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What you need to know about SaaS and Cloud Computing

The last ten years have brought significant changes to the accounting industry, with new technologies being the driving force. Technological advancements have automated many of the more perfunctory tasks that accountants once performed manually, freeing up their time to serve as trusted business advisors, effectively and efficiently analyzing data to provide business and consulting services – in real time. Arguably the most impactful of all the technological advancements is the advent of SaaS and cloud computing. And its impact is far reaching, permeating nearly every industry.

So what is SaaS, and is it the same thing as cloud computing?

SaaS (software as a service) is a software application that is not installed on premise; it does not run on your local hard drive nor on your office servers. Instead, it runs and is maintained in a vendor’s off site data center. Instead of buying a license to use/access the application, you “rent” use of the software monthly or annually. You access it by logging into a website, perhaps through a shortcut on your desktop. SaaS applications run in the cloud, but they are not the cloud itself.

So what is the cloud? It’s a means of accessing and storing data, programs, and applications over the internet instead of your hard drive or local server. Why give up local servers in favor of cloud computing; what are some of the benefits? First, data can be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection, enabling more streamlined collaboration and flexible staffing. Second, while your local server may crash, most cloud service providers guarantee 99.99% uptime. Third, it is scalable, so you’re not paying for storage capacity you don’t use or need.

SaaS and cloud computing changes the whole dynamic of business services, both from a people perspective and an equipment perspective:

People Perspective: • Externally, gone are the days when small to mid-sized business owners can only collaborate with other businesses (such as accounting firms) who are local to them, because data now can be shared swiftly and securely from anywhere in the world, breaking down geographic barriers. • Internally, gone is the need for the employees of many businesses (including accounting firms), to work in any specific office, city, or state.

Equipment Perspective: • The need to install and upgrade software locally; plus to purchase, maintain, and eventually replace expensive hardware, has ended. And not just expensive servers that must be replaced every five years but also the workstations themselves. • Case in point: a business owner can purchase a Chromebook (basically turning Google Chrome from a web browser into an operating system) instead of a desktop or laptop for each employee, costing only a couple hundred dollars each, instead of thousands.

If you are interested in saving money while increasing efficiencies, please contact Mark Zinman, CITP, to learn what options are available – and if SaaS and cloud computing would benefit your company!

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