Navision & Business Central in the cloud?

Navision · Shopware · App

Caution! Long and sometimes difficult to read. Spend 15 minutes to read, with a sticky note at your hand. Equal to backups and accessrights, there are no “quick & easy” solution here.

Well ... maybe I'm already too old to make a decision Pro Cloud... and therefore too experienced.

Hier möchte ich einmal meine Argumente gegen, aber auch für die Cloud zusammenschreiben, damit ich das nicht so oft wiederholen muss. Bitte bitte bitte: Wenn Sie einen schlimmen Denkfehler in diesem (oder auch anderen) Artikel finden: Simply write me a short message. I'm always happy about any change in my perspective.
First and foremost, it is important to mention: Navision or Business Central is currently (and therefore also for the future) the only financial accounting/merchandise management/ERP/data-driven rapid development tool/environment that you can use well in all 3 variants:
At your home (on premises) as a server / client installation
In your home or on a hosted server (owned or rented / leased version) as a terminal server version with thin clients or fat clients. In all previously published versions! Since the 2019 version even without a terminal server, purely as a web / browser solution! (Recommendation: see below)
With these technologies available, Navision or Business Central can also run remotely in a data center on rented or purchased server hardware.
And - actually also important for many decision-makers - also as SaaSi.e. at the highest level purely as a rental software solution, without self-managed hardware, in the Azure cloud.
This freedom of choice, in addition to many other features, makes Navision & Business Central simply unique.

Let's take a look at - from my point of view - advantages and disadvantages of a cloud solution.

Contra cloud

I start with “against” (contra) so I can finish with “for”. It has such a positive flair. 🙂

There is no cloud

There is also no such thing as edge computing. And certainly no server-less computing. Anyone who markets server-less computing as a product should be punished with reading no less than two Attila Hildmann books. There are only computers that belong to someone elseThose can be reached by you and your employees via a connection that still occasionally fails, stalls or causes other problems. Especially in the "industrial location Germany". For me, it sounds like a very bad location to let your

  • Inventory management
  • Financial accounting
  • Order processing
  • Warehouse management

run on the basis of Navision or Business Central 365 ... just my 2 cents.

In any case, you have to be completely aware: You are eliminating your own hardware in order to use comparable hardware from someone else. Everything that bears the name "cloud" works in this way.

Und, sicherlich ganz überraschend: Sie müssen diese Computer bezahlen – das nennt sich dann aber Miete oder Gebühr. Und nun können Sie einmal darüber nachdenken, ob der Anbieter dieser Rechenkapazität das aus reiner Menschenliebe tut – oder eben um Geld damit zu verdienen. Spoileralarm: Wenn ihr zukünftiger Rechenkapazitätsanbieter auch nur eine Werbeanzeige oder einen Verkäufer bezahlt, oder Vermittlern Provisionen bezahlt, so muss dies auch noch finanziert werden. Raten Sie mal, von wem.

Backup

Have you ever had a problem "with the Internet" in the past, let's say 5 years? In the future, this will affect everything that you're doing on these external computers, called the cloud. You then no longer have the opportunity to quickly run a laptop as a file server, nor an old PC with four network cards as a telephone / Asterisk server, nor to run a backup computer with the server for your inventory management or financial accounting Navision (or Business Central). The moment you lose your connection to this data center, you no longer have access to your outsourced resources. Not even to a backup, nor an emergency system. There is a reason why the word backup in German "Ausfall-Sicherheit" consists of 2 nouns: failure (Ausfall) and security (Sicherheit). It is certain that a technical system will also fail at some point. It doesn't get any better just by making it more complicated.

Dependence on the manufacturer

There's even a fancy new "hype" word for that: vendor lock-in. And be sure: You are dependent from the moment when your application (e.g. Business Central 365 or Navision) is running there. That is why there are more warnings about manufacturer dependency than reassurance through manufacturer-independence. Planning to move “in the cloud” is often driven by the fact that you do not (no longer) have your own expertise to operate your server architecture in-house. A shortage of skilled workers is often claimed as a cause/reason for that.
"Weird…. I only pay low salaries, I have no reasonable overtime regulation, I exploit my IT people - in line with market standards ... and still don't get any new employees? We have a lack of skilled workers in Germany!"
And the computers (see first point) in the cloud ... they run without specialists? Or ... Qualified and motivated specialists work there automatically because the seller has advertised it that way? Fishy...
There is one little thing to add ... In the past >25 years, in which I have also looked after or taken over Navision / Business Central systems from competitors, I have not yet found a single system in which the SQL server matches an OLTP solution that is correctly set up like Navision, apart from all the other speed problems that can be created with bad Navision and Business Central programming. With the in-house hardware, you can do nice performance analyzes, e.g. hard drive transactions per second.
Really cool: In the future, as a programmer, you will no longer have to say: The hardware is too slow. Note for cost-sensitive commercial managers: For Business Central & Navision practically no hardware available on the market is “too slow”. It is almost 100% the program adjustments that are simply poorly programmed/designed. And that doesn't have to stand out anymore. As a bad Navision or Business Central programmer, you simply book more resources in the cloud, and things are a little better again: Proof completed! The hardware was too slow, it wasn't the programming/programmer's fault.
Believe me: I will blindly make a bet today that I will also find bad lists/keys/filters/flow fields with you, which let your Business Central or Navision run with one foot on the emergency brake...
But I'm wandering from the subject. Back to dependency. As soon as you install your central business application (from my point of view, of course, Navision / Business Central) on a third-party computer (remember: there is no cloud. There are only computers that belong to someone else), you are pretty much 100% dependent on the computer owner. If necessary, he can press the switch-off button on your hardware, and e.g. only press the switch-on button again for a fee, like a of a "ransom". Therefore, you better always be friendly to the computer owner ... and never make him angry (e.g. with disputing a contract). He has more pull: on the power button on the computer that he is renting out to you.

