The Attivo Blog

Jul 30 2015

3 Reasons the Cloud is More Secure

Security. It dominates the tech blogs, sprawls across all the news sites' headlines, and even makes its way into your meetings and water cooler discussions. You can never quite escape it. That's why security is the first thing that pops into your mind when you consider investing in ERP software. Which offers your organization the best possible security -- cloud hosted ERP or an on-premises solution? Here's why the cloud-based ERP can provide the best enterprise-grade security you can find.

1. You Always Have the Latest Security Updates

With an on-premises ERP software system, you are responsible for all of your firewall and anti-virus protection. Not only are you responsible for updating the software, but you also are the one responsible for monitoring your system and looking for any data breaches.  When you move into a hosted environment, your software and applications stay the same, but your hosting provider covers all security updates. Most hosting providers have the financial resources to provide absolute best in breed firewall and antivirus software to protect your vital data.

2. You Transfer the Responsibility for Systems Monitoring and Intrusion Detection to the Cloud Service Provider

Monitoring complex software, databases, and systems for intrusions, malware, and other threats is costly and time-consuming. In fact, today's IT departments spend as much or more time on network and systems security as they do anything else. With a cloud-based system, you transfer all of the cost and responsibility of security to your cloud vendor, freeing your IT staff for more productive activities. And unlike your internal IT department, a cloud provider can provide 24/7 monitoring of your system against both cyber-attacks and physical threats.

3. You Have Access to Your ERP and Data No Matter What Happens to Your Facilities, Equipment, or Systems

What if your facilities were horrifically damaged by high winds or flood waters? What if lighting or fire destroyed all of your computers? With a cloud-based ERP, all you have to do is acquire more equipment and boot up right where you left off. An on-premises ERP solution would be rendered as useless as the damaged hardware it rested on. Cloud based systems can provide a disaster recovery plan to protect you when the worst case scenario actually happens.

For more information on cloud hosted ERP software you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or download this free whitepaper.


Jul 29 2015

How to Choose the Right ERP System for Your Business

An ERP software implementation is a significant investment, and not just in terms of the monetary costs. ERP systems take a lot of time, effort, and worker hours to select, implement, train on, and get the most out of. This is a decision that can't be rushed.  Here are a few pointers to help you get through the software selection process. 

What are the Must-Have Functions and Features? 

The first step in the selection process should be a business process assessment. The stakeholders you assemble into the ERP selection team should analyze current processes, identify areas of inefficiency and compile a list of features they'd like any new software package to contain.  Those features can be prioritized into different tiers that can be implemented in phases.  Not only will this help you stay on budget, but it will reduce the total implementation time as well. 

Will a Cloud-Based ERP or On-Premises ERP System Work Best for Your Organization? 

There are both pros and cons with both types of solutions. Depending on your current IT infrastructure you might want to move to a cloud hosted ERP option. Its the same software as an on-premise solution, but it moves IT maintenance onto your hosting partner. But if you've just invested in new servers, an on-premise solution is probably going to be your best bet. 

Where Will You Get the Needed Consultation Services?

Regarding issues like cloud-based versus on-premises and features that will grow with your business over time, it isn't always easy to make an informed decision without help. After all, your business isn't dealing in ERP on a daily basis, your specialization is something else entirely. A consultant can be immensely helpful both during the selection process and during the stages of implementation and training. It is important to choose a software system than can be supported both by the software developer and by 3rd party experts. Having options will ensure a better experience during the life of your software. 

There are important steps and questions that you must undergo in order to make the most informed decision possible. Take your time, make sure everyone with an interest in the project is included in the selection process, and conduct a thorough ROI ana;ysis before making any decision. Also, get the help you need to choose and implement the right system for your business. The Attivo Group is here to help you during the entire process -- from selecting an ERP to rollout and getting the most out of the system once it is in place.

For more information on the ERP selection process you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here


Jul 23 2015

Protect Yourself from Finger Pointing: Choose the Right Hosting Partner

As recently as 5 years ago less than 33% of the population was using a smarthphone. Today, flip phones are practically relics than can only be found in a museum. That is the pace with which technology moves.  We’re seeing a similar explosion in cloud computing, especially as it relates to modern business.  More and more companies are moving to cloud based applications, and the manufacturing and distribution industries are keeping pace.

If you are currently considering moving to a cloud hosted ERP system there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration. One thing that is rarely thought of ahead of time is who is responsible when something breaks?

