A male accountant with glasses sitting at a desk with files, paperwork, and a computer screen in front of him.

How Are CPA Firms Thriving In Today’s Competitive Market

Looking back at the year 2020, when most of the world was shutting down, and accounting firms were gearing up for their busiest time of the year; tax season. During this time, accountants were handling tax write-ups and other tasks for their regular clientele when new clients suddenly started pouring in with fear and panic behind their eyes. Business owners were frantically looking for solutions to their challenges and ultimately wanted to keep their businesses alive and well despite all that was happening in the world. 

An urgent need for practical solutions presented established CPA firms and accounting professionals with a unique challenge. This challenging situation tested professionals in the finance industry and introduced new ways of handling their day-to-day operations. While small CPA firms may not have survived this intense time of growth and change, the majority had to shift and elevate their current business effectiveness.

 

The Ability to Adapt to Current Circumstances

While some CPA firms may have worked remotely before the pandemic, most of them did not and therefore had to make the shift to remote work – the ability to work from home was and still is a notable contributor to many CPA firms' continuous strides to increase profitability moving forward. In addition, accountant's roles have adapted to also become an advisor to their clients through these unprecedented times. 

So why are some CPA firms thriving while others struggle to stay afloat?

 

Keeping Up With Latest Technologies

One of the biggest reasons is the inability to keep up with technological advances. Accountants have an inherent need to update their firm's technology to provide better and more efficient services to their clientele. 

The best thing accounting firms can do, is find a trusted service provider to help guide them in their decision-making process. Top-of-the-line service providers will grant CPAs access to new accounting technology such as Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotic Process Automation at a fraction of the cost. 

Utilizing these technologies to facilitate efficient workflows and automate mundane tasks such as bookkeeping, appointment scheduling, and transaction processing can be extremely cost-effective.

 

Staying Cost-Conscious

Another competent that is helping CPA firms thrive is low operating costs. This goes hand-in-hand with working remotely and staying up to date with current technologies. Utilizing both factors alleviates the pain of costly employee salaries and overhead costs you would otherwise be forced to maintain or let your business crumble. 

The ability to have a hybrid schedule or work from home eliminates a multitude of costs associated with working in an office five days a week. Also, if you are making use of modern technology, there is no need to invest more money into resources promising to drive revenue or complete work faster.

 

Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

Even though cybersecurity and data privacy are essential in all aspects of any business, it is especially prominent for accountants and accounting professionals. A security breach has the ability to steal sensitive information and harm a CPA’s reputation. 

The best way to protect clients' data privacy is by using an integrated IT security system instead of a plethora of unintegrated software products. In addition, thriving CPA firms use secure client portals and are constantly reviewing their security systems to analyze further how to prevent data from ever leaving their firm.

 

Final Thoughts

Truth is, there is a lot to keep in mind and figure out in order to have a thriving accounting firm, but you do not have to do it alone. At Intuitive Networks, we are not solely focused on IT services – our business is centered around providing an unforgettable customer experience. Your success is our success, and that’s why we deliver progressive IT services customized to alleviate your unique pain points while growing with you into the future.

Are you interested in a consultation? If so, give us a call today to discuss IT service needs for your business. After all, we want you and your business to thrive!

 

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Accountant suffering from burnout

Accountant Burnout Is On The Rise – How Technology Can Help

Today, we’re diving deep into the cause of accountant burnout, why the struggle exists, and providing some keen tech solutions to help ease the issue at hand. 

The pandemic was hard on everyone, but it seems to have taken a particular toll on the financial industry. A recent study found that accountant burnout is at an all-time high, with nearly half of respondents saying they feel burnt out from their job. Even before the pandemic, accountants were struggling. It wasn't uncommon for them to log 60-70 hour work weeks. Then came the pandemic, change in work style, and the sheer messiness of adapting to a new financial ecosystem.

 

So, what was the initial cause of the burnout cycle?

Well, there are a few factors at play, but most signs point back to 2020. This was a time when many people shifted from in-person work to working from home. Financial worries were at an all-time high (and with recession worries trending, they still are). Many people in the financial space report that they found themselves working longer hours from home while trying to balance childcare and other responsibilities.

Along with the onset of the pandemic, there was also an increase in regulation and paperwork for accountants. With so many businesses struggling to stay afloat, there was and has been a lot of pressure on accountants to make sure everything is in order to avoid any IRS issues for these businesses.

To sum it up: What started in 2020 caused a domino effect, and burnout has now reached an all-time high.

 

Why are accountants struggling presently?

AS we explained above, the professionals in the financial industry are under more pressure than ever before. The demand for accounting services has gone up, accompanied by rapid legislation changes and heightened client expectations.

These factors have placed pressure on firms to not only deliver great results, but also take on more advisory positions. The sheer volume of work can be overwhelming, and the need to be up-to-date on the latest legislation means that many accountants are struggling to keep up with the demands of the job.

Though the demand on the industry is unlikely to lessen anytime soon, technological advances have come a long way in helping firms automating systems, streamline day-to-day tasks, and serve clients more efficiently.

 

How technology can help alleviate accountants’ burnout

Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks can free up accountants' time so that they can focus on more value-added activities.

