Get the Word Out
CPAs can use Web sites to store many years of data, permitting clients quick and easy access 24/7. The sites, also called reporting portals, can handle data that are formatted in many different ways.
Data that are otherwise hard to display can be formatted without any special technology so they can be read by a Web browser.
A special function in Excel can transform a static file being uploaded to a Web site to a dynamic, or interactive, file. Typical dynamic worksheets are loan-payment calculators and pivot tables, whose data adjust when their underlying information change.
Easy access to sensitive client data comes with a price. You don’t want such information to be easily accessible to everyone, so you must implement very effective security measures.
If your organization’s Internet site does not have effective security, you have two choices: Hire a Web consultant with security experience or rent a professionally managed site and let its specialists set up a security system for you.
|Key to Instructions|
To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we use two different typefaces:
Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas and URLs.
Sans serif type indicates commands and instructions that users should type into the computer and the names of files.
NOW that we’ve described the flexibility and diversity of information that can be stored on the Web, let’s see what such a site, also called a reporting portal, looks like. Exhibit 1 shows a screenshot of a typical opening page of a portal created by a CPA firm. As you can see, it contains three years of data—2003 to 2005—for client John Smith.
To transform an Excel worksheet so it can be viewed by a browser, begin by opening the target file, which has an .xls extension (see Exhibit 3).
Finally, to make the report available for viewing, upload bsheet.htm to your Web server.
To prepare a dynamic display for the site, create an interactive file, such as a loan-payment worksheet (see Exhibit 7), which uses Excel’s =pmt() function in C6 to perform the dynamic calculations.
Then follow the same steps for a static file except place a check in the Add interactivity checkbox (see Exhibit 5).
Easy access to sensitive client data comes with a price. After all, you don’t want such information to be readily available to everyone. So you must implement very effective security measures to be sure only authorized users get at it.
|Space for Rent|
Vendors that rent Web sites:
Accountants Office (www.accountantsoffice.com) provides Web sites with CyberCabinet online file sharing. Prices start at $695 per year.
CCH SiteBuilder’s (www.cch.com) software, ProSystemfx File Share, allows secure file sharing. The first 50 megabytes (Mb) of storage space are included with the basic subscription. Additional space is available in 100 Mb increments for about $100 a year. Free trial is available.
CPA Site Solutions (www.cpasitesolutions.com) offers Web site templates with a secure online file-exchange portal. Prices start at $50 per month.
Creative Solutions Thomson (www.creativesolutions.thomson.com) offers two products, Web Builder CS and NetClient CS, that provide clients with access to their financial reports through the Internet. Demos are available on its Web site. Prices start at $120 a month, with a one-time setup fee of $500.
IKE (www.ike.com) offers secure file sharing. A 15-day trial is available. Prices start at about $100 a year.
Webex Weboffice (www.weboffice.com) provides powerful collaboration services, including file sharing. A 30-day trial is available. Prices start at about $50 a month.
XDrive (www.xdrive.com) lets clients share files securely. Free trials are available. Prices start at about $100 a year.