New Tax Breaks for filing your 2010 taxes

January 28, 2011

Of the new tax breaks is one regarding Section 179 that focuses on IT spending. Chandler Kinsey of Ryan Capital helped me get a better understanding of just what the benefits are for business owners. He writes…

Randy – In easier terms, the Section 179 is a write off for small businesses who make IT or any capital purchases up to 500K.  The business owner can place equipment for their business and deduct the entire expense in one year.  They can then use the lease to cash flow the purchase rather than pay cash.

Here are the bullet points:

1)      For the business owner, Section 179 is now a 500K deduction limit for capital purchases.  This is a very robust deduction for small business
2)      The Bonus Depreciation is above and beyond the Section 179 for more capital intensive companies as they evaluate their IT spending requirements.
3)      The customer can lease/finance and conserve cash flow while taking advantage of this deduction.  This may encourage new hires or increases in inventory for increased demand.

 


Productivity tools for the office

January 21, 2011

I have made several posts about Cloud services and the dangers involved with them. There are several services that are worth knowing about and how to use them that don’t incur significant or any risk. Here is a quick list of a few that I use with a description of what they do and how I leverage them to be more productive and effective both professionally and personally.

WordPress – This is the service that I use to create my blog posts. I tried another, blogger, which is a google tool but switched and like this one better. It is a great tool to use to get information to others. If you are a CPA you can let people know about tax issues. If you are in lawn care you can give tips to have a better lawn. You can become the subject matter expert and it keeps you top of mind when someone is looking for an expert in your field. I highly recommend blogging!

Linkedin – This is just like Facebook but designed for business professionals. I have used this tool to find sales professionals for our business, create connections with other business leaders and as a medium to let others know about my blog, charity work and alike. I am part of their open network where anyone can connect to me. Just click on my profile on the right side of the screen and link in to me.

Mozy – This is an online backup service. I have used it to backup my home system for a couple of years. Another similar service is carbonite… I have never used it but I understand it is good too. There is a corporate offering, Mozy Pro, that we offer as a “managed” service offering where we monitor and manage the operation. It isn’t recommended that this be the only backup process for your company and we have seen many make this mistake and pay for it later.

Snapfish – I store my digital pictures with this service and occasionally pay for prints. I have made photo books and calendars which make really great gifts and really not that expensive. It has a great interface that is easy to use even if you aren’t creatively gifted like myself. I have also seen corporations use this to show off pictures of them recieving awards and other news worthing events (i.e. company picnics, customer events, etc.)

Istockphoto.com – this is the service that I purchase all of my digial stock images from for my blog, website and other marketing material.

OpenDNS.com – This service is for filtering websites. I set it up on my home network for $10 per year and keeps my nephew from showing my son where to find naked pictures of girls. It also helps cut down on infections getting onto our computers. We offer the corporate offering as a “managed” service offering at a price point that is less than you could get on your own. It has proven worth the investment.

Google Calendar – I have used the free google online to keep schedules with different groups of people. It is pretty neat in that it is compatible with my new Droid phone so I can add these calendars and choose to view the events in different colors. The biggest problem is getting everyone to get on board with using it but if they do it really comes in handy.

Twitter – This is a tool that seems to me is more like an information overload but can be useful. It has helped with search engine awareness and could be used to quickly contact people kind of like a mass email. I have used it to direct traffic to my blog with some success. I could also see where our company could use it to alert customers of outages and other important information if our email system were to fail. If I could get everyone to “follow me” on twitter this could be possible. You can easily do this by clicking on the little bird on the right side of the screen.

If you have a productivity tool that you have used or still use and like let me know about it. I’m always looking for ways to get things done smarter, better and faster.


Apple Ipad – Is it for your business?

January 18, 2011

Several of our clients, primarily business leaders, have purchased an Apple Ipad and then called to have it installed on their network. BEWARE! Almost all networks aren’t 100% compatible with the Ipad operating system and you might be dissapointed with the financial investment you just made. For instance, Microsoft’s email server system (Microsoft Exchange) will probably need to be updated before your email will work. If you have a fairly new server or have a hosted or cloud offering then this might not be a problem. Also your Ipad doesn’t connect to your network the same way your Microsoft Windows systems do so accessing networked shared resources (Mapped Drives, Printers, etc) might be cumbersome, problematic or won’t work. Finally many of today’s business applications aren’t compatible with the MAC operating system so you might find that your Accounting program, industry specific custom application or some other favorite application just won’t run.

There are competing Windows based Ipad copy cat’s coming out everyday and at this years CES (largest geek event of the year) in Las Vegas was dominated with manufactures showing off their tablets or Ipad look alikes.

In closing… I love the concept and Apple has got the right concept but research first then buy your Ipad that way you aren’t dissapointed with your original intent for the purchase. I suggest waiting before buying this technology for your business, where there is demand there is money and Apple will work to meet the need or another manufacture will do it for them.


Will my employees be productive if they work from home?

