This article excerpt, by Christina E. Wiseman, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1MbCYLV
From smartphones to movie streaming, most of us use “the cloud” in our personal lives on a daily basis—even if we don’t know it. But is the accounting profession effectively using the cloud to meet the expectations of today’s consumer?
When we look at overall consumer behavior, like a recent study by Internet World Stats and Pew Research Center, Internet penetration is at 87 percent for adults, with 18-29 year olds at 97 percent. Given the connectivity of clients and prospects, it’s unquestionably time for accounting firms to understand what the cloud is all about and take full advantage of its benefits.
For the tax and accounting profession, cloud services can mean securely storing accounting, billing and time management software online, and using the cloud to store client data and information safely.
Flexibility, Convenience and Efficiency
Using cloud technology, you can access your firm’s data without being tied to a specific location or computing device. This is particularly beneficial if you have employees working in multiple offices or client locations. Because information can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection, your firm’s productivity and efficiency gets a major boost.
The cloud also gives you an opportunity to extend online access to your clients, giving them the ability to view their own data at any time—a convenience that’s nearly imperative for today’s consumer.
Cost and Time Savings
Moving your firm to the cloud can also offer substantial savings in terms of IT implementation, maintenance and infrastructure costs. Traditional business software typically requires a large upfront licensing fee, in addition to an annual maintenance fee and your own infrastructure costs, while most cloud service providers offer a pay-as-you-go model where you’re charged a monthly or annual fee for use.
Cloud services can also reduce the need for in-house IT staff, as cloud vendors handle server and software maintenance, as well as tech support. Vendors also typically handle system upgrades, which happen automatically, giving you immediate access to updated software.
Safety and Reliability
Even with its potential advantages, it may not be easy for the risk-aware accountant, concerned about the vulnerability of their clients’ personal information, to implement cloud technology within their firm. Rest assured the rapid adoption of cloud services has led to an increased focus on data security.
Security breaches like those experienced by major retailers, while widely publicized, do not reflect the low possibility that a reputable cloud vendor would be hacked. However, it is important to choose a reputable vendor that has been in the business for at least three to five years.
Cloud vendors not only store data in a centralized offsite location, but they often keep copies of your information in one or two other locations for additional backup. The systems are typically self-healing, meaning that if there is a failure at one site you can immediately access the same data via another location.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for tax and accounting firms to make the switch to using cloud technology is remaining relevant for today’s consumer. The widespread use of cloud technology in the consumer space is driving its transition across numerous industries—and that includes tax and accounting.
With a trusted cloud services provider at your side, don’t be afraid to take a walk in the cloud to boost your firm’s productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.