Tag Archive: what is cloud computing


By: Christophe Letellier, CEO for Sage ERP X3

Christophe Letellier

Christophe Letellier

When approaching the subject of the Cloud, there is a choice between being strongly positive or enthusiastic. The wave in favour of the Cloud is so strong that views which attempt to even mildly address the need or even the relevance of the Cloud could make you look like a supporter of the past. But this has always been true with new technologies or business models; just look back to the early 2000s.
Cloud technology is not a revolution; it’s an evolution that materialises the maturity of the Internet. By definition the evolution will take time, a long time, when in contrast a revolution could change our world in weeks or months. As customers and suppliers, it has already taken us 15 years to get to where we are today with the Internet. I would bet it will take even longer before everything runs from the Cloud
The Cloud, in my opinion, brings many good things to the software industry. It means solutions can be developed more quickly, agile development becomes standard and seamless upgrades a given. Software vendors are changing and the Cloud is the trigger, but the change is embraced because it creates value for customers.
On a similar note, the Cloud implies a different business model that is based on usage. The ‘per month, per user’ pricing model is the first step that will evolve into fully consumption-based pricing. Once again, it’s good for our customers. The Cloud will also open the ERP world to many more users than today. Because it’s more flexible and web based, we can expect that the Cloud will provide much easier access to an ERP system. C-level executives will, at last, benefit from the mine of data that is created by their ERP system. This is particularly true in mid-sized companies where the CEO is in the operational driving seat and today drives almost blind! Casual users will also be more at ease and will be able to contribute more. This is true for occasional internal users, but also for external users like partners, suppliers or customers. The 25-year-old concept of an extended enterprise now becomes a reality.
All these changes can bring great value to our customers and it’s important that we aim to deliver on these promises. The Cloud is not the means to get there, but only the trigger. It has changed mindsets and offers a technical solution, but we can deliver the very same value to our customers via other delivery mechanisms. If I look at the ERP world for instance, there are many examples of strong adoption of financials in the Cloud when manufacturing, that requires significant customization and close connection to shop floor control systems, looks less attractive. Does it mean that our customers should be put on the side of the road? Today a vast majority of mid-sized companies do use their ERP systems on fat clients without web access, when such systems have been available for over 10 years now. Why should we expect that adoption of full cloud solutions will be that much faster? And does this mean that our customers shouldn’t have access to the benefits listed above?
Adoption of the Cloud is a long journey. Cloud will become a standard in one or two decades. What do we do for our customers in the meantime?
My conviction is that although the Cloud will not dominate for some time in the ERP space, it will profoundly change mindsets and drive software vendors in a new direction. Having sold web-based products like Sage ERP X3 for over 10 years, Sage is not afraid of this evolution. On the contrary, we welcome this change towards flexibility and openness. This has always been our motto. Building hybrid systems and leveraging the best of the on-premise and cloud worlds will help the transition, drive adoption, and create true value for our customers. Our customers are pragmatic so we have to be inventive.

Softline Pastel, South Africa’s leading developer of business and accounting software, today launched a portal for its range of online applications. The platform, known as Sage Pastel Online, provides the entrepreneur on-the-go one central location to access the company’s bouquet of cloud-based business tools, making running a small business a little easier.

Pastel Accounting launched South Africa’s first online accounting program, My Business Online, in May 2009 and since then has brought several online innovations to the local SME market.

“Times have changed,” says Steven Cohen, managing director of Pastel Accounting. “We have entered an age where technology is pervasive, allowing us more mobility than ever – and business has to be part of the revolution to remain competitive.”

The portal can be found at www.sagepastelonline.com and offers online accounting, payroll and marketing services – allowing business owners the freedom to run their businesses at any time from anywhere. Additionally, Pastel’s BEE one-stop-information-hub, BEE123 and brand new free-to-all-users personal finance applications are also available in the same location.

