Time for tax preparation

bookkeepingIt’s amazing the relief that people feel once tax season has been completed. A burden has been lifted and now they can catch their breath. Ironically, now is the best time to start your tax preparation for next year. Think about it – you have just completed the bookkeeper tasks that you need for your accountant, plus you realize the time it takes to get your accounting reports prepared.

Bookkeeping can be simple. For lots of users its categorizing the expenses and income is where there is a disconnect. By using software applications like QuickBooks online and Xero your existing bank and credit cards can be synced automatically. Now you don’t have to enter the numbers but simply match them up using a preset format that will assign accounts to your transactions. There are bookkeeping services that will set up QuickBooks and provide online QuickBooks training and routine bookkeeping services.

One of the best bookkeeping tips is start now! It may seem intimidating but its easy to automate your bookkeeping. QuickBooks offers application integration with most banking institutions. A little bookkeeping training will go along way in helping you save time by automating your data entry. If you start your bookkeeping services now when your accountant asks for for your annual tax information it will be a few clicks on the mouse and youre done….now that is a relief!

Traveling with Technology

traveltechWith the travel season quickly approaching, many people wonder what to bring with them to stay connected. After a recent trip to Bali, I am amazed with the ability to access the rest of the world from an underdeveloped country. Wi-Fi is in nearly all hotels and most public locations. The biggest questions are figuring out which gadgets to bring.

 

Portability and ease of use are the two most important factors. Laptops, tablets, smart phones and e-readers are the most common devices travelers are taking with them. Most travelers bring a couple devices so here is a quick guide for travel:

 

Laptops – Choose something small, under 13”, and it must be durable so aluminum or a high density plastic is a great option. You might not need lots of storage but a minimum 128 GB will store any media needed while you’re on the road. Solid state hard drives are the best because there are less moving parts which could break, but can be more expensive. SD memory slot is a nice feature which prevents you brining an extra cord to transfer pictures from a camera. Don’t spend more than $1000

 

Tablets – For those not getting as much work done a tablet is an ideal option -slim, light, and long battery life. They are great for web browsing, watching movies, listening to music, and emailing. There are pretty slick solar Bluetooth keyboard devices that improve functionality and help to protect the device while getting bumped around in your bag. iPads are most popular these days but if you have a limited budget there are plenty of android devices which offer similar functionality. Be sure to go into a store and actually get your hands on one prior to buying it, half of the user experience is in the ergonomics.

 

Smart Phones – Most travelers these days already have a smart phone, so use it. International rates can be high so if you don’t have an unlocked version and swap out your sim card be sure to notify your provider and change the phone settings to avoid using cellular data outside the network. You’ll find WiFi everywhere and using apps like skype, viber, google translate you can use your phone just like your at home – call whenever, snap a photo, reply to an email, etc.

 

E-reader – If you don’t have one yet, an E-reader is a great way to minimize your load and maximize your options. Battery life lasts weeks, you can store dozens of books, connect nearly anywhere, and if you purchase one with a web browser you’ll have access to emails and the internet.

 

Security should be considered also. Fortunately many hospitality locations depend on providing a safe facility to keep people coming back; a single theft or bad review on tripadvisor.com could drive patrons away. The days of the maid stealing a computer are nearly past. However, physical theft is always a concern so be sure you are smart and pick a location that has good online reviews and an environment you feel secure in. Don’t flash your gadgets in public places like bus stops with high levels of traffic.

 

With public WiFi be sure to limit entering passwords and usernames, and keep your private browsing of banks, credit cards, administrative tasks to a minimum. Paypal security key is helpful for online transactions.   Backups make you feel safe about not losing pictures or data from your trip so look into an online service like Crashplan, Google drive, or Carbonite. Try to coordinate all your devices and if you have similar cords and adapters, condense or buy a universal adapter to keep things simple. Don’t forget some sites like FaceBook, Pandora, and Twitter are not able to be accessed from outside the country so be aware it’s not the hotel internet causing the problem.

 

Traveling today is easier than it’s ever been. You can book hotels and day excursions after reading all about it from the group who posted a review the day before. Technology does make it better. If you looking to get some work done cloud and remote access to QuickBooks online or your CRM will allow you to do your bookkeeping and keep sales active.  Be resourceful and plan out your trip but remember things are a bit different than here in Carlsbad. The internet might be slow or the person at the front desk might not know why you are not able to connect. It’s all about the experience, safe travels!

