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An accounting firm considering to accept cloud technology.

Why CPA’s Need Cloud Services To Survive

Cloud Services For Accountants is More Important Than Ever

As a CPA firm you’re going to have to adjust to this new remote reality. No one expected the lock-down, however firms that operated on the cloud had an advantage over those who hadn’t yet or only did so partially.

Many accounting firms learned to understand how the right technology could help them access and review financial information, create reports, manage accounts and more.

There is no telling how or when businesses will open up. Moreover, reopening A CPA firm to its full capacity requires much more than opening the doors, turning the lights on and wiping off the dust from your desk.

It is a gradual process that will require much planning and the transition itself will depend on many factors.

That is why cloud technology has become so pivotal in the last few months. The lock-down put many accounting systems to the test, forcing everyone from individual practitioners to larger firms to operate continually outside of the office.

Firms that migrated to the cloud prior to the lock-down are doing well. Their client data secured in a data center and their applications on a cloud network ready to use. The Accounting industry has been discussing the impacts that would occur as a result of the cloud. Now, it’s no longer a theoretical discussion.

Experts predict cloud accounting to be a permanent feature of any CPA firm. Firms that didn’t migrate to the cloud previously might be asking if it’s too late for them. The answer is a definitive no.

Video Conferencing

Firms that use Microsoft 365 might be familiar with Teams. Teams is one of the many video conferencing applications firms are using to communicate while working remotely.  There are also applications like Zoom, Google hang outs, and Skype. These video tools facilitate collaboration and, with the right cloud service provider, can create an effective remote environment.

Financial services experts and CPA’s are discussing the possibly of permanent remote advising. Remote advisory services was always the direction technology was heading in. However, the lock-down that proceeded the COVID-19 pandemic only sped this transition.

These remote services will only be afforded to firms willing to migrate and adopt the virtual tools necessary to perform these roles efficiently.  That means finding a managed services provider with cloud hosting capabilities that are designed to meet your firm’s needs.

Remote Advising Through The Cloud

Remote advising is the future of the financial services industry. Technology was already in the processes of changing the role of CPA’s towards more advisory positions. With software automating much of the compliance work once handled by an accountant or bookkeeper.

James C. Bourke, a CPA an accountancy technology expert, predicts that if CPA’s are not spending on technology solutions that are accessible remotely, they will be revisited.

“Priorities are going to change on technology spending, once we are all back in the office,” he said in a recent podcast.

Adopting a cloud storage system that can handle any project without downtime can help your business succeed with remote work.

Migrating  Your Firm to The Cloud

Can you migrate mission critical applications to the cloud now? Specifically can you migrate Document, tax, engagement, and practice management to the cloud?

According to Bourke, currently, migrating to the cloud will be difficult but CPA’s should do everything they can to prepare themselves for a cloud migration when we return to normalcy.

That requires firms to research the best cloud providers, checking to see if they have the right security and compliance tools to provide your firm with the proper IT support without failing to meet regulation standards.

Technology disruption and the shifting to more advisory services are creating a professional environment where accountants must offer more valued and diverse skill sets.  However, this also means shifting focus to the client’s specific needs and away from other aspects of your practice like software, cyber security and IT services.

Leveraging the Cloud

If you plan on working as a trusted advisor you need to understand the implications of these shifts and what these tools mean for your firm. It’s not only adopting a cloud solution but adopting one that has the services that benefit your firm the most. Migrating to the cloud is like purchasing a car. Just because it has four wheels and an engine doesn’t mean it will be the vehicle you.

There are many types of cloud providers and every cloud provider has different assets, strengths and weaknesses. There are public, private and hybrid cloud. Different cloud companies like Azure have cloud services but require you to pay an extra fee for support services. Nerds Support’s accounting cloud services utilizes software that complies with SOX and FINRA standards for example.

Other cloud providers like AWS are public clouds with thousands of clients. Their service would be less personal and contacting support is difficult.

Cloud Accounting is The Future

A Survey in The New Jersey Society of CPA’s, revealed that 40 percent of participants expected a decrease in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The development of cloud technology and remote services will work to mitigate revenue loss once properly implemented.

The abrupt switch from in-person accounting services to remote focused work was jarring. Firms were unprepared for the demands of a remote work environment. However, now that industries, not just Accounting, have seen the results of a shut-in, firms will work to eliminate this vulnerability by revisiting cloud technologies and focusing on remote tools.

Managed Service Providers expect an increase in demand for public cloud services. Specifically, a an increase in SaaS, industry- focused apps. These include collaboration and other productivity and business continuity tools.

