Cloud Accounting Saves Dollars and Makes Sense

One of the biggest winners from the current frenzied move to the Cloud, is the world of Accounting Software, and in particular Small Business users.

No longer bound by the typical ageing model of the sales staff getting out on the road, only to come back to the office with an armful of orders for the Data Entry clerk to spend days data entering into an antiquated old version of Quickbooks or MYOB. No Sir, welcome to the age of Cloud Accounting.

There are many prominent systems available to the savvy Small Business operator, from simple browser based systems such as Reckon’s Cashbook Online or Xero, through to your fully fledged Hosted solutions, such as Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted.

A business should do its own due diligence in deciding what is right for its purpose and budget, however thorough investigation will reveal that all online systems are not alike. View our guide to some factors to consider in this decision making process here and further information comparing cloud products here.

Special consideration should be made to looking at where the data is hosted, and if you can access or actually even own your own data.

From only $15 per month for Cashbook Online to around $25 per month for QuickBooks Hosted to $49 or $64 a month for Xero, Small Businesses really should be looking at these systems and making the move for The Cloud.

For example, from all products tested, Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted was our favourite for Pricing, Features and Security. Aimed at SMB’s rather than micro businesses like the previous two products mentioned, QuickBooks Hosted is the great all-rounder.

Deploy a team of Sales Reps around the Country, toting nothing more than an iPad or Android tablet, to access their customer accounts, perform inventory and order lookups, view the status of back orders and deliveries and enter orders directly with their customers on site.

Prior to the availability of these systems in The Cloud, most SMB’s simply wouldn’t have been able to compete with their larger Netsuite or SAP doting competitors, with their expensive VPN’s and custom written PDA software.

We can only expect to see further growth in this area, with Reckon looking to bring Point of Sale to The Cloud in the near future as well as open up the SDK to allow for third party products such as Fishbowl Inventory and Ostendo to co-exist on the Hosted platform.

Also let’s not forget Reckon’s recent investment in Cloud Field Services startup Connect2Field as a sign of the sheer commitment typical software vendors are making to the Cloud Accounting field.

Seek out a Cloud Accounting Specialist today to see how you could not only save your business dollars, but make sense of your business goals at the same time.

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Great Free Cloud Apps – Dropbox

Promising a focus on productivity and useful apps for business, we are pleased to Blog today about one of our favourites, Dropbox.

If you ever find yourself constantly copying files onto USB, or reaching for your phone’s connection cable to copy files back and forth, only to realise you forgot something, or the drive doesn’t work when you get home, then you need Dropbox.

Dropbox is a very simple and secure file sharing and synching tool. You can install Dropbox on your PC, in fact, on all of your PC’s and phones and tablets. This places a folder under your Profile or your My Documents, called My Dropbox.

BASIC USE

All you have to do to start using this simple tool, is to copy your files into your Dropbox folder, you can even create any folders you like under your My Dropbox, as shown above.

All these files and folders then synch automatically up to the Dropbox server, nothing  more to do. You can access your files then via your browser at http://www.dropbox.com, or by installing Dropbox on your home or work PC, your Android phones and tablets.

It’s that simple!

Although, it doesn’t stop there.

FILE SHARING

One of Dropbox’s major strengths is the ease at which you can become a file sharing master. You see, Dropbox allows you to share a file or folder to anyone, simply by sending them an email, which it does for you!

Simply right click any file folder in your Dropbox, go down to Dropbox, then Share The File or Folder. Click on that, enter in the email of the recipient, and voila! They will then receive an email, if they don’t have Dropbox, it will install for them (and give you an extra 250MB for sharing), synch your files up with your recipient, and you have it. Now anything either one of you place in said shared folder, will be automatically synched back and forth!

As mentioned above, every time you send an invitation to somebody not already using Dropbox, you BOTH gain 250MB in data!

A useful tip for file sharing for business, is in the case of an Accounting Practice, where it’s difficult to obtain client files quickly. Traditionally these are sent in by CD or USB stick, and can take a while to receive. Not anymore, simply setup a secure Dropbox folder for your clients, then anytime you need their files, simply ask them to place a backup file into the Dropbox.

The uses for Business are seriously endless.

