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Cloud computing grants businesses the flexibility, scalability, and security to be successful with remote work.

Why Cloud Flexibility & Remote Work Are The Future

The Flexibility of The Cloud & Remote Work

How does cloud flexibility allow for a remote work environment? When you migrate to the cloud, your data is hosted in an off-site data center instead of on premise.

You can then work from any location as long as you have a device connected to the internet. By eliminating the restrictions of an on-site server, you can increase your mobility exponentially.

You can work from anywhere as long as you have the right credentials, a secure device and an internet connection.

Remote Work Promotes Business Continuity

Business doesn’t stop for anyone. Having the option to work off-site has many benefits. When you consider how chaotic things can be you start to appreciate the flexibility of the cloud.

Many businesses struggle and even fail after a natural disaster or an unforeseen event. The Pandemic of 2020 showed us that the world can come to a crashing halt at any given moment. Investing in your firm’s future is not about ignoring an uncomfortable reality, but adapting to it.

We learned in a matter of a few short months how quickly the standard model can fail when tried. And a pandemic isn’t the only natural disaster that brings these conflicts. If you live in the east coast, hurricanes, tropical storms and other weather events can limit access to your business. Storms cause outages and often floods. What happens to your business then?

For small businesses, the recovery from hurricanes and other natural disasters might take years — if they even recover at all.  After Katrina, Louisiana businesses suffered a lot of damage.

Those with remote capabilities can function in these types of circumstances since they are not limited by a physical office space.

Small Businesses Struggle After A Disaster

Many small businesses are not as lucky as the larger franchises, however. According to a government study, 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a weather-related disaster. The reason for that is unfortunate but simple: a halt in productivity is a halt in revenue. Businesses that shut down during these disasters are still growing, don’t have adequate cash reserved to repair damage and pay bills once they stop operating.

Even without any physical destruction to property, businesses that shut down can lose money and fail to pay for their monthly overhead. We’ve seen this happen to shopping malls and retail stores. A retail store owner will pay a mall for space but when they shut down, there’s no money coming in. As a result, the store closes down.

How about if an employee gets sick or has to suddenly leave town? How about businesses that are impacted by earthquakes or reconstruction?

Companies whose workers can work remotely have a better chance at survival than those who rely on in house servers and technology.

What’s worse, none of these events are within the control of a business owner. Not having remote capabilities is like living in a house without insurance or an alarm system. You’re at the mercy of the elements.

Remote option Increases Productivity Even in Unforeseen Situations

Another example is when an employee gets sick, or has to care for a sick child, and can’t get to the office. Without the flexibility of the cloud and remote work, the will inevitably fall behind.
If they are able to work from home, however, business can continue without major interruption.

Working from Home Business Can Continue with The Cloud

The benefits of Cloud and remote work are for more than managing disasters and illness. When workers have access to their files and data, they can make last minute changes to a project or document. They can collaborate and improve the quality of the work outside the office as well.

Conversely, an employee might want to make progress with the work they are doing to prepare for a busy week coming up. That way they can clear up their schedule and move on to other projects and tasks. Employees can access their important files through the cloud at a moment’s notice.

When given remote access, employees experience a boost in productivity. Having a quieter environment away from the distractions of the office makes a big difference.
Offices can be very distracting environments. Away from office banter and side-conversations in the break-room, employees are more focused on the tasks at hand. They also take shorter breaks and work to the end of the day.

Increase Productivity With The Cloud

Remote work opens up new opportunities for employees and business owners alike. There are Gallup polls showing a 37 percent increase in productivity when moving to a remote environment.
The only thing is, you have to make sure you have the right technology in place to succeed. Ensuring you have the data and cyber protections in order to keep your business information safe. Migrating to the cloud and adopting remote work methods is useless if it makes your business more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Remote Work Is Green Work

As we alluded to, employees and employers work longer partly because they don’t have a long commute. But if you think about it, that also means no commute at all. Remote work decreasesw traffic congestion, greenhouse gasses and air pollution by working from home.

In fact, remote workers take 600,000 cars off the road each year. On a cloud-based platform, greenhouse emissions will plummet to an all time low. That doesn’t mean people won’t go out to their favorite restaurant or shopping center. It simply means vehicles will be used more sparingly.

Not to mention the added bonus in savings on gas and repairs from the natural wear-and-tare that comes with car use.

