Author: Ivan Widjaya

If your work in any way involves a website or web based system, you have almost certainly encountered a CMS, or content management system. Whether you have experienced a CMS for managing your own personal blog, like the back office area of WordPress, or you’ve used an enterprise level SAP content management systems like Weaveability SAP CMS, the concept of a back end area where new content can be added, content can be categorised and managed, and other functions can be carried out without the use of any coding, is probably not new to you.

Cloud CMS - WordPress

CMS use has become completely mainstream, to the point where it is quite easy to forget that not so long ago these platforms were not so commonly used, and managing content was vastly more difficult (and usually required in house web developers). As we head into a cloud CMS utopia where content can be managed effortlessly and your CMS can even stream directly to other sites (something Facebook is beginning to do this year with its new Instant Articles service), it is nice to look back at some of the now simple tasks that used to present a real headache to site owners:

Localised Site Versions

These days, if you want to have versions of your site that are displayed for different local audiences, perhaps with different languages and currencies, it is quite easy to organise this in your CMS. You can make sure content is consistent between your different versions, queue content for translation, and all kinds of other things that make having localisation that actually works cohesively simple.

Before CMS platforms were in wider use, you would have had to develop your own ways of doing this, or simply have had separate sites, which you’d manage separately, leading to inconsistencies over time. You may not even have bothered with having different versions of your site for countries who spoke the same language, assuming that people in the UK could just put up with US English and dollar currency references. Now, you can easily manage localisation so non language-based localisations like these become far more ‘worth it’.

Web Developer Handover

When a site is fully developed, if it sits on a CMS, it can then be easily handed over to a content team who don’t need to have even the basic CSS and HTML skills the developers would have had to have used to change content in ‘the old days’. Not only can content be added but new static pages and whole new sections of the site can be added easily by non technical users.

Ease of Collaboration

If you have a large team, collaborating to produce and publish content using a CMS is very easy, thanks to inherent QA processes and tools. This means people all over the world can be working on your content, as well as people you may have outsourced content creation to – in the cloud. And, as long as you’ve set up their access right properly and have sound approval and moderation processes, this will work effortlessly.

Cloud CMS use has definitely changed how businesses run their websites, intranets and online services, and while this is no secret, it can be interesting to remember just how difficult things like these used to be to manage or do!

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Since the rise in technology and the new marketing opportunities that has provided for us, you may believe that as a result more traditional offline marketing is dying out. However, that is most definitely not the case.

Today, in order to create a winning marketing strategy you need to combine both traditional offline marketing with the more modern online marketing and use cloud technology as a facilitator.

McDonald's Pick n Play ad campaign

Traditional offline marketing refers to the advertising that has been used by companies for many years, primarily in print such as newsletters, billboards, flyers and newspaper print ads. Digital Marketing refers to those that take place via technology on social media, emails, text messages, websites and so on.

Offline may not have the influence it once had, but it is still very powerful, especially when coupled with digital. Both forms of marketing have the same purpose, to get your service or product in front of the customer. That means going to where the customer is, which primarily is online now due to the rise in smartphones. However, although it may appear they don’t stop scrolling through them 24/7 they do spend much off their time offline as well.

That is why traditional and digital can be combined to complement and strengthen one another, but how do you do this?

Firstly your online marketing can be used to direct customers offline, for example your social media pages could advertise a talk being given by a company or an event you are part of. Likewise offline can be used to direct people online, this can be done by adding your Twitter handle, Facebook page, website etc to leaflets, flyers and business cards. If this seems like a good idea you hadn’t thought of yet then check out Leaflet Printing from Helloprint to get you started!

Not stopping there, cloud technology takes it even further:  The cloud enable marketers to merge online with offline marketing. But how the cloud can combine/merge two seemingly different world?

The cloud as a facilitator

First thing first: What the cloud has got to do with online/offline marketing campaigns?

Here’s the answer: According to the recent forecasts, over a third of digital content in 2016 will be stored and distributed via cloud computing (source). As content is the backbone of today’s marketing campaigns, it’s safe to say that marketers are increasingly use the cloud for delivering their marketing messages.  But it’s not stopping there – tech and marketing continue to evolve: Enter IoT.

