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Next era of cloud computing is all about the customer

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While first generation Software-as-a-Service generated a lot of interest, people will look back on this period as an era of iron-clad, centralised operations that restricted the ability to customise the solutions, explains Keith Fenner, vice-president – sales, Softline Accpac. The next wave of Cloud Computing, he says, will benefit customers by providing a highly distributed and flexible deployment model that shifts control of the service to their favour, rather than SaaS vendors, so they can better tailor their ERP and CRM experience in a way that optimally suits their business.

Fenner says a true cloud service is not necessarily a fully hosted ERP or CRM, but more likely a suite of services that complement an in-house ERP system. “These are typically elastic utility services such as payment services, emarketing, procurement and web stores. These are either offered as an integrated solution to a fully hosted ERP or delivered a needed on premise.”

Earlier this year, Softline Accpac re-launched Accpac Online, its managed service and SaaS offering which combines the power of Softline Accpac’s ERP and CRM software with the flexibility of a virtualised environment. Fenner says this gives customers more freedom of choice when it comes to the management of their data and business applications. He says that while multi-tenancy may have worked ten years ago, it is simply not suited to meet the business challenges companies face today in the mid-market. “This traditional method of SaaS is outdated and does not suit the needs of our business partners as we believe in giving them, and our customers’ full access and control of their own environment. “

Locally, Fenner says the interest in cloud computing is there, however it will only spike once internet access is more accessible and affordable. He says a full-featured suite of SaaS and Data Centre services should offer businesses:

Data Ownership: Businesses retain ownership of all their data and processes with full the ability to move services online and on-premise as needed.

Upgrade Control: Businesses can choose when to trigger an upgrade, rather than be unable to take advantage of latest features as other hosted companies are unable to upgrade.

Deployment Flexibility: Businesses receive the benefits of a hosted, on-demand solution with the flexibility to migrate to an on-premise deployment should their needs change. Likewise, on-premises customers can transition to the cloud edition.

Customisation Flexibility: Businesses can adapt to suit their own unique needs without the common customisation restrictions of multi-tenant SaaS offerings; or use industry-specific versions built by business partners.

Gartner estimates the current market for cloud services at $46.4 billion, and forecasts $150.1 billion by 2013, representing a 26.5% compound annual growth rate. “The flexibility provided in the cloud will greatly benefit customers seeking an on-demand solution,” concludes Fenner.

Keith Fenner, vice-president – sales, Softline Accpac

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