Online Invoicing Made Simple

Chances are you started your business because you love what you do. You opened your doors because you have a strong product that you believe in.  You probably did not start a business because your paperwork skills were unparalleled.  Paperwork is a vital and necessary evil for any business owner and proper invoicing can’t be ignored. We all need cash flow to keep our businesses adrift, so employing a good invoicing system can help us keep cash in the bank and our clients happy! Invoicing help online Using a web-based invoicing service is a possible option for business owners who need a quicker, more reliable way, and often-automatic means to invoice their customers.

Chances are you started your business because you love what you do. You opened your doors because you have a strong product that you believe in.  You probably did not start a business because your paperwork skills were unparalleled.  Paperwork is a vital and necessary evil for any business owner and proper invoicing can’t be ignored. We all need cash flow to keep our businesses adrift, so employing a good invoicing system can help us keep cash in the bank and our clients happy!

Invoicing help online

Using a web-based invoicing service is a possible option for business owners who need a quicker, more reliable way, and often-automatic means to invoice their customers. You can find a vast number of available online options to choose from that can take that cumbersome task of paperwork off your plate. Below we’ll examine just 3 of the options available:

A free but powerful invoicing service

First, let’s look at a zero cost system: BillingBoss. Of course its biggest advantage is that it is 100% free, but that doesn’t mean it’s not robust. Most small businesses will be pleased with BillingBoss’s capability to automatically invoice customers on a monthly basis and send once-off invoices for more infrequent clients.

A power tool

AcceptPay isn’t free. It costs $30 a month, but it’s a powerful program. Offered by American Express, AcceptPay works with QuickBooks, will accept online payments, and of course, offers you a wide range of options with regards to sending out invoices and collecting payments. The $30 expense is a small price to pay for such a powerful online invoicing tool.

Invoicing for the tech-savvy

If you want more control over your online invoicing, you might look at downloading BambooInvoice. This is another free service. What sets it apart, though, is that small business owners host it on their own servers, not in the cloud. Because it’s an open source program, tech-savvy entrepreneurs can personalize it to fit their business’s unique needs.

These are just a few of the available options online. Most services are free or exceptionally cost-effective. If you want to take the reigns on your invoicing process, think about employing an online solution.

Servcom Training Day – February 3rd

In order to continue improving our services, Servcom USA will be conducting a training day for our technicians and employees on Friday, February 3rd. Please be aware that our technicians will be limited in their availability to respond to non-emergency service calls during regular business hours. As always, please call our office to report service disruptions, or go online to our Client Access Portal and submit a ticket.

Microsoft introduces real-time threat feed

It looks as if Microsoft is ready to do its part to discourage cyber crimes. Microsoft plans to offer real-time feeds that partners can use to examine potential cyber threats and take the proper steps to boost their defenses against these attacks

It looks as if Microsoft is ready to do its part to discourage cyber crimes. Microsoft plans to offer real-time feeds that partners can use to examine potential cyber threats and take the proper steps to boost their defenses against these attacks.

Microsoft currently has a process set up to take down destructive botnets. Microsoft “swallows” the botnets and permits them to infect accounts that are highly controlled by Microsoft’s team. Once the botnets infect the accounts, Microsoft learns how they work and removes them as a threat.

This collected information is now given to ISPs, private and government agencies, & CERTs. While real-time data may not lessen the quantity of attacks by destructive code, the result of sharing this data will in all probability be quite remarkable. IT security companies will be able to respond more quickly to these threats and thus be able to limit the level of damage they can cause.

Even more importantly than a reduction in damage, a live threat feed could mean that the IT security industry overall will begin to share more information.  It’s been a long-standing belief that sharing validated threat data could lead to copycat attacks. However, this is not a valid concern. Cyber criminals have already been sharing secrets and ways to get around security systems. It only makes sense for the IT security industry to be sharing their information about how to battle these cyber criminals.

Microsoft’s real-time feed is an excellent first step toward a change for the better in IT security. Let’s hope this trend continues and that the IT security world will discover that secrecy is not more important than sharing information!

How Secure is the Cloud? Part 2

Businesses that have struggled in these tough economic times are finding some relief in the cloud.

Businesses that have struggled in these tough economic times are finding some relief in the cloud. The cloud can save a company a lot of money. Never the less, the cloud is not perfect for everyone, particularly when it comes to security concerns. There is the risk that documents, presentations, and data can be damaged or destroyed when stored in the cloud.

Password issues

One of the biggest security issues when dealing with the cloud is password protection. This is also one of the biggest security issues outside of the cloud.

Business owners must be careful to select passwords for their cloud projects that are challenging for others to guess. The best option is for owners to include a blend of letters and numbers in their passwords. Owners should also be careful about sharing their passwords with too many people. The more individuals who have access to passwords, the more vulnerable important data and documents are.

