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The “Smart” (Phone) Money Is on Apps to Win & Tablets to Show! (Part II)

In Part I of “The Smart (Phone) Money Is on Apps to Win & Tablets to Show” talked about trends in technology for 2011. Here we focus on specific trends that will be advantageous to small business this year and beyond.

Note:  The applications mentioned in the rest of this article will be denoted by the platform(s) they are supported on, using the following key: 
  i   iPhone
 A
  Android 
 W   Windows Phone    
 B   Blackberry  
 S   Symbian (Nokia, etc.)  
P  Palm 
 

Email & PIM (Personal Information Manager) Apps / CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

No matter what business you are in, the #1 key to success is the relationships you have with your customers.  Having access to your email and customer data, wherever you go, synchronized with your business email & PIM/CRM CRM solution is invaluable, for those who spend the majority of their time on the road.

This is the application category that started it all.  In the “dark ages” (2002), the Treo 180 became the first true “smart phone.”  Powered by the Palm OS, it pioneered the use of an integrated contact manager, which allowed you to quickly search for and place a call to one of your contacts or pop up the contact’s information when they called.  This was coupled with the ability to easily sync your contacts with Microsoft Outlook.

Previously, businesses that wanted real-time (push) email and contact synchronization looked to either the Blackberry or Windows Mobile platforms for a solution.  Now, many current smart phones come with a basic contact management app that can sync with the user’s Apple or PC desktop client like Microsoft Outlook, as well as web-based email and contact data from Google, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. 


Google Apps (i,A,W,B,S,P)
Is fast becoming the most widely used, multi-platform suite of apps for mobile email and contact management.  Coming as “standard equipment” on Android-powered phones, it is also available for all of the other major smart phone platforms.  The advantage of using Google Apps for email and contact management is that it’s “free.”  The primary disadvantage is its weak contact management features and lack of advanced integration with back-end business email systems.
 
TouchDown (A)
Is an example of a full-featured mobile email / PIM client.  Like Outlook, it can synchronize email, calendar, task and note* data with one or more of Microsoft’s Exchange email server accounts.  Running exclusively (iPhone rumors are circulating) on the Android platform, it is as close to having Outlook on your mobile device as you can get.  If your company has or is considering having one or more of the estimated three hundred and one million Exchange email boxes in use in 2010, Touchdown is definitely worth checking out.   Note:  When this article was written (December, 2010), Touchdown on Android had significantly greater su

Santa’s Favorite Smart Phones

by John Westra

Your Best Business Smart Phone Choices for Christmas


Many of us are either looking for a new mobile phone or have someone on our list that would like a new smart phone for Christmas.  The challenge is deciding which phone & plan is best.

Good coverage is important to a global traveler like Santa, so let’s start by taking a quick look at the coverage provided by the most popular carriers.  Disclaimer:  “Santa” has been a satisfied Verizon customer for the last four years.

It’s no surprise that the two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, who together have 70% of the market, also have the greatest coverage and the widest array of smart phones to choose from.  The next two largest carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile, both offer slightly less coverage and fewer phone choices.  If you live and work in cities of any size and spend most of your time traveling on highways, you should be able to get reliable voice and data coverage from any of the major carriers.

The smaller, often pre-paid carriers/brands like TracFone, US Cellular, Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk (Wal-Mart), MetroPCS, etc. are just starting to offer smart phones.   Most are owned by larger carriers or supplement their own networks with roaming agreements.  This can be a plus, for a company like Virgin Mobile, which uses Sprint’s 3G network or a minus for carriers like MetroPCS, whose limited native coverage and roaming fees make it a poor choice for anyone who travels. 

Although answering yes to “Can you hear me now,” used to be enough, smart phone users are increasingly asking: “Can I YouTube or video chat now?”  Sprint has been a leader in 4G (Fourth Generation) data and T-Mobile is now advertising they have the largest 4G coverage area.  Both Verizon and AT&T have aggressive 2011/2012 4G network upgrades planned.

OK!  Now that you know a little bit more about coverage and carriers, let’s take a look Santa’s Favorite Smart Phones!


HTC Evo 4G (Android) – Sprint


This is a luscious smart phone that offers the latest options including a front and 8 mega-pixel rear facing camera, 4G data speeds, blazing fast processor and a beautiful 4” screen.  If Sprint meets your coverage needs and video conferencing is a feature you want to take advantage of, this is the phone to buy!