Not All Hosting Partners are Created Equally

There are hundreds of hosting providers out there.  There are Fortune 500 level companies like Rackspace and Amazon that provide brand recognition.  You might work closely with a local IT company that offers a more personal touch.  But brand recognition or personal touch really shouldn’t be the primary selling point when deciding on a hosting partner.  Familiarity with your application should be the top priority. Does my hosting partner understand the complexities of the IT infrastructure required to run my applications correctly? If something breaks do they have the technical expertise to support my software?  If not, how does there support team work with my software support resource?  These are the questions that you need to ask when choosing a hosting partner.

What Happens When Things Break?

In a utopian world, you could install software and then never think about it again.  But in the real world, things occasional break or stop working in the way you expect them too.  If you are in a hosted environment with disparate technical support resources, what is most likely to happen is finger pointing rather than problem solving. Your software support team will likely try to blame the hosting partner for any bugs or glitches and vice versa. And while you’re going back and forth with them, your company is losing productivity and money.

Find a hosting partner that is familiar with your ERP software and accompanying applications. Having one point of contact for technical support will help shift focus from finding blame to focusing on solutions when things go wrong.

ERP software is complex to implement and maintain and it’s too important to your business to entrust with someone who isn’t familiar with what it takes to keep that software running at peak levels.  For more information on cloud hosting or how to choose a hosting partner you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 orcontact us here.


Jul 20 2015

Why the Ashley Madison Hack Matters to You and How to Protect Your Customer Data

If you’ve been tuning into the news, you’ve probably heard about the hack of the popular “dating” website, Ashely Madison. Whether or not you believe this is karma working just as it should (Ashley Madison catered specifically to married individuals looking to cheat on their spouses) there are some very real lessons to be learned from this data breach.

We’ve talked at length in the past about the importance of being PCI compliant, and a company’s potential financial liability should they be the victim of a cyber-attack.  In the case of Ashely Madison, 37 million users not only had the personal profiles stolen, but all of their personal and financial data was stolen as well. Should the hackers follow through on their threats and make Ashley Madison’s database public, the company will be liable for what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in identity theft and other financial lawsuits. 

How Can You Protect Yourself

Ashley Madison’s biggest mistake, and there are several of them, was that all customer data was retained and stored in their database. While this makes billing a lot easier, it also presents a goldmine for data thieves.  A fully PCI compliant credit card processing solution can just about eliminate all risk. Solutions like Ebiz Charge can integrate with a number of ERP solutions. Some using Exact Macola 10 can process credit cards directly within their ERP system, but unlike other solutions, no customer data is stored on your in house servers.  Instead, customer data is stored offsite and is “tokenized”.

This tokenization takes customer security to a new level.  First off, all customer information removed from your servers (eliminating your liability risk). When it comes time to process a credit card payment a key code associated with your customer’s data is sent to the offsite database.  That triggers Ebiz charge to process a payment on the associated card.  That is also known as a token, and eliminates the need to pass customer data back and forth. Taking things even another step further, the Ebiz charge will only process payment requests for your customers if those requests come from your IP address.

Over the past few years there have been several extremely high profile hacking incidents at big box retailers and online services. If you are storing any customer information on your internal servers, you can be a potential target for a data attack, and ultimately be liable of any damages done. To learn how you can better protect yourself and your customers from such attacks you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jul 17 2015

Using Event Manager to Ensure Vendor Delivery Dates

Managing your supply chain, both upstream and downstream, is vital to maintaining lean manufacturing processes. Exact Macola 10 utilizes Event Manager to automate workflow management, helping you to better communicate with your suppliers and serve your customers.  One such way that Event Manager can help your business is through ensuring the delivery dates from your vendors. This is a vital piece of any manufacturing puzzle, as late shipments can throw off shop floor scheduling, sales processing and order delivery. 

How to Set Up

The first thing that you need to do is set up Event Manager to email all of your suppliers a fixed number of days before your purchase order due date.  You can set this date based on your specific requirement. In the email you are asking for confirmation of their ship date or promised delivery date. When those emails are sent, Event Manager can also set up a corresponding workflow request for your purchasing manager. As the confirmation emails come in, your purchasing manager can clear those workflows, and update delivery dates when necessary. This also provides your purchasing agent greater visibility, allowing them to follow up with unresponsive suppliers via phone call.

Why this is Important

By automating confirmation requests, you have a greater likelihood of maintaining accurate delivery dates in your system. Your purchasing agent is spending less time trying to track down suppliers and can use that time in more productive ways. You also have an audit trail of the responsiveness of suppliers and promised delivery dates vs. actual delivery dates. This allows you to “grade” your suppliers over time, and make changes to your supply chain if necessary. Most importantly though, having an accurate accounting of when materials will be on hand will allow you to more efficiently schedule jobs and provide more realistic promised delivery dates to your own customers. This ultimately improves customer satisfaction.

