Pennsylvania CPA Journal

By Ron Mente – Director of Cloud and Emerging Technologies, Micro Strategies

Accountants have begun to embrace the wave of next-generation technologies, shifting their data and applications to modern platforms and to the cloud to help them drive their business forward. Factors like customer data security, ability to scale resources on demand, and compliance requirements are just some of the forces driving the need for change in an industry dealing with an ever expanding influx of data.

Increasingly, visibility into that data is needed for a firm to thrive and remain competitive, while a lack of that visibility can significantly hamper business growth.  With ever increasing regulation, there are also security and billing concerns that affect relationships with suppliers, partners, and payroll.  The ability to tackle these requirements are largely intertwined with a proper IT strategy supported by software tooling and back-end infrastructure. With the progression of these needs, the number of modern services and solutions available continue to increase – with Gartner predicting that the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market will reach almost $50 billion worldwide by 2020[1].

Accountants hold the purse-strings in a company, and typically have a primary focus on how they can support the growth of the business in a cost effective way. Traditionally, business investments in technology have been cyclical, with periodic projects aimed at upgrading legacy systems, or adding on to old infrastructures as needed. This approach was not very cost effective and often provided only a temporary bandage to a short term problem as opposed to a true solution. However, the industry has begun to shift from this inefficient practice to one that uses software defined technologies and hybrid cloud strategies to enhance agility while decreasing total cost of ownership. In the digital age, business leaders are faced with the challenge of scaling their businesses on-the-go without sacrificing performance, and this does not exclude CPAs by any means. Shifting core applications and data to modern platforms and the cloud allows for a better utilization of a firm’s technology assets and allows them to optimize every part of the business – not just IT.

While many CPAs have begun to implement modern or cloud based services there still remains some reluctance to move fully to the cloud, often due to security considerations. The fact that sensitive financial and personal information is handled on a daily basis means that the results of a breach for accountants would be serious, not only in the loss of the data itself, but also to the damage it can do to a firm’s reputation.  Hackers are consistently looking for accounts loaded with vital financial data, making CPA firms a prime target.

In these environments, the implementation of a secure private cloud can often provide benefit in the eyes of most accounting firms, given the sensitivity of the data at hand.

With a private or hybrid cloud model, businesses are not only able to achieve self-service options and scalability, but also will have the added security that sole access to data and storage can provide. For example, IBM’s Hyperconverged Systems powered by Nutanix are built as best-in-class hyperconverged infrastructure that’s designed for mission-critical and data-intensive workloads. Such an environment is notably easy to manage and simple to scale as well – making it a quick and easy way to deploy a private cloud.

That being said, measures like external security assessments are an essential part of the picture, particularly for CPA firms. These help to guarantee continued compliance with mandated data accessibility restrictions. Limiting unauthorized access to apps and information by establishing a robust data/cyber protection strategy is also key. This can be supported alongside the right cloud infrastructure[2].

CPA businesses will always be a treasure trove of valuable data that online hackers seek, and is therefore an industry that is largely at risk for security threats and attacks. It is logical and advantageous for these firms to incorporate practices and systems that strengthen their protection with advanced equipment and infrastructure. Luckily, this can often be accomplished through the right technology mix and a security roadmap tailored to their organization.

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