While cloud computing can mean a lot of things, you can think of it simply as data is stored in a remote virtual environment. Instead of having the data on your business’ computer or servers, you can outsource this data storage to a third party company, or host company. Generally, cloud services are subscription-based, with the fees dependent on the amount of data you have stored in “the cloud.” While you can store any type of data in the cloud, including accounting information, you will find some of the most common uses of cloud computing by small business owners below:
Document storage. Do you save, edit, and modify files that are stored in an online program? If so, then you are already using a cloud computing service. Many cloud document storage services allow you to store and access Word files, PDFs, spreadsheets, and other data through an internet connection, such as Google Docs, Google Drive, and some of Microsoft’s Cloud Services. The fact that you can access files from any computer where you have an internet connection makes these cloud services useful.
Website hosting. While you can use a server (or even your own computer) to host a website, many small business’ use a web hosting company, such as GoDaddy or Web.com. Many small business owners find it cheaper and easier to use these web hosting companies rather than having the costs of purchasing and maintain a server. For many small business owners, web hosting is an excellent choice and many times you hosting companies offer online credit card processing and e-shopping carts add-ons to your website, so you can manage sales and process customer payments through your website online securely and efficiently.
Payroll processing. You can use payroll services providers like ADP and Paychex to process your company’s payroll in the cloud. You can even set up payroll reports with these companies so that your payroll expenses can be formatted to you general ledger to streamline the accounting for your companies’ payroll.
Web analytics. You could track your own server logs to track information about who is visiting your website, but many cloud-based web analytics platforms offer far more advanced solutions for tracking than most small business owners could do on their own. Google Analytics is a popular free analytics platform that you can also use to track the number of visitors, time on site, sales information, and much more. You can use the web analytics reports and your accounting records to track your advertising return on investment (ROI).
Cloud accounting software. You can find companies that offer comprehensive accounting software functionality in the cloud. A few examples of cloud accounting software are QuickBooks Online (review) and Kashoo Accounting (review), which you can use for reconciling bank accounts, tracking expenses, preparing checks, and much more. These cloud software programs are simple to use and are accessible online anywhere you have an internet connection. If you have more specialized accounting needs, such as managing a nonprofit company, then you will want to select an industry-specific accounting software program to meet your accounting needs. Aplos Accounting (review) is one such accounting software program for nonprofit organizations.