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A business owner shopping for a managed cloud provider, with Nerds Support being the highest quality available.

Shopping for a Cloud IT Provider? Look for these 5 Qualities!

Your business is ready to move to the cloud, which is a big decision for you and your team to make. Prior to nailing down a partner for this migration, you need to consider a few things. In this blog, we’ll outline some factors to contemplate when choosing your cloud IT vendor.

What are your Priorities?

First, prioritize what you want from this migration to the cloud. Knowing what you want to achieve can lead to easier decision when picking a cloud solution provider. Although you will have a reason for your employees and shareholders, you need to take time to develop a solid list of IT needs before diving into different partner options. Once you have established a list of needs, you can then move on to looking for these 5 important qualities.

1. Storage Size/Cloud Type

Think about the size and type of cloud you need. Do you just need it to store files? Or do you want to collaborate on different platforms? Do your team members need to be working on applications together in real time? It’s worth considering that at some point you may want to expand your cloud abilities. Check out what other offerings your vendor might have in terms of applications, software and servers.

In terms of what type of cloud, there’s public, private, & hybrid cloud options. Private cloud is the most secure and can help in downtime situations when public clouds like AWS are typically fall offline. And while public cloud is less costly, private cloud is a dedicated server, so there’s less need to worry about losing time and money for your business in the long run. Hybrid cloud is a bit more complex, giving options that have both public and private traits, but takes time to maintain and develop proper data policies. It all depends on what your team composition is and how much bandwidth you require for your data.

2. Cost/Budget

Also work out a budget for your vendor. Yes, there’s the upfront price, but what can your business afford beyond that? There might be a maintenance fee, and it could depend on the vendor if it is hourly, monthly, quarterly or on other basis. If you plan on expanding your cloud, think about the potential increase in fees or costs down the road too. Find out if they can expand the plan you select to meet any of your new business needs.

Other questions to consider is do they cover onboarding costs? How efficient is that onboarding process? Do they charge at a fixed rate or per ticket/IT issue? You want to make sure the IT provider you choose is in it to help YOU succeed, not just wait until problems arise.

3. Strength/Security Procedures

It’s also worth exploring how often your vendor makes updates and evaluates their security procedures. Some solutions don’t always stay current with their offerings or regularly test their systems for vulnerabilities. You want a vendor that’s making updates frequently to improve your cloud. Ask them what their yearly cyber strategy is, and for a copy of their business continuity plan if an outage or data breach occurs. If they can’t provide that for you, or they take long to get back on your request, just imagine how long it will take them to process a real crisis.

And if they do have a plan in place, do they have proof it works? Some managed IT services providers (MSP) go through yearly data compliance audits of their security procedures to ensure everything is airtight, such as System and Organization Controls (SOC). While this may not be a make or break quality for your business, it’s still very important to keep in mind, as it shows the IT provider truly cares about your peace of mind.

4. Flexibility/Accessibility

Flexibility and accessibility at all times is a must in today’s fast-paced markets, not to mention after businesses enacted widespread remote work options. You and your teams should be able to access data within the cloud at any hour of the day. This is necessary for businesses to be successful because imagine you have a team based in South America trying to access a data sheet that a team in South Florida created, and they can’t open it. That presents a huge problem in maintaining productivity for your business.

Now imagine that same situation, but afterwards when you try contacting your MSP’s support team, they aren’t available after business hours. Cloud providers should be around and ready to help 24/7 to solve a problem or answer questions for your team.

5. Reputation

Look into the IT provider’s online reviews. See how long it takes them to respond to an issue or what additional technical support is provided.

Do they educate clients on how they solve issues to prevent future ones, or do they only do the bare minimum and barely communicate? Some companies do this for free and some charge an extra amount for it.

Will you be dealing with an expert for your issue or an outsourced service representative with a script? Knowing this information ahead of time can save your team frustration down the road.

