Mac users of Microsoft Office 2011 may be in for a nasty shock after upgrading to High Sierra, as Microsoft has announced that it’s no longer supported.  Even Office 2016 users may encounter difficulties. 

Mac OS

It may be no surprise that when you Google “MS Office for Mac”, that the majority of the results returned are alternatives to the popular office productivity software.  The Mac to MS Office relationship has been rocky at best, which started decades ago with the competitive relationship between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the 1970s.  While the early years may have been all about how Microsoft could support Apple’s vision, the current reality is quite different. While Apple now has the power to encourage users to move in different directions for their office productivity software, the prevalence of Microsoft Office and Excel dictates that many Mac users still require access to a version of the platforms for their OS.  This makes it particularly challenging when Microsoft decides to deprecate support for a particular version, as they are with Office 2011 for Mac for users who update to the new Mac OS 10.13, codenamed High Sierra.

Preparing Your Mac for an OS Upgrade

The recently-released High Sierra OS has been in beta testing for several months now, giving users plenty of time to preview the new functionality.  The majority of Macs that are newer than 2010 are fully compatible with the new OS, making the free upgrade very attractive to users. However, there are still a few steps you’ll want to take before you make the jump, including:

  • Upgrade your apps to ensure compatibility with the new OS
  • Check your available space, as you will need several GB’s of free space for the download
  • Create a clean backup of your entire system “just in case”

If you’re already test-driving a beta version of High Sierra in a partition or otherwise, downloading the update is a snap.  If there are files behind your partition, you’ll want to transition those back to your core before removing the partition, too.  Many users prefer to run a clean version of a new operating system and install from scratch, while others simply run the upgrade and hope for the best.  The popularity of cloud-based software and storage solutions makes this decision easier than ever — a clean install clears out any lingering after effects from previous software.

Staying Supported

If you’ve purchased a perpetual license version of Microsoft Office for Mac in the past, it may be time for an upgrade.  While these perpetual licenses are technically yours to use “forever”, there is a functional lifespan for each release.  With the Microsoft team dropping support for Office 2011, you do have several options for office productivity software such as upgrading to Office 365, moving to a new perpetual license version of Office 2016 or migrating to a new productivity platform completely.  Making a shift can be a jarring transition, as users get used to keyboard shortcuts and the ability to collaborate with other Office users.  Not only is Microsoft ending support for Office 2011 for Mac, the new macOS High Sierra will not support 32-bit apps like Office 2011 “without compromises”, as their developers say.  Taken together, these two facts mean it could be nearly impossible to run High Sierra with Office 2011 without significant problems — if it works at all.  While neither set of developers are saying that Office 2011 for Mac and High Sierra are completely incompatible, they are stating that users are on their own and completely unsupported if they choose to go in this direction.

Available Options

While perhaps the simplest option for Office for Mac aficionados is to delay upgrading their OS to High Sierra, this is a short-term solution at best.  Anytime you avoid updates you’re opening your systems up to the potential for security vulnerabilities such as malware and ransomware.  If you do wish to continue using both your Mac and Microsoft Office, the upgrade options are relatively straightforward.  You can purchase a single-Mac perpetual license of Office 2016 for Mac for a reasonable one-time price, which will get you back up and running.  However, there are challenges with this setup as well, as the upcoming Office 2019 will be rolling out new functionality and will require you to make an upgrade again in less than 18 months.  Alternatively, you could begin a subscription with Office 365, which provides you with expanded access to productivity tools and even covers a tablet, phone and other devices for each individual subscription.  The low monthly rate for the cloud-based software may be attractive for many users and businesses.  Finally, you could take a different route entirely and decide to transfer to Apple’s iWork suite, Google Docs or Office Online — the completely free (but feature light) version of the most popular Office platforms.

Determining which version is right for your business needs can be challenging, so let the professionals at Symtec work with your team to define the right solution.  Contact us today at (800) 489-1706 or via email to sales@symtec.com for your free initial consultation.

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Whether you believe that more screen space equals higher productivity or simply more room for distraction, the dual monitor discussion isn’t going away anytime soon.  

Multiple Monitors

Walking into an IT department in most offices may make you feel as though you’re in some futuristic movie:  with multiple screens shifted at all angles, all with variations of code scrolling across them.  While this isn’t unexpected from a technology team, how can you evaluate whether or not multiple monitors are helpful for your business users?  When trying to determine whether they’re a productivity booster or simply offering your business users more virtual real estate to play on social media, you’ll want to consider a variety of factors such as available desk space, job requirements and yes — the cost.

Potential Distractions

Humans do many things well, but not necessarily many things at the same time.  The potential distractions available when you have multiple monitors is exponential, as you’re offering workers that much more space to open additional windows into their tasks.  Multitasking has been shown to reduce job satisfaction, impair cognitive function and distracts us, as well as dividing our attention and sabotaging our performance.  Multitasking is actually a misnomer, as essentially what’s happening is that your brain is hopping back and forth from task to task very rapidly, which can damage our ability to think deeply and creatively in the long term.  What has been considered a boon on a resume in the past (“excellent multi-tasker”) might well become a detriment as businesses look for individuals who can dig deep, focus and solve tough business challenges.

Space Requirements

When you’re considering adding a second monitor to any desktop setup, there are two space requirements you have to keep in mind.  The physical space required on the desk and whether the user will still have enough room to balance a coffee cup, notepad and pen and the digital requirements of having enough system resources to keep things running efficiently and latency-free.  The physical desk space may not seem like much of a challenge until you attempt to fit two large monitors on a desk and see how far away from your user will need to sit to view them effectively and without eye strain.  Creating a physical setup that helps maximize efficiency is particularly important in call center environments or when there are significant requirements for contract review or other paperwork, for instance.  Ensuring that you have covered any additional video card requirements and ensuring that you have a swift enough processor will keep programs opening, closing and moving swiftly as well.

