Nowhere do acronyms and buzzwords get thrown around more than in the world of business IT & software! The terms ‘cloud computing’ and ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), have been a round for a few years now, but they may still be new to you.
Even if you’ve heard about ‘the cloud’ and SaaS, you may still be wondering exactly what it is – and more importantly, if it’s something you should be considering for your business.
In these short videos, you’ll get an overview of what SaaS is, how it works in conjunction with cloud computing, and also whether it’s right for your business.
In recent times, we have all become familiar with cloud services and the idea that not everything needs to be on the server within a business. A new addition to these style of services is known as the Software as a Service or SaaS. But what is it and what potential pros and cons are there for the average business? We had a brief look at SaaS in a previous post, but we wanted to go into things in a bit more detail, looking at the pros and cons, so you can decide if it’s someting that might be right for yiur business.
For many years, the model was simple – if you wanted a piece of software, you bought it to install on your system, with an on-premise license that incorporated the number of users within your organisation. This meant that the software seller got a big payment from you at the beginning and then hoped you took upgrades and add-ons during the life of the software. The biggest problem with this was that the business could find it had spent a lot of money on software and it didn’t do what they needed. The initial cost also priced out small and even medium sized companies.
The development of the internet, with high speed connections and reliability of service, has forever changed how businesses obtain and use software. The newest version of these concepts are the Software as a Service distribution model and this is becoming increasingly popular with businesses around the world. It allows both businesses and consumers to lease pieces of software that are delivered over the internet. The flexibility and affordability of these service mean that revenues from SaaS look set to reach $106 billion by next year, a growth of 21% over 2015.
All of this sounds great for businesses but then natural scepticism comes on – is it really as good as it sounds? What are the downsides?
Firstly, the pros in favour of using SaaS. For starters, affordability is definitely a huge benefit for any size company. Because the software is leased rather than owned, the pricing is completely different. Ongoing subscription fees, often on a monthly basis is the normal payment method and allows businesses to pay for only what they need rather than a set package. It is also simple to increase the license if you add more employees or decrease it if you reduce your numbers.
The internet basis of the software makes it quick to install and to update and is easy to move from one location to another if your employees work in different locations, such as working from home.
The biggest potential problem with SaaS is that if you lose your internet connection, you lose the ability to access the software. So while your business may be able to operate without the internet, you could be hampered by a loss of software.
Infrastructure needs also to be good enough to handle the software needs and if you are based in an area with limited bandwidth, then operating these internet-based software programs may be tricky or time consuming.
The biggest worry about the internet in general is security and this concern can also effect cloud systems and SaaS software. This can be as much with the business themselves as with the software and up to date security protections are essential for both parties.
Some of us don’t like change, but if you want your business to grow, change is necessary. So if you’ve been clinging onto the belief that you don’t need ‘fancy’ business software to help your company grow, this short video from Electric Cloud explains how every business is a software business.
There’s lots of great things about being a freelancer but without doubt one of the downsides is doing your own accounts – unless of course you’re an accountant yourself! For this reason, many people are turning to software to deal with their accounts and to make the whole job much easier, whether completing self-assessment or handing the information over to an accountant to finish the process. Here we look at a few the best.
Why use software?
When you are self-employed, you want to save as much money as possible and doing your own books is one area that seems pretty straightforward. Read HMRC’s website or gov.uk and it will tell you all you really need is a spreadsheet showing incoming and outgoing amounts. But what this doesn’t tell you is what you might be entitled to claim for against your tax payment and any items you need to include that you may not realise. For this reason, many freelancers are now using a combination of a good piece of software and experienced contractor accountants to ensure they are paying the right tax. Getting the right accounting advice for Contractors is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most from your software, and taking advantages of all the allowances that are available to you.
KashFlow is a piece of account software designed specifically for freelancers and for small businesses. It is a web based system that also comes with a number of big name apps including for the iPhone and Android – allowing you to add information from a smartphone or tablet. It has balance sheet, expense tracking and invoice facilities as well as producing profit and loss statements.
The package has a free trial available and there is no credit card needed to try this while you then pay a monthly subscription starting from £5 a month. In terms of support, the package offers a knowledge base with video tutorials to assist users with any problems. There is also both phone and online support available.
QuickBooks is designed for small and medium businesses as well as enterprise users and as well as offering the software to download, it also has both an iPhone and an Android app to use with smartphones and tablets. It has a no credit card required free trial and then is subscription based, with prices from £6 a month. It also allows the creation and management of invoices.