Pastel My Business Online is a full-function accounting program, designed specifically for the small business owner. All accounting lingo has been changed to simple English, so even the layman can manage the business’s books. It’s a multi-user system with dashboards, graphs and drill-downs to source transactions that provide a bird’s eye view of the business. The system allows users to manage customers, suppliers and inventory items and keeps track of sales and purchases. It comes with a comprehensive list of reports so that month-end management packs are quick and easy to create.

Pastel My Payroll Online is a simple payroll solution that allows SME owners to pay their employees anywhere, anytime.  It’s a SARS compliant system aligned to even the most complex legislation, including PAYE and UIF. Users can also process leave online with leave types already defined according to the BCEA requirements. Like, My Business, My Payroll contains no confusing jargon.

Did you know 70% of SMEs don’t have a website, or at least one with limited marketing capabilities or integration with smartphones and social media. Pastel My Webspace is an online marketing engine for SMEs with an HTML5 website builder designed for optimal marketing and e-commerce capabilities. In addition My Brand will manage users’ search engine optimisation, and mobile and social media integration. My Brand effectively integrates everything for the user and provides an all-in-one e-marketing service with analytics, social media insights, and creating and mailing a fully dynamic newsletter with marketing feedback.

“Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery,” said Cohen at the launch event that celebrated the mobile business of the future.

As part of Pastel’s drive for business mobility, it has also formed a relationship with Samsung Enterprise Mobility. Selected Samsung devices will now come preloaded with the My Business Online Android app and Pastel is a reseller of Samsung’s SIII, Note and Tablet devices; all preloaded with a year’s free access to Pastel My Business Online. The devices will be available for purchase via the Pastel Webstore.

by Steven Cohen, managing director Pastel Accounting

Technology, like most things, operates in cycles; there are times when the changes taking place don’t really affect you and then there are times when so much is happening that it’s very difficult to grasp what can really benefit you.

And today, we find ourselves in one of those cycles where a fortune is happening and it’s all related to the internet, web, cloud, or whatever you want to call it.

With so much tech-activity, there’s a real possibility that you’ve chosen to shut out the noise and ignore it all but currently there are a number of trends that would benefit you and you’re probably missing out and starting to lag in you work environment.

I try and stay as current as I can. It’s easy for me because technology is one of my passions. So, what I’m going to do in this article is cut through the noise and tell you about some new technology I’ve been using that I think could be of benefit to you too.

 

It’s all in the cloud

Accountants are clever people, but I recently realised that the term ‘cloud computing’ is not as broadly understood as I had assumed. In some research that we conducted amongst professional accountants towards the end of last year it emerged that 77% of respondents have no understanding of what accounting in the cloud is but 53% said they would recommend an online accounting product to their clients. So, there’s obviously confusion out there because cloud computing and working with an online application is exactly the same thing.

 

Cloud computing 101

When we refer to the cloud we’re talking about where the program is hosted, or stored, and the answer is that it lives on the web and not your computer. It’s the same as your Facebook account where all your information is stored ‘somewhere on the internet’.

Facebook (although I am not an avid user) is a great example. When you’re using it, I guarantee that you don’t think about whether it’s the latest version or if the information you see is the most current. You just know that the answer is yes and that somebody clever ‘out there’ is taking care of everything!!

Well the ‘out there’ is the cloud! Perfectionists will criticise me for this – but the heart of the argument is that the cloud refers to the web or the internet – they’re basically the same thing.

 

Online accounting systems

Being a chartered accountant gives me a decent understanding of how accounting in the cloud can make life easier for everyone: clients and accounting practices.

I remember the early days when we would have to go to clients to perform the audit function, test samples, review source documentation, etc. Sometimes we would back up the client’s data, take it back to the office to work with it and then once complete, process our adjusting journal entries on the client’s live data.

So, imagine an accounting system where you can perform a material amount of audit work on your client’s live data from your offices – while the client is working on the accounting system at the same time. By simply logging onto your client’s system from anywhere you could perform any task, and imagine; no more time in the traffic!

Think of the time saved by preparing provisional tax estimates and producing an income statement from your office. Or being able to produce management accounts whenever you choose and simply emailing them to your clients. And when it’s convenient for you, reconciling live bank accounts and producing VAT returns while your client processes invoices concurrently.

