Increase Your Support Levels With Cloud Services

Without a doubt, from a Service Provider’s perspective, managing clients from the Cloud is a god send.

Cloud based management of services not only allows for faster response times, but also for a higher quality of support to the end user. However, from the Service Provider’s angle, it allows for highly efficient operations and for one support Representative to manage and complete a much higher work load per shift compared to site work.

Take the average day of a road based IT Tech. There’s all sorts of issues to contend with, traffic, weather, road works, lazy workers taking the long way from job to job, and other unforseen issues on site such as slow computers, failing hardware and clients who are less than prepared for their IT site call. All of these issues and more are faced every day by thousands of road based IT workers, meaning blown out budgets and quotes on jobs, and lengthy delays for the customers, and increased costs for the IT Services company.

Compare this to an environment where all of the clients’ systems are Hosted, either SaaS or IaaS, the IT Contractor can access the files from anywhere, be it on an iPad with a system as simple as Teamviewer, or a SaaS system like Reckon’s Quickbooks Hosted or Xero; it allows for multiple jobs to be undertaken at once and for an instant response time.

There are many systems available too. Whether we look at Zen Desk, Asana or a full Cloud based Services suite such as Connect2Field; the choices are many, the quality is great and the costs are in some cases even Free!

Cloud Support minimises down time, increases response time and increases profits for not just the End User, but the IT Contractor or Service worker aswell.

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3 Reasons To Use Cloud Accounting

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At this time of year, all eyes are on end of year. It’s Tax Time. But how organised are you and your systems for year end?

Do you have the latest software patches loaded, is your system tax compliant, and is all of your data entry up to scratch?

How much is it going to cost you to have a Bookkeeper come and sit with you for a week to enter in all of your data, for the Consultant to bring your system up to scratch and for your Accountant to sort through it all?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easier way? A World where your systems talked to each other, where transactions took care of themselves and your Bookkeeper and Accountant became Advisors rather than Compliance Monitors?

Take a look at our 3 Reason To Use Cloud Accounting to find out how.

1. ACCESS

The primary reason for using a Cloud Accounting system would be access. No longer confined to the Desktop computer in your office, you are now free to manage your business from the car, home or away on holidays!

Best of all, you can share your access with most systems, providing your Advisors instant access to your business information allowing for up to the minute advice.

Larger business can also benefit from having remote workers or offices connecting with ease, without the burden of ageing infrastructure to get in the way.

2. PEACE OF MIND

When was the last time you backed up your system, or had to restore it, only to find out that your backups don’t work, or the system database didn’t backup?

The feeling is gut wrenching, particularly at this time of year.

With a Cloud Accounting system, your software, assets and business data are always backed up, and always accessible, 24 hours a day.

You should also look for a system that allows you to backup your own data and store it locally, just for extra piece of mind.

3. COST

Systems with 24/7, multilocation access were once just a figment of  small business owner’s imagination, often left to the larger ERP competitors.

Not anymore.

Systems with online Inventory, Payroll, Time Keeping and Financials, such as Reckon’s Quickbooks Hosted platform, can be had for as little as $25 per month.

We are able to advise on a wide range of Cloud Accounting and Hosted business packages to suit your needs.

We would love to also hear any feedback from businesses out there already operating in the Cloud.

Let us know your thoughts, feedback or questions in the Comments field below.

Saas, VaaS, Paas Or IaaS – What’s Right For You?

When it comes to Cloud Computing, there are several different platforms available for use. Some of the terminology is old and some is new. Together, it is all The Cloud.

But what does it all mean and which is right for you? Let’s take a closer look.

SaaS

Starting with the most obvious use of The Cloud, is SaaS, or Software as a Service. The SaaS movement has been around for some time and in many ways is the forefather or the very definition of Cloud Computing.

Another term for SaaS might be Public Cloud. SaaS is for the single or perhaps small business user where they don’t want to lease infrastructure or have hosted space, they just want access to their individual apps from anywhere they may be. Access and cost are usually the largest drivers behind SaaS takeup.

Think of Internet Banking and Gmail as two of the most common forms of SaaS today.

VaaS

So you’re using a few SaaS services and think it would be great if you could combine them, or take your desktop with you everywhere you go, like on your iPad or Android. This is where you may look at a VaaS, or Virtualization as a Service provider.

This market is still quite young in the Cloud market, perhaps due to licencing issues or other restrictions. But think of it as unlimited VM Ware, or as a rented Desktop with fixed applications.

Hence, you may sign up to a VaaS service, for a Ubuntu desktop with Open Source Apps (Open Office, Firefox and Thunderbird) for a very small fee, or for a little more, a Microsoft platform where you are served your stable Win 7 desktop complete with its Microsoft repetoir of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. Or a combination of Microsoft desktop with Open Source apps to save on licencing a little.

