• WaterAid joins WSUP, World Bank and leading academics in urging donors, policymakers and planners not to neglect shared sanitation • Where private household toilets aren’t yet an option, safe, well-managed shared toilets are a crucial step to further improvement Funding for safe, shared toilets in fast-growing developing-world cities is at risk of neglect from […]
I recently read a story about how amazon had scrapped their unlimited clouds services package to all its users. This in a way got me thinking about the realities of cloud based services. I have almost tried all cloud based services that are popular but still struggling with reliability aspect among them. In 2015, Microsoft announced a similar move where they also scrapped the unlimited package for overdrive making it less than what was previously offered. I was among those affected by this move. A similar incident happened when my Dropbox was resented and i lost all files saved. With these incidences am still wondering how sustainable these services are and whether in the long run this is the solution to conventional ways of storage.
It’s pretty simple to understand where a file goes when you save it on your PC. It lives on your hard drive, possibly housed in a set of folders you’ve created and organized yourself. That file is only stored on your computer, unless you decide to email it to yourself or save it on an external hard drive or USB.
Now what about the cloud?
At its most basic level, “the cloud” is just fancy-talk for a network of connected servers (a server is simply a computer that provides data or services to other computers). When you save files to the cloud, they can be accessed from a computer connected to that cloud’s network. Now take that idea and multiply it to understand how the cloud works for you. The cloud is not just a few servers, but a network of many servers typically stored in a spaceship-sized warehouse—or several hundred spaceship-sized warehouses. These warehouses are guarded and managed by companies such as Google (Google Docs), Apple (iCloud), or Dropbox.
So it’s not just some nebulous concept. It’s physical, tangible, real.
When you save files to the cloud, you can access them on any computer, provided it’s connected to the Internet and you’re signed into your cloud services platform. Take Google Drive. If you use Gmail, you can access Drive anywhere you can access your email. Sign in for one service and find your entire library of documents and photos on another.
Benefits of cloud storage
On the flip side, the data you save to the cloud is far more secure than it is on your own hard drive. Cloud servers are housed in warehouses offsite and away from most employees, and they are heavily guarded. In addition, the data in those servers is encrypted, which makes hacking it a laborious, if not formidable, task for criminals. Whereas a malware infection on your home computer could expose all of your personal data to cyber-crooks, and even leave your files vulnerable to ransomware threats. In fact, we recommend backing up your files to a cloud service as a hedge against ransomware.
Another benefit to storing data on the cloud is cost effectiveness and ease-of-access. You can store tons of data, often for free, using the cloud. Measure that against the number of external hard drives and USBs you’d have to purchase, and the difficulty accessing data once you’ve stored to multiple other devices, and you can see why cloud storage has become a popular option for businesses and consumers alike.
Risks of cloud storage
Cloud security is tight, but it’s not infallible. Cybercriminals can get into those files, whether by guessing security questions or bypassing passwords. That’s what happened in The Great iCloud Hack of 2014, where nude pictures of celebrities were accessed and published online.
But the bigger risk with cloud storage is privacy. Even if data isn’t stolen or published, it can still be viewed. Governments can legally request information stored in the cloud, and it’s up to the cloud services provider to deny access. Tens of thousands of requests for user data are sent to Google, Microsoft, and other businesses each year by government agencies. A large percentage of the time, these companies hand over at least some kind of data, even if it’s not the content in full.
The other risk is the fact that there is guarantee that your information/data will not be deleted incase of changes in package subscriptions like the case of amazon unlimited to 30Tb limit.
Yes, despite all the challenges, your data is relatively safe in the cloud—likely much more so than on your own hard drive. In addition, files are easy to access and maintain. However, cloud services ultimately put your data in the hands of other people. If you’re not particularly concerned about privacy, then no big whoop. But if you have sensitive data you’d like keep from prying eyes…probably best to store in a hard drive that remains disconnected from your home computer.
If you’re ready to store data on the cloud, we suggest you use a cloud service with multi-factor authentication and encryption. In addition, follow these best practices to help keep your data on the cloud secure:
- Use hardcore passwords: Long and randomized passwords should be used for data stored on the cloud. Don’t use the same password twice.
- Back up files in different cloud accounts: Don’t put all your important data in one place.
- Practice smart browsing: If you’re accessing the cloud on a public computer, remember to logout and never save password info.