Cost Implications

While monitors have come down a great deal in cost in recent years, adding a second or even a third monitor can cause some unexpected expenses.  For instance, while many computers will support up to two monitors, adding a third monitor often requires a special video card in order to get everything properly connected.  The cost of two monitors is generally higher than a single widescreen monitor, but this setup can be more effective than a single widescreen monitor simply because the separation between the monitors often allows the mind to separate work functions more effectively.  If you’re using a laptop, having an additional monitor may be a bit confusing as you’re often looking at two differently-sized monitors, which can be incredibly distracting.  When you purchase dual monitors, it’s best to get exactly the same brand and style so the screens line up effectively.  A large organization can be facing a massive cost impact to add second monitors at every workstation, and even small businesses will feel the pinch of the additional cost — which may or may not be offset by the productivity gains.

Big Boost in Productivity

Anyone who has used a setup with multiple monitors can tell you that having the additional space available is highly beneficial, especially for jobs such as programmers, designers, social media gurus and anyone working with video.  Using a single monitor setup would be difficult if not impossible, due to the requirement of switching back and forth between various tasks, software, and workspaces on a regular basis.  Some experts believe that productivity is increased by more than 40% when using two monitors, while other studies have shown that errors are reduced as well as improvements found in the level of employee stress.  This isn’t difficult to believe when you consider the challenges associated with flipping back and forth between programs in order to transfer information between software packages.  Fewer clicks can equal a faster workflow, especially important in today’s world of rapid-fire communication. Many organizations have implemented a hybrid model, where some teams utilize two or more monitors based on business needs, while other employees work with a single monitor.

If you’re considering dual monitors to boost productivity or you are too concerned about distractions to take the plunge, our technology professionals can help you work through the various scenarios to determine what will work most effectively for your organization.

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Wondering what the HITRUST/AMA workshop partnership means for your business?  Here’s a brief primer on the new workshops being rolled out, and what you can do to increase cybersecurity.  

HITRUST Cyber Security

Cyber risk is everywhere.  While we all know it’s real, it’s hard to conceptualize in real-world terms.  Instead, we remember that one time that Target got hacked.  Or we imagine some sort of cartoon supervillain with a mask and cape, and a black uniform covered in green 1’s and 0’s.

Okay, so that’s a little extreme.  It is true, however, that many people are so overwhelmed by the nebulous idea of cybercrime that they aren’t really sure what to do about it.  That’s where we come in, with a stated mission of providing insurance, retirement and investment organizations with cutting-edge, trustworthy and secure software.  Here at Symtec we take the utmost caution to ensure our clients’ information is safe, and that the vital information they safeguard for others – health and financial documents – is always secure.

Naturally, when we heard that the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) was partnering with the American Medical Association (AMA) to provide physicians and their staff with information risk management training, we just had to tune in.  We’re guessing, if you’re in a profession that exposes you to sensitive client information, you’re pretty curious too.

So just what exactly is going on with this partnership, and what can we learn from it?

The HITRUST/AMA Cyber Risk Management Education Partnership

If you started to get a little drowsy while reading the words “cyber risk management education partnership,” that’s okay.  You’re only human, and the fundamentals of managing risk in our increasingly digital world are pretty nebulous.

HITRUST and the AMA recognize that too few businesses – even larger ones – have adequate cyber protection and risk management plans in place, often because the requirements are unclear and companies have little to no budget dedicated to these endeavors.  Even when they do, it’s not always obvious how to proceed with a plan that will address not only short-term risks but longer-term issues as they develop.

In response, the two organizations are teaming up to provide a series of workshops around the country.  The first and most important point to understand is that in the last few years, cyber attackers have set their sights increasingly on the healthcare industry.  While it might seem counterintuitive to steal healthcare information – is Grandpa Jim’s asthma record really worth hacking into a system for? – there actually exist compelling reasons for hackers to do so.

Much of the data that exists in electronic health records (EHRs) can be monetized, including social security numbers, financial information, and insurance policy data.  The results?  Identity theft, false insurance claims and in some cases, severe monetary consequences.  The motivation to hack investment accounts is even more obvious, with many of the same results.  (In a phrase: It’s not good.)

Cleanliness Is Next to … Financial Security?

They say cleanliness is next to godliness, but HITRUST and the AMA are taking a slightly different tack:  Cleanliness is next to fiscal safety.  As a healthcare or financial institution in Utah, there is much you can do to ensure impeccable “cyber hygiene.”  The workshop teaches actionable steps to take, such as:

  • How to perform a cyber risk assessment
  • How to assess HIPAA protocols to ensure you stay in compliance when it comes to safeguarding medical information
  • The basics of good cyber hygiene, including daily risk management routines, safe online behaviors, and periodic risk assessments
  • How to implement effective cyber risk management strategies on a budget
  • Case studies from a variety of medical practices

One of the main purposes of the workshop is to address the options for smaller businesses, which don’t have the major risk management departments larger organizations can afford.  Even without the larger budgets and staffing, however, smaller practices can do a lot to mitigate risk. If you’re a larger business, never fear:  You can learn plenty from this workshop as well.  Whether or not you go, speaking with an administration software provider can help you learn even more.

How Can You Implement Principles of Good Cyber Hygiene in Your Business?

So how can you meaningfully address this risk when receiving managed IT services in Utah? Your approach must encompass more than information technology solutions; you must also take care to incorporate the highest level of financial and medical data security.

What you need are meaningful ways to address this risk that don’t break the bank.  Here’s where we once again look to the HITRUST/AMA partnership for guidance on how to move forward with a safe, repeatable and flexible cyber hygiene plan that will keep your clients’ information safe and your business in good standing.

First and foremost, you do have the option of attending the workshops.  The first American Medical Association Cyber Clinic, hosted by Children’s Health will be held in Dallas, with workshops to follow in at least 50 cities across the nation over the following year.  If you don’t want to wait for the workshops to roll out in your area, you can book a ticket to the event now.

Whether or not you opt to participate, it’s a very good idea to get in touch with your managed IT provider and ask about cyber hygiene right away.  A good administration services company will have the fundamentals of cyber risk management down to a science (like we do) and have the ability to further customize your IT plan to meet your organization’s specific requirements. Moreover, they should specialize in your field – in this case, medical – to ensure they’re up-to-date on the current risks and best solutions with which to help mitigate them.

