Online and Cloud Accounting Review

One area in the cloud computing arena that often unnerves our clients is considering moving their accounting data into the cloud. It’s one of the most important systems of any business, and, if any data is compromised, it can impact the entire organization–not to mention your relationship with your CPA and/or the IRS. There is nothing scarier than upsetting those folks.

Ironically, when Altitude Integrations approaches people about this solution, the typical response is an emphatic, “No.” Generally, there is no technical reason given; instead, the reasoning is related to changing what already works for them. We can all relate to this, as any change is scary; however, this change can be smooth and seamless.

We’ve found that many online-based accounting applications offer no contracts, just a simple monthly fee. More importantly, they will allow you to have a 30 day trial to test the new system. A popular option is QuickBooks Online, which we use for our accounting.

QB Online is an online platform, similar to the desktop version, and worth testing out for the 30 day trial. We’ve been using this platform for almost two years, after having tested out another online system, Working Point, throughout 2010. At that time, we grew our business to the level where Working Point wasn’t able to handle our needs going forward. We reviewed various options and needed an application that could work with us for many years–QB Online was that solution.

QB online can be very attractive to folks; however, there are some important items to consider no matter where you want to take your accounting data. As mentioned above, a simple fee structure & trial period are necessary. If you have a copy of your data for the trial, you can mimic what you do day-to-day and better understand how to manage the system in the coming years. Another item to consider is the ability to export all your data from the system. Even if this system is great for your needs now, you may move to another system down the road.

As for the advantages, QB Online makes your data available anywhere, anytime and on any operating system and browser. The security is second to none, as Intuit, like any other cloud application provider, has countless engineers focusing on the application’s stability and security. In addition, Intuit has multiple data centers for optimal redundancy of your data and uptime.

There are disadvantages to this system, but nothing that we considered a deal breaker. First, and likely most important, if your internet connection or the QB Online service is down it will stop your work. Unlike a locally hosted version of QB, you won’t be able to do anything. Fortunately, this is a rare instance. We have only seen this happen twice in our two years of use, one time lasted for 2 hours and the other for a few minutes. These outages happened before the new data centers were brought online and we’re confident outages will occur less frequently now. Another disadvantage to this system is that it uses a different interface than the desktop version along with a small difference in the vernacular used. While it sounds simple, having a different set of vocabulary can cause simple tasks to take more time in the beginning. Don’t worry though, this is temporary. The last point to consider is the migration of your data–it’s not too difficult, but does take some technical skill We’ve done this several times and have been able to get the migration done in an hour. Our first time took us half a day to get done, as there were many adjustments we had to make in our browser. Once the data was uploaded, though, it was very easy to move forward. If you do the migration yourself, please make a note of these items that do and don’t transfer.

There are many online accounting platforms, and we’ve seen only a few. As we go through more options in the coming months, we will let you know what other offerings exist up there in the accounting clouds.

Have questions about moving your accounting to the cloud? Give us a call and we’re happy to get you set up and trained!

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