The social shift towards online platforms (VOD, social media platform, and cloud gaming) shift focus towards cloud infrastructure automation/management software.

In other words, cloud environment reliability, optimizing online platforms and the performance of your infrastructure determine the success of your firm in the future. Clients now and in the future will require and request online services.

Make sure your firm stays protected and ready for this new shift.

Cyber criminal breaching federal emergency loan site for access to money.

8,000 Emergency Loan Applicants Affected by Data Breach

The SBA Was Breached

8,000 small business owners who applied for loans from the Small Business Administration potentially had their personal information exposed last month, admits the agency.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) offers up to $10,000 to owners currently struggling with their businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who Is Affected?

The breach affects people who applied for the EIDL. Traditionally, it was used to aid owner whose businesses were impacted by tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Congress expanded it in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

Notification letters were sent to 7,913 applicants possibly impacted by the breach and then the letters were posted online. The letters revealed that personal data could have been exposed to other applicants. This data included phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, income and financial information, and social security numbers.

What’s In the Loan Program?

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) offers up to $10,000 to owners currently struggling with their businesses due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A Trump administration official described the issue to CNBC saying that an error occurred when some owners would hit the back button on a page they would see the information of someone else’s businesses rather than their own.

How Did The SBA Find Out?

According to reports by the Washington Post, the SBA was initially silent on the duration of the breach or about details of its discovery. Businesses that may have been affected were notified by the SBA and offered one free year of credit monitoring.

The Agency said it discovered the vulnerability on March 25 and notified those affected with letters. A copy of the letter was posted by a victim after the breach. The letter itself mentioned that there is no sign of data misuse as of last week.

What’s The SBA’s Track Record?

Business owners have had issues with the disaster loan website before. The site was taken down for maintenance for several hours on March 16, and owners could not apply during that time. On March 29, the SBA revised its application process for the disaster loans and owners had to reapply. Many learned days or weeks later that they needed to reapply.

Business owners experienced issues with the loan website previously. In fact, the site was taken down for maintenance for hours on March 16. This meant owners couldn’t apply for a loan in that time. About two weeks later on March 29, the SBA updated the application process for the loans and owners were required to reapply.

How Much Money Was Allocated?

As of April 19, SBA had approved almost 27,000 EIDL loans valued at $5.6 billion. Another 755,000 businesses received EIDL grants worth a total of $3.3 billion. The Trump administration official told CNBC that 4 million business owners had applied for assistance worth $383 billion—far more than the $17 billion allocated for the program.

Even before the breach the agency website was strained by a flood of applications for the loan that overburdened funding, keeping businesses waiting for weeks to receive money.

Before the COVID-19 crisis small businesses should have been eligible for up to $2 million in disaster loans. Unfortunately, because millions of companies are now seeking assistance,  the SBA had to limit the loans to the previously mentioned $10,000

What are the Risks Now That There Was a Breach?

That being said, the SBA approved nearly 27,000 EIDL loans since April 19. However, the breach raises a problem for anyone looking to exploit personal information on the website for social engineering scams. IBM Securities published research revealing it had seen a 6000% increase in email campaigns impersonating the SMB.

For more information on cyber security, cloud, remote work and more, visit Nerds Support’s blog.

 

Businessman sick at home but can still access his data through the cloud

Why the Cloud is the Future of Business Continuity

What Business Continuity And The Cloud

The world is unpredictable. At any given moment, something can happen that disrupts ordinary life. It could be a natural disaster, a power outage, or a virus pandemic like the current coronavirus.

The disruptions that affect our livelihoods are the most severe. In earlier years, businesses forced to shut down would have to just take the profit loss and move on.

However, cloud computing, along with mobile devices, allow businesses and their employees to work from any location that has internet access. Although some employers might hesitate to move towards remote work, many modern companies are adopting it as a means to offer employees flexible working hours and to maximize productivity.

Major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce and Twitter have encouraged remote work during crisis periods. Businesses have to adapt to changes and shifts in the real world, accounting for factors that are outside of their control to thrive.

The flexibility of the cloud helps do just that, while adding value and benefits like shared access to information and stronger security.

Flexibility on the Cloud

Cloud technology enables remote work from any location, providing access through virtual machines with access to the same information they’d have access to working in the office. Various tools on the cloud ensures businesses continue their work as if they were in full operation.

Accessing data and documents when needed can be useful not only during power outages and natural disasters. If your business has multiple offices and additional locations, the cloud can help you adapt as you grow. On the cloud, employees can access all relevant information via a centralized server.

Managed IT services providers now offer cloud services along with IT support that creates a collaborative, secure environment.

