Cloud Accounting: The Next Generation of FinTech

Few of us in Kuala Lumpur have used Cloud Accounting,  fewer still have heard about it.  Yet,  its here and its the next big thing that accounting solutions firms are rolling out. It has become the buzzword of  budding entrepreneurs and accountants. 
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This coincides with the upcoming Sage Customer Connect 2016, where the leading accounting services provider in Malaysia plans to officially introduce Malaysian businesses to its powerful and affordable Cloud Accounting Solution, Sage One, at the KL Convention Centre on the 11th April. 

I first got to know about cloud accounting when I read a report about the growing diversification of Finance Technology or FinTech for short.  It is evolving so rapidly that cloud accounting solutions have become a sort of disruptive technology to replace existing traditional accounting solutions. Therefore,  it is the subject for my article today as this is one of,  if not the most vital developments in the Internet of Things revolution. 
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Sadly, we hear about it so often from overseas but have so little local resource and articles about cloud accounting. In fact, a quick search on Google will show little or no Cloud computing articles with regards to the Malaysian Market. 

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So, without much delay, this article will summarise cloud accounting,  its use,  reliability and comparison between the various cloud accounting providers available to the SMB’s or SME’s today. 

What is Cloud Accounting?

Cloud accounting software is similar to traditional, on-premises, or self-install accounting software, only the accounting software is hosted on remote servers, similar to the SaaS (Software as a Service) business model. Data is sent into “the cloud,” where it is processed and returned to the user. All application functions are performed off-site, not on the user’s desktop.

You can click here for the full write-up. 

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Features
Cloud Accounting Software is in short, your traditional standalone accounting system on the go.  Cloud accounting differs from the standalone desktop softwares by its ability to give the owner real-time reporting and visibility of transactions throughout the whole organisation, with greater mobile capabilities and collaboration, i.e,  you can even do your accounting from the comfort of your smartphone screen.
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This is a plus point especially in the era of the smartphone.  Accountants and business owners can transact, process and issue payments and invoices be it in the hassle of travelling or from the comfort of your home or office. Thus, cloud accounting gives peace of mind especially due to the fact that business owners can track their payments more accurately via a live feed of their transactions. 
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Purchasing Method
Most cloud accounting providers follow  Subscription-based models and in most cases these subscriptions are usage-based. Companies that pay a cloud accounting subscription receive updates to the software as soon as they arrive, with no additional software purchases required. This saves a lot of cost of getting a new software all over again especially if the government comes up with new legislation.  A case in point would be the sudden announcement by the Malaysian Government to reduce EPF contribution and revise income tax rates in January 2016. 

Most standalone accounting softwares used by Malaysians at that time did not wait for long for the updates from their accounting software provider(which is okay). But the unlucky others whose providers weren’t rolling out any updates had to either pay a hefty upgrade price or switch their accounting software altogether.  This has caused inconvenience to some to the point where salaries and payroll calculation have been delayed. 

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This leads to a pressing question. Is cloud accounting reliable?

Reliability
Reliability of a cloud accounting service really depends on the company itself. For example, we have Sage One Accounting, provided by the world’s leading accounting solutions provider with a flawless track record and an easy to use Cloud Accounting Solution.

From most of the reviews so far on the website and by its track record, this is the obvious choice by far for any business.  With 30 days free support to get you going through the basics and 1 month free trial.  Customers have an opportunity to get a feel of the software and assess its suitability for their business before purchasing it. With this,  Sage really puts its product quality on the line to its customers by giving them a ‘try and see’ option, which kinda shows how much they believe in their quality. 

For more on Sage One Accounting and reviews their specifications, you can click here or sign up for the free trial here

It is important for a company in this industry to have a flawless track record with little or no disruption in the system. However, if the service itself is flawed,  we would have situations where blackout can happen,  with terrible consequences. A case in point would be the blackout of the Xero Accounting Systems servers, preventing its customers from accessing their accounting services and bringing all accounting activity to a halt. Therefore, choosing a flexible,  versatile and durable service provider is important and thats where Sage’s advantage really comes into play. 
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But wait a minute! Earlier on I mentioned about the subscription model? Is Cloud Accounting services affordable?

Pricing
The primary question and the last I chose to deal with because I would like to elaborate more here.  This is because competitive pricing would really show the understanding of a service provider to their target market.
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For new accounting softwares like Xero,  the subscription fee starts off at MYR 679 per month and thats only bookkeeping to start with.  Quickbooks starts at USD 12 per month and that even with limited features. If you notice on their websites,  you will quickly notice that they go with the USD rate. With the fluctuating dollar rate in this country, it is highly unlikely that users will flock to these two accounting solutions as the subscription rate will vary each month according to the exchange rate and the low conversion rate of Malaysian Ringgit to USD will be a major factor in users shunning the prospect of purchase altogether.

