A Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

A Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

When people refer to “the cloud” nowadays it’s usually not the mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere they are talking about, but the cloud as if refers to cloud computing. Gartner reported earlier this year that the worldwide public cloud services market is expected to grow 18% in 2017 and ultimately total $246.8 billion. Additionally, a survey conducted by Clutch showed that nearly 70% of U.S. businesses said they were planning on increasing their spending on cloud computing in 2017. Needless to say, “the cloud” is here to stay.

But What is “the Cloud”?

It may not be news to you that more and more companies are switching over to “the cloud”, but what is it? In order to fully understand its benefits, this post will give you a beginner’s guide to the cloud and what essentially is so good about it.

How Did the Cloud Get Its Name?

Business Insider reported last year that one of the earliest uses of the term was in a diagram from US Patent 5,485,455, “Network having secure fast packet switching and guaranteed quality of service,” that was filed in January 1994. The figure of the diagram depicts the network model as a cloud-shaped figure. While the authors of the patent didn’t mean to illustrate the network as a cloud, that is how it essentially got its name.

Nevertheless, the term didn’t grow in popularity until Amazon Web Services launched Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006. After that, many other companies followed their way by launching software (Salesforce), storage (DropBox), and combinations of the two (Microsoft Office 365). By now, 2017, the term “the cloud” is virtually everywhere.

What is Cloud Computing?

Merriam Webster defines cloud computing as:

“the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet”

Ultimately, it means that you rely on sharing computing resources rather than having your own local servers or personal devices to manage applications. Thus, companies who engage in cloud services, lease their digital assets and their employees essentially don’t know the location of the resources they are using. You can say these resources are simply “in the cloud” somewhere.

Three Types of Cloud Service Models

Cloud computing services is sold in three main models; Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): This method of delivering software offers businesses access to functions remotely via a Web-based service and at a much lower cost than licensed applications. Most businesses offers SaaS via a monthly fee and clients don’t have to invest in additional hardware or worry about set-up or maintenance.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): With this method, the entire platform is delivered as a service. This means that you would outsource your entire platform instead of having your own employees manage your hardware and software.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This method delivers the entire infrastructure as a service. Your company would essentially outsource the infrastructure but only pay for the resources you end up using.

While the three methods all differ from each other, they also share some similarities:

  1. You rent services instead of purchasing them, which means that IT becomes an operating expense rather than capital
  2. The platform vendors are responsible for all the maintenance, admin, troubleshooting, backup etc.
  3. Platform vendors are easy and flexible in customizing the services to you

Benefits of the Cloud

Related: 5 Top Benefits of Cloud Technology

The reason the cloud has gained so much traction in the past decade is because of all the benefits it provides. Forbes recently listed the following two benefits of the cloud:

  • Reliability: hardware and software redundancy protect you from loss of data
  • Integration: cloud services can integrate with other service systems such as project management, email and marketing, apps and social media

IBM’s dedicated Cloud page on their website lists flexibility, efficiency and strategic value as benefits of the cloud. Cloud computing offers the ability to scale, customization, and remote access via the Internet. Moreover, the cloud removes underlying infrastructure and maintenance costs. IBM also claims that “cloud services give enterprises a competitive advantage by providing the most innovative technology available”.

Related: Cloud Software – The Competitive Advantage

Some of the main benefits that our cloud based software clients mention are the following:

  • 24/7 support
  • Utility based
  • Easy and agile deployment
  • Frees up internal resources
  • Lower capital expenditure
  • Highly automated

We would love to hear what your opinions are on the cloud. Have you or do you plan on investing in cloud technology in 2017? What benefits does the cloud offer your business? Do you see any drawbacks with the cloud?

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3 Things Millennials Want from Accounting Firms

3 Things Millennials Want from Accounting Firms

Bill.com recently presented results from a survey they conducted with more than 1,000 business owners on services, technology and billing. The 2017 Millennial Business Owner-Accounting Firm Survey primarily focused on accounting expectations from Millennials and other cohorts as it relates to their roles as business owners.

Why Is the Focus on Millennials?

Well, as of the beginning of 2015, they are the largest cohort in the US labor force. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to figure out how and why this cohort is fundamentally different from earlier generations. Based on insights from the survey we have summarized the 3 main things millennial business owners want from accounting firms.

1. Go Paperless

Paperless is no longer an expectation, it’s the norm. Filing and storing paper is cumbersome. We live in a digital world. Electronic and cloud-based services offers access anytime, anywhere and from anywhere. 82% of respondents said they would be “very pleased” or “pleased” if their accounting firm offered paperless services.

