While Software-as-a-Service-based accounting offers thepromise of cost savings, security and greater productivity compared toon-premise solutions, the reality is that no SaaS solutions currently live upto that promise, and switching to the cloud requires a great deal of scrutinybefore doing so, CPA and tech consultant Geni Whitehouse told attendees at theAICPA Practitioners Symposium & Tech+ Information Technology Conference,here.

Whitehouse spoke during an information session titled"Calculating The True Cost of Ownership in a SaaS World: Is It ReallyCheaper?"

"The fact is that it is hard to make accountingsoftware as we know it work in the cloud; you just can't reconfigure an on-premiseaccounting solution and call it SaaS, and right now no solution is 100 percentSaaS for what CPAs need," said Whitehouse. "The guys that are makingit work to any degree are native to the cloud, but there are still costs andother promises that need a closer look before you choose them."

Whitehouse noted that many accounting vendors' SaaSstrategy is just to host their products, or have hosted versions of them andcall them SaaS, but this neither delivers on the promise of cost savings ortrue cloud connectivity.

She stressed that there are good, cloud-based solutionsthat accountants can and do use, but they require close examination beforeselecting and "buying into the promise."

"SaaS is promised to us to save costs on hardware,usable anytime/anywhere, more secure than having it on premise, and eliminatingthe hassle of upgrades and training," said Whitehouse. "Taking acloser look, you will find this is not always the case."

As for costs, she claims the most significant savingscurrently are in infrastructure, mainly due to the reduced need for IT supportor servers to maintain, but as firms cannot yet switch 100 percent of theiractivities to the cloud, there is still a need for these.

Whitehouse urged all attendees to carefully review acloud vendor's service-level agreement, which should clearly address datastorage, security, and downtime issues -- all of which are top concerns amongfirms considering moving services to the cloud.

"If you are a vendor in this space, you need to showaccountants what the overall cost savings will really be to get them to move tothe cloud, because right now it's only in a few areas and you are not going tohave the savings that many of them currently promise until there are solutionsthat are 100 percent SaaS and can address everything accountants need todo," said Whitehouse. "I think it will take us a while as aprofession to get over our data being somewhere else, but we have made greatstrides and at the end of the day, if you are going to change anything you do,it has to be a good time for you to do it, not just because there are solutionsout there for you to use."

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