A survey conducted by Deloitte last year found that 93% of organizations are adopting or considering adopting cloud technology and the advantages of cloud have been written about and witnessed by IT, Sales, Marketing, Operations – the clear majority of corporate departments.
While some CFOs have certainly taken advantage of cloud, cloud adoption in the finance department historically lags other departments. Now, as CFOs look to implement digital finance transformations to make the most of technologies like RPA, AI and predictive analytics, their approach to cloud needs to be strategic and prioritized.
What is ‘the cloud’
Cloud computing is a way to enable universal, convenient, on-demand access to computing resources. Resources can include things like networks, servers, storage, applications, and services – or any combination of these. They can be rapidly provisioned and released to the user with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
In a nutshell, the cloud is about division of labor. It’s about dividing up the ‘stack’ of tasks that are required to operate the technology solutions that power a business and then letting the people best suited to operating the pieces do so.
Just as many businesses lease their buildings and outsource non-differentiating tasks such as payroll, the cloud is a response to the realization that businesses need not own every aspect of technology to have access to a best in class technology suite. Today, businesses acquire, merge and grow at a rapid pace and they need technology and resources to support this. This simple insight underpins the rise of the cloud.
Breaking down cloud options – IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
Cloud services are often discussed through one of three lenses: Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and Software-as-service (SaaS).
IaaS: What is it?
IaaS stands for Infrastructure-as-a-service. When an organization uses an IaaS solution, it means they are leveraging cloud-based infrastructure services like servers, network, operating systems and data storage via virtualization technology. They still must manage the use of that hardware as well as the software that runs on the infrastructure, but they don’t need to purchase or house the hardware.
IaaS: Use in Finance
By removing the need for companies to purchase and house their own servers and data storage solutions, IaaS allows CFOs to avoid Capex expenditures and physical space requirements that come with maintaining an IT infrastructure. It also removes the need to staff the resources to maintain the hardware onsite and allows them to pay for what they need with the option to scale in the future. For CFOs, this can make it easier to align technology spending with actual growth and quickly scale up in response to acquisitions or a requirement for more processing and data storage capacity to run complicated financial models and simulations.
PaaS: What is it?
PaaS stands for Platform-as-a-service and offers organizations underlying IT infrastructure tools along with the access to online platforms, such as databases, web servers and even AI capabilities, that allow their own developers to create and deploy custom applications. Equally PaaS can also be used to run aspects of a vendor solution, such as the database.
PaaS: Use in Finance
Since the organization is actually developing the solution, PaaS gives the company significant control over the final functionality while removing the need to maintain the hardware, services, virtualization, operating systems or even databases and providing all the underlying software that the business needs to host its own unique IP.
SaaS: What is it?
SaaS stands for ‘Software-as-a-service.’ It refers to cloud-based software that is hosted online by a company and is available for use on a subscription basis.
SaaS: Use in Finance
SaaS products are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From Dropbox to Salesforce to Gmail, SaaS offerings power companies of all sizes and offload the burden of managing the infrastructure needed to run the solution as well as the solution maintenance itself. It’s easily scalable and can be deployed and used by global teams. Today’s CFOs have seen a significant increase in the number of SaaS solutions for the finance space.
Choosing between a public, private and hybrid cloud
While IaaS, PaaS and SaaS represent the three most popular ways to access technology solutions, the three most common cloud models are a public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. Here’s the difference.
A public cloud is a cloud environment in which the cloud vendor provides and supports a complete software solution and offers that solution via the internet to anyone who wants to use or purchase it. The solutions may be free or paid for based on users, CPU cycles, bandwidth consumed or another unit of measurement. Public clouds can save organizations from the cost of having to purchase, manage and maintain the hardware and application infrastructure necessary to support a software solution. They are scalable and faster to deploy. While a few years ago, C-level executives may have had concerns over security issues, today’s public clouds can be as secure as the most tightly managed private cloud environments if the provider uses the proper security methods.
A private cloud environment is dedicated for use by a single organization. The environment cannot be accessed by others and it can be customized based on the needs of the specific company. Data centers or other hardware requirements may be located on-premises or operated by an off-site third party and made available as Infrastructure-as-a-service for the organization. Private clouds are almost always more expensive but can offer higher scalability and increased control over the environment.
A hybrid cloud environment uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and public cloud services to allow companies to use the public cloud for non-sensitive computing tasks or when they need to scale above their private cloud capabilities while not giving third party data centers access to all data. The various cloud environments are integrated to create a seamless environment and experience for the users.
When considering how your organization will use cloud, it’s important to consider the various options and the benefits of each of the three cloud models. In the end, it’s less about whether you are leveraging a public, hybrid or private cloud deployment model and more about having the flexibility to scale and adjust your cloud solutions as business needs and maturity evolve.
How CFOs can take advantage of cloud
CFOs who have successfully led a digital finance transformation have taken a strategic approach to cloud finance software and understand the differences and various benefits of public, private and hybrid clouds as well as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Smart CFOs know that finance transformation does not mean ‘checking the cloud box’ with just a few applications that are run in the cloud. Adopting a ‘Cloud First’ approach and reaping the cost savings, efficiencies and agility offered requires evaluating your entire architecture and organization to see how cloud can fit into your business.
Our Cloud Approach
Cloud is not a new area for Aptitude Software. For years our products have been deployed by clients into their own private and hybrid clouds. Today, we are focusing our cloud strategy on more broadly enabling our solutions to be delivered via public, private or hybrid clouds as required by our clients – in addition to traditional, on-premise implementations. This gives our clients choice and flexibility. Our Aptitude RevStream (AREV) solution and Aptitude Lease Accounting Engine (ALAE) are already available as a SaaS solution running in the AWS public cloud and we have a clear approach for delivering cloud models and supporting cloud migrations for all products and a future investment in SaaS.
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