Tax Season Tips: Why Your Accounting Firm Needs Off-Site Data Backup

It is tax season! If you’re an accountant this means you have more data by volume to manage and protect than any other time of year. Now would be the worst time for disaster to strike. If you don’t have an off-site data backup plan, your business is at risk. It is grim, but true! Off-site data backup is imperative for your business for these four reasons.

cloud-computing-9

Photo credit: Damien Pollet / Foter / CC BY

Local or On-Site Backup Fails

For whatever reason, a hard drive where on-site backup usually occurs has a high rate of failure.

  • The system can corrupt itself due to a hardware error.
  • Bugs in your accounting software may not backup every file you have.
  • Placing your data on CDs or thumb drives are susceptible to corruption.
  • Disasters, such as severe storms or fire, can eliminate your hardware where data is backed up.

While it is a good idea to continue to use these backup options, you need to add a third data storage solution – cloud computing. There are numerous benefits to the cloud, especially for accountants as laid out by Cocci Computer, but one is instant access. In the event of an emergency or data corruption on hardware, you can immediately turn to the cloud to retrieve your data. During this busy time of year for your business, this instant access gives you peace of mind.

Off-Site Backup Has More Security

This is usually the point that people have the hardest time believing. Yes, using the cloud for off-site backup is actually more secure than local backup. When you have your files backed up on site, they are susceptible to many threats, including:

  • Computer viruses and spyware
  • Accidental deleting of files
  • Employee tampering
  • Theft of physical data

The cloud has many layers of encryption security. Only authorized users are allowed in the cloud and you can track the actions of every visitor to see if any foul play occurred. Using off-site cloud backup also comes with a team of people who can custom-create security measures and manage any data breaches accordingly with your disaster recovery plan.

Cloud Computing Automatically Updates

One of the big risks with hardware and software are updates. Most require manual updates that require a system to restart or the software to shut down while updating. During this busy time of year, you don’t have time to wait for an update. Yet skipping updates makes your data storage more susceptible to all the threats mentioned above.

The cloud is virtual, so no manual updates or special times to perform data backup to hardware or software are required, as suggested in Free State Accountant. Once there is a need to update, the cloud automatically performs the update to ensure the latest security and features are present.

Cloud Computing is Affordable

Of course every accounting firm has a budget in place that is usually eaten up by software requirements. But investing in a cloud computing service provider is extremely affordable. Since there is no hardware to maintain or software to update, implementation costs and maintenance of the cloud is much cheaper than hosting a data center on-site.

The cloud is the perfect data backup solution for small to mid-size accounting firms. Even though tax season is a hectic time, a cloud provider will take the stress of data backup off your hands and keep your client’s data secure.

How to Clean Out Your Computer

Last Monday was National Clean Out Your Computer Day, and we were busy performing our regular clean out! Now that the daunting task is crossed off our list, we are ready to give tips on the best ways to clean out your computer and keep your data backed up and secure.

Photo credit: rfranklinaz / Foter / CC BY

Get Rid of What You Don’t Need

The first step to cleaning out your computer is the hardest. Deciding what files you need to keep and get rid of is difficult. There are many programs available that will clean out your unused files for you, but if you want to be in charge of what stays and what goes, here are a few steps.

  • Open Control Panel on Windows or System Preferences on Mac and remove every program you don’t use. If you are unsure, you can always Google the program and see what exactly it does.
  • Open your Temp folder on your main hard drive and delete everything. These files are just taking up room.
  • Pull up the Run box and type in “msconfig.” Open the Startup Tab and remove programs you don’t use or don’t want to power up when you start your computer. These programs start once you turn your computer on and don’t stop running even if you don’t use them. This will speed up your computer significantly. Mac instructions are here.

Clean Your Files

Windex may solve a lot, but it is not what you need to clean your computer files. There are two ways you can clean up the files on your computer that are just taking up room – disk defragmentation and disk cleanup. Depending on your operating system, you may have to find an external application to perform these cleanups.

