Coolest Things About the Cloud That You Might Not Know

You’ve certainly heard of the cloud. Even if you haven’t, you’ve been using it for years. It’s what enables you to access information on the internet that is stored on servers all over the world.

The cloud is expanding, enabling us to do more with the power of the internet than ever before. Businesses are finding it easy to keep up with compliance using cloud-based software and companies are able to store massive amounts of information without having to house a huge server in the building.

We all have a basic understanding of the cloud, but you probably don’t know these cool things about cloud technology.

You Only Have to Pay for What You Use
Do you remember the days of buying external storage devices? The more storage you purchased, the more expensive it would be. However, most people bought more storage than they needed. It was especially difficult for businesses to gauge just how much storage they needed and how much they would have to pay to ensure they have extra storage, just in case.
With the cloud, you only pay for what you use! When you need more, it’s there for the taking. There is no longer a need to pay for storage that you won’t use.

There Are Different Kinds of Clouds
People always talk about ‘the’ cloud, but it’s a lot more than just one concept. There are actually many different kinds of cloud computing that include:
• Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
• Platform as a Service (PaaS)
• Software as a Service (SaaS)
In addition, you can choose to operate entirely in the cloud, use a server on your premises, or a hybrid of both.

It Can Save You Time and Money
The most convincing reason to use the cloud, especially for businesses, is because it can help you save time and money.
In addition to the fact that you only pay for what you use, a company will also save money because they aren’t spending cash to maintain hardware and subscribe to software and other services that require monthly fees. You can also scale up or down instantaneously without having to spend days or weeks planning a new strategy.

You Might Not Ever Have to Worry About Backups or Disaster Recovery Ever Again
Losing important files is a nightmare that every business shares. It would be even worse if the system was compromised because it would prevent employees from getting their work done.
With the cloud, you may never have to worry about backups or disaster recovery ever again. Although you shouldn’t depend on the cloud completely, if you choose a cloud server that provides disk-based replication, you can rest even easier.

Don’t forget that the cloud is the reason why we’re finally starting to live in smart homes that look like the ones predicted in the mid-20th century! The cloud is here to stay, which means it’s well worth your time to learn everything about how it works.

10 Ways Progressive Web Apps Will Replace Native Apps

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are poised to topple their native app, soon-to-be predecessors from their throne atop the best mobile app development strategies pyramid. In other words, move over native apps, your younger and better-looking sibling is taking over. That said, don’t start pulling your hair out if your business has already invested in the development of a native mobile app. Your money hasn’t gone to waste. There’s still significant value to gain from having a downloadable native app. Mobile apps, no matter the breed, are going to enter a hybrid period where consumers expect both a native app experience and a progressive web app.

The future beyond that period, however, points towards a PWA-dominated landscape. In this discussion, we’ll take a look at ten reasons why PWAs are better than native apps and create a better app-like experience for customers.

1. The World Is Increasingly Mobile

At first thought, this may seem like a win for the native app column, especially when you consider that 87% of an average user’s time on their mobile device is spent on native apps. But, we’re also hurtling towards app fatigue. App fatigue is caused by two things:
1. There are too many apps on the marketplace (over 1.5 million)
2. Most users have downloaded “enough” apps on their phone

As more and more people shifted to browsing and using their mobile devices, app developers slammed the marketplace with apps to meet this demand. Many users are reaching critical mass with the number of icons and apps that they’ll allow to populate their mobile devices’ home screens. Thus, it’s becoming incredibly difficult to convince customers to commit to downloading a new app and crowding their screens even more.

2. Search Algorithms Will Favor Mobile Soon

Towards the end of 2016, Google announced that it would shift its search engine indexing algorithms to mobile-first indexing. This change is predicted to occur in 2018 and will mean that Google will look for a company’s mobile website or experience before its desktop website. You’d be hard-pressed to find better evidence than that of a mobile future. For companies with PWAs, this change is huge because it means that your app-like experience will soon be discoverable by Google and other search engines. This is a luxury that even native apps won’t be able to compete with.

