If your business has sales reps that travel on a regular basis, these reps may find themselves at a customer’s location in need of access to information about that customer’s history, pricing and up-to-date inventory availability. These reps may also want to electronically place orders on behalf of their customers or when working at tradeshows. This type of functionality can be found in online order portals as part of some ERP systems, and as mentioned in previous posts through the use of third party applications interfaced with ERP.
But what if your sales reps want access to more information? Or what if you have other staff needing access from outside the office? The purchasing rep onsite at a supplier, the accountant on vacation (accountants don’t really take vacation do they?) or the CEO at an offsite meeting. In these situations it is common for individuals to bring laptops or tablets with them in order to continue to access important information. Those companies which have a hosted ERP solution can easily access the system on a laptop in any location with an internet location. That seems fairly obvious, and is a selling point to choosing a hosted (or cloud) solution. What is less obvious, and less known to the non-IT person is that even with an ERP system installed locally on a server in the office (on-premises), with the right software and the right setup the system can be accessed remotely as well.
Remote desktop functionality 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. This means that they also have access to ERP software or other applications that they would have use of while in the office. Again, this is a great option for any employee who wants to be able to access specific information and systems while on the road or outside of the office. Like anything over the internet this functionality is only viable if a stable internet connection is available.
So back to that accountant on vacation now. He had actually planned on having a break from work on his vacation, so he didn’t take his laptop with him. Wouldn’t you know though, while he was sitting on the beach reading an e-book on his tablet his boss called with panic in her voice. A business opportunity has arisen and they need the most up to date financials immediately. Being the good employee that he is and looking to get brownie points with the boss, the accountant logs into the hosted ERP software or the remote desktop software directly on his tablet (using the data hotspot from his phone) and prints the financials directly to the printer on his boss’ desk. The boss is happy and the accountant doesn’t have to worry about getting back to the office and the boss being upset at him for having taken his hard earned vacation.
If the accountant hadn’t taken his tablet with him and was actually reading a paperback, could he have accomplished the same thing on his cell phone? While not ideal, due to the screen size and potential difficulty pressing the correct buttons on the screen, the answer is yes. With the proper setup of the remote desktop application on the phone and a data connection, an ERP system can be accessed.
Although this is just one example of using remote access, it should be obvious how beneficial this technology would be for those employees who are often not in the office. This holds true for employees who work from home on a regular basis as well. However it does require the technical know-how in order to set-up these connections and maintain them. This is often a benefit to choosing the cloud version if you require remote access on a regular basis, as this set-up and management becomes the responsibility of the software vendor.