SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

7 THINGS YOU CAN OUTSOURCE A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

About one third of the people in the world are entrepreneurs today. And about half of them are not successful in this fast growing economy. One of the biggest reasons of this failure is because they are handling there business without any mentor or a helper. What do they think of themselves? Superman-Virtual AssistantThe man of steel?
Nowadays, entrepreneurs are focusing more on increasing their business revenue. They want to do all the tasks alone, and don’t have the time to do it. Then the downfall begins. The only person that can leverage your working hours and help upfront your business is the virtual assistant. There is no harm in hiring a competent virtual assistant, seriously. They become a part of your business and can remove that entrepreneurial stress from you-somehow.
Now, most of the entrepreneurs are oblivious of what and how they can outsource. They didn’t know what could a VA do for them or what tasks should we give to them.
Here are 7 main tasks you can give a Virtual assistant to increase or improve your business.

EMAIL MANGEMENT OF FILTERING:
Checking emails again and again in your inbox while doing a hard tasks will probably be a waste your time. A virtual assistant will manage your inbox and respond to most of emails on your behalf. Managing emails is easy but you should provide your account, password and some guidance to reduce the risk of getting an error.

DATA PRESENTATIONS:
Doing the research and collecting the data is a hard process. But turning that data into presentation or excel can be a time waster for entrepreneurs. Hiring a virtual assistant having an expertise in Microsoft programs can give you great benefit of saving time you would be wasting on smashing your head to make a word document or presentation.

BOOKKEEPING:
To hire a Virtual assistant to manage all the bookkeeping like making invoices, recording payments and extra bills is probably the hardest task to give. Because in this, you have given personal information of accounts and password to him or her. But if find a trustworthy virtual assistant, then thank God for this because that assistant will shave your working hours and that billing-paying stress too.

ONLINE RESEARCH:
If you are having a content writing job, you would know how hectic is it to gather all the information by doing research. So why not hire an assistant to find that relevant information. All you need to give is clear and sound instructions and a topic. So, easy, right?

 

Continue reading

5 Ways to Effectively Combat Data Theft and Data Loss

Data theft is no more targeted at only large companies. To be fair, large companies can spend on building firewalls and pay for top notch enterprise security. Small businesses are being targeted and why not?!

Attackers want easy targets, but you are also not going to let your hard work slide into the wrong hands. You do not want third data lossparty information stolen, or the record of clients compromised. Whether you are an individual entrepreneur or a small business owner, the last achilleas heel you want attributed to your operations, is your inability to keep data safe and secured. You do not also want to lose your hard-earned client data because windows will not start or because your hard disk crashed. Here are 5 ways to effectively combat data theft and data loss;

  1. Acquire a MiFi or a Personal Hotspot
    The ability to work on the go is a model which increases productivity. Sometimes the idea is not to move away from the office to work at the coffee shop, but it does happen, that you will receive a call requiring you to remotely solve a technical issue on your online shop to enable waiting customers make purchases. A situation like that can make you hurriedly connect to the open Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, forgetting that you are exposing your entire company to attackers. If you can acquire a MiFi, great, but if you are on a tight budget, speak to your network provider about the option to expand your data package to include a Personal Hotspot. This is a feature available in both Android and iOS. That way you can securely connect to your own network and not risk connecting to a public network which might just be betting on the wrong horse.
  2. Learn to Create Impregnable Passwords and Data Backups
    The password needed to log into your laptop should be close to impregnable at least. Always include CAPS, NUMBERS, lowercases and Symbols. Be shrewd about it, and do not concentrate all the characters in your password at one side of your keyboard. There is also the possibility of your laptop getting stolen. Make use of the free cloud space Google Drive and OneDrive offers. Budget for more if you must, because a hard drive can crash unexpectedly. Make local backups as well and change your HDD to SSD if you can afford it.
  3. Storage and Backups are not Enough
    So, you have been prudent by backing up your data online and locally on an external hard disk. That is not enough. Ransomware lurks all over the internet. Other malwares that can compromise data are multiplying. You need a strong anti-virus software which comes with a firewall that will manage your network connections and keep your computer safe when you connect to the internet or plug in a USB drive that is not yours. You also have to regularly keep an eye on the software which is responsible for syncing your files with your cloud storage to make sure backups are up to date.
  4. Collaborated Efforts can go Wrong
    Mistakes do happen, but some people are just careless and negligent by nature. These days collaborating on a project in shared files and folders are great, but there is always the danger of one colleague wrongfully deleting some files or exposing his/her computer to a data theft. You need to have your own local backup for whatever file your team is working on. Do not assume everyone will be careful, because all your efforts can go down the drain because of some elementary mistake by a colleague. Always assume the worse and look out for yourself and the team.
  5. Use Secured Links and Send Password Protected Documents
    Your business exists for your customers and you need them to achieve short and long term goals. As a small business, you cannot have your reputation ruined for mistakenly sending the right file to the wrong client. If that ever happens, only a password can save you, because you know only the right client has the password to access that file. Enterprise level security grants secured file sharing platforms and systems, and that makes working remotely safer. Small businesses cannot always afford such a service. Beware of sending sensitive links, and make sure there is some level of security created for clients to access their private data.
Continue reading

