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How Cloud Services Can Help Your Business

In today’s economy, small business owners are more interested in finding ways to increase productivity, save money, and reduce time at the office. The more your business can automate, the less you have to worry about. When you leave the drone work to cloud services, you increase your chances of getting home in time for dinner with the family every night.

Cloud services are beneficial

Cloud services offer a number of benefits to small businesses and their owners. The biggest benefit is that cloud services store all your information in one place. You don’t have to worry about having a number of different software programs that can only be accessed from one computer or another.

With cloud services, you have the ability to use apps that can be accessed by anyone in the company from anywhere in the world, at any time of day or night. This is one of the most important of the many benefits cloud services have to offer.

Apps that make life simple

When it comes to running your business, you’d probably be far more productive if you didn’t have to worry about all the little details of everyday business activities. With an app like DropBox, you and the rest of your employees can have easy access to any of your files at any moment, from any device that has Internet service.

This means you can open and work on that file your coworker was working on in California, from your meeting room in Miami. You can collaborate on projects with this app because anyone working on the project can make changes, additions, and deletions at any time, all of which immediately update on everyone else’s device.

Productivity apps

Microsoft and Google are names you recognize. They’re also names that can help you manage your office productivity. With apps designed to keep track of your time, your calendar, and your appointments, you will also know what’s going on in your office the second a change is made to anything.

Saving money

Another benefit of cloud services is the ability to save your business a significant amount of money. You can save on everything from Internet costs to operating costs to shipping costs. The many different available apps can help you to save money, increase productivity, and become more successful.

Cloud services are imperative for the success of any small business. Their benefits far outweigh any reason you possibly could have not to utilize this service. There’s no time like the present to start saving money and time, and laying the groundwork for greater success.

Mobile:

Gadgets That Update and Streamline Your Home

 

A rural home doesn’t have to be run down or dependent on old technologies. Refresh your home and enjoy the time you spend there more.

Home improvement guides online can help you install many useful updates that will raise the value of your property. You can easily spruce up your home and reduce your energy costs by installing these four home gadgets.

1. Solar panels

If you live in an area that gets consistently high temperatures, your energy bill can go through the roof with AC and fan costs. Staying cool can get very expensive and drain lots of energy, but installing solar panels on your roof will allow you to harness the power of the sun, a renewable resource that can help power your appliances and keep your home cool.

2. Powerful Wi-Fi router

How is your Wi-Fi connection at home? If you suffer from a poor signal, or you have only a corded connection, consider investing in a newer, robust Wi-Fi router.

Think about the following questions before making your purchase: “How many rooms do I want my Wi-Fi to cover?” and “How many people will be using the Internet at once?” If your home has multiple levels, consider using several Wi-Fi routers to extend your signal.

3. Automatic vacuum

Cleaning robots like the Roomba can be great for homeowners, since these gadgets will tidy up your floors by themselves. Sophisticated motion sensors help these vacuums swerve around obstacles and find dust, trash, and other miscellaneous bits.

These machines are even sophisticated enough to detect stairs and other uneven surfaces, so they can avoid falling and breaking. You’ll never have to worry about sweeping or vacuuming before guests come over if you have one of these automatic vacuums around. They also provide an entertaining distraction for small pets to chase.

4. Motion sensor lights

These lighting solutions are fairly inexpensive and easy to install outside your front door, near an entry gate, and outside a garage. Well-lit environments create safer communities because they deter criminal activity. Property lighting is essential in country residential areas.

If you are at home, motion-sensor lights can serve as an early visual alarm that someone is near your country home without permission. Motion lights are also great for preventing accidents. Install them in outdoor gardens and on staircases so guests can see their surroundings and avoid falling down.

Since these lights only activate when a sensor detects movement, they use minimal amounts of energy.

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last update: April 18, 2014

Mobile:

6 Excellent Money Management Apps

“There’s an app for that.” The phrase that Apple sparked with its revolutionary iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc., has taken the world by storm. Developers are working hard to bring an dizzying array of apps to the marketplace.

Games and other media entertainment are just the tip of the iceberg. Today, apps are used to promote weight loss, book travel, and manage finances — among other things. Managing finances through apps? Absolutely.

Developers have created apps that give both high-level and detailed insight into personal finances, in a way that is user-friendly, informative, and easy. Instead of tackling a user’s personal finances by one credit card, loan, or savings account at a time, the following apps gather them under a single umbrella to make managing money all the easier.

Spending and saving habits can be calculated, providing the analytics to make smart money choices and modify counterproductive ones. Instead of sifting through the many available apps out there, here is a “best of” list to narrow down the field.

1. Pageonce Money & Bills

This is the creme de la creme: get a comprehensive financial overview with this app. By connecting bills, credit cards, bank accounts, cellphone minutes, loans, and even travel reward programs, everything money-related in life comes under a single app that boasts bank-level security. On top of valuable insight, Pageonce is making bill payment available at a nominal cost.

