Moving to the Cloud for a financial business

I am looking for financial businesses (in particular tax, litigation, audit, accounting services and estate and trust) that have moved (or even partially moved) services/data to the cloud.

I would like to ask some specific questions, including security, about how you moved to the cloud. We are getting some push from management to explore the cloud more but currently we have several TB of data and many servers. Most are already in our VM environment.

We use the regular tax software like CCH, Caseware, quickbooks, time matters, casemap and others.

Are you using AWS EC2, Azure or something else?
How is everything separated in terms of access and file shares?
What happens when the internet goes down?

I will have more questions im sure but lets start with those.

Thank you.
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msidnamAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
For QuickBooks, for example, if you move that to the cloud, you have to run QuickBooks itself in the cloud next to its database. It will not take kindly to remotely accessing a cloud ledger because of speed. That will be true for almost any client server database. So you need to consider each application and determine how you will run it on a Terminal Server on someone else's iron (which is all the cloud is).

Several TB of data may also be slow to access and back up. Nothing like running it in a local VM.

So consider speed and bandwidth in your research because cloud is not local - it is remote access.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You should also know that HP wrote off billions of dollars to exit their cloud business. It has issues (speed and cost) for large scale, large data, high speed processing requirements. Cloud has its place, but it has not replaced local processing yet.
Shalom CarmelCTOCommented:
"Cloud" means a lot of things, not necessarily servers, storage and file shares.
For example, do you consider replacing some of the applications you run on site with SaaS alternatives?

When you do look at moving classic IT workloads to a public IaaS like AWS, consider the following:
* Use virtual private subnets like Amazon VPC. It will give you your own secure corner in the big IaaS network.
* IaaS gives you access to tools and capabilities that a small business usually cannot afford. Things like provisioned storage with endless capacity for snapshots and backup images, autoscaling, deployment automation, billing departments per usage.  Use these features. This makes IaaS much more powerful than running your own infrastructure, and very often it is the reason companies move their entire operations over.
* A lot of desktop applications are very latency sensitive. It has been said in a previous comment, but should be reiterated: File shares and database access are chatty protocols that expect very low latency. IF you keep clients like QB, run it in the cloud, either with Terminal server/Citrix, or via services like Amazon WorkSpaces.
* No internet connectivity = No business services availability. Plan to have a backup network, maybe a mobile router or a backup ISP.

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msidnamAuthor Commented:
Thank you both for your comments.

On our side we do have a ton of client server apps. We have several SQL servers that all have a front end application for it. We have 8TB of data for just our file shares alone. this is not counting the server data that we have. Since we are an accounting firm we use Prosystems, QB, Winfiler (now called yearli), caseware, casemap, time matters, PPC Tools, AccPac and a mess of smaller programs for our other departments.

We do already use Terminal Server for a good majority of the firm. some users don't like it because since we have a lot of programs, some programs plug ins for excel, word, outlook, etc, interfere with with others and crashes some apps.

One part of my confusion is, people will tell me, "XYZ" company is light years ahead of our company because they are in the cloud. But yet, i can't get exactly what they mean by that. I'll ask them, "ok, so what exactly are they using that makes them so much better?" I want to know so that i can try and make my users more productive. That is, after all, my job. But no one can give me a straight answer. more often than not, its because they see they can either view files on their iPad, phone, etc, or they have an easier way of filing or sending a return or better collaboration with other users but can't really tell me how or what they use. so then im still in the dark.

I'm trying to figure out what i would or would not put in the cloud. As both of you mentioned i can't really put all my chatty apps in the cloud because the latency would kill it. Caseware alone hates a 5-10ms latency. i can imagine if it was 60-100ms over the internet. Our prosystems database is huge and even locally it sometimes take a minute or two to open a return depending on how big it is. We have some excel files that are 200-300mb. Imagine bringing that down from  cloud server.

If i keep the same format with terminal server but put it in the cloud, all im doing is taking the hardware piece out of my hands but everything else will stay the same.
Shalom CarmelCTOCommented:
That's why you should consider replacing some applications with SaaS solutions. Ask your key users how do they feel about it and what solutions did they hear about from their colleagues.
This is an IS project, and I have a feeling that you feel more comfortable among motherboards than comparing soft features of SaaS solutions. However, I don't think that you really have a choice..
msidnamAuthor Commented:
Yes, you are right. I like hardware more than software, but I also need to face facts and steer myself more towards software as it seems developers are becoming (probably already) the biggest thing right now.

I had a good run since starting computers 20 years ago. But now i need to adapt :)
madunix (Fadi SODAH)Chief Information Security Officer Commented:
Make sure your company defined security policies are applied to the cloud application. The cloud applications should ensure that the data in the cloud are protected, these include, password policy, user access management policy and data classification policy...etc.
Have a look at
http://www.forbes.com/sites/sungardas/2015/05/12/7-common-misconceptions-about-security-threats-in-cloud-computing/
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@msidnam - Thanks, and I was happy to help.
Lexie StegemillerSocial Media SpecialistCommented:
It has been our discovery that many people would love to have the cloud provide a resource for them rather than having the cloud dictate their life. Based on the increased cost, reliance on the internet speed/connection/web server reliability and in some cases, reduced functionality, many people we encounter, who are in the same boat as you, are opposed to moving their financial data completely to the cloud. That doesn't mean cloud hosted solutions are bad, it just means that you shouldn't feel pressured to move to the cloud, but should understand that their are alternatives out there.

One solution out there that bridges this issue is Qbox. With Qbox, users such as yourself continue to work on a locally hosted copy and keep the desktop version of QuickBooks that you're familiar with. Additionally, while working in the file, you are not subject to the speed (or lack thereof) of internet connection. The internet/cloud is not involved until you are done working in the file and the sync/backup process initiates, which happens automatically. In fact, while working in the file, your internet can go down completely and you are still able to continue working in the file.

In other words, Qbox integrates the best attributes of the cloud without really changing how you work on you financials.

I swear by this tool and I would highly recommend visiting their website at www.qboxplus.com for more information.

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