Accounting Professionals Use Macs to Build Wealth

“Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin

Ask any CPA and they’ll add a 3rd item: the dreaded BSOD at the peak of busy season. Years of predictable and costly downtime during the strain of what accountants affectionately refer to as ‘busy season’ was the primary motivator to go All Mac with our Firm, Nelson Accounting Professionals, PLLC.

I was fortunate to own Macs since 1984 and was well schooled in their various quirks and fairly comfortable with troubleshooting.

Even though Apple was carving a new direction with OS X, I was confident that the learning curve wouldn’t be too daunting.

When we started out in December 2002, Jaguar was the new beast out of Cupertino and it purred along happily on our network of beautiful 17-inch Flat Panel iMacs that graced our desks.

Imagine running Windows XP within VirtualPC, along with Mac apps such as Excel, Word, Internet Explorer and various other Accounting apps – simultaneously – on an 800 MHz machine with 1 GB RAM.

In those early days, we had no choice but to run our industrial accounting apps in XP via VirtualPC because there simply were no Mac alternatives. What we gave up in speed and responsiveness in those PC apps, we gained in overall rock solid stability.

Looking back, it’s incredible how hard we pushed Apple’s hardware while never experiencing a single hour of downtime.

Fast forward six years and things have gotten a lot better for intrepid professionals venturing out on their own, seeking a better way using Apple’s solutions.

Consumer and commercial software for OS X is continuously expanding, supported by finely engineered, innovative hardware that is powerful enough to run Windows and other operating systems on top of OS X with little performance penalty.

While Apple’s hardware and software have made great leaps in ease-of-use, compatibility and reliability, there still remain a few challenges for the Switchers and ‘mere mortals’ ready to strike out on their own who aren’t experts in networking, file sharing and troubleshooting.

Since being profiled on Mac360 and Apple, we have received many inquiries from others who are traveling a similar path as ours. Here are a few software solutions and tips we’ve learned along the way that may help you on your Mac journey:

1. Create a spreadsheet (or use Bento) for keeping track of your software and serial #s. As you expand and acquire more software, you’ll be glad you kept track of this critical info.

Add fields to keep track of the date acquired, version number, which Mac each serial # pertains to, and any notes on installs.

2. Carefully lay out a naming paradigm for each Mac. We learned early on that employee names, given our turnover and frequent hardware upgrades, were confusing.

We’ve switched to a theme based on astronomy for hardware names and use an abbreviated employee name for file sharing. That gives us great flexibility in switching hardware around without the need to change account details.

3. Create a folder for Software Updates and keep it current. This will greatly speed up your admin tasks. Flash drives are an excellent tool for this task as well.

4. Become familiar with Apple’s Discussion Boards. This is an active and knowledgeable community of Mac users who you can tap when you’re stumped and need expert advice. It’s like a personal Genius Bar, minus the wait. In fact, this is where I received the next helpful tip.

5. Access Control Lists (ACLs), Permissions and File Sharing. Introduced in OS X 10.4 “Tiger,” ACLs are a supplement to the existing POSIX permissions accessible within the Get Info panel.

Before Tiger, File Sharing was easy to set up and tweak with excellent tools such as SharePoints, Get Info and BatChmod. It was easy to get the OS to do things not originally intended. Some software even featured complex multi-user functionality and sharing right out of the box.

Apple’s adoption of ACLs presents a leap forward with file sharing, but also potential challenges. There are many users out there with networks of Macs who have specific File Sharing needs but lack the skill or desire to venture into OS X Server.

The good news is you can achieve server-like file sharing magic with TinkerTool System. Among many other maintenance tasks, TTS presents a graphical interface for setting and altering ACLs and inheritance properties for files and folders (the Finder can only display ACLs, not define or alter them).

This topic is quite technical but the developers of TinkerTool System provide a well-written manual that will act as a helpful primer on this powerful new addition to OS X.

6. Syncing, Storage and Sharing, in the cloud. Dropbox is a free storage and sharing service with a few neat additions that make it incredibly useful.

It’s one of those services that you use and wonder why Apple doesn’t offer the same thing. With Dropbox, you can sync files and folders among your various computers seamlessly and automatically. All the changes you make within your local Dropbox folder instantly ‘push’ to your other Macs, keeping every machine up to date.

It even keeps track of incremental changes that you can access via their web interface. There are so many thoughtful touches within Dropbox that they feature a video link right on the home page. You have to see it in action to truly appreciate its power and simplicity.

7. Avoid preventable disasters. Purchase an Uninterruptible Power Supply for every computer. Corrupt files and data loss from sudden power loss or jolts should be something you only read about.

Regarding data backup: Time Machine has a voracious appetite for data. Buy the largest capacity hard drive you can afford. Add a portable hard drive to the mix for keeping a copy of your data off-site.

If you’d like to see our Business Profile on Apple.com, Click Here. We’ve made quite a few changes since that time, but our goal of using world-class hardware and software to offer superior service to our wonderful clients has remained the same.

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