Do Your Research

Look for a Managed IT services partner that fits your specific business goals. Nerds Support, for example, focuses on financial services and logistics firms. Therefore, we focus on compliance, auditing processes and cyber security for financial firms.

Other cloud providers are made for marketing and creative projects. There are plenty of Managed IT services providers that offer IT consulting for hospitals or local businesses. Here are  10 examples of cloud computing if you want to learn more.

Cloud Flexibility Allows you To Adapt And Overcome

When companies are faced with any disaster or problem they have to rise to the occasion and pivot their business to adjust. Spotify, the massive music streaming service, is a good example. When the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 came, advertisers had to make budget cuts.

Knowing this would threaten Spotify’s business model, they chose to focus more on streaming podcasts rather than just music. Spotify recognized a massive uptick in the number of individuals streaming podcasts and decided to adapt by capitalizing on the unique opportunity.

In much the same way, companies must embrace remote work or be replaced by those willing to make the change.

 

Financial advisor working remotely from home on his computer.

4 Things Financial Firms can do to Succeed Remotely

Financial firms are in the best position to succeed in a remote environment. Engaging with clients is easier than meeting in person and much of the work can be done regardless of location.

Americans are slowly adjusting to working from home. As states begin to ease the quarantine restrictions some companies are declaring permanent remote work environments. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are offering their employees the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.

Many firms have already moved to a fully remote operation and many more will do so in the future. However, moving to remote work can be difficult if handled incorrectly. Creating a successful remote operation is a new challenge CPA’s and financial firms will have to overcome.

When the lock-down started business owners looked to getting operations up as quickly as possible. Those who hadn’t migrated to a cloud based system did so. Others only migrated partly. While others still, struggled to adapt to a fully remote workplace. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft teams grew in use and popularity.

Daily downloads of the videoconferencing app Zoom increased by 300 million participants since March. Businesses and employees spent time researching the different videoconferencing application and IT services companies that best fit their standards. But that’s only the beginning.

If you as a financial firm want to succeed in a remote environment you have to navigate cooperation, time management, data security and keeping your business functioning even while everyone may be so distant.

Here are a few ways to achieve success for your firm while working apart.

1) Take Advantage of Your Remote Environment

Maybe you’ve already noticed, but it’s difficult to distract each other with office gossip when there isn’t an office to gossip about. 85 percent of employees are either not engaged or disengaged at work. As a result, there is a 7 trillion dollar loss in productivity. Many offices have an open office layout which create a 32 percent drop in productivity.

However, this is harder to replicate when you’re forced to work remotely. Instead, the productive thing to do is to set virtual office hours or schedule meetings for a specific hour the day. Employees and staff can reserve a meeting however you choose. This might appear obvious to some but even in a remote environment it’s easy to get side tracked. You get one call from one colleague and then anther call 20 minutes later from an employee.  By the time you finish, you might not remember what you were doing in the first place.

Designate a period of time in your weekly and daily schedule for all meetings. The routine will also keep you focused and organized. Keeping a routine can lead to positive mental health. A routine can help manage stress levels and less overall anxiety, according to one study by Northwestern Medicine. College professors and councilors are very familiar with this system. It would be like having virtual office hours where team members can choose a slot and book a meeting.

2) Adapt to Technology

If you stop and think, if something like the Lockdown of 2020 had happened ten years earlier, remote work would not be possible. The emergence of cloud technology and communication apps like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, and Zoom together is what allows for a successful remote work environment.

Moving forward, many experts expect these changes to persist, bringing in a new era of remote activity. For financial firms, advising, asset valuation, and consulting will be done remotely. Firms should be looking to build on this change and integrate a remote reality to their existing operation.

What can your firm do to remain competitive, updated, and secure. Invest in a cloud service provider. IT services are going to be pivotal in the coming decades. Managed service providers will be in a position to make or break your firm. Look up the different cloud models and their features. Are they FINRA or SOX compliant? Where are their servers located? Are they stored somewhere outside the U.S.?

Nerds Support specializes in working with financial firms. However, there are many options available when hiring a managed IT service provider. Some are better than others, depending on the industry. You have to factor in security, location, knowledge of your industry, and even availability.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

Is there someone you can talk to when something goes wrong? Do you have a point of contact? Sometimes a support team consists of strangers and other times it’s the CEO.

4) Build a Better Team Remotely

Human beings are social animals.  Although remote work is beneficial to productivity, it might be harmful to be socially isolated from your team. But there is a solution.

