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What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a concept that really confuses a lot of executives today. The funny thing is that most of us already use cloud computing on an every-day basis. Hotmail, YouTube, Twitter, Bing, LinkedIn and Skype are all examples of cloud services most of us use on a weekly, if not daily, basis – we just don’t normally think of them as “cloud computing”.

Cloud computing can be formally defined as "a model of computer use in which services stored on the internet are provided to users on a temporary basis." As a confused CFO, CEO, or CIO – someone that’s out there that’s actually researching cloud computing and how it can benefit them - does that really help me out? I’m going to guess probably not.

So... what is cloud computing?

I think the best way that I've had cloud computing described to me is to think of consuming IT as a utility.

If businesses today consumed electricity the same way they consumed business software - like enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management - then every company, and every individual location, would have its own power plant. The power plant would require heavy up-front expenses so you can purchase generators and everything else you need for the power plant. And this is just so you can turn your business on every day. Then, at the end of their useful life, you would replace the whole thing again and start over with new generators and equipment - another heavy investment! Along the way, the power plant would need to be staffed by a team to maintain the generators and keep everything running.

So we know this isn’t how we all consume electricity. Instead, somewhere out there is a large power plant that is producing enough energy to power millions of homes and businesses - not just ours. We don’t have to worry about staffing the facility, maintaining generators, or performing equipment upgrades. The only thing we really need to be concerned with is paying the monthly bill on time. Otherwise, whenever we're at home or at work, we expect the power to be ready and working when needed. If it’s not, and we have a problem, then we call the power company and file a service request and hope the issue is fixed quickly.

And how does this relate to cloud computing?

Cloud computing is fundamentally about consuming IT as a utility. In our example, the power plant is your data center, and instead of giving you power, it provides access to your business systems and data. Just like our power plant concept, companies can preserve capital, free up resources, and achieve a quicker time to value by moving their business systems to the cloud.

You still receive your “power”, or access to your business software and data, but you’re not actually generating it and managing it yourself. You don’t need to staff a team to run your data center or upgrade your equipment. Instead, you work with a trusted Cloud Partner like Merit Solutions to host, maintain, support, and upgrade your systems. Just like your energy company, you receive a bill each month charging you for the amount of energy you used - which, in this case, is the number of users you have each month. In return, you are given immediate access to your business systems whenever and wherever needed. And, if you have a problem with the system, you contact your vendor, file a service request, and hope the issue is resolved quickly.

In this model, all organizations have access to the enterprise applications and systems that were previously only available to the largest companies.

About MAXCloud Cloud ERP powered by Microsoft Dynamics AX

Merit Solutions' Cloud ERP offering, MAXCloud, enables customers to take advantage of the industry-leading ERP capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics AX at a decreased cost - without the up-front investments in hardware and infrastructure. Unlike other Partners, Merit Solutions is not just a consulting firm, but is also an engineering and software application development firm that understands infrastructure and how to build IP. This provides clients with a high reliability factor from an infrastructure standpoint, and enables them to have a quicker, lower cost deployment without sacrificing quality.

And while there are Partners who are experimenting with Microsoft Dynamics AX in the Cloud and attempting to offer it in a traditional consulting model that takes 9-12 months to deploy, we have built software configuration tools and packaged services that not only increase the reliability of our cloud offering, but introduces a completely different model for how companies deploy and implement business software. As an example, we just helped an organization rapidly deploy MAXCloud in less than 60 days – with strong financial controls, systems, and processes in place to meet government regulations.

Get your Cloud ERP Free Trial today!

Security Concerns Preventing You From Moving to Cloud ERP?

One of the first questions that organizations contemplating a cloud ERP system often ask is, “Just how secure is our data?”

It’s a legitimate question, since entrusting private business data and applications to an outside hosting service makes some organizations uncomfortable. But the fact is data security is a legitimate concern no matter whether an organization subscribes to a Cloud ERP solution or licenses ERP software and implements it onsite. In any deployment model, ironclad safeguards need to be in place to ensure safety of critical client data.

If you are considering a new ERP solution, and security is your biggest concern regarding the cloud, ask yourself the following security-related questions. Are your answers better than ours?

