Monday, May 31, 2021
Reading time: 8 minutes
Technology is evolving more quickly than ever. As a Microsoft Dynamics Partner, you’ve probably already started considering - if not implementing - various cloud deployment scenarios for your customers. According to Gartner, “By 2024, more than 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software, application software and business process outsourcing will shift from traditional solutions to the cloud.” The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is gaining popularity, but due to current SaaS limitations, or Dynamics Partners’ lack of readiness to support their customers’ SaaS solutions directly, its adoption is not always straightforward and easy. Given this situation, you might be considering other options to facilitate your customers’ growing cloud needs without any SaaS limitations, such as building your own in-house hosting platform or choosing a hosting provider to deploy your customers’ Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central solutions in the cloud.
In order to evaluate the key factors to consider before deciding whether to choose an in-house platform or a hosting provider, 1ClickFactory invited some experts to share their perspectives on what it takes to build a hosting service and provide recommendations for best practices:
- Tobias Fenster - Chief Technical Officer, Cosmo Consult Group
- Christian Krause – Operations Manager, Cosmo Consult Group
- Tomas Stankevičius - R&D Lead, 1ClickFactory
- Rimvydas Saulis - Cloud business line manager, 1ClickFactory
If you missed the panel discussion “Total cost of ownership of an ERP in the cloud: invest in house or entrust a Partner?” you can access the session recording here.
If you are interested in a short summary of the panel discussion, read on to discover the top things you need to keep in mind when deciding between building your own in-house platform or choosing a hosting provider, such as 1ClickFactory’s Self-Provisioning for Dynamics NAV/Business Central on Azure.
What are the main factors to consider before choosing to build an in-house hosting platform.
Can I do it myself? This is probably the first question that pops into a Microsoft Dynamics Partner’s mind when considering the best deployment options for on-premises customers, who are not yet in the cloud. However, before you begin to build your own system, it is important to consider the following:
- An evaluation of your customers’ options for deployment in the cloud.
A thorough evaluation of your customers’ requirements for deployment in the cloud is crucial. You should divide the customers into such groups as:
- Ready to migrate to SaaS – Does not require a hosting platform.
- Staying on-premises – Not ready for the cloud yet and does not require any hosting platform in the near future.
- In-betweeners – Wants to move to the cloud, but SaaS is not an option yet (for a number of reasons).
The in-betweeners are the customers that will use your in-house platform for their deployment in the cloud. If you have only a small percentage of in-betweeners, the potential income from them likely wouldn’t justify the investment required for building your own in-house platform.
- The minimum number of customers using the platform.
To ensure your investment in an in-house platform is worth it, consider the number of customers who would be willing to use it. Although it is not easy to predict the actual number, you would want to have at least 50 customers (or a few hundred users) that you can count on moving to the platform, or contemplating such a move in the near future, to make it worth the investment.
- Investing in your team’s competencies.
Developing your team’s competencies is an important part of building an in-house cloud platform. Your team might have traditional Microsoft Dynamics NAV/ Dynamics Business Central knowledge, but an in-house cloud platform requires different proficiencies, such as Azure specialists to be responsible for infrastructure, security, monitoring and performance tuning, etc. You’ll also need SQL experts to ensure optimal performance and avoid bottlenecks, plus Microsoft Dynamics NAV/Dynamics Business Central specialists who know the demands of an ERP workload. Apart from technical skills, your sales team also has to change its approach, as the in-house platform is a subscription-based business as opposed to a large project with one-off revenue. It means adapting to different sales patterns and deploying a lot of instances quickly to get profitable and maintain business continuity.
Although there is no official recommendation for team size, a good starting point for this kind of solution would be around 8 skilled and dedicated professionals. Additionally, you need to make sure that your team is constantly learning and keeping up to date with all new developments.
- Acquiring specific technical, legal & security expertise.
The technical knowledge you already have may not be sufficient, as you must fully understand the demands of an ERP workload. For example, the usage and load patterns that arise with different posting algorithms. Also, you need to understand how the machines and databases are working, find a clever way to hook them up and monitor them, establish the database sizes and so on. It is important to ensure availability and business continuity, performance and quality of service for your customer. And there are no less important legal and security aspects to consider, from GDPR to preventing data breaches.
- Security in the cloud: sharing the responsibilities.
This is probably most dangerous, complicated, and yet critical area to tackle. Just because your security strategy is working today, that doesn’t mean that it will tomorrow. Assuring the security of the platform is continuous work, and it requires not only a skilled team, but also constant learning. Even if you are sharing the security responsibilities with your customer, you could be held responsible for any security breaches, as the customer may consider security to be your responsibility alone. So, it is important to constantly educate both yourself and your customer on security needs and the necessary precautions that have to be taken on all the sides in order to avoid costly mistakes. You can read more about the shared responsibility of information security here.
