Technology should be reliable, increase productivity, un-complicate work and evolve with your business. At BCA we provide the services to make that happen! Contact us today!

Business Computer Associates, Inc provides TOTALCare IT Managed Services and is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Solutions Provider for businesses throughout South Florida.

Since 1990, we have worked with progressive companies and organizations that know the value of technology and want to get the most out of their IT Services and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) investments. BCA currently provides services to thousands of users and hundreds of small and medium sized business throughout South Florida.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – BCA is a Sage Software Gold Development Partner and a Top Sage Reseller / Select Business Partner. As one of the top Sage resellers in the Southeast, with over 300 implementations, BCA has the expertise to help you with the installation, training, and support of Sage products. BCA is your partner in achieving greater success through advanced scalable, integrated accounting and business management solutions from Dade County to Broward County.

IT Services – Business Computer Associates provides the specialized Computer Support that can help you achieve your business goals. Our flexible Network Services can allow you to focus on your business, instead of the technology you need to keep it running. As a trusted partner in technology, we are dedicated to providing a range of Computer Support, Network Services and IT Consulting in Miami, Doral, Broward, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Miami Lakes, Medley, Miami Springs, Miami Gardens, Pinecrest, Aventura, Hialeah, North Miami, Fort Lauderdale.

Local experts who can visit on-site: Miami Computer Support, Doral Backup and Data Recovery, Broward IT Consulting, Coconut Grove Cloud Computing, Miami Lakes Network Services, Medley Email and Spam Protection, Doral Computer Support, Broward Network Services, Miami IT Consulting, and Coconut Grove Vendor Management.

October 2nd, 2014

Computers and mobile devices might be high tech but they are still exposed to dust and grime and get dirty after a time. While for many a slightly unclean screen is a minor annoyance, neglecting to clean your devices could result in a decrease in longevity and possibly performance too. Once you commit to regularly cleaning your tech equipment it is important that you know how.

Cleaning desktop monitors
The monitor on your desktop is what many people spend the majority of their days in the office looking at. A clean monitor makes it easier to see your desktop more clearly. The best way to clean your monitor is to turn it off first, then take a microfiber cloth (these can be purchased at many optical stores as well as computer stores) and gently rub in a circular motion.

If there are still spots, then dip the cloth in a tiny bit of water – don’t spray the water onto the screen – and try cleaning again. It is important that you don’t press hard on the screen, as this could damage your monitor’s pixels. Also, it is not a good idea to use paper-based products like paper towel or tissue, as they will not only leave residue, but may actually scratch the monitor slightly.

Cleaning mobile screens
Mobile and other touch screens usually will get your fingerprints all over them, making it harder to see what you are looking at. The best way to clean these screens is with a microfiber cloth. For tougher to remove spots you can dip the cloth into a small amount of water and then gently wipe the screen. Don’t splash water onto it before cleaning, as water could get inside the device, which will likely void the warranty while potentially ruin internal components.

Some people suggest rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints and disinfect the device. While this will be ok for some screens, many manufacturers recommend against it because the alcohol can eat away at the protective film on some devices.

If you notice that there is a lot of dust or gunk on the edges of your screen, or even in cracks, you may need to take the device into a mobile shop for further cleaning. Do not open the device yourself as this could void the warranty.

Cleaning your keyboard
Our fingers are touching keyboards almost all day, and after a while you will notice that your keyboard gets a bit grungy, with debris and dirt even between the keys. Before you do start cleaning, be sure to unplug the keyboard, or turn it off if it is wireless. To clean the upper parts of the keys – where your fingers strike the keys – try dipping cotton swabs into rubbing alcohol and then cleaning the keys with a gentle rub.

To clean between keys you will need compressed air which can be purchased at most office supply and computer stores. Spraying in between keys should be enough to get rid of most of the dust and grit.

Cleaning your mouse
Like the keyboard, the mouse can get quite dirty too, with grime from your fingers and dust in general. The best way to clean a mouse is to first unplug it and then use cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean it. You should not need to open your mouse and most models are designed to not be opened by users.

