Practice in the Cloud

 Having recently moved my clients to xero online accounting and MyPAYE for Payroll I have been looking at other options for my small practice. 

I have therefore recently discovered the likes of cloud.net for hosted PBX which works with my iPhone (no more landline required). Also box.net for cloud storage and my favourite iPad app Noterize for capturing clients signatures for tax returns. 

However, what i'm really after is a practice management and tax software. Having found acclipse (a NZ based company) I wondered if there was anyone in the UK offering such a service?

Acclipse tell me that their practice management software will be available in the UK next year some time, but its the tax that I really want. 

With xero providing their "one ledger" solution and a hosted tax program surely this is cloud nirvana.

If anyone has any ideas on this or could contribute to other "Practice in the Cloud" recommended products I'd love to know.

Comments
jdstone's picture

Practice in the clouds

jdstone | | Permalink

We have just moved our applications to a service hosted by http://www.hosteddesktopuk.co.uk/ and we run the Digita suite of programs.  Digita produce uk tax and accounting software that works in this environment.  We actually use APS Advance http://www.aps-advance.com for practice management which is fantastic but would probably be too expensive for a small practice, but again it works very well under the cloud environment.

PUREaccountants's picture

hosted desktop vs real saas?

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

Goo dpoint JD but I'm really looking for a SaaS model as opposed to a hosted desktop. Although I understand that by virtualising servers etc yada yada you improve user experiences yada yada, at the end of the day you're still using desktop software that requires updating by Digita's CD or discover there's are an update available by browsing their site.

I currently use and love Digita products, but a true cloud solution such as the acclipse software would be better. The issue being with products like Digita is that they are integrated only with themselves, unless you happen to be able to write code for the ICAEW IT language and can afford a SQL Server.

Also in terms of cost, the SaaS players seem to have got it about right now, except Kashflow - sorry @duanejackson but the annual fee just seems a bit of a killer for me.

Come on, there must be a software developer out there in the UK capable of developing something like this. It appears to me that the Kiwi's seem to be driving the real solutions for accountants and we're all playing catch up.

It maybe that I have to start it myself?

How about turning the Forbes products into a sleek interweb experience @daveforbes

 

ERP_Consultant_Dalbir's picture

Arithmo Online bookkeeping software

ERP_Consultant_... | | Permalink

Xero is a superb bookkeeping solution for your small business clients.

Have a look at Arithmo's online bookkeeping solution for your micro business, consultants and sole trader clients; as it's a cost effective solution (only £40 to £45 plus VAT per annum per client).

For a free trial, click on http://arithmo.co.uk/for_the_accountant.php

Dalbir

 

daveforbes's picture

Web based tax software

daveforbes | | Permalink

Back in 1999 we did have web based tax software at www.tax.co.uk but it sort of fell by the wayside - having both desktop and cloud to maintain is quite a workload.

We are still playing around with the idea - but it is very much a back burner project.

There is always the HMRC website !!

David Forbes

daveforbes's picture

Hybrid solution importing from Xero

daveforbes | | Permalink

I noticed that you are Xero based. We have just added recently (today!) the facility to import the transactions from Xero to our final accounts package (and then on to CT).

You can download a demo from www.tax.co.uk/install/accounts.exe

In Xero from the Advisor menu choose Export GL in XeroGL format. This will bring up a file in notepad. Choose Edit then Select all then Edit / copy. This will put the Xero transactions into the clipboard. In our final accounts package choose Edit / paste special.

This facility has only recently been added. Feedback would be good. It expects initially the standard Xero chart of accounts to be used, but the mapping can be customised if you have gone off piste.

Castroggi's picture

Practice Accounts

Castroggi | | Permalink

As a practice we use www.centralaccounting.co.uk developed by an associate company. Don't want this to sound too much like an advertisement but even though it is designed for SME manufacturing companies, it gives us direct access to the client data and we perform any year end adjustments directly in their db. Set up properly it will do a reasonable job of preparing the year end tax calculation, and (inside info) I know that a final accounts presentation 'report' and electronic submission of CT600, VAT100, and P35, direct from the application, are all in development.

