Computer Networks for Accounting Firms

By Siegel, Joel G.; Hartman, Stephen W. | The National Public Accountant, June 1997 | Go to article overview

Computer Networks for Accounting Firms


Siegel, Joel G., Hartman, Stephen W., The National Public Accountant


Initiating or improving a computer network in an accounting firm can increase productivity and efficiency in handling accounting, audit, tax and management consulting matters for clients. A network also lowers the firm's operating costs, increasing its profitability and improving the quality and quantity of its services.

This article covers local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and network system software. ALAN is a restricted and privately-owned communications system encompassing a small geographic area - such as four floors on which a firm is housed in an office building. ALAN usually covers a distance of about one mile. A Wide Area Network (WAN) encompasses a wider geographic area - such as a large firm's offices at different locations scattered around a distant area, as might be the case in a "Big Six" firm with offices in Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester. Furthermore, the firm may use a WAN network to communicate with and access accounting and tax hies of interconnected client computer systems anywhere in the world.

Local Area Network

ALAN has numerous workstations exchanging information in one of two ways: between a server computer and its clients in a Client Server network, or between terminals in a Peer-to-Peer network. Depending on the type of network, each workstation may be utilized as a terminal, PC or server. A server stores network application software and conducts the various operating functions while the client utilizes the server's software and databases to perform its own operations. In the Peer-to-Peer network, all the workstations have the same status. A firm may establish differing priorities for its own and client workstations depending on importance. Firms are advised to utilize a server network for client activities to facilitate uniform accounting, audit and tax services.

ALAN may be structured in the form of either a star, ring, bus or hybrid. A star network [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED] connects everything to a central server. A ring [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 2 AND 3 OMITTED] connects PCs (workstations) in a continuous loop. A bus [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED] is a linear structure connecting the nodes of the network without a central server. …

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