a coffee shop using public Wi-Fi or in a branch office.  Additionally, users will want to dictate the device they use – in the same way that they would access their own personal applications (mobile banking, shopping, TV streaming services) via a range of devices to suit location and accessibility.  A recent IDC survey revealed that 40% of devices used to access business applications were personally owned by the user – and this is an increase of 10% from 2010, so we can only assume this will increase.

 

Mismatch in expectations

Despite the evident trend, this expectation from the user is not matched by the enterprise.  In fact, 75% of organisations in the survey have no business applications – or plans to create these applications – designed for smart mobile devices which highlights the disconnect between user expectation and business reality.

The reason for developing mobile versions of enterprise applications is not just to keep the user happy, but is a way for the enterprise to keep its employees connected to customers for 24/7 support and also to reduce the costs associated with purchasing devices.  After all, if the user is happy to bring their personal tablet that they know and love to work for certain tasks, then that is one more device that does not have to be purchased by the company.  It is important that corporate IT teams are not left behind on this issue, as their lack of involvement could lead to serious security breaches if not managed correctly.  According to Gartner, 64% of enterprises said mobility projects forged ahead without the full involvement of the IT teams, with many employees utilising a range of consumer applications, personal data storage accounts and their own devices.  Employees were even starting to develop their own applications on cloud infrastructure in order to do their jobs more efficiently.  This is a valuable resource that organisations should harness rather than prevent.

 

Mobility for the sales force

Furthermore, sales and marketing teams are encouraged to spend more face to face time with clients; on the shop floor, in meetings or travelling – and mobile devices better lend themselves to this flexible approach to information delivery.  Enterprise software vendors are now having to think about how they can make their apps more consumer-like in a bid to make them more attractive to organisations who are recognising that desktop based applications are not going to work within a flexible and collaborative sales environment.

 

If you are interested in knowing more about the consumerisation of enterprise applications then read our whitepaper on “The Consumerisation of Enterprise Applications”.

 

 

Image provided courtesy of Terren In Viriginia.

Open and Integrated – The Future for Enterprise Applications?


C24 Ent Apps Blog 3 - Open

 

Open Source in the Enterprise Space

Many consumer or freemium apps take advantage of the cost benefits that Open Source platforms offer, building on previous development work carried out by online communities to offer bespoke functionality for their applications.

Whilst Open Source apps still have very low market share (as little as 1 or 2 percent in the ERP market), software vendors are recognising that in order to integrate effectively into organisations’ IT environments, it is crucial that new as-a-service applications are developed on industry standards.  The rise in the use of common public cloud services will mean that many established software vendors are pushed to ensure that they deliver services that can be delivered across these public cloud offerings, by following industry recognised standards for maximum interoperability with other applications.

It is expected that the increased popularity in Open Source development will further penetrate the enterprise application market, and one suggested way cited in Enterprise Apps Today is for Open Source app developers to build on an Open Source core, but develop safer, bespoke software around this that can be supported and commercialised for better security and steadiness.

 

Integration

A key feature of many consumer apps is their ability to integrate into popular application ecosystems.  For instance, many SAAS CRM systems (even free versions) come ready with the ability to integrate into mainstream email clients.

Within the enterprise application space, this level of integration is limited.  Companies such as Salesforce are looking to create their own standards by creating the Salesforce App Exchange where developers of products that are complimentary to Salesforce’s CRM can develop, integrate and publish apps that work in conjunction with Salesforce.

Outside of initiatives such as this, integration is mainly limited to integration within a vendor’s portfolio set according to a Forrester report.  For instance, you can purchase an analytics tool from the same vendor that created the ERP software and integrate the two solutions.  Outside of the vendor portfolio, the level of integration is low and adherence to standards is mainly limited to a hardware and infrastructure level.

 

Data integration

Improving integration is an obvious objective, however it is not a simple task as enterprise applications consume, produce and store huge amounts of data, and integration between not only different applications, but on premise and cloud services, means that real-time reconciliation of data is critical for the integration work to be deemed a success.

Furthermore, integration work on the part of the software vendor across a number of different applications also ignores the fact that many enterprises have legacy IT infrastructures that do not adhere to the standards warranted by most modern application sets.  Consumers are used to the flexibility and agility experienced when accessing web applications across the internet and understandably expect their work applications to meet those same high thresholds of agility and integration.

