Practice cloud: What's available now

In his third article on cloud software for practice, John Stokdyk examines what’s currently available, and what’s coming soon.

AccountingWEB’s Software Satisfaction Awards have tracked the rapid adoption of cloud computing by the profession over the past 5-6 years, but a change in our surveying process highlighted the extent to which accountancy has lagged behind wider industry trends.

Where the pool of respondents previously included CRM and HR software users, the percentage of cloud users within last year's sample was 59%. The survey focused on accountants only this year and the figure fell to a more realistic 42%.

During 2012, cloud-based solutions for practising accountants were nowhere to be found. Only newcomer TaxFiler had an capable of handling 2011-12 tax returns online. But the race is now on, with IRIS releasing its OpenTax program in April and Sage promising cloud tax, accounts production and practice management programs by this time next year.

Tax and practice cloud tools have dominated the 2013 autumn conference season and fast-growing cloud accounting specialist Xero has started to roll out its Practice Studio in the UK to challenge what it calls the industry “incumbents”.

Intuit, meanwhile, has cloud tax and practice capabilities in the US and has a strategy in place to broaden its offerings internationally.

But TaxFiler and IRIS aside - or going for a hosted solution where desktop apps are operated via web terminal services - most of the announcements are to do with what’s going to available after the SA deadline next January.

This article sets out to explore what’s actually available now and assess the rivals’ current cloud products and strategies...

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Comments
Paul Scholes's picture

More cloud, rain & storms forecast

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

It wasn't that long ago that the choice of hosting & cloud facilities could each be counted on one hand and, whilst we had to do a bit of research it was relatively easy to pick the best of each and we sailed on up there.

Standing back within the safe confines of my hosted office (provided by the excellent and unmentioned(?) Hosted Desktop UK) what's so confusing and annoying is the noise and hype accompanying all of this, with providers each listing the same benefits of using the Cloud without going into great detail about why their method of using a bank feed, sharing a document or doing a VAT return, is better than the others.

As evidenced by John's article, there are a number of bandwagons and feeding frenzies and whether the reader is a traveller or an hors d'oeuvre (or both!) the choice is jump in or, sit & wait. And, I have to say, if it was me, I'd do the latter.

PS: Another to add to John's lists of ones to watch, and one I'm happy to declare an interest in Clear Books Pro

 

Hosted Accountants Ltd's picture

Cloud Confusion

Hosted Accounta... | | Permalink

Quite agree Paul. 

Everyone is eventually joining the bandwagon with differing success.

Digita now offer hosting, but ONLY of their products which means no document management, Sage, payroll, etc can be put in the same place. This defeats the object completely.

IRIS still offer (expensive) hosting but seem to have largely given up on this because it is very fiddly and time consuming with smaller firms.

Sage have finally started development of a pure SaaS solution but this will take years.

Hosting is by far the best choice right now. Use the same fully developed products that your staff like, but accessible from anywhere! Let someone else look after it and back it up. 

And just to provide some balance I agree ClearBooks looks great. Plus the idea of the community helping own and support it is really nice to see for a change.

http://www.clearbooks.co.uk/cloudfunding

Dan

 

 

squay's picture

Cloudy with sunny intervals    2 thanks

squay | | Permalink

At Accountex earlier this year Digita was demonstrating their hosted solution. Like all Digita applications the cost escalates with the more clients you have and every option selected. I personally found the costs getting too much for a small general practice. That's a shame as we welcome all things cloud based but not at all costs. 

Also at Accountex I visited TaxCalc who had launched their integrated tax and accounts production solution using a client hub. This presented far better value for money for a small general practice and after extensive trials we signed up and left Digita. A big wrench after so many years. Whilst this is a desktop application only at present is was good to see in a recent TaxCalc users survey the question "would you be interested in a cloud version?" YES.

Other cloud applications we are currently using are MyPAYE for payroll, Xero for book-keeping, Autorec for converting bank statements and uploading into Xero. I await developments with interest.

Stephen Quay, Xero Certified Advisor

Benefit led cloud and end to end integration

wrowe | | Permalink

 

Online Accounting is a perfect example for delivering greater benefits through the use of cloud technology. Many practices see the real collaborative benefits in use of cloud with areas like accounting, document exchange, document approval and personal communications. Cloud also enables mobility and delivers massive benefits in terms of accessibility to data on the move.

CCH Software and Twinfield are focusing on benefit led cloud solutions ensuring that we innovate to meet practice need using technology as an enabler. Contrary to the article CCH and Twinfield are building on our existing cloud platform to deliver practice tools which will support anytime anywhere working needs.

You do not need to watch this space, as this year saw CCH Software release the remaining modules of  Corporation Tax and Accounts Production which complete the core integration into the single Client database suite, CCH Central.

