Asked about their current use of cloud-computing services, a majority of senior finance executives either have no plans to pursue it in the short term, or are doing so very tentatively. Nearly a third admit that they aren’t even sure what “cloud computing” really means. Yet, when asked how cloud computing might affect their company’s approach to IT longer term, almost half say they believe it will enable a significant restructuring of their entire IT strategy. [CFO]
The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.
Microsoft is beta testing a new subscription-based product called Office 3 following applications: Microsoft Office Professional Plus (Microsoft’s flagship productivity suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications); Microsoft Exchange Online (e-mail, mobile access, contacts, anti-virus, and anti-spam); Microsoft Sharepoint Online (collaboration tool for building public or team-based Web sites); and Microsoft Lync Online (an instant messaging and online meeting tool).
In 2011, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will join the above offerings. This is not Microsoft’s first foray into Cloud-based apps. Anyone with a free SkyDrive account can use the Office Web Apps (browser-based versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and store up to 25 GB of documents online. Further, Microsoft has been offering subscription plans for the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite that has offered a similar mix of communication products sans Microsoft Office.
Anyone interested can sign up for the beta of either the Small Business or Enterprise versions of the program. Those who are accepted into the beta program receive the desktop version of Office 2010 Professional Plus, along with online access to Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Once Office 365 leaves beta, the service should be of particular interest to small business owners.
Exchange and SharePoint typically require dedicated servers, which in turn require specialized information technology expertise. These cloud-based versions will enable just about any business to take advantage of these powerful applications for e-mail, group calendaring, and collaboration.
The Small Business plan will cost $6/user/month for 1 to 25 users and will include:
• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• SharePoint Online
• Lync Online
• Support provided via a moderated community forum
The Enterprise plan will cost $24/user/month and will include:
• Office Professional desktop software
• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• Sharepoint Online, including Forms, Access, Visio, and Excel services
• Lync Online
• 24/7 IT-level phone support
• Financially-backed 99.9% uptime service, or, in other words, downtime of less than 9 hours per year
Larger businesses also will be able to subscribe to a kiosk plan that starts at $2/user/month to offer e-mail, SharePoint sites, and Office Web Apps to workers without dedicated computers. An Office 365 for education will be available in the future to help educational institutions provide services to students without maintaining servers.
Many businesses aren’t yet comfortable with having mission-critical applications and data residing in the Cloud, but this combination of low cost and high flexibility might cause skeptics to pause and consider the possibilities.
About the author:
David Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm. Contact David at [email protected].
Southwest Airlines to Buy AirTran [WSJ]
“Southwest Airlines agreed to acquire AirTran Holdings Inc. for $1.4 billion in cash and stock, the first major merger among healthy U.S. discount carriers.
The proposed deal follows Southwest’s failed effort to acquire Denver-based Frontier Airlines earlier this year and would revive its stalled efforts to launch international services by accessing AirTran’s network to the Caribbean.”
Troubling Trades Found Ahead of Flash Crash [DealBook]
“The Chicago data firmed strange patterns — dubbed “crop circles” — in stock market data around the flash crash on May 6 has put together a new analysis that it says backs the theory that one or more trading firms was intentionally trying to flood exchanges with orders.
The firm, Nanex, hopes the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be able to address its analysis in their long-awaited report on the flash crash due to be published before the end of this month.”
Treasury Said to Prepare AIG Exit, Repayment Plan [Bloomberg]
“The U.S. Treasury Department may announce plans as early as this week to return American International Group Inc. to independence and recoup taxpayer money from the insurer’s bailout, according to three people with knowledge of the talks.
The biggest part of that strategy is for Treasury to begin converting its $49 billion preferred stake into common stock for sales by the first half of next year, said the people, who declined to be identified because the negotiations are private. The timing of an announcement depends on the pace of talks between regulators and the New York-based insurer, and discussions may extend beyond this week, the people said.”
PCAOB Begins Negotiations With European Regulators [Compliance Week]
“Now that Congress and the European Union have removed a big obstacle to international audit inspections, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is trying to forge some new relationships with its counterparts overseas to get back on track.