2. iAllowance

Kids today are 100% digital. Ditch the 20th-century chore chart for this kid-centric app. Parents act as the bank and the kids are the customers. The latter earn money (or stars) through allowance and performance of chores. When they want to withdraw from the account, parents hand over the cash and note the debit in the iAllowance record.

3. Mint

Getting control of one’s finances usually starts with the basics of budgeting. With this free app, you can get a full picture of finances and create budgets. The latter is pre-populated and determined by spending levels. There is also a cash vs. credit feature that gives a little extra insight into what the total credit card balance is compared to the available cash to pay it off.

4. Expensify

Anyone who has traveled for business holds onto receipts like they are cash. The result? A lot of small bits of paper to sort through when it comes time to submit an expense report. This app simplifies that process beautifully. Snap photos of receipts, link a credit card, and magically find the info transferred to the expense report.

5. PayPal Mobile

Gone are the days where “I don’t carry cash” is an acceptable excuse for not pitching in. With the PayPal app, money can be transferred at no charge. With the payee’s cell phone number or e-mail, payments are made quickly and securely. The recipient receives an alert when the money is transferred and is able to collect the funds through his or her PayPal account. Like the eliminating all those paper receipts, your pockets become lighter with this app: no more IOUs!

6. Chase Mobile

Chase has led the way in integrating technology with money management. Mobile check deposits are available through a number of financial institutions, but Chase is considered the gold standard of remote deposit. Paired with easy bill payment and customizable alerts, Chase has made it a no-brainer to keep tabs on finances.

Different consumers have different needs. A single 20-something is less likely to need iAllowance than Mint to juggle a budget. These apps are affordable — many of them are free — and a no-brainer for anyone who is need of basic finance management or even close oversight of money.

Social:

5 Ways to Kick Out of a Business Plateau

Just like your weight-loss efforts, there will come a time when your business will reach a plateau. You’re going to have to change things up if you want to see any improvements.

Remember the definition of insanity, and start looking for avenues to streamline processes, get better at giving your customers what they want, increase your revenue, and reach new target markets.

When you first drafted your business plan, you had a model that may have been perfect — for a startup. Maybe you got lucky and your firm experienced rapid growth during the first couple of years. Unfortunately, these kinds of endeavors can crash and burn because entrepreneurs don’t prepare for the inevitable plateau.

Here are five ways to get on a new path.

1. Market research

There’s nothing more valuable than actual feedback from potential clients. Have a market research firm conduct interviews and collect data, which can vastly improve your business practices, services, marketing, and delivery in a way no other approach can achieve.

The initial up-front investment is well worth it, especially if you haven’t seen any client growth in the past few quarters. You can try to do this yourself, but the natural bias will show through, so it’s best to have a third party do it.

You can be as deeply involved in the process as you like, though. There are options to watch the focus groups through a one-sided glass, send in additional questions for moderators to ask, and opt for as many (or as few) focus groups you’d like around the country.

Not sure which upcoming campaign is best? Let your customers tell you.

2. Get social (seriously)

Sure, you signed up for a business Facebook page and Twitter handle. But then what? If you’re like many startups, you’ve let your social media management slide and your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. A neglected social media presence is worse than none at all.

However, if your target demographic is social, it’s crucial that you get on that bandwagon properly. Posts should be made once per day and follow best practices. In other words, have something truly interesting and useful to say. Build relationships with your followers. Social media requires being social.

3. Start an internship or volunteer program

Could you use some “new blood” in the mix, but your existing staff members are already extraordinary and there’s no room in the budget for another employee? Consider partnering with a nearby college and kickstart an internship or volunteer program.

You may be able to offer college credit in exchange for work. However, you also have to make sure the experience is rewarding for the student.

There’s a variety of social media management, graphic design, writing, marketing, and foreign language talent on a local campus. If you simply don’t have time to manage the company Facebook page, a college student might be the perfect fit.

4. Check your SOP

Take a close look at the daily functioning of your business and make sure the SOP reflects how you want things to run. Would some of your employees be happier and equally productive with a telecommuting option? How is the company morale? Do you value an enjoyable day’s work as much as generating revenue?

Poor morale and needlessly strict rules can poison a business. It’s fairly common for new startups to go above and beyond to seem professional, but that can backfire.

5. Get a business coach

Maybe you know everything there is to know about local SEO, which is why your SEO boutique is blossoming. However, if you haven’t managed a successful business before, you can’t be expected to do it flawlessly the first time around.

Just like in sports or academics, a business coach can help you get up to speed. Everyone depends on you as the manager and owner; shouldn’t you have someone to count on?

Clean:

Small Business, Big Opportunity

For the first time in history, Intuit will give one small business a huge opportunity. Get featured in a tv spot during football’s biggest game. One small business will be seen by millions, which is guaranteed to grow that business exponentially. Own a small business? Don’t miss this once in a lifetime shot. Visit www.SmallBusinessBigGame.com and see how to enter to win.

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Gadgets:

A Checklist for Your Home Business

Planning on launching your own home-based business? It’s a great way to make a bit of extra money, and possibly even support yourself and your family while doing something you love, but it will be a challenge to say the least.

