SMBs and iOS7: Tips to Adapt to the New Look and Feel

If you’ve spent untold hours developing a good mobile app, how do you react when the operating system changes the way it looks and works almost completely?

That’s a question that small-business owners have to answer when it comes to iOS7. Love it or hate it, the radical aesthetic and functional changes to Apple’s mobile working environment are here to stay, and for businesses with iPhone or iPad apps, it’s time to prepare users for app redesigns as well.

iOS7

Image Source: Apple

But SMB customers aren’t always early adopters, and if they’ve come rely upon your mobile app as a go-to service, you don’t want to lose them while they’re catching up to the technological times. So, how do you please everyone, without (a.) falling behind the forward leaners or (b.) outstripping the more cautious among your clients?

We turn to some experts for tips and advice on what to do to adapt to the iOS change and also keep your users happy.

Version Shock: 3 Tips for Avoiding It an iOS7 World

Recent reports suggest that nearly 1/3 of Apple users still haven’t upgraded to the newest version of Apple’s operating system. Some people just aren’t ready for the change, and there were even early reports that the operating system made some users feel sick to their stomachs.

On the other hand, as a business owner with customers that fall into that other ~70%, you can’t let the change-resistant overstate their case. So, how to walk a line?

Here are some tips, with guidance from developers at Roambi, one company that has been building business-productivity apps for iPhone since the very beginning of the App Store.

  1. Make sure the current version of your app is up-to-date. It may be hard to do while your app-development team is working to create the newest version of your app, but it’s important to perfect the existing version of your app before moving on to the next version. Any bugs or glitches should be fixed now so that you can focus on the next iteration of your app.
  2. Notify your customers. Not everybody is an early adopter, and this newest version of Apple’s operating system represents the biggest design shift from Apple yet, so make sure your customers know why you are changing your app and have an idea of what to expect. Sending an email to your user base or making a video tutorial with FAQs will be essential.
  3. Listen to your users. Even Apple’s newest edition of its operating system wasn’t perfect the first time around. Be prepared to receive feedback from your users on your new app and make notes on what can be improved for the next time you want to push an update.

Whether it’s you that codes for your small business or you work with tech-savvy team, if you’re ready to sink into some deep app-redesign, avail yourself of this set of key project notes from Apple’s development pages — including further advice on keeping iOS6 support intact.

Create and innovate, and with a quiver full of these tips you’ll know you’re aiming for the bullseye when it comes to new adopters, but still hitting the mark for your users who want to stick with iOS6 a little longer.

 

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After the Shutdown: SMBs Weigh-In on the Showdown (and Who’s to Blame)

Government ShutdownThe rhetoric isn’t over, but the U.S. government shutdown is, for the moment, at an end. With a late-night vote on Oct. 16, the House of Representatives dragged itself across the finish line of a 16-day endurance lap that was meant to test the resolve of the President, the Senate, and — to their chagrin — the American people.

Throughout the process, we heard a lot from politicians about closed monuments and parks, and about the outrage prompted when those resources weren’t available. But what really happened on the ground? What about the business owners that felt the shutdown’s impact?

“The shutdown is about more than national parks and zoos, landscaping and passports,” says Crystal L. Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer. To her, the larger concern about federal offices going dark was “the effect of this shutdown on federal contractors, medical research, and federally funded social services.”

Now, as the dust clears, small-business owners are ready to talk. Here are the stories of several, and what they experienced as the federal government drew the shades for over two weeks in 2013.

Federal Contracts: Hitting Pause on Cash Flow

The Voice of Your Customer works with clients to penetrate niche markets via surveys, focus groups, and media campaigns. Part of its business comes from U.S. government contracts.

“As a result of the government shutdown, our contracts and work assignments were put on hold,” Kendrick says. “Additionally, our invoices were not being processed. What is more is that few federal RFPs have been released since 1 October, so the future workload of federal contractors will be affected as well.”

And the effect ripples across not only Kendrick’s company, either. The freelancers with whom she works will feel a pinch as well.

“We have delayed spending with our contractors and other suppliers,” she says. “We now have idle resources and delayed receivables. We have assigned our staff to other internal activities and we are using other resources to manage our cash flow.”

