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Five tech essentials for start-ups

June 27, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

Five tech essentials for start-ups{{}}Launching a start-up is no mean feat. There are so many important decisions to make that will dictate how your business will operate and how successful it will become.

With this in mind, we've created a list of the top five essential pieces of tech for start-ups. After all, you need the best technology out there to give your business the best chance of succeeding.

1. Website and social media

To get your start-up on the road to success, a strong website is a must. In the age of social it has never been so important to establish an online presence in your market.

A well-designed, user-friendly site will help generate leads, drive engagement and increase brand awareness. It's an extremely effective way to showcase your business and what makes you unique.

You should also set up accounts on social media platforms to share company news and insights and build your audience. Use your blog and social media channels to tell your start-up story; involve your audience in every stage of your exciting journey.

2. A virtual phone number

A virtual phone number will give customers, clients, leads and press a point of contact for enquiries, so make sure that setting this up is high on your business to-do list.

Once your website is live it's worth implementing call tracking so that you can see which areas of your site are performing the best and which need tweaking. You might also want to consider adding a unique number to your offline material in order to track performance of all aspects of your marketing efforts.

3. Google Analytics

Once your website is up and running, it's time to think about setting up tracking. Google Analytics is a great tool that allows you to monitor your site's performance, discover your most popular content and identify any areas for improvement, such as basket abandons. Google Analytics will enable you to identify your key audience, improve the user journey of your site, boost its performance and enhance your revenue stream.

4. Software and hardware

You'll need the basics - a laptop, mobile phone and tablet - to get started. If you're planning to handle transactions, you'll also need a card reader to hand.

Once your business starts to expand, you can add to your tech collection. In the meantime you may find that renting your IT equipment is the most cost-effective option when you're starting out. That way you can hire it as and when you need it without investing in pricey devices.

5. Data back-up

It's vital to back up your data so that all your hard work doesn't go to waste. There are data back-up solutions for businesses of all sizes to suit a number of needs, ranging from data storage on third-party or external hard drives, to using cloud services such as Dropbox. If you decide to go down the cloud storage route, it's worth checking whether you can access your data on the go, so that you can work from anywhere in the world as long as you have a decent Internet connection.

Got all you need?

If you're starting up as a new company, be sure to check that you've got these key pieces of tech in place at the earliest stage possible.

Having access to this technology will help to set your business on the right track and ensure that all your marketing efforts don't go to waste.

Sponsored post.

Copyright © 2016 Hire Intelligence. Hire Intelligence rents IT, AV and electronic equipment to UK businesses.

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Protecting your business against telecoms fraud

June 14, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

Protecting your business against telecom fraud{{}}Fraud within the telecommunications industry costs UK-based SMEs about £1billion a year, according to data from Incom.

Telecom fraud covers a number of aspects: using the phone system as a backdoor to your data if the two are linked; using your phone system to make calls, usually to expensive destinations eg international or premium rate numbers; or even someone making calls that look like they are coming from your organisation in order to scam other organisations.

A number of suppliers offer fraud detection and indemnity - some for free, others for a fee. However, before you choose one of these services, it is important to be clear about how much of the fraud is covered.

Ofcom insists that providers should not profit from fraud, so if you're a victim, and you have to make a payment to your telecoms provider, it should be only for the cost of the calls incurred by the supplier, not their normal resale price.

All employees should be made aware of the risks and how to mitigate them:

  • Always be cautious when speaking over the phone to anyone claiming to be a representative from your provider;
  • If you are unsure, always end the call;
  • Bar calls from unknown numbers;
  • Do not call back to numbers that you have never seen before;
  • Security measures, such as passwords or questions on their accounts, should be set up;
  • Try to make passwords unique and memorable, but not predictable - fraudsters love obvious passwords.

A new set of potential problems has arisen because of the rise of IP or internet solutions such as SIP and VoIP. Before businesses moved from analogue phones to IP phone networks, it was rare for staff to be able to access anything relating to their phones from the corporate computer network; so why should employees be able to access the phone network now simply because the network's underlying protocol has changed?

Ideally, you should have physically separate data and phone networks, but if this isn't realistic, VLANs can separate traffic. You want to ensure that no data can traverse between the two networks without passing through a network security device. Many providers recommend using a session border controller (SBC) but some companies are reluctant to pay for this extra measure, partly because its significance is not always understood.

Whether you use landlines or IP, it's worth setting up call bars on premium numbers (and even, if appropriate, international numbers) to limit the impact if your systems are compromised. It's also worth taking a more robust approach with the use of passwords.

All SMEs need to be aware of the threat and should talk to their provider about what steps they can take to avoid becoming the victim of a telecoms fraud.

Copyright © 2016 Dave Millett, founder of independent telecoms brokerage and consultancy Equinox. Dave also advises telecom suppliers at

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Posted in IT security | Tagged telecoms, Phone, fraud | 0 comments

Ten ways cloud computing can help your small business

May 26, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

10 ways cloud computing can help your small business{{}}Cloud computing has long been a mainstay of the biggest businesses but it is increasingly being embraced by even the smallest firms. If you are yet to take the plunge, here are ten ways that cloud-based software solutions could benefit your small firm right now:

1. Providing greater flexibility

Small businesses are often far more agile than larger corporations, so why would you want to undermine that advantage by failing to tap into the cloud? Cloud computing gives you instant access to the latest applications and allows you to take advantage of system support that meets your exact needs and grows with your business.

2. Reducing capital expenditure

Recent years have seen a shift in emphasis from a capital expense (CapEx) model to an operational expense (OpEx) one, on account of the minimal upfront investment and zero long-term financial commitments associated with the latter. Cloud computing equips your small business to start projects faster, end them with fewer financial complications and keep ongoing expenses predictable.

3. Greater collaboration and communication

The cloud liberates your employees to work together more productively, even if they are out of the office or based on the other side of the world. It means that your personnel can sync up and work on shared documents and apps at the same time, with critical real-time updates being provided to everyone working on a project.

4. Boosting security

It's common these days for millennial employees to carry work-related information around with them on their laptops wherever they go. With the cloud, much more of your sensitive business data is stored in one, secure place - namely a cloud server - allowing you to keep it away from prying eyes.

5. Maximising your environmental friendliness

It's more important than ever these days for your company to be seen to be socially responsible and sensitive to the environment. A cloud computing solution can certainly make a big contribution to this goal, as it enables you to only use the amount of server space and energy that you actually need, minimising your carbon footprint. Using the cloud reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions by at least 30% compared to on-site servers.

6. Ensuring greater document control

Once upon a time, small businesses working on an assignment would have had to exchange emails back and forth containing sensitive and valuable information. Not surprisingly, more and more small firms are embracing the chance to keep control of their documents under the "one roof" of their cloud server. Document control is set to become an ever-more important issue as more knowledge workers collaborate with colleagues remotely.

7. Recruiting the best talent

The internet age has enabled more of us to work from anywhere, making geographical location less of a barrier to collaboration. Cloud computing has played a key role in making this possible. A recent study has found that 42% of working adults would even give up some of their salary if they could telecommute; embracing the cloud could help your business to attract the very best talent.

8. Faster disaster recovery

Any downtime for your company can incur significant expense, and it is often the smallest businesses that risk having to cease trading altogether due to unforeseen events such as fire or flood. With the cloud, you can be back in action fast and neither you nor your customers need to be compromised for long. If you need any further convincing, Aberdeen Group found that businesses using the cloud are able to resolve issues in an average of 2.1 hours, compared to eight hours for businesses not using the cloud.

9. Automatic software updates

Did you know that in 2010, UK companies spent 18 working days per month managing on-site security? The need to remember and fork out for updates related to your many software packages is one of the most compelling reasons to switch to the cloud. It means that you can focus on more important matters like building your core business, as regular software updates are automatically rolled out for you.

10. Slashing tech infrastructure spending

The latest hardware and software costs money, often upfront. By investing in cloud migration, you can spend very little upfront, paying as you go in accordance with your needs at any one time. With cloud computing, it couldn't be easier, faster or more cost-effective to upscale or downscale your infrastructure.

It's easy to see why the worldwide cloud computing market commanded a whopping $110 billion in revenues in 2015 - it is simply relevant to almost every kind of small business. And the sooner your small firm embraces the cloud, the better equipped it will be for the emerging age of the Internet of Things.

Sponsored post, copyright © 2016 Red Pixie, a cloud computing specialist. Red Pixie also offers a guide to the cloud for CFOs.

