[IMGCAP(1)]Cloud deployments have grown in popularity over the years, in part due to greater acceptance and willingness of people to use portals and other cloud-based applications.

From e-mail to banking to everyday purchases online, people are accustomed to doing things on mobile devices and over the Internet and in the cloud. Businesses are realizing and embracing the many benefits associated with cloud computing, such as quick implementation, significant cost savings, and flexibility.

Cloud computing enables organizations to shift IT operations out of an office and into a secure virtual environment. The cloud vendor provides IT resources and data security, which removes the burden and costs associated with purchasing, monitoring and maintaining applications and servers and finding skilled IT staff. Cloud vendors also manage all the patches, upgrades and backups. With the cloud, firms only have to manage Internet connectivity and PCs; the rest is taken care of by the vendor. For smaller firms with financial and physical space constraints and lack of IT staff, cloud computing is particularly appealing with its low-cost pricing model.

The benefits of cloud computing are plentiful. Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more organizations and accounting firms are utilizing it. However, it is important to remember that just because an organization has moved some components of its business to the cloud does not mean that they have to move everything to the cloud. Some things may be better managed in-house, within an organization's firewall and under its own control.

 

WHAT MAKES CLOUD SENSE?

With the excitement of the cloud and greater awareness of all the benefits it offers, it is important to remember that cloud computing is not an all-or-nothing venture. In fact, many organizations have opted to operate in a mixed environment, leveraging the cloud for some aspects of their business while keeping other segments on-premise.

A key benefit of having information stored in the cloud is access to data at any time, from any location and any device. For international organizations working in multiple time zones, collaborative teams such as marketing and advertising, and those that require instant access to real-time data such as sales teams, the flexibility of cloud is ideal.

However, when dealing with business-critical data such as financial information, it is important to consider if the convenience of the cloud is worth the risk. For many, the answer is no. As a result, some accounting departments and firms are opting to keep their business-critical data, such as data related to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, M&A activity, forecasting and planning, and financial close, off the cloud. This includes keeping essential analytical tools that hold sensitive data like Excel -- as well as the technology that allows accountants and executive teams to manage and model spreadsheets -- off the cloud as well.

While security is a much-touted benefit of the cloud, it is impossible to ensure that the level of security offered when signing with a vendor will be maintained, especially if the selected vendor gets acquired. As evidenced by the growing number of organizations breached by hackers, ultimately anything is hackable. Even large banks with seemingly endless security budgets are falling victim to data breaches.

Keeping highly strategic data on-premise puts a level of control back in the hands of a company. The company knows precisely how it is protecting data and exactly which products and procedures are being used, rather than placing trust in a cloud vendor that they are doing (and using) the right things. For organizations (and accountants) not willing to put key financial data in the cloud, keeping critical data on premise is becoming an increasingly common and smart practice. 

Diane Robinette is the CEO of Incisive, a developer of spreadsheet analysis, control and management solutions.

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