If you’re going to start your own home business, make sure you have all the following things:

1. An idea

What’s going to make your new business different from all the others out there on the market? If you are going to succeed in the world of home-based businesses, you’ll need a creative new idea that will set your company apart.

Whether it’s repairing car windshields at home, selling your home-made cookies, or being an exotic animal walker, an idea is the first step in the process!

2. A business plan

You may think that coming up with a business plan and model is unnecessary if you’re going to start a home business, but it’s still important.

You’ll need the business plan to guide your company through the steps that will lead you to success. Without a plan of how to reach your target market, promote your product, and organize operations, your company is going to struggle to stay afloat.

3. Personnel

Most home-based businesses start out with just one person running everything, but how long will it take you to realize that you’re in over your head?

If you have to do accounting, shipping and handling, sales, invoicing, and all the other business functions, you may not be able to do a good job at any of them. Bring in people that will help you to succeed.

4. Capital

Perhaps you only need $5,000 to open your home bakery, or $50,000 to get your home car shop up and running. It doesn’t matter how much you need; what matters is that you have it!

You need to be sure you have enough capital to get your company up and running, because you’ll need to keep food on your table for the first few months of your company’s operations (there’s little if any profit for the first few months, and possibly even years).

5. The necessary tools

Do you need to set up a workshop in your home, or to install a pizza oven for your home-based pizza joint? Do you need to get managed hosting for your company website, or could you work through your Facebook or Twitter account?

You’re doomed to failure without the right tools, but having what you need will increase your chances of success!

Mobile:

LifeProof Your Phone From Everything You Throw It At

For as long as there have been smartphones, companies have been searching for ways to protect them. But there are certainly tradeoffs associated with any protective case. Most that offer the best protection are enormous and clunky, more slim cases retain your devices original form factor, but sacrifice protection for aesthetics. But what happens when you drop it in the toilet? Both are useless. In comes LifeProof, which has made quite possibly the best case ever. It’s slim profile means that it wont be taking up too much real-estate in your pants or purse. It’s rigid construction is built to protect your phone from a seven foot drop and an airtight seal protects it from dust, debris and is fully waterproof. Visit their site here or watch their commercial:

Social:

5 Reasons Outlook May Never Die

Microsoft Outlook is so much more than an email client. In fact, it’s a personal information manager, and it should be viewed as such rather than as just another option in the email client market.

There are numerous reasons why Microsoft Outlook remains superior to other email offerings. Here are five of them.

1. The New Search folder

Some email clients make it difficult for you to filter out the “bad” emails from the good ones. When an inbox becomes cluttered with a lot of new inbound mail, it’s too easy for some of the really important emails to get lost in the clutter.

Microsoft Outlook anticipates this problem and has a feature to resolve it: The New Search folder. This feature enables you to search for email based on sender name, sender address, or text in the actual body of the email. One especially user-friendly component of this feature is that the search is automatically saved.

That way, you don’t need to worry about missing out on important emails in the future.

2. Newslsetter Unsubscribe

Sometimes newsletters and email threads can also clutter up an inbox. In the case of some newsletters, certain ones may have been the result of an accidental subscription. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy means of unsubscribing from those unwanted emails? Microsoft Outlook comes to the rescue. It doesn’t require you to unsubscribe manually from a list. Instead, you can simply “mute” the email, and all emails associated with it.

Here’s how it works: you highlight the message in question and then navigate to the “Home” menu. From the “Home” menu, select the “Ignore” option. The application will take care of everything else. You will have to confirm that you in fact no longer want to see anything in the same thread. Once you do that, that message plus all the previous ones in the same thread will be thrown in the trash. Further messages on that thread will not be visible in your inbox.

Be careful with this option. The messages are deleted based on the subject. So if you get another message with the same subject, even if it’s from a different source, it will also be deleted.

3. Space consumption is not a problem

Some email clients let your gathered emails (including the deleted ones) take up precious hard-drive space. Of course, you could go into your deleted mail folder for any of those clients and manually empty what’s in there. But that’s an extra step and one more thing you have to remember.

With Microsoft Outlook, the process of removing the deleted emails is handled automatically for you. From the “File” menu, go to “Options.” Next, select the “Advanced” option and you’ll see a section called “Outlook Start And Exit.” In that section, there is a checkbox that gives you the option to empty the email in the Deleted folder once you quit Outlook. Check that box.

That’s all you need to do. Now, the next time you quit Microsoft Outlook (and every time thereafter), your trash will automatically be emptied.

4. Increased focus on people

With Outlook 2013, you can connect Outlook to social networks. This gives you more online interaction with your email correspondents via social media. It’s a distinct advantage over other email clients, where you only interact with email addresses. Outlook puts the focus on the person behind the email address.

5. An attachment reminder

How often has this happened: You responded to someone in an email, and claimed you were sending an attachment that answered the person’s question/concern, but when you clicked “Send,” you realized that you forgot to add the attachment?

Fortunately, Microsoft Outlook will prompt you with a pleasant reminder when you try to send an email that references an attachment, and you haven’t attached anything. This should prevent you from forgetting to send the attachment.

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