PCI Compliance – What You Need to Know

January 27, 2014

PCI Compliant

Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance refers to a set of standards designed to protect cardholder information. These standards apply to any business that stores, processes, or transmits payment cardholder data both online and offline. The specific PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) consist of a list of 12 requirements that vary depending on company size and the quantity of credit card transactions your business handles. This means that it is important to review the different PCI compliance levels on a regular basis to ensure you’re adhering to the correct standards.

The 12 PCI DSS requirements can be summed up into three sections:

Assess Remediate Report
  • Take inventory of your company’s IT assets and business practices for managing payment card processing
  • Analyze these for any vulnerabilities
  • Implement processes and equipment to fix and manage any identified vulnerabilities
  • Gather data and records required by PCI DSS to confirm your company’s remediation
  • Submit compliance reports to the acquiring bank and any global payment brands you work with

Failure to validate your business’s compliance according to the correct PCI level, and not following the standards above can lead to fines, penalties and even the termination of your right to accept cards. Aside from the possible legal consequences, failure to adhere to PCI compliance standards puts your company at risk for data theft. Simply put, someone could get a hold of your database and gain full access to information that is unencrypted.

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Who’s Migrating Your ERP Data?

January 21, 2014

Guest post by Darren Myher, VP of Blue Link Associates Limited

Data MigrationI was reading your previous blog post on data migration, and it struck me that what we at Blue Link do with respect to data migration is pretty special.

I’m often shocked to discover that many ERP companies, including supposedly bigger systems, actually require end users to key opening data including customers / vendors / open AR / open AP etc. into spreadsheet templates as their ONLY way of importing data.

Often the reason for this is that the people doing the data migration are nothing but button pushers who don’t actually understand the data or databases or data migration.  They know how to check the spreadsheet for errors and click a button to do the import of the spreadsheet, but expertise doesn’t often go very much beyond that.

 Compare that with what we do:

  1. During the initial data meeting we get our hands dirty immediately and “discover” what raw data we can get.
  2. Raw Data:
    If we can talk directly with the underlying database we use that as our starting point. If the system has Export options we may use those.
  3. Data migration: Scripted and repeatable.
  4. Data Validation

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Are you a Wholesale Distributor or Currency Trader?

January 14, 2014

Currency-exchange-ratesMost of the companies I deal with are wholesalers, distributors or online retailers (eCommerce) – or some combination thereof. And many of these companies are dealing in more than one currency. Several US customers purchase product for resale from Germany, the UK, France, etc. and have to pay suppliers in Pounds or Euros. And virtually all our Canadian customers are working in Canadian and US dollars, frequently on both purchase and sales transactions.

Now, keep in mind that most of the these companies are owner-managed entrepreneurial companies. And given that many entrepreneurs are at least to some extent risk-takers, it should come as no surprise that many of these business owners tend to gamble on exchange rate fluctuations. And yet is does surprise me, or moreover it’s a cause for concern in some cases.

The problem is that, in most instances, the business owner is not a financial or currency management expert, and is effectively doing nothing more sophisticated or intelligent than gambling. Yes, that’s right folks – it’s gambling. Let’s say you purchase a shipment of products for, say, €50,000, and you don’t hedge the exchange rate – you have 60 days to pay the supplier and you figure the dollar is strengthening, so you’ll wait. Meanwhile, your salespeople are making pricing decisions, and you’re looking at profitability reports, based on the cost expressed in dollars, calculated at the rate prevailing when the shipment arrives (or even worse, when the order was placed). So if you’re lucky, the dollar does move the right way and you score. But equally likely, perhaps even more, there’s some event that turns the dollar downwards and now, 5 days before due date for payment, the dollar starts heading downwards. You still haven’t bought Euros, so do you buy now to limit your exposure? Or do you wait it out and hope that it turns around in the next 3 weeks or so? And if you do that, what if it declines even more?

There’s no right answer here, but agonizing over it will deflect your attention from what you should be doing – namely managing your business, focusing on sales, merchandise, personnel, inventory management etc. But instead you’re trying to make currency trading decisions that people who do this full-time, every day, still get wrong much of the time. And even if you do get it right this time and make a small profit on the exchange rate, that will just entice you to take even more risk next time. It’s like to person who wins big at roulette one night, and gibes it back with interest the next.

The smart business owner will generally fix the currency exchange rate for a transaction early, and focus on running the business. And when you feel the impulse to gamble, take a trip to Vegas.

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A Look Ahead to ERP Software in 2014

January 3, 2014

ERP TrendsBusinesses that are planning to implement ERP software are now, more than ever, focusing on specific needs, and doing their homework before approaching software providers. We expect to see the following trends in 2014:

1.       Smarter buyers

With the availability of information in today’s world, consumers are increasingly well-informed, making it easier to conduct research and compare products before ever speaking with a sales person.  With the help of a company’s website, online review sites, smart phone apps, forums and other information, consumers looking for inventory and accounting ERP software are now spending more time educating themselves on their purchase options, and evaluating these options more carefully. This means that sales people are becoming involved in the sales process a lot later than before (and sometimes not at all).  If sales people do become involved, it is important that they take on a more consulting based role as an industry expert – spending the time to understand a customer’s business and software needs.  The traditional sales approach is no longer valid, and consumers are becoming more and more wary of  “the used car sales person”.

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