Contrary to What You Learned in Grade School… Sharing is Bad, Okay?

There is a place and time for sharing. Share your color crayons, share your toys… share your feelings with those you love. But when it comes to business technology and infrastructure, sharing isn’t always the best approach. Some things you should just keep for yourself… like the servers you use for hosting business desktops, desktop applications and business data.

When we first began the journey of bringing small business desktops and applications like QuickBooks to the Internet, the “cloud” was not yet a thing. Hosting providers put up servers in racks in data centers, installed software and stored data on behalf of customers, and did their best to find ways of making the service affordable. Elastic resources, massive scalability and built-in redundancy (which are benefits of a real cloud fabric) were not generally available nor were they even remotely affordable. Because the hardware, networking and other resources that make up the hosting infrastructure is costly, it is important for the hosting service provider to be able to spread those costs across the entire customer base.

In most cases, this meant creating shared servers where many customers run their applications and store their data. Even when a provider suggests that a customer has a “private” server, there is still a good chance the server is using shared storage and/or networking resources made accessible in the environment.

Sharing can be a good thing or a bad thing, and it often depends on the behavior of those involved. In shared application hosting environments, particularly desktop hosting environments, there is a lot of potential for intentionally and unintentionally causing problems that can and will impact other users and customers on the platform.

A simple provisioning error might allow a user to see data belonging to another company or have access to applications or services they should not.

With shared resources, bad actors and intruders can often escape permission boundaries, attaching to network shares and other computers on the platform.

Malware accidentally introduced by an innocent user from one company could easily penetrate the entire system, following paths to data storage locations and other servers, spreading the problem to many customers and systems and even data centers.

If you are operating on the compromised system you are at risk, even if the compromise wasn’t initiated by one of  your users or from within one of your applications.

In the realm of QuickBooks hosting providers, the issues around sharing infrastructure and resources have created some very difficult situations for hosts and for their customers alike – especially when it comes to dealing with computer viruses, malware and ransomware. A few high-profile events, as well as numerous incidents which have flown under the radar, have revealed just how damaging the shared approach can be.

With the IRS, AICPA and other agencies issuing increasingly strong guidance for tax and accounting professionals to protect client information, finance professionals should strongly consider the risk introduced through shared hosting service arrangements and evaluate if it is greater than the costs of having a more private system.

Cloud platforms available today are fully matured, delivering scalability and agility at price levels that are affordable even for very small businesses.  No longer solely for enterprise enjoyment, real cloud solutions and delivery models can be used by small businesses for desktop and application hosting without compromise. Every business deserves their own cloud, and we know how to make that affordable.

Cooper Mann works with teams deploying on the Microsoft Azure platform, offering an agility in design not previously available with legacy computing approaches. Because every delivery is absolutely private to each customer, the solution can be scaled up (or down!) on demand to suit the specific needs of the individual business. More important is the fact that each customer operates separately, so any bad behavior the system may suffer from is their own.

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Cloud Hosting Benefits for Business Owners and Their Accountants

Two-TallThe concept of running applications in the cloud is not at all new.  In fact, there are literally millions of business users accessing hosted applications and cloud app services every day, and adoption didn’t reach those numbers overnight. While the value of running software such as QuickBooks in a cloud model may differ from business to business but the underlying benefits are there for all to achieve.

The main value for some business owners is in being able to access information and data while traveling out of the office or when working from home.  Using almost any portable computer or mobile device, business users are able to get information on customers, orders, payments, and other valuable data regardless of the work location.  Being able to keep tabs on the business even when they aren’t there is very important to some business owners and secure remote access has become essential for today’s mobile workforce.

Where mobility motivates some to move to the cloud, collaboration is what drives others. For public accountants and small business bookkeepers this benefit becomes essential to effectively delivering services to clients. Because small businesses and the professionals that serve them do not operate in the same locations, the ability to work in the same software and data at the same or different times allows business owners and their accountants and bookkeepers to work seamlessly together in support of the business.  Business owners benefit from better financial data in real-time, and the accounting professionals are able to deliver results without time-consuming travel and doing the work on-site.

Business owners and the accounting professionals supporting them end up realizing the benefits of improved IT, where greater predictability in performance and cost matters. Businesses need to focus on their business and not on the IT which supports it, and outsource professionals such as accountants and bookkeepers need to be able to work with clients efficiently and without having to invest in expensive tools and services to make it happen.

When a cloud platform is deployed for the client business it can not only deliver benefits to the business owners and operation. A cloud-based approach can also provide tangible benefits in worker efficiency and productivity through improved access to information for the professionals who support the business.

Businesses need technology to support their operations, and the requirement generally spans far beyond pure accounting and finance. Unfortunately, many outsource bookkeeping and accounting professionals focus only on the accounting or financial systems when considering a cloud-based implementation, failing to consider the critical aspects of the operational level applications which support the various functions of the business.

This is often where a cloud hosting approach meets business needs better than a single cloud app. With a cloud hosting model, the existing business software and data can be “enabled” to allow accounting professionals access to the complete realm of business data, putting them in a far better position to ensure that the information resulting in the accounting system is of high quality and may be trusted.

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