Install Antivirus Software

It may seem counterproductive since you spent so much time deleting files and programs, but installing an anti-virus software is a necessary step to keeping your computer clean and healthy. There are a lot of things you can do to help your computer, but once you get a virus your data (and sometimes your system) is a done deal. Prevent a virus by installing software that hunts these computer diseases down.

Backup and Plan for Disasters

Backup, backup, backup. MDL Tech can’t say it enough! If you don’t backup your data, you will be kicking yourself in case of a disaster. One of the best times to backup your data is when you are cleaning out your computer. Store all of your data on a separate hard drive and place it in a safe place. If something terrible happens, you will be stress-free with your backup at hand.

Of course, you are constantly adding to your data. How are you supposed to keep up with backups? This would be part of your disaster recovery plan. Decide on time intervals where you sit down and sync your data between your computer and your backup drive. In your disaster recovery plan, you should account for natural disasters where even your backup can be compromised. Cloud computing is one solution you have to always be able to access your data, but you need to make sure your cloud choice is secure.

It is a bit of a headache, but cleaning out your computer will make your life easier in the long run. Clean up your files and backup your data to do your computer and yourself a favor.

How to Protect Your Computer From Scammers During Valentine’s Day

February is a time for falling in love, but there is definitely one thing you shouldn’t fall for – scams. Scammers are lurking around every corner and they are very skilled at what they do. Follow these tips to ensure you will only fall for you significant other this Valentine’s Day.

Photo credit: valart2008 / Foter / CC BY

Protect Your Computer

The first step to preventing scammers from taking advantage of your information is to protect your computer. Figure out which firewall you need for your computing needs and install it. Make sure you have the latest antivirus software installed on your computer. Lastly, consider installing antispyware technology so scammers can’t spy on your activities.

Check Your Operating System

Over time, scammers and hackers become more progressive and take advantage of the holes in your outdated operating system’s security. Check your operating system to ensure it is the latest version so those security holes are patched.

Update Privacy Settings

Go through every internet account you have and look through your privacy settings. Make changes so your personal information is not easy to access for scammers. If your personal information is easy to find, scammers can use it to make their trickery more convincing.

Secure Your Passwords

Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways for scammers to find ways into your computer. Once they know your password, they can get smarter about deceiving you by providing personal information they gained from your accounts. Some tips for password protection:

  • Use a mixture of numbers and letters. To be a superstar, add symbols.
  • Don’t repeat passwords. If a scammer gets one, they will try it on all of your accounts.
  • Change your passwords regularly.

If you feel like you are a victim of internet crime, you can report the incident to the IC3.

KCI Auto Auction Experiences Best Year Of Sales Ever After Signing On MDL For CRM Implementation And Management

Summary

The KCI Auto Auction is one of the most successful and well known auto auction facilities in the region, but they wanted to be even more successful. The independent wholesale auto auction needed a more streamlined management system to track their leads and manage projects to increase sales and raise profits. So they retained MDL for managed services and assistance with their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes. As a result of working with MDL, the KCI Auto Auction has sold more cars than ever in its history and has increased profits and sales tenfold. That kind of growth is why KCI Auto Auction continues to work with MDL.

kci-logo

Why KCI Auto Auction Retained MDL

Before retaining MDL, KCI Auto Auction had numerous problems with their CRM systems and programs. They weren’t able to access their information remotely through their current program. They also weren’t able to customize the CRM tools to their business processes and needs, which was extremely important to them. CRM success relies on a great group of data points and reporting, neither of which the Auto Auction was getting. They were getting a limited set of data that was not helpful in obtaining their profit and sales goals.

How MDL Assists KCI Auto Auction

Mark Dryer, CEO of MDL, said, “One of the first things to help the Auto Auction with was to get them away from the CRM program they were using and get them set up with Microsoft Dynamics. They were using a custom program developed by the developer of their primary auction applications, but it wasn’t providing results.”

That’s why CRM hosting and development was on the top of the list of things for MDL to assist the KCI Auto Auction with. In addition to CRM assistance, MDL also provides managed services, offsite data backup and a high availability data server and internet solution.

