Chris Winn, CEO of AdvisorAssist, and Craig Brauff, CEO of Erado Message Control Systems, are two of the best experts I know on compliance technology systems. So I was surprised yesterday to hear their differing approaches on selecting a cloud-based IT system, the subject of today's A4A webinar at 4 ET.
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Brauff, whose company is a reseller of both Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, the two main choices most RIAs will consider, says he wouldn’t even look at Google Apps. Winn disagrees and says you need to consider Google Apps, even if you ultimately do select Office 365.
Advisory firms have already started to move their core IT suite to the cloud, albeit slowly. To be clear, your firm’s core IT suite is comprised of apps for email, calendaring, file management, and a productivity suite for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. For small businesses, this tech stack traditionally has been dominated by Microsoft Exchange and Office. But Google Apps is trying to challenge Microsoft as small businesses move to the cloud for these systems.
A vast majority of advisory firms are never among the early adopters of new technology and are not now using the cloud-based versions of these apps. But the tipping point for small businesses adopting cloud-based systems is quickly approaching, and the choices advisory firms will make are up in the air.
The cloud is inviting to small business because it can reduce your expenses and enable easier collaboration with internal and external contacts. It can also cut your IT costs because you’re outsourcing the need for internal servers to store documents and emails.
In addition, Brauff says that, in the next few weeks, Microsoft is going to start a major marketing campaign promoting Office 365 to small businesses. So you’re liable to hear a lot more on this topic shortly.
Brauff, who studied economics in college but then became a programmer, corporate executive, and successful entrepreneur, is a hands-on kind of guy. Erado, which handles email and social media compliance for tens of thousands of registered reps, including LPL Financial’s, actually owns a datacenter. Winn leads a team of consultants that are popular with RIAs and he has nearly 20 years of experience in operations and technology at RIAs and Broker Dealers.
In the interest of full disclosure, Advisor Products, which I own, will shortly be distributing Erado’s compliant solutions to RIAs. I asked Brauff to address these IT issues even though he has a financial interest in the discussion simply because he’s very knowledgeable. While Brauff favors Microsoft Office 365, he says he makes no more money on that solution than on reselling Google Apps, but he just thinks it’s better for advisory firms. Winn, who sells neither of these products, says Office 365 may indeed be the better choice but says advisor must also consider Google Apps or not moving to the cloud.
Should be an interesting discussion. Please join us.