For example, cloud-based automation software can be used to generate reports, reconcile accounts, schedule appointments and send invoices. Modern day technology allows accountants to spend less time on mundane tasks and more time on strategic planning and client relations.

In addition, automation technology can help to reduce the error rate by ensuring that data is entered correctly and eliminating the need for manual input. As a result, automation technology can help to improve accuracy and efficiency, making life easier for accountants and reducing the risk of burnout.

 

Here are a few top automation tools for accountants

  • Xero:

Xero Practice Manager is an essential tool for streamlining workflows, timesheets, and invoicing. Xero lets you assign work to staff, track and invoice for time, integrate with other software tools for invoicing and payments, and create customized reports. It is based on the cloud infrastructure, which allows you to access your data from anywhere in the world. It’s best known for its powerful mobile app, robust time and billing system, and ability to allocate various jobs with specific due dates.

  • Taxdome:

TaxDome is an all-in-one practice management platform designed to help accounting firms streamline their workflow and improve efficiency. Accounting firms can manage their client accounts, emails, invoices, and current jobs in one shared space. The platform also includes client-facing tools such as document management, e-signatures, and messages. This allows firms to provide a seamless experience for their clients while reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks

  • Karbon:

Karbon is a great tool for accounting firms, as it helps manage deadlines and has a feature that turns emails into tasks. This program is important for financial service providers since most finance-related tasks are completed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The platform’s built-in CRM feature helps manage and maintain client relationships through information management and automation. Aside from that, this tool also allows firms to send reminders and continue bringing in client business regularly. While these are some of the stronger points of the software, one of the most notable downsides for users is the lack of seamless outbound email integration.

If you're feeling burnt out from your job as an accountant, don't despair. Automation technology can help take some of the burden off of your shoulders.

 

Wrapping It Up

Overall, accountant burnout is caused by several factors however, there are ways to combat accountant burnout using automation technology. Automation technology can help by taking on repetitive tasks, improving accuracy and efficiency, and freeing up time for accountants to focus on more value-added activities. 

If you're feeling burnt out and ready to take control of your business using tech solutions, Intuitive Networks can help. Use the button below to schedule with one of our MSP experts today and create a customized solution for your business.

 

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CPA Tax Practice 1040 tax form with calculator, and papers on top of a desk.

5 Crucial Technologies to Improve Your Tax Practice and Increase Your Profit Margin in 2022

The accounting industry is swiftly changing due to the effectiveness of modern technologies. Thanks to these advances, certified public accountants, also known as CPAs and other finance experts, are able to take advantage of essential technologies and accomplish their daily duties without being bogged down with repetitive tasks. 

Accounting procedures are becoming more efficient through automation and other present-day technologies, changing the way accountants operate on a daily basis. Today, accountants can help businesses make critical decisions regarding their finances without having to collect and track the company's finances with a naked eye. This shift in daily operations enables CPAs to dive deeper into their client's records, serving as an accountant and business advisor at once. 

 

Needless to say, modern-day technology is key to increasing the annual revenue of any business. Here at Intuitive Networks, we know how much automated processes can benefit your tax practice, so we have decided to compile a list of five crucial technologies to help streamline your business and increase your profit margins in 2022. Continue reading to find out what technologies you need to make this shift in your tax practice in 2022.

 

 

Automation 

While face-to-face communication and detailed human review are essential to a successful tax preparation procedure, a balance of both human reviews along with digital automation is game-changing for all accounting professionals. Softwares such as ProSeries Professional, ProConnect Tax, TaxAct Professional, Drake Tax, Lacerte, and CCH Axcess Tax are all among a list of the best tax software programs today. Ultimately, automation reduces errors and removes uncertainty, which is why tax preparers choose automated solutions in the first place. 

 

Cloud-Based Technology 

If your business is not utilizing cloud technology, you are definitely missing out on effective tax solutions. Cloud-based technology permits clients to receive updates in real time.

 

At Intuitive Networks, we have a team of experts who specialize in resolving challenges and collaborating with your business to optimize your bookkeeping and accounting activities. Our team combines companies with the most up-to-date technology and innovations to revamp your tax practice. 

 

Blockchain

Another way to improve your tax practice is through blockchain technology. Blockchain technology deals with the transfer of ownership of assets and maintaining accurate financial records. The finance industry is being altered by decreasing the expenses of balancing and managing accounting data through blockchain technology. It also gives the necessary accuracy in profitability, safe asset keeping, and source. 

 

Remote Accounting

Working remotely has been an upward trend over the past couple of years due to the pandemic. While it can be tough to accomplish all work-related tasks from home, CPA firms can still provide impeccable service to their clients through digital accounting practices. CPA firms must take into account several factors regarding information security to minimize cyber attacks and data theft. Regardless of possible security threats, many areas of accounting operations can be done remotely and correctly.

 

Social Media Marketing

There's no doubt that social media can benefit all businesses in a positive way. From establishing relationships to gaining visibility online and increasing revenue, social media marketing can positively impact your business's profitability. Although social media can't do it all, it can boost growth, reach, and exposure when used correctly. 

