Conversations with CPA Leaders: Salmon Sims Thomas

Lorita BaCloud Computing, Financial IT, Performance & Availability

Recently, we sat down (remotely) with Ashley Henson, operations supervisor at Salmon Sims Thomas, a full-service accounting firm based in Texas. Ashley chatted about the firm’s continued commitment to security, the impact of COVID-19, the value of virtual desktop technology, and their partnership with Netgain.

Tell me what prompted the move to adopt remote desktops?

As an accounting firm in this day and age, one of our biggest focus areas is cybersecurity. We believe that it isn’t a matter of if we are going to get hit, but rather when we are going to be a target.

We realized a couple of years ago that moving to a remote desktop environment was one way to address that. By storing data on encrypted drives on the RDS [Remote Desktop Services], we have much better control over who has access to that data, and we can ensure that our files are backed up on a regular basis. The system uses government-level encryption and additional safety protocols such as click protection for the web browser against malicious sites. Netgain has built a lot of these features into our environment to make sure we’re protected.

Do you feel you succeeded in getting a more secure environment?

Absolutely. I feel like our systems are more secure with Netgain. We had a potential breach not that long ago – an email was clicked by an employee that was malicious and passwords were compromised. With the help of Netgain, our incident reporting policies and employee training focus, we were able to get passwords changed, data secured, and our environment protected so quickly that the hackers didn’t have time to infiltrate the network. When something happens, you need a partner on your side that’s going to be able to recover all of your data and keep your client information as well as your personal company information as safe as possible. And I feel like Netgain does that for us.

How did your firm adapt when COVID-19 hit?

Last year, some of our staff were due for a machine upgrade, and we decided to begin the process of updating all of our equipment. As operation supervisor, I looked at the difference between laptops and desktops and realized that with our move to remote desktops, we could switch our team to laptops and really enable them to be a mobile workforce.

Having a remote desktop environment allowed us to think about what was really best for our firm and our staff. We were able to move the entire firm to a mobile and remote setup. Fortunately, this project was completed about six months before COVID-19 hit. When it did, we went from being about 80% of our team in office every day to 100% remote within 24 hours. Because of our RDS, we could log in from anywhere. We already had the laptops and the mobile technology set up for our team. It took us about half a day – some people needed monitors or connectors. But overall, it was seamless.

How would you compare the performance between remote desktops with Netgain and your old remote desktop setup?

Before we switched to remote desktops with Netgain, you could tell when you entered the remote environment: Things would slow down; click rates were less. Now I feel like the transition from your local desktop to the remote desktop is seamless. It’s hard to tell the difference. A lot of our teammates have said that sometimes they even feel like our mobile desktop is running as efficiently as their local desktops.

Why did you choose Netgain as a managed services partner?

We knew we needed an IT firm with knowledge and experience with accounting firms, and that particularly had experience with CCH applications. We were really looking for someone who understood the CPA accounting firm dynamic, what it took to properly run and configure accounting software within a remote environment, and that could help us further the technology and software goals that we have.

As an accounting firm, we’re also a member of the Boomer Circle – we rely on our peers and Boomer Consulting to help keep us at the forefront of technology and what we’re thinking about for the future. It helps us understand what we can do to further increase our abilities as a firm and streamline processes using the newest technology. When it came time to make a switch on the IT side, that’s where we got recommendations for a new managed services provider. When we asked around for a company and an IT firm with more knowledge and experience with accounting firms, specifically the types of software that we use, Netgain really stood out as an industry leader.

With our previous provider, we were seeing several crashes a day with the system, particularly with CCH Axcess software. We knew we needed to go with a firm that had huge ties to CCH and vast knowledge with that particular software. That’s been crucial to our everyday business and being able to function for sure.

And what’s been your experience to date?

Since turning to Netgain and Microsoft Azure, we’ve seen a much more consistent connection rate with our remote desktop environment. We have seen the crashes and different productivity inhibitors decrease to almost nothing. The expertise with CCH Axcess is incredible. That was night and day with our previous vendor.

Would you recommend Netgain to others?

I would absolutely recommend Netgain to any accounting firm or business out there that’s looking for a remote desktop environment, and that needs somebody with the expertise to implement and maintain that environment in a way that drastically increases your productivity and workflow.