Dryer said, “The server and internet solution ensures KCI Auto Auction has access to their critical business resources during their sale day and that they do not experience any downtime or delays to maximize sales opportunities. We proactively monitor their network to maximize uptime, and we implemented solutions to guarantee that their network will be operational during their on-site sales. We provide on-site support during their sale day to quickly resolve any IT issues should they happen.”

Success With MDL

Steve Goettling, assistant general manager at KCI Auto Auction, can’t get enough of the positive returns the Auction has experienced working with MDL. Goettling said, “With the guidance and expertise of MDL Technology, LLC, we’ve been able to successfully integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM into our system. We use CRM to manage all of our sales initiatives for approximately 20 sales professionals, and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s improved our business. Our team loves how intuitive the software is and the fact that it makes it easier for us to track leads, sales and manage projects. Last year, thanks to the streamlining of our business, we sold more cars than ever before in the history of the company. In our opinion, all these features make the CRM software a true ROI-driven model that increases growth, performance and profits. MDL Technology has been invaluable in implementing the CRM system!”

Recommendations For Companies Like KCI Auto Auction

Dryer said, “The best thing other auctioneers or businesses with similar platforms to KCI Auto Auction to do is find the solution that best fits their sales and marketing processes. Integration with their line-of-business applications is of the utmost importance to provide real time access to key performance indicators.”

According to Microsoft Dynamics, Customer Relationship Management nurtures customer satisfaction and loyalty across multiple departments while reducing costs and increasing profitability. Customer relationship management is not only about business growth but also strong personal bonding with people. Development of this type of bonding drives the business to new levels of success.

MDL understands the importance of CRM tools and techniques and has experienced high levels of success in implementing programs that work. The success with KCI Auto Auction showcases how MDL works and how MDL can help your company optimize your systems and practices to result in higher profit margins and sales.

About MDL

MDL Technology is a Kansas City IT company that specializes in worry-free computer support by providing solutions for around-the-clock network monitoring, hosting, data recovery and off-site backup security. For 11 years, MDL has partnered with companies to design, build and install network systems to fit the needs of its organization. Associates are trained by MDL’s teams to maintain a smoothly running network for their companies.

About KCI Auto Auction

KCI Kansas City offers a wide range of remarketing services including reconditioning, inspections, transportation, salvage auctions, equipment auctions, and Internet auctions. KCI Kansas City re-markets vehicles for wholesale consignors including dealers, manufacturers, rental car companies, banks, finance and leasing institutions.

Read more about KCI Auto Auction here.

Law Firms Beware – Preventing CryptoWall Ransomware

About five months ago, a computer hack made its way through over 600,000 computers called CryptoWall Ransomware. PCWorld reported over 5 billion files were encrypted. The virus quieted down in November, but now it is back and the hack’s main target is law firms.

Photo credit: Don Hankins / Foter / CC BY

The version circulating from British Columbia down through North America has been dubbed CryptoWall 3.0 by attackers, according to ComputerWorld. The program relies on ransomware, encrypting the files of affected computers and offering a decryption key for $500 in Bitcoin currency. CryptoWall finds its way into your system through weak points in outdated browsers. The ransomware can also connect to a computer through malware that is already installed on the computer.

The 3.0 version targets computers based on location. Global News reported that 3 law firms in British Columbia had to pay to get their files back. Depending on the location, the virus may present ransom retrieval instructions in a different language, such as French.

Mark Dryer, president of MDL Technology, said, “We have dealt with various instances of it. Luckily, we have been able to restore from backup to resolve the issue. On one instance, the customer lost three days of work.” Dryer recommends a few security measures you can take to prevent CryptoWall from ransoming your data.