The recent rise of IoT (Internet of Things) has push the boundaries of marketing even broader: Not only digital marketing, the cloud has also connected to traditional offline marketing like billboards.  Suddenly all devices can now ‘talk’ to each other via the cloud.  Using IoT, marketers can reach out to people within the proximity of a traditional offline marketing platform, such as the billboards, by sending messages straight to their smartphones. Using your mobile device, you can now interact with billboards.

Example #1: McDonald’s Pick n Play campaign

Here’s one cloud marketing integration example: McDonald’s launched Pick n Play, allowing people to play a digital pong game.  If you last for 30 seconds, you’ll win a free coupon redeemable at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.

Example #2: Lidl Surprises

Lidl are a good example of how to combine the two. The stores #LidlSurprises was a campaign designed to alter the public’s perception of its products. Previously they had relied solely on door drops and leafleting to get across its price message. But this campaign centered all its activity around the #LidlSuprises with the hashtag appearing on TV, print and in-store promotions.

Example #3: Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke

Offline, such as outdoor poster campaigns and leafleting, can be an effective form of repeating your message to the consumer. Whilst online, such as social media, enables more engagement with the customer. It allows the brand to start a conversation with their customers and share interesting and relevant content with them that will increase their engagement.

Take the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign for example, this was incredibly popular on social media because people were able to share their photo. The result was 235,000 tweets from 111,000 fans using the #ShareaCoke hashtag.

But, despite the obvious success this campaign had on social media it was still advertised offline as well. The original act of purchasing the coke is completed offline, before the countless photos taken of the bottles are shared online. Therefore advertisements appeared on billboards, TV adverts and print.

Takeaway

These campaigns by hugely successful companies show that offline and online both work perfectly separately, but even better together – thanks to the cloud. To ignore either will put you at a huge disadvantage, and as a result you will fall behind as your competitors get way ahead of you.

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Cloud services have revolutionized the way small businesses operate. The cloud makes it possible to perform all sorts of business tasks more efficiently and for less money. Take a look at these four cloud services that are essential for small business and why you should start using them.

Cloud computing

Mobile File Storage

The number one reason to use cloud services in your business is for secure and simple file storage. Your employees can work from any computer and store their files and documents in the cloud. Then, these files can easily be accessed at the office or on the go. The cloud provides a secure location for files so your employees don’t have to worry about losing their files no matter where they work.

When files are stored in the cloud, it provides the perfect opportunity for collaboration in your business. This is because you can give multiple employees access to certain documents so they can work together, even simultaneously, on a project. Mobile file storage is also great for sharing files between employees without the hassle of emailing them or exchanging flash drives.

Online Backup

This is another important cloud service for businesses. With the cloud, your business never has to worry about losing important files and information again because you can use an online backup tool to automatically duplicate your files. Many cloud services are available that allow you to do this for an affordable price.

Losing files was a major business risk in the past, especially when businesses wanted to migrate servers or change their backend software in any way. This risk is virtually eliminated with the cloud. You can even use cloud services to program automatic backups on a continuous basis.

Online backup services are also a good idea for businesses that are going paperless and looking for ways to be environmentally friendly. When your business uses the cloud, your employees don’t have to print as many documents as in the past because they don’t have to worry about losing files and they can collaborate more easily.

Online Meetings and Chat

In addition to file collaboration, cloud services can help your employees have meetings with recordings retained for your files. Employees can hold online meetings face to face without leaving their respective cities. Then, many cloud services store recordings of meetings for employees to watch at later dates. This is a great way to keep all your employees on the same page about projects, even if they miss a day of work, because the recordings can be referenced at any time.

Beyond recordings of meetings, cloud services can be used in your business to facilitate chat, email, and other forms of communication. You no longer have to buy cellphones for your employees or rely on face-to-face interactions. This provides better flexibility in all aspects of your business.

