The 3 Answers for an Anxiety-Free Cloud Move
More and more businesses are adopting the cloud in order to take advantage of benefits such as greater efficiency, increased productivity and lower costs. Companies in general are flocking to the cloud for email hosting, disaster recovery, backups, file sharing, and customer relationship management (CRM). However, risk-adverse accounting firms take to the cloud at a much slower rate than general businesses. A recent survey by CPA.com determined that CPA firms have increased their adoption of business-grade cloud technology but still have reservations that prevent more pronounced adoption rates. However, they don't need to worry.
Cloud-base technology has evolved to the point that it now makes sense for the mainstream. Every day, I work hand-in-hand with accounting firms and bookkeepers to discuss how to implement more efficient and cost-friendly cloud-based operations for themselves and clients. Here is a list of the top-three questions I most often get asked.
- What Happens to the Paper?
Paper represents control. When a firm houses important documents, it controls how they're stored, where they're stored, what is stored and who has access. Additionally, firms don't want to create upheaval for clients by introducing the changes that come with a cloud-based solution.
Documentation has to be retrievable no matter what format it is in. Firms are keenly interested in maintaining or enhancing document retrieval. For example, if they keep five years' worth of paper for each client, can they do the same in a cloud environment? Will the information be readily accessible? How do they convert those files into electronic assets?
The good news is there are simple answers to these questions. Most cloud-based solutions will host as much information as you need hosted. Just check to see what the price points are around different amounts of data.
The information should be easily accessible online and, since it is in an electronic format, it should be much easier to organize and search. Most providers allow you to share access with clients as necessary. And converting paper into electronic assets can be as easy as scanning, emailing or faxing and uploading the documents into automated conversion services offered by cloud providers.
In terms of document management, most firms want to ensure that their data will not be deleted or purged if it reaches a certain size or a contract ends. Reputable solutions never randomly delete information and have stringent fail-safes in place when it comes to backing up all data, usually in multiple places.
- Is My Information Secure?
With the amount and type of information normally shared between accountants and their clients, it's extremely important to ensure that cloud-based technology protects your firm and your clients—not put them at risk.
Beyond standard levels of security such as encryption and dual authentication, the cloud-based accounting solutions can actually infuse your practice with a higher level of security.
Firms can control workflow with the technology. That means anyone who isn't authorized to be part of a particular process won't be able to participate or review documents or messages related to it. Basically, that invoice, check, or contract sitting on your desk is moved to a more secure position as an electronic file in the cloud.
Cloud-based payments can achieve a higher level of security. For example, with Bill.com, client routing bank account numbers are never visible to any outside party or vendor. This means your clients are not subjected to vulnerabilities related to processing paper checks and mailing that information.
The AICPA has further resources on security:
- Do I Have to Change My Current Processes?
In a manner, yes, you and your clients need to change your current processes. But, think of that change in the same way you would if you were moving from a bicycle to a car. You're still getting where you need to go. You're still controlling the route you take. You're still on wheels. You're just getting there faster and more efficiently.
Basically, you'll move to a more efficient (and probably faster) version of what you're already doing. The same people that process AP will process AP. They can now scan, fax, mail, or email that information directly to the cloud provider and can eliminate the need to mail packets to clients or batch it in. From the cloud, it will be converted to an electronic asset that will be put into the proper, automated workflow and saved as necessary to the online document repository. Individuals authorized to participate in the workflow can then review, approve, and access information as necessary.
Another valuable bonus for moving accounting services to the cloud is the ability to synchronize that solution with other existing solutions currently in use. For example, information from Bill.com can be synchronized with QuickBooks, NetSuite, and others in order to avoid duplicative processes or manual entry.
Auditing, which is often quite an administrative challenge, is yet another example of how a process can be maintained, yet improved exponentially. Imagine giving auditors online access to review only documents relevant to their audit. The process of finding files, copying them, reviewing them, and shipping them to an auditor is completely eliminated. The auditor merely logs in with temporary credentials, accesses the necessary information via an audit trail and then logs off when complete.
Cloud technology will soon completely infiltrate the accounting world, and smart firms will turn to it to create valuable competitive differentiators, enhance operations and offer their clients greater conveniences. There's no need for anxiety.
About the author:
Charles Crabtree, accounting channel representative at Bill.com, works with accounting firms and bookkeepers to bring AP and AR processes the cloud. He can be directly reached at [email protected].