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Posted in The internet | Tagged cloud computing | 0 comments

Five reasons your business should use instant messaging

May 12, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

{{}}Instant messaging was once the sole domain of the tech geeks. From the early incarnation of IRC (internet relay chat), it gradually made its way into the mainstream thanks to the popularity of MSN Messenger and has now all but replaced other forms of communication following the explosion of social media

Instant messaging is everywhere. Need to chat to your supplier about that last gas bill? You’ll probably jump on their website and start an online chat session. Fancy a catch-up with your sales team? A WhatsApp group chat will likely be the most convenient for all involved.

Communication is changing and, as a result, businesses have had to adapt quickly.

Common business uses for instant messaging

Think instant messaging is a one trick pony? Think again. Here are some brilliant uses for it in business:

  • Customer service. Your customers will probably do all they can to avoid picking up the phone. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you by offering instant messaging. If it’s there, they’ll use it.
  • Internal communication. In some businesses, Slack has replaced email. Could it do the same for your team?
  • Sales. Just like customer service, if potential customers can reach you with a click of a button, they will.
  • Beta testing/customer feedback. If you’re a software developer, by integrating online chat into your beta products, you can gain live, instant, crucial feedback from testers which may be otherwise lost via other forms of communication.

Why use instant messaging for business?

If you’re still of the mindset that instant messaging is nothing more than a time-sapping distraction best reserved for Facebook addicts, think again. The following five reasons demonstrate why your business should invest in instant messaging.

  1. It’s a universal skill. It is estimated that there will be 6.1bn smartphone owners globally by 2020. And, if you’ve got a smartphone, the chances are you’re used to instant messaging. It is, after all, a form of communication that has evolved from the humble text message. Most people have sent a text message, so their ability to start using instant messaging effectively will be as intrinsic as they come. That means less training and higher productivity.
  2. It’s cost effective. The cost effectiveness of instant messaging for business is perhaps its most significant advantage. In some businesses, services such as Slack can all but replace traditional forms of communication, and, from a customer service perspective, online chat may negate the need for an expensive telephone system to handle multiple incoming calls.
  3. It’s secure. There are two forms of instant messaging available: public and private. It was once the case that the former was to be strictly avoided in business, given its susceptibility to cyberattacks, but that’s changing, fast, with services such as WhatsApp implementing cutting edge end-to-end encryption for every message sent.
  4. It encourages efficient communication. SMS and Twitter have taught us all to say more with less and instant messaging, by its very nature, also encourages short, concise messages. No one wants to trawl through drawn-out emails or take long, needless telephone calls, and instant messaging can be just the tonic for communication fatigue.
  5. It’s mobileAny instant messaging client worth its salt will have apps available for both desktop and mobile and possess the ability to synchronise messages across all devices. This can be a lifesaver for businesses when crucial status updates or requests need to be issued quickly and to all employees no matter where they happen to be.


Still not convinced your business needs instant messaging? With so many free trials and service tiers available, you can do a lot worse than try it out. Start small by experimenting with IM internally for just one or two departments or colleagues. As confidence and productivity increases, you should find word about its many benefits starts to spread.

Blog written by Mark Ellis of

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The Internet of Things and its influence on ecommerce

April 21, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

Internet of Things{{}}There's a change on the horizon.

The Internet of Things (IoT) was a term coined by Kevin Ashton, a British entrepreneur in 1999 and refers to various physical devices, services and systems working in harmony via the internet.

Fast-forward to 2016, and IoT devices have evolved to the point where they are regularly put to use in households and businesses throughout the world. A technology that was once nascent and impractical is fast becoming commonplace in society.

The speed at which the IoT industry is advancing means the impact on virtually every aspect of our lives is likely to be significant as time progresses. Equally, consultants, analysts and software developers must ensure they have the expertise and tools required to keep up with ever-advancing IoT expectations from businesses and consumers.

If there's one aspect of our lives the IoT era will impact more than any other, it is online shopping and ecommerce. IoT devices, from connected cars to smart home appliances, will change the shape of ecommerce by turning everyday, inanimate objects into potential sales channels for retailers. Fridge run out of milk? Don't worry - it has probably already ordered replenishments via its internet connection.

