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Yearly Archives: 2015
In the last blog post, we have introduced PivotTables as a powerful analytical tool in Excel to manipulate large amounts of data into decision-useful reports. Microsoft introduced an enhanced PivotTable tool called PowerPivot that is available as an add-in for Excel 2010 and 2013. The PowerPivot add-in is now able to process even larger amounts of data, from internal and external sources, to create dashboards that even work online, moving PivotTables to the cloud. This website provides an introduction and working examples of the PowerPivot add-in.
The standard user of Microsoft Excel is often staying at a very basic level, inputting data in cells, performing basic operations like sums and averages, or just adding two or more cells using the +sign. However, Excel is a very powerful analytical tool that boasts functionalities to slice and dice large data tables according to the specific information requirements that managers and management accountants might have.
In the spreadsheet skills series by CIMA, there is a very comprehensive explanation on PivotTables for the first-time user. Although this particular post is from 2009 (and therefore does not include additional functions introduced with Excel 2010 and 2013), it provides a good introduction to what PivotTables are all about.
Here is a good example of two companies that use SaaS and PaaS in a strategic partnership to provide a new cloud accounting offer to businesses. SAGE is a provider of accounting software, already offering cloud-based products in their portfolio. In this particular case, however, they decided to enter a partnership with Salesforce that provides a strong PaaS, using the unique capabilities of the Salesforce platform to improve their product.
All to often, when it comes to cloud risk, there is no clear distinction between data security and data privacy. Accordingly, they are often used synonymously or all-encompassing. As this post by Brian Anderson details, this is not the case. Data security comprises of concepts and instruments that are put in place to ensure that sensitive data is not accessed, modified or taken by unauthorised parties. Data security instruments are therefore data protocols, access level rights, firewalls and even antivirus software that picks up on trojans or key loggers that may enable a third, unauthorised person to access data that they should not. At the same time, data security ensures that the data is reliable, integer, available and confidential.
Distinct from that is the concept of data privacy that details the adequate use of sensitive data. Companies in the UK, for instance, are required to follow the Data Protection Act that requires companies to use sensitive data fairly and lawfully, for limited, specifically stated purposes, and in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive. At the same time, the information embodied in the data needs to be accurate, kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary, handled according to people’s data protection rights, kept safe and secure, and not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection. Therefore, data security protocols need to be in place to ensure the privacy of sensitive data, mostly customer-related data. Often, companies are criticised on how they treat the data they are supposed to protect. Facebook, for instance, has been heavily criticised (and even sued) for their data security protocols, impacting the data privacy of their users’ personal data.
To summarise the relationship between data security and data privacy, data security is the means to ensure data privacy. They are certainly not the same, but typically come together.
On June 5, 2014, the Guardian offered a live online Q&A session on the question “Could your small business benefit from using cloud services?”. Although 9 months old, it is very enlightening to read the comments of users at the bottom of the page. Cloud experts, providers and users discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the cloud on small businesses, and the main themes that emerged revolved around the well-known issues of security, privacy, performance improvements, cloud hosting and content editing, as well as the “next thing on the cloud”. It is worth a read even 9 months on.
Infographics are all the rage these days, and a quick Google search reveals that there are many on cloud technology out there. The nice people of Geeky Globe have published a very detailed infographic that summarises the history of computing all the way to the cloud in a very comprehensive manner – it’s worth printing out and pinning it to the wall.
The cloud security provider Databarracks has published a Cloud terminology handbook that is available after registering for it (it is free!). It provides a very brief but comprehensive explanation of various cloud terms (old and new), such as BaaS, hypervisor or a fourth cloud deployment model after public, private and hybrid cloud – the community cloud. This white paper is a good resource to have.
When I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I was a very avid video gamer, playing on the Commodore C64, Atari, and MS-DOS based video games. Like many that played back in the day, I have fond memories of very pixellated sprites (= game characters), point-and-click adventures like Monkey Island and Indiana Jones, and games that were spread over several floppy disks. For a game afficionado (that I still am to this day), it was almost tragic that with changes in technology and ever-increasing computer processing power, it was almost impossible to play these old games because they required the old systems. Floppy disk slots for instance have entirely disappeared from computers years ago.
However, after many years of weak emulations that rarely ran properly, the cloud once more provided the means to distribute old games via the internet. The (legitimate) website Software Library: MS-DOS Games enables retro-gamers to play the classics via web browser, a majority of them free of charge. In fact, many young gamers re-discover these old games, as user statistics of this website show. As such, it is an almost perfect marriage of new and old technology.
More and more, accountants and CFOs are involved in key decisions on what information technology to invest in. They may or may not have a level of technical knowledge to make a fully informed decision. This article from CGMA provides some useful guidance, providing some questions accountants need to ask.
An article in the Economist a while ago reminds us that not matter how complicated computers are, all they really know is 0 and 1- the binary system. Using the binary system, it is easy to represent these two numbers as on or off on various media.
Back in 2000, the date field on many systems could only hold two digit years, so the year could be 1900 or 2000. As the article explains, the Gangnam Style video on YouTube broke the counter for similar reasons – the counter field had a limited length. In 2038, the date field for many operating systems will also run out. It’s unlikely to be an issue – the Y2K problem wasn’t either – but it does remind us of what underlies all computing devices.