Cloud Computing For Small Business – Why You Should Care and Why Your CPA Does

It is getting harder to shout over the noise surrounding cloud computing. Is the wide-spread excitement justified? If you are a small business, why should you care?If you are a businessperson — not a technologist — and you are only going to remember one thing about cloud computing, here it is: Cloud computing promises to finally take IT out of the balance sheet and put it squarely into the income statement. How? By turning all business technology into pay-as-you-go services provided remotely, all the tech spending in your increasingly technology-dependent business becomes an operating expense — resulting in big savings, reduction of daily headaches, mitigating risks, and simplifying your life in a way that few business ideas ever have.Before we go further with this key insight, let’s define cloud computing so the uninitiated can join the euphoria. For practical purposes, cloud computing generally refers to any business service or application that doesn’t physically reside at your site but instead resides in a data center somewhere on the Internet (the “cloud”) — and is accessed remotely. So if your email server, phone switch, CRM system, business applications, file server, etc. refer to hardware and software that live in a closet down the hall today, cloud computing promises to get it all out of your hair tomorrow, park it in a fancy temperature-controlled data center with dual fire suppression, and only charge you a subscription or pay-per-use type monthly fee.Bringing it down to earth even further — when someone says “email” today, what image does that conjure up for you? You may think of Microsoft Outlook on your traditional laptop or workstation sitting on your desk, your Exchange server in the computer room next door, living in a physical machine that you bought, complete with a slew of software licenses, your third party spam filter and email security provider, and your IT managed services provider who runs the whole thing for you. Tomorrow, all this gear at your office will be gone. You will be sitting at a (very) flat monitor with nothing else in sight. A “desktop” that has no moving parts, is smaller than your hand and hardly uses any power will be permanently stuck in the back of said monitor. The “email” itself will become a pure service that you buy over the Internet, per user, per month, with menu-based features you can turn on or off — much like your cell phone plan.So here’s the revelation part: technology stops being “boxes and wires” to you, and becomes a utility service — a business function served remotely to wherever you are.Going back to CPA-speak, cloud computing means no balance sheet items and no payroll — you don’t own anything, therefore you don’t capitalize, amortize or depreciate anything, and you don’t have in-house employees or contractors to run anything. You just buy business services that are provided over the Internet and pay a monthly fee for them — a straight operating expense. You buy the business function, not the technology behind it. Everything is run, secured and updated for you in a managed services model, and best of all, you never have to know how it all works. We know you never wanted to.While significant roadblocks remain in the way of wholesale adoption of cloud computing by small businesses, the elevator pitch remains very powerful – technology distilled into a pure business service, with immediate time to market, no upfront investment, no staff, and no overhead. Buy only what you need, lower your operating costs, and grow incrementally. So start looking into it, think about what pain points you have today, then make sure you get the best technology advisor you can find to help you navigate a phased transition to cloud computing. And go ahead and take the credit when your CPA congratulates you.Copyright (c) 2009 by Marcus R. Lincoln. All Rights Reserved.

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How Digital Cameras Are Causing The Demise Of Film Photography

The versatility of digital photography is relegating the long-established film format into the category of fine art and maybe causing the demise of film cameras. Further evidence of this are recent announcements by major camera companies, such as Pentax and Nikon, who are ending their production of nearly all their film products. There will always be the traditionalists, however, who will still prefer this system of recording images, but for many, who have made the conversion, digital is an exhilarating and revolutionary new world. Digital technology gives us new ways to use and share photos quickly.Digital photography is not necessarily better at producing photographs; in fact top film cameras are still considered to create better images than any corresponding digital camera. However with the speed that digital capability and capacity is progressing, even now it’s just a matter of opinion of what format is better.Although a relatively new medium to the majority of consumers, digital photography brings with it autonomy and the ability to practise creative ideas. Similar to most things in the modern world instant gratification is a major selling point and digital delivers this. The ability to edit and delete photographs almost instantly inspires many, whereas film, on the other hand, is a long drawn out and awkward process before it provides results. To some, however, this is an essential part of film photography.Traditional photography has been practised for nearly two hundred years and for this reason alone it is doubtful if it will disappear completely. Skilled film photographers have become so because they have discovered something that works for them and, mainly for decidedly personal reasons, have no intention to change their standpoint just for the incentive of progressive technology. This gives grounds for believing that traditional photography will be kept alive.With the ability of the average consumer, however, to display, print, store, edit, transmit, and document their photographs, the digital camera has changed the field of photography forever. A more diverse group of people are being given the opportunity to participate in the pleasure of capturing memorable occasions and a new world has opened allowing people to learn the skill a good deal faster than traditional film photography.The popularity of photography has not decreased since the early days of it’s development and it gains new converts every day. However, the digital age has seen an unprecedented boom in this art form and with digital cameras improving every day and new technology being developed the trend seems never ending.Rather than grieve for the demise of film photography we should embrace the rapid development of digital photography, which is the dominant form even now, but is still producing yet further transformation with the exciting, continuing advancement of digital cameras.