If you’re curious to learn more about how you can make your systems watertight, as well as increase the security of your EHR and general online behavior, it’s time to get in touch with a professional today.  Whether you already work with us here at Symtec (hi!) or are looking for a new provider (welcome!) we can help.  Get in touch via sales@symtec.com or (800) 489-1706 to safeguard your client data, provide for the long-term safety of your business and get the peace of mind you deserve today.

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Small to mid-size businesses around the country are considering how to maintain data security in the aftermath of one of the largest data breaches in history at Equifax.  How can you ensure that your business has critical patches covered while still staying focused on operational effectiveness?

Data Security

Recent national news regarding big data breaches in organizations such as Equifax has small business owners scrambling to understand what went wrong — and how it can be prevented at their organization. The reality is that the potential of a data breach can’t be eliminated completely from your organization, but there are plenty of ways you can minimize the threat and make plans to come back up to full speed quickly after a breach.  Possibly the worst thing that you can do is start looking around in all directions in the hopes of shoring up your defenses. See how data security can become part of your ongoing strategic technology planning so you can skip the scramble.

Small Business Impact

Small businesses are every bit as vulnerable as enterprise-scale businesses to hack or data breaches, and sometimes even more vulnerable.  The thought of having the personal and financial data of 143 million Americans stolen is enough to cause any business owner to get a bad case of the hives.  Equifax’s security was violated due to the failure to correctly install a software patch, something that many small business owners can relate to as their internal IT departments are increasingly stretched in a variety of different directions.  Installing patches and keeping software up-to-date is one of the first lines of defense for organizations attempting to reduce the possibility of a cybersecurity attack.

Dealing with Long-Delayed Issues

Many business owners find that there are hidden pockets of issues that could be exploited by cybercriminals, such as that one workstation that didn’t get updated from Windows XP or a proprietary platform that kept system administrators from applying a Windows patch, for instance.  These risks may not seem significant by themselves, but allowing them to continue simply compounds the issues facing security professionals.  Small businesses rarely have access to the same level of technical support as a larger enterprise, leading them to lag behind in both learning and application of ever-changing security principles.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop cybercriminals from targeting small businesses — a recent Verizon survey indicated that more than 60 percent of the breaches that occurred in 2016 happened in organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees.

Split Priorities

Staying focused on patching potential security breaches is challenging with IT departments in a constant state of damage control due to user needs and other ongoing, operational issues.  This split priority provides the ideal breeding ground for security problems in businesses of any size. When there are not enough staff hours available to focus on creating a truly secure infrastructure and data privacy policies — along with ongoing training for business users and technology teams alike — businesses can find themselves in trouble.  When IT teams shift their focus to security for the near term, they are often able to catch up on critical patches but will take heat from internal business units and leaders who feel that the technology team isn’t pushing forward critical business initiatives.  It’s literally a lose-lose situation for understaffed mid-size business technology teams.

Dangerous Endpoints

Nearly everything today is an endpoint for your network:  cell phones, laptops, tablets and WiFi hotspots are all crucial parts of your network as well as being at risk of infiltration by nefarious parties.  While security concerns around these items are nothing new, the complexity of ensuring that you grant appropriate access to individual devices is growing as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) becomes a more widely accepted practice.  Endpoint security solutions continue to morph and grow, with a great deal of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding best practices.  Any smartphone that can attach to your corporate network is essentially an endpoint, and must be secured — and that is true for VPN access from unsecured devices as well.  The true danger of endpoints is not necessarily the technology; instead, the problem often lies in the lack of training, policies, and procedures being followed by business users.  Simple antivirus and anti-malware protection are no longer enough.

Ongoing Training

Training around endpoints isn’t the only required training for business users.  Every employee in the organization needs to be explicitly shown the dangers of clicking on links in questionable emails or online and how these actions can open the organization up to malicious actions.  This proactive security training has been shown to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware being introduced by employees or contractors — which is important as phishing attacks are often launched on internal assets in an effort to get business people to click on a link or provide personal information.  Simulated phishing attacks run within the organization may not get your technical team any popular votes, but they are incredibly effective in demonstrating how truly legitimate attacks can look in today’s world.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Having a proactive training and patching plan in place are solid first steps, but a truly holistic strategy includes backup and disaster recovery plans that you can trigger instantly in the event of an attack or physical harm to your location such as fire or flood.  As Equifax has shown us, even the largest enterprise organizations can be caught off-guard and make decisions that later come into question during an emergency stop-gap situation.  Having a backup and disaster recovery plan in place can allow your business to quickly react to a negative situation, minimizing the impact to customers and employees alike.

Ready to learn more about protecting your Utah organization from cyber attacks?  Contact Symtec today at (800) 489-1706 or via email to sales@symtec.com.  Our cybersecurity team will walk through your current data security plans and see where we can make adjustments to shore up your overall security strategies.

 

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There are many advantages to using more than one monitor for your computer display. In this article, we will explore just what the advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms are, as well as some of the potential downsides, along with some research and statistics on using a multi-monitor setup in the business world.

The Use of Multi-Screen Display for Maximum Productivity

The use of a multiple monitor setup can make it easier for employees to organize, manage, and work on large tasks – especially those with significant graphical data, such as charts and graphs.

Using a double monitor setup makes it far easier and faster to use multiple programs simultaneously. Instead of having to switch between full-screen windows, additional programs can be put on the second monitor, resulting in fewer clicks and faster workflow.

This is especially useful in a fast-paced work environment like CPA firms where prompt email replies are needed. To this end, an email client can be kept open and available at all times for rapid communication.

A dual monitor arrangement can also benefit employees who use laptops or tablets for easy portability outside of the office but a larger monitor workspace in the office — especially given devices with small screens, tiny keyboards, and trackpads. Docking your laptop offers the flexibility of a fully-fledged workstation, allowing CPAs to pick up the laptop and take it to a conference room or out-of-office presentation.

