But what is the ‘Cloud'? And has it already started to creep into your day to day tasks?
Quite simply, you are currently floating in the right ‘Cloud' now. You are reading this article via the source of the Internet. You have not physically installed anything onto your computer to get hold of this article. The same idea applies to your Facebook accounts, your personal email accounts, your online shopping orders from Amazon or Tesco, your online bank transactions. In fact, almost everything you do on your computer will take place in the ‘Cloud'. It is fast, secure, and improving all the time. You can join the ‘Cloud' from any computer, anytime, anywhere.
So how can businesses start utilising software located in the ‘Cloud'? This software is known as Software as a service (saas). It means you pay weekly, monthly, annually to use a particular service online. This service and all your information is hosted by the company you are paying. They look after your data and make sure you get the most out of using their online capabilities, whatever the service may be. Saas makes life a simpler for the user.
Lets look at online accounting for example. You might be used to the mundane, long and arduous tasks of accounts and data entry. You are probably used to the timely task of filling in spreadsheets located somewhere (‘but where did I save it again?') on your PC. Maybe you have experience with an off the shelf accounting package, that has worked well but has no doubt required regular upgrades at a hefty extra cost. Maybe your current accounting package is so detailed and full of accounting jargon that you feel you need an accountant glued to your side for every click of your mouse. A costly approach I would say.
The market for online accounting is growing quickly and there are some great packages out there that will help you save time, money and ultimately make your accounting a much user friendly task.
Going online for anything effectively saves you time. Sending an email is quicker that writing, stamping and posting a letter. Ordering your Christmas presents online is quicker than driving to the shops, hovering for a parking spot, waiting in endless queues to pay for your goods then to make a mad dash to drive home to avoid any car park traffic!
Online accounting also saves you time and effort, and allows you to use that free time to concentrate on other things - like running your business and bringing in sales! Online accounting allows you to do everything in one place in ‘real time'.
What to look out for when choosing online accounting software?
- Free trial. You need to be sure the software is as good as it says it is. The only way to do this is try before you buy. Look out for companies offering a 30 day free trial which will allow you to really explore their system.
- Free support. Email and telephone support are key. If you can't get guidance and help from a fellow human being it's just not worth the stress!
- Constant improvement and feature development of the system. This is where offline software packages make their money - through their upgrades. Online accounting software companies constantly upgrade their systems and functionality at no extra cost. Some of the more collaborative companies encourage their customers to suggest ideal tools they would like to see developed.
- Range of price plans. Most online accounting companies provide a variety of price plans depending on the amount of transactions per month you make. Expect to pay anything from as little as £5 per month to £30 per month.
- Cancel at any time option. Don't get tied into a contract. You will still have access to your data if and when you decide to cancel.
- A clear design and jargon free content is essential. Not all of us went to accounting school so not everyone in business is ‘au fait' with the blurb that goes with accounting and bookkeeping. A nice clean design will also make things clearer and easily manageable.
- Features that save you hassle and man power. Look out for special features like multi currency tool, uploading of bank statements, VAT retuns, PAYE payroll, PDF invoices,professional invoices, tax help, free updates. Look for features that are going to make your life easier - essentially saving you time at no extra cost to your monthly subscription!
Online accounting has arrived and it's not going away. It's growing and it will surely be the norm within 5 years. Software as a service, is becoming an easier and cheaper option for most business solutions. A lot of online software companies pride themselves on collaboration and communication with their customers to make sure they are providing the best service and always improving the functionality of their systems.
There is a common concern associated with joining the ‘Cloud' and that is security. However, with modern technology, firewalling, backups, data encryption, security patches online is one of the safest places to be. Nobody can physically steal your software online. Nowadays it seems you are more at risk having your laptop stolen from the boot of your car. If you had your Spreadsheets saved on the hard drive of your laptop you would never get that information back.
This would never happen with software in the ‘Cloud' as your information is hosted, constantly backed up and thoroughly secure. All it waits for you to do is log on and utilise where ever you are in the world. All you need is the Internet!
About the Author:
www.clearbooks.co.uk www.kashflow.co.uk www.freeagentcentral.co.uk
No. of Times this article has been viewed : 279
Date Published : Feb 9 2011
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