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The Cloud in Times of Trouble: How It Works for Small Biz When Disaster Strikes

The understatement of late 2012, when it comes to technology: systems suffer when the environment is extreme.

The Cloud in Times of TroubleWe saw this, of course, in late October, as New York, New Jersey, and parts of the East Coast lost power, public transportation — and lives — during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.

The human toll being the most critical at such times, it can take a while for the challenges of running a small business to return to their normal focus. But later, when the sky has cleared and life must resume something of its normal routine, challenges do loom. For small-business owners, this means bringing their data infrastructure back online.

Payrolls. Repairs. Contact lists of vendors and customers — for all kinds of reasons these become more critical than ever. Has your IT core been protected? Have you lost the data that everyone relies upon to get back to bringing in a paycheck?

Let’s look at the cloud, and the role that professionals working with it daily see it playing during not only Sandy, but also future crisis events.

Data First Responders and the Cloud

“During disasters, IT teams become first responders tasked with trying to keep the business operational,” says Todd Krautkremer, vice president of marketing at cloud-network company Pertino.

Krautkremer blogged about the role of the cloud in the days after Sandy: “They often have to deal with a wide range of issues, including keeping back-up power running, physically relocating servers, and grappling with an entire workforce that suddenly needs secure remote access.”

So, hats off to the IT crews out there. But one way to avoid having to count on too few pros being in demand by too many hurting businesses during a post-disaster demand peak: the cloud.

Ensuring that your small business’s data is protected means making your data non-reliant upon geography. Think about it: if it’s not physically stored in the path of harm, restarting your business after an emergency requires only finding power and a working computer — not scrambling to find your data.

And that’s not as bad as facing the prospect of waterlogged hard drives and a wrecked set of servers. Even if you feel more comfortable storing your most-sensitive business information in-house, having a series of cloud servers to which you can migrate that material in stages as a crisis approaches, this is key to securing it from the elements.

Scaling Up, Scaling Down: Small Biz to the Federal Gov’t

The cloud’s role in disaster response and recovery is something businesses of all sizes acknowledge.

The General Services Administration saw the value of the cloud early on, says Casey Coleman, chief information officer for the federal department. As an early adopter, the GSA was able to provide access to its servers and help with emergency response and recovery during and after Sandy’s arrival in the U.S.

“GSA’s cloud conversion prevented complications from the Verizon outage, which would have led to interruptions in these services for GSA users in New York and New Jersey,” Coleman told FCW, a publication that covers the business of federal tech.

It is a problem not likely to vanish from small-business and other operators’ list of concerns. The changes that are now becoming  best practices, Krautkremer  blogged,  are changes based in the cloud.

“One thing is for sure,” he wrote. “The sky will open-up and wreak havoc again in the future. The next time it does, SMB IT organizations can look to the cloud.”

 

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Poll: Small-Business Owners Talk Worst Headaches (and Solutions)

Small Business Headaches and SolutionsWhat do the majority of small-business owners say are key points of stress in their world, in late 2012? The answer is, of course, related to how they manage money.

Nearly three-quarters of business owners polled in a recent Xero survey, 73% of them, said that managing revenue, expenses, and collecting overdue payments top the list of financial stressors.

“As a small-business owner, I am constantly in five places at once,” says Caitlin MacGregor, cofounder of Cream.hr, a hiring consultancy. What she seeks, in the way of solutions, MacGregor says, is a way of seeing big pictures and understanding the finances of the whole small business, moment to moment.

And so the trend, owners say, is increasingly the move to mobile.

Mobile Tools and Small Biz Finance

It’s not news that people use their smartphones and their tablets to check personal finances from almost anywhere, at any time.

Xero’s poll shows that almost half (46%) the mobile-device consumers it surveyed are looking at their bank accounts on vacation, and 18% of them will check their balance at the bar, or at the restaurant table.

Small Business Headaches and Solutions

Meanwhile, 67% of the small-business owners and operators polled say that they use mobile apps to help run their shops. And 58% of those polled describe the effect of these apps and devices: mobile makes small business operations more efficient.

How? Small-business owners are adopting the mobile finance mechanisms available to them to solve those key stressors that 73% of them describe. (Xero has a horse in this race — that’s part of why they’re so interested in these numbers. The company builds online accounting software that does the kind of things these owners are talking about, when it comes to finances and mobile apps.)
Here’s what more than 500 say about their implementation of mobile finances, in 2012.

