Xero launches guide to invoicing and payments

We continue to watch innovation in collaborative accounting. Xero LTD has has launched a Small Business Guide for invoicing and payments at www.xero.com/guides/invoicing based on input from almost 1400 Xero community members. Getting invoicing right is a great opportunity for small businesses.

Online accounting from entry level all the way up to large ERP installations is innovating quickly. This is good for the market because many of the traditional accounting vendors are responding with hybrid solutions that are cloud and mobile friendly. Hosting is becoming more common as well. Expect that accounting information will be accessible at the right time by the right people from the right place using the right technology.


2012 K2 Quality Award Winners


K2 Enterprises has released their annual technology awards for 2012.  According Val Steed, CEO K2 Enterprises, “We want to acknowledge the leadership in Cloud and Mobile solutions so we expanded the awards to recognize this growing arena of technology.”  K2 has been providing the K2 Quality Awards now for eleven years. “My sincere congratulations to all winners!” said Randy Johnston, Executive V.P. “anyone who can sway over our team members really deserves to recognition”  added Brian Tankersley, Director of Strategic Relationships.

K2 Enterprises Annual Quality Awards are determined by a voting poll of the K2 Enterprises instructor team. The polling members of this team are Randy Johnston, Will Fleenor, Val Steed, Brian Tankersley, Tommy Stephens, Bob Spencer, Ilene Eisen, Lawrence (Mac) McClelland, John Keegan,  and Karl Egnatoff.

2012 Categories and Winners:  http://www.k2e.com/tech-update/news/472-news-2012-quality-award-winners

Best Overall Mobile Strategy – Sage Software

Best New Mobile App – Xero Touch – Xero Accounting

Reseller Program – Open Systems

CPA Program – Intuit Pro Advisor – Intuit, Inc.

Reseller Channel – Open Systems

New Product – Beyond415 – New River Innovation

New Module – CYMA Accounting

Management Strategy –   Doc.It

Technical Support – Concur

Customer Satisfaction – SurePrep

Ease of Use – Bill.com

Marketing Communications – Freshbooks Cloud Accounting

Overall Quality – Avalara

Tax Technology –   SP Binder – SurePrep

Audit Technology – Knowledge Coach – CCH

Business Intelligence Solution –   Biznet

Workflow Solution – XCM Workflow Solutions – XCM, Inc.

Small Business Accounting Solution – Xero Accounting

Small CPA Firm Solution –   Office Tools Professional

Entry-Level Accounting Upgrade Solution – Open Systems

Top Hosting Provider – Cloud9 Real Time

Social Media – Kasey Bayne – Freshbooks Cloud Accounting

Cloud Power Solution – Concur Small Business Edition

Cloud Ease of Use – Dropbox

Cloud Top Shelf Award – Beyond415 – New River Innovation

Cloud New Product –  ValueAppeal

Cloud Portal – ShareFile – Citrix

K2 Enterprises is a Hammond, Louisiana-based organization that provides continuing professional education services to the accounting profession and marketing consulting services to technology providers in the accounting market. K2 Enterprises delivers approximately 1,000 educational programs to over 50,000 professional accountants on an annual basis throughout the United States and Canada.

Windows Server 2012 Pricing

Today is when Microsoft officially changes pricing and licensing for Windows Server. Enterprise edition is eliminated, RIP. Enterprise edition was the version that when licensed allowed for  four virtual Windows Servers. Windows Server licensing must now be purchased by processor in either the Standard or Data Center Editions. This approach should be simpler, although more expensive for many organizations. The price increase of 22% will effectively raise new licensing as much as 40% for many shops. However, as a part of the whole, Windows Server licensing is a relatively small piece of the total expenses of a network or hosted environment. The most common deficiency for any organization using virtual servers or virtual desktops is not licensing the appropriate numbers of machines/licenses. It is difficult to understand the licensing from any vendor, so make sure that you discuss your usage with a Microsoft licensing professional…someone who deals with this every day. One final observation, however, the new simplified licensing agreement from Microsoft is an improvement. We would like to see more technology companies follow this lead.

Google nexus7

Part of what I try to do for you is listen, look, learn, filter out marketing messages and recommend reasonable products for you to consider. Sometimes a product won’t get all the recognition it deserves, and sometimes it won’t be the big “winner” in the market place. However, if it does the job well for you and meets your needs, isn’t that a good thing? Remember to consider both a personal and business strategy and then develop your tactics. Leverage what you do with technology.

The nexus7 has some things I really like:

  1. Small size and weight
  2. Standard connectors
  3. Simple case
  4. Speed
  5. Latest Android operating system 4.1.1 Jelly Bean
  6. Most apps that I wanted were available in Google Play or the Android Marketplace. Everything I do for business can be done on this tablet including Citrix, VMware View, Exchange email and web surfing.
  7. At $249 it is a bargain

Drawbacks include:

  1. Only available in wireless
  2. Having a better camera resolution would be helpful
  3. Battery life is consumed fairly quickly, but not as fast as the New iPad

Overall, this is a good tablet to consider if you want a small unit that is durable and easy to use. We are anxious to see the iPad mini, scheduled for announcment on October 17 and to ship in November.

