Bonnie Nagayama, CPA and owner of McWilliams & Associates Inc., has always taken a proactive stance on improving her firm’s technology infrastructure. In the early days, she and her staff relied on VPN to access firm data and files from various remote sites. Today, she is a full-fledged cloud warrior, having implemented SmartVault and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions hosted by Right Networks as the firm’s core solution set.
McWilliams & Associates is best described as a business consulting firm—serving accountants and QuickBooks consultants, and the small business clients they represent. Nagayama and her staff consult with clients on how to maximize the value of QuickBooks and other related small business issues to ensure long-term success and sustainability. As QuickBooks experts, the firm handles data conversions and data integration for clients.
“Fourth quarter is always the busiest time of year for us,” Nagayama explained. “This is when the new version of QuickBooks is released, so we are focused on re-writing all help and support documents for clients to ensure continued success with the software. This means we maintain a lot of documentation in addition to all client data.”
Volumes of client data and documents come with the business consulting territory. Previously, the firm stored data on an in-house server.
“We stored data onsite for years. In fact, the server was in my office. I remember the heat it gave off under my desk,” Nagayama recalled. “Maintaining a server onsite meant that I was the first line of technical support, and that got really old after awhile.”
It was after a system crash that Nagayama decided that it was time to move to the cloud. “I was in Boston on business when I got the call that our server crashed. No one could do any work until I flew back to California to fix the issue. You can’t run a business like that. I knew then we needed a change.”
That change came in the form of SmartVault for totally secure online document storage. Nagayama initially implemented SmartVault to store all documents and data, replacing the firm’s faulty server. Today, she maximizes the value of the service—using the client portal for secure file sharing with clients, the SmartVault Drive easy access to all documents, and the SmartVault Toolbar for QuickBooks document management, providing a paperless and streamlined accounting process.
“I can’t let hardware take my business down again. With SmartVault, we are always up and have access to all the data we need, anywhere and anytime. Plus, I know that my data is consistently being backed up. The days of hot, loud servers sitting under my desk are over,” Nagayama stated.
A Long-time Vision for Working Remote and Paper-Free
“Before we moved to a cloud-based solution, I had been working on building a remote and paperless firm for awhile. I started down the remote path by using VPN. I began going paperless by scanning.”
Nagayama recalls her journey down the paperless trail as, at times, ‘scary.’ There was some reluctance in the beginning with getting rid of paper. Like most, she was plagued with the ‘what-if-I-need-that-later’ disorder.
“I was a bit scared to let go of hard copies at first, but once I saw my ‘to-be-shredded’ box overflowing, I was so over it. I just started scanning and shredding from that point forward,” said Nagayama.
Many firms suffer from the same issue. After having paper around for so long, there’s a false sense of comfort in keeping it on file…just in case.
“That comfort is quickly replaced by a major boost in efficiency,” Nagayama shared. “Having files immediately accessible online is so much more productive for everyone. This has eliminated everyone calling me to send them documents. They can access what they need, when they need it. SmartVault has substantially improved operations and significantly decreased the administrative work associated with managing all that paper.”
The Calm in a Crisis – The True Value of Quality Support
Beyond the efficiency gains the firm has experienced since adopting a full-on cloud solution, Nagayama points out the added value of working with the client-focused professionals at SmartVault.
“After our server crashed, we were faced with transferring 30-plus gig of data from the old server to SmartVault. We are talking about thousands and thousands of files.”
SmartVault support staff was able to identify a third-party application for Nagayama to sync data from her local drive to the new network. The complete transfer took about a week total.
“We could have never done this without the help and guidance of the SmartVault team. They helped us stay calm in a crisis, worked with us to find a viable solution, and held our hand each step of the way. That’s invaluable,” Nagayama stated.
Today, with more than 47 gigs of data stored, Nagayama could not be happier or feel more secure that her data and files are safe with SmartVault.
Nagayama stated clearly that she would never go back to storing data in-house. From here on out it’s all about online document storage, in the cloud.
“The efficiency gains have been significant. We have the client process figured out with the ability to exchange documents within the SmartVault client portal for real-time collaboration. Without SmartVault, I also could not support an effective and efficient all-remote staff.”
And it’s not just the client process that has improved since SmartVault was implemented. The firm has also been able to improve internal workflows.
“SmartVault fits perfectly in our solution set and helps us streamline our internal processes completely. We now have all our consulting notes, invoices, forms, documentation, client data, and everything else we need to operate in one central location…and it’s all digital! That is priceless.”
The firm has even been able to integrate SmartVault with their Legrand CRM system. “We can simply copy a link to a file from SmartVault and paste it into our CRM. Staff only has to copy and paste the link to view associated documents.”
Overall, Nagayama runs a highly efficient firm. The decision to go paperless so many years ago helped her get rid of cumbersome filing cabinets and create a digital filing system. The adoption of SmartVault has freed her from the worry associated with crashing servers and lost data, and firmly planted her among the most progressive firms that operate within the cloud.