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11 Posts authored by: Inc.

Reporting-Thumb.pngThe transition from manual to automated reporting can present a challenge for any size company—a challenge that can be particularly daunting for small business owners who already have their hands full. But once you get past the initial investment of time and human resources, automated reporting can improve your ability to assess the company’s performance. If you can manage its implementation, the conversion may strengthen your company’s ability to compete and grow.

 

Click here to download our guide "The Pros and Cons of Automated Reporting"

by Hollis Thomases

 

Google is far more than a search engine. If you know where to look, you can find a treasure trove of free or practically free tools to help grow your business.

 

Just about everyone uses Google in some form for their business. I'm sure you know about Google Maps, AdWords, Google Analytics, and Gmail. You might also know about Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Chrome, Google's Web browser. I even bet a few of you out there have delved into Google's "Even More" section, where you'll find several dozen Google products listed. But Google provides tools beyond those published in this section, and many of them can help you in your everyday marketing and business operations. Let me take you on a brief tour.


 

1. Google Trends

You're in the process of evolving your business with the changing times. You need to determine what kind of marketing language and descriptive terminology to use for your sales materials, website copy, and search engine optimization. Consider plugging some of your terms into the Google Trends search bar to see how searches for these terms have changed over time. Look for those still trending upward, and review the additional detail Google provides.


 

2. Think With Google

Speaking of seeking data to help your company evolve, don't miss Think With Google. It's a free marketing resource loaded with consumer trends, marketing insights, case studies, industry research, and creative inspiration.


3. GoMo

Did you know that 67 percent of people say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a product or use a service? (Or that even if these people like your business, 50 percent will use you less often if your website is not mobile friendly!) Don't fall into the latter category. In last year's article about mobile marketing, I mentioned how Google offers a way for you to build a free mobile website for a year. Google's GoMo can also take your existing website through a free diagnostic test to determine to what extent it is (or is not) already mobile friendly.


 

4. YouTube's My Business Story

Create free high-quality online videos using this Google guide and tool. All you have to do is create a free YouTube account and upload some video clips and photos, and the tool will guide you through templates to add graphics and music.


5. Google+ Hangouts

In my article about GooglePlus, I mentioned that live video chat and collaborative screen sharing tool Hangouts is a fan favorite. Businesses can use Hangouts for small team meetings, virtual office hours, or brainstorming sessions or customer Q&A sessions.


 

6. Get Your Business Online

Because 97 percent of Americans who use the Internet look online for local goods and services, every small local business needs a website. But according to Google, more than half of U.S. small businesses don't have one. To help solve this problem, Google offers Get Your Business Online free website building, domain name registration, and hosting for up to one year. The site also has free resources to help small businesses grow and advertise online.


7. Trusted Stores

For those websites offering an online shopping experience, Google's Trusted Stores can help alleviate customers' doubts about your site's legitimacy and how well they'll be serviced. Google Trusted Stores have to pass a test for reliable shipping and customer service, and in so doing, they earn the right to display a Trusted Store badge.


8. Google Apps for Business

Competing head-to-head with Microsoft Office, Google Apps for Business software lives in the cloud instead of being server-based. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month depending on the features you select. You can then take advantage of Google Apps Scripts to further empower your business.


So go ahead--dig around Google for a little while. What it can provide your business beyond mere search tools might surprise you.

 

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

by Tom Searcy

 

Tired of sending out emails and getting no responses back? An email expert shares seven tips to help make sure that your emails get read.

 

Recently I connected with Jonathan Borge, an email expert who has mastered the art of getting emails answered. Through an email conversation, (how else would you communicate with an email expert, right?), he shared with me seven great tips on how you can ensure that your emails will get noticed.

 

1. Subject lines: Remember that only 20 percent to 40 percent of your emails will actually get opened, though most of your subject lines will be seen. To boost your open rates, think of short, catchy, and informative subject lines. You should try to dangle compelling information ("The future of sales emails"), and you can even try adding some mystery ("Strange question"). We also recommend personalized subject lines, if possible ("Hunter Sullivan suggested I contact you").]


