Reasons why you need Office 365

Do you have trouble staying up to date with Microsoft Office? Are you tired of using the Office Online apps with limited functionality?  Office 365 is a great fit for small and mid-sized businesses, large enterprises, schools, and nonprofits. It allows employees to collaborate in many ways.

Office 365 has different plans fit for any business with fully installed applications. You decide what works best for you.

 

Here are some reasons to consider when buying Office 365:

  1. Applications/Services
    • Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and other Microsoft Office Tools
    • File Sharing and at least 1 TB OneDrive storage
    • Enterprise plans have an unlimited number of users
  2. Cost
    • Buying Office 365 from Opal Business Solutions allows you to not be locked into a contract with Microsoft. You not only get 5% off, but no contract included when signing up with us. You can also change your plan at any time
    • Depending on which plan you believe is best for your business, your cost could be as low as $8.25 user/month!
  3. Cloud based
    • Edit, Upload and synchronize files
    • Work from any location with Internet connection
    • Capable of installing applications up to 5 PCs or Macs per user
    • Stay up and running no matter what disaster occurs
  4. Benefits
    • Office 365 is the entire Microsoft suite + additional benefits if needed. You’ll always have the most up to date features and capabilities of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
    • Free Microsoft Technical support by phone or chat
    • Automatic updates, patches and upgrades from Microsoft
  5. Security
    • World class data security- 99.9% Financially-Back Uptime Guarantee
      Applications use encryption that cannot be read with authorization
    • HIPPA and FERPA compliance

 

Opal Business Solutions can help you decide which plan is best for you! If you’re interested in learning more about Office 365, visit our webpage- http://www.opalbiz.com/csp-program

The Importance of Strong Passwords

Do you remember what your first password was? It was probably something very simple like your petsname1 or awesome321. Password criteria has since changed over the years as we use technology more and more through our daily activities.

 

Bank accounts, social media accounts, email accounts, credit card accounts, and much more, all require a password. Having a STRONG password ensures security and confidentiality of your data. It’s your responsibility as a user to make sure the passwords are as difficult to guess as possible.  Weak passwords allow the hackers to quickly steal your data and information in a matter of seconds. Once that data is stolen, you never know if or when you will ever get it back.


Passwords should never include:

  • A combination like abc123, password/passw0rd, or combinations of ANY personal information
  • No string of sequential letters or numbers or intact words
    • 123456 is ranked the number one easiest password to guess and is the most breachable
  • Never reuse OLD passwords

Guidelines:

  • Contain a mix of uppercase and lower case letters, punctuation, numbers, and symbols
  • Use at least 8 characters
  • NOTHING obvious; you want randomness
  • NEVER share your password
  • Make a pass phrase that you can remember
    • Use a synonym or an acronym
    • For example: The Best IT Solutions–> TBit$6725
  • Break up words as much as possible as hackers have codes that try every word in the dictionary, especially intact words
    • Dictionary attacks and brute force attacks are the most common

 

Don’t make it easy for hackers to get your information. Make them work for it so they end up empty-handed. Allow Opal Business Solutions to help your business by enforcing a password policy on your server and assist with password resets.

 

Contact us today to learn more!

 

 

 

Importance of Mobile to Small Businesses


How is your business leveraging technology and innovation? Mobile technology continues to be an important role in the future of businesses. Without adapting to the constant changes in technology, your business could be missing out on opportunities.  More employees are preferring to do their work on their mobile devices- smartphones, tablets, etc. With the ability to access the internet, cloud storage, and apps, users can write emails, send quotes, and documents straight from their mobile devices.  Having this real-time communication with the office can have important benefits including efficient use of employee’s collaboration, customer service, and flexibility of your services.

 

Employee Collaboration

To operate productively and solve business problems, businesses need the capability to leverage knowledge across the company using collaboration tools that enhance the ability to work together. Not long ago, achieving employee collaboration meant pushing employees to work together 24/7. Today, more companies are enabling mobile technology into their business allowing workers to collaborate from just about anywhere. It’s now possible for businesses to conduct teleconferences, online meetings, and communicate through Facebook-like social platforms, like Yammer or Microsoft Teams, and other mobile device platforms via the internet.
With this capability, users can join calls, meetings, and contribute to discussions without physically being present.  With the right software and support in place, you can see the collaboration grow over time.

