5 Innovative Cloud Applications for Busy Entrepreneurs

The working world is a very different place to what it was ten or even five years ago. Over four million people choose to work from home, making cloud applications a must-have item for the small business owner.

Cloud-based apps ensure you’re fully connected when you’re on the road or grabbing a coffee with a client. Gone are the days of carrying around a hefty Filofax and stack of business cards. All you need nowadays is a smartphone and wifi connection. An estimated ninety per cent of internet users worldwide are already using the cloud for a variety of business uses.

We’ve curated the best five cloud applications for busy entrepreneurs who are looking to streamline their processes. Read on to find out which ones could suit your business.

CRM

Salesforce: Salesforce offers eight different customer management applications. The simple, easy to user interface streamlines customer details, making it easy to access history and other information. The data can be accessed from a variety of devices and on a choice of operating systems including Linux, Android, OSX and Windows.

You don’t need to download any hardware or software and video training is offered, so you can start working with Salesforce straight away.

Salesboom: You really have nothing to lose with Salesboom, as it offers a no obligation seven day free trial. Salesboom works with small, medium and large enterprises managing online lead management, customer service, support service and sales force automation. It works on a wide range of operating systems including Windows, Android, Apple iOS and OSX.

Finance

Sage One: Choose from three different Sage One cloudware services, including Cashbook, Accounts and Payroll. Sage One Cashbook is the ideal solution for entrepreneurs, helping you manage your accounts and taxes efficiently. Sage One Accounts is perfect for smaller businesses that may not have a dedicated accounts team, but still need a trusted solution for account management. Sage One Payroll is great for small and medium businesses to gain greater ownership of their pay roll system, but who may not have the resources to employ a pay roll department.

All Sage One systems are HMRC compliant, so you can have peace of mind that you’re doing everything by the book.

Outright: There are two different Outright solutions: Plus and Standard. Already over 100,000 people are using Outright to manage their accounts. Outright supports more than 4,000 credit cards and banks as well as eBay, PayPal, Freshbooks, Shoeboxed and Harvest. Both versions of Outright offer a free trial.

Conferencing

GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting is part of the GoTo series of packages that also offers GoToWebinar and GoToTraining.

GoToMeeting offers high definition video conferencing, enabling your employees to collaborate on projects from around the world or hold client meetings all without leaving the office.

You have the flexibility of recording any meetings and the innovative ‘Show My Screen’ feature allows users to pass control of keyboard and mouse over to correspondents, for speedy collaboration.

The flat fee pricing structure means GoToMeeting is easy to budget for, making it an integral part of your business.

Communications

Skype: There are seven different Skype packages available, including the free service, Unlimited Single Country, Unlimited Europe and Unlimited World. Choose the package to suit you based on your client needs and where you see your business growing.

Skype can be used on a smart TV, mobile phone, tablet or computer and lets you see the body language and facial expressions of the person you are talking to. Sometimes that can be more telling than the words they speak!

Storage

Box: Box offers four different options: Starter, Personal, Enterprise and Business. You can access your files, photos and any other data from your choice of device, including smartphone or laptop. Over ten million people trust Box to keep their files safe.

The Business and Enterprise solutions allow you to create and share folders across devices, so you can work on documents with colleagues and not have to worry about whose device you are saving your files too.

There’s no denying that life as an entrepreneur is hard. However, we are fortunate to live in an era where there are apps and programmes at our disposal to help us grow our businesses.

New apps and technology to make our lives easier are released daily, many of them with free trials. Make sure you give your business the best chance of success by taking advantage of these trial periods so you can find the best apps for your business.

3 Cloud Storage Services that are Perfect for Any Virtual Business

Get the best cloud storage technology for your virtual business

Are you a start-up that’s generating documents and files at a rapid rate? Here, we explore some of the best cloud storage services for virtual business owners.

One of the main benefits of operating a virtual business is that you can keep your overhead costs incredibly low when compared to an office-based business. However, to ensure your employees can work productively, benefit from the best technology and access data efficiently, you need to invest in the right cloud storage package.

Below are 3 cloud storage services you should consider:

Box

 Box enables you to store all your data online and access it from any device in any location. Currently, you can also store up to 5GB, which is ideal for virtual businesses that use mostly Word and Excel documents. However, businesses that regularly use files that take up much more memory like PDF docs or photo files like TIFFs may find this limit too small. Fortunately, it is possible to upgrade to a higher memory limit and larger file-size upload limit for a fee.

