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Can Cloud Services Improve Small Business Profits?
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According to a survey from Rackspace Hosting, small businesses using cloud services can improve their profits. The survey, which polled firms in the U.S. and Europe, reported that nearly 90 percent of cloud users said they saved money by using the platform. About half of respondents reported the cloud's potential to help them expand their business, while about 60 percent reported increased profits due to the cloud. Another 60 percent of businesses polled stated using cloud services reduced their IT burdens, particularly as cloud services outsource installing and maintaining IT infrastructure. Cloud services like Salesforce have been an integral part of firms' ability to better manage customer relationships, while OfficeTime has been useful for tracking billable hours and generating invoices. While some small businesses might fear the potential for data outages, most cloud providers offer levels of security that SMBs would not be able to replicate in-house. Furthermore, cloud services can be supplemented by on-site servers that can also backup critical data. <more>
Cloud computing can help firms operate more efficiently, by saving time and improving accuracy. Cloud solutions are secure, often providing greater security than housing data on-site. Furthermore, data stored in the cloud is continuously backed up, serving as an added layer of security for firms. Using a cloud platform additionally provides firms with the ability to work from anywhere an Internet connection is available, supporting multiple users working simultaneously. Intuitive dashboards featured in cloud solutions are another benefit of using the cloud, which support the platform as a user-friendly option for computing. While many firms consider whether or not to migrate to the cloud, the advantages of using cloud accounting solutions significantly outweigh any potential drawbacks. <more>
There are three tips firms can follow to ensure data security in the cloud. The first is to encrypt files prior to uploading them to the cloud, even if a vendor uses encryption as part of their data services. One security option for firms is TrueCrypt, a free solution that provides military-grade encryption. Firms should ensure their online servers are SAS70 compliant, so selecting a data hosting service that meets this compliance needs is critical. Although the risk of a data breach is low, firms should be wary of uploading data on the cloud that they fear could be leaked. Contingency plans should be created accounting for the potential of a data breach, and firms should realize that data security is never guaranteed. <more>
Google has several well-known tools offered to the public, like Google Drive and Google Analytics, yet there are eight additional little-known tools companies can use for improving their businesses. Google Trends is a great way to determine how searches have changed over time, while Think With Google is a free tool that provides users with data about consumer trends, marketing insights, and industry research. GoMo is another useful tool for businesses to test their Web sites to determine if their site is mobile-friendly. YouTube's My Business Story is a creative platform for businesses to create high-quality videos, while Google+ Hangouts can be used for small video conferences. Get Your Business Online is a robust tool for building free Web sites, registering a domain name, and Web hosting for up to one-year. For extending marketing appeal, Trusted Stores is good for building a brand's reputation. Finally, at an affordable $5 per user per month, Google Apps for Business is a powerful tool for running a business in the cloud. <more>
Microsoft SkyDrive has provided a simple way for multiple users to collaborate via the cloud. SkyDrive allows users to share files via applications like PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and OneNote, with the option of sharing files in a few clicks. One of the exceptions to real-time collaboration with SkyDrive is the Excel Web App; users that want to work on spreadsheets can only work online, rather than the Excel desktop file, otherwise other users will not have access to the file. SkyDrive provides users with 7GB of storage for free, or 20GB of storage with a subscription to Office 365. Both Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013 feature SkyDrive collaboration options. <more>
There are a few digital handwriting tools for business that increase productivity. A few tools include Note Taker HD, $5; Notability, $2; and Note Anytime, which is free. These tools provide tagging and organization options, including the ability to synchronize with third-party devices and annotate PDF files. Apps like Penultimate, which can be used alongside Evernote, provide users with the ability to sort and search their handwritten notes. Users considering stylus options include the AmazonBasics Stylus for $10; the RocketFish Stylus for $20; and the SUCK UK TouchScreen Style for $12. For a more refined note taking experience, users might consider The HAND Stylus at a slightly more expensive $30. <more>
While many firms might have Web analytics tools available, they commonly under-utilize these tools. The first part of gaining more from Web analytics is determining the kind of metrics the tool generates. For example, consider if a Web analytics tool exhibits whether a firm is meeting their business goals and whether trends are recorded; a tool that fails to deliver specific information should be replaced. Analytics that cannot be easily viewed poses a challenge to firms; all businesses should have administrator rights to their account. Analytics should also be audited to ensure the integrity of data, accounting for key performance indicators. For firms with limited IT staff, IT issues should be prioritized early on. Firms should encourage a culture of asking questions and suggesting new ideas, which will provide buy-in on all levels for achieving marketing goals. Finally, firms should continuously revise their Web analytics plan, conducting updates in accordance with the evolving nature of technology. <more>
Ensuring robust enterprise security is a critical component of a business' best practices. The first step in improving enterprise security is staying updated with the latest potential malicious attacks. IT experts say that sabotage is a less likely form of security breach; instead, human error is actually responsible for many data breaches. Failure to encrypt passwords, failure to securely store passwords, and lost or stolen devices all compromise enterprise security. A unified threat management solution is a good investment for safeguarding against new threats, particularly because these firewalls use a single solution rather than requiring the configuration and management of individual systems. Furthermore, UTM systems provide scalability for small businesses. Businesses should also consider implementing security incident and event management (SEIM) systems for correlating log management, which assists in identifying the roots of a security breach. <more>
LAST UPDATED 3/15/2013