2. Your tone: Portray yourself as someone that other people can connect to. You'll want to show your recipients that you care about hearing back from them... so you can't simply sound like you're just sending another mass email. Never use "Dear sir or Madam," and stay away from overly formal language.


3. Email content: Make your emails short, simple, and easy to quickly digest. Your leads are busy people with jobs, too, so you need to maintain their interest. Do your research and find out what resonates for your prospects. Try to get an introduction to them or, if that's not possible, figure out in more detail what they or their company do. Tell them why you're emailing them, specifically. Talk about how you can solve a problem for them.


4. Your sign-off: End your emails with a definitive, clear call to action. Make it dead simple for your recipients to say yes—whether it's to a meeting, phone call, or product demo. Don't ask them for permission. If you want a phone call, then say "Call me right now at X for more details."


5. Your timing: Reach out to your leads when they're not too busy. Make sure you avoid heavy traffic times like Monday mornings. Based on our tracking data, we recommend the middle of the week, mid-day, as the best time to send emails.


6. Your image: First impressions are important both in person and online. The tone and formatting of your email is all your recipients have to judge you by. Make sure you are being professional, clear, and easy to understand. Stay away from over-formatted emails that look gimmicky, but don't hesitate to call out important information in bold or bullet points.

 

7. Your homework: Send yourself a sales email. Put yourself in your leads' shoes. If you were them, would you open this email? Would you spend more than two seconds reading it? If so, what would you do next?


The first time you read this list, you'll probably think "I already knew all that." But, do what I did. Go look at the last 10 emails you sent to prospects or new contacts and read them with a critical eye to see if you followed all seven tips. I scored four or five on all of mine, but not a seven on any one of them.


About Jonathan Borge

Jonathan is a product specialist at ToutApp, a sales communications platform that helps salespeople and sales managers streamline and track their day-to-day email communications. Be sure to read ToutApp's book on how to write effective sales emails.

 

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

by Erik Sherman


Microsoft, Best Buy, and other tech giants are coming for you, armed with their best sales pitches. Get ready to negotiate.

 

You may not know it, but you're a target sitting in the crosshairs of big technology vendors everywhere. That's because U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees are collectively big high tech business, having spent $23.5 billion on IT last year, according to IDC. The research firm estimates that the number will go up to $27.2 billion within three years.

 

Tech companies have maxed out the growth potential in the saturated enterprise market. And so, SMBs have become their next great hope. The practical upshot is that you can expect to start hearing more and more frequently from IT salespeople. You could leave them all cooling their heels in a hallway, but that is shortsighted. Companies may have something of value to offer you. Instead, use these tips effectively deal with eager tech vendors:

 

1. Get to the bottom line first

Technology vendors love soft benefits—the vague promises that your business will become "transformed" by using their products. But they are hard to measure those assertions for return on investment. Insist on hearing the hard benefits that directly translate into additional revenue or lower costs. If the hard benefits are realistically large enough to pay for your investment in a reasonably short amount of time, then your risk is low. Any soft benefits you might see become gravy.

 

2. Talk TCO

Savvy enterprise IT departments focus on total cost of ownership, or TCO. Any technology purchase might require additional maintenance, training, materials, user licensing, or consulting. Factor in every possible extra expense because they all come out of your pocket. Insist that any quoted price have everything necessary included. You now can undertake an apples-to-apples comparison between offerings from different vendors and know what you'd really pay.

 

3. Cut through the sales act

You don't get anywhere as an entrepreneur without having a keen sense of how to sell. Use what you know and look for every sales tactic that the vendor's representative uses. For instance, if you're simply not interested, you could give the classic, "I just don't want to" answer and make it difficult to overcome your objection. You can also trip up the rhythm of a salesperson on autopilot. I remember once dealing with a salesman in full grinning robot mode. I said, "I see you've got your salesman's hello ready." He broke out laughing, because it was an unexpected reaction, and we got down to business without wasting time.