HQ for Accountants

Adrian Pearson | | Permalink

My practice uses HQ for Accountants - a Saas practice management product. I am happy to do an online demo for anyone interested (here is a quick video I did to show another interested practice how easy it is to manage client documents in HQ).

Adrian

cverrier's picture

SaaS Tax

cverrier | | Permalink

I keep telling people that a web-based tax product would be a great idea (and these are the right kind of people - who work in the right kind of software companies) and I can't get any enthusiasm!

Have you noticed that all the market leading SaaS products come from companies (usually startups) who don't have a long history of building desktop apps?   Sage keeps getting it wrong, MYOB are doing something in Australia but only, I suspect, because Xero are all over them like a rash, and that's it  (not sure about SAP - are they doing something?)

A good tax package needs a great deal of tax knowledge, as well as a good user-interface to make the complexity managable on screen.  You also can't really start simple and build features as your user base grows - it has to be fully compliant in year one, or it's useless.  It's a tough gig for a start-up.

I'm sure it will happen.

 

 

 

daveforbes's picture

Web based tax software

daveforbes | | Permalink

The big thing I think cloud based accounting software gives you is the collaborative working environment. One of our customers has recently ditched desktop and gone entirely cloud for accounting. For final accounts and tax however they use our (desktop) software. Collaborative working is not part of the equation in that part of their business.

The nature of the data being stored is different too. An errant programmer at a SaaS accounting supplier would not have much to sell to the tabloids, particularly as sensitive data can be anonomized. Give him potential to access to a few MPs or celebs personal tax returns and it is a different ball game.

There are a number of other technical factors that make hosted tax unattractive. Accounting software has high storage requirements but relatively low compute demand and has relativley low bandwidth requirements both for input and output. This makes it economical to be hosted - storage on the web is cheap. Tax and final accounts have low storage demand, but high compute demand and high output bandwidth requirements (and also subject to massive demand peaks). They don't therefore benefit from cheap storage on the net and can appear very sluggish compared to their desktop counterparts.

 

Paul Scholes's picture

Hosted V SaaS

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

@Pure - you make the distinction and say that Digita's hosted solution is merely a hosted desktop still requiring updating via CD.  I've been tempted (when I win the lottery) to move to Iris hosting as one of the selling points is no more update downloads & instals, ie as with online accounting you are always using the up to date versiion.

So are they running their hosting in a different way to Digita?

To be honest, as a user, I'm not too bothered how it all works the other end, as long as I can dump my server, tape backups and cables freeing me up to move to a little cottage in the country to run the biz.

jdstone's picture

Hosted desktop

jdstone | | Permalink

I was the first to jump in on this one, and I use Digita on a hosted site.

The company providing the hosting for us work for Digita on some type of consultancy arrangement, but as far as I am aware are independent.

What they provide for me is the automatic back-up of data, and also they deal with the updates of the software, so I am no longer involved with updates from CD's - not that the updates were a particular issue.

One of the drivers for change was that our server was three to four years old, we were running out of space due to our "less-paper" environment, and the server would have had to have been upgraded, and probably replaced.  We took the opportunity to buy more space, and the updated server operating system is all taken care of.  The result is that I can relax from the IT maintenance and concentrate on the core functions of the accountancy practice - keeping the clients happy and doing the accounts and tax work.

The other advantage as far as I am concerned with the hosted solution is that when I am at a client's premises, and assuming that they have broadband, which most of them do, then I can connect to the hosted server and effectively be at my office desk with all of the efficiencies that brings - for example creating the working papers linked to the client database rather than having to remember to link the files after the site work is complete.

I would have thought that you would be able to have a hosted desktop using the software that you are familiar with.  In addition to the Digita and APS Advance products that we use for the practice we have Sage line 50 and QuickBooks on the hosted desktop, along with Office 2007 etc.

