Author: Ivan Widjaya

There are numerous advantages to migrating most of your management and storage needs over to the cloud. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to detail 5 of the most significant advantages of integrating your apps and data into a cloud based management environment.

Each of the following saves you money in one way or the other, increasing profits and helping to improve your relationships with your employees, vendors and customers.

Manage business in the cloud

1. The Cloud makes your office accessible from everywhere.

This is the most obvious advantage to cloud computing and storage, but there’s more to this than the added flexibility of being able to access all your company data when you and your employees are out on sales or customer service calls.

  • A sick employee with a strong work ethic no longer has to take a day off work because they can’t come to the office for fear of infecting other staff.
  • A snow day no longer has to mean your office shuts down for the entire day.
  • Cars breaking down suddenly, employees missing trains, etc. All you and your employees need is a laptop or mobile device and an Internet connection to get the job done.

Research is mounting about the benefits of allowing certain kinds of employees to work remotely. On average, remote employees log at least 4 more hours of productive work per week and would even consider taking up to a 6% salary reduction if they could work remotely, as opposed to in an office environment. Studies like this one do suggest that those who benefit most from a cloud office are those who perform mundane, repetitive tasks like call center work, secretarial duties, data entry, programmers, copy editing, web administrators, etc.

2. Easy collaboration and project management

When you institute a cloud based work environment into your company, it puts everyone in the company on the same page, without the need to sit shoulder to shoulder in a meeting. Everything from a project management and collaboration perspective is all held in the cloud, in one central location such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. This is a major bonus for everyone, but particularly for remote workers living in different time zones, where emails are often the only way for these workers to keep in touch.

Tools like the new Skype for Business are great for video conferencing and sharing files for viewing, while project management apps like Wrike, and sales and marketing collaboration tools like SalesForce allow users to input data on the fly without the need to be connected to a central server in your offices. Managers, employees and outside contractors can all access project-related data, make approval requests, submit bids, etc. – all with relative ease. This also cuts down on data entry costs and the worry of lost customer, project, and financial data that never makes it back to the company servers.

3. Improved accounting efficiency

In days gone by, employees had to hang onto and itemize their paper receipts, then send them to accounting for approval and storage. With cloud-based accounting apps like Expensify and Zoho integrating with Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive and/or your Quickbooks account, receipts can be uploaded immediately and the employee can get immediate approval, payables reminders can be sent to multiple accounting team members rather than leaving important time-sensitive outstanding bills in the hands of one or two people.

Everyone can see what’s going on in real time. Many of the apps out there allow you to set timers to pay specific invoices on a set day, or send out auto-reminders to customers about their outstanding balance. Portable point-of-sale systems like Stripe now make it possible for your sales team to take immediate e-payments, which further reduces the need for excessive invoicing and puts instant cash right into your company account.

4. No more lost data

The cloud is indeed still in its infancy, but with security and disaster recovery services like CloudLock offering a 100% guarantee that they can restore any lost data instantly, just as it was before someone accidently deleted it, it’s safe to say that the cloud has certainly entered an era where a clunky old office server isn’t necessary anymore. This means a significant amount of time and resources are saved swapping drives and monitoring your storage equipment too.

Cloud providers take care of your backup and recovery needs, out of sight and out of mind. It used to take companies an average of 8 hours to recover from a data disaster, while companies now using the cloud can boast average recovery times of 2.5 hours. You pay your premiums to the service provider and when there’s a problem, there’s no extra charges to recover the lost data either, compared to the average $9000 recovery costs that most SMB’s could expect just a few years ago when their traditional backup methods suddenly failed. Also consider what happens if your office has a freak accident like a fire or is flooded…

5. Security

Where to begin with all the security benefits offered by switching to the cloud?

Security updates are done automatically. There’s no need for you or employees to carry crucial company data around on a laptop anymore, all you need is a password to access the cloud provider’s servers. When an employee is fired, you needn’t worry that they’ve still got hard drives full of data about your latest projects, you can disable their cloud access with the click of a button.

Have any benefits of your own to share?

