Category: Cloud Business 101

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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Every company is worried about their bottom line. After all, you need to earn a profit at the end of the year, right? One aspect of a business’ expenses which is usually overlooked is the cost of technology. By reviewing and reducing the cost of technology, partly by taking your business operational to the cloud, a business will be able to increase profits in the long run. How is this done?

Save money with the cloud

Here are a few ways you can do it with the help of Frontier Internet:

Find the costs

There are a number of layers that make up the technological infrastructure of a company. If you want to reduce costs, you will first have to get to know each layer. Cutting costs will be impossible if you don’t even know what they are, right? Every business needs to have a budget. Regularly auditing the budget and making the necessary changes is essential for reducing costs.

Search for any redundancies in your systems. Is the same job being done more than once? How many operating systems overlap with each other? Even though most employees today prefer bringing in their own devices to work, they all need to be at the same level when it comes to business applications.

Just because software as a service (SaaS) is proving to be a valuable resource in today’s world doesn’t mean you need to fill up your plate with all the software and applications on offer. Most businesses today use anything between 18 and 25 applications for processing orders, gathering information, and running their business. The average tech cost per employee has been estimated at $700 per year. How much can you lower this cost?

Internet services are usually overlooked by businesses because of their marginal cost. But over a year, the savings from switching to a cost effective service, like Frontier Internet, can be quite high. Don’t overlook it. All business managers and even public sector managers should be looking at ways to reduces costs.

Migrating to the cloud

Moving company data to the cloud is a judicious way of reducing costs while also consolidating information. Just consider the cloud as a 3rd party hosting site of sorts which allows you complete control and frees up the IT systems on your business.

The easiest way to explain how this works is through a metaphor. Imagine renting storage space so that you can free up space at home. You aren’t really getting rid of anything that goes into storage but it isn’t in the way any longer either. This will allow you to use the storage space in your home more effectively.

Similarly, moving data to the cloud can also help increase productivity levels on internal systems and ensure you get the most from a work day. This will help bolster the bottom line for sure.

Proactive maintenance

It doesn’t matter how powerful your IT systems are, they can be fragile at times. It is difficult to imagine any person who uses a computer regularly not dealing with a crashed or frozen hard drive at least once. With personal computers, the solution here is to fix the computer and keep using it until it is beyond repair or until buying a new one just makes financial sense (with the computers falling in prices, spending more than $150 or so to fix a computer does not make that much sense if you buy a new one for $350, for instance).

But this isn’t a practical approach as far as businesses are concerned. This is where a tech support company can really come in handy. They can maintain your computers and ensure you never have to deal with crashes or frozen hard drives. There’s no point in spending exorbitantly on new computers every couple of years when there is such a simple and cost effective solution to avoid any problems altogether and as just stated, new computers are not that expensive anymore.

Tech companies will monitor all the systems and alert you regarding any problems when it comes to malware or capacity issues. It’s just like taking your car in for scheduled maintenance instead of waiting for it to break down while you’re driving.

Consolidation

When you consolidate IT infrastructure and resources, especially in your company’s data center, you will ensure your resources are used efficiently, security and document management improves, and complexity is reduced. Some of the elements worth consolidating are:

  1. Servers: Focusing on virtual machines is a stellar way to reduce physical server numbers and getting rid of redundancies.
  2. File storage: Storage area networks can help centralize data in a single location. They offer better performance as compared to local storage and are quite economical when it comes to large storage requirements.
  3. Directory services: Providing a common directory service is cheaper than distributed systems which only increases costs.
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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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Cloud computing has ultimately become a major benefit to businesses – particularly to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Though there are plenty of reasons why, one of the most attractive things about cloud technology is that small businesses are able to reap the benefits without the high costs. Not to mention the perks of accessibility which provide room for increased productivity and seamless collaboration.

Cloud services for business

Cloud services essentially provide entrepreneurs, small business owners, and home-based businesses with access to sophisticated technology without the need to hire someone with advanced IT knowledge. With benefits such as these, there’s no wonder cloud technology has surged in popularity over the last few years. Not sure which services might benefit you the most? Here is a look at some forms of cloud technology that any small business can take advantage of:

Phone Services

Are you still utilizing a landline to make and receive business calls? Well between the monthly costs of a phone bill and the equipment needed to manage it, this could be an unnecessary costs.

Cloud phone services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provide efficient and cost effective means for businesses to communicate. With phone calls being made and received through an online server, you can cut the costs of communications immensely. The system features allow users to make calls from virtually anywhere at a fraction of the cost. More businesses are switching to VoIP as a way to save money and increase productivity.

