As a Los Angeles certified public accountant (CPA), people hire you for your financial acumen and not your IT knowledge or skills. This may mean that your firm is operating using a conventional but dated on-site IT system and server that can be costly to own and maintain. And because technology has evolved so much over the past several years with the rollout of cloud technology — with new security requirements and regulations changing with it — it’s nearly impossible for most CPA firms to keep up with all of the changes. This is where a cloud service provider can help.
What is the Cloud?
According to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), cloud computing is, “a subscription-based service where you can obtain networked storage space and computer resources.” In the most basic sense, cloud computing services are the digital storage of servers and data that your users can access through their web browsers in lieu of accessing on-site servers. This means that as long as your employees have reliable access to the Internet, they can easily access the information they need to assist your clients. There are different types of clouds as well — personal clouds, private clouds, public clouds, community clouds, and even hybrid clouds.
The cloud adoption rate is ever increasing as more CPAs have successfully integrated cloud technology to help meet their firms’ technology needs. Some CPAs who are hesitant about using cloud technology as part of their operations may not realize that they are already using it in their personal and professional lives through cloud services like Gmail, Yahoo mail, Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Netflix, and Hulu.
Benefits of using the cloud include:
- Increased data accessibility,
- Agility and scalability,
- Business continuity,
- Decreased initial capital outlay,
- The ability to pick and choose the resources you use (and to relinquish unnecessary ones), and
- Known monthly costs.
If you think the cloud may be right for your firm, here are a few of the things you should know when implementing cloud services:
The Acronym Soup of Cloud Service Migration
When choosing the type of cloud service you need for your CPA firm, you’re going to run into a lot of acronyms. DaaS/PaaS. IaaS. PaaS. SaaS. What do they mean both in terms of what they are and how they can benefit your business?
- Desktop as a Service (DaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS): This is a solution that is geared to simplify the deployment and management of a secure, virtual desktop environment. A third-party service provider hosts hardware and software on their infrastructure to deliver virtual solutions to users via the internet. At FPA, we manage DaaS through Horizon DaaS by VMware. This system enables us to maintain a single environment in which employees and other approved users can remotely and securely access your firm’s data and applications rather than dividing our attention among multiple workstations.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This is a virtual hosting of infrastructure components such as storage, servers and network hardware conventionally found in on-site data centers. At FPA, we provide certified support and custom solutions that are flexible, reliable, and can scale with your firm.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): Much like how it sounds, SaaS is a pay-as-you-use service that enables users to access software residing on third-party hardware via the internet without the need for specific hardware to host it. Examples of this include Google Drive, Microsoft Office, QuickBooks Online, and SalesForce.
Choosing a Reliable Cloud Service Provider
The market is growing as more cloud service providers compete and offer their own brand of the cloud. As such, it’s important to do your due diligence to ensure that you pick the right cloud service provider for your firm — regardless of whether it is a company that provides cloud data hosting solutions or cloud-based applications. This is a company that should:
- Provide you with a clear service level agreement (SLA) up front;
- Use non-proprietary industry standard solutions (such as Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware) that can operate with your existing systems and programs;
- Have a clear and robust backup strategy in place that includes the storage of monthly or even annual backups;
- Be able to provide you with an audited report of their data center to showcase their security capabilities.
FPA is an IT security service provider with more than 25 years of experience working with firms in the greater Los Angeles area. To learn more about how FPA can help your CPA firm as your cloud service provider or IT service provider, be sure to check out our CPA Resource Center.
What are your thoughts? How have you successfully integrated cloud services or cloud-based applications for your CPA firm? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or send me an email directly if you’d like to discuss this in more detail.