Head in the clouds

The development of cloud-based accounting software has been a revolutionary development for businesses and individuals. Companies like Xero, Sage and Intuit have entirely changed the dynamic between those in need of accounting services and those providing them, demystifying the process and making it simpler, faster and more efficient.

“We use cloud-based accounting software with all our clients as standard,” says Paul Beare, who has built his practice on the back of remotely servicing a broad client base drawn from both the UK and beyond.

“Cloud services are really quite simple: you could think of cloud as simply someone else’s computer – by hosting the applications on a third-party server, both ourselves and the client have access to the necessary services to ensure that the right data gets entered and extracted, and that any errors can quickly be rectified.”

Paul’s reliance on cloud-based systems has been tested over the course of the pandemic. “We’re largely a UK-based firm but we do a lot of work with overseas companies looking to set up in the UK. By delivering our services via the cloud we have a standard, flexible and secure platform onto which we can bring each new client as they join,” Paul explains.

Using cloud accounting software allows clients to not only see the state of play with their finances but also gives them access to a suite of self-serve applications that can help them run their business better. “Clients don’t want to wait for us to be available to check something or run a process,” Paul says.

“Increasingly they expect us to provide the option of self service in certain areas – perhaps payroll or updating certain aspects of HR and finance – and they don’t want to hang around or seek authorisation to do so. Cloud services are open 24/7 and even the previously tech-phobic clients use it as a matter of course.”

But for some, moving over to a cloud-based system requires a leap of faith. “There certainly used to be a perception that storing or running things in the cloud – off somewhere in the ether – presented more of a risk than using on-premise servers and back-ups,” Paul explains. “But the development of more sophisticated security infrastructure means running your accounts in the cloud is now safer than anything on-premise.”

Most important services, such as payment authorisation, will require two-factor authorisation to ensure that both client and accountant are able to sign off on a process.

“The cloud has made such a difference to our clients’ lives and businesses,” says Paul. “It’s put real power in their hands, allowing them to stay updated with the latest state of the business at any time that’s convenient for them, leaving them free to get on with the important stuff of growing their company. It also means we can securely and rapidly deliver our services to a broader range of clients from all over the world.

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