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Feb
17
How Businesses Benefit from Big Data Analytics
Posted by S2C Staff on 17 February 2020 03:13 PM

Big Data AnalyticsPreviously we looked at the key technology trends in accounting to watch out for in 2020. Among the trends are big data and data analytics, which can have a great impact on businesses.

Business data has existed for a long time, whether in filing cabinets, ledgers or storage devices. But today businesses both large and small have to deal with huge collections of data every day. This has seen the rise of data analytics trends that include deep learning, machine learning and dark data.

Unfortunately, small and medium businesses (SMB) have to struggle with making a decision on implementing data analytics. This is largely because many SMB owners assume that data analytics is strictly for large organizations – especially because of the expectation that it’s expensive and complicated.

Luckily, reduced tech costs have made it possible for small and medium businesses to afford technologies that were previously only cost-effective for big organizations.

Is the Cost and Effort Worth It? 

Before the advent of big data analytics, customer data was collected using surveys or customer feedback forms. Analyzing such data is tedious, and it’s possible to miss out on important trends.

Also, imagine running marketing campaigns and having no way to track how effective the campaign was. If you do this in your business, you have no way to know who saw the ad or even the response.

Enter big data and analytics and the whole marketing landscape changes. With big data, a business has clear insights about customer behavior. This is possible because we now can track visitors to a website, the time a visitor spends on a given page, action taken such as making an order, the location the purchase came from and so many other details that help a business refine its marketing strategy.

Is it costly? You’d be surprised to know that you don’t need to purchase expensive software. You’ll find, for instance, that you can take advantage of data collected by the QuickBooks accounting software. And depending on your business needs, the software can be connected with low-cost platforms that enable more detailed analytics.

You also can get free platforms such as Google Analytics to analyze website traffic and gain insight into consumer behavior. Whatever your company size, you can take advantage of big data insights to better understand your customers.

Here are some reasons why it’s worth it:

  • Analytics help to launch effective marketing campaigns that result in better ROI.
  • Analytics help to track the customers in their sales cycle.
  • It’s possible to track the outcome of business decisions, such as promotional strategies.
  • You get to know which suppliers or other business partners to work with.
  • Provides insights on customers who are likely to pay on time based on historical payment data.
  • Improves customer service. This is possible when customer conversations from different channels are analyzed.
  • It helps to improve the product or service offered by a business.  
  • Identifies trends and patterns. For instance, you can track frequently asked questions and then create a page to handle the common questions.
  • Helps create a strong bond with customers. By understanding customer interests, a business will then engage with their customers by creating personalized offers and campaigns.
  • On the tech side, big data is being used to detect and prevent fraud.  
  • Analytics identify problematic areas of a business, and this makes it easier to come up with a response quickly before the problem escalates.

Become Smarter

When used correctly, data analytics can help a business gain a competitive advantage over other businesses. At the same time, it will also boost your business conversions and revenue. But collecting just any piece of data can be overwhelming and even a waste of time. The secret is in collecting data that will help you reduce business costs and increase your revenue.


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Jan
14
Key Technology Trends in Accounting to Watch Out For in 2020
Posted by S2C Staff on 14 January 2020 03:00 PM

What's New in Technology January, 2020

Key Technology Trends in Accounting to Watch Out For in 2020

Accounting Technology Trends in 2020Technology advances continue to reshape industries and businesses – and the accounting industry is no exception. So far, a lot of repetitive tasks are performed with the help of advanced hardware and software. Even for businesses that do not like change, many find themselves making adjustments due to a generation change in the workforce, marketing demands, regulations and client demand. In any case, technology offers strengths once a business adopts new solutions to the accounting processes.

The accounting industry has evolved so much that bookkeeping is no longer just about balancing books; professionals in this field are slowly transitioning into strategic business advisors.

Technological innovations offer inexpensive and efficient ways to run businesses and other aspects of life. Every now and then, there is news on emerging technologies.

Here are some tech trends that are expected to influence the accounting industry in the year 2020.

Cloud-Based Accounting

The internet has enabled the storage and processing of data from remote servers. Small- and medium-sized businesses can now leverage the power of the internet and access data and infrastructure without worrying about the cost of purchasing and maintaining hardware and software services on-site. The ease of accessing data anytime and anywhere helps businesses save valuable time. Such benefits will continue driving more businesses to adopting the use of cloud-based accounting systems.  

Automation

Automating repetitive tasks has helped eliminate manual data entry while saving production hours at the same time. Since technology continues to advance, the accounting industry will see more tasks become automated. This trend can be observed in the growing number of accounting software available for both small and large businesses. Artificial intelligence will also contribute to automation in the industry. This is already evident with the increased development and adoption of robotic process automation.