  • Increase Protection with Next Generation Firewalls. Installing a next generation firewall allows companies to have more control over their applications. They also perform deep inspections to detect and block threats, like CryptoWall.
  • Use Complex Passwords. Ask all users to choose complex passwords with at least one number and one symbol.
  • Double-check Virus Software for Servers and Desktops. Even if you think you have virus software installed on servers and desktops, double check it. Make sure the software is still working and that you are running on the latest update.
  • Keep Browsers and Operating Systems Updated. The vendor should provide security patches to install on browsers and systems.
  • Backup, Backup, Backup. Before CryptoWall hits you, make sure all of your files are safe in a backup hard drive. Dryer says, “Part of the process of verifying that backups are working is to perform a test restore.” If the worst happens and CryptoWall finds you, you will not have to pay the ransom since all your files are safe in another location. Dryer also advises, “We are also recommending cloud based backup solutions for mobile users that store data on their local laptops.”

Business Travelers Feel The Heat From Hotel Computer Virus

The next time you travel, be extra cautious when logging into the hotel Wi-Fi. That’s because hackers have developed a new virus aimed at business travelers in an attempt to gain access to corporate information. The virus, called “Dark Hotel,” tricks travelers into thinking they need to download updates to their computer in order to access the hotel Wi-Fi system. If the hotel guest downloads the virus, hackers are able to install a key-logging tool which can allow hackers to access passwords and other private information within an organization.

Hotel Wi-Fi Virus

According to CNBC, the most targeted business travelers by “Dark Hotel” are CEOs and high-level executives with access to a lot of information. Hackers are able to utilize Wi-Fi to determine how important certain business travelers are and are able to use their information to decide which travelers they want to target more readily. Hackers want as much information as possible, and once they have accessed the information they want, they remove their tools from the hotel Wi-Fi and disappear into the dark once more.

The hotel-related attacks have been generally located in Asia and Russia, but are starting to spread elsewhere. One of the main concerns, according to CNBC, is if the cyber attacks are backed by state entities. It has yet to be confirmed whether governments are actively supporting the “Dark Hotel” virus, it has not been eliminated from thought, either. CNBC notes many hotel chains in Asia and Russia have become targets for the virus, and it is not centralized among one hotel chain in one specific area.

As with any other computer virus, the best way to avoid it is to surf smart. Don’t just randomly download software unless you can guarantee it is necessary and from a legitimate source. If you are traveling and are unsure about a download to utilize a hotel’s Wi-Fi services, go to the front desk and ask if it’s really necessary. If you’re still unsure, try accessing the Wi-Fi without the download, and if you’re able to use it, just close the software download and don’t click on it again. Log into Wi-Fi systems the same way you travel: with light caution, but not full of fear.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015: The Upgrade Every Office Needs On Its 2015 Holiday Wish List

The release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 is just around the corner. Its slated for a December release and is set to enhance the way you currently utilize your CRM tools. You might have also heard the new CRM release referred to as “Vega,” but it is the exact same product. We are really excited about the new Dynamics CRM release and want to share some of the incredible features with you.
Microsoft Set To Release Dynamics CRM 2015
The new version of Dynamics CRM will update online and on-premises versions, CRM for Outlook, tablets and phones, and Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. If you’re an online customer, you can schedule the specific date for your Dynamics CRM update. However, the CRM administrator will need to approve the update before it can actually happen. If you’re still operating on a version prior to the Spring 2014 release, you’ll also receive features from that update in addition to the 2015 one. If you’re an on-premises customer, you will be able to get your update after the actual product is released in December. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 has great additions to the current CRM tools you already use:

  • Product family creation: You’ll be able to group products together and give recommendations to customers on related products. This will allow you better cross-selling opportunities.
  • Mobile platform improvements: You’ll be able to create your own dashboards and analytics, personalize home pages and navigate by hierarchy. There will also be increased support for times when tablet apps are disconnected.
  • Sales process upgrades: You’ll now be able to guide your sellers to the outcomes you want to have with better branching logic and sales processes. This means you’ll have a more impactful process through automation and enforcement of business rules on any platform.
  • Outlook improvements: With the update, you’ll be able to set up CRM for Outlook easily with a redesigned Configuration Wizard. The update will allow you to sync assigned tasked and appointment attachments. Administrators will be able to control synchronization between pairs of fields. This will allow you to be more confident about where your data is coming from and how it’s being shared.

We’ve just highlighted a few of the many upgrades with the new version of Microsoft Dynamics. If you’d like to read more about the updates, technical changes and keep up on the release date for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015, please click here.