Security for the future

With your own servers and computers, you decide when to make a change, when to modernize ... or when to decommission a service or hardware.
In the case of third-party computers (“cloud”), the owner of these computers simply decides when he stops offering a service! Or when he changes the conditions, the terms of use, the prices, the availability.
Or he simply goes bankrupt because he miscalculated the hardware, his staff or the customers. Or because the website is simply cut off by the court or the USA because it is still running an arms or drug trade on the computers that you share. Anyway, somehow he has to earn money. You can't read the first point often enough! Please read the very first point again, the one about “There is no cloud”.
Just google "Irista Canon discontinued”, “Google reader discontinued”, “no more unlimited Google photos”, “Lavabit discontinued”, “Inbox by Google”, “Google directory”, “Orkut”, “Google code search”, “Microsoft phone”, “Microsoft SBS “… The list is endless. And it should show you that the small, smallest, but also global players simply discontinue services that do not pay off. Even large and important services like Google cloud print have been discontinued. What about the Epson, HP, Canon printers that proudly had this advertized on their box? Nugatory. This function simply doesn't exist anymore. Classic software providers / service providers such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft think in terms of years or months. This is why the collaboration between machine manufacturers, car manufacturers and companies such as Microsoft (Windows CE) and Google (Android Auto) is so difficult! Sewing machines, cars, heating systems, industrial controls have a life of 10, maybe 20 years. Longer than the underlying operating system. You can still buy working PDAs, sewing machines with Windows CE, anything. But there is no update, no more support for it. Fortunately, the devices still work. The list continues, in my case with Navision or Business Central! You do not change inventory management or financial accounting every 6 months. Neither a heater or a car. Microsoft is now going so far as to force you to install a new Business Central every 6 months if you operate Business Central as SaaS in the Azure Cloud. You can look forward to bugs that are delivered as standard and that stop your inventory management for a week. For a change, read the first point again, which started with "There is no cloud" ...

Influence

With a rented server, the provider decides what you get. You hardly have any influence on it either! During the audits you will be shown super beautiful and colorful dashboards. And uptime of well over 99% offers. For sure! An uptime of 99.9999 looks so much more attractive than an uptime of 60% 🙂.
But a neatly set up IBM or Dell server, an AS400 or other computer can also do that quite well! But... it doesn't sell because it's simply expected with your own hardware. If you have your own hardware, you can design and set up the backup concept yourself (replacement computer, mirror server, hot or cold standby). With a computer rented somewhere (“cloud computing”), you buy “availabilities” or other empty phrases that are simply useless in an emergency (“That must be because of your internet, our dashboards are all green”).

Costs

For a change, read the first paragraph again. 🙂
Someone who leases their server to you wants to make money from it. Just as you swap convenience for money with leasing, you do the same when switching to the cloud. Your cloud provider may (!) have cost advantages by purchasing a large number of computers / hard drives at once. His individual IT specialist can maintain many computers at once. He only has to maintain a few backup systems for many running computers. In the end, however, he wants to earn money with it. This money comes from you. It has to come from you, who else is going to pay for it?

Blackmail

If the computer that stores your financial accounting, inventory management, order management, business data, emails, files, documents, is not in your basement: Then the one who can press the power button if necessary is with you during every negotiation, every disagreement, and simply has more pull in every negotiation. This actually also applies - completely off-topic - if you do not have a contractual agreement on the provision of the source code. Many long-standing Navision or Business Central 365 system houses have not yet realized: Since Extensions (i.e.> = BC14), you no longer need to add the source code for extensions to the app. Welcome to the new AI world.

Transparency

You just simply have to trust your computing time seller. You simply don't know where the computers you rent are located. In the protected, dust-free, cooled rooms of the DE-NIC in Frankfurt? In an emergency power-supplied bunker near Munich? In a stuffy, dusty backyard hall in Essen? In a KGB espionage department? In practical terms, you have no way of checking this. Or to prevent a change. See vendor lock-in.

GDPR

From a data protection / GDPR point of view, "the cloud" is a disaster anyway ... It has to be viewed as a worst-case scenario under data protection law. As a rule, you cannot just go into a data center and take a closer look at “your” server. With SaaS there is not even “your computer”, your data, your database runs with dozens, maybe hundreds of other virtual servers or virtual systems on physical hardware. Did you ever wonder a few years ago why the meltdown security problem is supposed to be so bad when the attacker needs direct access to the hardware on which your system / inventory management or other data management runs? Welcome to the cloud Because that is precisely the greatest advantage of computing time providers: The fact that very different users share the same hardware. Due to the structure, you simply do not know where any duplicates / copies / backups of your data can be found or what happens to hard drives that are exchanged between computers or whether there are backlogs of your data that can be accessed by another data center user when you move a virtual computer in the data center.