 

If you are interested in knowing more about the consumerisation of enterprise applications then read our whitepaper on “The Consumerisation of Enterprise Applications”.

 

 

Image provided courtesy of Nicholas Boullosa.

The 6 Most Shocking ERP Failures


What does Nike, the US Air Force and the UK NHS all have in common?

USairforce

They have experienced the pain of a failed ERP project.  And when ERP goes wrong, it goes really wrong.  As enterprise resource planning systems usually touch many points within an organisation, a rocky implementation can result in widespread outages, customer order issues and manufacturing and delivery delays.

Here are some of the most monumental ERP failures over recent years:

 

1) Nike’s software sneaker snag

In 2000, Nike invested $400 million in a warehouse order fulfilment system but instead ended up with over $100m in sales losses and a 20% drop in their stock market value due to a glitch in upgrading their ERP software.  This left stores unable to fill orders, creating a PR disaster.

The ERP project failure resulted in Nike delivering too many Air Garnett sneakers than the world wanted and too few Air Jordans, meaning that Nike didn’t capitalise on a great sales opportunity for Nike Air Jordans.

As Nike’s Vice President of Global Operations and Technology, Roland Wolfram, put it, Nike become the ‘poster child’ for failed software implementations.

Find out more: http://www.cio.com/article/2439601/supply-chain-management/nike-rebounds–how–and-why–nike-recovered-from-its-supply-chain-disaster.html

 

2) UK NHS project left feeling under the weather

A national project to implement a new patient record system for the UK NHS was abandoned and reportedly cost the UK taxpayer in the region of £10bn.

This number doesn’t even include the future costs of a new ERP system to replace the failed project, which could run into many millions of pounds more.

After the project was launched in 2002, it struggled on until 2011 when it was officially dismantled.  The provider, CSC, was accused of “poor performance” and a “failure to deliver”.  In 2013, over ten years after the project was started, no NHS trust had a functioning care records system delivered through the original project scope.

Read in detail: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/18/nhs-records-system-10bn

 

3) US Air Force flying low with a $1bn failed ERP project

The US Air Force spectacularly spent over $1bn over seven years on an ERP system that was eventually deemed to have no “significant military capability”.

The four causes highlighted which caused the failure of the project were:

  • Governance – there was apparently a “confusing” and “ineffectual” governance structure throughout the project delivery.
  • Tactics, techniques and procedures – the team implementing the solution were eventually found to have underestimated how complicated and enormous the scale of deploying the solution was. In simple terms, they were in over their heads.
  • Difficulty of implementing change – there was significant staff churn throughout the project; 6 different program managers in 8 years, 5 Programme Exec Officers in 6 years and over 10 organisational constructs. No one knew who was in charge.

These factors resulted in a chaotic and confused approach to the implementation which ultimately contributed to its failure.  Find out more detail here: http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/aerospace/military/the-us-air-force-explains-its-billion-ecss-bonfire

 

4) Hershey Foods gets it teeth into a tough (and costly) project

Investors balked when the CEO of Hershey Foods announced in 2009 that the company was facing issues with its new ERP implementation, preventing it from delivering $100 million dollars’ worth of stock.  Hershey Foods’ stock price consequently fell 8% and investors were concerned that a failed a software implementation could result in the breaking up of a Fortune 500 company.

The software implementation and delivery was mainly delivered by SAP, Siebel and Manugistics.  Both SAP and Siebel affirm that there were no issues with their software, and that the cause of the issue was more likely to be the ‘big bang’ approach employed by Hershey Foods.

This case not only highlights how complex large scale ERP projects can be, but also about how companies must make smart choices about when they choose to go-live with their new ERP systems (i.e. not before a busy sales period as Hershey did).

Read a detailed case study on the Hershey Foods ERP project here: http://www.academia.edu/4630187/ERP_Implementation_Failure_Hershey_Foods_Corporation

 

5) Time ran out for New York City’s CityTime project

New York City’s CityTime project to implement a system of timekeeping and payroll for municipal workers resulted in a criminal investigation into a wide-ranging fraud scheme involving the project implementation.

The outcome of the investigation ended with 8 convictions and the return of half a billion dollars back to the City.

A report on the failed ERP implementation highlighted failures to control the scope and cost of the project and an inability to hold contractors and service providers accountable as critical to the overall failure of the project.

