Bitcoin: What Is It, and Is It Right for Your Business?

It’s not an actual coin, it’s “cryptocurrency,” a digital form of payment that is produced (“mined”) by lots of people worldwide. It allows peer-to-peer transactions instantly, worldwide, for free or at very low cost.

Bitcoin was invented after decades of research into cryptography by software developer, Satoshi Nakamoto (believed to be a pseudonym), who designed the algorithm and introduced it in 2009. His true identity remains a mystery.

This currency is not backed by a tangible commodity (such as gold or silver); bitcoins are traded online which makes them a commodity in themselves.

Bitcoin is an open-source product, accessible by anyone who is a user. All you need is an email address, Internet access, and money to get started.

Where does it come from?

Bitcoin is mined on a distributed computer network of users running specialized software; the network solves certain mathematical proofs, and searches for a particular data sequence (“block”) that produces a particular pattern when the BTC algorithm is applied to it. A match produces a bitcoin. It’s complex and time- and energy-consuming.

Only 21 million bitcoins are ever to be mined (about 11 million are currently in circulation). The math problems the network computers solve get progressively more difficult to keep the mining operations and supply in check.

This network also validates all the transactions through cryptography.

How does Bitcoin work?

Internet users transfer digital assets (bits) to each other on a network. There is no online bank; rather, Bitcoin has been described as an Internet-wide distributed ledger. Users buy Bitcoin with cash or by selling a product or service for Bitcoin. Bitcoin wallets store and use this digital currency. Users may sell out of this virtual ledger by trading their Bitcoin to someone else who wants in. Anyone can do this, anywhere in the world.

There are smartphone apps for conducting mobile Bitcoin transactions and Bitcoin exchanges are populating the Internet.

How is Bitcoin valued?

Bitcoin is not held or controlled by a financial institution; it is completely decentralized. Unlike real-world money it cannot be devalued by governments or banks.

Instead, Bitcoin’s value lies simply in its acceptance between users as a form of payment and because its supply is finite. Its global currency values fluctuate according to supply and demand and market speculation; as more people create wallets and hold and spend bitcoins, and more businesses accept it, Bitcoin’s value will rise. Banks are now trying to value Bitcoin and some investment websites predict the price of a bitcoin will be several thousand dollars in 2014.

What are its benefits?

There are benefits to consumers and merchants that want to use this payment option.

1. Fast transactions – Bitcoin is transferred instantly over the Internet.

2. No fees/low fees — Unlike credit cards, Bitcoin can be used for free or very low fees. Without the centralized institution as middle man, there are no authorizations (and fees) required. This improves profit margins sales.

3. Eliminates fraud risk -Only the Bitcoin owner can send payment to the intended recipient, who is the only one who can receive it. The network knows the transfer has occurred and transactions are validated; they cannot be challenged or taken back. This is big for online merchants who are often subject to credit card processors’ assessments of whether or not a transaction is fraudulent, or businesses that pay the high price of credit card chargebacks.

4. Data is secure — As we have seen with recent hacks on national retailers’ payment processing systems, the Internet is not always a secure place for private data. With Bitcoin, users do not give up private information.

a. They have two keys – a public key that serves as the bitcoin address and a private key with personal data.

b. Transactions are “signed” digitally by combining the public and private keys; a mathematical function is applied and a certificate is generated proving the user initiated the transaction. Digital signatures are unique to each transaction and cannot be re-used.

c. The merchant/recipient never sees your secret information (name, number, physical address) so it’s somewhat anonymous but it is traceable (to the bitcoin address on the public key).

5. Convenient payment system — Merchants can use Bitcoin entirely as a payment system; they do not have to hold any Bitcoin currency since Bitcoin can be converted to dollars. Consumers or merchants can trade in and out of Bitcoin and other currencies at any time.

6. International payments – Bitcoin is used around the world; e-commerce merchants and service providers can easily accept international payments, which open up new potential marketplaces for them.

7. Easy to track — The network tracks and permanently logs every transaction in the Bitcoin block chain (the database). In the case of possible wrongdoing, it is easier for law enforcement officials to trace these transactions.

8. Micropayments are possible – Bitcoins can be divided down to one one-hundred-millionth, so running small payments of a dollar or less becomes a free or near-free transaction. This could be a real boon for convenience stores, coffee shops, and subscription-based websites (videos, publications).

Still a little confused? Here are a few examples of transactions:

Bitcoin in the retail environment

At checkout, the payer uses a smartphone app to scan a QR code with all the transaction information needed to transfer the bitcoin to the retailer. Tapping the “Confirm” button completes the transaction. If the user doesn’t own any Bitcoin, the network converts dollars in his account into the digital currency.

The retailer can convert that Bitcoin into dollars if it wants to, there were no or very low processing fees (instead of 2 to 3 percent), no hackers can steal personal consumer information, and there is no risk of fraud. Very slick.

Bitcoins in hospitality

Hotels can accept Bitcoin for room and dining payments on the premises for guests who wish to pay by Bitcoin using their mobile wallets, or PC-to-website to pay for a reservation online. A third-party BTC merchant processor can assist in handling the transactions which it clears over the Bitcoin network. These processing clients are installed on tablets at the establishments’ front desk or in the restaurants for users with BTC smartphone apps. (These payment processors are also available for desktops, in retail POS systems, and integrated into foodservice POS systems.) No credit cards or money need to change hands.

These cashless transactions are fast and the processor can convert bitcoins into currency and make a daily direct deposit into the establishment’s bank account. It was announced in January 2014 that two Las Vegas hotel-casinos will accept Bitcoin payments at the front desk, in their restaurants, and in the gift shop.