They say necessity is the mother of invention and to achieve success one needs the perfect idea. The perfect idea is a combination of many things that need to be nurtured to be in place. First trusting in the Almighty God to bless the idea. God is the foundation of perfect ideas. Scripture says every good and perfect thing comes from God, so why not trust him. You need to trust God to help move the plan. Second is positive thinking that the idea will work. Most projects fail/stall because of lack of having a positive mentality towards ideas. Many people associate project failures to finances and marketing but forget the first reason why they created the business. A positive mind can sustain a business even without finances or any other support. According to research, most businesses fail to meet their targets in their first three months or even a year, and yet they keep operating with losses. Question: How do think such businesses survive? Well, the answers can vary but one common thing is that they believed that the business will pick up at a certain time. If you maintain a positive attitude, this will be infectious and those around you will pick up on your positive energy. Everyone in your company will feel positive and customers will want to do business with you.
This in turn will lead to you maximizing the performance of your business. If you maintain a negative attitude, the opposite is likely to happen. People will not want to be around you, your staff will feel demotivated and customers will not want to buy from you. The result will be that the performance of your business will deteriorate.
With a positive approach you will feel in control and confident and you will perform at your best, whereas a negative approach will damage confidence, harm performance, paralyze your mental skills and may also impact your health.
Third you need a few sets of plans, even if each is only a few pages. A business plan, with an accompanying marketing outline, are important blueprints for success. They help you map out the major landmarks of the road ahead, define your success and break the journey into important metrics you can track your progress against.
I’m not one for a giant, robust plan nobody will access, but I do advocate a more modest go-to plan that can act as your basic instruction manual and hold you accountable to specific numbers. The reason I don’t support highly detailed plans is that I believe you need the flexibility to alter the course as necessary. Sometimes, large changes to the plan will be necessary.
Lastly, give no room for intimidation; majority of businesses tend to suffer due to fear of the big performers. You need to motivate yourself in order to succeed.
During World Water Day celebrations, it was humbling by the fact that over 663 million people on the planet still lived without access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. With these challenges persisting around the world despite decades of hard work in the water and sanitation sectors, the key question we ask is are we at a point where we need to take a step back from current solutions and practices and do business differently?
The new Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic (WASH PD) initiative suggests exactly that.
New findings from the WASH PD initiative (led by the World Bank Water Global Practice in collaboration with Poverty, Governance, and Health, Nutrition, and Population) for the first time advances our understanding in a systematic manner of the relationship between poverty and WASH at the country level. Our deep analysis of 18 countries—across six regions—provides us with new evidence of realities that must be acknowledged, and shows without a doubt that we must work together across sectors if we are to find solutions with sustained impacts on the ground.
Quick facts from around the world:
- In Mozambique, 90 percent of the poorest mothers lack access to antenatal care and 90 percent of underweight mothers only have access to unimproved sanitation
- In Nigeria, 61 percent of the rural population lives more than 30 minutes away – and 34% lives more than 2 hours away – from a functioning water source
- In Tajikistan, households in the Sugd Region report getting piped water 1 day per week
- In Pakistan, despite improvements to nutritious food, reductions in open defecation and poverty, childhood stunting has stayed constant at 43 percent. Construction of unimproved toilets and persistent water quality issues are not helping reduce this burden
- In Indonesia, it is estimated that only 5 percent of urban wastewater is safely treated and disposed
- In Tunisia, the richest 20 percent of households receive an estimated 27 percent of water subsidies, while the bottom 20 percent of households receive only 11 percent of the subsidies
- In Ecuador, 93 percent of people in urban areas and 76 percent in rural areas has improved access to water services but still, 24 percent of the rural population drinks contaminated water
What we’re learning is telling: Our initiative reveals critical gaps in policy, or between policy and implementation, which leads to poor service delivery. Working with Governance colleagues at the World Bank is stretching us beyond our water sector lens, and it is becoming abundantly clear that service delivery is many times hindered by inter-governmental fiscal and administrative systems and the interplay with politics. This may not come as a surprise to those who work with these issues on the ground, but now we have the numbers to prove it.
If we shift our focus from purely designing and implementing a project to the ‘service delivery problem’, the need for multi-sectoral thinking becomes apparent. For example, in Nigeria our analysis shows that nearly 30 percent of water points and water schemes fail within the first year. Forty-four percent of borehole construction projects are never started, and only 37 percent of borehole projects that get started are fully completed. The results are that 71 percent of Nigerian households in the lowest wealth quintile lack access to a protected water source. Read more
There are quite a number of national and international days celebrated in the remembrance and commemoration of issues as per sector or national courses. In the development world a number of these days are celebrated to put emphasis on certain issues affecting people globally or nationally though it’s still tricky to attach impact to these days. Having worked in the development sector for a while there is a feeling that Meaning has been lost FOR these days. Between January and March there were about 20 international days to commemorate and among these some of which you know and some you probably don’t. I bet all these celebrations had a good theme and a call for action to which certain commitments were made and supposed to be followed up. To this i feel very little is done year in and year out and we keep repeating the same mistakes. So is there value in celebrating these international days ? Comment and let me know what you think
When it comes to software, i hold a soft spot here because almost all of the of the things we do or create by a means uses software. From a personal perspective i feel this is any area that is very important but most often few of us know the answers to what would be helpful. Having worked with both small and large companies i feel i can give some ideas on what productive software one needs in day today work. The reality is not all software is created equally. Here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2017.