Multiple Monitor Productivity Research

Increases in productivity are often touted as one of the main advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms, and the science backs it up. A 2016 study done by the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction found that dual monitors are measurably more efficient and less frustrating than a single monitor, and that a dual-monitor setting resulted in significantly less window switches and mouse clicks. Additionally, 98 percent of the participants chose a dual monitor configuration as their preference.

Know Your Hardware Requirements

Before purchasing additional monitors, it’s important to note whether your existing computers will support multiple monitors. A quick look at the back of your PCs will give you the information you need. If the video card currently in the computer has more than one video output port, or if the computer has multiple video cards installed, your system is ready for a dual monitor setup. If not, additional or upgraded video cards will need to be purchased and factored into the cost decision.

Discover all the advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms and how our IT services for accountants can get you and your company to a place of optimum IT security, performance, and productivity – and in a timely fashion as well, to help you beat the tax season rush! Call us at 1-800-489-1706 or use our secure online contact form for more information.

Research Results and Conclusions

In a study of dual monitors by the Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University, researchers looked at four configurations: single 17″ and 22″ monitors and dual 17″ and 22″ monitors. They found the larger, dual monitors to be the best combination, with 98% of the participants preferring dual monitors over single monitors and the majority of those favoring the 22″ size.

After reviewing the variables, the study concluded that multi monitors present an advantage over single monitors — not so much for effectiveness, as they found similar project success rates in single and multiple monitor applications, but for efficiency.

Additionally, participants using dual monitors reported higher satisfaction which, in turn, resulted in higher productivity.

This higher satisfaction rate could be a result of better control over the information, the ability to access it instantly, and improved organization of workflow. This can have benefits beyond increased output. Happier employees mean less turnover, more positive attitudes, and increased engagement.

Keep in mind that while a two monitor setup is good, it doesn’t necessarily follow that more displays are better for business applications. There are times when having your email open on one screen, for instance, could be distracting. Not to mention other things an employee could have open, such as YouTube, or other video streaming site while on company time.

You may need to limit multi-screen displays to executive stakeholders, until and unless “best time usage” policies are established – or, otherwise just use your best judgment with a monitor upgrade.

The bottom line is, though, if you’re looking for ways to boost productivity, setting up double monitor workstations will likely be one of them.

Six Good Reasons to Upgrade to Multiple Monitors

Bob Rankin provides six good reasons to upgrade to a multiple monitor setup. These reasons include:

  • Increased productivity by 20 to 50 percent.
  • Enough screen space provided for real multitasking, keeping two or more apps in full view simultaneously (perhaps the most relevant of the advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms in this list).
  • Cutting and pasting between documents is much easier when you don’t have to alt-tab between them and scroll up or down so much. If you create newsletters or PowerPoint presentations, you’ll identify with this.
  • Picture and video editing is a whole new experience with dual monitors. You can have all of your editing tools on one screen while you work on the project in the other. You can compare before and after views of the same work, or supersize panoramic pictures.
  • Comparing products is easier when you have dual monitors. You can show two video cameras’ specs side by side in separate browser windows, for example.
  • Video and gaming take on a whole new dimension with dual monitors.

See What Our Nationwide Tech Support for CPA Firms Can Do

Our technology consulting for CPAs routinely helps many accountants nationwide modernize their IT systems and perfect their IT management style. Hardware purchasing is one of our specialties, and we can help you decide on a multi-monitor rollout, whether you are a single accountant or CPA firm.

Our technical expertise and consultancy will help you master any IT issue, and – we’re only a phone call away. While our physical offices are based across the Western United States, our specialty is providing nationwide managed IT solutions for accounting firms just like yours.

In fact, with our managed IT services working hard 24/7 to avoid any unpredictable systems performance eventuality, you’ll never need to worry or lose a night’s sleep again regarding IT issues.

Besides being able to facilitate for you all the advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms, our services also include alert server monitoring and data backup, disaster recovery planning, and everything else accounting firms should have firmly in place now (before the tax season rush) and for the long haul.

Your Best Accounting IT Solutions Are Only a Phone Call Away!

If you’re ready for a leader among business IT service providers who can help you with the right managed IT solutions for CPA firms, then call our nationwide hotline at (800) 489-1706, or email us at sales@symtec.com, or by using our secure contact form to get started.

We’ll help you reap all the advantages of dual monitor displays for CPA firms along with other strategic moves that will help you maximize your productivity!

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A series of online accounting-specific scams popped up in recent months, prompting cybersecurity experts to take notice.

Online Accounting Scams

Late August saw a series of very similar phishing scams make a brief appearance in the inboxes of online accounting software consumers. By spoofing well-known online accounting software companies, these phishing scams have targeted a large number of consumers in an attempt to sneak banking trojans past their cyber defenses in order to steal banking data and other forms of personal information.

Customers of Xero, MYOB, Quickbooks, and Dropbox received phishing emails that contained legitimate looking invoices that would prompt the recipient to download a zip file that contains a malicious JavaScript file. This JavaScript file quietly executes the banking trojan – a version of Dridex malware – onto the user’s computer.

Once this malware is inside of your system, it will seek out banking data for the hacker behind the phishing scam to use as they please.

Online Accounting Users Should Exercise Caution

While email communication from these online accounting companies to their users isn’t unusual, it’s important to take notice of messages that seem out of the ordinary. Unexpected or suspicious-seeming messages should be handled with caution, especially when they come with strange attachments or embedded links. You should never download a zip file coming from an unknown source – a common indicator of a phishing scam – and it’s never a good idea to execute an unknown file format like JavaScript – especially since more and more malware is using this file format to distribute itself to unsuspecting victims.

You know what typical correspondence from your online accounting software provider looks like. Anything that feels wrong to you probably is, and where the security of your sensitive business information is concerned, you can never be too careful. Despite the best efforts of those in the cybersecurity industry, these types of phishing attacks continue to be effective in part because they evolve too fast for the experts to stay ahead of.

Luckily, a lot of these attacks can be stopped in their tracks as long as you and your team are paying attention.

