And, with the Making Tax Digital initiative revolutionising the taxation system, now is the time for accounting firms and businesses to consider shifting their operations over to the cloud and adopting cloud-based solutions and software.
While old fashioned record keeping tools such as spreadsheets have survived the Making Tax Digital cull, it is only a matter of time before old tools and software are integrated into modern, cloud-based solutions or phased out completely.
Cloud technology allows firms to increase their productivity, reduce costs, operate remotely and offer new services, by moving in-house infrastructure online – or, ‘into the cloud’. It enables the virtualisation of programs, operations and hardware, removing the need for in-house infrastructure.
However, some firms are still sceptical – and therefore reluctant to make the move.
One of the common misconceptions when it comes to cloud software is that it is easily accessible by foreign and unauthorised parties. Instead, some firms believe that by having infrastructure on-site, such as servers, they have greater control over the distribution, accessibility and security of data – this is not necessarily the case.
Unless the firm in question is a data security provider, storing data with a professional cloud solutions provider is significantly more secure. Fundamentally, the cloud is designed to ensure that everyone’s data is separate and secured through a series of sophisticated security layers and cloud solutions providers have stringent security protocols in place to prevent data theft.
But how can the cloud enhance operations for an accounting firm?
- Flexibility and access
Ultimately, cloud-based and mobile solutions give accounting firms the flexibility to decide how the firm’s infrastructure is run and accessed, increasing productivity across the board.
Auditors who spend the majority of their time off-site engaging with clients and providing consultancy can readily access reports and data on-the-go to provide clients with real-time updates.
On the other hand, the cloud enables employees who are juggling childcare or health for example, to work remotely and continue to contribute to the firm’s activities. Our research found that almost one third (32%) of organisations do not offer mobile working - of those, 43% of accountants are frustrated or extremely frustrated by the lack of mobile working
- Rapid delivery and automation
The cloud is instantaneous and accounting firms no longer need to wait to access information. In addition, it also means maintaining spreadsheets is unnecessary – as information is updated in real-time.
Furthermore, from a software compliance perspective, cloud solutions are automatically updated and industry compliant. The provider will ensure that all infrastructure is up-to-date, meaning accountants and auditors do not have to maintain the system themselves, allowing them to focus on other essential activities and not worry about compliance.
- Disaster recovery
One of the great features of cloud-based operations is disaster recovery. While physical devices can be destroyed, corrupted or stolen, the cloud offers a multi-layered, secure and highly-resilient approach to data protection.
Cloud computing is based on virtualisation, meaning every aspect of any operation is bundled together into a singular piece of software or virtual server. As the virtual server or software is independent of any hardware, the information on it can be quickly copied, backed-up, stored or transferred wherever, whenever.
Whereas, with a physical server, once it fails – the information is likely to be gone for good.
Empowered by cloud-based software, accounting firms can automate more menial tasks, such as data recording and management, enabling them to focus on providing additional data-driven services to their clients.
- Scalable and cost-effective
With cloud computing, you only pay for what you need.
Rather than purchasing expensive hardware, facilities, programs and software to support the firm’s operations which need to be continually updated and upgraded, with the cloud a firm is buying a complete, automated service, typically available on a subscription model. ,
The cloud allows companies to manage the level of service they need as and when required. If a firm grows rapidly, cloud computing can accommodate those changes readily. On the other hand, if services spike in demand, accounting firms can reallocate or increase their cloud capacity to meet it.
In an age where technology is integrated into almost every aspect of day-to-day life, and where the need to remain competitive and retain staff is crucial, decision-makers need to consider how the cloud can support efficient, cost effective and expanding operations.