December 2023

Unit4 Cloud: Busting the Myths and Realising the Benefits 

The last year has seen many of our customers make the move to Unit4 Cloud and the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Those companies are already reaping the benefits in terms of convenience, new functionality, and ease of management.

However, for some customers who are yet to switch, doubts about the Cloud still linger. Will migration be more trouble than it’s worth? Will it jeopardise business continuity? Does it mean exposing our data to new cyber risks?

With this in mind, we wanted to help dispel the myths and explain the reality surrounding Cloud Migration and deployment. Here’s what the transition to Unit4 Cloud means for you and your business…

Unit4’s strategy shift: what it means…

In October 2023, Unit4 announced the strategic decision to only offer SaaS solutions going forward. It means that Unit4 Financials by Coda – along with Unit4 ERP, and Unit4 FP&A – are to become fully SaaS-based solutions.

On-premise solutions will remain fully supported for the time being. However, as of 31 December 2024, those solutions will no longer be supported and maintained.

Why is it happening?

Put simply, Unit4 has concluded (correctly in our view) that the SaaS cloud model is the best way to ensure that users get what they need, when they need it.
Over the last few years, Unit4 Financials by Coda has undergone a steady stream of enhancements in areas such as customisable reporting, advanced budgeting and forecasting, consolidation, and intercompany transactions. This is on top of all those under-the-bonnet tweaks and fixes you would expect from a mature, enterprise-grade financial management package.

New challenges – whether they be regulatory, security or market-based – can arise quickly. The functionality offered by Unit4 Financials evolves in response to this, as well as to the suggestions made by members of the user community. The Cloud-based model ensures that these new features are placed in the hands of customers in the most timely possible way, helping them remain “compliant, competitive, and efficient, with one of the most secure cloud-based platforms on the market”.

Cloud anxiety - and how it can hold you back

Many customers will be of the view, “If it ain’t broke – why fix it?”. If your on-premise Unit4 Financials has served you perfectly adequately up until now, this way of looking at things is perfectly understandable.

However, Cloud anxiety can easily give rise to lost opportunity costs. If you regard the shift to the Cloud as nothing more than a “necessary evil” – i.e., just another overhaul for your IT and finance teams to take care of – you’re in danger of overlooking its benefits. Here’s a look at some of the myths surrounding SaaS in the Cloud and the realities for each one.

Myth 1: The Cloud and SaaS is just another money grab

Reality: SaaS can help free your IT department from whole swathes of expenses, resulting in lower cost of ownership

“With SaaS, I’m swapping my perfectly good on-premise servers for higher license costs”.

A quick glance at a classic SaaS model might trigger this reaction. But dig a little deeper and things look very different.

Don’t forget that with Unit4 Cloud, you’re not just getting access to the software; you’re getting full IT maintenance and support. For as long as you’re subscribed, Unit4 picks up the slack.

With on-premise deployment, the full burden of maintaining, securing, and updating the software rests solely with your IT staff. The shift to SaaS means that much of this burden – and its associated costs – are removed. Instead, you can expect simplified integrations, fewer instances of downtime, much quicker restorations if your system does go down, and a stronger security stance.

Make sure that you factor all of this in when making on-premise / SaaS cost comparisons.

Myth 2: SaaS just means the ‘same old’ product delivered in a different way

Reality: Unit4 Cloud means getting more useful features - quicker

One of the reasons why Unit4 has shifted to a Cloud-only strategy is to make it easier to concentrate on what really matters. With fewer resources tied up in supporting a bulky catalogue of physical Coda versions, R&D teams can focus their efforts squarely on actual product development.

Since the shift to Unit4’s Continuous Release model, we’ve already seen a steady stream of enhancements; just a few recent examples being easier task scheduling and the management of attachments, through to under-the-bonnet ‘data chunking’ to speed up performance. We fully expect that once the bulk of the SaaS move has happened, further improvements in functionality will come thick and fast.

SaaS means a greater emphasis on product development. What’s more, this model also tends to be better at getting that new functionality into your hands quickly. Every three months, sees a new release from Unit4, meaning that you get exactly the updates and new features that you need, without disruption.

Myth 3: Our financial management solution will be less secure in the cloud compared to on-premise

Reality: Unit4 Cloud can actually help to strengthen your security stance

When it comes to security, it is rarely a simple case of “Cloud, good; on-site deployment, bad” (or vice versa).

