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How To Use Natural Language Processing To Improve The Efficiency Of Accounting Processes

Natural language processing (NLP) is a technology that allows computers to understand and process human language. Processing of natural language is necessary when you want an intelligent device to follow your instructions. NPL is an artificial intelligence (AI) component with many real-life applications.

As technology advances, business leaders have to figure out how to tap into the new trends to remain relevant, stay ahead of competition, and meet consumer expectations and needs.

How NLP Works in Brief

NLP involves making computers perform tasks with the natural language humans use. The input and output can be spoken or written text. NLP combines computational linguistics – rule-based modeling of human language – with statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models.

NLP aims to build machines that understand and react to text or voice data and then respond with text or speech in a similar manner as humans do. Examples of NLP in real life include voice-operated GPS systems, personal assistant apps, speech-to-text dictation software, and customer service chatbots.

As businesses seek better ways to improve efficiency, NLP is one technology promising huge rewards for enterprises dealing with vast quantities of unstructured text. In accounting, unstructured data include transaction descriptions, invoices, written communication, etc.

The use of NLP is growing significantly in enterprise solutions designed to help streamline business operations. Large companies such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have implemented various NLP solutions. A good example is Deloitte, which incorporated NLP into its Audit Command Language to improve contract compliance.

How NLP Can Improve the Efficiency of Accounting Processes

Areas in which NLP helps improve efficiency include:

  1. Forensic Investigations
    When CPAs want to perform forensic investigations, they have to deal with significant amounts of data from documents such as bank statements, transaction data tables, and data found in emails or deposition transcripts. Analyzing all the data as they try to look for specific patterns or gain insights is challenging. However, the application of NLP can be helpful in the investigative analysis process. NLP using algorithms can identify patterns automatically and reduce the time it would have taken to analyze the documents.
  2. Accounting and Auditing
    Auditing is challenging due to the process of reviewing financial statements and ensuring they match regulations and legal standards. Auditors must have excellent analytical and decision-making skills to spot inaccuracies in financial statements. However, NLP helps to optimize the auditing process.
  3. Financial Analysis and Automated Generation of Financial Reports
    NLP can automatically extract financial data from balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. This can cut down on time and error-prone work. At the same time, it can obtain insights from massive financial data sets and financial reports. This enables accountants to make data-driven decisions and quickly identify trends and patterns in the data, hence, making it easy to provide guidance to clients on investments and household finances.
  4. Automated Data Entry
    NLP can be used to extract data automatically from unstructured text documents, including bills and receipts. It also can be used to automate the entry of data from tax documents and input it into accounting systems. This can cut down on time and error-prone work.
  5. Improve Centralized Data Management Solutions
    Incorporating NLP in accounting and procurement helps improve the ability of a centralized data management system to collect and integrate data from different sources. This enables standardization and collaboration. Additionally, the data provided has higher-quality insights. As a result, there is better financial planning and improved risk assessment and management.
  6. Customer Interaction
    NLP can be used to enhance the effectiveness of customer interaction. This is done by automating the procedure for responding to client inquiries, such as concerning invoices, payments, and account balances.

Conclusion

Natural language processing is proving to be a powerful technology that can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of accounting processes. As it continues to evolve, it will likely become an increasingly important tool for accountants and other financial professionals. Most importantly, these advanced technologies take care of manually reviewing unstructured data. This helps businesses scale and – at the same time – reduce costs.

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Handling Talent Shortages in Tech Departments

Technology advancement has brought about great digital transformation. Unfortunately, this has come with a global tech talent shortage. IT executives highlight the shortage as a huge barrier to the adoption of emerging technologies, as reported by this Gartner study.

It is estimated that the demand for tech talent will keep increasing, and this could result in an estimated 85 million global talent shortage by the year 2030. Therefore, companies need to rethink their approach to hiring and retention.

Reasons Behind the Tech Talent Shortage

It is worth trying to first understand what is causing the tech talent shortage. A few of the reasons that have led to the shortage include:

  • Advances in technology – technology is advancing at a high speed, requiring workers with skills to match the new technology. Unfortunately, the tech education system can’t keep up with the speed, hence a shortage of people with the required skills.
  • The great resignation – this became a buzzword with work from home that came with the Covid pandemic; unfortunately, even after the pandemic people are still leaving jobs. A survey by TalentLMS and Workable found 72 percent of employees working in tech are considering quitting their jobs or exploring other opportunities.
  • High demand for tech talent – There has been an increase in the demand for tech workers in recent years as more businesses and industries turn to technology for daily operations. New technology creates new roles such as data professionals, data security specialists and software engineers among others that are highly competitive.
  • Challenges in training and development – some companies might not have the resources and time to invest in employee development.