Access protection

Your rented computer is on the Internet, so it is on the very front line anyway. Along with a few dozen or thousands of other similarly configured computers. This makes these devices very interesting for attackers. A single gateway enables access to many systems at the same time. That attracts unfriendly comrades just like open handbags on the subway. In this comparison, the data center corresponds to a crowded subway, not just the individual handbag!

Pitfalls

Always expect surprises with rented computing capacity. Your landlord wants to make money! Did you know, for example, that you have to pay money in the Azure cloud with Business Central and Navision as SaaS for "real prints" (i.e. print jobs such as sales invoices? Not for the printer, not for the toner, not for the paper. You have to keep the printer with paper and ink in your house and pay for it anyway. Or that you can restore a maximum of 10 data backups per month in the Azure cloud (you will have to pay afterwards)? For sure, data recovery once a month is already a catastrophe ... Unless you program yourself and want to create a test environment (sandbox) from the real system every now and then, then suddenly 10 times is not that much anymore ...

Technical obstacles

Special hardware, such as cash drawers, barcode scanners, conveyor systems with a material flow computer connection, scales (e.g. for counting incoming or outgoing goods), label printers such as a Zebra or Apolo CAB or other hardware that is connected via USB or serial interfaces such as RS232 / RS422, a Siemens S7 somewhere in the house, access control systems with a two-wire system / bus coupling: There is a lot of hardware that simply makes it impossible to outsource servers. Coupling a serial interface to the server via VPN is no fun at all.

Data transfer / uploads

If you generate a lot of files (documents, images, CAD drawings, videos) in your house and then somehow need to transfer them to your server in the cloud, or if you receive a lot of files and they have to be exchanged between the cloud and on-site, this can require enormous bandwidths.

Speed

There are no secret, cheap, incredibly fast hard drives. Not as SSD, not as HDD (magnetic disks). Neither for Microsoft, nor for Amazon, nor for Hetzler or Strato. There are also no super-secret cheap processors that are only available to Microsoft’s Azure floud for only a few cents. All data centers work with the same hardware that you can buy off the shelf from Dell, HP, IBM or Wortmann. All data centers also only put on their pants one leg at a time... with the same pants that you already have at home.
What does that mean? If you are "moving to the cloud", then rent or buy (in any case: finance) one or two or more computers there with the same hardware as you can put in your basement. Please think about it: There is no such thing as a cloud. There are only computers that belong to someone else. I think I already mentioned this ...
However, you can connect the computer / server in your basement to your workstations with gigabyte network cables.
Not the computer in the cloud. It has to torment all data through the Internet. And so that it is even somehow secure, at least 2, more likely more firewalls and other security appliances have to be clamped in between. Believe me: It will make a lot of things, e.g. more expensive. But one thing is for sure: Not faster. 🙂
Pssst: A little insider tip if you do embark on this adventure: No cloud installation without a remote desktop / terminal server. Least of all for Business Central 365, and certainly not for Navision. And not at all for the associated Classic client or RTC Windows client on the local desktop.

Make sure you also pay attention to the guaranteed hardware environment, especially in connection with Navision and Business Central 365 and a native or SQL database. The prices from the shop windows often only represent magnetic hard drives in a SAN. The number of transactions in such a configuration is catastrophic! Be sure to note my server recommendation regarding the hard disk mappings!

Data backup

Please pay particular attention to how your data backups are backed up. Because: Just as your data is located in any data center, your data backups are also located somewhere in a data center. Do you know the golden 3-2-1 rule? 3 generations of data backups, 2 of them offline and one outside of the home. Nowadays that is no longer enough. Nowadays you should automatically check data backups on offline systems for consistency, e.g. to be able to quickly identify unintentionally encrypted files. Possibly even operate safety systems in pull instead of push mode and other precautionary measures. In the data center you have very little influence on the immaculateness of the data backups. Let them at least describe & document them.
Nowadays you should have a lot more offline backups, and as mentioned before, don't forget the consistency checks! 31 individual data backups from the past month are of no use if each of them was encrypted unnoticed. A (partially) automatic consistency check (e.g. by means of control files) should not be able to be carried out in a computer center ("cloud"), nor should an out-of-home backup.
Extra tip since 2021: Before the summer of 2021, a golden rule was that a daily data backup should be stored in a separate fire compartment. If the server room is on fire, you have the backup. If the backup burns, you have the original data. Since the flood of the century in July 2021, an extra flood section has been added to the extra fire section. See also “Outside the home” data backup. Please also bear in mind that an "out-of-home" backup should be encrypted. Not that your customer base is stolen from your car.

Disaster control

In the summer of 2021, a previously unexperienced severe rainfall devastated large areas of land in the west of the Federal Republic of Germany. If your internet connection is cut during such a disaster, or in the worst case if your server is in a crisis region in the event of a crisis, you have no way of doing anything. Your data backup is also located in this crisis region. All you can do is sit and hope that your system will be available again at some point. However, we also have to be fair enough that disaster control can also be an important pro cloud advantage, see below.

Pro Cloud

Where there is so much shadow, there has to be a lot of light. Of course, you'll also find advantages in the cloud. Funnily enough, these can also be exactly the points listed above as cons!

