|By Mat Rider||
|June 26, 2014 08:01 AM EDT||
8 Tips for Going Paperless In Your Small Business
Ray Coleman is a small business owner who writes about money management, green living, and sustainability.
One of the great benefits of the modern age is the ability of small businesses to conduct a majority of their operations in the digital realm. Eliminating the need for bulky file cabinets, storage facilities, photocopiers, printers, and scanners can reduce overhead dramatically. Replacing costly courier services with emails, and swapping out newsletters and solicitations for social media and web-based marketing programs means serious cost savings, as well.
Essentially, all of this comes down to replacing paper with pixels. By taking your business green, you're not only helping the environment, you're freeing up a ton of working capital for your venture – and often creating a better and preferred experience for your customers, partners, suppliers, and employees. For some very effective strategies to help take your small business paperless, read on.
1. Use Google Apps For Business
The suite of apps offered by Google can help small businesses cut down on the amount of paper documents they need. Use Google Mail and Chat to communicate online with your staff and clients. Collaborate electronically on projects via Google Docs - its word processing and spreadsheet functions can be contributed to and saved by multiple members of a group. For non-Google Docs files, share them through Google Drive. Insist that your staff work solely off their devices and you can cut back significantly on the wasteful use of paper.
2. Switch to Electronic Payroll and Accounting
Reduce the number of paper invoices and checks your business sends out by taking your payroll and accounting needs online with the FreshBooks website. It's a cloud-based accounting solution designed specifically for small business owners that allows you to create invoices and track expenses and hours worked all with an intuitive software interface and solid customer support. Freshbooks offers mobile apps as well, so you can handle all of your accounting responsibilities on your tablet or smartphone if you happen to be on the go.
3. Cut Down on Faxed Documents
If clients or other businesses you work with still fax documents, sign up for a service that converts incoming faxes to email messages. Two companies to consider are MetroFax and MyFax. If you have to fax a document to another party, convert it into PDF form and send it through one of these services so that your recipient receives it in fax form on the other end.
4. Choose the Right Cloud Platform
When you go paperless you're going to need a cloud-based platform to store your documents, and when deciding on the right one always keep security in mind. There have been several notable security breaches involving cloud-based storage platforms, including an incident with one of the market leaders, Dropbox. Two additional and advantageous document storage websites with high security ratings are JustCloud and SugarSync.
5. Move Your Marketing Strategy Online
Marketing via email is a lot less expensive than a direct mail campaign, a lot less time-consuming, and more cost effective. In an article in the Harvard Business Review it was found that the response rate for direct mail marketing and email marketing was about equal, which means it can be of great advantage to your small business to adopt a digital marketing strategy. Send out email newsletters and offers, and stay on top of all your social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram using a tool like HootSuite, which streamlines all feeds and keeps you in sync with your social communities. According to an IDC research report sponsored by Facebook, 18 to 44-year-olds who own an iPhone or Android check Facebook an average of 14 times per day. That pales in comparison to the one time per day most of us check the post box.
6. Mobilize Your Paperless Strategy
When searching for ways to maximize your paperless activity, put your smartphone to use. To keep track of your expenses, use the Shoeboxed or Exepnsify apps to snap pictures of receipts and track business-related spending. You can also use the DocuSign app for signing and sending important documents for signature, instead of going through the process of printing, signing, scanning, faxing and emailing. Its high, enterprise-level security protocols make it the most attractive candidate in the eSignature industry.
7. Get Electronic Receipts For Office Supply Purchases
The next time you head out to Office Depot or Office Max to pick up miscellaneous supplies or larger purchases, ask to have your receipt emailed to you - it's one less piece of paper to keep track of. Establish folders in your email account to store these receipts as they arrive, so when the time comes to sort through your expenses you can have an easy job of it.
8. Reduce Junk Mail
The website DirectMail allows you to sign up for its National Do Not Mail List. Fill out the form, including your small business's address, and you can significantly reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. This cuts down on waste and frees up more time for you to take care of what's really important.
Going paperless may make you feel a bit more vulnerable, knowing there are no hard-copy backups of what you've stored in the cloud. If that's the case, get an external hard drive and transfer all of your documents onto it. Also consider signing up for a second cloud-based service, simply for backup purposes. This way you've got multiple means of protection should you suffer a computer crash or one of your cloud servers go down.
Fortunately, vulnerability is becoming a thing of the past for many individuals and small business with the strength and rapid evolution of cloud based businesses.
What tips do you know of for a small business wanting to go paperless?
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Jan. 30, 2015 05:00 AM EST Reads: 2,817
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Jan. 30, 2015 04:45 AM EST Reads: 3,109
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
Jan. 30, 2015 04:30 AM EST Reads: 3,150
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Jan. 30, 2015 03:30 AM EST Reads: 3,089
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
Jan. 30, 2015 03:30 AM EST Reads: 3,812
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Jan. 30, 2015 03:00 AM EST Reads: 1,862
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Jan. 30, 2015 03:00 AM EST Reads: 3,426
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Jan. 30, 2015 02:30 AM EST Reads: 3,007
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Jan. 30, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 3,030
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Jan. 30, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 3,029
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Jan. 30, 2015 01:00 AM EST Reads: 2,903
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
Jan. 30, 2015 12:30 AM EST Reads: 3,046
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Jan. 29, 2015 06:15 PM EST Reads: 4,102
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
Jan. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EST Reads: 3,043
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Jan. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EST Reads: 3,289
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
Jan. 29, 2015 05:00 PM EST Reads: 4,098
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Jan. 29, 2015 02:30 PM EST Reads: 2,632
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
Jan. 29, 2015 02:15 PM EST Reads: 3,197
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Jan. 29, 2015 01:30 PM EST Reads: 2,049
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Jan. 29, 2015 01:15 PM EST Reads: 2,554