3. Fewer Clicks Means Easier Accessibility

Search engines are just one way for users to connect to your PWA. These web-based apps have always had a key benefit over native apps: accessibility. Think about how many steps are involved in downloading a native app to your mobile device. You have to access your device’s app market, search the app, download the app, accept permissions and so on. Each step is a chance that the would-be user decides it isn’t worth it. PWAs, on the other hand, are accessible the moment a user learns of its existence, by accessing the experience through a URL link.

4. Shareable

People like to share the latest “new” thing they’ve discovered, read about, bought, tasted, touched, etc. That’s why every social media platform ever to make it big has a share function and why there are options to share this blog post at the bottom of the page. People like to share apps too, but native apps’ lack of accessibility has made this difficult. You can’t just send someone a native app. You can only tell your closest friends to check it out; it is then on them to visit the app store and see for themselves what the app is all about.

PWAs are unique, compared to their native counterparts, because they can be accessed through a simple URL link. This means that sharing a PWA experience is as easy as linking someone to a news article.

5. Usable Across More Platforms

The other detriment to native apps’ shareability is that not all apps function across different platforms. If your friend has an Apple device and you a Samsung, there isn’t a guarantee that they can get the same apps that you love on your Android-powered device because the language on their Apple devices is different. Native apps get their name because they require a native programming language. This restricts the types of devices that can “read” and allow the app to run.

Progressive web apps are unique because they don’t require any download or programming language to read. It is all web-based. Thus, not only can you easily share a PWA experience, but there’s a much higher guarantee that the recipient will be able to access the app-like website.

6. Minimal Storage Required

PWAs don’t require any sort of download; a user can access the entire experience right in their mobile web browser. Part of the app fatigue that many mobile users are facing is lack of storage. Between the apps we download, pictures/videos we take, documents we save and every other item taking up residency inside our mobile devices, we’re creating storage needs faster than the newest models of smartphones can keep up with. If a potential user has to decide between downloading your app or keeping photo #3,047 of their cat and an auto-tuned version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies saved on their device, it isn’t going to be a hard decision for them.

If you want to “download” a PWA, you can save a URL shortcut to your home screen. This functions exactly like any other icon for an app does on your home screen. When pushed, it accesses your favorite mobile browser and brings you to the URL of the PWA. Storing a URL link requires much less space than downloading an entire native app.

7. Faster Load Times

Once a native app has been installed on a mobile device, and the user has successfully committed to the whole download process, the waiting still isn’t over. The load time of native apps can range, based on the app’s size and robustness. Yet, any wait is a long wait, especially for something that you’ve already waited for to access and download. Again, progressive web apps have the edge; they load in about the time it takes to load a webpage, which with an average Internet connection is just a moment or two. For businesses, this means customers never have to wait to access your app experience.

8. Faster To Develop

Not only are PWAs easier and faster to locate and load, but they are also quicker to make. This makes them exceptional for one-off campaigns, new product releases or any other occasion where you need to bring an app to market very quickly. However, this perk does hint at the downside of PWAs; they lack the performance and number of robust features that native apps are capable of. While PWAs are more straightforward to develop, part of their ease of development is because they can’t handle a lot of the harder-to-code features that native apps can leverage.

9. Cheaper To Make, Easier To Maintain

The speed and ease at which a PWA can be developed means cheaper costs. This is excellent news for smaller businesses that have been kept out of the mobile development game because of the costs of creating a native app. Progressive web apps are also easier to maintain for both users and developers. Users don’t have to repeatedly update their app in order to get the latest features; updates are immediately applied to the web-based experience the moment the developers publish them. The developers of PWAs experience far less time to produce each update or provide general maintenance to the app.

10. PWAs Still Deliver A Lot Of Value

As mentioned earlier, PWAs do lack in one major category: performance. Native apps are capable of doing more and offering more than progressive web apps. That said, don’t count the more nimble PWA out of the count for features. First, PWAs already provide a lot: push notifications, app-based loyalty programs, location-based services and messages, even interactive games and other media. Second, PWA’s are relatively new; there’s still significant developments underway and there’s plenty left to be discovered about the capabilities of web-based apps.