Protect Your Online Accounting Information With Next-Gen Security

Fighting back against cybercrime in its many forms is an ongoing battle, but for every advancement the hackers make, the security industry is making advancements of their own.

Next-generation cybersecurity solutions are tipping the scales back in your business’ favor by offering anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewall software that boosts your defenses against the vulnerabilities and exploits cybercriminals take advantage of. The stronger and more capable your endpoint projections are, the lower your risk of falling victim to a data breach or serious malware infection – and with phishing scams continuing to impact businesses of all sizes, the more obstacles you can throw in a hackers path, the better.

The need to have top-notch IT security solutions in place regardless of the size of your operations hasn’t escaped our notice. Symtec offers a complete range of next-generation security solutions to protect your business from threats that are simply more than basic security measures can stand up to.

Our next-generation anti-virus solution offers your business:

  • Remediation-as-a-Service
  • Added defense against security exploits and phishing attempts
  • Encrypted restoration points for added protection against ransomware
  • Continuous monitoring of your anti-virus and firewall software

Our employee cybersecurity training services add a much-needed extra layer of protection by educating your team on phishing awareness and helping to make sure that when these types of scams start making the rounds, your staff has the know-how needed to outsmart these hackers. It’s not just your online accounting software that has the potential to be targeted in this way.

Aside from having a predictable end goal, the bulk of these phishing attempts follow the same pattern and rely on the same tricks and tactics in order to work. They also tend to rely heavily on cooperation from their targets, which means they’re counting on someone inside your business falling for their ruse and unintentionally helping them get what they want. These digital crimes have a surprisingly big human element to them, and when you take away a hacker’s ability to manipulate that human element, their threats become much less dangerous.

Having smart and capable employees complimenting your cybersecurity safeguards is as close to the perfect IT security solution as you can get. Training your employees is important, but accepting that humans are prone to making mistakes and having the right protections in place is just as important.

Cybercriminals are getting smarter, but so are the security solutions businesses have at their disposal to protect their digital assets like online accounting data, client information, and any other mission-critical data your business relies on and is responsible for.

Ready to put enterprise-grade cybersecurity to work for your business? Contact Symtec at sales@symtec.com or (800) 489-1706 today to learn more about our Next-Generation Anti-virus solution or to sign up for a complete security audit to find out exactly where your business stands.

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In the world of financial services, risk-taking comes as par for the course. But when it comes to safeguarding your brokerage firm or accounting firm’s vital data, you need to have a zero-tolerance for risk. Because of this great need, we offer compliance audit solutions to get you prepared for your next FINRA audit, which most assuredly WILL happen.

But, there’s no need to worry about it – if you have the right IT company fighting for your right to be in perpetual FINRA compliance, via the right security and data management tools, procedures, and practices.

You simply can’t take chances on downtime, compliance audits, and potential data breaches. You need a Managed Services Provider (MSP) like SymTec who specializes in IT financial security and compliance audit solutions that really work.

Know the FINRA Rules

As you may or may not know, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) regulates brokerage firms and exchange markets (and indirectly the accounting firms who also handle brokerage account data, which contains the PII, or Personally Identifiable Information of their clients).

FINRA’s primary goal is to protect investors by maintaining the fairness of U.S. capital markets, but it’s a wide net they are casting, which has raised alarm bells in the financial and accounting industries.

FINRA now uses a technology-driven model called CARDS (the Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System) to compile trading data from approximately 4,000 brokerages that serve over 110 million investor accounts.

CARDS automates and standardizes the collection of data that FINRA once accumulated manually. It uses big-data analytics to assess, in real time, where fraud occurs, and deploys tools that react automatically.

Why You Should Be Concerned About a FINRA Audit

Critics believe that this automated system has caused a hyper-regulated environment where the smallest discrepancy triggers a FINRA Audit. This is a reality that accounting and financial firms need to be extremely vigilant about, and all the more reason your organization should always be prepared with compliance audit solutions that keep your data protected on multiple levels.

FINRA fines brokerage firms and their representatives for violating rules and regulations. A data breach could result in a FINRA Audit and resulting hefty fines.

The regulatory compliance organization requires that:

  • All sensitive data be encrypted.
  • Networks are actively managed and monitored to detect and identify intrusions.
  • Firewalls and application services are configured to minimize direct connections to the Internet (including databases).

If You Experience a Data Breach or Fail a FINRA Audit, You Could Be Hit with Hefty Fines.

The focus of IT for financial brokerages should be compliance audit solutions that result in successful audits, to mitigate data breaches. Almost every computer security decision you make should be based on being audited. Cybersecurity is a HUGE and growing focus of FINRA Audits and their decision-making factors.

Last year, FINRA fined several Wells Fargo & Co businesses, RBC Capital Markets, LPL Financial, and others, for a combined $14.4 million.  They found that these financial organizations failed to secure hundreds of millions of electronic documents in a “write once, read many” format, which would have made it impossible to alter or destroy records after they were written.

FINRA said they are concerned about the security of the records because, in recent years, hackers have aggressively targeted financial brokerages’ electronic storage and databases.

They fined Wells Fargo’s securities and their prime brokerage businesses $4 million, and the bank’s brokerage and independent wealth management businesses $1.5 million. FINRA also fined RBS Securities, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Georgeson Securities Corp and PNC Capital Markets in amounts ranging from $2 million to $500,000.

Even a single lost file, or one hacked email, could result in massive financial and reputational consequences for your brokerage firm. Would you expect that your current clients and partners continue to work with you if they were unsure of the privacy of their financial data? —You can’t afford to risk this.

SEC Chair, Mary Jo White reported that cybersecurity is the biggest risk to the financial system today—It’s no wonder why—Outdated software and models for security have opened up a never-ending stream of monetary and informational theft.

You Need an MSP Who Understands Security & Compliance Management for Financial and Accounting Firms.  You simply can’t do without experts managing your technology, cybersecurity, and data security. SymTec can help with one call to our national hotline at (800) 489-1706, covering you with compliance management anywhere in America!

