James Bourke

Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Wildfires

Why you should take another look at the cloud computing model.

September 26, 2011
by James Bourke, CPA.CITP


Nearly every CPA reading this article has directly been, or knows of another practitioner, who has been touched in some way by the recent chain of weather and/or natural events that have swept across the country.

So much of the focus has been placed upon the personal tragedies, including loss of life and personal property. However, so many small to large businesses, including CPA practices, have also been directly affected by several of these events.

Any disruption to the business process, either short or long term, can result in a material setback to the financial performance of a business. During challenging economic times, these financial setbacks can be critical and sometimes unrecoverable.

The cloud model has been spoken and written about for the last few years. Many in our profession have dabbled in it, but few have gone full blown onto that platform.

For all of the many reasons that I hear individuals give, voicing their opposition to that operating platform, I could name significantly many more reasons to embrace it.

Private companies are not the only ones moving to the cloud. According to Forbes.com contributor, Kevin L. Jackson, “The federal government is also in the early stages of a decade-long process to move to the cloud, but has taken definitive steps in its adoption.” In fact, earlier this year the government released a “Federal Cloud Computing Strategy” that essentially adopted a “cloud-first” policy as part of the federal IT reform plan.

Being touched by a real life example, I can undeniably tell you that the cloud model allowed my firm to be fully functional during a recent weather related disaster. The eye of Hurricane Irene directly passed over a number of our offices on the east coast. The flooding, pictured above in my hometown of Manasquan, NJ, was only part of the problem. The extended duration of power outages, lasting up to five days for one of our locations, created significant operational challenges for our firm.

Unlike many firms, we started to jump onto the early cloud model long before it gained popularity. Our main drive to the cloud was the direct result of our firm's multi-office philosophy. The cloud model allowed us to significantly cut back on the cost of in-house equipment and the related labor cost to maintain that equipment, the applications and the data that resided on that equipment.

In the years following our initial move to the cloud, we have grown significantly and our cloud philosophy transformed into a critical component of our firm's disaster recovery planning.

Disaster Recovery Planning in the Cloud

So why consider the cloud as part of your disaster recovery plan?

Simply put, it has the ability to allow your firm or company to maintain operational stability even during the worst of conditions.

A majority of the mission critical systems at our firm are located on the cloud. Thanks to this philosophy, we neither experienced material loss in chargeable hours, nor degradation of client service throughout the entire period of the storm, including the many clean-up days that followed. Since all staff is provided with laptop computers on Day 1 of employment, everyone was able to access such things as e-mail, digital-file room, tax application, workflow management tool, etc. and was able to immediately respond to the needs and concerns of our clients and fellow partners and staff.

I will be the first to agree there are still challenges with cloud computing, with privacy and security concerns topping that list. Having said that, I feel significantly more comfortable with my client data sitting on the cloud (in a secure, climate controlled, replicated data center) than I would ever feel if that data were to reside behind the walls of one of my existing offices, be struck by a significant weather or natural related event thereby potentially rendering my firm dysfunctional.

If you have recently been touched by any of these events, I would challenge you to look at the current cloud offerings. Most of the reputable vendors serving our space have offerings available for the cloud. These offerings cover everything from tax preparation and engagement management to document storage and practice management.

When it comes to client collaboration, there are also a number of proven offerings in this space to fit clients from small to large and across many different types of industries.


The AICPA currently has a wealth of information and resources available to help with education in this area.

This site contains links to previously published articles around the topic of cloud computing and cloud computing concerns:

This site contains information on how cloud-based solutions will transform your client accounting services:

So don’t wait for the next disaster to start your move to the cloud. Do it now!

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James C. Bourke, CPA.CITP.CFF, is Partner at WithumSmith+Brown where he is director of Firm Technology at WithumSmith+Brown. He is a past president of the New Jersey Society of CPAs and currently serves on AICPA Council and is the Chair of the AICPA CITP Credential Committee. Accounting Today has continually named him as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Profession.