After working from home, hybrid working is becoming the new normal. A further transformation to the cloud is indispensable to create the much-needed flexibility, agility and security and to be able to work in a data-driven way. We explain why cloud transformation prepares companies for the future, which cloud variants there are and what advantages and disadvantages the cloud has.
The need for cloud transformation
The corona crisis forced companies to suddenly start enabling remote working. To facilitate access to applications and data from home, companies migrated to the cloud on a large scale. The virus may be on its way out, but remote working remains: most companies are embracing hybrid working.
Further transformation to the cloud is essential. Most businesses have migrated to the cloud to a greater or lesser extent to survive the pandemic. But a complete cloud transformation brings the flexibility, speed, security and cost control needed to stay ahead of the competition and respond adequately to unexpected situations.
Why businesses choose the cloud
File sharing, ERP, CRM and other systems running as Software-as-a-Service, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack: remote working would not have been possible without the cloud. Beyond ensuring and optimising productivity, there are other reasons why organisations are making cloud transformation a priority.
Is your organisation making the decision to take the next step in its digitalisation and migration to the cloud? Then you will have more and more accessible data and analytics at your disposal. The result is working in a data-driven way and making better, faster and more decentralised decisions. Software and Infrastructure-as-a-Service make it possible to implement applications faster to immediately meet business needs.
What cloud variants are there?
First of all, we can make a distinction between public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. With public cloud, your applications and data are in a shared environment in a public cloud provider data centre such as Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google Cloud Platform. You share the resources with other users of the public cloud. This form of cloud is often used for online office applications, webmail and storage, among other things. The public cloud is cost-efficient, requires no maintenance and offers both unlimited scalability and very high reliability.
With private cloud, all resources in a data centre are yours. This may be a local data centre situated within your organisation or a data centre hosted by a cloud provider. Because the services and infrastructure are maintained on a single private network, you have more control, you can adapt the cloud environment relatively easily and you can better guarantee privacy. Private cloud is often used by government organisations and financial institutions that work with sensitive data and want more control over their cloud environment.
The hybrid cloud is a combination of the public and private cloud. With this, applications with sensitive data are usually placed in the private cloud and applications that need to be fast or flexible are placed in the public cloud. Today, the hybrid form is increasingly being used for edge workloads, i.e. computing at the edge of the network where low latency is required.
We speak of a multi-cloud when multiple public clouds or a private cloud and public cloud(s) are combined. With a multi-cloud strategy, you can reduce risks, optimise prices between different cloud providers and reduce the chance of disruption due to DDoS attacks, but it is also more complex and creates a larger attack surface.
As-a-Service: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
Within the cloud concept, we can also distinguish between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) means that the cloud provider takes care of all infrastructure such as servers and storage. Within Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) you rent everything you need for application development, i.e. the infrastructure plus all operating systems and development tools. We speak of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) when applications are hosted in the cloud and fully maintained by the SaaS provider.
More and more ERP and CRM systems, as we will explain in a moment, are being offered as SaaS. This has a number of major advantages for companies. They do not have to make large initial investments, they can easily scale up or down, and there is no need to perform updates.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the cloud?
Migrating to the cloud has a number of important advantages, such as:
-Productivity. Employees have access to applications and data anytime, anywhere, and can easily collaborate using cloud storage and tools for document collaboration, communication and file sharing.
-Scalability. Cloud services can be easily scaled up or down, so they can easily grow or shrink with your organisation.
-Cost. On-prem (or proprietary) servers are expensive to purchase and maintain, whereas cloud services require no initial (hardware) investment and costs are predictable.
-Security. In general, the security level of the cloud is higher than that of alternatives, not least because the cloud was designed with cyber security as one of the most important requirements. Please note: because of the shared responsibility model, as a cloud customer you also have responsibilities in the field of privacy, backup and security.
-Accessibility. Applications and data are accessible to everyone 24/7, as long as they have an internet connection. On-prem servers, on the other hand, can sometimes be offline for maintenance.
However, the cloud also has disadvantages. For example, the control over and flexibility of your cloud environment is generally limited, it can be difficult to switch between different cloud providers due to vendor lock-in and users must always have a fast internet connection in order to use cloud services.
ERP and CRM systems in the cloud
All major ERP and CRM system providers are betting heavily on SaaS versions of their software. Microsoft Dynamics 365, a set of interconnected and modular SaaS applications and services released in 2016, is the result of Microsoft's decision to unify business applications such as CRM, AX and NAV into one cloud platform for both ERP and CRM functionality. Compared to an on prem installation of Dynamics, the advantages of the cloud approach include that companies do not have to make large initial investments, information is well protected in the Microsoft data centre, implementation is quick and simple, there is no hassle with maintenance and updates, and it can be easily integrated with applications such as Power BI and SharePoint.
The Microsoft Power Platform cloud-based enterprise application platform makes it easy to extend Microsoft Dynamics 365 applications and connect them with other applications (whether or not built in-house). With relatively little technical knowledge, companies can use Power Platform to develop apps, analyse data and automate processes. All applications within the platform use data from the Common Data Service, a cloud-based tool from Microsoft Azure.
SAP also introduced a cloud version of its ERP system for large enterprises in 2016, called SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Compared to the on-prem version of SAP S/4HANA, this Software-as-a-Service is simpler, faster to implement, cheaper in terms of support, companies benefit from quarterly instead of annual updates and there are more possibilities for standard integrations with other applications.