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One Size Does Not Fit All: Choosing the Cloud for Your Business

| Blog | July 10, 2013

Laptop with CloudsCloud computing promises to take IT infrastructure and management out of enterprise hands, which is a relief to businesses that want to focus on customers instead of IT. Vertical markets want to jump into the cloud, but predicting how it will develop in the next five years is essential.

Corporations in education, manufacturing, retail and healthcare all have different cloud computing needs. This means we’re in for a huge cloud computing playing field. Already, OpenStack, the cloud collaborative group, boasts over 150 members. It’s just the beginning.

The right cloud for your business

The best cloud for your business depends on your company’s need for scalability, customization, security and cost. Just as your business will change in the future, so will your cloud computing needs. Below are the main types of cloud technologies for your enterprise to consider.

SaaS cloud computing allows companies to access applications from the Internet, which may include online banking, document creation and email. The downside is these applications are controlled by the provider and provide little to no customization.

PaaS cloud computing is great for developing applications without. These applications can be developed, tested and deployed without purchasing hardware, software and hosting. The downside of Paas is customers have no control of underlying infrastructure, making audit requirements in some industries difficult, if not impossible.

IaaS clouding is a complete outsourcing of operations infrastructure. One of the strongest advantages of this type of cloud is its accessibility and flexibility. You don’t have to pay for an entire cloud infrastructure deployment, either. You can get pure cloud storage or computing power; you can also mix and match based on your needs. The downside is this system is heavily reliant on an experienced IT administrator.

The battle of public, private or both

Public clouds are beneficial in that enterprises share resources and only pay for usage. If your enterprise should evolve its business, it’s simple to change systems, as long as your provider uses a non-proprietary deployment.

A private cloud requires a greater investment, as the company has to purchase and deploy its own hardware and software. This gives your company the freedom to completely customize your system and design security procedures and features specifically for itself.

A hybrid cloud brings enterprises a combination of public and private. Some companies need different levels of security and customization for various departments. A combination of public and private may work best.

There are so many options that vendors from all industries are collaborating to stay one step ahead of customer needs. The IEEE World Congress on Services hosts a cloud conference alongside four other technology seminars to help the industry remain updated on the latest developments. No technology works in isolation and your corporation will benefit from ongoing innovation.

The type of cloud computing most beneficial to your business will require assessing and prioritizing your company’s needs. For example, a manufacturing company would need to assess whether a SaaS cloud would be workable depending on its invoicing and order processing needs. A university perhaps would benefit from hybrid cloud computing, using SaaS clouds for document sharing and PaaS for researchers and data analysts.

Whatever your corporation’s needs are, make sure you go with a flexible cloud solution. In IT, very little remains the same. The cloud industry will see more vendors, more brokers, more options. A larger playing field is great news for companies that want to return to their core business focus.

Image credit: bplanet on Freedigitalphotos.net

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Top Five Reasons Your Company Should Opt For Payroll Outsourcing

| Blog | January 17, 2013

Payroll Outsourcing Saves Money

To minimise excessive and often unnecessary workload, small businesses and start-ups are looking for different ways to focus their efforts on core business functions. An effective way of streamlining business processes is to outsource functions like payroll to professionals. Instead of managing an in-house team of payroll experts, start-ups find it more convenient and cost effective for many different reasons. Here are five of the biggest reasons in favor of opting for a payroll outsourcing company.

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Improving Employee Morale to Weather Economic Turbulence

| Blog | February 10, 2012

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To think that capital is the only casualty of businesses during tough economic times is to make a big miscalculation. Though financial losses may be the most obvious result, money is only the paper-thin surface that obscures other and deeper consequences that often arise during an economic downturn. At the forefront of these issues is employee morale, which has been proven to fluctuate parallel with economic trends. And while low employee morale can become an issue even within companies that aren’t experiencing turmoil, this problem particularly becomes amplified for companies that are undergoing restructuring or downsizing efforts. This will have long-lasting ramifications on a business’ bottom line.

Stephen Balzac

Stephen Balzac

However, the good news for many business managers is that improving employee morale can be simple and cost-effective with enough well-meaning effort, says Stephen Balzac, who works as a professional speaker on leadership and business management, as well as the author of The 36 Hour Course in Organizational Development (McGraw-Hill). According to Stephen, employee morale is amongst the most important and underappreciated aspects of running a business – in part because it can’t be easily measured in charts and graphs. But as any good business leader will attest, having a high employee morale will inevitably lead to higher profits.

