Category Archives for "Cloud-computing"

Find the Right Balance for your Remote Workers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Covid-19 , Employees , Technology

Is your business planning to keep all or some of your employees working from home once the pandemic is over?  Though many giant companies are planning to keep employees working remotely, whether your company should do the same will depend on varying factors such the type of industry the size of your company and your available resources. Here are four things you should consider if you are planning to keep your workers working remotely.

1.  The resilience of your company and your employees - it can be difficult to create a workable balance between how things were done prior to the pandemic and how they will be done under the new conditions, and adjustments will need to be made. Companies can create a plan where some employees work from home and some work in the office, but remote employees should still have some on-site presence.  Distributing a workforce has to take into account business functions, workplace characteristics and office culture and weigh it against the preferences of the employer and employees.  As these changes will have quite an impact on your employees it is important that they are resilient and able to adapt to the changes so that their mental health, productivity and health and safety do not suffer.  

2.  Setting up a distributed workforce will require some logistics - work premises will need to adhere to new health and safety measures including ventilation, proper distancing and limited use of common spaces, but outside factors also have to be considered such as the use of public transit and access to the building.  Outside factors particularly can make it very difficult for a company to isolate itself even though they have the proper rules in place within the workplace they cannot control what is happening outside the office and the building.  Logistics for remote staff will include the home office set up, providing the equipment and technology and security measures to protect the business and it's information.  Clear remote working policies will need to be set including confidentiality agreements and compensation terms, vacation allowances and expense eligibility. 

3. Aligning employer and staff - some workers will want to return to the office but there will be those who prefer to remain at home.  The company needs to take into account each employees risk tolerance and remote working environment.  Not all employee situations are the same and can change, so employers and employees should be willing to be flexible as needs change. 

4.  One of the upsides of having remote workers is the ability to choose new employees from a wider pool of candidates anywhere in the world.  However these workers also come with additional responsibilities for the employer including adhering to different labour laws, tax laws and employment benefit obligations so it is important that the employer is familiar with the rules in each country where employees are working.  It is the new reality that many employees have made the change to work remotely and are looking for work that allows them to do that.  Employers need to pivot to accommodate these workers if they want to hold on to their talent and acquire new staff.  At the same time companies need to create an inclusive culture so that everyone feels part of the work team and this can include attending meetings in the office from time to time to keep in touch as face to face contact is invaluable.

From an article by Sophie Nicholls Jones

Four Things Not to Do While Working at Home During the Pandemic

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Freelancing

Many people and businesses were already considering working from home prior to the pandemic, but once social distancing became a reality it accelerated the movement from office to home working.  This has been a massive and sudden transition for everyone involved and it has brought about a new way of working for many of us.

While many thought that they would easily embrace working from home, many also found that it has a set of challenges to overcome.  So whether you are enjoying this new way of working or you are struggling here are a few things that you could do to make your working at home experience more positive and productive.

  1. Don't be Overwhelmed by Small Details  -  Don't be stressed by the sounds around you such as traffic, children and pets which can make your working conditions less than ideal. Other people are also dealing with these distractions, so when you make video or phone calls make light of your less than ideal working conditions to relieve your own anxiety.
  2.  Don't wear pyjamas all day and don't take video or phone calls while still in bed or in the washroom. As much as possible remain professional in your interactions with clients and peers. Get into the work mindset, dress appropriately and allow yourself the usual breaks that you would take if you were in the office.  Try and keep your work routine as normal as possible.
  3. Don't go silent, make sure you keep lines of communication open with other work colleagues and team members.  Set up regular check in times and video meetings this will provide you with regular updates and keep you feeling like you are still an important part of the team.
  4. Don't work in uncomfortable conditions.  It is easy to set yourself up with your laptop in bed or on uncomfortable chairs at the dining table but this will result in aches and pains which will distract you from the tasks that you are trying to complete.  Even if it is only a desk and chair in the corner of your bedroom, set yourself up with a comfortable and ergonomic workspace.

From Dr Laura Hambly on Global News

Is it Time for the Annual Clean-up and Back-up of your Files?