 

Final Thoughts

Utilizing automation, blockchain, social media, and cloud-based technology can significantly increase profitability in 2022. Technology can be a deciding factor between a decent and phenomenal tax professional. These are just five of the many ways business owners can advance their tax practice. With the appropriate technology, accountants can have a more efficient and effective tax practice which would provide advancement to their profession. Talk to an INI specialist and start building a plan for your CPA firm today!

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Image of a person looking at a laptop computer with a phishing scam alert on the screen.

Security Concerns for Business Owners in the Finance Space: Phishing, Malware and Ransomware Attacks

Businesses in the financial space play an integral role in keeping the economy thriving, so it’s no surprise they’re often the targets of phishing scandals. That is why we've compiled a list of security concerns for business owners in the finance space. Originally coined in 1996 by hackers stealing AOL accounts and passwords, Phishing gets its name from the sport of angling, where e-mail “lures” were set out to “fish” for passwords and financial data from the “sea” of internet users. The “lures” used in phishing attacks are often quite convincing, pretending to be a trusted entity in order to trick the victim into opening an email or text message. Once clicked, that link often leads to malware being installed on the victim’s system as part of a ransomware attack to steal sensitive information. The attackers then use this information to access accounts, make transfers, or commit credit card fraud. Attackers can also sell the information on the black market.

 

What is Phishing?

Chart displaying phishing scams by industry

Image source: Phish Labs

Phishing attacks can cause devastating losses to businesses in the financial space - including declining market share, financial losses, and the destruction of their reputation and customer trust. In 2021, cybersecurity experts and IT professionals noted a record-breaking increase in cyberattacks. According to Check Point Research, cyberattacks increased 50% year-over-year, with an estimated 30,000 websites hacked every day. In their Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, Ponemon Institute and IBM noted a 10% increase in the average total cost of a data breach; increasing from $3.86 million to $4.24. This is the highest average total cost of a data breach ever recorded in the 17-year history of the report. 

When compared with other industries, at 41% the financial sector is the target of most phishing crimes, followed by social networking services (19%), and email services (17%). As the number, intensity, and variety of these cyberattacks continue to increase in 2022. Cybercriminals devise new strategies for launching sophisticated attacks. So, how can the financial industry protect itself?

 

What is BullPhish ID?

One of the best ways to help your financial company protect itself against phishing attacks is by educating your staff. BullPhish ID is one of the best tools to help your company accomplish that task. Upwards of 90% of all company security breaches aren’t caused by hackers, malware, or viruses; they’re caused by employees falling for phishing scams. BullPhish ID for MSPs is a cloud-based anti-phishing and educational tool that can help protect your company from phishing scams, while also training your employees to recognize phishing attacks and understand how to respond to them. The platform allows your business to deliver simulated security threats and phishing incidents in order to help educate and test your employees.

 

Pub 4557

Another way to protect your financial institution is to ensure you’re compliant with Pub 4557. This regulation provides the minimum requirements for electronic storage of records, including email. That means that your company must implement physical, technical, and administrative safeguards for storing and transmitting member information. While this compliance is important from a security standpoint, it’s also required by law.

 

How Can an MSP Protect Against Phishing Attacks?

Phishing scams can be truly devastating to your financial institution. The best defense against attacks is a strong offense. Working with an industry-leading Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Intuitive Networks means we can help alleviate your unique pain points - such as protecting against phishing attacks. Our business is centered around providing your financial institution with peace of mind, knowing that your company is protected. Whether you’re looking to protect your business against cyberattacks, or are interested in enhancing your infrastructure, our team of IT professionals is here to help!

 

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CPA using office management software to send invoices

The 7 Best Accounting Office Management Tools of 2022

The right management platform can make your job easier and help you better serve your clients. If you manage or own an accounting firm, you know all too well how detrimental having the wrong software can be. With so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. We know you’re busy, so the INI team got together and compiled our list of the pros and cons of the top 7 accounting office management software platforms on the market to help you make the best decision for your business.

 

The Top 7 Office Management Platforms For Accounting Firms

Karbon

Karbon is a great tool for accounting firms, as it helps manage deadlines and has a feature that turns emails into tasks. This program is important for financial service providers since most finance-related tasks are completed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. The platform’s built-in CRM feature helps manage and maintain client relationships through information management and automation. Aside from that, this tool also allows firms to send reminders and continue bringing in client business regularly. While these are some of the stronger points of the software, one of the most notable downsides for users is the lack of seamless outbound email integration.

 

OfficeTools

OfficeTools is a comprehensive operations software solution for tax preparers and public accounting offices. This robust software helps manage client information, due dates, staffing needs, project and workflow management, and billing. Since it’s web-based software, it can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, and it has a mobile app for added convenience. It is also highly scalable, so it can be used by small firms with a few staff members, or large firms with hundreds of employees. 

The most noted downside? It has a reported learning curve for beginners in the space and can be expensive for firms with multiple users (with no free trial available).