Cleaning your laptop’s body
If your laptop’s body is dirty the most effective way to clean it is to turn it off, unplug it, and clean it with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Some online articles recommend using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or similar cleaning tool. While this does work, it acts in the same way as super fine sandpaper, so you have to be careful that you do not end up actually lightly scratching the body.

Cleaning your computer tower
Some people may want to clean their desktop computer’s tower. While this is doable by taking a slightly damp microfiber cloth and wiping down the front and side of your tower, we strongly recommend avoiding the back, and certain areas of the front, as there are ports and components that could be easily damaged.

As always, be sure to disconnect the power source and all wires before cleaning, as any water damage could ruin your computer.

Cleaning the inside of your computer
Dust will eventually get into the inside of your computer and could clog up cooling fans, causing them to stop working properly. This can potentially lead to other components overheating. The internal components of your computer are extremely fragile and need to be handled with great care. Do not take the case off of your computer as this usually voids your warranty.

For all of your computer needs our technicians are here to help.

October 2nd, 2014

With the ever growing number of security threats faced by businesses around the world, the vast majority of business owners have adopted some form of security measures in an effort to keep their organizations secure. But, how do you know the measures you’ve implemented are actually keeping your systems safe? Here are five ways you can tell if your security measures aren’t sufficient.

  1. Open wireless networks
  2. Wireless networks are one of the most common ways businesses allow their employees to get online. With one main Internet line and a couple of wireless routers, you can theoretically have the whole office online. This method of connecting does save money, but there is an inherent security risk with this and that is an unsecure network.

    Contrary to popular belief, simply plugging in a wireless router and creating a basic network won’t mean you are secure. If you don’t set a password on your routers, then anyone within range can connect. Hackers and criminal organizations are known to look for, and then target these networks. With fairly simple tools and a bit of know-how, they can start capturing data that goes in and out of the network, and even attacking the network and computers attached. In other words, unprotected networks are basically open invitations to hackers.

    Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that all wireless networks in the office are secured with passwords that are not easy to guess. For example, many Internet Service Providers who install hardware when setting up networks will often just use the company’s main phone number as the password to the router. This is too easy to work out, so changing to a password that is a lot more difficult to guess is makes sense.

  3. Email is not secure
  4. Admittedly, most companies who have implemented a new email system in the past couple of years will likely be fairly secure. This is especially true if they use cloud-based options, or well-known email systems like Exchange which offer enhanced security and scanning, while using modern email transition methods.

    The businesses at risk are those using older systems like POP, or systems that don’t encrypt passwords (what are known as ‘clear passwords’). If your system doesn’t encrypt information like this, anyone with the right tools and a bit of knowledge can capture login information and potentially compromise your systems and data.

    If you are using older email systems, it is advisable to upgrade to newer ones, especially if they don’t encrypt important information.

  5. Mobile devices that aren’t secure enough
  6. Mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, are being used more than ever before in business, and do offer a great way to stay connected and productive while out of the office. The issue with this however is that if you use your tablet or phone to connect to office systems, and don’t have security measures in place, you could find networks compromised.

    For example, if you have linked your work email to your tablet, but don’t have a screen lock enabled and you lose your device anyone who picks it up will have access to your email and potentially sensitive information.

    The same goes if you accidentally install a fake app with malware on it. You could find your systems infected. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your device is locked with at least a passcode, and you have anti-virus and malware scanners installed and running on a regular basis.

  7. Anti-virus scanners that aren’t maintained
  8. These days, it is essential that you have anti-virus, malware, and spyware scanners installed on all machines and devices in your company and that you take the time to configure these properly. It could be that scans are scheduled during business hours, or they just aren’t updated. If you install these solutions onto your systems, and they start to scan during work time, most employees will just turn the scanner off thus leaving systems wide-open.

    The same goes for not properly ensuring that these systems are updated. Updates are important for scanners, because they implement new virus databases that contain newly discovered malware and viruses, and fixes for them.

    Therefore, scanners need to be properly installed and maintained if they are going to even stand a chance of keeping systems secure.

