21 Nov Cloud Accounting, A Must for Any Small Business Strategy
Cloud Accounting has become a way to implement process efficiency in your business, a tool to remedy business continuity gaps during disasters, and a way to reduce IT costs for accounting services requirements. As networks become more available and secure and bandwidth becomes an affordable commodity, centralized software solutions like Cloud Accounting are fast becoming a Software as a Service (SaaS) norm with benefits far too high to ignore.
As we sit in our warm homes running our business while one of the worst snowstorms in history pounds Buffalo, NY with over six feet of snow, jumping into the first benefit of Cloud Accounting being remote access to your systems, seems appropriate. Because your cloud accounting computers are safely located in remote data centers and accessed by you and your staff using any available computer, you are better positioned to continue business when it is impossible to get to your office location. This also makes it easy to create business continuity plans where all staff members need are computers and internet connections and given the affordability of laptop computers, conducting some business on a laptop sitting in a Starbucks may be a realistic plan.
In discussing cloud computing in general, one of the most brought up topics is concern over data security and having business critical information available to anyone on the Internet. The reality is that data is likely safer sitting on cloud computing infrastructure than on your own company’s computers. In today’s connected environment, unless a company has the means to design, implement, and maintain a multi firewall network, all the computers in the company are potentially exposed to the same threats that private cloud computers are subject to. To minimize unwarranted access to business computers, these threats require software updates and companies who provide cloud computing are continually focused on staying current whereas small company IT staff are focused on everything from cell phone provisioning to building access to help desk and desktop support. “We didn’t have time to implement that last update which allowed the virus onto the sales departments computers, because we were too busy setting up their new cell phones.” – quote from a hypothetical IT manager but a realistic situation.
From a cost perspective, Cloud Accounting will allow your organization to move large capital expenditures for computers that likely have more capacity than required, software with more functionality than needed, and backup infrastructure and service such as backup power and offsite storage, to a consumption based model where you pay only for what you use and can increase or decrease the services as needed. Further, having on premise computing infrastructure also means you need on premise IT staff that apply software updates, prepare backups, and continually assess infrastructure health for possible technology refresh opportunities. Considering backups, while the cost of moving your data offsite to prevent from local disaster is coming down, Cloud Accounting subscriptions almost always include data redundancy, backups, and power redundancy in the subscription cost.
One the most valuable aspects of Cloud Accounting is the ability to obtain accounting services from accountants or bookkeepers who can perform their essential duties without having to travel or without having transfer backup files requiring importing and exporting just to run a report or make a journal entry. In Cloud Accounting, access can be provisioned the same way as an internal staff member is, and your professional services can be provided to you cheaper and easier than having an on premise solution. This means process efficiency that can reduce the time it takes your internal staff to prepare backups for the accountant, send the file, wait for the response, then apply the necessary changes. For someone who processes payroll weekly, this is the better part of an associates job, vs. allowing the accountant or bookkeeper to simply make the changes themselves.
If your small business has a strategy, Cloud Accounting should be a part of it, and if it is not part of it, it should be seriously considered in the future as it provides process efficiency and cost reduction opportunity over traditional on premise solutions. If your business does not have an official strategy for accounting or if you still don’t want to entrust this critical part of your business to the cloud, consider taking incremental steps and test drive cloud computing with other aspects of your business like email, project management, time tracking, or client collaboration. This way you can experience the value and gain trust before moving your financials.