Why is everyone talking about it? Because accounting is moving slowly in that direction.
You’ve probably been working in the cloud already for a long time. “The cloud” simply refers to the internet. Cloud computing involves accessing your applications and data on remote servers rather than your computer’s hard drive. If you use web-based email like gMail, you’re working in the cloud. Social media is in the cloud.
Financial data – especially that of people other than you, like your customers – is especially sensitive. So the developers that create cloud-based applications are proceeding with caution. But they’re proceeding.
Intuit has been in the cloud for over a decade with QuickBooks Online. When you use it, you don’t have a physical copy of the software stored locally. Rather, you’re using an internet-based copy of the product. The company started with a very simple set of features that has evolved over the years. It’s now roughly comparable to QuickBooks Pro.
There are numerous advantages that cloud-based accounting has over local, hard-drive based computing, like:
- Automatic upgrades. All upgrades are done at the server level, so you’re always assured of having the latest version.
- Fewer IT headaches. You won’t be as dependent on your IT person or staff to keep your software running and deal with the inevitable downtime from network problems.
- Anytime/anywhere access. You and your employees will be able to work with your accounting files from any PC or laptop that can access the internet. This means that you’re always a few clicks away from real-time financial data. You might be able to let employees telecommute at least part of the time. And if a natural disaster renders your office and computer equipment unusable, you can set up shop elsewhere until everything is cleaned up and restored.
- Remote connections to your accountant. No more shipping disks back and forth or trying to talk through a problem on the phone. You can both be looking at the same screen at the same time. You could even do some QuickBooks training remotely.
- No more network limitations. You won’t be tethered to your network and have to deal with limitations governing the number of users allowed.
- Easier application integration. This is important. Getting two cloud-based applications to talk to each other isn’t as difficult as connecting two pieces of local software.
Intuit’s Next Step
Intuit recently launched a brand-new QuickBooks Online version that was built from the ground up specifically for the Apple iPad. Tablets are being used more and more in business settings, so it was logical that QuickBooks would eventually find a home there.
QuickBooks Online for the iPad is a very simple app, far less sophisticated than even the desktop version of QuickBooks Pro. You can download customer information from sources like gMail and LinkedIn, and you can pull in customer pictures from Facebook.
Entering an expense and attaching a picture of a receipt in QuickBooks Online for the iPad
At this point, the app lets you create and send estimates, invoices and expenses; make notes and take pictures and attach them to forms; and view detailed customer histories. It’s a very simply, very friendly cloud-based app. Subscriptions start at $12.99/month or $124.99/year.
Want to learn more about cloud-based accounting? QuickBooks classes, training courses and seminars are available to get you up to speed.