— 33% said they check bank balances, making managing revenue the kind of minute-by-minute scenario that owners such as MacGregor say they desire.

— The expense-report problem. Some 23% of the polled owners said they use a mobile device to capture receipts. In other words, they’re submitting expense reports and the required documentation right from their phones.

— 18% are utilizing mobile tech to invoice their clients. This means, given the right apps, that they’re creating invoice documents for their customers on the spot, e-mailing it to them, and then following up on overdue statements, all from a mobile platform.

 

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We Have to Start Meeting Like This: How the Cloud is Making the Conference Room Obsolete

We have to start meeting like thisPart of the experience of working in a world of mobile tech is that your meetings are no longer conference-room bound.

Instead, you can bring together people from anyplace, using a virtual space that opens your team up to possibilities that once required a lot more time and money.

Want to sit down with your graphics designer in San Francisco, but also pull in your head of marketing who’s at an expo this week in Toronto? And you’re in New York? With the help of cloud computing, you can.

Cloud conferencing allows users to share information and makes meetings a multimedia experience. This isn’t a teleconference with disembodied voices bouncing off the walls of a teleconference. Attendees can work with all the documents, sound, and images — the real-time collaboration that you’re used to in a physical space.

So, how do you get your small-business on board with meeting software? And how much is all this going to cost, anyway? Let’s take a quick trot around the course of cloud conference technology, noting some of the platforms out there in the online-meeting world, especially those that put your small-business budget in the front seat and allow you to work for low costs or for free.

1. MeetingKing 

If all you need is a basic way to participate as a team from individual screens, MeetingKing is a free way to get started along that path. Beginning with its nuts-and-bolts public meeting space, if you wish you can later pick from a suite of paid monthly programs. The top-end version of the app costs about $125 per month.

At its most elaborate, you’re looking at packed-in templates for creating agendas and minutes and customizable graphics such as logos. Each meeting gets archived for a period of time — from three months to forever — depending on the package that you choose.

2. MeetingSense

MeetingSense can take your online conference to yet another level. In includes task-allocation and tracking features, and communications- and member-update options that create connectivity between the pre-, during, and post-meeting experience.

And MeetingSense’s pricing is scalable. You pay approximately $20 per member, per month. So you can implement the app by assigning it to particular team members within a particular timeframe. Start it when you need it, turn it off when you’re done.

3. AgreeDo

This app approaches cloud conferencing with a similar suite of tools to the preceding example, but it provides them for free. From keeping track of decisions and documents, to getting those needed documents to everyone once the meeting is done, you can’t really beat the number of options at this the price. The company suggests that for-pay features may be forthcoming, but for now users get access to everything without a charge.

4. Minutes.io 

Say you don’t need a whole suit of cloud conference services, and you haven’t the time to learn a whole software system.

If it’s simply minutes and to-do lists you’re looking to create, and you want the ability to push them to participants and link them to other software applications along the line, check out the free Minutes.io app.

Presenting an intuitive and tablet-friendly environment, your end result is an interactive doc that shows tasks, decisions, and ownerships at a glance. It gets stored locally on your browser, so even if the meeting you’re in hasn’t got an Internet connection, they’ll live in stasis, awaiting publication, until you’re in a Wi-Fi zone again.

 

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Small-Business Networking: Internet Connections Eclipsing the Old Face-to-Face?

Here are the numbers: 74% of small-business owners in a recent poll say that networking online is as, or more, important than meeting with their networks face-to-face.

The number is among the results of a new survey conducted by Manta, an online community-builder for small businesses.

Small Business Online NetworkingThe survey numbers are of the kind that make you sit up and address some long-held notions. The idea that the importance of online networking is eclipsing person-to-person? It is absolutely contrary what old-school networking strategies have emphasized for so long.

But then, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Consumers and business owners, nowadays they’re on the web. Mobile business accounts for some 1 billion workers. And small-business owners are freshly focusing on the facts.

Let’s take a closer look, talk to some owners about the change, and find out what else the survey can tell us about the development of networking on the web.

Connecting Online: One Sweet Step at a Time

Sherry Sheppard owns i love cupcakes, in Largo, Florida. For her, getting online and bringing her concept to new people is an integral part of her work.

“Continuous customer support and tools,” Sheppard says of her Internet networking experience, “have really helped us leverage creative ways to reach people. New and innovative opportunities to market to and connect with people online has really helped get our specialty cupcake bakery noticed, which has proven to be vital to our ongoing success.”

