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Enterprises turn toward the cloud and reap clear benefits

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Companies are increasingly going to the cloud to take advantage of superior uptime, faster integration of remote information with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and more sales opportunities.

DPR Group, a public relations and marketing firm, had used a couple of different technology support systems since 1998, starting with an individual technician, then advancing to a managed services company. But with each of those solutions came too much downtime, says Dan Demaree, DPR Group president and CEO. Although the provider promised technical resolutions within a few hours, sometimes it took a day or more-far too much delay for DPR Group to continue to meet the needs of its growing customer base.

So Demaree started exploring other options in mid-2011.  He learned about Cetrom Information Technology, and started using the company's cloud computing solution in November 2011. "It's the best decision I ever made," Demaree says. With the Cetrom cloud computing solution, he and his staff can log in from anywhere and be in the cloud, using hosted applications and benefitting from the speed of working in the cloud.

With the managed services vendor, the application was hosted on the DPR Group's own server and latency issues arose in the communications between the systems of the DPR Group and the provider. Users would log in, start typing and experience a lag of several seconds before the keystrokes would be recorded. That would be especially confusing when they were working on documents, spreadsheets, etc., because it was difficult to know if what was showing up on the screen was just slow or if an entry had yet to be made.

With Cetrom, however, once users log in, there are no latency issues. Because Cetrom hosts the applications as well, all the data is in a central location, rather than in separate silos on the Cetrom and DPR Group systems. The information is automatically replicated in real time on the DPR Group system through the Cetrom Hybrid Cloud, so users can access data in the event of an outage.

Perhaps the greatest advantage that Cetrom offers, according to Demaree, is that trouble tickets are addressed quickly. "Ever since we've had Cetrom, there has never been an issue with downtime. The old company was down all of the time," Demaree says. "After using this for a while, I can't imagine going back to what we had before."

Peeps in the cloud

Just Born—the maker of marshmallow Peeps, Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike candies-was looking for a sales reporting/forecasting system that would integrate with the SAP enterprise resource planning system that it was installing in 2012-2013.

"We sell through a brokered sales force of about 35 and a direct sales force of about 10 for our larger accounts. In the past, we had polled them and asked them to fill out their sales forecasts so we could match [the information] with our production schedule," says Ed Broczkowski, Just Born's director of ERP implementation. "But that meant we were receiving 400 spreadsheets a week, which we had to manually enter into our ERP system. We needed a better way to get our information into the system."

The task was cumbersome, time-consuming and led to delays in being able to forecast production needs for the holiday season (especially Easter and Christmas for Peeps) and for ongoing sales. Just Born didn't have to look far for a solution. Sita Corp. was helping Just Born install its new SAP ERP system, which was replacing several older and incompatible systems.

Beyond offering integration services, Sita also provides its cloud-based Sojourner solution that enables Just Born's remote sales force to enter all pertinent sales forecast information remotely, which they started to do at the beginning of the year.

The information was static until March when the SAP system went live. Broczkowski expects the company's forecasting and production to be more accurate than ever before, now that the forecasting system is integrated with the ERP system, which handles order entry, operations, financials and human resource management.

With the old forecasting system, the sales team entered only about 40 percent of expected sales to large customers. Now that figure is closer to 100 percent, Broczkowski says. Because the information automatically integrates into the ERP system, there's no inherent delay. The company can analyze the forecast and any adjustments to correct previous forecasts, customer gains and losses, so resources are adjusted properly to meet seasonal needs. "We have to nail our seasonal forecasts," Broczkowski says.

Documents to the cloud

Ephesoft, which had provided document capture services for its clients for several years, saw that many of its customers were moving to the cloud to meet their needs, so in 2010, the company asked its development partner, Nagarro, to help develop a cloud-based offering of its document capture application.

The installed solution, which Ephesoft still offers, resulted in bottlenecks for some customers that didn't have the resources to scale up when needs increased, according to  Don Field, Ephesoft CEO. "We find that the small business market likes the cloud. They can do a proof of concept with a cloud solution without needing to go through an installation," he says.

Ephesoft benefits because it can continue to concentrate on its document capture expertise while Nagarro developed the cloud capability. Another advantage has been the longevity of Nagarro staff, which is quite uncommon in application development, according to Field. He has worked with the same team since the development of the cloud solution started.

The biggest advantage has been faster deployment of solutions for Ephesoft customers, Field says. "We have very strict schedules. We've been able to cut our deployment time from three months down to one month. It's a great empowering technology for users," he explains. "By offering a cloud-based solution we've been able to double ournumber of leads."

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