What to look out for when getting on board cloud accounting
Updated: Jan 25
If your only response to “Let’s move our accounting to cloud,” is “How much would the plane ticket cost?”, then safe to say, you haven’t been keeping up with what could easily be the best thing that could happen to accounting. But, fret not, it’s never too late to start and it doesn’t have to be difficult either.
We’ve done the research for you and come up with a list of what you need to look out for before getting on board cloud accounting.
Read on and you’ll find yourselves walking on clouds in no time.
Learn about the platform that the cloud accounting is held and the security of your data
For highly sensitive information like your company’s finances, one of the biggest hurdles of moving to cloud is the thought that you will have to put your data somewhere you cannot see or touch.
Indeed, having a lack of proper information on location of the data, data recovery system, and credibility of the cloud provider can make the move daunting.
That’s why it’s important to scrutinise the platform that the cloud accounting is held to ensure the security of your data.
Luckily for us, cloud companies invest heavily on security.
As smog of competition thickens in the cloud industry, software providers such as MYOB, Xero, and Quickbooks focus their investment in higher quality security and data solutions to attract and retain more customer.
Cloud platform providers also spare no effort in ensuring data security with companies like Microsoft pumping about $1 billion each year in cloud security.
Those may read as words and promises to you and you want to know something more concrete. We’ve got you covered. We looked through the contingency plan of the biggest player in the industry, Amazon Web Services, and these are what we found:
AWS has multiple data centres housed in nondescript facilities. Your data will be distributed across multiple availability zones to remain resilient in the face of most failure modes, including natural disasters or system failures.
Physical access is strictly controlled both around and in the building by professional security staff utilizing video surveillance, intrusion detection systems, and other electronic means.
In case of failure due to technical glitch or hacking, automated processes move your data traffic away from the affected area.
Apart from learning the security of the providers’ infrastructure and operations, you should also know what you can do to protect your data.
The good news is you don’t need a degree in IT or computer science to know how to lock down your data. All you have to do is request for a multiple-factor authentication (MFA) which essentially is just asking the software to request an extra piece of information when someone tries to log in from an unfamiliar computer. The most common MFA used is sending a code to a consumer’s cell phone, and asking them to enter it along with their password.
Read articles and look out for reviews and even referral from fellow owners
Having choices can be a blessing or a curse and the fine line that separates the two is research.
As mentioned, cloud can rain you with perennial selection of apps that could be tailor-made to your individual business needs. Research is important as different package comes with different price.
You may know your company’s needs inside out, but there is still a problem — most of these technologies come with descriptions that sound Greek to you and that’s what friends are for.
Check the FAQ section of the software provider and don’t be shy to ask the early adopters in your industry on tips and tricks to get the most bang out of your bucks on cloud accounting software. Or you can read articles from publications like TechCrunch.
For starters, Xero and Quickbooks are two cloud accounting software providers often mentioned for their brilliant cloud solutions. Quickbooks can auto-calculate your GST return for easy IRAS filing.
To top it off, it is IRAS approved. Meanwhile, Xero has made headline for linking with DBS. The partnership allows Xero subscribers to import their bank transactions automatically every day to Xero.
What is the policy upon the cancel of monthly subscription?
** Terms and Conditions Apply
Reading that one line makes you want to skip this entire paragraph, doesn’t it? If you are purchasing an online voucher, you may be fine skipping this line, but when it comes to procuring a cloud-based accounting software, we’re afraid you need to be more thorough than that.
The flip-side of the pay-per-use pricing strategy is that many cloud accounting platforms will not let you use their service if you are no longer paying for it.
That means, you may be completely locked out of your data if you forget to renew your subscription with no way of retrieving the data back. In most cases, when you decide to terminate your subscription, you will be able to export your data into a spreadsheet.
So, if you plan to switch to another cloud accounting software, do ensure that you have exported everything because once the service is terminated, you can no longer access your file on any online network.
