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The Pre-Season Tech Checklist

Check up artDuring the holidays, any accounting firm worth working for is taking a short break to celebrate its employees, its clients, the adventures of the year and the joys of friends and family. But after the celebration are over and firms will begin to ramp up for the tax and early audit seasons that begin in January. And sometime before those seasons begin, there are a few checklist items that will help them to be smoother.

1) Double-check the software. I don't mean just tax software. Check the version and license
information for the operating system; Microsoft Office or equivalent; PDF generation software (Adobe Acrobat or other); practice management software; CRM software; While about this chore, it is helpful to log the information and compare it to the licenses -- there are few things more embarrassing than beeing publicly sued for software piracy.

2) Run a security check of each computer. Scan it with a decent anti-virus scanner. Then run
Lavasoft's Ad-aware and Spybot's Search and Destroy to look for any other potential
problems. Defragment the hard drive of each machine using a known and reliable defragger (some of the defrag systems that pop up on the Internet are actually malware, so be careful!). Remove any "personal" software; any software not licensed to the firm; and links to personal time-wasters such as online games, FaceBook and eBay.

3) Double-check the hardware. Now is the time to check the performance of each machineagainst the minimum specs for the software it will run. And it is not a bad idea to put more RAM memory in each machine...you can never have too much RAM. Also check for dirty keyboards and mice, worn trackballs, monitors that are dirty or starting to fail, and connecting

4) Run a printer audit. In the old days, printers were seen as cheap and simple, so many firms ended up with a printer at every workstation. Today, the cost of maintaining the printer cartridges for what usually amounts to a dozen or more printers of various makes and models is a drain on any firm. Centralize printer functions into clusters and upgrade to color inkjets for drafts, color laserjet for final products and a black and white laserjet for documents. Ban the practice of printing out emails to read in hard copy. Contract with an ink cartridge management firm to get quality refilled cartridges for about half the price of new cartridges.

5) Get a trainer in. This is an excellent time to run software training sessions. If the firm cannot afford a trainer, this is an excellent time to book training through an online session (check for those with CPE!), or scheduled sessions through a web conferencing service such as Webex.

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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