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Yearly Archives: 2014

Wifi security

image from tinker-tailor-solider-spy.com

While networks have many advantages – the key one being connected systems and data – their key problem is security. The only way to be absolutely certain that data transmitted on a network is secure is secure is to encrypt it – and this is an issue of much debate in recent times.

While a wired network may offer some physical security – hackers have to get one the premises effectively – wireless networks have always had an issue in that they can be “scanned”. Many of use have probably used unsecure/free public wifi on a bus or in a coffee shop. This is fine once you are not sending confidential information.

And I am sure many of us have used the sometimes costly wifi in hotels. We may think as we pay, it is more secure. A recent blog post on the Economist  suggests otherwise. The post notes a report by Kaspersky Labs, which found that specific persons staying in hotels were targeted and their hotel wifi connection snooped. This was down to some clever malicious software, but the lesson to be learned for a business might be – assume all wifi you do not control is unsecure.


A different approach to cloud accounting software

(Image from Sage.com)

Sage (a leading provider of accounts software) have recently extended their most popular product to the cloud. And they have done to in a way which seems to address a lot of concerns.

My experience of cloud accounting software is that while it is functional and easy to use, it does lack some of the capabilities that desktop accounting software offered. What Sage appear to have done is taken their best product for SME – Sage 50 – and retained the best of both worlds. The news release at the link above suggests a new product, Sage Drive, allows the user to retain the desktop functions but store data in the cloud. This has several advantages. First, the sharing capabilities of the cloud are available once the data is stored there. Second, existing functions are maintained and this may particularly suit the accountant users. Third, it may ease some security concerns accountants often mention with the cloud. From my understanding, only the data is cloud hosted. Some desktop software is still needed to make sense of the data.

Technology number 2 concern of Boards

A recent report cited on CGMA’s website places technological risk at the second risk concern amongst a survey of Boards of Directors. The risk concern is with cyber-security, and was the number one risk concern of private firms. The report notes an increases in the perceived technology risk from previous years.  It is interesting (and good) that Boards are well aware of technological risk – as most large organisations today are so reliant on their information systems. You can read the full report here and the CGMA article here.

The cloud – Dropbox

Here is a nice new feature from BBC on cloud storage company DropBox

MrExcel – a great source for all things Excel

MrExcel.comThis is a link to a great source for all things Excel – Microsoft Excel Tips & Solutions from MrExcel. This website boasts Excel knowledge that goes much beyond the standard Excel user, providing you with knowledge that will become beneficial not only to you, but also to you company.

So why did Lotus 1-2-3 lose against Microsoft Excel?

Image Credit: Andrew Mason/Flickr

Image Credit: Andrew Mason/Flickr

In the textbook, we remark the following on Lotus Notes:

Especially Lotus 1-2-3 marked another quantum leap for electronic spreadsheet programmes, as it introduced now well-known tools like naming cells, ranges, macros, charting, plotting and database operations. Throughout the 1980s, Lotus 1-2-3 dominated office computers as the most widespread and most functional electronic spreadsheet programme.

So why did Lotus 1-2-3 not persevere? Not many of us can remember having seen Lotus Notes 123, let alone having used it at one point.

In the 1980s, Lotus 1-2-3 was quite the “killer app” – it dominated office computers worldwide, and was the quasi-standard of spreadsheet applications. At this point, spreadsheet applications were still mostly commandline-based, so you would not really need a mouse. In addition, the demand for a lot of functionalities was not that high, but when Excel came along, Lotus 1-2-3 was an already bloated and outdated piece of software. Its developers missed the sign of the times, and Excel took the market by storm. As more and more complicated calculations were needed, especially in the finance industry, Lotus 1-2-3 missed out and Excel took over. Within a few years, Excel became the dominating force in spreadsheets, and has been ever since.

Cloud computing breathes new life into the mainframe

This link leads to an interesting blog by Nick Hardiman that explains why the good old mainframe described in chapter 10 might experience second wind by cloud computing.

Hardiman, N. (2014). The mainframe evolves into a new beast in the cloud era. [Blog]TechRepublic. Available at: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-mainframe-evolves-into-a-new-beast-in-the-cloud-era/#. [Accessed 19 May. 2014].


Old mainframe computer


The power of the F4 key in Excel

The F4 key In Excel, using various shortcuts helps enormously in saving time when creating spreadsheets. One of the most useful shortcuts I know is using the F4 key when entering a cell reference in a formula. Hitting the F4 key when a cell or range reference is selected cycles through various combinations of absolute and relative references.

An example. Let’s say we want to multiply a growth rate in cell A1 with a range of revenues budgeted for 2013 in cells B1 to B10, and let’s say we wanted to calculate the increase the revenues for 2014 by 10%. How would we do that quickly? First, we would create a formula in cell C1 that multiplied cells A1 (growth rate) by cell B1 (first revenue) like this


To save time, we just want to copy this formula down to cells C2:C10. To keep the reference to cell A1, we need to make this an absolute reference. We of course could add a $-sign before the column reference A and the row reference 1. Using the F4 key allows us to do this much quicker – once we selected cell A1, we just hit the F4 key once (hitting it twice or three times creates mixed references, a fourth time back to the relative reference we started out with). In spreadsheets with a lot of formulas that require several absolute (or mixed) references, the F4 key saves a lot of time.

If you use a Mac, the keyboard shortcut to achieve the same result is CMD-t.

The Guardian – Should you put your small business accounts in the cloud?

This is an article published in the Guardian in January 2014, where I was interviewed to give my view on the cloud.


Credit: The Guardian

Cloud computing – explained by Stephen Fry

None other than Stephen Fry explains the history of computer thinking and the revolution of utility in cloud computing in this 5 minute animation. If you didn’t know why cloud technology is assumed to change business information systems in their core, you need to watch this.

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry