Where Should You Host Your Epicor Instance?
When it comes to the ERP implementation process, small and medium businesses (SMB) are often faced with a dilemma before they can even begin to start putting together a project team- where to locate their Epicor system. They can either outsource a hosting platform to run an instance of the popular ERP software, or the organization can internalize the work and manage digital infrastructure on premise, leaving all of the accompanying work, including maintenance and support, to an in-house team.
When it comes to this fork in the road, there is no right or wrong path for a business to take, but organizations need to choose a solution that will correspond with their own specific business processes, workflows and needs before making the decision. Firstly, comparing the attributes of both hosting options can help you determine whether you’ll deploy the right solution for your organization. Once you fully understand the structure of the different Epicor hosting options, you'll be able to explore how those features will fit into your current business model. The project team may want to consider items such as cost, installation, maintenance, disaster recovery and more when it comes to Epicor hosting option evaluations.
Datix is often requested to investigate these options for our clients; especially as an increasing number of hosting choices have emerged for Epicor deployment and cloud ERP is becoming more and more attractive and amenable to manufacturers. Four instances in particular are the most popular with users of Epicor applications -public cloud, Epicor cloud, third party hosting and on-premises. Yet, information on the web discussing the pros and cons of each, and how those instances may or may not fit your business, is rather stark, and can often leave decision makers still scratching their heads. That's where we come in to flesh out some of the comparisons and weigh up the risks and benefits of each different choice and help you get started on the way to the perfect Epicor hosting option.
Whether you'll be undertaking an Epicor upgrade, or the project is a first time implementation, you’ll need to consider the major differences between each Epicor hosting location and then evaluate every aspect of your organization to see how your ERP will need to fit into it. If you have a good amount of remote employees or multiple facilities that will be using their software, the mobility of cloud Epicor hosting might be higher on your list, for example. Another important consideration, some hosting options are more costly than others, which tightens budgets for other areas of opportunity or customization within your software system.
In order to assist your organization in making a more informed decision with regards to hosting an instance of Epicor, we'll lay out the best attributes of today's four most popular hosting instances compatible with Epicor applications. Additionally, we will identify the main burdens that come along with each instance hosting option and discuss what conditions need to be right in an organization to maintain them.
Public Cloud (Azure & AWS)
The public cloud is a multi-tenant environment where clients will purchase the resources (software and storage) to service their Epicor applications. Public cloud is made available to the general public via a web browser. Public cloud services can be free, but are increasingly offered as a pay-per-usage model, especially if you are looking for sizeable storage space or added support services. Examples of public cloud services include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Windows Azure Services platform and IBM's Blue Cloud.
Public cloud hosts play admin to both the network and hardware that are required to host a complex and scalable instance of Epicor ERP. Likewise, public cloud dispenses infinite data computing capacity -- a very important feature as we step into the golden age of IoT. We are experiencing a rapid integration of devices, software and network across a large number of industries, and with that integration comes a widening stream of data from every connected device. And as more companies seek to integrate external data with internal software, it is critical to adopt large computing power in order to handle all the transactions made by both man and integrated machines, and the capacity to analyze all that data in a meaningful way.
Another significant benefit of the public cloud is that it permits an organization to upgrade their Epicor system when they want, and at their own pace. Some instances (as we'll see later) upgrade businesses to the latest version instantly. And while this may not necessarily be a con, the unknowns that can often come with a new upgrade (bugs) may not play nicely with customization or specific systems inside an ERP system. Typically it doesn't take long to fix these issues, but if experienced during peak seasons it can spawn discomfort from your team and data errors that can manifest themselves into bigger problems. When a company has the ability to upgrade on their own terms, they operate without disruption until things quiet down on the plant floor and they have the personnel available and ready to complete the process.
While choosing public cloud is increasingly a popular choice among Epicor users, those whom deploy it commonly outsource the skill set to configure it in the cloud. Public cloud requires an experienced IT team to set up infrastructure upon SaaS architecture in order to run the Epicor instance properly. Cloud architecture requires proper sizing of virtual servers -- RAM, processing power, disk space and network bandwidth. Likewise, setting up a platform in the cloud requires a strong internet connection and a dedicated resource to manage the operating system, Windows server. Setting up public cloud without properly sizing hardware often leads to performance issues and a laggard Epicor system.
Public cloud can also appear expensive, as companies are required to pay upfront for infrastructure (server, network). This is opposed to other cloud computing hosts that may deploy subscription services paid monthly or annually by the buyer in the period in which it is used, and which will usually follow a scalable per-seat fee model.
Public cloud Epicor hosting instances require dedicated IT specialists to manage upgrades internally. As we mentioned previously in this post, managing upgrades internally may be important to some companies. However, because public cloud only provides server and network service maintenance, IT teams are charged with maintaining Epicor applications, upgrades and the operating system, as well as address glitches, user queries and manage test environments on a daily basis.
Epicor Cloud ERP Product
The Epicor Cloud ERP Product is a Software as a Service solution provided directly by the Epicor vendor. Companies can purchase the solution via a subscription based model, thus paying for licenses in the period in which they are used and on a per-seat basis. This hosting platform is light on cost upfront but can become expensive overtime, especially if your business is expanding significantly. However, Epicor's hosting platform is an end to end total package for small and mid-sized companies that want to be more hands off in managing the perimeter of their digital ecosystem on a daily basis.