The project was originally budgeted to cost $63 million but the real costs end up being closer to $700 million!

Read further detail about the doomed program: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doi/downloads/pdf/2014/July-2014/pr13citytime_72514.pdf

 

6) HP eating its own dog food in a major ERP fail

In 2004, HP announced that its third quarter profits had dropped by 5% in its Enterprise Server and Storage division, attributed to problems faced in migrating to a centralised SAP ERP system.

The total cost of the ERP implementation failure including backlogs and lost revenues was cited at $160m – more than five times the cost of implementing the ERP project originally.  One of the original objectives for implementing the solution had in fact been cost savings!

As a result, industry analysts predictably questioned HP’s supposed  expertise around SAP ERP implementations after its own project failure.  Customer orders were trapped in old ERP systems and created huge backlogs in product and ordering systems.
Many analysts suspected the issues lay with the project’s execution rather than fundamental flaws with the software itself, however as HP and SAP are close partners and deliver many joint ERP projects, HP declined from publically blaming SAP.

Read a case study on the project failure: http://astro.temple.edu/~wurban/Case%20Studies/HP’s%20ERP%20Failure.pdf

 

Do you think we missed any?

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Gary [Flickr] (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kwantis/)

 


How to choose the right cloud strategy for your business in 2015

Read the original article published on LinkedIn.

Cloud

Deciding on the right approach early on for your business is critical when it comes to cloud, as one mistake now can have organisation-wide consequences if data is lost or if IT teams are restructured to accommodate a new cloud service.

The UK Cloud Industry Forum reported in 2015 that 79% of organisations already consider cloud as part of their IT strategy, so most businesses are not questioning whether cloud is right for them, but in fact what’s next for their cloud strategy.  The Cloud Industry Forum predicts that by the end of 2015, 90% of UK businesses will be using at least one cloud service.

Cloud is permeating throughout the layers of businesses; where it was once used for testing activities or standalone applications, it is now being fully integrated and seen as an integral part of any company’s IT infrastructure.

 

So, what are we calling Public Cloud and Private Cloud?

A cloud is called a “public cloud” when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use.  Technically there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture at the hardware/software layer, however, security considerations may be substantially different for services (applications, storage, and other resources) that are made available by a service provider for a public audience and when communication is effected over a non-trusted network.

Private cloud is cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and hosted either internally or externally. Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the business environment, and requires the organisation to re-evaluate decisions about existing resources.

Between these definitions of Public and Private cloud, there exists a world of cloud scenarios, whether that is privately hosted multi-tenant cloud environments or onsite managed service offerings.

 

Think about data first and foremost

Data

If you use the public cloud, your data and its security will be in the hands of the public cloud providers and although it may be safe and they can be very persuasive around this point, it still demands a leap of faith.  Ensure early on that your public cloud provider can guarantee where data will be held; will it be within the UK, the EU or worldwide?  Some organisations may not be able to compromise on where their data is kept.

The private cloud model puts security and the data location in the hands of the data owners and real world enterprises, clients and legal bodies do demand this level of control.

 

Are your applications cloud ready?

Applications

Before you roll out further cloud services, it is important to spend some time reviewing your applications.  Not all applications are cloud-ready; some have been developed in house, some have been developed many years ago before multi-tenant environments were the norm and some are not able to run on standardised cloud hardware.  Cloud is often an instigator for organisations undertaking an application rationalisation program to understand how their applications are utilised and whether they can be ported to the cloud.

Standalone applications in the cloud look attractive and appear simple to deliver.  However, in the real-world, your business runs on many types of applications.   And some of those are mission critical applications that require specialist infrastructure and management to run effectively.  Can your public cloud provider deliver this level of bespoke service to ensure the smooth running of your most business critical applications?

With private cloud, the real-world enterprise owns the cloud and owns the decision of which language(s) to support. With the right technology, multilingual cloud app support becomes a reality.

Another issue that you may find with larger public cloud players is that support of the applications which maybe key for you is not a major consideration for them as they are only providing the platform.  When a problem does arise, it can be difficult to resolve if the software vendor and public cloud provider only look after their respective areas and do not engage.

 

Does cloud make sense for your business’s locations?

