Should Your Workforce Management System Be On-Premise or in the Cloud?
With the cloud vs. on-premise debate heating up, it’s time to step back and find the workforce management solution that works for you—whether you’ve got thirty employees or five hundred.
As we know, re-occurring revenue is king in today’s marketplace. For a weekly or monthly charge, your firm can get customers to “enroll” for the specific goods/services you provide. Customers plug in their bankcard and presto! You’re in the black—and potentially perpetually profitable—something investors really like.
Oftentimes, this is the business model for cloud-based providers too.
But the reality is that the high profit/quick setup/low maintenance of cloud computing for all of your payroll, time and attendance, and other data-heavy business accounting functions is not always the right solution.
In fact, a lot of companies—from home health care providers to widget manufacturers—are opting for a hybrid approach. This is where they migrate some of their apps to the cloud and retain other functions on-premises—the kind of intimate, thoughtful approach to serving customers needs for which Acumen is known.
Much of the reasoning behind this approach is clear—businesses want the best of both worlds. And both solutions have their high points and low points in the time and attendance/workforce management world.
Increasingly companies are looking to accommodate the flexibility required by the exponentially growing mobile workforce, with applications for smart phones, tablets and PDAs.
Other companies are looking to utilize the latest biometric identification technologies in workforce management applications and time clock hardware systems in physical workspaces.
Hybrid Models Sometimes Make Sense
Hybrid models sometimes make sense in a constantly changing employee-employer environment. One key reason to go hybrid is the investment that organizations have already sunk into on-premise systems. Time and attendance hardware and software infrastructure has setup costs, and companies may be reluctant to abandon those capital expenditures just to move to the cloud—no matter how profitable your cloud-based workplace management vendor advertises that it is.
We’ve seen company after company complain that the time and attendance outfit that sold them their time clocks and on-premise software is either no longer in business or strictly cloud only now.
“People put a large investment in on-premises applications,” says Ed Squires, CEO of Acumen. “They really need to build a business case for the cloud after they have put that investment in on-premises.”
Security concerns with the cloud oftentimes mean companies want their data in- house and on-premises, Squires says. But then there’s the higher cost, maintenance and space requirements for on-premise systems that might outweigh their need for the shorter-term gains found through putting workforce management functions like time and attendance and leave management in the cloud.
“Sometimes there’s a case for the cloud, but just as often, there is no case,” Squires says. “Each one of our customers’ situations is unique and we meet those situations with measurable information on which they can make their decision.”
One Acumen customer, an amusement park company, finds that with a limited IT infrastructure and a seasonal temporary workforce, the cloud meets their computing and data storage needs. Another firm, in the pre-paid credit card industry, has intense security requirements for proprietary data that must be secured 24/7, which is why an on-premise solution works best.
One of the central workforce management industry messages in the cloud-based world of today is “Do what you do best.” This means companies old and new are told to cut their infrastructure labor and then outsource their operations like accounting, project management, and time and billing.
But this can oftentimes leave them stranded, needing three separate functions through three separate vendors and applications, all of which may not excel at integrating with one another.
History Repeats Itself
Believe it or not, the cloud vs. on-premise battle goes back thirty years or more.
Remember hearing mainframe or desktop?
So why are we seeing it again?
The answer is simple: those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. And this is true even on Internet time scales.
Here’s a list of no brainers:
1. Best practices include the fact that any deliberate back door is a security hole in your infrastructure that will be eventually exploited.
2. If your business relies on access to an application or data source continuously, then deliberately creating a single point of failure (i.e., your office Internet connection line) is shortsighted.
3. Sensitive data whose loss or theft could cause moderate, serious, or grave harm to your customers or internal operations means you should apply the first rule of security: Physical control. Outsourcing the ENTIRE physical security model in these cases is simply irresponsible and could potentially be considered criminal negligence.
4. Just as with public websites, using the greater power and reach of a hosting /cloud provider for information you want public just makes sense.
5. Remember, all that “cloud computing” really means is you are running your application, storing your data, on somebody else’s computer.
Finally, wrap your head around this: Do you believe, or are you willing to believe, that the U.S. government has created a secure and “bulletproof” back-door system spanning the cobweb of data centers, the very same centers that even its owners have trouble managing, which are foolproof enough that you can put your complete and total trust into their solution as well?