And do they have experience with businesses of your size? If you’re a small or medium sized business (SMB), you don’t want to feel like the little guy or just a number in their system. But also, if you’re a larger business with hundreds of employees, can they deal with that level of support bandwidth?

Will your data be Protected?

Since the cloud is a network of computers, it’s crucial that security be one of the top priorities of a cloud vendor. With multiple large-scale data breaches happening in recent years, it is important to know that your vendor has the most up-to-date protocols and defenses to prevent these types of problems. When it comes to security, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, companies need to have a cloud partner that is constantly monitoring and updating security for cloud data.

Part of preventing security problems comes down to access. Controlling access to sensitive information is another question to consider with a potential partner. Working with your IT provider or vendor is vital for maintaining control of access leak points for the cloud and consumer data. When selecting a cloud vendor, ask them about how much control your team or in-house IT will have over modifying who has cloud data access. Plus, check out how your potential cloud vendor certifies their employees. You don’t want a technology rookie watching over your business data.

Also consider the data security laws for your industry. If the cloud vendor you are selecting does not comply with the compliance standards and regulations for your industry, then you are putting your business at risk of non-compliance.

How to Plan Moving Forward

If you are looking at an on-premises cloud solution, consider where the data center will be located. You don’t want anyone to be able to “walk in” and access this information. Think about natural disasters, too such as floods, fires, earthquakes or even man-made disasters such as data breaches and ransomware attacks. These things happen, and it’s important for an MSP to have a plan in place to keep your business running.

In short, making the move to the cloud is a big change for many businesses. By doing your homework ahead of time, you can select the perfect cloud vendor to help your company with this transition and long-term solution. Call Nerds Support or schedule a consultation below and we can provide your business a free IT audit to give the best insight on what you should look for in a cloud provider!

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An accounting firm considering to accept cloud technology.

Why CPA’s Need Cloud Services To Survive

Cloud Services For Accountants is More Important Than Ever

As a CPA firm you’re going to have to adjust to this new remote reality. No one expected the lock-down, however firms that operated on the cloud had an advantage over those who hadn’t yet or only did so partially.

Many accounting firms learned to understand how the right technology could help them access and review financial information, create reports, manage accounts and more.

There is no telling how or when businesses will open up. Moreover, reopening A CPA firm to its full capacity requires much more than opening the doors, turning the lights on and wiping off the dust from your desk.

It is a gradual process that will require much planning and the transition itself will depend on many factors.

That is why cloud technology has become so pivotal in the last few months. The lock-down put many accounting systems to the test, forcing everyone from individual practitioners to larger firms to operate continually outside of the office.

Firms that migrated to the cloud prior to the lock-down are doing well. Their client data secured in a data center and their applications on a cloud network ready to use. The Accounting industry has been discussing the impacts that would occur as a result of the cloud. Now, it’s no longer a theoretical discussion.

Experts predict cloud accounting to be a permanent feature of any CPA firm. Firms that didn’t migrate to the cloud previously might be asking if it’s too late for them. The answer is a definitive no.

Video Conferencing

Firms that use Microsoft 365 might be familiar with Teams. Teams is one of the many video conferencing applications firms are using to communicate while working remotely.  There are also applications like Zoom, Google hang outs, and Skype. These video tools facilitate collaboration and, with the right cloud service provider, can create an effective remote environment.

Financial services experts and CPA’s are discussing the possibly of permanent remote advising. Remote advisory services was always the direction technology was heading in. However, the lock-down that proceeded the COVID-19 pandemic only sped this transition.

These remote services will only be afforded to firms willing to migrate and adopt the virtual tools necessary to perform these roles efficiently.  That means finding a managed services provider with cloud hosting capabilities that are designed to meet your firm’s needs.

Remote Advising Through The Cloud

Remote advising is the future of the financial services industry. Technology was already in the processes of changing the role of CPA’s towards more advisory positions. With software automating much of the compliance work once handled by an accountant or bookkeeper.