Scale Your Business on the Cloud

Let’s say you’re a smaller business with limited physical space. Accommodating employees can be difficult and time-consuming as it is. Now imagine you’re a growing business, adjusting to a larger work is even harder.

A cloud infrastructure eliminates the difficulties of managing a growing number of employees because remote workers aren’t limited by office space. They can access information through the cloud on the device they choose in a comfortable location.

Access to data is configured through the cloud as long as new employees provide accurate login details. So whether you need to scale up or down, the cloud is an invaluable tool that works to your business needs.

Cyber Security on The Cloud

There’s a common misconception about the cloud being unsafe or less secure than the standard model of in house IT. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only is cloud computing safe, additional security tools like multi-factor authentication and file encryption could mean your data is safer on the cloud.

These security tools should not be overlooked. Implementing additional security via the cloud helps prevent data loss or theft if a mobile device, portable laptop or tablets are lost or stolen themselves. Cybersecurity on the cloud ensures unauthorized users are barred from getting hold of valuable information.

Multi-factor authentication is set up so that if someone wishes to access the cloud, they must provide valid account details on multiple devices such as their phone. For example, I as an employee, can’t get on the cloud unless I verify the login attempt on my mobile device. If I do not respond within a definite amount of time, the login attempt is nullified and ignored.

Using the cloud on a secure business laptop to continue working remotely.

The Future of Business relies on the cloud

Remote work is changing the workplace entirely. Companies already embracing remote work as a way of attracting new employees. In a study conducted by Buffer.com, 99 percent of those interviewed admitted they would like to work off-site at least once in their career.

But more importantly, remote work is a safety net for businesses should something unforeseen occur. We’ve seen how an events like viruses, hurricanes and power outages can devastate businesses. What if employees can’t access the office?

Continuity Means Security

Having a plan in place in case of such events is extremely important. Moreover, having the tools necessary to carry out that plan is just as important. A business continuity plan can ensure a business survives the spontaneous hazards of the real world. The cloud is vital in achieving this.

If working in the office becomes a risk for whatever reason, can that business continue normal operations?

If not, how long can that business go without endangering itself or taking a financial hit?

How much money is a business willing to lose until normal operations can continue?

How long clients be able to cope without that business delivering products or services?

How long will employees hold out before getting frustrated and leaving?

These are all questions that should factor into any business related decision before, during and after a crisis of any kind.

Make sure to visit our website for more on cybersecurity, cloud, and tech related news!

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Businessman fitting accounting workload into briefcase

CPA’s: Top Five Tips To Beat Workload Compression

The Problem of Workload Compression

If you’re an accounting firm, workload compression is probably a big issue. In fact, a study by the tech company Right Networks along with the CPA firm Management Association, surveyed 162 CPA’s after tax season and found that workload compression was the biggest concern for 40 percent of CPA firms as they prepared for tax season.

The reality is, workload compression will always exist to some degree. Therefore, the best thing to do is to figure out ways to manage it effectively.

1) Identify How Workload Compression Affects Your Firm

Every firm is different. So, it stands to reason that workload compression impacts firms differently.

What are the causes of workload compression in your firm?

Is it confusion about new tax laws?

Difficulty with certain returns?

Clients avoiding extensions and demanding their return?

2) Execute a Plan

Once you’ve figured out the “why’s” and the “how’s” you have to focus on the “what.” In other words, now that you know the specifics of your workload problems, what are you going to do about them?

That plan differs considerably if you’re a larger firm as opposed to a smaller firm and vice versa. For example, dropping a few clients mitigate the workload compression but if you’re a smaller practice you probably depend on tax season to generate revenue.

• Hire Temporary accountants or paid interns

Staffing is an important factor in dealing with compression. Hiring temporary or seasonal employees can be a good option for your firm. There are many accountants that choose to work within specific time frames because it fits their lifestyle. Experiencing practitioners don’t always work all year round. Look within this pool to boost your workforce.

Likewise, interns are also viable options during busy periods. Practical work experience gives recent graduates or current students the necessary training to work as CPA’s. Moreover, internships can turn into full time positions if they perform well, benefiting them and your firm.

3) Use Technology To Your Advantage

Many firms in the study mentioned above report that the biggest changes they made before tax season were software improvements. Specifically, firms used e-filing and digital signing technology to go paperless.

Additionally, 72 percent of firms asked about the benefits of hosting tax applications on the cloud said they favored anywhere, anytime access. 67 percent consider the cloud secure and 34 percent noted improved collaboration with personnel and 20 percent saw improved collaboration with clients.

