What is The Cloud?

What is the Cloud (And How It Can Help You Be More Productive and Organized)

Today I wanted to focus on a specific way to make small business owners more productive.  Yes, it’s true there are entire categories of software and gadgets for ‘productivity’.

what is the cloud

But too often the complexity of the software and the gadgets ends up making my time vaporize, instead of helping me to SAVE time. (which was the entire point, right?)  Cloud tools can eliminate the perpetual need for new gadgets and hardware.

What is the cloud?

A few decades ago, file transfer usually meant copying files to magnetic tape and physically carrying it to another computer, server or system.

And back ups of important files? Well, this has always been critically important in the world of business, whether you are IBM or a one-person business.

File storage and file backups used to mean physical boxes of files, computer discs, redundant servers…and yes, a dedicated staff member (or numerous staff members) to see that it got done.

This meant that it was slow, labor intensive and prone to human error. (and not to mention — boring — which means that if you are like me, you put off these types of tasks far too long)

And now — cloud storage.

Simply put, cloud storage is virtual storage.  A customer – anyone from a large to small organization or even a single user – subscribes with a cloud storage provider.

The storage vendor gives the customer tools for creating and accessing data files that reside on the cloud and ensures that enough physical storage space is available to meet the collective needs of all of the vendor’s customers.

The customer is unaware of where in the cloud available storage or previously created files reside, as when a cell phone user sends or receives a call or text message and neither knows or cares what tower is involved in handling the communication. The storage cloud may not reside at a single location or even on drives owned by the cloud storage provider.

The important thing is that you can access your files and data from virtually anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection. (and this also means smart phones)

Some cloud storage can be set to automatically perform backups for you. Others are set up so that you must physically drag and drop items into your virtual cloud filing cabinet.

You might be thinking that this sounds expensive or ‘techie’. Actually, cloud storage plans are commonly available for about $20/monthly. If your storage needs are very limited, the cost is even less. And, the tools and software is actually quite simple to use.

Recommended Cloud Tools For Small Business (free trials available)

Livedrive Simple, Secure Online Backup

Try SugarSync Free!

Cloud Storage Benefits?

  • More time to focus on your core business — and trust the information technology concerns to professionals.
  • Accessibility – data can be accessed via the Internet from many locations and using a desktop, laptop, ipad, or smart phone.
  • Cost – the costs of physical storage and infrastructure are spread throughout the community of customers, making the cost very reasonable.
  • Scalability – the customer’s storage needs can grow without worrying about physical limitations. Need more space? No need to purchase an extra server or computer hard drive. Just upgrade your storage plan.
  • Protection that is cost effective– even small users can take advantage of services such as replication or off-site disaster backup.
  • Portability –no need for you to spend money on hardware, such as extra hard drives and USB drives that are easily misplaced. Cloud storage files are always available when you need them, through a simple desktop tool or desktop icon.

Customers may opt for a hybrid storage strategy of a cloud combined with one or more local drives. On one end of that spectrum, the cloud is used only as a backup device, while at the other extreme, cloud storage can be used for real time data bases, business accounting functions and more.  It’s your choice.

Livedrive Simple, Secure Online Backup

Try SugarSync Free!

What is the cloud?


Setting Up Your Own Business? Here’s a Startup Checklist

There are so many details to take care of when setting up your own business. Based on my own experience with several small business ventures, including real estate rentals, I have put together a checklist of important items that you must do at the beginning.

Note:  I am writing as a US-based small business owner. The UK, Australia, Canada and even US territories all have different laws, rules and terminology.

Depending on your city, county, state– or even country — some of the following items may be optional and others will be mandatory. Always, always check with local governing officials about what is required of you specifically.

Setting Up Your Own Business

Before you proceed with the steps below, ask yourself the following questions…

  • Is the proposed activity legal? If you plan to have your business from home, is the activity allowed by local officials? (some cities have restrictive laws)
  • Is there a business licensing requirement, mandated by local, state or federal laws? If yes, what are the costs of getting the license?
  • If you plan to sell products, have you located wholesalers or suppliers?
  • If you are selling services, have you determined your pricing?
  • Have you attempted to forecast potential income?