It sounds good – so what’s the catch?

Business owners should consider issues of participation, security and cost.

• A relatively small number of ordinary consumers and merchants currently use or understand Bitcoin. However, adoption is increasing globally and tools and technologies are being developed to make participation easier.

• It’s the Internet, so hackers are threats to the exchanges. The Economist reported that a Bitcoin exchange was hacked in September 2013 and $250,000 in bitcoins was stolen from users’ online vaults. Bitcoins can be stolen like other currency, so vigilant network, server and database security is paramount.

• Users must carefully safeguard their bitcoin wallets which contain their private keys. Secure backups or printouts are crucial.

• Bitcoin is not regulated or insured by the US government so there is no insurance for your account if the exchange goes out of business or is robbed by hackers.

• Bitcoins are relatively expensive. Current rates and selling prices are available on the online exchanges.

The virtual currency is not yet universal but it is gaining market awareness and acceptance. A business may decide to try bitcoin gold explorer  and btg explorer to save on credit card and bank fees, as a customer convenience, or to see if it helps or hinders sales and profitability.

 

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Fashion Jobs and Fashion Career Advice

Picking one out of many fashion jobs generally is an overwhelming challenge. There are several different opportunities in the fashion industry that you might not be sure which one is best for you. With the high demand for fashion jobs, you need to be sure of what it is that you want to do so you can get started on pursuing your dream in this competitive industry. Below you will find descriptions for several fashion jobs and, subsequently, be one step closer to establishing your career in the fashion industry.

1. Fashion Designer

Thanks to shows like Project Runway, there are many people whose curiosity has been rose towards the fashion industry, exclusively, fashion design. A career as a fashion designer seems extravagant and rewarding but it takes a whole lot of work. A fashion designer must be well-informed of the latest trends (and sometimes even be ahead of them) and have the creativity to conceptualize new designs. A fashion designer creates sketches, whether by hand or with computer-aided design (CAD) software, of their designs and must be familiar with fabrics and materials in order to create samples that show what the final product would look like. As a fashion designer you can specialize in clothing design, footwear or accessories. Fashion jobs like that of a fashion designer are prolonged with grueling hours of intensive work and lots of traveling if you want to promote your designs. Fashion designers work under pressure to meet deadlines and make an impression on fashion buyers and other potential clients. As a fashion designer you would need not only talent and creativity but also thick skin and dedication.

2. Fashion Merchandising

Fashion jobs in merchandising can be very challenging. A fashion merchandiser must know what consumers really want, how to present it to them, what they want to pay for it and how to lure them to purchase. A fashion merchandiser is not just an expert in fashion but must also have strong business, financial and advertising skills. As a fashion designer you might find yourself creating budgets, tracking profits and losses, tracking inventory, developing marketing strategies and even putting together creative visual displays to draw in consumers. It’s a career that entails many different roles but also has many opportunities to grow and advance in.

3. Fashion Buyer

Fashion buyers are among the most crucial people for brands and companies. They must have good communication skills, be aggressive, organized and driven. As a fashion buyer you work hand in hand with designers, merchandisers and other key people to select what pieces to present to consumers and ensure that best-sellers are continually available. Buyers must be mindful of both current and future trends so they can make the right choices of clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. to ensure high profits. Working with suppliers to negotiate prices suggests that a fashion buyer must have good interpersonal skills, be educated in market costs and also in consumer demands. Fashion buyers must be ready to work under pressure, travel and research and analyze in order to make practical decisions on what products to offer their target customer base.

4. Fashion Director

Fashion directors, also known as creative directors or fashion coordinators, are in charge of the image and look of a store, magazine or a fashion house. They are accountable for that first impression given when people look at ad campaigns, shoots and even fashion films. A fashion director must make sure that the models, photographers, location and concepts characterize the store, brand, or magazine in the best and most genuine way. One of the most well known creative directors in the industry is Grace Coddington who, alongside Anna Wintour and other industry professionals, are a part of American Vogue. In the documentary “The September Issue” we are able to see Coddington showing us her best work and the steps she takes to produce the magnificent spreads in Vogue. Now, don’t think it will be a snap landing one of these fashion jobs. Be prepared for long hours of work, creative stumps, frequent traveling, crazy deadlines, and being willing to go back to the drawing board time and time again. Remember, as a fashion director you are responsible for the image of a brand; you produce something that the whole world will see. People will base their opinions on what you present to them. As one of the top fashion jobs in the industry, the pressure is on!

Fashion Jobs – The List Goes On

5. Fashion Forecaster

Probably one of the highest ranking careers in the fashion industry, fashion forecasters do just that, forecast the future trends and styles. This is much more sophisticated than forecasting the weather. Not only does a fashion forecaster need to have in depth knowledge of fashion but he or she must also be creative and surely have the skills necessary to research and analyze potential trends, colors, fabrics and patterns. Fashion forecasters seek inspiration in everything from movies, music, even science and technology. Getting a position as a fashion forecaster is one of the most prestigious of all fashion jobs you could aspire to.

6. Fashion Stylist

A fashion stylist has the easy (or is it?) task of making someone look good. A stylist must be familiar with what colors, fabrics and styles work best to flatter someone’s shape while also knowing ways to accessorize and finish the perfect outfit. Fashion stylists are responsible for picking the best pieces for photoshoots, events, etc. and putting them together for the final product. A stylist’s reputation lies on how good the client looks and, in the case of ad campaigns, whether or not the stylist can communicate the image and vision of a product. Don’t be surprised if, as a fashion stylist, you find yourself traveling for motivation or shopping for clothing, or even spending a day (or a few) revamping a client’s closet. Finding fashion jobs for stylists can be as uncomplicated as working as a personal shopper or styling photo shoots for websites or local magazines or newspapers.