Business Challenges of IT Talent Shortage

Businesses are feeling the effect of the tech talent shortage, especially when it comes to digital transformation. Emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented reality that promise to keep a business ahead of its competition require skilled workers.

Hiring new talent or reskilling employees also comes at a cost, and companies struggle to fill positions. On the other hand, failing to have skilled employees results in unrealized annual revenues.

As a result, businesses of all sizes find themselves failing to develop projects on time and hence fail to meet deadlines. In other cases, the existing employees end up overburdened with too much work, and this may lead to them quitting. Eventually, a business experiences slow innovation and slow growth.

How to Handle the Tech Talent Shortage

A few strategies to help address this issue include:

  • Investing in employee development and training
    Providing ongoing training and development opportunities for current employees can help them acquire new skills and knowledge. This will not only make them more valuable to your organization, but also less likely to leave.
  • Attract top talent through a strong employer brand
    Building a strong employer brand can help in attracting top talent to your organization. This can involve highlighting your company’s culture, values and mission, as well as offering competitive compensation and benefits packages. A good reputation will also help attract new talent.
  • Partnering with educational institutions
    A company may also partner with local colleges and universities to gain access to a pool of talented students who are looking for internships or entry-level positions. Additionally, setting up mentorship or internship programs helps build a pipeline of talent for your organization.
  • Increase recruitment efforts
    Sometimes it might be difficult to find the right talent, which makes it necessary to increase recruitment efforts. This could involve working with recruitment agencies, posting job openings on job boards and social media platforms, and attending job fairs and industry events.
  • Consider hiring remote workers
    Even with all efforts in place, it may still be difficult to find the right talent in a business location. Today, technology has enabled people to work remotely. This offers access to a larger pool of candidates and also can help attract top talent from other parts of the country or even the world. It is also possible to work with freelancers or contractors to fill specific skills gaps on a project-by-project basis.
  • Enhance the recruitment process
    An inefficient recruitment process will cost the company good talent. Therefore, any poor communication or delayed communication will affect talent acquisition. A company might need to streamline its recruitment process.

Final Thoughts

The global tech talent shortage is already negatively affecting businesses. Since the shortage is expected to rise, business leaders need to decide on the best way forward so they are not left behind in digital transformation. A good decision should fit business goals whether choosing to hire internal talent, remote workers, or outsource technology needs.

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What is Datafication, and Should Business Leaders Take Notice?

What is DataficationData has become a primary asset for businesses today. Consequently, the survival of a business in our data-driven environment is highly dependent on the ability to have total control over data storage, extraction, and manipulation.

As businesses continue being bombarded with vast volumes of data, datafication has become a big trend that provides a solution to turn data into quantifiable, usable, and actionable information. 

What is Datafication?  

The term datafication was coined by Kenneth Cukier and Victor Mayer-Schöenberger in 2013 when they explained it as the transformation of social actions into quantifiable data.

Today, much data is collected at the point of contact with any technology device. Aside from data such as text, images, and numbers, there are logins, passwords, device activity logs, clicks, interaction times, and more. Datafication helps translate all of these human activities into data, which is then repackaged in a form that offers value.

In business, datafication means converting every activity of a business model into actionable data. This has been enabled by a rise in technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and predictive analytics.  

It’s worth noting that datafication is not the same as digitization. While datafication is about taking all aspects of life and turning them into a data format, digitization involves converting analog content, such as images and text, to a digital format.

Examples of Datafication in Real Life

There are various ways datafication has been applied in real life, including:

  1. Social media platforms – a lot of data is found on social platforms through profile updates, preferences, reactions, comments and posts. Such information is used for customer profiling.
  2. Ad personalization – tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are already using collected data in their storage to personalize their ads and target potential customers.
  3. In customer relationship management – data collected through language and tone in emails, social media and phone calls are used to understand customer needs and wants as well as buying behavior and personalities.   
  4. Human resources – HR uses data obtained from social media or mobile apps to discover characteristics and personalities when looking for potential employees. They also use the data to assess employee productivity. This means that it may no longer be necessary to take personality tests, as the collected data can be analyzed to check if a person matches the company culture and role for which he applies.
  5. Insurance and banking – understanding the risk profile of a customer applying for insurance or a loan, as the data is used to assess the client’s trustworthiness.  