A faster way to check all your tasks

The Box’s Virtual Data Room allows workers to keep up-to-date with new document uploads and edits, which enables them to check who is doing what without having to waste time sending e-mails and waiting for responses. This is even faster – and more efficient – than asking someone how a project is progressing and then having to listen to a long-winded answer!

Carbonite

The Carbonite Server Backup facility allows a virtual business to back up all of their data. If they suffer any data loss or downtime, they can restore their data without any fuss. Carbonite’s mission is to ensure that virtual businesses can benefit from simple, hassle-free restore processes by allowing them to back up their data and access it as easily as possible.

Consider the Pro version for the most secure encryption technology

The Carbonite Pro version automatically sends files to a cloud network and encrypts them with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology. This version also continues to restore files after you stop working, while still enabling you to access them at any time.

OpenDrive

OpenDrive is another popular cloud storage system that allows virtual business owners to use an innovative cloud management system. OpenDrive provides virtual private networks and backs up computer files that have been linked to an account. Businesses can sync files effortlessly and access their data whenever they need to.

With effective online backup in sophisticated art data-centres, businesses can keep their data secure with state-of-the-art technology. Share all your files with an online office suite and user management system so that all of your workers can instantly access and share new data and information.

Cloud storage can take a lot of weight off your shoulders

Performing your own back up and data restore can take up a great deal of time and resources, which is why it pays to use a professional cloud storage provider that provides the best facilities and latest technology.

The Cabinet vs the Cloud: Why You Need to Get Out of the IT Closet

Setting up a full computing system in an office can be pricey, especially for small businesses, which are always looking at ways to save money and space. If you’re fed up with paying endless IT costs, barricading your IT closet and shunning the ‘traditional’ way of doing things won’t necessarily do your business any harm thanks to the growing popularity and improving security of the Cloud, which is fast becoming a more viable means of hosting and managing data for small companies with big ideas.

Why are so many businesses still storing their systems in the IT ‘cabinet’?

Despite the many benefits to migrating to the Cloud, many people are still skeptical. It’s understandable. Sending your data to third parties and losing an element of control is off-putting, especially if you need to make sure you comply with all those pesky data protection laws. But this really shouldn’t concern you too much. These companies look after masses of data, and pride themselves on their multi-layer, military-grade encryption (for those who are interested, a more detailed explanation of what is meant by ‘military grade’ can be found here).

With the sophisticated security systems they have in place, they should do a better job of looking after your data then you would.

The real question is, why would you want to store your valuable company data in what is essentially a dark corner or cupboard in the office when your information will, in most cases, be much more secure sitting behind multiple layers of impossible-to-crack coding in the Cloud?

The cost-saving benefits offered by the Cloud

Few small businesses are blessed with the sums of money sufficient to support expensive hardware and software licenses. Just a few years ago, these budgetary restrictions might have stopped some businesses from ever starting up. At the very least, small enterprises would have had to dedicate whole rooms to servers that housed their data and powered their company. These units filled up valuable office space and incurred plenty of budget-draining servicing and maintenance costs.

The Cloud works differently. You don’t need to invest in expensive hardware to run ‘cloudware’ (a name commonly given to software that is hosted and run on a remote server). In many cases, cloudware providers won’t charge an initial start-up fee – and if they do, it’s likely to be minimal. Instead, businesses pay a far more manageable monthly subscription, saving them large sums of money, particularly in those all-important early days.

According to a recent Hurwitz white paper, the total cost of ownership for cloud-based services versus those hosted on-premise was 55% lower; add to this the fact that there are no infrastructure costs involved in running applications in the Cloud, and the potential savings really begin to stack up.

Although after a while a monthly subscription fee will eventually overtake the one-off bulk fee you’d normally pay for on-site computing but even then running costs are surprisingly high for non-Cloud services. And the convenience and scalability offered by working in the Cloud more than justifies the long-term cost: all software updates will be taken care of, you won’t need to pay to have any faulty gear replaced, and, should you want to cancel or upgrade your package, this can usually be done online with minimal hassle. Put simply, cloudware is a great choice if you want to safeguard your business against any obstacles or surprise expansions it may encounter as it grows.