7. Fashion Photographer

It’s not just about knowing just how to take a good picture. Fashion photographers basically have two fields to be good at: fashion and photography. The photography part consists of knowing what angles, lighting, etc. As far as the fashion, photographers really need to be experts in that as well. A fashion photographer should always know what the best trends are, top designers, top fashion events and any other heavy hitter aspects of the industry. Fashion jobs in this field can consist of taking pictures for model portfolios, ad campaigns, and fashion shows. Fashion photographers are responsible for producing a shot that requires excellent technical skills and extensive fashion knowledge. For example, when a fashion photographer goes to shoot at a fashion show he or she must know exactly when to snap the shot of that model wearing the flowing dress. The picture must showcase how the fabric moves and flows instead of displaying a dress that falls limp and drags on the floor. A fashion photographer works hand in hand with stylists, makeup artists and models to ensure that the final product is efficient in sending a visual message.

8. Fashion Editor

Fashion editors supervise the direction of a fashion publication, website and other media. They are in charge for editing a fashion writer’s work, making suggestions, and researching the possibilities of future stories. Fashion writers must be aware of trends and classics to assure that coverage is provided for the target audience. A fashion editor works under the pressure of meeting deadlines, supervising writers, discovering features and fresh ideas all while staying current on the industry and scanning the levels of competition. Some of the qualities necessary for one of these fashion jobs are being organized, punctual, able to communicate verbally and have impeccable writing and journalistic skills. Being one of the most competitive fashion jobs in the industry, a fashion editor should be ready to put some hard work in and spend long nights brewing up excellent, creative content.

9. Fashion Writer

Being a fashion writer is not as easy as picking up a pen and paper (or laptop, tablet, etc.) but includes extensive amounts of research. Fashion writers must be current on their knowledge of fashion and creative when drumming up writing ideas. Of course, outstanding writing skills are a must and meeting deadlines are also fundamental in this career. Fashion writers can execute interviews, cover fashion events and supply reviews of products. You have a choice of working as a freelance writer, with television shows, websites, blogs, smaller publications like local magazines and newspapers or with major publications such as Vogue or Elle, among others. This is one of those fashion jobs where you can find many opportunities and can be fairly simple to get started.

10. Fashion PR (Fashion Public Relations)

Creating a good consumer opinion is of the utmost importance for this fashion job. Where advertising and marketing can create a consumer desire to purchase a certain fashion item, public relations handles the image in its relation to the public eye. Public opinion can gauge the success and longevity of a company. Out of all the fashion jobs mentioned, fashion pr is the piece that ties it all together.

Fashion Jobs that Require WORK!

Whatever one of these fashion jobs you determine to make your career, remember that in such a reasonably competitive industry it’s important to put in a lot of hard work and to be determined. All employers look for something that make their next hire special and capable of making their publication, line, show, or website shine amongst the rest. What is it that you have to offer that others don’t have? How motivated are you? Tell us, which one of these fashion jobs appeal to you the most?

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Digital Games And Kids – A Different Perspective

The “Wikipedia problem” which means children turning to internet for readymade answers is the new age phenomenon baffling teachers and mentors globally. There are almost equal numbers of teachers who consider technology to be a solution as much as a problem. While a common belief is that technology is hindering the students’ capacity to think and analyze, there is also a strong opinion in favor of video games and digital gadgets’ ability to engage students and enhance learning by using more than one sensory stimulators. In spite of the growing concern about the students’ deteriorating attention spans, institutions are incorporating them in the process of classroom learning.

Children are inherently inquisitive creatures. They have a curiosity to discover new things and learn by way of discovering and experimenting even before they are subjected to methods of formal education such as reading or writing. Science is a discipline of experiments and discoveries. The National Science Education Standards emphasize that “science education needs to give students three kinds of scientific skills and understandings. Students need to learn the principles and concepts of science, acquire the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists, and understand the nature of science as a particular form of human endeavor. Students therefore need to be able to devise and carry out investigations that test their ideas, and they need to understand why such investigations are uniquely powerful. Studies show that students are much more likely to understand and retain the concepts that they have learned this way “. Hence, it becomes imperative to engage children in science education at an early stage.

Digital games are more capable to gain students’ interests and attention than other conventional means of imparting education in a classroom. However, some educationists also regard them as culprits of exponential decline in the attention span in children. The next sections in this article discuss the involvement of children in games in the tech age, types of games available in the market and the impact of digital gaming as learning aids in classrooms.

Gaming and the New Age Kids

Digital technology has expanded the horizons of video gaming in the modern world. Kids are subjected to far more complex and challenging technological environment than their counterparts were from over half a century back. Involvement of kids in digital gaming is a result of many significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the modern society. Easy accessibility of technology, dispensable income due to dual income families and lack of infrastructure for outdoor activities in many cities are some major contributors in making screen games an important part of the children’s’ lives. A study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) found that only 20 percent of the census blocks are within half a mile of a block boundary. Also, the effect of peer pressure cannot be undermined in these times of social networking.

The digital gaming market is one of the fastest growing segments of the global entertainment industry. US is witnessing unprecedented penetration of digital games amongst youngsters. In the US, 97% of the teens play some type of game on a regular basis. In India, the gaming market has grown manifold in the last few years. Hence, it is imperative that educationists are continuously contemplating the use of digital gaming as a learning tool in classrooms. Institutions are also employing innovative ways to leverage the digital advantage for enhancing the learning experience at schools.