Apple iPhone 4 (iOS) – AT&T, Verizon (Q1 2011)

The iPhone 4 is the latest in the iPhone series that truly kick-started today’s, touch screen, application-driven smart phone revolution.  Like the Evo, it has a front-facing camera for video calls.  Santa put this phone on the list, because it has more applications and accessories available for it than any other smart phone currently available.  Note:  With the iPhone slated to come to Verizon in Q1 of next year, you may want to ask Santa for a Gift Certificate!


Droid 2 Global (Android)– Verizon

For those who prefer a slide-out physical keyboard and want the best national and international coverage (220 countries) possible, this is the phone you want.  From the elegant design and solid feel, to the blazing fast 1.2Ghz processor this phone is designed to be a business workhorse.  Motorola has also released well-designed matching car and home docks that make it easy to charge and use your Droid 2 while on the road in the office or on the nightstand.



HTC  HD7 (Windows Phone 7) – T-Mobile

Google Apps: A Guide to the World of Google

By Matt Harlow (from SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

What is Google Marketplace?

Google Marketplace is an online store filled with online applications (Google Apps), all of which are available via a single user account (your Google Apps account) and many of which integrate with the Google office suite (Google Docs) and potentially your website. Let’s take a look at the many opportunities available to small business owners, through Google Apps, as well as some concerns.

Four Distinct Advantages:
1. Low Cost – The Standard Edition of Google Docs (the Google Apps office suite) is free for up to 50 users at the same domain. The Premier Edition is $50 per user per year for an unlimited number of users and has other advantages as well.

2. Cloud Computing – All Google Apps are part of the cloud computing movement. That means they exist primarily on the Web and are designed to store your data there as well. You can access your documents by simply logging in to a website. Your data is no longer tied to one computer. You can work from home, work or a cyber café on Maui, all with the same access to your documents. That also means you can work on nearly any type of hardware that can access the Web: a PC, Mac, smart phone, net book or tablet PC can access your Google Apps account and all your documents. As a bonus, should your hard drive crash or your computer die, your documents are 100 percent safe. You can be up and running again as soon as you are logged in to a different machine.

3. Collaboration – If you email a file to three people and ask them to make edits, and they send them back to you, you then have to manually assemble all of those edits into a single document. You then have five versions of that document (the original, three edits and the consolidated final). If you grant access to an online document to the same three people, they each make real-time changes to the document as it exists in the cloud. When they are done, a final truly collaborative version exists. But what if one, or all of them, makes changes you don’t like? Google Docs stores prior versions of each document during the process, giving you access to a document before and after each set of changes was made.

4. Upgrades – Because they exist only on the Web on Google’s servers, all Google Apps are upgraded the instant a new upgrade is released and at no cost to you. As long as you are using Google Apps, you and everyone in your company will all be using the most current version of the same products at exactly the same instant.

The Disadvantages:
1. Security – Many IT professionals question the security of documents that are not on servers they control and are accessible from all over the world via the Web.

2. Backup – Since the files are not on your computer’s hard drive or company server, you don’t have the control to make sure they are backed up.

3. Need for Web Access – While access to the Web is becoming more ubiquitous, there are still places where Wi-Fi or even a 3G cell signal is unavailable. While some cloud applications have versions you can save to your hard drive, many do not. When you can’t get online, you can’t get to the cloud.

4. File Compatibility – Once you switch to a cloud-based application, your old files generated on desktop software may not be compatible. At the very least, you might want to keep one computer set up with your old desktop software as a safety net.

5. Learning Curve – Just like any new software, cloud software takes time to become proficient in. In some ways, cloud software works differently than traditional desktop software.

Here’s a Rundown of Some Specific, Basic Google Apps
Gmail – An online email program that you can use with multiple accounts (not only Gmail) and set up with your own URL, not just “nam

Technology with a Touch of Gray: The Case for Upgrading

By Chad Paalman is Vice President, NuWave Technology Partners. From Focus on Small Business, SBAM’s member-only magazine.

Midway through 2010, you send an email using Office 2000 on a PC that proudly announces its compatibility with Windows XP, call your customers on a telephone system that’s older than your high school age children, and prefer to avoid thinking about the longevity of your office server.

Just when you convince yourself to hang on a bit longer, you get more bad news: Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after April 2014 (at the ripe old age of 14).
To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question many business owners will wrestle with this year.

70 percent Move to 7

This year, Windows XP turns 10 years old, decidedly geriatric in the software world, and even seriously long in the tooth for durable goods such as household appliances.
Is it worth it to upgrade to Windows 7? Well, yes.

According to a survey conducted by Computer World earler this year, 67 percent of IT professionals declined to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista. Windows 7 is another story.
The new operating system loads quickly — especially compared to Vista — is more stable, removes intrusive user access control pop ups, improves on document sharing, and makes remote access to corporate networks far easier.

