Monthly Archives: February 2015

5 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Businesses

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Cloud Computing

Making the transition from a traditional operating system to cloud computing might seem like a risky jump for many businesses. However, there are significant benefits that come with a business run using cloud computing.

While most people are familiar with using the cloud as a way to backup files, photos, and other information, fewer understand how cloud computing can be implemented throughout an entire business. In its simplest form, cloud computing is computing based on the internet. Rather than running programs or software that has been downloaded to a specific physical computer, users are able to access different files and applications through the internet.

The cloud continues to increase in popularity, especially among small businesses. In fact, CRN estimatedthat nearly $100 billion was spent on cloud computing services in 2014.

Below are five of the many reasons why more and more businesses are switching to the cloud.

1.       Meet changing demands
When a company outgrows their bandwidth, upgrading their operating system can take months to accomplish, costing the business both time and money. However, with the cloud the system can automatically update itself as bandwidth needs increase. This flexibility allows you to focus on your business rather than estimating your bandwidth needs.

2.       Work from anywhere
With a cloud operating system, employees have the freedom to work from anywhere without needing to copy files or programs onto their home computers. In addition, this gives more employees the ability to telecommute, improving their productivity and work-life balance. As many as 42% of working adults said they would take a pay cut if they were given the ability to telecommute.

3.       Lower costs
Cloud computing allow businesses to spend less on expensive licenses for software and programs. In addition, businesses can spend less on infrastructure; the money previously spent maintaining servers and software can instead be used to improve services for customers.

4.       Recover quickly from disasters
When using cloud computing services, companies erase the need for complex backup and disaster recovery plans. In fact, the Aberdeen Group found that when using the cloud, businesses were able to resolve software or system issues in an average of 2.1 hours; businesses using traditional servers took an average of nearly 8 hours to recover.

5.       Smoother acquisitions
Mergers between businesses – or even between departments within the same company – can often last for months as data, information, and files are transferred and compiled into a singular operating system. When using the cloud, this transition can be done quickly and with a minimal amount of lost time, allowing things to get back to business as usual much faster.

International Business Etiquette: Avoiding Business Faux Pas

By | B2B Marketing Communication Strategiesv, B2C Marketing Communication Strategies | No Comments

Flags of the EU

Travelling overseas for business or hosting international visitors can be an exciting experience. However, cultural boundaries and differences can sometimes lead to extremely uncomfortable – and even offensive – faux pas.

The following areas are the most likely to cause a cross-cultural mistake. By researching the country or culture of those you will be doing business with, you will be able to further avoid any embarrassment.

Body language and gestures

What we may consider innocent gestures or facial expressions might mean something entirely different in another culture. Many cultures consider pointing to be extremely rude and offensive; likewise, a simple thumbs up is an offensive gesture in many Middle Eastern countries.

Even handshakes can lost in translation; in the United States, we often view shaking hands as a way to close a deal, but other cultures see it as a sign that negotiations are just beginning.

Food

It is important to understand the cultural or religious dietary restrictions in other countries. Doing so may help prevent any major faux pas. Before offering an alcoholic beverage to a potential client, consider their culture. Practitioners of the Mormon, Muslim, or Seventh Day Adventists faiths do not drink alcohol, whereas in Russia it is considered rude to refuse an offer of vodka.

If you find yourself at a silent business lunch, do not be worried. Many cultures do not speak during mealtime, believing that the food should be the focus. Likewise, not eating enough in countries like Greece or Italy may be taken as a sign you were displeased with the food offered.

Personal space

How close we stand to another person or how often we touch them varies from culture to culture. In the United States we are accustomed to having a rather large “personal bubble” of 1-2 yards; in most Eastern countries, however, personal space is viewed differently with everyone, including strangers, standing much closer together.

In Mediterranean and South American cultures, it is common to touch or hug acquaintances, friends, and colleagues as a way of connecting. In many Eastern cultures, however, touching is taboo and as much as a simple pat on the back may be offensive.

Navigating the divide between different cultures may seem daunting, but with research you can hope to avoid any major faux pas. While most cultural mistakes can be graciously accepted and forgiven if genuine effort is shown, understanding cultural boundaries when doing business abroad can help you avoid any potentially embarrassing situations.

The Most Important Things to Know About Financing for Small Businesses

By | B2B Marketing Communication Strategiesv, B2C Marketing Communication Strategies | No Comments

Businessperson With Stack Of Coins

You’ve come up with the idea, you’ve done your research, and just one thing stands between you and being a small business owner: financing.

While there are many choices when it comes to funding your new business, most lenders have similar requirements. Before heading to the bank, take the time to do you research and learn about the financing process. Below are four important things to know about financing for small businesses. 

1.       Have a solid business plan

No matter how wonderful your idea is, lenders are not going to want to invest if you do not have a strong business plan. Your business plan should provide information such as an explanation of the services you’ll be providing, details about your niche, and an overall blueprint for your business.

A good business plan should also include plenty of facts; do your research on your area, target market, and competition before composing your plan. Likewise, create realistic projections about the growth of your business for the first five years.

Lastly, a good business plan does not have to be a novel. It should be long enough to include relevant statistics and facts, but not so long that it is difficult to find or reference information. There are a number of free resources online for assistance in creating a business plan.

2.       Know your credit history

If you have a history of late payments, large amounts of debt, or have declared bankruptcy in the past, you may have difficulty finding financing for your small business. Lenders may use your success – or failure – at personal financial management as an indicator of the potential financial success of your business. 