How To Avoid Cyber Monday Scams And Keep Your Computer And Mobile Devices Secure For The Holiday Season

Cyber Monday is quickly creeping up on shoppers who want to grab the best deals possible from the favorite online retailers. But it also means cyber criminals are busy putting together their holiday lists of websites and shoppers to target.

Cyber Criminals On Cyber MondayPhoto credit: Vanderelbe.de / Foter / CC BY-SA

Each year, more and more shoppers fall prey to “unbeatable deals” that are actually false links for hackers to gain access to your information to do holiday shopping of their own. Pop ups looking like they are from popular online retailers like Amazon can show up promoting great deals on TVs and DVDs, but if they aren’t directly associated with the Amazon website, it’s likely the pop up has been designed by a hacker and is going to take you somewhere you don’t want to go. Luckily, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane provided some great tips to The Philadelphia Inquirer to help you avoid becoming prey to criminals on Cyber Monday:

  • Shop on websites you know are legitimate. Don’t go off grid for that deal that sounds too good to be true. In all likelihood it is too good to be true, and you’re putting your computer at high risk.
  • Review site privacy policies. Double check to make sure your information isn’t going to be shared and that you are shopping on a secure site. Secure sites will most of the time tell you they are secure during the checkout process.
  • Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, you can dispute credit card charges if they are not charges you have approved or made yourself.
  • Keep track of your order date and guaranteed delivery date. Federal law also mandates orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped on the date promised, or if no date is given, by 30 days after the order is placed.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank statements. If you made a purchase you are concerned about or think your information has been compromised, your statements are the first place you’ll notice something off kilter.
  • Social media scams. Hackers love to use fake Facebook and Twitter profiles in an attempt to trick you into clicking on their links to shop what you think is a legitimate site.
  • Don’t overestimate the safety of your mobile devices. While you hear most cyber scams targeting computers, your phone or tablet is no safer than your computer when it comes to sharing information or getting your information stolen.

By no means should you avoid shopping online altogether. As with anything else computer related, the best tip we can offer is to be smart and vigilant. Don’t just click on any and every link to see where you can shop the cheapest. You want to stick to giving gifts to your family and friends and not be paying for gifts for other families you don’t even know.

MDL Technology Enhances City Of Pleasant Valley’s IT Productivity & Decreases Downtime

Summary

The City of Pleasant Valley, Mo. retained MDL Technology, LLC, a Kansas City IT and managed services company, to provide managed network services for all computers and servers in all city departments and 24/7 support for the City, Court, Fire and Police departments. Georgia Fox, City Clerk, said, “Our previous provider was not responsive in a timely manner, and we had issues with our website. Since retaining MDL, our downtime has been minimal and we’ve received quick support when problems arise.”

City of Pleasant Valley Missouri

Why Pleasant Valley Retained MDL

Prior to working with MDL Technology, Pleasant Valley had a lot of problems keeping its website up and running. When they would contact tech support with their previous managed service company, they would not get a quick response.

Pleasant Valley’s previous provider typically worked after hours to maintain computer systems, which didn’t allow employees the ability to interact with IT support to understand and resolve issues. It could also be days at a time before IT would return support calls when problems would arise.

How MDL Assists Pleasant Valley

Fox said the biggest thing MDL helps the City with is being more efficient. Fox added, “Their staff helped us with a computer and server upgrade which went well and caused very little down time for us and our website.”

Mark Dryer, CEO of MDL, said, “MDL has a guaranteed one hour response time, but in fact typically returns calls or emails within 15 minutes.” This response time further helps the city to remain efficient and not have downtime when it comes to support systems.