What are Digital Games?

There is no concrete definition of games as it may vary with an individual’s preference and profession. Games can be defined as a “system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, which result in a quantifiable outcome”. Technology and digitization add new dimensions to games where simulations, interactivity, augmented reality, alternative reality, collective intelligence and sensory stimulators such as sound and visual effects. Digital games are also characterized by their portability and limitless accessibility.

Role-playing games, simulation games and puzzles are some of the most popular digital games. In role-playing games, the player enacts the role of a particular character in a virtual world moving from one level to the other based on the outcome of the earlier level. RPGs can be single player such as the dungeons and dragons from earlier days of gaming or multi-player games such as Diablo III, Xenoblade, Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Mass Effect 3. MMORPG or the Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games are an extension of the RPGs where large number of players interacts in an online virtual world. Simulation games create realistic situations in virtual worlds. The outcome will depend on the player’s decision-making and responsiveness and will be closely similar to what may happen in a real world in the same situation. Widely used in training and analysis, simulation games are also popular due to their unpredictable and personalized outcomes. Flight Simulator X, Live for Speed (LFS) and Need for Speed have been extremely popular simulation games for a long time. Puzzles genre of digital games involves problem solving and analysis with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the game. Crosswords and treasure hunt games are basic forms of puzzle games in both physical and digital form.

All types of digital games involve a social involvement of players. Some need collaborative efforts to play while others may be discussed or analyzed socially. In spite of some games being accused of outright violent visual effects, a well-designed game can accelerate the thinking process by motivating, engaging, involving creativity and developing a meta-game i.e., social interactions inspired and enhanced inside or outside the game. Incorporating digital gaming in the basic education framework can lead to augmented competitiveness and multi-dimensional growth in children.

Digital Games in Science Education – Why and Why Not?

The 21st century requires the mentors and the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. Though the ultimate goal is to benefit the students in terms of learning and experience, unsupervised, unorganized or irrelevant application can lead to complete failure or have negative effects. Some of the negative impacts of digital games in general and in context with the education are listed below:

    • Digital games have been facing constant rebuke for allegedly enhancing aggression amongst kids and developing a violent streak at an early stage. In a study by Anderson and Bushman (2001), Children involved in violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping. Use of weapons and being rewarded for being violent is a cause of widespread concern.

 

    • Digital games can be addictive for children and make them physically inactive. Digital games, other than social networking, are considered for reduced physical activity leading to obesity in kids and postural and skeletal disorders.

 

    • Addiction to games is also known to make kids socially secluded. Impulsive behavior, depression and increased anxiety levels are largely attributed to excessive gaming in children. Some studies also suggest that the children playing games are unable to concentrate for a long span and have reduced attention span.

 

    • Children are prone to absorbing socially unacceptable behavior through some digital games such as using profanities and ill-treating the fairer sex. Lack of adequate knowledge about screening the material available online is a growing concern amongst the parents.

 

    • Digital games are considered a hindrance to better performance in academics. Students are often found to skip homework to play games leading to deteriorated performance at school. However, despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children learn skills, content, and vital “21st-century” skills. From digital games children can learn: content (from rich vocabulary to science to history), skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving), creation of artifacts (from videos to software code) and systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole). Strong arguments in favor of using digital games as learning aids in secondary education are summarized below:

 

    • Digital games involve extreme hand-eye coordination and enhance motor and sensory skills. Sensory stimulation theory proposed by academician Laird (1985) validates that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. While some studies show that digital gaming reduces attention span, there are strong evidences of improved concentration in short intervals of time. Digital games involve keeping an eye on every detail, follow the rules and respond proactively to the given situation. Complex digital games help is developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Some games also involve logical analysis of the situation and pattern recognition and improve memorizing thus assisting in the cognitive process. Playing by the rules teaches children to accept and respect a certain level of discipline.

 

  • Multi-player digital games develop a sense of constructive competitive attitude. Collaborative games also improve team-building attitude. They develop time management skills in a team and train the players to cooperate for mutually desired goal. They teach the players to accept defeat as well as strive for better results. Digital games provide an avenue for hyperactive kids to direct the energy in a constructive system based game. They also provide an outlet to release aggression and frustration, thus helping in diffusing stress. Some games also involve physical activity such as Nintendo Wii boxing helping kids to engage mentally and physically with the kids. Complex digital games involve high level of multitasking thus improving brain’s natural learning process. Brain based learning theory proposes that multi-tasking is an inherent activity of the brain and learning is enhanced by challenges at various levels. Digital games develop efficient situational analysis and strategy making in children. Since games have certain objectives at every level and a final objective of the game, it teaches players to devise short term and long-term strategies such as scoring points, retaining energy and reaching the ultimate goal of the game. Simulation games and the role-playing digital games help players gain expertise or learn by experiencing in replicas of real world situations. Experiential learning and action learning theories are based on the premise that individuals learn faster when they by experiencing and actually participating in action.

“Games require the kind of thinking that we need in the 21st Century because they use actual learning as the basis for assessment. They test not only current knowledge and skills, but also preparation for future learning. They measure 21st century skills like collaboration, innovation, production, and design by tracking many different kinds of information about a student, over time. ”

 

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Top 7 Ways You Save Money With Virtual Consulting

There are many ways in which You may Save Money by utilizing Virtual Consulting, Virtual Consultants and a Virtual Consulting Firm to help you satisfy your business needs!