Leave a quick comment and let me and your fellow readers know.

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Every business has a certain component that it couldn’t operate without. A logistics provider wouldn’t be feasible without a fleet of vehicles, for instance, nor would a tradesperson be able to complete the job without the right tool. One necessity that almost all modern businesses have in common, though, is a solid connection to the cloud, and the right enabling technology. A reliable connection is crucial to maintaining efficiency and keeping productivity high, and the tools and systems that come with it – along with features you may not have been aware of.

Connecting to the cloud


VoIP–short for Voice over Internet Protocol–converts traditionally analog voice calls into digital into packets of data. These packets are then able to pass over a public or private Internet Protocol (IP) network. That means you can make calls to landlines, mobiles, or even other computers all the while using your internet connection. This could cut costs by up to 50% and suppliers like PackNet aim to have you set up and ready to go within the hour.

With VoIP technology, you can also take advantage of SIP trunking. This uses streaming media service based on the Session Initiation Protocol which could allow you to use numbers outside your area code as well as make video calls.

Video Conferencing

Conference calling has existed for a long time, but it never really worked as intended. People were always cutting off each other’s sentences and you could never be sure the other party was taking the talk seriously or had access to the necessary slides or documents. Video conferencing changed that, but it required expensive equipment to get started. Skype has become integral to companies that have teams working in different parts of the country, or even the globe, and plans start at just £1.30 per month for businesses. This includes online meetings, messaging, calls, and video with up to 250 people.

With freelancing, traveling, and working from home becoming increasingly popular, companies should take the steps to ensure they can cope in new business environments.

Cloud Computing

For the last several years, the cloud has been one of the most common buzzwords touted amongst tech circles. Many outside the industry were starting to believe it may just be another fad, but many different industries are seeing the benefits. By using a network of remote servers, companies like Google and Microsoft are able process much larger amounts of data than if they were limited to the power of their local machines.

Cloud-based business plans are both flexible and scalable, and very much offer a “pay-as-you-go” like solution to what used to be a very complicated procedure of buying and installing expensive hardware. This is evident in the new document management, data storage, and processing power solutions now available to businesses around the globe.

Adopting those enabling technologies could have more advantages that you initially realised. Consider how you could incorporate these features into your business.

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Many companies take their data security for granted, despite the fact that it is often one of their most valuable assets. A lot of this information ends up being impossible to replace, and it’s only after a serious data loss that many realize the importance of it. Not only can losing important data affect a team’s productivity, but it could also have disastrous effects on your company’s reputation as a whole. Here’s how you can ensure your data is secure and protect your business.

Cloud storage

Personal Backing Up Your Files

If you run your own small business with just a few employees to account for, personally backing up your files may be a suitable option. This could be by either printing off physical copies of your own files or backing them up digitally to an external hard drive. The problem with this method, though, is that, while many of us know the importance of backing up our data, very few of us can keep up with a regular schedule. Even if you fell behind for just a week, a hardware failure could mean a significant amount of work was lost.

Investing in a Dedicated Server

A dedicated server is a more reliable solution and can act as a central repository for all your company’s information. Your server will most likely use several hard drives which will make it much easier to create multiple backups. While servers are often designed with specialist components that are more reliable than your average PC, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to failures. Keeping everything in one centralized location also means it can’t protect you against theft, fire damage, or natural disasters. This is why keeping a copy of your information on an off-site location is so highly recommended.

Switching to Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is the latest and most convenient way to store your information, as you can easily access it from a variety of different devices. It works by making digital backups of your files which are stored across multiple physical servers via a hosting company. It’s then up to the cloud storage provider to keep the data available and accessible. If there’s a technical problem on their end, you might not being able to access your data for an indeterminate amount of time. This convenience could also come with other problems as cloud storage is no stranger to security challenges for enterprise users.

Working with a Third-Party Specialist

Choosing to work with a third-party specialist is arguably the best choice to securely store your data as it gives you both the benefits of physical backups with the conveniences of cloud storage. Companies like TNT Business Solutions can store your physical documents in a secure, off-site location while also creating digital copies of these files which you can access online.

