What is Cloud Hosting and Why Use It: the pros and the cons
Business and The Cloud
Business, today, is more connected and spread out than ever before. Many companies have employees or contractors that may work in another building, city, state, maybe even another country. More often than ever, businesses are bridging these physical gaps with the virtual connections of the cloud. While you may be working with people hundreds or thousands of miles away, your work can all take place in one virtual office space on a cloud server.
QuickBooks, being so important to the health of its users’ businesses, is an application that many are taking to the cloud, both as a solution to share this vital business tool across distances, or to simplify the trouble of creating and maintaining a local office network. This approach can save a lot of time and effort, if the benefits balance the cost for your business, and it has a lot of other advantages. There are, of course, some trade-offs to consider as well
Cloud Hosting 101
For those not already familiar with the idea, let’s take a quick look at just what cloud hosting is, as it pertains to QuickBooks. With a standard multi-user QuickBooks installation, QuickBooks is installed on the computer of each user who will access it, and possibly also on a server that shares the file out to each user. Users must be on one of these computers on the same network as the server, with QuickBooks installed, to access the QuickBooks Company data file.
One step out from that would be a terminal server. In this setup, QuickBooks is installed on one computer that users log into from other locations, either locally or over the internet, depending on how IT has set up the terminal server. Users don’t have QuickBooks installed on their computer in this instance; rather, it’s installed on the virtual desktop of the terminal server they’re logging into.
Cloud hosting is then sort of the ultimate terminal server. There isn’t any local installation at all. Your QuickBooks program is installed on a virtual server in the cloud, which also holds the QuickBooks file, and it shares the file to users accessing virtual desktops in the same cloud, which is where their QuickBooks program is installed. Users launch a connection application or log into a website on their local PC, and work in the virtual desktop of the cloud server. You can access your workspace from any internet-connected device that meets your host’s requirements and any security options you may set with them.
Cloud hosted QuickBooks is not the same as QuickBooks Online (QBO). QBO is a completely browser-based solution. Cloud hosted QuickBooks is the exact same QuickBooks Desktop application you may use locally now. The only difference is that you’ll access it through a virtual desktop instead of your local one.
Benefits of Cloud Hosting
One of the most clear and upfront benefits of cloud hosting is, as we’ve mentioned, users in various locations being able to easily work together on the same QuickBooks file. There are other benefits as well.
- By putting the file, the server application, and the users’ virtual desktops all on the same cloud server, instead of scattered across several networked machines, stability is often vastly increased. Rather than data moving from computer to computer, and the potential for error or data loss that brings; it all happens in one place, with the users coming to the data instead.
- By keeping your data in the cloud, you’re also securing yourself in the event of an unfortunate event that damages, destroys, or otherwise results in the loss of your office’s computer equipment. Redundancy in data security is always a must, though, so be sure you understand your cloud host’s backup systems and keep some manual backups in another location – just in case.
- In some cases, you may find cloud hosting could even directly lead to savings for your business above and beyond the potential for productivity improvement. If you’ve previously had to put a lot of time and money into dealing with server or network issues, you may find that by putting QuickBooks onto the cloud, you’re saving more on those costs than the price of hosting.
- Because everything is happening on the cloud server, your local systems can be less robust – since they won’t need to be able to handle the full load of running QuickBooks. If you have a fast, stable internet connection, cloud-hosted QuickBooks can often work just fine on even simple netbook computers.
Cloud Hosting Trade-offs: The Downside of the Upside
While it can often be a fantastic choice for many businesses currently using QuickBooks Desktop, there are some considerations to make about choosing to migrate to the cloud. One of the most obvious is whether you’ll be able to access your data.
No matter how good your cloud host is, sometimes unfortunate events may result in server downtime, meaning you may have difficulty logging into or staying logged into the cloud server. Or the internet in your office may be having some problems. Do you have a plan in place if this happens?
One idea would be to create a QuickBooks backup and copy that to your local system, once a day. In the event you can’t use QuickBooks on the cloud for whatever reason, you have a copy that’s mostly up-to-date to reference. This would, however, require that you have QuickBooks installed on, at least, one local machine for these scenarios.
Another challenge you might face with cloud hosting is having less control over the server. In some cases, there may be errors that require administrator permissions, or other system-level fixes. In these cases, you may have to call the cloud host for assistance, as you won’t have the freedom to make changes to the environment of a cloud server like you would your own. This also means that to install anything new on most cloud servers, you must call the host and arrange for them to do it, rather than being able to do so yourself. You’ll probably also have a limited amount of space allocated, and it is often less space than you’d have on your own server, although upgrading space with many hosts is as easy as asking for it and probably paying a small fee.
Do Your Research, or Let Us Do It for You
Some of the biggest problems people have who are just beginning to use cloud hosting for their QuickBooks come when their expectations of how the cloud should work, or what they can and can’t do don’t quite match up with the reality of what the hosting provider allows or provides. Every cloud host is going to have their own capabilities, policies, and quirks.
Some hosting providers have a large list of applications that they can have installed for users. Others have just a handful of the most popular or require a more expensive custom server option to allow the installation of other software. Someone in manufacturing, new to cloud hosting, who has just found that their cloud host does not allow them to host Fishbowl, for example, may suddenly find themselves with some large problems to handle.
It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge before taking on a venture like cloud hosting. Ask anything that might be relevant. In this case, there’s no such thing as too much detail. Finding out that your primary devices can’t use the cloud connection the host provides, or that the one crucial app that connects to your QuickBooks isn’t available in their cloud, can bring plans in motion to a grinding halt; so, it’s best to find out right away.
But, maybe, you’re not even sure what questions to ask. If this is something you don’t work with a lot, just knowing what you need to know can be daunting.
If you need help demystifying the cloud, and discovering what, if any, cloud solution is right for you, give us a call at (888) 682-8666. Our onboarding experts can help you get answers to the questions you may not have even known you needed to ask.