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Cloud-computing , Small Business

The end of the year is a good time to put some time and attention into cleaning up and backing up your files. Cleaning up your files lets you clear up physical, digital and psychological space so everyone can get more done. Backing up is essential in case something goes wrong.

Here's how to do your annual file clean-up and backup.

Delete Clutter from Project Management

If you still have old projects open in your project management software, delete them or archive them now. People on your project management software should only be seeing projects that are actually relevant to their work right now.

Archive Physical Files

If you have a lot of physical files lying around that aren't being used anymore, archive them. Small businesses can open a small storage facility to store their archived files. Larger businesses can open an account with a file archive facility.

What to Back Up

At least once a year, you should back up:

§ An entire copy of your website. You should have the "front" end of your website, including the CSS and HTML code, as well as the "back" end infrastructure (e.g. server code) all backed up somewhere.

§ Your entire database should be backed up as well.

§ Your email list and newsletter list should be backed up, along with any mailing sequences.

§ Your customer list should also be backed up.

§ Your forums or any other communication channels should be fully backed up. You should be able to restore your community if anything happened.

Basically, anything that could critically cripple your business if it disappeared should be backed up regularly.

At Least Three Backup Sources

You should have at least three backups of all your most important data. Each offers a different level of protection.

§ Online backup - Online backups work well for small files and for files stored on personal computers.

§ On site backups - These can be done as frequently as once a month. Simply take all your digital data and dump them on a hard drive, then store that drive.

§ Off-site backups - On site backups can't protect your data against earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters that could affect the physical devices your data is stored on. Off-site backups will hold your data for you, so you're protected in case of a disaster.

Just one level of protection isn't enough to protect you against a catastrophe. Higher levels of protection require more work and are generally performed less frequently.

Change Dropbox Passwords

At least once a year, ask all your employees to change their Dropbox, Google Drive and other backup passwords. Passwords now need to be more complex, and best are ones that are 16 or more characters.

If you perform these tasks regularly, you'll be well protected against disasters in all forms.

Working from Home – Why it can be Advantageous for Employers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Small Business

If your boss is on the fence about allowing you to work from home a compelling study from Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom was featured in an article by Ari Surdoval in Ideas.Ted.Com showed that it can be very advantageous especially for employers. 

When most people imagine working from home they see someone in their pajamas watching Netflix on their laptop.   They believe that working from home can be shirking from home.  Professor Bloom had previously worked from home himself and knew that it was becoming more and more common around the world, so he believed that there had to be more to it than just watching Netflix.  

In the US the number of people working from home has tripled over the past 30 years and was 2.4% of the workforce in 2017.  In countries where mobile technology and improving digital connections have coincided with traffic congestion and sky high commercial rents between 10 and 20% of employees work from home for at least part of their work week.  This was true of the company Bloom used for his controlled trial to put remote work to the test.  The company was one of China's largest travel agencies with a workforce of 16,000.  The company CEO recognized that the company was losing many employees in part due to workers being priced out of the city of Shanghai and having to endure long commutes.

More than 500 employees in the call centre volunteered, about half met the study qualifications which included having a private room at home in which to work and a decent broadband connection as well has having been an employee for six months.  Those with even numbered birthdays would telecommute four days a week while the others would remain in the office as a control group.  Company managers were concerned that as the call centre workers were among the youngest in the company they might be easily distracted without supervision.  

The study lasted for nine months and the results stunned Bloom and the CEO.  The company saved $1900 per employee on office space during the study


Five Skills You Need to Learn Before Starting Your Own Business

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business

Starting a new business is always difficult, especially if it is your first business. In order to give your business the best chance of success, there are several skills that you need to learn. Fortunately, all of the skills needed to run a business can be learned. Here are 5 skills you need to learn before staring your own business.

Time Management Skills 

Time management skills are essential for any business owner, as you will need to ensure that all business tasks can be completed within a set amount of time. One of the best ways to improve your time management skills is to keep a daily log of your business activities.  You can then analyze your log at the end of the week to see where you could be managing your time more effectively. Look at the amount of time you spend on common tasks to see where you could shave off a few minutes.