 

 

Bookkeeping Introduction

bookkeeping1

Bookkeeping means different things to different people:

  • The distinctions between bookkeeping and accounting have become blurred with the use of computers and accounting software like QuickBooks and Xero. Now, a person with little bookkeeping training can use the accounting software to record vendor invoices, prepare sales invoices, etc. and the software will update the accounts in the general ledger automatically. Once the format of the financial statements has been established, the software will be able to generate the financial statements with the click of a button.
  • Some people think that bookkeeping is the same as accounting. They think recording a company’s transactions and preparing its financial statements and tax reports are all part of bookkeeping. Accountants do not share their view.
  • Others see bookkeeping as limited to recording transactions in journals and then posting the amounts into accounts in ledgers. Once the details are posted, the bookkeeping has ended and an accountant takes over. The accountant makes adjusting entries and then finalizes the financial statements and other reports.
  • At larger corporations bookkeeping might be absent. Often corporations have accounting departments staffed with accounting clerks who process accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, etc. The accounting clerks will be supervised by one or more accountants.

This explanation of bookkeeping attempts to provide you with an understanding of bookkeeping and its relationship with accounting. Our goal is to increase your knowledge and confidence in bookkeeping, accounting and business. In turn, we hope that you will become more valuable in your current and future roles.

Cloud Computing

cloudcomputing

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal
management effort or service provider interaction.”

- The National Institute of Standards and Technology

The “cloud” is a general term used to describe the Internet.  “Cloud Computing” can be
defined many ways, but in its simplest form it is the ability to access files and use software applications hosted on and accessed via the Internet.

The cloud has evolved to provide small businesses shared hardware and software resources for low cost. Cloud computing service providers can afford to do this because the capital costs required to provide the services are spread across thousands of customers.

Some examples of cloud computing technologies include:

  • QuickBooks Online – Hosted Accounting Software for bookkeeping
  • SalesForce.com – Hosted Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)
  • DropBox – Hosted File Sharing
  • Google Docs – Basic Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Slide Presentation Software
  • Hosted Exchange Accounts – Shared Email/Contacts/Calendars/Tasks for use with Outlook, iPhones, iPads, and smart phones.

The most obvious consideration and end user benefit focusing a cloud based service, also known as “Software as a Service” (SaaS), is the low upfront costs.  Cloud based services generally require a monthly subscription and an initial set up fee.  Because cloud services are based on consumption, monthly fees will vary with the amount of data stored and number of users accessing it.  The benefit is that the end user is not required to have anything more than an Internet browser and a basic computer.  No software or server hardware is purchased or installed at the end user’s office.

On the other hand, low cost cloud based services have several drawbacks.  The Internet itself has a cost to access and it isn’t always as fast or responsive as you would like.  End users waiting for their screens to refresh or data to download or upload can be time consuming and make for a less friendly and less efficient user experience.  Most cloud based software applications have fewer features than a competing product that is installed locally on the end user’s computer.  This is mainly because an Internet browser isn’t as sophisticated and has less capabilities than a traditional locally installed application. Web applications such as Google Docs are great for basic office document
functions but are incapable of doing more complicated word processing or spreadsheet
tasks.  Many cloud based services are also a “one size fits all” model.  Very few SaaS vendors allow you to customize their services to meet your specific organization’s needs.

To bridge the gap, some companies are blending the use of hosted hardware infrastructure with traditional software installations and many non cloud based applications now offer cloud capabilities.  This provides the best of both worlds – a hosted application which can be accessed either locally or through the internet with the capability to customize it for your business.

Utilizing cloud computing has already become a regular tool for many companies.  The key is to identify and understand which tool is the right one for the job.