PCAOB spokesman Colleen Brennan said the board is beginning to negotiate with various audit regulators in Europe to see how it can proceed in each country inspecting audit firms that audit financial statements in U.S. capital markets. The board is hopeful it can reach bilateral agreements with individual regulators to perhaps gain access to work papers that will enable the board to fulfill its inspection mandate under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.”
IRS Offers Olive Branch to Business [CFO]
“The Internal Revenue Service has taken taxpayers’ comments to heart and revised its proposal on uncertain tax positions, in a way that is much more favorable to corporations. The final Form 1120, called Schedule UTP, and its instructions eliminate two draft requirements that companies argued were particularly onerous: the calculation and inclusion of a maximum tax adjustment for each position, and disclosures around positions that are not subject to an accounting reserve.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced the release of Schedule UTP on Friday, in a speech delivered to the American Bar Association in Toronto. The agency has instituted a five-year phase-in period for filing the schedule, said Shulman.”
Job Interview Is Where Most Mistakes Are Made, According to Survey [FINS]
If you make a faux pas during an interview, rather than faint consider five suggestions that FINS has to keep your hopes alive.
PwC names industry leaders and academics as non-execs [Accountancy Age]
“Dame Karen Dunnell; Sir Ian Gibson; Professor Andrew Hamilton; Sir Richard Lapthorne; and Paul Skinner and come from the fields of business, academia and the public and professional services sectors.
They will sit on a newly-formed public interest body where they will be joined by partners fo [sic] the firm but have a majority.”
Cloud Computing: What Accountants Need to Know [JofA]
A crash course.
Finding Surprises in the Small-Business Jobs Bill [You’re The Boss/NYT]
“Most of the controversy surrounding the small-business jobs bill that cleared the House of Representatives on Thursday — after nearly a year of discussion — concerned a $30 billion small-business lending fund to be established by the Treasury Department.
But like most of the legislation, the lending fund is a temporary fix. It will make investments in banks for just one year. The tax breaks in the bill, worth about $12 billion, are mostly good for a year or two.”
Dodd-Frank Lets Small-Company Auditors Off the Internal Controls Hook: Putting a Partial Lid on the Sarbox [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson reflects on Dodd-Frank’s ‘get out of jail free’ for small company filers.
Would “ObamaCare” (Health Care Reform) Tax the Sale of Your Home? Probably Not. [Tax Foundation]
“There has been a story and an e-mail floating around for some time claiming that the recent health care reform bill (PPACA) would impose a 3.8 percent “sales” tax on the sale of every home. The e-mail has been rightfully debunked by the usuals (Factcheck.org and Snopes), but here is what the bill would actually do regarding taxation of the sales of homes.”
Pastors Defy IRS On ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ [ABC News]
“The pastors, along with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, planned today’s event as a reaction to a law stating that churches are not allowed to support politicians from the pulpit, according to the ADF.
The growing trend is a challenge to the IRS from the churches, and may jeopardize their all-important tax-exempt status. But some pastors and church leaders said they are willing to defy the law to defend their right to freedom of speech.”
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu quits Swiss system to make UK its new legal home [The Guardian]
“With zero fanfare, Britain has gained a multinational. The global accountancouche Tohmatsu has quietly shifted its legal registration from Switzerland to London, flying in the face of threats by other City firms to flee the Square Mile.
The firm, which has 169,000 staff around the world and is vying with PricewaterhouseCoopers for the title of the world’s biggest professional services group, is thought to have moved because of legal controversy surrounding its previous status as an obscure Swiss entity known as a verein – a membership structure originally intended for sports clubs, voluntary organisations and unions.
The change – which became effective over the summer but was not announced publicly by Deloitte – has little tax implication for the Treasury because Deloitte’s decentralised structure means taxes are paid by its member firms on a country-by-country basis. But it amounts to a vote of confidence in English corporate law over Switzerland’s regime.”
H.P. Settles Lawsuit Against Hurd [NYT]
“A fierce and public feud between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, two of the world’s largest technology companies, has ended after all of two weeks.
