Cloud Computing and Online Accounting for All? Some Markets Are Still Waiting for Broadband

Cloud Computing and Online Accounting for All? Some Markets Are Still Waiting on Broadband

As the information technology industry espouses the benefits of the “paradigm shift” in computing and the move to cloud computing platforms and models, there are folks out there in the world who just aren’t seeing it happen like that.  Not everybody’s working online. For many, the Internet and online working models simply haven’t intruded into their lives and businesses as it has for others.  While this may be partially rooted in conservative mentalities and beliefs which are resistant to change, the more likely reality is that options for high-quality and affordable broadband service is simply not available to them.  Without choices for affordable and useful connectivity to the Internet, online just doesn’t have the attraction it does for those who are “connected”.

When businesses look at cloud solutions and the Internet dependency that comes along with them, having more than one connection to the outside world becomes the imperative rather than a luxury.  Unfortunately, some markets are still waiting for broadband (or have very limited options for service), rendering the cloud nearly unreachable.

It may come as a surprise to some, particularly to those in East and West coastal regions, that high speed broadband just isn’t as available in other zones.  In fact, the *National Broadband Map clearly reveals limited availability and choice in numerous regions of the US.  Broadband Internet access is a necessity to support the IT industry’s shift from localized IT to “cloud” IT.  But the shift is only evident to those who are involved in it or who have that option.  For those who the industry is beginning to refer to as the technology “have-nots”, this lack of available and affordable access will ultimately create more than simply an inability to participate in broadband-reliant IT solutions.  The fast pace of innovation and evolution in IT almost guarantees that the technology have-nots will fall even further behind, possibly to the point of not being able to catch up.

 “A Growing Gap Between IT Haves, Have-Nots. There will be a growing gap between the IT haves and have-nots in 2013. The latter will fall behind the former on a wide range of business technology fronts such as mobile, cloud, social, virtualization, and analytics…” 7 SMB Technology Predictions for 2013 | InformationWeek.com

As business (and personal) technology models continue to evolve, and as new solutions and services begin to displace the old, those who remain disconnected will begin to directly experience much more impact.

Consider something as simple as using QuickBooks desktop software for small business bookkeeping.  As Intuit continues to remove elements from the installed software product, turning them into web services instead, customers with limited or no broadband access will find themselves without the features and functionality they need in the software.  And the only possibly comparable alternatives to QuickBooks desktop accounting products are Internet-based alternatives, making them not really alternative options at all.

It is also likely that lack of sufficient broadband is one of the factors motivating many solution providers to seek clients in other markets – outside of the United States, and in regions where broadband availability is more prevalent and service speed and quality is higher.  Yes, it’s true.  The United States is not the leader in broadband availability, or even in quality.

“For many people, their broadband connections are their lifelines. So what is the state of broadband in the U.S.? Well, when it comes to speed and price and adoption, we’re certainly not a leader — “middling” is a better way to describe our position.

Currently 119 million people that live in the U.S. don’t have broadband connections (for many reasons, including not wanting it or not being able to afford it) while 19 million don’t even have the option to get it. Our rate of broadband adoption (62 percent) lags behind countries such as South Korea, the U.K.,and Germany, according this year’s Federal Communication Commission report. (We’re closer to the penetration rates to Japan, Finland, and Canada.) These numbers are not likely to change soon, given that broadband growth is slowing and providers are moving away from wireline infrastructure. “ GIGAOM:The state of broadband in the U.S. [infographic]

Accountants and other professional service providers serving clients in regions lacking sufficient choices for access must recognize that their approaches to doing business will not necessarily match their peers in more fully connected areas.  Certainly, accounting and legal professionals are dealing with this reality as practice coaches and industry leaders push for IT- and cloud-enabled models for improving practice performance and creating differentiation, even as their proven applications and business solutions morph into or are replaced with SaaS applications and online service.

The take away from this is that there are still large numbers of businesses and individuals doing things with legacy tools, managing spreadsheets on standalone PCs, or writing with pens and using paper – even in areas where broadband access is plentiful.  Regardless of how forward moving the rest of the world may be there remains a need to provide service and support these IT have-nots.  Perhaps this becomes a means for differentiation, finding ways to work with businesses who are connected and those who are not, and leveraging the firm’s access and capability to deliver what the client cannot obtain directly.

Make Sense?

J

*The National Broadband Map is a tool to search, analyze and map broadband availability across the United States

What’s Motivating Small Businesses to Move to the Cloud?

When information technology professionals tell their small business clients about cloud computing, it often sounds even more complicated, risky and expensive than in-house networks and business Internet access once did.  Business owners are faced with discussions about hosted or SaaS or hybrid and ask what will I do when the Internet goes out? and how secure is it? and will it work with my iPad?… and often get one of two responses from their local IT guy:

  1. The cloud is just a way for software companies to make more money.  I can keep your IT running better in your office and save you a lot.
  2. If you move to the cloud you have to do a lot to make sure it is secure, and you won’t be able to run all your applications (but we’ll back up your data to the cloud so it’s safe).

Now, you can’t really blame the local IT guy for being a little bit wary of some cloud solution offerings because these local IT guys really are (in many cases) trying to operate with the best interest of their client in mind.  It’s just unfortunate that sometimes a lack of information causes them to revert to their comfort zone, which is selling servers and performing on-site installation and break-fix work.   What information are these folks lacking?  An understanding of the various options and capabilities available with hosting services and cloud solutions, and how the IT provider can continue to be the advocate and IT manager for their clients even as those clients move their primary information technology to the cloud.

For many years business owners have relied upon their trusted local IT professional to help them find solutions to various business problems.  Answering questions and helping procure and implement computers and networked systems, software applications, backup solutions and more, the IT professional serving a small business customer base has necessarily become the one-stop-shop for everything related to computers.  Smaller IT service companies often rely upon regular sales of server equipment and network installations to pay their bills.  It’s no wonder that these companies have a hard time accepting hosted solution models, as they see their revenue potentials dwindling as fewer servers and networks are sold to small businesses.

The interesting trend being viewed these days is that more business owners are looking beyond their IT professional to find solutions to the problems they deem as high priority for business technology: mobility and remote access.  It is not necessarily that the self-service technology model makes more sense for small businesses (businesses can still benefit tremendously by getting training and implementation support from their local IT guy), but simple and affordable cloud solutions have addressed many of the small business IT challenges that were previously big revenue streams for local IT service providers.  Savvy business owners will find solutions that work for them, and will look beyond their immediate advisors if those advisors aren’t providing the right answers.

When a small business owner talks about mobility and is looking for answers to the remote access question, they are not thinking about GoToMyPC or other remote control technologies and simply connecting to an office PC.  Small business owners today are talking about central access to information at any time from any place and with whatever computing device they happen to have available at the time.  For a small business owner, the benefit of the cloud is a largely emotional benefit – being able to stay in touch with the business at all times.  The real benefits may be improved security, simplified management of information resources and pay-as-you-go pricing for business applications, but these are often value statements which fall on deaf ears just as the cost/benefits of upgrading the server every 2 years did.

It is tempting to focus on logic and reason, discussing the tangible benefits of any business information technology model or approach rather than how it makes us “feel”.  Productivity metrics, best practices in security, total cost of ownership… these are all the right areas to pay attention to when selecting any technology solution for a business.  But really, when it comes to selecting technology for small businesses, the business owner is in the driver’s seat, and that owner wants one thing: to see what’s going on all the time.

Make Sense?

Joanie Mann Bunny FeetJ

read more about The Psychology of Small Business IT Adoption