Tablet Buyers Guide

tablet

Tablets are becoming ever more popular. Many offer fast processing power and user friendly touch screens to access data stored locally and in the cloud. They are lightweight, yet durable for warehouse conditions. They have become mainstream and are used by anyone looking for a blend between a smart phone and laptop. Personal users take advantage of features such as gaming, movies, photos, video phones, internet access, and e-books. Workgroups and professionals are learning to capture the paperless flexibility a tablet offers too.   Here are a few examples:

  • Sales teams are using tablets for presentations and tracking leads
  • Manufacturing and warehouse employees are replacing print-outs for tracking inventory and receiving shipments with QCR codes on a tablet
  • Medical professionals track patient care with reduced infection rates
  • Service professionals are able to invoice and get signatures on-site
  • Executives are able to access sensitive corporate data across multiple applications while traveling

There are hundreds to choose from so understanding why you might want to buy one or what it can be used for can help promote your productivity and efficiency. The four main categories you will discover are: iOS (iPad), Android, Windows, and E-Book Readers. Each category has its advantages.

iOS – iPad: For starters, the Apple iPad is the dominant tablet on the market with millions sold to date. It offers intuitive design, fast processing, 4g wireless, high quality camera, and high resolution screen. Apple has regulations in place to ensure App development meets their high quality standards. Many users experience the same workflow experience going from an iMac (Desktop), MacBook (Laptop), or iPad resulting in instant comfort with the new device.

Android: The Android is a Google operating system which is available from dozens of manufacturers such as Asus, Sony, Samsung, or Toshiba. Each device is different so determining what you will use it for will help determine screen size, processing power, camera resolution, battery life, etc. The Android offers flexibility and a wide range of applications because it’s an open source operating system.

Windows: Windows tablets have been around since the 90s and continue to evolve. They offer high performance and the familiarity of a laptop or desktop experience with Windows. For this reason they are popular because they can run the same applications as any Windows workstation. Windows tablets are typically larger and more expensive than the other tablet categories.

E-Book Readers: E-Readers such as the Kindle and Nook are becoming a hybrid of a tablet. Originally designed for simple reading, they have expanded to include web browsing, email, and video but have limited business application. They are inexpensive and great for entertainment purposes.

Here are 5 main factors to consider when you are buying a tablet are:

  • Do you really need a tablet?
  • Which operating system do you want?
  • Which apps will you need access to?
  • What type of display and storage will you require?
  • Will you need wireless service or will Wi-Fi be acceptable?

The tablet marketplace continues to improve and expand. The ergonomics of each device is different so be sure you get your hands on it before you decide to make a purchase. Educate yourself by talking to fellow professionals; this can provide insight on new ways to utilize this technology in your field. There are applications like FileMaker which offer real time cross platform access to your data. This means you can add, edit and delete information on a Mac, Windows workstation or Tablet, and iPad at the same time. For example, an office manager can create a work order on an iMac while the technician in the field instantly sees the update, completes the work, and the bookkeeper automatically processes an invoice on a Windows workstation. With the right device and training a tablet is a superb tool for improving your productivity and making your daily life simpler.

Learn about what a basic database is

database

With the constant development of database technology, it is important to understand the logic and language of these advancements. Many experts agree that database development could be one of the most advancing areas of business technologies today. In the simplest form, a database is the storage of data. Database software is what drives the technology by computing data. Whether it is a webpage, a car, or even a sprinkler system, if it has an electronic interface the technology involved is based from computing data. Understanding database technology and terminology can help you to take advantage of these emerging areas. You will be able to communicate more effectively and make the most of database technologies.

There is a variety of database software such as FileMaker, Microsoft Access, or in its simplest form Microsoft excel. A database is created from a list of Fields (columns), Records (rows), and Tables (worksheets) which make up a single file. A field is a single piece of information; a record is one complete set of fields; and a file is a collection of records. Database technology is really that simple, three main components. Yet the logic used to access and perform activities with this data is what makes it complex.

Components of a Database Defined

  • Database software – A programmable tool designed to store, access, and sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations
  • Database – A collection of data organized for rapid search, retrieval, and updating
  • Database File – A block of information related to computer storage
  • Database Table – A set of data elements that is organized by using a vertical column and horizontal row model. This model uses columns as field names such as name in column 1 and phone number in column 2; it uses rows to track records such as John Smith in Row 1 and Mary Smith in Row 2.
  • Database Language – SQL – Structured Query Language – Based on Calculus and Algebraic logic provides a common database language to today’s data management tools
  • Relational Database – The use of common characteristics or objects found in multiple data sets to link them together, based on mathematical terms attributed to Edward Cob at IBM in 1970 for example variable x in table one = variable x in table two.
  • Syntax – Common forms, behaviors, and principles for constructing universally used computer language systems
  • Open Source – Public or free computer code which can be further developed by any end user (similar to Wikipedia)
  • Data Redundancy – Repeating or duplication of data or fields in multiple locations (tables)
  • Data Normalization – The process of organizing data into small groups or modules with well defined common relationships eliminating anomalies and potential corruption

If you’re confused, don’t worry that was a crash course. Hopefully you gathered that a good majority of our database technology is built on old fashioned arithmetic. However much like calculus and algebra not everyone understands theories, formulas, and logic the same. With many databases this can be the difference between an effective use of technology and a misunderstood tool. A database is only as effective as the architect and developer who design it. Having the end user and daily work flow in mind will help translate advanced logic into simple terms. In addition, creating an intuitive interface which the user has a good experience viewing, searching for, and updating data is crucial in utilizing a database and its successful implementation.

