Does hosting help my firm move to paperless?

The Xcentric Cloud does a fantastic job of helping firms go paperless. Starting with the basics, like building network data hierarchy structures for electronic documents that mirror how people work, firms have historically created a confusing mess for accessing all of the different types of documents created. When moving to paperless, even more information is stored on the network, which makes developing hierarchies more critical. The Cloud also helps firms migrate to paperless in a way that supports their specific natural progression. Since all electronic documents can now be accessed from anywhere at anytime (home, vacation, client site, remote office, the car, etc.), firms can change their processes (like onscreen review for audit or tax), whether or not they choose to implement a big document management system. When moving to paperless, firms must consider legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA, IRC 7216 and Gramm-Leach-Bliley. Hosting actually increases the security of firm documents and increases the defense against intruder attacks. This decreases the firm’s risk in going paperless. Firms need not spend huge sums of money to move toward paperless. The cloud lays a great foundation for electronic storage and retrieval of all firm information in an easy and cost-effective manner.

What type of storage do you use for the client data?

We utilize high-end Enterprise Storage Area Network(SAN) Systems.

What is your uptime guaranteed?

Check out our Service Level Policy.

Will my users notice a performance difference between our local network and the Cloud?

They might actually see a speed increase in access and computation speed when compared to your internal infrastructure. The applications are running on a high-powered server, which is faster than computing on your local computer. Quality improves in all areas. Projects will be more on time and more on budget. Also, the support for collaboration and communication is increased and made easier. Staff will find their jobs more effective, and quality of life will improve. Greater job satisfaction increases productivity.

How does Xcentric’s Cloud compare to our current technology spend?

We know that price is on your mind. Based on the firms and associations that we work with, when performing an apples-to-apples analysis, the Cloud is going to be in the ballpark range of what you are investing in technology today. If you’d like to discuss your firm specifically, feel free to contact us and we’ll be able to provide you with a customized proposal to meet your firm’s needs.

How do you back up the client data?

We use a combination of enterprise class backup software, market leading hardware, as well as SAN snapshot technologies. This allows both the client and our support staff to easily view and restore data as it existed at the snapshot intervals. In addition to this, we perform daily, weekly and monthly backups which are stored both onsite at the production data center as well as replicated to the secondary data center (disk to disk replication). In instances where the data is not recoverable via the snapshots, we rely on the daily, weekly or monthly backups to restore the data.

How can the Cloud enhance our image as an employer?

Staffing has been an issue for CPA firms for years. The Cloud provides a consistent user experience, independent of the worker’s location. Given the fact that this is leading-edge technology and that people can more readily work from home, firms increase their ability to attract talent that understands how technology leverages firm profitability. Also, the firm can more easily support and attract top-level part-time and seasonal talent. Your mobile people will appreciate how easy it is to do their jobs more efficiently, which reduces project overruns and overtime requirements.

How else does hosting save our firm money compared to a traditional network?

The Cloud is cheaper, especially over time. Hosting has an initial setup cost and then flat lines for as long as the firm is hosted. The firm never replaces its network infrastructure again, yet every 3 years it will be running off of new servers purchased by Xcentric. Desktop life cycles are increased. Firms who have been trying to squeeze 4 and 5 years out of their computers can actually do so without a problem. Also, since Xcentric now does the IT LAN administration, those costs are eliminated. They frequently cover the hosting cost, which means that the firm’s network costs are virtually eliminated. When considering the reallocation of IT talent to more profitable work, the potential is unlimited.

What is the risk of my data being compromised?

Actually, less than it is currently. Think for a second as to how easy it would be for a disgruntled employee to sabotage or walk off with your servers or other devices housing client information. Your information is afforded greater security than your firm would otherwise be willing to pay for, which is one of the benefits inherent to hosting. Where do you keep your money? In a bank, of course. Think about that question, and then ask yourself where you keep your data? In a data center.

How do you handle custom/unique applications that our firm may need installed?

As mentioned, we get a comprehensive list of all of the firm’s applications and build the Cloud around their environment. We can answer this question more definitively with their applications list. The good thing is that we probably have installed 99% of your applications hundreds of times. Specific to custom apps, the only component we need to know for sure is that it will work in a multi-user environment like Terminal Services & Citrix. Most of the time, it is not an issue, but if it is a complete unknown, then we may want to test it here and have you verify that it functions as expected.

How is hosting different from our current network?

