For small- and mid-sized distributors, being able to leverage the benefits of modern technology advances is essential. However, with the pace of technology advances accelerating, systems become outdated, and obsolete all too quickly. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions about how to stay up to date technologically when hardware and distribution software options change rapidly.
Problem: Your server is becoming obsolete.
How long does a server last?” is a frequent question we field from wholesale distributors who are considering on-premise ERP solutions that require them to purchase and maintain their own servers. The average server life is approximately three to five years, with that timeframe varying according to the amount of maintenance and support the server receives. When a server’s life is coming to an end, it can be painful to think about investing in another one — especially if you know you will just have to replace it in another few years. Also, many distributors don’t realize that server costs comprise much more than just the hardware cost – see Evaluating the useful life of a server.
Solution: Cloud-based distribution software solutions.
The world is moving to Cloud-based software for many basic reasons. You have only to look at how Microsoft, Google, Adobe, to name a few, have all moved their software products to the Cloud. Many distributors are also turning to cloud-based distribution software. The flexibility and stress-free features of cloud solutions are attractive to those tired of hosting their own software and maintaining their servers – a particularly cumbersome task for those who do not have large-scale, highly efficient IT departments. Cloud-based distribution software solutions built to current web architectural standards run in public Clouds (such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud), mean that you won’t have to worry about maintaining your own server and you can scale up or down your requirements as needed. As long as your employees have access to the Internet, they’ll be able to use your cloud-based distribution software to process orders and serve their customers. The uptime availability and reliability of public Cloud vendors like AWS is better than 99.99% - substantially better than an on-premises server.
Relinquishing control is a concern for some. However, these Cloud platforms are typically far better equipped to manage security, troubleshoot, solve problems, and find efficiencies than most small companies’ own IT departments. They have one job, and one job only to do, so they are experts in their fields. Additionally, they tend to have ideal environments and backup procedures: temperature-controlled rooms, and backup redundancy for your data in case of unexpected situations.
ADS Solutions offers Accolent ERP, a modern web-based solution that runs completely end-to-end in the AWS (Amazon Web Services) public Cloud. We know some will say that Cloud solutions are not for everyone, but that is the way the world is moving. Even the Pentagon is moving all its most secure data to the Cloud. We can help you understand the implications and find the best solution for your distribution business.
Problem: Your software is becoming obsolete.
Not only does hardware suffer from a short shelf life; software does, too. As software companies invest resources into developing new software, they typically pull resources from maintaining old software — meaning that support for older software (with “older” indicating software that’s anywhere from three to ten years old) is limited or altogether unavailable. Microsoft, Apple and Adobe regularly retire software and urge users to upgrade. If you wait too long to upgrade and are forced to make a giant upgrade “jump” (for example, upgrading from version 1.1 to version 4.5), you might endure glitches along the way and eventually have to pay full price for the most recent version. If you are upgrading to new software, make sure you get the latest web-architected technology. Only consider true cloud-based distribution software that has all the functionality and features distributors need – or you could soon be facing the problem of outdated technology again. ADS Solutions, Accolent ERP is true Cloud-based distribution software that runs on any device that only needs a web browser installed. And ADS Solutions has been providing distribution software to small and mid-sized businesses for decades.
Solution: Stay abreast of new developments and update your distribution software regularly.
By being aware of your software’s features and planned lifecycle, you can make sure you are:
- buying the right software in the first place and
- ready to upgrade that software when necessary
When searching for cloud-based distribution software, look for a product that has an open, flexible framework, modern screens, and intuitive navigation. In addition to the software’s framework and navigation, of course, you will want to make sure your cloud-based distribution software has the most advanced features, such as complex pricing options, e-commerce integration, lot tracking, catch weight, and more. Once you have found the right software, make sure it’s the most modern version available and isn’t on the brink of being upgraded. Creating true cloud-based distribution software requires a complete rewrite and is very hard to do. Many legacy on-premises software providers simply host their legacy software and claim it is Cloud-based – don’t be fooled. Also, many legacy software providers tell you they are working on having a cloud solution soon. Again, don’t be fooled. Creating true cloud-based distribution software is a major undertaking and takes years to get out.
Another benefit of Cloud-based distribution software is there is no longer any need to “get the latest upgrade”. This used to be a major headache and required scheduling between your users, your IT specialist and your software and database providers. Then after the new upgrade was installed every 6 -12 months or so you had to re-test everything. Not so with Cloud-based distribution software – upgrades happen continuously every week or two and these are all delivered automatically. With Cloud-based distribution software you will always have the latest version.
Another major benefit of Cloud-based distribution software is that it can easily be integrated with other cloud-based software. For example, integrating an on-premises ERP system with an online eCommerce store was a major challenge. That isn’t the case with Cloud-based distribution software. For example, Accolent ERP links with 40+ established eCommerce platforms. And this is also true of other cloud-based solutions such as CRMs or 3PLs or shipping carriers or sales tax solutions. You can get the best point solutions directly linked to your cloud-based distributions software.
In conclusion, it is possible that a distribution company might be able to “get by” with outdated technology — but the company won’t be able get ahead with it. In order to survive in the distribution industry, small- and mid-sized distributors need every tool available; and in order to thrive, they need to consider cloud-based distribution software.