Microsoft releases Outlook.com Premium in the U.S. for $20 a year until March 31

outlook

Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

Microsoft’s Hotmail email service became Outlook.com in 2012, and since then the company has reworked it into arguably one of the best email services on the market. As a part of Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity platform, Outlook.com offers a full range of email, contact, calendar, and other capabilities to compete with services like Google’s Gmail.

Outlook.com has been going through a complete revision to its online experience, and Microsoft has been previewing a premium subscription that adds even more functionality. Now, Outlook.com Premium is officially available, although only to users in the United States, as Thurrott reports.

Read More

Continue reading

Advertising with Little or no Budget

Small and medium businesses are constantly faced with maximizing their marketing and advertising budget, which unfortunately, comes in dribs and drabs. They want to stay competitive, attain brand awareness, even brand loyalty … but the issue is always a budget which throws cold water on all those goals. marketing on a budgetThe good news is, the 10 points below might just put you (yes you, the small business owner) on cloud nine; call it the “five-finger discount” to achieving marketing and promotional goals with little or no budget!

  1.  Your first target market should be friends, family and acquaintances. Do not underrate the power they have to recommend your product or service to others in their circles. Also, market all the time. Utilize your time at the coffee shop by telling a stranger about your product. If you drive, take the bus or train sometimes and share the unique features of your product or service with strangers.
  2. Learn to give recommendations and referrals. Believe that that favor will be returned. If your shop is on the same block with another small business, recommend their products or services. However, you should do this only after you have used their product or service yourself. You do not want to recommend a substandard service or product to dent your reputation. You can even heighten the idea by collaborating with other small businesses in your environment to promote each other’s products. You can agree to leave flyers or brochures at each other’s shop.  
  3. Get an attractive logo and a catchy phrase. Make it available on your products, website, emails and anywhere possible. Be shrewd with branding; one that easily identifies your product or service. 
  4. Attend public events and give a speech if the opportunity presents itself. You do not have to be an expert in giving public speeches to take this up. For instance, if you know someone in the community who passed on, pass through the memorial service and ask the family members to share some few words. Make yourself known through supporting people in the community. They will surely return the favor.
  5. Create a blog for your business. Dedicate some few minutes weekly to write a post about the services you provide or the unique features of your product. Take advantage of developing trends when they relate to your products or services and write about it. Provide useful information on your blog and optimize words which will promote your goods or services.
  6. Create a loyalty program which would not take so much away from your profit. You can give discount coupons or voucher codes which will make customers make a return.
  7. Make follow ups and ask for feedbacks. Contact customers about their experience with your product or service to create or build a lasting relationship. Studies have shown a positive correlation between good customer services and recommendations.
  8. Give free trials in new markets. Be confident to entice customers to try out your product or service. Do not forget that people are more likely to purchase a product or service they have tried.
  9. Associate yourself with a group which is involved in community service or charity events. Organize blood donation events, get involved in volunteering activities and create relationships.
  10. Finally, tap into the power of social media. Do not underrate the power of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and any other social media platform out there. Do not be shy to ask for retweets. Grow your followers, generate interesting content on pages and beware of plagiarism. Try to be creative and make sure you have your products or services at the back of your mind at all times.