Samsung GALAXY Tab 2 7.0 Observations

I”ve been encouraging everyone that will listen to think about their business purpose for their tablets, and to consider alternatives that meet their needs. The easy decision is to select an iPad, and that is not a problem as long as you recognize what your cost of ownership will be mine has been great than $1,000 annually for the iPad, iPad2, and new iPad (3).

The Samsung Galaxy is an interesting competitor offering multiple models from the tab 2 7.0 at $249, which runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, up through a 10″ model which would be most comparable to the iPad. Here are some observations based on my experience on this product.

1) I have Citrix and VMware View running Windows applications quite acceptably. I can run all of my Windows applications through either platform on the GALAXY Tab.
2) Android 4.0 has some bugs, but none that keep the device from working – Yes, fewer than Android 3.x. I have had two system failures. BTW, I have had four on the iPad.
3) The lighter weight and smaller size is good for my hands.
4) The Samsung leather case is an amazing bargain at $9.
5) The Exchange email that is included keeps you from buying a separate app like the Kindle Fire. Moving email is slower than it should be. Folder tree structure shown is not as elegant as the iPad, but probably better than Touchdown on the Kindle Fire. Email setup is more clumsy that I would like, too.
6) For a lot of users the <$300 price point will be attractive – The price is very good, and it is a great unit if the person has never touched an iPad.
7) The Kindle reader app on the device works about as well as the Kindle itself.
8) I have some concerns about some of the apps that seem to be dependent on the Samsung cloud, for example video hub. But remember, I’m not a fan of iCloud for security, either. Samsung wantsto capture some of your user IDs and passwords for synchronization purposes. Sounds like a security breech waiting to happen, kind of like Sony. Amazon Prime worked fine.
9) There seem to be some local file structures. Good to have files, bad from a security risk.
10) I like the widgets and the ability to set up your own screens.
11) The remote control app works amazingly well on my Samsung TV. I was very pleased with this feature.
12) I received the Dropbox 50GB upgrade. I'm not a fan of Dropbox security, but it is nice to have the extra space for documents where security doesn't matter.
13) I haven’t been able to try the chat on or voice calling services at this time. Skype works great.
14) I’ve only taken pictures in low light…as expected, not the greatest pictures under these conditions – low resolution cameras, and this is part of how Samsung got to the $250 price tag. I do not see people generally using something of this form factor as a camera.
15) I don’t like the product’s back design – removable Serial #, hard to read model number.
16) There is a 10” version of this product that has a keyboard from Samsung. I'd love to have a keyboard for my Tab 2 7". I'm using the ZaggFolio on the iPad, and this has made a big difference for me. My skin type is such that many touch screens do not respond.
17) The 10” version has an HDMI adapter. I'd like to have HDMI, VGA or both on this model.
18) Accessories are listed here: http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/galaxy-tab-accessories, and certainly worth browsing before purchasing.

With everything said and done, the Samsung GALAXY Tab 2 7.0 is a better value than the Apple iPad2 at reduced prices or the iPad. The iPad is still the safe buy, but if you need a large number of units, Samsung could save your organization thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars and provide a tablet product that does everything you need.

Windows Server 2012 (formerly Windows Server 8)

Even with cloud services running some portion of your operations, most of you will run virtual servers with VMware, Citrix or Hyper-V along with Windows Server for the near future. All those applications you can’t put in the cloud have to live somewhere and for now, a file server or server farm is your best answer. We think that Windows Server 2008 R2 is a fine, stable product and a great choice.

Later this year, Microsoft intends to provide a new Windows Server platform, currently called Windows Server 2012. Key things to watch for include improved directory, memory, disk management and virtualization management. For example, there will be increased Virtual machine capacity as virtual disks quadruple to 64TB and main server memory goes from 512MB to 1TB, and a new file system. The new file system, ReFS (Resilient File System), will be introduced with Windows Server 2012. The code name was Protogon, and it originally appeared in Windows Clients. ReFS will begin life as a storage system for Windows Server only. Then — some time post Windows Server 2012 — it will become a storage system for Windows clients, and then ultimately “as a boot volume,” – http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-goes-public-with-plans-for-its-new-windows-8-file-system/11666?tag=nl.e539.  NTFS support will be discontinued for specifically named streams, object IDs, short names, compression, file level encryption (EFS), user data transactions, sparse, hard-links, extended attributes, and quotas. ReFS will be used with Storage Spaces and there will be a new architecture for the Master File Table (MFT).

Author Kurt Mackie provided a summary of 10 Key Takeaways on the Windows Server 8 Beta in the April 2012 Redmond Channel Partner magazine. 1) Server Manager Dashboard (Metro design), 2) Windows Server Core, 3) Windows PowerShell GUI including start snippets, 4) Windows PowerShell WebAccess (gateway to connect to PowerShell), 5) Storage Pool as a local virtual disk for SMB or NFS shares, 6) Increased Virtual Machine Memory Capacity, 7) Offline File Caching to set sync periods, 8) SMB Directory Leasing to give more control on BranchCache, 9) Self-Updating cluster, and 10) Hyper-V Replica Improvements including a trust zone to authorize Client access to a replica server.

