Cloud accounting is a form of Cloud computing that is getting more and more popular. As with cloud computing these accounting solutions rely on a distributed computing platform accessible by web browsers or small low impact client programs that will allow you to connect to your data that is stored securely online.
When looking into the possibility of a cloud based computing solution as a small business you may be concerned as to the security of your data and the way your data is stored by your solution provider. Another factor to consider is who will be able to access your data or service.
That said the cloud is one of the most secure ways to store your data as an example if you lose your laptop or it’s stolen, fails or damaged beyond repair and Tetrabyte are unable to salvage your data from the device. The data is no longer stored on your local machine but rather in a cloud solution so effectively this means that you could go to any other machine with an internet connection and access your accounting solution.
Even if your data is stored on a server in your office, unless you have Tetrabyte’s premium backup solution protecting the vital data stored on the server. If there was a natural disaster for example a fire or a flood you would lose this data with no way to restore it. Whereas if you adopted a cloud based software solution your data is distributed across multiple data centres meaning if one were to experience any difficulties another would be available to take over in its place providing redundancy.
With many of the cloud accounting software solutions out there they will provide a way to invite external users to view your data, with the ability to control the amount of access they have to your data. This is far more secure than perhaps emailing your files to external users or possibly sending them out by a USB flash drive.
As to the security of the data stored in the cloud system itself, the provider will always ensure that adequate security measures have been put in place. In regards to storing your data and protecting it from malicious attacks. These measures will include encryption of the data itself so that it can only be accessed when a user has the correct key to decrypt the data, this is all handled by the software you use so is not something you need to actively need to know about, but it is good to have the assurance that your data is stored in this way.
Another advantage of a cloud based accounting solution is that you can access the data from home in the office on a plane or basically anywhere with an internet connection. Although there is not currently a version available that will let you access your solution from an iPad or iPhone there is always a possibility of this kind of connectivity being developed in the future.
Another advantage is that when product updates are released to the software you will always have the latest version available as the updates are automatically applied to the online interface without any interaction from you the end user.
The disadvantages or limitations of cloud accounting applications may not be entirely obvious when first looking. But one disadvantage I have seen when working with clients with cloud based business solutions can be the internet connection speed there end.
Another possible albeit unlikely disadvantage is that if the company are having issues with their system you may not be able to access your data until this is fixed. But if the company has adequate backup systems for example multiple servers in multiple data centres this should not be so much of an issue as the likelihood of all datacentres going down at once is pretty remote.
Current Cloud Based Software Solutions
Sage – a company we all are aware of when it comes to accounting are currently offering a cloud based accounting solution dubbed sage 200 online. The licencing of the sage 200 online service is currently as follows:
– Users up to 50
– 10 – 200 employees
– Around the clock support directly from sage themselves
– Support for computers running Microsoft windows vista upwards in either 32 or 64 bit versions
QuickBooks – Another company offering a cloud or online based accounting solution would be intuit who provide a piece of software called QuickBooks. The online variant of QuickBooks is named QuickBooks online accountant. Which is actually free to use (with limitations) this version of the software does claim to work on both PC and mac computers and also support’s mobile devices such as iPhone’s, iPad’s, Android phones and android tablets. So depending on how you would like to access your data this solution does seem to offer a wide variety of methods of accessing your data.
– Dedicated accountant support
– Automatic data backups
– See accounting data for clients on your dashboard interface when you log in
– The ability to move your existing client data from sage or QuickBooks desktop versions
This is a company that I’ve never come across before but that doesn’t mean they’re solution is not worth considering, being a new company there prices may be less than those of sage or QuickBooks. Kashoo is a double entry accounting solution mainly geared towards smaller businesses. They offer facilities to import from QuickBooks and excel files and also the option to export back to this type of file meaning you are not locked into one program and you can go off and use QuickBooks or Quicken if you wish. Again along with QuickBooks this solution will also allow you to access your data across multiple devices to enhance your user experience.
As I mentioned above due to the fact that this company has not been around for very long their pricing is very competitive when compared to that of sage and QuickBooks starting at just $50 per year for a single user license and $200 for a business license, the don’t offer there fees in £’s at present.