 
Customer Service

Customer service is one of the most important parts of businesses. Having access to mobile devices has created a new way we interact with our customers and understand exactly what they’re looking for.  As new technologies emerge, so do new channels through which you can interact with your customers.

  • Implement and Keep technology well protected and used to its full capacity
  • Set up an online help desk or ticket system to handle customer issues.
  • Use online surveys and questionnaires to get customer feedback
  • Keep customers up to date
    • Email lists (Marketing Automation) and websites allow customers to stay up to date on the latest changes or developments your offering
  • Data Management and Analytics

 

Flexibility of Services

In today’s workplace, the ability to work from home or anywhere is important to employees.  Organizations that embrace mobility for business purposes likely will become not just more efficient, but also places where more people want to work. This could be an edge for employers in the increasing competitive challenges of recruiting and retaining talent in the coming decade.

 

By implementing new IT solutions into your business model allows you to work from just about anywhere if it’s done the right way. Don’t be afraid of new technology. Allow Opal Business Solutions to help you! Contact us to see how we can help your company stay up to date with technology.

This email might be a scam. How can I tell?

Everyone is always worried about fraud.  From identity theft, credit card fraud, card readers, and even phone call fraud.  However, most people forget about email fraud.  Email fraud is one of the biggest scams today, and no company is immune.  A rash of recent email fraud is  targeting the finance departments of companies.  The scam starts by an email being sent to a member of staff in a company’s finance department.  This email appears to be sent from a senior member of the company, such as the finance director or chief executive.  They get the names of the senior staff members by looking through corporate listings, LinkedIn and other social media.  Then one of two things happen.  Either the senior staff members email accounts get hacked, usually if on web-based services, or software is used to manipulate the characteristics of an email.  The emails are authentic enough so as to have the senders email address read as the senior staff members address, all the way down to their signature.  Whatever method they use, the goal is the same, and they demand an urgent payment to be made outside of normal procedures.  Usually they stress the importance in order to secure a big contract or secure the large deal.  The money is deposited in a bank account, then immediately withdrawn and the fraudulent person is gone.  So is the companies money.

How can you protect yourself?

If you work in finance or accounts, be on your guard and follow the following advice.

  • Always confirm unusual payment requests in person or by telephone.  Do not use the contact details from the email.
  • Establish a documented internal process for requesting all payments.  Anything outside this process should be flagged as suspicious.
  • Always question urgent bank transfer or payment requests.
  • Ensure your company has a good password policy for email accounts.
  • If the email does not normally read like something the sender would typically write, be suspicious.

Remember, if ever in doubt, please contact your IT support team for verification.

The Dish on Taxing Deliveries

Repost from Avalara

What can’t be delivered today? For the right price, consumers can have a car delivered across the country, a sofa delivered from granny’s attic, and a gourmet meal delivered from a starred restaurant. Some businesses provide their own delivery services, some deliver via common carrier, and some partner with a third party to deliver their goods. No matter what the scenario, it’s essential to get sales and use tax right. Unfortunately, tax laws and policies on delivery charges vary from state to state, and sometimes from transaction to transaction.

‘Fast’ food

Modern take-out and delivery services are said to have begun at a Chinese restaurant in 1920s Los Angeles. They began to flourish in the late 1950s, when they were welcomed by the crowd that embraced cake mixes and TV dinners. And today, food is one of the hottest areas in delivery.  After years of “avoiding delivery at all cost,” the online and mobile food ordering pioneer GrubHub is now focusing its efforts on providing delivery services. It’s not alone. Young San Francisco-based DoorDash is hot on its heels, connecting products and people with delivery in “less than 45 minutes” and striving to continually reduce costs. UberEATS boasts that, with its Instant Delivery service, “the average order takes 35 minutes from start to finish.” Food delivery start-ups are popping up like mushrooms in a Seattle yard, some staying local, some looking to dominate the national market. Even Amazon has entered the fray (perhaps in anticipation of food delivery by drone). To those awaiting their food, delivery may seem simple: meals ordered with a call or a click magically appear after (hopefully not too much) time has passed. But behind the scenes, businesses work hard to process sales. Getting any part of an order wrong can lead to disgruntled customers and the dreaded unfavorable online reviews. If the error involves sales tax, a business can face penalties and fines or even find itself in court, as has the large pizza franchise that’s been dealing with class action suits in two states for allegedly improperly applying tax to delivery charges. Taxability rules vary from state to state, and some can seem quite quirky. In Iowa, for example, delivering food that’s ready to eat is considered to be catering, and catering services are taxable. The Iowa Department of Revenue specifies that “this includes hot, delivered pizza.” However, “A person who makes pies and cakes and delivers them is not considered a caterer, and those sales are not taxable.” Try and make sense of that one.