People in DC

Organisations with multiple locations, whether Europe, Asia, US or global need to address many a number of issues, including connectivity, time zones, languages and potentially very sensitive data.  Yet, no public cloud model is currently flexible enough to accommodate the moving myriad of different government’s regulatory red tape around the world, especially as most providers can be US led and focused. Private cloud architectures empower the real-world enterprise to accommodate the compliance requirements for clients.

Private cloud solutions enable the real-world enterprise to position its own cloud to support its international business objectives as private clouds providers can be more flexible in tailoring and managing individual solutions.

 

What is your growth trajectory?

Server Room

Public cloud architectures can deliver shared-resource efficiencies, utility computing and flexible scalability. Those benefits are seductive, but at times illusory. With the right technology, private clouds deliver on those promises; yet provide better security, better control and greater flexibility than public cloud alternatives.

For businesses that are expecting to grow their use of cloud services, their IT teams should critically assess the costs of growth with each of their potential cloud providers.

Most businesses do not like hidden costs; especially the Financial Director. There are numerous examples of how hidden costs can occur when working with a public cloud provider. The difficult pricing models mean that even the most financially astute individuals can have issues and be caught out with ‘hidden’ costs.  This is due to how pricing models are set out – letting organisations access public cloud services at low costs.  However each additional component or service usually incurs a charge, resulting in sometimes unexpectedly high costs at the end of the month.

Costs to be aware of include bandwidth, licencing, storage and processing all are variable and can be extreme in nature if the solutions are used ineffectively.

 

So what should we think about in future?

Working

With cloud adoption rates at 80% for large businesses and 75% for SMB organisations, successful integration of multiple cloud services will be one of the most important considerations for IT leaders.  Managing multiple public cloud providers is not an optimum position for IT teams, so it will be central to the success of any business to choose a trusted partner for their cloud services, who can aggregate multiple cloud solutions whilst offering an array of cloud ‘types’, from Public, to Private to managed hosting.

 

 

 

Images provided courtesy of theaucitron (https://www.flickr.com/photos/theaucitron), Texas A&M University (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamuc), Torkild Retvedt (https://www.flickr.com/photos/torkildr) r2hox (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rh2ox), Intel Free Press (https://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress), and Nic McPhee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicmcphee).

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


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?

 

 

Should You Risk Your ERP With The Cloud?


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.

C24 strengthens partnership with Microsoft through Cloud OS Network


C24, a specialist applications hosting provider based in the Midlands, has been successful in joining Microsoft’s exclusive Cloud OS Network to deliver true hybrid cloud capabilities to UK customers.

 

Microsoft Cloud OS Network

The Microsoft Cloud OS Network is a select group of world class hosting providers, chosen by Microsoft to deliver Cloud OS – an enterprise cloud architecture that spans infrastructure, applications and data.  The Cloud OS Network delivers differentiated value-added services to end customers, based on the Microsoft Cloud OS vision.

In conjunction with Microsoft, C24 has developed a Cloud OS platform within their Midlands datacentre, which has been technically validated by Microsoft to deliver a range of hosting and application services based on HP infrastructure.

Customers can now consume private cloud services from C24, in addition to tapping into the flexibility and scalability that Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform offers.  Within the UK, there are currently less than 15 Cloud OS Network partners, of which C24 is now one.  This hybrid cloud model enables customers to consume public and private cloud services, delivered by a local, Midlands provider.

Head of Sales and Marketing at C24, David Ricketts, commented, “C24’s invitation to be part of the Microsoft Cloud OS Network is further evidence of our close partnership and commitment to working strategically with Microsoft over the long term”.

C24 is currently a Microsoft Gold Hosting Partner and joining Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network means that customers now have more choice than ever when choosing a cloud strategy for their business.  C24 offers clients a range of hosted cloud services, across Office applications through to Microsoft Dynamics AX and specialist ERP applications.

Paul Hemming, Managing Director at C24, said, “Many customers are now looking at how public cloud services, such as Azure, can help them to save money and resources across their business.  C24’s cloud offering through Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network enables customers to have more choice in deploying a true hybrid solution, leveraging C24’s Private Cloud and also Microsoft’s Azure services.”

 

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.

C24 is a Microsoft Gold Hosting Partner and a member of Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network.

