Small Business Stories You Might Have Missed

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iStock_000015589126XSmallWelcome back to our ongoing series geared toward getting you the stories and information you need to improve your small business. As a small business owner, you can never stop reading about the state of the market or learning new ways to improve and expand. That’s where we come in.

So in case you didn’t have a chance to read the tens of thousands of articles or Facebook posts since our last installment, here are some of the most useful and interesting stories we came across.

Getting the Most from Your Blog

Blogs used to be the butt of a number of jokes that usually revolved around an unemployed “writer” in his or her parent’s basement eating Cheetos or Twinkies. However, this is far from the truth. Blogs have since become an essential part of a business’ SEO value and overall online presence.

Getting a blog is no problem. Providing quality, shareable content three to five days a week is the challenge. This article from Search Engine Journal addresses this very issue. From organizing thoughts and ideas in an editorial calendar to simple tips on coming up with blog post ideas, you will immediately improve your company’s blog overnight. Read more

Introducing : Timetracking for your bugs

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A typical work day of a team member in a software development team :

You’re a team member in charge of a performance module and currently working on few critical bugs that needs to be delivered for a customer before this weekend.

Here’s how you can effectively use Zoho BugTracker to organize and fix bugs fast :

  • Create a business rule with module as Performance and severity as Critical. All the bugs with this module name and severity gets automatically assigned to you in Zoho BugTracker
  • There needs to be a way to categorize these reported bugs. Our BugTracker allows you to easily categorize them as open, to be analyzed, to be tested and add more Custom Status using Status and Workflow option under Bug Settings
  • Once categorized you can Sort and View bugs based on due or created date in the Bugs View. You can create a new custom field called This Week and use Bulk Update option to select and update the bugs to be fixed for This Week and you’re done. Every day when you login you can see the bugs progress in the Feeds panel under In Progress view.
  • As the weekend approaches, you need to record the entire week’s efforts. For this, make use of Weekly timesheets to record the time spent to fix the bugs for this particular customer and of course you can also Generate Invoices using Zoho Invoice and follow for payments.
  • If you wish to notify your Boss you can do so by adding him or her as Follower to know what you have been working on.
  • Finally, if you want you can deactivate this business rule using Activate or Deactivate option under Business Rules.

timesheet-invoice Read more

Less Noise; More Signal – Get Focused Responses Using Zoho Survey

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Since Zoho Survey’s launch, we have been working on bringing out features based on the many suggestions and comments from users to give them more control for collecting responses. Now, a month later, we happily announce three new features that will help you get focused responses to your surveys.

Update submitted responses at any time

Every online user has a limited attention time span. So if your survey is lengthy with a few essay questions thrown in, it needs to be given much time and thought. Then it might just call for some breathing time in between the survey for your participants.

prevent multiple responsesThe good news is that your participants can not only pause and come back later to complete the survey, but also update their responses at any time even after submitting the survey.

Blank fields are not of much help to you. So by allowing respondents to alter their conclusions later, they are more likely to give you focused answers rather than vague responses. For instance, if you had asked for the warranty period of the product that the participants are currently using and if they were not sure about it at the time of submission, they can always go back to the question and update the field.

Address selective audience using passwords
Want only invitees to take part in your survey? The publish tab will enlist the restrictions you can set for your survey before it is set to be published.

password protectYou now have the option to password-protect your surveys which participants can access only by authorizing themselves with a password.

Read more

Petition against them, hate them, or wish them dead; passwords are here to stay for long!

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In the last two weeks, the Petition Against Passwords movement launched by a group of US-based companies that sell password-less technology has been gaining widespread media attention across the world. Their mission is to collect every frustrated yell at forgotten passwords and make sure the organizations responsible hear them.

In the RSA conference in San Francisco early this year, James DeLuccia’s Passwords are dead created quite a buzz. At the conference, Zoho’s sister division ManageEngine demonstrated its Enterprise Password Management Solution, Password Manager Pro, and almost all the  visitors to our stand quipped: “They are talking about the death of passwords and you are demonstrating password management!

death-of-passwordsSo, we hear the vox populi loud and clear: Clearly, people are fed up with passwords. With the proliferation of online applications, a variety of passwords occupy each aspect of our life. Remembering dozens of passwords is impossible; storing them only invites trouble and managing them manually is a pain. With high-profile security breaches involving stolen online identities, all of us want to be rid of passwords. So, when someone talks about replacing  passwords, it’s only natural for people to get interested.

But, the million-dollar question is: Do we have viable alternatives if the passwords die finally?

Before going any further, here is some history on ‘death of passwords’:

For over a decade now, people have been discussing the death of passwords. In the same RSA conference in 2004, Bill Gates, the Chairman of Microsoft predicted the death of passwords. In 2006, he said that the end to passwords was at sight. Not just Bill Gates, but many other luminaries and industry analysts have been predicting the death of passwords.

However, in reality, the predictions haven’t yet materialized. Passwords are still the most prominent method of authentication till date. Alternatives to passwords, such as biometric authentication, iris authentication, facial  authentication, various forms of multi-factor authentications, and even  authentication through items like watches, jewellery, and  electronic tattoos, are all being discussed. Active research is also on to formulate better alternatives.

