WHAT IS IT?
Cloud computing is the storage of servers and data in secure data centres that can be accessed by users through their internet browsers. This means there is no need for servers in businesses, with information easily accessed through PCs and mobile device, no matter where you are, so long as you have access to the internet. It allows for an unlimited number of computers to access the cloud, without impacting on its performance, meaning unlimited processing and storage capabilities. If you have ever received a document over Gmail and Google documents, where you have shared, read and edited documents, then you have used Cloud Computing before.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLOUD
There are different types of Clouds, including Public, Private and Personal Clouds. Companies that use Public Clouds include Google, eBay and Facebook, while Private Clouds are used by companies to secure information in a hosted data centre for improved security, reliability and efficiency. Personal Clouds is being able to access all your personal information in one place and having the option of sharing it with others, such as your personal information on a social networking page. Personal cloud computing also means that the information on all your gadgets, such as your phone, PC, etc are synchronised at all times.
One of the main benefits of cloud computing is the amount of costs it cuts for your business. There is no need for expensive computer equipment and servers to be installed in the office. This cuts hardware, software and energy costs and also, more basically, saves on space in an office.
Because information is not stored in any single location, it can be located from anywhere with any device, once it has an internet connection. With an organised and secure cloud computing system, all a company’s information can be kept in one secure place, with employees able to access whatever information they are permitted to. This further protects both the company’s and the client’s private and confidential information.
It also helps to simplify the IT management in a small business. Any support needs, service issues or queries are handled by the service provider, while many include administration control panels that allow quick and easy changes to be made to the service by the customers, without any need to contact the service provider.
Updates in software and hardware are done automatically by the service provider, meaning your technology is always up-to-date and at a reduced implementation cost.
Cloud computing allows for the integration of document scanning, enabling invoices to be scanned and automatically sent to the accounting system on a daily basis, where the accountant can then check and confirm the entry. This can dramatically cut the cost of processing, in turn reducing the cost of book keeping services, saving accountants time and businesses money.
It also means accountants can provide more timely information and clients can log on to the portal to see how their business is performing, helping them to make important business decisions. Accountants can then offer more in-depth and timely financial expertise to help the SMEs even more.
All these advances can allow for accountants to improve their service while cutting costs, without necessarily having to reduce their fees.
Email systems are probably the best known Cloud Computing services, with Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo all prime examples. Traditionally businesses opt for in-house email servers, which are more complicated and have higher overheads and costs.
Only recently, there have been calls for the Government to move their email systems to Cloud Computing. This only further emphasis the savings that are to be made for businesses that make the move.
Cloud-based business class email services include Microsoft Hosted Exchange or Google Apps Premium Edition, which both provide email services to large and small businesses at a fraction of the cost of in-house systems. Many of these services also provide support for businesses moving their email from in-house to cloud, and provide full back-up and security.
Files, information and data are all stored online in ‘cloud storage’. This means there are no expensive computer equipment required, no IT professionals needed to maintain equipment and a safer form of storage. The amount businesses can store depends on the amount paid to the server, with different kinds available, depending on the business. It also automatically backs up locally stored data, meaning all of your information is safe, all of the time.
MOVING YOUR BUSINESS TO CLOUD COMPUTING
The most important aspect of moving to Cloud Computing is finding a reputable service provider who can answer all your questions and make sure that you get a service that works for your business.
Cloud Computing could be hugely beneficial to accounting firms that take it up, allowing for the analysis of huge volumes of data immediately and possibly cutting the burden of compiling half yearly or annual reports in the process. The possibilities this technology holds for businesses and accounting firms are endless in an economy that needs better services that take less time and cut costs. With clients able to do their own book-keeping and tax work, the implementation of cloud computing could serve to elevate the role and services of the accountant to that of a trusted business advisor.