Datafication for Competitive Advantage

With the above use cases, it is evident that businesses can leverage datafication to help improve operations, thereby increasing productivity and revenue.

For instance, collecting real-time customer feedback can help improve products and services. Additionally, it becomes easy to determine and predict sales by analyzing data from social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The information collected from social media, emails and other digital platforms is then used to create personalized campaigns, effectively targeting the most interested audience.

How Businesses Can Implement Datafication

Any trending technology that presents benefits to a business comes at a cost. Luckily, cloud computing eases datafication for businesses as they don’t have to worry about acquiring necessary hardware and software. With readily available software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) technologies, businesses need only to define the goal they want to achieve with the data collected.

The main concern of a business remains the proper implementation of datafication. To begin with, it is best to ensure that the right technology – such as mobile devices, voice assistants, wearables, IoT – is used.

Next is to use appropriate platforms. Using the right platform will help effectively extract data that a business needs. Such platforms should also analyze massive amounts of data and produce reports that enhance decision-making.  

Another critical factor is to have a centralized repository where all authorized people in the organization can access the data.

Finally, it’s crucial to have skilled professionals in data infrastructure, data management and data analytics to evaluate and manage the data. This could either be an in-house team or outsourced.

Conclusion

Businesses that wish to remain relevant must consider datafication as part of their digital strategies. However, as datafication enters digital transformation, its successful implementation will require attention to data protection through adhering to legal requirements, technical measures such as access control, and best business practices.

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Quantum Computing Uses That Solve Business Problems

Quantum Computing for businessEarly technology adopters are more likely to gain better business results, including higher revenue growth and market position. With businesses facing complex problems every day, it is no doubt that they are always watching out for the next big tech that offers a better solution.

Although still in its infancy stages, quantum computing is a technology whose commercial use will disrupt the business environment.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is a technology that focuses on manipulating and controlling different laws of physics. This non-classical technology uses quantum mechanical concepts like superposition and quantum entanglement.

The idea of quantum computing is not new and has come a long way. The first algorithm of large integer factorization for quantum computing was introduced in 1994. This algorithm intended to reduce the time it would take classical computers to find the prime factors of large numbers. It’s worth noting that the majority of the current infrastructure for encryption and information security is built on prime factorization.

Since the first algorithm was developed, more technological advances have been reported, and the field is continuously receiving funding. According to the McKinsey & Company Quantum Technology Monitor, funding from private and public sectors for this new technology is skyrocketing worldwide.

How it Works

Unlike classical computing whose information is encoded by bits, in quantum computing a qubit is the basic unit of quantum information. Qubit allows all combinations of information to exist simultaneously so that quantum computers can solve problems exponentially faster and with less energy consumption than classical computers.

In 2019, Google, in partnership with NASA, achieved quantum supremacy by demonstrating that quantum computers can compute in seconds what would take advanced supercomputers thousands of years.

Advanced development in this technology has also seen the introduction of quantum-computing cloud infrastructure through Quantum as a Service (QaaS). QaaS provides access to quantum computing platforms over the internet to customers. Major technology companies, such as Amazon, Alibaba, IBM, Google and Microsoft, have already launched commercial cloud services for quantum computing.

With the continued increase in the quantum computing ecosystem and emerging business use cases, business leaders must stay aware and prepare to adopt the new technology.

Business Use Cases for Quantum Computing

1. Quick Data Analytics

Today more than ever, businesses are faced with big data and a large quantity of information requiring analysis and storage. Since classical computers are built to solve one task at a time, it takes longer to solve these complex problems.

However, quantum technology has the potential to turn complex computations into simple calculations that are solved in less time.

2. Optimize Investment Strategies

Optimization is all about finding the most ideal solution in a situation. When many options are available, it takes a classical computer a long time to find a solution. Therefore, classical computers use shortcuts, and the final solution is partly optimal. But, with quantum computing, there will be better optimization.

3. Better Forecast and Prediction

Businesses rely on forecasts and predictions generated after analyzing complex and large data sets. Quantum computing is built to process huge amounts of data quickly and more accurately. As a result, better forecasts and predictions will enable better decision-making.

4. Solve Problems With Financial Services

There are various computationally intensive jobs in finance that could be facilitated by quantum computing, such as credit-risk management, financial crime reduction and trading strategy optimization. These tasks will greatly benefit from quantum algorithms that increase the speed of financial calculations.

