Betting on the Cloud - An Accountant's Perspective

Betting on Cloud – An Accountant’s Perspective

Shannon Adams June 7, 2017

At this year’s Preakness Stakes, a horse named Cloud Computing won the race in a major upset. I am not a huge racing enthusiast, but had I been betting on this race, I would have picked this horse based on its name alone. Yes, I am a little geeky, and I like the name. I would have ignored the stats and predictions. Most of my sports betting is for fun, so losing the few dollars wouldn’t have broken the bank. In hindsight, I regret not betting on this horse!

Unsplash Photo, @owencavlys

While I didn’t bet on the horse, I am betting that cloud computing, particularly software as a service (SaaS), is the future for software. I don’t say this just because I work for a cloud-based organization. I say this because I considered myself an early adopter of cloud technology.

While I would bet on the cloud, it’s apparent that there are many people out there who would not. I am surprised by how many articles I read and conversations I have, even in just the past six months, that show there is a still lack of an understanding of the cloud and its potential.

You should know that I don’t worry myself with all the technical nuances it takes to move something to the cloud. I just want it to work and reap the benefits. I’m not an engineer; I’m an accountant. Given that I see so many benefits to the cloud and have for many years, I’m perplexed as to why so many people are hesitant. Still.

What I like most about the cloud is that all I need is an internet connection and I have access. While being connected 24x7 from anywhere can have some downside, I like that it allows me to enjoy things ranging from access to my bank — my finance software — to a flexible work schedule.

Unsplash Photo, @jaywennington

Other benefits of the cloud are that it reduces overhead and saves time. I don’t need expensive equipment or related support to run software in the cloud. Whether at work or at home, I don’t want to purchase more equipment that is going to be obsolete in three to five years.

As for supporting the hardware and the software, I don’t have an IT department at home, and even companies that do have an IT department usually staff it with generalists to cover all various hardware and software systems rather than employ experts with specific hardware or software skill-sets. With on-premises solutions, it takes a lot of time and money to maintain and update hardware - with the cloud, the only hardware required is access to any computer and/or smart device. Upgrading major software programs is time consuming and often requires an expensive outside party to assist with the upgrade. With cloud-based software, updates to the software just … (seem to) happen. Software support in the cloud is a phone call or text chat away and the individual on the other end is an expert in the specific software. Most organizations don’t have the budgets to have this kind of expertise in-house.

Now, I understand that there are concerns. Over 10 years ago, I implemented a cloud-based accounting system. I had some concerns then too.

The first concern was accessibility.
This was a system that I was going to use daily. What if I didn’t have internet access? What if the software provider’s site went down? With respect to the first question, the reality is that we must deal with sometimes less-than-stellar internet performance, but it is available most of the time. As for the availability of the software, I can count on one hand the number of times an outage significantly impacted my day-to-day. Consumers today are protected through service level agreements that contractually bind providers to 97% plus availability. Even with on-premises solutions, 100% uptime is a myth due to aging equipment, limited IT staff, updates, viruses and such.

The second concern, and this is a big one, is security. You cannot watch the news these days without hearing about someone hacking someone else. When I implemented that accounting system many years ago, I was a controller and, as my title suggested, I wanted control over my data. I did a lot of diligence work, as I still do today, to get comfortable with how my data was going to be secured. However, I am more comfortable today with security than I was back then. Anyone can be hacked, whether their data is in the cloud or on a hard drive on a computer. For me, the difference between having data on-site versus in the cloud is that cloud-based companies have experts in security on their staff to protect your data. Unless your company is in the business of security, you’re probably lucky if you have even one person dedicated solely to security. While there are no 100% guarantees, SaaS companies can protect my data a lot better than I could at home or at work.

I now see this as a benefit rather than a concern.

Unsplash Photo, @markusspiske

Unfortunately, Cloud Computing will be skipping the Belmont Stakes, so I can’t put my money on him to win. I will, however, be betting on the cloud in the technology race, and I expect to see it win time and time again.