- Time investment and automation.
Manually provisioning one Microsoft Dynamics 365 NAV/Dynamics Business Central customer installation on Azure cloud could take around 50 hours for an inexperienced team and over 8 hours for an experienced team. Imagine completing this set up for not just one, but dozens of customers, and it’s clear that manual provisioning is not a viable option. When building an in-house platform, you have to consider factors such as an automated service, the right infrastructure set up, security procedures and so on. Otherwise, the provisioning process could extend for months, even with a highly experienced team. Customer expectations are always high, and provisioning is expected to take minutes, not hours or days, so you have to be prepared to offer a fast-onboarding service.
- Future potential of the in-house platform.
More and more of your customers are looking to migrate to the cloud, but many of them will go for a full SaaS offering thus limiting the potential for an in-house cloud platform. Of course, your platform might become an interim step to the cloud for customers who are not ready for SaaS yet. Also, you can always extend your platform offering not only for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central customers, but also include Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management solutions or modern workplace platforms and solutions that require service hosting, if you have the necessary competencies. So, there is still potential for the platform in the next couple of years, but you need to be clear that there will be a time when you will be offboarding more customers than onboarding, and there is not a lot of time for the investment to pay off before that happens.
How do you select the right cloud hosting provider?
If you have determined that building an in-house platform to host your customers’ Microsoft Dynamics 365 NAV/Dynamics Business Central solutions in the cloud is not something you’re going to take on, how do you select the right cloud provider from so many? With so many competitors in the field, you should help your customer to find the best option by asking these questions:
- How safe is the cloud service? What security certifications are in place?
- How secure is the data center and where is it located?
- What is the pricing structure?
- What is the service provider’s SLA? More important what exactly is in the SLA? Is it only an infrastructure SLA or a Dynamics 365 NAV/Dynamics Business Central uptime SLA?
- Can the cloud provider adjust its services in line with a client’s expanding business needs?
- Is the cloud service provider competent in hosting Dynamics 365NAV/Dynamics Business Central or is it only pure VM hosting?
- Can the cloud service provider assist in troubleshooting not only infrastructure but also Dynamics 365 NAV/Dynamics Business Central issues? Can they help or maybe even automate the version upgrade process?
- How do the on-boarding and off-boarding processes work?
- What are the contract terms? Are there long-term commitments?
When deciding on a provider, make sure to assess such factors as which certifications and standards the provider adheres to, and consider what their existing customers have to say about the service in testimonials. It is important to establish their SLA and contractual terms as this will guarantee that the services will be delivered as agreed upon.
About 1ClickFactory Self-Provisioning Platform for Microsoft Dynamics 365 NAV/Dynamics Business Central on Azure
1ClickFactory’s Self-Provisioning Platform is an automated platform, available 24/7 on a highly secure and readily supported environment, so Microsoft Dynamics Partners can easily deploy and manage Microsoft Dynamics NAV/Dynamics Business Central solutions on Microsoft Azure.
Our self-provisioning service enables you to easily migrate current customer workloads onto Azure and offer your current Dynamics NAV solutions as a cloud service running in Azure. The benefits include:
- Easy to use complete self-service platform.
- 24/7 fully monitored service.
- Simple pricing model – Fixed per-user-per-month price.
- SLA backed: 99.9% availability guarantee.
- Robust Security - ISO: 27001 certified.
- Supported by Dynamics NAV/ Dynamics Business Central on Azure experts.
1ClickFactory is the biggest Microsoft Dynamics NAV/Dynamics 365 Business Central on Azure provider, with over 20,000 users worldwide. We use the main Microsoft Azure datacenters based on customer locations around the world, so you can be sure that you are fully compliant with security and privacy.
In addition, one of our main service benefits is that we have experience and knowledge of upgrading older versions of Microsoft Dynamics NAV to Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, which means that we have expertise with both Dynamics 365 Business Central and the Cloud. The latest Microsoft Azure technology trends are always available on our Self-Provisioning Platform, so you can be confident in meeting your customers’ demands when you deploy Microsoft Dynamics NAV/Dynamics 365 Business Central on Azure with our service.
Are you ready to grow your cloud business with 1ClickFactory's Self-Provisioning Platform?
- Support during your customer’s self-provisioning.
- Support for integration configuration.
- Easy to use self-service provisioning platform.
- Support from our Dynamics and Cloud experts.
Find out more about the 1ClickFactory Self-Provisioning for NAV/Business Central on Azure service or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.