  1. Is your production equipment housed in a state-of-the-art facility? An ideal data center should be secure, free of windows, and built with cement or steel fortifications. It should also be located somewhere that is not prone to inclement weather.
    • MAXCloud Data Centers are housed in state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar facilities with building fortifications. For example, our main Data Center is housed underground in a facility that is designed to withstand an 8.3 magnitude earthquake.
  2. Please describe your facility’s physical security arrangements. Are they in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year? Similar to a privacy policy, you should have well-defined and robust security arrangements that are in place at all times. 
    • MAXCloud Data Centers maintain stringent physical security policies 24/7/365 - including armed security guard patrols and video surveillance monitoring with video storage for non-repudiation.
  3. Do you contract with an independent, third-party organization to conduct periodic external and internal vulnerability scans? In addition to maintaining an intrusion response system and a prepared response plan, you should frequently commission both routine and unannounced security audits.
    • MAXCloud Data Center perform rigorous internal vulnerability scans, log threats, and are audited for SSAE 16 Type 2 compliance.
  4. How often do you back up data, and where are the backups stored? You should have a rigorous program in place for data backups with offsite storage in a secure location remote from the main data center.
    • All MAXCloud ERP customers receive full nightly backups, which are stored daily in an off-site location and are maintained for 7 years. 
  5. Do you offer full hardware redundancy to avoid the negative consequences of a power failure? Your company’s data center and backup location should have redundant power supplies, such as battery and diesel generator backups, to avoid the negative consequences associated with a power failure.
    • MAXCloud Data Centers have multiple power sources and redundant incoming lines provisioned in an N+1 configuration for continuous power. Our main Data Center’s backup generators can power a city of 25,000 people - which allows us to go off grid for 28 days without water, electricity, sewer, or natural gas feeds.
  6. Does your staff include a highly qualified operations team that monitors the site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? You should have many certified experts on staff to provide technical support.
    • MAXCloud Data Centers are monitored 24/7/365 by operations staff and security guards. Clients also receive 24/7 technical support from certified industry and product experts.

    By deploying MAXCloud ERP, customers can rest assured knowing their ERP system complies with the highest security and reliability standards at a dramatically reduced IT cost.

    Are you considering a Cloud ERP solution? If so, sign up now for your very own risk-free, no-obligation 30 day trial of MAXCloud ERP. We will not ask for any credit card / payment information - we just require a business email address.

    MAXCloud: Cloud ERP for Microsoft Dynamics AX

    Rapid globalization, demanding customers and shareholders, and intense competition are challenging today’s organizations like never before. As a result, decision makers are increasingly looking to technology to overcome these formidable business issues. To maximize the business value of IT investments, organizations need to choose solutions, business models, and IT platforms that meet their business needs today and yet are flexible, agile, and forward-looking enough to meet their requirements tomorrow.

    Welcome to MAXCloud ERP - the number one Microsoft Dynamics AX Cloud ERP solution for managing your business in the cloud.

    Whether you need core Finance and Accounting software or end-to-end Cloud ERP business management solutions, MAXCloud ERP enables your people to access critical business data, from anywhere, at any time - with the click of a button - while improving competitiveness and speeding growth.

    Implementing a new ERP solution is an investment in your business. And even though new ERP has been proven to add value, most companies fear taking away their “tried and true” ways of working. Employees are used to working in disparate systems, re-entering manual data, using Excel to “patch” gaps, and waiting for responses to business-critical information. We often overlook the cost-implications of these time-consuming tasks, and instead focus on “what’s worked for years”. And in our fast-paced world, time means money...

    So how can you ensure that your ERP project delivers rapid value? And how do you maximize the return on that investment?

    First, you need to keep your upfront costs low by choosing a comprehensive, integrated solution offered with subscription based pricing and fixed price packaged services. And that’s what you get when you choose MAXCloud for Microsoft Dynamics AX! MAXCloud delivers built-in, flexible functionality that provides business value now and into the future. It simplifies your business processes with a single enterprise solution that connects financials, manufacturing, supply chain, sales and marketing, project management, human resources, and services information. It improves productivity by providing your employees with familiar, easy-to-use tools that work like and with Microsoft Office. Plus, it is flexible and easily customizable, enabling you to adapt to growth and change.

    Next, you need to streamline processes and optimize the software - ensuring that your ERP solution meets all of your unique business needs. For this, you need to work with the experts - people with years of hands-on experience managing hundreds of ERP implementations - not just cheap software engineers and flashy sales representatives. You need a Partner that is committed to your success - a Partner that understands who you are, how you work, and what makes your company unique. And they need to be able to provide high value and high quality services. These are the experts you get when you work with Merit Solutions!

    Finally, you need a rapid deployment and fixed price implementation services designed to speed time to value and maximize return on investment - while minimizing the risk to your organization. The Merit Solutions Rapid On implementation methodology reduces the cost, complexity, and time required to realize the benefits of your ERP investment. Every project is managed against a clearly defined scope, with a fixed, affordable price. We are the only Microsoft Dynamics AX Partner to offer our customers predictable results at a predictable cost - reducing your risk and setting your business up for success. Either way, your MAXCloud ERP project will follow a clear, predictable, and cost effective plan.

    You can learn more about MAXCloud and our Rapid On Implementation Services by visiting our Cloud ERP Software website.

    By investing in MAXCloud with Merit Solutions, you give your business the software it needs to succeed - and you get a partner that’s invested in your success!

    MAXLife Cloud Featured in Microsoft Dynamics Partner Community Blog

    Merit Solutions is featured today in the Microsoft Dynamics Partner Community Blog for "Kati Unplugged", a blog series for Microsoft Dynamics Partners by Kati Hvidtfeldt, US Microsoft Dynamics ERP Cloud Lead. In the article, I explain how Merit Solutions was able to help a leading medical services industry player - Innovare Health Advocates - implement a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Life Sciences Cloud ERP Solution that fits their needs and budget like a glove.

    You can read the full article here: Kati Unplugged: How Merit Solutions Implemented its Cloud-Based Vertical Solution to Help Position a Client for Growth