From the April/May 2009 Issue
Much of the buzz of the past few years has been over the continuing paperless practice movement and the phenomenon of “cloud computing.” Pretty much everyone knows the meaning of paperless; it’s basically self-explanatory. The term cloud computing, on the other hand, may seem somewhat mysterious.
This article isn’t a primer on that concept; a few of our writers have already addressed it (see www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2259 and www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/1967). But I will give my two cents of explanation on the term: It’s essentially the next phase of web-based computing. Much as Web 2.0 expanded that definition, cloud computing aims to put virtually everything we do online, including specialty tax and accounting systems, general office programs (like Word and Excel), data storage, collaboration tools, and pretty much everything else.
There is no doubt that the software side of things, including “cloud-based” programs, is turning out some exciting and innovative new concepts that will greatly affect tax and accounting practices and businesses in general. But hardware continues to play an equal role to software, providing the actual tools with which they interface. Quite obviously, without a physical device and keyboard, the software would do little good. There are those who argue the converse point, of course (re: Chicken vs. Egg).
But I’m a gadget man. I like to feel a keyboard and hear it click. I like my smartphone that lets me run errands or hit golf balls while still being connected to my work email and applications. I love sleek monitors. I like digging into my desktop PC once a year; not to figure out how it works, but to figure out how to make it work better.
Even those not so gadget inclined can surely see the value that basic hardware makes in running a practice or other business, but there are some toys … I mean tools … out there that can also enhance workflow and help professionals get things done faster and/or better. There are also some new hardware innovations that may not have been thoroughly vetted for productivity yet, but that look promising or at least have that “Wow, that’s cool!” factor. Finding the ones that help you do your job more efficiently can help you be more productive in the office or out. Here are a few that I think deserve some attention in this regard.
AT YOUR DESK
People have been promoting the use of multiple monitors for years, especially in a few key professions (especially financial and accounting). The benefits include a dramatic increase in productivity, and that’s not just taking the word of the companies that make these multi-monitor displays.
Research shows efficiency boosts of up to 40 percent, plus I’ve talked to several real-life accountants who love the systems in their practice, especially during tax season and for write-up. With two monitors, you can have your tax prep system on one screen and source documents on another, aiding data entry and review. With three monitors, you can also view tax research or a spreadsheet. I recently spoke with a professional who uses four-screen displays at his 10-person practice, which he says greatly streamlines virtually everything he does.
DoubleSight Displays — $550-$750
DoubleSight (www.DoubleSightDisplays.com) offers dual-screen monitors in 17-inch and 19-inch sizes (approx. $550 and $750, respectively) that come mounted on a stand that takes up only the desktop space of a single monitor. The stands are also available separately, which allows people to use the monitors they already have. DoubleSight uses Sony LCD monitors, and its products are also available at Dell, Staples and other online tech retailers.
Digital Tigers — $499 - $1,300+
Using Samsung LCD monitors, Digital Tigers (www.DigitalTigers.com) has a wide range of multi-screen systems, including options with anywhere from two to eight monitors with screen sizes from 17-inch to 30-inch. Some of the more popular designs include a two-monitor 19-inch system for $499, a triple 19-inch for $999 and a four-panel view with two above and two below priced at $1,389. Each of these uses a single reinforced monitor stand to preserve desktop space.