Typically, the best kind of data security setups involve a combination of different solutions. This way, if your personal backups on an external hard drive fail, you’ll still have the option of pulling the files from your cloud storage provider. Make sure you put the time into adequately protecting your data as you’ll be thankful for it in the long-run.

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Editor’s note: Considering many factors, including flexibility, scalability and security, there is a growing trend for businesses to opt for hybrid cloud solutions. Why is that? What’s the benefit of going hybrid? This article from Business U.S. Cellular can answer those for you.

America’s Backbone Weekly: Go the Distance

The Benefits of Hybrid IT Solutions

By Nick Pell for America’s Backbone Weekly

If cloud computing was the big buzz term of the last several years, the new catchphrase is “hybrid cloud solutions.” But more than a buzzword, this is the latest development in data storage for your business.

A hybrid cloud system uses a mixture of on-premises, private cloud and public cloud services to store and manage your data. This allows workloads to move between private and public clouds as computing needs and costs change, giving you greater flexibility and more data deployment options.

Your company might, for example, use a public cloud service for your archives while keeping more current and operational data on site. Then you can benefit from the cost-effectiveness of a cloud-based service while avoiding some of the potential security risks that come with third-party data storage.

Some firms, such as those in procurement for the defense industry say, just can’t store their data off-site due to regulatory or other legal requirements. This makes a full transition to the cloud impractical. However, putting non-sensitive, non-regulated data into the cloud could free up local servers at a fraction of the price.

Trouble can arise when companies rely entirely on one solution to the exclusion of the other. For example, you might have a lot of old data stored on legacy devices that are no longer up to date. Or your company might have been so taken with the cloud storage craze that you moved everything you could off site and onto a cloud-based storage system. The trick now is integrating both worlds: getting what you can out of cloud-based storage while keeping what you need on site. You might still keep a majority of your data either on site or in the cloud. Hybrid IT is basically the science of figuring out what this balance should be, how to best execute it and how to seamlessly integrate both sides of the equation.

For older companies who currently face high costs for storage space for old, physical legacy data storage, a hybrid cloud system is a no-brainer. You need to store all that data somewhere, but buying more physical, on-site storage for data you seldom use isn’t efficient. At the same time you need to access some data regularly. With a hybrid cloud storage system you can keep that newer data local, while backing it up in the cloud — alongside all your migrated legacy data. Voila. You’ve just freed up tons of physical space while revolutionizing the way your company keeps data, boosting your productivity in the process.

It’s not cost effective to store all your data on-site. Even if your data is stored on the latest and greatest hardware, it’s still taking up both digital and physical space in your environment. On-site data costs simply can’t compete in terms of price and scalability with cloud computing. You could save potentially tens of thousands every year by moving what you can off site and into the cloud.

Anything you can back up should be backed up in the cloud. Data loss is a real threat, and not just due to hardware failure. For example, if you have two copies of sensitive customer information on site and your office floods—you now have zero copies. If you store information in the cloud your office can flood 100 times and you’ll still have all your information waiting off-site. But what if the servers your data is stored on get damaged as well? It is extremely rare, but server farms are not immune from disasters – natural or otherwise. Triple redundancy is obviously safer again than “only” storing your data locally and in one cloud option.

While cloud storage companies offer top-notch security, due to reporting and regulatory requirements — or even just your own in-house policies — it might make more sense to have some of that information stored on-site where you have greater control over it. A hybrid IT system allows you to choose which data you let another company protect for you off site.

There are few reasons not to use hybrid IT. Every company has data they need to keep on site for a variety of reasons. And every company has a lot of other data that is more securely managed, more cheaply, off site. Hybrid IT systems are the next evolution in local and cloud storage, and when implemented smartly, offer the advantages of both local and cloud storage with none of the drawbacks.

Nicholas Pell is a freelance small business and personal finance writer based in
Southern California. His work has appeared on
MainStreet, Business Insider, WiseBread and Fox Business, amongst

To read more articles like this, visit America’s Backbone.

