I was asked to write a blog, and my initial reaction was that I will write one proclaiming benefits on the cloud, cloud storage, IaaS, or some other term that happens to be in vogue today. Hey, I can even do a list of top ten benefits of something – those seem to be everywhere.
And that’s exactly the problem. There’s a lot advice everywhere on the internet, and Twitter is overflowing with links and retweets to even more content. But when you actually want to do something, when you have a specific question, when you are looking for specific instructions – then it’s nowhere to be found. This blog will attempt to give you just enough information to actually set up the cloud solution described here; as opposed to just listing the benefits. Because, if you are still reading this, then most likely you already know the latter.
The proposed scenario in this case is an accounting system using a full version of QuickBooks, installed on a remote server. The target audience is a business with an understaffed accounting department and an overstretched IT department.
A typical list of challenges facing many small businesses today usually starts with their accounting system. It’s outdated, running on a slow server and not able to support multiple users. This environment also leads to a litany of problems that arise at the end of the year, or when there is a need for some accounting work (often having to lean on a CPA or other book keeping service). Creating and sending a copy of the accounting file (i.e. the general ledger) to the outside accountants often turns out to be a project in its own right. The CPA will make adjustments and send their copy back. However, the original copy is still being updated by the usual daily business operations thus causing major issues. This on top of basic incompatibilities between software versions (the business running an older, outdated version, while the CPA is using a newer software system) can cause quite a headache. However, after the back in forth is finished the ledger is updated and all is well.
OK, so now you are asking, why it was a big deal? I mean, after all, everything gets done in the end. Well, every hour spent on trying to making the system work was a billable hour, meaning the client most likely paid for that time at the end. In this case, the CPA spent more time troubleshooting software errors and less time providing real accounting value.
What’s the solution? One way to do it better is to upgrade the servers, the software, and train the staff. Sounds expensive and it is. New servers with software could mean thousands of dollars in initial expense. And it doesn’t include IT time that will be required to manage this environment, both initially and in the future. The alternative is to put the software in the cloud. Why is the second option so much better? For many reasons:
- First and foremost, it eliminates upfront cash outflow that would be needed to purchase new equipment
- Capital investment becomes a monthly operating expense
- Software, in this case your accounting system such as QuickBooks, is installed on a remote server
- It’s accessible from anywhere in the world
- It’s stored in a secured location at a sophisticated data center (with backup)
- It can be easily configured for multiple users
- Outside users, such as your accountants, can have full (or limited) access at any time
- It’s more secure than your current server
- You can have full control or we can help you manage it
One major question that often arises revolves around security. Some believe that because a server is on the far side of the country or the world that the security will be less than a server that lies in your office. SingleHop’s data centers are extremely secure physically as well as digitally. To add even more layers of security, we will gladly setup VPN connections and even two factor authentication for you. With two factor authentication, you login to your server through a secure VPN connection and then verify your username and password with a code that is sent to your cell phone.
As far as the actual server specs goes, we set up our own with the following:
- Xeon 5620 Processor 4×2.4Ghz HT TB 12MB Cache
- 500 GB Sata 7200rpm
- 4 GB DDR3
- Private Network Access 100 Mbps
- Windows Server 2008 – Enterprise
The above configuration is more than sufficient to fuel your accounting needs. We are currently selling a similar configuration (though with four times the hard drive space and eight times the memory) for $269 a month. This will create an extremely robust QuickBooks environment supporting multiple users.
Remember that you are getting a fully working server. You can install a lot more on it than just QuickBooks if you desire. You can create a file repository for your company, add other multi-user software (such as collaboration software), etc.
Once you have it set up, installation of the software is the easiest part (in case you were wondering how it’s done). You download the installation file to your remote desktop and run it just like installing a program to your work or home computer. It’s that simple.
Remote server solutions should be considered by any business that is currently evaluating their IT needs. It’s flexible, scalable, and it gives you access to your applications at any time, from any place (even from your phone). It’s very cost effective and it will make you and your employees a lot more productive.