James C. Bourke, a CPA an accountancy technology expert, predicts that if CPA’s are not spending on technology solutions that are accessible remotely, they will be revisited.

“Priorities are going to change on technology spending, once we are all back in the office,” he said in a recent podcast.

Adopting a cloud storage system that can handle any project without downtime can help your business succeed with remote work.

Migrating  Your Firm to The Cloud

Can you migrate mission critical applications to the cloud now? Specifically can you migrate Document, tax, engagement, and practice management to the cloud?

According to Bourke, currently, migrating to the cloud will be difficult but CPA’s should do everything they can to prepare themselves for a cloud migration when we return to normalcy.

That requires firms to research the best cloud providers, checking to see if they have the right security and compliance tools to provide your firm with the proper IT support without failing to meet regulation standards.

Technology disruption and the shifting to more advisory services are creating a professional environment where accountants must offer more valued and diverse skill sets.  However, this also means shifting focus to the client’s specific needs and away from other aspects of your practice like software, cyber security and IT services.

Leveraging the Cloud

If you plan on working as a trusted advisor you need to understand the implications of these shifts and what these tools mean for your firm. It’s not only adopting a cloud solution but adopting one that has the services that benefit your firm the most. Migrating to the cloud is like purchasing a car. Just because it has four wheels and an engine doesn’t mean it will be the vehicle you.

There are many types of cloud providers and every cloud provider has different assets, strengths and weaknesses. There are public, private and hybrid cloud. Different cloud companies like Azure have cloud services but require you to pay an extra fee for support services. Nerds Support’s accounting cloud services utilizes software that complies with SOX and FINRA standards for example.

Other cloud providers like AWS are public clouds with thousands of clients. Their service would be less personal and contacting support is difficult.

Cloud Accounting is The Future

A Survey in The New Jersey Society of CPA’s, revealed that 40 percent of participants expected a decrease in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The development of cloud technology and remote services will work to mitigate revenue loss once properly implemented.

The abrupt switch from in-person accounting services to remote focused work was jarring. Firms were unprepared for the demands of a remote work environment. However, now that industries, not just Accounting, have seen the results of a shut-in, firms will work to eliminate this vulnerability by revisiting cloud technologies and focusing on remote tools.

Managed IT Services Providers expect an increase in demand for public cloud services. Specifically, a an increase in SaaS, industry- focused apps. These include collaboration and other productivity and business continuity tools.

The social shift towards online platforms (VOD, social media platform, and cloud gaming) shift focus towards cloud infrastructure automation/management software.

In other words, cloud environment reliability, optimizing online platforms and the performance of your infrastructure determine the success of your firm in the future. Clients now and in the future will require and request online services.

Make sure your firm stays protected and ready for this new shift.

Businessman fitting accounting workload into briefcase

Top Five Tips To Beat Workload Compression for CPA’s

The Problem of Workload Compression

If you’re an accounting firm, workload compression is probably a big issue. In fact, a study by the tech company Right Networks along with the CPA firm Management Association, surveyed 162 CPA’s after tax season and found that workload compression was the biggest concern for 40 percent of CPA firms as they prepared for tax season.

The reality is, workload compression will always be a looming issue, especially if your team is operating remotely. Therefore, the best thing to do is to figure out ways to manage it effectively.

1) Identify How Workload Compression Affects Your Firm

Every firm is different. So, it stands to reason that workload compression impacts firms differently.

  • What are the causes of workload compression in your firm?
  • Is there confusion about compliance and new tax laws?
  • Difficulty with certain returns?
  • Clients avoiding extensions and demanding their return?

2) Execute a Plan

Once you’ve figured out the “why’s” and the “how’s” you have to focus on the “what.” In other words, now that you know the specifics of your workload problems, what are you going to do about them?

That plan differs considerably if you’re a larger firm as opposed to a smaller firm and vice versa. For example, dropping a few clients mitigate the workload compression but if you’re a smaller practice you probably depend on tax season to generate revenue.

