How to Move SOME of Your CPA Practice to the Cloud

In the last article, I wrote about moving to the cloud and to QuickBooks® Online. The accounting profession is embracing the benefits of the cloud. Every day, our peers are moving their practices and their clients to the cloud.

Currently, the term, “cloud,” brings up visions of QuickBooks Online. The honest truth is that you can have your QuickBooks Desktop product in the cloud via a hosting solution. The benefits of a hosting solution allow you to have your cake and eat it, too. Accountants who don’t want to give up their desktop accounting product have these wonderful solutions:

Intuit® has a list of licensed authorized hosting providers you can choose for the service. These 20+ providers are screened by Intuit and have received the “seal of approval” to host an Intuit product. However, my three top choices are Cloud 9 Real Time, Right Networks and Skyline (UniData).

Let’s review the benefits, key features and other options available for hosting solutions:

Benefits of a Hosting Solution:

  • Reduced IT costs. Literally, there is an entire department to assist in the cloud environment. The solution offers you a massive computer system with a minimal local IT structure.
  • Anywhere, Any time access. Multiple workers and clients can access the files at one time.
  • Reducing Risk. Backups are done by each company nightly; additional security reduces hacking threats.
  • Current Software. The ability to “rent” current software at a reduced monthly fee reduces the need for large initial cash outlays for software.
  • Improved efficiency. No longer is the data stored in a central or desktop solution. The local computers have the ability to free up space, increasing efficiency.
  • Operating system compatibility. Whether you are a PC or a Mac person, the hosting environment does not matter. All users are welcome.
  • Full Data Transfer. Hosting offers the ability to bring your data back to your desktop or a local computer at any time.
  • Costs. There is no initial large outlay of cash, which improves your cash flow.

6 Key Features to Evaluate:

  1. Customer Service & Support – A key feature, as you and your clients will be using it initially.
  2. Accessibility – Desktop vs. Mobile.
  3. Compatibility – Will all of your Integrated applications work with your desktop solution?
  4. Dedicated Server v. Shared Server – Does the provider have this option?
  5. Backup for Data Files – If an outage occurs, what is the backup retention, storage limitations and the backup policy?
  6. Security – What are the security protocols, and do you have security policies in place that enhance or hinder the hosting providers policies?

Options

Hosting is the most common way to have a collaborative environment outside of using a Business Software application. There are other options available that still offer collaboration with modifications.

Qbox by CoralTree

A new product, Qbox by CoralTree, has recently come to market, allowing for a hybrid approach to the hosting world. The product is innovative and allows collaboration of the QuickBooks data file among desktop users. It’s also a great tool to evaluate for a transition on the move to the cloud.

Qbox allows a hosted version of the data file to be shared with multiple users. It adds a folder on the PC and attaches it to the cloud. Files are then shared with all users securely for collaboration. One user at a time can make changes to the data file, while other users have read-only access until the data is changed. Once the changes are made and the file is unlocked, the shared data file is updated immediately.

Benefits to this service include:

  • Shared access to the data file
  • File is stored in a bank encrypted secure location
  • Lower fees
  • Ease-of-function for the client and for collaborators
  • No change in the day-to-day usage for the client

The Qbox website has a great demo of its product.

QuickBooks Enterprise Hosting Solution

In early April, Intuit announced QuickBooks Enterprise Hosting, a service for QuickBooks Enterprise (QBES) clients that places files in the hosted environment for collaborative usage with your team and accountant. The benefits are the same as listed above, with the great quality of using QBES in a full collaboration environment.

With the addition of QBES, the entire Intuit family of products is available to accounting firms and clients. At this pace, there should be no reason that you shouldn’t in the cloud by the end of next quarter.

Ultimately, the transition shouldn’t be painful, but rather, an exciting and motivating move for the firm and the clients. The term “cloud” has so many definitions to individuals. The ultimate experience will be a personal preference surrounded by software and solutions that will enhance the experience. The true choice currently should be which Intuit accounting system you want to use on the journey.