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Sage One Accounting however,  goes on a RM 29.00 per month subscription rate and a RM 313.20 per year subscription rate.  With that, you get the full package of features that you pay your nose through to get in other service providers such as Unlimited transactions, reports with drill downs, managing customers, suppliers and items, a 1GB storage with 2 users, 1 company profile, Automatic backups, Bank and credit card processing, Pay by Master Card or Visa, Accountants area and Free mobile integration. You also get unlimited email and telephone support when you’re in knotted up in calculations or GST submissions.  In comparison to the other offers, Sage One is the best deal for anyone starting a business and the Small Medium Businesses as well.  By charging in Malaysian Ringgit at an affordable price,  users have predictability in paying for subscription at a reasonable price for the full package of features needed for their business. 
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Cloud Accounting is the next generation of accounting and is part of the IoT revolution.  Businesses must grasp the opportunity to make use of this new solution to increase productivity, effectiveness and efficiency.

If you need to see it to believe it, you can find out more about Cloud Accounting at the Sage Customer Connect 2016 held on 11th April at the KL Convention Centre. Sage will be showcasing the latest of their services and customers can get a feel of Sage One which will be exhibited at this exciting and insightful event.  You may click on the link here to register for free.

-Francisco Pier

Malaysian Businesses and the Internet of Things

In my experience as a young Entrepreneur and as a former staff at an accounting and solutions firm, talking to different business owners everyday is not a new thing.  It is an interesting experience engaging with business persons of all walks of life and trying to understand their needs and wants so we can better cater to them.
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Recently, the accounting software solutions industry has introduced the cloud accounting  concept where businesses can key in their accounting data and store it in a cloud accounting system. Big players like Quickbooks and Sage are offering such solutions aimed for the Entrepreneur or Accountant on the go claiming it to be more convenient and reliable in the long run. 
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However,  in Malaysia, this concept is still not well received and with good reason. A large number of business owners started their business around the 1980’s and and 1990’s and as a result still their business the old school way.  Accounts are still keyed in manual journal format and most accountants are reluctant to rely on accounting software to key in their journals because they have worked that way all the while and it is more familiar with them than going through  the hassle of keying in, maintaining and learning up an accounting software. 
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This is a highlight of the challenge that tech firms face today in trying to penetrate the Malaysian market, the mentality that ‘Old is Gold’. 
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Although the new generation of entrepreneurs today are more tech savvy and open to new innovative ways to work,  the majority of the SME and business arena still belongs to the business owners of the 1980’s and 1990’s, most of whom still employ the fax machine as the staple form of business communication.  This lack of computer literacy begs a solution,  because with the phenomenon of the Internet of Things, it is very likely that by 2020, most businesses won’t be able to catch up with IoT Revolution and may go out. 

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A lot needs to be done to raise awareness among Malaysians about how connected our world is becoming.  By teaching current business owners to be more tech savvy, the government can push forward the National IoT Blueprint with greater impact and effectiveness. 

One thing is for sure, awareness of IoT needs to be cultivated in the minds of the Malaysian business owners or we will be left behind in the IoT Revolution. 

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Social Media Marketing: The Future of Business Advertising

 

Admit it. Everyone at some point in time has stayed up late scrolling through social media sites for the latest updates and the newest likes. Social media has become an extension of ourselves, reaching through the deepest recesses of our psyche in our reaching out to the outside world. Although some studies show that too much time on social media will affect sleep and development of narcissism, marketers need to realize that what they have at their disposal is an extremely powerful marketing tool which will greatly improve their sales, create more revenue and generate new leads.

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First things first, when a promotional campaign proposal comes before the board, the first hit the Marketing Manager has to take is: “How much is the budget?” Once too often in the past have budding entrepreneurs failed to get their business off the ground due to ill-planned splurges on advertising which most of the time don’t hit the target consumer.  With social media in the equation, all that has changed.

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We see Instagram accounts of new urban chic coffee shops, boutiques, fashion outlets, and gadgets luring customers to cash in on their latest buy. With financial transactions easily done online, the virtual marketplace gets busier than ever and it is still expanding. To the budding entrepreneur of the 21st century, the statement is clear. Go online, or go home.