2. Strategic Guidance

52% of millennials in the survey indicated that they need a firm that offers insight as it relates to strategy and guidance. Thus, they want services such as fractional CFO or controller services.

3. Respond in a Timely Manner

An overwhelming majority of millennials (72%) said that the most important trait of an accounting firm was to respond to their communications in a timely manner. We live in a world where businesses no longer have regular business hours. The Internet has extended the hours that businesses are operating and also changed consumers’ expectations. Consequently, millennial business owners expect prompt responses from their accounting firms.

So What?

The insights from Bill.com’s survey are not surprising. Cloud-computing is predicted to continue growing at a steady rate. Additionally, consumers continue to expect more as the digital climate continues to develop and empower consumers. Thus, the takeaway from this should be that accounting firms need to be experts on what their customers expects. The bottom line is – you want your customers to be happy – and to do so you need to make sure you are meeting their expectations. If your main customer base consists of millennials, then three things you should consider doing are going paperless, offering CFO services and oversee your processes on response time with customers.

To learn more about what millennial business owners want from their accounting firms, download the 2017 Millennial Business Owner-Accounting Firm Survey special report or infographic.

Intacct’s New Tool Provides Focus for Non Profits

Intacct’s New Tool Provides Focus for Non Profits

Mission-based, non profit organizations have a clear agenda – doing good work around the world. Unfortunately, accomplishing that is more complex than ever, requiring leaders to rely on a lot more than just good intentions in order to achieve the positive outcomes they desire.

As the scope of non profit organizations has grown, decision-making has become a high-stakes process. At the same time, donors demand a level of transparency and accountability that raises the stakes of decision-making even further. For many mission-based organizations, the decision-making process produces a lot more confusion than clarity.

Luckily, the means to practice decision-making using high-quality, real-time, complete sets of data is both attainable and easy to implement with Intacct’s spend management tool that provides focus.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

Intacct Spend Management Application

Intacct cloud ERP software is already a powerful tool for enhancing the decision-making process and eliminating the kinds of uncertainties that lead to poor choices. But this leading ERP solution has recently become even better thanks to the integration of a dedicated spend-management tool.

Users can rely on this tool to strictly keep spending within budget thresholds. By providing a top-down perspective to the spending process, along with the capabilities to set flexible but strict controls, decision-makers can ensure that every purchase is a prudent one.

Intacct’s spend management application is a unique asset to non profit organizations because it delivers the confidence of centralized budget compliance, even when spending decisions are being made at points across the globe. The kinds of cash flow issues that compromise mission projects and damage the confidence of donors can be reliably eliminated without relying on a cumbersome or complicated process.

Related: Should Small Businesses Forecast?

Understanding Intacct Spend Management in Action

The strength of this tool lies in its flexibility and broad applicability. But that can also make it difficult to imagine how a specific mission-based organization would use it in practice.

Think of a decision-maker looking at a purchase order that has just landed on his desk. The amount of the order is not substantial, but it is large enough that it can’t be rubber stamped. Previously, it would require a deep dive into financial figures and a flurry of confusing cross-referencing to determine if that purchase was fiscally viable.

With Intacct Spend Management, the determination is made instantly-in real time. The decision-maker simply has to reference where that spending category stands against the budget. It does not even require simple arithmetic in order to confidently say yes or no. That introduces a welcome level of efficiency to the decision-making process while also ensuring that budgetary issues do not compromise the organization’s agenda. It also allows the organization to convincingly demonstrate a level of sound financial governance that sustaining donors require.

If decision-making in your mission-based organization is characterized by a lack of clarity and prone to mistakes and mishaps as a result, Intacct Spend Management is the overnight solution. What tools do you use in your organization to keep track on spending and comparing it to set budgets?

 

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Accounting Solutions for Early Stage Companies

Accounting Solutions for Early Stage Companies

The Struggle for Early Stage Companies

Early stage companies can often struggle to keep up with their day-to-day accounting requirements. This is especially true, as founders and management try to handle accounting in addition to all their other responsibilities. This challenge is compounded as business activity and business complexity increase. Accounting solutions for these types of companies vary of course depending on their industry; however, outsourcing accounting services can be beneficial in order to keep staff focused on core competencies and revenue-generating tasks.

Solution: Outsource

Nothing is more important or sensitive to your business than your financial position. That is why you should invest in both people with deep experience and an infrastructure with enterprise strength. Early stage companies can find solutions to their day-to-day accounting requirements by outsourcing the following services:

1. Transactional Requirements

This includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliations, payroll processing, asset tracking, etc.

