Jim H. Clarkson, Jr., CPA
Partner

With all of the hype surrounding the convenience and efficiency of cloud computing, business owners often ask me whether it’s worth moving their financial applications to the cloud.  You’ve probably wondered this yourself.  The benefits of the cloud are real, but the risks can be, too.  What’s important is that you look at the unique features of your company and determine whether the cloud is right for you.

Cloud Computing Checklist

In contemplating a switch to cloud computing, one of your first steps should be to consider the potential benefits given your company’s work style, culture and location(s).  To initiate this thought process, I recommend asking yourself the following questions about your company: 

  • Do you have a mobile workforce that needs access to information anywhere, anytime?  Updates made to cloud-based financial applications appear in real time, which assures employees and managers that the information they are viewing at any given time is up-to-date.  If your business model requires employees to be constantly on the move while accessing and updating company information, the cloud could offer greater efficiency in financial reporting. 
     
  • Do you seek greater collaboration between employees in multiple offices or sales territories?  Fostering collaboration between employees in multiple locations can be challenging, but cloud computing allows these employees to view and update the same documents without the trouble of e-mailing changes and potentially working from outdated versions.  With these documents in the cloud, working together becomes easier and far more efficient.
     
  • Do you have decentralized processes that are managed centrally, e.g. at corporate headquarters?  Compiling the financial data of multiple office locations can require significant staff resources if this information is stored using on-premise software at each site.  The cloud makes this process far more simple.  For example, closing the books at the end of the month is much less labor intensive when the financial records at each location can be consolidated with the push of a button. 
     
  • Do you find your company constantly updating its software, and do you wish to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies? Software programs are continually improving, and when on-premise software is in use, it must be purchased, installed and maintained internally which results in “business interruption”.  The cloud, on the other hand, not only allows companies access to the most current software, but this software is managed by a third party.  Therefore, companies can stay up-to-date with the new technology without having to sacrifice money and staff resources every time a new software update is unveiled.
     
  • Are you looking for ways to reduce IT support costs? Most companies are continuously looking for ways to cut costs and divert more resources to the primary focus of the business.  Switching to the cloud allows many businesses to save on IT costs while also maintaining, and often times enhancing, their technological capabilities. 

It is important that companies making the move to cloud computing have a thorough understanding of the provider’s security practices in numerous areas, some of which include access to company data and processes for securing this data when it is in transit or in use on the server.  The security concerns over cloud computing are legitimate, but they can and should be addressed in instances in which cloud computing will bring significant benefits for your company.

Many companies are finding that the advantages of cloud computing far outweigh any challenges. As this practice continues to grow and the workforce becomes accustomed to its convenience, the ubiquity of the cloud might offer yet another reason for companies to join in on the trend.

For more information, please contact Jim Clarkson at jclarkson@blumshapiro.com or 781.610.1204.

James H. Clarkson, Jr. is a partner in the consulting group at BlumShapiro, the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  The firm, with nearly 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services.  In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation, and financial staffing. 

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