File Management Systems

Company data is of extreme importance. Whether its consumer information, outgoing correspondence, financial documents, or marketing materials, you need to have an efficient method for storing it. While the old file cabinet method can work, it can be costly and leaves a lot of room for error. Now, cloud technology has made managing filing a lot simpler. Cloud storage accounts are a more efficient way for managing company data.

With the ability to electronically store files in the cloud, businesses can keep track of everything and access it from anywhere. Cloud storage accounts come in varying sizes and can even be shared with other employees or consumers. Password protection and backup features ensure that your files are safe at all times. It’s also beneficial to point out that depending on your storage needs, you can find accounts that are free to use.

Invoicing Systems

As you already know cash flow is essential to the success of your business. If you’re in a business that provides services which are then billed to clients, having a cloud based invoicing system could prove beneficial. Paper invoices can easily get lost. Not to mention that providing a client with a paper invoice also means the cost of paper, envelopes, and postage.

Cloud based invoicing systems allow you to create, store, send, and manage invoices electronically. Depending on the system you invest in, there are also features that allow you to setup payroll and generate financial reports.

Project Management Systems

Depending on your business industry, project collaboration can be pretty common. To generate quality products or services, staff must be able to seamlessly work together. Cloud-based project management systems give way to real time collaboration on varying types of projects. Managers can establish the project guidelines, provide access to necessary parities, set budgets, and manage the progress.

With cloud technologies of course, team members have the ability to access pertinent project information from virtually anywhere they are. So whether they’re in the office or away on business, work can still be carried out to meet the needs of your clients.

Word Processing/Spreadsheets

Word processing and spreadsheet software can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars for businesses each year. The cost of installing it to each device along with managing the updates can weigh heavily on your budget.

There is also the inconvenience of having the software available on one platform. If you drafted a contract at the office but forgot to bring it with you to a business meeting, you’re pretty much stuck. However, with word processing and spreadsheet cloud computing services, you’re able to access the information you need from virtually anywhere. Business accounts allow access to multiple users for employees and is often a lot cheaper (if not free) than purchasing software for each device.

There are so many cloud computing services that your small business could benefit from financially. Going to the cloud allows you to save on paper, access information from anywhere with an Internet connection, improve productivity, and collaborate in real time. As you look to take advantage of some of the benefits that cloud technology has to offer your business, be sure to evaluate products to discern which will provide the best features for the overall value.

While the ultimate goal is to save money, you must also ensure that the technology you invest in will enhance business practices.

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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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It’s always astonishing to find how fast technology is changing our lives. Take Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), for example. This business process management software removes inefficiencies in a business with astonishing speed and efficiency, incorporating cloud tech.

ERP works to integrate applications so that your entire business runs as smoothly as possible. It handles many back office functions associated with human resources, customer services, and IT. ERP software requirements vary across a wide range of industries, which includes retail, manufacturing and distribution, health care, and the financial sector.

Enterprise Resource Planning

7 Common Inefficiencies in Business Operations

How do you know if your organization needs ERP? The quick answer is if it consists of data silos that don’t integrate with each other and that cost time and money to run separately.

Here are 7 ways technological inefficiencies can be slowing your business down:

Inefficiency #1: You have different types of software systems working independently of each other.

Do you need different software to track and process the different information your organization has to process? For example, when salespeople takes a customer’s orders, do separate systems go to work to record, manage, and fulfill that order? Does accounting have its own system of recording that transaction? Does the warehouse have its own system for sending the order to the manufacturer, receiving it, and shipping it out to the customer?

Inefficiency #2: You find it difficult to get the information you need about your business because you have to go through different systems to access it.

If you have to write a report on sales performance for your board of directors, how long would it take to track down information related to time spent selling, the use of marketing collateral, the opportunity win rate, the average deal size, the sales cycle metrics, and the cost of sales to revenue ratio?

Furthermore, imagine if you have to glean this information from spreadsheets that have not been updated and still need to be reconciled. It could take you a long time to write that report.

Inefficiency #3: Your accounting department takes a long time to get accurate numbers because the need to manually key in the entries.

Accounting is a difficult discipline because it is a system of balancing many variables. It can become even more of a burden on employees in the accounting department who have to use paper invoices and sales orders to enter their figures into a variety of accounting or sales software. This is a tremendous amount of drudge work that ERP could do almost instantly.

Inefficiency #4: Your financial division takes ages to do their work.

If you don’t know your numbers, you have no idea how your business is doing. But what if your financial reporting system is slow and clunky?

It takes your staff a long time going over spreadsheets to consolidate their figures and reconcile any discrepancies.

They may even have to use several systems to get the information from several systems before they can create a composite picture of the company’s financial well-being.