• Hire Temporary accountants or paid interns

Staffing is an important factor in dealing with compression. Hiring temporary or seasonal employees can be a good option for your firm. There are many accountants that choose to work within specific time frames because it fits their lifestyle. Experiencing practitioners don’t always work all year round. Look within this pool to boost your workforce.

Likewise, interns are also viable options during busy periods. Practical work experience gives recent graduates or current students the necessary training to work as CPA’s. Moreover, internships can turn into full time positions if they perform well, benefiting them and your firm.

3) Use Technology To Your Advantage

Many firms in the study mentioned above report that the biggest changes they made before tax season were software improvements. Specifically, firms used e-filing and digital signing technology to go paperless.

Additionally, 72 percent of firms asked about the benefits of hosting tax applications on the cloud said they favored anywhere, anytime access. 67 percent consider the cloud secure and 34 percent noted improved collaboration with personnel and 20 percent saw improved collaboration with clients.

Cloud accounting and workflow software like QuickBooks, which is designed for accountants, reduce staff time, make communication with clients and staff more effective and can optimize staff performance. Learn more about hosting QuickBooks here.

QuickBooks Cloud Integration lets you manage, track and assign projects on any device, in any location, to optimize your efforts with cloud-based accounting.

Managed IT support services offering cloud integration allows for the that collaboration and workflow efficiency.

4) Schedule Smarter

Don’t work on returns until all the necessary information has been provided by the client. Also, working on complicated tax matters before tax season starts can give you a leg up on other firms and position you to work more efficiently.

This tactic requires communication with your clients before the year ends and instead of waiting for their information to come in.

If you’re a firm with a fair amount of non-tax season work, that’s okay. Schedule days in which you can focus on tax returns only. Then, organize your firms so reviewers can work those client returns.

5) Communicate With clients

Communication is an underrated tool for many CPA firms, however it can facilitate tax processes like you wouldn’t believe.

In an age of social media and instant messaging, clients expect a level of personalized service. That shouldn’t be looked at as negative but rather, as mutually beneficial.

Communicating changes to clients through newsletters, emails, calls, social media, and tax updates will prepare your firm in anticipation of tax season where most firms simply react to it.
This gives your clients the personal touch they appreciate while giving you the information you need ahead of time.

The Takeaway

Your firm shouldn’t wait until tax season to prepare. A proactive approach to workload compression can come a long way when peak season hits and your firm is pressed for time.

Workload compression is the dreadful for everyone and hopefully, the tips reviewed here can alleviate it for your firm. Always plan ahead before tax season and tax season might not get the better of you.
For more tips, check out the Nerd Support blog where we discuss technology, strategies and more CPA’s can use to improve their firm.

Tax Season Accounting Workload Compression Leaderboard

Logistics Industry Digital Transformation Cloud Technology

How Cloud-Based Technology is Changing the Logistics Industry

The Present and Future of Logistics

The Logistics industry, like all others, is going through a huge technological transformation due to the increased necessity of remote work solutions. Cloud-based logistics, social media, Internet of things and other innovations are moving logistics in a new direction. Logistics is the industry that all others rely on to maintain a thriving business. Moreover, things like transportation plays a huge roll in the supply-chain and logistics as a whole.

New digital technology is changing the way industries operate on a fundamental level. Increased connectivity with one another has also increased customer demand, created new buying habits, and created an entirely new industry, ecommerce.

As more and more companies begin to rethink the way they use technology, cloud technology is becoming a serious and viable option. From entertainment companies like Netflix to banks like Capital One and others are adopting cloud technologies to gain an advantage over their competitors who are still skeptical or who decide to move to the cloud later on.

Analytics

In the 21st century, data is the new gold. The amount of data generated around the world every day is vast and growing exponentially. In the US, the logistics of physical items involves integrating information, material handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing and even security. The data involved in the tracking of every process individually is staggering. Big data helps evaluate these large quantities of data to discover patterns, trends, competitor behavior, costumer preference and more in a way that is optimized for use.

