In layman term, Cloud computing is nothing but just a bigger Wide Area Network that allows user to access data and software program (application) over the web.
There are many Cloud accounting solutions available in the market. QuickBooks Online, Xero, My Business Online, and MoneyWorksNow! are some of the cloud solution available.
What are the advantages of using a Cloud application?
Being in the Cloud, the initiate investment will be lower comparing to those on premises software. Example, if you were to sign up QuickBooks Online, in Singapore, it will cost you between S$10.00 to S$40.00 a month. Whereas QuickBooks on premises software such as QuickBooks Pro 2011 retail box will cost you about S$800.00 each.
In multi-user environment, being a small business, you may not have a physical Server installed in your office, having a Cloud solution will cut off the cost of investing a server. This saving will be about S$1500.00 to S$3000.00 (depending on the specifications and services you get from your I.T. Vendor).
As a Cloud solution it allows user to access the software and data anywhere anytime, you will not be tied down to your office premises, it allows branches over the world or locations to share the program and data file. You just need to increase the number of users according to your business need (subject to the limitation of Cloud application, which you have signed up).
Cloud solution in most cases are hosted services, you are required to purchase from the solution provider in a monthly or yearly subscription basis. The disadvantage for this is that the moment you stop paying, the software stop working for you. For small business, you don’t usually host a cloud solution, as it is costly, I.T. Infrastructure and human resources needed are complex for hosting Cloud application.
Cloud solution such as QuickBooks Online in comparing with the QuickBooks on premises version, QuickBooks Pro or Premier, the features seem to be lacked off. This partly due to online version is still new whereas the on premises version has already in the market for more than twenty years, it went through many rounds of evolution and getting better with each round of updates and upgrades. If you are a “Cloud lover”, than, you may have to give her sometime to evolve.
User also needed to consider the exit route of the Cloud solution. If one day, your business grow to a size that the software couldn’t take or features provided had no longer meet your requirement, how are you going to backup or migrate your data to a desktop or other solution for safe keeping and references. Some Cloud solution only allows user to print report but not backed up or downloaded and use it off-line.
Off-line feature to some user is important, as not all areas had a stable Internet connection. Without an Internet connection, your Cloud will not work.
Although the running cost of a Cloud solution is low, being a subscription model, you are at the mercy of the solution provider. If there is a drastic increase in subscription, without an exit route, there is nothing you can do but to continue paying since your data is being “locked up” in the web.
Whether to join the crowd and get into the Cloud, stays in classic I.T. and get an on premises software, park your data and program in a Data Centre and access it via Citrix or Microsoft Terminal Server, or simply use a remote access application such as logmein or gotomypc to access your office computer; it is a tough decision that you, a small business owner, have to make. Look at your budget, your business requirement, and the features available; then, decide.
If not, talk to us, as an expert in small business accounting, we can help you in leveraging the I.T. for your business.