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

Preparing for Disasters of the Legal Kind

Preparing for Disasters of the Legal Kind

As businesses begin to realize the benefits of cloud computing and business data mobility, they may be overlooking one of the most important issues any enterprise can face: information management in the event of litigation.  While the IT department probably has a disaster recovery plan for handling various computer system failures, is there also a plan for managing system data and electronic information in the event of a “legal disaster”?  In the spotlight is e-discovery, which is the requirement of the business to respond to legal requests for electronically stored information, and the issues CIOs and business owners should be paying attention to as computing solutions and technology models continue to change at a rapid pace.

The popularity of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), data sync solutions, and online collaboration tools has created an environment where business data may exist in various states (meaning as in conditions or status, not as in State, like California) and on a variety of devices and systems, some of which may not be in the direct control of internal IT.  Regardless of where or how the information was delivered to these devices and systems, CIOs and business owners should recognize that the information on those devices is included in discovery requests, and should be prepared with a plan for dealing with the response.

This “e-discovery plan” is the most important thing, and it means not only working through the various aspects of managing the information, but also providing consideration to keeping the plan updated.  As technology changes, and as user behavior changes along with it, businesses must adjust their IT management approaches in kind.  Consider that a user couldn’t store business data on their phone until the phone was able to handle that function.   Now that smartphones are the norm and tablet computers are gaining in popularity, business data is roaming on personal and business devices.  These advancements may introduce productivity and process gains which provide an advantage to businesses, but they also introduce potential risk and certain complexity when it comes to e-discovery.

Litigation is always expensive, but sanctions for slow response or other costs can be avoided if the plan helps the business respond in a timely manner.  For this reason, the plan should include an identification of all sources for information (every location where business information and data is stored), as well as the steps to be taken to preserve this data in the current state.  If the business has systems which regularly purge information (like accounting systems which purge prior period details, email systems which automatically purge old emails, or backup systems which delete old backup files as new ones are made), all of these activities must be halted.  If the company doesn’t have access to control the various devices and systems to prevent these activities (or doesn’t know that they are happening), significant risk is introduced.  In the case of a legal “hold”, all data and metadata and the audit controls and files must be preserved.

The final steps in the plan are the steps to be taken after the litigation is over.  This is often times a forgotten part of the plan, which is the final destruction of the information gathered for discovery.  Not that the original data must be destroyed (consider ALL dependencies), but the “database” of collected information related to the litigation probably should be.  With this data pooled in a single place, it becomes a potentially valuable target for a data breach.  At minimum, the collected information could too-easily be pulled into an entirely new legal case.

IT managers, CIOs and business owners must be realistic about the information their enterprises generate and store, including being realistic about the risk potential that duplicated and mobile data represents.  It is not that the enterprise should be afraid of allowing mobility and providing remote access solutions, but it is essential that the enterprise control the use of these solutions and how they use or interact with business data.   Without a strictly enforced policy of usage and control for all devices, services and solutions “touching” business data, any legal disaster planning falls short.

Joanie Mann Bunny FeetMake Sense?

J

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