Need A Break? Tax Law Extends Single-year Equipment Deduction Through 2011

When you acquire equipment for your businesses, you can deduct the entire cost in a single year, thanks to a tax break that’s been extended through the end of 2011. In the past, business equipment such as computers and machinery had to be deducted over a number of years. Then a new tax code provision was enacted to help spur economic growth. That provision, called Section 179, allowed taxpayers to deduct the cost of equipment as an expense rather than requiring the cost of the property to be capitalized and depreciated. In other words, single-year deductions were permitted — much to the benefit of small and medium businesses. The Section 179 deduction started out at $25,000, increased to $125,000 then $250,000, and finally ended up at $500,000. And many assets qualify for the tax break, including computers, software, office machines and furniture, manufacturing equipment, and vehicles that weigh more than 6,000 pounds. How does it work? Lets’ say you have a $600,000 profit and don’t want to pay taxes on that entire amount. At the same time, you need new computer equipment. You can buy that new equipment for $500,000 and only owe taxes on $100,000 of your profits. Section 179 was set to expire at the end of 2010, but it’s now been extended. The Tax Relief Act of 2010, signed on 12/17/10, allows business owners to take Section 179 deductions through the 2011 tax year. That means 2011 is a great year to consider purchasing equipment, because the immediate writeoff helps businesses such as yours keep more cash free for other purposes. “There is a big advantage to having that cash flow right away,” says Abe Schneier, a senior manager at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “Even in the best of times, it is hard for many small businesses to borrow money for any sizeable investment.” Related articles: Equipment eligible for the Section 179 deduction

Majority of Malware Attacks are Triggered by USB Enabled Drives

It looks like gone are the days when employees can safely transfer files using the ever reliable USB device. According to various reports, there is an increasing number of malware attacks targeting USB devices. Small businesses should be very wary of using USB drives, without considering security parameters to prevent these malware threats. A USB device is indeed a useful, economical way to transfer data. In fact, according to Gartner IT research and advisory company, there were roughly 222 million USB devices shipped in 2009. However, a recent study shows that though USB devices are a convenient means of transferring information, they can also serve as channels to transmit potential threats. In fact, 25% of malware these days is built to spread via USB devices. Most small businesses particularly are utilizing USB drives for the convenience they bring. But as consumers become more technically savvy about malicious attacks via email and other modes, cyber offenders are now shifting to USB devices to spread malware. Moreover, they want an easier and faster way of hacking into secured computers, making malware distribution via USB devices a viable option. Being a small to medium-sized business, your company might also be at risk for the following reasons: Outdated operating systems. Newer versions of operating systems like Windows Vista and Windows 7 definitely provide more security against malware-infected USB devices. If you’re still running on Windows XP, contact us immediately and we will update your operating system to avoid unwillingly sharing your confidential business information to servers across the globe. We will ensure that you have the latest version of Windows, Macintosh, or whatever OS your company uses. Insufficient security knowledge. Not all employees are familiar with malware attacks via USB devices. Some may even plug a misplaced flash drive into their work PC, hoping to find its rightful owner—without knowing that it contains a script that can search sales record and or contact list. As your IT service provider, we will help you implement security guidelines against unsafe USB use to prevent potential malware attacks that can ultimately harm your business operations. No other options to share information. Most small businesses solely rely on USB devices to share data with their employees. While it is convenient, using them on a daily basis can be unreliable and risky. Talk to us about cloud-based solutions and other better and more secure methods to share and store files. We believe that USB-spread malware is even more perilous than email and other means of transmitting malware.  That’s why companies, no matter how big or small, should take this alarming issue seriously. Contact us soon and let us help you protect your business from any would-be malware attacks.

Business Benefits of Unfriending

The drive to be more intimate can benefit your business. If you have a tighter circle of customers, you will establish yourself as a channel for consumption. This will make your next sale easier compared to the first. November 17, 2010 was declared by Jimmy Kimmel during his television show as “National Unfriend Day”, the opportunity for all Facebook users to declutter their Facebook pages by “unfriending” people in their friends’ lists. He claims that Facebook has been “cheapening” the idea of friendship. To many the idea was hilarious, but others are seriously considering the wisdom of unfriending. Is Kimmel on to something here? Can unfriending benefit your online business? Research shows that as social media gets bigger, we’re getting smaller. Brian Wong, a network marketer says it simply: “With the growth of social networking, I am finding it increasingly difficult to separate business connections and personal connections.” He says that having almost 1,000 friends on Facebook has made it difficult for him to see the feeds and updates of his “real” friends and important business partners. Lately there is a growing trend of de-scaling on the internet. People have started “pruning” their social lives online. For example, the popular Farmville app lost 30 million players this year, and people are beginning to realize that conversations and comments are more important than a huge number of blog hits. So how can de-scaling and unfriending help your business? The drive to be more intimate can benefit your business by allowing you to form a tighter circle of customers, more successfully establishing you as a preferred channel for consumption. Luckily, there are tools that can help you descale your social networks: Path – Offers small-scale communities where people feel more comfortable sharing personal information. It controls who can view your information and does not include features that make your content viral. Letter.ly – A subscription-based newsletter for bloggers who feel that public posts decrease the quality of conversations. This newsletter opens discussion only to people who pay, or who are privately invited to read a blog post. GroupMe – A texting app which limits your group text participants to only 14, to ensure that meaningful dialogues take place. What about the flip side of unfriending and descaling? While you’re considering who to eliminate from your social circles, your contacts are likely doing the same. Here are some tips to help you make their cuts: 1.       Be selective in your communications. Of course, your product is important – to you. But not every little detail is as important to your audience. Be sure to focus on key features and benefits from your audience’s perspective. 2.       Stay on topic. Always give relevant communications to your customers, and never rant or badmouth competitors. This is a sure way to lose customers. 3.       Provide value. In addition to talking about your product or service, find ways to provide value to your circle of friends. Understand topics and pain points important to them, and provide valuable information and advice to help them succeed. You’ll soon come to be considered as a valuable resource to your contacts – one that they want to keep in their online social groups. One thing is clear: quality is still more important than quantity, especially in the current economic downturn when people are downsizing everything. Start “pruning” your social network – and take steps to avoid being pruned – and you’ll reap the benefits of having a tight circle of loyal friends and customers.