WEB SHARING

If you ever find the services of “free” file sharing hosts a bit daunting or insecure, then Dropbox has you covered there as well.

Under your My Dropbox folders you will find a Public folder.

Anything placed under the Public folder can instantly be shared to anyone in the World, even posted on websites, by right clicking the file and selecting Copy Public Link. It’s that simple.

Post up your Public Link on to your email, forum, blog or website for anyone with the link to open or download the file.

DROPBOX FOR ANDROID

So of course, the reason for this review being on my Android Blog (N-droid.net), is that Dropbox For Android is the perfect companion for your Droid.

Whether it be a phone or tablet, once you start Dropboxing you just can’t stop! Useful for toting around your Uni Assignments, Work Presentations, Music Library or favourite images.

Access all your files on all of your devices!

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Best of all, Dropbox is free! You can pay for more storage, but why not invite all of your friends, and grow your storage limit for free!

Dropbox is available on the Google Play Store here or you can scan the QR below

Happy Dropboxing!

What Is The Cloud And Why Small Business Needs It

Put simply, “The Cloud” or “Cloud Computing” is the crux of the internet. Using resources enabled via the internet, which are actually running in a remote data centre, 24/7, monitored round the clock by a team of professionals on hardware your business could most likely never afford.

For this reason, The Cloud is the great enabler for Small Business around the World. The Cloud provides access to systems and services at a fraction of the cost of purchasing software in the traditional sense. This is an economy of scale of course, and you will be sharing resources with thousands of other users at any one time. The cloud is also often referred to as “SaaS”, or Software as a Service.

It is the enablement of access to or use of a platform or software services, as a service. In most models, the access to the service is “rented” or paid for on a subscription service rather than purchased outright in the older model of purchasing and owning software.

This provides access to powerful systems and software, connectivity and communications, that previously, a business would have had to invest large sums of money to run their own VPN, or Virtual Private Network.

There are two types of Cloud, Public and Private, as detailed in a previous article. Essentially a Public Cloud is the most common and chances are you are already using this service. Think Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Internet Banking even travel bookings. These are all forms of Public Cloud. Private Cloud on the other hand is where a business may have specific requirements from their Cloud provider, hence rent space to load up or provide access to, specific software for their business. Hybrid Cloud is when a business uses parts of both Public and Private Cloud.

Here are some reasons Small Business should be seriously considering The Cloud.

1. Economy

By making use of Cloud Services, a business can save substantially on Capex (Capital Expenditure), and invest in developing sales programs or staff training. Essentially why would a small business make such a large investment in hardware that will simply age, cost a fortune to maintain, and eventually only have to be replaced in some years anyway?

2. Speed

Cloud Systems are often run in Class 1 Data Centres on the very latest hardware and software centres, with professional installation and maintenance; plus access to fibre based communications platforms and direct access to the internet backbone. What this means for the Small Business user, is fast and instant access on any device they are carrying.

3. Accessibility

Whether the business owner wants to provide staff with laptops, netbooks or iPads, in many cases, Cloud Systems will be available as an “app” on all of these devices and due to this, the business and its staff are now empowered to travel and not be bound by the office walls.

4. Reliability

What happens in a Small Business when the Server goes down? Everyone downs pens and stares at each other. This is not only counter productive but also costly to the Business Owner or Manager, who will usually now have to call the IT Services company, wait for a Technician to arrive, then foot the bill once they leave. Usually the only explanation is, “there was a hardware failure”, or ” your server has a virus and will be down for two days”. How would you cope in that situation? Cloud Providers run many failsafe hardware layers and most provide a SLA (Service Level Agreement) of 99% uptime or better. This means more access more of the time when you and your staff are out on the road.

Small Businesses across the Globe are accessing The Cloud at an alarming rate. Vendors are increasing capacity all the time and investment brokers are clammering to provide enough funding to build The Cloud.

With providers such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, Cisco, Reckon and more behind this movement, SMB’s can relax and focus on their core business, and leave the IT headaches to someone else to worry about.

Top 10 Reasons To Use Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted

There are many things to consider when choosing a computer system for your business, especially your Accounting Package.

With the Cloud becoming more and more relevant to all small businesses, Australia included, we thought we’d list our Top 10 features of Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted product.