To what extent?

Sheppard says that 70% of her business comes to her via online networking. That’s more than just frosting on the cake.

Running the Numbers: Online Networking on the Rise

Of the 600 small businesses polled, Manta’s survey helps paint the picture of not only how many owners say web-based networking is important, but it also gives us a sense of how much time they’re spending doing it throughout the year.

  • 52% say they dedicate half or more of their business networking time to online channels in 2012.
  • Percentage of owners who say they give all their business-networking attention to the web: 7%
  • 36% of the owners said that half or more of their new customers in the past year found them through online channels.
  • Company websites are still leading the pack, when it comes to driving business. 24% of the owners said so.
  • Close behind is Facebook. 19% of the owners polled said The Social Network was the chief driver of business from the web to their services.

Building Businesses Online: Standing Out in the Crowd

The numbers certainly tell a story. But the thinking behind these stats is perhaps best summarized by one small-business executive who’s competing for customers daily.

“Since there are so many avenues to connect with people today, it’s important to consistently stand out from all the noise,” says Joseph Buczek, president of Indiana and Missouri-based Lighthouse Construction and Restoration, Inc. “In the architectural and remodeling industry, I have a lot of competitors and I need to be where my customers are – and that’s online.”

 

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Mobile Business 101: Communicate Better, Collaborate Better (Here’s How)

Mobile Business 101What’s more impressive than a mobile workforce 1 billion workers strong?

It’s this: a mobile workforce topping the 1.3-billion member mark.

That’s the recent prediction by the International Data Corp., which tracks workforce trends. That’s a lot of employees communicating all at once via a whole spectrum of devices.

When it comes to small businesses, the success of going mobile largely depends on a well-planned and smartly implemented communication system. Mobile small-biz professionals need to plug into best practices to keep everything running smoothly, out there on the road.

Let’s look at four ways to do just that, (with some advice provided by industry experts at eVoice to help out). It’s time for a quick study of mobile business 101.

1. Unify Your Company’s Mobile-Comm Profile

No matter how sophisticated your network of mobile employees, if you’re presenting your customers with the concept of a company, stick with a single central phone number that they can call. Thanks to technology, anyone can connect to the trunk number, and then get connected to a representative’s roaming mobile device.

In this age of cloud-based systems, that’s the reality. Virtual phone systems mean that the call, to the caller, will sound  just like the conventional greeting and menu-option environment that they’ve come to expect. It doesn’t matter where the person picking up the call is actually speaking from.

2. Deploy Voicemail as a Prioritizing Tool

It’s an old trick, but it’s still a good one when it comes to protecting employees’ valuable time. Prioritize calls by what virtual-phone software tells them about the incoming caller allows them to divert certain conversations that they can get to further down the line, and bump the most important calls to the top of their response list. Virtual voicemail means that the mobile worker can — again, thanks to cloud technology — access the account from anywhere during the day.

3. Circumvent the Dead Zones: VoIP Helps Eliminate Carrier Loss

Versatile and professional communication from anywhere, in this mobile work-world: that does  sound appealing.

But many of us know the truth about office-ing from our smartphones: dropped calls, cellular dead zones, these things mark the surefire path to frustration for the client and the small-business.

Clicking over to a virtual phone system can help, one that bounces hard-to-connect calls to the Internet and replaces a potentially shaky carrier with hardwired Wi-Fi whenever its possible to get online. It can make all the difference when that important call catches you out in the country. (Especially if you’re tethering for Internet anywhere.)

4. Cloud Conference 

When it comes to demos, real-time brainstorming, and all the business-class communication that used to have come solely from the board room, the cloud is now the conference room for mobile workers.

According to one recent survey conducted by ConferBlogs, 77% of employees and owners of small- to medium-sized businesses say that web conferencing saves them travel time, travel costs, and connects them to more people than traditional face-to-face meet-ups.

There is certainly more than one option out there, when it comes to the tech that can drive these mobile communications strategies.

From Adobe Connect to MegaMeeting, from Vocalocity to the suite of tools that come with eVoice, the range of services — and prices — allow small businesses to pick and choose what suits them best.

Start with these tips and get your mobile workforce talking —  and conferencing, and sharing desktops. All these points of integration will make them part of a dynamic and moving workforce, soon to be 1.3 billion strong.

 

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Small Biz in the Forum: How Smart Posting is Good Marketing

Small-business advertising has often amounted to something like this: how much bang can you get for your buck?