Time Tracking

Time tracking services are another benefit of using the cloud in your business. If you have hourly rate employees, it’s important to have some sort of time tracking service. Cloud-based invoice management with Sage is an easy way to keep track of your employees’ time. Employees can use this cloud service to log their time whenever and wherever they work. Plus, billing becomes a lot simpler with all your employees’ time cards in one place.

Cloud-based services cut down on the costs of business hardware and software, whether you are implementing a time-tracking cloud service or simply using the cloud for file storage. Switching to the cloud is one of the best things you can do to lower your overall business operational costs. Cloud services are becoming more and more prevalent, so you have lots of options to choose from, depending on your needs.

As you can see, there are all sorts of benefits to using cloud services in your business that you should not ignore. If you have not switched to the cloud yet, start here with these four essential services. You’ll see boosted profits and productivity, as well as better business management possibilities.

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For many, although they may actually enjoy their chosen career, the work environment does little to motivate. Studies have shown that badly designed offices can have a negative effect on workers’ mental state. Similarly, companies who do nothing to enhance employees’ wellbeing in the workplace find that productivity remains below average and have a higher staff turnover.

Embracing the cloud

A few simple and relatively inexpensive changes should mean greater employee satisfaction, higher motivation and increased productivity – incorporating the cloud along the way.

Visual

What do your employees see around them? Blank walls are hardly exciting, whereas some aesthetically pleasing works of art or panoramic photographs of nature can raise mood levels. Even photos from the last office party can create happy memories and raise a smile. These can be rotated periodically, so that they don’t become ‘white noise’. Avoid posters with memes, as they are clichés and can irritate.

Another important thing that impacts visual is lighting.  The ambiance of the room impacts employees mood, so you need to mix-and-match.  The easiest thing to do this is by using smart lighting that’s controlled via the cloud. By letting your lighting “learns” your desired pattern throughout the day, you can easily setup the ambiance in every room of your office – it saves much energy, too!

If you’re replacing furniture and your budget allows, opt for wooden pieces, rather than metal or laminate, as they add warmth. There are companies on-line that specialise in second-hand office furniture. And don’t be afraid to mix and match, as employees are individuals, so can’t their work stations be different?

Music

While research is somewhat contradictory, the general consensus is that the right music improves productivity. A study on surgeons showed that they were more accurate while operating to music, whether their most or least favourite, rather than when no music was playing. Introducing music may not please everyone, as it does require a level of multi-tasking, so the best option might be to provide ear phones with a limited volume. These could be used with a company music channel on your network, providing a selection deemed appropriate (no death metal, please), streamed via the cloud.

Chill Space

It’s important to provide an area with lounging furniture and refreshment station, so that employees can have some comfortable down time during their breaks. Open-plan offices can make staff feel exposed and vulnerable, so allowing them some quiet time in a cosier space can help counteract the negative aspects. If appropriate to the work environment, you could include some devices for watching TV or browsing the internet.

Thoughts & Goals

Regardless of whether you’re a director or clerk typist, your opinions should count. It can be intimidating approaching a manager to discuss ideas, so it’s important to have a facility where everyone can anonymously suggest improvements. Rather than a private box, put a large notice board in the break room or other secluded area. Staff can write their comments on sticky notes. This way everyone can see the posts, which will encourage discussion and interaction. It makes employees feel more valued and part of the team.

Another idea would be to have a white board mounted in a prominent area and every day one or more members of staff could write one of their work-oriented goals for the day. A final idea would be to email everyone a ‘joke of the day’, to help them start the day with a smile (or groan). Even corny puns can have the desired effect.

If you want to, you can take those digitally through cloud-based collaboration tools like Celoxis and Bitrix24 in which employees can communicate about work and everything else in between, sending messages to one another and posting work-related stuffs or simply funny cat videos – not too much, though!

Creating a pleasant work environment isn’t difficult or costly, yet it can reap dividends in productivity and staff attitudes.

