Imagine you and a friend are having a good chat at the local coffee shop and mid-conversation he stands up and says, "Keep talking, I'm going just down the street." So you continue your discussion as he proceeds to walk three doors down and into his favorite pizzeria. You're still talking, but his ears are no longer within range.

In the realm of cloud computing, this scenario can easily play out unless we make sure to keep our applications within communication range of each other.

Many of the applications that accounting firms use "talk" to one another to transmit information between them. They’re “integrated.” We've been sold on the value of this integration for years and use it to make our practices more efficient.

Tax talks to Engagement and Practice to update client records. Engagement talks to Microsoft Office to link workpapers. Just about everything should talk to the document management system, etc. etc.

Imagine if Tax and Engagement could no longer communicate or if the link between Engagement and Excel were broken. In either case, this stoppage would require resorting to manual processes to move data between the apps— a loss in productivity we cannot afford.

Having traditional applications run from the cloud while others run from their on-premises network breaks this integration. We'll define traditional applications as those originally designed to run from a laptop/desktop (e.g., Word, Excel, QuickBooks Pro, etc.), as compared with web-based applications that are designed to run from a browser (such as Google Docs, QuickBooks Online, or your online bank account access). Putting Tax in the cloud and keeping Practice in-house and running from the local network will create the breakage we've been discussing.

So, when you consider taking your firm to the cloud, be certain that the integrity of the links will be kept intact. Moving your firm only partially to the cloud will likely break these links, whereas going whole-hog (moving the firm's entire application list) into the cloud keeps the links properly in place.

Gradually over the next decade or so, all of the accounting industry applications will be rewritten so that they are either natively web-based or sufficiently web friendly. Until then, be mindful of the technology chasm that exists between your local network and the cloud.

Choose either coffee or pizza, but they don't go well together.

Trey James is the co-founder and CEO of Xcentric, which specializes in cloud computing and IT consulting for CPA firms. He can be reached at tjames@xcentric.com.

 

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