On Monday, the companies announced a settlement to a dispute that centered on Oracle’s hiring of Mark V. Hurd, the former chief executive of H.P., as a president. H.P. sued Mr. Hurd this month, claiming he would violate agreements to protect H.P.’s secrets by taking on such a high-level role at Oracle. The parties declined to reveal details about the settlement but said Mr. Hurd would protect H.P.’s confidential information.
However, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, H.P. said it had modified its separation agreement with Mr. Hurd. He effectively waived about half the compensation owed him. Mr. Hurd agreed to give up his rights to the 330,177 performance-based restricted stock units granted to him on Jan. 17, 2008, and to the 15,853 time-based restricted stock units granted on Dec. 11, 2009.”
FinancialForce gets jiggy with iPad [AccMan]
FinancialForce snags Life Champions from Sage with the lure of the iPad: “Field agents will be equipped with iPads and will record new opportunities directly in Salesforce CRM. Credit card payments can be processed on the spot and transactions seamlessly created in FinancialForce Accounting.”
Tax Preparer Who Threatened Prosecutor Is Sentenced to 3 to 6 Years [New York Law Journal]
“A tax preparer who sent threatening letters to a Manhattan assistant district attorney who had twice prosecuted him was sentenced Friday to three to six years behind bars.
Prosecutors arrested Jack Chang, 55, last summer after Gilda Mariani, the chief of the money laundering and tax crime unit in the district attorney’s office, received two ominous letters. One was addressed to her husband at her home and contained a white powder that turned out to be cornstarch. The other was delivered through interoffice mail.
Both depicted a tombstone with Mariani’s name and contained virtually the same message: ‘I finally got my 9 mil gun and I am insane, you are responsible for my insanity and I will make sure that you get at least one for each and every year I spent incarcerated.’ ”
Caron: The Costs of Estate Tax Dithering [TaxProf Blog]
“President Obama was widely criticized for ‘dithering’ over the decision of whether to add more troops in the Afghanistan War. Yet Presidents and Congresses over the past decade escaped similar opprobrium for ‘dithering’ in the face of the long-scheduled one-year repeal of the estate tax beginning January 1, 2010, to be followed by the reinstatement of the tax on January 1, 2011. Although the “smart money” agreed after the passage of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 that the Administration and Congress would never allow the repeal-reinstatement scenario to play out, that is precisely where we now find ourselves.”
Hiring of town accountant upsets group [Seacoastonline]
They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.
Pay package increases for Koss CEO [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
“Michael Koss, the top executive at Koss Corp., received a 41.6% boost in his pay package last year, the same fiscal year that an embezzlement of about $34 million was discovered at the company, new documents filed with regulators disclosed.”
BP Completes Cementing Macondo Oil Well From Top [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc completed a cement plug at the top of its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, sealing off the source of millions of gallons of oil spewed into the sea after a drilling rig exploded in April.
The procedure completes the so-called t stage for BP is to finish a relief well to inject cement at the bottom and ensure there’s no leakage inside the 13,000-foot-long (3,962 meters) well bore beneath the seabed, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said yesterday.”
Ten Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Job: The Finance Edition [FINS]
Check yourself for some of these symptoms: “You’ve been holding back from voicing your grievances.”; “You have no clue where the company is headed.”; “You start to believe you can’t do better.”
And that’s just in the first five listed.
Altus completes PricewaterhouseCoopers deal [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
PwC sells their real estate appraisal management for, what we can only assume to be, a decent chunk of change.
H&R, Jackson Hewitt shares fall on new IRS rule [Reuters]
“Shares of top two U.S. tax preparers H&R Block Inc (HRB.N) and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc (JTX.N) fell Thursday on the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to eliminate debt indicator for tax-refund loans.
On Thursday, the IRS said starting with next year’s tax filing season it will no longer provide tax preparers and associated financial institutions with ‘debt indicator,’ which is used to facilitate refund anticipation loans (RALs).”
Two UHY LLP Partners Recently Named to Prominent Standard-Setting Implementation Groups [Market Wire]
“The national CPA firm of UHY LLP announced today the recent appointment of Houston-based partner Ana Denena to the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) Small and Medium-sized Entities Implementation Group. In a separate appointment, the firm announced that Maryland-based partner Jennine Anderson was named to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) resource group on non-profit entities.”