I remember when our client accounting department would receive documentation from our clients whereupon we would enter all of their transactions on our own internal client accounting systems. In the internet world, this is no longer necessary.

Depending on the client’s size and skills, the accountant (who in most cases is offsite doing the books) could do all the accounting work while the client produces customer invoices, concentrates on stock control, collecting money, etc . And you will all be transacting real time on the same live system.

Because all the information for all of your clients would be in the cloud you would be able to take a bird’s eye view of multiple clients at the same time.

What this means is: no more year-end or month end procedures – ever – so you would be able to produce financials at any point in time no matter how far back you wanted to go. And because the data resides in the cloud, you could work from anywhere at any time that was convenient for you.

Another huge plus factor is that no software needs to be installed on your computer; you simply login through your browser. So it makes no difference whether you choose to work on your computer at work, or your computer at home, or a computer at an internet café or airport.

Consider the difference this could make to your life, your practice and your client’s life.

And best of all, everyone would be on the same version of the software all the time. It’s the same as internet banking. When you logon to your bank’s internet site, you’re always logging onto the current version.

Ok, so that’s accounting in the cloud.

 

Money or the box

Another extremely useful tool that I use is called Dropbox; a data keeper in the cloud.

People often get confused with Dropbox because the concept is a bit weird – but once you understand it, then the possibilities appear.

Imagine carrying a briefcase of documents around with you wherever you go. What’s good about it is you know that the document you are looking at is the same – because it comes out of the same briefcase. Dropbox allows you to do this, but without having to carry the briefcase.

Pretend you have an expense schedule spreadsheet called Expense.xls on your work computer. As you save it, Dropbox will send a copy of it to your personalised Dropbox in the cloud. It will then make a copy of it to all your other devices (even your mobile phone or iPad or Samsung tablet) where you have Dropbox installed.

So effectively, on whichever device you choose to look at the Expense.xls spreadsheet, you will always be looking at the same version of the file.

If you are at the airport and update the spreadsheet to add a few new rows of expenses, as you save the file on your laptop, so it will be updated on all your other devices.

That’s the basic functionality of Dropbox, but it goes much further.

Let’s say you have 20 folders on your computer, but you want to share one particular folder with your associates. You can do this by making that folder a shared folder. And whenever you add or change a document in that folder, the people with whom you’ve shared it will be notified that the document has been added or changed. And vice versa.

So you could setup a folder for each client and they can put documents in the folder which updates the folder on your computer.

The benefit of Dropbox is that your data is always up to date and can be accessed from anywhere, so your data is guaranteed current and safe!

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

Accounting in the cloud

Accounting in the cloud is exactly the same as the accounting we’re all used to; the only real difference relates to where the software application is hosted and where the client’s data is stored.

This way of working will not fundamentally change how the core business process is conducted but it will certainly make it easier for businesses to manage their accounting processes, particularly with an increasingly mobile workforce and the growing number of external corporate consultants. Accounting in the cloud gives accountants and business owners alike the ability to conveniently access records and transact from remote locations with little or no advanced setup.

But working online is about far more than just accessibility; the cloud makes the lives of users considerably easier. It removes the need for manual program installations, and the array of associated hassles. It also means that users never have to worry about upgrades or backups as the system will automatically be the latest available version that is, by its nature, backed up as information is saved.

So for those willing to embrace accounting in the cloud, the result will be a streamlined book keeping and accounting process across every client that feeds into a central database and minimises the risk of data errors, or worse, losses. The more tangible benefits are felt when new legislation or tax rate adjustments, for example, simply feed into the system without the cost or aggravation of having to buy and install new programs.

Safe as houses

Our survey also tells us that security concerns are a major driving force preventing the uptake of cloud-based services amongst SMEs. I hear this kind of commentary from our clients all the time. And I repeat myself at every opportunity that security concerns shouldn’t deter users from embracing the cloud because service providers in this sector probably offer better security than regular IT vendors, leaving your vital business information safer in the cloud than on your local network.

