Many of us are using the cloud in our practices in one way or another, but have we considered the cloud as part of our disaster recovery plan for accounting data files and client documents? Computers die, or worse can get lost or stolen. Office servers can be difficult and costly to maintain, and IT consultants can be non responsive, often when you need them most. Backups can be complicated to restore, and often once restored, are found to be blank. Paper documents take up space, can become damaged or fade, and are often difficult to obtain from our clients.
We all know what we’re supposed to be doing, but what are we really doing? Here’s a snapshot of what one office is doing (mine) in terms of using the cloud for data file and document storage, which is a large part of any disaster recovery plan.
1. Subscribe to a cloud hosting service.
I have used Cloud9Realtime since 2008 for hosted QuickBooks and client document storage. A few years ago, I started storing all my business and personal documents there as well. I now have a laptop, instead of a desktop computer, and it is basically a dumb terminal, meaning I use it to launch programs and to access the internet, but not to store data.
For QuickBooks files, I like the stability and security that a hosted service provides. Hosted services such as Cloud9 or, RightNetworks run their own, independent data centers, and are Intuit Authorized Hosts. I feel confident my QuickBooks files are secure, and the servers are backed up. Most providers offer a 30-day rolling backup; I pay extra to have a quarterly backup performed as well.
One drawback to Cloud9 is their lack of implementation of user-level permissions. If your client has access to one folder, they have access to all. This means the accounting clerk has access to payroll or tax documents. For this reason, I also subscribe to file sharing services (read on).
Of course, you can also switch from desktop accounting software to cloud-based accounting software, such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, or others, thus avoiding hosting.
2. Subscribe to document retrieval service.
Services such as FileThis and Hubdoc will fetch key documents for you, such as bank statements and national vendor bills (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and store them on a dashboard in the cloud. The services automatically fetch and store the documents, and email you when new documents arrive. You can invite your client to the service, and access their key docs without having to ask for user IDs and passwords. Of course, you can set up your own firm’s documents to be fetched as well. Now the bank statements for all accounts are in one place – a single login. No more waiting for your client to mail or email you bank statements or bills.
3. Subscribe to a receipt storage service.
Services such as Hubdoc and ReceiptBank allow your clients to take pictures of their receipts using their phones or tablets, and you, as the bookkeeper, can then post the receipts directly from the app’s Dashboard to the correct account and payment type, then sync the transaction to QBO, Xero, Bill.com, etc. The sync’d receipt becomes a Match (in QBO) in the bank feed download, and includes an image of the receipt. The receipt is also stored in the app’s dashboard. No more waiting for your client to snail mail or deliver to you a package of crunched-up receipts, and the client is happy to toss the receipt after taking its snapshot, thus achieving paper reduction all around.
4. Subscribe to a file sharing service.
A secure file sharing service such as SmartVault or ShareFile allows you to share documents with your clients, documents which are stored in the Cloud. You can set user-level, folder-level and even file-level permissions. These services are a good place to store Word and Excel files, tax returns, legal docs, etc. Most of them also link to other services like FileThis and Hubdoc, which you use to fetch the docs, but use your file share service to store them. I know there are free file sharing services out there, but my take is if you are running a professional office, use a professional service instead of the freebies. The paid services offer more security, and more support.
At this point, you are thinking, “wow, I sure am subscribing to a lot of services,” and this is true. However, with the combination of these services, you are saving time (no more waiting for docs; no more scanning docs), keeping documents secure in the cloud (no more receiving sensitive docs via non-secure email) with anytime-anywhere access for you and your client, and eliminating risk if your office computers die. You’re reducing paperwork, and even going paperless. Don’t forget – you can pass through the cost of these services to your clients, and with many clients (millennials in particular), these services are selling points which demonstrate your tech savvy. So it’s a win-win, and … disaster averted!