2. Financial Control and Decision Making

This could be for a short term engagement to review processes, set up budgets or refine financial reports or on a continuing basis. Additionally, early stage companies can hire a consultant to act as the CFO/Controller that oversees daily activity, managing cash flow, communicating with tax advisers and presenting financial status at board meetings.

By leveraging resources and enterprise quality accounting applications, you will have the controls, confidence and focus to help drive operational improvements in your business. Companies in the early stages usually need to spend most of their attention on acquiring clients, developing business and performing their core competencies. The day-to-day accounting requirements can add to the stress of all the other challenges of being in the starting phase of growing your business. Deciding whether you should outsource or not depends, of course, on your situation and business; however, it undeniable that outsourcing services that are non-revenue generating can be extremely beneficial and valuable.

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Engaging a Fractional CFO/Controller Service

Engaging a Fractional CFO/Controller Service

Rapid Growth Causes Increased Risk

Small to medium sized businesses that are in rapid growth also are experiencing increased financial risk as a result. Growth requires expansion of the company’s automated systems and access to additional financing to fuel the growth. Managing these financial risks may be foreign territory for the business owner and his team. The company needs a CFO to manage the bigger picture. The CFO will make sure that the systems, processes and people are in place to produce accurate financial information so that the owner of the company can make better decisions managing growth. However, many small and medium sized companies simply cannot afford to hire a full time CFO.

Fractional CFO and Controller Services are the Solutions

Fortunately, there are firms that provide fractional CFO and Controller services that are affordable. The best way for a company to identify a good service provider is to tap its network of trusted advisers, such as bankers, investors, attorneys or CPA firm. These advisers can direct their client toward a firm that provides the comprehensive accounting and financial reporting support, as well as strategic financial initiatives, that will help drive growth.

What Does the Role Entail?

Businesses who decide to engage a CFO are looking to acquire a person that can guide them with strategic initiatives, but what does that look like? In our experience, a fractional CFO can:

  • Assist companies who are preparing for an acquisition or sale and guide them through the examination phase and financial due diligence required to execute transactions
  • Provide guidance in reconciliation projects
  • Offer advice in software system reviews and recommendations
  • Review company processes and offer guidance on optimization
  • Enhance reporting setup and support

Ultimately, the role will depend on the needs of the company who is interested in engaging in controlling services. Are you interested in engaging a fractional CFO for your business, and if so, what would that role look like?

Outgrowing QuickBooks?

Outgrowing QuickBooks?

Congratulations, you’re outgrowing QuickBooks

When your business grows, you should celebrate—not suffer. Try telling that to the finance team that’s still trying to make QuickBooks work. It’s just too basic to handle growing organizations with evolving needs. So your team might be compensating with inefficient workarounds and spreadsheets. And you may realize you can’t rely on your basic reports to be of any strategic use. That’s a lot to pay for a “low cost” solution. Find out what makes Intacct the top solution for QuickBooks graduates.

Make the “day to day” easier

If your team is spending hours on spreadsheets, your entry-level accounting solution isn’t doing you any favors. Ditch the extra data entry with Intacct’s feature-rich cloud accounting solution. Automate multi-entity close and reporting, revenue recognition, project accounting, and more. Save team time today and be prepared for tomorrow with a solution that can handle almost any accounting process you can imagine.

Flex your reporting muscle

Intacct was uniquely designed to give you endless reporting flexibility. Unlike QuickBooks, Intacct enables you to track both financial and operational data in real time. You can easily drill from top-level results down to the performance for a specific entity or location, then down to individual transactions. And you can access your reports from any web browser, on any device. Integrate without IT, and other cloud benefits Organizations that are outgrowing QuickBooks can expect high ROI when switching to cloud accounting. You don’t have to worry about system availability and security—that comes guaranteed. Plus, it’s instantly easier to connect with other cloud-based best-in-class business systems, like Salesforce CRM, so you can share data between systems without human data entry or errors.

Key outcomes:

  • Improve productivity by eliminating manual processes and spreadsheets
  • Get instant visibility into business performance, anytime, anywhere
  • Integrate with your other applications to eliminate data re-entry and information silos
  • Save money, increase security, and reduce IT headaches

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Outsourced Accounting or Accounting as a Service (AaaS) provider can be the catalyst to take your organization to the next level.  For some SMBs, accounting is not looked at as a strategic function of the organization, but it should be.  It also shouldn’t take focus...
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Read More

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What is Cloud Accounting? Intuit's eBook "The Appification of Small Business" projects that 78% of small businesses will depend on cloud technology in 2020. Furthermore, Technavio's report on the global business accounting software market 2017-2021 estimates that the...
Read More

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