Know Your Compliance Audit Solutions

FINRA recommends that you “establish a cybersecurity program to identify and assess cybersecurity threats, protect assets from cyber intrusions, detect why your systems and assets have been compromised, plan for the response when a compromise occurs, and implement a plan to recover lost, stolen or unavailable assets.”

Cybercrime has cost brokerage firms millions of dollars. Cases like Wells Fargo and others that appear in the headlines each week emphasize the need for:

  • Regular risk and vulnerability assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of your current IT security technology and processes.
  • The need to train your employees, clients, vendors, and others you do business with, to recognize data breach attempts, and how to comply with FINRA’s privacy rules.
  • A comprehensive, multi-layered security solution implemented by MSP financial security experts (like SSE, Inc.) who will analyze your strengths and weaknesses, protect you from modern forms of cybercrime, and provide contingencies for when you are penetrated.

SymTec’s diligent security-compliance team can get this done for you.

Without the right defenses and compliance audit solutions, cybercriminals can easily infect your IT system with ransomware or other types of malware that compromise your data. Many MSPs only use antimalware.  But, SymTec knows that you need a multi-layered approach to complete data security.

Our compliance management solutions include:

  • All of your data backed up securely: Storing backups, both on-site and at multiple data centers, protects your firm’s data, and ensures that it’s accessible at all times.
  • On-site encryption is also key: With encryption locally, in transit and the cloud, we’ll minimize your security risks.
  • Business data restored quickly: Your brokerage firm must be available 24/7, and to limit downtime, must be able to restore data quickly after a disaster.
  • A winning backup and disaster recovery solution will help you meet compliance regulations – Ensuring that your data is available in an auditable format helps you comply with FINRA regulations.

The good news is—You don’t have to handle this alone.

SymTec is here to allay all your FINRA Audit fears!

Our Accounting Compliance Audit Solutions Will Work for You!

Download our e-book, “Are You Ready for FINRA’s Automated Regulatory Procedures – Or, A Surprise Audit?” now to get a head start on better compliance management.

And, if you’re ready for a leader among business IT service providers who can help you with the right compliance audit solutions for accounting firms, then call our nationwide hotline at (800) 489-1706, or use our secure contact form to get started – and be well-prepared for your next FINRA Audit!

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It’s a no-brainer for many who work in the accounting industry. But, for those who may need to take a fresh look at why accountants and CPA firms need data backups, and in fact require multiple revisions of backups, we wanted to post this article.

Special care must be taken with the backup of accounting files, where diligent data storage and replication is a must. Unlike typical word processing or spread sheet files, accounting files are extremely difficult to replace – something that is not fully understood by many computer technicians, but for SymTec, your accounting data backup specialists.

Often, a data backup solution that has been designed to handle general computer-user needs does not serve the special needs of an accounting application.

A common backup strategy is daily backup of all computer programs and data to an external hard drive. Should your computer stop functioning, repairs are made and information on the external hard disk is reloaded. This works fine for most word processing and spreadsheet files. A full computer backup is made each night, but as each new backup is begun, the prior day’s backup is erased.

Unfortunately, this constant erasing of the prior day’s backup is not an appropriate data backup strategy for CPA firms and their applications.

Accounting data sometimes must be restored from a backup that is several days old. Data may have become corrupt, with the corruption not being recognized right away. When the data corruption is discovered, the best action is often to restore from the last good data backup – not the most recent backup.

Another situation that occurs with accounting software is the need to reload data in preparation for an audit. Sometimes needed information has been purged. In this case the only way to retrieve the desired data may be to restore from a backup that is months or years old. It is difficult to reliably store these accounting backups of various ages if the only method of backup is a hard drive. To reliably store multiple accounting backups, removable media are needed.

One common backup method that uses removable media is the tape drive. A dozen or so tapes are rotated as daily backups are completed. The advantage of using multiple tapes is that data of various ages can be retrieved as the need arises. Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages to using tapes. One disadvantage is that it can be difficult to find the needed accounting data. Suppose you want to restore last Thursday’s accounting. To do this you’ll have to search Thursday’s tape, sifting through perhaps thousands of files, to find the accounting data you are looking for.

So, what backup method is left for accountants and bookkeepers? The answer is USB Flash Drives. These drives are relatively inexpensive and very reliable and are as easy to use as a floppy or zip drive. Plug the drive into your computer’s USB port and then choose File / Backup, or simply copy-over files and folders to it, eject, and go.

Also, if your USB ports are hard to reach from your desktop, consider purchasing a USB extension cable or USB expansion box. This will allow you to add or remove your flash memory without straining to reach beneath your desk.

Another good method of data backup for accountants is to keep your data on several different flash drives, so if you need to restore from different days, that will be possible. In other words, rotate your backups and save your work to a different flash drive each day. It’s a good idea to have between 5 and 15 flash drives in your rotation. When you go home for the day, take the flash drive you just backed-up on home with you. This way you’ll always have an offsite data backup source.

In addition to using flash memory backups, an additional way to back-up your accounting data and the rest of the data on your computer is the Internet backup for CPA firms provided by SymTec. Ours is a secure and safe way for CPA firms to backup data to the Internet. Our service is even certified as being secure enough for medical records!

Why CPA Firms Need Secure Data Backup

In May of 2017, the ransomware known as WannaCry spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in about 150 countries. Ransomware usually enters the computer of an unsuspecting user. It starts to encrypt your files and then shuts down your computer. In order to retrieve your files, you need to pay the hacker money, or a ransom, to unlock your system.

For accountants, this warning should ring loud and clear. Accountants’ computer systems often contain much private information about the people and businesses they have as clients, such as: social security numbers, work and home addresses, banking information, and in many cases, passwords to access their clients accounting software.

A Unique Challenge for CPA Firms

Accounting files are generally much more difficult to replace than normal documents and spreadsheets. Therefore, it is good practice to back up the entire day to an external hard drive. So, when it is necessary to repair or replace a computer, the information from the external hard drive is simply reloaded to the computer.

CPA firms will want to do a full data backup each night and make sure the previous day’s backup is erased. The dilemma that this presents is that sometimes accounting data might need to be restored to match a certain day or transaction. So, if the saved data has been corrupted is some way, it may have been corrupted without anyone’s knowledge. Thus, the backup, purge, and repeat method will only perpetuate the problem of the corrupted data.

