Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 6 seconds

cloud silver liningAs more and more businesses move down the path of cloud computing, the question of how best to use this technology becomes increasingly important. To help answer this question, you will want to first assess the cloud-readiness of your firm. If your current priorities include lowering technology costs, improving systems security, mobility and reducing system maintenance while enhancing scalability, then a cloud solution is worth considering.
Once you've arrived at the conclusion that the cloud is for you, what next? Do you go private or public? Essentially, a private cloud is operated solely for your practice and protected by firewalls. A private cloud leaves you in control, but also means you typically shoulder the data management overhead. Conversely, public cloud services relieve you of that management burden, but at the expense of some control because an external service provider makes applications and storage available to the general public via the Internet.

Much more information is available on both private and public clouds. Here, we'll turn our focus to the opportunities that lie in a fractional ownership model for the cloud when your practice has made the decision to go with a public cloud solution.

Fractional Ownership in the Accounting Realm
In the mid-‘80s, private aviation company NetJets pioneered the concept of fractional aircraft ownership for individuals and businesses interested in co-ownership of a jet. For spur-of-the-moment and frequent flyers, the concept makes sense. With NetJets Aircraft Fractional Ownership, owners gain all the convenience, access and time advantages of owning a whole aircraft, but at a fraction of the cost and without the responsibilities. NetJets hires and manages the pilots, maintains the planes, handles scheduling and all other logistics, and ensures safety. The company does all of this from operations centers located strategically throughout the world, and has quite simply set the standard in its industry.

NetJets is just one example of the benefits of fractional ownership in the workplace. Similar value can be recognized by putting your firm's tax, accounting and/or other applications in the cloud in a fractional ownership type model. In doing so, you place your accounting software (QuickBooks), tax software (Thomson Reuters, Lacerte, Drake), Microsoft Office and other applications, such as billing and payroll, into the cloud alongside other businesses' data and applications. Together, you use the buying power of a large information technology (IT) service provider rather than trying to do it on your own. The underlying physical infrastructure and data management costs are spread across more than one client.

In a fractional ownership situation, your practice pays a percentage of the price of the physical data infrastructure as well as a percentage of an annual management and maintenance fee; the practice then owns and uses a percentage of the data environment as needed.

In addition to leveraging buying power and expertise, tapping into the cloud services of a large IT vendor offers:
• lower upfront costs for server setup due to collocation,
• lower support costs and little or no maintenance,
• automatic software updates,
• quicker implementation of services,
• mobility - access to data and resources anytime, anywhere,
• enhanced security - it's easier for the IT vendor to obtain SAS 70 Type II certification, and
• superior disaster recovery and backup capabilities.

Find Your Silver Lining
The argument for moving to cloud computing is compelling. Yet, depending on your needs, your practice must find its own silver lining in the cloud. Fractional ownership is a financially appealing alternative that can offer you the benefits of technology without all of the headaches of going it on your own and even trying to understand the back-office technology that goes along with the cloud. Although contractual fees apply in any fractional ownership situation, you will find that the fees are substantially lower than what you would pay to store and maintain a comparable data computing environment on your own.

Hugh Duffy MBA

Hugh Duffy is co-founder and chief marketing officer for Build Your Firm, a leading practice development firm dedicated to the accounting industry.  Based in Madison, Conn., Build Your Firm works with small accounting firms providing accounting marketing, practice management and Web site development services

Prior to co-founding Build Your Firm in 2003, Hugh was a Vice President of Internet Marketing for Business & Legal Reports (BLR), a business-to-business publisher for small and medium sized businesses.  Prior to BLR, Hugh was a Director with a publicly traded global internet media company, 24/7 Real Media responsible for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships.  The foundation of Hugh’s marketing background is fourteen years of consumer packaged goods marketing with Schick, Nabisco, Clorox and Coca-Cola. 

Hugh has 25 years of marketing experience, an MBA degree in marketing from the University of Rochester and a B.S. in finance from the University of Maryland.  While at Maryland, Hugh was on a golf scholarship and his coach was Fred Funk, PGA Tour player.  Today, Hugh’s golf game suffers and he is content watching his two kids play college lacrosse.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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