Team building is an important tool for social bonding and improving motivation. Setting aside an hour at the end of the week to celebrate that week’s accomplishments is a good example of team-building. There are a ton of other games and exercises you can try over video chat. Many have done virtual hangouts. Virtual happy hours are also popular. Even virtual competitions with certain free online games have brought offices together.   

5) Make Sure to Reconnect with Reality

The biggest issue in a remote work environment is that everything does seem to blend together. When you can’t distinguish your bedroom from your workplace it’s easy to get lost in a work-all-the-time mentality. Having an office has the psychological benefit of creating a barrier between your personal and work life.

A Stanford study showed that after 50 hours a week productivity sharply drops. Even worse, after 55 hours productivity gets so low that working becomes counterproductive.

I bring up the Stanford study because the comforts of working from home can often trick you into working more. Working an extra hour won’t kill you but the added stress of feeling like you’re at work at all hours is a serious problem. Establish clear boundaries for yourself and your team. When it’s time to log off, you log off. Communicate with your team your unavailability after a set time. Go for a walk, listen to music, but most importantly stay away from your computer.

 

How Accounting CPA's will continue post the pandemic

Accounting In A Post Pandemic Era

The coronavirus has impacted nearly everyone in the country. Now, accountants might find themselves wondering how to create a secure work environment for themselves and their clients.

The needs of your clients are changing and so is the industry. Furthermore, new regulations created as a consequence of the coronavirus are affecting business practices.

With that in mind, here are a few changes the CPA’s will experience in the coming years.

Employees

All businesses including CPA firms are looking to get employees back to work.  These are some guidelines that might help your firm organize itself as the country begins to open up again.

  1.  EEOC sub regulatory guidance is a mouthful, but it is also important when considering how to navigate your firm’s re-opening process. According to EEOC guidance, employers are permitted to test for the presence of the COVID-19 virus before allowing employees to enter the place of work.
  2.  Employers must ensure the right infection controls regarding testing and be cautious of false positives and false negatives. Keep in mind that even the most accurate test only detects the virus if it’s currently present in the body. It does not guarantee the employee will not get the virus later.
  3.  Temperature checks are permissible under EEOC guidelines. However, who should administer the checks and how to administer them are not clear.
  4.  Employees testing positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others and the workplace. Employers are encouraged to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines, which include closing off areas used by the sick employee, cleaning and disinfecting the environment, and informing other employees of any possible exposure to the virus in the office.
  5. Results from a COVID-19 test or temperature check fall under ADA confidentiality provisions. These tests are considered confidential information that should be kept in a secure location away from other employee information.

 

Industry

We covered employees, but what about changes in the industry itself? The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated certain trends and shifted others. Let’s review what some of those are.

A Shift in Duties For CPA’s

Small-business clients need help accessing relief programs in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program specifically. This means firms need to quickly transition from consulting to advisors as they help businesses get through the lockdown.  Financing reviews, a lot of cash flow forecasting and evaluating relief packages will be more important through tax season and the next few months.

Working Remotely

Experts agree that remote work for CPA’s is going to become the new normal. With companies like Twitter, Facebook and more making remote work permanent.

Although remote work was projected by  to increase gradually, the lockdown sped up the process. Firms were forced to quickly adopt remote enabling technologies like Video conferencing apps and the cloud.

Cloud Accounting

Speaking of the cloud, the move to remote operations has been difficult for firms who complain that apps like Zoom are not working well with their Citrix environment. That’s mainly because these firms have only partially moved over to the cloud.

Cloud accounting is an inevitability now that we know a pandemic can force us to work beyond the office at any moment.

A firm that was not prepared likely did not have the time to migrate to the cloud all of their applications and infrastructure over. So as things begin to pick up speed they’ll do so.

Moving to the cloud is not as easy as choosing to do so. There are steps to cloud migration. Moreover, the quality of the cloud service depends on the quality of the provider. Firms must familiarize themselves with the different types of cloud services: public, private and hybrid clouds.

By choosing a large public cloud like Amazon Web Services, you could be sacrificing personalized care. Choose a cloud that lacks the proper regulatory standards and it might hurt your firm more than it helps.

The chief concern for all CPA’s should be to assist clients, help save businesses and keep jobs.  CPA’s are the financial experts both individuals and main street businesses need right now. Having the right tools in place is going to be essential.