Our Top 10 Features are:

1. Availability. QuickBooks Hosted is available on Android, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows PC’s and Mac

2. Replication of the desktop product. This minimises re-training and allows for backups from the cloud to be opened on the desktop to alleviate downtime.

3. Full inventory module with Purchase Orders and Sales Orders entry. This allows for mobile staff on the road, or remote warehouses to easily access live data and interact with it.

4. Updates are done for you. You can save money on paying a Consultant to come and load up your software upgrades, as Reckon will load them for you.

5. Bookkeeper and Accountant shared access. You can allow access from other people not within your business. This is something you allow and control through Provisioning. It saves you and your aiders time and money.

6. Classes. Through the use of classes and given the ease of access to the system, you no longer require different ledgers. Have your whole business in one ledger and split your Profit and Cost Centres out with Classes. Simple reporting means you will easily have your finger on any branch P&L or Sales report you need to view.

7. Company Snapshot. In a hurry and need to quickly check a few KPI’s? No worries, simply configure your QuickBooks to open the Company Snapshot first. Then grab your iPad or Android tablet out, quickly fire up QuickBooks Hosted and in under a couple of minutes you can view all your top KPI’s on one screen, in one hand.

8. Save money on PC’s. With QuickBooks Hosted, all the processing is done at the data centre. All you need is a simple terminal or tablet to access the system from.

9. Multi-User. Have your whole business connected and working at once, no matter where they are.

10. Data is hosted in Australia. Feel safe in the knowledge that your data is stored in a Tier 1 Data Centre in Australia and is compliant with all current Privacy and Data Laws. Always check where your data is stored!

QuickBooks Hosted by Reckon Online 2012/13 will soon  be released with many upgrades and new features.

You can read our review of the current product here or find our more about the product on at Reckon Online.

View a quick demonstration of how simple it is to install QuickBooks Hosted on your Android device.

Public Vs Private Cloud For Small Business

There has been great debate recently over what is best for business, and what business should consider in seeking out its own cloud solution.

At the end of the day, business should engage their own research over 1. Security 2. Price and 3. Infrastructure and locality of data storage.

Business also needs to consider access to applications and what a Cloud Vendor will and will not be prepared to host.

Let’s examine the options in a Public Vs Private Examination.

Public Cloud

Public Cloud is perhaps the most pure type of cloud service today, and is the scenario whereby one accesses a service or services over the internet “as a service”. Meaning there is little control over the performance or attitude of the software being accessed or the hardware or underlying technologies. The most common examples being Internet Banking and Cloud Email services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

Public Cloud is generally shared server space and basically a WYSIWYG cloud service. Public is generally a lower cost alternative to other options. It pays to do your research with Public Clouds to ensure that your 3 checks above, Security, Price and Infrastructure are being met.

Whilst price almost certainly will be a factor, please consider security and infrastructure at the same time.

Private Cloud

For businesses with concerns regarding security and infrastructure (which can also cover location of data storage), a well sought out Private Cloud could be just what the Director ordered.

Private Cloud is just that. Rather than sharing data and services with potentially millions of other businesses, private cloud offers a more personal approach, with data being hosted in a privately selected data centre or provider, such as Reckon Limited’s APS Private Cloud solution.

Private Cloud is the ideal solution for businesses with higher concerns regarding Security and Infrastructure than Pricing alone. This is the only solution for a business with heavy demands or their own software or service requirements, or is it?

Hybrid Cloud

Many businesses may like to adopt a Hybrid Cloud solution. This is a mixture of Public and Private Clouds as detailed above.

In this scenario a business may choose to have its mission critical software hosted in a Private Cloud whilst choosing to run their Email and Office solutions via a Public Cloud such as Google’s Gmail and Google Docs, or Microsoft’s Office 365 solution.

Choose Wisely

Which ever of the above is best is really down to each individual business and their requirements. Through the adoption of a sound and secure Cloud Computing Policy, SMB’s are now able to compete with their larger competitors more easily than ever. In fact, in most cases, Cloud is just what Small Business has been crying out for.

In recent studies, 71% of small business owners agreed they require technology that enables their staff to work from anywhere, anytime.

It is the opinion of the Author that any SMB that does not adopt at least some cloud technology right now, then put a plan in place to graduate over to either one of the above solutions in two to three years, will cease to be competitive in a Global Cloud landscape.