Billboards, ad spots, commercials, whatever the format, you want to see your marketing dollars amount to returns, sales, conversions.

But while a billboard-heavy marketing campaign by the big guys can lead to increased business, it’s often difficult to understand just how much money they eventually bring in. Just as often, ad experts tell us, it’s about expanding the reach of your brand and it’s about recognition.

But the smaller shop doesn’t always have the luxury of dropping crucial marketing dollars on what can amount to only a concept play. So, for small businesses, how can you showcase your expertise and build your reputation, but still keep the budget and return-on-investment at the center of the game?

One way is the online forum.

Let’s look at small-business owners who’ve used forum posting to develop new clients. We’re helped by Manta Connect, an online community-builder for small businesses to connect to the communities of customers they want to find.

Forum Posting: It’s About Time, Not Money

“Small business owners who actively share their knowledge and experience in the forum on Manta Connect not only establish themselves as industry experts in the community,” said Pamela Springer, chief executive at Manta, “but they gain a competitive advantage in expanding their customer reach.”

Take Stephen Lewis, for example. He’s the owner of Worthwhile Things in Orlando, Florida. While his team is working to coach small businesses, he turns to forums to find new clients  — and he does this by answering the questions they’ve asked.

Online Forums“Most of the questions and posts I respond to involve a business owner asking how to do something online, or how to do it better,” he said. “By giving clear answers which contain relevant and thoughtful tips, comments and feedback, I can establish myself as an authority on a given subject.”

The outlay for what amounts to a new, real, and concrete customer lead? A little bit of time.

“I find that by giving 5-10 minutes of my time and offering a short bullet list of free advice, I receive great reviews and feedback, and give myself an opportunity to make a new business contact or customer,” Lewis said. “I always include anchor text links back to my various online properties, but always to specific pieces of content that will augment my answer to the question posed.”

Expertise Online: Look to Learn, then Show Don’t Tell

For small-business owners as well, two other major elements of online forums come into play:

— A Lab for Best Practices: By watching your colleagues who also post and interact, as a small-business owner you’ve got a free way to learn at your disposal. From the best moves to mistakes, participating in online forums allows small-business owners to listen in on a vital conversation about best practices.

— A Place to Demonstrate What You Do: When a small-business owner rents a booth at a trade conference, they’re really spending money to demonstrate something about what it is they do. Forums can provide that, in a different way, without the expense. ”By using my experience and providing any help that I can,” said Patrick Tuure, web designer and owner of O.T. Web Designs in Columbus, Ohio. “I demonstrate to other forum followers that I know what I’m doing and, as a result, it opens them up to doing business with me. Since the posts are always there, they serve as a great icebreaker when someone contacts me. I don’t have to spend the time to convince them of my level of knowledge, they can clearly see it.”

Image Credit: Forum / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0

 

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Silver Lining: Small-Business Owners Suggest Economic Optimism During Tough Economic Times

A silver lining for small businessesHere’s something that might seem counterintuitive, given all the economic bad news that small-business owners have to wade through in these times: small-business owners aresaying that the future’s looking bright and looking up.

That’s what became clear in a June 2012 in a survey of more than 1,000 small-business respondents. Of them, 76% said they are optimistic about their company’s growth for the remainder of the year. Other interesting numbers from the survey include:

  • Fewer than 7% said the opposite of “expected growth,” that they thought conditions for their business would decline by the end of 2012.
  • About 17% of the small-business owners said that the November U.S. Presidential election would further determine how they feel about a positive or not-so-positive future for their shops.

But that’s not all. The survey also reveals a correlation between the age of the business owner and the level of optimism. The younger the respondent, the more likely he or she is positive about the future. Let’s dig into those numbers.

Youthful Optimism: Digging Deeper into the Small-Business Owner’s Mindset

The survey, conducted by j2 Global — a provider of cloud services, such as e-fax, virtual phones, and e-mail — indicated that while a majority of respondents are optimistic about the months to come, those under 32 years old were the most confident of the lot.

The tally: 85% of the Millennial generation’s respondents said that they expected their business to grow. The numbers then dipped a bit as the answers came from older owners.

  • 81% of those between 33 and 47 years said they felt optimistic about their business.
  • 71% ranging from 48–66 years were positive about business growth.
  • 64% of owners over 67 were feeling bullish about the future of their work.

