Late November Tech News Update

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By Brian Tankersley

Some news and notes from the road on what's happening in the world of CPA Firm Technology:

1. http://gizmodo.com/5078317/wpa-wifi-security-gets-cracked-your-network-is-no-longer-secure">WPA is Toast.  http://gizmodo.com/5078317/wpa-wifi-security-gets-cracked-your-network-is-no-longer-secure">Gizmodo reported about 10 days ago that the TKIP variant of Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has been compromised, and can no longer be relied upon to protect your wireless networks.  More information at http://gizmodo.com/5078317/wpa-wifi-security-gets-cracked-your-network-is-no-longer-secure, and there is a new Security Now podcast episode which discusses the issue (although I have not listened to the episode (#170 - The TKIP Hack) as of right now - but it is available from http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm).    The AES (Adv. Encryption Standard) variant of WPA (also known as WPA2) has not (as of yet) been compromised by these attacks.  While people told me that they didn't understand why I ran 20 Cat-5 jacks when I set up my office earlier this year, I think this illustrates the risks associated with wireless - it's simply too easy for people to listen to your traffic, and given enough traffic, enough time, and sufficient effort, someone will find a hole in a security protocol. (Thanks to my brother for pointing this article out to me)

2. As previously reported by my friend Greg Lafollette (whose blog, "The Tech Gap" should be on your list of RSS feeds to follow), Intuit has announced that they will be launching a tax document scan and organize tool (powered by Copanion) in the near future.  The tool will use a custom-written front end from Intuit which will handle the communications with the hosted servers which organize the documents.  WIth Intuit's launch of this product, all of the major tax software products have options for scan and organize, and if you haven't tried these products, I think you need to revisit this entire segment - I've been very impressed with what I've seen in the last few months from the vendors.  I'll be writing more about this segment in the coming weeks - I'm planning some conference calls for the week of Thanksgiving to get some product updates.  CPA Firms need to get with the program and check out these applications - these have such a potential to help you save big time sorting and organizing documents that any CPA firm with a significant 1040 practice should be looking into these options.  Some competitors can scan, organize, and digest Schedule D information almost perfectly, and they all can help you bookmark your PDF files.

3. Intuit announced that they have released the ProAdvisor Certification exam for QB 2009, and they will be releasing the new version of the Advanced ProAdvisor certification exam to online course lockers on December 2nd.  (Now I know what I'll be doing the week of Thanksgiving - catching up on QB 2009)

4. I've been playing with my Amazon Kindle lately, and I'm very, very impressed with the device.  I think this may end up being one of the hot gadgets for the Christmas season.  Dr. Bob also gives the device rave reviews as well.  The dream device for the road warrior..... when combined with a 16GB SDHC card, I can pretty much put as many books as I want on the device.  I have put numerous reference documents on my Kindle, including CPA Review Materials, e-Books for Office and QuickBooks Reference, and use the built-in browser and EVDO modem to check connecting flight status when taxiing into the gate on planes (very cool). 

With January closing in on us at breakneck speed, I've got some recommendations for CPA's when preparing for 2009:
1. Catch up with your basic PC and system maintenance, including the following:

  • Make sure all PC's and servers are adequately patched with the latest .
  • Upgrade the RAM on your workstations, laptops, and servers.  RAM is cheap - 2GB of RAM can be had for $50 or less in many cases (see www.salescircular.com or www.techbargains.com), and it makes a huge difference in the performance of your workstations.
  • Get your workflow procedures documented and make sure all of your people understand them.  Laminated reference cards in key location may make sense in some situations.
  • Make sure that your scanning workflows are optimized, and be sure that your heavy duty scanners are using a VRS application like Kofax VRS Pro to clean up and optimize your scans.

2. If you do tax, look into the Scan and Organize tools out there.  All of the major publishers will have a scan and organize product this tax season for their software, and they work.  Scan Organize and Populate is out there, and I've personally run some returns through various systems.  While Scan Organize and Populate has the most potential for saving lots of time, it also requires much more due diligence on the part of the firms using it.  These technologies are ready for production use this tax season.  I recommend that you run some of your returns with massive document inputs through some of these systems and consider how to deploy this breakthrough technology in your office this tax season.

3. If you're in industry and need to add modules or functions to your ERP system, some software companies (e.g. SAP's offer ,MS Dynamics Group, and many Sage Group business partners) are offering 0% financing on purchases as well as some discounts to encourage purchases.

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