With the rise of prominenet cloud solutions in business functions such as HR (human resources), CRM (customer relationship management) and accounting, so has cloud ERP (enterprise resource planning) interest been skyrocketing in recent months.
Until recently, ERP software has adapted more slowly to cloud trends because of computing requirements and sophistication levels involved in a typical ERP system.
But we're seeing that begin to change.
A relatively small but ever-increasing number of traditional ERP vendors are beginning to offer systems in a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model, in the cloud, for small businesses.
Although there isn't an unlimited amount of cloud ERP options yet available on today's market, all of the heavy-hitting ERP vendors are offering some version of cloud access to their products.
Knowing this, let's learn more about cloud ERP and dive into the wide array of solutions for small business.
What Exactly Is Cloud-Based ERP Software?
Cloud-based ERP is the specific SaaS (software-as-a-service) model of deployment for ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. It works to streamline multiple functions of a business into a unified system.
On a high level, ERP software is the over-arching term that describes a system that both captures and shares data across every business function and department.
All traditional ERP systems were installed and fully maintained at your physical location. Cloud-based ERP software solutions, however, are delivered via a simple internet connection and web browser.
It's important to keep in mind that:
1. In a cloud ERP model, the vendor fully manages the software. You, as the buyer, must pay a subscription fee to access the software.
2. The cloud model shouldn't be confused with software that's "web-enabled." This would mean that your ERP software would be installed at your location, although data is still available online.
3. In either of these cases, data from the system is accessed through a user's internet connection. This capability enables your workers to remotely access vital small business data from any online device, no matter where they are currently located.
4. The subscription fee for a cloud ERP is typically paid on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The huge benefit for your small business is that you'll no longer need to house and maintain data and software on your own servers.
Cloud ERP Software Common Features
A huge bonus of cloud ERP software is that it has all of the features you get with ERP solutions that are on-premisis.
These features include:
As you can see, you're not losing any functionality for your small business when you go with cloud ERP over location-based ERP.
What Kind of Cloud ERP Buyer Is Your Small Business?
Before you decide what kind of cloud ERP solution is best for your small business, it's a good idea to determine the kind of buyer you are. This helps you narrow down options while providing a solid launching point for figuring out the system that is best for your small business.
In general, there are three different kinds of cloud ERP software buyers:
1. Full-Suite Cloud ERP Buyer
If you're a full-suite buyer, you're the kind fo buyer that seeks a single, fully integrated system that will run your entire small business. Your ultimate goal is to rely on one system that will bring forth a smooth flow of data and information between business functions and departments, while also mitigating potential integration issues.
As a full-suite buyer, you'll probably lean toward cloud ERP suites like:
You'll be able to find others within this category as well.
2. Best-of-Breed Cloud ERP Buyer
As a buyer in the "best-of-breed" category, you'll no doubt favor the purchase of specialized applications that powerfully perform just a single function, such as CRM systems or HR systems.
In most cases, you're seeking out an application that features a higher level of functionality than what you can find in standard full-suite packages.
Some of the top best-of-breed cloud ERP software options include:
There are many more.
3. Small Business Success Buyer
In the past, there hasn't been a ton of cloud ERP software options designed specifically for small business buyers. However, that all seems to be changing more and more by the day.
As SaaS continues to trend and strengthen, expect a boom in the number of applications available that are marketed directly toward small business owners and managers.
Some current ones include:
But this is truly only the beginning. A simple Google search of "cloud ERP software for small business" will send you on your way to finding the best options for your small business.
Benefits and Issues
Cloud ERPs have a great number of benefits over systems that are installed locally. They do, however, also have a few drawbacks.
First, as a benefit, they are super easy to use. As discussed earlier, web-based cloud ERPs are always delivered through a standard web browser. Because of this, the program interface will be very familiar to anyone using it.
They are relatively intuitive and will cut down on the requirement to invest in training for yourself and your employees.
They also reduce your total costs for IT (information technology). The vendor will host and maintain all of the software while maintaining its performance.
When backups or upgrades are needed, you won't need to invest anything. It will all be handled by your vendor.
One major concern with cloud ERP for small business is that it requires a consistent and strong internet connection in order to function. If your connection is weak or unreliable, it's best to get all of your connectivity issues resolved prior to buying a cloud system.
Cloud systems are also, for the most part, not customizable. Every business or user that purchases a license gets the same exact version of the software. This makes it much more difficult to employ customization into most cloud ERP solutions.
This is, however, beginning to change with the advancement of cloud technologies.
Is a Cloud ERP Solution the Best for Your Small Business?
Now that you're armed with all the information you need about cloud ERP software solutions, does it seem to be the best direction for you and your small business?
Even if you're not ready to make the move right now, keep an eye on the advancements that are coming nearly every single month. There will soon be a solution that perfectly fits the growing needs of your small business.