 

4. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

Small businesses often think that large companies won't give in. Not true, particularly when the vendor is desperate to grow and snagging smaller businesses is the best way to do it. The salesperson has a quota that only gets shorter if you say "yes." If you're inclined to make a purchase, be sure you're getting better pricing, free consulting or maintenance for some period of time, or something else that improves the deal. It may be that all you'll get is a discount that would have been available for the asking, but pushing is a good way to get the salesperson, who wants to close a deal, to mention what might be available.

 

5. Play the field

Finally, see what different companies have to offer. The more pitches you hear and research you do, the more you'll see how companies compete and their relative strengths and weaknesses. While discussing the weaknesses in a company's offer, mention to the salesperson that you met with a competitor. See what they can bring to the table to get your business.

 

The more you stay away from warm and fuzzy presentations and demand real value for your potential investment, the better your experiences dealing with high tech salespeople will be.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.


by Eric Markowitz


Silicon Valley was aflutter this week with Mary Meeker's bold new report on Internet trends. Here's what you missed.

 

When Mary Meeker speaks, the Valley listens.

 

This week, Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (the venture firm founded in 1972 that's invested in pretty much every major tech company of the last quarter century) unveiled her 88-page analysis of Web, mobile, technology, and societal trends.

 

Here, we've excerpted the most important elements of the report, especially trends that may affect small business and startups.

 

1) You should care about China. And India. And Indonesia.


Emerging markets have always played a key role in expansion, but the Internet has magnified this principle. Here, Meeker outlines the role of international Internet adoption. As you can see, it's huge. From 2008 to 2012, China added 282 million Internet users, bringing their total number of users close to double the population of the United States.

 

 


2) Your mobile strategy may be the most important part of your business.

 

In 2008, only about $0.7 billion was made on mobile. By the end of 2012, the mobile market will have ballooned to a staggering $19 billion, split 67 percent between apps and 33 percent ads. According to Meeker, when looking at the average time users spend on on media, people spend about ten percent of their "media time" on mobile--but just 1 percent of ad spend is spent on mobile. In other words, despite current user adoption, there's still plenty of room for growth. Another fact to note: In India, mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop Internet traffic in May, 2012.

 

 


3) Don't forget about Android users.


Meeker is bullish on Android as a platform. According to her calculations, iPhone adoption has exploded in the last four years, but Android phone adoption "has ramped even faster – nearly 6x iPhone."


4) If you sell a product, you'd be crazy not to focus your e-commerce on mobile and tablet apps.


This chart pretty much speaks for itself: By 2012, about a quarter of all Internet shopping traffic on Black Friday were made on either mobile or a tablet.

 

 


5) Tech start-ups are leading the charge.


Meeker has a lengthy section "reimagining" what the world will look like--going from desktops to tablets, cash to cashless, maps to navigation systems, etc. Of course, like any good venture capitalist, Meeker found a way here to plug a few of Kleiner's portfolio companies, including Gumroad (e-payments), Quirky (product design), Evernote (note taking), DocuSign (electronic signatures), and Square (mobile payments).


Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

Inc.

4 ways to embrace big data

Posted by Inc. Jan 11, 2013

by Phil Simon


Here's a handful of useful tools to collect the kind of data you need to make better business decisions.

 

I've spent most of the last four months finishing the manuscript for my fifth book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data. In this post, I'll share some data collection methods that may help your business make better decisions.

 

What if there's existing data on the Web that you'd like to easily gather and view? You could cut and paste, but there has to be a better way, right?

 

Check out Mozenda, a data extraction service. Its software can "scrape" data from a wide variety of sources on the Web.

 

That's fine if there's existing data you'd like to grab, but what if you need to generate your own data? Two sites here are very useful. The first, Mechanical Turk, is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that matches buyers and sellers. Want to submit the title of your book for a vote? Mechanical Turk is a little-known part of Amazon that incentivizes people to provide data. "Requesters" set up Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) and offer small rewards for voting. In a nutshell, Amazon uses human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are currently unable to do.