Additionally, CPAs routinely need to prepare for different types of accounting audits – including compliance audits. The information needed for the audit may have been eliminated from the system. Or, it may be necessary to try and restore from a data backup that is months or even a year old. To restore from a backup that is old is often problematic.

But, we can help.

Need Data Backup Services for Your CPA Firm?

What company today doesn’t require a trusted data backup advisor like SymTec? We’re private cloud computing specialists who can help you establish cloud backup services for accountants, and provide the needed 24/7 support to go with it.

As a Microsoft Silver Cloud Services partner, this is a great option for small businesses, and especially for CPA firms with data backup needs requiring extra care. We can also set you up need solid remote desktop services that are reliable and secure for your telecommuting staff.

We have all the data backup solutions for accounting firms that won’t fail you on security, compliance, or accessibility.

By ensuring your CPA firm has multiple revisions of backups and versioning of your backups, you’ll save yourself both time and money – and we will show you how.

We’re Only a Phone Call Away – Nationwide!

If you’re ready for a leader among business IT service providers who can help you with the right data backup solutions for CPA firms, then call our nationwide hotline at (800) 489-1706, or use our secure contact form to get started!

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Are you afraid of new technology disrupting the way you do business? Don’t be. These three tech trends will completely change the way people do business by 2027—And for the better. 

Artificial Intelligence

Technology changes, but what it takes to run a successful business never does. The most capable business owners are the ones who have the foresight to adopt new ideas and to adapt to different ways of doing things.

Symtec helps our clients use advances in technology to build their companies and to help them reach their personal and business goals. We believe the best way to grow any business is keeping one eye future while working hard today.

We’re living during a time of rapid innovation when it’s close to impossible to catch your breath between each new extraordinary development. Although it’s true that tech trends come and go, we believe these three technologies are here to stay—And they just might change the way you do business five or ten years down the road.

Three Digital Trends That Will Influence Tomorrow’s Business World

  • Artificial Intelligence.

Embrace it or fear it, AI is coming—And it’s going to alter everything. Already, AI programs have the capability to beat human players in games like Go and DOTA 2. While that may seem impressive, within the next ten years, the abilities of companies to harness the power of AI is going to be something to behold.

When you hear the term. “AI”, don’t imagine Andrew Martin, the android from “The Bicentennial Man”, or even HAL 9000 from “Space Odyssey. Instead, picture a powerful computer with the capability of self-monitoring and correction. This is the type of AI that will have the ability to increase productivity by completing tasks and helping humans to make better decisions. They will do this in part by analyzing the big data most corporations have been collecting for years—And, AI will do it better and more quickly than any human ever could.

Companies will come to depend on AI to make major (and minor) business decisions from the best way to market products, to making extremely accurate predictions regarding financial markets.

  • Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented and virtual reality is just now on the cusp of what these technologies will become in the future. Virtual reality (VR) is the technology that most are familiar with–However, augmented reality (AR) holds more promise for businesses.

As you probably already know, VR creates a fully simulated environment by using computers much in the same way as the holodeck from Star Trek. AR. It lets a user see the real, physical world but creates and superimposes images on top of it. A popular example of this technology is the Pokémon GO game.

Within ten years, companies will be able to take advantage of both technologies in a variety of ways. Virtual reality is a natural for immersive training scenarios, virtual meetings, and inspections, or for walking a client through a computer-generated model of a home. Augmented reality will let consumers “see” how they’ll look in an outfit, or if a new sofa will look good in their apartment before ordering it.

However, this technology offers more important capabilities. The real power of AR won’t be completely realized until technicians can use it to guide them through a critical repair, or doctors to perform delicate, life-saving surgeries.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) will radically influence almost every aspect of the way large companies do business within the next ten years.

But what is the IoT? It’s a network of physical objects that constantly interact with one another, remotely. These connected objects can be anything from the cell phone you use to start your “smart” coffee maker, to Wifi-enabled chips to keep track of the precise, physical location of inventory items.

The IoT will also allow companies to make better and more timely decisions. This is because it can remotely monitor things. By using the IoT, companies will have access to a constant stream of up-to-date information.  This is thanks to the use of connected sensors and cameras. Whether a business uses this information to decide when to fill up a vending machine or to know when it’s time to do preventive maintenance on an engine, depends on the type of company using it.

The IoT is a marketer’s dream. Using the IoT, businesses will be able to collect enormous amounts of data about the behaviors and preferences of customers from the ways they interact with their connected devices.

The future of business is here. If you want to remain competitive in your market, you should begin to investigate which future technology is best for your particular company.  We can help. To learn more, contact the experts at Symtec at: (800) 489-1706 or sales@symtec.com

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Accounting Firms Should Prepare for Tax Season Now with Managed IT Solutions from SymTec

CPA firms need effective IT services that cover and prevent all kinds of IT systems performance issues, eventualities, and threats. And, as we enter the final yearly quarter, accountants need to get a jump on things instead of scrambling for better IT solutions during the holidays and run-up to tax season mayhem. With SymTec at the wheel, you can get the best managed IT solutions for accounting firms NOW, ahead of year-end and the tax return season rush!

Thinking ahead, CPAs and major accounting firms can call us on our nationwide hotline and get a full network review, security assessment, and backup and recovery test completed courtesy of our courteous tech support staff.

Today’s accounting firms, like all other types of businesses and industries, handle their daily tasks on a computer. But when that computer stops functioning as it should, or the server holding sensitive financial information crashes, your business comes to a complete halt.

Your entire livelihood, then, hangs in the balance.

The truth is, you simply can’t afford any disruption or downtime. The cost of what could have been prevented by having a managed services provider like SymTec looking after you far outweighs the fixed, reasonable monthly fee involved.

And, you certainly don’t want a downtime scenario happening during tax season!

Solving IT Challenges for Accounting Firms

The impact of information technology challenges on the accounting industry is significant, and highlights the need for expert guidance on how best to meet them.  This is an aspect of IT service we’ve especially dedicated ourselves to.