Setting Up Your Own Business – Step 1

Choose A Business Name

This sounds obvious but many startup business owners don’t give enough thought to this step.

  • Is the name easy to pronounce?
  • Does it seem descriptive of your new business venture?
  • When you answer the phone, would it sound professional?
  • Is there a web address (domain name) available to match?
  • Are you sure that the name is not already taken in your local business area?

Once you have chosen the business name, file the assumed name certificate (fictitious name certificate as it is called in some places) with your county.

Setting Up Your Own Business – Step 2

Choose the Entity

This step may require consultation with a tax professional or legal professional.  In the US, the major entity choices would be:  sole proprietor, partnership, corporation , LLP (limited liability partnership) and LLC (limited liability corporation). Or sometimes there is a mixture of several entity types, depending on your circumstances.

Many startups begin with the simplest entity, sole proprietor, and then make changes as the business grows in the future. If you choose to incorporate, or create some form of LLC, you can still operate in the original business name, but it would become a ‘dba’ of the new Continue reading “Setting Up Your Own Business? Here’s a Startup Checklist”


Cloud Storage Providers – An Introduction

cloud storage providersOur lives are filled with inventions that quickly go from unfamiliar to indispensable, like personal computers, microwave ovens, cell phones, and digital video recorders. The influx of technology is just as true in our professional lives, and to that list, one can now add cloud storage providers.

Why Cloud Storage Providers ?

Cloud storage can seamlessly solve business problems that previously necessitated navigating an array of cumbersome hoops to accomplish the same task.

Yes, you can back up critical files by sending yourself a copy through email, but email is not designed as a file-management application, and if one ever needs to recover more than a couple of small files, then that will become painfully apparent.
Continue reading “Cloud Storage Providers – An Introduction”


Small Business Bookkeeping

Cloud-based help available for small business Bookkeeping

small business bookkeepingStarting a small business and making it successful is the dream of many Americans. In light of the struggling economy, more people are deciding to strike out and start their own venture. Today’s technology in many ways makes starting a new small business easier than ever.

Unfortunately, the creativity and drive that can lead someone to start a small business may not translate to one of the most important aspects of running a company, keeping the books. Small business owners must not only market their product or service and attract customers, they also have to maintain accounting records, send out and keep track of invoices and stay up to date on tax codes. Overlooking any of these can be detrimental to the business.

Luckily, many companies are offering cloud-based computer solutions to these problems. Most of them offer free trial periods to try their program out to see if it will work for you and some even provide a very basic level of service free of charge. These applications help organize a business without requiring any formal training for the person using the programs. Many users report they are able to cut out hours of paperwork each week.

There are several of these applications available and many are cloud-based, meaning your business data is saved on their secure servers. If the business computer goes down or is stolen, that data remains intact. Each one offers bookkeeping and organizational services in different ways.

Outright Online Accounting organizes all the business information by pulling it into one place. It also automatically categorizes transactions into the proper tax areas, keeping owners up to date on what they will owe the IRS.

For those who do not want to enter their own information, Shoeboxed allows users to mail or electronically senddocuments to them for entry. The information is then organized into proper categories and can be searched using name, date or payment type.

Freshbooks specializes in sending and managing invoices online. It also helps a business accept payment through PayPal, e-checks or credit card and even will send out automatic payment reminders to clients so you don’t have to keep track of those.

One of the most well-known bookkeeping aids is Quick Books. It also allows business owners to create invoices, track expenses and sales and keeps track of taxes.

Wading through piles of receipts, bills and business cards can be the bane of any small business owner. Those documents are all important to growing the company, but sifting through them can be time consuming and takes away from finding ways to improve sales. By taking advantage of a cloud-based accounting service, that time can be recaptured and put to better use.


