Currently, many more businesses appear willing to talk about positive experiences of web-based acccounting systems than accountants in practice.

Here are some comments from the “IT Counts” online forum run by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW).  Only a very small sample of the Institute’s overall membership participate in the forum, but even amongst this group the comments show a reticence towards online accounting and SaaS:

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  • “Most, if not all, of the Cloud providers are using servers which are outside the European Union.”
  • “If the provider loses your data, then your business is ‘toast’ which is clearly NOT acceptable for any accountant.”
  • “Cloud computing – a cautionary tale”
  • “Whereas beckaup and security of on-premise solutions are entirely controlled by the user, cloud solutions do require trust to be invested in the on-line supplier. If North Korea can hack into the White House’s computers, how safe is safe?”

I have personally checked out over 40 providers of web-based accounting systems in the UK alone.  No doubt some of them have data centres outside the EU and some of them may not be robust enough to rely on.  But the above generalised assertions imply that us vendors are fly-by-night operations who store your data in some far flung and insecure part of the world.  This makes my blood boil because I know the effort that goes in to providing a stable, robust platform for our users.

Doing due diligence on your supplier is just as important with online systems as it is when you buy software to install.  If you’re a customer of ours and the above comments have made you wonder, let me put your mind at rest…

  1. Our hosting partner is Fujitsu.  We selected them for the service they provide, their global reach and the fujitsu-logocredibility they bring.  Today we only have one data centre and it’s in Copenhagen, which is in the EU.  We may set up additional data centres to service other parts of the world, but we will not remove our presence in the EU and we will continue to develop and manage the software centrally in order to maintain the economies of scale that enable us to deliver a lot at a low price.
  2. We backup your data every 15 minutes (or 96 times a day) and have a separate storage facility for the backups.  You can also take your own backup at any time using the “Export data” button when you are logged on.
  3. Some practices require local data backups to ensure that their clients’ data is copied to their local jurisdiction.  This is a regulatory requirement in some countries (for the UK, the data just has to be in the EU) and it’s a service we provided through our hosting partner, Fujitsu.
  4. When we were a new company, we made arrangements to protect customers if we ever got into financial difficulties.  We still have them, even though today we have a strong financial and operational platform.  Our track record shows that we have never made a loss whilst continuing to grow and our revenues in 2008 were £3.8m.  There are almost 20,000 SME’s (that’s companies, not just users) using e-conomic along with their accountants and bookkeepers.  We expect to grow by around 40% this year and have just opened new German and Spanish web sites.

We’ve been around since 2001 and have seen many phases of growth and development, both in the application and vantis-logoas a business, so that both our application and our company infrastructure are ahead of most of our competitors.  Richard Messik, partner at Vantis (ranked 13th biggest practice in the UK in 2008), visited our HQ recently to see our core operations at first hand, feel free to ask his opinion directly.

While many accountants may be reticent, just look at this comment by Charles Verrier of CVC , a consultant to accountants.  Charles was responding to a blog post by Richard where he asked what could be the tipping point that makes more people turn to SaaS.  Charles uses online accounting and talks about the business benefits, the quality of service he receives and the issue of security.

While Charles’ views are the polar opposite of the above comments from the ICAEW forum, that’s not to say that all companies like SaaS and no accountants like it, but it does seem as if companies are taking more of a lead.  Which is a pity, because the practices who are ignoring this technology are missing out on tremendous benefits, which means that their clients are missing out too.