Sending out automated emails might seem like a small thing on the surface, but understanding the chain reaction that can create, and how it can impact your bottom line provides some insight to how valuable of a tool Event Manager can be when utilized in Exact Macola 10.  If you like to find out more about how to take advantage of the tools in your ERP software you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jul 15 2015

5 Signs its Time to Replace Your ERP System

ERP systems aren't cheap, and not many companies are scrambling to buy new ones (plus go through the extensive ERP implementation process) before the old one has kicked the bucket. So, how can you be sure that the old ERP system is indeed ready to be replaced with a shiny new one? Here are five questions to determine when to say goodbye.

1. It's Getting Too Expensive to Operate Your Old ERP System

New software systems are sleeker and more streamlined. Old ones tend to be clunky and inefficient. Additionally, vendor support eventually expires, or worse, the vendor goes out of business or merges with another company and support is no longer available. This is one sure sign it's time for a new ERP.

2. Your Old System Has Limited Functionality

If the old system is hard to use, unintuitive, slow, and inflexible, it won't allow you to glean useful business intelligence in order to remain competitive in today's marketplace. New ERP systems are loaded with nifty features and cool functionality that makes work quicker, easier, and faster. Newer ERP systems are also designed to allow for more convenient collaboration among various workers and departments.

3. Your Old System Makes It Hard to Get to the Information You Need

Today is the Information Age. Businesses live and die, governments rise and fall, and careers thrive or don't survive based on the information they hold. Older ERP systems were designed before information was so valuable and critical. If your workers have to work too long and too hard to force the system to spit out the data you need, it's time for an upgrade.

4. The Hardware Running Your ERP System is Outdated

Old hardware is expensive to operate, hard to maintain, and slow to run. As systems age, maintenance and repair becomes harder to get because the manufacturer has moved on to newer stuff, hoping the old equipment will just fade away. In many cases, the savings you achieve in operating a newer, more efficient system, or even moving into a cloud hosted ERP environment, can save you enough money to pay for a new ERP system. Newer hardware is more power efficient, doesn't have such rigid cooling requirements, takes up less space, and is faster and more powerful than the old stuff.

5. Is Your Software Repelling New Talent

Newer members of the workforce are used to the information age.  They are connected to their mobile devices, use apps for everything and expect their software applications to have modern looking interfaces and be user friendly. Outdated systems could be seen as a negative factor for potential new employees looking to work with cutting edge technology.  If you are having difficulty attracting new talent to your organization, it might be because your systems are dated.

Ready to begin selecting and implementing a new ERP system? Call The Attivo Group today at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jul 08 2015

3 Tips To Keeping an ERP Project On Budget

Have you heard some horror stories involving companies that go overwhelmingly over budget and time limits when implementing and customizing an ERP system? If so, you might be reluctant to take on such a project, but this shouldn't be the case. ERP software is incredibly powerful, and can benefit your profits and customer service tremendously. There are ways to keep setup and customization costs within budget and time constraints, you just have to be careful about planning the process from the start. Here is how you do it:

1. Be Realistic About Your Timeline and Expectations

One common mistake is drastically underestimating how much time and expense the project is going to take from the get go. Begin by working up a ROM (Rough Order of Magnitude) budget. List all potential problems and guesstimate how bad those problems could possibly be. Get all of the stakeholders in your ERP software involved in this process so that you don't leave anything out. Combined with a business process assessment, you can begin to prioritize your needs and even create a multi-phased project based on priority.  By doing this, you should end up with a realistic and fairly accurate estimate of the project before you start.

2. Think About What Customization You Actually Need

Once you've chosen the right vendor and product for your ERP needs (and especially if you've partnered with the right consultant), you might not need so much customization after all. Take some time to study and understand the features and functionality that comes standard with your ERP solution. Don't take the time and spend the money for customization that doesn't offer a realistic and worthwhile ROI.

5. Allow Ample Time for Implementation, Testing, and Training

Finally, don't put your business in a bind time wise. Allow for ample time to setup, customize, and test your new ERP system and give a generous amount of time and money in the budget for adequate training. The primary reason why ERP systems fail is because the organization underestimated how much training workers would need. Even though modern ERP packages are much more intuitive and user friendly, it’s not as simple as implementing Microsoft Office. No software package with the amount of features an ERP system has is easy for the first-time user. But investing in this training is the best way to assure that the time and money you put into the ERP actually produces a real benefit to your company.