 

Not sure if the design of your homepage is working? Run an experiment--Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google all do this. (There's a high degree of science behind everything on these company's pages, up to and including the color of fonts.) Optimizely allows users to perform their own A/B testing. Over the course of a few weeks, generate metrics on which version of your homepage generates more traffic, lowers bounce rates, and the like. Author Eric Ries of The Lean Startup actually used this to convince his publisher that some of its covers and titles just didn't work. (Of course, Google AdWords is still also capable of performing de facto A/B testing on a wide variety of things.)

 

And let's not forget surveys. There are many online tools like SurveyMonkey, PollDaddy, and others. I'm a big fan of Wufoo. This über-easy site lets you create powerful forms, online surveys, and event registrations. Without getting all statsy, though, understand that online surveys typically need to be taken with a 20-lb. bag of salt. Use them as a guide, not gospel.

 

Simon Says


Some say that data is the new oil. You'll get no argument from me. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and other companies are extremely valuable and successful in no small part from their exceptional data management, collection, and analysis methods. All else being equal, in 2013 and beyond, companies that understand and take advantage of Big Data will do better than those that don't.

 

What say you?


Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

Inc.

Daily deals: Not dead yet

Posted by Inc. Jan 10, 2013

by Eric Markowitz


New data suggests that while the explosive growth may be over, the industry is hardly on its deathbed.

 

The daily deal business has managed to generate bold proclamations, soaring valuations, maddening scrutiny, and--most recently--positively dire predictions. Not bad for an industry that's only about five years old.


Groupon, hardly the first site to offer daily deals but by far the most successful (at least revenue-wise), went public in November 2011 with a nearly $13 billion valuation. Its success spawned hundreds of similar daily deal start-ups and imitators, each more niche than the last. By May 2011, Yipit, itself a New York-based daily deals start-up that collects data on the industry, was tracking more than 500 of these companies, most of which were less than three years old.

 

For a while, analysts and bloggers were bullish that daily deals could re-invent e-commerce. But almost as quickly as they pronounced the industry's promise, many declared its death. The doom-and-gloomers didn't need to look far to find signs of a daily deal apocalypse, either. In January, Daily Deal Media, an industry research firm, found that nearly 800 daily deal sites closed down in the last six months of 2011 (though many had been acquired).

 

And more recently, the Wall Street Journal alerted the public to what it considered an alarming development: Groupon investors were dumping their shares because, as the newspaper put it, the daily deal company and other "young Internet firms" hadn't "lived up to hopes." The WSJ noted that at least four investors, including Marc Andreessen, had sold their stakes in the company--a sign that early backers must believe the company is fading.

 

But is the daily deal industry really in such bad shape?

 

The Data

 

Despite signs suggesting the contrary, a look at the numbers reveals the industry is still going strong.

 

Consider a July 2012 research report of the daily deal industry published by Rice University. The under-publicized paper analyzed the performance of deals run by 650 small- and medium-sized businesses between May 2011 and May 2012.

 

"Taken together," the authors conclude, "our results find little or no evidence of deterioration in the performance of daily deal promotions over the past year (April-May 2011 to May 2012) for small- and medium-sized businesses or with experience as the business operator runs multiple daily deals. Rather, there is improvement in some metrics."

 

In fact, the report found that the success rate of daily deals "increases with prior level of experience." In other words, businesses are getting smarter about deals. The study also found that though less than half of businesses found success in their first daily deal offer, more than three-quarters of businesses reported profitable promotions by the time they had run seven or more deals.

 

In other words, there's a learning curve among business owners using daily deals, and the types of businesses offering deals.

 

An Industry Matures


Though the daily deal industry is still in its relative infancy, it's growing up. Businesses are learning which promotions work--and which don't--and adapting their strategies to reflect these trends. While some types of retailers have shifted away from daily deal promotions, others--many of them in unlikely categories, like medical or dental services--have stepped in to fill the void of retailers that have left. And this new volume has buoyed the ecosystem.

 

James Moran, CEO and co-founder of Yipit, says that his company's data reflects a similar trend. "There are certainly businesses that have run a deal that wasn't ideal for either the business or the consumer," he says. "But as the industry matures and gets smarter, the right businesses are running deals again. There's been a shift to new categories like medical, home, and travel."