Self-Motivational Skills 

In order to succeed in business, you need to be able to motivate yourself, as you will have to make your own rules and decisions. Nobody else will tell you when to start and finish working, when to take or break or when to seek help from other people. You will need to use self-motivational skills on a daily basis. In addition, if you intend to employ other people, you will need to be able to motivate yourself in order to motivate your employees. Create a mental vision of where you want your business to be in one, two or five years, as this will help to keep you motivated and focused on your goals.

Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are essential for keeping your business running smoothly. Organizing ideas, tasks and paperwork effectively gives you a strong foundation for your business. Using detailed task lists is one of the best ways to organize your working day, as it gives you clear goals to achieve each day.  It is also important to keep detailed records of all business activities, outgoings and income for future reference and legal purposes.

Research Skills 

Research is one of the most important aspects of setting up a successful business. You need to research the industry in which your business will work, as well as the products and services you wish to sell. You also need to research the competition and your potential customer base. In addition, you will need to conduct research on an ongoing basis to see how your business is performing in relation to your competition. Learning how and where to gain information for your research is one of the first skills you should learn.

 Analytical Skills 

Once you have conducted your research, you need to be able to analyze the results and develop ways to use the findings to your advantage. Analyzing data and public opinion helps you to make decisions that can improve your business and increase public approval. Develop the habit of evaluating your business activities to see where improvements can be made. Listening to your customers is also important for improving your analytical skills, as it gives you a different perspective on the situation. 

Setting up a new business can be a challenging time, especially if it is your first business. You can increase your chances of success by learning the skills needed to run a successful business. Practicing these skills before setting up your own business gives you chance to develop effective ways of working.

Tips for Improving Your Accounts Receivable Process

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

One of the most important parts of running a successful business is making sure that you are getting paid on time by your clients.  Your cash flow affects all aspects of your business and you need a streamlined and efficient AR process to keep the money coming in.  It is a good idea to set up your AR process when you are starting your business so that customers understand your payment terms right from the beginning of your relationship with them.   

Not setting up your AR system from the beginning can lead to extending credit to unqualified customers as well as not following up on past-due accounts in a timely manner. Poor AR practices take time and money from your business that can be easily avoided.  Not paying attention to the accuracy of bills and invoices and not issuing reports to find potential problems can have far reaching consequences for your business.

Optimizing these Accounts Receivable Processes will benefit your business:

Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.

  1. Maintain accurate client data, update contact information and audit accounts regularly to check for unusual payments, credit terms, discounts etc. making sure that all is in order.  Changes should be documented, and controls put in to prevent unauthorized edits. 
  2. Establish a clear and concise credit approval process - extending credit can be good for your business but there must be a system established that includes instructions on when and how to evaluate and override credit limits and when to put accounts on hold.  The process should be regularly reviewed, and changes made if necessary.
  3. Set up an effective billing process that is accurate and streamlined.  Make sure that all pricing and units of measure are correct as errors can cause many problems.  Invoices should be sent in a timely manner, and reports used to identify problem accounts. Setting up a customer portal will allow customers to access their accounts and check the details easily.  Bill clients electronically if possible, this will make the billing process more accurate and cost effective.
  4. Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.
  5. Payments should be applied quickly so that you always know which accounts are current and which are past due.  Monitor your AR at least once a week to quickly identify and correct errors.
  6. Optimize the payment process by offering your customers a number of payment options such as e-transfer or retaining a credit card on file.  
  7. Consider reducing your payment terms, you do not have to use net 30 days you can decide what is best for your company.
  8. Once delinquent accounts are identified your collection strategy should be consistent and methodical, make collections a top priority.
  9. Automate your accounts receivable process as much as possible to avoid errors.

You don’t have to make these changes to your billing and collections process immediately but any steps that you do take will help to optimize your accounts receivable and will pay off in the future.

 

How to Protect your Small Business Data

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

Backing up your business data is vitally important.  Only keeping data on your computer can be a big mistake.  Programs on your computer can be reinstalled but if you lose all your correspondence, documents and transaction details then your business could be seriously compromised.  Having paper copies is not the answer.  If there is a catastrophe such as a flood or fire, then again, your data could be lost. 

