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Plex Systems: A Case Study In Cloud Service

Plex Systems of Troy, MI, has built its business around delivering enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from the cloud. The Automation Alley Foundation member company, led by CEO Mark Symonds, provides a case study of what to look for from a cloud software-as-a-service provider.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the cloud. Plex Online has nearly 200 customers in automotive, aerospace, food and beverage packaging, high-tech electronics, industrial machinery and components and precision metalformers.

Plex Online connects and manages the entire manufacturing process for organizations in North America and their global subsidiaries. Besides ERP, Plex Online provides business intelligence, quality management systems, manufacturing execution systems, supply chain management and customer relationship management.

Customer data is encrypted, with a minimum 128-bit technology, and stored at two data centers, one in Michigan and the other in North Carolina, Symonds says. Both are hardened with steel-reinforced concrete walls. There is one access point with fingerprint reader and key fob, making it impossible to do a smash-and-grab of the servers. Military grade 256-bit encryption also is available.

Both data centers feature redundancy in power and cooling. Connectivity from Plex Online to customers in Michigan is through Sonet rings, using two or more transmission paths between network nodes. The connections exit the data centers in two different locations tying back to the telecomm provider’s central office. A third connection has recently been added to a different central office. Plex Online also has two Internet service providers at each location. The encrypted data is copied to both data centers simultaneously. Both data centers also comply with SSAE 16 audit standards.

“We stream the data constantly and guarantee recovery time in two hours or less,” Symonds says. “We regularly do better than that. Our customers use just-in-time manufacturing. They can’t be down.”