So to give some practical advice on the subject, Stephen Balzac shares some of his experiences improving employee morale:

What is the key to building employee morale?

SB: The first and most important way of building employee morale is your own enthusiasm: the manager who can remain upbeat and positive about the future serves as a bell-weather for employees. Conversely, the manager who is in the dumps will drag them down. Praise from a manager who is positive, upbeat, and confident goes a long way; sadly, most businesses do not invest in the manager training to make this work even though it’s cheaper than the cost of low morale!

[Then], focus on successes. Take the time to sit with each employee and go over the year’s successes. Build them up; when you build people up, morale and motivation both increase.

What are some practical ideas can one use to improve morale?

SB: Take a break from the daily routine to do something fun: a movie, department lunch, etc. Don’t make the event contingent upon anything; rather, make it a random “thank you for your efforts” event.

[One way I like] to increase morale in people is to get them tickets to a movie, play, or musical performance — of course, you have to know your employees well enough to know what they’d like. If you don’t, well, maybe that’s why you’re worried about morale in the first place! Dinner at a nice restaurant for an employee and spouse/significant other is yet another powerful way of increasing morale and motivation; make sure you cover babysitting for employees with kids.

How can an office deal with cutbacks while simultaneously improving employee morale?

SB: If you are looking at cutbacks, the good news is that you can apply many of the techniques I described without any real changes. Most of the techniques don’t involve any cost at all (enthusiasm, focusing on success). While it can cost some money to take the department out to lunch or a movie or treat someone to dinner, at that point you’re looking at priorities: where is the money being spent? You have to decide if it’s a priority to take care of your employees or use the money for some other purpose. If nothing else, consider it part of your advertising budget: after all, if you have unhappy, disengaged employees, your advertising dollars will be wasted anyway. Put another way, if you want engaged, loyal customers you need engaged, loyal employees.

What is the best way to approach employee layoffs while not damaging morale?

SB: If you’re looking at layoffs, the most important thing is to be totally upfront. Be as transparent as possible: lay out the problems the company is facing and invite employees to contribute ideas for the solutions. For example, perhaps layoffs can be avoided by having everyone agree to a temporary salary reduction. Demonstrate that you have skin in the game: as CEO, reduce your salary and/or perks first (HP did the shared reduction approach as a way to avoid layoffs and it was very successful at maintaining loyalty and morale). Shared sacrifice gets people pulling together. Putting the sacrifice on others only gets people pulling apart.

It is very common to tell employees that layoffs will be targeted at the poorest performers or something similar. The problem with this approach is that you are immediately telling your employees to compete with one another. If I’m worried about my performance, maybe my best strategy is to make sure you fail dramatically.

Once layoffs have occurred, it’s even more important to be clear about what standards were used and how employees can avoid future layoffs. You must be specific: vague comments like, “work hard,” don’t cut it. You need clear standards and you must encourage employee participation in avoiding future layoffs. Again, the goal here is to encourage employees to pull together as a team, not get into an “every man for himself” attitude. If you can get them pulling together, morale and engagement become infectious. If it’s “every man for himself,” nothing you do will really matter: cynicism is also infectious, especially if it appears to be coming from the top.

Though all companies will inevitably experience turbulent times, the moral of the story is that a little effort can go a long way towards improving employee morale, which will ultimately help a company stay afloat during economic storms.

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Business Communication Skills & Leadership Training from Exec-Comm

| Blog | January 25, 2012

Exec-Comm: Leadership & Public Speaking Training

From communication and planning to consulting and creativity, success in the business world is predicated on the mastering of essential business communication skills. Acquiring these skills can be time consuming, but with the right training you can guarantee success will be seen in the near future. Finding the most resourceful training could be half the battle. Luckily, companies such as, Exec-Comm exist. Those who choose to train with Exec-Comm will benefit from the instruction of dedicated professionals who have a proven track record of improving the work performance of individuals or an organization collectively.

Time is very valuable as a working professional, but investing in training now can save you time later as you help your business move forward with more efficiency and greater success. Exec-Comm provides various professional services designed to improve the effectiveness of executives and entry-level professionals alike. Classes and seminars are available throughout the year online or in person, from one-on-one sessions to public seminars for your employees.

Some of the services offered at Exec-Comm include a Consultative Selling Seminar. At this seminar, an emphasis is placed on listening, a skill often overlooked in the business world. Regardless of the product or service you offer, when establishing a relationship with a potential client or organization, you should look to build a lasting partnership and not just execute a transactional exchange.

