Upgrading your network operating system has the potential to be somewhat of a blind spot and growing security threat for practices of all sizes. The accounting profession is showing signs of understanding this threat.
Additionally, 19 percent of respondents indicate their firms have adopted the Windows 2012 server, which indicates a rapid retirement of older systems. Some firms are still holding on to outdated applications, however, with eight percent deploying Windows Server 2003 and three percent still relying on Windows Server 2000. Firms using outdated operating systems commonly use outdated hardware and applications, which reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of partners and staff.
Windows XP, which was retired in April, poses a threat to those still using it. According to survey results, 11 percent of the firms are running Windows XP as their primary workstation operating system. Further examination of these results by firm size reveals the highest incidences of Windows XP is in small and mid-sized firms, despite reports that major software publishers will discontinue support for Windows XP in 2014. Sixty-eight percent of the firms are running primarily Windows 7, and 13 percent have upgraded to Windows 8. Windows 8 deployment is led by solo practitioners (19%) and mid-sized firms (12%), with small and large firms reporting that only eight to nine percent are using Microsoft’s newest operating system as their firm’s primary desktop environment.
We were amazed at the high adoption rate of very current Microsoft server technology and the widespread use of 64-bit desktop technology.
This surprising innovation may have these causal factors:
1) recent replacements were completed,
2) performance and reliability were desired so upgrades were completed,
3) advanced technologies seemed safe enough to deploy or
4) local sales efforts were heard and heeded by firm decision-makers.
It is likely that a network operating system may not get the attention it deserves because for the most part, it just works. Unfortunately, the longer a network operates without upgrades and attention, the longer the list of vulnerabilities becomes.
If your network goes down, you would likely lose access to critical data and business applications. Perhaps worse, if left alone, your network could be running smoothly while outside parties were using your network to exploit your business information.
Some firms are waiting as long as possible to get the most out of their existing equipment, and not following a particular replacement plan. The risks in not following a replacement plan are decreased firm wide productivity and the possibility of failure during busy times.
As servers start showing their age the applications run slower and reach their limit as infrastructure grows. It is possible that most survey respondents do not recognize the performance improvement of a new machine offsetting the financial expenditure to upgrade.
Another possible explanation of why respondents hold on to hardware for an extended period of time is to avoid the disruption of changing.
The question of when to replace your computer is a subjective one. There are many benefits to following a consistent replacement plan. Newer computers experience less downtime and have lower cost of maintenance.
This usually more than offsets the costs of replacing hardware and paying staff wages while issues are resolved. Newer PCs support newer applications, have better features, provide improved usability and deliver better performance, resulting in productivity increases.
The survey revealed having multiple monitors on your desk is becoming more common. Viewing data using multiple monitors can cut down on toggling time between windows on a single screen; multiple monitors allow users to take in information with one sweeping glance. However, it has also been argued that one can have too many monitors, resulting in interrupted thoughts and decreased productivity.
Today’s browsers are all very good, leaving picking a browser up to personal preferences and whether or not the browser will run on your operating system, but most come in versions that run across multiple operating systems. The newest version of browser, working in conjunction with your Internet connection, will impact how fast pages load. Google Chrome users do not have to worry about upgrading; Google automatically updates Chrome to the latest version.
Originally posted here on May 3, 2014
By Randolph Johnston, Leslie Garrett PhD and Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA
The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey
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