If these strategies will cost you anything at all, that will be time, but believe in the short, medium and long term returns they promise. If you have to take a free course online to learn a new skill to enable you implement any of these, try coursera.org and edx.org. The primary theme which seems to run through all these strategies is to engage people and create relationships. The money helps, but even those with the money to advertise are also engaging people. Above all, make your product or service kick-ass!

Continue reading

The effects of technology

The effects of technology underlie early twenty-first century global challenges. On the one hand, since the Enlightenment, technology, especially science-based technology, has offered the promise of a better world through the elimination of disease and material improvements to standards of living. On the other hand, resource extraction, emissions of dangerous materials, world closerand pollution of air, water, and soil have created conditions for unprecedented environmental catastrophe and have already caused irreversible damage to the biosphere. While the future might promise a vast acceleration of technological innovation, the scale and impact of environmental degradation may reflect this vast acceleration as well.
A related painful paradox is that, despite the ongoing technological revolution, the majority of the world population still lives in abject poverty with inadequate food, housing, and energy, plagued by illnesses that could be easily cured if clean water and simple drugs were made available. Fortunately, a significant number of former “developing” countries are now on the threshold of development, helped by technology transfer and technological innovations that have benefited large parts of their populations. Some countries, such as China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and, to a certain extent, Brazil, have followed their own technological trajectories. However, for large populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America the benefits of technology remain a dream, even if new technologies like photovoltaic cells, cellular phones, and the Internet could help them “leap-frog” towards the twenty-first century.
The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.
The Internet today is a widespread information infrastructure, the initial prototype of what is often called the National (or Global or Galactic) Information Infrastructure. Its history is complex and involves many aspects - technological, organizational, and community. And its influence reaches not only to the technical fields of computer communications but throughout society as we move toward increasing use of online tools to accomplish electronic commerce, information acquisition, and community operations.
The Internet is the information superhighway; it contains more information than we ever need. When we open our web browser, you get to your home page; from there, you can go to an unlimited number of destinations. Online, you can do just about anything: chatting, gaming, shopping and much more. People can literally spend their whole life on the Internet. They can attend an online school and get an online job. They can pay their bills and invest their money. They can order whatever they need online and have it delivered to them. The quirk is that you can do all that at the comfort of your own home in front of the computer screen. That is what happens when we use the Internet. As a result, the Internet cuts out the social interactions of our lives. With the Internet doing so many jobs for us, we have become lazy and non-social. We often ask questions like why go shopping when the Internet can deliver the products to your door or why go the library to research when you can do the same online. We may lose out on being social, but we save a lot of time. However, we spent the time we saved by using the Internet some more, such as MUDs and online gaming.
The truth of the matter though is that all these things are simply symptoms of our own psyche as a race and if you look at them slightly differently you’ll see that many of these ‘downsides’ actually represent progress and the positive effects of internet use.
Firstly, the accusation that the internet ruins ‘real life’ relationships is a bit of a misnomer and perhaps what people are forgetting here is that those people at the other ends of e-mails and on social networking sites actually are ‘real life’ people too. In the case of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you are actually more in contact with people than you would be otherwise and in fact need never lose contact with anyone ever again. Romantic relationships also benefit from the internet. For example, internet allows long-distance couples to talk every night without paying a ridiculously long phone bill on Skype or MSN, and it even allows them to see each other on the webcam. For those who lack the social skills or the opportunity to meet people in the traditional ways, it can be a great way to meet someone that they might not otherwise. Taking away the ‘physical’ element to begin with may even make the relationship less shallow and get both parties to visit new and exotic locations.
The Internet potentially reduces the importance of physical proximity in creating and maintaining networks of strong social ties. Unlike face-to-face interaction or even the telephone, the Internet offers opportunities for social interaction that do not depend on the distance between parties or convenience, but rather based on common interests. “People often use the Internet to keep up with those whom they have preexisting relationships”. However, they have also developed new relationships on-line. The Internet allows social contact at anytime, anywhere, and any circumstances, it allows people to connect with distant as well as local family and friends, co-workers, business contacts, and with strangers who share similar interests. Extrovert internet users who use the Internet extensively reported more community involvement than those who rarely used it. This might be because the users’ knowledge of the world increases and when compared with the rest of the world their local community may not be what they want – so they seek out to achieve this goal by being involved with the community. 
 
 
Continue reading