Cloud service outages and deployment options
The recent Intuit outage (reported by Mark Hachman in PC Magazine) has raised some skepticism about the viability and future of cloud-based software and services. Coming off the heels of NetSuite’s outage in April and the recent Sage outage, it got us thinking more about what enterprises fundamentally need to do to keep their ERP applications up and running, and how much risk is too much.
Keep your options open
Ultimately enterprises need to have the freedom of choice so they can choose a deployment model that meets their price and uptime requirements. At ERP Cloud News, we advocate customer choice with regards to the deployment of cloud technologies. Vendors who create cloud software that is built for a single cloud infrastructure promote vendor lock-in and vulnerability to issues like service outages. Customers should be able to move transparently between cloud vendors and on-premise deployment options. The last thing any business needs is to be locked-in to a provider that cannot deliver service.
Option 1: In-House
The option to maintain complex ERP software on your premises is not for every business. Often this requires specialized knowledge and expensive IT resources and is not guaranteed to do better than trusting the experts running a SaaS solution. The on-premise option does prevent an outage if your internet service is interrupted and people are not trying to access the system remotely.
Option 2: SaaS with a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
If you elect to outsource your deployment, you might be able to save significant money on IT resources and hassles associated with software upgrades. If you elect to go this route, we recommend getting a service level agreement (SLA) and verifying the procedures in place to recover from an outage.
Option 3: SaaS and on-premise
Businesses with large budgets and IT expertise, can implement SaaS with an on-premises backup solution. This will provide a rapid way to recover from a service outage, but will increase the cost and hassle of running and maintaining your system. Most likely you would not implement an instant-failover arrangement, but store data as well as a copy of the application on premise. This arrangement is not possible with SaaS providers that run a single multi-tenant version of their software.
Software vendor or service provider?
Traditionally, there has been a separation of software providers and service providers. As more software companies move to the cloud, the lines between the software provider and the service provider have been muddied. The role of the software developer has expanded to include maintaining an operating environment, managing upgrades, tracking bandwidth, providing storage, providing customer service, purchasing hardware, and providing backups.
Software companies may outsource some or all of these features to a service provider. Some software vendors purchase collocation space and manage everything else. Others purchase infrastructure from a provider such as Amazon or GoGrid (power, hardware, bandwidth) and manage the rest. Still others purchase a platform from a provider such as Microsoft Windows Azure and only manage their application.
As software vendors begin to take on service provider responsibilities, mistakes are bound to be made. Developing software and managing data centers require different skill sets.