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01 Oct 2015
In our highly mobile technological age, people want to access their business applications and data from anywhere.
The first steps toward this were the introduction of remote desktops (where one computer can replicate another over the internet) and VPNs - Virtual Private Networks (where you can log in to the business server over the internet or a dedicated connection). With both of these, the computer processing hardware is located on the business premises.
Then came "the cloud", where business applications and data are hosted (looked after) by a specialist provider, leaving users free to concentrate on their businesses, instead of IT concerns. The benefits of cloud computing are:
Accessibility - You can work from any location from multiple devices. Thus it makes the data available at your fingertips when meeting a customer, supplier or client off the business premises. It also enables employees to work remotely.
Reduced Costs. - Expensive hardware (servers or high-powered computers) is no longer required. Software updates and maintenance are handled by the cloud provider, reducing the need for down time and skilled computer staff. The only items required for many cloud applications are a reliable internet connection and a basic computer, laptop or smart phone. Hosted applications are usually subscription based - a monthly fee for the applications and data storage being used. This eliminates large up front capital costs.
Reliability and Scalability - Cloud providers are large operators who normally have numerous large servers over multiple physical locations. They have backup sytems that ensure there is a very low risk of data loss. In the event of any power outage, network problem or server problem, the application is quickly available elsewhere, virtually seamlessly. Should your business expand, additional capacity is immediately available. Gone are the worries about fires, floods, burglaries and earthquakes - you could be up and running within hours not weeks.
Real Time Data - All users are accessing the same data. Accounting software applications provide direct bank feeds, thus reducing data entry and potential errors. Some (e.g.Xero) may provide the facility to grant access to others such as your accountant. This enables live reviewing of results, checking of say GST calculations and assistance with phone queries, without either person leaving their office or sending emails with attachments etc.
The major concern most people have with cloud computing is security. This should be part of the research undertaken before appointing a cloud provider. The checklist should include:
The NZ Office of the Privacy Commisioner produced a brochure on cloud computing in February 2013. The brochure is available on our website http://www.pkffa.co.nz/publications/special-interest/privacy-commissioner-cloud-computing
The team at PKF Francis Aickin Ltd work with a variety of systems, including both cloud and noncloud systems. We are currently seeing a trend of clients moving to cloud based accounting; the majority of these opting for Xero. Xero started in NZ in 2006 and is now global, with 1200 staff in 20 offices worldwide. Xero has a 99.99% uptime record, and in the last year alone has had 500 updates to incorporate enhancements. There are links on the website to multiple 3rd party add-ons in areas such as inventory, human resources, clubs, and specialist industries, including agriculture/livestock to name a few. They also have a very active community blog,and easy to follow videos and help screens. A 30 day free trial provides an opportunity to test drive the system.
Cloud computing is the way of the future, but remember that planning and researching in advance can save problems later. Talk to your adviser before taking the leap and to assist with structuring the system to suit your particular requirements.
For more information on how we can help your business, get in touch