  9. Lack of firewalls
  10. A firewall is a networking security tool that can be configured to block certain types of network access and data from leaving the network or being accessed from outside of the network. A properly configured firewall is necessary for network security, and while many modems include this, it’s often not robust enough for business use.

    What you need instead is a firewall that covers the whole network at the point where data enters and exits (usually before the routers). These are business-centric tools that should be installed by an IT partner like us, in order for them to be most effective.

How do I ensure proper business security?
The absolute best way a business can ensure that their systems and networks are secure is to work with an IT partner like us. Our managed services can help ensure that you have proper security measures in place and the systems are set up and managed properly. Tech peace of mind means the focus can be on creating a successful company instead. Contact us today to learn more.

October 2nd, 2014

The vast majority of business owners are well aware of the fact that disaster can strike at any time. As a result most do take steps to prevent this from happening or at least limiting the potential impact. However, there is always a chance that these plans don’t work. To help prevent this from happening to your business, it might be a good idea to know about the common ways continuity plans do fail.

There are many ways a business continuity or backup and recovery plan may fail, but if you know about the most common reasons then you can better plan to overcome these obstacles, which in turn will give you a better chance of surviving a disaster.

  1. Not customizing a plan

    Some companies take a plan that was developed for another organization and copy it word-for-word. While the general plan will often follow the same structure throughout most organizations, each business is different so what may work for one, won’t necessarily work for another. When a disaster happens, you could find that elements of the plan are simply not working, resulting in recovery delays or worse. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that the plan you adopt works for your organization.

    It is also essential to customize a plan to respond to different departments or roles within an organization. While an overarching business continuity plan is great, you are going to need to tailor it for each department. For example, systems recovery order may be different for marketing when compared with finance. If you keep the plan the same for all roles, you could face ineffective recovery or confusion as to what is needed, ultimately leading to a loss of business.

  2. Action plans that contain too much information

    One common failing of business continuity plans is that they contain too much information in key parts of the plan. This is largely because many companies make the mistake of keeping the whole plan in one long document or binder. While this makes finding the plan easier, it makes actually enacting it far more difficult. During a disaster, you don’t want your staff and key members flipping through pages and pages of useless information in order to figure out what they should be doing. This could actually end up exacerbating the problem.

    Instead, try keeping action plans – what needs to be done during an emergency – separate from the overall plan. This could mean keeping individual plans in a separate document in the same folder, or a separate binder that is kept beside the total plan. Doing this will speed up action time, making it far easier for people to do their jobs when they need to.

  3. Failing to properly define the scope

    The scope of the plan, or who it pertains to, is important to define. Does the plan you are developing cover the whole organization, or just specific departments? If you fail to properly define who the plan is for, and what it covers there could be confusion when it comes to actually enacting it.

    While you or some managers may have the scope defined in your heads, there is always a chance that you may not be there when disaster strikes, and therefore applying the plan effectively will likely not happen. What you need to do is properly define the scope within the plan, and ensure that all parties are aware of it.

  4. Having an unclear or unfinished plan

    Continuity plans need to be clear, easy to follow, and most of all cover as much as possible. If your plan is not laid out in a logical and clear manner, or written in simple and easy to understand language, there is an increased chance that it will fail. You should therefore ensure that all those who have access to the plan can follow it after the first read through, and find the information they need quickly and easily.

    Beyond this, you should also make sure that all instructions and strategies are complete. For example, if you have an evacuation plan, make sure it states who evacuates to where and what should be done once people reach those points. The goal here is to establish as strong a plan as possible, which will further enhance the chances that your business will recover successfully from a disaster.

  5. Failing to test, update, and test again

    Even the most comprehensive and articulate plan needs to be tested on a regular basis. Failure to do so could result in once adequate plans not offering the coverage needed today. To avoid this, you should aim to test your plan on a regular basis – at least twice a year.

    From these tests you should take note of potential bottlenecks and failures and take steps in order to patch these up. Beyond this, if you implement new systems, or change existing ones, revisit your plan and update it to cover these amendments and retest the plan again.