 

Moran says that the early days of daily deals focused heavily on beauty and restaurants offerings, so those verticals quickly saturated. Now, he says, the scope and categories of deals have shifted to newer offerings. Moran and his team assembled data for the purposes of this article, which reflect that change. While "Restaurants" declined from 16% to 11% from the end of last year to 2012, the "Home & Auto" category jumped from 9% to 13% in the same time period.

 

Data from Rice identified a similar trend: About two-thirds of both tourism-related services and doctors and dentists have significantly higher success rates on average than, say, cleaning services or restaurants and bars.

 

"There is little or no evidence to indicate that daily deals are working less effectively for businesses than they did last year," the study concludes.

Another way to assess the current state of the industry is to look to the email marketing companies that send the deal emails to consumers. Last month, email marketing service MailChimp analyzed its own email data to verify the claims that the daily deal industry was dying. To get a long-term view, the company pulled data from January of 2010 to November of 2011 to analyze the market. The resulting research debunked a popular daily deal myth: that customers are unsubscribing en masse.

 

"Everyone says daily deals are struggling, so we expected to see hideous list stats here," the authors note. "Instead, the lists are clean, and subscribers are sticking with them. The attrition rate is surprisingly low."

 

They concluded: "We've definitely come across some daily deals with bad stats. They had poor list-collection practices, questionable content, and they're gone now. But we don't see evidence of a crumbling industry."

 

What's the Matter With Groupon?

 

So, the question remains: Why did at least four of Groupon's investors decide to cash out?

 

The obvious explanation is that private investors are experts in making market decisions about private companies, but once investors experience a liquidity event, like going public, they have an obligation to their limited partners to generate a cash return, even if that return is not necessarily five or 10 times the original investment.

 

Dan Primack, writing for Fortune.com, sums up this important point clearly. He says, "I'm not exactly sure why Andreessen Horowitz selling the shares is a negative, given that it booked a $14 million profit off of its $40 million investment. Not a venture home-run, but not terrible for an 18-20 month hold. And I'm pretty sure that generating positive returns is a venture capitalist's primary job responsibility (not tech cheer-leading, although it's an easily forgiven error)."

 

In short, put away the death knells--for now.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.


by Aaron Aders


Whether you have a mobile app or a mobile website, these channels can help your target audience find your mobile presence.

 

Estimates from eMarketer indicate that the population of mobile social network users will reach 79 million by 2015, which would result in mobile adoption rates that crush other technological adoption rates of the past. As with any new tech platform, organizations need to understand how to participate in and be found via mobile channels. Whether you have a mobile application or a mobile webpage, here are the top three channels that can help your target audience find your mobile presence:

 

Mobile Organic Search

 

A recent study by Google found that a smartphone was the most common starting point for online activities. It's crucial to show up at the top of organic search on mobile devices, because 65 percent of the study participants started with a mobile device when searching for information, as well as shopping, online.

 

The best way to optimize your website for a mobile device is to create what is known as a responsive website. A responsive website will auto-detect the visitor's device prior to serving up the website content. Upon detection, CSS will then tailor the website content to the specific device. Responsive websites will reduce clutter and avoid duplicate content issues that may arise from duplicating website content on a mobile subdomain such as m.yourdomain.com.

 

Marketers can also monitor performance using the mobile search data segment in Google Webmaster Tools. Use this tool to monitor the results of your mobile search optimization.

 

Mobile Content Marketing

 

The goal of content marketing is to create target-market-oriented content that informs, entertains, provides value, and inspires sharing. It's important to consider context when creating content for different devices. The same Google study mentioned earlier found that smartphone use is primarily motivated by communication and entertainment activities. By contrast, PCs are the most common starting point for more complex activities like planning a trip or managing finances.

 

It's important to serve the needs of your target market within this large mobile user group with content crafted with a mobile context in mind. For example, launching complex content such as a research paper or interactive survey wouldn't be valuable in a mobile context. Focus on content ideas that support communication, fact references, or entertainment. Be sure to always post mobile-friendly content using HTML and CSS rather than Flash or JavaScript.