Hacker alert

A few serious problems that will not soon go away for anybody who uses a computer are hackers, malware, and spyware. As business owners have little control over how secure the cloud is this part of security can be very frightening indeed. Businesses like Microsoft and Google must create their own security measures to safeguard the data stored in the cloud.

Common sense protection

As with all computing, companies can protect themselves from the loss or theft of data with some common-sense practices.

First, sensitive data is probably not the best thing to store in the cloud. If your data is so sensitive that a compromise on its security could spell the demise of your business, consider saving it on a physical computing system and apply a secure back up protocol that is more controllable.

Secondly, before giving every employee free access to cloud-stored data, think carefully about which employees actually needs access to that information. People are often careful about protecting their laptops and desktop computers from prying eyes; this attitude should be applied to the cloud as well.

Cloud Security: Whose Responsibility Is It? Part 1

The advantages of storing information in the cloud are numerous.

The advantages of storing information in the cloud are numerous. Backing up important data, creating more space on your servers, and having your data easily available to your employees are only a few. If you’ve been looking into this route, you most likely have many questions about the security of the cloud. If your company handles sensitive information that belongs to your customers you may need to stay compliant with HIPAA, PCI or Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

Is your cloud storage solution following these requirements? If they don’t specify it in their privacy policies, it’s not easy to tell. Let’s explore this further below.

Compliance

More and more companies are turning to the cloud for storage. For obvious reasons, it is a very affordable approach to take. Even so, improper handling of your client’s information can harm your reputation and lead to a loss of business for your company. If your company requires that client data be handled in a regulated way, you need to first learn how secure the cloud service is and what regulations does the cloud service providers comply with. If a company has not specifically said they comply with certain policies, it’s safe to assume they don’t.

Who is responsible

Cloud security is paramount when handling your sensitive data, but whose responsibility is it? Should you assume that if it is not explained in the privacy policy, that a service provider doesn’t follow these regulations? Even though this is clearly the safest option, it may leave you unable to use cloud computing at all. Many services don’t provide detailed information in their privacy rules, possibly to lessen their liability. The hope is that over time cloud storage and sharing will become better self-regulated and corporations will choose to disclose their individual practices to the businesses they serve. While such self-regulation is not required at this time, many businesses think it is their duty to display clear warnings, explaining what they don’t provide or guarantee.

In the end, as cloud computing service providers are not required by law to be transparent about their security, the responsibility rests in your hands. If you choose to use the cloud, it’s your responsibility to pick a service provider you trust. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for your business.

Disaster Recovery: What it Means For Your Business

As a small business owner, you may have worried about all the what-ifs that could come into play if a disaster were to occur. What does it mean when we talk about a disaster? It can mean a natural disaster destroying all your data, a simple download of a virus that corrupts your systems, or an employee accidently deleting something they shouldn’t have.

As a small business owner, you may have worried about all the what-ifs that could come into play if a disaster were to occur. What does it mean when we talk about a disaster? It can mean a natural disaster destroying all your data, a simple download of a virus that corrupts your systems, or an employee accidently deleting something they shouldn’t have. No matter what happens it can be hard and time intensive to recover from. Establish a disaster recovery plan to ensure that if the time ever comes, you have a plan in place so that you can get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Decide What’s Important

First off, decide what data is the most critical to get your company back up and running. What information needs to be backed up and saved and what can you afford to lose? This will help you figure out what you have to back up. Choosing an online provider or storing your data in the cloud can be the best way to make sure you can access your data quickly.

Make a Plan

Next, decide what steps need to be taken to restore that data that is lost in case a disaster strikes? What data and systems need to be up and running first? Start with the worst possible scenario and decide what’s needed.

Know Your Workflows

While you have the overall picture of how your organization runs, you probably don’t know each and every process everyone does. Have your employees document the processes and workflows they perform to execute tasks for the company. In case of something tragic, anybody can read the process document and preform an important task.

Decide Who is in Charge

Depending on the kind of disaster you go through, your employees could panic.  Before this happens, choose one levelheaded person in the company to be “in charge” of the disaster recovery plan. They ought to know the plan as well as you do and possibly have helped you create it. This is the individual you turn to for execution of the plan, so that you can be the strong leader your employees need at a time such as this.

When we hear of disaster people often think it can’t happen to them, but we never know what is around the corner. It’s important to be prepared. Having a strong disaster recovery plan will not only make you feel more secure, but will comfort your employees as well.

The Segway turned 10!

The name Segway is associated with tech failure. After all, inventor Dean Kamen once thought that his two-wheeled scooters would become a substitute for cars. He pictured a future in which people buzzed to the supermarket, library, or work on their Segway PT scooters.

