Cloud Computing

Why We Love the Cloud

Here at e-BAS Accounts we have embraced the concept of operating our business via the cloud. In short, we love the cloud! So what is the cloud and why do we love it?

The cloud is the current term currently being thrown around meaning “all things online”. Basically, any software you might access on your desktop or laptop, you can now access online. Okay, so why do we love it?

There are 5 reasons why we love the cloud:

1. Accessibility: The applications we use in our business are available to us on any computer, anywhere, and anytime as long as there is an internet connection available. This means we are no longer tied to our office for the purposes of accessing information. We can now access emails, accounts information, our favourite apps, etc. anytime and anywhere. Our office is now completely mobile. If we want to work on the beach at Torquay we can; if we want to sit in the park on a sunny day and process client accounts, we can; if we want to access our emails while travelling on a train, we can. You get the picture 🙂

2. It’s Cheap: Cloud applications are generally cost-effective. We can usually try an application out for free for a short period and then agree to pay a low monthly fee to continue to use the service. What’s more, we can opt-out at any time we like if we find an application better suited to our needs. It means we can operate our business on a relatively low budget, accessing some of the best and most useful applications currently available.

3. It’s Always Current: The applications we use are always up to date. No longer do we have to purchase upgrades to our desktop software. Upgrades are taken care of in the background by the cloud providers. We will never have to worry about this and what’s more, it’s part of the monthly fees we pay – it’s not extra so no ugly surprises.

4. Security & Backups: Cloud providers build their products with your data security being of the utmost importance. The same security levels we enjoy when using online banking are often used for cloud applications. We believe that is more secure to place your data into the cloud than it is to leave it on your desktop or laptop. Why? Because using the cloud is like having a continuous backup system in place. Your data is always there – it can’t be destroyed by fire, theft or flood; it can’t be corrupted or lost by computer malfunction; it can’t be accessed and altered by unauthorised staff members, etc. To keep your data totally secure, you must keep it off site and there is no site more off-site than the cloud!

5. Working Remotely: Cloud applications allow us to work remotely with our clients whether they be 5 km or 500 km away. Here are some of the applications we use here at e-BAS Accounts which make working remotely possible:

  • Go To Meeting: Allows us to hold meetings with clients no matter where they live
  • Saasu and Xero: Online accounting software which eliminates the need to send data files to and from clients/accountants and/or worry that those files are current or possibly corrupt etc.
  • TeamworkPM: Our project management platform
  • Dropbox: For file sharing and backup with clients
  • Office 365 and Google Apps: Make the mobile office a reality
  • Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin: Part of our current marketing strategy; networking strategy; learning strategy

The cloud is central to our business mission here at e-BAS Accounts – to enhance flexibility, collaboration, and efficiency by working remotely with clients and team members; we do this by primarily using online apps via the cloud. The cloud has basically made our little business possible. We believe it is the way of the future office and far better than the alternative.

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Remote bookkeeping – how does this work?

The other day a potential client rang me and said she was looking at our website and wanted to know how remote bookkeeping worked and more importantly, how it could work for her and her business. I was a little surprised by her questions because I’ve been working remotely or “telecommuting” as it’s been labelled of late, for years now as have many others. I went on to explain how I work and how my clients work with me but I got the feeling that she wasn’t entirely convinced. It made me think that there are probably others out there who don’t quite understand how bookkeeping can be done remotely so I thought I’d write a blog that would help to explain how it all works.

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We’ve Gone Paperless Part 1

Starting this financial year 2013-14, we’ve decided to go paperless! We’re changing our own bookkeeping processes and also how we keep our clients’ records. In part one of this blog, we’ll tell you about our new paperless bookkeeping system.

Why do we want to go paperless?

We work from a small home office. When I say it’s small, I mean really small! It currently has 2 full filing cabinets, 3 full large tubs housing client data, and a bookcase brimming over with our own bookkeeping records. Basically, we’ve decided that if we don’t go paperless, our small office will just become a glorified archive room dedicated to storing reams of paper (and probably layers of dust!).  As we don’t have the option of confiscating the second room in the house for an office, we decided that we should do something now before the paper really takes over and loss of space becomes a big issue.