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If you are entering the world of website ownership, or are simply wondering whether the service you currently host your website or service on is still the best solution for your needs, then understanding the differences between the common types of web hosting is important. By choosing the right type of web hosting, you can offer a better service to your users and will not have to worry about things like loss of service, users being unable to access services because you’ve exceeded your bandwidth, or not having enough space for all of your content.

Cloud hosting

The Emergence of Cloud Hosting

For larger sites and things like SaaS (software as a service) web services, having a dedicated server to host the site was historically the best approach – rather than using shared hosting (where many sites share server resources), which was typically a cheaper option used by smaller business sites and blogs. This all changed when cloud computing gave new options for hosting, one of which being a virtual private server (VPS).

Here, we look at what a VPS solution is, and why it offers benefits above those offered by a dedicated server for most larger websites and web based services:

What Is A VPS?

A VPS is a virtualised server which offers the user the same experience as having their own dedicated server, but is not tied to physical hardware. Where in a traditional dedicated server environment you would hire the server itself and the host would run it and do any maintenance on it, with VPS you are hiring the virtual server and the underlying hardware comes from a cloud – that is, resources are allocated as needed from a range of physical servers in real time.

From your end as a website owner, you are still managing one single server, but none of the limitations of using a single piece of physical server hardware apply.

What Are the Benefits of VPS Hosting Over Dedicated Servers?

There are a number of reasons why VPS is often the better solution.

From a business perspective, it is generally cheaper, as you are only paying for the resources you actually use and the hosting company can assign the resources of their physical servers far more efficiently – in a traditional dedicated server set up each site is reserving all of the resources of its physical server at all times, which is more costly and less efficient.

Another significant benefit is the inherent resilience and redundancy of this kind of set up – a server hardware failure will not bring down your site.

Takeaway

If you are currently using a dedicated server or were considering using one for your next website, then it can be a very good idea to do some investigation into the option of using a VPS solution instead, such as VPS hosting from Best Web Hosting. This could potentially keep your costs down and your site up, and offer the best solution for managing your website or service.

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The ability to remotely monitor employees and ensure data theft prevention measures are strictly adhered to are two critical issues that should be on the forefront of every manager’s “must-do list”.

With the recent upswing in cloud-based SaaS monitoring software and services, there’s simply no reason for a modern business to use old school methods for user activity monitoring. This pertains in particular to what they’re doing with their time, and when they’re accessing important company and/or client data.

Employee productivity in the cloud

One must also consider worst-case scenarios, such as a disgruntled employee seeking revenge after being dismissed and even “moles” infiltrating the company to steal your client lists or other important data.

Increasing productivity: Monitoring employee user activity and enhancing overall cloud security

This is an easy step for medium and large sized businesses to implement. They’ve seen what happens when you extend too much trust to employees. Smaller business owners and managers often worry they’re creating an unhappy environment for employees by monitoring and recording their every move.

Unfortunately, this mentality is what leads to wasted company time, horseplay and even worse; money and data theft. Prevention, in this case is nothing more than realizing that as much as you love them, you don’t really know your employees as well as you think you do.

Without proper monitoring systems in place, you never know what’s happening when your back is turned.

Always ensure your cloud monitoring system is setup to record everything your employees are doing including:

  • All applications being used including time opened and time closed.
  • Websites being accessed through the company servers.
  • Each and every file accessed and/or downloaded and uploaded.
  • Every keystroke made on company devices.
  • The signature of each approved device used to access the company cloud and physical servers.
  • Printed document tracking including what’s been printed, how many pages of each, and which printer was used.

This kind of monitoring is further bolstered by requiring employees to fill out a task completion worksheet as they finish individual tasks, so you can use the analysis tools provided by the SaaS to break down every conceivable cost associated with keeping individual employees and departments on the payroll.

Additional SaaS Features Should Include:

  • In compliance with current AES specifications to ensure bulletproof cloud security standards.
  • Set up alerts to allow you to be notified immediately when security violations occur.
  • Ensure management is able to remotely seize and disable a user device that’s been compromised.
  • The ability to access and playback history in the event a problem or data breach isn’t noticed right away (this is where most free SaaS programs and cloud storage providers fail, as live desktop monitoring alone can eat up thousands of gigabytes of storage bandwidth every month).
  • Customization services in case you require monitoring or security measures that aren’t included by default from the service provider.