Social Media

In the early 2000s, social media platforms were mainly used to communicate with family and friends. Today, social media is making an impact in digital marketing. Social media platforms will continue influencing how businesses communicate with their clients.

Apart from reaching out to more clients, accounting firms can also find talent to hire from social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

Big Data and Data Analytics

With advanced data collection and processing, it’s now possible to have access to insights and predictive analysis. Although analytics is not entirely new in accounting, the availability of data analytics tools makes it more powerful. This is important for business owners as it helps to improve decision making as well as understand the overall status of a company with the click of a button.

Cryptocurrency

This digital currency has revolutionized the financial industry with millions of coins present in the market today, including Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum among others. This digital currency has taken root so much that it is now accepted as a means of payment. Cryptocurrency has been enabled by blockchain technology.

Blockchain

For businesses, blockchain technology helps maintain a unique history of all interactions with various parties, which is indisputable. Widely known accounting companies like Ernst Young and Price Waterhouse already have people working in distributed ledger laboratories. The blockchain technology will not only lower the cost of reconciling and maintaining ledgers, but it will also provide accuracy of ownership and asset history. 

Remote Working

Remote work settings are becoming common in most industries, and accounting leaders are also adapting this trend. With expectations of more advanced computerized accounting systems as well as cloud-based solutions, it will not be a surprise to have your accountant handling accounting tasks remotely.

In Conclusion

With technology largely affecting how businesses are run, it’s no longer enough for a business to stick to traditional accountancy practices.

As technology and accounting becomes more intertwined, it’s wise for businesses to stay ahead of the curve. The most important way to deal with it is to embrace the technology, learn about new technologies and most importantly, learn new skills. This will ensure that your business remains competitive as you are ready to meet customer demands for faster processes. 


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Oct
7
What is VPN and Why Do You Need It?
Posted by S2C Staff on 07 October 2019 09:12 AM

What's New in Technology

October, 2019

What is VPN and Why Do You Need It?

What is VPN and Why Do You Need It?The rise in the number of data breaches reported every other day has become a major concern – even to the ordinary internet user. As a result, we have all become aware of the need to maintain privacy while online. One of the measures promising to keep you safe on the internet is the use of a virtual private network (VPN). But before rushing to install one of the many VPNs available, it’s important to understand what a VPN is, why you need it, if it is foolproof and other ways to stay safe on the internet.

What is a VPN?

The VPN service lets you browse the internet privately by masking your IP address – the unique address identifying your device on the web. It also encrypts your internet traffic as it passes through a secure tunnel created from your device to a remote server. Your data appears to be coming from the remote server. This means that a VPN can hide your geographical location, personal data, web browsing history, spending habits and mobile phone activities.

Initially, VPNs were built for business environments to help a business operate a secure network connection. But with today’s cyber security concerns, they have become popular and more widespread.

Why Would You Need to Use a VPN?

There are numerous reasons why a person would need to enlist the services of a VPN company. Here are some situations that require the use of a VPN:

  • Since Congress cleared the way for ISPs to sell users’ browsing history without their consent, privacy is a thing of the past. This means that an internet service provider can sell your browsing data to third parties. A VPN can mask your IP address from your service provider.
  • The encryption offered by VPNs guards against digital threats, hacking, malware attacks and identify theft.
  • VPNs help keep hackers and marketers from tracking your movement online.
  • If you travel to a country where you can’t access some sites, for instance in China where Facebook is not allowed, a VPN will help you stay in touch on any of these blocked sites.
  • When using public Wi-Fi in airports or any other place that offers free Wi-Fi, a VPN comes in handy.
  • Employers who have workers going out for field work or working remotely can set up a VPN to help access company networks securely.
  • Used by whistleblowers, law enforcement agencies, investigative journalists and others who want to shield their identities or location.
  • For user with Voice over IP (VOIP) for making calls, a VPN will help prevent your phone conversations from being tracked or intercepted.
  • When you need to visit questionable websites but want to be safe. For instance, when your identity is stolen and you want to find the website selling your data.

The Bad Side of Using a VPN

Although a VPN service may sound perfect for internet security, it also has some disadvantages. Keep in mind that your internet service provider may no longer have your data, but the VPN provider now has access to it.

A VPN is not 100 percent guaranteed. The VPN provider could be disconnected or there could be a Domain Name Server (DNS) leak. Even with advanced features such as kill switch, VPN data can still leak through software, hardware or other means.

If you fail to use the right VPN, you’ll be in more problems than you are running from. Some VPNs (especially the free services) keep log files. There is no telling where your private data will end up. They could end up selling your data to third parties or supplying your information to the government.

These services also slow down your internet access speed due to the process of data encryption and tunneling network traffic to a remote server that is used to connect you to the internet.