In any case, the term “rented desktop” pretty much settles the VaaS criteria. A stable virtual desktop you can take anywhere, along with all your files, settings and bookmarks.

IaaS

Next up we find IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service. Here we may find an organisation who wants some control over their software and data, but do not want to maintain any hardware.

Here a medium sized enterprise may want control over choosing their IaaS provider, but don’t want control over maintaining expensive hardware, building a climate controlled room and employing a MCSE/CCNA to look after it. Usually with most IaaS providers, you can still choose the size and amount of CPU’s, amount of disk space, RAM and other items to suit your needs and the IaaS provider will discuss maintaining your hardware and software for you.

Best of all with a IaaS platform, it’s highly scalable, so you should only ever be paying for exactly what you need.

PaaS

Finally we may find an organisation who has custom ERP and CRM requirements, maybe an SAP or Great Plains platform requiring constant development and unlimited scalability options but don’t necessarily want the hardware and network overheads that come with a system of such size.

Here, the organisation will seek Platform as a Service such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google AppEngine, where the hardware and platform are provided for, but the platform is very open source and includes a ton of tools for writing one’s own Cloud venture or internal ERP system.

Microsoft Azure is perhaps the latest PaaS on the block.

 

 

 

What To Look For In A Cloud Host

As in any IT deployment or roll out in your organisation, you should have a plan, and perform your due diligence.

Part of this plan should be to interview a minimum of three Cloud Hosts or Providers, but what should you be looking for?

Here are some tips.

1. Data Location

This is at the top of the list for a reason. The location of where your data is going to be stored is the most crucial element to this whole exercise.

Do you need access to your data if systems go offline? If the answer to that is yes, then look for a Host close by, at least within driving distance, so in the event of a major circumstance you know you can go and physically retrieve your data at any time.

If the answer to the above question is no, then you should at least be aware of where your data is, and make sure it is on home soil. Data stored in Australia is subject to stringent Privacy and Data Protection laws.

Sure it will cost more to host your data in Australia, but we have amongst the highest certified data hosts in the World.

2. Security

Secondly, enquire regarding data security. Not just who has access to your data, but how secure is the Data Centre where your virtual servers are stored.

What are the disaster recovery plans for the Data Centre (DC), what fire and hazard prevention controls are in place? Physically what level of staff and who has access to the Server Floor and Data Halls?

You could also ask the Host for a copy of their Security standards and access lists.

3. Recovery and Disaster Prevention

Further questions to ask revolve around the Recovery of data and what Disaster Prevention and even ask for a copy of their Disaster Recovery Plan. If they are serious about their role as a Cloud Host or Virtual Server Provider then they should have this information readily available for you.

Quiz your potential host on what their Fire Prevention plan is, and how quickly they could get your data back online in the case of a total meltdown.

4. Uptime Certification

As in the earlier days of the internet, Uptime SLA’s were a major selling point for the more professional ISP’s, allowing them to charge a higher fee for a higher Uptime SLA.

Your Cloud Host is no different today.

Even better, ask them what their Uptime Institute Certification level is.

5. Price

Why put price at the bottom of the list you ask?

Well for good reason. If you are serious about a business Cloud deployment, sure price is a consideration, but really, I think this point speaks for itself.

Look for a Host that fits your Budget certainly, but also one that ticks all the above boxes first.


Do Great Things In The Cloud With Asana

These days, we appreciate the simpler things in life.

Email and Social Media can sometimes feel like they are overtaking our lives, and our work day.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to cut out the clutter and the noise, to allow us to run our lives and our businesses with ease and clarity? To be simply organised?

Accessible from anywhere, by anyone and  best of all for free?

Say hello to the Cloud’s best kept secret, Asana.

Started by ex Google and Facebook founders, Asana has some serious heads at work, and some serious backing. Names such as Dustin Moskovitz (Co-Founder of Facebook) and Justin Rosenstein to name a few.

Sign in is as simple as the rest of the product. Simply navigate to the homepage, complete the very simple sign up process and you will have your very own blank canvas.

Start by adding a few Tasks, then slowly build yourself up to adding in Projects, assigning Tasks to the Projects, then assigning team members to the Tasks.

When assigned a task, the user will receive a simple email. You can also assign a task to anyone with an email address even if they don’t have Asana yet, they will receive an email inviting them to login and take control of the task.

Great for Service Companies who want a free and easy ticketing system. Or Collaborative Project teams looking to centralise their Project Management database.

Asana has been designed with speed and simplicity in mind with Dustin mentioning that if it was too difficult or slow, people simply wouldn’t use it.

The service is free for up to 30 users, when above that, there are subscriptions services available.

So what are you waiting for, get organised today!