If losing your data will seriously affect your business, then you need to set up a more reliable back-up system.  Your business data should be backed up regularly, should be saved on reliable media or in the cloud, and should be kept in a secure off-site location.

Backing up or Archiving your Data

Your data should be backed up for the short term, but data that is no longer in regular use should be archived.  This includes everything from emails to accounting information.  A good reason to use cloud-computing in your business is that you can retrieve your information should something happen to your desktop computer.  

However, cloud services can still be hacked or sabotaged which can cause a loss of data, so it is a good idea to save it to a storage device such as a USB drive or an external hard drive.  Once you have identified the data to be archived you can install a backup software program that will do that for you on a regular basis.

Once again, do not leave these backups on site unless you have a fire-proof safe, they need to be stored elsewhere.  Some businesses will store their backups in a security box at a bank and others at the homes of different friends and family members.   

If you have a local area network, you can back up files to another computer or server, but it should be in a different location that is secure.  If you want to back up a lot of information for long term storage, then tape backups can be the best option as they are reliable and can store huge amounts of data.

Most importantly make sure that you use strong passwords to protect your data and change them regularly.   For extra security make sure that the backup files are encrypted.  If you use cloud storage this is done for you.

Why you Should Consider Cloud Computing for your Small Business

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business

Cloud-based computing is perfect for small businesses because you can get access to all your company data from anywhere, anytime and it is not expensive.  Cloud-based computing helps you to compete with other businesses by giving you access to technologies previously not available to you. 

You have probably noticed that many software companies are no longer offering desktop applications but instead they now offer a monthly subscription-based service.  For a small monthly payment, you have access to many applications for invoicing, tracking expenses and more, so using Cloud-based computing can save you lots of money here’s how:

  1. All of the maintenance of the service or app is done by the cloud vendor, so you no longer need to pay for the installation and updating of software, and management of email servers.
  2. Cloud applications can be cheaper and are more convenient as you no longer have to install software programs on your servers or computers.
  3. Using a multi-application app will consolidate all your needs into one cloud computing service.  You can get email, schedule appointments, create documents, do video conferencing, share files within your company and with clients, and much more.
  4. As you are using the cloud vendor’s server to store your data you can free up space on your in-house computer system or even get rid of some of it.
  5. Cloud computing can make integration of other apps much easier and cheaper.
  6. Cloud computing apps are regularly updated so you don’t have to, and you have access to all the latest features without having to spend money to update your desktop edition.
  7. Cloud applications are browser based so you can access them from your mobile phone or tablet.  This enables you to issue invoices or track expenses at anytime from anywhere.

Is it time to change to cloud-based computing for your small business?

 

Improve Your Business with Integrated Workflow and Financial Software

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

In the business world, time is money, and one of the biggest time sucks in your business is the sharing of information. What are you wasting too much time doing? Examples are downloading content, faxing documents (yes, we still do that especially to government), emailing lost files and simply running across the building to get that important file. Now your staff have less time to actually do what you hired them to do, and even though the tasks don’t seem that important in the overall scheme of things, they do lower productivity and then your bottom line.

Improved Productivity

An integrated workflow and financial (accounting) software system will help to boost the long-term productivity of your business. The reason is that they can directly access system resources, without needing to go to a superior or other source. You have the necessary information right at your fingertips so you are no longer wasting time searching or making pointless phone calls, emails or faxes (one day we’ll have stopped using this archaic transmission feature).

Your employees have everything direct at their fingertips, and with this easy access they’re spending less time from their desks and on needless tasks. With this new workflow system, they can remain focused without the tasks they would normally need to complete. All of this makes it much easier for your business to produce the necessary products and services without spending time on those other tasks that waste time.

Greater Financial Security While Avoiding Downtime

The financial software aspect of this integrated Workflow system is perfect for companies with multiple departments providing financial information. The sales department may need sales figures, while the marketing department must provide advertising costs.