Reckon Enters The Mobile Workforce With Investment In Connect2Field

Reckon Ltd, an Australian ASX listed software provider, today announced a strategic 30%, or $660,000 investment in Connect2Field, a cloud based Job Management software provider for small to medium business.

Connect2Field is a secure web-based application built on the latest technologies, that allows a job to be entered into the system back at base, then sent out the the field workers’ mobile phones or tablet devices. Fieldworkers receive their jobs via Internet-enabled mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Nokia, Android and BlackBerry.

Customers also have the ability to view the status of jobs, create jobs, view invoice history and even view the upcoming worker’s schedule!

Job management, job notification, invoicing and quoting are key features of the software. Transactions will be sent back to the finance package so no double entry is required.

Reckon will be implementing Connect2Field into their Cashbook Online and Quickbooks Hosted products, giving true flexibility and functionality to their SMB customer base. Reckon’s customers will soon be able to compete on a level playing field, with competitors many times their size.

Cloud A Major Focus For SMB’s

Microsoft have released the findings of a major research study it funded of more than 3000 SMB’s in 13 countries, including Australia.

The study was undertaken by Edge Strategies and showed that use of paid Cloud services by SMB’s would double in 5 years and that the number of very small businesses moving to at least one Cloud service would triple in 3 years.

“The cloud levels the playing field for SMBs, helping them compete in today’s quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority — growing their businesses,” said Marco Limena, Vice President, Operator Channels, Microsoft.

The Facts

The study also showed that 79% believe that technology can make work more enjoyabe, 65% expect to be using Cloud email services and that 71% require technology that enables their staff to work anywhere in the World at any time.

SMB’s are growing more and more accustomed to the Cloud and are less concerned about Security with only 20% believing that data in the Cloud is less secure than data on their own premises, 49% responded that they were as confident in a Cloud system as in their own systems. Interesting 31% agreed that they wanted the data stored in their own Country.

The Opportunities

Interesting for Cloud Partners and Consulting Firms, was that 60% of SMB’s admitted they do not have the resouces to implement new technologies.

Also 52% responded that they do not have the resources to re-train staff. This shows that SMB’s would be more likely to select a Cloud Partner already providing their Desktop software or hosting a platform they know.

A Private Cloud solution with an API to interface directly with an SMB’s desktop products would be the most likely outcome for an SMB looking to head into the Cloud and minimise costs at the same time.

About the Research

The Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 research report was designed and conducted in conjunction with Edge Strategies Inc. (http://www.edgestrategies.com) in December 2011. The research questioned 3,000 SMBs that employ 2 to 250 employees across 13 countries worldwide: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. A copy of the survey results can be downloaded athttp://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/telecom/docs/SMBCloud.pdf

High Res Image: Click

Source: Microsoft Blog

Are you in touch with your clients?

These days with technology at such an advanced state, we can take on and complete a seemingly impossible workload. We can interact with our clients by mobile phone, video link, social media and video links.

This assists us in getting more work done from the office which is generally our technological hub. Hence it makes sense not to leave the “hub” too often, or does it?

Over working and over “techno”ing for want of a better term is making us less social beings. We are forgetting how to interact in a real social environment, as opposed to the digital interactions we are so comfortable with these days.

So make an effort, maybe set aside one morning or afternoon a week, to just catch up with your clients. Get out to their businesses and become involved, look around, talk to them. Take them out for a coffee and get them away from their “hub”. You might be surprised at what comes in from such visits!

Networking functions and meeting groups are another great way to keep your real life social and professional status in check. Join a networking group such as “BNI”, or your local Chamber of Commerce. You will not only meet a whole bunch of new like minded people, but will eventually grow your business through referral marketing, whether trying to or not. It will change your mind set and grow your contact base.

So whilst we all enjoy the comfort of our own “hubs”, are we still as in touch with our clients as we think we are?

Would love to hear some discussion around this.

Nathan.

 

Outsource Your Ageing Hardware With BYOD

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The Bring Your Own Device movement is not new, however with small business now having equal access to the Cloud as its larger competitors, BYOD should now be considered alongside that cloud takeup.

What Is BYOD?