It isn’t hard to envision a future where the gap between PWAs and native apps, regarding performance, is much smaller than it is today. However, even if such a future is never actualized, most businesses can service all of their app needs inside a PWA environment.

Conclusions

If you’re a business that is looking to enter the mobile app space and you are trying to decide between developing a PWA or native apps, the answer is easy. PWAs have lots of value presently and far, far more to come in the future. Unless your app is going to house a lot of deep, sophisticated features, a native app simply isn’t worth it. Not only do they cost a lot of time and money to develop, but it is also becoming harder and harder to encourage downloads. As PWAs gain popularity, that difficulty is only going to rise. You can also easily develop and launch PWAs without coding with an app builder.

Simply put, PWAs are the next evolution of the app experience, and they will thrive where native apps have failed by being easier to access, share and produce, while still maintaining the same level of value that native app users have long enjoyed.

About Author:
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps, a company that helps small businesses build mobile solutions to compete with big brands. Their mobile app building platform makes it possible for everyone to create a mobile app for their business. When he isn’t helping small businesses, he is out surfing in the Pacific Ocean.

This Is How You Prepare Your Home For Winter

Some people live for the summer and the warm weather it brings. Others cannot wait until the weather starts to cool in fall. Regardless of how you feel about it, the weather will soon start to get cold. Winter really is coming.

winter

That means you need to do a little work now to prepare your home for the cooler months. Doing so can save you money on heating, but it can also make sure you don’t have expensive and annoying repairs come spring. You should start by looking at the outside of your home.

Preparing The Outside Of Your Home

In any season, leaky roofs or doors are a problem. You pay good money to control the temperature of your home, and these gaps make it more expensive. That’s why neamb.com recommends taking a look at your roof. Any shingles that are loose can easily come off with a big snowfall. Along the same lines, check your doors and windows for drafts. If there are any, use silicone caulk outside to seal them up.

Because the weather will get seriously cold in winter, you also need to prepare your outside faucets. Start by removing garden hoses and storing them for spring. Then check the faucets themselves. Look into the spout for a metal stem. If you see one, your faucets are likely frost-free and don’t need anything. If there is no stem, you should shut off the water completely to the outside or install a sillcock with an integral vacuum breaker.

Closing Down Your Pool

Speaking of water, you have some extra work to do if you own a pool. Whether it’s above ground or not, you will need to winterize the pool so you can protect it. A treated pool is much less likely to give you problems next summer when you just want to get in the water.

In The Swim has an excellent page of winterizing kits for your pool, including:
● Winter “pills” that have a mix of enzymes and clarifiers to keep the water clear through winter.
● Covers for the whole pool and pumps to remove excess water from the top of the cover as the snow melts.
● Solar blankets that also act as covers.
● Patch kits for covers that develop small holes due to the weather.

What To Do Inside Your Home

Now that you’ve taken care of the outside and the pool, you need to look inside your home. Popular Mechanics has a great list of interior winterizing tips, such as:
● Changing your furnace filters so your heated air is clean.
● Turn any ceiling fans to reverse. (This pushes rising hot air back down to your level.)
● Consider installing storm doors and storm windows, as these can increase your energy efficiency for more comfort and lower costs.
● Hire a certified HVAC maintenance crew to make sure your furnace is working correctly.

If you have two homes and are leaving your summer residence, you should read this checklist from Travelers about preparing your home. Not only should you make sure your home is free of drafts and has a maintained furnace, you also need to drain your water pipes so they don’t freeze while you’re away.

Winterize Now To Save Time & Energy

The thing about fall and winter is that they can be here before you realize it. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing your house for cooler weather while it’s still warm. Check the outside of your house for problems with your roof, windows, and water system. Winterize your pool if you have one, then do some maintenance on the inside. This can go a long way to making sure you’re warm this winter.

Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

Disclaimer: Gabriel Nwatarali, from Tech Help Canada, submitted this entry. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cloud Books.

22 Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

In an age where distractions reign supreme, staying productive has become a lot harder to do. This is particularly evident for business owners or entrepreneurs who are responsible for most of their day-to-day operations. These 22 actionable productivity tips for small business owners may be just what you need to take your productivity to the next level.
In truth, many of us try several times to become more productive and fail at it before we got it right. Implementing just some of these productivity tips will be beneficial.

1. Commit to Becoming More Productive
The first step in any goal is to commit and productivity is no different. You have to commit to becoming a more productive person.
You’ll need to be dedicated to your goal and the activities that are necessary to meet it.

2. Focus on Income Producing Activities
What are the activities that can make you money?
Focus on the activities that are needed to generate revenue for your business. Income producing activities may not generate income all the time but you have to be consistent.
Do you need to make cold calls? Can you reach out to potential clients on social media? Should you be sending “InMails” on LinkedIn?
These are only some examples of income producing activities.
Your focus should be balanced. There should be at least 50% focus on income generating activities and the other 50% on everything else.

3. Use The 2-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule crushes procrastination and can help you stick to good habits.
The general idea is that anything that will take 2 minutes or less should be completed right away. Whether it’s papers that need filling or a quick response to an email, you should do it if it will take 2 minutes or less.
Most of the tasks that we procrastinate about aren’t actually as time-consuming as we think they are. The 2-minute rule will help you start and finish tasks that you would normally put aside for later.

4. Set SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
By setting SMART goals, you can manage expectations and increase the likelihood of being successful.
Specific – Your goal should be well defined.
Measurable – You should be able to measure success in some way.
Attainable – Make sure that your goal can be accomplished.
Realistic – Your goal should be within reason, available resource and time.
Timely – Make sure that you have enough time to archive the goal but never take too much time.

5. Use a Checklist
Checklists are old school but they still work. Before you start your day, make a checklist of the most important things that you need to do that day.
As you cross off things in your checklist, you may find that you get a huge sense of accomplishment. This is a good thing because it’ll make you happier throughout the day.
A checklist should keep you consistent and ensure the completeness of each task.

6. Make Time for Critical Things
This seems simple enough but more often than not, we fail to set time aside for really critical things like taxes. The result is that we end up having to rush our work.
Develop a habit of setting time aside for urgent or critical activities.

7. Create a Plan for Managing Your Time
No matter what kind of business you run, you should have a plan for managing your time. Decide on your day-to-day business operations and manage it effectively to increase productivity.

8. Use Tools to Boost Productivity
Use software like cloud books to help you improve productivity. Software tools are great for increasing the overall productivity of businesses.
Truly productive small businesses use tools to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, delegate, for invoicing and record keeping. Tools also help employees produce more for the organization.

9. Schedule Things
You should schedule most things and only change your schedule if it’s important. Having a schedule will help you stay on track for completing your most important tasks for the day.
Give yourself some extra time to complete each task because as a business owner, you’re probably in the public eye and people may just want to talk to you.

10. Track Your Results
Tracking your results will help you measure your success and change things that may not be working.

11. Use Email Strategically
Do you need to respond to emails as soon as they arrive? Should you send an email or make a phone call?
Emails can take up a lot of your time if you don’t set boundaries. It may be a good idea to setup a very good auto responder and only check email once a day.
For other business people, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re not sending out emails for things that can be easily solved by walking to a cubicle or an office.

12. Pick One Thing and Do That
Having a down and out day? Well, we all have these moments once in awhile. On days like this, you need to pick one thing and do it!
Pick the most important thing that you can do for your business that day and focus on that.

13. What’s Your Work Environment Like?
You can’t time manage effectively if your environment invites chaos.
Try to work in an environment that invites creativity and organization. If your work environment makes you feel like working a whole lot, it’s a good thing.