When considering whether to go in-house or external, it’s important to consider the time spent creating and refining a monitoring and cloud security system of your own versus putting it in the hands of companies who employ the best IT specialists in their field and whose reputation hinges on providing the utmost in data integrity and employee management solutions.

Few businesses are equipped to handle the behind the scenes grunt-work required to keep the backend of such a system functioning flawlessly.

Business cloud management

Look for a Provider Willing to Grow With Your Company

SaaS providers like Teramind are committed to helping small businesses grow too. If you think you can’t afford to employ a paid SaaS in your company right now, think again.

Most reputable services will offer free user activity monitoring and data theft prevention services for 3 – 5 users while you start and/or continue to control your business.

There’s absolutely no reason to go it alone anymore. SaaS providers are constantly improving their offerings and the cost of creating and deploying an internally-maintained system is just far too great for most companies to justify.

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Paying by card has become the norm for the majority of UK consumers. Gone are the days when the affluent and the eager-to-buy would carry around wallets filled with notes, and ladies would shop with handbags weighed down with an abundance of excess coins.

Security, safety, and ease of use have all conspired to help bank and credit cards take the place of cash, and this is a change that retailers have had to get on board with. Stores with no more than an old-fashioned till are a feature of the past, and no retailer will decline to accept this popular method of payment.

However, most of us will recall the days when cards were still viewed with suspicion, shops and eateries declining to accept them as payment, either through distrust or a lack of suitable technology.

Now, contactless is the new kid on the block, and here’s why your business had best upgrade in time for 2016…

Contactless payment using smart watch

What is Contactless?

Contactless technology has been around for quite a while now, yet many business owners remain ignorant of its particular nuances. It is no more than a method of paying for goods and services, either through cards, stickers, key fobs, watches, or mobile phones.

These devices are imbued with an antenna that can be touched against contactless terminals, to instantly transfer money from the buyer to the vendor. Although they cannot usually be used for purchases over £30, financial information is safely and securely transmitted via the cloud, helping to encourage quick and easy payments, with no risk to either party.

The Benefits of Contactless Technology

Although it could be argued that contactless technology is of more use to consumers than it is to retailers, it is still well worth your while to invest in it, with improved customer satisfaction being beneficial on its own merits.

However, this is not the cloud-based technology’s only selling point. The main aim and advantage of contactless technology is to make transactions easier, simplifying and speeding up the process for all involved. Sales can be made in an instant, with no time spent typing in PIN numbers or counting out money. As a result, queues are smaller, staff members find their job roles easier, and customers receive a quicker and more efficient service.

There is the added advantage of a paper trail. Although many consumers choose to pay for smaller purchases in cash – generally to avoid the rigmarole of typing in their PIN number – swiping a contactless device is easier yet, and thus even minor purchases are tracked and recorded by your bank, making accounting a much simpler task.

Perhaps most important of all, however, is the point that we mentioned above: improved customer satisfaction. Research has shown that customers prefer to shop at premises offering contactless technology, thanks to their reduced queues, quicker serving times, and simple payment process. Indeed, they will specifically search out those shops and suppliers who offer this payment method, helping to boost their income and popularity by the simple installation of the right machinery.

Can you really afford not to invest in contactless technology? Get your 2016 off to the right start and step into the future now.

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As with all things Cloud, hosted SharePoint usually comes out on top as compared to on-premise SharePoint and for several good reasons.

Cloud-hosted Sharepoint solutions

Initial costs

Let’s begin with the cost factor: if you are a huge corporation with deep pockets, you could very well set up a state-of-the-art infrastructure, and do an on-premise SharePoint installation. As for the others, hosted SharePoint makes much more sense, since it comes with pre-determined and affordable monthly costs, guaranteed uptime, top security and on-demand scalability. And then there is round-the-year, 24 x 7 tech support thrown-in for free.