Accountants may have the technology to work remotely but not all of them have everything they require to work efficiently. Although being in the office doesn’t compare with being at home, adjusting is a matter of making the right choices.

Clients

Additionally, accountants can’t meet face-to-face with clients so they’ll resort to remote advising as a way to adjust. However, just like remote work, remote advising is going to outlast the lockdown it seems.

Accountants and clients will adjust to working from the comfort of their homes without having to bare long commutes or wait in an office.

Remote advising will redefine what it means to be an accountant like tax application services are doing now. Firms will realize that remote advising is not just a way of working through a pandemic but perhaps a more efficient way of doing business for both them and their clients.

Firms

Although the long-term consequences of the lockdown are still unknown, accountants need to see themselves as advisors businesses need to survive. Firms of all sizes are going to called on by their clients to help them though the economic downturns created by the lockdown.

CPA’s, unlike other professions, are facing an opportunity for growth. Accounting firms should position themselves as the first responders during a financial crisis. Employers, businesses and average citizens are looking for help. They want to apply for loan programs, government assistance, and financial relief programs. All of these examples require knowledgeable of tax, accounting and payroll.

businessman working from home while connected to the cloud

How Remote Workers Benefit From The Cloud

Remote Work Is Here

Companies are increasingly relying on remote work. Remote work culture has become commonplace as these companies realize how important flexibility is for their operation.

Furthermore, this is happening across industries. From streaming services to banking and financial services, it’s clear that remote work is depending on the cloud.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak tested cloud infrastructures in ways previously unimagined. All at once workers were forced to depend on a cloud environment to access important data, documents, and connect with colleges.

And It’s not Going Anywhere…

In fact, according to a Techwire survey, 48 percent of technology companies believe that cloud services will increase as a result of the shut in. This suggests that Cloud adoption is seen as a long term strategy rather than a temporary fix.

This however, isn’t surprising when you consider 56 percent of the workforce already have jobs that are compatible with remote work.

Based on those facts we can conclude that remote work will only increase in frequency even after workers are allowed back into their offices.

We’re already seeing a rapid growth in the use of cloud-based video conferencing applications like Zoom and Microsoft teams.

Even Billionaire and financier  Warren Buffett weighed in on the shift to remote work in an interview with “The Real Deal” stating:

“The supply and demand for office space may change significantly,” Buffett said. “A lot of people have learned that they can work at home, or that there’s other methods of conducting their business than they might have thought from what they were doing a couple of years ago. When change happens in the world, you adjust to it.”

Benefits of Cloud Storage for Remote Workers

Now that we’ve established remote work is a more permanent change, we have to go into the key technology that enables remote work, the cloud.

If remote work is to succeed, you and your team, collaboration is essential. The best way to achieve this is to adopt a cloud storage system that can handle any project without slowing down or crashing.

Nightmare scenario:  Imagine that while you’re working remotely, collaborating with your team, someone edits or deletes important information and now you’re several steps behind schedule. The good news is that the cloud has file- recovery capabilities.

Nerds Support’s managed cloud services, for example, allows you recover a deleted file or return to your last save to avoid these kinds of blunders.

Cloud computing security for data storage

Disaster Recovery

Cloud also helps with disaster recovery situations as demonstrated by its reliability during the lock-down. Because of the absence of on-site IT professionals, businesses are relying on the cloud to monitor, check and maintain their storage and servers in data centers.

Enterprises are leveraging the cloud to create a suitable environment that caters to remote workers around the world. The lock-downs have proven the need for disaster recovery capabilities and strong security but also network resiliency.

Cloud Storage Promotes Remote Work

The Techwire survey also revealed that 34 percent of respondents reported increased spending on remote productivity. IT organizations are preparing to deliver remote capabilities to end- users as the demand for remote increases.

We’re already seeing this more permanent transition play out as companies like Nationwide announce plans to move towards a hybrid operation of mostly remote employees.

Having the ability to work from various locations is a strategic benefit of remote work but now it’ll be a necessity. Cloud storage can help remote workers stay productive from wherever they choose to work. Cloud- focused applications facilitate this experience because they permit users to synchronize mobile devices, tablets and computer together.

Productivity Increases

With remote work becoming the norm, we have to take a look at productivity levels to see how they’re affected. There’s no use in implementing remote work if it those working do less of it. One study in 2015 based in a Chinese travel agency found that call-center employees that shifted to working from home saw increased productivity by an average of 13 percent.

