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Monday, June 9, 2014

Top reasons why cloud accounting could help your business

Cloud accounting benefits
Cloud accounting frees up in-office computing capacity
By Simon Henderson

Cloud accounting is a blend of two ideas that have been gaining interest in recent times. It incorporates accounting software and cloud computing helping business owners effectively and efficiently manage their accounting needs. Nowadays businesses can run their accounts without offline storage by doing their accounting in the cloud. Cloud based software enables the user to store data safely and access it with any internet enabled device anywhere.

Most native applications are tedious and straining for various reasons. It is believed that in the near future cloud software will replace them because of improved data access, they are easier to handle and due to possibilities of collaboration. Examples are QuickBooks Online and Sage One; two very powerful software packages that millions of small business owners are using to take care of their company's accounting.

What are the benefits of cloud accounting?


Cloud accounting is being used by more organizations today than before because they are beginning to realize that it adds more value and capacity to the organization without investing so much in IT infrastructure, training personnel, backing up data or installing new software. Working in the cloud has the following benefits:
  1. Businesses that set up their accounting in the cloud enjoy working from anywhere and at anytime. Working in the cloud is very location independent, providing account data and resources or any other service on demand wherever you are. With a company cloud you can provide tools needed by your accounts team, set a level of access and also monitor how your staff will handle their tasks from wherever you are.

  2. The cloud based software provides account data access and it is not constrained by storage space or software compatibility with one computer platform. Updates are free and instantly available without any hassle.

  3. With cloud applications, businesses can use the inbuilt feature to back up data to prevent the risk of data loss. Coupled with that, data is well secured because of high encryption technology like TrustE which ensures the data cannot be accessed by a third party without permission. Furthermore, a stolen laptop or computer won’t be a worry because your data will be stored safely in the cloud. In addition, your business experiences no downtimes if you ever lost data by fire or due to a broken hard drive. You only need to connect to the internet with another device and continue your work.

  4. Where there are large volumes of data to be tracked, cloud accounting software can help saving time and eliminating human error as well as duplication of work. It also incorporates features that automatically create and register income into invoices.

  5. It is possible to automatically track year round transactions efficiently and without stress as well as seek for help of a tech support team at any time to prepare balance sheets and income statements. You do not have to do these things manually anymore, spending hours going through emails and receipts with your accountant to get the job done.

About the author: Simon Henderson is a freelance blogger specialising in taxes and financial topics.

Image license: Sam Johnston, CC BY-SA 3.0

Saturday, June 7, 2014

DIY: Sealing air leaks in your home


How to fix air leaks
Sealing air leaks helps reduce home energy costs
By Rebecca Borchers

You put a lot of money into making sure you home is fully functional, but what if you could save more than a couple bucks just by sealing those pesky air leaks that have been running up your energy bills.

Older houses are especially prone to air leaks, but newer houses can also have their flaws after going through intensified weather. Each region has its dangers when it comes to air leaks, whether its moisture or cold air these silent affects can do damage to your home.

The following is a step by step process on how to check and seal air leaks in your home with ease and efficiency.

Finding the leak

By using tools such as smoke pens or incense you can check your home for air that you may not be able to feel sneaking in. Hold either one up to the spaces listed below and look for a horizontal smoke line to indicate a leak.
  •          Windows
  •          Doors
  •          Attic hatches
  •          Plumbing fixtures
  •          Ceiling fixtures
  •          Electrical outlets
  •          Electrical boxes
  •          Air ducts

Sealing up


Use either latex or silicone caulk to seal up leaks, which can come in a multitudes of colors and specialties for your particular task. Caulk is very versatile, and if used correctly can seal anything from plumbing in the kitchen to electrical wiring in the garage.

If you need to cover doors and windows, specifically look towards using weather stripping seals that can even be as simple as sticking down foam strips, or as intricate as attaching aluminum door sweeps.
 

Outlet check


For further protection, make your way around the house to add in foam gaskets to outlets or even switch plates to stop extra airflow.
 

Insulation


Insulation should be inspected to make sure that dark spots are not leading to water leakage or buildup of mold. Home improvement stores sell low-expansion foam that you can apply yourself to prevent further damage. For excessive water issues, house flashing should be applied to direct water safely out and downward.
 

Window replacement


It is additionally recommended that all single pane windows be replaced with double pane low emissivity windows that won’t let up to 25% of you’re A/C escape like single pane will. For a slightly lower cost try covering normal windows with storm windows instead, or use curtains and shades to block out heat and cold appropriately.
 

Vents and exhaust fans


Dryer vents can occasionally become blocked, which could be wasting energy or even worse become the source of a fire. Check vents and remove any buildup that may have occurred.  

Many people additionally do not think about kitchen exhaust fans being a point of air flow leakage. Cover your fan when not in use to help contain air and maintain temperature.
 

Fire resistance


There are select points in the home where air ventilates that is in need of a fire resistant fix, such as fireplace chimneys, gas fired water heater vents and furnaces. For fireplaces specifically flues or chimney balloons work just fine but all other areas should have furnace cement caulk applied or sheet metal installed.  

Many of these fixes may seem like an extra added cost that can be put on the backburner, but with years of unnecessarily high energy bills today is the day to start. Sealing air leaks will take some time to put money back in your pocket but in the end a great way to keep your homes maintenance up to date.