PCAOB Adopts New Risk Assess. Stds; Issues Release on Failure to Supervise [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
As we mentioned yesterday, the PCAOB has been busy. Francine McKenna guest-blogged over at FEI and gives the rundown.
Fannie Quarterly Loss Is Smallest Since 2007 [WSJ]
FTW? “Fannie Mae posted a $1.2 billion net loss for the second quarter, the smallest loss in three years, amid signs that the massive wave of souring loans that brought down the mortgage-finance giant may be easing. But Fannie still asked the U.S. government for an additional $1.5 billion.”
District Court Issues Order in Snipes Case [TaxProf Blog]
Just when you thought it was over.
If you’re not getting cloud computing you’re a loser [AccMan]
That is, you’ve got almost nothing to lose by going for it.
Deloitte leadership race reduced to two hopefuls [Accountancy Age]
“he contest to replace John Connolly as leader of Deloitte in the UK will involve just two members of the firm’s board.
The contenders vieing for the top job are Martin Eadon, head of audit, and David Sproul, head of tax. Sproul joined Deloitte when the firm acquired Andersen in the UK on the back of the Enron crisis
Both candidates gave presentations at the firm’s partner conference on 6 July but no further campaigning is expected.”
‘Big four’ auditors bring in independent directors in response to regulators [Guardian]
The Financial Reporting CouncCAEW, issued a new audit governance code back in January that recommended audit firms appoint non-executive directors to their UK firm however, Ernst & Young will go so far to appoint them to their global advisory boards.
“Although the code technically applies only to our UK business, as a globally integrated organisation, we believe it is most appropriate for us to implement the code’s provisions on a global basis also,” said Jim Turley, global chairman and chief executive of Ernst & Young. “Including individuals from outside Ernst & Young on the global advisory council will bring to the senior leadership of our global organisation the benefit of significant outside perspectives and views.”
BP Won’t Issue New Equity to Cover Spill Costs [WSJ]
But if you want to pitch in, they are happy to take you up on an offer, “BP would welcome it if any existing shareholders or new investors want to expand their holding in the company, she said. BP’s shares have lost almost half their value since the Deepwater Horizon explosion that triggered the oil spill April 20.
BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward is visiting oil-rich Azerbaijan amid speculation the company may sell assets to help pay for the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The one-day visit comes a week after Mr. Hayward, who has been criticized for his handling of the devastating oil spill, traveled to Moscow to reassure Russia that the British energy company is committed to investments there.”
Looking for a post-college job? Try accounting [CNN]
Happy times continue for accounting grads, according to the latest survey on the matter, this time from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The average salary listed for an entry-level accounting major is just over $50k and the article also notes that most accounting jobs go to…wait…accounting majors.
FASB, IASB Staff Describe Plans for New Financial Statements [Compliance Week]
As always, the two Boards are hoping that bright financial statement users will chime in with their suggestions but they’ve got the basic idea down, “The FASB and IASB are rewriting the manner in which financial information is presented to make it more cohesive, easier to comprehend, and more comparable across different entities. The proposals would establish a common structure for each of the financial statements with required sections, categories, subcategories and related subtotals. It would result in the display of related information in the same sections, categories and subcategories across all statements.”
Accounting rules “practically impossible to implement”, Barclays claims [Accountancy Age]
Barclays’ finance director, Chris Lucas isn’t too keen on these new loan valuation proposals. Besides the ‘practically impossible’ thing, he says, “The sensitivity disclosures…are highly subjective, difficult to interpret, and potentially misleading, particularly when the underlying data is itself highly subjective,” Lucas said.
“It is hard to see how sensitivity disclosures could be aggregated by a large institution to provide succinct data that avoids ‘boilerplate’ disclosure.”