The firms that can effectively use this data, analyze it and capitalize on the insights it gives will have a huge advantage over competitors. Currently, logistics companies are only using technology to get data from their database. But using that data to learn customer buying habits and competitive strategies is what will drive business.
That’s why logistics companies are working on projects that allow them to use this data. A shift to data-driven reports and operation makes fuel management, warehouse management and other processes easier.

Cloud-Based Logistics

Cloud-based logistics tech incorporates resources from the various stages in the logistics process in real time. The executives can then share this information throughout their teams and coordinate actions accordingly. The cloud simplifies the process by creating a checkpoint system that allows you to check, evaluate, confirm and approve each part of the operation. If any issues arise at any point, you can respond to them as they occur. It also works to schedule and organize deadlines.

The evolution of cloud computing software has changed the way industries work. Software-as-a-service features of cloud computing, specifically when it comes to cloud-based logistics, means smaller scale companies can use technology on a pay-per-use basis, cutting costs. This is a benefit featured in a public cloud however, rising security concerns are making private or hybrid clouds more practical for logistics companies as a whole.

Public cloud servers are, by their nature, public and visible to the internet. This opens public cloud providers to a remote scanning by hackers looking for a vulnerability. That is why private and hybrid clouds are becoming more popular since they lack the vulnerabilities associated with public clouds.

Nerds Support, for example, is a hybrid cloud provider that provides IT Support for Logistics firms. That means we store partners’ data on secure private servers like a private cloud would, but we still use internet features to provide updates and applications, using the best aspects of both private and public. That being said, cloud technology is continuing to improve warehouse management, labor management, route optimization and more.  The supply chain quality of the cloud helps create a collaborative system of users. Data and information is shared in real time increasing response times and avoiding serious errors in the process.

Because cloud-based logistics uses applications and internal features to make in-real-time collaboration possible, resources are managed and distributed more easily. Separate hardware with different built-in apps are not necessary. All it takes is access to a single computer and an internet connection.

Cloud solutions changes and improves through time. On the cloud, a company can add new features and update applications for improved functionality. Cloud based logistics has a lot of practical tools to keep track of progress and organize future projects.

Cloud Solutions Logistics Quote

The Internet of Things (IoT)

This is an area where logistics stands out. Logistics companies were among the first to adopt and embrace an IoT strategy. Logistics companies that employ smart technology have reduced management complexities and faster ROI. Productivity is accelerating and IoT is opening up opportunities. Sensors are built into cargo ships, trains, trucks etc. , and connected to alarm systems that monitor and track the cargo. These sensors then transmit information to the crew, which allows them to assess risks and learn more about routes and hidden liabilities throughout the logistical process.

Radio Frequency Technology (RFID)

Like smart technology, RFID is not new but it’s still a popular and economical way companies are tracking their inventory. Tag sensors are placed on the product and radio waves are transmitted to and processed by the company. Now, logistics companies are using RIFD tags in their warehouses to monitor inventory. Like the cloud, its popularity has spread through other industries like theme parks and apparel companies.

Social Media

Everyone checks some form of social media on a daily basis. Social media is becoming the easiest way for companies to connect with customers and clients. Sending urgent messages, sharing industry news, and receiving customer responses is what has made social media beneficial for logistics.

Conclusion

With increasingly useful and practical tools in development, new opportunities become available. All of this leads to shipment optimization, fleet specific planning, thorough, effective organization and financing, and increased cyber security measures. What’s more, these technologies keep improving. It would be wise to consider how these technologies could help your logistics company, if you aren’t already using them.

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FinTech Compliance Cloud Computing Thumbnail

How the Cloud Keeps Data Safe for Financial Firms

A 2019 Global Wealth Study by Boston Consulting group reported financial services firms are hit by cyberattacks 300 times more than other companies. Financial institutions have a lot of sensitive data cybercriminals can monetize if accessed. That is why the financial services industry is so heavily regulated.