If you are worried about your business continuity planning, or would like help implementing a plan with supporting systems, contact us today.

October 1st, 2014

OSX_Sep29_AOver the past decade or so, Apple’s laptops have become increasingly popular with business users. From the svelte Macbook Air to the powerful MacBook Pro, you can guarantee that at least one person in your office has a Mac laptop in the house. As with all laptops you will want to configure how the device uses power in order to conserve battery life and this can be done through the Energy Saver function.

What is Energy Saver for Mac?

Energy Saver is a feature included in all versions of OS X after version 10.6 (Snow Leopard) that allows users to configure how their computer users energy – both when running on battery and when plugged in. All Apple computers have this feature, including desktop computers, but it is most useful for those with laptops, where you can configure your laptop to extend battery life.

Accessing Energy Saver preferences

There are two ways you can access the Energy Saver function on your Mac. If you are using a laptop, you should see a battery icon in the top menu bar of the screen, usually located on the right. Press this and select Open Energy Saver Preferences…

If you don’t see the battery icon at the top of your screen, or are using a desktop, then press Command + Spacebar to open Spotlight. Type Energy Saver in the bar that opens at the top of the screen and click on Energy Saver from the drop-down search results.

Looking at the Energy Saver preferences

Depending on the type of Mac you are using – laptop or desktop – you should see up to three tabs – modes of power – at the top of the screen:

  • Battery
  • Power Adapter
  • UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply)

Clicking on any of the tabs will bring up power settings related to that particular power source.

Configuring energy use while on Battery

When you click the Battery tab you should see the following options come up (on OS X Mavericks and later.)

  • Turn display off after: This is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer needs to be inactive (no buttons clicked, or user interaction) before the display is turned off. When you are operating off the battery, it is a good idea to set this lower so that the display – which draws power – will be turned off quicker, saving more power.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When ticked, the hard disks will be put to sleep when the system isn’t being used, or they are not needed.
  • Slightly dim the display while on battery power: Will lower the brightness of the screen when the power cord is unplugged in order to save more energy.
  • Enable Power Nap while on battery power: Power Nap is a feature that allows the computer to wake up every now and then in order to check for software updates. It is a good idea to turn this function off if you are worried about saving battery life, instead checking for updates when the computer is awake.

Configuring energy use while on Power Adapter

When you click on the Power Adapter tab you should see the following options:

  • Turn display off after: This is a slider which allows you to set when the display will turn off, after there has been no activity for a set period of time.
  • Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off: By default, when the display is off on your computer, it will also go to sleep, which means all non-essential components are turned off. If you are say downloading a large file, or work with an IT team who needs access to your systems at night, then this is a good option to enable.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When there is no activity, or the hard drives are not being used, your computer will shut them down, saving power.
  • Wake for Wi-Fi network access: When you switch networks, your Wi-Fi turns on, or a program requires access to the Internet, the computer will wake up.
  • Enable Power Nap while plugged into a power adapter: As above, stopping searches for software updates in the short-term to save battery life.

Configuring energy use while on UPS

When you click on the UPS tab you should see the following options:

  • Computer sleep: Is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer should wait after inactivity to put itself to sleep.
  • Display sleep: Is a slider bar that allows you to set how long the computer should wait when there is no activity to shut the display off while under UPS power.
  • Put hard disks to sleep when possible: When ticked, the hard disks will be put to sleep when the system isn’t being used, or they are not needed.
  • Slightly dim the display while on UPS: Will lower the brightness of the screen when the power cord is unplugged in order to save more energy.
  • Start up automatically after a power failure: The UPS is designed to kick in when the power fails, and if your computer is connected to an UPS, and the power goes out – shutting it down – it will restart automatically when the power comes back on.
  • Restart automatically if the computer freezes: If your computer freezes while connected to a UPS, it will restart automatically.

