The 2017 CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA.org) Paperless Benchmark Survey released in the first quarter of this year, found that 23% of firms had moved their IT Infrastructure to cloud providers instead of building and maintaining them themselves among other findings.
Read below as to why this trend is accelerating and why your firm should be considering the move if they are not already.
As servers come to life there is a cost of not only replacing the physical equipment, but conducting a thorough evaluation of current options and whether your internal personal have the experience to properly implement the new solution the first time. Case in point, for the majority of firms Hosted Microsoft Exchange is a no-brainer from a cost/feature perspective but internal IT personnel want to maintain control of email.
Most firms have had tight IT training budgets since 2008 so few have invested in sending their IT team members to external training, and even fewer have experience in implementing the latest remote access and accounting application features, which are usually run by experience enterprise class network personnel in the cloud. Cloud providers control the environment in which the application runs for multiple clients so they can focus on supporting the application instead of trying to diffuse technical IT issues.
Security training has also been an afterthought in many firms and while most IT personnel do the basic operating system, anti-virus and firewall updates, they seldom have the resources to implement intrusion detection and prevention applications or the governance structure to (i.e. implementing AICPA SOC2 guidelines).
Most firms with traditional onsite networks are understaffed from an IT perspective and would have a hard time replacing their IT personnel should they terminate employment, which leaves the firm seriously at risk. The reality today is that few CPA firm partners have the knowledge and/or desire to oversee IT, let alone hire IT personnel, whereas the cloud providers have layers of personnel providing backup personnel.
Ask any partner what level of disaster recovery they want and they will say instant recovery! However, when told of the extensive cost for disaster recovery, they are seldom willing to pay for anything more than an offsite backup. Cloud providers have extensive disaster recovery capabilities built into their offering which is regularly tested and spread over all members.
Most firms today want the ability to work remotely from client sites, their homes, and even on their smartphone/tablet when they are on the go but struggle with making applications work the same as when they are in the office. Cloud-based applications are mobile by default whereas many firms have struggled with remote control and access solutions as their internal personnel do not have the experience or budget that the cloud providers have.
Many firms are surprised at how difficult and expensive it can be to upgrade an internal storage area network or add remote user capabilities caused by an influx of new users from an acquisition or merger. Cloud providers have highly scalable architectures allowing firms to seamlessly add users and applications and are ideal for firms that are on a growth trajectory.
One of the benefits of cloud providers is you pay for what you use similar to a utility. In the case of a demerger or a manager wanting to start a new firm, the cloud has the ability to ramp up applications and users in a fraction of the time that it would take internal personnel to create a new network and it would do so at a fixed monthly cost instead of large initial capital outlay.
Traditional server farms and IT departments are being “uberized” and replaced with cloud applications and hosted service providers at an increasing rate. Don’t let your firm get locked into expensive and possibly obsolete hardware and IT support before considering cloud options.
This article was originally published on The CPA Firm Management Association’s blog and has been modified for the audience of this blog. Copying or distribution without the publisher’s permission is prohibited.
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