Whether you are purchasing an ERP system for the first time or simply upgrading from your current software, an ERP implementation is a massive project. For questions about navigating the process you can call the Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jul 07 2015

Exact Software Announces Major Update to Exact Macola 10

Nearly a year ago to the day, Exact Macola released their newest ERP software package, Exact Macola 10.  It was a massive step forward from previous software suites, Macola Progression and Macola ES. Built with the user in mind, Exact Macola 10 (EM10) was designed with customizable workspaces, intuitive user interfaces and highly evolved business activity monitoring functionality.

The software was well received by industry experts and customers alike, and definitely marked Exact Software’s place amongst next genERP software. On June 30th, Exact software announced their first major update, Exact Macola 10.2. The update boasts over 300 enhancements, including 4 major enhancements.

The Not So Little Improvements

There is no way that we can list all 300 enhancements in a blog, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • Continued phasing out of ASImport
  • Integration with Kofax document scanning
  • Added support for several international forms
  • Can now purge the IM transaction history

The Major Enhancements

As we said before, there are 4 major enhancements that Exact Macola is highlighting in this new release.  Three of the four center around web-based interaction with the software.  We’ll get into those in a minute.  We want to start with an enhancement to one of the revolutionary features offered in the original Exact Macola 10.

Pre-Configured Workspaces

One of the great things about EM10 was the customizable workspaces.  Depending on a user’s role, their main interface could be completely customized to specifically serve their job function. This was easily one of the most popular features in EM10, and as a result, Exact has designed 40 different pre-configured workspaces for various roles. These pre-configured dashboards can be utilized as a plug and play implementation or can serve as a starting point for more advanced customization.  In either case, it is another step towards created an extremely user friendly interface.

Web Services

Clearly there is an emphasis by Exact Software to integrate their flagship ERP package with internet and mobile services.  It stands to reason given the growing ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and apps in day to day business activities. With that in mind, Exact introduced three major web facing integrations for Order Entry, accounts payable and workflows. The Order Entry functionality might be the biggest, as Exact Macola 10.2 will be able to integrate quickly and cheaply with virtually any e-commerce platform out there. This not only reduces costs, but helps to cut down on human error as orders often times had to be entered into the Macola system by hand. Accounts Payable is also exposed as a web service in the latest version of EM10, allowing you to automate a very time consuming manual process.

For more information on Exact Macola 10 and if it is a fit for your business, you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Jul 01 2015

When It Comes to Disaster Planning, Proactive Trumps Reactive

A couple of weeks ago, a major storm blew through the Philadelphia area. In some cases, homeowners and businesses were without power for several days. Imagine your business being shut down for 3 or 4 days and how much that would cost you. Being proactive and having a disaster recovery plan in place before disaster strikes can save you tens of thousands of dollars preventing data loss, productivity loss and maintaining customer satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter if you are running cloud hosted ERP or if you are operating on an on-premise system, you can still plan for the worst and protect your business.

Not All Disasters Are Natural

There is no doubt that Mother Nature inflicts billions of dollars in damage to US businesses every single year.  While those stories are the ones that grab the headlines, businesses all over the country are vulnerable to damage and loss of data on a daily basis.  Cybercrime is on the rise, as hackers can wreak havoc and hold data for ransom. Servers crash and burn out all the time. Fires or faulty wiring can set off sprinkler systems, destroying internal infrastructure. A car accident down the street from your office building can take out a transformer and leave your business without power for a day or two.  Having a plan in place to keep your business up and running in the event you fall victim to a disaster (man-made or natural) is extremely important.

How Does it Work?

A cloud based disaster recovery plan will duplicate your on-premise set up — software applications and all — and set them up in the cloud.  At regular intervals, a complete backup of your data is taken and copied to the duplicate system.  In the event of a disaster, the cloud system is “turned on” and you can continue to run your business starting from the most recent copy of your data. If you have your data copied every hour on the hour, and your server implodes at 1:01 pm, you only lose 1 minute worth of data. If it goes down at 1:59, you lose 59 minutes worth. This is known as the Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

Your backup system can typically be up and running in a matter of hours, and can be accessed like any cloud system.  All you need is an internet connection and a login, meaning employees can continue to work from their workstations in the office, or can even work remotely if necessary.

There is no worse feeling as a business owner than having your operations crippled by server malfunction or data loss. If you have any questions about disaster recovery you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.