 

Xero Practice Manager

Xero Practice Manager is an essential tool for streamlining workflows, timesheets and invoicing. Xero lets you assign work to staff, and track and invoice for time. It can also integrate with other software tools for invoicing, payments, and creating customized reports. It is based on the cloud infrastructure, which allows you to access your data from anywhere in the world. It’s best known for its powerful mobile app, robust time and billing system, and ability to allocate various jobs with specific due dates. 

The downsides to this software tool are: limited access to customer service (there is no telephone number to call), no tools for team collaboration, and can be expensive depending on the level you choose (new and bronze levels are $149/month).

 

JetPack WorkFlow

Jetpack Workflow brings a great variety of features at a fair price to give your small accounting firm maximum value for your investment. It offers a range of easily accessible features that allow you to assign tasks to team members, set up recurring jobs across client accounts, and set up personalized workflows quickly for the onboarding of new clients. These features are available at an affordable price (starting price is $36/month), making Jetpack Workflow an ideal solution for small accounting firms. 

While it’s still a top pick, there are a few downsides to this software worth noting—it doesn’t have the capability for customizable reports, there is no mobile app, and it does not have any CRM features.

 

Canopy

Canopy is a great solution for accounting professionals that are looking for cloud-based management. This tool can help to streamline your firm’s workflow and build out a connected client experience thanks to its versatile array of features like workflow management, document management, billing, and CRM functions. Essentially, all the tools are needed to support your firm's day-to-day business. Plus, the platform starts at just $24 per month, making it affordable too. 

As for cons, the tool itself is reported to have poor customer service and a limited internal search.

 

TaxDome

TaxDome is an all-in-one practice management platform designed to help accounting firms streamline their workflow and improve efficiency. Accounting firms can manage their client accounts, emails, invoices, and current jobs in one shared space. The platform also includes client-facing tools such as document management, e-signatures, and messages. TaxDome allows firms to provide a seamless experience for their clients while reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks. 

With all these great features, though, it is important to highlight some of the reported challenges that users have with TaxDome. These challenges include a lack of notifications about information changes inside the system and issues around customer support availability.

 

Dext Prepare

Dext Prepare is a SaaS solution that automates the entire pre-accounting process by safely storing receipts, invoices, and bank statements in one single location. All you have to do is scan the document by taking a picture and Dext converts it to an accounting entry.  The Dext text recognition algorithm recognizes and removes duplicates too. A unique tool, also available via your mobile, centralizes all documents and records in one place. With solid 4/5 star ratings and many users over the moon for Dext, it’s worth noting that slight downsides to the software exist. For instance, uploading items can sometimes take a bit longer than desired, and it sometimes misses duplicate uploads which can cause headaches down the line.

 

TaxWorkFlow

TaxWorkFlow offers a number of features that are specifically designed to streamline tax firm operations. For example, the software includes a built-in time tracker that automatically records the time spent on each task. This data can then be used to generate invoices and reports. In addition, TaxWorkFlow offers integration with popular accounting software programs such as QuickBooks and Xero. This allows firms to seamlessly transfer data between systems, saving time and reducing errors. On the other hand, though, TaxWorkFlow does have a few limitations. The tool itself has to be paid annually, which at $1500 is a bit more expensive than other alternatives listed. Additionally, there isn’t any integrated bookkeeping software available and no direct access to your client’s books.

 

Final Thoughts

Now that you have an idea of the pros and cons of some of the top accounting office management software platforms you’re ready to start streamlining your office's workflows. If you're still not sure which platform is right for you, or if you have any other questions about office management software, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our team of experts would be happy to help you find the perfect solution for your accounting office.

 

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Tax preparer image for pub4557 blog

Understanding Pub 4557 & How your Managed Service Provider Can Help you Stay Compliant

As a financial institution, you are responsible for safeguarding your client's sensitive information.

One way to do this is to ensure that you are compliant with Pub 4557. This regulation sets forth the minimum requirements for electronic storage of records, including email. It’s important to note that email is not considered a secure method of storing records. It also does not meet compliance requirements. Today we’re honing in on all things Pub 4557, what it is, why it's important, and the exact rules you need to follow to ensure you're compliant.

 

What is Pub 4557?

Pub 4557 is a document published by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that outlines the requirements for the electronic filing of tax returns. The purpose of Pub 4557 is to ensure that taxpayers' private information is protected when it is transmitted electronically.

In order to meet the requirements of Pub 4557, taxpayers must use a secure method of transmitting their tax return information to the IRS. This can be accomplished through a secure website, encrypted email, or a secure client portal.

 

What is needed to comply with Pub 4557?

In order to comply with Pub 4557, your practice must implement physical, technical, and administrative safeguards for storing and transmitting member information. They must also develop and maintain policies and procedures for managing member data.

Some of the specific Pub 4557 rules around data include:

  • Encrypting all confidential member information when it is transmitted electronically.
  • Ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to confidential member information.
  • Physically securing all paper records containing confidential member information or using strong passwords with automatic screen locking to protect digital information.

Implementing a disaster recovery plan in case of a data breach or attack.

 

What happens when your business is not compliant with Pub 4557?

While there are no specific fines on record for not being Pub 4557 compliant, there are varied consequences. For example, tax preparers who do not comply with Pub 4557 may be subject to penalties, and in the most serious cases, will lose the ability to work with taxpayers.