Samsung Look To The Cloud With Galaxy SIII and Dropbox

Samsung have taken the lead in the Mobile Cloud Storage market, by teaming with Dropbox to offer Galaxy SIII owners 50GB of storage to use between their new phones and computers!

This is the first time we have seen mobile manufacturers looking to the Cloud to increase their products’ storage capabilities.

The deal is also significant as it will give Dropbox a competitive edge over it’s main competitors, Box and Google Drive.

Cloud Accounting Saves Dollars and Makes Sense

One of the biggest winners from the current frenzied move to the Cloud, is the world of Accounting Software, and in particular Small Business users.

No longer bound by the typical ageing model of the sales staff getting out on the road, only to come back to the office with an armful of orders for the Data Entry clerk to spend days data entering into an antiquated old version of Quickbooks or MYOB. No Sir, welcome to the age of Cloud Accounting.

There are many prominent systems available to the savvy Small Business operator, from simple browser based systems such as Reckon’s Cashbook Online or Xero, through to your fully fledged Hosted solutions, such as Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted.

A business should do its own due diligence in deciding what is right for its purpose and budget, however thorough investigation will reveal that all online systems are not alike. View our guide to some factors to consider in this decision making process here and further information comparing cloud products here.

Special consideration should be made to looking at where the data is hosted, and if you can access or actually even own your own data.

From only $15 per month for Cashbook Online to around $25 per month for QuickBooks Hosted to $49 or $64 a month for Xero, Small Businesses really should be looking at these systems and making the move for The Cloud.

For example, from all products tested, Reckon’s QuickBooks Hosted was our favourite for Pricing, Features and Security. Aimed at SMB’s rather than micro businesses like the previous two products mentioned, QuickBooks Hosted is the great all-rounder.

Deploy a team of Sales Reps around the Country, toting nothing more than an iPad or Android tablet, to access their customer accounts, perform inventory and order lookups, view the status of back orders and deliveries and enter orders directly with their customers on site.

Prior to the availability of these systems in The Cloud, most SMB’s simply wouldn’t have been able to compete with their larger Netsuite or SAP doting competitors, with their expensive VPN’s and custom written PDA software.

We can only expect to see further growth in this area, with Reckon looking to bring Point of Sale to The Cloud in the near future as well as open up the SDK to allow for third party products such as Fishbowl Inventory and Ostendo to co-exist on the Hosted platform.

Also let’s not forget Reckon’s recent investment in Cloud Field Services startup Connect2Field as a sign of the sheer commitment typical software vendors are making to the Cloud Accounting field.

Seek out a Cloud Accounting Specialist today to see how you could not only save your business dollars, but make sense of your business goals at the same time.

Public Vs Private Cloud For Small Business

There has been great debate recently over what is best for business, and what business should consider in seeking out its own cloud solution.

At the end of the day, business should engage their own research over 1. Security 2. Price and 3. Infrastructure and locality of data storage.

Business also needs to consider access to applications and what a Cloud Vendor will and will not be prepared to host.

Let’s examine the options in a Public Vs Private Examination.

Public Cloud

Public Cloud is perhaps the most pure type of cloud service today, and is the scenario whereby one accesses a service or services over the internet “as a service”. Meaning there is little control over the performance or attitude of the software being accessed or the hardware or underlying technologies. The most common examples being Internet Banking and Cloud Email services such as Hotmail and Gmail.

Public Cloud is generally shared server space and basically a WYSIWYG cloud service. Public is generally a lower cost alternative to other options. It pays to do your research with Public Clouds to ensure that your 3 checks above, Security, Price and Infrastructure are being met.

Whilst price almost certainly will be a factor, please consider security and infrastructure at the same time.

Private Cloud

For businesses with concerns regarding security and infrastructure (which can also cover location of data storage), a well sought out Private Cloud could be just what the Director ordered.

Private Cloud is just that. Rather than sharing data and services with potentially millions of other businesses, private cloud offers a more personal approach, with data being hosted in a privately selected data centre or provider, such as Reckon Limited’s APS Private Cloud solution.

Private Cloud is the ideal solution for businesses with higher concerns regarding Security and Infrastructure than Pricing alone. This is the only solution for a business with heavy demands or their own software or service requirements, or is it?

Hybrid Cloud

Many businesses may like to adopt a Hybrid Cloud solution. This is a mixture of Public and Private Clouds as detailed above.

In this scenario a business may choose to have its mission critical software hosted in a Private Cloud whilst choosing to run their Email and Office solutions via a Public Cloud such as Google’s Gmail and Google Docs, or Microsoft’s Office 365 solution.

Choose Wisely

Which ever of the above is best is really down to each individual business and their requirements. Through the adoption of a sound and secure Cloud Computing Policy, SMB’s are now able to compete with their larger competitors more easily than ever. In fact, in most cases, Cloud is just what Small Business has been crying out for.

