Cloud computing has arrived. How can we tell? There are now efficient, cost-effective, cloud-based solutions for virtually every aspect of your business, including one of the most fundamental operations: accounting.
In the cloud, internal and external accounting functions are faster, more accessible and more cost-effective. Depending on the size and complexity of your business, the “time to value” can be extremely short, so today’s decisions can be producing tangible results in less time than with conventional technology solutions.
Admittedly, everyone is touting cloud computing as “the next big thing” in technology. But you should not jump in without looking at the critical benefits of this technology evolution.
Sky High Benefits
In today’s business environment, the on-premises model for software and hardware technology is becoming increasingly costly and cumbersome. In many operations, it is no longer necessary, or economically sustainable to purchase, house, maintain and upgrade systems for financial accounting. In fact, some traditional network solutions can actually hinder growth.
Cloud services and applications replace the high capital expenditures and ongoing costs of hardware and licensed software with a scalable, predictable subscription model. You and your accounting teams gain real-time, anytime access to all of the same applications and data anywhere in the world. The latest financials are always available for analysis, strategic planning and decision-making.
In the accounting function, cloud computing delivers:
- Instant, anytime access to financial data
- Global availability to individuals and business units
- No hardware or software installation or maintenance
- More accurate and timely reporting
- Standardization across business groups and locations
- More effective use of staff time and resources.
Every organization and every application is different, but for most, the benefits of cloud computing generally fall into these categories:
- Lower initial costs. Expand your capabilities almost instantly without the cost of new infrastructure or software upgrades. Existing hardware, networks and personnel can be adapted and improved at a fraction of the cost, and often, in a fraction of the time. The time needed to deploy a new application throughout your enterprise or add massive data storage drops dramatically.
- Greater mobility. Whether you conduct business all over town or all over the world, you can access your financials through any computer with a browser and internet connection. Working from home or a remote location is more practical than ever.
- Scalability. As your need for applications and data storage grows, so can your access to new capacity. Pay just for what you need now, and scale up or down as your business changes. You won’t have to change your system because you’ve outgrown it, or because you have excess capacity.
- Lower maintenance costs. In the cloud, there is less hardware to maintain and application updates are the responsibility of your vendor. Updates are available to all users at the same time. IT staff are often outsourced or shared. Fewer physical resources mean power needs and maintenance costs are reduced dramatically.
- Reliability. The cloud provides dependable hardware platforms that can be replicated, up and running in less time following a disaster or other outage. Many cloud vendors promise 99.9 percent uptime.
What About Security?
Some business owners are understandably concerned about the security of their financial information on the cloud. But a reputable cloud vendor is going to offer state-of-the-art data centers with security, infrastructure and operations that are far superior to what most companies could afford to deploy themselves. This is possible because thousands of organizations are sharing the cost.
Top vendors offer the highest levels of data encryption and protection against internal and external tampering and hacking. Data is continuously backed up, with redundant hardware and networking in place in the event of catastrophic failure.
Who Owns Your Data?
You do. Make sure that fact is specified in a service level agreement that guarantees availability, response time and disaster recovery standards. If you have to wonder if you own your data or where it is stored, you probably should not be working with that vendor.
A Strategic Growth Technology
In its annual review of technology trends, Gartner Inc. named cloud computing as the No. 1 strategic technology for 2011. Their pronouncement couldn’t come at a better time. If your company is like many, it’s climbing out of a deep recession and looking for solutions that are ready right out of the box. Cloud computing is ready here and now, and for your accounting function, it has a strong future.
Mickey Scheffki is a partner and director of technology consulting for Clifton Gunderson LLP in Peoria. She can be reached at Mickey.Scheffki@cliftoncpa.com.