Although the use of technology in the accounting industry has provided a huge boost for accountants and their associates, contemporary workplace IT challenges have called for experts in IT solutions for accounting firms to oversee and manage vulnerable accounting computer networks as a matter of security and data protection assurance.

Accountants must have efficient data management and processing, and their IT networks must meet the demand – and not get caught behind when the tax season rush is on.

In earlier years of accounting IT, CPAs became leaders in the use of business information technology. Many accounting IT staff members emerged as being among the most avid practitioners of IT management. The IT systems used by accountants had their firms into possessing some of the most well-managed data processing systems anywhere.

And, they had to get ahead of these IT demands prior to tax season and year-end accounting reports must be filed.

This situation hasn’t changed.

Most tellingly, newfound 21st Century challenges in client-data safekeeping (read Sarbanes-Oxley, aka SOX compliance) has demanded more of the IT systems used by accounting firms. Much more secure data protection requirements have increased, and accountants are realizing that they once again need to excel in IT management – in fact, as much as they excel in accounting itself.

And, if you can’t rise to the task, finding a qualified IT management team like ours to do it for you is the next best thing.

Why Timing and Accuracy Matters in Accounting IT

As stated on the CPA Practice Advisor website, “Not only does the client [of accountants] need to have proficient financial processes but the accountants themselves need software programs that keep track of clients’ accounting information with improved efficiency.”

And that’s not just idle occupational advice. With all the regulatory compliance out there, ransomware hackers, and myriad other cyber threats – top-tier IT management is a must for any accounting firm.

That paints a pretty clear picture of the accountant-client relationship where IT management for accountants is concerned. Accounting firms have special software-hardware aligned needs that spell out the need for data management and transmission assurance and accuracy for both themselves and their clientele.

It’s about accuracy, privacy assurance, IT security, and sound data management when considering the challenges and issues centered on accounting firms’ IT solutions.

But, it’s also about timing. If you haven’t gotten the jump on your IT challenges, you’ll need to move quickly as we enter the final quarter of the year.

Computer technology has freed accountants from the tedium and small margins for error, especially with software like Quicken and QuickBooks, which has lifted much of the burden of being a precise number-cruncher but brought in some new demands.

As in years past, accountants now had to become as much a specialist in software proficiency as they had as accountants and bookkeepers.

Thus, many are turning to IT specialists like SymTec.

Get Superior IT Services for CPAs now! Discover how our IT services for accountants can get you and your accounting firm to a place of optimum IT security, performance, and productivity – and in a timely fashion as well, to help you beat the tax season rush! Call us at 1-800-489-1706 for more information.

The Remote Desktop Factor in Accounting IT Solutions

With an increasing number of professionals opting to work from home, CPA firms need IT solutions and support that guarantees their work-from-home employees can do their jobs safely and securely. Which is why SymTec is glad to provide Citrix private cloud solutions that allow accounting firms to offer remote desktops to their staff who work from home.

Our business IT solutions for accountants solve their networking needs, and we have just the right virtual desktop solution with Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.

Remote desktops are the answer to accounting firms’ IT solutions requirements, and truly work wonders for any professional services sector, helping speed their productivity and project management solutions.

Citrix Provides Secure Remote Access and Cuts IT Costs

Only Citrix provides a complete virtual app and desktop solution to meet all the secure networking needs of CPA firms from a single, easy-to-deploy platform. You can give your employees the freedom to work from anywhere while cutting IT costs at the same time! Deliver Windows, Linux, Web, and SaaS applications or full virtual desktops to workers on any device, anywhere.

How Citrix Cloud Helped One Global Accounting Firm Solve Its Technology Issues

Here’s a case study that any CPA firms in need of IT solutions should familiarize themselves with:

Global accounting firm Hernandez & Company used Citrix Cloud to improve security and access to information across its global organization.

Hernandez & Company had relied on a third-party cloud provider for access to Citrix XenApp. As the company grew and needed more control over applications and data for its clients and employees, it moved to Citrix Cloud.

Armando Hernandez, CEO of the Miami-based accounting firm, shared his experiences with Citrix Cloud in a session at the 2017 Citrix Synergy user conference in Orlando, in May of this year. Citrix has strongly pushed the service this year, although some IT professionals have concerns about going to the cloud.

But, are these reservations about employing private cloud solutions like remote desktop services justified?

Why You Need Our IT Support for CPA Firms

Our technology consulting for CPAs routinely helps many accountants nationwide modernize their IT systems and perfect their IT management style. We can do the same for you as well, whether you are a single accountant or CPA firm.

Our technical expertise and consultancy will help you master any IT issue, and – we’re only a phone call away. While our physical offices are based across the Western United States in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho, our specialty is providing nationwide managed IT solutions for accounting firms just like yours.

In fact, with our managed IT services working hard 24/7 to avoid any unpredictable systems performance eventuality, you’ll never need to worry or lose a night’s sleep again regarding IT issues.

Our services also include alert server monitoring and data backup, disaster recovery planning, and everything else accounting firms should have firmly in place now and for the long haul.

Before it gets busy, now is the time to start thinking about getting a full network review, security assessment, and backup and recovery test completed…BEFORE this year’s tax season rush hits your door!

Need Cloud Services for Your CPA Firm?

What company doesn’t today require a trusted cloud computing advisor like SymTec? We’re private cloud specialists who can help you establish cloud services for accountants working from home, and provide the needed 24/7 support to go with it.

As a Microsoft Silver Cloud Services partner, this is a great option for small businesses, and especially for law firms, healthcare facilities, and accounting firms with telecommuting staff who need solid remote desktop services that’s reliable and secure.

Need private cloud services for CPAs that won’t fail you when the crunch is on and your clients can’t wait?

We can help.

Accounting IT Solutions Are Only a Phone Call Away – Nationwide!

If you’re ready for a leader among business IT service providers who can help you with the right managed IT solutions for accounting firms, then call our nationwide hotline at (800) 489-1706, or use our secure contact form to get started – long before the tax season rush hits!

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