Intuit (INTU), the parent company of financial software products such as Quickbooks and Turbo Tax, has jumped deeper into the world of cloud computing with an announcement of its “Connected Services” strategy. The idea here is to expand its offerings for the more than 4 million small businesses who already use the Quickbooks desktop software to manage their finances. Earlier this year, the company said it would open its QuickBase platform to third party developers with the aim of creating a software as a service business. The idea stems from a new wave of small businesses that are increasingly mobile and interested in using desktops, laptops and even handheld devices to manage their finances.
There are a number of companies that have jumped feet-first into cloud computing - Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and others. But in recent weeks, there’s been a bit of a dark cloud around the push into Web-based applications. Amazon’s S3 service had an extended outage and, more recently, Google’s Gmail got some bad press for its own problems. That, in turn, has raised some concerns about the safety and stability about doing business in the cloud.
I spoke with Rick Jensen, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Group, and asked him about the perception that the cloud still is not quite stable. Jensen immediately responded by pointing to the company’s track record of managing on the Web the most important and sensitive data we have: our tax information. Ten years ago, Intuit launched TurboTax online for users who choose to calculate their returns on the Web instead of through desktop software. Last year, the company processed 10 million online tax returns and not one, he said, was compromised. The company has taken extra efforts, he said, to ensure that the servers are capable of handling the crunch of users who log on - even in the days leading to the April 15 tax filing deadline. And it’s all done without compromising security or privacy, he said.
A ten-year track record goes a long way, and if anyone can help bring a silver lining to the dark cloud of recent weeks, it’s Intuit. It has a lot to risk because of the type of data its customers are putting in its online hands. There’s no question that losing access to files or emails is a major inconvenience. But messing with the money is a whole different story. If the financial cloud were, at some point, compromised, it could deliver a critical blow to Intuit and efforts to advance cloud computing. Intuit is definitely aware of that.
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