Dryer noted how MDL further assists each department in Pleasant Valley individually:

  • Fire Department
    • Help maintain firehouse software
    • Implemented reliable cloud-based backup system that backs up data nightly
    • Prior to support from MDL, the Fire Department lacked a reliable offsite backup of their data.
  • Police Department
    • Provide 24/7 computer support to dispatchers, officers and detectives, who require immediate access to critical data during traffic stops and investigations
    • Assist in maintaining full-time VPN connection to the City of Kansas City, Mo. and the State of Missouri. The connection is used to gain access to criminal justice information
    • Assisted in setting up new digital fingerprint system
  • City Courts
    • Make sure computer systems are functioning properly during court hearings and procedures
    • Maintain servers, computers and communications through wireless networks
  • City Hall
    • Ensure accounting systems are functioning properly
    • Assist with maintenance of city’s website
    • Maintain recording systems and ensure functionality during board meetings
    • Assist city employees with annual city IT budgets

Success With MDL

Fox said the transition from to MDL Technology from the previous provider was smooth and caused little downtime. She’s already happy with MDL’s help with software the city already has. Fox said, “MDL has helped us through issues with other provider’s software. This saves us money in some cases where software providers charge on a per call basis for tech support.”

When asked if she would recommend MDL Technology to other businesses and government offices for managed services, Fox gave a resounding yes and said, “MDL has provided us with excellent service!”

Recommendations For Government Entities Like Pleasant Valley

Dryer said MDL’s experience in dealing with the various IT requirements and issues of the different departments of a local government helped them be successful with Pleasant Valley and can help with any group of government offices. Dryer said, “We understand the budget constraints of local governments and are able to maximize the ROI of each dollar spent. We come up with long term technology plans that can reduce the long term costs through utilization of some of the most current technologies.”

About MDL

MDL Technology is a Kansas City IT company that specializes in worry-free computer support by providing solutions for around-the-clock network monitoring, hosting, data recovery and off-site backup security. For 11 years, MDL has partnered with companies to design, build and install network systems to fit the needs of its organization. Associates are trained by MDL’s teams to maintain a smoothly running network for their companies.

About The City of Pleasant Valley, Mo.

Pleasant Valley is a community in Clay County, Missouri and is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. It is a city of 2,961 residents and is approximately one square mile in area. City offices are currently located at 6500 Royal Street. The current Police Department consists of a Chief of Police, nine full-time and eight part-time officers, a communications section manager and eight communications officers. The Fire Department consists of a Chief and 40 part-time and volunteer firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.

Read more about Pleasant Valley, Mo. here.

MDL Technology, LLC

MDL Technology Social CRM Tools

According to blogger Michael Fauscette, Social CRM is the tools and processes that encourage better, more effective customer interaction and leverage the collective intelligence of the broader customer community with the intended result of increasing intimacy between an organization and its prospects and customers. Fauscette continues by saying the goal of Social CRM is to make the relationship with the customer more intimate and tied to the company by building a public ecosystem to better understand what they want and how they interact with the various company touchpoints like sales, customer service and more.

Fauscette admits his definition of Social CRM is quite wordy, but he does break it down into more accessible concepts:

Utilize crowdsourcing and listen to customer ideas. Don’t just assume you know what your customers want. Let them have a voice and share things with you to tell you how your interactions can be better.

 

  • Analyze what your customers tell you. Are there common themes where your Social CRM tools and techniques are failing? Or are there just one off cases of disgruntled customers to be handled in individual scenarios?

 

  • Actually use what your customers are telling you. Don’t give customers lip service and then expect them to take you seriously. Actually implement customer ideas and let them know they have helped you develop a better Social CRM game plan.

 

  • Empower your customers. Make them each feel special and like they are actually being treated intimately and one-on-one. Don’t simply lump customers with common complaints together and handle them as one.

More often than not, customers you engage with through Social CRM practices just want to be heard. And that’s what Social CRM is all about. It’s about adding the customer into the mix and allowing them to have a voice. You’ve probably heard someone say, “it’s not all about you,” which in most cases is true, but when it comes to Social CRM, that’s what it comes down to: being all about you [the customer].

Social CRM Tools

Social CRM Tools

MDL Technology can provide the Social CRM tools you need to interact with your customers in the best ways possible. We can help your team respond to customer concerns and leverage those concerns into successes for your Social CRM strategy. We can help you ensure your customers feel like they are part of the process and not just an afterthought.