For example, the security for our online accounting solution, Pastel My Business Online is iron clad. It includes physical armed security and restricted access to our data centres. We have firewall and intrusion detection with ongoing system reviews to identify possible weaknesses and new vulnerabilities. There are also technologies in place to ensure that if server errors do occur we can minimise downtime. And we back up data daily and store that information in two separate locations.

Making the move

Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery. The fact that the cloud assists with streamlining internal business processes is also a good reason to make the move!

While users remain apprehensive about all of their data and activities taking place in what they consider to be cyber space, I’ve started recommending a hybrid approach to tackling the move online. A less scary approach is to keep certain applications on your actual server while others run in the cloud. This allows users to remain in control of the majority of their work but can slowly familiarise themselves with the way online services work.

I would suggest that there is one of two ways to split the application locations. The cloud is either for the mundane yet necessary activities that end users spend disproportionate amounts of time getting right on their own or for highly specialised services that require outside expertise. The heart of the system –client and financial data – should sit on your mainframe in the office.

Technology: adapt or die (Part1)

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

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I recently realised that the term ‘cloud computing’ is not as broadly understood as I had assumed. Maybe it’s because I work in the tech sector that these buzz words are part of my everyday vocabulary but I was surprised to discover that 77% of professional accountants claim to have no understanding of what accounting in the cloud is.

This statistic comes from independent research we recently conducted. And what is interesting to me is that while a large proportion of professional accountants don’t know what cloud computing is, 53% would recommend an online accounting product to their SME clients. So, there’s obviously confusion out there because cloud computing and working with an online application is exactly the same thing. And accountants are clever people, so if they are grappling with the principles of the cloud, so must many others!

Cloud computing 101

When we refer to the cloud we’re talking about where the program is hosted, or stored, and the answer is that it lives on the web and not your computer. It’s the same as your Facebook account where all your information is stored ‘somewhere on the internet’.

Facebook (although I am not an avid user) is a great example. When you’re using it, I guarantee that you don’t think about whether it’s the latest version or if the information you see is the most current. You just know that the answer is yes and that somebody clever ‘out there’ is taking care of everything!!

Well the ‘out there’ is the cloud! Perfectionists will criticise me for this – but the heart of the argument is that the cloud refers to the web or the internet – they’re basically the same thing.

So, what are the advantages of the cloud?

I’m finding that in my personal life, things are getting messy. Between my desktop, laptop and iPad, my data is stored in too many places and I’m struggling to remember which version is the most current. But I firmly believe that this is the transition phase of migrating from the traditional way of doing things to having all my stuff working from the cloud. And I’m starting to make the shift by storing the documents that I work on regularly in Dropbox; a data keeper in the cloud. Dropbox makes sure that my data is always up to date and I can access it from anywhere, so I’ve already solved two main issues – my data is current and safe!

The anecdote: encyclopaedias go electronic

Remember Encarta – Microsoft’s excellent encyclopaedia that was around in the late 90s and early 2000s? I love this analogy. Let’s trace it from the beginning: For hundreds of years leading up to the 1980s, encyclopaedias like World Book and Britannica were actual physical books. There were usually 24 hefty books in a set; one for each letter of the alphabet as well as the annual year book which intended to keep the base information relevant.

Then a massive shift; encyclopaedias went electronic and two meters of shelf space in every home were freed-up. Encarta was available as a disk and offered something like 60 000 pieces of reference material including interactive images, timelines and maps. The ability to simply click links and jump around topics was great; you got the info you wanted quickly and knew it wasn’t dated. But can you believe that Encarta – this great invention – couldn’t have lasted for more than 10 years because the whole thing shifted to the cloud and is now called Wikipedia.

Books were our point of reference for several hundred years and now we just don’t use them anymore.

The moral of the story?

The world has changed – there’s a new way of doing things. Using the encyclopaedia example, no one questioned the shift to online – in fact it was a welcome progression, so why are we apprehensive about cloud computing when we make so much use of it already?

If businesses do not adapt to this new, and better, way of working, they run the risk of very quickly becoming prehistoric in their service delivery which is just not a sustainable strategy for success.

To read Part 2, click here