BMLCPA2Biz's picture

Tax software in the Cloud SaaS Solution

BMLCPA2Biz | | Permalink

I realize you're looking for a product within the UK, but you might want to check out this solution provider based in the U.S. as well. http://clientsolutions.cpa2biz.com/Tax/index.html
 

~ Becky

dahowlett's picture

SAP Business ByDesign

dahowlett | | Permalink

@charles: SAP has Business ByDesign. I know a lot about that product and its go to market strategy. If it an area you are interested in from a VAR/ISV perspective I can help you reach the right people. This is not as easy as it should be but I am working with SAP to help address that issue because I genuinely believe they have a 100% company 'touch' solution with real legs. It can scale down to 10 users, the sweet spot is really 25-50 users across 6 verticals and across the same number of territories. There are good opportunities for the right kind of consulting firm - again I can talk that through and introduce you to a US based ex-pat firm that is building a BYD practice. 

I expect to be meeting with the Palo Alto team later this month at which point I hope I can revise a detailed paper I and an ex-Accenture colleague wrote in 2008 on the topic. This will be a 'for sale' item I'm afraid as it is quite detailed. It currently runs 23 pages. I expect it will be expanded. Final pricing has not been fixed but expect it to be 'competitive' compared to usual industry analyst pricing.   

On tax in the cloud? Hasn't ADP been effectively doing a lot of that tax admin for donkey's years albeit out of a bureau style model?

On the question of practice management in the cloud, I'd like to hear how people want that defined. I've recently been briefed by a company that has a solid and complete accounting solution with genuine XBRL capability. In a deep dive it looks to me as though that can achieve final accounts production in a similar way to the Viztopia solution with which I know @charles is familiar. It needs some external sanity checking but that's my view on the basis of what I've seen. 

daveforbes's picture

"genuine XBRL capability"

daveforbes | | Permalink

@dahowlett re. "genuine XBRL capability".

In the words of Victoria Wood - "Is it on the trolley ? Can you point at it ?"

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/efiling/ctsoft_dev.htm

If you talking accounts production, we are no longer alone, now sharing the honours with Digita and Absolute, but I don't think either of these can be the cloud based solution that you have to mind. If it is not on the list, or at least started the approvals process that can take several months, then unfortunately however good the product is it may have missed the boat.

 

dahowlett's picture

Way more advanced...

dahowlett | | Permalink

...than anything else on the market in terms of capability. If sanity checking confirms then it's a category killer. Don't ask - I'm under NDA.

ShirleyM's picture

Hosted services

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I am seriously considering changing to a hosted solution for all our data, software, email, etc.

I can see the advantages. For me it is mainly the problems in maintaining a file and terminal server, and the critical backups, but what are the disadvantages?

Is it easy to upload, download data? We regularly get clients bringing in their records on USB sticks, CD, etc. and we often give clients data on CD or reload to USB stick.

Is scanning and uploading an easy process? We are virtually paperless so we scan all correspondence and lots of client data.

New programs - if you decide to try out new software is it easy or complex? Do the hosts have to install the program or can it be done from our office?

Any tips would be appreciated.

 

dahowlett's picture

There's about 6 qus here

dahowlett | | Permalink

 @shirley - if you are simply talking storage there are a ton of solutions. Start off with DropBox

ShirleyM's picture

Thanks @dahowlett

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I have dropbox. I am looking for a solution that will allow me to dispense with my 2 servers, but still allow MS Exchange for email, shared contacts & calendars, etc.

In practice, our own terminal server does cause some restrictions. I wondered if these problems were overcome by hosted services, or by their more knowledgeable technical staff.

I don't want to make the leap only to find the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

DuaneJAckson's picture

Cloud Email

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

You can get Exchange in the cloud. We used to have our own in-house Exchange server. When we looked at moving the cloud we found a more economical system called Zimbra that can also be cloud based and that's what we went with. It does everything Exchange does and more (for less).

Our supplier for this is http://www.zenpc.co.uk/ - they can migrate you from Exchange to their system with minimal disruption.

Hosted desktop

Adrian Pearson | | Permalink

Shirley - it's really easy to upload or download files from a hosted server. It's just like moving files around between computers on your internal network.

As for shared calendars, emails and tasks, why not forget about Exchange Server and Outlook and go for a solution that has this functionality integrated into an online CRM system?

