Some Accounting Benefits Are Obscured In “The Cloud”

by Mark Gibbons 1. August 2016 14:21
The use of “cloud” storage technology supported by services such as iCloud, Amazon Web Services, and Dropbox has achieved ubiquity in our everyday lives for applications such as photo storage, transferring documents, and remote server hosting. The business applications are many, and accounting is among the professions that is enthusiastically embracing the cloud for a variety of obvious, and some less obvious, reasons. In addition to well-documented advantages such as cost, accessibility, bandwidth, and disaster recovery, assurance professionals are discovering that the use of cloud-based technology can make service delivery better in a variety of other ways. Audit teams are often in different locations utilizing the same data, which can cause version control as well as security issues. Cloud services can eliminate difficulties inherent in multi-location audits by allowing teams to contemporaneously access the same data, eliminating version control ambiguities. Using cloud services reduces the exposure to human error by keeping information from being directly loaded on multiple users’ laptops, which are particularly vulnerable to loss from theft and human error. Software updates can be implemented with minimal disruptions to an engagement. And, data privacy and cybersecurity are better than what many accounting firms could promise on their own, because the companies that host services for accounting and financial firms are held to strict SOC2 standards, their livelihood depends on their ability to keep sensitive information secure, and they have access to and budgets for the latest cybersecurity resources. The result is cloud services are increasing productivity and reducing costs, adding value to the audit process. It is this value that is driving adoption of cloud services by the accounting profession. According to the most recent Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey from the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section, use of cloud-based systems has increased by 66% in two years and is used by 59% and 77% of firms with $5-10 and $10+ million in revenue. Cloud technology is here to stay in the accounting profession, and clients are receiving the benefits.

Security for a Mobile World

by Justin Nescott 30. July 2012 10:00
What mobile devices do you own? A smartphone? Tablet or iPad? Laptop? MP3 player or iPod? How many do you have protected in the event that you lose the device or have the ability to locate or wipe it remotely if all else fails? A group of CPAs agreed that IT security is the #1 technology concern on the AICPA’s “2012 Top Technology Initiatives Survey.” Because of the advances in technology, security for various devices struggles to keep current. With the spread of new technology, sensitive data is stored on devices from phones to tablets to laptops, which allow us instant connectivity, but increases the possibility of data loss. Here are two suggestions to improve security on mobile devices (although not a fix all, both options help secure data on otherwise insecure devices). Screen lock is a standard feature on many devices, but there are applications that create a login option on older devices. You may also be able to upgrade the software on the device to get new security updates and features. There are also applications and built-in features that allow you to find your phone through its GPS system or remotely wipe the device’s data. Please see the Ohio Society of CPA’s article “Keep your info safe if you lose your phone” for more information on security for your phone. For other mobile devices, there are suggestions on how to improve security on the internet.
Categories: Tech Tips

Making Your Online Presence More Secure

by Chris Talipsky 3. July 2012 14:24
You might not give a second thought to having the same password on all your online sites. But this could lead to your bank account being emptied or your email being hijacked and your identity stolen. You may have even been savvy and used strong passwords but still are vulnerable just because your dog's name is Fido. [More]
Categories: Tech Tips

What MS Office Knows That You Don’t

by Justin Nescott 2. July 2012 16:50
  An excellent resource in Microsoft Office tips, hints, and general knowledge, Office Watch has posted multiple articles recently discussing some of the “hidden information” that is stored in Microsoft documents. Many of these problems were created from the introduction of the “Fast Save” feature, which increased the save speed of documents by saving the changes made since the last save point, rather than the entire document. With Fast Save the file remembers names, email addresses, file locations, and server names. It also stores changes made to a document, even if the person editing the file believes earlier changes were deleted. Beginning with Microsoft Office version 2007, there is a feature called “Document Inspector” that is available across most of the suite. By clicking on the Microsoft Office Button, then pointing to Prepare, and selecting Inspect Document, you can access the “Document Inspector.” This will find and remove data including comments, revisions from tracked changes, user names, email addresses, watermarks, file paths, hidden rows/columns/worksheets in Excel, clip art, text boxes, text added as notes, and much more from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For a full list of items that will be found and removed by Document Inspector, please visit Microsoft Office’s support page. If you still use Office 2003, you can download free a Microsoft add-in that will perform the same functions as Document Inspector. As stated above, Word is not the only Office program with the Fast Save feature. Both Excel and PowerPoint contain Fast Save and should be monitored for hidden data. Even with the releases of Office 2007 and 2010, Office documents continue to track personal information. To decrease the likelihood of unintentionally disclosing information in Microsoft Office documents, use the  Document Inspector feature.   
Categories: Tech Tips

Early Reviews of Windows 8

by Justin Nescott 23. April 2012 09:55
  In late February, Windows launched the consumer preview of Windows 8. The major redesign was to move the popular operating system that is available for Windows’ tablets and mobile devices to the desktop and laptop. This will feature and continue the growth of touch screen desktops and laptops. The “Metro design” will replace the traditional “start” button and the applications and programs will be contained on the desktop as colorful blocks. With the growth of applications for computers, Windows 8 focused on incorporating the ease of use into the new OS. Windows recently launched a Windows Application Store to make downloading new apps as easy as possible. The convenience of complete customization for the start screen of Windows 8 allows the user to decide which apps and common contacts appear. The initial reviews, although mostly positive, vary greatly. PCMag questions whether Windows 8 will fail, comparing it to a Windows 95 failed add-on, Bob. It points out that the touch screen works great, but the user will encounter problems if they have to use a mouse or trackpad. This will put pressure on manufacturers to include touch screens to new laptops and desktops, which will add between $100-$150 to the price of the unit, which would be passed to the consumer. Microsoft did release a recommended specification for new trackpads that would work better with the Metro Touch; however, because of the late release, many laptops will not include this new design that may be released with Windows 8. Also, by removing the Start button, the user has to click on more options to find similar functions in the new Metro layout. Hopefully, when Windows does roll out Windows 8, these problems will be resolved and the initial beta testing will help them develop Metro Touch for laptops and desktops that is on par with mobile devices and tablets. Make sure that if you are, or will be in the market for a computer in the next few months, you are aware of the OS that you will be purchasing and if you will run into any problems with the computer designs. 
Categories: Tech Tips