With ERP, everything will be in a single database, which will put an end to endless hours rekeying figures, cross-posting information, or reconciling inconsistencies. ERP will allow you to get accurate reports with considerably less effort. You will be able to get the information you need without frustration.

Inefficiency #5: Your sales team does not know what products are available to sell or where the inventory is located.

One of the best ways to close a sale is to tell customers how soon they will receive their product. This can be difficult if salespeople have to wrestle with inventory management systems that have not been updated.

It’s hard to be persuasive when you don’t know how much of a product is still available for sale, in which warehouse it is located, and when it can be shipped out to the customer.

For selling to go smoothly sales has to be aware of inventory, and this can be difficult if records are all maintained separately.

Inefficiency #6: Your customer service ratings are plummeting because you are giving customers inaccurate information about when their orders will be shipped.

After customers order a product, the first thing they want to know is when they will get it. If the sales rep has to guess, chances are that he will create unrealistic expectations. The customer will perceive a delivery past the promised date as a delayed shipment.

Another awkward situation is when a popular product is sold and the sales division has no idea when stocks will be replenished. Meanwhile, customers keep calling the customer service department, who don’t know either because things are moving too fast to keep track of the flow of inventory.

When customers receive a bad experience, a company’s reputation begins to decline.

With ERP, sales, customer data, and inventory systems are all synched to work with each other.

Inefficiency #7: You have too much IT.

It can be difficult to keep up with IT if there are many systems running at the same time. Often these systems need different upgrades or patches, especially those that are non-cloud-based. Too many systems running at the same time can create too much complexity. This costs time, labor, and resources.

Your business is ready for a single instance ERP system if the current system has numerous pain points that prevent the business running efficiently.

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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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Branching beyond your core customer base is vital to growing your business. Employ these strategies to change the way you find new business or even how you engage the customers you already have.

By implementing these strategies, you’re almost guaranteed to bring in new revenue. It’s all about trying something new, such as extending new forms of credit or creating an incentivizing referral program.

Cloud marketing

1. Know Your Audience

Mine your data and use it to determine exactly who your customer is. Ask yourself what makes them tick and how can you use this information to target new customers directly.

2. Advertising

Once you know who your audience is, target them via focused mailing or other advertising, such as TV, radio, or billboards. Ensure your website is fully optimized, and take advantage of social media pay-per-click programs.

3. Extend Credit

Financing is easier than ever when you partner with a third-party financier. You don’t have to rely on banks, which are often too strict to benefit the average American. By utilizing the services of companies such as Utah-based CrestFinancial.com (check their YouTube for retailer testimonials), you’ll leverage old customers and new.

CrestFinancial is a great example of a retail financier that offers layaway at home. This is something you can extend to your customers, which will encourage them to buy higher priced items. They have time to pay it off, and you have the confidence of working with a fully trusted financier.

4. Solid Customer Service

Once you get people in the door, you obviously have to get them to come back. Make sure you give customers 100% of your attention and don’t ignore them once they’ve made their purchase.

5. Focus On Your Best Customers

Incentivize being a loyal customer and incentivize being a good customer. Don’t reward customers who behave badly or game the system; those aren’t the customers you want.

6. Business Partnerships

A solid partnership with another company is like a referral program for businesses. As long as they aren’t a direct SaaS competitor, it will benefit you to advertise to their customer base as long as you share applicable values.

7. Invest In Your Employees

Good customer service comes from knowledgeable employees. Train them yourself or send them to be trained and certified in whatever is applicable to your SaaS business.

8. Up-sell

Customers looking at cheaper options may not be aware of premium goods or services. Why not helping them discovering your other cloud products?

9. Cross-sell

Customers looking at one service or item that you sell might not be aware of others, but is likely in need.

10. Down-sell – Customers who are in dire financial straits may not be able to justify buying more, but if you can help them save money while still providing quality service, they’ll remember you when they’ve recovered financially.

11. Maintain an Internet Presence

Searching for a business on the web is the go-to way for consumers to find new places to spend money. You should have your own website as well as social media accounts like Facebook and Yelp.

12. Promotional Merchandize

Free stickers, pens, magnets, water bottles, and shirts are a great way to get your name out there, and loyal customers will wear your brand with pride.

13. Focus On Current Customers

Your current core customer base is more valuable than any hypothetical future customers, and you have to retain them if you want to actually grow.

14. Make Subtle Changes

Of course, to grow you have to change – just make sure to take small steps and listen to feedback.

Growing your business is as much about staying loyal to your core consumers as it is about making sure they stay loyal to you. Small shifts will let you make big changes over time.

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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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