It is not possible to know if the VPN provider commits to what they promise. The only way to find out is when things go wrong. They may promise not to keep logs, but if you fail to read the privacy policy of a VPN company, you will not know if they retain customer data.

A VPN doesn’t protect you from viruses and malware.

Other Security Measures

Since a VPN is not foolproof, it is important that you also observe other security measures to protect your privacy.

It is crucial that you practice digital privacy hygiene. In other words, when online you should limit the amount of personal information that you share. This will help minimize your digital footprint.

Investing in quality antivirus software will protect your device from malware and viruses.

Regularly check if your data has been compromised. Check for strange activity in your emails, social media accounts and even in your bank account.

Use strong passwords or other security features such as biometrics to secure your accounts.

Final Word

You may come across many different types of products and services that promise to keep you safe on the internet. The bottom line is, it’s up to you to protect yourself. A combination of several security measures is a good starting point – the use of a VPN, strong passwords and antivirus programs.


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Sep
2
The Rise of Biometrics Security and Why You Should Take Precaution
Posted by S2C Staff on 02 September 2019 11:00 AM

What's New in Technology September, 2019

The Rise of Biometrics Security and Why You Should Take Precaution

Biometric technology has been on the rise as it promises to make the authentication process more secure and convenient. Unlike passwords and key cards, biometrics are something you will always have, can’t share and can’t forget. This makes the biometric approach convenient and at the same time it has lower password management costs.

Biometrics also are said to be difficult to steal or hack; difficult, but not impossible.

Any technology can have loopholes that can be exploited, and that’s why you need to understand it well and take precautions if you decide to use this approach.

The use of biometrics is not new, but its increased presence in the public domain such as banks makes it a topic of interest.

To help us understand the need to tread carefully, let’s first have a peek at the latest biometric security technologies.

New Trends in Biometric Security

Biometric authentication is becoming popular for digital payments, logging in to banking systems and even on smartphones. New trends in biometrics security include:

  • Voice recognition: the human voice is used to create voice prints to be used for user authentication in a voice ID system. 
  • Face recognition: 3D face recognition is another new development that uses sensors to identify the shape of a person’s face. This is done by using facial characteristics such as the nose, cheeks, chin and contours of the eye sockets. 
  • Mobile biometric technology: mobile devices also have joined the bandwagon, and manufacturers are now fitting them with biometric sensors. It is also possible to attach portable biometric-sensing equipment using a USB cable.
  • Biometrics on the cloud: cloud-based solutions have been developed to speed up the identification process. Since users don’t have to spend so much on necessary applications, hardware and infrastructure, this becomes cost effective.

How Secure is the Biometric Approach?

Biometric security is increasingly being used as a preference to passwords, but how safe is this approach? Fingerprints may not be as secure as they are said to be. Consider this, some researchers were actually able to generate fake fingerprints that they called DeepMasterPrints. These fingerprints were generated using a neural network technique to create artificial fingerprints that can work as a “master key.” This goes to show how a system using fingerprints for security can be vulnerable to dictionary attacks using the created MasterPrints.  

There are many people posting their pictures online on social media. Unfortunately, once you do that your images are no longer private. This means that a face can easily be captured from the internet.

Retina scans are considered extremely reliable and accurate more than the iris scan. However, it is the least common as it’s considered to be intrusive.  

Reservations

The use of biometrics is a great development toward security concerns, but it raises privacy issues. Keep in mind that biometric information can easily be harvested – from a distance and without your knowledge. The cloud also is another reason to be concerned. Although biometrics are effective in enforcing security, the data collected has to be stored somewhere. How secure are the databases that store this information? Of course, this increases the possibilities of a breach.

Some reports made public include a potential hack for the palm vein scanner and a claim by a research team at vpnMentor about a leak of millions of fingerprints from BioStar 2, an app built by Suprema. Whether this and other similar claims are true or not, it just goes to show how vulnerable biometrics data can be. It also won’t be long before marketplaces emerge on the Dark Web for actual biometrics.

Remember that unlike passwords, you can’t change your biometrics. If someone had access to a biometrics database, then they would have access to sensitive data.

Another reservation involves the right to privacy for your biometrics. It’s possible for your biometrics to be collected without your informed consent. For instance, in stores where face recognition is used to identify potential shoplifters or to survey shoppers’ behavior. Recently, the FaceApp Challenge created by a Russian company had its share of controversy. Although said to be purely for entertainment, it also means that no one has control over what the company collecting the data will do with it. 

Businesses face the potential risk of getting sued by their own employees. This is because there are some locations that already have a biometric privacy act law. In the United States, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) allows users to sue under this law to protect their privacy.