 

Why do you need the best in cyber security when you are dealing with people's financial information?

You need the best in cyber security because you are dealing with people's financial information. Financial information is a target for cybercriminals because it can be used to steal money or commit fraud. Additionally, financial information is often personal and sensitive, so it is crucial to protect it from unauthorized access.

 

How can a Managed Service Provider (MSP) help you comply with Pub 4557?

There are several ways an MSP can help you comply with Pub 4557. First and foremost, your MSP can provide secure storage for all confidential member information. This ensures that only authorized personnel have access to the data and that it is protected from physical theft or damage.

An MSP can also help you meet the requirements for electronically transmitting confidential member information by encrypting all data before it is sent. This step makes it impossible for unauthorized individuals to intercept your client’s sensitive information.

Finally, an MSP can assist you in developing and implementing a disaster recovery plan. This plan will ensure that you are able to quickly and effectively recover from a data breach.

 

So, why is Pub 4557 compliance so important?

Compliance with Pub 4557 is vital for any tax preparer because it helps protect your client’s sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. While it's not only important from a security standpoint, compliance with Pub 4557 is also required by law. Businesses that fail to comply with the regulation may be subject to penalties as noted above.

 

Our Final Thoughts

Overall, Pub 4557 is a vital regulation for any tax preparer because it helps protect sensitive member information from falling into the wrong hands. An MSP can help you meet the requirements of Pub 4557 by providing secure storage for your data. This includes encrypting all confidential information before it is transmitted and assisting you in developing a disaster recovery plan. Compliance with Pub 4557 is important from a security standpoint and is also required by law. Businesses that fail to comply with the regulation may be subject to fines and other penalties. Therefore, it is crucial that you work with an MSP who can help you ensure compliance with Pub 4557.

If you have any questions about Pub 4557 or how we at Intuitive Networks can help you meet compliance requirements. Please contact us today! We would be happy to answer any of your questions and help you ensure you are compliant.

Call us today!

 

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How to stop and prevent ransomware attacks

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Construction companies are seeing an increased need to have an online presence with more consumers shopping and conducting business online. In 2019, Verizon’s Data Breach Investigative Report debunked the myth that cybercriminals only attack large companies with 43% of Ransomware attacks against small to medium-sized businesses - construction businesses have now become the Number 1 target. 

The motivation for the attack remains the same - money, but the reason that smaller businesses are targeted because it takes longer for the business to identify the breach. Usually, by the time the breach has been identified, their information has already been transferred and sold multiple times. In the last two years, there has been an increase in demand for construction services, which makes the industry appealing to hackers because companies are housing more client data while working on a project. Buildings and their increased technology are also becoming targets.  

Why the construction industry? According to Oliver Noble, a cybersecurity expert at Nordlocker, an encrypted cloud service provider, “The reputation of firms in this industry is largely built upon on-time service delivery, which is at risk during any delays caused by ransomware attacks; this factor, together with the industry’s razor-thin profit margins, provides the ransomware groups with conditions that make a payout more likely.” Your business doesn’t have to be the next target for these cyber criminals with preventative ransomware protection that we offer.

 

Digital Risk Management Education

In Our January 2020 blog, “Don’t Wait Until After the Attack to Protect Yourself,” we mentioned how digital risk management is personalized to fit your business needs. The best way to prevent ransomware attacks is an informed employee, beyond changing passwords regularly, on the signs of phishing and cyber attacks and the steps to take when it is identified and how to report suspicious messages. In order to ensure employees understand the importance of digital risk management to the company and the part they play in maintaining that, training must be done upon hiring, during the year, and again if they click on a phishing simulation to ensure they understand how to identify a suspicious email and what to do about it. Employees knowing and understanding what to look for aids in positive, long-term digital risk management and providing a viable and strategic plan that addresses preventable risks that can impact the organization's financial performance, operation, or reputation.

 

Protection Beyond the Firewall

The development and different types of ransomware are increasing, making the need for anti-ransomware protection to evolve and become more effective and efficient. Firewalls have long been the preferred method for protection, and it was believed to be enough protection. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. An increase in ways to attack yields an increased need for a variety of ways to protect yourself. 

Don’t count out firewall protection, as it is still the first line of defense against cyberattacks, but should not be the only method of protection used because these hackers will try a variety of ways to attack your data. The one that could possibly be successful is the one that isn’t protected against a firewall. Working with a trusted MSP to create a defense strategy helps to drive awareness, communication, and act swiftly in the event of an attack.

 

Invest in Protection

Small businesses and newly formed start-ups  usually do not have the same cybersecurity checks in place as larger, more established companies, making them an easier target for ransomware attacks. There is only one thing separating the two when it comes to cybersecurity, and that is making the investment to obtain a quality MSP. We believe in creating a plan that provides you with quality protection within your budget. Investing in an excellent digital risk management plan can help you avoid losing money in the long run and provide your company with sustainability. Our ransomware protection services are insurance for your client data and your business’ reputation, both of which are invaluable.