About the author: Rebecca Borchers is a UCF transfer from FIU. She is originally from Southampton, UK and is a hospitality major whos looking into event management. She is a world traveler who has a passion for volunteering and loves her dachshund. Rebecca works part-time as content writer and social media strategist for www.FacemyerAC.com.


Sources:
http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-sealing-air-leaks
http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/air-sealing-your-home

Image license: US-PDGov, EPA; image source

Friday, June 6, 2014

The end of the washing machine?

Hi-tech washing machines
By Sally Stacey

Every year there are a number of significant competitions to encourage students and inventors to dream up new concepts that will improve at least some of our lives. The finalists in such events have generally created something truly impressive which could aid safety, help the disabled or assist industry. This year, however, a young innovator has come up with an idea which could help almost everyone in the developed world.

The concept

A Colombian student has invented a piece of kit which could render washing machines obsolete in the home, thereby making life a great deal easier, saving energy bills and helping the environment. Now that is quite some achievement – if the equipment really works.

The Luna

Juan Camilo Restrepo Villamizar has produced the Luna, a hi-tech metal washing ball that could transform your laundry bin or basket into a washer. The Luna is a metal sphere which contains a small volume of water and you place it directly into your dirty clothes and linens.

How it works

The machine creates a cloud of electrostatically charged steam particles which come through small pores in the metal surface and infiltrate the clothing as the Luna rotates and moves around. The Luna then acts like a magnet and attracts the dirt particles in the steam into its core. The sphere then uses hot air to dry any remaining damp in the linens.

The competition

This rather brilliant sounding invention has been selected as a finalist in the highly regarded Electrolux Design Lab contest. The inventor says 'The idea is not to put the clothes into a washing machine, but rather, the washing machine between the dirty clothes' and believes that his creation will make an onerous chore much easier and that it will appeal to consumers with environmental concerns.

The Electrolux competition will have two winners, one voted for by the public and the official first prize which will be awarded by a judging panel which will choose the concept that they believe to be the best new design solution for the future. The prize is a mere 5000 Euros but the winner will also receive a paid internship at an Electrolux design centre. 1700 entries were submitted this year. The theme designated was Creating Healthy Homes and there were three specific focus areas, culinary enjoyment, fabric care and air purification.

Conclusions

I love the sound of this invention. No more trips down the stairs with piles of washing, no more emptying the washing machine only to load up the tumble dryer. My favourite denim could stay right where they are whilst the Luna does its work and then the pieces are ready to be worn again. This could be a real boon when you are in a rush or suddenly remember that you are out of socks! I can only dream about the savings on my electricity bill too. That tumble dryer of mine just eats energy and I always find it extraordinary just how much washing I manage to accumulate. There are only three people in my household but I feel like I am washing for an army! If that clever little ball works I will just have to have one! The next big question will be how much will it cost?

About the author: Sally Stacey is a keen writer who hates washing and now wnats a Luna!

Image license: Bin Im Garten, CC BY-SA 3.0

Thursday, June 5, 2014

U.S. readies investment push in to Africa

By Bradley Shore
U.S. investment in Africa
U.S. international investments rose dramatically after 2002

The United States of America is apparently planning a ‘trade and investment offensive’ to drum up business opportunities for American companies in Africa in response to China’s years of rapid expansion throughout the continent, according to the Financial Times.

The US involvement in African investment has fallen in relation to China and other emerging countries, caused partially by a long decade of continued conflict on the Middle east in which American forces have been heavily involved.

The Financial Times reports that The White House has dispatched three senior trade and economic officials to the continent this month to begin talks on how best to strengthen the US’ economic position in African markets.

A senior US government official who wishes to remain anonymous has told the FT that “there is clearly a sense of opportunity in Africa and the US government is embracing that. We see it [Africa] as a real source of opportunities.”

The first US-Africa business forum has also recently been announced by the US government, it is hoped that this will help to strengthen trade and financial ties with the region. US officials say that the forum will gather dozens of chief executives from African and American companies and will take place on the eve of President Obama’s White House summit with the leaders of more than 50 African countries.

China has managed to build extremely close business relationships with its African partners, according to the African Development Bank. This has apparently been made possible by the country coupling trade with very high levels of investment. Beijing has also helped by providing African countries with credit lines worth billions of US dollars.

Many nations with growing and newly emerging economies have also decided it is in their best interests to invest heavily in the continent during the past decade, as western countries have lagged behind, due in part, to the global recession.

Whilst American-African trade has more than doubled in the past decade to $110bn in 2013, the Chinese-African trade has surged phenomenally from a measly $10bn in 2000 to more than $200bn last year, making China the largest trading partner of the African continent.

With investment interest from Asia particularly high, Japan is also extending its commercial and investment ties with Africa and attempting to move away from its traditional focus on aid. Shinzo Abe made the first visit from a Japanese prime minister to sub-Saharan Africa in over eight years, in what Tokyo referred to at the time as a “trip to support Japanese companies’ investments to secure important national resources in the region”.

In Europe, countries such as the UK, Germany and Italy have joined the scramble to secure infrastructure contracts as well, according to investment experts and government officials.

Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at least 5 per cent this year according to the IMF, thus making it the second fastest growing economic region in the world, only slightly behind the developing regions of Asia, which include India, China and Pakistan.


About the author: Bradley Shore is an experienced travel and investment blogger whose main interests are Property and investment; he likes to write about different alternative investments as you can see in his recent work for Emerald Knight. He would one day like to run his own investment website.

All Statistics and quotes obtained from www.ft.com
Image license: MartinD, CC BY-SA 3.0