In this article we will briefly discuss the Top 7 Ways in which You may Save Money by utilizing Virtual Consulting, Virtual Consultants and a Virtual Consulting Firm to help you satisfy of your business needs, OK?

The first three (3) Money Saving items, below, are ways in which You may Save Money by utilizing Virtual Consulting and Virtual Consultants relative to the costs of utilizing “traditional” consultants that you or they require that they work at your site/facilities. You should be able to realize these Significant Money Savings whether utilizing independent Virtual Consultants and/or Virtual Consultants from a Virtual Consulting Firm, namely:

1) You Save Money on Travel and Living Expenses

By utilizing Virtual Consultants who work remotely/virtually from wherever in the world they happen to be, you don’t have to pay all of the travel and living expenses generally if you or the consultant requires that they work at your site/facilities, you know?

These travel and living expenses, you save by utilizing Virtual Consultants, may include any to all of the following:

* Airfare

* Rental cars

* Hotels

* Meals

* Per Diems

* Etc.

And some “traditional consultants” will even bill you for all of the time they spend traveling to/from your site and their “home/base”, you know?

All of these travel and living expenses can really mount up when you have to fly each consultant in and out to your site(s) every week for potentially months on end!, you know?

Virtual Consultants provide you their consulting services remotely/virtually. This means you don’t incur any of these types of travel and living expenses by utilizing Virtual Consulting, you see?

So …

How much money would it immediately save you if you didn’t have to pay all of these travel and living expenses for each/all of the consultants you may wish to engage to help you satisfy your business needs?

2) You Save Money on Facilities

Virtual Consultants work from their own offices, homes and/or wherever they happen to be.

Therefore, you do not have to provide facilities, e.g. offices, conference rooms, telephones, etc. for any of the Virtual Consultants you utilize, you know?

How much money might you save by not having to provide the facilities for each/all of the consultants you may engage to help you satisfy your business needs?

3) You Save Money on Computer and Office Equipment

Virtual Consultants use their own computers and office equipment to perform their consulting services for you.

Therefore, you do not have to provide additional computer or office equipment for any of the Virtual Consultants you utilize to use, which a traditional consultant would likely need to use while working at your site. Further, none of your staff has to spend their time setting up, configuring and/or cleaning up computers and/or networks just for your consultants to use at your site, you know?

How much money would you also save by not having to provide and manage all of the additional computers, networks and office equipment for each/all of the consultants you may engage to help you satisfy all of your consulting needs?

The next two (2) Money Saving items, below, are additional ways in which You may Save More Money by utilizing Virtual Consulting and Virtual Consultants versus having to recruit, hire, employ and your own employees to provide these services, complete these projects and/or tasks to satisfy your same business needs, namely:

4) You Save Money on your Human Resources

Why have to carry employees on your payroll all the time, when you may only need their particular skills, talents, and/or experience for particular tasks, projects and/or part of the time?

Why not just pay for the resources with the skills, talents, and/or experiences you need just when you need them, e.g. to complete a particular task or project?

Virtual Consulting provides you with with access to a “Just In Time (JIT)” flexible workforce. You can engage just the Virtual Consultants that you need and just when you need them to complete your particular tasks and projects. These resources then don’t cost you anything when you aren’t using / don’t need them!, you know?

Further, by utilizing Virtual Consultants, you don’t have to pay all of costs associated with providing all of the benefits that you would have to when employing your own full time employees, you know?

So …

How much money would you also save by utilizing Virtual Consultants and not having to carry all of the employees on your payroll all the time, from whom you may only need their particular skills, talents, and/or experience for particular tasks, projects and/or part of the time?

5) You Save Money on Recruiting and Hiring

Having access to this type of flexible workforce of Virtual Consultants also allows your business to Save Money by being able to more efficiently and effectively “ramp up” or “scale back” your human resources with all of the “ebbs” and “flows” of your business, you know?

You don’t have to incure all of the additional costs of posting jobs, recruiting candidates, hiring and training new employees to address seasonal variations in your business, new projects and/or unexpected increases in your business that may not last forever, right?

You may quickly and easily engage all of the Virtual Consultants to more efficiently and effectively match your human resources with your business needs at any time! and Save Money in the process, you know?

The final, for now, two (2) Money Saving items, below, are additional ways in which You may Save even More Money by engaging a Virtual Consulting Firm who provides all of the Virtual Consultants and Virtual Consulting services to satisfy your business needs, versus having to recruit, hire, employ and your own employees to provide these services and satisfy these same business needs, namely:

6) You Save Money finding the Right Resource for the “Job”

Do you realize how much time, effort and money it costs you to find the right person to successfully perform a particular “job” / complete a particular project or task?

It has been my experience as both a corporate hiring manager and as the Principal of a consulting firm, that the Pareto principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule, applies in these situations as well! This means that for every position for which you are trying to hire an employee or find the right consultant, and in each phase of this process, only 20% of the people you interview or hire/engage will be the right person for that job or task. That means that you are likely to hire/engage up to five (5) different people before you find the right/best person for that job or task. Spending all of this time and effort to find this one (1) right person may be very time consuming and very costly!, you know? And you have to start all over with this whole process each time you need to replace someone for whatever reason, you know?

You may avoid all of this lost time, effort and these costs by employing a Virtual Consulting Firm that takes care of all of that for you! 🙂 A good Virtual Consulting Firm will find the right person for each job, task or project for you! Further, a good Virtual Consulting Firm will replace any consultants as needed, for whatever reason, completely transparently to you!

So …

How much more time, effort and Money will this Save You by engaging a Virtual Consulting Firm to provide you with the right person for each job, task or project you need for your business?