The beta was released on February 29, with release expected later this year or early 2013. With a name like 2012, don’t be surprised to see shipments in October.

Microsoft Release Dates for 2012, and What You Should Do

Most of us are dependent on Microsoft technologies. The timing of the technologies released this year affect all of our decisions, including mine. For example, I would like to be working on a Windows 8 tablet right now, so I could make strategic decisions about the right strategic tablet product to use. Either the popular Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 could be the right choice for our needs. Without evaluation and prototyping how do we know? Mary Jo Foley has a longer article here: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-roadmap-leaks-for-office-15-ie-10-and-more-key-products/12417?tag=nl.e539. Traditionally Release Candidates lead general availability (GA) release dates by 60-120 days and Release to Manufacturing (RTM) by 30-60 days. Key technology timelines:

  1. Office 15 – RTM November 2012, GA January 2013
  2. Windows 8 – RC June 2012, GA October 2012?
  3. Internet Explorer 10 – was due in April 2012, but likely by mid-year, perhaps June 2012
  4. Windows Server 2012 – October-December 2012?

Because of these timings, key recommendations for technology deployment in 2012 are:

  1. Use Open Licensing with Microsoft for Windows and Office
  2. Deploy Windows 7 Enterprise with Bitlocker and Sync Center using Windows Deployment Services
  3. Plan on using Office 2010 Plus
  4. If remote access is needed and your user count is less than 30, add Citrix over terminal services
  5. If you have more more than 30 users, have open licensing, and are replacing your servers, look at VMware View for Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) instead of Citrix. With the new VMware memory provisioning, VDI with VMware is more cost effective and faster. Consider using PCoIP with VMware View and look at thin clients, too.

Video Streaming for Your Home

Since I’ve been house bound for a few weeks, it has given me a chance to watch more video than normal. I have used the new generation Apple TV, Boxee Box with the new Boxee Live, as well as PlayStation 3 with the new Amazon Prime streaming service in addition to recorded DVDs from The Great Courses.

I’ll have to admit for my style of use as a more technically literate viewer, I really like what the Boxee Box does. Adding Boxee Live TV has made the Boxee Box more useful and allows viewing more video from more sources. I like the features of sharing watched video, for example YouTube, on Facebook and Twitter. The remote control is still a great design. The biggest feature of all is no recurring cost for streaming video. Setting up Boxee Live was so trivial that the 3 page instruction book with big pictures and big print was almost too much.

The new generation of Apple TV is just as disappointing as the first. Streaming video from the iPad or iPhone can be useful, but not particularly helpful. The small remote control is functional, but seems to be very directional. Streaming video from my own network worked fine. Apple is in the business of selling you content, and there is a wide variety to choose from…just be prepared to pay for content that is available from other sources for less money or for free. The instruction manual for setup was far better than typical Apple documentation. It was needed since there were so many things that had to be changed for the product to work properly.

We have used the PlayStation 3 to watch Blu-Ray and DVD media since release. We have the TV remote control. We have streamed NetFlix, Hulu and other sources on this device. The reason for the attention this week was to incorporate the new Amazon streaming. Setup was a three step process, and on our PlayStation it didn’t go smoothly with the sign-on authentication causing a black screen. After restarting the PlayStation, everything progressed easily. The steps were: 1) Download the Amazon software 2) Enter an authentication code in your Amazon Prime account, 3) Wait for the PlayStation to confirm, which was almost instantaneous. The video selection included at no additional charge for Amazon Prime was quite good, and the navigation was well thought out. Purchased content was reasonably priced. However, there was enough good content, it will be a while before we are compelled to purchase many items.

Each experience is different, but I’ll have to give highest marks to PlayStation 3, followed by Boxee Box, with the new generation Apple TV being a distant and poor value third.

Strategic Observations from Top 25 Leader Event

2012 is a year of technology change, and I know that we have to plan our strategies.During the Top 25 Leaders in Accounting event I surmised the key success items for CPA firms are: 1) Strategic vision, 2) client focus, 3) working with your people, 4) managing compliance standards, & 5) Tech. It is pretty clear that computer hardware platforms matter less. Choosing the right strategy & tools to service your market & clients the best way you can is a winning approach. For example, in 2012, it is pretty clear that technology platforms and operating systems will converge. Think: Windows 8, IOS/Mountain Lion, Android Ice Cream Sandwich on phablets (=phones/tablets)/computers. When you buy into a platform from a vendor, the way applications integrate and work together is largely controlled by the vendor. As you can guess, this is a fight between Microsoft, Apple and Google right now. A future that allows applications to seamlessly run between a phone, tablet and computer could be very attractive as long as the application behaves appropriately on the different devices.

10 Questions Enterprises Should Ask About Deduplication