Bentleys is a national association of independent accounting firms in Australia. They’ve assisted many legal practices navigate the complex ecosystems of taxation and technology.
Move to the Cloud no Pie in the Sky
Bentleys NSW recently grappled with a classic business conundrum. Faced with aging in-house computer infrastructure operating at the limits of is capacity, Bentleys NSW chose to move its entire business into the Cloud. Should your business do the same? What are the risks?
Implementing contemporary and leading edge business practices should be a no-brainer for most businesses, particularly when coupled with an intuitive operating cost advantage. A compelling financial business case will typically persuade many decision makers when faced with a decision to jump into the unknown or fundamentally re-shape the business.
Initial business case evaluations by Bentleys NSW of moving to a cloud computing platform, immediately threw up a challenge; a compelling cost advantage of operating in the Cloud compared to refreshing its servers and equipment was not apparent. Further analysis and research indicated to Bentleys NSW that the intuitive Cloud computing cost advantage is somewhat of a myth.
In Bentleys NSW case, the financial business case evaluation was line-ball, necessitating a more rigorous assessment of the business benefits of moving to the cloud vs continuing to own and operate its computing infrastructure. For Bentleys NSW the resounding imperative was to future-proof the business’s computing requirements while providing a highly reliable, scalable and standardised user experience for all staff irrespective of their location or device.
Industrial strength DRP and data back-up processes of a cloud provider provide superior business risk mitigation than could be achieved in an in-house environment. Likewise, maintaining licence compliance for the multitude of software products had become problematic and time-consuming and for in-house resources; moving to a cloud environment where the provider was responsible for all licencing requirements was very appealing.
A critical decision was the choice of cloud provider. Bentleys NSW chose Australian owned Strategic Group and their VAULT platform primarily because Strategic Group specialise in providing cloud solutions for accounting firms and demonstrated a clear understanding of business needs.
A key concern for most businesses when it comes to any type of cloud technology is data security. These concerns typically come down to:
- Where is my data?
- Who now owns my data?
- How safe is my data?
- What happens if my Cloud provider goes out of business?
These questions were of critical importance to Bentleys NSW, particularly regarding client data and business continuity. Considerable time was taken to prod and understand these types of matters. Bentleys NSW validated that it retains full ownership of its data, but ultimately took comfort from Strategic Group’s expertise, use of Tier 3 data centres, and protocols around data mirroring and that the data would never be sent offshore.
Whilst trust in the cloud provider is fundamental, Bentleys NSW also sought contractual protections around access to data, intellectual property rights and Strategic Group’s financial stability, and had the contract reviewed by a subject-matter-expert external lawyer.
Preparation for Migration
Bentleys NSW made fanfare internally about the decision to move to the cloud, resonating with pent up demand to embrace new technologies and to support clients more efficiently with faster more reliable systems.
Preparations for migration to the cloud should not be under estimated and should be planned with typical project management disciplines. For Bentleys NSW the turn-around from contract signing to cloud migration was 10 weeks. Much of the heavy lifting during this period was contributed by the cloud provider Strategic Group, but critical business decisions needed to be made about the look and feel of the new environment, and coordination and planning with business software vendors.
Unanticipated issues will likely emerge. For example, Bentleys NSW faced issues arising from having operated some older business software product versions on an out-dated operating system, when moving the software products into the most up-to-date operating system environment provided by Strategic Group. Choices and decisions had to be made about product upgrades and alternative software solutions and the like, together with impacts on ancillary products and processes such as printing, scanning and digital document management.
Bentleys NSW cut-over and Go-live was conducted over a weekend, with most users having base functionality on the Monday morning. Whilst numerous teething problems arose and the first week in particular was frustrating for many users, with specific isolated issues persisting for whilst the environment was fine-tuned and customised by Strategic Group, users now generally report satisfaction with the VAULT experience
Why did Bentleys NSW move to the cloud? There are a number of reasons but fundamentally Bentleys NSW believes its focus should be on serving clients with the most up-to-date technology enabled infrastructure available. Operating in the cloud provides Bentleys NSW with consistency, flexibility and scalability that could not be replicated in an in-house environment.
This is not advice. You should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. Also changes in legislation may occur quickly. We therefore recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. The article is issued as a helpful guide and should be regarded as confidential and not made available to any person without prior approval. This article is written by Bentleys NSW Pty Ltd. A member of Bentleys, an association of independent accounting firms in Australia. The member firms of the Bentleys association are affiliated only and not in partnership.