Bureaucratic Freeze: Licenses, Taxes, and Loans Take a Hit

If you’re a freelancer in need of that new permit, or you’re resolving a complicated tax scenario, the shutdown likely created new problems for you. So says Michael Raanan, president of Landmark Tax Group.

“The shutdown had a significant adverse affect on my business since my tax practice is dedicated to resolving IRS tax disputes,” Raanan says. “No IRS live assistance was available, no paper tax returns were being processed.”

And all those wage levies, tax liens in need of removal, and IRS approval for licenses and escrow issues? All on hold.

Similarly, if you had a loan application in with, say, the U.S. Small Business Administration, you can almost certainly expect that process to be slowed by the backlog caused by the shutdown.

The Finger of Blame

It’s clear that partisan wars are fought by more than one side. But small-business owners and U.S. citizens have shifted in how they answer the question of who bears the blame for the 2013 shutdown.

A Manta flash poll of 1,000 small-business owners allocated blame for the shutdown like this:

  • Congressional Democrats: 12%
  • Congressional Republicans: 22%
  • President Barack Obama: 30%
  • Tea Party: 8%
  • Both Democrats and Republicans: 24%
  • Other: 1%
  • Don’t Know: 3%

By Oct. 13, a Pew Research poll, its findings not confined to small-business owners, showed different results when it came to assigning blame.

  • Republicans: 46%
  • Obama Administration: 37%
  • Both: 13%

Steve Silberberg, owner and head guide at Fitpacking, a company that takes hikers on trips to national parks and forests, placed himself squarely in the mid-October 46%.

“I consider Congressional Tea Party members to blame for the shutdown,” says Silberberg, focusing on those members’ efforts “to defund the Affordable Care Act and convince me that it will place undue burdens on my business. They shut down my business.”

 

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‘Outbox’ Turns Your Snail Mail into Email

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Outbox, a service takes your snail mail and digitizes it for seamless online or mobile viewing.

Even though email has long taken over as the main source of person-to-person mail communication, people still receive snail mail. A lot of it, in fact.

The United States Postal Service has hardly kept up with the times. Sure, truck and plane fleets have replaced horses as its transportation means, but the independent government agency has continued to move paper doorstep to doorstep for 238 years.

Intro to Outbox from Outbox on Vimeo.

With tangible mail coexisting with email for foreseeable future, Outbox is hoping to bring a digital solution to a very physical problem.

“On average, a person receives about 90 pieces of postal mail every month,” said Outbox co-founder Will Davis. “Granted, some of this is complete junk. But when new Outbox users are better able to manage this flow, they soon discover just how important some of these items are.”

Outbox collects and manages postal mail on a users’ behalf, enabling users to access, organize, prioritize and discard (or completely unsubscribe from) any piece of mail. Users can view their digitized mail on the internet, smartphone or tablet. And in the event you still want the original, physical copy, Outbox will return it to you.

To date, Outbox has enjoyed a successful beta phase run in Austin and San Francisco, tapping 1,200 users for the trial. According to Outbox, there are also “thousands [of prospective users] on our wait list [too].”

Even though Outbox currently relies on snail mail, the company does have a contingency plan in the event the aged service goes under.

“We are building an elegant API that will enable billers and service providers to reach our users in smarter, more efficient, and less expensive ways,” said Davis. “[The hope is that] in five years, Outbox will own the last and first mile in shipping.”

The expansion of Outbox into more cities and becoming available to additional users will occur later in the year. As it stands currently, the service costs $7.99 per month.

To find out more information about Outbox you can visit its website, follow the company on Twitter and watch the introductory video.

 

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ActiveReplay’s ‘Trace’ Looks to Take Action Sports to a Whole New Level

Trace App for Action SportsWelcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at ‘Trace,’ an app that enables users to track, motivate and share their action sports achievements.

If there’s a physical activity, odds are there’s an app to track and share your exercise achievements. ‘MapMyRun’ and ‘FitBit’ are popular smartphone apps that enable users to map routes, track activity, log diet and/or share performance with friends on Facebook.

Similarly, Nike+ Fuelband tracks every movement made by a person and creates goals to keep users on the go. The band itself has even become a fashion statement.