Some providers will give you a grace period of up to seven days to renew your subscription before locking you out, some will not. Some may wait to up to 90 days before permanently erasing your data, some may not.
So, do your due diligence and make sure that you know what you are paying for and not.
The technical support level of cloud accounting vendor or its reseller
Cloud is built on the premise that we can always get in touch — with our data and with other people, and it should include their customer support too.
Before signing on the dotted line, read up on their level of technical support: how fast is the response, are you talking to a bot or are you talking to a technician?
Service is usually included in your subscription and the most common way to get in touch is through chat links.
But, the good thing about cloud is that if you’re facing a problem that requires more technical depth, even the technicians in remote location that assist you through the chat link will be able to access your account (given your permission) and fix it.
When you operate on a desktop, the most they can do is to guide you through some steps and if the problem lies not in the software per se, well too bad.
Some cloud providers offer more sophisticated customer support.
The AWS Trusted Advisor customer support service for instance not only monitors for cloud performance and resiliency, but also cloud security. It inspects your cloud usage and makes recommendations to save money, improve system performance, or close security gaps.
It also provides alerts on several of the most common security misconfigurations that can occur that make you vulnerable to hacking and unauthorized access.
Quickbooks has an online accountant or advisors ready to assist, train, and advise you to improve your bookkeeping game.
One example is, Acc Pro (Singapore) Group, which is one of the highly recommended ProAdvisor for Intuit’s Quickbooks Online cloud accounting software.
This model allows highly experienced accountants with certified training with the cloud accounting software to provide the needed technical and financial implementation, migration and support you need to get on board cloud accounting.
Such supports are invaluable considerations before you adopt the cloud software.
Check if the cloud accounting system has the features you need
For those who’re using a desktop accounting system, find out how the features of its cloud accounting system compare against those of the desktop counterparts.
If there’re features in your current desktop accounting system that are needed for your business, and not found in the cloud version, don’t fret.
Cloud technology allows integration with quality third party software. Armed with application programming interface (API) that facilitates the interaction between different apps and software, you can customise your cloud accounting platform to do more than just book keeping.
You can integrate accounting with messaging systems, storage components, payroll, and many others according to your need. Think of cloud accounting platform as a power socket.
You can plug and activate one or many devices that you need, and unplug them when they no longer fit your need.
So, instead of having to frantically alternating between different software in your desktop and migrating data from one software to another to generate insight for the company, now this software can interact in one platform and churn out the data automatically.
Besides third-party integrations, cloud accounting also adopts a pay-per-use pricing strategy where the higher options offer richer features.
This way, even if you find that the lower-priced option doesn’t have the features you will come to need in the future (but not now), you can simply switch to the higher-tiered version.
For example, the popular cloud accounting software, Quickbooks Online, lists down all the features available to each tier in its pricing page.
Image Credit: Intuit Singapore
Essentially, cloud accounting requires no large upfront cost.
You can turn on or off different services as necessary and choose different features as well as performance levels that work best for your company.
That means you will produce less wastage as compared to using traditional desktop software that requires you to purchase a bundle and expensive upgrades from time to time.
Check the stability of the Wi-Fi in your country
This is a dent to using cloud accounting which can turn into a black hole. Cloud accounting performance is highly dependent on server connection, page speed and the number of people on the network at any given time.
If your internet connection is unstable or not equipped with enough bandwidth to support cloud accounting software, you may find yourself better off writing on papers.
The good news is Singapore is unlikely to be affected by internet connection problems. But if there’s anything we learn today it’s to prepare for everything.
There are instances where an otherwise connected country went offline due to disasters or a system glitch.
A massive earthquake outside the coast of Taiwan broke a large number of important submarine communications cables in 2006.
Another one is power failure in 365 Main’s data center in San Francisco which took down a number of big websites and services like Craigslist, Typepad, Yelp, and others in 2007.
So, there’s no harm in checking your internet connection and having a contingency plan in place in case the connection cuts off.
If you want to know more about how cloud accounting can help your business, you can get your free consultation with me here.