Having the right software for your business needs can mean the difference between getting things done or… having tasks linger, unaddressed, on your to-do list.
Unfortunately, most top software companies often focus on larger businesses, rather than small enterprises. As a result, many of their solutions are either unaffordable or loaded with features smaller companies don’t need.
Not all software is this way. More and more, software providers are offering small business versions of their enterprise solutions or are targeting the small business market with programs uniquely designed to meet its needs. If you’re in the market for a new tool, here are a few of the top small business software solutions to consider in 2015.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are you’re good at what you do–but significantly less practiced at the administrative side of running a business. But whether you’re knowledgeable or not, needs like accounting must be taken care of. Any of the following tools will help get your books in order, whether you do so in order to manage your own finances or to pass your information on to your CPA.
One of the most recognized names in small business accounting, QuickBooks offers both desktop and online versions (depending on the needs of your company and the experience of your team members), you may prefer one over the other. Regardless of the option you choose, Quickbooks is reasonably affordable, though taking full advantage of the program does require a bit of training.
As an added bonus, most accounting firms are experienced with QuickBooks. If you plan to seek outside support for your business’s finances, give this program a shot, as its widespread familiarity will make transmitting your data to your accountant a snap.
If QuickBooks proves to be a bit of an overkill for your startup’s needs, check out FreshBooks. This cloud-based accounting software program is easier to use than QuickBooks and supports over 50 integrations–including payroll and email programs. FreshBooks features a 30 days free trial and subscription-based pricing from $19.95 per month up to $39.95 per month after this period.
Another cloud-based accounting tool, Wave Accounting has been named the best free accounting software for small businesses by Business News Daily. It’s important to note that Wave is for very small businesses–in particular, companies with fewer than 10 staff members will get the most out of this QuickBooks alternative. That said, it provides excellent functionality for free, with free user forums for support or live support packages starting at $9 per month if your needs are more complex.
Scaling your startup by bringing on employees is a major milestone for small businesses. But despite the game-changing nature of this step forward, few entrepreneurs take the time to fully address their human resources needs or to implement the HR technologies that can streamline these systems.
Instead of letting your human resources needs get out of control as you expand, put one of the following tools into place as soon as possible:
This all-in one human resource software program gives you access to benefits management, payroll processing, onboarding tools and more. Even better, many Zenefits features can be set to run automatically after your initial configuration, significantly reducing the amount of time you need to spend on these tasks on an ongoing basis.
As an added bonus, if your small business uses contractors rather than–or in addition to–regular employees, Zenefits makes it easy to manage their details as well, allowing you to track their compensation and handle their tax needs from within a single program.
Like Zenifits, BambooHR is a cloud-based HR system that’s simple interface and intuitive design make it a great fit for small and medium sized businesses. Although the program is exclusively an online human resource information system, it does integrate with other payroll solutions or applicant tracking software, giving you easy access from one central dashboard.
Finally, sumHR is a great small business HR software program that focuses on attendance, leave, and payroll functions. If you’re looking to take your employee directory out of the spreadsheets and into a professional program, sumHR may be the solution for you. The company is also planning on adding new features soon, including reporting and performance reviews, making it one to watch into the future.
HRMagic has Employee Profile Management, Recruitment, Leave, Time Sheet Management, Payroll, Commission/Contract Invoice Management among other modules ) and HR consultancy to various companies.
Plenty of small businesses have scheduling concerns to deal with, whether yours come in the form of hourly workers or customer appointments to be booked. But despite the widespread nature of this problem, many of these companies still rely on outdated pen and paper scheduling books which are both time-consuming to manage and vulnerable to human error.
There’s got to be a better way–and there is! Check out any of the following programs for your scheduling needs:
When I Work
Scheduling staff hours doesn’t have to be difficult–When I Work makes the process intuitive and simple, helping to reduce absences and avoid employee miscommunications. When I Work offers mobile accessibility so that staff can see their schedules, trade shifts among themselves and request time off while on-the-go. The program’s pricing comes as a monthly subscription fee that’s based on the number of staff you manage–up to 20 staff can be scheduled for $29 per month.