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To succeed in business today, it’s not enough to have strong ideas and be willing to work hard. You also need the right software. While investing in software might feel daunting if money is tight, it can make a big difference to your productivity and quickly pay for itself – especially cloud-based software.

Using cloud software

Cloud software is more appealing to the general business user, due to the fact that it allows you to pay only for the feature and/or resource that you use. What’s more, it doesn’t require a great deal of initial outlay as long as you make good decisions. One more key benefit of cloud-based software is the ability to scale as you grow, which means that software expenses are only increasing when your growth requires you to invest in more feature and resource.

This article is designed to help you hunt down the right cloud-based software for your business – software that’s designed for the general user but still gets good results.

Key office software needs

To work out what software you most need in your office, it’s best to look at it area by area.

  • Organization – investing in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can take a lot of the pressure off management by streamlining day-to-day tasks and helping with project coordination. Deltek is a good source of systems tailored to this business type.
  • Communication – aim to streamline office communication with internal messaging software and phone numbers as backup. Facilitate off-site communication and out-of-office work using cloud software so that your team can connect even when commuting or on business trips.
  • Finance – the best finance packages are now so good that anyone can use them; no specialist knowledge is required. Try QuickBooks Online for the office and FreshBooks as a useful aid when you’re out and about.
  • Security – getting security right is vital to protecting your data and keeping everything else running smoothly, so more and more businesses are choosing to outsource it to the cloud. For in-office use, Norton AntiVirus is still ahead of the pack.

Boosting performance online

When it comes to the software you should be using on the internet, you can take a similar approach.

  • Business-to-business interaction – the cloud is definitely the way to go in this area, giving you the flexibility to deal with any type of file you’re sent. Alternatively, a Linux-based system with emulators is a good solution when your Windows or Mac software won’t cooperate.
  • Business-to-customer interaction – web design is now more complex than ever as it’s essential to ensure mobile device compatibility, but WordPress can give you something functional at a low cost. You’ll also need to use social media to guarantee visibility.
  • Marketing – for small businesses, performance-based marketing such as that described in Matomy’s feed is the safest bet and can get great results. Check out Matomy Media Group to find a package designed to suit your business size and type.

Staying ahead

In such a rapidly changing world, it has never been more important to stay ahead technologically if you want to succeed. Fortunately, more and more of today’s software is modular and widely compatible, so you can invest according to your needs without having to overhaul the whole system. What you should be doing, on a routine basis, is taking the time to read technology news websites, and discussing new software when networking. You don’t want to miss the next big thing!

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It takes more than one person to run a successful online store. There’s just plain too many things to do and not enough hours in the day to get them done. While you might find yourself cringing at the idea of handing over any of the reins of your company to a virtual stranger, the time wasted by micromanaging your web store is limiting the rate of growth your company’s experiencing, not to mention the toll it’s probably taking on your personal life.

Running a business in the cloud

Here’s just a few all-too-important daily online store tasks you can outsource to your VA with the utmost confidence – all done remotely in the cloud:

Online Order Processing

As a business owner, you might feel like it’s your job to handle every order that comes into your store personally. However, this is a repetitive task that you can have someone doing for pennies-on-the-dollar when compared to the time deficit they cause. You can use the additional time saved working to improve your online storefront, secure more vendors, and seek out new and profitable product/service lines to help expand your business further.

Teach your virtual assistants to sniff out up-selling and cross-selling opportunities when they interact with customers via phone, live chat and email, to rake in even more profits.

Customer Service

Service level is a factor that’s monumentally important to nearly all customers. There are so many time-consuming elements required for an online store to be profitable while still gaining a reputation for offering good customer service.

Whether presale or after the sale, a virtual assistant can handle all your frontline customer service requests, in real time, via all cloud tools available. They can deal with customers who’re on the verge of buying but still have questions, handle returns and exchanges, along with managing all other customer questions and complaints while you do more important things.