There are also other reasons why we want to go paperless:

  • Paper deterioration – over time all paper slowly deteriorates and either falls to pieces or becomes completely illegible. Keeping electronic records solves this problem.
  • Back ups – our system is backed up every day to an online system called Jungle Disk. Our paperless solution is included in this daily back up. All data is kept safe from possible loss, something that cannot be guaranteed in relation to the paper records. Paper records are at risk from potential threats such as fire, flood, theft etc.
  • Security – electronic records are protected by the cloud program used to house them as well as by the backup system we use. Again, such security cannot be assured in relation to our paper records.
  • Search function – we use Google Drive to house our records. Google is famous for its search magic! One of the reasons we chose Google Drive is so we can find stuff easily via the search function. The same cannot be said for our paper records. While they are stored alphabetically and via financial year, that’s about as close as it gets to being able to find anything quickly. Finding data still requires pulling out folders and files and spreading them around the office until we find what’s required – not exactly efficient!
  • Everything in one place – as I mentioned above, we’ve got stuff stored in filing cabinets, tubs and a bookcase (there might also be folders in the cupboard but I don’t want to look in there!). Our records are all over the shop (office)! It’s tidy but it’s not efficient. By using Google Drive, we can be assured that all data is in one place – much easier to find things!
  • Easily share data with others – I dropped off our usual 2 folders containing our financial year-end records to our accountant for the last time a couple of weeks ago. His office is a one hour return trip to my house. I told him that next year I’ll be sharing my electronic tax folder with him and if he needs to meet with me, we can do it via Skype! Those who use Google Apps will know that you can share any folder or file with anyone. This means no more printing out documents and no more paper! If the accountant (or anyone else) wants to see a document, it can easily be shared with him and/or emailed as necessary. Goodbye paper and goodbye unnecessary travel!

 Our paperless bookkeeping system

As mentioned already, we have decided to use Google Drive as our online storage facility. We use Google Apps in our business so using Google Drive is logical for us. Google Drive gives us 30Gb of space free before we’re required to purchase extra storage – pretty good!

For our own bookkeeping system, this is how we set up our folders in Google Drive:

  1. Create master folder called "e-BAS Accounts Tax"
  2. Create sub folders called "To be paid", "To be entered to Saasu" and "2013-14 FY"
  3. Within the "2013-14 FY" folder, create further sub-folders for each expense category required. These categories are taken directly from the chart of accounts used in our accounting system. This will make it easier to find data later.

This is what we do once a week to keep our accounts in order:

  • Any paper receipts and/or bills are filed away in a folder (yes paper, I know, I know!) called “to be scanned”.
  • On “bookkeeping day” in our office, the items in the “to be scanned” folder are scanned using our new Epsom whiz-bang printer which is wireless and connects to our Google Drive. The data is scanned straight to a special folder in Google Drive. From there, it’s just a matter of allocating the files to either the “to be paid” folder or the “to be entered to Saasu” folder.
  • Any bills/docs received via email as PDF’s are saved directly into the Google Drive tax folder and the emails subsequently deleted.
  • Any bills needing to be paid and/or entered into Saasu (our chosen cloud accounting software) are dealt with as needed. Once they are processed, they are then filed into the required expense category folder with the “2013-14 FY” folder.

Our experience of going paperless so far…..

Well, in short, it works! The trick is to make sure the above system is done each week. Leaving it until there are loads of docs to scan and/or enter into Saasu would be problematic and painful. The only thing that we found difficult at the start was throwing out original copies of bills once they are scanned. Our inherent need to file away paper caused us some anxiety when it came to actually dispose of the paper bills/receipts – we really did find this difficult weird as this may sound! Now we do it without batting an eyelid – anxiety gone! We are trying to be as “green” as possible and we use old bills for scrap paper (yes scrap paper is still useful!) and pop others into the paper recycling bin. Our next step in the process will be to buy a shredder for shredding sensitive paper documents. My daughter tells me that she can use the shredded waste as a base in her bird’s cage which is good recycling in my book!

In part 2 of this blog, I’ll explain how we have also moved our client records onto a paperless system in Google Drive. I’ll tell you about how our system works and what is involved.

 **UPDATE**

Since writing this blog and trialling the paperless system described above (so, 3 months ago), I would like to report that it really does work! Anyone thinking about doing this should absolutely get on board! There is definitely much less paper and much less time spent filing it (or trying to find places to put it). The best part of going paperless for me has been the search functionality. There have been at least 2 instances where I needed to find invoices fast and just by typing a few keywords in the search box in Google Drive, I was able to find the documents within seconds – brilliant! I have also purchased the shredder I spoke of above from Dick Smith – a great addition to the paperless system – it also shreds old credit cards and CDs/DVD’s – very useful! 

What would I change?

Well, actually not that much! The only thing I think needs to be changed is the way I’m recording the date on each file. At the moment I save each document as e.g. 27.01.14_name of file_$amount paid. This is okay except that when I look at a long list of documents saved in this way, I cannot easily sight a particular document by date quickly – quite a bit of eye scanning is required. So I’ve decided that I’ll keep on using my current format until the end of the financial year and then after that, I’ll start using this format which should eliminate the above issues e.g. 2014.01.27_name of file_$amount paid. With just one change of how I record the date, I should be able to easily sort and find documents quickly – well more quickly than I can now 🙂 If I think of any other changes I can make to enhance the paperless office experience, I’ll be sure to let you know with further updates on this blog. Bye for now!

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