Backup

Wait a minute! ... That was already written under "Contra Cloud"? Sure, of course. If you don't have your IT maintained yourself, maybe you don't even know where the Business Central or Navision server is in the house, you have no idea whether the raid system is working properly or the fans have been cleaned, or you don't even know what a RAID is: Then a rented computer, with someone taking care of the UPS data backup, fan cleaning and event display, is definitely an improvement! But I don't see the advantage in the cloud ... but that someone finally takes care of your IT, which has probably just been ignored up until this point. However, this then falls under the terms negligent or intentional. OK, in this case the cloud is a kind of lifeline that corrects historical / structurally generated errors.

Costs

As I've already mentioned under Contra: A data center operator can keep many systems running with few staff only. For example, he can buy hardware more cheaply by bundling quantities or better utilize his staff. Or your system can run together with other customers on one piece of hardware, or... or ... or. As a mass provider, there are many ways to use hardware more effectively than you on your own. That is also the success model and the cost advantage of this "cloud". From the supplier's point of view.

Access protection

As in the case of backup: If you do not want to have any competency for your IT, operation in the data center is definitely the better solution. Compared to negligent IT operation.
But there is one other detail that you should definitely keep in mind. This doesn't have to do with "not entirely cloud" (strictly speaking, nothing with the cloud, just the new web client), but the modern browser access to inventory management / financial accounting. This enables to run the clients (in the vast majority of cases the gateway for ransomware) e.g. with Linux & LibreOffice, which (as of 2021) stops around 99% or more cases of ransomware attacks directly on the client.
Technically, this is of course also possible with the aforementioned clients and RDP. As a technical background, you have to know that Navision has been creating Excel files natively since BC14, without an Excel client. And Word / Excel / Outlook / Windows have been, ever since there have been viruses, etc. the main target. But that doesn't change the fact that the web client is really sluggish and uncomfortable compared to the previous Windows clients. But as the saying goes: comfort and safety don't walk the same path.

Data transfer / downloads

If you create a large number of files (documents, images, CAD drawings, videos) on the cloud computer and then somehow have to exchange them with other partners via the Internet, this can require enormous bandwidth. A location in the cloud can be a decisive advantage here!

Disaster control

Find out about the physical location of your servers to be rented. It is much more likely that a data center is protected against disasters, such as the flood of the century in summer 2021, than in your own basement. This is of no use to you if your warehouse is ruined, but perhaps to quickly set up an internet connection in new office space or in the home office with a sufficient / functioning internet infrastructure.

Differences between “On Premises” and Azure Cloud

There are - roughly divided - 3 levels of how and where you can operate your computer. And: We are talking about computers, also in server-less computing.

On premises - on site

  • You run your IT in your house. You are responsible for operation and maintenance. "On Premises" = "On site" or "Owned". Even if an excavator pulls the copper or fiber optic cable out of the ground in front of your entrance, you can still work independently with your system in the house. For example, you may be able to take cellular phone calls from customers, receive and send emails or web shop orders over a cellular data connection. On the other hand, there is also the greatest amount of work and maintenance. I like Business Central & Navision most in the form of On premises.

On premises - in the data center

  • You rent a computer (server) from a data center provider, but run your own software on it. You usually leave hardware maintenance and backups to a service host (there are different models); you are still responsible for the software and security. I see the greatest benefit in this installation if, for example, many locations are to access a central IT system. In the data center you usually have much better internet connections (upstream!) than at your own location. This alone can be an unbeatable advantage for a "cloud" solution that wipes away all other arguments at one stroke!

SaaS - e.g. Azure Cloud at Navision and Business Central

  • SaaS, software as a service, with Business Central or Navision in general the Azure cloud. They even rent their software, you don't own anything anymore. You are dependent on your host for better or for worse. With BUSINESS CENTRAL there is also the fact that .NET is no longer available to you, and the conditions for adjustments and test environment ("sandboxing") are specified by the provider. Up to the update strategy - come what may. Here you have practically no more influence. This can go so far that Microsoft will forcibly update your Business Central (Navision is not really available as a SaaS offer), even before all of your extensions have been adapted to the new core. Have fun! I don't like Business Central 365 as a SaaS.

And now? Support for your decision making

A bit of info in advance: There is neither a simple checklist nor a simple black and white. Here, I would like to give you some decision-making aids. When in doubt, we should go through these and other points together to find a suitable for you IT infrastructure.

Number of employeesIf you are more of a small company (1-3 employees), you will certainly not want to buy your own IT expert. First and foremost because of insufficient utilization. If he/she is good, the system is running and he/she has nothing to do. If he/she is bad, you can save your money too. Funnily enough, this applies to all businesses, no matter how big. If the requirements for dynamic IT are not very great ("Oh, we always do it that way, we don't need to change it"), then the need for an in-house IT employee is not very great. Here it is cheaper to purchase the service from outside (freelancer, system house) as required.

In the case of larger companies, however, a dedicated IT officer can support daily use ("My printer does not print", "My Navision does not work", "My email is crazy", "My Business Central does not book") and take care of maintenance (adjustments, updates) of your IT. Nowadays your EDP corresponds to your machine park, for which you also employ a technical manager or caretaker. But if you have outsourced your IT support anyway, then you may be able to rent your server hardware in the data center instead of keeping it available on site. In small companies, it is often non-existent if you cannot access your EDP (or parts of it) for a day.

