[IMGCAP(1)]The Cloud, the Cloud, the Cloud. It seems like every time you pick up a trade publication you are being told that transitioning to the cloud is a necessity. And while I believe this is true (I do run my firm in the cloud), I think that you must first do your homework and make sure that you are adopting the right solutions.

“The cloud” does not refer to a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many options out there. Do you know which ones best meet your needs?

During my recent business travels, I heard a CPA tell the story of how he moved a client from QuickBooks online to the hosted version of the software. The CPA did this for two key reasons: 1) he was more familiar with the hosted version of the software, and 2) the vendor encouraged him to do so, claiming it was a better fit for his firm.

The transition was made, even though the CPA’s client was content with QuickBooks online. Soon after, the CPA started receiving complaints from the client—the core issues being that the hosted solution was slower and did not support working in real time. At the end of the day, the client was mad at the CPA for changing solutions and causing a disruption in service, and the CPA was annoyed with the vendor who encouraged him to move to the hosted solution in the first place.

This example supports my opinion that collectively the profession needs a wake-up call where the cloud is concerned. It’s time for some serious schoolin’. Firms need to put in the effort to educate themselves on the host of cloud solutions available. Accounting professionals need to understand what each solution offers, how they fit together, and which systems best meet the needs of their firms (and their clients). You don’t just wake up one day and switch to the cloud. You have to do your homework.

There is so much more out there than, for example, hosted QuickBooks. And if you are not aware of this, you are missing the boat. There are so many SaaS-based applications that can offer immense value to your clients—for example, Bill.com, SmartVault, Freshbooks…to name only a few. So get out there and check out some of these solutions.

I have the same message for vendors. It’s time for your wake-up call as well. We (the profession) need more education! We need articles, we need white papers, we need YOU to help us better understand your technology and how it can help us operate more efficiently and better serve our clients. What we don’t need is a constant push of products—educate us first. If we can “see” the value, we will buy.

Back to my CPA readers...the cloud will change your life, but you need to learn about it and understand it first.  Get in the game, people. Mix it up. Learn all you can. This is the future—make sure you are a part of it.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. She can be reached at www.newvisioncpagroup.com.