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How Your Family Can Live in Your Home During a Kitchen Remodeling Project

Let me start off by assuring you that your family is not alone in this situation, especially when it comes to being without your kitchen for a few weeks. However, there are solutions and steps both you and your contractor can take. It is of the utmost importance for your contractor be willing to work with you along these lines.Here are some of the ways we worked out solutions for families to stay in their homes, be able to cook and wash dishes etc. while the kitchen work is going on. Keep in mind, you will have to make some sacrifices, but you can also make it a fun time for the family.If you have a room close to or perhaps the back wall butts up against the kitchen, there is a way to set up a temporary cooking area in that room using your existing range, a ventless hood fan, some of the cabinets your are removing and a microwave. After your new kitchen is complete about the only thing you will have to do in this room is some patching and painting of the walls, but that is a small cost if it can help all of you survive the kitchen remodeling project and stay in your home. You can always factor in the cost of the temporary setup into the cost of the kitchen project.Some people choose to live in a motel for a few weeks and others go stay with friends or neighbors, but for those who want to still have access to all the other areas of their home and sleep in their own beds at night, making these small adjustments are not only worth it money wise but also in keeping the whole family happy.If you have a dining room, family room, den or even a bedroom that is close to the kitchen, preferably on the back side of one of the kitchen walls, then you have tackled the first step. The first choice would be to do this on the back wall of the kitchen where the oven/range is located, but it doesn’t have to be that wall, it just helps make things easier. You can still use this method in a room that is further away, but it may cost a little more to set up, mainly do to wiring issues, but it still can be done.Which ever room you decide to use, you will have to move at least some of the furniture out of the room temporarily. You can even store the furniture in the garage during the remodeling project.If you have a standard free standing range, and if you are a do-it-yourself person, you can take a couple of the old kitchen base cabinets and set them on the wall of the room you have decided to use along with the range. Usually you put the range on the wall close to where it was located on the wall in the kitchen and then set a cabinet on each side of it. You would then want cut off a couple pieces of the old countertop, if any of it was able to be saved, and place them on the cabinets. If you are not able to use the old countertops, you can always buy some plywood or particle board and use it for the tops. Keep in mind that this is just a temporary situation.You don’t have to attach the base cabinets to the wall, unless you feel you need to. Once you put some things inside these cabinet, the weight will hold them in place. They may move a little, but not enough to cause any problems. However, if you want you can fasten them to the wall with a couple of screw, but make sure you find the stud location when fastening them to the wall. An inexpensive stud finder will work great for this. If you don’t have one have your contractor locate them for you.Next if you don’t already have a ventless hood fan or an under cabinet microwave with a ventless fan built in from your existing kitchen, you can purchase one from your local home improvement center and even keep it for the new kitchen. Take one of the upper cabinets that is no taller then 24″ and that is about the same width or wider then the hood fan, usually a 30″ cabinet will work. Next install the cabinet with screws, above the oven. The top of the cabinet should be set at 84″ off of the floor. Remember to locate the studs and this is especially important for the upper cabinets. You don’t want to take the chance of them falling down. You should use a screw no smaller then a 2 1/2″ long. 3″ drywall screws work great.You can use a laundry room or a nearby bath to wash the dishes. You can even have a laundry sink installed in the garage if you do not have one there already and use it for the dishes. Having a laundry sink in the garage will come in handy for all types of chores inside and out, so for the small cost, it could work out to be a wise investment. However to have one installed permanently, you will need to have water lines and a drain installed, if these are not there already.Keep in mind