In recent studies, 71% of small business owners agreed they require technology that enables their staff to work from anywhere, anytime.

It is the opinion of the Author that any SMB that does not adopt at least some cloud technology right now, then put a plan in place to graduate over to either one of the above solutions in two to three years, will cease to be competitive in a Global Cloud landscape.

Cloud A Major Focus For SMB’s

Microsoft have released the findings of a major research study it funded of more than 3000 SMB’s in 13 countries, including Australia.

The study was undertaken by Edge Strategies and showed that use of paid Cloud services by SMB’s would double in 5 years and that the number of very small businesses moving to at least one Cloud service would triple in 3 years.

“The cloud levels the playing field for SMBs, helping them compete in today’s quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority — growing their businesses,” said Marco Limena, Vice President, Operator Channels, Microsoft.

The Facts

The study also showed that 79% believe that technology can make work more enjoyabe, 65% expect to be using Cloud email services and that 71% require technology that enables their staff to work anywhere in the World at any time.

SMB’s are growing more and more accustomed to the Cloud and are less concerned about Security with only 20% believing that data in the Cloud is less secure than data on their own premises, 49% responded that they were as confident in a Cloud system as in their own systems. Interesting 31% agreed that they wanted the data stored in their own Country.

The Opportunities

Interesting for Cloud Partners and Consulting Firms, was that 60% of SMB’s admitted they do not have the resouces to implement new technologies.

Also 52% responded that they do not have the resources to re-train staff. This shows that SMB’s would be more likely to select a Cloud Partner already providing their Desktop software or hosting a platform they know.

A Private Cloud solution with an API to interface directly with an SMB’s desktop products would be the most likely outcome for an SMB looking to head into the Cloud and minimise costs at the same time.

About the Research

The Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 research report was designed and conducted in conjunction with Edge Strategies Inc. (http://www.edgestrategies.com) in December 2011. The research questioned 3,000 SMBs that employ 2 to 250 employees across 13 countries worldwide: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. A copy of the survey results can be downloaded athttp://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/telecom/docs/SMBCloud.pdf

High Res Image: Click

Source: Microsoft Blog

Outsource Your Ageing Hardware With BYOD

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The Bring Your Own Device movement is not new, however with small business now having equal access to the Cloud as its larger competitors, BYOD should now be considered alongside that cloud takeup.

What Is BYOD?

Quite simply the notion behind Bring Your Own Device is simple. Rather than our Gen Y and now Millenials being expected to perform on something that belongs in a museum, they may choose to bring to work their own iPad, Macbook Pro or other device of choice to work on.

Said Gen Y and Millenials argue they will be more content and more productive working on their pride and joy gadget, and also have the flexibility of working out of hours – bonus. Or is it?

Why, and Why Not To BYOD

The advantages of BYOD far outweigh the disadvantges.

Some things to consider are this: Security, Support and Insurance claims. Should said multi-thousand dollar device be damaged whilst at the workplace or being used for work purposes, who’s policy will cover the replacement? Your insurance broker should be able to tailer a BYOD package to suit.

Your IT department will need to broaden their knowledge outside of the simple PC / Server architecture, however for Gen Y and now Millenial Network Admins, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. You could always lock the choices down to a few devices to keep things manageable.

Access at its most crudest could be kept to a secure Remote Desktop Connection, only allowing connection to the device and user account in the allowed hours of operation. Best Practice Active Directory management would ensure User Access is also restricted.

As Public and Private cloud environments gain increasing traction, the argument of access and reliable provision of services becomes almost nul and void.

Cloud Vendors do need to be Brand Agnostic in their rollouts though for maximum market penetration.

Cashflow Positive Initiative

Another benefit to the small business owner is cashflow. Whether or not you choose to provide employees with an allowance, per Kraft in the USA (who gives their employees a Device Stipend), or not depends on your requirements and BYOD Policy.

There is a real advantage to work with your employee here and show you really are an avant-garde employer.

Why not come to a Salary Sacrifice arrangement with your employee (seek Tax Advice first!), then offer to rent the device back from your Employee?

Or simply pay your Employees a Technology Allowance so they can buy the latest tech of choice safe in the knowledge the Allowance will cover the costs. The Employee simply claims the cost of the gadget in their personal income tax return (again seek Tax Advice first!).

However, the Australian Taxation Office have declared that iPads have substantially the same functionality as laptops hence would be treated the same as laptops in tax claims.

So what are you waiting for, you’ve implemented some cloud technologies, you’re considering moving to Private Cloud, now take the final step and outsource your hardware to your Employees. They will love you for it.

Or if you love Infographics, we have a great one below.

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