However, none of the alternative approaches have been viable for various reasons. Firstly,  passwords are very easy to create and are absolutely free.  Whereas, the alternate models are mostly expensive, require  additional hardware  components, are difficult to integrate with the  existing environment, and are not easy to use.

Interestingly, some of these alternative authentication methods have been cracked  even before they could be adopted widely.  Few years ago, a group  of researchers hacked faces in biometric facial authentication systems by using phony photos of legitimate users.

As  on date, a viable replacement for traditional passwords is not in sight! We may get one in the future, though. But, it will require considerable time for the new mechanism to be accepted and adopted. That means, traditional passwords are not going to die anytime soon; they are going to be around for  a while.

Passwords are not the problem; their management is

While raising our voices against passwords, we overlook the actual problem, which is poor password management. Due to the inability to remember passwords, users tend to use and reuse simple passwords everywhere. Users store passwords in text files and post-it notes; share credentials  among the team members; and pass them over emails or by word of mouth. Real access controls do not exist and passwords of sensitive resources and  applications remain unchanged for ages. Such bad password management practices invite security issues and other problems.

Use a password manager

While  the research to find an alternative to passwords continues, it would be prudent to deploy a password manager to safeguard your data. With a password manager, you can secure all your passwords in a  centralized repository; use strong, unique passwords without worrying about remembering them; automate and enforce password management best practices; control access to resources and applications; keep track of activities; and do much more.

If you are wondering which password manager to use, take a look at Zoho Vault.

Dashboard Spotlight: US Student Debt

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dashboard-spotlightIn recent times, there has been a lot of debate about the real value of college degrees. This seemingly-academic discussion assumes deeper significance given that college students have been – for a long time now – racking up tremendous volumes of educational debt. Sizable percentages of new graduates are beginning their professional careers deeply mired in debt that takes them a long time to pay off, if they ever succeed in doing so.

In the current context, given the precipitous state of the U.S. economy and the disquieting fact that about 37 million Americans are bogged down by student loan debt, an increasing number of people are beginning to seriously question whether the costs of college education have begun to dwarf the benefits. Read more

Which Kind Of Team Member Are You?

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Online collaboration tools are making it easier for teams to be better organized and more coordinated, to help them reach their team goals more efficiently. But collaboration and using the tool effectively also depends on team members and their ability to work as a team.

Each team member has a different mindset or thought process and getting everyone on the same wavelength can be quite challenging. Team leaders need to encourage team members, so that they adopt the collaboration tool more readily and work better as a team.

Here are a few kinds of team members you might have come across:

BozzillaBoss-ooka

This team member takes charge of the team a.k.a BOSS. Bozzilla lays down the rules and more often than not tries to doggedly convince or if that’s not possible confuse the team about certain decisions and how they are right. This team member however is prepared to take the blame, for any team mishaps or issues.

“Think Team” Solution:  Patience and a more passive than aggressive tone might help while trying to convince Bozzilla on what’s best for the team.

Side-KickGrumpy Grumpleston

The motto of this team member would be “ It’s the BOSS’s way or the highway!” Side-Kick will nod in agreement to everything BOSS says. Anytime BOSS looks vulnerable and is being cornered, Side-Kick will instantly jump to BOSS’s defense. This member is assured a place in the team by standing guard for BOSS at all times.

“Think Team” Solution: Get BOSS’s nod of approval, which will be a direct command to Side-Kick to step in line and work with the team.

The SaintThe Saint

This team member will be the most wise and practical member of the team.  Will be very knowledgeable and would be the one to counter BOSS’s decisions with rational arguments. If there is one person who can convince the BOSS, it is him.  This member is the one that holds the team together and is the rock that the team leans on during tough times.

“Think Team” Solution:  The Saint is already a team player and always thinks in the interest of the team.

Grumpy GrumplestonThe Zombie

“I should have been BOSS”, is what this team member broods over almost everyday! You will not find a more disinterested and critical person in the team.  Although very knowledgeable, getting Grumpy to share some knowledge is next to impossible, unless you literally beg for it. But if you get into Grumpy’s good books, consider it a boon because this member will be the most helpful person around.

“Think Team” Solution: Keep reminding Grumpy about how knowledgeable he is and how valuable his contribution is for the team.

Mr. Goody Two ShoesSide-kick

This team member will be the most social and diplomatic person in the team. Goody Two Shoes will try pitching ideas but will not push for them and agree to do whatever task is given, like it or not. This member knows how exactly to handle each member of the team and makes sure of being in everyone’s good books.

“Think Team” Solution: Tell Goody Two Shoes its NOT OK to be OK with everything and needs to strongly voice thoughts and ideas if they would benefit the team.

ZombieGoody Two Shoes

This team member like Grumpy Grumpleston will hardly get involved in team discussions. Zombie just goes with the tide and is prepared for ideas to be shot down. This member pretends to be oblivious to everything else and will always seem to be involved with work. Zombie may seem aloof but is very reliable when it comes to completing tasks.

“Think Team” Solution: LISTEN and be more open to ideas  or suggestions of Zombie but you also need to be a bit stern in asking him to get more involved with the team.

Were you able to relate with any of the above team members? You could even share with us some that you have in mind.

Disclaimer: These are just random observations and in no way is my writing targeted at any specific individual, who might think I have a bone to pick with them. Peace!