But will employees prefer remote work?  A Harvard study found more than 40 percent of people would do away with a portion of their salary if they were offered a remote work option.

Cloud computing enables remote work without interruption. Employees can easily access their work station at home just as though they were in the office. All important information centralized in a single cloud infrastructure easily retrievable for the employee.

Security & Cyber Protection

If everything in the cloud is so accessible for the employee what about someone else? Can a hacker break into the cloud servers and steal all your data? What measures does the cloud have to prevent a breach?

Not to worry, cloud computing protects you from both data breaches and hackers. With the cloud you’ll have an outsourced IT security team 24/7 constantly monitoring complex and changing threat environment.

That includes protection from social engineering scams and malware attacks.

The cloud also protects you and your business from data loss and hardware failure. Multiple redundancies are put in place so that everything is backed up should anything happen.

Another valuable feature is multi-factor authentication. Let’s say your company device was stolen or lost. Multifactor security features prevents access the device and files if user identity is not confirmed on a secondary device.

If a hackers attempts to log in, they’ll need access to your mobile device and log in again. If that confirmation doesn’t go through within a set time, access is denied.

Business employees joining a video conference call

How to Choose Your Video Conference Apps: Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Skype

The outbreak of Covid-19 has forced business to adapt to remote work quickly. An important aspect of working remotely is video conferencing.  Therefore, utilizing the best applications and services are essential for a smooth remote experience.

The three most popular Video Conference applications are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. Therefore, we’ll review them here to make sure you have all of the information you need to make the best decision.

Zoom

The Zoom conferencing application works on Mac, PC, Android and IOS. They offer a free plan that hosts no larger than 100 people. There is a paid option for medium and small businesses for $15 to $20 a month. For larger businesses, the application offers a $20 a month plan for a minimum of 50 people per Zoom call.

Zoom has HD video and audio, video recording capabilities, screen-sharing and co- annotation. Gmail, Outlook and iCal support Zoom meeting scheduling. You can set a meeting on your email service by integrating it with your calendar. Hosts can schedule meetings and send notification to attendees.

If you can’t use the microphone or camera, Zoom has a chat feature that allows you to communicate through text. This is useful during meetings or presentations where participants need to ask questions without interrupting the host.

You can sign up for Zoom free by creating an account with email or singing in with either Google or Facebook.

When using Zoom you must keep in mind their recent controversy and security issues. There have been concerns over the app’s privacy risks involving “zoombombing.” The education department in the US as well as several businesses have instructed employees to switch from Zoom to Microsoft Teams while the issues are resolved by the company.

However, you can still use the application if you take simple security measures to protect your meetings. You can use a meeting exclusive ID or enable Zoom’s wait feature “Waiting Room” that allows you to see who wants to join your meeting before giving access.

Microsoft Teams

If your company uses Microsoft Office 365, you already have access to Teams. The application offers the same features as any other conferencing platform like audio calls, video conferencing and chat. As a Microsoft platform it can integrate with other office applications like PowerPoint and excel for meeting that involve going over figures or presentations. It’s also compatible with other office apps like Word for file sharing.

On Teams you can video conference with 250 people at once. Also, you can live present with a maximum 10,000 people. You can talk to colleagues privately or over certain channels. You can even focus attention to a group or an individual with the mention feature.

Meetings can be scheduled through the Teams application itself or on Outlook.

It appears Microsoft Teams doesn’t share the same vulnerabilities Zoom does. It stated in a blog post that it doesn’t use your camera features to track participant attention, or use personal data to create ads. Microsoft Teams, it appears, is making a point to distinguish itself from Zoom in these ways.

Like Zoom you can download a free version but if you have Office 365 it comes included. In March of 2020, Microsoft made the free version accessible to businesses and schools for use without a subscription to Office 365. Microsoft is offering a six month free trial of its new Office 365 E1 for businesses that don’t already have Teams licenses. Moreover, there are business plans that have Teams included start at $5 a month per user.

Skype

Skype can sustain up to 50 people per video call which is good for business meetings. It can also record calls and caption if necessary. Skype integrates with mobile devices and tablets and functions like a VoIP phone service. It has caller ID, voicemail, file sharing, split screen and screen sharing.

Additionally, it has a chat for text communication. The benefit of Skype is these features are available for free upon downloading the application.