For Accounting Professionals: Private Hosted Solutions and Helping Clients Cope with the New Normal

Accounting professionals have an opportunity right now to help their business clients through the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. With work-from-home mandates and increasingly fluid reporting requirements to support grants, loans and loan forgiveness, business owners need all the support and good advice they can get.

The global pandemic is changing the landscape of business worldwide. Many small businesses in the US have either closed or are on the brink, looking for ways to keep the doors open and employees paid. Supply chains are strained, distribution has slowed, and workers are being asked to work from home if possible.

These are challenging times, but the guidance and support you can provide to your business clients can be just what they need to help keep the doors open and workers producing. Remote access, cloud hosted applications and data, and real-time accounting support and management reporting are the weapons you and your clients will use to fight the conditions that are currently working against you both.

Help your clients deploy cloud hosting services for their entire business.

Running applications and storing data on an in-house network increases the cost and complexity of supporting a remote or mobile workforce, for you and for your clients.

Remote access and supporting work from home requires that users have the means to communicate with each other and to collaborate on the work. Tools to support communication and collaboration are critical when the workforce is distributed, operating from a variety of locations and with whatever device is available. Yet business owners, operators and managers may find that collaboration apps and other online tools don’t provide access to the applications and data required to do all their work.

To address the problem of working on client data, some accountants may install the client software and copy the data to their own in-house networks. This creates a situation where the accountant is paying for computing resources, space and management of client applications and data in addition to their own. This increases the cost of internal operations for the accounting firm and can impact internal system performance while also reducing overall productivity.

More to the point, this model only supports doing after-the-fact work for the client, which results in the data and reporting being outdated and far less useful to the client in supporting daily decision-making. This model also does nothing to help the firm with their own possible work-from-home needs even as IT support and on-site service becomes more limited.

Accounting professionals wanting to provide services to clients proactively rather than reactively must have real time access to the same applications and data that the client uses. The old fallback to remote control solutions is one approach, yet it is not really an optimum solution to the problem.

Remote control, like PCAnywhere, GoToMyPC or LogMeIn expose the professional to more of the client computing environment than is necessary, introducing risk and the potential for blame if something goes wrong. And remote-control solutions are single user, reducing productivity because the client can’t use their system while the accountant controls the computer. RC solutions also rely on the availability and function of the on-premises systems. If the on-prem systems aren’t turned on, up and running and accessible, then the remote user can’t connect.

It may be that online or web-based applications are an option, but for many businesses they aren’t really a viable solution. QuickBooks Online is simplified software and is not appropriate or usable for many businesses. The QBO subscription model is per-company, limiting options and reducing cost-efficiency for businesses with multiple entities. And QBO doesn’t address other business needs, such as working with documents and reports, and it can’t provide any access or support for other business applications. Even the ability to backup and preserve data is very limited without specialized services and tools.

Shared hosting service might be closer to the right answer, yet shared hosting is generally only useful for very small organizations and supports only core QuickBooks functions, so it can be as restrictive QBO. Shared infrastructure used by the shared hosting platforms can also introduce significant risk to every business on the platform because ransomware and malware can easily move through connected file systems and servers.

Compare shared services to a public pool where it is very easy to transmit from one person to another; in these networks an intrusion can end up spreading malware to the entire network and platform, resulting in days or even weeks of outages. Unfortunately, disaster recovery is often limited to recovery of the provider hosting platform and does not always include recovery of all customer data.

The best solution for business is private, managed cloud hosting service delivered on a trusted and proven platform like Microsoft Azure.

Hosting service that takes advantage of the Microsoft Azure cloud  platform allows the business to centralize access to all their important applications and data, making it possible to provide complete application functionality for all users no matter where they are located.

Using the Azure platforms means that security, fault tolerance, scalability and agility are designed into the solution rather than being extras from the hosting provider. Microsoft-managed datacenters and Microsoft-managed hardware means the experts in systems and security are handling the big stuff while the service provider focuses on what the client needs.

The virtualization technology enables the agility to meet changing business needs, scaling systems up or down if necessary. Massively scalable platform allows services to be right sized now without concern for future resource requirements (no buying ahead based on possible future needs). There are no arbitrary limitations placed on the applications or services the business needs to run on the cloud platform, and no fees for running more apps.

Making all the applications and data available to workers, when and where they need them, is the key to promoting higher levels of productivity while delivering the data management needs to support daily decision-making.

Now that you have access, provide pro-active support and help business owners and managers make the right decisions.

Better data and reporting to support business and finance management is more important than ever, especially when having the right information can mean the difference between keeping the doors open and closing shop for good. Whether the goal is to shore up finances to keep employees on staff or to create a cushion to help weather supply chain disruptions, businesses owners need quality financial and performance data in order to make the right decisions for the company.

Once the accounting professional has real-time access to client systems, they can work cooperatively in the data to ensure that the right information is available when it is needed. As business owners seek to take advantage of grants and loan programs available due to the pandemic, the financial and other performance data becomes even more essential in terms of developing qualification and eventually forgivability of the loan.

With timely access, proper reporting tools and regular support and oversight, business owners benefit from a closer working relationship with their accounting professionals. The additional support and proactive service is more necessary now than ever. For the accounting pro, an elevated relationship with client is being developed, where the services provided become more meaningful and the value of those services more evident.

Make sense?

J