I didn’t think so.
Implementation and Deployment
Whether your company undertakes workforce management system installation like Acumen’s VIEWSuite or simply installs scheduling software like Acumen’s LeaveVIEW, configuration and implementation can take from several weeks to several months to complete.
In the cloud, hands down, workforce management is typically faster to deploy than on-premise as it requires only the creation of a new customer account, the loading of data and the configuration of the system—most of which can be done in just a few days or weeks.
Let’s face it: substantial upfront costs are the rule for on-premise solutions. There’s hardware and software to purchase, costs for the installation, configuration and implementation and even incidentals, all of which can quickly add up. With the cloud, there’s generally no upfront investment for hardware or software and the solution is offered through a monthly subscription fee that will typically include training, support, maintenance and even upgrades.
Cost of Operation
On-premise implementation generally generates operating costs over time. There’s costs of running your own server, under which falls maintenance, backups, upgrades and even hardware replacement. Managers in charge of designing and purchasing workforce management don’t always foresee the unaccounted for, that is, many small, line item costs can easily add up beyond budgeted amounts. It’s not one size fits all, that is, there are on-premise systems that generate few additional costs. But it also follows that with the cloud, because of accessibility through shared services, costs generally decrease over time. If it’s ROI you are after, the general rule is that on-premise is better longer-term. You are paying for the upfront costs but over time, you profit, steadily and handsomely.
Performance and Scalability
A cloud solution is scalable—that is, it can be adapted as you grow—but again, not always. Multi-tenant architecture and an elastic cloud-computing platform mean it will grow with you, but only up to a point. On-premise solutions on the other hand are generally more flexible. Meeting new demands in the cloud can be costly, if not impossible, whereas expanding the capabilities of an existing, on-premise infrastructure is oftentimes built in.
One thing to keep in mind is always to find out how to find out. That is, can the workforce management vendor show you how the time and attendance system he or she installs at your firm will show you the benefits that are real and measurable, long term and short term?
Do you really know where your data is? That’s one question that continues to haunt adopters of public clouds. The fact is, once sensitive data is moved or generated on a public cloud, it becomes more difficult to see exactly where the data resides.
Technology, in part, has overcome the visibility hurdle, but it remains a very real concern for many of the IT professionals I speak with on a regular basis.
In a perfect world, all users in all locations around the globe will have high bandwidth and unfettered access into any of the cloud providers with which you choose to partner. But we’re not quite there yet. The issue is especially problematic when you are operating a global company with remote sites in multiple countries.
Access to cloud resources can become a problem due to bandwidth constraints at the last mile. Another factor: certain countries restrict access to Internet content. In such cases, private WAN connections are more reliable and consistent than relying upon the Internet as your primary access method.
Switching Cloud to On-Premise, On-Premise to Cloud
Migrating data to and from the cloud has never been easier. It’s also critical for organizations to meet availability, scalability, security, and efficiency standards.
Acumen helps companies like yours move between the two seamlessly, avoiding issues and ensuring that your migration will meet operational and security needs on either end, cloud or on-premises.
The reality is that small to medium sized businesses oftentimes leverage cloud- based services to get enterprise-class solutions on tighter budgets. There probably isn’t a cloud service offering that a small to medium business can build themselves on premise with the same budget. Embracing cloud-based solutions mean companies focus on their core competencies and the functions that cloud service providers don’t offer.
Many customers consider intrahosting a happy medium. This is where workforce management software is installed on-premise but maintained as though cloud-based. It’s private to the company with no so-called neighbors that you get in a pure cloud environment.
From leave management to mobile access to job tracking. Servers, operating systems, power supplies, maintenance services, 24/7 support, networking infrastructure and security. These are some of the elements to consider when designing your workforce management system to bring you into the 21 st century.
The fact is that Acumen works with your organization’s unique and specific needs, comprehensively—considering where your company is today in the marketplace and where you see yourself tomorrow. There’s no cookie-cutter cloud with Acumen.
Acumen can go cloud, on-premise or both, blending the best of both worlds—smartly.