7) You may Save Significant amounts of Money on Consulting Rates

Even many independent Virtual Consultants may offer you significantly lower rates for their consulting services if they are able to remotely/virtually simple due to the benefits of Virtual Consulting to them and their strong preference to be able to work from wherever they want, you know?

A good Virtual Consulting Firm may further be able to offer you lower rates for the specific consulting services you need to satisfy your specific business needs. They are able to offer you these better rates by having access to many Virtual Consultants of various levels, skills and experiences such that they may match the right consultants with the best rates for your specific requirements and business needs, you see?

Further, a Virtual Consulting Firm is itself typically a virtual organization, they generally don’t have the traditional overhead of facilities, etc. and are able to capitalize on all of the aforementioned Money Saving benefits. Therefore, they are able to pass these savings on to you in the form of lower consulting rates, and you ultimately Save More Money!, you see?

So …

Given all of these ways, discussed herein, in which you may Save Money by utilizing Virtual Consulting, Virtual Consultants and a Virtual Consulting Firm, Just think of all of the Money You may Save by starting to utilize Virtual Consulting, Virtual Consultants and a Virtual Consulting Firm to help you satisfy your business needs Today!

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Point-of-Sale Software – Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid

ndependent retailers have traditionally been technology laggards. This slow adoption of new technology has provided hidden benefits though. Economies of scale are achieved at larger retail stores and the new technologies become available to independent retailers at much lower costs. Today, independent retailers have access to point-of-sale systems with features comparable to large competitors. The costs of these systems are often hundreds of times less than the investment made by the large retail chains.

Measured by dollars, the technology investment made by an independent retailer is considerably less than their larger counterparts. But if you measure the investment against annual revenues (i.e. percent of revenue), the comparison becomes similar. Once understood, independent retailers should approach their technology investment like the large retail chains. Unlike other purchases a retailer will make, the technology decision is one the retailer will live with for many years. The amount of time required to implement a system and become productive in its use will be the largest costs associated with any system. Economists refer to these types of costs as “sunk costs”. Sunk costs are those costs that are incurred and cannot be recovered to any significant degree.

If a retailer avoids the ten most common mistakes when selecting a point-of-sale system, they can avoid duplicating their efforts and control these costs. Avoiding these ten mistakes will help insure that the right system is selected the first time.

1. Not Understanding Your Needs

If a retailer isn’t automated or is operating an out-of-date system, they may have developed inefficient procedures. Every process in the business (e.g. purchasing, receiving, transfers, etc.) should be noted and worked through in the point-of-sale software during the demonstration phase. The provider of the software can then demonstrate the automation of each process within the proposed solution. The provider should also have extensive industry knowledge and be able to make recommendations on how related retailers have automated similar processes.

2. Not Obtaining Product References

Do not move forward with a purchase until you have obtained a minimum of three references and contacted those references. Requesting local references also gives you the ability to visit the retail store and see the point-of-sale product in action. When talking with references also make sure that they are using the version of the software you are evaluating. Ask them if they like the product, how the implementation went, and how they rate the on-going support. These references can also be used to create your own support group if you move forward with the purchase.

3. Neglecting Due Diligence

What do you know about the company providing your new point-of-sale system? There are many companies that will sell you a system but very few that are exclusively in the point-of-sale business. Companies that are “in” the business have been dedicated to the market for decades and have vast amounts of knowledge and expertise. Once you make a decision on a system purchase, you are married to the company providing you with the system. Do your due diligence homework and find out the following:

– How long has the company been in business?
You want to insure that the company will be around as long as you have their system. Most businesses fail within the first five years.

– How large is the company measured by employee count and revenue?
A financially strong company will have sufficient revenue and resources to support you for the life of the system. Larger companies with more employees often offer superior support services, training, installation, and faster feature development.

– How strong is the company and is it publicly traded?
Public companies offer the safety of full disclosure and access to the capital markets. Audited financial statements will provide you with information regarding the company’s strength. Records for public companies can be obtained through any financial website such as Yahoo Finance, eTrade, Fidelity and so on.

Software development and support is labor and capital intensive. By choosing a strong company, you are insuring that the software you choose will be updated with new features for many years.

4. Insufficient Training

Maybe it is human nature, but all retailers try to save money in this area. But, just like a college degree, you will earn many times more than the training costs with better use of the system. Many retailers have purchased great point-of-sale systems only to use them as glorified cash registers because of a lack of training. Your training plan should resemble the following:

– Pre-installation – 1 day of classroom training as an overview of the system

– Installation – 1-5 days depending upon the size of the store and number of employees. This training normally takes place at the store location. Point-of-sale training for employees normally only requires an hour or two. Back office management functions such as purchasing, receiving, barcodes, inventory management, reporting, ecommerce, etc. will take up the remaining time. Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself at this point with too much information. Learn what you need to run your business day to day. More training should be available in the future.

– 1 Month Post-Installation – The retailer has had some time with the system and will need to generate month end reports. This is also a good time to train on questions that have come up since the initial training. Post-Installation training is often accomplished through a phone call and remote access to the retailers system.

– 3-6 Month Post-Installation – The retailer knows their way around the software, has established procedures, and the retail store is fully automated. At this time the retailer may want to learn the advanced features of the software to give them a strategic advantage. This could include advanced reporting, open-to-buy planning, eCommerce integration, customer marketing and so on.

