Cloud Computing for Accountants and Professionals
Most of the accounting world by now has heard the term “cloud computing” and read articles about firms moving to the cloud, but is the cloud right for you and your firm? The purpose of this article is to assist small to medium-sized firms (50 users or less) in answering the question: should I consider cloud computing? We won’t go into the technical specifics of the cloud; anyone can Google that.
Not all firms have the luxury of having a crack information technology staff. For many professionals, especially sole practitioners and firms just starting out on their own, your skill set may not include IT. Cloud computing can be an extremely good solution for the sole practitioner or smaller firms with less than five staff just starting out. By using the cloud, gain immediate access to the tools you need without the investment in computers and infrastructure. Nor do you need consider the aspect of equipment failure or defective backups, etc. You pay someone else to handle that for you.
What if You Already Have the Necessary In-House Resources?
On the other hand, is cloud computing a good solution for established firms or firms with the necessary resources? Maybe – maybe not. The decision criteria are somewhat analogous to the benefits of renting versus home ownership. Over time, the monthly cloud fees may seem more pricey as compared to the cost of desktop applications. Do you have the capacity in servers and personnel to properly manage your local area network? More importantly, do you have sufficient redundancy to protect against equipment failure? If the answer is yes, consider maintaining your own local area network as a lower cost solution in the long run. Remember, outside cloud data centers are not infallible. More recently, we have seen instances of cloud failures and lost data.
To empower small firms, Microsoft recently released Windows Server 2012R2 with Hyper-V© replication technology. This new server operating system is more user-friendly to small business and has an emphasis on secured, remote connectivity. Remote users can now access applications directly through a browser, or desktop icons instead of from the server desktop. Server 2012 also allows replication to an offsite replication server (at a partner’s home, for example) that is never more than five minutes behind and has the capability to take over in the event the primary server fails. Installation of Windows Server Standard 2012R2 with replication technology for a typical small firm can run less than $5,000.
Migration to the Cloud
Whether to Migrate to the cloud or use a local area network is a business decision that you need to make. Make a T account (remember Accounting I) and create a Pro and Con list and work through the scenarios. We can’t make the decision for you but we can answer your questions to help make the decision easier.
ImagineTime has products for both the desktop and the cloud. There has been quite a bit of interest in our Cloud offering. However, we continue to actively support and promote our desktop product as an economical, easy to install and maintain solution that can also be remotely accessed using MS Windows Server, or one of the commercial remote access tools such as Logmein or Mikogo.