Own IT departmentSee also "Number of employees". Sometimes you just want to keep your own asset, your own contact person. Then it's also a good idea that you have your own server hardware. Otherwise, you pay twice for maintenance: for your own IT department AND for the hardware in the data center.

IT service providerSee also "Number of employees". If you buy your IT services from outside anyway, you can also buy the part that includes your server support from a data center / server hoster (server lender). This is usually cheaper than using a dedicated service provider.
SecurityThis is probably the hardest decision. If you simply access your Navision or Business Central with a name and password, no matter where you are in the world, then that is the absolute highest level of convenience. Checking the latest KPIs in the hotel in the morning? Post offers in the afternoon on the beach? Whether on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop: Wherever you have internet, you also have Navision / Business Central. And their emails. And your personal data. And their shift schedules. And their to-do lists.
And everyone else with a valid password, too.
On the other hand: A completely secured IT, as it is imaginable in an in-house operation, is no longer wanted today. Remember: Safety and comfort go different paths. The more secure the access to your inventory management with Navision or Business Central or emails or telephone system, the more uncomfortable it is. See also “corporate culture”.

ConfidentialityOh ... That's a huge topic. In a nutshell: With all cloud services that are provided to you by American companies, there is no confidentiality. Google, Microsoft, Apple deliver all your data, including a complete e-mail or ERP database from Navision or Business Central, directly to the NSA on request. Or do not need to do that at all, the NSA has direct access to simply get it. That has nothing to do with conspiracy theory either, but is clearly regulated by law. You have nothing to hide? All the better! No price list for the Airbus industry (industrial espionage), no sale of a wheelchair (conclusions about a disability of a customer), no attachment notice in their wage database, no delivery of gummy bears to someone who is on the German or American sanctions list ... very good! But seriously: If you have nothing to hide, you have no life and no business. For this reason alone, I would be very reluctant to entrust my personal or business data to a data center. Avoiding this is quite a problem in the case of email!

CostsYour own is most expensive, SaaS is the cheapest - for a certain period of time. But your own hardware also has to be replaced from time to time, and then the calculation starts all over again. Tip: Often your own hardware doesn't have to be like that at all - large and expensive, as calculated by a system house. But Aunt Frida's old Windows 98 computer (God bless her) shouldn't be used as a database server either. 🙂 Recommendation: A) virtualization b) no oversizing c) clean Navision or Business Central programming, then you don't need i64 Gb RAM for the SQL server. 🙂 I like to take a look at your planned new server configuration. And do not let yourself get caught up in a cost analysis of acquisition (purchase) / leasing / cloud such as “You can set how much capacity you need in the cloud every day!” You or your IT will never do that anyway! Without a natural limit on resources, you clean up, clean up your employees, your programmer never cleans up his / her old garbage! When a system has no limits, it grows. This applies to your server landscape as well as to the unusable odds and ends in your basement / garage and the universe. Strangely, it should be different in the "cloud", which is financed precisely through it ... Strange. Please check critically whether someone who wants to make the cloud palatable to you will benefit from it themselves. And check out a hardware offer to make sure that it really is what you need.

"Exotic" hardwareIf you have scales on your Navision & Business Central, work with time recording, use barcode scanners, have cameras integrated into your network, it quickly becomes very tight for a connection across LAN borders. Often you only notice or find the exotic label printer or the access control after you have switched. Connecting a Siemens S7 or other PLC, e.g. for a conveyor technology, via VPN with real-time behavior to a remote server (not to mention a SaaS system) is more for passionate masochists than for goal-oriented IT managers.

AvailabilitySaaS: If it works, it works. Such a Microsoft data center is usually running smoothly. You can assume that. You have to assume that. Because there is nothing else you can do. In the event of an error, you will not be able to work with your software. There is nothing you can do to make Navision or Business Central work again. You can only wait.

Hosted server: Often (depending on the agreement) a redundant system is available here on which you can continue working immediately. Internet outages only affect the locations where it is down. All others continue to work normally (unless the data center is affected, but that practically never happens). The hosted server is probably available as a separate device in the data center ("rack-place"), and also as rented hardware, usually with more service around it.

Own in-house server: Experience has shown that this runs in worse environments than its colleagues in the data center. Therefore, something is more likely to fail here. Not to forget the cleaning lady who pulls out the plug. However, you are independent of the Internet at your location and can therefore continue to work when the excavator on the sidewalk has your fiber optic connection in the shovel.

Corporate cultureIf you are a hip modern startup then these questions about your own server, hosted or SaaS, often don't even arise. Software is just as good as it is. You don't want more than a name and password, both of which can of course be saved in the mobile phone as well as on the Apple MacBook Air. In this case, for once, it's very simple: Business Central must also run “in the cloud”. Nothing else can be imagined. Fortunately, Microsoft is making it incredibly easy for you. Within an hour your Navision - sorry, Business Central - is up and running in the Azure Cloud. The merchandise management is then a service in addition to the personnel management and the mail client as well as Whatsapp & Facebook.

If you are a established mechanical engineering facility, a long-established chemical company, a trading company in the third generation, then the question often does not arise either. IT belongs in the house, and Mr. Müller goes along with it. I would like to note that in this case you should send Mr. Müller on a further training course, or should put a freelancer like me at his side. IT often changes faster than your business model. And every now and then it is helpful to think outside the box. But in short: Own IT in the basement, the rest will sort itself.

