The Cloud and Your Business

At least once a month someone asks me about the cloud, and what it can do for his/her business. My answer is everything…maybe.

What is the Cloud:

The cloud encompasses a few concepts. I’m focusing on the most common business related uses for this post; being able to read/edit/create documents.

in its simplest form, the cloud can work as storage for your files. In this scenario your files are sent to a server on the internet for storage. This means that you can download your files from any computer with an internet connection. This is very useful for people that don’t want to carry a USB thumbdrive, or similar. It’s also useful for groups if people are in different locations since each person can update the files as needed, and everyone in the group can see those changes. In this version of the cloud, you must bring your own software. That is, you have to install Office, or Adobe Acrobat, or Photoshop on your device to open/edit your Office Documents, PDF’s, or pictures for example.

In a more complicated version, the cloud is not only storage, it’s where you you can open, edit, and create your files. This means that in general, you don’t need to have software pre-installed on computers you want to use, and you can much more easily use a smartphone, or tablet to work on your files.

What can cloud software do for my business?

Cloud software is still a maturing market. In general, most business needs can be met with the software that is available, but if you’re moving from desktop software, you should be careful that the cloud version supports all of the features you use, even if you are moving from the desktop version of software to an online version. Quickbooks 2014 for the desktop has more features than Quickbooks online edition, for example. Further, If you use custom plugins for your desktop software, you will have to confirm that there is a cloud version of the plugin available. In the long term, cloud software will eventually have all of the same features as the desktop equivalent, but as of now, you should be aware of the differences.

Is the cloud right for my business?

…maybe. Businesses that move to the cloud will generally find that they can do business in ways they never imagined. Some business owners really enjoy being able to work from home, or being able to get sensitive data away from the office as they need it. Others enjoy the flexibility it allows for employees, leading to more productive employees. In general, the benefits of the cloud are clear. You will have greater flexibility in how you work so the answer tends to depend more on the features you are using. Overall, it’s definitely worth keeping up with the latest trends in cloud computing for your small business.

Are You Getting the Most from QuickBooks?

When I talk to most small business owners, I find that there is at least one part of their accounting that they do either by hand, or on a spreadsheet, even if they are using QuickBooks, or similar software.  I usually ask them why they do this, and I have found that there are two answers: they are concerned about people in the company seeing this info, or they have had difficulty using QuickBooks/other software to handle the info.

I provide training services and QuickBooks setup to eliminate the first problem. It’s easy to limit what your employees can see in most accounting software. The second problem is a bit more difficult.

I provide a free hour of time to prospective clients to discuss their needs and how I can help them. One day, a client came to me because he was looking for a business loan and he needed his books in order to give to the bank. He said that he was creating invoices in QuickBooks, but he could never get QuickBooks to show the right total owed to him by each customer. He was tracking his accounts receivable in an excel spreadsheet and the file was very large and difficult to work with. As a result, he requested payment from a client that had already paid in full. He felt very embarrassed!

I investigated his QuickBooks file, I saw that his methods were creating additional issues. His books showed more income than he actually earned, and he was paying taxes on the extra income!

I came up with a plan of action to address his issues. First, we fixed his books so that he could send the info to the bank. Next, we coordinated with his tax preparer to amend his tax returns. Finally, we gave him training to use the Accounts Receivable in Quickbooks

I followed up with him some time later to see if he was satisfied with our service, and to see if he got the loan he was looking for. Much to my surprise, he said that he turned down the loan. He was able to collect money faster with the QuickBooks Accounts Receivable function because he spent less time working on the spreadsheet, and more time making calls for payment.