It all depends on who’s actually providing the service. If you switch from on-premise to an untrusted SaaS provider where there’s a slapdash approach to governance and a poor track record in addressing vulnerabilities (and high levels of downtime), you weaken your data security stance.

With Unit4 Cloud however, you have the reassurance of knowing that your data is secured at every level, applying industry best practice. Security highlights include the following:

  • Unit4 relies exclusively on trusted data centers (e.g., Microsoft Azure, and Nordics-based Conapto) to ensure regulatory compliance, physical security, and availability.
  • The highest levels of enterprise-grade encryption are applied to prevent unauthorised access – for data both in transit and at rest.
  • The ability for you to apply fine-grained identity and access management (IAM) controls to determine who can see and work with what resources in the Cloud.
  • Strict and effective data segregation, ensuring that every Unit4 customer has their own private and secure database.
  • Comprehensive and continuous threat monitoring to detect and prevent malicious events, threats, and intrusion attempts. This is accompanied by a proven record in addressing vulnerabilities.

Unit4 Cloud allows you to maintain a security stance that is at least as strong – and in many cases, even stronger – than your current on-premise environment.

A switch to the cloud can certainly help free up some of your resources currently expended on infrastructure security. That said, it does not, of course, render your IT estate immune from cyber threats! Nor does it absolve you from responsibility for areas such as configuring your own environment, securing endpoints, and company networks.

Securing a Cloud environment is no easy task. And in fact, according to Fortinet’s latest Cybersecurity Skills Gap report, Cloud security tops the list of the most needed cyber security skills, as well as being the hardest to fill roles for organizations.

Fortunately, Millennium Consulting is committed to helping our customers overcome any cyber skills gaps through dedicated in-house cybersecurity expertise. To learn more about this expertise, and to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your data in the cloud, explore our cybersecurity services here.

Other potential benefits

Unit4 Cloud offers the potential to reduce the total cost of software ownership and management. It promises to make the financial management solution you love even better. And with access to the right support, it can offer a more secure means of software deployment.

On top of all of this, the cloud-only future for Unit4 Financials could offer your business several additional benefits:

Boosting business continuity

An on-premise server crash is doubtless one of your IT manager’s biggest nightmares. Worst case scenario, you’re talking hours, days – or even weeks of interruption.

By contrast, Unit4 Cloud’s impeccable uptime record is impossible to ignore. This is a company that takes its SLAs extremely seriously. So even if there is a server outage, a robust continuity process (including the ability to switch deftly to a secondary data center) helps keep customers up and running with the minimum of disruption.

Supporting your sustainability goals

Just a few years ago, sustainability was a peripheral concern for most businesses. In the latest PwC Pulse Surveys however, 41% of finance leaders regard ‘not meeting sustainability commitments’ as a moderate or serious risk for their companies.

Customers and investors alike want to see companies putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. If you can point to a switch from legacy on-premise servers to highly efficient data centers (along with a corresponding reduction in energy consumption), it can tie neatly into your emissions-reduction strategy.

Enabling new ways of working

Is remote or hybrid working right for your business? Your answer to this will of course be shaped by a number of factors, including business objectives, office culture, and customer needs.

The beauty of Unit4 Cloud (particularly for finance staff) is that it gives you greater options in this area. So long as they have an internet connection, employees get ‘anywhere, anytime accessibility’ to your financial management suite. At the same time, however, granular access management means you still get to control who accesses what and when – regardless of employee location.

Joining the community

It’s easy to overlook just how responsive Unit4 is to user needs and suggestions. Community4U is the company’s customer and partner community, made up of dedicated forums devoted to specific Unit4 solutions (including Unit4 Financials).

Through it, you can engage with other customers and partners, get in touch and ask questions, share tips and best practices and find solutions that will make your life easier. The community also includes a process through which customers can suggest product enhancements, some of the most notable recent ones being as follows:

  • Remove trailing spaces automatically
  • Set the name of the attachment sent by email
  • ‘Remove the line’ checkbox as movable item on input template
  • Custom portal per company
  • Sorting payment proposals by date instead of payment code
  • Mandatory fields on element template
  • Cr/Dr differentiation on Distribution Master / Revaluation
  • CODA Procurement: Irrecoverable Tax on Reversing VAT
  • ScheduleChange Periods (000223)

The switch to Unit4 Cloud enables you to gain the earliest possible access to these enhancements as they are rolled out

What next?

As an Elite Unit4 Partner, Millennium Consulting offers everything you need to facilitate a swift, pain-free migration to Unit4 Cloud.

Learn more