The world of ecommerce continues to grow rapidly, with analysts suggesting that the number of global online shoppers will see a 50% increase by 2018. Similarly, the IoT is finally shaking off any lingering doubts that it is more hype than substance by becoming genuinely useful for consumers and a source of increased revenue for businesses. It is predicted that, by 2020, there will be at least five IoT connected objects for every smartphone user.

How will the Internet of Things positively influence ecommerce?

With the Internet of Things already taking over, there are a vast number of connected devices bridging the gap between user and tech. From health-tracking Fitbits to smart TVs, the potential impact of IoT devices on ecommerce is huge. Here's why that's a very good thing indeed:

Inventory can be better managed:

IoT devices will help ecommerce businesses streamline their operations. For example, the tracking and handling of inventory will become easier with the movements of connected products now traceable in real time. Such data can be used to notify business owners of low and slow-moving stock.

Increased marketing opportunities:

The prevalence of IoT devices in society enables businesses to gain a greater insight into their customers' behaviour than ever before. The daily routines of target demographics, their shopping histories, product preferences and buying habits can all be tracked and used to tailor more relevant marketing campaigns. This is why, as consumers, we're starting to see an increased amount of 'personalised' advertising sent our way.

Enhances overall efficiency:

The Internet of Things enables ecommerce businesses to connect with customers like never before. For example, warranty and malfunction data can be automatically sent back to retailers to ensure a swift response - sometimes before the user is even aware a problem exists!

More perceptive websites:

Nokia Networks is leading the way when it comes to the IoT, and as a result we're likely to see a significant change to the way mobile websites are developed and designed. A great user experience is essential for ecommerce websites, but in the near future, when the IoT becomes even more prevalent, web developers will have to work on ways to harness the increased data on offer. This will eventually lead to more intelligent, perceptive websites which are capable of offering personalised browsing experiences.

The marriage between the IoT and ecommerce has only just begun, but as it develops, the way in which goods and services are ordered, delivered and consumed looks set to change forever.

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Seven email tools that could bring you real results

April 11, 2016 by IT Donut contributor

Seven email tools that could bring you real results{{}}Email was recently named the technology that has most transformed how we work in the past ten years, above smartphones.

This trend isn't going to slow down any time soon. As email evolves through cloud computing, automation, integrating into social and becoming more focused around mobile, we need to make sure we keep up - as both senders and recipients - in order to make the most of this medium.

Here is a list of seven innovative tools that'll make sure you get the most out of your email marketing:

Make your contact list go further. You work hard to acquire new email addresses from prospects and customers. By using something like Clearbit you can make sure the contact list you've built up goes the extra mile by being transformed into a CRM, populated with relevant information.

Get real-time notifications from your emails. Ever wonder if that email you sent to a prospect was ever opened? Well wonder no more. Use a Chrome Extension like Sidekick to receive real-time notifications on personal and business emails. So next time you're unsure whether to check back in, you'll be able to gauge their interest by seeing whether they haven't had time to read your email yet or they've seen it and are just subtly turning down your offer.

Consolidate all the information you get from customers and use it for email marketing. Try a tool like and make sense of all the information you're already collecting from your customers from different platforms. Then use this data to hone your email marketing by sending the right message at the right time, to the right audience. Watch your conversions multiply!

Get smart when it comes to collecting email addresses. Are you looking to capture more email addresses from potential customers? When it comes to email marketing, nothing is more valuable than a good contact list. With a tool like SumoMe you can collect email addresses at the right time, on the right page of your website and have them saved on your email service provider's platform. This can increase the number of addresses collected and ensures your contact list is populated by real prospects.

Don't underestimate transactional email. Recent studies have shown that transactional emails that include personalised offers drive up conversion by as much as 20%. If you're already sending transactional email, then revisit your copy to see how you can use this strategy to boost sales.

Automation is the future. Email and marketing automation has been a hot topic for a few years now. But it's only now reaching SMEs and more casual users. By using a service like SendWithUs or Mailjet, you can create automated trail of emails (drip campaigns) to be sent out based on user behaviour on your app or website, communicating with them at the right time with a specific and high converting message.

Manage everything from your inbox. Inbox by Gmail is another indication that email is at the centre of our daily personal and business communication. With this new(ish) product, Google has created a tool to help you collate anything from to-do lists to automatic flight reminders to set your alarm through your inbox. Now you won't have to go on multiple apps to organise your life.

Copyright © 2016 Amir Jirbandey, marketing lead UK at Mailjet.

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