“I think younger business owners are in a group maybe more tailored to the current economy and current world,” said Mike Pugh, vice president, marketing of j2 Global. “Maybe they adopted mobile devices and models that allow them to be more nimble. They may have less infrastructure and overhead, with what they do based on the cloud-based solutions that are out there.

“Another part of it is what I like to say is the sheer optimism of youth,” Pugh continued, referring to youth especially during tough economic times. “They have been through this on a shorter timespan, and the older generation: they’ve been through more. They’ve been through this before. Maybe they fell less heartened about taking it on another time.”

Social Media as Growth Promoter: New Opportunities for the ‘Nimble’

One of the reasons the youngest cohort is the most positive might be that the business world is shifting away from brick and mortar to online and interconnected.

According to j2 Global’s survey, one in three owners say their marketing strategy is now completely social-media centered. And 26% say social media takes up half or more of their marketing-strategy time.

And then there’s the effect of mobile-device technology.

No longer shackled to a desk in some back office, mobile-minded small-business owners may be saving up to 370 million hours of time per year by going mobile with location-non-dependent apps.

Indeed, the survey says that 38% of small-business owners use five or more mobile applications to keep their operations running well.

“Nimble is the word that comes to my mind,” said Pugh. “My opinion about these mobile-based businesses is they have the flexibility to start up, to wind down, to change and to restart faster. An older capital-intense business has to raise money, get a facility, buy equipment. Your ability to change your mind is pretty slim.”

And so, when it comes to optimism, Pugh said: “The key word is nimbleness, and that compresses all these timeframes, and it makes for more opportunities to change. And with that, you can change the rules.”

 

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Small Businesses Driving New Hires: Stats Show Online Jobs Are Hot

Small Businesses are Creating Online JobsWhen it comes to U.S. employment stats at mid-year 2012, there’s tough news and then there’s news that suggests one sector is starting to get better.

The tough news: businesses created only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in 12 months, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Signs of hope: when it comes to new employment, if there are heroes in our midst, they may be among the small businesses that are seeking an online workforce.

According to a recent small-business survey conducted by Elance, a leading global platform for online employment, 73% of the more than 1,500 small businesses polled in May 2012 said they planned to hire more online workers this year than in 2011.

That could drive a thriving online job economy. So, let’s take a deeper look at what’s happening with small businesses in the online hiring sphere, consider why, and think about what it may mean for the future.

The 1-in-3 Equation: Small Businesses and Online Talent as a New System

The snapshot of the survey suggests that small-business owners are not only flexing their hiring muscles but also turning to the cloud for job creation.

Why is this happening?

One reason for the increased attention to online workers may be that qualified professionals are increasingly making their talent available online.

Evidence: 40% of the companies surveyed claimed that they could already find better talent online than what was available locally.

“These results  . . .  support our prediction that 1 out of every 3 people hired in 2020 will be hired online,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. 

Cloud’s Edge: The Future of Employment Competition

If Rosati is correct, his numbers suggest that job-seekers would do well to pay attention to what small-businesses are saying about new and future hires.

Eighty-four percent of businesses surveyed stated that online hiring gives them an advantage over competitors. They talked about significant improvements in flexibility, meaningful cost savings, and increased productivity.

Furthermore, nearly 70% of the businesses polled indicated that they experienced faster times-to-hire and 55% said they are able to access talent not otherwise available.

It may be that the next half-decade is the determining timeframe, when it comes to the cloud and how job-seekers find new work.

In the survey, more than half (54%) of the businesses that answered the questions said that the majority of their workforce would soon be comprised of online talent — meaning everything from Web programming to design and content.

And this is just in the United States. Numbers in Europe skewed even higher, when it came to questions about online hiring and the next five years.

It’s the wave of the future, said Rosati, and it’s happening as close-by as the keyboard.

“As more companies realize the tremendous benefits of working with flexible, on-demand professionals,” he said, “online employment will expand as a core business strategy for businesses around the world.”

That could be great news, and a prompt for would-be members of the next-gen workforce: get into the cloud, and get busy with small-business. Good luck, job hunters!

 

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Vacation Anxiety and the Small Business Owner: 4 Tips to Help You Stop Worrying

Vacation Anxiety and the Small Business OwnerVacation anxiety. For small-business owners, it’s a reality (and a real summertime bummer). In fact, more than 2/3 of small-business owners stress out while on vacation, according to a recent study by Intuit.

So, how will you cope when it comes time to relax?