 You don’t have to protect your network alone - as that’s what we do best! As your MSP, we’ll take the lead in identifying any weaknesses within your system and create a plan of action that will strengthen your protection. Give us a call today and let’s talk about how we can give you peace of mind while protecting your data.


Construction worker standing beneath a building with the words “2022 Construction Technology Trends” superimposed over the top of the image.

10 Construction Technology Trends to Watch in 2022

A new year means new and exciting trends to watch in 2022 in the construction industry! Technological advancements are constantly shaping the construction industry's future. Thus making it imperative to stay up to date with the latest tech trends. As technological evolutions continue to make construction work safer, easier, and more efficient, many construction companies are capitalizing on the additional benefits of advanced tech. Ultimately to help improve their workflow, productivity, and overall efficiencies. 

The pandemic changed how the construction industry does business. New technology continues to change how business is done on and off the construction site. As the construction industry becomes more competitive and the market shifts, it will be essential to understand these industry trends to stay competitive! To ensure that your company can stay ahead of the game, we've compiled the top 10 Technology Trends to watch in 2022.

 

10 Construction Trends to Watch in 2022

1. Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI):

Artificial Intelligence is one of the fastest-growing trends to watch this year! AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) are quickly improving construction companies' long-standing inefficiencies and low productivity. AI can monitor workers and construction sites for potential safety concerns, construction errors, and productivity issues. There are also advancements in AI technology, such as smart construction webcams. This allows easy access to construction data and imagery to help document and streamline project management.

 

2. 3D Printing:

Although this technology has been around for a while, there are new and exciting applications of 3D printing. All to help meet the growing demand for affordable, efficient construction solutions. Did you know that engineers have invented a 3D printer that can print asphalt? Construction companies can also use 3D printing to understand the current environment and to better simulate and envision towns, cities, and communities. At this point, physical and digital are no longer two separate realities but rather one robust way to visualize construction projects.

 

3. Drones:

While the use of drones for inspections and land surveying is not new, their use by the construction industry has increased drastically! According to Goldman Sachs, commercial drone development will likely reach about $10.9 billion in 2025. And a recent BigRentz report noted that drone use had increased 239% year-over-year. By using a drone, surveyors can survey a site in a fraction of a minute. Thus saving plenty of time and money, given that process traditionally could take weeks or even months. Drones can also provide greater accuracy and precision, mapping large areas over long distances and producing real-time data that can be used to aid decision-making in the construction process. Additionally, drones can be used to perform certain jobs in place of human workers to prevent injury.

 

4. Digitizing Workflows: According to commercial real estate services firm JLL's State of Construction Tech report, the construction industry adopted more technology in one year than what would have usually taken three years due to COVID-19. Although we're now a couple of years into the pandemic, the tech trend continues to grow. Due to the increase in work, digitizing workflows has become necessary to keep up with demand. Also, face-to-face interactions are now less frequent, forcing construction companies to shift toward a more digital/paperless model. Digitization provides a seamless experience regarding design and materials management. It also helps with scheduling, crew management, and much more. Digital workflows help construction companies boost their efficiency and productivity while improving the quality of life from the office to the project site. 

 

5. Advancements in Sustainability: Many other industries are committing to becoming net zero in the coming decades. The construction industry is by no means an exception. Public interest in fighting climate change and consumer demand for environmentally-friendly projects drives many companies to become more sustainable. This trend can be seen in everything from sustainably-sourced materials to buildings that help create carbon-neutral communities. Additionally, local, state, and federal government incentives to help the environment drive the construction industry to become more sustainable in 2022 and beyond.

 

6. New Construction Materials:

Construction companies are looking to source cost-effective, sustainable building materials to balance profits and sustainability. This can be seen in the current trend toward utilizing new construction materials such as Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC). ECC is a bendable concrete, and engineered timber, which is created by bonding several types of softwood. The result of using new construction materials such as these is a decreased carbon footprint, fewer emissions, and less waste during the manufacturing process. It also decreases the time and money spent on repairing cracks and breakage.

 

7. Declining Workforce: While a shortage of workers is not necessarily a new trend in the construction industry, the surge in increased demand for construction services in recent years has exacerbated this trend. Since 2014, Deloitte found that construction job openings increased by 50%, while new hires lagged behind at 14%. This means that construction companies are being asked to take on more construction projects without enough laborers to ensure the seamless execution of the project. This reality is also one of the driving factors for construction companies to digitize their workflows and look for other ways to improve their efficiencies to support their workers.

 

8. Building Information Technology (BIM): Like AI, this is one of the hottest construction industry trends, promising greater accuracy to the building process. BIM is a software modeling process that construction companies use to collaborate on a building's design, construction, and operation. This technology enables construction companies to improve their resource management, enhances collaboration, and helps increase communication throughout the project. BIM can also help construction companies tackle challenges such as budget overspending, QC issues, and project delays. As construction technology evolves rapidly, BIM will be a game-changer in 2022 and beyond.