 

Wendy Rowe

Head of Product Management, CCH Software

Wolters Kluwer

carnmores's picture

@ John

carnmores | | Permalink

have AW had a look at GBooks yet , if not will you please?

leppam's picture

Exact Online

leppam | | Permalink

A pitty you didnt mention Exact Online ;-)... http://www.exactonline.co.uk/

Paul Scholes's picture

leppam    1 thanks

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

You would say that, you work for them, do you have a view on the points made in the article?

Exact Online

chatman | | Permalink

leppam wrote:
A pitty you didnt mention Exact Online ;-)... http://www.exactonline.co.uk/

Can you tell us anything about it? I would have to have some reason to spend the time looking at the web site.

Lets make lif easier

TaxMatters | | Permalink

As true supporters of our American cousins we should seriously consider putting all our confidential data in the cloud where the NSA, CIA and whatever they are all called these days can hack into the data with far less trouble. I suppose that goes for the chums at GCHQ as well. Cynical? Probably! but it gets more like 1984 every day. One CCTV camera for every 13 inhabitants and I hear from a client that they are working on long range microphones that can be connected to them so that we can be listened to whilst "they" are watching us. Of course that is for our protection and not to make parking fines easier to issue!

Paul Scholes's picture

TaxMatters?    1 thanks

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

This was a bolt out the blue, is it because it's Friday afternoon or are you related to Paul Dacre?

PS: If I park illegally, why shouldn't I get a parking fine and surely better to have one person looking at 20 screens than 20 cold & miserable parking attendants trudging the streets getting abuse?

Just to put your mind at rest Paul

TaxMatters | | Permalink

I am not related to Paul Dacre but from what I can see he doesn't do a bad job. SURELY I am not the only person that can see the dangers of the snowballing surveillance activity. We hear about foreign security services hacking into Merkel's phone etc. etc. and we still have no qualms about using cloud software?????? Not for me. I'll keep my data right where I can protect it myself. I wonder how long it will be before the first cloud scandal hits the news? How about an alternative to your parking suggestion - what's wrong with parking attendants being cold miserable and abused by their powerless victims? The next thing you'll be telling us they deserve a medal for the job they do or are you related to one Paul?

@TaxMatters - How do you back up your data?

chatman | | Permalink

@TaxMatters - How do you back up your data?

Paul Scholes's picture

Tax Matters    1 thanks

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Think your view of Paul Dacre says enough for me...fear on

.

chatman | | Permalink

.

so dammed busy

TaxMatters | | Permalink

Sorry Paul just so dammed busy right now that finding time to reply is a task in itself.8 new clients last week alone. How do we back up our data? simple! during the night the server backs itself up to an external drive which is so handy. I swap the drive the following morning and take it home with me. since every one works on the server I have everything I need. No need for clouds

carnmores's picture

taxmatters answer says it all Paul

carnmores | | Permalink

so if there is a fire over night all lost ? how often are the backups restored as a test ?

fire    1 thanks

TaxMatters | | Permalink

hi carmores - max loss would be a days work but the back ups are not tested as often as desirable. The files are counted and compared daily but tested only once a month. what do other people do???? I used to audit some really big it departments but that is a few years ago. would be interesting to know what other people do in their practise

I back up online

chatman | | Permalink

TaxMatters wrote:
would be interesting to know what other people do in their practise

I back up automatically online with Dropbox and Mozy.

Paul Scholes's picture

I didn't ask about fire but...

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

agree, physical risk of fire, or hardware failure is far more real to me than the perceived, fear of someone hacking into my or my client's data.  That's why all of mine & my client's data is held in a secure state of the art server in a bunker somewhere in the countryside and not in a washing machine like server in the corner of my office.

Karen Bennett's picture

On the move

Karen Bennett | | Permalink

Recently one of our customers had everything destroyed in a fire. However, they had recently invested in moving all their files over to the cloud so all their data was saved. Otherwise they would have had nothing, no files and no business. We use Dropbox to share all of our files and have recently started to use Google drive to share files. While Dropbox is great at a company levels in terms of sharing files, it does only allow one person to have a file open and save a file at any one stage. We have found in the past that we had duplicate copies of the same files where staff members were adding changes to that file and saving it. With Google drive any number of people can edit a file at the same time. Also the owner of the file can also control who can view, edit, or just make comments about the file.

Thanks Stephen for the mention of AutoRec. The demand for cloud based solutions is definitely increasing as wrowe mentions above. OCRex has found that accountants are looking for solutions that are accessible on the move. As a result of this growing demand, OCRex will be launching a cloud based solution to convert bank statements into spreadsheets later this year. Also another solution that is in beta phase at the moment is DocuRec which will be another cloud based application that will extract data from invoices, receipts, PO's, packing slips and more. I'll update when they are released.