From the standpoint of IT support, the operating system streamlines user configuration management, delivers better device compatibility, supports legacy programs, and affords improved integration with Windows Server 2008. The same Computer World survey reported that 70 percent of IT managers plan to upgrade to Windows 7 within the next year.

Finally, the recent arrival of Office 2010 may seal the deal. For small businesses in particular, it may be especially cost effective to purchase hardware preloaded with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010.

Cost Saving Convergence

For those on the fence about upgrading their telephone architecture, the key selling point comes down to the convergence of voice and data communications — commonly known as Unified Communications (UC) — that integrate voice, messaging, instant messages, conferencing and CRM systems.

By bringing together these services on a platform such as Microsoft Office Communications Server 2008 software, UC can significantly reduce travel, telecom and IT costs, leaving your business leaner, greener and more efficient.

For employees, UC integrates email inbox, voicemail, fax and IM platforms in a single environment, eliminating the redundancy of having separate tools, networks and support teams for each service. For customers, UC provides unparalleled access to key employees whether they’re in the office, working from home or on the road.

Beyond the added capabilities, implementing an IP based phone system can significantly reduce business phone service expenses, especially if you operate several offices or need to add phone lines.

Virtual Office, Virtual Servers

Since the purchase of your office server back in the halcyon days of the Bull Market, server technology has come a long way. Today’s servers are far more efficient in power usage and resource utilization, all because of a cutting edge technology: server virtualization.
Translation: Today’s server hardware supports multiple installations of server software, unlike old servers which can only support one installation. That means, a single server box can mimic several servers: each can host a variety of operating systems (Windows Servers, Linux, etc), Microsoft Exchange servers, SQL servers and Web hosting.

Since one server is doing the work of several servers, you will use less electricity to operate the server and keep

The Four Pillars of an Internet Presence: Pillars Three & Four

By Wendy Williams

In the first article of this series, “The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence for Small Businesses,” printed in the November/December issue of Focus, we talked about the changeable content on your website being the ground zero for crafting the business message you wish to share and reviewed the strategy for putting this message out into the world within a different context by sharing links out via social media channels. In this article, we talk about the second two pillars: eNews programs and personal interaction.


Pillar #3

The eNews program. T his method of communicating with your audience can reinforce the outreach from the first two pillars, but add a level of permission-based and direct messaging into the mix. It can be the most powerful channel, if done with a few important strategies in mind.

Not everyone reads your blog, and not everyone subscribes to social media
The first thing businesses must accept is that no matter how much effort you put into blog posts and conversing with your audience on social media, much of what you have to say will slip through the cracks. People hunt and peck around the Web for information they want, and you are lucky if they manage to discover your site.  A good eNews program, however, has the ability to turn all this effort into a narrative, driving your audience to your website so that nothing really slips between the cracks. On top of that, is MEASURABLE.
So how does an eNews Program Work?

Once you decide how often it makes sense to send out an eNews program, the best plan is to populate it with content (articles and posts) you have already created on your blog. Thus, your eNews becomes an aggregated email that highlights everything you wish to share since you sent out the last eNews. So if you decide to include a blog post you wrote or want to share a conversation you had about a topic on Facebook, you simply include all the links in your eNews.  Everyone who receives your eNews has REQUESTED to receive it, which is a great reason to make sure you are sharing material they are going to be delighted to get in their inbox. One example of a service that can manage an eNews program is Constant Contact.  The metrics in the back end are great as they show you how many people clicked on which links, how many people “opt out” and don’t wish to hear from you anymore (this can be an important clue that you need to think about the eNews using the perspective of your audience a bit more), and even how many people forwarded the eNews or shared it via social media. It’s great data.

In most eNews programs, such as Constant Contact, there is also an option to attach a URL containing your newsletter in the eNews. This is an important option to consider as you can then copy the url into a site such as bit.ly (which also utilizes tracking information) and put this optimized link into a Twitter post and on FB for sharing. For example, one of client only has 200 subscribers, but they get over 350 page views of each eNews because of the sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

How often should a company send out an eNews?

This is an interesting question to consider. If you send it out too often, without something compelling at its core, your eNews can quickly be regarded as “junk.” The rule of thumb would be to send an eNews out as often as you have something important to say (from your customer’s perspective, not yours). For many businesses, I think it is safe to say that quarterly will work well. For a business that has a lot of scheduled events, perhaps monthly would work better. One client, a Fish Market, sends their eNews every Friday. It seems like overkill in theory, but it works because the primary mission of the eNews for this particular business is listing what perishable items are available
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