 

9. Augmented Reality (AR):

AR and Virtual Reality (VR) are technologies that are being used increasingly often in the construction industry. AR, in particular, is emerging as a more powerful tool than VR. As buildings become increasingly "smart" and complex, VR can facilitate in detecting design and coordination errors. AR can also present BIM data, which can help facilitate coordination between consultants, designers, and construction teams. Construction companies can also use AR as a tool to discuss their projects with clients.

 

10. Increasing Ransomware Threats:

According to a recent study by NordLocker, construction is the #1 industry hit by ransomware. This computer virus takes over the target device until the victim agrees to pay a fee to regain access—victims of ransomware attacks in the construction industry range from small, family-owned companies to large corporate entities. Construction companies are most vulnerable to attacks through emails, malware, ransomware, and siegeware, specifically targeting smart building technology. So how can construction companies protect their online assets from ransomware? That's where we can help! Our team of experts is available to help secure your construction technology and answer all your questions

We know that it takes a lot of effort to stay on top of these growing trends in 2022 and beyond. Technology requires considerable maintenance and upkeep to ensure it's in the best shape to continue to serve your business' long- and short-term success. That's where we come in! 

Whether you're interested in digitizing your workflow, investing in Building Information Technology, or protecting your construction company from ransomware, our expert technicians will become part of your team. We'll work to support your company's investments in any of these technological trends, including the best construction mobile app picks.

We'll answer any questions you may have on your journey to capitalize on one or more of these construction technology trends. Just contact us to get started!


Image of a computer screen, tablet screen, and phone screen showing elements of PlanGrid’s mobile app

Everything You Need to Know About PlanGrid

When it comes to the construction industry, we know that every minute counts. Discovering ways to save an hour or even minutes each day could result in significant budget savings when considering the rise of material and labor costs. One of the ways we can help our construction clients is by increasing their efficiency and management of their projects through mobile app integration. 

Since construction companies' work in the field is spread across multiple project sites, managing so many moving parts (literally!) Some of the benefits of using mobile app integration for construction companies include: 

  • Improving planning and scheduling 
  • Improved communication and collaboration 
  • Increase project management workflow 
  • Easier file access and sharing
  • Effect budget management 

Utilizing mobile app integration can save construction companies valuable time and resources, both of which are particularly scarce these days! Yet keeping time on projects requires a commitment to continuously improving and implementing new processes and technologies. One of the most exciting new technologies that we use to help our construction clients manage their projects and workflow, is PlanGrid.

 

How PlanGrid Saves Time in the Construction Field

Photo credit: PlanGrid

PlanGrid is an incredible tool that can help organize construction plans on a mobile device. It is used by major construction firms in 400,000+ projects, storing 30 million pages of blueprints in digital format. Currently, it’s considered one of the most downloaded construction management software. One of the things that makes this tool so powerful is that PlanGrid constantly evaluates how it can equip construction teams to build faster while retaining a high-quality standard.

Here are a few of the top features of PlanGrid mobile app that will help save time on construction management: 

  • Document management: Construction projects can generate hundreds of thousands of documents, and a lack of solid organization of these materials can result in costly schedule delays or rework. PlanGrid’s mobile app allows for quick and easy uploading of documents and an automated sheet publishing flow, saving hours of saving and manual uploading efforts. Each document will be scanned, linked, and labeled before being loaded onto devices used by the office and field teams. Any document revisions are organized, so all team members are guaranteed to be working from the latest set. 

 

  • Task management: PlanGrid’s mobile app also allows for the simple creation and management of tasks for planned work or to keep track of issues that need to be resolved. That feature enables teams to track work through all construction phases by creating planned work tasks. Whether an architect uploads a spreadsheet of punch list items for subcontractors to complete, or maps planned work items, this tool handles all of this with seamless and immediate integration across the entire team’s devices. Check out PlanGrid’s video on Task Sheet management for a deeper dive into this feature. 

 

  • Task Reports: Throughout any construction project, the client and/or stakeholders must be informed about costs and scheduled impacts. PlanGrid’s Task Report feature allows users to customize task reports to share relevant information and ensure consistent communication with all team members. 

 

  • Field Reports: Construction teams need to complete various forms - such as timesheets, daily safety inspections, job hazard analysis, etc. - daily. The Field Report feature allows for teams to quickly complete and submit these reports, which can then be emailed to any team members who need to monitor those reports.

 

  • PlanGrid Connect: Construction projects are complex and often require integrating technology platforms to serve the needs of certain projects. PlanGrid Connect allows construction companies to customize how they share information between their teams' applications. The number of integrations that PlanGrid Connect offers are constantly expanding!

 

Pricing Plans: Pros & Cons

 

Photo Credit: CompareCamp.com

Depending on your construction company’s needs, PlanGrid offers three different pricing plans:

  • Free Trial
    • This plan is great for those looking to try the program before purchasing. The free trial lasts 21 days. 
  • Nailgun: $49/month
    • This plan includes access to 550 sheets. When billed annually the cost is decreased to $39 per person, per month. 
  • Dozer: $69/month
    • This plan allows for up to 5,000 sheets. When billed annually, the cost is $59 per person, per month. 
  • Crane: $139/month 
    • This plan provides access to unlimited sheets. When billed annually, the price is $119 per person, per month. 

The plans include unlimited projects, photos, and documents (other than blueprints).

