Like all Certified Public Accountants, whether they’re located in Los Angeles or not, you no doubt spend much of your time sifting through your clients’ documents, advising them on aspects of their finances, and preparing tax returns. Do you ever wish that your storage system, or, indeed, your entire network, could be a little more accessible? Or do you ever wonder what would happen to your business if a disaster struck your base of operations?
Moving to the cloud – whether for a specific application or a completely hosted desktop – is becoming a more viable way to to address various issues that many firms are facing. But, there’s a little research you should be doing first.
Here are some key considerations you should keep in mind as you’re contemplating a change of this magnitude:
1. Consider the needs of your business and those of your clients
Before you even begin to look at cloud-based services, you have to consider the requirements of your business. What sort of service do you offer? What do your clients expect from you? How could the cloud fulfill both sets of requirements? Or impact them negatively if a problem arises?
The cloud can provide a reliable, flexible and secure service, and help you to up your game in terms of a superior and accessible package for every client, no matter where in the world they are. It’s essential that your chosen cloud provider help you to maintain your current business standards, or even improve them. Choosing the right vendor to partner with needs to be based on your company’s requirements and is a vital mind-set to start the process with.
2. Consider the impact to your work flow
Before considering a move to the cloud (again, whether for individual hosted applications or for your network as a whole), keep in mind that how you work will change. The performance will be different. The user experience will be different. The speed will be different. Your control of accessibility could be different (ie: your computing experience will be at the mercy of many factors outside of your control). Decide what you’re willing to accept in these areas before diving in.
3. Consider the types of cloud-based systems available
Once you have ascertained that the cloud is for you it’s time to research vendors and particular cloud systems; how are they secured and maintained, and will your data be kept safe? Are there any licensing agreements that you would need to sign first? As an LA CPA, you’re in charge of copious amounts of sensitive data, and it’s up to you to protect your clients. Indeed, you have the trust of your clients riding on the business decisions you make; how will the cloud ensure that their needs come first? Additionally, not all documents and data are licensed for use within the cloud – a consideration that must be taken incredibly seriously.
4. Consider disaster recovery and backup
Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place? If so, now is the time to consider how such a plan will be helped or hindered by a move to the cloud. What changes would you need to make to ensure such a plan remained effective? You must think about your recovery time objective, the cost of creating your recovery plan and what would happen during your transition period. How could you ensure that your emergency protocols remained efficient during such a time?
What is the cloud provider’s backup and retention policy? Will they be able to restore a file at your request or only the platform as a whole? The backup and recovery process that most cloud providers offer is usually far different from what most are used to or would be moving from. So make sure you know what they are before signing up.
5. Consider scalability
Since your company’s earliest days you’ll have operated with a set of goals in mind, and followed a steadfast business plan – this plan should not change, regardless of how established your client-base now is. What you must consider now, though, is how a move to the cloud will support your aspirations, ensuring all changes – cloud-based or otherwise – are scalable. Will a move to the cloud encourage growth and development? Your future cloud-based system and your current server-based network must be in sync if you’re to keep any sense of normality within your business.
6. Consider and prepare for the different failure points
How will your business be able to function if your internet connection goes down? What happens if it slows down to a crawl? The potential failure points in a cloud based network are completely different than an on premise system. Consider what changes you will need to make to be prepared and protected from these different aspects of a cloud delivered environment.
Depending on your aversion to being down, you’ll probably want a secondary internet connection (which will increase your monthly costs). You’ll need to consider a firewall that will provide enough fire power now that so much more of your network traffic is going out (rather than the majority of it being within your local network). You’ll need a firewall that can allow for automatic failover between your primary and secondary internet connection.
7. Consider the change in support responsibilities
Consider this – while a cloud infrastructure is not yours to maintain, it merely hosts your data and allows access to your files no matter where you are – there are other pieces that you do need to support and for which support and responsiveness becomes even more time sensitive. What is your current IT management situation? Who would take control if you were to experience issues within the cloud? Where is the issue located? In the cloud or on the internet or on your side? A well prepared support approach is vital in order to prevent disruption to your business, so your whole staff needs to be on board with the changes that are afoot.
Are you an LA-based CPA considering moving to the cloud? Or have you successfully bridget this gap and are already there? If you have any hints or tips for fellow CPAs, please share them with us in the Comment field below.
To follow through on the tips introduced in this article, be sure to download our free guide 12 Ways for CPA Firms in LA to Utilize Technology More Efficiently.