But while there are endless tracking, motivational and social apps for running or exercise, there are few—or none, to be exact—for action sports.

ActiveReplay’s ‘Trace’ is looking to change this.

“Trace is the product that we’ve always wanted,” said David Lokshin, co-founder of ActiveReplay. “People on the team grew up skating, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, and this is some of the data that we’ve always wanted [to have at our fingertips].”

The ‘Trace’ device is physically attached to a skateboard, surfboard or snowboard and connects to a smartphone app. The app is able to identify statistics like waves caught for surfers, runs and vert for skiers, tricks for skaters and a lot more. Like exercise apps, users can share achievements socially and set applicable action sports goals to improve skills.

The app isn’t public yet, but to the delight of Lokshin and the rest of the ActiveReplay family, ‘Trace’ surpassed its KickStarter goal by $11,260, raising a total of $161,260 over a 45-day span.

“[The fund-raising process] stretched the full gamut of emotions,” Lokshin said. “We hit our [KickStarter] goal, and we’re super excited to go back to building product full time.”

‘Trace’ is on-pace to be released during Summer 2014.

 

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Forget waiting in actual lines. WaitAway will text you when your table is ready

WaitAway AppLike owners of other businesses, the biggest fear for restaurateurs is often the lack of customers. But being successful in getting people through the door can be a double-edged sword in the dining business. Having a line that extends from outside the front door to along the sidewalk and around the corner can be bad in the long run if diners realize the food was merely good, and not worth the two-hour wait a second time around.

But now there is a solution that won’t trap diners in crowded waiting areas, or confine them within 5 meters of the premises (how far do those blasted restaurant pagers allow you to wander anyways?), so you can go off and explore the neighborhood until your table is ready.

After requesting a table and giving your phone number to the host, WaitAway will text you immediately with an estimated wait time and once again when your table is ready.

My first encounter with the app was as a diner at the Meatball Shop in Greenwich Village, NYC. I arrived more than an hour early for the proposed dinner time because I was in the neighborhood earlier, running an errand.

“Danny, party of 4,” I told the hostess after asking how long the wait would be.

“75 minutes” is what I vaguely remember due to my awe and shock, realizing, What a coincidence! The rest of my party will arrive in about 60 minutes!

Almost immediately, I received a text confirming my reservation with a link that would allow me to check my wait status.

Drats! I’m one of the few iPhone users without a data plan. Let’s just hope the estimated wait time is accurate.

To my frustration, my guests arrived later than they quoted — but just in time. To my surprise, the table was ready almost at the exact time the hostess estimated (give or take a few minutes).

Oh, mystery software, how I love you.

At the time, I was unaware the program that pinged me with my wait information was the WaitAway app. But whatever it was, I was excited someone had come up with simple, user-friendly technology that let me avoid claustrophobic anxiety.

How do businesses benefit from this kind of software? Sarah Turcotte of FastCompany reports that after the Meatball Shop’s first month using WaitAway, walkaways decreased 30%.

This is absolutely a step up from range-restrictive pagers. Yet WaitAway is not alone in the space. BuzzTable and NoWait are two other businesses offering queue management software.

Mobile communications is exploding. Adopting mobile technology will be important for every business. Business with physical locations will soon have to figure out ways to leverage mobile tech to provide an exceptional customer experience. Otherwise they may be left biting the dust when competitors get ahead of the technological curve.

Programs such as WaitAway provide more convenience and transparency to increasingly demanding consumers, who offer their loyalty to businesses they love and trust.

What new tech are you using for your storefront location?

 

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Gibbon.co and the world of online learning

Gibbon.coThe problem with higher education isn’t just the high tuition fees or low job placement rates. Much of higher education is also marked by inflexibility; stubborn curricula limit the learning experience and prevent students from working at their own pace and from anywhere.

Luckily, there’s another way you can get a world-class education without having to step foot in a classroom ever again.

A new way to learn

Gibbon.co promises its social learning platform will be “the easiest way to get ridiculously smart.”

The site, currently in private beta, will allow users to “Create, share and follow Learning Flows, containing articles, books and videos.” Learning Flows are carefully curated resources that organize information already available on the web to provide a “clear path of what to learn.”