Support is both on the phone and online while there are also a number of video tutorials for users to get to know the system. As with some of the other cloud-based accounting system, there are QuickBooks packages that allow access for your chartered accountants, to make your end of year accounts and tax returns even more painless.
FreeAgent is also designed for small businesses as well as freelancers and is a web based software package with an Android and iPhone app as well. It allows creating balance sheets including multi-currency as well as profit and loss statements and sales reporting. It can also integrate with Google Drive and PayPal to simplify processes.
The package is available at a free trial without a credit card and then is subscription based with costs from £19 a month. It also has comprehensive support including online and on the phone while there is a knowledge base to access and video tutorials to help learn the system.
Gone are the days of businesses spending huge amounts of money to buy a software license for a large piece of software. This software would often contain elements the business didn’t need and cost more than they would really like to spend but were left with no option. Today, there are cloud services and software as a service products that mean these days are gone. But buying business software can still be filled with pitfalls and wasted money so here are some top tips to help get the best for your business.
Type of Software
For many businesses, software as a service (SaaS) or other cloud products are usually the way to go. However, there are situations where physical software may still be the best option. One reason for this may be if the business is in an area with slow internet connection speeds – this would mean it would take a long time to upload software and updates. Or it may be that specialist software is required that is still only available via physical software options.
Finding the Right Product
Once the business knows whether they want physical or cloud based software, then the hunt begins. It can be a very time consuming and sometimes confusing job to find the right software and for this reason, many companies choose to get professional help from an IT support company. These are experts who deal with all aspects of software from its acquisition to maintenance and can be a cost effective option to employing someone to deal with the business’s software.
Whether you choose IT support or do it yourself, choose software that offers a top support structure. This covers if something goes wrong but also when there are updates or amendments needed. Look for 24/7 cover in the case of a problem as well as comprehensive solutions for upgrades and updates. Alternatively, if you use the IT support option, discuss their service in this area before engaging their services.
Once you have the software you want, you then need to teach your staff to use it. Look for software that comes with or can provide training for your staff. Ideally this should be using the internet rather than sending them somewhere for an expensive training session, though this may be needed with some specialist software.
After what it does and what it costs, security is perhaps the most important issue for anything computer related today. Knowing that the software has the right security built into it or that it works alongside the software in use is crucial. Cyberattacks are continuing to grow and become more complex so businesses need to know that everything on their systems or that they use is safe and secure.
Choosing software can be a major decision for your business with far reaching consequences. Doing it yourself can work but by using the services of an expert, this can remove the stress of the decision and allow you to focus your attention on other areas of the business.
At one time when you needed to hire someone for your business, you had someone do the job. They would advertise, get bombarded by CVs or phone calls then have to spend ages sorting through it all to find the right people to interview. But now there is a high tech way to get most of the work done without needing to take over someone’s life – the applicant tracking system.
What are applicant tracking systems?
An applicant tracking system, often referred to as ATS, is a piece of software that can handle most of the recruitment process for a business. It can either be installed on the business’ servers or can operate across the internet, known as SaaS or software as a service. This means it operates via the cloud and doesn’t have to be run in the business premises, taking up capacity and meaning there is something else to maintain.
There are different types of software, depending on the needs of the business. The three main categories are enterprise, staffing agencies and small-medium businesses. Each has a slightly different focus and is designed for an area of business.
Is ATS right for your business?
The biggest thing to consider when looking to use ATS is do you have someone within the business who can either use it or learn to use it? There’s no point investing in it if your recruitment person won’t use it and it simply sits there, tracking nothing. Many of the systems are relatively easy to use but there is still a certain level of computer literacy required.
The other thing to consider is what features does the system offer and what do you need? Most ATS can work across multiple job sites, allowing you to collect applicants from around the internet. But they don’t do everything in the process. For example, they can’t do checks to ensure the candidate is eligible to work in the UK or other background checks. For that you will still need a suitably qualified and experienced background checking company like uCheck. You may also need to find out more about DBS (CRB) checks to comply with regulations affecting your business and ATS isn’t able to do this.
What it does
What ATS does do is to help you find the right candidate by getting rid of all the ones who don’t fit your requirements. You can establish a social media search to find people across LinkedIn and other websites as well as integrate it with an employee referral program for those suggestions that staff make about suitable candidates.
ATS can also manage the search and your recruitment funnel. This is ideal if the first candidate doesn’t work out or another vacancy opens up. It can resume the search or be amended to take new criteria and be at work again in no time.
Businesses who use ATS have found a higher success rate than by using traditional methods alone. Many of the unsuitable candidates who sometimes sneak through are eliminated and the quality of those who remain are generally higher.