You can tick each of the options as you see fit and we recommend trying out different choices to see how your power usage fluctuates. If you have any concerns about how much power your systems are using, or their overall configuration, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 1st, 2014

The cloud has gone from a theoretical concept to being so commonplace that it’s a challenge to find a business that doesn’t have at least one cloud service supporting operations. While there is no dearth of cloud solutions, one of the increasingly popular systems is cloud-based ERP. Here we give you an overview of what exactly this is and reveal some great benefits it offers small to medium businesses.

Define: Cloud-based ERP

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is management software, usually offered as a bundle of applications, that aims to help businesses automate data collection, storage, management, and interpretation from various business sources like accounting, inventory, marketing, service delivery, etc.

Using this automation, business owners and managers can get an integrated real-time view of business processes, resources, and commitments. Beyond this, ERP facilitates the flow of information between departments while integrating systems used into one overall platform, thus reducing the chances of disparate data between departments.

Cloud-based ERP solutions are simply a suite of ERP apps that are delivered to users over their Internet connection, usually accessed via a browser. The software usually does not need to be installed on computers and is offered on a per-user, per-month, flat-rate fee.

Companies that have integrated cloud-based ERP solutions have experienced many benefits, five of the most common being:

Increased ERP performance

One issue many businesses come across when they implement an in-house ERP solution is that it can often require a fair amount of computer power in order to function with the highest efficiency. For small businesses this will likely mean investing in separate servers which will need to be set up and maintained. If this is executed poorly, and you could see performance drop.

Cloud-based solutions however only require a steady Internet connection, which many small to medium businesses already have. The resources to host the solution are taken care of by the provider, which means that the systems should perform better than most in-house offerings, regardless of the systems you currently have.

Decreased operating costs

An in-house ERP solution will require hardware to support it, along with knowledgeable staff to install and maintain it. For small to medium businesses, this will likely entail new hires which won’t come at a low cost.

Combine this with the fact that you will also need to actually purchase the ERP solution, and the related licenses, and it could add up to a large percentage increase in your overall IT budget.

When you choose a cloud-based ERP, you normally only have to pay a flat-rate monthly fee, which means total cost of implementation will likely be far lower. Beyond this, many providers can also manage the solution, taking care of installing and maintaining the systems. This in turn, will even out your operating costs, and if implemented correctly could even result in an overall decrease in expenses.

Enhanced access to information

Companies that don’t have any ERP will likely find that they struggle to find the information they need, when they need it. ERPs can help bring together the relevant information in a more effective manner than say spreadsheets.

Combine this with the fact that cloud-based ERP solutions are accessible via the Internet, and this means you will have access to your information from anywhere you have an Internet connection. This could in-turn increase overall business operations and make accessing information outside of the office far easier.

Increased security

Because of the nature of the information that ERP systems deal with, you are going to want to keep this secure from both outside sources and those in the company who you don’t want to have access to it.

When it comes to keeping your data safe from outside sources, most cloud-ERP solutions offer enhanced security measures which makes sure the data is secure moving from your systems to the host servers and when it is at rest.

For internal matters, data security is ensured because of how the system is accessed. You will need to access your ERP systems using an account, with each user usually being assigned their own account. Access can be controlled via central admin panels, and for people who don’t need to access, you can simply not give them an account.

Generally speaking, cloud-based ERP systems can offer enhanced security over other options, with many providers taking enhanced measures to ensure that data on their solutions is safe.

Continued support

Like other cloud solutions, cloud-based ERP solutions often offer 24/7 support. Should there be an issue, it can usually be solved quickly. Beyond this, the provider will work to keep all solutions updated. So important updates with security fixes and new features get pushed to all users immediately.

This can increase overall security as hackers have been known to attack systems using older, outdated versions of popular in-house ERP programs. It can also help make your employees more productive because if there is an issue they will be able to contact a provider who will likely be able to fix the problem far faster.

If you are looking to learn more about ERP software, or about our Cloud-based ERP Solution – Acumatica, contact us today.

September 30th, 2014

GppgleApps_Sep29_AOne truth about computing is that despite the various efforts you may make, there is always a chance that your data or account information will be leaked. It is because of this that many companies like Google have implemented stronger security controls. If you have a Google account, personal or business, there are a number of things you can do to keep your account and related information secure.