I can point you toward the service we use for this, if you are interested.

Adrian

Paul Scholes's picture

Cloud email

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Prompted by Duane's comment above (for which thanks) and planning to move eventually to a hosted solution I need help in understanding the benefits of our Exchange server.

We've had it for years but took it on when there were several of us but it's been a mystery, ie I've never understood whether we could have done it with something else.  Anyway, there are now only 3 of us and so, as I'm looking to host as much as poss in maybe a year's time, should I be looking at hosting Exchange (which may cost £30 a month) or moving lock stock etc to someone like Zenpc?

The added dimension is that we have email archiving for which we use the excellent Mailsafe which captures and enables us to index everything that moves in & out of Exchange.  So, again, are there hosted solutions which incorporate this facility?

Cheers

ShirleyM's picture

Thanks Duane & Adrian

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Responses to Paul comments would also be interesting.

I am not wholly committed to Exchange, and there are only 2 of us (myself & 1 staff). It just seems to be the most widely available choice, and we are already familiar with it's use.

dahowlett's picture

The answer is...

dahowlett | | Permalink

...GMail - now you don't have to run servers.  Better still - go to Yammer for internal communications - again, no servers. If it's good enough for Cap Gemini it will be good enough for you.

Paul Scholes's picture

Gmail!

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Thanks & stupid, stupid me I already use it for personal mail. 

I think what probably gave me the mental block was that my biggest client uses it and hates it as it's become a mess.  I'll have to explore it more.  The major problem they face is that every email with the same subject matter get's swallowed and so, for example, in the sent box it can look like you sent an email to client A, about their "2010 Accounts" and it looks like you've copied them with every other client's email titled "2010 Accounts".

Sure it's only laziness on their part but thanks for the prompt.

Exchange?

charleslaneco | | Permalink

Why line Microsofts pocket when Google will do it for free.

PUREaccountants's picture

What GMail knows about you?

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

Well so  Well so long as you're not running your extra marital affairs through it it should be fine.

Surely we all know that Google is in the business of information, regardless of where it comes by. Besides, it's not just them, we do it too (just not on quite the same scale). How many times have you reviewed your client list for cross-selling opportunities, or indeed to see what they last paid for. We are all guilty of it.

We use Google Apps standard, and it's superb. It's free works well on my iPad, iPhone and iMac (Apple fan by the way!) can be synced with Outlook (if you like that sort of thing) and generally integrates well with just about every online solution known to man.

When going back to the original question, Google Apps is almost the starting point for the whole Practice in the Cloud Solution. 

It would seem that I am going to have to wait for Acclipse (www.acclipse.co.nz) to bring their wonder product to the UK, in the meantime I have half my head in the clouds and the other half firmly rooted in the usual grind of desktop boredom. 

 

daveforbes's picture

What google knows

daveforbes | | Permalink

Was there not something about google getting a wrap on the knuckles about wifi mac addresses ? As they were going around the US and UK taking photos for streetview they were also detecting wifi lans in peoples houses and businesses and recording them against their GPS location.  

dahowlett's picture

JC- GOOG is not as evil as you think

dahowlett | | Permalink

 @jc: there is no bigger critic of Google than me. I have a slew of articles out there on what they do and don't do but on this one, you are plain wrong. The article you refer to is 18 months old and out of date in terms of what GOOG currently does. For GAPE they have very specific terms. You either trust that or you don't. The only issue that any firm has with GOOG is where they store the data. If that includes data they believe is confidential to the point where there may be potential liability if the data leaves the UK then DONT use Google. Otherwise there are no issues of significance. The City of Los Angeles Police Dept has just been through due diligence on GOOG from a security perspective and they've got the green light. Now before you laugh, LAPD did a VERY thorough evaluation. If it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for you. Everything else on this topic is entertainment and not providing valuable insights.

challisc's picture

Just a reminder ...

challisc | | Permalink

... for everyone to contribute in a way that encourages people to take part. We're all learning!

Add comment
Log in or register to post comments
Group: Cloud Computing for Accountants discussion group
A place for accountants to share their thoughts about web-based systems