Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) is a professional association providing training in accounting, business management and business transformation to CPAs in Maryland and nationwide. The organization has become a national leader in technical training and continuing professional education for financial professionals through its in-person training programs, online training, public advocacy for CPAs and public-outreach financial-literacy projects.
MACPA has established a national reputation by emphasizing the strategic benefit of information technology to CPAs nationwide and providing leadership in education and technology. The association itself, however, was increasingly limited by on-site, out-of-date systems that made it difficult for mobile employees to communicate, to access files or to perform other tasks while on the road. The organization was also concerned with the growing security risks of keeping so much critical data on local hard drives.
Managers at MACPA understood the importance of adapting the company's technologies to meet today’s business challenges. "We didn’t want to spend our time managing servers, applications and workstations internally," says Tom Hood, chief executive of MACPA. "Instead, we wanted to free up our time and energy to work on business-process improvements and build new lines of business."
To find the best way forward, leaders at MACPA sat down with Simplified Innovations, a Citrix Service Provider that specializes in serving the unique technology needs of today’s accounting firms. Simplified Innovations proposed an elegant solution: Rather than attempting to manage all of these applications in-house, MACPA could choose a secure, flexible Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution built on Citrix technology and delivered directly from the cloud. “What they needed was mobility, integration and simplicity,” says Byron Patrick, chief executive of Simplified Innovations. “We took over their brick-and-mortar IT infrastructure, cloudified it within our Desktops-as-a-Service model and made it available to every MACPA employee.”
MACPA users can now have anytime, anywhere access to their apps through virtual desktops managed entirely by Simplified Innovations. Behind the scenes, this solution combines Citrix XenApp technology for virtual delivery of popular applications, including Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft Exchange and Great Plains Dynamics, as well as customized applications for the accounting industry. The Citrix NetScaler application delivery controller provides secure access from outside the MACPA headquarters. The Simplified Innovations team also relies on Citrix CloudPortal Services Manager to enable comprehensive management of the MACPA environment through a single control panel. They use Citrix Provisioning Services to ensure a consistent experience for all users by streaming a single server image to multiple virtual servers.
By shifting legacy apps to a DaaS solution managed by Simplified Innovations, MACPA substantially cut the cost of on-site maintenance and support. In addition, the organization no longer stores data on local hard drives, leading to a significant improvement in the overall security of the MACPA environment. “Most of the day-to-day management has been taken off our plate,” says Hood. “We can focus all of our energy on improving business processes and driving revenue, not managing IT.”
Thanks to DaaS, MACPA employees now have full access to a wide range of business-critical apps. “We have about 30 people in our main office, with a few more working from other locations,” says Hood. “Many of us travel a lot, too, so it’s vitally important for us to maintain total access from anywhere, as securely as possible, whether we happen to be using a laptop, tablet or smartphone.”
With its legacy systems now running in a cloud environment, MACPA is providing a model for CPA firms that might be looking for a more efficient, effective approach to IT administration. “We chose Simplified Innovations because they’ve shown so much leadership in our industry from a technology standpoint,” says Hood. “And now, by putting this solution into place, we can continue to demonstrate our own leadership, giving CPAs a clear idea of what it looks like to transform our practices and stay competitive in the years ahead.”
These major changes in technology are already starting to pay dividends in increased productivity and new lines of business, according to Hood, who is eager to continue the migration toward a total-cloud IT environment. The next stages will likely include adding more flexible management of remote files with Citrix ShareFile, along with enhanced management of mobile devices using Citrix XenMobile technology. “Our world is changing faster than ever,” he says. “These technologies are going to play a key role in helping us stay at the forefront of the industry.”
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