Don’t use your main account to sign up/as a login for other sites and accounts

When we hear of account breaches or instances where Google account information has been leaked, many people will turn and blame Google, thinking that it was Google’s systems that were breached. While this is a possibility, more often than not the breach occurred with another system where a Google account was used to either sign up, or as the main username.

When hackers get hold of this information they can then use it to launch subsequent malware or phishing attacks against the main Google account, in hopes of actually gaining access to it. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, you should be sure to limit what you use your main Google account to sign up for. Most websites requiring you to sign up for an account ask for an email address, so it is best to create a second dummy account that is only used for this purpose.

If you are asked to set the username as an email address, use this dummy email address and be sure to keep this account separate from your main account.

Don’t use your Google password for other sites

Alongside account information breaches, password breaches on other sites are also commonplace. If you have used the same password for a site that you use to access your Google account that is akin to giving hackers direct access to these accounts.

Use a unique password for every site you sign up for, but at the very least make sure your password for your Google account is unique from any other accounts.

Use 2-step verification

Most major websites offer enhanced login security these days, Google included. When enabled, you will need to enter a second code – usually sent to your mobile or generated by a PIN generator – in order to access your account.

The major benefit here is that anyone who tries to access your account will need to enter this PIN, and because the majority of hackers won’t have access to your mobile device, your account will be more secure.

You can enable 2-step verification by:

  1. Logging into your Google account.
  2. Going to the 2-step verficiation website (http://www.google.com/landing/2step/).
  3. Pressing Get Started at the bottom of the page.
  4. Selecting Start Setup on the next page.
  5. Logging into your account again.
  6. Following the instructions on the following pages.

In order for this to work, you will need a mobile device. You can either enter a phone number or choose to download the Google Authenticator app onto your mobile device. Regardless of which method you use, you will need to enter a cell number during the setup.

Audit your account security settings

If you are unsure as to how secure your account is, or the security options you have available, one of the first stops you make should be to Google’s account checkup page (http://g.co/accountcheckup). Here you will see a number of security options that are available to you which you can enact or modify.

Finally, take a look at your account login locations on a regular basis. This information can be found here: https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity and shows you where recent logins were made, what systems were used, and even the IP address. Should you see some irregular activity, or strange looking login locations, then it is advisable to change your password immediately.

If you are looking to learn more about the security of your accounts, and what you can do to ensure that hackers can’t gain access, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 30th, 2014

A common reason many small business owners start up a business is to deliver a specific service or product, and, of course to make a profit. Let’s face it, we are all in business to make money, and creating revenue is enjoyable! But, managing income can be decidedly less entertaining. Looking after your finances can be a time consuming and confusing chore, especially if you are away from the office a lot of the time. Thankfully, there are some mobile financial apps that can help.

There are many financial apps out there on the market. Here is an overview of five of the most popular to help make your life a bit easier.

1. FreshBooks

An app is for small business owners on the move. With powerful features like the ability to take pictures of receipts and bills for filing of expenses, to being able to bill or invoice your clients from nearly any mobile device. When you log into the app, you are able to see how much money you are owed and can access features like billing, time tracking, estimates and reports.

Because this system is based in the cloud, it is always up-to-date and is available on nearly any device that can connect to the Internet. Combine this with the FreshBooks accounting system and you have an incredibly powerful, cloud-based accounting system at your fingertips. The app is available on both iTunes and Google Play.

2. Intuit Online Payroll

Intuit’s accounting software is among the most popular software used by small businesses and personal users. While most mobile apps allow users to invoice and track expenses, few actually allow you to complete the other half of finance: Paying people. With this app, you can pay your employees, contractors and if you are in the US you can pay your taxes from almost any mobile device.

The app is available on both Google Play and iTunes and starts at USD $20.00 a month for the basic package which allows you to pay your employees.

3. Expensify

If you or your employees travel for business, chances are high that they struggle with keeping accurate records of their expenses and filing expense reports when they get back to the office. Expensify is an app that makes the expense process easier.

