Last Friday, QuickBooks Online was offline for about a half day. There was quite a bit of Twitter traffic about it — people were frustrated who needed to access their books and couldn’t.

That is the downside of cloud computing: When there’s a problem with the cloud, everybody gets rained on. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.)

So you might conclude that putting your accounting data in the cloud makes you vulnerable to outages like last Friday’s. And you’d be right about that.

The alternative is desktop software, like QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise. When QuickBooks is installed on your server or your computer’s hard drive, it is under YOUR control, and any problems on Intuit’s servers aren’t going to affect you too much.

No, you then have a different set of potential issues to deal with: issues with your own system.

  • Power blips in your office
  • Hard drive crashes on your computer
  • Viruses/worms/malware on your computer
  • Backup failures on your computer
  • Theft/fire/flood affecting your computer
  • Software conflicts between QuickBooks and other software installed on your computer
  • Outdated versions on your computer

There is an extremely good chance that Intuit’s IT department is more sophisticated than yours and is better equipped to prevent these kinds of problems than you are. But if you are running QuickBooks on your own computer(s) and have a good IT plan in place, you might go for years without any problems.

So the bottomline is this: Who do you want to manage the inherent risks associated with business IT?

One final thing.  This isn’t especially a QuickBooks question or even an accounting software question; it is a question that exists for any cloud vs. desktop business app.

What do you think? Do you trust the cloud or your desktop machine more?

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I interviewed Allison Semancik, a marketing consultant in Miami, and asked her questions about marketing for service professionals. Her answers are worth a few blog entries. Here’s the first in the series.

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Me: Allison, first of all, how did you get involved in marketing consulting? What about it appeals to you?

Allison: I have been involved in internet marketing for 9 years now.  I love that it is an ever changing field – there is always a new software, website or company that makes marketing fun and exciting.

Working as a consultant, I have the opportunity to work with many different types of businesses in various industries.  I love helping a business grow their online presence and seeing the results that come from the work I put into it.

Me: Let’s talk about marketing for professionals – accountants and IT consultants particularly. I deal with these professional communities a lot. What are some of the marketing challenges that professionals in those areas typically wrestle with?

Allison: One of the most important thing service professionals can do is distinguish their services from others.  There are many IT professionals out there, but an IT professional who caters to cosmetic dentists is much more specialized.   When you develop a niche and cater to that niche, you’ll be sought out.

Another issue I see is that service professionals tend to be more formal in their online presentation.  Websites tend to be more like brochures when they should be more personal.

With blogs, forums and social media sites, you now have an opportunity to be more interactive and share your expertise with others.  It gives professionals a chance to have dialogue with potential clients before you even meet in person.

  • Next blog entry: Which marketing and social media channels work best for service professionals?

Allison Semancik can be contacted through her blog.

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Take care of your computer, and it will take care of you. Here are five easy and inexpensive ways to bullet-proof your PC.

1. Have each computer you use on a battery backup. Electric surge protection is not enough. If the power goes out when you have critical files open and your computer blinks off, you have a big problem. Battery backups are not that expensive.

2. Have every computer you use do Windows auto-updates. Access the settings through your Windows Control Panel. Auto-updates will make sure that you get critical service-packs, security updates, and Windows bug fixes.

3. Have every computer running security software. Symantec and McAfee are the big dogs for subscription-based solutions. But you can still get some free solutions, like AVG’s free edition. You’d have to be crazy to have a computer connected to the internet these days without some basic protection.

4. Be smart with your passwords. Don’t use your name or your address or your phone number, etc. Use numbers, upper and lower case letters, special characters, and nonsense words.

5. Don’t ignore warning signs. If your computer starts making funky noises, or getting intermittent bootup errors, or hanging up a lot, don’t wait around for it to get worse. Unlike the human body, computers aren’t self-healing. Get your IT pro to diagnose/repair, or just go get a new computer before the big crash.

Any other suggestions?

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Posted in IT.