Posted in Cloud Computing

8 Questions Accounting Firms Should Ask when Evaluating a Cloud Provider

If you’re considering bringing a Reckon APS or MYOB desktop and its supporting applications to the cloud, you’re likely already aware of the benefits of cloud hosting and virtual workspaces. A fully managed infrastructure with all your data and applications is more secure, and it saves time. You’ll no longer need to worry about time-consuming factors like software updates and IT maintenance. And of course, the ability for employees to work anywhere at any time using any device will drastically improve employee productivity.

However, moving your business-critical applications to the cloud is a major decision, and not one to be taken lightly. With new cloud providers popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, it’s often not easy to select a company that will have your best interests at heart. Nonetheless, with the right approach, your accounting practice can enjoy increased performance, better data security and significantly reduced costs.

So before jumping on the cloud computing accounting bandwagon, let’s look at some of the most important questions to ask a potential cloud-hosting partner:

#1. What Is Your Experience in the Accounting Sector?

Some cloud providers proudly state that their services are a great fit for just about any type of business, regardless of its size and industry. If there’s any sign that a potential provider looks like a jack-of-all-trades, then that’s a big red flag. What you need is a provider with proven expertise and experience in the accounting sector and who understands the unique challenges it faces, such as the need for data integrity and greater workforce mobility. Be sure that any potential vendor offers references from other organizations in the accounting sector.

#2. Which Applications Does Your Platform Work With?

Accounting practices are migrating to the cloud in droves to take advantage of lower costs and greater scalability, but it’s important to remember that moving to a different computing environment can also be disruptive. That’s why you need to work with a provider who can help you ease your migration woes by working with your current infrastructure to improve it rather than starting anew. For example, if your practice uses industry-leading software like MYOB, Reckon APS or Quickbooks, you’ll want to choose a vendor who can accommodate those solutions. In other words, you’ll want a solution that already includes integrated applications to support day-to-day accounting operations, such as the ability to manage client relationships, expenses and track employee time.

#3. How Do You Handle Customer Support Requests?

When evaluating potential cloud providers, one of the most important concerns will be customer support. This is also something that should be addressed in detail in the provider’s service level agreement (SLA). When working with a cloud provider, you need to have a support team at your disposal that you can depend on, preferably one with a 24/7 call centre right here in Australia. After all, you can hardly have your team struggling with IT issues when they’re already working overtime on things like month-end closings! Furthermore, industry knowledge is critical when handling support requests to help ensure that any issues are resolved promptly.

#4. What Is Your Service Availability and Uptime?

Your SLA should also guarantee a minimum service availability and uptime, as well as what you need to do if you encounter an issue. Cloud vendors typically measure their uptimes in nines after a decimal point. For example, an uptime of 99.9% means a monthly downtime of just under 44 minutes. If you’re running a busy and rapidly growing accounting firm, even this apparently small amount of downtime might be too much for certain services. That’s why you need to make sure your provider can, if necessary, prioritize your systems accordingly.

#5. Where Will You Host My Data?

A common concern that business leaders have when building a cloud-migration strategy is where their data will actually end up. Many public cloud providers, for example, host customer data in data centres all over the world, which may present a problem when it comes to gauging the risks and benefits pertaining to security and compliance. Ensure that any potential host can provide complete visibility into their data-storage practices. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your data hosted desktop solutions in an ISO-certified data center that’s compliant with local regulations. Finally, remember that reliable hosting companies always have redundant data centers in place so that, if one location goes offline, your practice doesn’t end up having to pay the price of unexpected downtime.

#6. What Is Your Disaster Recovery Process?

Moving your systems and data to the cloud is already a significant step towards implementing a better business-continuity strategy, but it doesn’t stop there. For a start, accounting practices in Australia are required by law to retain their records for at least seven years. However, many practices place all the emphasis on backup, without thinking too much about the restore process as well. That’s why you’ll also want to ask your potential provider where your backups will be stored and how long it would take to restore your systems after a disaster. Not only does the law require you to maintain archives of your records; they also need to be readily accessible. To keep your accounting records safe, you should consider disaster recovery a core component of the cloud-migration process.

#7. How Secure Will My Data Be in the Cloud?

Many business leaders assume that the cloud is inherently less secure than in-house systems, but that’s a myth. In reality, a dependable host should have reached an economy of scale that allows them to offer the most cutting-edge security measures in the industry. That’s something that no small accounting firm without its own IT department can possibly hope to achieve. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to ask your provider which physical, technical and administrative measures they have in place to prevent unauthorized access and malware.

#8. Are You an Authorized Hosting Partner for Reckon APS and MYOB etc?

Industry-leading practice management solutions like Reckon APS and MYOB are pretty picky about which companies they endorse to host their software. That’s why they offer cloud partner programmes complete with rigorous certification processes. By ensuring that you’re dealing with an authorized partner, you’ll be working with a vendor who has a proven track record of providing quality services that are subject to strict standards.

Final Words

As with any major business transformation, migrating to the cloud is a multifaceted process that requires careful planning and preparation. While the benefits of moving to the cloud are indisputable, it’s important to remember that a lot of providers simply won’t be able to meet your demands. By asking the right questions, you’ll be better able to determine whether a provider will make a dependable business partner in the long run.

The OneSpace solution is built around the specific needs of accounting practices to provide a complete hosted platform for all your business technology needs. If you’re ready to transform your business for the better, then contact us for a demo today!


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