Asking The Difficult Questions [Re: The Auditors]
“Audit committees too often rely on the auditors’ required disclosures without comment. They sometimes lack the independence, experience, or determination to ask the probing questions. It’s critical, however, that committees seek answers to vexing questions and not accept the response, ‘But that’s the way management has always done it.’ ”
Buffett Donates $1.6 Billion in Biggest Gift Since 2008 Crisis [Bloomberg]
WB continues his plan of giving away 99% of his fortune, “[Buffet] made his largest donation since the 2008 financial crisis after profits at his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. jumped.
The value of Buffett’s annual gift to the foundation established by Bill Gates rose 28 percent to $1.6 billion from $1.25 billion last year. The donation, made in Berkshire Class B stock, was accompanied by gifts totaling $328 million in shares to three charities run by Buffett’s children and another named for his late first wife, according to a July 2 filing.”
The case for cloud accounting [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett continues to provide evidence that switching to the cloud provides benefits that are simply too big to ignore, “This 2min 1 sec video neatly encapsulates why this is something you should be considering, especially if you are operating electronic CRM or e-commerce for front of house activities.”
Dell, CEO Are in Talks to Settle SEC Probe [WSJ]
The SEC’s probe, launched in 2006, into Dell had initially focused on some accounting manipulation that has now ensnared founder and CEO Michael Dell focusing on disclosure and omissions related to Intel Corp. and negligence-based fraud charges.
The Journal reports that the possible fraud charges “suggests that the SEC may suspect that Mr. Dell unintentionally made statements that he should have known were misleading.”
In anticipation of the settlement, the company will restate its most recent earnings report, reducing its net income by $100 million.
The fishermen and the tax man [Los Angeles Times]
BP is requesting tax records from people in fishing communities in order process claims of lost work related to the Deepwater Horizon spill. Those seeking payment need to submit a commercial fishing license, proof of residence and tax statements. The problem is that many of these people do not keep tax records since they are paid in cash for their work.
More than 25,000 claims have been submitted so far and payments to about 12,000 have been made, totaling $36 million, according to the LA Times.
BP, through Graham MacEwan says that there’s a plan although like most of this crisis, the company isn’t sure how it will be fixed, “BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles has been telling parish council members over the past few days that if someone’s tax documents are not available, we will find other metrics. I don’t know exactly how we are going to do that yet.”
Salesforce CFO: Company Aggressively Hiring Sales Staff [Dow Jones]
Cloud trailblazer Salesforce.com is looking to add more sales personnel, having added 18,000 new customers over the last 12 months according to CFO Graham Smith.
Mr Smith also said the company is rolling out two new products in the near future including Chatter, a “a social-networking application for office collaboration” and VMforce, a collaboration with VMware, Inc. that will give Java developers a new way to deploy applications over the web.
Still blindly dismissing the benefits of cloud solutions for your small business? Fine. But at least crunch the numbers.
Using the Go Google cloud calculator, any sized business, at any stage in its life can calculate the savings by switching to, in this case, Google Apps:
As you noticed, you can change the assumptions for your own company including the number of employees, your IT Manager’s salary, the size of your employees’ inboxes are and more to calculate not only money saved but time saved. At the end of the little Q&A, you can present your findings to your business partners and employees to evangelize your great idea.
Take a test drive into the cloud [Google Blog]
What’s stopping CFOs putting their money on cloud computing? [Silicon.com]
Some CFOs are still hesitant to jump into cloud computing for three main reasons: 1) They aren’t sure what they’re getting for their money 2) Security and information assurance 3) The cost of migrating their data.
All legitimate concerns, however steps can be taken and questions asked in order to address most concerns (or at least put CFOs in a better informed position than before):
1) “Ask providers to clarify how they intend to deliver your service so that you understand the risks involved and know exactly what you are getting for your money.”
2) “Undertake due diligence and ensure that cloud providers can replicate the appropriate security policies and procedures. Agree realistic [Service Level Agreements] and make certain that services are scalable enough to meet present and future requirements. Finally, ensure that everything is clearly written down in the contract.”
3) “Evaluate how much time, effort and money will be required to migrate data and rework business processes.”