Let’s look at some key tips and tricks to thwart vacation anxiety — while still keeping things running smoothly back at the home office.

1. Informing Your Public “Vacation” Means Actual Downtime

No shame in taking a break. Without a chance to recharge, you aren’t running your small business at your best. The key to preventing a mid-vacation slip-back — meaning that day you start office-ing from your beach-side bungalow — communication. “If people don’t know you’re on vacation, chances are they’ll keep on hounding you or feel slighted that you haven’t returned an e-mail or call,” Mike Pugh, of j2 Global, said. “Simply letting people know you’re out is one of the best ways to cut yourself some slack and enjoy your time off.”

2. Leave a Lieutenant in Your Place

Your employees are the people that you count on while you’re away. Make sure you pick the person (or people) that are going to be the face of your small business during your vacation. Give them the information they’ll need to work autonomously. Advise your other staff members of this individual’s new temporary authority. You may even prompt a long-term transformation at your business: the challenge of leading while the boss is away can be a stretch role that transforms a good employee into a great asset.

3. Alright, It’s OK to Office from Vacation (But Just a Little)

Set a morning schedule of 30 minutes on e-mail. Being clear about when and for how long you’re available is the key to keeping your work time in check. If you manage the expectations of your employees and clients, they’ll be less likely to try to wrestle you from your barbecue.

4. Your Phone is (Still) Your Lifeline

More than half of the small-business owners polled by Intuit said that keeping their cell phones on them allowed them to feel better, to know they could keep some connection to the office. So, sure, keep your phone around but get some help from back home on what calls to take and when. Mike Pugh of J2 Global suggests using cloud-based tools for tasks such as checking and sending documents as well as handling faxes.

But mainly: get the break you need. Go back refreshed.

Have tip about how to handle vacation anxiety as a small-business owner? Tell us about it in the comments section, and, on behalf of worrying owners everywhere, thanks!

 

 

Accountants Move to the Cloud: The New Face of Small-Biz Finances

Accountants Move to the CloudOne of the world’s oldest professions is moving to the cloud. No, not that oldest profession; we’re talking about accounting here!

The forecast is this: if the new wave of cloud-based accountants have their way, soon will be gone the days of small-business owners hauling dollies of documents into an old-school brick-and-mortar office.

In fact, in a new study from Xero, one online accounting software provider for accountants and small businesses, 3 in 10 accounting professionals plan to move their clients online this year alone. Xero definitely has an iron in that fire, but the accountants presumably answer as they will.

Let’s take a look at the phenomenon, where it’s at right now, and the future of the idea.

Cloud Accounting: What It Means for Your Business

Accounting in the cloud is changing the pace and immediacy of how a company’s financials are tracked and accessed. Cloud computing not only reduces the amount of physical hardware a small business needs, it also makes key information easier to use.

“You can get a CPA who has access to your accounting data 24/7,” said Nicholas Bird, a partner and accountant at Lucid Books of Utah — he also advises Xero on its accounting front.

Bird is already using the cloud to accelerate his clients’ understanding of their money.

“You can have a phone conversation about money, in realtime, that most small business won’t have right now because it’s a big hassle,” he said.

The labor-intensive spreadsheet crunching of pre-cloud tools may soon be history. Bird pointed out several other benefits, too.

— Time Saving: No more end-of-tax-year aggregation and computation. Keep your cloud-based accountant up to date constantly. No more crunch-time, come March and April.

— Cost Saving: Your accountant’s cloud-enabled process eliminates a lot of the clerical work associated with physically moving data from your world to theirs. Never again will they need to take your business’s copy of QuickBooks with them to do the work!

— Efficiency: “I can spend 90 percent of my time doing work,” said Bird. “As opposed to spending all my time on logistics and saying things like: ‘Hey, you didn’t send a file or a password.’”

Getting Started: Cloud Accounting Apps

There are numerous ways to move your small-business accounting to the cloud. You might choose Wave Accounting, or Kashoo. The options are multiple.

One development that’s ongoing, said Bird, is that cloud-based app providers are seeing the advantages of sewing together whole packages of small-business oriented services.

For example, in May 2012, Xero acquired WorkFlowMax — a complete suite of business-management tools that the company can now incorporate into its extant accounting packages.

“Right now, it’s still somewhat small but it’s only going to get bigger,” Bird said of cloud accounting. “It’s kind of still about building up the ecosystems. It’s going to continue to get better because different companies are integrating these systems together. That’s where I see it going.”