Finding a compromise

For those who, even after working their way through our very convincing argument for cloud adoption, still have their concerns, this whitepaper from GFI.com is worth a read. The report suggests a ‘hybrid’ halfway home between on-premise and the cloud; a model which maximizes the strengths of both systems and presents minimal risk.

The point reiterated by this piece is that decision makers need to adapt their system to fit the needs of their business. Indeed, it’s crucial that companies aren’t swayed by trends and are not tempted to invest in cloudware purely because it’s seen as the ‘thing to do’.

Finding the right solution for your business

Moving to the Cloud is a big step, so all plans need to be strategically thought through. This is no time for knee-jerk decisions. You’ll reap more rewards in the long term if you can accurately pinpoint the area of your business that will be the most improved by a new cloud-based system, then expand your adoption from there on in.

In a nutshell, don’t blindly transfer over to the Cloud for the sake of cutting costs – make the move count.

Ultimately, the cost and deliverance benefits of moving to the Cloud should outweigh the cons, and quite simply the hassle, of setting up or retaining an on-site computing system and continuing to bury your data in your dusty, and somewhat dated, IT cabinet.

Cloud Computing: Will Amazon Web Services Retain Its Top Position In Cloud?

The last week of July witnessed Chinese internet firm Alibaba investing US$1 billion in its cloud computing division Aliyun. It had recently expressed a wish to beat Amazon in the cloud services business. Though Alibaba has a long road to tread, it is not the only competitor that Amazon has. Should the latter be worried about its future in the cloud services market.

Latest Developments in Cloud Computing Market: Security Emerges as Key Issue

Amazon Web Services has been a revenue driver for Amazon in the last two quarters. The e-commerce giant’s cloud business has led it to earn handsome quarterly profits. However, its arch rivals in the cloud services market have recently made some smart moves to bolster their businesses.

  • Microsoft plans to buy Israeli cloud-security firm Adallom: If Microsoft buys Adallom Inc. for a whopping US$320 million, it would ensure the expansion of the technology giant’s cyber-security-focused operations in Israel. Adallom offers services aimed to ensure the security of the cloud-based applications such as Google’s Google Apps, Microsoft’s Office 365, and the applications developed by Service Now Inc., and Salesforce.com Inc. By monitoring the use of cloud application by individual employees, Adallom’s services point out the anomalies as possible security breaches. The Israeli firm has an envious list of clients that includes LinkedIn, NetFlix, and SAP SE.
  • IBM gains FedRAMP approval for cloud services: IBM’s cloud-based MaaS360 is the first enterprise mobility management solution to meet all the stringent security requirements of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) Joint Authorization Board. MaaS360 offers advanced security by allowing organizations to monitor and control smartphones, tablets, PCS, and other personally-owned devices.
  • Google Offers ‘Encryption Keys’: To address the security issue, Google Compute Engine is offering a “bring your own encryption keys” feature in trial form. Though GCE already supports the AES-256-bit encryption, the current feature will let users control the keys to access data. Google has mentioned that no one would be able to access the data without obtaining access to the encryption keys.

Interestingly, Amazon Web Services had already raised the bar last year when it announced BYO encryption keys for its S3 storage service. Also, the company offers Cloud HSM to allow customers to manage their own keys.

How Does Amazon Web Services Manage to Retain Top Position in Cloud Services Market?

Amid the price war between the top cloud service providers, aggressive pricing has been the key word for Amazon to manage its stronghold in the cloud services market. Recently, Amazon Web Services massively slashed prices by 28% – 51% for its various services. Though this has made investors worry about the company’s long-term profitability, it has helped Amazon register revenue worth US$1.57 billion from its cloud services arm in the first quarter of this year.

Aggressive pricing has also helped Amazon to expand its clientele across different geographical regions. Amazon Web Services has recently opened its office in Johannesburg to tap the expanding customer base in South Africa. Adcorp and Medscheme are some of the established clients of Amazon’s cloud services in the region.

What Does the Future Hold for Amazon’s Cloud Services?

Last week of August saw Amazon and Microsoft winning a huge contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), led by IT consultant CSC. The FAA is in the process of shrinking its data centers and moving data to both Amazon’s cloud Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. This contract might lead to new opportunities for Amazon to offer its cloud services to other government agencies.