If you have clients that need to make appointments or you offer classes that your customers need to sign up for, Booker makes it easy. Once installed, you can attract customers from your website or social media profile and bring them to a central site where they can then book appointments. The site is optimized for mobile users, making it easy to build relationships with clients through the program’s provided messaging and retention tools.
Another solution for online booking, Genbook allows your customers to book appointments while also giving you the tools needed to manage your business, staff, and reputation. Genbook allows your former customers to post reviews of your company, giving you immediate credibility with new clients. Your staff can access the schedule and receive reminders, and you can publish promotions and share them on social media. To give this innovative program a try, take advantage of Genbook’s 30-day free trial (post-trial prices range from $20-$70 per month).
Free, cheap, no complicated training needed and good for scheduling. I must say I use Google Keep more than I thought I would. I have an Evernote account and I think it a great application, which I do use daily. The two applications have similarities and different users will definitely see different strengths in both.
Simple. That’s how I would best describe Google Keep. If you have ever used sticky notes, you will get the idea. Once you start playing with Google Keep, you’ll figure it out quickly.
I think the three neatest features that it offers are: sharing, optical character recognition (OCR), and labeling. Again, once you execute the function the first time, you will remember how you did it.
Small business software can be a difficult world to navigate, but the good news is that there are plenty of companies out there doing it right. Whether you need help with your accounting, human resources or scheduling needs, the software listed above will help launch your company successfully into 2015.
What’s your favorite small business software program? Why? Share your recommendations by leaving a comment below!
Adapted from an article by Manish Bhalla
Saying ‘NO’ is an art! Most of the times it denotes something negative but if said at the right time and in the right manner, a NO can contribute positively towards the growth of your company and you! The mind gets perplexed when it comes to saying NO to a customer whom you want to do business with. But sometimes a NO is required to save a possible future damage to your professional relationship.
Here are a few things to be kept in mind while saying ‘NO’ to a prospective client or an existing one asking for a discount yet keeping him happy and convinced about hiring your services –
1. Be empathetic – Being empathetic is the key to convince the customer that the NO is being said in their favor. If you put yourselves in the customer’s shoes and try to understand his thoughts and feelings about a situation, you would be able to justify the NO to yourself as well as to the customer, who is being denied the discount.
2. Be sure of when to tell a customer NO– You have to define your own yardsticks to measure whether a NO would put your company behind or ahead from where it stands today. Be clear on what your boundaries are pertaining to customer service. You can tell a customer NO when you know that the discount is not being offered to any other customer as well, hence, you follow a fair practice. You can also tell a NO when the perk being asked for is against your company policy.
3. The sooner the better –Instead of procrastinating the process of saying NO, do it quickly and honestly. Keeping the customers waiting for a decision on their request would only fluster them. But if it is required at all to evaluate the issue, you should try to offer an alternative solution and convey the final decision soon. The customers will appreciate that.
4. Stay positive- When it comes to iterating a negative thing, we tend to emit similar emotions. But if you convey the NO in a positive way, it leaves the doors open for the customers to come back to you in future.
End the conversation on a positive note and make the customer feel good about the NO so they may get back to you when they find you affable.
5. Offer the next best solution – If not the best, then offer the next best solution to the customers. They may get upset at first but there’s a possibility that they settle in for the alternative solution being offered to them. All you need to do is emphasize its benefits to the customers and they are likely to be convinced.
6. Be clear and transparent – Don’t give a vague explanation.The clearer and more transparent you remain in your explanation of saying NO to the customers the better it is. Explain the cause of being unable to process their request at that point of time very lucidly and honestly; it pays.
7. Create a long lasting impression – Be polite and sincere. The customers always look for an exhilarating experience from the service provider. If you maintain a mannerly stance right from the beginning till the end, even if you have to decline a request, they would still retain the impression and the experience that they have had with you!
8. Stay mindful – Keeping in mind the thoughts of your customers and the impact that your decision might have on them can make things easier for you to portray. Being mindful and aware of what your words might sound like to the receiver will help you mould them in an acceptable manner.
9. Don’t lose your graciousness – Be elegant in your tone and mannerism while saying NO and never shout at the clients even if they get irate. Maintaining your calm will always help you cool down the customers as well.
Consumers like being treated with care even if sometimes we are not able to give them what they have requested for.
10. Build relationship and not cut corners – Investing into a relationship will go a long way than just cutting corners at once. Gain confidence of the customers and build trust by soliciting their feedback and thanking them for their time.
If you show that your support will continue through this established relationship, the customers are likely to contact you when they think of such a project again.