No field likes its buzzwords more than technology, and one of today's leading terms is "the cloud." But it's not just a matter of knowing what's fashionable. Accounting professionals who know how to use the cloud will find themselves running more efficiently, and the beauty of it is that it's nowhere near as complex as many fear.
Just what is "the cloud"? To put it in simple terms, cloud software platforms "live" on the web, meaning that they're the new generation of software that is based entirely online. They take up no space on your computer, and can be accessed from any Internet-connected terminal. They're also heavily protected against unauthorized access.
The cloud is a perfect fit for accounting, for the following reasons:
When you're using cloud software, everything is always protected—stored on multiple servers, secured with the newest and most advanced technology to make sure no one can access or delete your storage data. This is a big improvement over traditional PC-based accounting software, which is exposed to countless risks: Everything is usually located on one computer or server, which can crash and leave you with nothing. The constant information transfers through USB drives are also risky. And the backups can be expensive and time-consuming, especially when you have to do them every couple of days.
Cloud software providers work under the strictest security guidelines, protected by "James Bond" style measures, such as fingerprint and retina scans. Multilayered anti-virus programs work to prevent any breach to the servers. Cutting edge data encryption software also makes it virtually impossible for data thieves to extract any useful information. So even small firms get the same security benefits as Fortune 500 companies.
- Real-Time Live Data
Cloud users have all their financial information continuously updated, which allows them to make decisions based on the newest information available. Compare this with "traditional" accounting software, which requires time-consuming manual data inputs. After the initial transfer of the data from local PCs to the cloud, the process becomes almost completely automated.
For many accountants, the biggest perk to using cloud software is the ability to access the data anytime, anywhere. If there's an Internet connection, you can log in and manage your accounting information from a PC, a laptop, or even your phone. PC-based cloud platforms don't have this option. It can be a major nuisance when you can access the data from only one place. Multiple managers end up sending files back and forth, which is not only time-consuming but risky.
- No Maintenance Issues
With the cloud, you can focus entirely on your accounting business. Forget worries about the software: All the problems that occur will be taken care of by the software developers. All you have to do is report anything that goes wrong and server staff will be right on it. No more malfunctions, errors, lost data and other fires that have to be put out. Simply do what you do best, and leave the technical software details to the pros.
How Do You Get Started?
First, always check the reliability of the company you engage to manage your cloud account. Although there are plenty of reliable providers, going with one of the big established companies will usually be the safe bet. Bigger companies also tend to have more customization options.
Ease of use is also an important factor—make sure the interface is user-friendly and that you and your staff can quickly get comfortable with the software. Luckily, most of the reliable providers have easy-to-use dashboards, so mastering it shouldn't be a difficult process.
About the author:
Guy Pearson is founder of Your Modern Practice and Practice Ignition. He is a firm believer in shaking up the accounting industry and focused on to bridge the gap between businesses and better financial information and advice.