Ever since the widespread adoption of the Internet, there has been major technological change generally and very specifically in the area of Cloud-based distribution software. Unfortunately, many small- and mid-sized distributors have not kept pace with accelerating technological advances, have fallen behind, and are now running on obsolete technology. Without big IT departments and budgets, how do these small and mid-sized distributors keep up? In this article we look at some 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? This is a frequent question we field from wholesale distributors who are considering on-premises 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.
The world is moving to Cloud-based distribution software for many basic reasons. Many ERP software publishers like Oracle NetSuite, SAP, Microsoft, to name a few of the major players have transitioned their legacy offerings to Cloud-based distribution software solutions. More generally, you have only to look at how Microsoft, Google, Adobe, to name a few, have all moved their other consumer software products to the Cloud. 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 IT departments. Cloud-based distribution software built to current web architectural standards runs in public Clouds (such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud), so 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 on-premises servers.
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.
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. This is a continuing and accelerating trend and you cannot afford to ignore it.
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 your distribution business is upgrading, make sure you get the latest web-service architecture software. Only consider true Cloud-based distribution software that has the functionality and features you need – or you could soon be facing the problem of outdated technology again.
Solution: Stay abreast of new developments and update your ERP 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, eCommerce 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. This also has the benefit of continuously giving your users access to the latest developments immediately, not when you next upgrade your system - which could be years away. This can have huge productivity enhancing impacts.
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. And this is also true for other functionalities such as CRM or 3PLs or shipping carriers or sales tax solutions. You can get the best point solutions directly linked to your Cloud-based distribution software.
Cloud-based distribution software is here to stay. You cannot just ignore the trend to the Cloud, you need to adapt. Contact ADS Solutions today and we will help you understand what Cloud-based distribution software can do for your distribution business. We have been providing distribution software to small and mid-sized businesses for decades. We created Accolent ERP, a true Cloud-based distribution software solution that that runs end-to-end in AWS, the leading Cloud platform. Accolent ERP eCommerce links with many established eCommerce platforms (e.g., Magento, Shopify, Woo Commerce, Big Commerce, Drupal Commerce) and marketplaces (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Walmart). Accolent ERP also already links to many other leading third-party Cloud solutions for integrated payments, AP automation, business intelligence, integrated payments, online sales tax, to name just a few.