2012 Review of CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business – ProSystem fx Portal

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business - ProSystem fx Portal
800-739-9998

www.cchgroup.com/portal

From the January 2012 Review of Client Portals.


Best Fit:

Firms wanting secure client file sharing functions with integration into other CCH programs, along with file versioning and automated retention and expiration capabilities.

 

Strengths:

  • Can be used on all major browsers and platforms
  • Strong security customization
  • File versioning for online edits to shared documents
  • Customizable firm branding
  • Automated file retention and expiration

 

Potential Limitations:

  • No integration with client apps

 

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business introduced ProSystem fx Portal in 2009, at the same as the introduction of their SaaS Next Generation Suite, giving professional firms a more secure and convenient client collaboration method that works with other programs in the ProSystem fx Suite of tax and accounting applications. This makes it easy for professionals to deliver final or WIP documents to clients, and also for clients to securely upload documents needed by the firm. The system includes versioning options and read-only functions that further enhance file integrity and security.

Firm User Experience - 5 Stars

CCH initially offered a client portal system as a completely integrated component of its ProSystem fx Document program, but completely redesigned the product about two years ago when it debuted ProSystem fx Portal, which was designed around the common needs of tax and accounting firms and their clients. The portals include full, two-way sharing capabilities, multi-level client and firm user access rights, and varying total storage space based on tiered levels.

ProSystem fx Portal can be run in a completely stand-alone format using a web-based interface, or tightly integrated with ProSystem fx Document and other CCH programs and managed through them, with right-click functionality enabling quick publishing of documents, returns and other files to a client’s portal. Initial setup of client portals is simple, with the ability to create hundreds of client portals simultaneously using a batch process, and the system offers guided help to users for creating and setting up portal functions, such as determining staff and client users, as well as their respective access rights. The system allows multiple users from each client, with the ability to set varying user access based upon their role and needs. This allows firms to determine which files can be accessed, viewed, downloaded, etc. Client portals can be completely firm branded with logos, contact data and firm information.

For firm staff users, the web-based interface opens into a window that shows all of the client portals that are available to that user in a left-hand menu, a tab for accessing administration functions, and a center console that shows the files and folders shared with a client. Information also is available showing recently added documents, who has accessed documents, updated them and the set expiration date of the file. When uploading files into the client’s portal, firm staff users select the appropriate client portal, then select the file or files and begin the upload, with the portal system automatically scanning files for viruses. Documents can also be uploaded to multiple portals, if desired. Files can only be deleted by the firm, after which they are sent to the recycle bin which, much like the one on the Windows operating system, keeps the file available to be restored until the bin folder is emptied. The system can be used by any number of firm staff to manage any number of client portals with multiple users for each client.

ProSystem fx Portal is hosted on the same secure Tier 4 IBM data centers the company uses for its other software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, with 128-bit SSL encryption and password protection at all steps during file storage and transmission, meeting state and federal data requirements. CCH does not guarantee server uptime in their user agreements but has experienced greater than 99.999 percent uptime over the past year.

Client-Side Interface - 4.75 Stars

Clients can access their portals from emails or from an embedded login form or link on the firm’s website, redirecting them to their portal. The login screen includes password reset functions that the client can use directly. The browser-based client view is similar to the firm view, but with only their own portal available. Individual client users with more than one business entity can access all of their portals using the same login, with menus on the left allowing navigation between the entities. Client users set as an admin on their own portal can add regular users and set rights allowing them access to certain data and, if managing more than one business, which ones the regular client users can access.

The central component of the client view is the folder and file storage panel, which allows users to view, download or work on shared documents and files to which they’ve been given access. As with the firm view, panels on the right alert client users to recently added files and those that have been set to expire or delete from the portal soon.

When uploading files to their portal, clients use simple selection lists for determining the folder in which to place a file, with file lookup tools that function similarly to adding a file attachment to an email. The firm is notified by email when a new file has been added, and when users make other actions, as determined by the firm. Likewise, an email with a link to the portal can be automatically generated and sent to the client when they have been invited to their new portal, or when various actions have occurred, such as when the firm has added new files to their portal. Client notification email templates can be customized with firm information and can include information such as the file’s expiration date.

ProSystem fx Portal also include a search function on both the client and staff user views that enables searching by keyword or phrase throughout all of the files in the shared area, making it easier to find documents. Client passwords are generated by the program when the user initially logs in, and can be reset by the client necessary.

Portal Capabilities - 5 Stars

Firm and client users can upload and store any type of file or document to their portals, with upload functions that simplify the process of sharing even large files such as QuickBooks or Sage Peachtree bookkeeping data. Files stored on the system can be marked as read-only, or users can be set to have limited, view-only access. The system also includes file protection features such as the check-out function that lets documents on the portal be worked on by a user, while preventing other users from working with it at the same time.

The folder structures in ProSystem fx Portal can be customized by the firm, which can also set template structures across all clients or client types, such as 1040, 1065s, payroll, etc. Users can switch between tile and detail views, and folders can be named as necessary to reflect firm services and client engagement types. Firms can set notification defaults to alert staff and clients by email to specific actions on the portal, including file additions or deletions, edits to documents, files pending expiration, portal storage space and other issues. The system also allows staff to create announcements to all, groups or specific clients using a simple messaging function.

The firm administration panel enables the creation of defaults for file retention, which lets staff set an amount of time for a file to be available on the portal, whether days, weeks, months or years, before it is automatically deleted. Files can also be individually set for expiration or can be set to stay on the portal indefinitely. On both the firm and client views of the portal, users are alerted to files that will soon be deleted, and this information can also be automatically included in client emails.

Security functions and user access rights in the portal system are very detailed and granular, allowing specific access to tasks such as viewing and downloading of files. This enables firms to grant greater access to client managers than is offered to lower client staff. Portal and file histories are maintained as an audit trail, tracking all actions.

Technical Aspects - 4.5 Stars

Portal storage space is determined by the licensed tier the firm is using. For up to 500 client portals, there is a combined limit of 10 GB, which firms can add to if desired. There are no bandwidth limitations for uploading and downloading of files.

ProSystem fx Portal is available in a full and more interactive version built on Silverlight, and also has a simplified user interface that can work across any browser or platform, including IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. The simplified user interface login can also be used on any fully web-enabled mobile device, although no specific apps have yet been developed.

The system integrates directly with the SaaS and locally-installed versions of the professional tax and accounting systems in the ProSystem fx Suite, including Document, Tax and Engagement. This gives firms the ability to easily push documents such as tax returns and financials to client portals, and allows import of information from client source documents into the tax compliance system. A newly added batch client tax organizer function can also be utilized with the portals. Email notifications can be set to originate from specific email addresses within the firm.

Help/Support - 4.5 Stars

The portals system has a basic built-in Help feature, as well as a useful Getting Started function that guides users step-by-step through portal creation and management functions. Additional resources available from the CCH support website include a knowledgebase, “hot topics,” FAQs, training videos and access to the community user forum. Live technical support is included with pricing, and is available on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time. 4.5

Summary & Pricing

For firms using ProSystem fx for tax compliance, document management and other functions, ProSystem fx Portal should be a definite addition. It provides excellent integration and enhanced functionality with those programs. For other firms, it can also work as a stand-alone client portal utility, offering strong customization and user access privileges, along with file versioning and configurable automated document retention and expiration functions. Pricing is based on tiered annual subscription packages starting at $950 annually.

2012 Overall Rating: 4.75

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