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AFI solutions as cloud services in the future

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The cloud topic has long been one of the IT buzzwords. It is already presumed by now that the term will probably end in smoke by 2025. According to a recent Citrix survey, over a third of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 are not familiar with the term »cloud«, although they obviously use cloud services. The explanation is simple: use of the cloud is increasingly becoming the norm.

Even in the business environment, the cloud is continuously eliminating the classic on-premises solutions. Sven Schal, one of AFI's two managing directors, explains in an interview what the cloud concept is all about, why customers will also be able to obtain AFI solutions as services from the cloud in the future and why they should.

 

Why is AFI going to the cloud?

Sven Schal: It is the next logical step for us. We are where our customers will need us because our aim has always been to be one step ahead. This is why we listen carefully, observe and think ahead to find out which technologies make sense and which services also bring perceptible benefits for us and our customers. The cloud topic is not new in itself and the benefits are clear to us. Our technology and research team has been working on cloud tools for a very long time. Just like our customers, we are increasingly purchasing software and services online and moving away from on-premises installations.

The trend towards »Software as a Service« (SaaS) is of course also emerging in the ERP environment around the SAP world. As process connoisseurs and SAP »fine tuners«, we offer our customers our on-premises solutions one step at a time as cloud-based services which are easy and convenient to consume.

What is the difference between cloud and Software as a Service?

To put it very simply, we use the term cloud for everything that is not on-premises at first. Our customers use the term cloud at different organizational levels with very different meanings. But SaaS basically is part of the cloud because cloud computing integrates different types of services. With SaaS, the user works with the software via the web.

He does not have to install or maintain it himself because the software provider takes care of this. Access to the system and the data takes place via the internet and a web browser.

What are the customer's benefits of the AFI cloud?

Services and solutions from the cloud are available faster and also easier to use. A large proportion of the former setup and project efforts is no longer required because implementation and customizing have already taken place. Furthermore, we ensure that the services are up to date at a central point alongside operation. We proactively monitor the system and carry out maintenance work at agreed down times. The customer can rely on working with the best and most secure version and on using the latest functions at all times. Beyond that, the solution is easily scalable. According to requirements, services can conveniently be booked and used immediately.

Is there a concrete example of how something like this works in the field?

A service could be to completely automate the customer's incoming order confirmations. In this case, he forwards the documents electronically to the AFI datacenter where OCR is part of this service and implementation of his own server is no longer necessary. The customer receives the read and recognized data via an adapter in his SAP system and can continue working with it. He can optionally extend his solution and add further document types upon request. It is a great benefit that he can use the service immediately and easily. Furthermore, he only pays for what he really needs in terms of functionality.

What is the current demand for cloud solutions?

I think we are now at a point where it is becoming a concrete reality for many customers. Not in all areas of a company of course and obviously depending on individual industries and company sizes. But in the areas in which cloud-based services are used, it becomes apparent that the cloud will not only work in practice but will replace most on-premises solutions because of its benefits.

Are there cases in which on-premises is still ahead – also in the future?

In my estimation, on-premise systems will survive in areas that do not benefit from the classic advantages of a cloud solution. These are areas with extremely high demands on data confidentiality – such as company secrets – i.e. areas in which mobile data and system availability around the clock are not an essential issue. This is where legal requirements and the company's own high standards regarding data protection and security often come in which currently cannot be mapped at all or only with difficulty via an external cloud system.

Apropos speaking of data protection – how is this ensured in the AFI cloud?

This has been an important topic for us not just since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Integrity, security and protection of our customer data against loss and misuse on the one hand, and in particular protection of personal data on the other, are of great importance to our actions. Whether it concerns the »old« Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) or the new GDPR – with corresponding data protection concepts, security guidelines, technical and organizational measures, we ensure compliance and action within the law. Our customers can rely on the fact that they are securely and well positioned with the AFI solutions – even in the cloud.

What are the first steps into the cloud for customers?

Integration of a cloud infrastructure into their own network and security concept is a first major conceptional and technical step for our customers. However, since many already use cloud services, they have often already mastered this step. The services can then be integrated even easier. Therefore, a distinction must be made as to whether it is about a new service whereby one can simply select, set up, test and get going or whether existing processes and work steps are to be outsourced to the cloud. Everything else also depends heavily on the individual service and the number of users who are to work with the new service.

Public, private or hybrid: which types of cloud will AFI serve in the future?

The idea behind our cloud infrastructure is that we can serve different scenarios and support almost all cloud variants. Because of this, the services do not necessarily have to run in AFI's data center but can also be set up on platforms of other cloud providers at the costumers' request. Whether this happens in mixed scenarios, in an »own« environment or on hosted infrastructures, takes a back seat for our solutions and services. Our customers have a free choice. Depending on the service and solution, the appropriate variant is selected and implemented together with the customer.

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Blog | Illustration Cloud Services
Laura Herzig

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