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Online Small Business Accounting Services for Improved Accuracy

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It is quite a challenge to run a small business these days and owners have to wear many hats in order to get the job done. When you are taking it upon yourself to handle a lot of tasks, you are bound to mess up at some point, and if an error occurs with your accounts it can be very expensive. Additionally, fixing such errors wastes valuable time that you could be using to manage key administrative issues that are vital to your business.

Owners often face a dilemma in this situation as they cannot afford to hire a full-time professional accountant with their limited resources. This is the precise reason that SaaS models like small business accounting services and payroll accounting systems are becoming more and more popular with small business owners. Following are some of the benefits of such accounting services.

Additional Security

Use of the Internet’s increased security modules ensure your data is safe and secure so you don’t have to worry about unauthorized access, manipulation or theft. This is a common occurrence when your data is stored at your premises and can be accessed by anyone making your sensitive business information vulnerable to theft and manipulation. Since the reputation of these small business accounting services depends on safeguarding your data, they will go an extra mile to protect it.

Affordable Prices

These accounting services are far more affordable and accurate than a professional accountant hired locally. The online accounting services provide solutions to a large number of clients reducing their costs per client and making it more affordable to the marketplace. This is a classic win-win scenario for small business owners as they can get quality, reliable services at reasonable prices. At the same time, the switch from in-house accounting to online accounting enables employers to focus on more productive areas of their businesses.

Ease of Use

One added advantage of small business accounting services is that they are less complicated than your everyday accounting software which at times can be overly complex for the average business owner. You have the ease of sending your data automatically by email, or you can scan documents like payroll time sheets and then send them by email. Another advantage offered by most of the accounting services providers is the availability of a live professional 24/7 via online chat or email for any problem that you may run in to.

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Service Scheduling Software: Improve the Appointment Process by Turning to Cloud Applications

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Ask a service provider what’s one of the most important considerations in running a successful business, and he or she is most likely to say accurate appointments. From massage therapists and chiropractors to auto service centers and pet groomers, these small business operators rely on effective and efficient appointment-setting methods to ensure a good customer experience, the best use of staff time and resources, and, ultimately, a full calendar with every available time slot taken.

The appointment-setting process seems simple enough, but in many cases it’s a tedious and time-consuming task that requires a significant amount of staff hours and resources to properly handle. This is especially true for service providers who continue to rely on traditional and outdated scheduling methods, such as booking appointments and reservations primarily over the phone and recording the details and customer contact information in a paper appointment book, file or spreadsheet.

In today’s tough economy, few businesses have the option of one or more staff members devoted entirely to answering phone calls and writing down appointment information. That’s why a growing number of service providers are turning to Web-based scheduling systems to help them improve this important process.

INTERNET CONNECTION IS ONLY REQUIREMENT

Many small business owners and operators cringe at the very mention of computers, software and technology, as thoughts of expensive installations, hardware and ongoing maintenance flood their head. Cloud technology has eliminated the need to spend a small fortune on most software programs, and now many are as easy to access and utilize as online banking, social media sites or e-mail. They function in the same manner as any other Web site. Users simply go to the Web site or online portal, log in, and access their software. Such is the case of most Web-based appointment-scheduling software applications, which only require an Internet connection to implement.

The Web accessibility aspect also makes online scheduling software ideal for businesses with multiple locations and owners, administrators and staff that routinely conduct business from outside the office and need access to their appointment schedule from home or on the road. It’s also what differentiates itself from the more traditional “boxed” software that’s installed on individual computers. Those software programs typically confine the appointment calendar or schedule to one local computer, making access difficult unless the individual is working on that specific computer.

The science behind cloud-based scheduling applications also allow for some really beneficial features for both the service provider and its customers. Standard functionality found in online scheduling services includes:

• Online customer self-scheduling. This gives individuals the option to book their own appointments and reservations at their own convenience. The Internet is always open for business, and so are service providers who offer online customer self-scheduling. In addition to the benefit to customers who are increasingly conducting tasks online, this feature can also dramatically reduce the number of telephone calls, which in turn frees up staff for more pressing responsibilities.

