(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)
1. Zoom to add email and calendar features
Zoom announced recently that it plans to roll out new features including calendars and emails in an effort to compete with platforms such as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. With the new functions, users will be able to connect to their third-party calendar and email services directly on their desktop through the Zoom app. (Source: Engadget)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: I wish that, instead of spending its resources trying to catch up with Microsoft and Google as an office collaboration system (which is never going to happen), Zoom would double down specifically on its video conferencing technology and continue to make it the best and most affordable out there. Microsoft and Google have plenty of other applications and investments to worry about. Given its brand and reputation, Zoom has the potential to be the leader in its specific niche if the company just focuses on that niche. Doing that would benefit the many small businesses — like mine — who enjoy the platform.
2. For Windows 8, the end is near
Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system will soon stop getting support from vendors. Microsoft announced that it does not plan to provide an end-of-life program for Windows 8.1, and Google shared that Chrome will also stop providing support for Windows 7 and 8.1 early next year. Firefox has not yet released any information about how it plans to handle the operating system but other vendors such as Opatch will continue to develop micro patches over the next two years for Windows server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 but not 8.1. (Source: Computer World)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you’re one of those still clinging to Windows 8, it’s time to move on. The main reason is security. As I write this, there are millions of malware bots looking for older operating systems like yours to infect and invade. Upgrade your hardware and upgrade your operating systems. And be happy that you extended the use of Windows 8 for as long as you have. Great job. Now let it go.
3. Gmail’s new interface is here to stay
Starting last month, Gmail will begin moving everybody over to what the company is calling its “integrated view.” With the new interface, users will have options to access Meet, Spaces, Chat, and Mail when navigating the far-left sidebar of the interface. (Source: The Verge)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Google began testing the new layout at the start of this year and originally gave users the option to opt-out. Moving forward, users will no longer have the option to revert to the previous Gmail interface. Like it or not, it’s reality going forward.
4. The 40 best Google tools for productivity and marketing
The staff at tech website Search Engine Land recently put together a list of the 40 best Google tools for productivity and marketing. The list includes tools such as Gmail for its secure email service, Google Ads for targeting ideal customers, Google Alerts to help monitor your business’s reputation, Google Analytics to help measure website traffic and app usage, and more. You can view the entire list here. (Source: Search Engine Journal)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: I was mostly aware of all the tools — many free — that Google provides for small businesses to help with productivity and marketing, but this great list compiled by Brian Frederick not only refreshed my memory but also surprised me with a few unknowns. And wow … there are so many of them! If you run a small business it’s worth taking some time to go through these apps — you’ll also be surprised.
5. JPMorgan Chase wants to disrupt the rent check
JPMorgan Chase is rolling out a pilot platform to help digitize rent payments for property managers and owners. The new payments platform will automate invoicing and receipts of all rents that are paid online. Although digital payments have increased over the last several years, about 78% of rent payments are still done using paper checks. (Source: CNBC)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: I’ve always been a believer that, over time, banks will take over the accounting space and replace many of the current players with their own applications. This story is a good example. The property management industry is still stuck in the 1970s when it comes to technology. More than three-quarters of payments are still done with paper checks? What? Cloud accounting applications have struggled to push customers forward, but failed. JPMorgan Chase’s platform could be an answer. And if the bank succeeds in expanding these tools for this industry, there are other service-based industries that could also use an upgrade.
6. KnowBe4’s holiday kit has cybersecurity resources
Security platform KnowBe4 recently announced its rollout of a tool kit with essential new resources for the holidays. As the provider of the globe’s biggest simulated phishing and security awareness training platform, KnowBe4 released the toolkit in an effort to help users stay protected during the cyber chaos that the holidays bring on. (Source: PRNewsWire)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: As you’re probably aware, ransomware and other malware attacks have exploded over the past few years, particularly because so many people are working from home in unprotected environments. KnowBe4 has become a very popular tool with my clients that want to test their employees on the latest threats, because many studies have shown that it’s poor training and people errors that are causing most of the security problems we face.
7. Amazon to test facial recognition to verify sellers
Amazon recently announced its plans to test forgery detection and facial recognition, as well as additional automated tech to provide an alternative to identity verification of those selling online. The test will initially be voluntary for potential U.S.-based sellers. Those who do not want to participate will be given the option to have a video call with human reviewers. Amazon said the biometric data will be used only for identity verification. (Source: GeekWire)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Like it or not, passwords are going to be a thing in the past within the next few years. Amazon and other big brands are testing biometric security — fingerprints, eye scans and facial recognition — as a more reliable way to validate a user’s identity. Ultimately this will be something many businesses will implement.
8. Fringe raised $17M to offer customizable perks
HR tech startup Fringe raised $17 million in a recent funding round. The company enables its corporate customers to provide customizable benefits to employees, giving staff the option to choose the plans and perks that meet their life stage and needs the most. Fringe plans to use the funding toward growing its team from 72 to over 100 employees by the end of next month. (Source: Tech Crunch)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Fringe is a very popular platform with many of my clients because it offers a flexible way to provide employee benefits ranging from Uber rides to mental health services. Workers love it because they get to choose the benefits they want. My clients like it because Fringe makes it easier for them to offer many different benefits from one resource, which cuts down on administration and oversight.
9. AWeber incorporating new tech for small biz
Third-party auto-responder service AWeber is integrating new technology that enables small businesses to leverage their email marketing strategy. Some of these new features include an easy-to-use builder for landing pages and the ability to integrate items such as surveys, polls, and other dynamic content directly into their emails. (Source: EIN News)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Online marketing tools like Constant Contactand MailChimp always seem to get the attention. But AWeber has been around for years and I have many clients who use their service happily. The company applies a higher level of service for its platform, rather than just letting its users figure things out. And, arguably, it offers more online marketing tools for the price. Sure, you can look at the larger players, but if you’re researching online marketing platforms I suggest taking a look at this one too.
10. Walmart-backed fintech to test banking services
Fintech company One — which is backed by Walmart — plans to roll out checking accounts for beta testing to a small percentage of Walmart’s online customers and thousands of its employees. One’s goal is to provide these accounts to the 1.6 million Walmart employees within the first year after rollout before introducing broader services. The fintech also plans to grow investment and loan offerings. (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Another reason why I believe banks will ultimately get into the accounting business is because other businesses — like big box retailers — are slowly eating away at their consumer banking services. If Walmart succeeds with this fintech project, I would expect similar offerings being made available to its suppliers and partners in the future.