Top HR Tips for Small Businesses – HR News


Top HR Tips for Small Businesses – HR News Businesses with single owners, start-ups, and many growing-up businesses do not have a separate to deal with HR (Human Resource) functions. And many business owners falter with things like hiring, tracking time-offs, handling office politics, and keeping track of employee insurance which ends up being too expensive for the business.

So, here we bring you some of the best HR tips for small businesses to keep growing with the right people:

Many entrepreneurs underestimate the advantages of exuding warmth when they are interviewing candidates for the vacancies they have. A warm and firm handshake before the interview, kind eyes, and a warm smile on your face not only put candidates at ease but also leaves a positive impression of your business in their minds whether you hire them or not.




50 Best Free WP Plugins

Wordpress makes blogging easier and more convenient. No wonder,  it is becoming popular as far as content management system platform is concerned, aside from its flexibility, it has over thousands of free plugins that can help bloggers boost their sites. However it is difficult to determine which plugin is beneficial or not, and it is always wise to inspect first their pros and cons. For those who have just started setting-up wordpress, here’s a list of plugins that you should install in no particular order: Continue reading “50 Best Free WP Plugins”

Wordpress vs. Joomla as CMS

Are you still pondering which CMS is better for your blog?  I found this great article  that compares  the functions and uses of Wordpress and Joomla.

Basic function:

In WordPress: WordPress is a website engine, which allows the entire work installing and running the system, as well as publishing basic content a breeze.

In Joomla: Joomla is for managing and publishing a bouquet of different content types, in diverse ways.

Primary use:

In WordPress: Though it began as a full-fledged blogging tool, it has evolved into a CMS. You can check the blogs of the NY Times to get a peek into what WordPress can do. However, WordPress still caters mostly to newbies.

It caters to end users, developers and designers alike….More at WordPress Vs Joomla


Continue reading “Wordpress vs. Joomla as CMS”

Nextiva Fax Review

Nextiva Fax : Why choose nextiva instead of a traditional fax machine?

nextiva fax reviewNextiva Fax is a permanent solution to faxing that provides reliable and flexible faxing.  You can easily send and receive faxes from anywhere you can get access to the internet.

This makes it easy to send faxes either by email or from a Microsoft application through your phone or a web portal.

Since copies of all faxes are kept at Nextivafax.com, you will never have to worry about losing faxes because they are stored on secure service and you can access them when you want to, even when your computer is switched off.

The NexivaFax.com servers are accessible online from any computer at any time.

The payment arrangement for this ultimate fax solution is flexible because although you subscribe annually, you do not have to pay for the service at one, you can pay month to month basis without any contracts or commitments. Continue reading “Nextiva Fax Review”

Outright Accounting Review

outright accounting reviewOutright Online Accounting was created by two former employees of Intuit to provide web-based accounting help to small business owners.

They realized, through their own experiences, that too much time is often spent by  entrepreneurs on the least favorite part of ownership – keeping the company books updated and organized.

Many of the accounting tasks are automated through Outright, which also categorizes expenses, receipts and taxes. Once the data is collected, the system’s charts and graphs can quickly provide a snapshot of the financial situation of the business.

Outright is geared specifically to sole proprietorships and single-member limited liability corporations Continue reading “Outright Accounting Review”

Quickbooks Alternatives? Outright Accounting is Easier (and Less Expensive)

Outright Accounting:  Alternative to Quickbooks

Whether taking advantage of the Internet to start a small business or going the more conventional route, many entrepreneurs find themselves struggling with the day-to-day aspects of accounting and tax preparation.

While bookkeeping is a necessary evil to keep the business running, most owners would prefer to concentrate on ways to improve and grow the company– rather than getting bogged down in paperwork and accounting.

For years, Quickbooks was the answer for those who needed accounting help but couldn’t afford to hire an actual accountant. In recent years, several rivals have appeared, to challenge Quickbooks.  One of the smartest Quickbooks alternatives right now is called  Outright Accounting. Continue reading “Quickbooks Alternatives? Outright Accounting is Easier (and Less Expensive)”