This year’s Tech Update session was led both by Randy Johnston and Bob Spencer.

Randy Johnston is a top rated speaker and has more than 30 years of technology experience. He is also a published author of 5 books and leads a successful technology and business consulting firm – NMGI (Network Management Group Inc.)

Bob Spencer has over 40 years of Accounting Technology business experience and is a published author of more than a dozen books on different accounting topics, such as Risk Management and Accounting Software. Bob proudly owns one of the most visited accounting industry blogs.

The main topics of the session were:

  • Data Encryption, Reducing IT costs, Backup & Restore, Cloud services, Client portals, Hardware changes, Social Media, and Mobile devices

EMAIL: Interesting enough Email security and Secured Email made the top of the list this year again. Well…it should, at least until people realize the threat that email carry both to clients and CPA firms. Bob made a really nice job in comparing emails to posters at the front door of the business office. Everyone should really think what data is being sent over email and should it be sent over email, because once an email goes out to the internet the information is easilly accessible.

PORTALS: Some of the outlined key players in the client portal hosting were – Thomson Reuters, CCH, ShareFile, LeapFile, Website Relief

ENCRYPTION: The speakers did not go into detail about encryption but did mention two safe bets – PGP (Symantec) and BitLocker (Windows 7)

CLOUD: Both speakers agree that Cloud Computing is here to stay, and that more and more companies are starting to look into SaaS applications and vendors. Intacct, NetSuite and FinancialForce are some examples of successful SaaS solutions.

CLOUD ACCOUNTING APPS: Below are some of the current accounting applications that live in the cloud:

  • Avalara: Sales Tax
  • Business By Design: SAP, full accounting
  • Conexxus: Internal Audit and Rapid Close
  • Freshbooks: Invoicing
  • Intacct: Full accounting
  • Quickbooks Online: Full accounting
  • Sage Billing Boss: invoicing
  • ShareFile: File sharing

HARDWARE: A lot of hardware changes for year 2010, and most of them will have a crucial impact on small-medium businesses. IT managers and decision makers need to be aware of the new iSeries i3, i5, and i7 processors. This new generation CPUs have improved performance while using less energy and resources. Price of SSD (Solid Stated Drives) is slowly going down and as they become more affordable, and we should see them in higher end laptop systems. For those of you that need to transfer large files in a hurry, be aware of USB 3 technology. If your company is paperless chances are that you need scanners. Well, according to today’s speakers Fujitsu is still offering a wide range of scanners to meet all your scanning needs. Fujitsu Fi-6230/6240 remains king for workstation or high volume scanner, and ScanSnap S1300 and S1500 are best suited for more mobile users. NOTE that Fujitsu changed the model names from S300 / S510 to S1300 / S1500.

UPS Sine Wave Problem: I am listing this as a separate item, but still under hardware changes. There has been a change in the past two years that affects what type of UPS you buy for your new server or workstation equipment. The chances are that if you have an UPS older than 1-2 years it may be doing damage to your new equipment!!! Shocking? Yes but true! I know I will be checking my UPS devices as soon as I come b ack to the office next week.

MOBILE DEVICES: Randy and Bob agree that 2010 will be the year of mobile devices, and that we will see a good amount of changes in this area. Companies are starting to realize that there is a niche for devices that fill the gap between the phone/smartphone and the netbooks. Apple already has their iPad available to consumers, ASUS, Motorola, HP, Dell and others are also working on similar type of devices. If you already have an iPad, the chances are that there is a way that you can use it for business purposes as well. Citrix, VMWARE, and Cisco already have their iPad apps published and available to consumers.  On the smartphone front there is not much change in 2010 – BlackBerry and its improved security and administration is still king in business closely followed by iPhone and Google android phones.

BACKUP & RECOVERY: As technology evolves and advanced backup and recovery solutions become more affordable more firms are migrating or moving away from tape backup and beginning to use  Cloud based solutions, Over the Web solutions or backup appliances. Predefined firm RTOs and RPOs are the main drivers for DR strategy and solution selection.

SOCIAL MEDIA: It is a Business and it should be treated as one!!! I cannot agree more with that statement. Social Media is the way we will all communicate in the future. According to IT professional and recognized blogger Sarah Perez, use of email has declined by 41% since 2003. According to Bob Spencer, businesses will be using this Social Media platform to survive in the near future. Do NOT freak out if your firm is not using Social Media, there is still time to make a comeback. Certainly do NOT just go online and register at a whole bunch of Social Networking sites and create company profiles without careful planning. Remember – It is a Business and it should be treated as one!

OK, now that you are convinced that your firm needs exposure in this area you need to spend some time thinking of the right Social Media approach and strategy. Bob’s professional advice is to use Social Networking to “engage and empower the customer”. Do not just self promote, find a way to keep the customers engaged and to keep coming back to you.

The leaders in Social Networking today are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Flickr, Digg, and Triplt. Most of these services are free and every CPA firm needs to use at least two of these channels and integrate them with the company official website.

Remember – Social Media and Networking could take some time investment so it is generally a good idea to assign employees responsibilities, carefully analyze the statistics, know your objectives, and empower your clients. Sometime is is not all about sales!

Below you will find some useful links that kindly provided by our speakers today – Randy Johnston and Bob Spencer: