From time to time, we have mice in the roof. Well maybe they’re mice. They could even be rats. I’d rather not think about it. Whenever the scuttling sounds reappear, John goes up there, hurls some poison in the roof cavity, and things fall quiet for a while.
So how do rodents relate to cloud accounting, you ask? Well, in the last couple of weeks, we had terrible problems with our Internet connection (caused by rodents chewing stuff they shouldn’t). Sometimes our connection was fine, sometimes it was slow as a wet week, sometimes it didn’t work at all.
I could write a whole saga about international call centres, hours spent on hold and patronising service technicians. Or why I had to resort to single malt whisky by Wednesday night, not Friday.
But my real problem with the Internet going down was that I couldn’t access my accounts in Xero or LiveAccounts. I also couldn’t access my emails or my clients’ data, nor could I research the book I was writing. In short, I couldn’t get any work done at all.
Aha! Cloud cynics might cry out in glee: ‘This is the problem with cloud accounting. As soon as the Internet goes down, you can’t access any of your accounts.’
However last week, I discovered that this argument doesn’t hold water. The Internet is now so fundamental to all of my daily work life that I simple can’t function without it. In order to work effectively, I have to have access to my emails and the Internet. Which was why, within a few hours of the home Internet connection dying, I’d figured out how to tether my iPhone to my laptop and I’d gotten a Telstra mobile broadband stick working on the other office computer.
Reflecting on all of this from a cloud accounting perspective, I can see that a broken Internet connection is actually easier to work around than the equivalent kind of problems that occur if you use a regular desktop accounting solution, such as hard drive failure, computer network crashes or theft of computers. A couple of years ago, I remember the hassle of several days in a row without access to my accounts when my hard drive crashed. And once, on that fateful occasion when my teenage daughter decided to use her initiative and start a new financial year in MYOB without backing up first, I not only lost all access to my current data, but I lost several weeks’ worth of work to boot.
My conclusion? People often say that an advantage of desktop systems is that you can always access your data locally. I don’t necessarily see this as such an advantage. If I only store my data locally and my backup systems aren’t 100 per cent perfect, then in the event of my hard drive dying or my laptop getting stolen, recovering my data can be both tricky and expensive.
In contrast, people often say that a limitation of cloud accounting is that you have to have an Internet connection. I don’t see this as much of a limitation any more. Why? Because if one Internet connection fails, I can always connect to the Internet in another location or using another network. Like chocolate and red wine, the Internet has become a life essential that I’m unlikely to be without.