5. Improve Data Security

Quantum computers are built to break encryptions that ordinary computers cannot. This might become a problem if hackers were to acquire encrypted data and store it until large-scale quantum computers are operational. To handle this problem, postquantum cryptography, a type of cyber security that can be used by conventional computers, is currently being developed. Therefore, a switch to quantum-resistant cryptography will prevent the possibility of data being exposed. At the same time, it will ensure better protection of digital assets.

Final Thoughts

Quantum computers will not replace classical computers; however, the two will form a hybrid solution whereby each task will be assigned to the most suitable machine – either quantum or classical.

Achieving the aforementioned benefits will require businesses to have teams of experts who are knowledgeable about the implications of quantum computing and who can recognize the company’s potential future needs, opportunities and vulnerabilities.

With signs of commercial quantum computing becoming a reality, it’s not too early for business leaders to consider how it will encourage digital investment, reshape industries and ignite innovation. Therefore, having a thorough understanding of quantum applications is essential for positioning a business to gain a competitive edge.

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Increase In Deepfake Attacks and How Enterprises Can Prepare

Deepfake technology utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to manipulate or create synthetic audio, video and images that appear authentic. Deepfakes are commonly featured in entertainment and politics to spread false information and propaganda. For instance, deepfake has been used to show a celebrity or leader saying something that they didn’t, and this creates fake news.

Unfortunately, in deepfakes, cybercriminals have found a new tool for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are now using deepfakes to pose a variety of enterprise risks.

How Cybercriminals Are Using Deepfakes

Deepfake technology is now used to create scams, hoaxes and false claims that undermine and destabilize organizations. For instance, a manipulated video might show a senior executive associated with fake news, such as admitting to a financial crime or spreading misinformation about a company’s products. Such corporate sabotage costs a lot of time and money to disprove and can impact a business’s reputation.

Another way businesses can be negatively impacted is through social engineering attacks such as phishing, which relies on impersonation to compromise an email. Similarly, social engineering using deepfakes can feature voice or video impersonations. A good example of such an impersonation was reported in The Wall Street Journal, in which fraudsters used AI to mimic a CEO’s voice. This incident happened in March 2019, when criminals impersonated a chief executive’s voice to direct a payment of $243,000.

Cybercriminals are able to execute social engineering attacks by accessing readily available information online. They can research a business, employees and executives. The criminal will even use an actual event picked from social media – for instance, a financial director who is just returned to work from a holiday – to sound more legitimate.

This emerging security threat is also made possible by the development of video editing software that can swap faces and alter facial expressions. Such developments have enabled deepfakes to fool biometric checks (like facial recognition) to verify user identities.

The deepfake cybersecurity threat has become such a concern that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a Private Industry Notification (PIN) cautioning companies of the possible use of fake content in a newly defined cyberattack vector referred to as Business Identity Compromise (BIC).

How to be Prepared and Protect Against Deepfakes

Deepfake videos and images can be recognized by checking for unnatural body shape, lack of blinking in videos, unnatural facial expressions, abnormal skin color, bad lip-syncing, odd lighting, awkward head and body positioning, etc. However, cybercriminals keep evolving and creating more convincing deepfakes.

Other measures introduced to combat deepfakes include creating solutions that detect deepfakes. There also was an introduction of deepfake legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December 2019.

Unfortunately, this has not been enough, and enterprises have the task of helping reduce the impact of these attacks. The following measures can help:

  1. Use anti-fake technologies
    Businesses should explore automated technologies that help identify deepfake attacks. They should also consider watermarking images and videos.
  2. Enforce robust security protocols
    Implement security protocols to help avoid deepfakes, such as automatic checks for any procedure involving payments. For instance, putting systems that allow verification through other mediums.
  3. Develop new security standards
    As security threats keep evolving, so should security standards within a company. For instance, introduce new security standards involving phone and video calls.
  4. Training and awareness
    Enterprises should enforce regular training and raise awareness among employees, management, and shareholders on the dangers of deepfakes to businesses. When all involved parties are trained to identify deepfake social engineering efforts, this will help reduce the chances of falling victim.
  5. Keep user data private
    Deepfake attackers use the information found in public domains such as social media. Although not a failsafe procedure, company profiles can be made private. Users also should avoid adding or connecting with strangers they don’t know and posting too much personal information online.
  6. Disinformation response policy
    Some deepfake incidents are out of control for an enterprise, such as fake videos purporting to be from top management. However, establishing a disinformation response plan will help in cases of a reputation crisis. This should include monitoring and curating all multimedia output – which will help present original content to the public as authentic content.