14. Create Sustainable Habits
Pick habits that you can sustain. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll be in every networking event in your city but is it sustainable?
When picking habits that will benefit your business, make sure that you can be consistent with it. Many things lose their effectiveness when they’re inconsistent.

15. Delegate Tasks
Delegation is arguably the earliest form of automation. By delegating tasks that are important or mundane, you can create time for the really important stuff like generating business income.

16. Avoid Procrastination
Easier said than done but procrastination can kill a business if it persists. As mentioned earlier, use the 2-minute rule to avoid procrastinating on those small but necessary tasks.
Whenever you feel like putting off an important task for later, remember that time doesn’t wait for you and tomorrow is never certain. This alone is a good enough motivator to start for most people.

17. Take Breaks
This is where many small business owners struggle!
As owners of businesses, we’re so accustomed to working that we often forget to take breaks. Whenever possible, take breaks after each task or set aside time for it.
Breaks can serve as creative fuel, a way for you to step back and give your mind room for more creativity.
If your work involves a lot of sitting down, breaks can help you avoid mental stagnation and being physically inactive.

18. Stay Organized
Organization is very important, especially in business. Avoid spending too much time looking for things by keeping your office space organized.
Additionally, a cluttered work environment can quickly make your mind feel cluttered too.

19. Prioritize Tasks
Prioritization allows you to focus on the most important tasks first. A good rule of thumb is to do the hardest tasks first.

20. Working “On” Your Business vs. “In” Your Business
Are you working on your business or in your business?
For many small business owners, they’re doing both and you may be too. Working in your business is necessary but spend at least 1 to 5 hours a week working on your business.
Working on your business involves making long-term investments. Things like finding ways to make your processes more efficient, developing systems and creating a vision.

21. Set Aside Time for Yourself
A business is a reflection of the owner or entrepreneur and if you’re not happy, it can hurt how you conduct business.
You should make time for yourself. Designate one day of the week where you can go and have fun doing something else. Whether it’s fishing, boating or binge watching your favorite TV shows, do it if it makes you happy.

22. Manage Your Expectations
Finally, you should manage your expectations!
We often want to accomplish a lot of things in one day but the reality is that we can end up hurting our productivity because we lose some focus.
Rushing to complete things quickly, often removes the focus required for it to be remarkable. Remember this whenever you’re tempted to over fill up your day.

Author Bio

Gabriel Nwatarali is a digital marketer and designer. He works as a consultant for businesses that want to improve their web presence. He is the founder of Tech Help Canada, a design and marketing agency. He currently resides in the beautiful city of Ottawa, ON. When he is not working, he is having fun with his passions – SEO, websites and logo design. (more…)

Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

When you first start chatting with a new client, one of the first things they’re going to ask for is a quote regarding your services. Creating and sending a quote has never been easier! We’ve found that the best method is to create a couple standard quote templates, all of which can be modified if you need to customize for a specific client.

When creating a new quote, you’re met with a very easy to follow system. You have 3 options for adding pieces to your quote: Standard Quote Items, “Choose One” Options and “Choose Any” Options.
Creating and sending a quote has never been easier with

Standard Quote Items are for items/services that the client must have. For example: if you have a certain travel radius and this project would require additional travel expenses, you would enter those as a Standard Quote Item. Anything the client has no choice on when working with you would go here.

Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

“Choose One” Options are for items/services that your client gets to choose between when working with you. For example: if you offer several different photography packages, you could create a different option for each package and your client would need to select only ONE of them to complete the quote.

“Choose Any” Options are for extras, add-ons and are not required. For example: if you offer additional hours of photography, add-on albums, extended engagement sessions, etc., this is the perfect place to add them and your clients can select all, some or none of these when completing their contract.
Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

Is your brain swimming with all the possibilities yet?! CloudBooks is seriously loaded with everything you need to make your business work smarter, better, easier and faster for you, giving you back the time you’ve been spending on so many tasks by automating them and allowing you to put more time into focusing on the parts of your business (and personal life) that you love.