If you have a business, then you need a website. And if you have a website, you want it to appear in search rankings. To do this successfully, a business needs a sound strategy for SEO or search engine optimisation. While it is possible to undertake hours of learning and trying different strategies to have success, sometimes it can also be the best route to use some professional software to take the hard work out of the process. With the help of thegrapefruit.co.uk, an expert Search Engine Optimisation company based in London, we’re going to look at some of the best software currently available. Incidentally, these guys have more great SEO advice and infromation and you can catch up with them on Google+.
MOZ is more than just a piece of software, it is a collection of products aimed at improving a business’s SEO and internet presence. It offers an all-in-one set of SEO research and analytics tools as well as a free check to see how your business is listed on the internet – accuracy is key especially for local listings. In addition, they offer a MOZ Content option for content marketing, helping discover what customers want to read and what strategy will work for the business. Finally, their Followerwonk is ideal for polishing up the social media strategy and ensuring that a business presence is optimised and growing.
AWR is ideal if you have an SEO strategy but want to know if it is working and what needs to be done to improve it. The software puts all the SEO tools you need in one place including looking at keyword optimisation, link building and management as well as performance reporting and even analysis of competitors.
SEO Power Suite
SEO Power Suite is a combination of four different tools – Rank Trackers, Website Auditor, the SEO Spyglass and Link Assistant. Working together, the software package allows complete assessment of the company’s SEO in an easy-to-use platform that makes it ideal for even the smallest business. It does have limited options for exporting data and SEO reports as its only downside.
Web CEO is said to be one of the best software packages for the tracking and managing of your SEO efforts. It is user-friendly and has a range of tools to improve SEO strategy. There are also tools to help optimise those tricky keywords as well as building and managing links, as broken links can have a negative effect on SEO. Perhaps the only downside with the software is that it isn’t currently compatible with Mac systems.
Ahrefs is described as an ‘essential tool’ for serious content marketers or SEO. It allows in-depth analysis of both your SEO position and that of your competitors to see what is working and what isn’t. It includes rank tracker and crawl reports to get a feel for how your business places on SEO reports. It does have a slightly rudimental keyword tool and is a little pricier than some options.
So there you have it. Using software such as these packages can do what you need – whether this is setting up your SEO strategy, monitoring one that an SEO expert has instituted for you or changing direction in a meaningful way when things aren’t working. The range of tools available means that no matter what size your business is, there is a perfect match available for it.
Ask any software expert and they will tell you that cloud services and software as a service products are the way forward. They are more economical for businesses who can purchase just what they need and are easy to update over the internet. However, they also come with an inherent security risk, as does anything a business does on the internet. So what can a business do make their software as secure as possible?
Both cloud services and hacking are growth industries today with the demand for these easily personalised products increasing alongside the hackers attacking them. Recently, security experts found over twenty vulnerabilities in the popular SAP software that showed a cyberattack could give hackers control of financials, resource management and other operations.
This shows that even the big businesses face security issues. Take eBay, who in May last year advised all its users to change their passwords in light of a possible attack compromising their encrypted password data. In fact, in the US, almost 50% of adults have had data stolen.
To get an idea of just how sophisticated business information security needs to be, just take a look at this short video from HPE that outlines the threat from hacking, and demonstrates how important it is that all businesses start looking to make sure their information is totally secure.
The most important thought to take from all of this is that while you may not be able to totally guarantee the safety of your business software, there is lots you can do to help make an attack less likely or more difficult. While there are simple measures that can be put in place yourself, it can also be an idea to speak to the kind of specialists who provide the IT Services London businesses require, to discuss the security measures they can offer.
Basic tips for new software include changing the default passwords and account names as soon as you install this – by leaving them at the default settings, you are immediately creating a vulnerability.
Once the new software is installed alongside your security software, make sure you keep it up to date and install all security patches. Viruses and malware change on a frequent basis and security companies send out updates all the time to make sure software can deal with them. But if you don’t install these updates, your system could once again be vulnerable.
Speak to security experts about getting encryption software to protect any customer financial information that you hold. Alternatively, outsource payment collection to a third party company such as PayPal that guarantees the security of their payment system and protects both customer and business.
Consider carefully who needs access to sensitive information and how they access it. One of the biggest points of vulnerability for a business system can be staff using their own smartphones for business purposes – these phones won’t have the same level of security as the business system. By limiting the amount of people who access information, you also limit the chance of an error or someone creating a weakness without meaning to.
Security is perhaps one of the biggest concerns facing any business using the internet today. But the important thing for any business is to deal with the issues facing them and not simply hope that they don’t catch the hacker’s eye.