However, a growing number of players in the cloud services market will threaten the top position enjoyed by Amazon Web Services in the market so far. Further price cuts will definitely affect the company’s profitability goals in the future. Also, potential customers are increasingly becoming reluctant to outsource their operations to cloud service providers due to security threats. Under these circumstances, Amazon has to come up with innovations and strategies to protect its stronghold in the cloud services market.

Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook: Could These 5 Gadgets Lead to a Mini Cooking Revolution?

OK, so I have to start this off with something of a confession; as much as it pains me to admit, I am a terrible cook. Despite the fact that I have lived in England for most of my life, I am still incredibly proud of the fact that I am French born, and obviously not being able to cook causes me a great deal of embarrassment. This is especially the case when I enthusiastically inform strangers where I was born and they then jokingly invite themselves round for dinner as only the British are able to do.

Luckily for those who are as gastronomically-challenged as myself, there has been an array of gadgets that have entered the market recently. These have taken my fancy so much recently that they have galvanised my intention of finally being able to cook something other than the English speciality of ‘beans on toast’. While being able to master Coq au Vin or embark on creating my own brand of luxury biscuits may still be several years in the future, there are certainly enough items out of there to assist me in my foray into the world of culinary delights.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

If you are like me and struggle to even cook a bacon sandwich, I am sure that you will agree that cooking meat is one of the most challenging things that you can do. Luckily for us, there is a man who has the intention of helping us woo anyone with our cooking skills, while at the same time helping keep off those troublesome calories from finding a new home around our waists.

Yes that’s right, I’m talking about George Foreman’s revolutionary range of electric grill plates.

Slice It Up

While I can just about cut up a carrot adequately enough into circles of varying thicknesses, which is literally about it, I struggle to do much else. That is until I found this handy little slicer that even features a julienne blade, which enables me to fool even the most expert of cooks that I actually have a degree of French flair when it comes to cooking. Not only will you ensure that you don’t end up cutting off half of your finger, you will impress everyone who gets the privilege of sampling your cooking. One word of advice though, you will need to think about buying something to carry this nifty little friend around in just in case you end up being asked to chop vegetables by others!

Can’t Cook? Now You Can!

This is exactly what you have been waiting for! I guarantee that this will change your life in more ways than you can imagine. This really is a piece of beauty and is perfect if you struggle to keep tabs on more than one pot when cooking. Basically the Stone Microwave cooker prepares all of your main courses and side dishes all together under one lid in a microwave. What’s more, there is also a handy recipe blog if you need inspiration!

Now You Can Rest Easy

If you are like me and have spent several hours in A & E after burning your hand badly, then you will appreciate just how valuable the Snug is. In my defence, I didn’t quite realise just how hot a wooden spoon could get, and that is where the Snug becomes invaluable. This nifty gadget holds your spoon in place on the side of the pan while you are cooking and is worth every penny.

It Must Be Love, Love, Love

To conclude I am delighted to be able to bring your attention to a gadget which combines both my English and French tastes in food. Not only that, it also enables me to impress a lucky lady, whether I am cooking a fried-egg sandwich or a croque madame. Please do not think of me as something of a lothario, I actually consider myself to be quite the opposite. As you can see, these heart-shaped-eggs will help get you in your belle’s good books, while at the same time making her believe that it doesn’t take you 6 attempt to crack an egg!

Effective Tips To Choose An Effective Website Development Professional

The experienced web development company is going to have a really important role in making the brand name of a company more visible and increasing online reputation. Brand success on the internet does rely a lot on the experience of the web developer. Business managers from all around realize the importance of website development and try to find those companies that can actually bring in the best results for clients.

If you look on the internet, you will quickly realize the fact that there are dozens of web design firms that look great and that you can choose from. Locating one that you can trust is not easy. You will always need to consider the following in order to find an experienced website development Sydney professional.

Receptiveness

Contrary to what you may think right now, the most important fact when choosing the company is how receptive it is. Most of the web developers these days are capable of delivering the work that you need but just those that are highly receptive are going to be able to actually understand what you need.

As an extra tip that is connected to this topic, try to avoid those firms that delay replies, especially before a contract is signed. This is just a sign that long term responsiveness is not going to be what you actually need.

Is There An Advisor On Staff?