An inseparable link

Delivery charges don’t just pertain to food. They can be slapped on anything a business sends to a consumer, from a slim book of poetry to a multi-million dollar yacht. Recently, the Illinois Department of Revenue amended its shipping and handling regulation in response to the Illinois Supreme Court decision in Kean v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (a class action suit regarding the taxability of charges for delivering a trampoline). The updated regulation makes clear that, as of April 1, 2016, shipping fees are subject to sales and use tax when there is an inseparable link between the sale and the shipping incurred by the customer.

In the amended regulation, an inseparable link exists when either of the following is true:

  • Transportation and delivery charges are not separately stated on the invoice or contract
  • Shipping fees are separately stated, but the seller doesn’t offer the customer an option to pick up goods or obtain free shipping

Shipping fees are exempt from Illinois sales and use tax if there is no inseparable link, as when the customer is offered the option to pick up the purchase, or a free shipping option is available and offered.

The Illinois regulation also clarifies the department’s stance on mixed transactions, sales that include both taxable and nontaxable sales, or sales that are taxed at different rates (for example, the lower rates that Illinois applies to sales of food, drugs and medical appliances). So long as the invoice separately states delivery charges for each item, tax may be calculated for each separately listed item. However, if the invoice contains a lump sum delivery fee, “the lump sum delivery charge will not be taxable if the selling price of the items for which delivery is nontaxable is greater than the selling price of the items for which delivery is taxable,” and vice versa.

In Michigan, however, taxability often hinges on when the transfer of ownership occurred, and whether or not a seller is “simultaneously engaged in a nontaxable delivery service.” According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, “Delivery charges on merchandise delivered by a seller who is not engaged in a separate delivery service business as defined above are taxable if the charges are incurred prior to the transfer of ownership. Delivery charges are not taxable if incurred after the transfer of ownership.”

Separately stated

Whether or not delivery charges are separately stated also comes into play in determining taxability in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Revenue recently announced that a Missouri Supreme Court decision has affected the taxability of delivery charges, noting, “If your business is not currently collecting and remitting tax on delivery charges, this decision may require you to begin doing so.”

The court opinion makes a distinction between sales price and sales transaction: “Taxability does not depend on whether the parties intended the charge for the service to be part of the sales price; taxability depends on whether the parties intended the provision of the service to be part of the sales transaction.” It’s a subtle but important distinction. Viewed another way:

  • Shipping and handling charges that are not intended to be part of the sale of tangible personal property (TPP) are not subject to tax even if they are separately stated
  • Shipping and handling charges that are intended to be part of the sale of TPP are subject to tax even if they are separately stated

Since taxability hinges on intention, which is intangible, the court listed a number of factors to be used to determine whether or not a delivery service is intended to be part of the sale. These include: when title passes from the seller to the buyer; who controls the cost and means of delivery; and whether the seller derives financial benefit from the delivery. But what’s true in Missouri is not true everywhere. In Connecticut, for example, shipping and delivery charges connected to the sale of taxable tangible personal property or services are taxable “even if the charges are separately stated” and “regardless of whether the shipping or delivery is provided by the seller or by a third party.”

Sorting it all out

Delivery charges are increasingly part of our new reality — a world in which there are more online shops, more food delivery, and more reasons to stay at home and click “Deliver” than ever before. Companies that don’t provide some sort of delivery option may find themselves quickly outpaced by competitors that do. But offering delivery services involves more than obtaining a truck or a building relationships with common carriers; it means getting sales and use tax right. Using third parties for delivery can also affect whether or not you need to collect sales tax on the charges. Download Sales Tax Implications of Drop Shipping to learn more.  Avalara AvaTax sales tax automation helps businesses to determine whether or not their delivery charges are taxable and, when they are, to calculate the correct rate for each transaction. It enables businesses to get sales tax right while focusing on getting their products to their customers.