Conclusion

Deepfake is an emerging cybersecurity concern that requires enterprises to be aware of its potential threats and stay prepared. Although it might be possible to identify a poorly generated deepfake with the naked eye, the technology continues to advance. In response, countermeasures must keep pace.

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Risk of Browser Extensions and How to Stay Safe

Risk of Browser ExtensionsWeb browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge, among others, play an essential role in enabling access to websites on the internet. Most browsers allow users to install extensions, also referred to as add-ons or plug-ins. These extensions are applications or small software modules that add functionality and other useful features to a browser.

By means of the extensions, users can carry out various tasks such as password management, cookie management, ad blocking, interface modification, productivity tracking, grammar and spell-checking, etc.

However, although the extensions offer different useful functionalities, cybercriminals have taken advantage of them, creating a security risk to users and their data.

The Need to Beware of Browser Extensions

Browsers enable websites to collect information such as viewing history, adding cookies, etc. Also, when installing the extensions, some require to be allowed various permissions, like the ability to read or change data. For instance, according to a recent study by Talon, a digital security company, most Chrome Web Store extensions (62.43 percent of extensions) require dangerous permissions, including permission to read or change user data and activity. This means that an extension can see the sites visited, keystrokes, login credentials and private data, such as payment card details.

Since this information is readily available on a user’s web browser, cybercriminals can use a malicious extension to collect the data for their gain. At the same time, the data collected is sold without user consent or knowledge and used by third-party data brokers to send users tailor-made ads.

Although not all browser extensions are a security risk, some might be built to impersonate legitimate extensions, especially those from third-party resources. In other cases, legitimate extensions have been compromised or bought by a developer who uses them for malicious purposes.

Some browser add-ons are built to download malware onto your device, redirect search traffic to malicious websites or download ad ware and Trojan horse viruses.

The extensions can automatically update without requiring any action from a user. This means that if a legitimate extension is compromised, it can be used to install malware without user knowledge. Even secure extensions are prone to attacks or can be compromised, enabling attackers to gain access to data stored by browsers.

Additionally, malicious extensions can be built to bypass fraud detection by official Web stores. For instance, in 2020, Google removed over 500 extensions from its web store that violated policies, with some already having infected users and stolen their data. This followed the discovery of some malicious extensions that users had already downloaded.

A recent report released by Kaspersky, a cybersecurity firm, shows just how dangerous malicious add-ons are. After the firm analyzed data from January 2020 to June 2022, it discovered that over this time frame, 4.3 million users were attacked by adware hiding in browser extensions. This put adware as the highest representative of browser extension risks, with malware coming second. The report also indicates that Kaspersky products prevented more than 6 million users from downloading adware, malware or riskware disguised as browser extensions.

Such figures from just one cybersecurity firm are worrying, considering the study focused only on users that use their security solutions. This creates a need for users to be more vigilant when using browser extensions.

How to Make Sure Browser Extensions Are Safe

There are various ways to help reduce the risks posed by browser extensions:

  1. Ensure the extension is from an official web store. Since these extensions can also be compromised, it is best to find out more information about the developer.
  2. Check reviews as they help to know what other users think of the extension and if there have been any complaints. However, users should be cautious of identical comments or too many 5-star reviews, as these could be fake.
  3. Check whether the extension is updated regularly. An extension last updated many years ago might not be reliable.
  4. Review extension permissions for each extension.
  5. Check that you are not installing clones of the original extension. For instance, if you search for an extension, you can find other similar ones that look legit.
  6. Uninstall browser extensions that you don’t recognize or those you no longer need.
  7. Use browsers that have the features you want.
  8. Install reliable antivirus software that will help spot malicious activities or applications.

Conclusion

Browser extensions play an important role in the user browsing experience. Although not all extensions are dangerous, users must conduct due diligence to ensure they install legitimate extensions.

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What Are NFTs and How Can Businesses Benefit?

What is an NFTNon-fungible tokens (NFTs) are rising in demand, and some brands are already generating great results in their campaigns and providing a unique experience to customers. As the hype around NFTs continues, businesses need to understand how they can benefit.

What is an NFT?

An NFT is a valuable digital asset created using blockchain. Unlike cryptocurrencies, NFTs are not mutually interchangeable as each NFT represents a different asset with a different value. Hence, an NFT verifies the authenticity of a non-fungible asset. This means that the purchaser of the asset/product can only use a product. Unlike other digital products, an NFT can’t be duplicated and sold. This is because the non-fungible asset is made into a token with a digital certificate of ownership, creating authenticity and credibility. NFTs could include videos, music, physical products, services, documents, artwork, and even memes.

