For small- and mid-sized distributors, being able to leverage the benefits of modern, advanced technology is essential. However, even “advanced” technological tools – both hardware and software – quickly become “standard” ones– and then become an “old,” outdated, and obsolete all too quickly. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions about how to stay technologically advanced 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’ll just have to replace it in another few years.

Solution: Opt for cloud-based advanced distribution software solutions.

Many distributors are turning to cloud-based solutions for their advanced 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 don’t have large-scale, highly efficient IT departments. By hosting your advanced distribution software with a cloud computing vendor (such as Amazon, VMWare, or BlueLock), you won’t have to worry about caring for your own server and 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 company’s advanced distribution software to process orders and serve their customers — and if something goes wrong, the problem is on your cloud vendor’s end, not yours.

Relinquishing control is a concern for some. However, these virtual datacenters are typically far better equipped to 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 does not favor cloud solutions over on-premise installations, and feels the question about whether to host your advanced distribution software in the cloud or install it on-premises should be answered by your business model. It’s our job to provide you with flexible options and to help you find the best solution for your own 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. For example, Microsoft recently announced that it is discontinuing its support for Windows XP (and also discontinuing support for some of its servers), which could lead to problems for those still using the XP platform. Other large software companies like 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. Small, niche software providers — such as advanced wholesale distribution software companies — are also faced with the problem of developing new software while maintaining old products. By developing software with a modern, flexible web-architecture framework, advanced distribution software publishers are trying to make sure that each product is built to last as long as possible.

Solution: Stay aware and upgrade your advanced distribution software regularly.

By being aware of your software’s features and planned lifecycle, you can make sure you’re

  • buying the right software in the first place and
  • ready to upgrade that software when necessary

When searching for new advanced distribution software, look for a product that has an open, flexible framework, modern screens, and intuitive navigation. Although text-based platforms remained popular with some distributors far longer than expected, image-based and movement-based navigation (similar to Windows 8) are becoming increasingly common. In addition to the software’s framework and navigation, of course, you’ll want to make sure your advanced distribution software has the most advanced features, such as EOQ, complex pricing options, e-commerce integration, lot tracking, catch weight, and more. Once you’ve found the right software, make sure it’s the most modern version available and isn’t on the brink of being upgraded. Some software companies produce timelines indicating when their products are released and due for retirement– for example, view Microsoft’s software lifecycle calendar. If the ERP software you’re considering has been on the market for more than 3 years, ask about the company’s development, upgrade, and support plans.

In sum, it’s safe to say 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 the most advanced versions of those tools available today.