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.

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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.

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

Cloud POS Coming To A Handheld Near You Thanks To Reckon Limited

Reckon Limited, an Australian ASX listed software provider, best known for its Quickbooks range of products, is after more than just the bookkeeping market in Australia.

Shown today, exclusively to Cloud For Profit, at Reckon’s National Accredited Partner Conference in Hobart, was Reckon’s mobile Point of Sale offering. Reckon have produced the desktop version of Point of Sale for some time, however a mobile solution was always the vision of Business Division CEO Gavin Dixon.

Until now, the technology required to run such a solution was not in the price point of the majority of Reckon’s customers and did not fit the vision, of being on any device, not just multi thousand dollar clunky PDA’s.

In speaking with Reckon, Senior Business Analyst Simon Hutchinson commented, “this is going to change retail, from your tradesmen looking for a simple solution to send an invoice from their van, to the coffee cart at kid’s soccer matches, to the more traditional bricks and mortar, we can now provide them all with a cost effective mobile solution”. Gavin Dixon then commented, “and best of all, our customer’s don’t need any new hardware, they can run POS on their iPhone, HTC, Samsung Galaxy or Blackberry device”.

We tested the mobile POS Solution on our own Samsung Galaxy Note, and it was as if the product was made for the 5.3″ screen size.

The above screen shot demonstrates us processing a sale on the POS Terminal. We could also make use of the S-Pen which made the perfect tool for selecting products from the POS item list.

“Custom templates are our next project” relayed Hutchison, “I want to design templates to suit various device screen sizes, from iPod Touch, to Galaxy S II,  to Note and the 7″ and 10″ tablets.”

And not only is the Terminal going to the mobile platform, but also the Administrator back end, which allows for Management to monitor various terminal sales, close and open terminals, and transfer data to and from their QuickBooks accounting software.

The shot above demonstrating the sales each terminal is making.

“Traditionally another highly requested feature of POS users, was multiple location. Logistically this was previously a challenge due to the nature of the relationship between POS and Quickbooks, well not anymore, as we have hosted and link POS to Quickbooks on our Cloud Platform”, added Dixon.

So in terms of monitoring your terminals, these terminals could be anywhere in the World, being monitored from your Android device.

All you have to do is relax!

Reckon will be releasing the mobile POS solution sometime in Q2 2012.

Be sure to follow as this product nears its release cycle.