Case studies: Cloud hosting in 2019
Cloud hosting as a service has been a stepping stone between desktop software and Cloud-based software for years now. Hosting providers give firms an option for hosting on-premise software off site so the firm doesn’t have to take on the burden of hosting and securing data themselves. But the reality is, as the Cloud becomes more ubiquitous and more software providers are moving their products completely into the Cloud, Cloud hosting is also shrinking as a sector. Specialization then becomes key in distinguishing their services. The two hosting providers highlighted here are Right Networks and Cloud at Work. The former provides hosting for QuickBooks products, and any apps that integrate therein; and the latter provides hosting for Sage ERP products. This case study also looks at both an accounting firm and a manufacturing company, two contrasting organizations, and how they benefit from hosting their financial information off site.
Consistency is key
Product: Right Networks
Firm: Ignite Spot
Start date: 2016
On record: Dan Luthi, chief operating officer
Selection: Prior to 2016, Utah firm Ignite Spot was were using a competitor to Right Networks for cloud hosting. The firm experienced a lot of drops in service, inaccuracy in user accesses, and the company was slow to add new users, so Ignite Spot sought a new solution.
“We wanted a solution that was going to be up more consistently, and also maintain the data integrity more efficiently,” Dan Luthi, the firm’s chief operating officer, said. “Right Networks offered better backups, data sets functions, and easier ways to add apps.”
Implementation: “Implementation was a huge piece as well,” Luthi said. “The prior vendor took several months to get up and running. I was clear with Right Networks that we needed to be up quick. They built our user interfaces up front. Once we were ready to pull data, they helped us to extract information and bring it over. It took about three weeks total from the time we were fully committed to getting all our clients over and trained on the new system. Right Networks was much more prepared to onboard the larger group of clients we had at the time. I definitely knew what questions to ask from last experience, but they were better prepared.”
Highlights: The number one benefit of Right Networks for Luthi is its consistency of service. Second, he likes that the firm’s apps are constantly available for use at any time. Luthi said Right Networks is also not afraid to look at new functions and add new features. Finally, from the firm side, it’s “really easy” to add new users and change individual staff access permissions.
Luthi added that Right Networks is good at responding to the firm’s questions and concerns quickly. With prior vendors an answer could take 2-5 days, but Right Networks gets back to the firm in 24 to 48 hours.
Challenges: “Ultimately, the only challenge is just prices always change,” Luthi said, referring to Right Network's pricing increasing over time. “Overall, outside of that, everything’s been smooth for us truthfully.”
Firm goals: “Right Networks has provided us with the opportunity to provide a solution for clients that had a need to stay on desktop, and a solution that’s constant,” Luthi said. “We want to provide good, consistent service to our clients no matter what level they’re at.”
“Right Networks is one of the most forward thinking outsourced desktop solutions out there,” he added. “They focus on the customer experience throughout the whole process, which is desirable for a firm like us who is looking for a partner for the long term, not the short term.”
Striking out on their own
Product: Cloud at Work
Company: Mountain Ridge Metals
Start date: 2019
On record: Brian Cooper, controller
Special note: Cloud at Work is a cloud hosting solution for Sage ERP solutions, and is a sister company of Net at Work, a Sage reseller.
Selection: Mountain Ridge Metals is a metal materials processor, and was formerly the Pennsylvania division of a larger parent company. Towards the end of 2018, the division could see the writing on the wall and knew they were about to be divested. So, the staff banded together to discuss how they would handle the change, as the parent company handled all the accounting and finance functions in Florida. At this time Brian Cooper, now controller for MRM, was brought on specifically because the company needed an accountant.
Cooper decided the company would stick with the same solution, Sage 100, the company had been using for years — but they needed to figure out how to host it. The solution provider Net at Work introduced its cloud hosting solution, Cloud at Work, and said it would provide benefits that hosting on site would not. For instance, redundancy of information and location, and the provision of managed hosting alleviating the burden from the company.
“We are quite big on disaster recovery scenarios,” Cooper explained. “In the event that something were to happen here our financial and other sensitive data would be hosted off site. It’s also more cost effective for us being the size of the org that we are. Having a dedicated server on site isn’t feasible.”
Implementation: “Our implementation was very unique because of the fact that we were a spin off company,” Cooper said. “We didn’t go through your typical transition from a legacy system because we did not carry any of the finance function out at the Pennsylvania location. There were quite a few challenges that were unusual and specific to our scenario, but Net at Work and Cloud at Work provided adequate solutions to the issues that we encountered.”
Cooper went on to explain that because Cloud at Work only hosts Sage products, MRM needed another server on the manufacturing floor that would handle production data, customer relationship management, and other software pieces. The two servers would need to be able to share data, and MRM’s primary concern was this would not be possible.
“The folks in our IT department and Cloud at Work worked hand in hand to make it work,” Cooper said. “This now allows us to get real-time data to the management team so they can make decisions in a timely manner.”
Because MRM was going through a reorganization, the company had a lot of legal complications to work through. Through all this, they still had to run a business. “Net at Work and Cloud at Work together made sure that our operations were never affected through implementation, which was fantastic,” Cooper said.
Highlights: “The fact that Cloud at Work is a published application is really key for us because only the financial data is hosted by them,” Cooper said. “There are many apps I need to access information from daily that are stored on site, and being able to do that without pulling data back and forth from a remote desktop is great while still providing security. For instance, the fact that we can access our HR files and financial data at the same time is key.”
Cooper also said that Cloud at Work’s support staff is “fantastic.”
Challenges: There was a three to four week period during implementation that MRM was working via a remote desktop that was challenging. There was a minor workflow interruption but all in all, the company was not even down for 30 minutes, Cooper said.
Company goals: “Cloud at Work have been supportive as we now shape our own finance department,” Cooper said. “We’re really in our infancy, so we’re utilizing things for the first time and realizing we don’t have to carry out functions the same way they’ve been for years. With each step we take, Net at Work has been there through Cloud at Work to make each change seem seamless.”