 

The Google Keyword Tool also allows for mobile device segmentation, which can provide keyword research insights for targeting mobile users. Combine the most popular mobile search trends with top-performing activities in mobile such as social networking, informational search, and shopping online. This kind of focus will start you down the path to content built for success on mobile devices.

 

Mobile App Stores

 

According to Nielsen, mobile users are spending 10% more time on mobile applications than the mobile Web. There are tremendous opportunities in mobile application development for organizations that want to extend marketing reach through this highly interactive channel. However, deep reach in this channel requires great app content and a solid strategy to make sure your app is found on platforms such as the Apple App Store.

 

A new start-up promises to add some Ooomf to your mobile app marketing strategy by using a platform that mixes mobile app developers with users to enhance and promote their mobile applications. Founder Mikael Cho recognizes that building a great app is a challenge, but getting people to care about it is even more difficult. Ooomf will employ a promotional strategy that offers a curated list of mobile apps. The company also hopes to develop relationships with mobile journalists and mobile influencers to help them discover apps on the Ooomf website.

 

You can also monitor the top trending mobile applications by category on Chomp or 148Apps. Emulating the best trending apps on the mobile app store is the best strategy for success, according to the book App Empire.

 

Right now, companies have the opportunity to be first to market in the world of mobile applications and websites. Use these three platforms to jump-start success for your organization in the mobile space.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.


Save time and get more done--all with just a smartphone. Here are ten tools you'll need.

 

by Ilya Pozin

 

I'm on the go a lot, which means I spend just as much time--if not more--on my phone as I spend on my computer.

 

This would not have been possible even just a few years ago. But luckily, technology has made it easy to be more and more productive with just a smartphone. Here's a list of 10 mobile apps I love that help me save time and get things done.

 

1. MobileDay

I use conference lines frequently when I'm working with people from all areas of the globe. These calls typically all have their own conference number and conference code. When calling from my cell, it's a huge annoyance to have to search my email on my phone and keep track of all the dial-in codes. The MobileDay app works with any conference call service by looking through your calendar, reminding you of the call, and with one click calling the conference line and dial any necessary codes for you.

 

2. Google Wallet

This app saves you the time of digging out your wallet and searching for the credit card you want to use. Instead, if your phone is enabled with near field communication, all you need to do once you've registered your cards is open the app, pick the card you want to use, tap the back of your phone to an NFC checkout register, and be on your way. All your information is securely stored on Google's servers, which you can remotely disable if you lose your phone.

 

3. WriteThat.Name

One of the biggest hassles I run into is when I need to quickly call someone who's not yet saved in my phone contacts. I then have to search through my emails to find the phone number. This is way too time consuming. Although not an app, WriteThat.Name improves mobile productivity by automatically scanning the signatures of people that email you, extracting their information, and merging it with your contacts in both your email and phone. If they haven't emailed you before, WriteThat.Name adds them as a contact or if they already exist, it updates their information for you. Also, it's important to me that my contacts don't just live on my phone. With WriteThat.Name, they are stored in the cloud, so they're safe even if something happens to your phone.

 

4. Slice

The Slice mobile app keeps track of everything you buy online. When your inbox is flooded with numerous emails everyday, it's hard to keep up with all your online purchase receipts. All you have to do is tell Slice the email addresses you use for these purchases and the app will keep track of all your orders for you.

 

5. Hipmunk

I do a lot of traveling. Hipmunk speeds up the process of planning those trips, whether my schedule is flexible or very precise. The site has data from nearly every airline and hotel. It's similar to Kayak but it's smarter. Hipmunk displays results in a visual timeline or map. You can see departure times or hotel locations with one quick glance. The simple visual makes the results seem more relevant to my needs, which saves me the time of sorting through options that won't work.

 

6. SignEasy

Who has the time to mess with using a scanner these days? With SignEasy, you no longer have to print and send documents that just need a signature. This app lets you sign documents using your phone, which not only saves you time, but lets you get the document back to where it needs to go in a much more timely manner.