5. Buying on Price

We are bombarded everyday with offers for low priced hardware and software. Advertisements from major computer manufacturers display unbelievable prices. Resist the temptation of trying to save yourself a few dollars with cheap hardware. It will end up costing you more when it doesn’t work. The low priced computers and printers advertised are cheap for a reason. They are consumer level products that aren’t manufactured to take the daily twelve hour beating most retail environments will impose on them. You can verify this by checking the duty cycles on consumer level hardware versus business class machines.

Low priced hardware is difficult for anyone to support because the internal components of the computer changes on a frequent basis. What is inside a cheap computer is based upon the lowest bidder at the time of bid. As an example, you may order a model M30 computer today and your point-of-sale software and peripherals run fine on it. You then order ten of the model M30 and find that the software only runs on some of them. The others have different components inside that conflict with the software. You’ve just saved yourself a few dollars on hardware but now get to pay an unlimited hourly rate for the point-of-sale company to figure out the problem.

Point-of-sale companies know what they know, but they don’t know what they don’t know. With cheap hardware, they can never possibly know so you will only cost yourself more money in the long run by not following their recommendation.

6. Purchasing One Size Fits All System

There is not a single point-of-sale system that is a perfect fit for every type of retailer. The retail industry has several different vertical markets that all have unique needs. As an example, pharmacies require a pos system that integrates with their prescription dispensing software and support IRS IIAS legislation for FSA (flexible spending account) credit cards. A bike shop requires serial number tracking and work order management for mechanics. A clothing store needs size and color matrixes to support the large number of SKUs for a single pair of jeans. The list goes on and on.

Find a point-of-sale system specific to your market. The unique features they offer will automate the distinct needs of your market. The industry specific automation will provide you with a better ROI (return on investment) compared with choosing generic point-of-sale software.

7. Customizing For Planned Obsolescence

Point-of-sale systems for independent retailers have been around for almost three decades now. The feature lists are extensive because millions of retailers have helped software developers create features specific to the industry. 95% or more of the features you will require will be offered in a single package. If not, avoid the temptation to customize the software. Customizing any software freezes you into the version you purchase and precludes you from moving forward with future releases. There are still many stores today that operate DOS based point-of-sale systems because of this oversight. Don’t be one of them.

8. Following The Garbage In, Garbage Out Cliché

A great point-of-sale system can be turned into a mediocre system if data input and standards aren’t maintained. Today’s software has the capability to turn raw data into meaningful information. The best example of this is the department/class/subclass structure. Every retail store has departments, larger ones also have related classes, and even larger ones have related subclasses. Categorizing your inventory this way allows you to quickly spot sales and inventory trends on the reports produced by the system.

Use the 10/10 rule. You should have no more than 10 departments and each of those departments should have no more than 10 classes. If you think about it, even the largest department stores merchandise within the rule.

9. Neglecting Disaster Recovery

The most neglected rule of all. But when it happens, people tend to become diligent about it. With the technology today, there is no reason to ignore this any longer. Backing up a system no longer requires slow tape drives, archaic software, and confusing rotation procedures. Today, backups can be performed with the use of portable hard drives or internet based online backup services.

Most retailers think of disaster recovery only in the case of a computer crash. But over the years I’ve seen retailers rely on them for fires, floods, and computer theft. As long as you have a good backup and insurance policy, a disaster does not have to be catastrophic.

10. Choosing The Wrong Partner

The point-of-sale space has always been very competitive but only a few key players have sustained in the marketplace. Every year many companies enter the market and leave just as quickly. Retailers are then stuck without support and eventually have to choose a new system from a reputable company. To guard yourself against this, make sure to partner with a strong company dedicated to the retail industry. You can accomplish this by asking a few of the following questions:

– Is point-of-sale the company’s primary business?

When software companies choose to expand their target market, they will often times view the retail space very favorably due to the large number of retailers. Many times they underestimate the complexity of the market and the vertical requirements of each retail segment. This will cause them to enter the market with an offering and leave once they suffer unsustainable losses. Accounting software companies have been notorious for this behavior throughout the years. To protect yourself, make sure the focus of the company is primarily point-of-sale systems.

– Is the provider THE company or just a reseller of a product?

Several of the prominent point-of-sale companies use a direct sales channel. Smaller point-of-sale companies use a reseller or distributor model to sell their systems. The difference is staggering. The direct channel establishes a relationship between the retailer and the software vendor. Better support, quality, and expertise are the result. Resellers of a product cannot begin to match support or quality a direct relationship provides. It is far too common for retailers to be left without support once a reseller moves on to other products.

– What type on on-going support do they provide?

Support departments for point-of-sale systems are very different than consumer software products. Point-of-sale applications are mission critical. If a POS system is down, it literally costs the retailer money. Insist that the point-of-sale provider you select offers a “real time” support model. Real time support insures that a technician will pick up the phone and assist you when you call. Older support models implement a “call back” method that requires you to leave a message of the problem and a technician calls you back at an undetermined length of time. The difference between the two support models can literally cost a retailer thousands of dollars in lost sales.

– Do they offer onsite technical assistance?

Your job is retail, not technology. You should be able to rely upon your point-of-sale provider to supply you with onsite technicians. These technicians can install a new system correctly and troubleshoot any technical problems you may experience.

– Do they offer training classes?

Training, training, training, we all know we get better with more of it. You can insure you get the most out of your investment with on-going training. The provider you select should offer classes to help you gain efficiencies as your expertise on the point-of-sale system grows.

– Do they have user groups and regular meetings?

User group meetings are one of the best places to learn new ideas, see the newest features in the software, and network with your peers. Many times a peer will have a solution or offer a new way to accomplish a task using the software.