Number of Infected Websites Doubles in One Year

According to a new study released by security firm Dasent, the number of malware-infested websites has increased to 1.2 million in 2010, from 560,000 in 2009. Dasient , a company specializing in combating malware on websites, has released a new report claiming that over 1.2 million websites were found to be infected by malware in the third quarter of 2009 , more than double the number during same period last year. These infected websites are especially dangerous since, unlike other forms of malware vectors, they don’t require the user to click on a link or open an attachment. They infect users through “drive-by-downloads” or by just visiting the infected website. Hackers take advantage of the dynamic and interactive features of today’s modern websites and social networking sites to deliver their payload. Other dangerous forms of infected websites are those hosting fake antivirus scams, which fool users into downloading malware posing as legitimate antivirus software, as well as malvertisements, which pose as legitimate advertisements but instead are malware vectors. With the growing threat of malware, how confident are you that your systems are safe? Contact us today and find out how we can help.

New Hands-Free Apps to Help You Get More Work Done While You Drive

Today, the latest trend for mobile workers is gadgets or services that read text-based correspondence in a human-like voice while on the road, and in some cases even allow the user to reply. Technology continues to bring out the best in modern inventors today. Mobile devices are updated every few years, and many apps are developed and added to these gadgets, mostly with the purpose of making life easier and perhaps more fun for the users. These days, in addition to desktop computers and laptops, you can get work done with the use of your iPhones, Android, Blackberry, and many other smartphones and mobile devices. However, the increase in the capabilities of mobile devices to include texting and other conveniences has also increased the number of vehicular accidents. As a result, many states have passed laws demanding that drivers only use cellphones that have “hands-free” devices like the Bluetooth and ear buds. The latest trend in mobile working is gadgets or services that use text-to-speech technology to read your text-based correspondence in a human-like voice, and in some cases, even allows you to reply verbally, attaching the reply as an audio clip or transcribed back into text before sending. Examples of these apps are the DriveSafe.ly by iSpeech.Org and the Text’nDrive app for Blackberry or iPhone. These tools can be very handy while on the road, and may seem to be good solutions to making workers more effective – but there are still safety concerns. According to Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst from London, Ontario, “While these new apps hold the promise of maintaining productivity while on the go, they ignore the basic fact that even hands-free communication at the wheel can be a dangerous proposition.” Scott Steinberg, CEO and lead technology analyst for TechSavvy Global in Seattle, Washington agrees with Levy on safety concerns, but says, “. . . this is better than holding the phone up to your ear, which also may be illegal in your state, and certainly safer than texting or emailing while driving.” Steinberg adds that these apps do a “pretty good job … That said, hearing your emails is fine, but those who send out replies will still need to double-check messages if they’ve been transcribed into text to ensure it’s accurate.” While these apps can certainly help you and your employees be more productive, we should always remember that any action taken while driving, even if it’s just talking on the phone with a hands-free kit, is distracting. Perhaps the best policy is to wait until you get to your destination. It’s safer, and you can focus solely on your work.

Are You in Compliance with Identity Theft Regulations?

The federal government’s Red Flag Rule requires all businesses that are potential identity theft targets develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft. How can you comply? Regulations designed to minimize identity theft went into effect in June of 2010. Are you complying with them? The federal government’s so-called “Red Flag Rule” requires all businesses that are potential identity-theft targets develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft. Red flags include suspicious photo IDs, unverifiable addresses and Social Security numbers, and questionable account activity, to name just a few. While many companies think the Red Flag Rule only applies to financial institutions, it actually applies to all creditors — with creditors being defined as “businesses or organizations that regularly provide goods and services first and allow customers to pay later,” according to a Frequently Asked Questions guide prepared by the Federal Trade Commission, which will enforce the Red Flag Rule. In other words, if you invoice customers for your goods or services, you’re a creditor — and the Red Flag Rule applies to you. How can you comply?  You’ll need to have a written policy that specifically addresses how you will prevent and handle identity theft. Other recommendations include data encryption, annual updates of your written policy, and staff training. While this may seem onerous, you don’t want to ignore the legislation. Fines are $3,500 per violation — and the threat of a lawsuit from customers whose identity has been stolen. Related articles Do You Comply with the FTC’s Red Flag Fule?