Demystifying the cloud

Understanding "the cloud" is not nearly as difficult as it seems.

A quick guide to getting started.

CPA Australia's A Guide to the Cloud
 
The speed at which cloud computing has become an accepted term in the lexicon of business references has been rapid. But where do you start if you’re only now beginning to explore this business tool? The first thing is to dispense with the uncertainty.

“How is cloud computing different from other terms that people are used to?” asks Steven Smith, KPMG Australia’s director of digital.

“When you talk to someone in terms that they recognise – like shared drives, servers, web guys – then it doesn’t sound so complicated.

“Many people are already using these systems, whether they’re a small business with servers located in an air-conditioned room or a larger organisation [that] maybe uses something like Citrix to connect.”

The confusion is apparent. A 2012 survey of 1000 Americans found that 95 per cent of respondents who indicated that they never used the cloud actually had, through services such as Facebook and online banking.

Even more relevant, one in five pretended to know what they were talking about when in a work conversation, and 56 per cent of respondents said that they think other people who refer to cloud computing in conversation don’t know what they’re talking about. Clearly, more can be done to explain the basics of the system.

Smith apportions some of the blame for confusion among those who weren’t early adopters to the “mystique” that has been bestowed on the cloud model.

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“It suddenly became a little bit James Bond – or maybe Austin Powers – talking about lasers. I think that if you weren’t involved or learning about it from the beginning, then the jargon being thrown about made it hard to get your head around the idea.

“It’s not hard though – it’s just moving the physical hard drives out of your office.”

A perfect storm

It has been a perfect storm of events that has seen the service explode in the past two to three years.

“There is the ubiquity of computers and devices, a more relaxed attitude towards our own personal data, the rise in available connection speeds, and the roll-out of services and apps like the main accounting packages,” Smith explains.

“Suddenly, exploring the cloud space became only logical.”

And he believes it can make sense, from the costs to the business perspective.
“You can pay for what you use,” he explains.

“You don’t need an IT department applying every update to every piece of software across the business.”

He also returns to the idea of data, and how it reigns supreme.

“I think that today we’re starting to realise that the data is the important thing, and we really don’t need to own the pipes that carry that information around. That can be outsourced to another business.

“There are things to consider though, like where the physical drives are located. If you’re dealing with client data, then you will need to be aware of the legalities of handling and storing that data. If there are law or archival changes, then you need to be able to respond.”

The opportunities

Moving your office to a cloud-based system does require some management, and advising clients of the changes would be a wise move.

“Use it as a positive. Tell clients that you are implementing the latest in business technology to take work time back from unnecessary processes, and that it will make your business better as a result. You could also consider putting a disclaimer on the website, similar to how you might have a privacy policy.” 

7 key benefits of cloud accounting:

  • Opportunity for multi-faceted cost efficiencies
  • Greater regulatory compliance
  • Reduced margin for data entry errors
  • Less labour-intense than legacy systems
  • Seamless integration with electronic marketing programs
  • New business perspectives
  • Clients with square pegs can still fit

October 2017
October 2017

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