With this app you take pictures of bills, specify which account they should be filed under, and the app takes care of the rest, creating an expense entry where you can enter a merchant and price. When you are back, simply submit your report and you are done. The app is available for free on iTunes, Google Play, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

4. Square

Square is the mobile cash register solution that has started to gain traction with businesses around the world. By attaching a reader to your mobile device, you can accept cash and debit cards, as long as you have an Internet connection.

Other options include a full POS that can be run on a tablet and even dongles that function as a wallet, allowing customers to pay without their credit cards or cash. The app is available free on Google Play and iTunes. Once you download the app you then sign up for the card reader and swiped transactions cost 2.75% of the total transaction.

5. Mint

While keeping track of your company’s finances on a mobile device may seem like a good idea, what about your personal finances? It’s not uncommon for people to have more than one bank account and multiple credit cards, and keeping track of these can be a tough job. Mint is an app that allows users to monitor their various accounts from one platform.

With this app you can see your investments, bank balances and even retirement savings from your mobile device. You can also set up and maintain budgets, which definitely makes managing personal finances easier. The app also keeps track of your expenses and provides easy to read reports with overviews of how much you are spending and on what. Mint is available for free on Google Play and iTunes.

September 25th, 2014

A frightening number of businesses use free sales tax calculators and ZIP codes to get sales tax rates for customer addresses. For instance, if you need to know how much sales tax to charge a California customer, you might be inclined to take the ZIP code from their address and use a sales tax calculator or free rate table to find the rate. This method can give you inaccurate rates, landing you in trouble with customers and states.

The U.S. Postal Service developed Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) codes in the 1960s, so mail could be delivered more efficiently. What many people don’t know is that these “zones” can not only overlap each other, they can be adjusted and, sometimes, they might not represent a geographic region at all. In any given year, the USPS makes numerous boundary changes to ZIP code areas, making them an unstable data source. Most importantly, tax jurisdictions do NOT correspond with ZIP code regions. That means basing sales tax rates on a ZIP code risks applying not only an incorrect sales tax rate, but remitting it to the incorrect jurisdiction. This can increase your company’s risk of audit and result in penalties, fines, and fees.

Using geolocation technology to find the right sales tax rate, on the other hand, now that’s a different story.

Here are three tips to live by to make sure you’re using the right sales tax rates:

Don’t use scissors to trim your lawn
Why use scissors to trim your lawn, when the latest and greatest self-propelled mower is only feet away? Identifying the taxing jurisdiction associated with your company’s taxable transactions is one of the key components of sales tax compliance. Don’t waste your time with ZIP codes, when a pinpointed methodology is available.

Compliance is as compliance does
Guessing and estimating sales tax rates increases your audit risk. Why take a chance, when better, faster, more efficient technology to get sales tax right is available? Geolocation technology validates addresses and matches them to a current, nationwide database of tax regions. That means accurate tax rates at the rooftop level.

Education is the key
Take the first step to being truly tax compliant by getting educated by checking out this handy infographic “The Perilous Path to Sales Tax Compliance.”

Contact us today if you want to learn more about Sales Tax Automation.

September 24th, 2014

SocialMedia_Sep22_AFor many small to medium businesses, social media has become an integral part of their overall business strategy. Most businesses have a presence on at least one platform, but one issue many business owners and managers struggle with is how they should be using social media effectively. To help, here is an overview of the three most common ways small to medium businesses use social media.

1. To be a resource for existing and potential clients

This approach is by far the most popular used by businesses of all sizes. The main idea here is that social media is used as essentially a two-way street where you can pass information about the company, products, and industry to your followers. In turn, they interact with the content and eventually start to turn to your profile and page when they are looking for information.

One of the best ways to be successful with this approach is to provide your followers with information about the company, facts, tips about your products and industry, and links to other relevant content.

By sharing content, users will generally interact with it more and begin to see your company as a reliable source of information. This often translates into enhanced brand awareness and potentially sales.

