From the Sept. 2011 Issue
Do you ever feel confined and limited by your office walls? Do you find that a different environment can sometimes change your perspective? How many times have you found yourself wishing you could be in multiple places at once? The virtual professional is a growing segment, especially in the tax and accounting field, and solid vendors in this space have responded to the needs of these professionals with exceptional tools. Mobile practitioners can now manage their practice, access data and interact with clients from anywhere
Traditional desktop applications, which were once limited to access only by way of terminal servers and remote desktop programs, can be delivered and accessed without having a traditional desktop or laptop computer. Many applications are now available as Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, which are generally accessible through a browser and an internet connection, although even the vendors define SaaS in different ways. These same applications have miniaturized versions that provide access to key features for professionals while they are away from their physical desktops.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business (CCH), Thomson Reuters, and Intuit ProLine provide SaaS products that enhance mobility, collaboration and integration. The CCH ProSystem fx SaaS Suite is a suite of tools (Tax, Document, Portal, Practice and Workstream) vital to a firm’s operation, and can host the data locally, in a secure data center, or some combination of these. Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting offers many cloud solutions, including GoSystem RS Tax, GoFileRoom and Virtual Office CS. Virtual Office CS is a hosted web portal with the traditional, locally installed CS Professional Suite applications hosted on secure servers. Intuit has a number of browser-based solutions, which include ProLine Tax Online and a forthcoming ProLine Practice Management application.
There is a limited number of true mobile solutions designed for accountants. Research tools are available on the go with CCH’s IC Mobile application and the Thomson Reuters Checkpoint iPad application. Intuit and Thomson Reuters have QuickBooks Mobile and Mobile CS, respectively, which extend the reach of popular applications into the on-the-go space. Mobile CS from Thomson Reuters provides access to firm, staff, client and research tools. Users can enter time and expenses, receipts, mileage, and tasks in real time. They can even connect with other professionals in the ARNE Community.
Companies like Capital Confirmation, Inc. have revolutionized the process of audit confirmation requests with an electronic process. The company’s Confirmation.com works to reduce the time exhausted preparing, mailing, requesting and processing audit confirmation documents. The recently launched mobile application provides firms with status updates on confirmations through the iPhone or iPod Touch.
So how does a firm get there? The infrastructure necessary for accessing information includes an internet connection and a mobile device. I’m sure you’ve heard the various terms like Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, 3G and 4G, which refer to methods in which people gain access to the internet. Public Wi-Fi generally refers to hot spots and an unsecure connection, and you should take caution when connecting through an unsecured point. This type of connection can be compared to a party line, where multiple people could easily access your network and files. A better solution for mobile Wi-Fi users is a portable internet access point called a Mi-Fi, which allows the user to setup a private or secure hot spot, allowing a limited number of users to access Wi-Fi enabled internet devices using a secure connection to the internet over the cellular network.
Mobile devices are flocking the market in the form of smartphones and tablets. Platforms include BlackBerry, Android, and iOS products such as the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, to name a few. When selecting devices and applications, it is important to consider platforms and integration. Some applications are device-specific, such as only being available for Mac and iOS products. Others only function on the Windows, Android or Windows Phone platforms.