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What to think about before buying that PC from the local Best Buy or Sam’s Club…

 

Out of necessity or convenience, many companies find it easy to pick up a new PC from the local big-box store.   Sure, these machines can be inexpensive, in some cases even less than what is being charged from the IT provider.  And there can be a certain feeling of pride knowing that you saved a few bucks.   But we have found that in most cases, these computers often cost much more in the long run for several reasons.Operating System – Local department stores specialize in selling PC’s to consumers, not businesses.   So they have the most inventory of Windows Home Version, which cannot be added to a business network without upgrading the OS.   Most companies require certain financial or line of business software to be installed on the computer, which must have a supported version of the OS, which is not always the most current version.

  1. Pre-Installed Software – Anti-Virus and other software vendors pay a premium to have their software pre-installed on computers sold from big-box stores.   While convenient for consumers, most IT providers remove these applications so they don’t interfere with the business version of the software.
  2. Support – Should you encounter problems with that new PC while it is still under the short warranty period provided, good luck getting is serviced.   After locating the receipt and packing up the machine, you need to drive it back down to the store and drop it off to see if it can be fixed.   If purchased from your IT provider, the manufacturer will usually allow them to run the necessary diagnostics and ship any replacement parts direct so it can be fixed on site, most times within a day.
  3. Performance – Knowing how the computer will be used is extremely important to choose the correct machine.   If the user has dual monitors, the station will need to support both outputs.   Power users may be better served by more RAM, faster Hard Drives or Both…And the weight of your laptop is extremely important if you regularly travel.   How the computer is being used (and by whom) is critical to delivering the right hardware.
  4. MS-Office – Often times, computers come pre-configured with an MS-Office license, which is very convenient.  Except if you already have an Office license.   Recognizing that MS-Office is now licensed via Subscription for most businesses, a license does not need purchased with the new PC.  No need to pay for something you already have.

 

So instead of making that call to have a new computer installed After you buy it, you can save time, money and frustration by calling us first.   This will ensure that you are receiving the best performing workstation for the price.    And that the computer will meet the needs of the user and be easily supported should any problems arise down the road.

 

GP Workflow Tip!

If the Document Lines are not appearing or appearing in the wrong columns in the workflow email, remove the Selected Fields from the message setup and re-add in order.

For example, if the email lines look like this:

Go to the Message Setup, and remove all of the Selected Fields from the box on the right. Re-add them to the list in the order which you want them. We have noticed this issue arises when you try to reorder the selected fields.

 

Growing globally with landed cost automation

Reprint from Avalara

Sales tax in the United States is complex, but because Americans are raised with it, the thousands of jurisdictions and special taxes seem to make (at least a kind of) sense.  As soon as a company starts making overseas exports, the level of complexity increases significantly — especially because many other countries use tariff and import fee types that are unheard of in the United States.

Every nation sets its import tariff and duty rates based on its own unique circumstances.  In general, less developed countries have higher tariff rates than more developed ones, and seven of the 10 countries with the highest harmonized tariff rates are located in the relatively-undeveloped area of sub-Saharan Africa.

In developing and developed nations alike, high import fees are sometimes charged on specific goods as a protectionist policy, in order to boost domestic industry.  In others, import fees are charged on items perceived as luxury goods, or which are seen as having significant social impact (such as cars).

No matter what goods you’re exporting, selling to a new country for the first time can present unforeseen compliance challenges.  Value added tax (VAT), goods and services tax (GST), and import duties or special tariffs can all add significant cost to transnational transactions.  When all of these costs are added together to make a total cost for a good shipped overseas, the total sum is called the landed cost.

When businesses try to manually calculate the landed cost of their shipments, it’s easy to forget one or more components — especially when shipping to unfamiliar countries.  Even if you remember everything, using outdated information or making a mistake about a jurisdictional border could mean problems at customs clearance, extra charges to your customer, or a chunk eaten out of your profit margins.

At Avalara, we’re always seeking out a new way to make tax compliance easier. This year, we’ve made it easier than ever to start exporting while maintaining full compliance.  With Avalara LandedCost, cloud-based automation of landed cost calculation is a click away.  This state-of-the-art calculation solution gets rid of surprises at customs, keeping customer satisfaction and profits high.

Don’t let worries about customs and tax compliance keep your business from growing.  Learn more about export compliance with our white paper: Grow Global: 5 Reasons to Automate Landed Cost Calculation.

 

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