For those interested in pricing for multiple users per month, PlanGrid suggests reaching out to them to discuss pricing plans. 

After exploring several reviews of PlanGrid, here are the top pros and cons to consider regarding this construction program: 

Pros

  • Easy to use and learn
  • Information and documents are shared in real-time
  • Markup feature on documents is easy to use and makes collaboration with teams streamlined and straightforward both on and offsite
  • Great at writing Requests for Information (RFIs) and tracking them. It’s also each to allow others to see an answer
  • Automated organization of plans 
  • Excellent mobile access through the app

Cons

  • Training is considered a premium service and must be purchased separately. 
  • If you have multiple users, they will all need their own plan and license. This includes subcontractors and anyone working on the project who needs access to the software. This means additional costs for collaborators.

How PlanGrid Matches up to Competitors

Several other programs on the market offer similar features to PlanGrid. Here’s a review of a few of their top competitors:

ArcSite

PlanGrid is one of the best and most highly utilized apps during the construction phase. It allows teams to communicate and collaborate using the most up-to-date plans, punch lists, and daily reports. ArcSite is better suited to the early sales phase of a project. It focuses on sales, surveying, collecting field data, discussing plans with customers, and drawing site plans in real-time.

Raken

Raken gets rid of the paperwork associated with daily reporting on construction sites. Raken is a construction management app specializing in connecting office reports with team members in the field and field reports, while PlanGrid focuses on all aspects of construction needs and requirements.

Procore

Similar to Raken, Procore’s goal is to replace the pen and paper processes of the construction business. Procore’s functionalities span from payroll to punch lists. It boasts a digital process for the entire project lifecycle and a strong support team. Both construction platforms have widely different focuses. PlanGrid is much more robust than Procore in its features. since it is designed to focus on all aspects of construction needs and requirements.

Reviews

Plangrid is a robust software designed to handle every aspect of your construction project. It is loved by foremen and project managers alike. 

When it comes to making a decision about the best technical solution for your construction business, we’re here to help! As an industry leader, we have the latest construction technology and the team to deliver a solution that works for you. Whether it’s utilizing PlanGrid or another program, we’ll help maximize your cost savings and efficiency.

For more info about Intuitive Network’s top mobile picks, check out our latest blog post. If you have any questions, we’re here to help! Contact us and we’ll answer all your construction technology questions.

 


5 Steps Construction Companies Can Take to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

When your schedule is based around deadlines, there is no time to worry about what may be lurking. Because of this, the construction industry is more at risk of ransomware attacks that hold your plans, data, and more hostage until you pay up the big bucks. Even then, there is no guarantee that your files will be returned intact or at all. This is why the best course of action is to prevent any chance of this happening from the start.

INI Solutions specializes in securing businesses just like yours from outside threats. Follow along as we give tips and tricks to keep your business running no matter the cyber threat.

Preventing Ransomware in the Construction Industry

With 73% of ransomware attacks proving successful in 2020, it’s important to have foundations in place to prevent them from happening to you. These can include:

1. Identity Management and Verification

Implementing a system where only those within your organization have access to is key. This is more than just making your data private from the open public. It takes it a step further by allowing access to those within your organization that should have access to certain things, such as Mike from Accounting not having access to the IT data. Each team member has their own logins and access to their respective files. When combined with multi-factor authentication, the chance of someone using a login to break in drops considerably.

2. Making IT Security Basics Common Education

Has your boss ever stepped into your work space to ask you to buy $1000 worth of Visa gift cards with your own money with the promise they’ll pay you back? Of course not, so why would they ask you to do it over email? 

This is a typical case of a phishing scam and is just one instance of what team members should be educated in for IT security. Scams such as this often lead to ransomware invading your systems after an employee clicks a link they shouldn’t. Once it’s in, it’s hard to get out so preventative training is key.

3. Back Up, Back Up, And Back Up!

Data being held hostage means little when you have the same exact data backed-up from the morning or night before. Sure, you may lose a couple hours of work but when it comes down to the big picture, that’s easy to do again.

Most Cloud Managed Systems include automatic backups that take place every few hours, just in case of emergency situations like this. Hosting this Cloud system with an external party, such as INI, also increases the level of security by distancing the data from attackers while still providing reliable access to your productivity applications, mission-critical business data and other essential software.

4. Lock ‘Em and Toss ‘Em

Unfortunately, even with all of these practices, ransomware may still break through. When this happens, it’s imperative that your organization moves fast to contain the threat before it begins spreading through the system. 

Once the threat has been contained, it must be purged from the system through the eradication process. This includes backing up all files and restoring after in a selective process that allows your team to continue working.

5. Hire Experts To Do It For You

We know how important it is to stay on schedule. If this all seems like a lot of work, it is. Preventing ransomware attacks and eradicating them with minimal damage when they do occur can take a lot of time, money, and resources. 

Working with an IT team like Intuitive Networks can change that. Our team is constantly on the attack against virtual threats to your business. From preventative measures to getting your system back to the way it was before, we are there to keep your business running.

Are you ready for security?

Contact us to start your personalized IT journey today.

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