7. Google Maps for Android

This app is probably my favorite, and it's one I use every single day--even when I know how to get to where I'm going. It's much better than Google Maps for your computer, and it also trumps the iPhone's version of this app (sorry, Apple fans!). Tell this app where you're headed, and it gives you different routes and tells you how long each will take based on the current traffic conditions.

 

You can even use it when you're taking public transportation. For example, I was recently in New York and used it all the time to figure out the quickest way to get somewhere on the subway. It knows that sometimes taking two or three different trains may get you to your destination faster than staying on the same one, and it's sure to give you that option. Also when in an unfamiliar city, it's nice to know the fastest route so you don't seem like a tourist to the cab driver who's looking to rack up your fee.

8. Google Drive

Google Drive is an alternative to Dropbox. It's a place to store all your files, but much more handy and secure than a hard drive because it's in the cloud. I can access my files from my phone, my computer, or even from my friend's phone or computer. I never have to worry about losing important documents I'm working on because everything is automatically saved as I write, and can easily be shared with the rest of my team.

9. Venmo

Venmo offers the fastest way to give or receive money from someone. Say you and your friends are splitting the check for dinner or for cab fare and one of you is footing the bill to get it taken care of faster. When using Venmo it will help speed up the IOU process. You don't have to figure out all the details then and there, but as soon as you do, Venmo will automatically alert your friends when you've transferred money to them. It doesn't matter what the increment--it's all free. It's also significantly faster and easier to use than PayPal, and all you need to pay or receive money from someone is a name, number, or email address.

10. Glympse

Glympse is a mobile app that lets you quickly share where you are with others. Glympse syncs with your calendar. With one click, you can send your meeting attendees a text or email that will open up a Google map with your location, rate of travel, and estimated time of arrival. The best part is, the people who need to know where you are don't need to have the app, or even have a phone, in order to access the information. And you have the option to stop sharing this information once you get to your location.

 

Anymore, if you want to be efficient and productive, you must work on the go. These are my go-to apps. What do you use?


Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.

by David Gorodyansky

 

For years, antivirus software was the gold standard for securing your IT. But the cloud has changed the nature of the game.

 

Run a quick Google search for "Internet security protection" and you'll come across plenty of antivirus software solutions claiming to protect your company's devices against the multitude of nasty infections out there on the Web. Historically, antivirus software has been the foremost choice of protection for CIOs against these threats.

 

These days, as companies and consumers increasingly conduct their business in the cloud, securing virtual identities, browsing activity, and personal data arguably has become more important than securing physical devices. Now that we've added mobile to the mix--especially in the case of Apple's iPhone, a device that's fairly secure by default--the need to protect the device has been overshadowed by the increasing need to secure our online interactions.

 

So, should you still include antivirus software in your IT budget?


How the Cloud Is Changing Security

Until recently, I've been a big believer in the idea of securing both your device and your browsing activities. The general consensus amongst CIOs was to protect their teams with both an antivirus to secure their computers and mobile devices and a personal VPN to protect employees against online threats. However, I had coffee a couple weeks back with Monish Bhatia, a security expert over at MacNN who's been writing about these issues for years; he posed an interesting question that made me think twice about the need for antivirus: "Do we really need antivirus if we're using a personal VPN and thus securing all browsing, passwords, websites visited and our personal privacy in the cloud?"

 

To understand the answer to this question, we have to think about how viruses infect our devices. In the old days it was through installing floppy disks or thumb drives. Now that those are long gone, most viruses infect your device through the Web or via email exchanges. But if both the Web and your email are protected by cloud security, it's highly unlikely that viruses will ever make it as far as your device. If this is the case, will the need for antivirus software be less important in the future?

 

Think Beyond the Device

As more and more businesses and consumers entrust reams of precious, and highly confidential, data to the cloud, direct threats to devices become less relevant than the threat of compromising our identities or personal data--via Google docs, Dropbox files, passwords, search activities, or sites visited--online. Every week, stories of massive hacks, stolen data, and compromised security pepper the headlines. From Google and LinkedIn to Lockheed Martin and Citibank, giants in the tech, banking, and defense sectors--just to name a few--have been hacked in recent months. But it's not usually their devices that come under direct attack; it's a weakness in their security systems that make them vulnerable to hackers. (Identity theft affected 10 millions Americans last year, and your identity is a lot more likely to be stolen online than anywhere else.)