Unfortunately, everything in between is not so easy to sort out. But maybe you can identify yourself in one of the two categories?
As a rule of thumb: If you need an elegant, simple and powerful inventory management system with production and really great financial accounting such as Business Central or Navision, then your own or rented server often suits you better than the "real cloud". And if the word “cool” bothers you in this context, then your ERP server should be in the basement instead of in the data center.

Several locationsIf you have multiple locations, a rental server or even SaaS can be vital. See also "speed". If you have your own server in the basement, you can only get full speed at one location (the company above the basement). You have to use VPN for other locations via your upstream . You can also easily connect a pure web client Business Central from BC14 directly via the web client. At the moment when documents come into play, and anyway in most cases, you cannot avoid an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). In the case of locations and internet connections I always recommend a terminal server!

Decision-making aid: If the majority of the active (!) Business Central or Navision users work at one location (a location is all workstations that are connected via a conventional LAN / fiber optic WAN), it is advantageous to use the Navision & Business Central server at this location. Because this data traffic does not go through the Internet. If a large number of external clients are to be connected (home office!), or if the employees are rather evenly distributed over different locations, a purchase / rental server (hosted server) in the data center is the better choice, as this usually (not always!) is connected to the Internet with enough upload / upstream.
Here, due to the corporate structure, SaaS can quickly come back into play.

SpeedOne thing is clear: We will never reach the speed of Navision Classic Client up to 2009R2 again. By switching to the Business Central 365 web client, this topic has been forgotten forever. Don't worry: If you first enter the world of inventory management and financial accounting with BC365, then Navision (I just can't get away from the name ...) is still extremely fast. Unless you had really bad programmers at work breaking this. But Microsoft can't do anything about that either. But even the previous Windows client (Microsoft Business Solutions NAV RTC) was vastly superior to a web client in terms of reaction, keyboard operation and general fluctuations. And even this was a real snail compared to the Classic Client (sometimes pejoratively referred to as the Legacy Client).
Mind you: That's all whining at a high level! SAP (Sand glass Advertisement Program, from a programmer's point of view also sometimes as "Scheiß aufs Privatleben" - ironic German for F**** your private life!), Sage, KHK, Baan would be proud if any of their versions could provide the performance of today's web client. But real Navision veterans like me ("the older ones") know that it was better.

I digress. Back to speed:
In-house server (fast) <-> Rented server (not so fast) <-> SaaS (slow).
That’s just a rule of thumb. A badly configured server in the basement can also be slower than a rented server in the data center, and this can also be slower through a bad programmer than a SaaS Business Central.
By the way: Since Navision 2019 Spring release / BC 14 Spring release is the hub for older Navision updates, you can still operate the Navision 2019 Spring / BC 14 with the RTC (Role Taylored Client) with a current BC license ... But ... Pssst! That has to stay between us, ok? And ... that can change every day, with every update, with every new license !!

SaaSDo you want to use Navision / Business Central exactly as Microsoft dictates? You don't want any adjustments? It doesn't matter if you can't access your ERP or financial accounting for a few minutes a day? Are you used to this from Word & Excel? Even in this clear case, I can give you a clear decision-making aid! Just like with the hip startup: Off to the Microsoft Azure Cloud! There is no cheaper way to run Business Central 365. Microsoft literally "gives away" the user licenses here. There is no security beyond your name and password. In most cases the performance is excellent, if it isn't, then there's nothing you can do about it. Shrug your shoulder & a coffee might help. You have no acquisition costs, only running costs, and you can cancel very quickly. Services can be booked as ongoing costs or canceled again as required.

Rental serverHere you pay for the hardware that is mostly exclusively available to you on a monthly basis. As long as you use them. It's never yours, the running costs never decrease. But also no acquisition costs. You usually have a lot of influence on the configuration, e.g. terminal server, firewall, data backup and recovery. See also “Own Server data center”.

Own server data centerYou put a self-paid server in a data center. Here you have all the costs (acquisition), all the effort (maintenance, setup) as if you had your own server in the basement. And all the options as with your own server. This configuration is typical when you have to connect many distributed clients (workstations). Transmission capacity is usually plentiful in the data center. Essentially comparable to “own server”. But often you can't just go to the data center to replace a hard drive or add more RAM! Any (!) Data traffic, including a download of a data backup for a test installation, goes through the Internet bottleneck. If you have to connect external services / distributed clients, but simply cannot get an internet connection with fast upload in your own house, you may not have any alternative to a hosted server. But remember that all data traffic, including that to your head office, has to go through the possibly weak internet connection in your house.

Own serverAcquisition costs, but no direct operating costs / running costs (except electricity). You (or your IT service provider) are responsible for operation, data backup, repairs and backups. Quick access to hardware and data when you need it. E.g. in the case of a tax audit, when the hard drives have to be taken out of the house quickly ... But that's a constructed situation.
Decision support for / against Cloud & SaaS, especially from the perspective of Business Central or Navision

Why is everyone pushing me into the cloud?