• Automated e-mail and text message reminders. Reminders are appreciated by customers. They can also reduce the number of “no-shows” who fail to arrive at their scheduled times. They also can also require a considerable amount of staff time, resources and money. Some online appointment-scheduling programs will automatically send e-mail and text message reminders to customers prior to their scheduled appointment and reservations times.

• Record-keeping and reporting. Proper record-keeping is important for most business operations. But for many service providers, managing appointment details and contact information involves managing separate calendars, appointment books and spreadsheets. This information must then be sorted and organized to include in operating reports. Online appointment-scheduling software helps simplify this important task by centralizing all inputted information in one easy-to-reach location. Some programs even provide standard reports that take only a mouse click or two to generate.

• E-marketing capabilities. It goes without saying that accurate e-mail addresses are a key component of a successful e-marketing campaign. But maintaining and continually updating customer e-mail can be a job in itself. Just as online appointment scheduling software makes record-keeping and reporting a snap by centralizing and maintaining information, this concept also makes e-marketing a simple process. In some instances, a service provider may be able to send the marketing message right through the schedule without any additional steps. And because customers have the ability to update their contact information, the likelihood that the e-mails pulled are current is much greater.

Regardless of the type of service a business provides, chances are it can benefit from online appointment-scheduling software. Users of this technology include spas, salons, massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, home service providers, remodelers, pest control technicians, auto service shops and many others. For most operations, there’s not a more efficient or effective approach for managing, automating and improving their appointment-scheduling and reservation-booking processes. And since most appointment-scheduling providers offer a free trial of their service, there’s nothing to lose. Except, of course, the old and tedious way you previously scheduled appointments!

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Behavioral Sciences Online Career Training Options

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Gaining the education needed to pursue a career in behavioral sciences can be done by enrolling in an accredited online school or college. Students can choose to pursue their desired career by gaining the necessary skills and knowledge from the comfort of home. Online educational training is available at various levels of study for those looking to enter into this exciting field. Students can pursue an accredited associate, bachelor, master, or doctoral degree in behavioral sciences. Training is available in a number of specialized areas for students to choose from.

*Counseling

Students can train for a career in counseling or pastoral counseling with an online school or college. Training can last anywhere from four to eight years with a bachelor, master, or doctoral level degree. Coursework will vary by level of education and desired career. Subjects can include biology, human development, statistics, psychology, and many other relevant courses. Training in counseling will prepare students to enter into careers as mental health counselors, school counselors, counseling psychologists, school counselors, and other professions. Training online for an accredited education in this area will open a world of career opportunities for students.

*Human Development

Online schools and colleges allow students to train for a career in human development at their own leisure. Accredited programs can be completed at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degree levels. Students can expect to spend two to eight years on study depending on the level of education desired. Training is available through a number of subjects such as adolescent development, child abuse, adulthood, gerontology, and much more. Students can gain the skills needed to pursue careers in education, counseling, and more. Accredited online training in this area of the field can provide students with the means to enter the workforce.

*Sociology

Students who wish to gain the education needed to pursue careers in sociology can do so by enrolling in an online educational training program. Online studies are available at the diploma, certificate, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral level. Programs can range from six months to eight years depending on the level of education. Coursework may consist of social problems, humanities, social theory, communication, and more. Training will allow student to enter careers in administration, corrections, education, counseling, business, and much more. Students can prepare for their desired career by enrolling in an online sociology program.

*Psychology

Training for an accredited education in this area of the field can be done through various online schools and colleges. Students can gain degrees ranging from the associate level to the doctoral level. Training can be completed in two to eight years based on the individual student’s desires. Courses can include the study of biology, statistics, cognition, social science, development, and more. With training in these areas students can seek employment in therapy, psychological research, social services, and much more. Training in psychology will prepare students for the exciting career they desire.

An accredited education can be obtained through a variety of online programs. Students can gain the quality education they desire by ensuring that the school or college they choose carries full accreditation. Agencies like the Distance Education and Training Council (http://www.detc.org) are approved to accredited online behavioral sciences career training programs. Students can start by enrolling in the program of their choice today.

DISCLAIMER: Above is a GENERIC OUTLINE and may or may not depict precise methods, courses and/or focuses related to ANY ONE specific school(s) that may or may not be advertised at PETAP.org.

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved by PETAP.org.