Using a database with your business could be mission critical to its success, regardless of the industry, company size or internal growth cycle. Each department has valuable data it works with and without a centralized source for it to be tracked it will get lost, forgotten, or never passed as a shared resource. A database will provide accountability and a quantifiable way to review results. Many databases are advanced enough to automate simple tasks like sending emails or alerting customers on account related activities. It is also worth mentioning that a database will provide an insurance policy in the form of backing up and securing your information as well. A good database will improve overall efficiency, individual operations, and offer reliable accurate information for strategic decision making.

Customer Relationship Manager

crm

A large amount of any company’s efforts and budget go toward finding and retaining customers. What if database and programming technology combined with innovation could automate much of this work, reduce costs, and improve customer relations, all while improving overall efficiency and value to the customer? It can, in fact! Effective customer relationship management is vital to any business, and CRM software makes the entire process much more successful.

But what is customer relationship management? Below is a brief description of the customer relationship management model, how it works, what might keep it from working to its greatest potential, and some related trends that it has recently created in the marketplace.

What is it?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing the interactions of a company with its customers, clients, and prospective sales contacts. It manages sales activity, customer support, technical support, and marketing by automating and synchronizing similar processes throughout a business. The goals of CRM are attracting and keeping customers, bringing former customers back into the fold, and streamlining activities to reduce the costs of marketing and customer service. The model is also used to simplify and organize internal company relationships.

Benefits of CRM

Although a CRM model is intended to save a business money, its primary goal is to improve efficiency and relationships with clients. The benefits of adopting a CRM model include the following:

  • Quality and efficiency
  • Lower overall costs
  • Higher productivity

A well-thought-out model will create a seamless interface and help a company realize its full potential, but businesses often experience some challenges getting into a streamlined CRM process. These initial hurdles are completely normal, and are overcome with some time and practice. Challenges can include a lack of training for employees, a lack of commitment or continuity from senior executives, and an overly complex or unwieldy interface. Certain areas of the model may be more difficult to manage and therefore can be ignored or underused by employees, which leads to fragmentation and inefficiency. If the interface is difficult to navigate, it presents obstacles for both employees and customers. Hiring talented technical staff to create an interface that is usable and can grow and flex with an increasingly complicated business model and data set, as well as securing a commitment from employees at all levels, are at the heart of a successful CRM model and a sustainable implementation.

Types of CRM

  • CRM automation uses a contact management system to track every stage of the sales process, requiring fewer representatives to initiate and maintain contact with potential and existing customers.
  • Marketing processes track and measure multichannel campaigns, including social media and direct email or mail, to generate leads. A model called prospect relationship management (PRM) tracks customer behavior and brings them to the first sale, cutting out active sales campaigns entirely.
  • Software for customer support, such as call center programs, also helps to reduce the work force required to manage existing customers. It is designed not only to assist clients with problems but also to identify and reward loyal customers.
  • CRM models have also been designed and implemented for the special requirements of small businesses, social media channels, and not-for-profit organizations.

Similar Trends

  • Cloud computing and “software as a service” (SaaS) allow customers to subscribe to a cloud and access software for a reasonable subscription fee.
  • Vendor relationship management (VRM) is a counterpart of CRM that allows customers to access vendors without forming long-term relationships with them.
  • Extended relationship management (XRM) is in part the practice of applying CRM disciplines and technologies to all levels of the enterprise and all associated constituents. This involves not only the associated customers, but other levels of partnership such as the government and the media.

CRM is changing the intricate relationships among companies, customers, vendors, and other business partners. Technology has made it possible to track consumer behavior precisely and make successful sales happen with virtually no exhaustive effort on the part of the company, allowing them to focus efforts on nurturing new and existing relationships, and placing efforts into other areas of company growth.