Ever do a Google search to try to learn something? In 0.47 seconds, Google identifies 57,600,000 results for the search term “Ajax programming.” Less than half a second is all it takes to source anything and everything there is to know about “Ajax programming.”

But where to start? And what type of human can afford the energy or time to read through the more than 57 million results? Without proper guidance, you’re better off paying an Ajax professional to fulfill all of your programming needs.

Learning Flows on Gibbon will “guide [users] to the best content available on the web to learn a specific topic.” This won’t be a dull classroom lecture. Discussions are encouraged and peers may offer help to each other.

Since Learning Flows will be user-generated, problems, propaganda and errors are sure to arise. Yet, there are more than enough honest experts and knowledgeable individuals out there who will create Learning Flows that make it really simple to gain the knowledge you want.

Welcome to the world of online learning

E-learning is booming. On the supply side, online learning upstarts such as Skillshare, Udemy, and Coursera are offering an incredibly wide range of courses for free, or for a small fee. Many higher education institutions are bringing courses online too. On the demand side, Coursera alone boasts more than 4.3 million “Courserians” on their homepage.

It is clear there is no shortage of expertise on the web and that many millions are eager-to-learn outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Entrepreneurs should be among the eager-to-learn, since building a business and managing it through different stages of growth requires a constantly evolving and improving skill set. If you run your own business, you — and your staff — should invest in education of some sort for personal and professional growth.

Fortunately, you won’t have to spend thousands of dollars — if you spend any money at all — for you and your team to learn the skills necessary to take your business to the next level.

Go on, start learning!

 

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Mozy at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013

Members of the Mozy team had a great time earlier this month representing Mozy at the 2013 edition of the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. We were able to meet with a bunch of great people at the booth and enjoyed the warm, overcast Orlando fall weather.

MozyEnterprise customer Florida Virtual School presented on their experience with MozyEnterprise on the first day of the event. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is an innovative public school offering accredited K-12 online education, free to Florida residents. Keeping the digital classroom running smoothly means keeping the 2,000 teachers in the FLVS faculty online and with consistent access to their classroom data. After struggling for years with complex and sluggish external hard drive backups and laptop replacement processes, which took a week or more, FLVS switched to MozyEnterprise and has cut the delay in data restoration by over 75 percent.

MozyEnterprise’s ease of use was put to the test when a teacher unfortunately lost her work laptop in a house fire. Thanks to Mozy, she was back up and running with every file she needed in no time.

Take a more detailed look at Florida Virtual School’s MozyEnterprise experience. Below is the presentation that was given about the event. We’re looking forward to next year!

A New Market Gets a New Measure: Independent Workers Earned $1.2 Trillion in 2013

A New Market Gets A Big Financial BoostThe independent workforce is up nearly 10% from 2011 — that’s some 18 million professionals generating over one trillion dollars, according to a new report. These independents, contractors, consultants, and freelancers are not only making a living for themselves, they’re providing work to others. To the tune of $96 billion.

How is that possible?

Here’s the math: more than a quarter of independent workers hire other freelancers, and this year’s MBO Partners State of Independence Report says that these approximately 18 million indies are putting the equivalent of 2.3 million fellow freelancers on the books. To a large extent they’re doing this virtually. The 2013 report reveals that the new virtual team-up is big business, with independents assembling into collaboration teams to meet customer demands.

“This year’s report shows the tremendous economic impact of independent workers,” says Gene Zaino, chief executive officer of MBO Partners. “And [it] validates that independence is more than a viable career path; it’s a job creation engine.”

And there’s no sign of slowing down. By 2023, it is projected that more than half of all private-sector workers will have logged hours as independent pros.

But who are these workers and where are they taking us, exactly? Let’s see what else the study’s numbers have to say.