IASB unveils profit and loss proposals [Accountancy Age]
It appears that Tweeds and Co. like the U.S. GAAP method of presenting Other Comprehensive Income: “If adopted, these proposals will result in further convergence of IFRSs and US GAAP in an increasingly important part of the financial statements.”
Buffett to Testify to Crisis Panel on Moody’s [WSJ]
This will be a breeze – folksy insights with a dash of sexual metaphors will clear up this area of the crisis. Plus, no one is going to scold an old man.
H & H bagel big cops to $369,000 tax fraud [NYP]
Helmer Toro simply kept the money. He’ll spend 50 weekends in jail for that little stunt.
Brian T. Croteau Named Deputy Chief Accountant for Professional Practice in SEC Office of the Chief Accountant [SEC]
Prior to the new gig, Mr Croteau was a Senior Associate Chief Accountant at the OCA. He joined the OCA after being a partner in the Assurance practice at PwC in the Auditing Services Group. He obviously wasn’t bothered by the Partner to Senior Associate title change. It must have been the “Chief Accountant” suffix.
Earlier this week we got the chance to speak with Mario Armstrong, on-air tech contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition and tech contributor to CNN. We discussed several technology issues, including SaaS and social media, for small businesses to consider to mark National Small Business Week.
There you have it! Cloud solutions, SaaS, social media. They’re all important tools for small business owners. You can spend your weekend boning up.
Cloud Computing can be an intimidating subject area simply due to the sheer number of articles, blogs, conferences, and information on the matter. My goal in this post is to split the discussion based on the perspective of the writer.
While researching this post on “Cloudsplitting”, I became formally acquainted to the concept of an unreliable narrator:
“a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised.”
The nature of the narrator may be immediately clear or it may be revealed later in the story. Sometimes it is revealed at the very end, at which point you find out your narrator has been totally unreliable! This makes yo story… which you should…. the guy was unreliable.
The author, Russell Banks, creates new context around the real events through his imagining of what Owen Brown’s views might have been. In this case, John Brown comes off as a lot less crazy than he may have come off otherwise.
(It’s also a hill in upstate NY near Bank’s home – ‘Tahawus‘ is the native Algonquin name for Mt. Marcy – the highest peak in the Adirondacks. It translates to ‘Cloudsplitter.’)
Emotional attachment and years of hermit-like isolation warp the perspective of our fictional version of Owen Brown. Unreliable. Quite frankly, I’ve seen the same in business.
I don’t want to fall for the same mistake.
We’re not hermits holed up in a cabin somewhere living on bottled water and beef jerky.
That’s one of the biggest differences between the introduction of Cloud technology and the introduction of previous computing technology. This time around information abounds. Whereas in the past, information about new technology was carried through very limited channels. And even then, it may have traveled indirect routes.
With our proliferation of information, it’s more important than ever to consider the source of the information. After all, the greatest trick the narrator ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist…. or something.
Be it me and my Cloud Computing story or the guy at your office who waves his arms and decries this “parlour trick” technology.
Where is your information coming from?
I’ll point you to a few resources in a minute that, hopefully, will pass the narrator reliability test. First, if I may, I want to take the opportunity to split Cloud Computing into two separate camps.
In one camp, we’ll have Techie Cloud. In the other, we’ll have Business Cloud.
This is the stuff relating to the functioning of a cloud environment. What’s the architecture? Where’s the data? How do I manage it?
It’s the kind of stuff your Systems Administrators and DBAs and IT Managers would want to know. For instance, I want to play around with Amazon Web Services to create a new computing environment. Do I need any special tools to work there?
Yes, there’s a front-end tool called Rightscale that makes creating a computing environment easy.
While interesting from an academic perspective, your average business user will probably get limited value from seeking out tonnes of information about Techie Cloud. Recognize it when you see it.
This is the stuff relating to using cloud-based software. The business user who is looking for a “consumerized” web experience. What does it do? Is it easy to learn? What’s the cost? How do I sign up?
It’s the kind of stuff the accountants, marketers, and salespeople would want to know. For instance, I want to find a way to manage my team’s projects. Can I get going with something quickly?
Yes, try Basecamp.
And Business Cloud is separate from the business of cloud which we’ll get into later.