The Consultative Selling Seminar is a 2-day course with 19 exercises and 5 meetings and digital recordings to better evaluate performances and track improvement. Clients who sign up for this seminar will learn, among other things, how to field difficult questions from prospective clients of their own; build credibility over initial telephone exchanges while also establishing a rapport with clients; and how to close calls effectively. Overall clients will walk away with a better understanding of the steps involved with a “consultative sales process” and detailed instructions on how to improve their performance.

A successful presentation or pitch can make or break a potential deal. Articulation and projecting confidence to organizations and effective use of visual aids are skills that can be addressed by attending the Executive Sales Presentation Skills seminar. Learning the essentials of an effective presentation can help you focus on the needs of your audience. When you focus on the audience’s needs, you will present with greater confidence, poise, conviction, and impact.

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5 Pre-Requisites before Launching Your Start Up

| Blog | October 7, 2011

Startup

Nearly half of all the startup businesses in the United States fail within the first year or two of opening. The competition is fierce, but do not be deterred by the odds—many people have made the attempt and succeeded.

There are 5 pre-requisites to ponder before launching a startup. Covering these may not directly lead to a successful business, but the odds will definitely increase.

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Engaging Vs. Targeting: 5 Keys to Understanding the New Consumer

| Blog | September 29, 2011

Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants 1997-2007 ITU

There has been a fundamental shift in the way that companies are viewing their customers in the Digital Age. Targeting customers in an attempt to entice them to buy your products based on a slick presentation has been replaced with engaging customers in conversation and emphasizing the reliability of the brand and the products and services they offer. Creating a relationship with consumers has trumped flashy advertising, because consumers have become more aware of the pros and cons of various companies and their offerings and they have more resources available that they can use to evaluate them.

1. Mobile devices

The prevalence of Internet-connected mobile devices makes it easy for consumers to check out businesses or products on the go, allowing them to research their options while they’re at the store, standing in front of two products from different companies. Mobile device users can visit manufacturers’ websites or use them to access the other resources on this list, aggregating all of the information available to them.

Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants 1997-2007 ITU

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Email Marketing’s Role in Establishing Brands

| Blog | September 6, 2011

Email Marketing

Some of the largest and most successful brands in the world still use email marketing to drive sales. People subscribe to receive emails from companies like Walmart, Target, Amazon or even Gap to receive information about in-store promotions and online deals.

If you’re a new business looking to establish a brand, a following and a reputation, giving email a second chance could be your key to growing into a flourishing company.

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Consider the Cloud: Trouble-Shooting Hardware Decisions During the Shift to Cloud-Computing

| Blog | August 16, 2011

Embrace the Cloud

Cloud computing is the current hot topic in the IT world, with good reason. The cloud offers benefits to IT managers, by not requiring them to support physical hardware and removing their need to anticipate capacity problems. Enhanced collaborative tools, like Microsoft’s Sharepoint, leverage the power of the cloud to connect users and allow them to work on projects together without having to trade file updates via email. Even with all the benefits that cloud computing provides, it will take several years for most companies to switch over to the cloud for most of their business needs and, even then, most companies will likely retain some dedicated servers for critical development and sensitive data storage. While making the switch to the cloud, companies will need to explore the differences between, and relative benefits of, private and public cloud resources as well as the merits of a hybrid solution.

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Referrals: Your Best Clients Yet

| Blog | February 1, 2011

Referrals: Your Best Clients

This insightful article is from our Premiere Sponsor, Sequoia Legal Marketing, who develop and market search-engine friendly websites for the highly competitive legal industry.

Getting your first client will seem like the hardest challenge when starting a new business. By the time you launch your business, you should already have the word out among family and friends to let them
know you will be looking for new clients. Don’t just ‘hint’ that you want clients – ask for a referral! Consider writing a letter or hosting a dinner or cocktail party for your friends and neighbors. Let them know what service or product you offer and consider giving a “friends and family” discount to those who refer you new clients and for the new clients themselves. Customers who are likely to buy your product or service will undoubtedly at least try your business if they have a financial incentive to do so.

Referrals: Your Best Clients

When you are servicing your first clients, remember that each relationship you build will bring you more business. Let your customers know that you appreciate their business. If a client offers you a compliment on your start-up, say “thank you, I hope you’ll let your friends know you enjoyed your service here.” By planting this seed, people are more likely to remember your business the next time a friend asks for a recommendation on a great new restaurant or for low-priced printing services.

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