Doing #business in the cloud, part 5: Industry-Specific Critical Applications in the Cloud

Apr 1, 2016

When you sit back and think about how business has changed in the last twenty, ten and even five years in terms of technology, it truly is amazing. Specifically in terms of cloud computing in the corporate environment, the initial reaction when cloud was introduced was a big fat “no,” echoing the 1930s sentiment that there would be no way people would sit around in their living rooms looking at a box that portrayed images.

Given time and enough tinkering, marketing and innovation, and just like the television, our personal love affair with cloud has begun to jump into the business world.

We will be so bold as to say cloud with enterprise modules can do just about anything these days.

With that being said, think about the industry you are in and the specific applications you use in your day to day operations. What are those critical applications, the ones that you wouldn’t be able to work without if they went down?

The cloud is a viable option for deploying most of these applications.

That’s right, enterprise cloud platforms are looking at you, the customer, and the way you do business. No one wants to wait for packaged in-the-box software any more. In our “instant” and “downloadable” age, the modern business owner is expecting their vendors to be software as a service (or SaaS) providers.

How to know if something is critical?

In your personal life you have a few critical “applications,” basic things you need to live your life. Clean water, for example. Or if you live in CompuVision’s hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where the temperature in the winter can get to 30 degrees below zero Celsius, heat of some kind is a critical system. Even better if you have redundant heating systems.

The same principle applies to IT systems.

On the personal side, something like Netflix should have high uptime, but it isn’t catastrophic if what you want to watch is temporarily unavailable. With Netflix, there are other options you can watch to satisfy your viewing needs.

But what about an accounting app like Quickbooks?

With accounting, uptime is critical, and having the data intact and secure even more so. If you can’t pay your staff because the payroll module is down, you can’t just do something else and wait to pay them next week.

Look at the critical applications in your business as you would look at water and heat in your personal life.

There are both internal use applications and public-facing applications that businesses use that may or may not be critical. These can include medical records databases, CRMs, construction software like Equipment 360 or Heavy Bid, and sales applications such as Salesforce.

If you owned a car dealership and someone in the showroom just landed a sale, it is unlikely while the customer is in the store that you would lose them at this point if something went wrong with the internal sales system you are using. But the software running the key safe so that your customers can take test drives? That could be a bigger problem.

Contrast that with if you owned a scrapbooking supply store. If their point-of-sale system goes down, it is very noticeable. It leads to longer queues at the check-out that could impact sales and store reputation. Their website inventory would also be incorrect as the SKUs would not be able to be updated. Unlike for the car dealership, for this type of retail operation, the point-of-sale system is a very public application for this business, especially if there are problems.

Likewise, with the functionality of your website. Imagine your car dealership had someone wanting to book a test drive online and the page doesn’t load. That person will easily click off your page onto a competitor’s website without even thinking. That makes your website a public-facing industry-specific critical application and in this scenario, this system being down means losing you a potential sale.

I know what’s critical… what now?

So now that you know what your specific critical industry applications are, it’s time to make sure your network speed is optimal, the redundancy is figured out, and that you are working with an expert to facilitate the migration to the cloud.

One thing to note is that Office 365 and OneDrive will have an impact on some industry-specific applications. A lot of the time, industry-specific applications were simply used for sharing information. As we have talked about in previous blog posts, Office 365 lets users share documents, files, and other information easily with team members. See more in our past blogs about Onedrive: add links

The other challenge in this whole cloud migration world are legacy applications that were written in-house or developed by organizations who still have not taken advantage of cloud. Modern applications use application program interfaces (or APIs) and service-oriented architecture (or SOA) that are more adaptable to being hosted in the cloud, or that can work with newer cloud-based tools. But what if your business has been working with the same system for the last decade or more? Depending on the developer, there is a substantial risk that these type of systems aren’t cloud-compatible.

These legacy systems may have a number of issues, such as:

  • IP addresses that are hard coded into the application itself
  • Data pushed onto a physical server or into an outdated library
  • Slow and poor deployment including manual set ups and steps with the inability to go back to previous set ups
  • If the application says that is has to work on “our machine” rather that as an internet-based module

If you are using one of these legacy systems, you can still look at upgrading your system to something in the cloud, but just know that it could require additional preparation and time. There are so many options out there, working with a cloud expert to assess and identify your needs is your best bet. Hybrid scenarios, or even an expert saying “no” to the cloud for an application right now, might be the best move for your business. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of all your options before moving full steam ahead.

This concludes our introductory series on #business in the cloud. If you haven’t already checked out the rest of the series, we invite you to explore return on investment moving to the cloud, project management in the cloud, accounting in the cloud, and business continuity in the cloud.

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