The reason I am going around Cloudsplitting is because the content I’ve been finding lately doesn’t discriminate with respect to audience. You are as likely to jump into an article that’s geared toward IT as you are to find an article for a Business User’s perspective.
Forward the Techie Cloud articles on to your IT departments. There’s a view out there that Cloud is going to make IT deparments obsolete. I disagree. I think Cloud will free up IT from the mundane custodial services of server maintenance becoming a more strategic partner with management. I’ve written before about accountants being the dishwashers of business. We’re the dishwashers and IT are the custodians (or janitors if you want to be unkind about it).
Evaluate the reliability of the source. Evaluate for audience.
8 Tips for Getting Started in Cloud Computing (by Rackspace)
What Does the Future Hold for IT? (Bloomberg)
Cloudcamp – formed to provide a common ground for the introduction and advancement of cloud computing
ICPA Trusted Business Solutions (CPA2Biz) – all of these are Saas offerings
Geoff Devereux works in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals. You can see more of his posts for GC here. H/t to Jesse from Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides for the translation and Greg_Smith for the pic.
Confession: not 100% sure on the hype surrounding SaaS, cloud computing, living in the cloud and whatever but apparently it’s the next big thing (if it’s not already) and might make our lives just one notch short of Jetsons flying car awesome.
Ask guys like Geoff, he’ll tell you all about it. I buy it and I don’t even need to use it, have heard amazing things, and have even evangelized it once or twice.
But it’s your data so instead of jumping on the SaaS/Cloud bandwagon without asking what happens to it once you do, it might be wise to check out the SAS 70 certification and the strange relationship that legitimizes it.
Complying with the AICPA lends a certain bit of credibility to vendors who want to show how tight their control systems are so auditors can rely on them, right?
Perhaps not, says Jay Heiser via Gartner in “Analyzing the Risk Dimensions of Cloud and SaaS Computing,” who is concerned by a sense of deja vu between the faulty systems that collapsed throughout the financial crisis and cloud computing. In an extremely risk-adverse environment, a bit of caution is due before jumping head first into the unknown.
Or you can just trust the shiny marketing materials and forget that it’s your data.
Now back to cloud computing and SAS 70. Okay, let me get this straight: So the cloud companies pay accounting firms for SAS 70 certifications just as the financial organizations paid Moody’s for an investment-grade rating?
“Yes, if you see someone who claims to be SAS 70, they have paid an accounting firm. Not only have they paid an accounting firm to go do the test, but they’ve told the accounting firm what processes need to be tested,” Heiser says.
And that’s different from an audit client paying an auditor how?
In a financial crisis corollary, Big 4 opinions are fetching less these days than they used to. Cloud computing marketers don’t really get what they are pushing but cloud provider clients certainly should understand what this means for the shift to life in the cloud.
Better start updating those marketing materials.
Figuring out how to sum up Cloud Computing and Software as a service (SaaS) in the space of ~800 words would absolutely require the biggest, puffiest, most cumulus metaphor that ever precipitated understanding over the dry, barren plains of ignorance EVER! Something like….
king Business Applications By Storm, or
– Burning off the Fog Around Cloud Computing, or
– Cloud Computing goes from Light Showers to Torrential Downpour, or even
– Quit Jiiiivin’ Me Turkey, You Got to SaaS it! (a Turkey is a bad person)
Because this thing is growing like a Class 5 Hurricane sucking up warm air over the Gulf of Mexico in mid-September, and you’re in the eye of the storm baby!
Enough! I can’t… I just can’t brew up another hackneyed metaphor!
All joking aside, Cloud Computing and SaaS are now “required reading” if you’re even remotely involved with technology (i.e. you use a computer). I can help you understand this stuff better, but first some disclosure:
I work for a SaaS company. My paycheck depends upon acceptance of this technology.
If you can accept this embedded bias, I’ll try to suppress any overt advocacy while providing a synopsis of this space over the course of the next few weeks. Call it Saas 101.
So, what is it?
We’ll get into this in more detail soon because there’s more to it, but very simply:
Software as a Service – A software application that you access online without having to download anything to your computer.
