Voices

10 tech stories you may have missed

Millions of small businesses selling online; the return of retro technology; and eight other developments accountants and their clients need to know about.

1. Amazon report cites more than 1 million small-business sellers on platform. A recent Small Business Impact Report from Amazon shows that more than a million U.S.-based small and midsized businesses are selling on Amazon and have generated more than 900,000 jobs worldwide. These businesses are in all 50 states and more than 130 countries, with more than 20,000 of them surpassing $1 million in sales on Amazon in 2017. The report also says that half the items purchased on Amazon are from SMBs. (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: When it comes to small-business impact, I’m on Team Amazon here. Sure, many small online merchants struggle against the ecommerce giant. But many, many more merchants -– even with Amazon’s sometimes draconian rules and requirements -- have realized the more lucrative opportunities when they become Amazon merchants. I believe that if you’re selling online, being an Amazon merchant should be at least one of your channels.

2. Google’s secret to protect its employees from hacking is physical keys. Google has announced a robust solution for phishing cyberattacks against its employees: The company says the adoption of physical Security Keys has stopped the attacks. Security Keys are small USB stick devices made by companies like YubiKey that function similar to two-factor authentication (2FA) methods its employees may already be using. With 2FA enabled, hackers need more than just a username and password for access. (Source: Popular Mechanics)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: This item got a lot of media attention because … well, if it works for Google, then it must be something worthwhile – and it is. Considering all the ways your firm’s and your clients’ data can be stolen, and all the costs associated with a data breach, it may make sense for you to do what Google does: Spend a few bucks and equip your employees with Security Keys.

3. A tech blogger says that “retro” technology still makes sense for some IT projects. Tech Republic writer Mary Shacklett thinks that “retro” technology still has a place in the world. “Sometimes, retro solutions are the most effective way to attack nagging IT problems. In these three situations, they could make sense: 1) If the technology solves most of your problems and can pay for itself. 2) When you define your initial business case for new technology but first look downstream for what might be needed. 3) When legal requirements for uninterrupted data custody require a more traditional, on-premise data storage solution rather than the cloud.” (Source: Tech Republic)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: I agree! Sometimes old school is better than new, and you may find that using tried-and-true technology has a greater return on investment than anything else. Just because it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s better.

4. Windows 10: these two new builds deliver lots of bug fixes. Microsoft has just released Windows 10 build 17134.191 for Windows 10 Versions 1803 or the April 2018 Update, as well as Build 16299.579 for Windows 10 users on Version 1709 or the Fall Creators Update. For users running either of the two latest versions of Windows 10, Microsoft has several bug fixes to improve the OS for enterprise environments. The update for 1803, called KB4340917, doesn’t introduce new features but does fix many issues that could be causing problems for administrators managing mobile devices. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: Please, please … make sure your Windows operating systems on every desktop and server in your firm are up to date. There are millions of bots worldwide looking for older Windows operating systems with security vulnerabilities and the best way to keep your network as secure as possible is by running the most recent versions of Windows software.

Microsoft offices

5. Microsoft unveils lighter $399 Surface Go tablet to take on iPads and Chromebooks. Microsoft recently unveiled its $399 Surface Go, a smaller tablet computer that competes with Apple’s iPad and Google’s Chromebooks. It’s a reasonably priced, 1.15-pound, solid tablet with a 10-inch display, making it a smaller, lighter, and cheaper version of Microsoft’s other tablet computer — the Surface Pro 3 — which has been discontinued. (Source: USA Today) (Note: My company, The Marks Group PC, is a Microsoft partner)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: It’s lighter, it’s cheaper, it’s smaller … and it may even be better than an iPad? Could be a winner for the business traveler or a mobile employee.

6. Apple updates its MacBook Pro with new processors and better keyboards. Apple recently updated some of its MacBook Pro computers. The biggest change is the upgrade to Intel’s latest eighth-generation processors, which now ship in the 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models. Apple says users should see up to a 70 percent performance boost on the six-core 15-inch model and up to two times the performance on the highest-end 13-inch model. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: Many employees at small businesses rely on the Macbook for their computing needs, and an upgrade like this promises to speed up the device’s performance and therefore help increase productivity.

7. The Department of Energy will award nearly $100M in small biz tech R&D grants. The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it will award 95 grants worth a total of $95 million to 80 small businesses located in 26 states as part of its Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. (Source: ExecutiveGov.com)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: Many small businesses forget that the government – particularly its more technical branches -- has hundreds of millions of dollars of funds available to help them grow their businesses, invest in technologies and create new technologies that the government may buy. The Department of Energy’s program is but one of many offered that could create opportunities for small companies.

8. Google announces Cloud Build, its new continuous integration and delivery platform. Google just announced the launch of Cloud Build — its new Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery framework. The company describes it as a “fully-managed CI/CD platform that lets you build, test, and deploy software quickly, at scale.” Cloud Build works across a variety of environments including VMs, serverless, Kubernetes, or Firebase. It also supports Docker containers and gives developers or operations the flexibility to build, test, and deploy in an increasingly automated fashion. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: This new service impacts any business – big or small – that develops applications and can be an even bigger benefits to the companies that integrate their applications with Google apps like Gmail and G Suite.

9. How technology is saving PetSmart millions by eliminating sales fraud. PetSmart says it saved $12 million in 2017 by catching criminals using high-tech methods — specifically, pinpointing fraudulent orders before they were shipped. Like many other retailers, it is using advanced machine learning technology from fraud prevention service Kount to take fraud prevention to the next level by not just stopping losses at the stores but also helping authorities prosecute criminals. By tracking online fraudsters in 2017, PetSmart was able to cancel nearly $4 million in fraudulent orders and is on track to do even better in 2018. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: If you or your clients are selling products online, you’re exposed to fraudulent transactions when criminals use stolen credit card numbers to purchase products. That’s not fun. The good news is that there are a bunch of companies using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help you – like PetSmart and others – minimize this risk.

10. How technology is revolutionizing underpants. Technology is now transforming underwear, with high-performance undies that claim to do everything from filtering flatulence to emitting soothing vibrations. With advancements in fibre technologies and knitting manufacturing, underpants today can be high-tech, with the inclusion of haptic communication. For example, Sydney-born, New York-based company Wearable-X has teamed with condom manufacturer Durex to create interactive underwear called Fundawear—which has a “vibrating touch” that can be transferred from anywhere in the world through a smartphone app. (Source: Independent)

Why this is important for your business and your clients: We live in great world, don’t we?

Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.