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Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Satellite Internet Service Provider

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If you are a corporation in search of disaster recovery networking solutions, a first responder who may need connectivity from anywhere at any time, or you simply need broadband internet connectivity from remote locations you have probably considered that satellite may be your only reliable option. In the midst of a disaster many businesses and first responders may find themselves without communications of any kind due to the loss of terrestrial infrastructures, or the lack of it ever existing in the first place.

The problem is that most business professionals and emergency service workers do not have a complete understanding of the satellite business and the idiosyncrasies of communications via satellite, and why should they? Satellite communications is not their profession. In the quest for a satellite internet service provider there are certain questions you should be prepared to ask before you get locked into a contract for services that won’t satisfy your needs:

1) Do you have Non pre-emptible satellite space segment?

Satellite operators such as SES Americom, Intelsat among others lease space segment to satellite service providers. There are different levels of protection available in varying price ranges. Many service providers will opt to contract for pre-emptible space segment because it’s much less expensive and they can make larger profit margins which they may or may not pass on to their end users. Pre-emptible space segment gives the satellite operator the ability to deny access to the satellite for the service provider in the event of an on board equipment failure, or to make room for a service provider who is willing to pay the Non pre-emptible premium.

During large scale disasters such as the hurricanes in the Gulf States in 2005 many pre-emptible segments of satellite space were cleared to make room for government requests for satellite service leaving other service providers with no access. If you are considering contracting for service for disaster recovery applications it is highly recommended that you find service providers that guarantee that they have contracted for Non pre-emptible space segment. The service provider should be able to provide you with evidence of their service agreement with the operators if you ask. You may pay a little more each month for your non pre-emptible service, but at least it will be available when you most need it.

2) What is your “Over Subscription” or “Contention Ratio”?

Most satellite service providers who are providing Internet services are operating systems that use TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) based systems. A TDMA system is normally controlled by a central hub location which will command the remote units in the field to transmit their data when the hub is ready to receive it. This allows for many remote units to share the same slice of bandwidth improving the overall efficiency of the system. The transmissions from the remote units are sequenced at a very high rate, many times per second, which makes the service appear to be continuous.

However, the more units that are added to the system, the slower the service will be. A true enterprise level operator will never allow their contention ratio to exceed 20:1 or essentially 20 terminals per segment of bandwidth. Many operators that offer lower grade services will over subscribe their systems as high as 40, 80, 120:1 or more. Some operators may not be willing disclose this information to their end users. If a service provider will not tell you their contention ratio, you might consider looking elsewhere as their ratios are likely to be high. This will directly affect the quality of the service you receive. Enterprise level operators with contention ratios of 20:1 or less will charge more for their services since they have fewer users for their contracted space segment. But, you get what you pay for.

3) What is your system Latency, and does your hardware or software include TCP/IP acceleration?

Any IP transport platform will have a certain amount of latency that is inherent to the structure of the system. Latency is normally measured by how long it takes for a TCP/IP “Ping” to be sent to a server on the other side of the transport link and be returned back over the link to the point of origin. Satellite systems, due to the physics involved will have much higher latency figures that any terrestrial link. Data is transmitted to the satellite at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. The satellite is located 22,223 miles above the equator.

For a ping to make its round trip it must travel up to the satellite, back to earth to the server, up to the satellite again and back to the origination point. This is a round trip is approximately 88,892 miles. When calculated with the speed of light, in a perfect world the round trip will take about 448 milliseconds. When you add in coding delays and processing delays you can increase that figure by 100 to 250 milliseconds. On an efficient system, a round trip ping should take between 550 and 700 milliseconds (225 ms one way in each direction).

Many lower grade systems on the market today will actually return ping times of 1200 milliseconds or greater which is too slow to allow for functionality of certain software applications. Some system operators have added TCP/IP acceleration products to their equipment. This can either be a hardware or software solution. Acceleration of TCP/IP does not speed up the actual transmission as it is already being transmitted at the highest speed possible, the speed of light. The acceleration is achieved by modifying the TCP protocol in ways that allow for more efficient transmission over high latency networks such as satellite. Acceleration can significantly improve the speed of loading web pages, so it is a highly desirable product to have. Most of the products are not capable of accelerating encapsulated data such as VPN’s, but the system should still pass that data, however more slowly. Be sure to ask whether or not the system has an acceleration product included.