You have probably read between the lines that I have certain reservations about third-party computers ... You already know: There is no cloud. 🙂
And yet: If you have landed on this page, it is not without reason. You have a need for information. Mostly the following: “I have a queasy feeling. Everything should be faster, safer, cheaper (better value for money), more future-proof”. It doesn't work for me. What's wrong with me? "
From my point of view, you don't have to worry about that.
Microsoft at the front, but also at the back, hardware dealers, consultants, IT specialists, system houses, are literally pushing you into the cloud. Above all, they all share these arguments: This is the future, everything is cheaper.
What everyone is hiding: They earn money with it. Your money! Crazy a lot of money! What began about 10 years ago with Adobe's Photoshop breaking taboo became a money printing machine. Instead of buying software once and then using it for as long as you like, this software has now been rented out. And because the customers weren't stupid enough and then briefly picked up a calculator, it didn't go down well. So what do you do? Make the difference between buying (immediate costs) and renting (running costs) so big at first glance that renting becomes the cheaper option. But in the long run. Day after day, year after year, forever.
These continuous financial flows took so much pressure off of the software manufacturers' planning that this rental model became a hit. Microsoft Office 365, Sage KHK, Datev, payroll accounting, of course also Navision, but especially Business Central 365 were offered as rental software so cheaply that a purchase was hardly profitable. For the overly pointed pencils, an annual “maintenance” was also included with the purchase, which made the rental model even more attractive.
Well ... if this business (renting instead of buying) is so lucrative for the provider ... Can't you expand it? And so leasing was added. Believe me: Nobody has anything to give away here either. Here, too, the “oh-so-good leasing service provider” still earns money with the leasing offer.
But that was still not enough.
Around 2015, completely new services came onto the market or became huge. Amazon, Facebook, general data centers, Microsoft OneDrive. And these required - for the conditions at the time - huge computing capacities and storage facilities. But not at all times. As one of the first major players, Amazon came up with the brilliant idea of better utilizing its own IT staff and its own data centers, which are needed anyway. By renting out storage and computing capacity. The AWS was born. And now the competitors really woke up and joined this service. New and mature technologies such as Docker and virtualization, together with unbelievably powerful processors such as the Xeon or AMD Threadripper, this resulted in inexpensive rentable computing capacities. It started much earlier, of course, but it was around that time that things really took off.
In addition, more and more IT service providers (e.g. system houses) simply could no longer employ (procure / train) enough of their own staff at reasonable prices. It all matched! So now relatively few IT specialists & hardware technicians (the only real cost advantage of data centers) can look after dozens or hundreds of (virtual) servers. That gave many advantages for almost all sides:

  • Less staff required for computer administration
  • Slightly lower hardware purchase prices through bulk purchases (but no matter what you are told: We're talking about single-digit to low double-digit discounts)
  • Better utilization of existing capacity through virtualization (several customers share & pay a single real computer)
  • Central maintenance through newer software products, monitoring
  • Less reserve of spare capacity. You have one reserve computer per main computer. A backup computer at Microsoft for one hundred main computers (the cost advantage is manageable)

So: You can earn more money with it! Because of course the advantages are not passed on to you 1: 1. It will be passed on to the shareholders! Or the intermediaries (commissions as with insurance companies!) And so now everyone is shouting: "Off to the cloud". And the more episodes, the higher the perception “I'm missing something, I also have to go to the cloud”. That will get expensive, not only for Business Central 365 and Navision users ...

Other services

The thoughts listed above primarily relate to Navision and Business Central as merchandise management, financial accounting, PPS (production planning system). It can be completely different for other services.

Telephony, e.g. Asterisk

What about emergency telephones, e.g. in production? You may have to have a telephone system available here for reasons of care or liability, which is in no way inferior to the good old telephone system in terms of reliability. POT = Plain Old Telephony. In this case, you probably cannot avoid a dedicated VoIP infrastructure with your own VoIP / telephony server and a PoE (Power over Ethernet) power supply for your end devices supplied by UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). In general, you should also be aware that, for example, a "telephone system in the cloud" usually makes all your calls directly wiretappable on the Internet. This is currently technically justified and not a phobia.

Payroll

I looooooove Business Central and Navision. For real! I cannot imagine doing anything else to earn my money or giving up this job altogether. But ... please do not do payroll accounting with a solution integrated in Navision. Access rights, data protection, update marathons, bugs, difficult to use ... just don't do it. The top dog among the payroll is Datev ... not a very cool solution either. There are many new great solutions in the cloud here.

Time management, time recording

Often the first priority here is the desire to record one's own working hours via a (own) mobile phone, e.g. also for mobile employees. Again, there are great solutions that run in the cloud. Please remember: there is no such thing as a cloud. There are only computers that belong to someone else.

(Video) conferences, communication

Thanks to Corona, Microsoft Teams has grown almost explosively in companies. But also other collaboration tools. You just have to be aware that in principle all cloud services, especially the American ones, can be intercepted. By the way, teams has no encryption whatsoever (as of 2021), so both the German and American secret services and not completely stupid hackers can listen in and watch whenever they want to. WhatsApp with E2EE (End to End Encryption) and other messengers are an exception. However, many of them do not run on the desktop and are therefore useless for corporate communication. Jitsi with its own server would be an alternative here. See also “Confidentiality” above.

Excursus: Serious cloud problems

At this point I will note down serious software and security problems that are directly or indirectly related to central server systems (you know: there is no cloud ...). Important! The services listed here are not themselves a target or cause of the problem in every context. But you often (very often) act as a multiplier, as a single successful break into a centralized system that opens dozens or even thousands of doors. But the opposite, i.e. decentralized installations, should also have their say in order to enable a feeling for attacks. So here too there is no clear winner.

