The ABCs of Cloud Computing for CPAs

accounting_for_non_accountants-e1390505462157.jpgThere are few endeavors so volatile yet integral as that of a public accounting firm. CPAs work with a wide array of clients in a field that demands integrity, responsiveness, and security. Placing such insurmountable trust into the arms of a person or company can be a leap of faith for some. That is why consumers do their research to find the most secure, competent, and responsive CPAs to manage their books. So what are firms doing to better serve their clients? Many are seeking out and implementing new strategies aimed at streamlining their business operations; one of which is the topic of this post.

With tax season right around the corner, accounting firms across the nation are bracing for impact. Such a busy time for these businesses places a lot of pressure on management to find the most efficient and effective way to handle the boom in workflow. A few key areas that accountants have identified as key opportunities for improvement include workflow, practice management, time and billing, client portals, and data security. Streamlining all of these processes is paramount to surviving in today’s market.

So what does this have to do with cloud computing? Cloud computing helps CPAs them avoid the rigidity of traditional IT, which can interfere with their agility and speed in a highly competitive market. The cloud is much more than hosting or consulting. It is a fast-growing, holistic strategy that CPAs of every variety are embracing to transform their ability to work efficiently. Essentially, cloud computing is conducting business online from anywhere. There are a plethora of general benefits including easy implementation, low up-front costs, little-to-no hardware costs, and scalability. But what about cloud computing for CPAs, specifically? How can the cloud address the issues facing them today?

Improved Workflow

  • Cloud computing improves workflow for CPAs by allowing them to conduct business at any time, anywhere. This is possible because all one needs is an Internet connection to access all the necessary applications to conduct business.
  • They are able to handle higher volume (like tax season) with the Cetrom Cloud. Clients are presented with a completely customized IT environment, which enables them to optimize for their specific needs, allowing for greater productivity.
  • One of the 150+ SaaS applications hosted by Cetrom is Lacerte Tax Software by Intuit. It allows accounting firms to seamlessly move data across different platforms; and thus finish more returns in less time.

Practice Management

  • Most would agree that running a CPA firm is a much different animal than any other type of organization. Most cannot survive without accounting firms. Cetrom will create a completely custom, scalable, and efficient environment that is designed for CPAs, and their management, to take better control of their resources.
  • Firms can gather a competitive advantage by remotely tracking jobs and projects with integrated accounting software like Sage 50, Microsoft Dynamics, and more.
  • Deltek CostPoint (another application hosted by Cetrom) tracks, manages and reports on every aspect of a job: plans, estimates, proposals, budgets, expenses, indirect costs, purchases, bills, regulatory compliance and business performance. Putting applications like CostPoint into a cloud environment allows the product to be integrated with other IT resources.

Time and Billing

  • Some CPAs utilize software like TimeSlips to handle the time and billing side of their business. By remotely accessing and integrating this management software with other popular accounting software packages like Sage 50 and QuickBooks, most will experience an even greater boost in efficiency.

Client Portals

  • Client portals are used by many CPA firms to foster transparency and improve responsiveness. Although many cloud providers have these systems already in place, they can and often are implemented into the solution.

Data Security

  • Keeping, maintaining, and accessing one’s data off-site in one of Cetrom’s ultra-secure data centers is a significant step CPAs can take to improve data security.
  • Many think that they are surrendering their data when—in actuality—they are adding an extra layer of security.  The reality is that the data is more secure, and they retain just as much control. What would happen if your on-site server went down in the days leading up to April 15?

At the end of the day, the benefits yielded from embracing a cloud solution are overall improved efficiency and lower overhead. The only real question left to ask is, what are you doing to improve your CPA firm for 2014?