January 12, 2011

Yes! Our employee, Chad Andrus, works from home and on average he gets more tickets (service requests) completed than all of the other techs. He says he still feels part of the team and loves the fact that he didn’t have to forfeit his job when his wife’s company transferred them to the tidewater area. He doesn’t mind at all that he gets to spend more time with his family either versus looking at his windshield and I’m certain he has saved on his wardrobe because when he skype’s in for meetings he is usually sporting his Detroit sports t shirts.

Since signing up for the Telework program all of our employees, including myself, have only benefited from working from home. The reality is you don’t need to come to work to get work done and like in Chad’s case you will typically get more work done.


Budgeting for IT

December 22, 2010

How much will your 2011 budget cost you? That’s right! Budget for IT expenses incorrectly and you could end up paying big for the mistake!

By now most business leaders have or are fine tuning their budgets for 2011. I have always found budgeting for the big ticket expenses are always the same… the more risk I take the harder to budget and the more risk my provider takes the easier to budget. I have service plans for all of my vehicles because I couldn’t keep up with it, cars going without oil changes, expired tags and the list goes on. My techs were getting stranded, I was spending time delivering vehicles to the repair shop and then walking back to the office, need I say more? I tried giving my local repair guy a shot at helping me but he didn’t have a program offering so naturally it fell back into my lap and of course my problems where still there. After one of my vans died because I didn’t have the oil changed for a year I called another provider to help. They too didn’t have a program to offer but when I told him I would work with them to create one and I would purchase my vehicles from them they were happy to help. Travis Barton and Kenny Dunn at Victory Nissan in Mechanicsville (now Sheehy Nissan) worked hard and took the risks away and now I have a budget. Yea! I was also able to get rid of a position in my business so I actually solved a problem, reduced my risk and saved money!

Unless your provider can provide a fixed monthly fee to provide the services and not provide a traditional T&M (Time and Material) relationship you can’t budget. The reality is that T&M or “Break / Fix” is a reactive way to keep your systems operational. I like to call it “hoping and praying” which by no means will ever make sense if your business depends on the information that your systems contain. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Seriously, you are going to hope and pray that your data isn’t compromised, your servers don’t fail unexpectedly and you are not going to have any clue how long your businesses critical applications, the ones that make business happen, will be unavailable all because it didn’t fit into a budgeted number. Where did this number come from anyway? Based on what? Why did you come to that amount, why not less or why not more?

The more risk the provider takes on the higher the cost and of course vice versa, for example… if your agreement includes 24/7 monitoring but does not include remediation of these alerts you cannot know how many alerts will pop up, the severity of the alerts and how much the fees will be. If you buy into 24/7 monitoring and include all remediation for a fixed fee then you will know exactly what you will be paying for. Here are some other security, business continuity and support services you should be looking for in your agreement if you want to have a fixed budget for IT.

Support
– Helpdesk (remote) & Onsite support
– Network administration
– Consultation / Strategic planning

Disaster Recovery
Minimized downtime & data loss factors (near zero)
– Data retention
Hosted services

Security
– Security licenses
– Intrusion Detection
– Internet content controls
– Email Security
– 24/7 monitoring with remediation

Remember… it is all about risk.


Questions and concerns facing CPA businesses in 2011

December 21, 2010

Last week we spent a few days at the Don Farmer CPA event in Richmond. We hosted a booth and after-hour party for the attendees. In speaking with many of the business leaders that we met several had the same concerns . Since we specialize in helping CPA firms most of these were similar to the concerns we have heard in the past.

1. How can we ensure our data is secure?

2. How can we minimize down-time and data-loss if our system experienced an unexpected failure?

3. Should we consider moving our data into a hosted or “cloud” providers data center?

4. How can we make sure our systems will perform optimally during this critical time?

5. Can we setup our system to be securely and easily accessible from our home systems?

6. How can we be sure home systems are secure if they belong to our employees and not the firm?

7. I heard about the TeleworkVa grant, how do I learn more about this?

8. How can we control and monitor internet usage on our systems to ensure our employees aren’t getting trapped in time wasters like Facebook?

Most of these questions have been addressed in my previous posts and I will continue to address these concerns as they exist in most businesses that we work with.


Telework Va Grant – How to get funding

December 20, 2010

If you haven’t heard about the Telework Virginia Grant then I strongly recommend you learn more about this fantastic opportunity and see if it can fit into your business. The process to get funded is simple and if you call us and ask for assistance, we will take you by the hand and step you through the process one step at a time. If you would like to go at this alone here are the steps.

1. Go to www.teleworkva.org and download the application. There less than 10 questions and will likely only take you 10 minutes to complete.

2. Write a one paragraph explanation of why and how your business will benefit from teleworking, again we can assist you with this step.

3. Fax or scan / email the information to the telework team. The contact information is on the form.

4. Find a partner to provide proposals for the implementation. We would be honored to help!

5. Find a leasing partner. A lease agreement is required by the grant.

6. Place your order. Implement the technology and start submitting your lease payments for reimbursement.

It truly is that simple!

Take a look at some of our success stories when we worked to implement a solution to improve business processes, secure data and saved thousands of dollars by leveraging the TeleworkVa grant. Thanks again to John Graubics of Tuckaway Child Care Centers, Rich Chandler of Exhibits for their time creating these videos!


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