Cloud hosting services occupy that small space between desktop software and the virtual cloud, offering accounting firms the option of hosting any software, including on-premise
versions, on the cloud host’s servers, allowing firm employees as well as their clients to access data from anywhere.
These services allow firms and their clients to scale down internal IT departments and depend on a specialized third party to take care of software operations. As a result, firms and clients can become comfortable with the idea of “the cloud” without having to go completely virtual.
Below, two firms share their experience with cloud hosting.
Firm: EKS&H / Denver
Size: 675 employees
Product: Cloudnine Real Time
Commencement date: December 2012
On record: Partner Douglas Askam
Challenge/objective: The firm was using another cloud hosting service, and its service was “sporadic.” EKS&H, a Top 100 Firm, wanted to be able to get to their clients’ data, have their clients be able to access their data, and all work off the same, most-current data set. EKS&H also wanted to save more time and money by reducing the need for firm employees going out to client locations. “We wanted to be able to get that much more efficient,” Askam said.
Amount spent: $25,000 annually and $1,000 per month for 40 to 50 users.
Process: Although Askam was not with the firm during initial implementation of Cloudnine Real Time, he said that his firm constantly brings on new clients and the implementation process is fine. “It’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “We provision our own server, so we can set up a new company or client — that all works well. My administrative assistant is our main contact with Cloudnine, so she contacts them on what we’re doing and getting access rights so the client can get into the software. That all runs very smoothly. It’s very transparent to the client, which is important to us.”
Results: Askam said that Cloudnine has improved ESK&H’s realization on client work. Previously, the firm may have been capped on what it could charge a client on a monthly basis because the accountants had to make it to the clients’ offices to do a lot of the accounting work, limiting the volume somewhat. Being able to do most of their services through a browser “has been very helpful” Askam said. “I know the client likes it because they can get into their data any time they want, and it’s up to date even as we’re working on it.”
EKS&H has also drastically reduced its rate of employee turnover. Askam has seen more of his employees move out of state without needing to leave the firm, since they have easy access to browser-based accounting. “It works out really well where I don’t have turnover in staff, whereas I would have in the past,” he said.
“The thing I also like about what Cloudnine does is they’re hosting actual desktop versions of QuickBooks, which is different from the online version, and not all of our clients get the online version,” Askam continued. “So having the desktop and Enterprise version in the cloud are really nice. It gives us full functionality to the QuickBooks suite of products, and again, it’s all transparent to the client because it’s out on Cloudnine’s Web site.”
Askam also noted that Cloudnine works well with third-party add-ons, such as Bill.com, which EKS&H uses. “This makes working with our clients much more efficient and allows them to be much more engaged in what’s going on,” he said.
Next steps: “We’re always looking for new add-ons we can use with any cloud-based app,” Askam said, referencing what he hopes to use Cloudnine for in the future. But he also said that he has no real desire to see anything from Cloudnine that’s different from what the cloud hosting company already does. “They seem pretty robust on working with data integrations.”
If anything, he mused, perhaps they could recommend preferred vendors with which they integrate best.
“They’ve been very responsive,” Askam concluded. “Our staff and clients are very happy. Their transparency is nice.”
NO TRAVEL TIME
Firm: Siegel Solutions / Boston
Size: 13 employees
Product: Right Networks
Commencement date: March 2006
On record: Partner Jeff Siegel
Challenge/objective: “I first started using Right Networks for two reasons,” Siegel Solutions partner Jeff Siegel said. “I needed the ability to remotely support clients without having to drive to them with every question they had. Secondly, I wanted to do more remote bookkeeping while still giving them access to the file. I tried to do this myself and put in a server to do that, but the support needed by us was too much.”
Amount spent: Approximately $4,600 per month, but this amount is bundled into the monthly fees the firm charges their clients.
Process: Siegel is very happy with the process of adding clients, which takes 24 hours or less. And if an implementation needs to happen faster than that, his firm can call Right Networks and the company will expedite the process for them without any issues. In the past two years or so, Right Networks has added the capability to add a client via an online form in addition to calling or e-mailing. Right Networks also provides a 24-hour online chat helpline.
Results: There have been two main benefits to using Right Networks, Siegel said: “For my clients, it takes the whole IT burden off their plate — especially clients that have multiple users. They don’t need to have their own server or tie up their computers. In the past they may have used someone’s PC to post a file or some other task, and it would bog the system down. If they encountered any IT hassles, they would have to bring in people to help them.”
Using Right Networks also frees Siegel’s clients from worrying about back-ups.
Siegel mentioned Right Networks’ printing capabilities for his clients, which he finds notably superior. “It’s the littlest thing, but in an office, the printer may not work, or you may not be able to find the right printer. Right Networks’ printing solution is great.”
The second result of using Right Networks has been the time savings and risk reduction for Siegel’s firm.
“From our perspective, the work is a lot easier to manage,” Siegel said. “We experience tremendous savings in time and cost by reducing travel to client locations. And the idea of traveling in a car — this takes the risk out of something happening with that, too. There are a lot of indirect benefits.”
Next steps: “The only other solution I would suggest is the ability to shadow a user, so we are essentially viewing their screen while they are going through questions or them viewing our screen,” Siegel said. “Currently we need to use another program like Join.me or Zoom to do this. If it was built in, it would be great, especially for solution providers like us.”
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