ERP Hardware Infrastructure for a Medium Sized Business
Assuming you have made the strategic decision to own and host your ERP computing assets, a medium-sized business inherits the transition from informal hardware infrastructure (multiple laptops operating over a shared wireless router and a server stack tucked into a closet) to a planned and documented ERP hardware infrastructure. The key elements of this transition, once again, are scalability and preserving strategic advantage. There are lots of technical issues to consider in your choice and assembly of hardware, but you should defer the complicated technical decisions to your technical experts. Your role is to understand the business implications associated with ERP-related hardware decisions, and to assume the appropriate level of risk.
Probably the largest business risk associated with hardware is around disaster recovery. If there was a fire or flood at your facility, is it likely that your most of your computer capability and electronic storage would be lost? If a central computing facility services multiple manufacturing facilities, what is your plan to keep manufacturing operating if there was a catastrophic failure at the computing center and ERP went down? If such a catastrophic failure occurred, when would the last backup have occurred (i.e., how much current data was lost)? These questions lead typically lead to answers of redundancy in one form or another. Business judgment is required because redundancy costs money, but – like insurance – will likely never be needed. Reducing business risk to zero is probably too expensive, and investing nothing in redundancy or backups is probably too risky.
A second ERP hardware issue that executives and ERP project managers should understand is scalability, and what drives hardware utilization in your ERP program. Depending on your ERP and business intelligence strategy, data storage and transactional volume may not be relational to revenue growth. Always insist that your IT staff attempt to size the company’s hardware needs both this year, and five years out. They may not be particularly accurate the first couple of times, but as they become sensitized to what drives hardware capacity, they will begin thinking that way automatically.
Spectrum of Security
The last ERP hardware issue that requires business attention is security. To be certain, ERP security has many dimensions, and hardware is not the most important dimension, but if you think about two ends of the spectrum :
(a) An employee can only access the ERP system by connecting to the company system by cable at a company location and
(b) An employee can dial in to ERP by connecting his smart phone to a web portal and making a connection while visiting Shanghai.
You can see that hardware can be used to loosen or tighten the relative security parameters.
Most executives will need to spend only a small amount of time ensuring that these areas are being managed with competence and an eye to the future. Being a medium size company normally presents the challenge that you run a big risk, but cannot afford a big solution.
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