Without the integrated workflow and financial software system available in the business, all data must first be emailed or sent to the financial department, who then compiles the data in order to come up with the accurate financial report. This is incredibly tedious and does leave the window open to possible errors and incorrect numbers, especially if someone forgets to provide their content by the designated time frame.

However, with software, it’s now possible for every department to easily upload their figures, which is fully integrated with the rest of the company and every other department. Your staff no longer have to run around collecting data just to create and finish that financial report. The software automatically collects this data and allows the financial department to quickly produce the financial report.

Reduce Waste

It’s important for any business to reduce waste as it allows it to focus this time elsewhere on other tasks, which in turn improves productivity and the overall number of necessary tasks completed. It may not seem much of a waste of time running around to various departments to gather files and reports, but over the course of a year that can definitely add up. Having an integrated workflow and financial software system in place is exactly why you can reduce this wasted time considerably. Everyone can complete their tasks, upload it to the system and even gain access to the files which they need without ever having to leave their desk.                                                                                                          


Improving productivity is always important, which is why applying such a system has very favourable meaning for the business. By integrating workflow into the financial structure of your business, you can save time, cut costs and boost productivity. All of which comes back and helps boost your bottom line.


You may be thinking, I’m a small business and don’t have departments as it may only be your or maybe a few employees. However, you still have departments as you have employees doing certain jobs and you can break up tasks accordingly and using integrated workflow and financial structure system can help you relieve the work maybe only you’re doing. You can achieve this with QuickBooks Online and Hubdoc (or Receipt Bank), and other software that works with QuickBooks Online. This can help sales people do invoicing as it happens or work orders are entered and the worker can turn it into an invoice.

Clean up Your Invoicing Practices

By Randall Orser | Cloud-computing , Small Business , Technology

Surprisingly, many small business, and maybe yours, are making it hard for your clients to pay, improper invoicing can slow payment, which could bring your whole operation to a halt. You may even get much less than you expected, simply because the client found a hole in the deal. The following ways can help you improve your invoicing and keep your company healthy.

Short Payment Terms

Stay away from 30-day payment terms as they aren’t good for your business. Those kinds of terms mean you wait an entire month for your revenue and this increases the amount of capital your company needs to function, because you don’t immediately recoup your expenses. With today’s technology, you don’t need to wait that long. You can email the invoice and many accounting programs allow the receiver to just click a button and pay. There’s also e-Interac®Transfers, online banking, and credit cards. In this day and age there’s no real need for payment terms anymore. Always, encourage your customers to pay right away, or better yet, prepay.

Bill Clients Regularly

Your business is probably like most that you can get away with requiring payment right away. If you’re in a situation where that’s not possible due to the nature of your business or clients, you will have to determine when you should bill your clients. There’s no one set of rules that apply to all companies, but there are some best practices, so check with others in your industry and see what they’re doing, and those practices may depend on the region you’re in.

No matter how often you send invoices, shoot to send them when their inboxes are less full, like a weekend. Barring that then Tuesday is usually the best bet.

Automation

Invoicing can be a time-consuming, though albeit very important, task. Rather than slaving away at your invoicing, you should automate it as much as you can. The time savings allows you to work on other aspects of your business, especially if you have recurring invoices. As we work on a value-based pricing model, we bill out the first of the month, and apply to a credit card, and thanks to QuickBooks Online this makes it very simple.

Set Your Payment Terms in Stone

Before you even sell your product or service you need to set your payment terms in stone, too many small businesses make this mistake when starting out. Without clear rules, either party could start trying to get more out of the deal, possibly hindering the process or turning it into a worthless endeavour. Every contract should answer things such as payment options, invoicing, as well as any other incentives.

Never Hold Credit

Once you spend your money, you’re not getting it back until you get paid for your product or service. By holding credit, accounts receivable, for your clients, you’re putting your business in pickle. Holding credit can impede you from meeting orders, and if you don’t get paid on time, it could affect your relationships. Your suppliers may not look favourably on your business if you can’t pay them. Ensure your customers know this from the beginning.

If you can’t get paid quickly, and on-time, your small business will never survive. Overhaul your invoicing and ensure you get what you deserve.