(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)
Google’s new passkeys may be the start of the death of the password, AI continues to take over everything (including writing your emails), easier migrations with Microsoft, and other developments in technology from this past month, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. Google rolls out passkeys to kill passwords
Last month Google announced its launch of the passkey — a security tool they believe will eventually replace passwords permanently. Passkeys are cryptographic authenticators that can be linked with fingerprints and PINs to provide an advanced and nearly hack-proof method of security. Google explains. Other tech giants like Microsoft are headed in the same direction. Google has made passkeys available to its account holders with the option to keep using passwords. (Source: Gizmodo)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Say goodbye to the password — and good riddance. The future is in biometrics — fingerprints, eye and face scans, even voice recognition. Google, Microsoft and other big tech companies are pushing their users in this direction so it’s inevitable. Will this be completely safe and protect us from hackers? Of course not. But it’s a safer alternative to the password.
2. The best video conferencing services
Features Editor Eric Griffith reported on the results for best for best video conferencing software as ranked by readers of PCMag. GoTo Meeting came out on top for best video and sound quality. Right behind was Google Meet (best non-paid service) and Zoom. (Source: PCMag)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: A surprising winner! If you’ve been using Google Meet, Zoom or Microsoft Teams perhaps it’s also re-visiting GoTo Meeting, considering that its quality is considered to be better.
3. Teams lets small biz charge for appointments and more.
Microsoft Teams is now equipped to handle virtual payments for the small-business owner who conducts their services online. Microsoft — ever savvy about how the virtual space has become a booming marketplace for SMBs — has made an essential upgrade for its Microsoft Teams customers in the U.S. and Canada. (Source: The Verge)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Reportedly joining forces with PayPal, GoDaddy and Stripe, this latest addition could be a gamechanger for those who regularly host webinars and service-based professionals whose clients are in different parts of the country, says the article. The payments app is designed to track payments while allowing customers flexible payment options.
4. Google’s new AI feature will write emails for you
Drafting emails will no longer be a time-consuming task. Google last month announced “Help me write,” a soon-to-be added feature in Gmail. With one click the AI-generated tool will write out complete messages after the user types just a few words. Users can then edit and customize the wording and modify the email’s tone. (Source: Mashable)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: I already know people that are using this feature in ChatGPT and guess what? It’s pretty darn good. Here’s a perfect example of just a little way that AI will be changing our business. An employee may take 20 minutes to compose an important email. AI like this will cut the time in half, maybe even more. Which means that same employee can get more done during the day. And you don’t have to hire more employees.
5. The IRS has a free TurboTax alternative in the works
The IRS wants to help you file your taxes. The Washington Post reported the agency is developing a digital filing system that will be free to the public. No specifics on when the filing system will be fully up and running, though reports indicate January 2024 is the target date for a test-run. The incentive behind the platform — in part — is to relieve taxpayers of costly filing fees. (Source: Engadget)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Intuit’s not happy about this. But I’m betting many of their small business and individual customers are.
6. Microsoft is making migrating to a new PC much easier
Mark Hachman of PCWorld last month wrote a feature on Microsoft’s newest product — Restore Apps for Windows 11. Designed to simplify the process of transferring data from an old PC to a new one, Microsoft is removing the headache of finding a way to migrate your documents, applications and pictures — right down the arrangement of your icons on the desktop. Users will need to register with a Microsoft account to get full access Restore Apps features — and users have the option to deactivate on brand-new PCs. (Source: PCWorld)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: A very important tool for your office as you begin the upgrade process to Windows 11 machines.
7. The PayPal email scam you can’t ignore
Beware of emails tagged “urgent.” Phishing scams are getting more sophisticated as the operators behind them are finding seemingly legit ways to access your data. Reports indicate scam emails and verified emails are becoming indistinguishable. These imposters can duplicate a company’s logo, tone and content of the message itself — along with a link to a log-in page that appears real — setting up a clever bait. (Source: Fox News)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Fortunately the Federal Trade Commission has been relentless with releasing its warnings and has cited specific companies the scammers repeatedly use and what to look out for. Bottom line — never click on a link that even looks legitimate before taking steps to assess the risk.
8. Critical flaws in some Cisco switches could allow remote attacks
Cisco — the digital communications company that offers wireless, security and networking software to small businesses — released a list of flaws discovered in several of its Small Business Switches (nine were listed.) A few flaws which were marked as “critical” have increased the risk of remote attacks. As Hacker News reported, “[The vulnerabilities] could be exploited by an unauthenticated, remote attacker to run arbitrary code or cause a denial-of-service (DoS) condition.” Cisco has not reported on any known threats at this point. (Source: The Hacker News)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you’re using Cisco routers or devices in your company, make sure you ask your IT support firm if they’ve addressed these potential issues.
9. ActiveCampaign introduces AI content generation
The marketing and automation platform ActiveCampaign launched its AI enhancement toolthat will further refine the way businesses reach their customers. The company announced the beta version will be available to its customers on its early access page. As an example, users who are formulating email marketing strategies can employ the AI’s “natural language processing,” which will craft three different messaging templates tailored to the user’s campaign. (Source: ActiveCampaign)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: And here’s AI taken one step further. Where Google is composing individual emails, email marketing platforms like ActiveCampaign — and its many competitors — will be creating email marketing messages … and ultimately executing, responding to replies and measuring data.
10. 4 popular M’soft apps are getting a big AI boost
Sabrina Ortiz of ZDNet reported on Microsoft’s newly added AI enhancements to four of its popular applications. Bing — Microsoft’s search engine that has an image creation feature — now includes Bing Chat that comes with a voice feature where users can ask the chatbot questions or source for information. The Edge app will interface with Bing Chat where the user can highlight a section of a web page and ask a question about that specific content. Swiftkey — the virtual keyboard that drafts emails and texts — and Skype have also been upgraded with AI features. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: My clients ask me if they should be building AI technology and I say no, just wait for your software vendor. And — as evidenced by Microsoft here — both big and small tech firms are already incorporating AI into their products to help users get stuff done faster and with less time.