The US has experienced huge breaches of consumer data the last few years, especially last year during the emergence of evolving remote work solutions. The most famous example in recent memory is the Financial Technology, or FinTech, company Equifax. They experienced a data breach in 2017. The breach compromised the personal financial information and social security numbers of more than 146 million people.

FinTech gives consumers access to mobile banking, personal financial data and other services. However, since FinTech is so recent, it doesn’t have a regulatory framework yet. In the US, for example, in the mobile payment industry there are eight federal agencies with minor oversight over finance. Moreover, all 50 states have their own rules. It’s a very different story for Financial organizations and as we’ve seen above, for good reason.

As we’ve seen, lacking a regulatory framework impacts more than just a financial firm. It puts consumers at risk. In the financial industry, achieving regulatory compliance should be the focus for financial institutions big and small.

Cloud Security and Compliance

For a financial firm, credibility is everything. No organization wants to be fined, shamed or, worst of all, left behind by clients. Therefore, firms need to understand the challenges ahead to achieve compliance. Compliance is one of the biggest reasons financial firms are skeptical about engaging in a cloud strategy. However, once you understand how compliance is achieved in the cloud, the transition won’t seem so daunting.

Cyber Threats

As mentioned above, cyber security threats are sophisticated and aimed at getting your firm’s information. Hackers use a variety of methods to compromise your infrastructure for financial gain.  You can’t discuss cloud compliance without mentioning cloud security. As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile it gets easier to attack organizations operating on insecure networks. As a result ransomware is the most common attacks and is now a $2 billion- per-year industry.

One important thing to keep in mind

One of the main concerns that come up when considering financial cloud compliance is that customers don’t manage their own IT infrastructure.

That’s why it’s important to stress the fact that cloud compliance is a two way street. Managed IT service providers have a contractual obligation to their clients but clients must rely on best practices and regulations to look out for their interests as well.  In other words, a specific provider, be SaaS or HaaS will offer certain compliance and security features, but it’s up to the client to responsibly implement those features. With that said, we move on to the features themselves.

FinTech Compliance Cloud Computing Statistics

What’s Covered by a Financial Cloud provider?

It depends. Since the every cloud provider differs in their services and the way they present information, CPA’s and financial companies should review each cloud option carefully. That means choosing the appropriate cloud provider. Like shoes, cloud providers are not a one-size-fits-all.

Things to look out for when choosing a cloud provider:

1) What data will be stored in the cloud and what will remain in house. Why?

2) Where the data will be stored. Some providers don’t give you this information.

3) Service Level Agreement (SLA). Due to the compliance and regulations standards in the financial services industry, your firm might have to carefully review the types of services the provider offers and which align with your needs.

4) Encrypting Data. Keeping with compliance standards means encrypting sensitive data to protect it.

5) Systems & access controls. Data security is a big compliance mandate. You should know who at your firm has access to what data and what your cloud provider has access to as well.

Regulations and Guidelines

The important thing is that a firm become aware of the regulatory policies and procedures it’s expected to comply with. The Financial Cloud provider should have documentary records of how they plan to meet compliance in the cloud.

The GLBA ( Gramm- Leach- Bliley Act) and the SOX (Sarbanes- Oxley) Act are two main pieces of legislation that deal with the storage and maintenance of information within a financial institution. Therefore, to help with compliance a cloud provider should share information and supply your firm with access to necessary documentation.

You can learn more in Nerds Support’s white paper on compliance which details the importance of maintaining data compliance.

Conclusion

Whether your firm chooses a private cloud or public cloud, compliance guidelines must be met to ensure optimal security. Cloud service providers and financial organizations should continue to improve their processes. Otherwise, your organization will be penalized or even breached. The data migrated from a firm to the cloud is valuable and entrusted to you by your clients. And when you mishandle that data, you run the risk of losing everything.

If you’d like to read more about how your financial or wealth management company can use the cloud to innovate, check out our page on IT Support for Financial Firms.

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