 

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David Ricketts  |   0121 550 4569   |   marketing@c24.co.uk

Top 5 Things NOT To Do When Deploying Cloud ERP


Many organisations are re-evaluating their ERP strategy and, quite rightly, are recognising that cloud could be an enabler for better business operations, whilst potentially being cheaper and more cost-effective.

As an ERP hosting provider ourselves, the team at C24 regularly sees clients who are looking at how to best leverage cloud for their new ERP platforms.  But we also come across many who have jumped into a cloud ERP solution that either doesn’t work from the beginning, or quickly creates problems for the business when it fails to integrate well.

That’s why we’ve put together the “Top 5 things you SHOULDN’T do when deploying ERP in the cloud” to give you some ideas about what to avoid when evaluating cloud ERP for your business.

DON’T…

1.    Expect a Mini to drive like a Jeep.

Very often, organisations get stung by cloud solutions because they choose the ‘wrong’ cloud service for the job.  Like cars, every cloud make, model and version is different, and each is attuned to solve a different IT challenge.  Getting it wrong means you end up with a solution that isn’t fit for purpose.

Because ERP permeates throughout the entire business’ operations, it is important to get the right cloud for the job from the start.  This is unlikely to be a low-cost, public cloud, multi-tenant, scale-out environment.  ERP relies heavily on the ‘grunt’ of the infrastructure beneath it, so the technology needs to be up to the job.

 

2.    Look for the lowest cost solution.

In an ideal world, ERP cloud hosting would be as cheap as web or email hosting.  However, it rarely is.  Hoping to drastically cut your ERP costs by moving your onsite infrastructure to the cloud is perhaps a little unrealistic, so setting expectations early on about the true cost of cloud ERP hosting is key – and your ERP or hosting provider should be able to do this.

Being aware of the costs enables you to understand how other cloud services can be offered at such a low cost; usually the result of infrastructure being shared by many customers at once, or by security levels being lower than mission critical environments.

If you can afford to risk the uptime or security of your ERP estate then a lower-cost public cloud option may be suitable.  But if like most businesses you need a good degree of certainty when it comes to your business’ central operations, then looking for a more robust and comprehensive solution is key.

 

3.    Think that one supplier can do it all.

Some cloud ERP suppliers offer an all in one, software-as-a-service model that may be perfect for businesses with simplified operations.  However, the companies we usually work with tend to have complex systems, spanning manufacturing, invoicing, and customer services – that all need to be integrated into the new ERP solution.

The team at C24 always works with ERP vendors or specialist resellers to craft a holistic solution for our customers – if we did it all in house we just wouldn’t be able to retain the levels of knowledge about individual ERP applications that our ISV partners have, and likewise they wouldn’t be able to deliver the expertise around the hosted infrastructure and analytics layer that C24 can.  Choosing a partnership that has been tried and tested instead of selecting one supplier who is a specialist at just the ERP application layer is a surer way of making a safe choice when it comes to your cloud ERP deployment.

 

4.    Be the client and the project manager at once.

We have found that every ERP deployment is different, with its own nuances and idiosyncrasies.  This has given us a wealth of knowledge when it comes to new ERP projects that we can draw on, alongside our partners.  Trying to reduce costs by going it alone can prove costly in the long run – as project timescales for ERP projects can quickly slip into years, if not managed well.

Trusting a proven supplier or consultancy to project manage your deployment is a good step – however it’s also important to make sure that all parties involved (consultancies and suppliers) can work well together and communicate.

 

5.    Buy an off-the-shelf product for a not so off-the-shelf company.

Unfortunately, ERP projects aren’t simple.  We can tell you that from experience.  Because the ERP system touches almost every part of a company’s operations, projects have to be delivered with precision and care to mitigate risk at all stages.

Sometimes clients purchase an off-the-shelf product with the aim of driving standardisation throughout their business, and that is a great aim.  However, if your business and IT isn’t ready for standardisation, due to the way you invoice, or the way that your clients require orders to be handled or processed etc., then that shiny new off-the-shelf product isn’t able to deliver the change you need.

Instead, working with specialist ERP providers who can tailor solutions to you, whilst also building in a roadmap of how to better standardise current ERP operations so that you can achieve that level of simplification you desire, is a much safer way to drive consistency throughout your organisation.

 

Hopefully that’s provided some thinking points about what to avoid when deploying ERP solutions in the cloud.  Can you think of anything we have missed?