An independent retailer can insure their success by avoiding these ten common mistakes. Although this article is written with a point-of-sale purchase in mind, the same checklist can be applied to many other business purchases. Often times, the strength and ethics of the company providing the product is just as important as the product itself.

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing Home Inspection Software

Purchasing home inspection software is one of the most important decisions a home inspector will make. Whether it is a new inspector who is just getting started or a veteran one who has been inspecting homes for 20 years, inspection software is going to play a major role in their businesses. Here are five questions home inspectors should ask themselves before purchasing home inspection software.

Is the software easy to use?

Before making a decision on software, an inspector should be sure to try out the software and make sure it is simple to use. Most home inspectors will be the first to tell you that they are not computer experts, which is why having home inspection software that is easy to use is a must. They need to make sure they can effectively use the software the way they want to. With a home inspector’s busy schedule, being able to learn the software quickly with little training is crucial. The quicker they can get up and running the better.

How flexible is the software?

Having software that is flexible and customizable is important. Every home inspector has a unique inspection style and way of putting together a report, so finding software that can adapt to them is essential. An inspector should make sure that they are able to edit forms, as well as, create their own. They shouldn’t have to change the way they do inspections; they should be able to change the software to suit them.

Can they picture themselves using it in the field?

An inspector should visualize themselves using the software in the field to make sure that it is a good fit for them. An inspector will first need to decide if they want to use a handheld device, tablet, or laptop in the field and then decide if the software will work with their choice. Using software in the field should be a benefit to them and their inspection process, not a hindrance. They will also need to make sure that the software does not take them away from their clients during the inspection. The client is the number one priority, and being able to use software effectively while still communicating with them is extremely important.

What is the total cost of the software?

Determining the total cost of the software is also very important. Inspectors need to ask the software company if there are any ongoing fees while they own the software, such as paying per inspection. Paying per home inspection may sound like a cheap alternative, but an inspector should figure out what the total cost would be over time. For example, if an inspector pays $7 per inspection and they do 200 inspections a year, that’s $1400 for one year! They should also ask if there is a monthly or annual fee to use the program. If the inspector plans to use the software on multiple computers, they will need to see if it costs extra to install to multiple devices. Home inspection software is a big investment, and an inspector needs to make sure they know exactly how much it is going to cost them.

Can they see themselves having an extended, working relationship with the software company?

Since software is one of the keys to a home inspection business, it is important to determine if an inspector can visualize themselves having a working relationship with the software company for many years. An inspector should call the software company beforehand and have a conversation with them. They should see how long they’ve been in business and talk to the technical support department to make sure they are responsive and helpful. A home inspector should plan on developing a long-term relationship with their software vendor.

Purchasing home inspection software is a great idea for any home inspection business. With such a big decision, the home inspector definitely wants to make sure they make the right choice. Asking the questions above will help them accomplish that goal.

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3 Steps Of Ecommerce Web Site Development

When it comes to ecommerce web site development the ultimate goal of the web site is to lead customers to buy products from your site. There are three steps for affordable web design with your ecommerce web site:

Step 1: Design Your Web Site

One must at the very beginning decide on the amount that is to be spent on getting the web site designed. Only after this is done should one start to choose a Web site designing firm. Thus the affordability analysis should be also taken into consideration while making the final decision. Regardless of the price of the web site design you are paying for, it is advisable to look at all possible options before making a decision and choosing a company. Good web site design is when there will be an obvious return on investment, over a set term.

Designing an ecommerce web site is quite different than designing other types of web sites. Most stores use an online catalog type of format organized by category. You will need crystal clear pictures of each item you’re selling, as well as a detailed description to tell customers everything they need to know. An ecommerce web site must not only present the merchandise effectively, it must provide a safe and easy way for customers to order.

Step 2: Set up Your Store

Your customers will browse at your web site, select some items, and then pay for them. When you set up an e-commerce shopping cart, you’re providing a way for your customers to bring their purchases to the cash register. The program you choose will allow you to enter your products in the database and allow shoppers to choose products when they click on “Add to cart” or something similar.

There are elements for a installing ecommerce web site:

  • Domain. Domain names are very essential aspects of any web site business. These may have been the most overlooked areas but the impact that they can bring about to any business is so immense. It is for this reason that the name you choose should be carefully studied and analyzed before they are purchased and used.
  • Web hosting. After you have determined that your future web site host is a reliable, well established company, let’s look at their offer’s technical details and understand what they stand for. There are many factors that determine a good and reliable hosting company such as: Reliability, Bandwidth, File Storage Space, Reputation, Statistics, Control Panel, Support, Backups, Range Of Services, Cost, and more.
  • Ecommerce script/ software. Store owners can set up their online stores using ecommerce script/ software with either free or paid ecommerce script/ software. For small stores, it has all the features you need for an online store. For example: OScommerce, Zen Cart, PHP Auction, Cube Cart, Open Realty, Miva Merchant, etc.
  • Payment processor gateway. When customers arrive at the checkout counter, you need a way for their payments to be transferred from their credit card accounts to your bank account. The method you choose may depend on your sales volume. There are popular payment processor companies: PayPal, 2CheckOut, Authorize.net and WorldPay.
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Step 3: Promote Your Web Site To Worldwide

Here are some ways you can get web traffic to your web site. A new website might get 10 – 20 vistor’s daily. If your web site is good and improved frequently it will give you up to 100 – 200 vistor’s daily. Some websites will have up to more 1,000 visitors daily. Then its essential you promote your product or service. Some ways have proven as the most efficient in generating traffic to your web site: Pay Per Click, Article Submission, Press Release, Link Exchange, Directories Submission, and more.

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