Comparing Services and Pricing: How to Choose a Microsoft Dynamics ERP Hosting Partner – MSDynamicsWorld.com
A growing number of businesses are migrating mission-critical data systems to the cloud. However, deploying an accounting system such as Microsoft Dynamics ERP in the cloud comes with a unique set of challenges.
When enterprises have strict security requirements and have to comply with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), they need a software hosting provider who can provide comprehensive services that most public cloud offerings do not provide. ERP hosting providers can deliver services that public cloud solutions do not, such as audit documentation and high levels of security in a compliance validated hosting environment.
Selecting a hosting partner to deliver and support an ERP system that can power your business for years to come is a large undertaking. When it comes time to choose an ERP hosting provider, enterprises should keep in mind a few comparison points to be sure the vendor is able meet their needs including, customer service and support, compliance support, cost of subscription, and a comprehensive service level agreement.
Customer Service and Support
Although cloud and hosted ERP deployments tend to be more streamlined than on-premises implementations, hosted ERP still requires a high level of skill and experience to successfully address the complex software, hardware, configuration and integration requirements. When a business chooses a Dynamics ERP hosting provider, they need to feel confident that their system will be up and running quickly and smoothly, and also maintained and managed with after sale support for compliance audit documentation, security and hosting support requests.
Organizations with high quality service will have a solid reputation that can be verified through references. They will also have proven track record of success delivering the specific solution you want to launch in the cloud. Ask the providers that you are considering about their experience and knowledge with the software you use, or want to use, including ERP and ISV products.
It may seem counterintuitive, but many hosting companies host software they do not have any experience using or implementing. When your hosting provider has a history performing both cloud and on-premise Dynamics ERP implementations, they will have a better understanding of the intricate requirements of a successful deployment or upgrade. This goes a long way toward ensuring the process goes smoothly. It’s also a good idea to find a hosting provider with a deep background in any third party ISV applications that may need to be integrated with the ERP solution.
Once the project is complete, best of breed ERP hosting partner will also be available directly 24/7/365 for hosting support.
For publicly traded companies and heavily regulated industries, a short list of possible vendors will shrink dramatically when you eliminate providers who cannot deliver support for compliance.
Assess your company’s compliance and security needs early on in your project, then find the ERP hoster who is best equipped to meet those needs. Do the providers you are considering deliver compliance validated hosting environments in SSAE 16 Type II data centers? Do they offer audit documentation, an internal SOX policy library and a team of support professionals who are certified for SOX, HIPPA, FDA and other common regulatory compliance rules? Be sure to ask about all vendors’ policies, procedures and infrastructure in place to help manage your company’s compliance requirements.
Total Cost of Subscription
Don’t be fooled by the provider claiming to offer the lowest prices. When looking at a quote or agreement, drill down into each line item to be sure you are not going see additional charges for every little component. For example, are there additional charges for your Microsoft Office connection, storage, SSRS, Excel reporting, email or PDF creation? And how much are they?
It’s also important to consider the value being delivered in terms of the infrastructure and services that are included in the monthly subscription and set-up price. Be very clear on the total charge for setup fees and whether they include the latest service packs, upgrades, and installation of ISV solutions and test company setup. Some providers do not include these items in their monthly fees, so they will be a cost that you will incur later. Be sure to understand this up-front.
Whether the provider uses a web client, Terminal Services, Citrix or VPN to provide remote access, be sure your system is available anywhere with the reliability and performance your people need to be effective in their jobs. A cloud deployment that doesn’t work as well remotely as in the office eliminates one of the cloud’s great benefits: mobility. So make sure you are not tied to an IP address that only is available from your office.
The cost of web services and the cost for a server on which a custom development environment will be deployed should also be included as a variable when comparing cost between ERP hosting services. It is also important to know up front the cost and level of effort required to migrate the system on premises if necessary. This could be a hidden cost down the road that you aren’t expecting.
When all of these variables are factored, it becomes clear that often the providers with lowest advertised price are not accurately reflecting the total cost of subscription, but with a little due diligence you can guard yourself against such hidden fees and find the provider that delivers the most value to the customer.
Service Level Agreements
When done properly and comprehensively, a service level agreement (SLA) assures that there are no gray areas and no confusion around responsibility, compliance, confidentiality and uptime. (We have outlined top factors to consider in an SLA in another blog post.) When a provider sits down with the customer to draw up an SLA that meets all parties’ needs, it starts the relationship off on the right foot. This early effort will also offer a good indication that the provider will work to accommodate all requirements during the upgrade or migration process and will continue to do so after the system is live.
Here are some of the critical topics that should be covered clearly in the SLA.
- Data Confidentiality Policies and Processes
- Disaster Recovery and Responsibility
- Scheduled Downtime and Notification Requirements
- Uptime guarantees and Reimbursement for SLA Non-Compliance
- Support Severity Levels and Response Time Guarantees
- Back-up & Restore Routines (Recovery Point Objective and Recovery Time Objective)
- Data Ownership Policies
- Data Encryption and How it is Monitored
- Annual Price Increases, Notifications and Increase Limitations
When evaluating vendors these comparison points are critical to keep in mind to ensure you are choosing the hosting provider who can meet the needs of your business as well as the needs of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP system.