July 22, 2021

CPA Firm’s Guide to Choosing a Cloud Provider

Why Are CPA Firms Opting for Cloud Providers?

CPA firms continue to shift toward using cloud providers for their IT needs. The number of firms managing their own networks keeps dropping — and their reasons are understandable. CPA firms are experts in fields like accounting, taxes, and financial management, but IT systems and managing networks aren’t usually a CPA firm’s priority skill set. Even if a CPA firm has a stellar IT staff, their IT professionals can only do so much. As we’ve written in the past, CPA firms hold a trove of customer data and information that hackers will target. What’s more, with the pace of technological change, keeping up with security best practices is becoming more difficult. And to keep up with security, CPA firms aren’t the only companies transitioning to cloud computing services.

The worldwide public cloud services market totalled $312 billion in 2020, a growth rate of over 24%. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cloud is projected to increase to 14.2% of the total global IT spending, up from 9.1% in 2020. With the increasing adoption of cloud computing, this technology is clearly here to stay, and for good reason. There are huge advantages to moving your CPA firm to the cloud including cost savings, productivity, flexibility and adaptability, work culture, reliability, and importantly, the security edge.

Just as hackers keep advancing their techniques and efforts, cloud providers are offering increasingly sophisticated technology to keep up security while still providing a reliable, easy experience for the end user. This is a lot to ask of any firm that isn’t specialized in IT. Cloud providers have the advantage of utilizing economies of scale to stay up-to-date with cutting-edge technology and personnel. One of the biggest advantages of using a cloud provider is the ability to easily scale your IT systems to your business without overspending on capital expenses like technology, space, and materials.

But choosing a cloud provider that can meet your needs while offering stellar customer service is challenging. Like all services, the quality and capability of cloud providers varies widely. Use this guide to help pick a cloud provider that can do everything you need, is trustworthy, and works well with you. It’s not quite choosing a marriage partner, but like a spouse, picking the right one the first time can save a lot of pain, heartache, and headache.

Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing a Good Cloud Provider for CPA Firms

  1. Start With an Internal Assessment: The first step to picking a cloud provider actually starts with figuring out what you’ll need and what you’re already good at. It’s helpful to find the gaps in your system before you search for cloud providers. The needs assessment should detail the biggest threats your firm faces and your ability to respond to those threats. You’ll also identify where you’re already strong. This doesn’t need to be overly formal or polished, but should be clear and easily communicated.
  2. Browse for Providers Based on Their Abilities: At Cetrom, we offer our clients what we see as the most important services. When searching out a cloud provider be sure they offer the following: accountant application hosting for specific programs utilized by CPA firms; an all-in-one IT hosting solution; virtual desktop; protected and secure file sharing; full migration and managed services; and 24/7/365 support from engineers. You’ll also want to see their downtime rates and certifications.
  3. Interview Your Potential Cloud Provider: Picking a cloud provider is a big decision. You’ll want to confirm you can work well together and that they can meet the needs outlined in your assessment. Specifically, ask them about:
    1. Security Practices: It’s critical the cloud service provider you hire is on the cutting edge of security and can provide support 24/7/365 to your organization. Cybersecurity technology alone cannot make your data secure. Ask your potential cloud partner how they can help you train your employees to utilize data security best practices in their day-to-day routines. What’s more, make sure that your cloud partner has experience developing and executing disaster recovery plans — including natural and human-made disasters like power outages and pandemics. Find out how they drill for disasters and breaches including proactive security measures, employee training, and even mock security breach practices.
    2. Your Specific Industry: The CPA industry is unique. Ask if a potential provider has worked with accounting firms before, how many, and how they protect remote data while ensuring employees can operate smoothly. Choosing a successful cloud provider is a combination of that provider’s technology and capabilities as applied to your organization’s specific needs.
    3. Tailoring Their Solution for Your Organization: Find out whether you’re going to get a customized package or a generic solution. The best cloud providers will commit to building a tailored solution to fit your organization and needs. To do it properly, they’ll need to spend time evaluating your current status and where you want to go. Don’t settle for a provider that is going to give you a basic out-of-the-box solution.
    4. Their Technology: Find out what tech they use. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is becoming a hallmark of the best cloud providers. Regardless of specifics, find out if they can map out normal activity and anomalies, detect threats, and protect data in a remote office. Even more importantly, be sure they are the type of company that is using the most current technology.
    5. Their Team: Ultimately, it’ll be your cloud provider’s team that addresses any problems you're experiencing. It’s who you’ll need to call if you notice something strange at 2 a.m. Find out about their support team’s skill level, and successful projects they’ve worked on previously. Support and ongoing maintenance are a common element of cloud services and will be the basis for most of your day-to-day interactions. You need to make sure their team is solid, supportive, and easy to work with. Is their team in-house or overseas? And are they entry level or IT engineers? Do they offer 24/7/365 support? Learn about their downtime track record, most recent security incident response, and what kind of training they can give your team.
  4. Choose the Best: Use these steps to pick a cloud provider that can help your organization. Be sure that you sign an agreement crafted and reviewed by your legal team. Once you opt for a cloud provider it can be challenging to quickly shift. Take the time to pick a good one so you don’t need to go through the hassle of choosing another.

Bottom Line

CPA firms are now, more often than not, using cloud providers. Choosing the right provider offers a wide variety of benefits in addition to convenience and security. First, you’ll save your company money. In today’s tech world IT budgets are getting stretched thin trying to purchase and maintain expensive hardware. A good cloud provider will handle all licensing and administrative responsibilities, and they also free up in-house IT personnel to focus their time and energy on important initiatives and development. In addition to saving money, your company will be more productive. The cloud gives employees secure access to critical data from anywhere, at any time in real time. Additionally, the benefits of flexibility and adaptability in day-to-day operations and medium-term planning are huge.

Picking the right cloud provider can yield benefits for accounting firms for years to come. Take time to research potential providers. Contact us today to learn more about our cloud hosting services. We are here to answer any of your questions.

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Cetrom Support fixed all of my problems, their engineers are very professional, courteous, friendly and very efficient. If all customer service out there was like...

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