  • https://www.heise.de/news/IT-Dienstleister-fuer-Angriff-auf-Dutzende-Unternehmen-missbraucht-6128098.html
    The cloud-based remote maintenance software was used as a multiplier. However, this required a direct attack via every company using it, i.e. it was not the manufacturer's central administration service that was attacked
  • https://www.heise.de/news/Viele-Websites-nach-DNS-Stoerung-bei-Online-Dienstleister-Akamai-nicht-erreichbar-6145880.html The data center does not have to be on fire, nor does it have to be flooded. It is enough that no IP addresses can be resolved.
  • https://www.it-daily.net/it-sicherheit/cybercrime/28074-microsoft-exchange-server-hack-beispiellose-angriffswelle-auf-ungepatchte-server
    There is even a clear winner here: Microsoft's cloud exchange! Because here at the beginning of 2021, unsecured company Exchange servers were successfully infiltrated via "Hafnium".
    But not hundreds of thousands, as was initially announced by the media, but 3-4 digit amounts. Which is still bad enough. https://www.zdnet.de/88394878/zero-day-angriffe-erfordern-einen-zero-day-sicherheitsansatz-aus-der-cloud/
  • https://www.mein-datenschutzbeauftragter.de/blog/20171011-cloud-sicherheit-angriffe-auf-cloud-dienste-ziehen-stark-an/
    An overview of attack scenarios
  • https://www.digitalbusiness-cloud.de/hackerangriffe-hauptgefahr-beim-cloud-computing/
    Here you will find a very short summary of the topics I have presented in detail.
  • https://www.perseus.de/wissen/blog/news/swiss-cloud-computing-wird-opfer-von-hacker-angriff/
    I included that because I think the security advice from the cloud provider is very funny:
    „Wir empfehlen außerdem, dass Sie Ihre Backup-Daten auch auf einem separaten, externen Laufwerk speichern, nicht nur in der Cloud. „. Nun… wenn Sie einen der prominentesten Anbieter dieses Services genutzt haben, dürften Sie auch schlaflose Nächte gehabt haben. „Einer der prominentesten Kunden, die von dem Ausfall der Swiss Cloud betroffen sind, ist Sage, ein Unternehmen, das Lohn- und Gehaltsabrechnungs- und HR-Software für den deutschsprachigen Raum anbietet.“.
  • https://www.heise.de/hintergrund/Cloud-fuer-Unternehmen-Typische-Fehler-und-was-man-daraus-lernen-kann-1-4-4912754.html
    https://www.heise.de/hintergrund/Cloud-fuer-Unternehmen-Typische-Angriffe-und-wie-Sie-sich-schuetzen-2-4-4913820.html
    https://www.heise.de/hintergrund/Cloud-fuer-Unternehmen-Der-sichere-Weg-in-die-Cloud-3-4-4917363.html
    https://www.heise.de/hintergrund/Cloud-fuer-Unternehmen-Ich-bin-schon-drin-was-nun-4-4-4918993.html
    These - admittedly quite difficult to digest - 4 articles building on each other are intended to do one thing above all: Sharpen your view for the fact that a "cloud solution" (you already know ...) must in no way lead to a weakening of one's own IT competence. Quite the opposite: In addition to the previous attack scenarios, there are a few more. This is very often tucked under the carpet in the cost calculation and benefit analysis. “You no longer need IT, the cloud does that for you”. Oh well….
  • https://www.security-insider.de/angriffsarten-und-angreifertypen-in-cloud-computing-systemen-a-254228/
    This should once again work out your own IT competence, which was described as indispensable in the previous point. Please don't take this lightly!
  • https://www.heise.de/news/RISE-with-SAP-Deutsche-Anwender-wollen-nicht-in-die-Cloud-6147909.html?wt_mc=nl.red.ho.ho-nl-daily.2021-07-27.link.link This is just a message about the fact that “the cloud” is nowhere near as natural as it is often advertised. Not even at SAP.
  • https://www.heise.de/news/Cloud-Datenbank-GAU-Microsoft-informiert-Azure-Kunden-ueber-gravierende-Luecke-6176601.html Azure ... The only and real basis for Navision and Business Central as a Service (SaaS) - open like a barn door. Well, a bit simplified. But shows the problem described much further above that central computers are extremely interesting targets.
  • https://www.heise.de/news/Datenpanne-bei-T-Mobile-Hacker-nutzte-verheerende-Sicherheitsluecke-6176610.html
  • https://www.heise.de/news/Sicherheitsforscher-Microsoft-Cloud-verteilt-zu-leichtfertig-Malware-6222542.html

Post image

The featured picture is from the inside of a Jeepneys , the most popular form of public transport in the Philippines.
These vehicles have one thing in common: From the outside, at first glance, they usually look great. Nicely painted, shiny, light decorations. From the inside, they usually look like this post image. I found that quite fitting, because a lot of praise for "the cloud" is very reminiscent of the external appearance of a jeepney, while the real technology behind it cannot keep up with it.

Jeepney als Symbolbild für Navision oder Business Central 365 in der Cloud / auf gemieteter Servertechnik
A jeepney from the outside: Looks good! From the inside, especially the technology, not so much anymore ...