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The Boomer Bulletin - 2013
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Solving the Cloud Integration Puzzle

Posted By Robert J. Chandler, Tuesday, July 09, 2013

How Cloud Providers Give You Seamless Integration

With more and more firms moving to the cloud, the question for CPAs and Business Owners alike becomes, "will my applications all work together and sync between the different networks?" 

Application integration allows a business owner to unify users, applications, databases, storage and legacy systems across their infrastructure. Cloud integration is a key goal for all vendors to ensure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Systems that allow users to work collaboratively with singular sign-on offer a seamless delivery of applications. Let's evaluate how you can ensure your software applications, cloud infrastructure, and SaaS products are configured to communicate with each other and more importantly, are compatible:

Cloud Servers
Cloud servers are hosted at a data center and provide anytime, anywhere access to the assigned users. Cloud servers replace the need for traditional on-premise servers so the business owner or accounting professional can shift the focus from IT to billable hours. Example: Cloud9 Real Time Private Virtual Server Solution.

SaaS (Software as a Service)
SaaS products and services are deployed online.  These products and services are usually different than the desktop application provided by the manufacturer, if one exists. Example: QuickBooks Online versus QuickBooks Desktop.

Desktop Applications
Desktop applications are software applications that are not available online. They have a download or .exe file to be installed on a local computer or server for access. Traditionally, desktop applications are more robust systems than an online offering. Example: Lacerte, Drake and Office Tools Professional.

Online Portals
There are many different types of portals, most common are the document sharing portals where one user uploads a document for download or viewing, shares it with another user and the two login to download the document locally. Example: DropBox, Sharefile and SmartVault.

Online Banking/Services
Online banking is perhaps one of the first types of cloud computing. This is where the user will login to view transactional information, make changes and/or utilize an online service. Example: Merchant Services, Banking Institution Online Login.

In evaluating the different components that come into play when trying to establish a fully integrated enterprise solution, it is obvious there are a lot of moving parts in the equation that must be managed and continually monitored. The cloud server provider will be the one ultimately responsible for the maintenance, updates, backups and installation of patches, etc. on the hub of the client network (the server) to ensure optimal performance for the end-user. With thousands of applications, online services and SaaS products on the market, it requires the hosting provider to be proactive in versioning and scheduling after hours maintenance on the servers to avoid disturbing users during peak business hours. 

An important component when selecting a cloud vendor is to evaluate the delivery mechanism of the platform. Traditionally, hosting providers and online services have been delivered through a connection broker, like Citrix. While this is a solid solution and very common for services like GoToMeeting, it is an additional component added to the cloud recipe that can not only slow the user down and limit multiple monitor functionality, it also creates a risk of non-compatibility with applications. Connection Managers facilitate the communication between the user and the server. If there are multiple servers that a user must have access to due to subscription to SaaS products that sync with a hosted server for desktop applications and file storage, it becomes a more complex configuration between multiple infrastructures. The key to avoiding problems with syncing between the different solution providers is to have enterprise application integration (EAI) and common standards for minimum system requirements. It is also beneficial to the client and the providers if the manufacturers have good working relationships to facilitate support for the users and enable integration of systems and applications across the client enterprise.

 A lack of communication and compatibility between applications can lead to multiple data sets in different locations, less automation and efficiencies - all things the cloud is set out to solve. Best practices are critical in deployment to ensure data quality, consistency and automation within the infrastructure.

In choosing a cloud provider, look for a true partner that offers a customizable and versatile solution that integrates with not only your desktop applications but the online services those software programs need to sync with. Reduce the complexity of the IT infrastructure by choosing a vetted and licensed Managed Service Provider who will act as your outsourced server administrator. The cloud drastically improves server reliability, availability, scalability and flexibility when best of breed technologies are chosen.

Robert J. Chandler is President & CEO of Cloud9 Real Time. Cloud9 Real Time is an accredited managed service provider delivering dynamic cloud Solutions for anytime, anywhere access. To learn more, please visit www.cloud9realtime.com or send Cloud9 Real Time a message.

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