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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg
 

Five Tech Trends You Can’t Stop

But some CPA employers are still trying. Join the tech trends survey; get the results.

October 19, 2009
by Rick Telberg/At Large

If you’re worried about your computer and network security, you’re probably worrying about the wrong things.

But then, if you’re not worried, you’re probably not paying attention.

“For every security concern out there, there are reasonable responses,” according to David Cieslak, CPA.CITP, a partner at Arxis Technology of Simi Valley, Calif., and one of the profession’s leading authorities on technology.  “But CPAs are easily spooked and they sometimes look at the wrong things.”

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Like what? Cieslak names five areas where some accounting firms and finance departments may be missing the IT mark, thus depriving themselves of important technology-powered productivity tools and habits.

Here, according to Cieslak, are five of the biggest technology mistakes he sees CPAs making today:

1 — Shunning wireless network connections, or Wi-Fi, even in the office.

Instead of shunning Wi-Fi connections completely, be smart. “Always look for the highest level of security available,” Cieslak says. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is better than nothing. But he prefers Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or WPA2 (replaced WPA). And if you’re connecting to the office, always use virtual private network (VPN).

But if you’re not using your laptop’s wireless connection turn it off. “Most people don’t realize that unless they turn it off — and it really is a pretty simple switch on most computers — you are still connected to the Internet when you don’t have to be,” Cieslak says.

2 — Blocking social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Some employers may have valid reasons for worrying that employees will be distracted by online interruptions. But Cieslak says, “There is no reason to block Facebook or any of the other leading sites because of IT security concerns.” 

For professionals like CPAs, Cieslak says Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are now too important to ignore completely and they should be available in most workplaces. So instead of trying to stand against the tide, companies need to talk about social media in the workplace, establish a few smart and simple policies and integrate the technology into everyday practices.

For instance, employees need to understand that if anyone invites you to join their “Mafia family,” just don’t. Any Web site that asks for your username and password should be highly suspect. Malware like the so-called Mafia family game can steal your contacts and broadcast bogus invitations in your name.

3 — Banning instant messaging applications from the workplace.

Another losing battle for employers is instant messaging. IM has been around for almost two decades now, since AOL popularized it. Today Microsoft, Google and Yahoo provide popular IM messenger apps. “Instant messaging is such a critical tool for me,” Cieslak says, “that I can’t believe everyone isn’t using it every day.” For Cieslak, IM has replaced a lot of internal e-mails. Still, he doesn’t use it with clients. “For that, I want a little more formal contact,” he says.

4 — Holding back on Smartphone deployments and then using the devices carelessly.

The first mistake many accountants and accounting firms make, Cieslak says, is simply failing to embrace devices like a BlackBerry or an iPhone and deploy them to as many professionals on staff as possible.

But second, he finds that too many people are using them too carelessly. For instance, people shouldn’t store confidential information like all their contacts, Social Security numbers or passwords on their cell phones. And, because they too often do, owners need to be able to deactivate them and wipe the data remotely. That’s one reason why firms and companies should want to issue employer-owned devices. In the event of loss or theft (or the untimely departure of an employee), confidential information can be protected with software that is now so inexpensive and easy that even families should consider it.

5 — Ignoring portable media.

Like cell phones, portable media of any type can be hazardous to your IT health. Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives, secure digital (SD) cards or laptop computers are being used by office workers to transport files and information from one office to another or home for the weekend. In the event of loss, the results can be disastrous. That’s why every accounting office should consider, instead, supplying their own devices and banning the use of all others. “It’s not expensive,” Cieslak says, “and we can make sure the data is encrypted and authenticated.”

By the same token, laptop’s hard drives, if not individual files or folders, should be routinely encrypted. It’s about as simple as clicking a button on a setting menu and even easier in the forthcoming Windows 7.

To be sure, IT security is a legitimate concern, as CPAs well know. But, according to Cieslak, cutting yourself off from innovation is the wrong way to go.

Good habits, such as updating your software, maintaining tough passwords and keeping track of hardware, are much more important.

GOT GADGET LUST? Want to know which technologies CPAs are buying? Join the CPA Tech Trends Survey. Get the answers.

COMMENTS: Questions, ideas, rants or raves? Send an e-mail to
Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.