Epicor Cloud ERP Product is a subscription based service, so the vendor manages and controls all aspects of the ERP software- how it’s hosted, managed and the data flowing in and out of it. Since this product is deployed in the cloud, again a company using the product will have infinite processing power and data capacity. Epicor manages the ERP applications, software, hardware, the network and manages all updates for customers.
Essentially, a company is outsourcing the Epicor infrastructure to the vendor themselves, including support and maintenance. This can be a powerful option for a data-driven company that may seek to optimize the skill sets of IT teams to work as analysts and engineers rather than computer programmers. A company choosing this method is native in the management of KPIs, a customer experience and establishing consistency across departments.
Conversely, allowing Epicor Cloud ERP Product to manage all the corners of your business may not be fit for a process manufacturer or high volume shipping conglomerate that needs detailed information analysis and involved maintenance. Essentially, the platform can be problematic for enterprises that cannot risk disruption to a continuous process in the event of an upgrade. It might be worth mentioning a major upgrade by Epicor occurs only once a year; however, there is no set frame of time for when major versions are released, and these upgrades are done automatically .
Sometimes when a company is expectant of a major release, they have the opportunity to plan ahead for any disruption. But if unforeseen glitches in the upgrade occur in test environments, a planned release can be suspended and pushed back for further testing. When the upgrade is finally pushed to customer environments, the organization has no control over system changes and will be working through peak operating times with possible disruption.
Likewise, it may be time consuming for users of Epicor's SaaS product. Organizations will still be required to undergo an entire test cycle of the system in order to verify it plays properly with BPMs and customizations. As you may expect, the time frame for testing cycles is not set as it depends on a number of variables inside an enterprise ecosystem.
Third Party Epicor Hosting Company
Third party hosting companies make configuring the hosting platform a simple process and require little technical know how. When companies want to avoid having to power and cool their own equipment, or lack real estate for required infrastructure, they source a third party hosting company to house these components. Both big and small companies source third party services. External hosting groups host applications on one or more dedicated servers or virtual servers. This option permits the company to have greater control over what their hosting environment looks like.
Essentially, third party hosting companies allow customers to buy or rent hardware, and the company has the autonomy to manage the application. When properly implemented, internally managing Epicor applications can be ideal for everyday users and smaller IT groups. Third party Epicor hosting companies manage the server, hosting software, and sometimes SQL. Nonetheless, this choice does mean the IT team is dedicated to managing the Epicor software and upgrades. However, outsourcing an experienced skill set can assist with these opportunities when a company needs improvement maintenance, and upgrading can be a beneficial way to keep costs low in the long run.
As expected, third party hosting products do not come without a downside, as organizations remain dedicated to managing the application and updates from the vendor. Again, the cost of this option can appear steep since companies are required to come up with funding upfront to purchase the infrastructure. Also, the dedicated environments of third party hosting companies are not as flexible as cloud-based architecture, so organizations cannot scale capacity on demand. When a company is given the opportunity to scale the capacity of their infrastructure, it can reduce costs in times of less volume, and some large companies with complex processes may not be well suited to handing over many of those processes to a third party.
On premises software permits users the ultimate flexibility in configuring their IT environment. However, it requires an organization to employ a highly skilled IT workforce complete with engineers, IT managers, administrators and business analysts. Adding to direct costs is the installation and implementation of the infrastructure also requiring a dedicated group of experts, this time in business modeling and project planning. On premises hosting requires the organization take complete ownership of infrastructure, software applications and the perimeter of their data. Enterprises seeking complete control over their infrastructure can do so with this option, whereas a company with a less robust IT work force may opt into one of the aforementioned options.
Probably the most noteworthy pro of hosting an Epicor instance on premises is that the organization has the ultimate flexibility when it comes to customization and tailored business modeling. On premises users do not have to rely on an internet connection, and instead communicate data through an internal EDI system connecting business processes in house. The enterprise has complete control over their data, hosting platform performance and Epicor applications.
With the best practice configuration, and a sophisticated IT group, and instance of Epicor can adhere to business goals for a good deal of time. The company has the opportunity to continuously train their own users on the softwareand manage data input to avoid duplicate entry and unclean databases. Choosing this solution also provides a company with complete ownership of their entire digital infrastructure, rather than renting hardware space from an unknowing third party.
The most notable downside with on premises hosting are its large upfront costs. Organizations will be required to forgo big bucks to procure the infrastructure, implement it and hire a workforce to manage it. The company is responsible for purchasing and harboring servers and computers, a network, software, SQL and an instance of Epicor.
We strongly suggest companies whom choose this option seek a partner for the implementation of the Epicor application to avoid encountering any risk to the project. Any unforeseen contingency will cost the organization more investment dollars. Likewise, if the product does not meet the expectation of the company post go-live, nor are users training properly, the organization risks either sinking the cost of the entire project. As mentioned in the pros, the company has full ownership of the Epicor system. It also takes a longer amount of time to recoup project costs than the other three hosting instances.
Ultimately, several factors should be taken into consideration when making a choice in how your organization will host an Epicor instance. If your business is currently considering this kind of system change you should contact our enterprise software experts to further discuss the merits of a move like this for your organization. We’ve successfully helped dozens of businesses make the transition to each of the aforementioned choices, and have talked a few out of them as well. Visit our services page for more info, or download our ERP implementation e-book using the form above!