Accounting; Paper Or Cloud?

Accounting is a practice as old as currency itself; for as long as people have been around it has made more sense for businesses to have a single person or team responsible for the financial aspects. Over time, practices and methods has changed wildly, but one of the most prominent recent issues has been the move from physical, paper records to cloud based storage. Both of these methods offer different advantages, and may be more suitable to one practice than another, we’re going to talk about why.

Paper has long since been the norm for accountants worldwide, and as such the practices around it are well established. The security of paper documents is entirely dependent on the accountant; some practices place all of their ‘sensitive data’ in a safe overnight, others simply lock the building or their desks. For documents to become exposed when stored like this, there are usually two main causes; human error and targeted attacks. As I’m sure you are aware, human error comes in many different forms, but usually summates to negligence. For example, if an accountant is doing some work while on public transport such as a train, there are many cases where documents are accidentally left for others to read. This is misconduct and negligence, usually leading to dismissal of the person in question, however the damage has already been done in this situation. Conversely, targeted attack usually means that no-one in the practice is directly responsible; an unauthorized, illegal breach of property can and does leave sensitive data exposed. In this case, this would be someone breaking into a practice to steal company or client data.

Many of the older-styled accountants still use paper as their main data storage, but even these practices are beginning to incorporate digital cloud storage for their high-value or often-used information. Cloud storage is, on the whole, a much safer solution to data storage needs than paper copies. Using cloud storage is also a guaranteed way to save money for your business; with the average cost of printing at over £14,000 per year for a UK SME, cutting away 90% of printing needs saves alot over time. With most companies utilizing the power of programs such as Wave, Sage, and QuickBooks the move to cloud computing is a simple one. It’s much easier to keep these files as digital copies than to print them out and re-enter information. Cloud storage follows the tried and true mantra of you get what you pay for, in much the same way as a physical security system such as a safe.

While many accountants still tend to use paper for their daily practices, it is slowly being phased out due to one critical factor; encryption. By encrypting data when not using it, and decrypting it only when in use, the sensitive information is unreadable to anyone outside of the designated system. In this scenario, even if some of this data were to ‘go missing’ through human error or attack, nobody else will be able to read or use it. By utilizing this extra step in information security, companies can guarantee privacy, massively reducing the impact of any event.

It will still take time for accounting practices to migrate entirely to cloud media, but the benefits outweigh the potential negatives overall. As always, it depends upon the accountant themselves, and the client they are working for; some people simply prefer paper records. Remember, it is much easier to print a copy than it is to digitize a copy, so cloud computing should always be the default.