A non-fungible asset’s value depends on various factors, such as underlying value, ownership history, perception of the buyer, future value, etc.

How NFTs Have Been Used

So far, some industries are already reaping benefits from NFTs. Various cases of NFTs can be found in gaming, music, fashion, sports, and virtual real estate.

The growth of NFTs has been attributed to the fact that humans like to collect things, and since NFTs are designed to be scarce digital assets, this contributes to the high prices. According to research conducted in March 2021 by Morning Consult, a global decision intelligence company, about half of the people who identified themselves as avid physical collectors were interested in NFTs. In addition, users have more control over the asset bought because it cannot be used in any other way or duplicated, making it more valuable.

It might not be obvious to most when NFTs are worth an investment. However, looking at NFTs that have already been sold, this can present an opportunity that businesses should not ignore. For instance, the first tweet by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was sold for over $2.9 million in March 2022. The Nike brand also has been making headlines with its virtual sneakers, with one selling at $134,000.

With such news making the headlines, businesses may wonder how they can benefit from NFTs. 

How Can a Business Benefit from NFTs?

Businesses still hesitant about adopting new technologies should start considering creating NFTs that align with their brand image. Below are some ways in which a business can benefit:

1. Brand Visibility

Aside from digital marketing, NFTs provide another way businesses and corporations can drive attention to their brand. For instance, by creating a digital version of your products, you expose it to NFT enthusiasts, some of who might not be aware of your products. NFTs also can be incorporated as part of your brand storytelling, creating unique experiences for your customers, consequently increasing consumer engagements.

2. Authenticity

Many businesses undergo massive losses of revenue due to counterfeit products. With NFTs, businesses can ascertain the authenticity of their products and services. A digital certificate is issued with every transaction and a record is kept on the blockchain. A customer can check the authenticity since the blockchain can be traced to the original seller.

3. Additional Revenue Stream

Businesses can use NFTs as an additional source of income by selling digital forms of their products or services. One way to do this is by creating an early access opportunity before the official product launches, creating a buzz and ensuring the NFT value will rise.

4. Customer Loyalty Program

The versatile nature of NFTs makes them ideal for use in loyalty programs. The tokens can be used as medals for loyal clients or as membership tokens.

5. Prevent Ticket Scams

Many people fall victim to online ticket scams where they buy fake discounted tickets or duplicate tickets of an original event ticket. The money collected doesn’t go to the business, which also affects the event organizers. Customers also risk their credit card information being stolen by scammers. However, turning a ticket into an NFT makes it easy to verify its authenticity and even prevent ticket black markets.

6. Managing Supply Chain

NFTs are positively disrupting the supply chain. By the use of blockchain technology, it’s now easy to trace the entire process of a product lifecycle, from raw material, transportation, manufacturing, and distribution up to the end consumer. Hence, businesses interested in improving transparency and accountability can embrace NFTs to automate their supply chain.

Conclusion

NFT technology is relatively new, and its practical use is still limited. However, the fact that people are willing to spend on them is reason enough why any business should consider leveraging NFTs in its marketing strategies to help boost brand engagement and drive sales. 

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Big Data Storage: What You Need to Know

Big Data Storage: What You Need to KnowToday, businesses have to grapple with vast amounts of data from different sources, including emails, mailing lists, customer orders, system logs, mobile apps, social media networks, etc. This data is crucial to businesses in various ways. When analyzed, a business can identify operational issues, personalize the customer experience and manage supply chains – all contributing to better decision-making.

However, big data also has challenges, especially regarding its storage due to size and other factors such as collection speed, processing, retrieval and format. This becomes more complicated as the data keeps growing with time and cannot be stored in traditional storage devices, necessitating a need for facilities that store and process the data efficiently.

Depending on the business type, a choice can be made between storing data in a warehouse or in the cloud. A data warehouse is a building facility that stores and processes data for a business. This in-house data storage offers the advantage of speed. However, when more space is needed, it will be necessary to acquire more physical storage.

On the other hand, a business may choose to opt for cloud storage. Cloud storage offers the benefit of convenience, accessibility, cost and maintenance, which the service provider handles.

