From the December 2011 Issue
First, I’d like to say thank you to those of you who have followed my columns and presentations for years. I look continuously for companies and products that will help your practices serve clients better while producing better revenue for the firm and the partners. For those of you in industry, I watch for tools to help you manage your overall operations with less effort. Your questions and comments via email and when we see each other face to face are always appreciated. As you look ahead to the next year, I’m hopeful that everything happens to you, your family and your business just the way you would like it in the coming year.
The Past Year of Change
This year has seen much innovation in hardware and software as well as evolved thinking in processes. Notable changes in the past year include the following:
- Next Generation Firewalls – This technology provides intrusion protection and filtering of content to protect your network. All business networks should be running firewalls with these capabilities for maximum protection.
- Sandy Bridge – Intel Core i2 stepped up the processor speed and graphics capability this past year. An additional key feature in this generation of hardware is the protection of a “sand box.” This isolation of computer resources in hardware can prevent malware from taking over your computer. There will be more sand boxing in both hardware and software in the coming years.
- Thunderbolt – Intel’s new internal bus allows internal communication at 10 Gbit/s and is designed to be upgraded to 100 Gbit/s over the next decade. This technology is intended to replace USB, SCSI, SATA, Firewire and all other internal communications technologies. It arrived this year in the Mac Air.
- Expansion of the tablet marketplace – After the introduction of the iPad last year, the iPad2 expanded the market along with the introduction of dozens of other competitors. Amazon has added to the frenzy with the new Kindle Fire. Estimates suggest there will be 67 million tablets in use at year end.
- Ultrabooks – Small form factor portables like the Mac Air, ASUS and HP that do not compromise performance and are much lighter with long battery life will influence portable purchases for some time to come.
- Dual Core Smartphones – We are just beginning to see higher performance from smartphones with the introduction of multiple processing chips. The down side is battery life, but the upside is greater performance on larger screens.
- Smaller and bigger, faster scanners – Multiple vendors including Fujitsu and Canon introduced smaller, faster scanners, and the high-end units increased their speed, paper handling capability and reduced their price.
- Smaller and less expensive to operate printers – Printers that use less expensive ink and toner arrived. Print speeds of 45 pages per minute are quite normal for $149 to $199 retail.
- Evolution of Software as a Service – Products picked up more features and more competitors this year. Products continue to be more viable solutions, particularly if you have redundant internet service in your business.
- Browser-enabled applications – Traditional applications started to offer browser access at reasonable speeds. An example is Sage Accpac V6, which has a thick client still available, but the experience in a browser has comparable features and speed.
- Updates in Practice Management – CCH NextGen has arrived and is being deployed by small firms. Thomson Practice CS expanded its features. Office Tools Professional continues to grow and expand.
- Integration of Office 2010, Office 365 and Adobe Acrobat X – A new generation of productivity software has arrived, has been integrated together, and products are routinely beginning to support the latest versions.
- Windows Small Business Server 2011 – This small business server upgrade starts the server upgrade cycle for Microsoft. There will be more to come next year.
- Beta of Windows 8 – This system is showing off the new features of Windows 8 now. Probable release will occur next year.