Inventory Management

Inventory is a huge concern in any retail business. Let your VA use cloud collaboration tools to monitor stock levels and update your inventory to reflect what’s truly available in real time. Once certain agreed-upon thresholds are met, give them authorization to order more to keep levels where they need to be. Let them be your virtual lifeline between you and your dropshippers, monitoring the supplier’s stock levels and adjusting your store’s online inventory to avoid ordering issues with your consumers.

Website Admin and Maintenance

Basic web admin tasks like making blogposts and responding to comments in the comment section of your store can be done by almost any virtual assistant, regardless of their experience level with a minimal amount of training needed. More sensitive tasks, such as coding, design and maintenance can be still done by a qualified VA, such as the one from, much more cheaply than if you were to hire office staff or freelancers for the same tasks. Let them deal with the hassle of updates gone awry, clean up broken links, deal with sourcing and editing images, and make sure all copyrights, disclosures and coding is up to date on the site.


Spreading your brand all over the Internet is a monumental task. One that can take up a lot of your personal time, in addition to money. Let VAs do all the down-and-dirty work like creating and submitting social blasts, press releases, guest posting, blog commenting, forum interaction, and video editing. Find the right assistant who has experience marketing in your niche and they’ll often have a large list of influential contacts that can help them market your business better than you could on your own.

Of course, you could keep doing all these jobs yourself. But why would you? How much is your time worth? Nearly every successful entrepreneur that exists today has got to where they are by learning to delegate and use cloud software to automate and simplify things, not micromanage. Hire yourself a virtual team and you might just become the next Internet success story!

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What is the difference between private clouds and VPS? It is often the case that these two forms of hosting are thought of as one and the same thing, but the truth is that there are subtle differences between the two. Sure, they’re not a million miles apart, but upon further inspection there are a few key factors that separate them both.

cloud server network

These factors could mean a lot to a business over time so it is well worth exploring them in more depth, which is what we aim to do in this article. Let’s jump straight in and look at the four main differences between the private clouds and virtual private servers.


The first big difference between private clouds and VPS is where the hardware is held. In the vast majority of cases, virtual private servers are hosted off-site and run by a third-party host provider such as Host1Plus VPS hosting.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are generally situated on premise – either in your own office or in a data centre owned and maintained by your company. However, it is worth bearing in mind that there are now hosting providers offering private clouds to end-users. Naturally, these private clouds are solely for the use of the organisation in question and they are not shared in any way.


Despite its name, a VPS is actually a single server that is split between a certain amount of different users, similar to a shared server setup. However, virtual private servers have a far fewer users per physical server, and each user has a lot more control over their particular part of that server. This is made possible by virtualisation software which separates one user from the next. That said, you are never 100% isolated from the possibility of being affected by other users on that same server.

Private clouds work differently. They use multiple servers and distribute their resources across these boxes. This allows for seamless movement to other physical servers in the network should a malfunction or failure occur. Although you are aware of only one server operating, there are actually many different systems making the whole thing work.


In order to scale your network with a VPS you would need to do so manually. This is generally achieved by raising a support ticket with your chosen hosting provider.

Private clouds are much easier to scale. The control panels available on private clouds allow a user to add a resource, server, database or whatever in quick time, usually via the admin panel. A couple of clicks and you’re done.


As with so many other things in life, cost is the kicker. While private clouds may well seem like the only way to go, they are expensive. You will have to fork out for all of the hardware, pay someone to install it and run the setup, and then, on top of all of that, you are responsible for the maintenance too. Hosted private clouds can help to lower this cost significantly, but you will be handing over much of the control that you would enjoy if you held your own.

Virtual private servers are less expensive – a lot less expensive. If you are operating on a budget, VPS is the only way to go.

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Impression and Akita have recently teamed up to produce a series of guides to help businesses understand the core aspects of cloud applications for business. The easy-to-read guides include cloud accountancy, project management solutions and also cloud for email.

Cloud computing for business

The simple, accessible layout is sleekly designed and has been combined with a selection of beautiful images and graphics. Akita’s Cloud Computing Guide is an all-rounder for useful cloud information for companies of all sizes, from startups to SMEs and beyond.

