12 Dec 2012 7:18 AM Take Your Business to the Cloud-On Your Terms Choosing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can be challenging, and deciding how to take advantage of the cloud adds another layer of complexity. Your decisions will have important consequences for your organization's long-term growth and profitability, so it's essential to choose wisely. To help you navigate the decision making process, we've created a 10-point checklist to identify some of the top factors to weigh when evaluating options for your business. In case you missed last week's introductory post, here's checklist item 1 (click the link to view the first blog in the series): Goes beyond traditional ERP This week we're looking at checklist item 2, the importance of choosing a business solution that lets you take advantage of the cloud in the way that best fits your specific situation. Deployment Flexibility and Choice Running some or all of your IT operation in the cloud-a form of "outsourcing"-gets plenty of attention these days because of its significant potential advantages: Low start-up costs and short time to benefit. Low initial hardware requirements, particularly interesting when capital is tight. Simple software management and system administration, which can help trim the IT budget. The ability to quickly scale IT capacity to fit sales swings or rapid growth, so that fixed expenses move to the variable column. But running your ERP and other systems on-premises offers its own potential advantages, including greater flexibility for customization if needed; the ability to keep physical control of your data; and easier integration with other business software you're already running. Any new business solution you consider should help you take advantage of cloud computing, but in a way that supports the needs of your business. In your individual case, it may be appropriate to run some mission-critical applications on-premises, possibly for security or compliance reasons, while other applications are well-suited for the cloud. Even if you want to take your entire IT operation to the cloud, you may want to phase this in over time. So focus on a business solution that can accommodate your unique deployment requirements: on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid approach. Let the Cloud Help Transform Business on Your Terms With a business solution from Microsoft you have the flexibility to choose between on-premises deployment, a variety of cloud deployment offerings delivered through the Microsoft Dynamics partner channel, or a blend of both. Our commitment to supporting ERP on your terms enables you to choose the deployment strategy that's right for your business today, and then move between those options as the future unfolds. Microsoft believes that the combined strength of our proven product capabilities and flexible deployment models deliver the capabilities you need to take your business forward. Customer Success Story SMBs around the world count on Microsoft Dynamics to help them achieve profitable growth through greater operational control, improved employee productivity, and deeper insight. Check out these highlights below from a performing arts organization running business solutions from Microsoft in the cloud, and giving their approach rave reviews. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts "By using cloud-based Microsoft technologies ... we generate substantial savings and efficiencies; practice transparent, sound financial management; and bring outstanding performing-arts events to growing numbers of patrons." Connie Silverman, Controller Challenges Benefits Robust financial management solution able to handle upward of 200 events and 340,000 visitors annually. Sophisticated fund accounting, compliance, reporting, grant management, and bond management tools. Transparency. Outsourced business model to contain up-front and operating costs. $600,000 savings during first three years versus on-premises solution. No IT admin or help desk staff. Monthly P&L, financial statement, and report prep time reduced from 1 ½ weeks to <1 hour. Manual process automation. Personal productivity gains. Learn more about a business solution from Microsoft, take a product test drive, register for an upcoming webcast, or just read more about our solutions. Join us next week for the third posting of our blog series, when we'll look at the importance of selecting a vendor with strong customer relationships, low "churn rate," and a reputation for post-sale service.