that it may not always be possible to locate the oven/range on the back side of the existing kitchen wall. In that case which ever wall you would choose, the electrician would have to either run the wire he is going to use for the new oven and allow enough to run to the temporary location, or use what is already there if it is long enough to reach the relocated oven/range. If the electrician is going to run new wire to the new oven location, make sure that you figure in the length of what you will need and any additional length to run to the temporary oven location so that when it comes time to wire up the new oven, the electrician can cut off the excess wire without having to run a second new wire. This will save you money.If you have a built in oven and a separate cooktop, then you will need to locate those on the wall, but I would put the tall cabinet that held the wall oven in the corner, mount a base cabinet with top next to it, install the base cabinet that had the cook to next to it and another cabinet and countertop next to that. Remember that these cabinets may or may not be screwed into the wall where studs are located. I do recommend on the tall wall oven cabinet that you do screw that one into the wall. The reason is that when you open the oven door, pulling it down may cause some movement in the cabinet.You can also set a microwave on the counter in the temporary kitchen area or on a table or cart. You just need to get creative and make what you already have work. Plus, if the room is large enough, you may be able to put a small dining table in the room as well.As far as the additional cost of setting up the temporary room, it will depend on how much of the work you can do yourself. If you can move all the cabinets and set everything up and all that has to be done for you is the wiring, you will save a lot of money. To have the wiring done you are probably looking at somewhere between $150.00 to $300.00 to have the work done. You may also need some plywood or particle board for temporary countertops which should run you about $40.00 and you can even have your local lumber yard or home improvement center cut the wood to size for you, unless of course you can cut the plywood yourself.The only other costs would be to purchase some painting supplies, including paint, if you do not already have it, some brushes, drop clothes and other painting supplies that should run you over $50.00. Remember, if you had to stay in a motel even for one week, it will cost you much more then this and the inconvenience it will save your family, well you really can’t put a price tag on that.There is another thing that you may need to have done. If you have carpet in then room you are going to use for you temporary kitchen, you will want to protect it. You can either have it professionally removed and the re-installed after you complete the kitchen or take some 1/2″ or 1/4″ plywood, and lay it on top of the carpet where the cabinets and appliances will be temporarily located. You can cut the plywood to fit yourself or ask you contractor or lumber supplier to cut it to the size you need. The extra plywood should cost you no more then about $50.00. If you decide to leave the carpet, make sure you cover any exposed sections up with drop clothes or plastic. Remember you will be cooking in this room.If the room has hardwood or laminate flooring, then you should buy a roll of rosin paper from your local home improvement center or flooring supplier and lay in down on the entire floor before you begin setting up the temporary room up. Make sure to tape down all the seams and edges with masking or duct tape. This will help protect the flooring from getting scratched up. If you have tile, you can use the plywood if you want or place the items on top of the tile. The tile is very durable and should not be problematic. However, if you are like me, I take extra precautionary methods to avoid any potential problems.Also remember to take a plastic tarp and tape and seal off the entry way between the existing kitchen and the temporary kitchen, so that the dust from the work being done while the kitchen is being remodeled, stays in the work area. I recommend doing the same with any opening between the kitchen and the rest of the house if possible.If you take these measures, it will cost you a little more money, and may have to walk further to get to the sink to wash the dishes, and wash them by hand, and you may have a couple of rooms in your house crowded with some extra furniture for a few weeks, but being able to stay in your home during the remodeling project will be well worth it.

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Aerial Advertising – A Novel Concept