Cloud Accountancy

Akita investigates some of the most frequently asked questions for companies to consider when using cloud applications to manage tasks such as payroll, payments, expenses and several other strenuous accountancy tasks. From safety concerns to migration issues, the guide explains the benefits and features of using cloud for accounting.

Cloud Backups & Security

The guide for cloud backup and security explains why the cloud should be used for protecting data losses and what steps are involved in cloud-based backup services. It explores the future of cloud software for businesses backing up their files and is a comprehensive guide to keeping important data safe. As Akita’s guide shows, using the cloud can provide peace of mind, thanks to the major benefits of cloud applications compared to traditional business management programs.

Cloud Documents & Storage

There are many tangible business benefits to be had from witching to cloud applications for storage and documents, including the flexibility to be able to access, send and edit documents wherever you are, provided that you have an internet connection.

Cloud Email

In three easy steps, Akita shows you how to make the change from your traditional email provider to the cloud; its guide to cloud email explains the cost benefits that can be had from migrating to the cloud, as well as addressing many of the big concerns businesses may have with regards to security or restrictions.

Cloud Project Management

The experts at Akita have reviewed seven of the best cloud project management apps for business. Its honest, ‘no holds barred’ approach considers the pros and cons of each, and which ones suit different businesses and team structures, from client-facing agencies to internal project management for developers. It’s an unbiased reflection, compiled by the professionals.

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The internet and social media have transformed the marketing landscape for organizations across the globe. Sports companies, franchises and teams are also taking advantage of the new wave of online tools and apps, which are a key competitive differentiator in the digital age. Social media can be used to sell your products and services via targeted messaging, to showcase your position as an industry leader through informative and regular updates, improving customer feedback channels.

Hoops and the cloud
photo credit: JD Hancock / Flickr

Define a strategy, choose the right social platforms

Defining a strategy and selecting the right platforms and practices is the first step towards social media success. Facebook and Twitter are the largest sites, it’s important to consider which outlets could benefit your business the most.

Here’s an example: The Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world (since 1877,) effectively used a Facebook campaign to engage more fans and followers by doing regular off-court updates, real-time live content, creative collaborations with tennis players, as well as on-site social activities, which result in a social audience growth of 83%.

Indeed, a strong social media campaign could help your business to achieve goals, such as increasing traffic to your corporate site, and generate leads.

Be content-driven

You can improve your social media output immediately by focusing on quality content. It is important that the content is concise and worthwhile; it must add value to a follower’s experience, and encourage other people to follow your business. This content could include interesting pictures, using apps like Flickr, or videos and news articles or promotions, polls, free giveaways and links to other social media channels.

You can also establish a news feed or hub, which will keep track of all of your updates in one easy-to-view location. Quality content will ensure followers are digitally immersed on a daily basis, which will improve the connection they have with your brand, increasing loyalty and sales. It will also increase the visibility of your business on search engine sites such as Google.

Engage followers – in the cloud

Smart business leaders are using social media tools to market their products and services to the right people at the right time. Milwaukee Bucks owners Wesley Edens has almost two decades of business experience and is a co-founder of leading global investment management firm, Fortress Investment Group. Eden’s NBA franchise has been using Facebook and Twitter to connect with fans in meaningful ways.

Milwaukee Bucks on Facebook

In 2011, the Bucks offered free tickets to Facebook fans that “liked” its Facebook page and agreed to complete an online survey. The Bucks now have almost 1 million likes on their official Facebook page.


Leveraging the cloud and social media is vital to the continuity of a modern business. You must establish an online presence and increase the reach of your brand to stay ahead of competitors.

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The recent explosion in the popularity of apps has seen more and more people set out to develop their own, and the technology behind them has changed as a result. The big technology companies which easily dominated the market in years past have had to become more competitive in order to keep up sales, while people with limited technical skills have sought out simple design modules to enable them to develop their ideas.

Looking at the app store

App developer kits

As high end app design has grown more sophisticated, the other end of the market has become simpler and easier for anyone to access. Although it’s still useful to be familiar with C++, Ruby or Javascript if you want to do anything complex, developer kits provided by the likes of Apple and Android make it possible to develop native apps with relatively little coding experience. This puts the focus on ideas and ensures consumer demand can be more easily met.