The downside with this approach however, is that it can be time consuming to constantly develop new content. Most companies eventually reach a point where what they produce and share is pretty much the same, and overall payoffs begin to decrease. One way around this is to work with professionals to come up with dynamic and different content.

2. To provide customer service/support

These days, when someone has a problem with a company’s services or products, the first port of call for complaints is often social media, largely because it’s the most convenient place to vent where you can get instant reactions.

It therefore makes sense to create support or customer service presence on these channels. Some companies have even taken to launching support-centric profiles, where customers can contact them about anything, from complaints to questions, and receive a personal answer. For many companies this is ideal because it eliminates the hassle of customers having to call a support line and dealing with automated machines.

This approach can prove useful for businesses because it often makes it easier to reach out to disgruntled customers and track overall brand satisfaction. The downside is that you will need someone monitoring services 24/7, and to respond in a timely manner which may be tough to do for many smaller businesses.

3. To sell something

There are an increasing number of businesses who have launched social media profiles with the intent of selling a product or service. The actual sales may not take place through social media but the information on these profiles and platforms channels potential customers to an online store or to contact a company directly. Social media’s instantaneous nature makes for a tempting platform, especially when you tie in different advertising features and include content like coupons, and discounts.

While this hard sales line can be appealing to businesses, many users are seemingly put off of companies with profiles that only focus on selling via their platforms. The whole idea of social networking is that it is ‘social'; this means real interactions with real people. Profiles dedicated only to trying to sell something will, more often than not, simply be ignored.

What’s the ideal use?

One of the best approaches for small to medium businesses is to actually use a combined approach. Most people know that ultimately, businesses with a presence on social media are marketing something, but focusing solely on this could turn customers off.

A successful split that many experts have touted is the 70-20-10 rule. This rule states that you should make 70% of your content and profile focused on relevant information to your audience. 20% of content should be content from other people and 10% of content should be related to selling your products or services e.g., promotional.

If you want to use social media for support as well, it is a good idea to create a separate profile dedicated just to this end. If complaints are lodged or noticed using your main account, direct them towards the support account.

As always, if you are looking for help with your social media strategy, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 24th, 2014


As your company grows, there comes a time when you start to think about replacing your accounting system with an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. There are lots of reasons that most growing companies hesitate to make the change, including:


  • Extra work for employees during the implementation,
  • The expected cost of the software and services,
  • Concerns that the system will be hard to use.

While these are all valid concerns, the nature of ERP implementations is changing. There is much greater flexibility in rolling out the software over time to minimize the disruption of business and spread out costs. ERP systems are becoming easier to use, and younger employees want to work with modern systems.

What is the real value of upgrading to ERP?

Interestingly, as the difficulty of ERP implementations has declined, the importance of smaller businesses improving their businesses processes has increased. Customer expectations have changed significantly with the wide adoption of the internet. High service value companies like Amazon set a high bar for all businesses to meet.

Even your long term, loyal customers may be tempted to shop around if your business processes make it difficult for them to work with you.  Switching from an accounting system to ERP allows you to centralize information and automate processes. Employees can focus more on individual customer service and less on paperwork. ERP will help you:

  • Deliver on expectations.  When you know exactly what you have in the warehouse, you can fulfill those special orders faster. When you can schedule services during one call with the customer or provide online self-scheduling, you make your clients life easier. ERP can help you simplify fulfillment processes
  • Deliver better customer service. Your biggest advantage as a small or midsize business is the personal attention you can give to every customer. If your employees spent less time looking for information, could they spend more time understanding customer needs? An ERP system will help your employees automate processes to focus their time on customers. 
  • Spot opportunities.  Data in the systems that you currently run don’t do you any good if you can’t put it all together to analyze. An integrated ERP system allows you to combine data from all points within your business to give you insights into results and trends. Identify the products with increasing sales to build momentum and clear out the products that don’t move.

The benefits of moving to ERP continue to grow, while the challenges continue to dissipate. Let’s talk about how you can get ahead of your customer’s expectations and beat out the competition. Contact us today to learn more about our ERP solutions.