Cloud ERP Systems-As the head of cloud operations at my company, I’ve worked with manufacturers around the world, helping them run thousands of plants in the cloud. Talk to any manufacturer and you’ll know that the ERP systems they rely on for running their businesses are mission critical. When they fail, manufacturers are unable to complete orders, respond to customer requests, or launch new products, which can mean thousands or even millions of dollars at risk.
Based on that experience, and hundreds of conversations along the way, here are the four most important things to know about choosing a cloud ERP—or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application—for your business.
High availability in a SaaS solution translates most simply to system uptime. When Facebook or email service is interrupted unexpectedly, you might hear a lot of complaining, but when a manufacturing ERP system goes down, operations come to a halt. Cloud ERP system providers should be aware that any disruption in service directly impacts your bottom line, so their focus should be on supporting your operation’s uptime, allowing you to focus solely on your core business.
If your plant runs seven days a week, your system of record should as well, with any maintenance interruptions planned transparently and well in advance. Closely examine the maintenance times the provider proposes. Your vendor should have short maintenance windows, and they should take place during minimally disruptive times.
When evaluating cloud ERP systems, ask about availability metrics. A provider should be willing to commit to a service level agreement (SLA) of over three nines (99.9 percent) availability for ERP. This translates to no more than 43 minutes of unplanned downtime in a month. Be wary of vendors that promise 100 percent uptime. Some of the world’s largest cloud vendors, including Google, will only agree to 99.9 percent availability. A cloud provider should show a proven history of outperforming their contractual SLA, so ask to see their historical performance and that they have the processes and controls in place to meet their customers’ demands.
It’s also important to keep in mind the unplannable when looking at cloud SLAs, as disaster preparedness is a key component of high availability. Ask your vendor for their business continuity plans, including what they will do if an entire data center is compromised because of a widespread power outage or natural disaster.
And don’t be afraid to ask about testing: Disaster recovery tests should happen more than once a year; the best providers should test each month so that updating and executing these procedures become second nature to their team.
Lastly, look inward! In your journey to evaluate possible ERP SaaS providers, ask your own IT organization what internal SLA they can promise for a hosted solution. Can they prove that they have the processes and controls in place to meet that commitment, and do they have the reporting and transparency you would expect from a SaaS provider? Are they willing and able to perform an unplanned disaster recovery test to verify their level of preparedness?
Reliability can best be summarized as how consistently the application performs its intended function over time.