Those companies that do offer the best possible web development service will always have an advisor that is capable of understanding requirements and that will advise clients about changes that may be necessary for a site to be more effective. A web developer that does take the time to analyze the wishes of the client and that does recommend some modifications based on past experience is always going to be preferred and should be considered.

Previous Projects

You have to be sure that you analyze the previous projects that were done by the considered development company. That will show you exactly what quality can be offered. If possible, get in touch with past clients. See how work went and see if there were problems you need to know about.

Talking With The Actual Developer

In most situations the person that you talk with from a considered company is not actually the web developer that will get the job done for you. That is definitely not great. You do want to be able to get in touch with the web development team so that you can actually end up faced with a clear understanding of who the work is done by.

Consider Legal Aspects

This is the last thing that should be considered as it is really important. Ask who will own the website code. That counts because it will highlight dependence on the considered firm. If you do not own the website code, you will be forced to keep coming back to the firm whenever a change is needed. If you do own the site code, you can make changes and work with other professionals whenever you want to switch firms.

7 Apps that Pregnant Women Must Have in their Smartphones

Believe it or not, there are more than a thousand apps geared towards pregnant women. You can literary spend hours and hours researching which apps are the best, and how will they accommodate you. Well, to make things easier for you, here are 7 apps pregnant women simply must have on their smartphone devices.

  1. Pregnancy Sprout

This app is personal and customized. It gives info and images that adapt to your baby’s gender. It is easy to follow the development of a baby which is based on your due date. It will also allow you to scan your pregnancy at a glance, plus you can add your baby’s name as well. The app is easy and fun, and you can share your experience by posting images of your baby’s development with friends and family. Another great feature is that you can plan your doctor’s appointments, and record the answers given to you by your doctor. You can also get advice from obstetricians and mothers about all the things you will need while in a hospital.  The pregnancy sprout has a weight tracker, contraction timer, and a kick counter too.

  1. Wee Mail

Wee Mail app is here to give you the satisfaction of receiving messages from your unborn baby.  You might not realize it, but your unborn baby has a lot to say. The problem is, up till now there had not been a way to do that. You can set your due day so that the app corresponds to your week-by-week of pregnancy.

  1. My pregnancy today

This app follows you through the entire pregnancy with information which is evidence-based and accessible. If you enter your baby’s due date, my pregnancy app will turn your smartphone into an expert guide. It will give you an opportunity to see your baby grow with fetal images that were developed by medical illustrators.  You will also have access to a checklist which tells you what you need to do, and remind you of any possible appointments and more. The thing that is so special is that the app will give you a unique view of your uterus with 3-D videos.

  1. Full Term – Labor Contraction Timer

Full Term – Labor Contraction Timer is one of the better apps that track your labor contractions. If you wish to track when a contraction started and when it ended, you just have to tap, and the app will do the rest. It will keep track of duration, times, and frequency of the entire labor. The history of you labor contractions will be saved. You do not have to keep the app open the whole period. The app also gives you an opportunity to email the data to health care professionals.

  1. I’m expecting – Pregnancy app

This app will keep track of everything you or your baby are experiencing. It will give you weekly updates about the growth of your baby, and it will track any symptoms you might have and then compare them with the information of some other moms. That information can help you to get rid of some doubts or uncertainties you might had. It will also keep track of the changes you go through. If you take photos of your baby bump, you can easily upload them into the Baby Bump slideshow, and watch how your baby grows.

  1. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson

It is a well-known fact that during pregnancy is hard sometimes to get a good night’s sleep. This app is designed not just for pregnant women, but for all those who have sleep deprivation . Just put on your headphones and drift away.  It has a calming and soothing effect. Just what a pregnant woman needs.

  1. Sleep Genius

This app promises to help people to fall asleep with some audio techniques. That probably sounds familiar but has a certain twist. It is more than just simple nature sounds. It utilizes composed sounds and music which at the end take advantage of scientific techniques which include “pink noise” and “binaural beats”. That’s the key toward relaxation and good night’s sleep. Pregnant women will see all the benefits this app provides. Even thought, it is not solely designed for pregnant women, it can be used by anyone with sleep disorders. It was developed by Fresh Consulting.

All these apps have one thing in common. They make people’s lives easier and add quality to our everyday routine.

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