Quite simply the notion behind Bring Your Own Device is simple. Rather than our Gen Y and now Millenials being expected to perform on something that belongs in a museum, they may choose to bring to work their own iPad, Macbook Pro or other device of choice to work on.

Said Gen Y and Millenials argue they will be more content and more productive working on their pride and joy gadget, and also have the flexibility of working out of hours – bonus. Or is it?

Why, and Why Not To BYOD

The advantages of BYOD far outweigh the disadvantges.

Some things to consider are this: Security, Support and Insurance claims. Should said multi-thousand dollar device be damaged whilst at the workplace or being used for work purposes, who’s policy will cover the replacement? Your insurance broker should be able to tailer a BYOD package to suit.

Your IT department will need to broaden their knowledge outside of the simple PC / Server architecture, however for Gen Y and now Millenial Network Admins, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. You could always lock the choices down to a few devices to keep things manageable.

Access at its most crudest could be kept to a secure Remote Desktop Connection, only allowing connection to the device and user account in the allowed hours of operation. Best Practice Active Directory management would ensure User Access is also restricted.

As Public and Private cloud environments gain increasing traction, the argument of access and reliable provision of services becomes almost nul and void.

Cloud Vendors do need to be Brand Agnostic in their rollouts though for maximum market penetration.

Cashflow Positive Initiative

Another benefit to the small business owner is cashflow. Whether or not you choose to provide employees with an allowance, per Kraft in the USA (who gives their employees a Device Stipend), or not depends on your requirements and BYOD Policy.

There is a real advantage to work with your employee here and show you really are an avant-garde employer.

Why not come to a Salary Sacrifice arrangement with your employee (seek Tax Advice first!), then offer to rent the device back from your Employee?

Or simply pay your Employees a Technology Allowance so they can buy the latest tech of choice safe in the knowledge the Allowance will cover the costs. The Employee simply claims the cost of the gadget in their personal income tax return (again seek Tax Advice first!).

However, the Australian Taxation Office have declared that iPads have substantially the same functionality as laptops hence would be treated the same as laptops in tax claims.

So what are you waiting for, you’ve implemented some cloud technologies, you’re considering moving to Private Cloud, now take the final step and outsource your hardware to your Employees. They will love you for it.

Or if you love Infographics, we have a great one below.

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How Secure Is Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disasters, we never exactly plan for them to occur, but we should!

By the very nature of most disasters, recovery can take some time. Even with the best laid plans, without a complete and tested Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), most small businesses would struggle to ever get back to where they were before disaster struck.

What should you be backing up?

At the very least, all vital and operational documents, registers, and databases, including your Accounting package, should be backed up on a nightly basis.

A solid DRP for a small business would include a combination of onsite and offsite (cloud) backup solutions.

A Network Attached Storage Unit (NAS) of 1 or 2TB in size would suffice most businesses, which if the backup is set to Incremental, these units will usually hold up to 3 to 6 months worth of data.

The onsite incremental backup should be set to run every night, and should also backup the company email store.

A combination of the onsite as well as an offsite solution should be adopted for an all round DRP.

Your insurance company will love you for it.

Getting back to business following a disaster

Depending on the severity of the disaster, you could still find yourself requiring cash flow to purchase new computers and servers on which to operate, well ahead of the insurance company coming to inspect your site.

Add to this, sourcing replacement copies of your software and if necessary, serial numbers, etc.. You then need to factor in the time and costs to have all of the software reinstalled and configured.

Getting up and going again can be a real challenge, and most small businesses would simply not be able to cope, with limited cash flow available at such a time.

How can I best shield my business from disasters and make recovery easy?

The simplest solution to an all round protection policy available to all businesses large and small, is to operate as much of your business via a Cloud Provider.

Generally speaking, your email (unless you host your own Exchange server) and your internet banking, are two protocols you already operate via the cloud.

Why not consider your accounting package, via QuickBooks Hosted or Cashbook Online, Xero or Saasu, amonst others.

For your Office documents, you may consider Office365 (which offers virtual Exchange hosting), or a free solution such as Google Docs.

Quicker recovery via the cloud

Via any of the above cloud solution pr0viders, or you may choose a Private Cloud solution to host all of your business requirements, getting back online need be as easy as going to your local Internet Cafe or logging on via your iPad or home PC.