It’s unseen, but it’s changing our lives. We can watch movies from any location and fill our phones with applications that offer data accessible “in real time” because of the high speed and low cost of cloud technology.
However, the accounting world has often not made full use of cloud, unaware of innovations in public cloud security and the emergence of the hybrid model, which allows companies to integrate public and private components. Four out of 10 (41%) accountants reported in a 2014 Network Management Group poll that they were not using any cloud computing services, while 3 in 10 (32%) said that they were converting, at least, one of their applications to the cloud by 2016.
Christina E. Wiseman, the wireless tech product manager for the accounting branch of Thompson Reuters, is not impressed. Citing a Pew Research Center study, she notes that the web is used by nine out of 10 men and women (87%), while among adults under 30 years old, it is almost ubiquitous (97%). “Given the connectivity of clients and prospects,” said Wiseman, “it’s unquestionably time for accounting firms to understand what the cloud is all about and take full advantage of its benefits.
Wiseman describes the following benefits, which she finds to be overwhelmingly compelling in favor of cloud systems:
Agility, Accessibility, and Productivity
Using either software-as-a-service (web-based software directly through a third party) or your own applications stored on a cloud server that you control and manage, you can work within your systems from any device and any location at any time. That means your workforce can sign on from anywhere to complete projects.
Cloud also makes it possible to point customers to your web portal so that they can survey their own information, which is becoming a standard expectation.
Affordability and Speed
Going with the “opex” model of this form of distributed virtual hosting, there is an extraordinarily low cost of entry to set up your computing network and keep it running. You also don’t have to worry about storing any servers if you go with a solution that utilizes a hosting provider for all its infrastructure.
“Traditional business software typically requires a large upfront licensing fee, in addition to an annual maintenance fee and your own infrastructure costs,” Wiseman explains, “while most cloud service providers offer a pay-as-you-go model where you’re charged a monthly or annual fee for use.”
You also don’t have to pay for your own technology professionals: cloud services take care of that. The software of whatever core services you order is patched and upgraded by the host.
Wiseman says not to think of the cloud as an additional expense. Instead, it should replace the current tech services within your budget. She stresses that you don’t want to forget to consider upgrading and patching labor (which you are now pushing to another company) in your cost analysis. You can sometimes save more when you use the cloud provider for backup too, says Wiseman.
Data protection and Availability
Although cloud sounds exciting in some ways, many risk-averse professionals worry about storing data in this form, says Wiseman.
It’s easy to forget that Apple was believed to be hacked by someone stealing passwords and simply logging into various accounts, not by someone actually invading the computing giant’s network – at least according to Apple’s assessment.
Furthermore, hacks of Sony Pictures, Target, and Anthem are disturbing. However, none of those companies are technology-focused. Hosting providers base their reputations on security, so the investment in precautionary measures tends to be a much higher proportion of the overall budget than with other types of companies.
Wiseman does recommend that you should choose a provider that was founded a minimum of three years ago (2012 or earlier) and check for SSAE 16 auditing.
“[The SSAE 16 standard was] designed in part to test a vendor’s infrastructure—including hardware, software, procedures and personnel, and data,” Wiseman comments, “in areas including security, integrity, confidentiality and ability to protect clients’ personal information.”
Make sure the cloud service has a strong disaster recovery plan in place as well. You want them to have multiple data centers so that you can back up your information in a separate geographical location. Self-healing capabilities will allow you to jump over to backup data without any delay.
Meeting Customer Needs
Finally, the cloud allows you to meet the speed and access demands of clients and potential clients. Yes, you have to protect everyone’s data. Nonetheless, you must also exhibit never-before-seen reliability and supercomputer power (two characteristics of cloud) if you want to compete.
Just as you must meet the needs of your clients, we can meet your needs. As noted above, Wiseman recommends gauging reputability by the number of years in business. We were founded in 1994, so we have over two decades of experience. Talk to us today about building a partially cloud-based hybrid infrastructure for your firm.
Atlantic.Net can assist with cloud, managed, dedicated and HIPAA-compliant hosting solutions – contact us today for a consultation.