Cloud Computing – Provides computing power and data storage on an “as needed” basis much the same way as a public utility provides electricity.
Why should you care?
At the very least, you should care because you are already using this stuff for personal web activities (e.g. Facebook – think privacy, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, etc). And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the next software sourcing project your company undertakes will include Cloud and Saas representation.
This is a bet I’ll win because even the big, established players in the software world like IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft are running to try and get in front of this thing on the business side.
You want to know about this.
Where did it come from?
How did Software as a Service and Cloud Computing as we know it come about?
Well, what’s in a word?
Again, there’s more to it, but without rekindling the internecine nerd-fighting I think tracing the roots of this movement back to Marc Benioff, the founder, Chairman & CEO of Salesforce.com is not unreasonable for our purposes. He was arguably the most vocal advocate for looking at software delivery in a new way back before this stuff HAD a name. Salesforce.com launched as an unknown start-up back in 1999 and is now one of the leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products Cloud or otherwise and is traded on NYSE with a market cap of over $10 Billion.
Along with another early entrant, Netsuite, these guys let the genie out of the bottle. Interestingly, both companies have deep, deep roots back into Oracle Corp., Oracle, a company that, according to Oracle, “would change the face of business computing forever.” I don’t dispute the claim though. And I would take it one further saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The creation of Salesforce and Netsuite were both extremely capital intensive. In order to host their customers (i.e. users of the software), tens of millions of dollars were required to build the data center infrastructure. You’re not required to buy servers and hardware, so where do you think all your data is residing? In a cloud? We haven’t advanced that far.
But we have advanced.
Today companies building Cloud apps don’t tend to build their own data centers, at least not right off the hop. Another important innovation in Cloud comes from companies like Amazon. Apart from books, Amazon has a whole other line of business providing computer infrastructure on a rental basis. It’s like a power grid for computing.
This changes the business model for companies who build software in the same way these Cloud app companies are changing things for you.
Suddenly, your IT goes from being a Fixed Cost to a Variable Cost.
More next week.
Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. He regularly attends and contributes to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city through the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, guest blogging on Techvibes.com, and as a mentor with ISS of BC. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. He is currently working in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals.
As you probably already know, the only place to work these days is in the cloud. Even the AICPA has gotten in on the fun, evangelizing cloud computing for small to midsize companies and accounting firms.
Sage Nonprofit Solutions seeks to provide easier fundraising and tracking of donors to nonprofits of all sizes who may otherwise be priced out of technology through Sage Fundraising Online, a pay-as-you-go solution without the large software pricetag.
The breakthrough allows nonprofits to respect their bottom lines without sacrificing the benefits of technology; easier “client” tracking, fundraising through social media, and monitoring the conversation, to name a few. The application will also allow for specific marketing campaigns, integration with existing cloud options like Salesforce.com and even promises ease of use and cooperation with an organization’s existing software.
“We’re offering Sage Fundraising Online in a way that allows even smaller, more resource-strapped organizations to take advantage of the service, because we’re keeping the cost to entry low with a ‘pay as you go’ model,” said Sage senior vice president and general manager for nonprofit solutions Krista Endsley. “Likewise, development professionals and nonprofit executives expect software vendors to supply tools and services that are flexible, dynamic, and provide great value. Sage Fundraising Online helps to meet these needs for nonprofits and their constituents.”
Relationship management, “client” retention and reporting requirements are slightly different in the non-profit sector but not at all different fundamentally. Clients still need to be retained, relationships cared for and reports pristine – in the case of non-profits, it’s the donors that need answers, not shareholders. It goes without saying that an efficient non-profit can provide comprehensive answers without burning excessive manpower hours and precious funding to do so; Sage’s latest application promises to give non-profits that very efficiency minus the large upfront cost associated with most cloud computing options.
Announced at AFP’s 47th International Conference on Fundraising, the product does not appear to be live on Sage’s website as yet. We know at least one technology professional who might be foaming at the mouth just thinking about its release but we don’t name names and for now, we are somewhat but not excessively excited to see what Sage Fundraising Online can do for NFPs in the future.