Software implementations cover a variety of activities performed by the vendor you’ve selected and its team of experts, internal employees and potential users, your management team, and occasionally any outside consulting or IT representatives. When you make the decision to implement a piece of software, you’re also agreeing to follow the implementation processes laid out by that vendor. This means it is important to ensure all employees are onboard for the change and available to help where needed, outside of their normal job responsibilities. The specific requirements of your team during the implementation process and that of the vendor are identified during initial implementation meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page, and to ensure that adequate resources have been provided to complete the implementation on time. With SaaS-based enterprise software, implementations do not happen overnight, but rather, over the course of several weeks and months depending on the vendor’s schedule and how complicated the implementation. For example, implementations usually take longer when there is a high number of employees that need to be trained, if there is more than one company implementing the software, when there are multiple warehouse locations, when you’re moving from a very old legacy piece of software, or when you’re moving data from multiple existing solutions and sources.
As previously discussed, SaaS applications (software-as-a-service) apply to software that is licensed on a subscription model where the software is hosted on the software provider’s servers (or servers leased by the software provider) and not on the customer’s own physical equipment. With SaaS ERP there are different means of accessing the software and data. One common method is through an internet browser where a user types in a URL and then enters login and password information to use software via a specific website. Another option is to connect to software via an RDP connection. RDP stands for “remote desktop protocol” and is a Microsoft licensed technology that essentially allows a user at a remote computer to log into a server or a specific computer on a network over an internet connection. Once logged in, the remote user has access to that server or computer as if they were sitting in front of it. In either case, there can be significant set-up required before your company starts using the software and even though not all businesses will require the same set-up, it is important to carefully review each implementation proposal from the different vendors to determine exactly what is included with the implementation, and what is expected by your team.
Initial SaaS Environment Set-Up
For Blue Link ERP, the initial environment set-up includes spinning up and provisioning a new server environment for each individual customer and installing Windows. This means each customer has access to their own server environment, complete with Blue Link’s ERP software and related technologies and systems (including Microsoft, SQL, Crystal Reports, etc.). Each environment is customized and provides resources applicable to the size and requirements of the company, in terms of storage space, number of dedicated servers, RAM, CPU and web services etc. The initial server set-up also includes adding users and setting user permissions – generating secure login details and providing access to applicable applications and services.
As a Microsoft Partner, Blue Link ERP provides additional Microsoft resources (such as Office 365 licenses) at a discounted rate to our customers, which is also included as part of the set-up for a customer’s server environment.
On-Going Server Maintenance
One of the main benefits of SaaS ERP solutions is that your team does not have to manage the physical hardware, infrastructure or software itself. Instead, your company pays a monthly fee to the software vendor, leaving them to manage the server, software data back-ups, IT maintenance and security, and allowing your team to focus on the core objectives of your business and getting more sales. Once a server has been configured for your company, and you’re actively using the software and hosting environment, there is still regular monitoring and maintenance that takes place behind the scenes. The cost to manage these tasks and additional licensing costs is built into any monthly fees and they commonly include:
- Updating server and hardware infrastructure to the latest technology
- Maintaining security of data and installation of appropriate firewalls etc.
- Data back-ups
- Microsoft and other software related updates
- Managing users and user permission settings
- Anti-Virus/Anti-Ransomware protection
- Data security and vault protection
When searching for SaaS ERP, keep in mind the work involved as part of the implementation process and make sure you build this into your time frame. If there is a specific time of year that works best for your company to switch systems or a specific date you had in mind, remember to start discussions with potential software vendors well in advance as most vendors schedule implementations a couple of months in advance based on resource availability.