4) Does your system support VoIP, VPN, and Streaming Video transmissions?

If you have certain applications that you intend to operate, be sure to inquire whether or not these applications are supported on the system. VoIP (Voice over IP) for telephone connectivity is becoming a very common need in satellite communications. All types of users from emergency services to business continuity are asking for telephone connectivity. The biggest concern most prospective users of VoIP over satellite have is that the latency will be too high for effective voice communications. This has largely been proven to not be true. In fact, most cellular telephone systems will experience as much or more delay in their systems than VoIP over satellite. Most satellite providers will support these systems, but if the system latency is more that about 800 milliseconds, you may experience difficulty carrying on a conversation. Some service providers will also sell VoIP equipment. If you choose to purchase from them, or on your own you will want to make sure the equipment includes good voice compression.

Most off the shelf VoIP systems that are not designed for use with satellite will occupy between 40 Kbps and 90 Kbps of bandwidth to complete each call. If you purchase 128K of satellite uplink bandwidth you may consume all of your bandwidth with one or two phone calls leaving none for internet access for your computers. There are compression VoIP systems available that have been designed for use over satellite that will use as little as 8 Kbps per phone call and the call is toll quality. There are even compression systems that will allow for a 1544 Kbps T1/PRI connection over less than 256 Kbps of satellite bandwidth. You will also want to inquire about connectivity to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). When the signal lands at the hub it will need to connect your VoIP traffic to a telephone line. Some service providers will provide this service for a fee; some will not provide it at all, so be sure to ask. If you need to operate a VPN over the system, keep in mind that it will likely not be accelerated over the satellite.

Acceleration of VPNs can be achieved with external hardware; however it is normally up to the customer to provide that equipment. There are some systems, mostly consumer grade, that will not support VPN’s at all or there are additional charges so be sure to ask. The same goes for Video transmissions from a streaming device, or a web cam. Video streams are highly bandwidth intensive applications and most service providers will require dedicated bandwidth for these applications. The pricing for dedicated bandwidth will be substantially higher than the shared ratio pricing as it consumes 100% of the bandwidth 100% of the time. If you are planning to stream video to multiple receive sites it is recommended that you stream the video over the satellite to a server, and allow other users to get the stream from the server. This way there is only one active stream over the satellite where the bandwidth is expensive.

5) Do you offer CIR or CRA services?

CIR (Committed Information Rate) and CRA (Committed Rate Assignment) are different acronyms with the same meaning. It is dedicated satellite bandwidth that is usually required by the service provider if you intend to operate high bandwidth applications such as video streaming over the satellite. Most enterprise level service providers offer CIR/CRA packages, most consumer level operators do not. The pricing for these services will be significantly higher than shared ratio services, so be prepared. Some providers also require CIR/CRA services for VoIP. Be sure to inquire if this is something you need as some operators may not volunteer this information until it’s too late.

6) How many public IP addresses do I get?

Many consumer level services do not assign public static IP addresses for you to use. This is primarily why they don’t support services such as VoIP and VPN. Enterprise level providers usually provide at least one address, some will provide more. Most providers will give you a fixed number of addresses with your service and charge you if you want additional static IPs. The recommended way to avoid the additional charges is by using your own router on the system and natting your own addresses. Some systems will not support natting so be sure to inquire if this is what you need.

7) Do you have a FAP?

A FAP or Fair Access Policy is a set of rules that you agree to abide by when contracting for their services. They also will include certain restrictions on your service. Read this policy very carefully as the providers like to include wording that can seriously restrict your usage. Some service providers will “meter” your throughput on the system. If you reach a certain level of usage, usually recorded in Kbps, or Mbps they may restrict your bandwidth to a low level, or cut off your service entirely until the next billing cycle. It is very difficult to measure your own usage since most people have no Idea how many Kbps are sent or received when loading a web page. The FAP is also where the provider will spell out the rules of usage concerning applications such as streaming video and VoIP. Going over that document with a fine toothed comb will be in your best interest.

8) What will be my actual measured speeds?