Stay Safe

Since cyber criminals are always working on hacking new security systems, it’s crucial that users of these systems remain cautious. One of the ways to stay safe when using biometrics is the use of multi-modal authentication, which requires input from more than one biometric device. This will help overcome some loopholes, such as the use of copied fingerprints or stolen voice and facial prints.

Luckily, with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, biometrics can be enhanced. Users can be scrutinized using their online behavior. Since people tend to be creatures of habit, a behavior-based system can develop a more complex user profile. The tracked behavior will help to tell a genuine user from a potential threat.

Since it’s difficult to know if your biometrics have been stolen, it’s best to take precautionary measures that could include:

  • Avoiding unnecessarily sharing personal information, such as the bank account numbers, date of birth or Social Security number
  • Paying close attention to your bills and financial statements
  • Watching out for unauthorized transactions by reviewing your credit card and bank statements.
  • Using other security features on your mobile device.
  • Avoiding using public WiFi. It is also important that you keep your sharing and firewall settings updated.

In Conclusion

The biometric authentication is not a silver bullet. Technically, biometrics are not secret and have similar cyber risks as passwords, only they are exploited differently. Whenever a new technology becomes pervasive, there are individuals who will definitely try to figure it out –especially because these technologies are used to access financial services and private data.

In the digital world, we cannot assume complete security. The best you can do is work with known credible vendors and stick with providers who comply with both federal and state data privacy regulations. Lastly, use technologies that are tried and tested.


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Aug
3

What's New in Technology

August, 2019

How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are Necessary

How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are NecessaryAccountants are no strangers to inventions. Known inventions such as the abacus, calculators and computers have helped complete tasks quickly and in less time. However, today’s technology is complex and is reshaping the world of accounting. Such new technologies include big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, block chain, payment systems, mobility and social collaboration, among many others.

How Technology has Changed the Accounting Industry

Accounting, a traditional field, has not been immune to technological innovations. Initially, an accounting department would rely on IT leaders to make its technology decisions. Today, CFOs are increasingly taking part in decision making when it comes to the implementation of new technologies.

These changes are due to technological innovations in the accounting industry that have contributed to improved productivity and operational efficiency. The replacement of manual accounting with computerized tools has contributed greatly to reducing errors, resulting in more accurate reporting.  

The accounting industry has reaped many benefits from adopting technology. Such benefits include virtual storage of documents, compliant online tools for accounting and taxes, use of communication platforms that ease connecting with customers, forensic analysis tools, and filing financial details with authorities.

Technology such as cloud computing means that a CPA can collaborate with clients in real time. This means that you are able to provide your clients with frequent business insights for performance monitoring and decision making.

All this makes it crucial for any company or professional to adopt these new technologies to remain competitive in today’s digital world.

Impact on the Accounting Profession

There is mixed opinion regarding how technology impacts the accounting industry. With the new technologies adopted in accounting, the accountant and finance professionals are expected to master new skills beyond numbers.

As accounting technology continues to evolve, there are considerations about necessary skill sets for new hires. Recruiters also are searching for candidates with extra skills relating to emerging technological trends.

Obviously, some roles such as manual entry and calculations have become obsolete. But technology has introduced new roles that require that accountants to approach the business environment differently so as to drive value. This calls for a mindset ready to embrace the constant state of change.  

Why It's Necessary to Have IT Skills

Today it’s not enough just to have basic training for software programs used in accounting. CPAs are now becoming part of strategic planning teams. Their new roles include developing new processes, giving advice and even performing future forecasts. You may find an accountant working with a system programmer when developing a digital financial process.

This means that apart from learning accounting practices, an accountant should know how to integrate accounting processes with IT programs. Systems used today require technical skills. Such systems include strategic software applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems. Other technologies such as cloud computing have taken accounting to new levels that require advanced skills.

We also can't ignore the fact that technology has also brought with it new challenges. Data security is one such challenge. This requires that accountants also be equipped with knowledge on protecting data and computer systems against cyber threats.

Technology Skills for Accountants

As we have seen, the accounting industry has been impacted by technology. For an accountant to remain relevant in the accounting industry, here are some necessary technology skills:

  • Knowledge of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems
  • Experience in cloud computing
  • Data analytics skills
  • Knowledge of business intelligence software
  • Understanding how processes work
  • Advanced Excel ability

What the Future Holds

Initially, it was thought that the advent of accounting tools would make the accountant redundant. But these tools have helped professional accountants become financial advisors, business counselors and strategists. Hence, the growing automation of accounting tasks presents a great opportunity for professional accountants willing to take up new skills.

It is critical that accountants understand the importance of investing in themselves. This will require learning skills beyond number crunching and preparing tax returns.

It’s also important to note that apart from technological skills, the new work environment will require additional skills such as customer service, business insight, flexibility, communication skills, regulatory knowledge and leadership abilities.


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