Considerations in Storing Big Data

Regardless of the means a business chooses to store its data, there are various issues to consider:

  • Understand your data – before choosing a data storage method, it is essential to first understand the company’s data in terms of the type of data collected, quantity, storage period, retrieval speeds, use cases, etc. This helps choose a data management system that can handle the data efficiently.
  • Data governance – with so much data collected and with data growing exponentially, it is likely that users can be lost in a sea of data. Therefore, a business should define a strategy that aligns with business goals to avoid collecting unnecessary data that takes up storage space.
  • Data integration tools – data is collected from multiple sources, and it is necessary to have adequate integration tools that allow for different file formats.
  • Cost – it is difficult to determine the actual cost of storing data. Hence, a business should not base the cost decision on the upfront cost alone. This is because other factors are involved, including operating costs, the need for scalability, training or hiring users, new technologies, and the cost of backup. Businesses must evaluate whether the initial investment in the best data storage technologies is worthwhile by looking at the potential long-term results.
  • The data storage provider – before settling on a service provider, thorough research should be conducted. Some considerations when choosing from a variety of providers should include the availability of technical support to solve problems quickly, scalability, fault tolerance, pricing models, and reviews from existing customers.
  • Disaster recovery plan – ensure it is possible to recover data quickly. This is crucial with attacks that deny access to data without paying a ransom. A business should consider keeping secure offsite backups.
  • Enhanced security is required – the expanding IoT network adds to the number of endpoints and devices storing or retrieving data. Therefore, big data comes with a huge responsibility to preserve data in an environment where hackers are pervasive and never stop coming up with new ways to break into systems. It is recommended to choose the safest option even when it costs more, as data security is vital for the survival of any business.
  • Employee training – big data may require a business to hire new staff to help in analytics, such as data scientists. Regardless, a business should consider training existing employees on handling big data and using new tools that will be introduced. Big data also requires collaboration among different departments in an organization. Data-literate employees can better interpret data, ask the right questions, and generally make data-driven decisions.

Compliance with data security regulations – this especially applies to highly regulated industries such as finance or health. It is essential to ensure that even when outsourcing data storage and management, the service provider adheres to compliance regulations to avoid heavy fines that come with a violation. 

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Ways Technology Can Improve Business Cash Flow

Cash flow awareness is vital in running the day-to-day activities of a business. Keeping track of the inflows and outflows helps a company make better plans and decisions, such as the right time to expand. Cash flow knowledge reveals where a business is spending money and can protect business relations, among other benefits. However, tracking cash flow is a challenge for many businesses.

To avoid business failure due to poor cash flow management, business owners are investing in software applications to help manage cash flow challenges. Modern technology enables access to these applications over the cloud, giving small- and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to benefit from them. These cash flow management tools help companies improve cash flow in various ways.

  1. Remove Manual Paper Systems that Cost Time and Money
    Using a cash flow automated system, it’s possible to create and send invoices directly to clients through email. This saves on time that would otherwise be used for printing invoices, mailing, bank trips, and going through paperwork comparing details. It is also possible to automate recurring invoices, saving the time used to create and send invoices.
  2. Makes it Easy for Clients to Pay
    Paying invoices takes time if a client has to keep confirming the payment details. However, an automated invoice can contain a pay now link, which facilitates quick payments for applications that include access to online payment options.
  3. Helps Avoid Data Entry Errors and Reduces Risks
    There is no need to move from one platform to another to check details, manually enter details, verify figures, etc. This ensures fewer errors, such as those generated when copying details like bank information to a check, or paying the wrong amount. Sorting out these errors takes time, hence delaying payments.
  4. Cash Flow Forecast
    The applications offer access to account insights in real time using cloud-based software and mobile apps, making it possible to forecast when clients are likely to pay and when bills are due. Access to live data also means there is no more dealing with complicated spreadsheets and paper ledgers. This way, a business can plan its actions to ensure positive cash flow. For instance, a business can delay paying vendors and plan when best to pay bills without running out of standby cash.
  5. Avoid Late Payments
    Late payments can result in fines that will cost the business unnecessary losses. However, with software that automatically sends invoice reminders, it is possible to make timely payments.
  6. Centralized Cash Flow System
    All activities involving cash transactions are located in one system, offering the ability to see cash inflows and outflows at a glance. As a result, a business can streamline its accounts and monitor cash flow; and since it includes real-time reporting, it’s easy to spot any red flags and solve problems that could adversely affect a business.
  7. Leverage on Data Analytics
    A centralized system will collect data and store it in one place. By deploying artificial intelligence technology that performs data analysis, a business can better forecast its cash flow. This also provides insight into how changes such as a new products or price adjustments affect cash flow.

