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Tech Series: How to Move Toward a Cloud-Based Office

Jul 22, 2021
In this Tech Series, we will review the new technologies INCPAS has implemented, and share why and how we did it. By sharing these insights and resulting ROI, we aim to help small- and medium-sized firms make informed decisions on incorporating tech tools that will ultimately serve to free up their time and expertise for other projects.
 How to Move Towards a Cloud-Based Office
I joined the INCPAS finance department in 2012 and was tasked with overseeing our technology staff and strategy, which was totally new for me.

In my previous jobs, IT was always someone else’s responsibility. But now it was mine to help figure out because technology costs money and I need to know we are making the most of every dollar.

What I was seeing in our operations: Contracts were coming to an end (including our building lease), our massive physical server still required manual backups, our filing cabinets took up a big office footprint, additional files required off-site storage fees, our classrooms had outdated tech for our presenters, and our member services call center was desk-location based. All while more cost- and space-efficient tools were becoming available online and through apps.

Because technology is a significant financial investment, I had to learn about our options quickly, even though it wasn’t yet in my comfort zone.
We added each new technology one at a time and were sure to communicate changes with staff, as well as to train anyone who would be impacted by it.
So, we met with vendors to discuss their capabilities and determined which were best suited to our needs—both with implementation and ongoing support. We added each new technology one at a time and were sure to communicate changes with staff, as well as to train anyone who would be impacted by it.

None of this was a matter of “we should try this because it’s new.” Rather, it was more about asking if we needed to do this new option because it made more sense for our organization and bottom line.

Over the course of five years, we:
  1. Moved our files to the Cloud using Amazon web services for reliable back-ups and better security.
  2. Shifted to remote desktops via Amazon Workspaces so staff could log in to the network no matter what device they were signing in from and have full access to their files.
  3. Transitioned to a Voice-over Internet Phone (VoIP) RingCentral system, which was owned by Zoom and included virtual meeting capabilities.
  4. Adopted a new Intacct Enterprise Resource Planning (ERM) that was internet-based, integrated with our other systems and saved time on month- and year-end reporting.
  5. Relocated to a new office with custom-designed classrooms that included enhanced features such as the ability to record presentations as simulcasts, plus more outlets and charging stations.
  6. Added Logitech video conferencing capabilities to our two conference rooms.

We did have some concerns about being so cloud-based—what if there is an internet outage? So, we made sure we had a reliable connection at the new office. We opted for fiber because it’s more stable and doesn’t have as many speed issues as cable or DSL. We also added back-up solutions should the internet go out, like using hot spots or sending people home or to other locations with internet to work. So far, internet outages have never been an issue at our office.

These upgrades also helped to significantly reduce risk. Because we transitioned to virtual desktops, nothing is being stored on the physical devices we work from every day. Instead, it is all being stored on the Cloud, so if a computer is lost, stolen or destroyed, no data will be lost. Additionally, if anyone suffers a malware or ransomware attack, we have more frequent backups of all computers and files, so the computer can simply be restored to a point prior to the cyber-attack, or at worst, a minimal amount of data is lost.

We made these technology enhancements for our organization because they:
  1. Were smart from both a financial and cybersecurity standpoint.
  2. Were more sustainable long-term.
  3. Positioned us to be prepared in the future.

After we went through the beginning-to-end implementation process, we outsourced an IT partner to help troubleshoot as needed so we could maximize our staff’s time spent elsewhere.

Overall, our timing on rolling out these new tools and IT partner could not have been more fortunate, as they were all implemented before a pandemic that would send our staff and members into separate physical corners for over a year!

For the next article in this series, I will share our experience with researching and implementing the above-mentioned Intacct ERM system, as well as how to tackle the crucial step of finding the vendor who best meets your specific needs.

If you have more questions about any of these technology tools, feel free to contact me at jnorris@incpas.org.


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