I would like to thank those of you who have followed the articles in the newsletter and blog about cloud computing. This will be my last article on the subject, at least for the year. For argument’s sake, let’s accept that the “cloud” is the model that will prevail over the next few years, characterized by all business applications being accessible over the Internet via a mobile device, data stored remotely, and software applications subscribed to as a service. Most small businesses and their nonprofit counterparts are in a period of transition, including our own small company that is struggling with adopting cloud technology. I thought it would be interesting to relate where we are and where we are trying to go in our own business.
First, we have pretty much a traditional IT infrastructure with a computer server that is parked in a corner of my office. Several traditional PC workstations connect to the server locally, or via Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection. Each of our consultants has a laptop computer running MS Office and they all have smart phones (iPhone, Android or BlackBerry). Presently, this infrastructure supports our internal accounting (Abila MIP) and customer relationship management applications, and document management. Could all of these applications be moved the cloud? Absolutely. Even our CRM application, ACT!, which is a great example of a client-server application that has passed its prime but can be hosted in the cloud. We are looking for a better solution.
We already depend on cloud-based applications in our business. As providers of outsourced accounting services to nonprofits, we utilize a cloud-hosted license of QuickBooks Enterprise, along with MS Office, which our consultants and clients can access 24/7 via a browser or remote desktop connection. Financial reports and related documents can be stored at the hosted site for printing, viewing or downloading.
We use Egnyte, a cloud-based file sharing service that facilitates the exchange and sharing of documents and data files among our consultants and clients. Our plan for 2015 is to move all of our business files presently stored on our internal server and individual laptops to the cloud. They are accessible to all who have rights via a browser or from a Windows PC as a mapped drive. For example, original accounting documentation, such as invoices, contracts and payroll vouchers, can be stored in the cloud and attached to the applicable records in the accounting system for instant viewing and printing.
There are some other lesser examples but one can probably say we are evolving toward the cloud as many of you are. By the end of 2015, we should be there for the most part. Here is our plan that will eliminate the need for our local server and traditional MS Windows workstations.
- Subscribe to MS Office 365.
- Move all business files and documents to Egnyte and eliminate paper.
- Move MIP Fund Accounting to our affiliate NPT’s Private Cload hosting service.
- Extend paperless payment to most vendors and employees.
- Institute paperless payment from customers.
- Replace our CRM with a cloud-based application.
I will let you know how it goes. Hopefully, sharing our experiences will give you some ideas for utilizing cloud technology. We are not experts by any means and would appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Finally, the NFP Partners’ team wishes you all a joyful holiday season and a great New Year.