Choosing a Cash Flow Tool

Cash flow automation enables a business to maintain a positive cash flow and have cash in its reserves to afford reinvesting in its operations, settling debts, and handling other operating costs. However, before investing in an automation tool, it’s recommended to analyze different tools to find the best fit for your business. Each tool is different and built to address various business problems.

Some features to look out for include integration with the existing accounting system, payments and invoicing, accepting a variety of payment methods, and security.

Besides getting the most suitable application, there are other considerations to establishing a healthy cash flow. Technology has its benefits, but it does not act as a cure for a poorly implemented system. For instance, if employees don’t know how to use new technology, its impact will be limited. Therefore, a business should establish a workflow process before implementing any new technology.

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Why Businesses Should Be Worried About Mobile Security and How to Keep Safe

Cybersecurity has become more important than ever, especially with the rise in cyberattacks. However, much focus is put on computers, laptops, servers, etc. Mobile phones and tablets seem to be overlooked when talking about cybersecurity.

Today smartphones are integrated into the modern workforce as driven by work at home and remote working. To enhance mobility, these devices are installed with business mobile applications that enable access to company systems. They enable users to conduct different activities on-the-go, such as banking, connecting to company networks, business transactions, and other social operations. However, this is raising concerns about the security of sensitive corporate data and other personal information stored on phones.

Despite these concerns, businesses continue to be lax on enforcing solid measures to protect company data and networks.

Since the phones have less protection than computers, they have become an easy target for cybercriminals who are using different methods to gain access to phones.

Security Threats to Mobile Devices

Phishing is one common attack vector that uses fake emails and text messages to trick users into clicking links that download malware onto a user’s smartphone. For instance, cybercriminals may use SMS to mimic legitimate companies and send messages that contain harmful links.

Recently, cybersecurity researchers cited a WhatsApp phishing campaign that attempts to lead WhatsApp users to install an information-stealing malware. The senders impersonate the WhatsApp notification service and send an email to a user claiming they have received a private voicemail. A user who is unaware of this ploy and clicks on the play button in the email will download malware onto their phone.

Attackers also take advantage of data leakage through malicious mobile apps. Users can get these apps by downloading fake versions of real apps, which are infected with malicious code that steals personal data stored on a phone.

Data can be stolen through legitimate solutions, as researchers found at the end of October 2021, when they discovered a banking trojan horse known as SharkBot in six phoneapps. These apps were designed as legitimate antivirus solutions. The malware could bypass multifactor authentication to steal credentials and banking information, and even transfer money. Although the six dangerous apps have since been deleted from the Google Play store, this goes to show that hackers do not tire of looking for ways to infiltrate mobile devices.

Mobile phones also are affected by web-based mobile security threats when users access affected sites that download malicious content onto a device.

Other security threats to phones include using unsecured public WiFi, lost or stolen mobile devices, mobile spyware, rooting malware and jailbroken phones that become more prone to attacks.

How to Keep Safe

Since phones are now primarily being used as business tools, business owners need to rethink their mobile strategies for both employer-provided devices and bring your own device (BYOD).

Businesses that deploy mobile device management (MDM) tools will block potentially harmful apps, automatically update software, and remotely wipe off data on stolen or lost phones.

Users are the weakest link in security issues; hence, a need for regular security risk-training on social engineering by learning how to differentiate suspicious emails and SMS messages. Users also need to learn to avoid downloading applications from third parties and other untrusted sources and use only authorized app stores. Furthermore, user training should include the dangers of public Wi-Fi, the importance of turning off a phone’s Wi-Fi when not using it, and locking the device with a strong password or biometrics, such as fingerprint detection.

Users also should avoid granting broad app permissions, especially for free apps that may be sending sensitive data to remote servers, where it can be used not only by advertisers but also by cybercriminals.

Keeping device operating systems and other software updated will reduce attack possibilities since cybercriminals use old bugs to hack devices.

It is important to install anti-malware and anti-virus programs on mobile devices since they now face the same threats as computers and laptops.

Businesses can introduce a mobile device policy that employees sign before accessing company resources on their devices or when receiving employer-provided devices. Such a policy includes the dos and don’ts of using phones.

Regular security testing is crucial for enterprise applications as it helps expose vulnerabilities in apps and especially those developed by third-party agencies to ensure the security meets required compliance guidelines.

Conclusion

Mobile phones now have capabilities similar to computers and store a lot of personal and sensitive data. As more devices access business systems, it creates more endpoints that put the business at risk of a data breach. Therefore, businesses of all sizes should take mobile security seriously through strong defensive measures, which can be enhanced with enterprise mobile security solutions.