Let us see this concept of Cloud Computing in short and sweet manner along with the opportunities and challenges for Chartered Accountants in this field.
Cloud computing is a technology that uses the internet & central remote servers to maintain data & applications. It allows consumers & businesses to use applications without installation & access their personal files at any computer with internet access. This technology allows for much more efficient computing by centralizing storage, memory, processing & bandwidth. In other words, the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community of end-recipients. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.
A simple example of cloud computing is Gmail, yahoo mail etc. You don’t need software or a server to use them. All a consumer would need is just an internet connection which may be by using your desktop, laptop or even a mobile phone. The server & email management software is all on the cloud (means internet) & is totally managed by the cloud service provider Google, yahoo etc. The logic behind this technology is, 'If you only need milk, would you buy a cow or buffalo?' In the same way you need not to expend huge amount of money behind costly hardware and software.
Benefits of Cloud Computing:
(1) Cost savings as this technology converts capital expenditure into operational expenditure by its ability to procure IT hardware and software as a service,
(2) Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user's computer 35 and can be accessed from different places,
(3) Security could improve due to centralization of data and data access restrictions,
(4) centralization removes the problem of data redundancy,
(5) User scalability is tremendously increased,
(6) It enables users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone). As infrastructure is off-site (provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere, etc.
On the other hand there are some limitations of this technology which includes breach of security of data, system downtime, copyright and trademark infringement issues etc.
Opportunities of CAs in this field:
(1) Making cost benefit analysis for clients as to whether to deploy cloud computing or in-house computing,
(2)Consultation for the implementation of cloud computing facilities including migration to this technology from existing ones,
(3) Training to the user staff as regards the operating of these facilities,
(4) Direct and indirect taxation consultancy to cloud service providers, including international taxation consultancy,
(5) System audit of these facilities etc.
Challenges for CAs in this field:
(1) The good working knowledge of information technology will be must for such consultancy,
(2) Requirement of skilled team including some technically expert person in the field of information technology,
(3) Conflict between client’s data retention policy and compliance requirements, etc.
CA Tejas K. Andharia
B. COM, F.C.A., D.I.S.A.(ICAI), D.I.R.M.(ICAI)
Bhavnagar, Gujarat (India)