Your programs are installed on computers owned by Xcentric that are co-located at a data center in Atlanta, GA. The computers, along with your applications and data, are maintained 24/7/365 by Xcentric’s staff of experienced and highly certified business and IT professionals. Rather than having fileservers, email, remote and other servers located at your office, hosting locates them in a fortified facility that is designed specifically for the purpose of housing these technologies, including your data. Your applications are still accessed from your own computer, but you are now literally accessing them from a “browser” type application. In essence, we simply “stretch the string” between your workstation and the application/data. You continue to license your accounting software in exactly the same way, except for your Windows Server, Citrix, Exchange Server and Microsoft Office licenses. Those are included in your monthly hosting fee.

Do you also host a MS Exchange Server for the client?

The Exchange groupware server is part of the hosted solution. All of your users will have an Exchange mailbox and access to public folders that are unique to your firm. As a rule, we host everything that typically is networked. Many firms will have rogue DOS apps or some program that isn’t networked that they install locally. To arrive at our final numbers, we will get a detailed account of their applications. We cover their SQL, Exchange, Citrix and network OS licenses. Also, we provide an ASP license to Microsoft Office for each user. Notebook computers still require their own license if they run disconnected.

Does Xcentric maintain 24/7 staff, or do you rely on the colo facility for after-hours support?

At one time, we had 24/7 support only during Tax Season. We have extended that to 365 days a year for our cloud clients. Our standard support hours are 8:00 AM EST – 9:00 PM Eastern. During off hours, clients can contact an on-call support representative.

Do you have Internet connection suggestions for the Cloud?

A basic formula is used to determine the level of Internet needed. We always suggest a T-1 level of service due to the SLA they maintain with their clients. While cable/dsl can provide the necessary bandwidth, they do not provide the SLA to ensure the resolution of issues acceptable to many CPA firms.

What are the other risks in accessing my programs, like lost connectivity or power or others that I should be concerned with?

You will need a reliable Internet connection to access your programs in the Cloud. Given the inexpensive and pervasive broadband connectivity, redundancy is readily available. Your exposure is actually less than operating solely from your office. If you have a complete power failure, or something like a snow storm was about to hit your area, you can simply send everyone home and they can continue working.

When a new employee is hired or a current employee is terminated, does Xcentric take care of the set up/deletion of the employee?

Yes. This will be handled as a routine support request, so please notify us as early as possible, and we’ll get everything set up for you. In the event that you exceed your user count, this will require adding a new user to the agreement and would require additional setup and monthly fees.

How will setting up a new printer work?

We would work with someone over the phone to give it an IP address and get it connected. We will assist with the setup of the printer, but someone onsite will need to be a point person to un-box and get it configured. If you are standardized on fairly new HP network printers, we can handle more of this responsibility remotely.

What happens to my IT people?

Ironically, IT people seem to hate doing the mundane and repetitive (non-billable) activity found in network maintenance. Also, firms often desire to make IT people more billable. The Cloud addresses both issues. It is absolutely certain that the role of the LAN administrator changes. We hope that the firm considers this to be a positive event and sees just how much time can then be focused on billable work and more profitable endeavors, like moving to paperless (which requires enormous internal effort just getting people to learn and use it). With the Cloud, IT people deal with more strategic issues, such as paperless processes, application software selection, and training. There are still some basic issues, like hooking up a new printer, but their time spent on activity that does not necessarily make money is virtually eliminated. The Cloud has the potential to move IT from a cost center to a profit center.

How do you work with Smart Phones?

Xcentric provides the entire backend infrastructure needed to work with today’s mobile phones. These devices include Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Palm devices. There are minimal fees associated with each device, however this includes all the backend systems and support for that device.

How do you handle off-site storage?

In the Cloud, all of your items are technically off-site, therefore, storage is as well. If you have a local network, we are able to do online backups where your local data is replicated to our SAS 70 certified data center.

How do auditors work in the field?

If the CPA is able to maintain an Internet connection while in the field, they can operate the same remotely as they would in the office. If they are not able to maintain Internet connection, they will either need to use a wireless card or have the application stored locally on their computer. With auditors, this often applies to their work paper applications (Case Ware, CCH Engagement, Engagement CS, etc.), and they would need to check out the binders locally onto their computer. Once returning to the office, they can sync the binders back into the network. This is comparable to what you would do in a typical distributed network setting.

How is document management handled inside of the Cloud?

We are able to support the document management system of your choice; there is not a preferred system. However, we are able to make recommendations based on our experience and your business. Many of our firms have implemented systems, therefore, we are able to pull from experience in this area. We do not officially endorse any system over another.

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