If you’re looking for a new and different way to get your company’s message across, consider aerial advertising. It might not seem like the most obvious, reasonable use of your advertising dollar, to employ plane advertising, but humor us for a moment.Think about the myriad of ads you see and read on a daily basis. There could be hundreds, when you consider the newspaper advertising, the ads on the radio and television, and billboards.Now think about the ads you have seen and ask yourself how many you remember. Maybe you remember the nearly naked woman, but anything else? Do you even remember the product she was selling? Do you remember the ads you saw for energy drinks and jewelry?It’s likely the answer is no. But you might likely remember that plane flying over the beach last summer. You remember what it looked like, what it sounded like, and – best of all – you remember the banner it was towing. That’s because aerial advertising is one of the best uses of advertising dollars. People remember the message they see when it’s towed behind a plane.Why do people respond well to airplane advertising? It’s likely due to the novelty factor. We are bombarded with more traditional advertising, but plane advertising is novel and unique. It’s unusual and different. People see the airplane messages and they think about what they saw. They might remember the product long after the plane is out of sight and the airplane advertising is long gone.Here’s what we know – people remember anything that’s unique and different. If it makes them look skyward, if it makes a noise and it if presents a message that’s short and sweet, it will be remembered. Airplane advertising is effective because it employs all these techniques.Consider these interesting facts about plane advertising. According to recent studies:* 89% of those surveyed said they remembered the airplane messages more than 30 minutes after the airplane was out of sight.* 79% of those surveyed said they remembered what the airplane banner was advertising* 67% were able to retain at least half of the airplane advertising message.Other forms of advertising might bring in numbers for each of these categories that are at the 50% rate. That is, about 50% of consumers will remember a billboard or magazine ad, but not 89%. Often, you remember seeing an ad, but can’t recall what the advertising was for. Clearly, that isn’t the case with aerial advertising.And why is that again? Novelty, novelty and more novelty. It’s fresh, different and interesting. People focus on it because it’s fresh and different and when they focus on it, they remember it. They can recall it when asked later. They think about the product or service advertised and, when they recall it later, they might seek out that product or service. That’s called good advertising.Business owners should consider the novel and unique approach that airplane advertising can bring. If the goal is to be noticed and remembered, plane advertising ensures just that.Aerial Advertising services are available from many companies that specialize in this type of advertising. The Internet is a good source of information when it comes to choosing aerial advertising services.

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6 Ways Health Care Directives Fail

One of the most important pieces of a person’s estate plan is the Health Care Directive. Simply put, the Health Care Directive (or HCD for short), spells out how a person wants to be cared for when they become disabled. I say when they become disabled, because people are six times more likely to become disabled than die in a given year. We will all be disabled at one point; it could be the last 20 minutes of our life or the last 20 years.Because of the risks of disability, it is wise to have your health care wishes legally stated. This is where the Health Care Directive comes into play. The HCD will state the treatments or procedures you would like once you become disabled. Additionally, the HCD will state the treatments or procedures you would not like. In fact, stating what you would not like may be just as important.Since it is such an important document, the HCD should be reviewed every three to five years. Just like a Will or a Trust, the HCD may need to be updated. Here is a list of six ways that Health Care Directives fail: Not in Doctor’s Hands (Accessibility)-When the time comes for you to use your Health Care Directive, you may not be conscious. If that’s the case, you will want your HCD to be in your doctor’s hands when you arrive at the hospital. In fact, this is a simple step that many people do not take, which can lead to your wishes being dismissed when a new HCD is created (see #6).
No HIPAA Authorization-An incredibly important document that should accompany your Health Care Directive is a HIPAA Authorization. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This document authorizes other Loved Ones to receive updates on your treatment status. If you are an elderly parent, you may want your adult children to know about your health.
Not Properly Written-A Health Care Directive that is poorly written will not get better with age! Different people want different options when it comes to deciding their healthcare choices. Usually a “template” HCD cannot offer these choices.
Wrong Parties-The people whom you designate on your HCD should actually be the people you want to make decisions on your behalf. Surprisingly, I have seen many HCDs that spell out the wrong people (or parties).
Old / Out of date-What happens when the person you designated as your Agent seventeen years ago has already passed away? Or what happens when your Agent has moved to California and won’t be able to travel to Minnesota? An out of date HCD is a ticking time bomb.
Revoked By Accident-Yes, this happens. In fact, it can happen quite easily. Here’s how: if the doctor at the emergency room asks your spouse or child about a HCD and they are unsure, they may sign a new “template” HCD right in the emergency room lobby. Chances are, this “template” HCD may not be the same as the well thought out version you completed with your attorney while you were peaceful and sound of mind.A Health Care Directive is an essential part of most people’s estate plans. However, it must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it continues to protect you as you wish. It’s a good idea to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to see what is best for you.

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