Lots of companies see the value of migrating to the cloud and would happily get rid of their on-premise server if it weren’t for one thing — accounting.
Accounting is often the last aspect of the business to be considered for moving to the cloud. Even companies that only use online software sometimes keep an on-premise server just for their accounting needs.
Until a few years ago, this was our story at Smart Dolphins as well. Then, we decided to take the plunge and migrate from server-based QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online, and we found the process to be much easier than expected. Of course, there was research and learning that needed to take place, but, in the end, the benefits overwhelmingly outweighed the downsides.
Here is our experience and some advice if your company is considering migrating accounting online.
Our accounting cloud migration journey
For us, debating whether we should move our accounting to the cloud was about the technology and how we used it. Over the years, we looked into several online accounting options but found them glitchy and too simple for our needs. As cloud technology continued to evolve, and the rest of our business applications were now in the cloud, we decided to give QuickBooks Online a try. And we were pleasantly surprised.
The benefits of cloud accounting
- Logging in. With no on-premise server, logins become quicker, simpler, and eliminate associated password and access issues. Also, no more two-step process of logging into the server and then your accounting software.
- Price point. Cost savings are substantial. We are now paying approximately 20% of what we paid for QuickBooks Desktop. It also eliminates the need for the server and associated hardware and maintenance costs.
- File backups. No more tedious manual backups to keep in mind.
- Reconciliations. Seamless bank and credit card account synchronization. We were unable to make this work with our on-premise set up (and the QuickBooks support team could not resolve the issue).
- Payment processing. Secure credit card processing portal for clients as well as digitized and encrypted credit card storage for recurring payments.
- Accounts receivables. Improved workflow through acquired visibility into client activity, which enables smoother payment collection processes.
- Online QuickBooks support. Very responsive and helpful customer support and easy-to-follow documentation available online.
The downsides of cloud accounting
In our experience, we found that most of the cons are glitches or missing features that have easy workarounds or can be resolved with time, as QuickBooks continues to innovate and evolve their offering.
- Restricted file types. For security reasons, QuickBooks Online doesn’t allow attachment of files other than PDFs and images. In the desktop version of the software, we could attach emails right out of the inbox — now we have to save them as PDFs first.
- Access. Permission levels in the online version are set by function and can’t be customized by role or person, which may not be restrictive enough for organizations requiring such granularity. This was not a significant issue for us.
- Electronic files stored in QuickBooks Desktop. The data migration from on-premise to online doesn’t bring over stored electronic files (PDFs, emails, etc.) attached to the entries. This served as our electronic file storage, so we required a copy of the old system (as a backup) in case we needed to access older records. But there are third parties out there that may be able to create a custom solution that solves this issue for you.
Moving your accounting to the cloud
Once you decide to move your accounting to the cloud, we recommend some preliminary steps.
Do your research
Compare the systems you need to the ones provided by the online version of the accounting software. Talk to your accounting team (internal or external) to gather information around workflow, functionality, integrations, access, etc.
Test and document the new online environment
Create a test environment in the online software and go through your accounting team’s actual workflows. Document what is missing and determine if there are solutions. Identify what is different (functionality, user interface, etc.) and what kind of training might be required.
Decide on a timeline
A timeline is a critical part of the planning process as it will ensure that the new system is set up, training needs are met, and everyone involved understands when to stop working in the old system and switch to the new. We recommend locking down the old file (which is possible in most accounting systems) to ensure no work or changes will be made after the cut-off date. We opted to do our switch at our fiscal year end.
Review your chart of accounts
Depending on how you decide to proceed, migrate existing data or start anew, this is an opportunity to remove any unused accounts as well as reorganize.
Decide how you’ll move to the new online system
There are a couple of options.
- Migrate all your existing data from on-premise to online. This ensures the continuity of reporting.
- Start fresh. You’ll lose reporting continuity but have an opportunity to reorganize your environment (e.g., reorganize the chart of accounts). Specifically, you wouldn’t need to map your on-premise chart of accounts to the online system. This will require further documentation on how the environment has changed and how it is to be used. Plus, how to represent the old data and balances in the new chart of accounts.
Lastly, you’ll likely need access to the old system, so back up, back up, back up! Document passwords accordingly for future access. Understand where the accounting file (and the associated attachment folder of electronic documents) is now stored and how it will be accessed if your company is going serverless. An option here is to have your external accounting team keep a copy.
We found that the move to accounting online was both easier and more suitable for our needs. We also discovered that the on-premise version of QuickBooks was much more software than we needed. In fact, we originally moved to QuickBooks Enterprise only because we needed the ability for multiple people to have access. QuickBooks Online resolved this issue. Having taken stock of our company needs and workflows, we realized that we never required all the extra software capabilities.
Accounting is also just one part of your overarching IT system. Want to make an accurate assessment of your IT environment and bring any technologies up to the current standards, making your team more productive? Reach out to us at Smart Dolphins, and our vCIOs (virtual chief information officers) would be happy to advise you on a plan and the first steps according to your needs.