Cloud accounting and workflow software like QuickBooks, which is designed for accountants, reduce staff time, make communication with clients and staff more effective and can optimize staff performance. Learn more about hosting QuickBooks here.

QuickBooks Cloud Integration lets you manage, track and assign projects on any device, in any location, to optimize your efforts with cloud-based accounting.

Managed IT support services offering cloud integration allows for the that collaboration and workflow efficiency.

4) Schedule Smarter

Don’t work on returns until all the necessary information has been provided by the client. Also, working on complicated tax matters before tax season starts can give you a leg up on other firms and position you to work more efficiently.

This tactic requires communication with your clients before the year ends and instead of waiting for their information to come in.

If you’re a firm with a fair amount of non-tax season work, that’s okay. Schedule days in which you can focus on tax returns only. Then, organize your firms so reviewers can work those client returns.

5) Communicate With clients

Communication is an underrated tool for many CPA firms, however it can facilitate tax processes like you wouldn’t believe.

In an age of social media and instant messaging, clients expect a level of personalized service. That shouldn’t be looked at as negative but rather, as mutually beneficial.

Communicating changes to clients through newsletters, emails, calls, social media, and tax updates will prepare your firm in anticipation of tax season where most firms simply react to it.
This gives your clients the personal touch they appreciate while giving you the information you need ahead of time.

The Takeaway

Your firm shouldn’t wait until tax season to prepare. A proactive approach to workload compression can come a long way when peak season hits and your firm is pressed for time.

Workload compression is the dreadful for everyone and hopefully, the tips reviewed here can alleviate it for your firm. Always plan ahead before tax season and tax season might not get the better of you.
For more tips, check out the Nerd Support blog where we discuss technology, strategies and more CPA’s can use to improve their firm.

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Good Data Management Habits For Companies Thumbnail

Good Data Management Habits Companies Should Follow

Managing Data

Data is everywhere. Everything you do these days seems to require you to enter some details which are later used to target you and define you by companies.

No sooner have you searched for something online than an advert pops up on your computer promoting the goods you were after. Your email inbox is filled with promotional material linked to places you’ve visited, websites you’ve used and inquiries you’ve made.

We live in a data-driven age, where any company looking to get ahead has a firm understanding of the data it needs and how to manage it. The amount of data harvested is growing exponentially, which means in order to truly get the best from it there must be effective management protocols in place.

In order to truly manage data effectively, companies should look to take some of the following steps.

Purpose

Understanding the purpose of data collection is important to companies. The amount of data out there is mind-boggling, and it is easy to get caught up in driving too deep into it. It’s widely reported that around 70% of all data collected goes unused for analytics.

In order to be effective, know exactly what purpose you are collecting data for. Starbucks does this effectively, using data to analyze the best locations for new stores. They often open two close together which is usually a route to failure for other businesses, but having used data to identify the locations, few fail.

System Options

Data takes up space and a company of any size needs to understand the limitations of their own storage and processing. Altium’s run-down of PCB data management highlights how the most important issue is having a system that can manage the vast amount of information a company now acquires. That may be a physical server onsite, or a cloud solution that allows for off-site storage and processing.

Simply having a huge spreadsheet is not the route to success here. A company can invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, which means you can keep your data in one place, organized and easy to track. Looking to this type of solution is increasingly popular and helps deal with our next point also.

Software Considerations

Getting the right management software is as critical to getting the most out of your data as the method by which you store it.

It might be you choose something too complex for your team to understand, or a system too large for your business’s needs. It might be your software is not secure enough for your business to feel comfortable relying on. Any of these issues will weaken the value of the data you harvest.

Take your time, assess the options and choose software that is right for you and your team.

Data Regulations

There has been an increase in the number of breaches within the data collection field, not least from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and some countries have created more stringent regulations on data collection, storage and processing.

You must ensure compliance with any regulation enforced by countries where your company operates, even if you are not based there. This is particularly noteworthy for American companies looking to operate and collect data from South Africa or the EU.

Customer Trust

Trust is a huge part of data collection and the way you use the information you harvest can increase customer trust in you and your company. Be clear to the customer about what data you are collecting and how it is to be used. A study by University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication reveals that because customers are sharing their data with you doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy to do so. Misusing that data could see your company lose consumer trust, rather than reap the original rewards you intended.

Make sure you always inform users of your policies and show full transparency during the collection process. You can achieve this by allowing users to decide which information they wish to share, or creating a specific privacy policy which gives users the option to learn about your data collection practices.

For additional reading on this subject, be sure to check out our article on ‘How to Improve Data Quality’.

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