The service providers will sell you a specific rate plan that will have an uplink or return data rate, and a downlink or forward data rate. This will usually be expressed in a manner such as “128/512” or sometimes “512/128”. The larger number will always be the forward channel which is your downlink as a user. Most providers will not tell you that the speeds include IP overhead. Every internet system whether its satellite or terrestrial uses IP protocols that require a certain amount of bandwidth to process the IP traffic. Because of the overhead you can expect that your actual measured payload speeds will be around 20% lower than what you are paying for. Actual speeds can be measured by running a speed test from a PC over the satellite link.

If the service provider has their own speed test server at the hub location this will give you a more accurate test of the satellite link than an Internet based speed server. The internet based servers have too many variables to obtain accurate results since the data is being transferred over connections that are not under your control, or theirs. Most systems will be similar in their IP overhead usage, but be aware of this when you purchase your service. If you don’t think the speeds will be high enough when you factor in the 20% overhead you may want to consider a higher service level plan.

9) What Pricing plans do you offer?

In your search for a service provider you will likely encounter a multitude of pricing plans. Each provider will create pricing structures that meet their business model, and that will give them an edge over their competition. Because of this you may find it difficult to compare price. All providers will offer full time 24x7x365 service plans. Some will also offer plans based on usage, and some will sell daily or hourly plans. There are even providers that will sell service for a fixed number of days each month. These plans can be attractive as you will not likely use a system designed for disaster recovery every day of the month, so why should you pay for full time service? If you are comparing price between providers it is easiest to look at their full time rates to determine the cost. However, keep in mind that operators base their pricing on their cost for the satellite space segment. If they are charging less it may be because they don’t have non pre-emptible space or because they operate with high contention ratios, or both.

10) Do you offer other services such as terrestrial connectivity and collocation?

Be sure to inquire about value added services such as collocation space and terrestrial connectivity. Unless you are only buying internet access and have no need for VoIP, streaming, or data backup, you will likely need these services. Some service providers will provide connectivity to the telephone network, and some will not. If you need dial tone you will probably want to contract for that as well. For disaster recovery solutions it is highly recommended that you originate your dial tone from a safe location that is far away from the affected area.

In many disaster scenarios the terrestrial connectivity including cellular phones will not be available. It is important that this is taken into account when designing a backup network. Some of the satellite providers will also offer services to back up corporate or government server data at the satellite hub location. This is highly beneficial to the customer as it provides both off site storage of valuable data, and easy access to that data via the satellite when it is most needed. A satellite hub with a collocation facility can be a powerful tool, and should be highly considered when contracting for satellite services.

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Preparing The Merchandising Mind: How To Use The Four P’s Of Marketing

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In the business world of merchandise marketing, competition is fierce. So if you’re planning on trying your own luck in the game, you better come prepared with business strategies and marketing plans that will be sure to hold their own against the competition. If you’ve ever taken a marketing class while studying for a merchandise marketing degree or independently, then you have probably learning about the four P’s of marketing. If not, or if you need a review, we have listed the four P’s below, and how they all contribute to a stellar marketing strategy.

1. Product. In merchandise marketing, it is important to remain impeccably true to the product you are trying to sell. Think hard about all of the different features of the product. What sets your product apart from all the others? Why would someone benefit from choosing your product or service compared to others in the market that are similar? Make sure you play up these aspects in your marketing plan, and make it clear to consumers why your product is superior.

2. Placement. Nowadays, many people choose to shop online instead of going to stores. When it comes to strategizing how to market your product, you must consider if you think sales would do better on the internet, in stores, or perhaps both. Given your industry, where might your customers expect to find you? Are your locations convenient and accessible? Do they make sense, given the product you are marketing?

3. Promotion. Promotion is where the real marketing strategy comes in. A promotion strategy usually refers to the way in which you are going to let people know about your product. Additionally, a promotion strategy gives you the chance to offer incentives for interest in your product. Maybe you are going to give away coupons with purchase. Maybe you are holding a grand opening gala event of your store, etc…

4. Price. How will you determine your product’s pricing structure? Setting a price often requires a little bit of industry research. Look for other similarly-marketed products that are similar to your own. Find out the pricing range of this type of product. Determine what the cheapest prices are versus the most expensive you can find. The trick is to price your item competitively without unnecessarily lowering your product’s value.

This concludes your review of the four P’s of marketing. Now it is up to you to launch your product successfully, using your very own merchandise marketing skills!

