Software Decision: Infrastructure
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the background of the decision on purchasing best of breed versus an integrated solution. In Part 2 of this article, we will take a look at the infrastructure decisions that are as equally important as the right tool.
Companies must either build and manage an infrastructure capable of supporting a secure, available, and reliable (yes, all three are critical!) application themselves, or partner with a third party provider. While an increasing number of software applications are only available in a cloud environment (meaning that the data does not reside on your premises), this article will treat the decision as if both options were available.
The number one factor in determining where your data will live is centered around control. Control can be seen as a positive or negative component. Some organizations wish to know that their database and connections are wholly managed by their organization, and desire to control the interaction with the software. For others, control is more of a headache, and they wish to take as much of the responsibility and outsource it so that connectivity and security are their vendor’s burden. In an on-premise scenario, your company controls all aspects of the environment (including network). The decision often rests with the existing infrastructure in your organization, in terms of precedence. If your company already has a sturdy network in place and can handle the hardware needs of the new purchase, then you are better prepared for handling this. Additionally, having control of the environment can provide peace of mind to your team, knowing that the maintenance and availability of the software is in the hands of colleagues, not remote corporations. Early in the procurement process, be sure to understand whether or not the vendor is capable of allowing you to place their product into your environment.
The second part of this decision revolves around staffing. Does your organization already have an IT team in place to manage the application, or would this create additional cost? Much like the environment, this decision is usually predicated on precedence. The environment generally runs congruently with the IT staffing and philosophy to support such components. As you look at direct and indirect costs associated with this purchase, be sure to include additional IT staff, potential overtime, and the timing of the purchase to ensure cost control. Otherwise, your team may not fully be able to compare the true cost comparison of an on-premise versus hosted model.
A third concept with which companies wrestle is integration. Does this new software need to "speak to," or integrate with other products? The theme of the aforementioned article was to assess whether to utilize a number of best of breed solutions or to go with a single integrated platform. The quantity and sophistication of this integration is a very major factor if the best of breed option is chosen. If some linking is needed, does the integration require that all products to be linked exist in the same network, or can the integration be done from multiple locations? For example, can you get data from a cloud environment to link to your financial platform? Some of these questions may be dealbreakers, so be sure to put them up front to your vendor.
The last major point to consider is access. Does the system need to be available from only within your network or do you prefer access via the web from anywhere? In today’s world, the ability or at least the option of the application to exist on a mobile device is key, and something that your IT team may need to consider as well. Having to support both an internal and possibly a public facing web application could be enough to further consider moving to a cloud platform. Do other software platforms only run from your intranet? Does your business analyst team need access to run queries or other procedures against the data? A major struggle, related to control of the environment, is the control of the data itself.
Some other key points to consider are time to implement, depreciation, managing the vendor relationship in an outsourced environment, recoverability of data or failover of applications in the event of a cloud outage, and response time of the cloud application.
MAKING THE SOFTWARE DECISION
There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution. For the on-premise solution, major advantages generally control, security, support, and recovery. For the cloud solution, benefits include decreased startup costs, leveraging economies of scale, accelerated implementation, and providing services to your customers. On-premise options provide greater flexibility for the organization to control the access and flow of data but are limited by the responsibility that rests with this solution. The hosted solution alleviates the burden associated with setting up and maintaining constant access to the application but is limited by the notion of playing by someone else’s rules. Combine your organization’s priorities with the available options from the vendor or vendors to best assess which way to turn.