Human resources

The next thing to consider would be the people, or rather the tech expertise, if you want an on-premise SharePoint. Hiring SharePoint specialists in-house to install, set-up, manage, and maintain SharePoint is definitely not a low-budget operation. While not always, but often, you would find “hidden” costs/fees while you are about to finish up the on-premise deployment. An all-included hosted SharePoint is the obvious alternative.

Time and opportunity costs

Time cost, and thereby, opportunity cost is another important consideration while choosing SharePoint. Having on-premise SharePoint usually means keeping the IT support staff almost always busy with updates, fixes, ironing out performance kinks, resolving issues, maintaining the infrastructure, so on and so forth. On the other hand, having a hosted SharePoint on the cloud means freeing up the IT team to totally concentrate on the business processes and add value.

Scalability

Hosted SharePoint solutions also score over on-premise in terms of the go-as-you-grow perspective. You could start with a simple hosted SharePoint package – say a “Silver” plan – and keep moving up the chain right till the “Platinum” variety. When you grow bigger, you could choose the semi-dedicated or even a dedicated server option that will give you more capabilities and more power, with the unbeatable convenience of the cloud that you would have come to love by then.

What are the solutions?

Hosted SharePoint from CloudAppsPortal is right at the top of the list, when you consider hosted SharePoint providers. True to the name, they provide a free, 100% functional SharePoint site, which actually allows you to explore first-hand the hosted experience for as long as you want.

Their paid plans are quite reasonably priced and flexible enough to suit most business needs. Their hosting servers are in New York data centers, with 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Backups and 24 x 7 technical support are included in the paid plans.

What probably clinches the deal in favor of CloudAppsPortal.com is the fact that there are no long-term commitments forced upon – you pay as you go, month-to-month, and scale up or down as you wish.

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The cloud has become one of the most commonly used phrases in the tech world over the past few years. One day you’ll be hearing about all of the possibilities it offers, while on another you see that a company’s data has been breached because of a problem in the system. Despite all the talk, though, many business owners still don’t properly understand what the cloud really offers.

Embracing cloud computing

Here’s what you need to know and how you can get prepared.

What Is It and How Does It Work?

In its most basic form, cloud computing is the process of using a network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data. This has created new service models for businesses, such as software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

With SaaS models, like Google’s online office suite or Dropbox’s service, consumers typically use a thin client via a web browser to access the service. PaaS, as seen with Heroku or Google App Engine, works to instead provide a platform which creators can use to make their own software. IaaS, the most flexible cloud computing model, makes it possible to create the foundations for which SaaS and PaaS are based upon with tools like Microsoft’s Azure.

What Are the Advantages?

There are many advantages of managing your business from the cloud. Chief among them is that it moves the responsibility of managing technology away from the business owner, allowing them to focus more on core processes. Activities that previously had to be done manually, like installing software updates, can now effectively be taken care of externally and automated in the background.

Accessing your data, applications, and services is also much easier. Not only is this information available anywhere at any time, but even available to a number of different devices. Perhaps most importantly for businesses owners, cloud-based services often turn out to be much cheaper in the long-run. This is because you pay for only what you need, on a flexible, monthly payment contract, rather than being forced to invest in expensive hardware and software that requires regular updates.

How Can I Make Sure I’m Ready?

If you feel that now is the time to embrace the cloud, there are few things you should do before you make the switch.

First of all, you should ask yourself if your current business model matches with the advantages that the cloud offers. For instance, could you make your most popular products or services more cloud-friendly and create new revenue streams?

Secondly, you need to take into account the different kinds of security protocols that cloud-based businesses require. Cloud adoption requires stringent privacy policies to ensure personal data is stored securely, whether it’s in the form of billing preferences, email addresses, or health information. To make sure your business is up-to-code, consider working with a penetration testing team. Specialists can help you to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your defense by utilizing the same kind of techniques that a malicious attacker would employ.

The overall benefits of embracing the cloud are abundant, and fortunately many of the disadvantages can be properly prepared against with the right security techniques. Start taking the necessary steps today to make sure you don’t let your business get left behind.

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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

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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