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SMEs Cost Saving with Cloud Computing

SMEs are getting a unique chance to grow and expand their business with cloud computing, an emerging computing technology using the internet and central remote servers to maintain data and applications. Software as a Service (SaaS) is giving businesses the flexibility to pick and choose applications – from basic email to whole disk encryption – without requiring an extensive IT department, and the option to roll out more services as and when needed. What’s more, with services hosted offsite there is no need for additional hardware investment, and maintenance fees are low to non-existent.

The long-running debate around cloud computing has recently been reinvigorated, with many organisations starting to seriously consider the pros and cons of accessing applications through a web browser as opposed to having to host software on their own PCs.  It comes as little surprise that cost has emerged as the most promising draw for SMEs when considering this model, but with increasingly complex business software becoming available there could be other benefits to be had in the cloud.

However, some SMEs feel there are downsides to SaaS. Security is a key concern of organisations that may feel uncomfortable having sensitive corporate data held at an undisclosed location, with concerns over access policies remaining a stumbling block. Other perceived issues include loss of control over downtime or outages and latency-related performance problems in the cloud.  This all leads to a significant cost-benefit trade-off that organisations must consider before going down the SaaS route.

As a result of these concerns organisations have taken a somewhat cautious approach to cloud computing during the past year – selecting just a few non-essential applications to test the service against their individual needs.  However, with the recent improvements to SaaS delivery models, online collaboration technology has rapidly evolved and become available to smaller organisations that previously couldn’t afford the financial burden of licensing and maintaining this increasingly valuable technology.  

Recent postal strikes in the UK served to further highlight the issue, demonstrating the importance of organisations being able to interact with customers and clients through online channels. In addition, the rising cost of online payment processing, ongoing fears over the security of sensitive data transferred via email or snail mail, and difficulties keeping up with the revision process (on contracts or other rolling documents) have all contributed to the popularity of collaborative technology.

For too long now, SMEs have been frightened or unable to change the terms of how they deal with their clients, but if they wish to remain competitive in this market, then they need to embrace new technology as a way to level the playing field – and they need to do it now. The provision of collaboration technology for the SME market would once have been financially unviable – but by utilising the power of enterprise cloud computing, businesses can now bypass the need for ever more complex IT systems, while revolutionising the way in which they operate and interact with customers on the web in a simple, cost-effective way.

Debt Enforcement – You have options!

As a Creditor you have options after getting a debt judgment.

  • Register Judgment in High Court Central Office – leads to publication of the debt. This threat to a Debtor’s credit rating may be enough, however, it has no real effect if the Debtor is a failing business.
  • Register Judgment Mortgage – this is useful where the Debtor has property. It ensures Creditor priority above unsecured creditors, but is ineffective where Debtor already has fully secured property with a lender.

  • Execution Orders/Fieri Facias/Sheriff – Once an Execution Order is obtained it is sent to the sheriff to enforce. This is of no use unless the Debtor has viable goods that the sheriff can get his hands on and sell.

  • Installment and Committal Orders – If the Creditor gets an Installment Order and the Debtor fails to pay, the Creditor can apply to the District Court for a Committal Order. Since the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 a Creditor must show the Debtor willfully refuses to pay and has no goods before a judge can order committal.

  • Attachment of Debts (Garnishee Orders) – Where a Debtor has no assets to pay, but is owed by a third party, then Judgment Creditors can apply to court for an order directing the third party to bypass the Debtor and pay the Creditor directly.

  • Receiver by way of Equitable Execution – An expensive process whereby a Judgment Creditor applies to the court for an order appointing them Receiver over the Debtor’s assets. This allows them to collect money due to the Debtor from a third party. However, the Receiver has no power to pursue the third party and must seek further directions from the court upon receiving the payment.
  • Order Charging Stocks and Shares – Allows Creditor to apply to the court for an order charging the stocks and shares owned by the Debtor.

  • Order Charging a Partner’s Interest – Under the Partnership Act this allows the Creditor to obtain an order to charge the partners interest in the business to the payment of the debt due.

  • Bankruptcy – Very much a last resort, as it gives the Creditor no priority over other creditors, with rules of preference being similar to Liquidation or Receiverships. A court will not grant Bankruptcy Order until it is shown that all other methods were unsuccessful.
  • Private Arrangements by Debtor under Court Control – Debtors can apply themselves to court to halt various enforcements and seek individual protection. The Debtor must present a scheme to the Court and the Creditors must vote to pass it.
  • Winding Up Companies – Once a Creditor can prove insolvency, orders for Liquidation or Receivership can be obtained. Usually this is preceded by an examinership application by the Company. This is also a last resort for a Creditor, as it gains no priority for the Creditor and cannot guarantee payment in the long run.

Refocus your Business in Five Steps

1) Learn From Your Customers:

It is important to know what customers think about your products/services and to ensure that you act proactively if the feedback is negative. Do not be afraid to ask!

Feedback can be taken in a number of ways: by phone, face to face, by email or by post. Ask: Was the customer satisfied with the quality of the product or service? Would they make any recommendations for future transactions? Is there something that they would like to see more/less of? Will they do business with you again? Will they recommend you to others? Ask your customers for written testimonials.

2) Reach Beyond Your Existing Customer Base:

Look for potential new customers. What do you need to do in order to get them to buy from you? Could you: Customise your product/service offering? Change your distribution strategy? Promote yourself in a different way? Plan a marketing campaign using your customer database to increase revenue and awareness of your product/service offerings?

3) Power Of Focus Groups:

Focus groups are a powerful means to evaluate services, test new product concepts or get ideas to reinvent your business. Companies can get a great deal of information during a focus group session. Basically, focus groups are feedback interviews, with six to eight people at the same time in the same group who would be reflective of your target audience.

4) Getting Paid On Time:

Communication is a key part of managing your credit policies.  Ensure that written documentation such as invoices and statements clearly outline your credit terms. Invoice immediately when the goods are dispatched or service is delivered. Emailing invoices is labour saving and is the fastest way of submitting for payment. Make a telephone call as soon as the payment falls due, asking when payment will be made. A letter is recommended if payment continues to run overdue.  If possible, offer a range of payment options.

5) Exercise Good Time Management: The 80/20 Pareto Principle:

20% of your work/effort achieves 80% of your results! What this means is that just 20% of your time deals with productive activities. Work out which tasks add the most value to your role and invest your time wisely by organising your workspace, planning and prioritising, goal setting, having productive work habits and keeping a focused diary system. It is all about working smarter and not harder.  We are measured by the results we get, not by the amount of time we spend at work.

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