Apps and the web

One consequence of apps being developed in this manner is that few of them function on a standalone basis; instead, they tend to draw on other resources from the web. Now the distinction between apps and websites is increasingly blurring, with web-app type sites providing a more practical interface. This is putting pressure on the mobile app.

Interconnected apps

The problem with the traditional mobile app stems from its popularity. Because they’re so useful, many of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of favorites, and managing them all is getting difficult. Rather than trying to make them all immediately clickable on a small screen, it’s getting easier to access search resources, at which point there seems less point in downloading apps in the first place. This is why Top Mobile App Development Firm teams are now investigating ways to get apps to talk to each other. Using app extensions can enable them to do so without compromising on security, and there’s also the option of using widgets to let them share resources so that, for instance, an app providing maps could let you buy related guidebooks from another app with minimal clicking.

The future of apps

Interconnection is providing app developers with a much more resilient model for the future. It’s happening at the same time as a new generation of smarter apps is enabling users to engage in small ways – like receiving information or responding to messages – without the whole app having to be launched first. This much less intrusive approach makes managing multiple apps easier and so reduces the competitive pressure for them to get space on your mobile devices.

This is good news for small time app designers because it means people are less likely to settle for a few big name apps they feel they can’t do without and then decide they have no room for more.

What benefits less well known apps is ultimately good for all of us, because it drives innovation, ensuring that this technology will remain exciting and continue to revolutionize our lives.

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Every small business has a lengthy to do list and it’s very easy to let admin fall by the wayside. Thankfully, the technological advances of the last decade have resulted in software that can adapt tedious tasks like accounting into a more familiar medium for the modern small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). It is now significantly easier to deal with accounting, invoicing and backing up files. Some software packages even do all three!

Streamlining your business using cloud accounting

Using these technologies means small business enterprises can avoid the loose ends that so often threaten to grow into finance-draining monstrosities, whether that particular monster be lack of efficiency or an upsetting HMRC fine.

Keep your head in the cloud

Having incomplete information on transactions and account history can lead to SMBs missing out on essential tax deductions, or worse building up hefty fines with HMRC for incorrectly declaring incomings.

As HMRC requires you to keep a copy of all receipts, bills and transactions for 6 years cloud technology can provide one of the easiest platforms on which to store this information. It’s also a more organised system than the usual messy ring binders or boxes stuffed full of crumpled papers that you have to sift through – that being said where you have hard copies keep them.

Cloud technologies can allow you to update your accounts on the go – they can be accessed on mobile devices for ease of inputting or checking information. As a small business affiliate, many of the transactions that take place will be out of office so being able to update on a mobile device is a godsend.

Having this information at the ready means you can check if you’re eligible for certain tax deductions. You can also keep an eye on your general incomings and outgoings. The speed and convenience of staying up-to-date on the cloud means that busy people are enabled to make decisions quickly, increasing efficiency as a business and as an individual.

Use accounting technology

For the new generation of SMBs specialising in digital communications, 3 Wise Bears, a modern accounting company that specialise in small business and freelance accounting, both use and suggest digital technologies like Xero. If you outsource your accounting this is a great technique to ensure you can get hold of real-time information about your accounts and have a simple and open communication with your accountant.

Xero allows you to import your transactions from bank accounts, thus giving you an easy setup and instant history of transactions. It can also be accessed from any mobile device. This makes it a great tool if your accounting is in-house, too.

It allows for increased efficiency – as long as you have the discipline to update information that you have to manually input. Often this is made easy to do. If you don’t have the discipline or the time to do so then outsourcing your accounting may be a good option. Find a firm that uses the up to date technologies.

Get paid on time

Without prompt payment small businesses will not survive because cash flow is relatively limited. Netsend, experts in invoice delivery, state that keeping a detailed record of accounts can help to guarantee payment from clients or customers. If accounts aren’t kept sufficiently organised then invoices that have not been paid may go undetected, or worse invoices may not be sent out at all.

