Even large, multinational accounting firms struggle to keep up with the pace of change in the IT world. Whether it’s the latest updates, the newest software, increased data privacy regulations, changing data security threats, or the accelerating advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, an IT leader or even a team can struggle without outside, expert IT advisors to augment their capabilities.
Take IT security, for example. The biggest CPA firms in the world struggle to keep safe from an ever-evolving threat ecosystem. Even these firms with seemingly unlimited IT and security resources get hacked.
Now, smaller accounting firms might think they won’t be a target of hackers or malware, but that is not the case at all. Entrepreneur recently cited two stats that debunk this myth: “According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses account for 58 percent of malware attack victims. And the Ponemon Institute found in its 2017 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium-Sized Businesses report that cyberattacks on small businesses have increased in recent years, affecting 61 percent of SMBs in 2017, up from 55 percent in 2016.”
Enhanced security is just one benefit of outsourcing services to a trusted, experienced cloud hosting and services provider. The main point: Every CPA firm, small, medium or large, needs to augment its existing team and IT infrastructure with outsourced cloud services rendered by a trusted, collaborative partner.
Here’s why …
It’s Less Expensive Long Term. Aside from the ease of working on secure data wherever you please, the cloud offers unrivaled cost effectiveness. Other accounting programs cost above the industry standard, whereas the cloud solution is an effective way to do the same job within your budgetary requirements.
The cloud eliminates large in-office hardware investments, maintenance costs, Microsoft licensing fees and more. It also rids your company of downtime costs — and reduces the risk of a devastating crash during tax season — by extending your information technology staff, staying constantly updated, and proactively monitoring your data.
You Get Stronger, More Comprehensive Data Security. The best and most robust IT networks are never 100% safe from data breaches. However, cloud-enabled security with a team of expert engineers watching over your network all the time will more reliably plug security gaps via automation than your IT lead or team, regardless of their experience level.
Security threats evolve too fast to rely on manual security practices. The cloud and an expert cloud service provider can improve your security, sustain a high level of protection, and lessen the burden on your IT person or team.
Adopting the cloud and partnering with a cloud hosting provider presents the best of all worlds. Your CPA firm gets network monitoring 24/7/365 by experienced IT experts, disaster response planning and assistance, security training for employees, the latest artificial intelligence security measures and data breach drills. These are some of the hallmarks of a strong cloud services partner.
Outsourcing your accounting IT management to an industry expert frees your IT lead or team to focus on innovation and bigger picture strategies that can help your company grow.
Your CPA Team Will Be More Productive. Easier document sharing. Stronger collaboration. The ability to work from anywhere securely. More sophisticated avenues for collaboration and information sharing with accounting clients. These are just a few of the benefits delivered by moving to the cloud and outsourcing cloud hosting and services.
Building a work environment that encourages telecommuting protects business continuity and workflow by enabling staff to work should the office become unavailable. A strong telecommuting workplace empowered by the cloud and monitored by your cloud partner enables your team to work from anywhere at anytime safely and securely. Snowstorms and other minor weather-related issues that prevent the office from opening cease, in many instances, to disrupt operations and client services. Telecommuting is a great tool for not only keeping your staff safe, but it also reduces downtime and workflow disruptions. Cetrom’s Virtual Desktop is a great tool for creating an ideal telecommuting workplace.
When you delegate cloud hosting and services to a trusted resource, a whole new world of innovation and productivity can open up for your company. Your CPA firm gets the benefit of the best software, the latest technologies and a team of tier-3 engineers overseeing your network 24/7/365.
Your team can focus on the work and doing that work from wherever it’s convenient, whenever they want.
You’ll Make Your Clients’ Lives Easier. For your accountants to do their jobs well, they need accurate and complete information from their clients, be they individuals or companies. If your firm’s client data and information collection processes are poorly organized, difficult to access, and hard for client’s to use, then you have a major bottleneck to unplug.
Look at your customer input process carefully. Does it still involve paper forms in the mail? Is it a mix of online interfaces and hard copies? What kind of client feedback are you getting regarding the process? Is information lost or incomplete during the process? Where is the client data saved and how is it organized?
More and more CPA firms are outsourcing cloud services and management for good reason. When it comes to collecting critical client information and data, an expert cloud services provider can help you streamline input points, provide anywhere/anytime access to information, and codify your client data collection process. This makes your accountants more productive while also eliminating a pain point for your clients.
CetromFS is a perfect example of how a strong IT cloud provider can help CPA firms conquer client data collection/input bottlenecks. CetromFS, our own cloud file sharing service, gives users enterprise-level file sharing capabilities that are highly secure, reliable, and customizable. Because files are sent through a cloud-dedicated system, CetromFS is more secure than a third-party file share system. Virtual desktop capabilities that provide anywhere/anytime access for your accountants and clients also create efficiencies that help alleviate the stressors of tax season.
Your CPA Firm Will Manage Growth Better. All of these cloud outsourcing benefits are designed with one goal in mind: Growth. Reduced costs, greater efficiency, enhanced productivity, augmented data security, and happier clients are drivers of increased revenue, better profits, and amplified growth.
CPA firms can certainly grow without the cloud and an expert cloud services and hosting partner. However, managing that growth is a challenge even under the best circumstances. In a static IT environment reliant on manual processes, purely human monitoring, onsite hardware, and paper inputs and outputs, fast growth can become a threat to your company’s performance and reputation.
On the other hand, adopting the cloud and finding the right partner to manage your dynamic, adaptable IT ecosystem makes fast, exponential growth more manageable. In other words, the sophisticated, pliable nature of the cloud coupled with strong oversight by an outsourced IT expert, enhances scalability across your enterprise.
Integrating new applications, enhancing your accounting software capabilities, and increasing data storage, security and redundancy is much easier with the cloud and a cloud services provider that knows what it’s doing. It’s been established that moving to the cloud and outsourcing its management is good business practice for CPA firms. Understanding this is the first step. Finding the right cloud hosting and services provider is the next, and sometimes more difficult, step in a necessary process.
Partnering successfully with a cloud provider can be complicated because the “fit” must go beyond technology and expertise alone. Certain universal elements can usually signal if a cloud provider is right for you.
Before engaging in interviews, however, it’s essential to look inward to get a sense of your CPA firm’s IT strengths and weaknesses, including getting a clearer sense of what you just don’t know. This internal audit process is critical in that it will empower your team to ask the right questions and to know when to ask the hard questions that will weed out mismatches.
Organizational self-awareness will give you and your team the confidence it needs to explore the pertinent areas during the interview process, leading you to the right cloud service partner. Finding the right cloud service provider for your CPA firm requires internal awareness and serious, focused due diligence. The best cloud providers go beyond technology to deliver agile, customized cloud solutions that are directed by skilled IT veterans who understand your needs, industry, culture and team.
Christopher Stark is the President & CEO of Cetrom.