Before meeting with lenders, research your FICO http://www.fico.com/ score, which is a summary of your credit risk. Your FICO score, along with your credit score and other financial factors, may impact your ability to get a loan, as well as what kind of rate you are offered.

3.       Research specialized loans

Before applying for a small business loan or seeking out investors, research whether or not you may qualify for a specialized loan. There are a number of government programshttp://www.sba.gov/content/microloan-program in place to assist those who may have been previously (unlawfully) discriminated against for small business funding. This includes, but is not limited to, women, minorities, veterans, business owners with disabilities, and business owners in rural areas.

4.       Expect a long process

Receiving financing for a small business does not happen overnight. Before applying you might feel buried in paperwork; many lenders require background checks, resumes, projected financials, business licenses, tax returns, and business plans along with their applications. In addition, many lenders may take as long as 60-90 days to complete the lending process.

Starting your own business can be equal parts thrilling and terrifying. However, having a better understanding of small business financing can help you get your financing and open your business faster.

The Best Ways to Improve Your Business Acumen

By | Business Management and Leadership | No Comments

Group of Business People Working on an Office Desk

It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day to day workings of a business and lose sight of current global business, financial, and social trends. Likewise, preparing to make a major change to a business can lead to feelings of doubt among board members or other employees.

In both of these cases, a greater sense of business acumen is needed to further guide your business’ long-term goals. According to the Financial Times Lexicon http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=business-acumen, business acumen is, “business ‘sense’ or business ‘smarts’. [People with business acumen] are able to obtain essential information about a situation, focus on the key objectives, recognize the relevant options available for a solution, select an appropriate course of action and set in motion an implementation plan to get the job done.”

While developing business acumen takes time, there are a number of ways you can work to improve your business acumen.

Find a mentor

Whether it is within your company or in the general community, find someone to serve as your business mentor. In addition to being a resource for your business-related questions, this person may be able to provide you with invaluable networking opportunities with people you would not have otherwise met. Most people will be flattered when asked to be a mentor and are eager to share all they have learned with someone equally passionate about being successful in business. 

Self-educate

 There are hundreds of thousands of books on the market today dedicated to business and business strategy. Studying business not only gives you a strong foundation in the fundamentals, but also provides you with new ideas or concepts that you can begin applying immediately.

In addition to reading books, publications such as Forbes http://www.forbes.com/, The Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/, and Business Week http://www.businessweek.com/ are excellent resources to learn about current trends in the business world.

See the bigger picture

Businesses often focus on the immediate – the sales for this quarter, current trends, or pressing conflicts – at the risk of losing sight of their ultimate objective. Taking a moment to step back and consider your long term goals can often help guide how you respond to issues in the present. Before making a major decision, discuss these five questions with your peers and colleagues:

1.       What is happening in the world today? 
2.       How does this affect us?
3.       How does this affect others?
4.       What would need to happen for us to get our desired results?
5.       What should we do next?

While business acumen is natural in some, it can also be an acquired skill. Taking the time to improve your business sense can lead to positive outcomes for you and your business in the future.

The Top Cloud Computing Providers

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touch pad concept

Whether your business has just decided to make the leap into cloud computing or you already use the cloud but are unhappy with your provider, choosing the right cloud computing provider can make or break your business. However, with so many different companies to choose from, finding the right cloud provider to meet your needs can seem like a daunting task.

Cloud computing is an excellent choice for many businesses as it involves little to no upfront costs, less spending on maintaining servers, IT departments, and hardware, and the ability to only have to pay for what you need. Below is a list of some of the best cloud providers for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is popular with many startup companies as it essentially “outsources” resources such as servers, storage, content delivery, and load balancing. Businesses rent the services of the IaaS, only paying for the exact amount of data used.

Amazon Web Services: With a wide range of storage and computing offerings, Amazon Web Serviceshttp://aws.amazon.com/ can be tailored to meet your business’ needs. With a competitive pricing model ranging from $0.113/hour to $6.82/hour for instances and $0.095/GB/month to $0.125/GB/month for storage, users can use the Amazon calculator to calculate monthly expenses. With Amazon Web Services Free Usage Tier, new users get 750 hours, 30GB storage and 15GB bandwidth for free.

Windows Azure: The easy to use interface and similarity to other Microsoft operating systems make Windows Azure http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/ ideal for those new to cloud computing. Prices for instances ranges from $0.02 to $1.60 per hour, and storage prices range from $0.07/GB/month to $0.12/GB/month.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

The Platform-as-a-Service cloud model is specially designed for software engineers and developers. With service providers controlling more aspects of systems management, PaaS can be used for projects such as app and web development.

Engine Yard: Engine Yard https://www.engineyard.com/ runs on the Amazon cloud, taking Amazon Web Services a step further by giving users the benefits of cloud computing without the responsibility of operations management. Engine Yard only supports Ruby, JRuby, Node.js, PHP, REE, and Rubiniu.

Red Hat OpenShift: Based on open source applications, users of Red Hat OpenShifthttps://www.openshift.com/ have the freedom to use a wide variety of components, databases, and languages. In addition, three small gears and 1GB of storage per gear can be used for free.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Typically paid for using a subscription, Software-as-a-Service gives users remote access from anywhere along with minimal administrative duties and maintenance.

Abiquo: Abiquo http://www.abiquo.com/ users are able to customize and create their own hybrid cloud experiences, blending the best elements from IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS platforms. Because of this, the entire computing infrastructure can often be managed with one application.

Intacct: By closely integrating their accounting system with Salesforce.com, Intacct http://us.intacct.com/users get the benefit of best in class financials with everything from revenue management to financial consolidation.