Cloud accounting technology makes it simpler to chase up unpaid invoices. You can check-in with your accounts and view what has and hasn’t been paid. That way you can send a reminder or use a debt recovery service; Still Due for example provide a polite but effective way for getting late invoices paid by hosting unpaid bills on the internet for all to see.

Cloud accounting technologies also offer great ways of keeping up with paying your employees, monitoring hours or over time and calculating their monthly or annual salary. Of course a human eye needs to be implemented to double check everything is in order but these programs can cost much less than extra team members and will be more efficient. Thus will help you to streamline your business so that it can be lean but manage at an excellent capacity.

Technology doubles in capacity and halve in size every 18 months so it’s important as a small business person to keep current so that you don’t lose out on valuable techniques that can save you money and increase efficiency.

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Managing a Virtual Assistant or virtual team doesn’t require hours and hours of reading emails fielding questions and feedback requests, asking (and waiting) for revisions, dealing with lost data when they take off without notice or their computer crashes. Nor does VA management require spending time you don’t have on instant messenger programs.

Virtual assistant

Knowing what you want and how to get it from a VA does have a learning curve, but you’re in luck: The ever-present cloud technology, as well as our own experience in hiring VAs, can help you get things right.

Always Use Cloud Services

Cloud storage, paid or free, gives you the flexibility to provide quick and easy input to the projects they’re working on rather than wasting time being sent an attachment, then sending feedback to them – and the time each of you wastes waiting for the other to respond. The cloud also allows you to restrict/remove their access to important files if need.

The cloud also ensures that if they flake out on you, never to be heard from again, that they won’t take a timely project with them. Last, if their computer crashes the night before a deadline, leaving them without enough time to redo the project, the data will still be right where they left it.

Here are the things you should do with the help of the cloud services of your choice:

1. Start Small, and Use Tools to Assist you

No matter what experience they claim to have, always start with one small project. Preferably a project that takes approximately 30 minutes or fewer. Immediately check their work after the time’s up, to make sure they’re on track with the project’s goals.

This is a good way to test a potential VA before hiring them too, but even after the initial project meets your approval, you should continue slow and steady for a few days at least. Failing to do so leads to more time spent editing and revising, and financial loss if important deadlines are missed.

Using cloud-based project management tool can help you manage the small projects, allowing you to try multiple VAs’ services at once. This will speed up the whole VA “recruitment” task.

Alternatively, to cut your ‘trials-and-errors,’ you can hire VAs from a personal assistant company, like 24/7 Virtual Assistant.

2. Communicate Project Guidelines and Deadline Expectations

There are certain times when it’s prudent to allow your VA some creative freedom. Allowing a designer to work with some basic suggestions and see what they come up with can lead to a better website or logo design. Allowing an experienced writer to let their creativity flow on a given topic will lead to less-wooden and share-worthy content.

However, for most tasks you need to be as specific as possible and demand edits and redos if expectations aren’t met. Generally, if you let your VA run wild and do things their own way, the finished result won’t match the picture in your (or your client’s) head. Be as detailed as possible while keeping your instructions succinct. Deadlines must be met without exception, unless there are dire extenuating circumstances, and even then: let them know they only get one generous bye before you say “adios amigo!”

3. Be Smart With Email Practices

Over-emailing with your remote assistant can quickly get out of hand, with them sending you email messages that resemble a high-school term paper, or dozens of small little emails of which a few can easily get missed if you’re busy, or if they accidentally hit “reply” to an older message instead of adding a fresh one to your communication thread. Insist they only send one email per day and ensure they consider each communication they send carefully before hitting the “send” button.

4. Instant Messaging (and Chatting) for the Win

Set expectations with your VA as to when you might choose to IM with them. Their time is valuable too and communications will go much smoother if you don’t pop onto their desktop at random times, usually when they’re trying to get important time-consuming tasks done for you.

At the same time, they need to respect your time-constraints and you need to make it clear what times you’re available, and that it must be important if they deviate from those timelines. Use Skype or an instant messenger for communication. If they work for an agency, use the agency’s built in messenger.

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