The name Segway is associated with tech failure. After all, inventor Dean Kamen once thought that his two-wheeled scooters would become a substitute for cars. He pictured a future in which people buzzed to the supermarket, library, or work on their Segway PT scooters.

We are all aware that didn’t happen. The Segway is still around and it isn’t a totally uncommon site to see someone taking a Segway out for a “drive” around the block.  For a “failed” technology, that is a pretty notable feat!

But how do these two-wheeled scooters work? Electric motors hold the key.

Powering the Segway

Each Segway PT is powered by electric motors which are, in turn, fueled by phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries. Segway owners can charge these batteries by plugging their Segways into common residential electrical sockets. The unit doesn’t tip over due to its two computers loaded with proprietary software, pair of tilt sensors, and five gyroscopic sensors.

Making the Segway Move

The user plays the biggest role in making the Segway move. By simply shifting your weight in the direction you wish to go and moving the handlebars a little, the Segway’s sensors acknowledge the modification in balance point and react appropriately. The most up-to-date version of the Segway features a top speed of 12.5 MPH. For obvious reason, it performs best on flat surfaces.

Lowered Expectations

Experts touted that the Segway would be a bigger deal that Internet. Clearly the device didn’t live up to that level of hype!

However, once the Segway was released many thought it looked strange and you looked weird riding one. Others thought it looked unsafe. Regardless, the downsides were enough to prevent the Segway from reaching its promised potential.

Manage your projects effectively with these online tools

As a small business, there is a good chance you have to manage projects and people that are not always located in one area.  So how do you manage these projects and off location employees while still having the ability to share updates, documents, and delegate tasks?

As a small business, there is a good chance you have to manage projects and people that are not always located in one area.  So how do you manage these projects and off location employees while still having the ability to share updates, documents, and delegate tasks?

Project management solutions

Conveniently enough, many project management tools can be found that make managing all of these things easier.  Using these tools will help your small business in organizing projects and keeping employees and clients up-to-date. Here are a few available options:

Basecamp

Many entrepreneurs utilize this tool for project management solutions. Basecamp creates a platform to manage your small business projects: share materials, communicate with coworkers, assign tasks, and set up project calendars. Basecamp’s client access allows clients to follow and comment on the progress of their projects. 

Quickbase

Inuit business software creators have developed a project management tool called Quickbase.  This tool has many of the same features of Basecamp while being able to facilitate both large and small companies all with a clean and simple user interface.

Huddle

For the more creative projects, such as marketing and advertising, Huddle is ideal. Certainly one of this tool’s perks is its live-conferencing tool. If you need to assemble the team in a quick and easy fashion, this tool lets you, no matter where your team members may be.

Deskaway

This is a good tool for updating team members on a projects progression. Easily create blog posts, congratulatory messages, and quick updates.

There are many other choices for project management tools, each with their own benefits for individual businesses. Be sure to look for the one that will help your business manage your projects and personnel the best.

Is the Promise of the Paperless Office yet Another Jet Pack?

The promise of a paperless office has been around for years. Unfortunately, most offices must still use paper on a regular basis. Is the paperless office just a pipe dream that we will not attain?  In a nutshell, no.

The promise of a paperless office has been around for years. Unfortunately, most offices must still use paper on a regular basis. Is the paperless office just a pipe dream that we will not attain?  In a nutshell, no. We’re constantly moving toward paperless offices, but it’s just taking us a lot longer than we had expected.

The advantages of paper

There’s a reason why paper hasn’t yet vanished from most offices: It’s useful. Employees at even the greenest of offices—those workspaces most dedicated to lowering the amount of paper they consume—have uses for paper. Paper is portable. Employees can easily scrawl notes on it. They can fold it up and slip it into their wallets or shirt pockets. Many employees prefer proofreading important documents in hard-copy form. There’s something about proofreading a document on the computer screen that causes some employees to miss important errors or typos.

Less paper than ever

Paper is starting to become less and less important.  Many of our past paper processes are now able to be performed on a computer. Team communication is dealt with via email. Even instant messaging has taken the place of paper notes to coworkers. Smartphones and tablets have taken over the need for a physical calendar/schedule system. If you take a look back at how far business has come in the past decade, it’s pretty clear that paper, while not fully obsolete, is no longer king.

The future

It’s obvious that offices of the future will rely on less paper than even we do now, but will paper ever really go the way of the milkman? Maybe. Some people still prefer having their milk delivered from a local dairy but most are content to pick it up from the store when they need it.

Paper will most likely go the same route and it will be a personal preference as to how much paper is consumed in the office. As many of our business processes rely on digital solutions, there will always be a select few who prefer good old-fashioned pen and paper.