What To Look For In A Cloud Host

As in any IT deployment or roll out in your organisation, you should have a plan, and perform your due diligence.

Part of this plan should be to interview a minimum of three Cloud Hosts or Providers, but what should you be looking for?

Here are some tips.

1. Data Location

This is at the top of the list for a reason. The location of where your data is going to be stored is the most crucial element to this whole exercise.

Do you need access to your data if systems go offline? If the answer to that is yes, then look for a Host close by, at least within driving distance, so in the event of a major circumstance you know you can go and physically retrieve your data at any time.

If the answer to the above question is no, then you should at least be aware of where your data is, and make sure it is on home soil. Data stored in Australia is subject to stringent Privacy and Data Protection laws.

Sure it will cost more to host your data in Australia, but we have amongst the highest certified data hosts in the World.

2. Security

Secondly, enquire regarding data security. Not just who has access to your data, but how secure is the Data Centre where your virtual servers are stored.

What are the disaster recovery plans for the Data Centre (DC), what fire and hazard prevention controls are in place? Physically what level of staff and who has access to the Server Floor and Data Halls?

You could also ask the Host for a copy of their Security standards and access lists.

3. Recovery and Disaster Prevention

Further questions to ask revolve around the Recovery of data and what Disaster Prevention and even ask for a copy of their Disaster Recovery Plan. If they are serious about their role as a Cloud Host or Virtual Server Provider then they should have this information readily available for you.

Quiz your potential host on what their Fire Prevention plan is, and how quickly they could get your data back online in the case of a total meltdown.

4. Uptime Certification

As in the earlier days of the internet, Uptime SLA’s were a major selling point for the more professional ISP’s, allowing them to charge a higher fee for a higher Uptime SLA.

Your Cloud Host is no different today.

Even better, ask them what their Uptime Institute Certification level is.

5. Price

Why put price at the bottom of the list you ask?

Well for good reason. If you are serious about a business Cloud deployment, sure price is a consideration, but really, I think this point speaks for itself.

Look for a Host that fits your Budget certainly, but also one that ticks all the above boxes first.


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More Of The Cloud For Free: Google Drive

 

One of the great drivers for cloud use, is economy. There is no better product economically than when it’s free. And we just love free Cloud!

And we love Google.

So what do you get when you combine a free 5GB Cloud based storage service with PC Sync and Google? Google Drive of course!

Google have had several attempts in the past at making an impact on the Cloud Storage market and have attempted various aspects in this space before, however now they may have just got it right.

The installation and setup are very easy, and anyone who has used Dropbox will be able to set it up quickly and easily.

Like all other Google applications, Google Drive is linked to your Gmail or Google account and login, meaning you can easily take all your information , be it documents, music, work files or other information with you where ever you go, just by signing into Google on any PC.

Optionally, you can install the free PC Sync component and start sharing local drives with users, very akin to Dropbox. You then have complete access to your Google Drive from your PC, or really any PC you wish to physically synchronise your information to.

The files are also very easily accessed and integrated into, especially, your Android mobile phone, as are all Google Suite apps. Just download the app from the Play Store, install, and instantly you can access all of your files anywhere. Also you will find all of your Google Groups saved files in your Google Drive, and sharing files is as easy as a right click, then email from your Gmail contacts! There is no mistaking this is a Google product, it is very well integrated for a startup product.

The Google Drive service starts with an impressive 5GB for free, and you can bet your bottom dollar that will be incrementally increased over time as we have seen with Gmail over the years.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Print


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.

Reckon Place QuickBooks Enterprise In The Cloud

QUICKBOOKS HOSTED BY RECKON ONLINE

REVIEW – WEALTH CREATOR MAGAZINE


The Login Process

2011 marks the year that Reckon’s Online offering, QuickBooks, Hosted by Reckon Online “grows up”.

No longer bound by antiquated Browser security shackles, nor held ransom to Windows, Reckon now have you covered on almost any device you choose to travel with.

Simplifying the login process to a single icon click, identical to the Desktop edition of QuickBooks, Reckon have closed the gap that once existed in both the range of devices able to run QuickBooks Hosted, and also in the end user experience.

Once setup on either my iPad, Android mobile phone or Macbook, I found logging in via the Premium Service, to be as seamless as the desktop edition. This is a huge step forward for Reckon.

Speed

Another vast improvement that impressed me no end with the 2011 released Premium service, was the speed.

Dare I say it is now faster for me to have Reckon host my datafiles, than it is for me to host my own files on my own server!

Reporting speed was the same whether I was running a quick client look up on my Android mobile phone, or running a detailed Profit and Loss report from my iPad. The experience is very seamless.

Functionality

The first thing clients say to me when I set them up on QuickBooks Hosted, is “oh it’s exactly the same as my old version.”  A masterstroke by Reckon, is the fact that functionally, QuickBooks Hosted is exactly the same as the Desktop version! And in some cases, better.

This is due to the fact that Reckon have chosen to base the Hosted product on the Rolls Royce of QuickBooks, the Enterprise version. Hence every feature that is available in QuickBooks 2011, is also available online.

My favourite new feature is the Company Snapshot. Containing up to 27 finance widgets, the user is able to customise a “control panel” of their business, just for them!

With a single mouse click on my iPad, I can see at any time my Top Customers,  how much money I have in the bank and who owes me the most money. On one screen, on my iPad, from anywhere in the World!

Product Comparison

It’s no secret that the race is on amongst software makers to conquer the cloud. And the Accounting Software world is no different.

What I found really sets the QuickBooks Hosted product apart from the rest is its’ familiar look and feel. For added security, users also have access at any time to downloading a copy of their data (which can be opened on the desktop QuickBooks Enterprise), or export reports into Microsoft Excel and save it on their PC. This is a feature that competitive products are sadly missing.

I was also able to re-upload a more recent copy of my local data file, straight up to the Hosted service, from my Desktop.

Not to mention I am able to pay all of my staff, manage all of my inventory, lodge my BAS via Reckon Gov Connect ; and provide my Accountant a login to my data which saves me real money.

I truly believe Reckon have an outstanding product on their hands this year and thoroughly recommend the Premium service to all mobile business people, Bookkeepers and Accountants.

Quickbooks Hosted is accessed by the Citrix Receiver, available from Google Play