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Are There Any Differences Between An Entrepreneur And A Small Business Owner?

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We use the terms entrepreneur and small business owner interchangeably. Are they the same or are there any differences? I decided to do some research to get answers to these questions. My findings say an entrepreneur and a small business owner (SBO) are not the same; therefore, we cannot use the titles synonymously.

Although you start out as a small business owner, somewhere along the way you either remain a SBO or you become an entrepreneur. If you are contented with earning enough profits to live a comfortable life and keep your business afloat, chances are you are a small business owner. This type of income replaces your income stream, which you earned from traditional employment. You really are not interested in growing or expanding your business. More than likely you will keep the business in your family.

Maybe you are not satisfied with the status quo, and you are very ambitious and have the drive to go beyond just surviving. You would fit the definition of an entrepreneur. You will take more risks. Entrepreneurs enjoy learning through growing and expanding their businesses. Some establish businesses for the purpose of resale after realizing a certain amount of wealth. It may take a lifetime for a small business owner to earn wealth compared to approximately five years for a successful entrepreneur.

Another difference is how innovative are you. Small business owners are not the type to “think out the box”; whereas, entrepreneurs come up with new ideas, innovations, and products, as well as construct creative, strategic marketing plans.

If you are the type who works in their business, you would be considered to be a small business owner. You are more repetitive. On the other hand, if you tend to strategically work on your business, evolving it, change target markets, if necessary, you are an entrepreneur. As a SBO, you tend to not change markets. In addition, your markets may be more general when compared with entrepreneurs who target markets are more focused.

In regards to staffing, if you are a small business owner, you may have employees, which would involve having to pay employee-related expenses; such as, benefits and taxes. As an entrepreneur, you may choose to work with independent contractors rather than having employees work for you.

There are some of you who tend to have characteristics of both groups. For example, as an entrepreneur, you may choose to keep the business in your family, just like a small business owner, rather than selling it. In addition to having this in common, there are similarities in operating your businesses. Both of you have to do some degree of advertising and marketing, as well as daily administrative functions.

Overall, a notable difference is as a small business owner, you tend to need motivation; whereas, if you can be described as an entrepreneur, you are fuelled by ambition, drive and inspiration. Although similarities exist among the two groups, according to my research findings, the two terms are not interchangeable, and there are significant differences.

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Top 7 Terminologies to Know If You Just Started in Internet Marketing

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Conversion rate in internet marketing means the amount of people that does something that you want them to do. So for example, if you have a sales page that have 1000 unique visitors a day and you have approximately 10 people a day that actually buy your product, that means you have a 1% conversion rate.

Gravity is a term used by ClickBank to represents the popularity rating of a product. The gravity number is a measure of how many different affiliates which actually earned a commission by promoting that particular product from the last 12 weeks. In short, gravity determines the “hotness” and the competition level of a product.

PPC is stands for Pay Per Click. What this means is you are willing to have your advertisement displayed by Google and you are also willing to pay for a certain amount of money whenever somebody clicks on your ads. For example, you have put an ad on Google and it viewed a thousand times but nobody clicks on it then you don’t need to pay. On the other hand, if you put another ad and it only viewed a hundred times but received 30 clicks then that means you have to pay 30 times.

CPC is related to PPC and it stands for Cost Per Click. It is the certain amount of money that you are willing to pay for a single click on your advertisement that brings you one visitor to your website or sales page. So for example, your sales page got 500 unique visitors from your ad campaign and Google ask you 25 cents for each click your ads received, then that means you have to pay Google 125 dollars.

CPM works almost the same like CPC and it stands for Cost Per Thousand (M is a roman numeral for thousand). But the difference is you paid the advertisers a certain amount of money every thousand times your ad is viewed. It doesn’t matter how many clicks you received from this ad as long as your ad has been viewed by 1000 visitors you have to pay some money.

CTR is stands for Click Through Rate, it means the same like conversion rate but only used for online advertising campaign. For example, if you have an ad and a hundred people see that and then only 1 person clicks on that ad then that means your ad has a 1% CTR.

Lead/Opt-in/Subscriber is another term that is used in list building and it means a person that is willing to be put on your list by giving you their name and email address so you can follow through them using their email address.

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