We hear the term bandied about with impunity in everyday conversations. Our smartphones remind us that we ought to set up our cloud storage sync so our family photos don’t obliterate what little space we have in our device’s memory. Sales representatives tout the fiscally friendly advantages of accessing apps hosted in the cloud: “Don’t buy that software license, save money and use it through our software as a service!” Amidst all the banter and casual handling of what has become a high frequency conversation piece, we may find ourselves thinking, “is it really so great, all this cloud surfing?” or even “what IS the cloud?” Herein I will dissolve the riddle of “what’s remote and accessible and used all over!?” and describe how, when it comes to accounting, it seems that the cloud does, indeed, have a silver lining.
What Is The Cloud?
In a general sense, the cloud is simply an environment where network services are easily accessible. To put things into perspective, the cloud is not really a new concept: If we think back to the era of massive, hulking, mainframe computers accessed via individual terminals we realize that our modern day “cloud” is much the same thing. We are able to collaborate in a common area from just about anywhere in the world where there is network connectivity. This often occurs on a variety of hosted platforms and virtual environments, such as Cloud9 Realtime or through “software as a service” providers, including well known vendors such as Microsoft, Intuit, and many others. With this collaborative type of environment available, when we consider the cloud as a medium through which we can perform accounting services, we find ourselves in a much more favorable position than in “ye olden times”.
... A process where pencils are worn to nubs while filling endless pages of carbon copy ledgers with incessant scribbling.
Oh those times of “olde” – how things have changed since then! When I speak with a non-practitioner about accounting, even in this day-and-age, I get the impression that they still envision the trade as a paper toting, midnight-oil burning, drafting-table lamp profession. The cues I catch within their dialogue describe a process where pencils are worn to nubs while filling endless pages of carbon copy ledgers with incessant scribbling. As the conversation progresses, I can almost see the images their minds conjure: Receipts fluttering through the air, reminiscent of confetti; bookshelves brimming in the background, filled with a vast array of reference manuals as the shelves groan beneath the weight of decades worth of tax laws; a weary accountant struggling to find a way to coordinate with his client efficiently. That perception may be more than just a bit archaic, but it does, however, illustrate and accentuate the fact that “The Cloud”, the great facilitator of modern accounting solutions, has completely changed the way we, as accountants, operate.
MKW & The Cloud
Efficient and powerful, these tools have made accounting in the cloud the gold standard, rather than just another option.
At Milam, Knecht & Warner, LLP, use of the cloud has streamlined and optimized our firm’s practices on a multitude of different levels. The cloud has enabled our transition from a paperwork-laden business into a paperless environment through the implementation of document management systems including Smart Vault and CCH Wolter Kluwer’s ProSystem fx Document. Working in cloud based environments has allowed us to provide services to our clients with unprecedented efficiency, one example is those documents that once had to be sent physically to us. Those documents can now be uploaded in a matter of minutes, at most, to our client portal page. What about the lengthy, in person accountant/client meetings where our accountants would visit on-site to review your accounting system? Those visits become largely unnecessary as cloud hosting enables levels of interaction via platforms that make accounting software such QuickBooks available to both our accounting team and client representatives in real time. We are now able to expedite back-office accounting functions crucial to client operations, such as accounts payable, through the use of the cloud application such as Bill.com. Efficient and powerful, these tools have made accounting in the cloud the gold standard, rather than just another option.
The cloud has remade and remodeled the way we perform business, mostly in an advantageous sense, but what of the questions and concerns that arise? The cloud services previously mentioned are but a few of the vast plethora of service options, providers, and hosted platforms, the existence of which raises the question: Which cloud services are right for me? What do the different providers offer, how can they help MY business? What about security and how do I know my private business records will be safe?
There are many options available for implementation and the choices can often leave one confused as to what they really need to make the leap into the cloud and, more importantly, how moving into the cloud can actually be of benefit.
Data security and retention is always a concern and requires an in depth review on a per provider basis. Cost efficiency is yet another consideration: how will cloud based services be more cost effective than purchasing and maintaining in-house servers and software?
With this in mind, our team at Milam, Knecht & Warner has already tested and researched the prospects. Our effective combination of cloud based services eliminates the lengthy testing and decision making process, enabling our clients to consult with us to ascertain how to best proceed. We understand how important data security and retention is and utilize the most reliable services available to ensure that in any scenario there is always a backup of your irreplaceable organization documents and records. Ultimately, we’ve removed the guesswork, providing a cloud solutions package customizable to each client’s accounting needs at the level of services appropriate to best enable those clients to focus on what’s most important – managing their business!
If you have questions about cloud accounting and how it can benefit your company, feel free to comment below or contact me.
Robert Hicks is the controller for Milam, Knecht & Warner, LLP. He is also the team leader in our cloud accounting department. During his free time, Robert enjoys nothing more than spending quality time with his wife and son: Whether it be time spent on something as down-to-earth as an afternoon barbecue in the back yard or as exotic as clashing (foam) swords on the high seas with his son, the pirate (at the park)!