  • Mainstream Presence: Independence is driving what looks an awful lot like a structural shift. MBO Partners’ 2013 workforce index, a measure created to track the private sector, shows an 8.2% growth since the base year in 2011. And the study’s authors expect growth to hit 24 million by 2018. As it stands, nearly 10 million households can credit at least half of their income to the work of independents.
  • Economic Engine: Independent workers have generated close to $1.2 trillion in total income in 2013. They also spend. When it comes to non-payroll/contractor outlay, on average, they’re putting down about $8,500 per year per solo worker — that’s $150 billion, annually.
  • The Confidence Factor: Sixty-four percent of the indies polled reported a high level of satisfaction with their work style — that’s down a bit from 2012, but still greater than in 2011. The study shows that 77% plan to continue as either sole proprietors (63%) or expand to a larger business model (14%).
  • Multi-generational: Of the 17.7 million independents, 1 in 5 are Millennials (21-33 years old), 36% are Gen X (34-49 years), 33% are Boomers (50-67 years), and 11% are matures (68+).

And here’s one more interesting detail from the report. Independence has a new name, or a bunch of them.

That is, according to MBO Partners, just 3% of independent workers chose freelancer as their primary title. Instead, the survey got responses that ran the gamut, from self-employed to business owner, contractor, consultant and entrepreneur. Seems the independent professional is building a whole new kind of persona. And they’re taking a seat in their own kind of corner office.

 

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Mobile Freelancer, Mobile Entrepreneur: 5 Budget-Friendly Approaches to Your Business Workflow

Freelancers and Mobile ToolsEntrepreneurs and freelancers manage their businesses online just as much as every other kind of owner and corporate project manager, but they often find themselves working with a limited budget.

“We can’t always hire someone to keep certain information organized and structured,” says Sean Mahoney, president and CEO of AndPlus. “Custom software and the use of mobile applications on the devices we carry each minute of every day offer the single and best opportunity for us to place the time spent usually organizing into running our businesses.”

From payroll and ops to low-cost personal-assistant apps, from idea-banks to team-collaboration tools, let’s look at some of the options that can work for the independent entrepreneur and freelancer on the go.

1. Focus on Cash Flow: Apps like Freshbooks ($19.95/month) and Outright (free; $9.95/month premium version) allow you to see your cash flow day by day as it relates to payroll and operations.

2. Task Flow is as Important as Cash Flow: Use task reminders as if they were a personal assistant. A shortlist to check out includes Wunderlist (free; $4.99/month premium version) , Wrike (free; $49–$199/month premium version), and Any.do (free).

3. Consolidate Your Creative Materials: Combine all of your notes, pictures, and recorded audio in one place, using an app such as Evernote (free; $5/month or $45/year premium version). No matter where you are during a day, all of your creative materials are searchable. This can be a life saver at a meeting, during an impromptu pitch, or in any situation that depends on your ideas being instantly at hand.

4. Keep Your Comm Lines Open: Communicate with your team on a platform that allows mobile and desktop interaction. A good place to start: Yammer (free; up to $8 per user premium version).

5. Customize When Ready: At some point, as either your budget grows or your workflow exceeds the free and low-price apps we’ve just considered, you’ll probably want to push your entrepreneurial/freelance toolkit into the customized space. Many of what are the most common actions online professionals needs to deal with every day can be integrated into personalized mobile applications quickly and easily.

“We now are allowed to move forward with our lives and running our businesses in the way we feel is most productive, not the way we feel we’re forced to,” says Mahoney.

The bottom line is, even without a massive line to draw upon, small-business and solo entrepreneurs can create dynamic management tools that put them on the same playing field as their bigger-budget counterparts.

 

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Mozy’s Growing Presence in South America

ColumbiaDid you realize Mozy is growing strong south of the border?

One proof of this is our recent distributor partnership with Sciotec in Colombia. Founded in 2005, Sciotec is a rising star in the region for IT security and backup and storage, having received top reseller awards from the likes of Symantec and Hitachi Data Systems. By focusing more and more on offering cloud backup in the burgeoning South American region, Sciotec has grown steadily the past few years.

With help from Mozy and other select data protection vendors, Siotec has in 2013 broken its company sales records. They will now be offering their expertise to help resellers create their own online backup business powered by Mozy. By offering new ways for partners to provide Mozy’s leading service to its reseller partners, and by offering local currency and language support, Sciotec was a perfect match to be Mozy’s distribution partner of choice in Colombia.

Learn more about Sciotec.