 

Enter cloud security players that protect the Web, rather than the device, and the role of antivirus companies is greatly diminished. When my company launched Hotspot Shield, an app that encrypts all pages visited and enables users to stay completely private when browsing the Web, we weren't sure how big the demand for secure browsing and identity protection online would be. But with the move to the cloud, we've experienced firsthand the need to secure not only the device, but all online interactions and browsing.

 

I'm certainly not encouraging businesses to scrap their antivirus protection, but it's essential that companies pay more attention to securing their online activities. By doing so, you'll eliminate many of the threats that antivirus companies try to solve, before these threats ever make it near your devices. Just the way a good highway patrolman secures the highways to protect the cities, properly securing your business in the cloud will keep your data and, in turn, your devices out of hackers' reach, before it's too late.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

iPhone_5_34L_Black.jpg

by Christina DesMarais


iPhone 5 customers will be able to store loyalty cards and coupons on their devices. Here's how to make sure they can access yours, too.

 

When the iPhone 5 was unleashed to the masses on Sept. 21, they arrived in consumers' hands with iOS 6 and a new app called Passbook. If that last part doesn't mean much to you, read on--because it should.

 

Passbook is an app that stores things like boarding passes, coupons, loyalty cards, and tickets on your iPhone. It's location aware, meaning if you show up at the airport it will zap your boarding pass to your lock screen so you don't have to fumble around in email or elsewhere looking for it; or if you have money stored on a Starbucks tab, it will automatically pull up your card when you enter a store so you can pay for your latte by scanning your phone at the POS.

 

If you're Starbucks or Delta Airlines, Passbook is great for business. But what about the little guys? If you're a small business can you build passes that work in Apple's new OS?

 

Your Ticket into the iPhone 5

Yes, you can build passes--thanks to a Silicon Valley start-up called Tello.

 

Ever since Apple announced Passbook at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Tello has been working on a new product called PassTools which helps businesses build and manage passes for the app.

 

PassTools-PQ.pngIt lets businesses--from independent store owners who want to create a simple coupon to huge enterprises looking to generate hundreds of thousands of passes every day--build passes in minutes.

 

"We've built the world's first visual pass builder so you can go in and start specifying 'I want the background to be this color' and 'I'm going to put my logo in the upper left corner,' so you can upload images. You can type in text and every time you change something it shows up right on the screen next to where you're building it," says Tello founder and CEO Joe Beninato.


The Specs

In addition to the pass builder in PassTools, other features include a template builder for high volume personalized passes, the PassTools API for managing passes as well as a dashboard that gives you analytics regarding the passes you've created.

 

"Without a tool like ours, building a pass is not something that a typical small business owner would be able to do. You'd have to understand and write in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation, which is an XML-like data format), get a developer certificate from Apple--which requires $99 annual fee--and have the ability to generate certificates and bundle things together and do builds," Beninato says. "It's just a fairly technical process. We're trying to simplify that for people."

 

You can try PassTools for 30 days with no credit card required--just  an email address and a password, Beninato says. After that, it's $99 a month for the basic plan, which lets you build up to 1,000 passes. A premium tier is $999 a month and lets you do up to 20,000 passes and a third tier for enterprises who need to do more than 20,000 passes is available for a negotiated rate.

 

"I think this area is going to explode in the next couple of years. You're already seeing Google Wallet hot on the market. Now it's Apple's turn with iOS 6 and I think businesses are going to have to decide how actively they want to support some of these new technologies," Beninato says. "It's a huge boon for consumers. You won't have to carry around all these airline cards and coupons and whatever else in your wallet. Now it will all be built into your phone and someday that will include credit cards as well."

 

To try PassTools, visit PassTools.com.

 


iPhone 5 Image Courtesy of Apple

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.


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