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In Malaysia, the traditional business model still reigns supreme in the small-medium enterprise (SME) arena. Documents are still sent by whirring fax machines made in the 80’s and many entrepreneurs and businessmen have not grasped the idea of a tech-savvy business model with an online audience. As the world becomes more entrepreneurial, more and more people enter the business every day. Therefore, it is important that the next generation of business owners grab hold of the opportunity to start their business on a tech savvy marketing strategy.

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Having an online audience via social media means reaching out to more people and making your pitch heard, many times, on their screens, all for free. Maintaining a Facebook page is not that hard, and it will be a fulfilling experience serving customers online, the best part being able to wear their positive feedbacks that they post on your page proudly. Negative comments can even be taken as first-hand research material for innovating your product and business. This will further help the business tap into the right target market and gain more profit.

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There are so many possibilities with social media. Companies, especially SMEs, can save a lot on promotion and advertising and capitalize on social media to generate revenue and leads for the growth of their business. The young entrepreneur, should more than ever, make use of social media as a marketing tool to expand their new startups to reach greater heights. Indeed, a well-planned social media marketing strategy, when implemented correctly, will generate more impact and lasting benefits for the business of the future.

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-Francisco Pier Png Yong Sing

The Advent of IOT

 A Connected World

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Ever since the first smartphone entered the market, the volume of new tech churning out till now is staggering. The widening use of the Internet paved the way to success to the disillusioned social media entrepreneur, most of them who skyrocketed to the billion-dollar club thanks to the Internet boom.

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Online financial transactions are a norm today with the flourishing of the virtual marketplace and anyone doing a cash deposit is deemed to be ‘so 1998’. In a virtual environment with a market expanding at the speed of light and an ecosystem of devices that interact with the internet, it’s no wonder that the phenomenon so often associated with the connectivity of all things may come sooner than you think. Whether you know it or not, The Internet of Things (IoT) is happening fast.

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So, big question. What is the Internet of Things?

The terminology is vague and quite difficult to make out. (for example, what do ‘things’ cover?) The recent jargon also makes it difficult to denote the impact it intends to make and the services it provides. So, unless you read this up, you’re reading Greek.

The concept is pretty simple. Imagine a home where everything is connected to the internet. Devices like your radio, T.V, headphones, washing machine and even your coffee maker are at the control of your fingertips. So, you could set your phone alarm to say, trigger the coffee maker to brew a nice cuppa that’s ready for you as soon as you reach the breakfast counter. As long as the device is electrical (i.e: with an on/off switch) and has an IP address, it could be an IoT device.

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IoT connects us on the next level! With the advent of IoT, people are brought closer together and may be able to interact in ways never before imagined. There may be even a new series of devices that may enable a person to communicate in many different ways.

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Is There a Market?

The demand for IoT is increasing in markets all around the globe. Finding a way to make human life easier, has been the fascination of manufacturers and with IoT, it is never been this easy to change the way you live on a daily basis. Imagine having an alarm clock that not only wakes you up in the morning, but also tells the lights to go on or starts the taps for your warm bath. This is just a possibility of how IoT can be taken from industrial use and straight into domestic living.

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Concerns: Privacy and Artificial Intelligence

IoT is a concept that is still in its infancy. Despite its growth, cyber security for IoT is the equivalent of a newborn with an underdeveloped immune system. For example, security cameras using Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP, port 554) to share videos but have no security authentication are prone to hacking as there is no password authentication in place.
IoT search engines such as Shodan prowl the internet looking for vulnerable IoT devices to steal info. . In 2013, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sanctioned webcam manufacturer TRENDnet for exposing “the private lives of hundreds of consumers to public viewing on the Internet.” Millions of such insecure webcams are connected and are easily discoverable with similar search engines like this and the number continues to grow.

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More to the issue of artificial intelligence, connecting more devices to the Internet will somehow lead to the creation of a World-Sized Robot which can collect environmental data, analyse, predict, and mobilise various devices at its disposal across the world. This can be very dangerous especially if cybersecurity measures can’t keep up with the expansion of IoT. If a hostile government gains centralized control of IoT or if the servers develop a consciousness of their own, we may find ourselves at war with a machine that infinitely knows more about our Earth than we do. Despite that, awareness for regulation has lead to some governments placing controls on the use of IoT. You may find more of that here.

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IoT and the future

As long as the world moves forward in technological achievement, the internet will soon become as commonplace in our life as the air that we breathe.
The Internet of Things is not just a passing trend. It will continue to expand and impact our way of living and the way we interact with the world around us. It will be exciting to see where the IoT industry takes us in the pursuit of a better, brighter and smarter world of human convenience.

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Writer:Francisco Pier Png Yong Sing

Francisco Pier Png Yong Sing