Cloud Computing: How it can help your business!

Cloud Computing – Practical Solutions

The new era in computing is here. A new way to minimise costs, maximise efficiency and best of all run an effective business. These may sound like dramatic claims, but ‘cloud’ computing is rapidly changing the way business is done. This is not just some fad for corporations with a huge budget either – it’s a cost effective solution that is coming to a small business near you!

What is Cloud Computing?

Essentially ‘cloud’ computing is utilising any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, completes essential or business related tasks for you. It’s outsourcing for the web generation. You don’t need to store your data locally or pay for expensive software licenses, with information instead being stored on secure servers in the ‘cloud’ that are accessible 24/7 wherever you are in the world. All you need is a computer or smart phone with an internet connection – it’s that simple. Data is always up to date so you can make important business decisions on the go.

Costs

The costs for cloud computing services vary, but in essence are much cheaper than traditional software services. Accounting software provider Xero (EFS Business Partner) starts at only $29 per month and allows much greater flexibility than locally stored software. The costs and dangers of storing information locally also mean that cloud computing is a logical choice for many businesses. Some cloud services are even free when supported by advertising!

Uses

The ‘cloud’ in action:

1)    Businesses can cut a big chunk out of their expenses by choosing to shift employees onto online call and communication services where businesses only required to pay minimal costs – from reduced rates for calls to even just the cost of broadband services or similar. Using technologies such as VoiP, people can talk face to face over the internet, making use of video and audio technology. This assists businesses to not only communicate easily and cheaply, but also makes it possible for people to have meetings with clients remotely which in turn drastically cuts down your businesses traveling costs as well as minimising the downtime of frequently travelling employees.
2)    Certain online tools can help you structure your day and keep track of what you are doing. ‘Toodledo’ is an online service allows you to organise and sort your tasks on a tiered model, enabling you to categorise things by priority. It is also fully optimised for mobile devices, helping you keep organised on the move. Google’s to-do list service also provides links directly to your Gmail account, providing easy access for any company that already uses Google’s services like YouTube, Adwords or even Analytics. The system is maintained on cloud servers, ensuring that it works quickly while data is stored in a safe environment.

 

Cloud computing offers businesses the opportunity to leverage services that used to cost a fortune and needed to be run in house. This means more time to focus on the things that matter – growing and developing your business.

For more information on using Xero Accounting Software to simplify your business and keep up to date with your finances please contact michael@elitefinance.com.au. or visit http://www.xero.com.

Getting Credit Card Debt Under Control

First things first. To get your credit card debt under control you require a realistic assessment of your income and expenses. There are no if’s, but’s or maybe’s about it. If you are consistently spending more then you earn it is time to rectify the situation.

Budget
To get your credit card spending under control you need to build a debt control strategy that will lead you to becoming debt free or at least reduce your burden. You need to know how much your total debt is and how long it will take you to repay that debt at your current payment rate. By developing a budget that enables you to track your income and expenses, you can then begin to cut unnecessary expenses and use more of your income to pay off your debts. Simple steps such as allocating a set amount per week to pay off your debt will allow you to get it under control faster. It is important to be realistic with your goals and aim to get your debt under control as soon as possible.

Consolidate
If you are paying off multiple cards at varying interest rates you are more then likely paying more interest then necessary. In this case it would be important to consider a debt consolidation loan. By consolidating your debts you simplify your finances and place all of your debt together into the one account with a fixed interest rate. The proceeds from the loan are used to pay back your other creditors and then you make monthly payments back to the loan consolidator. Usually these loans have much more competitive rates then the purcahse interest rate charged by credit card providers. If you have multiple unsecured debts, you are probably paying far too much in interest. If you are overwhelmed by unsecured debt (such as credit card debt or other unsecured loans), consolidating these unsecured financial obligations has many benefits, including saving you thousands of dollars in the long-term, reducing your total monthly payments, helping you become debt free faster, and improving your credit rating.

One of the most important aspects of debt management is understanding how you got into debt in the first place. If your debts were a result of spending beyond your means, you must modify your budget to avoid this situation in the future. Controlling debt requires self discipline, restraint, and planning. You must address the reasons that landed you in the situation in the first place. No plan for getting out of debt will ever succeed if you continue along the same path. So take action now!

If credit card debt struggles are keeping you up at night it is important that you get them under control now! Speak to your bank or credit provider about how you can get your debt control back on track.

Risky Business…..

“Article as appeared in the September edition of Western Sydney Business Access…..”

SMEs are exposed to risks all the time. Some are risks that are imposed upon them whilst some are risks that they choose take. Such risks can directly affect their day-to-day operations, or their impact may be serious enough for the business to fail.
Do a Google search of the term “risk management for business” and the number and variety of returned results is mind boggling. It is information overload. Maybe this is why it is often overlooked.
Most business owners know that they can take out insurance policies to cover many of their business’ risks. However, there are many other risks that are either ignored or missed due to incomplete and ineffective risk management processes.
Risk management starts by identifying possible threats and events and then implements processes to minimise or negate them.
Effective risk management should reduce the chance that a particular event will take place and, if it does take place, sound risk management should reduce its impact.
As a side note, risk management is also used to assess and exploit opportunities that may present themselves to SMEs, but this is not the focus of this article.
Below are typical risk areas for SMEs. This is not an exhaustive list of all risks a business may face, rather it helps to explain the risk management process with some common examples.
 – Customers. Does the majority of your business’ income come from a single major customer or a group of major customers? If so, a loss of one or more of these customers could result in a large drop in profit and cashflow in the short term.
Here, businesses should look to either lock in major customers to long term contracts, or try to spread the risk by finding new customers or develop existing smaller customers.
 – Suppliers. Is your business dependent on one major supplier or a small number of suppliers? What would happen if one of these suppliers was unable to supply a crucial product or service to you which in turn forms part of your own product or service mix?
Much like customer risk, businesses should look to lock in suppliers to long term contracts, but also businesses should find alternative suppliers that could be used if needed.
 Staff.  Not only can disruption from staff turnover affect profit and cashflow, for some risks there can be legal or regulatory consequences which can impact on your business.
Does your business rely upon key staff in key areas? If so ensure there is a backup person able to perform the each role. Is your industry plagued by high staff turnover? Make sure that you have quality recruitment procedures.
Do any of your staff hold key relationships with large customers? Ensure staff sign confidentiality agreements as well as reasonable restraint of trade agreements.
Do your staff face OH&S issues as part of their daily work routine? Make sure appropriate OH&S policies are implemented and followed.
 – Information Technology. Have you undertaken an assessment of what would happen if your IT system went down or if your data was lost? Also what threats does the internet, if used, pose security wise to your business?
Businesses must have a back up of their data but also a ‘back up’ plan for when the IT system goes down to ensure trading can continue. Internet security measures must be in place, like firewalls and Private Networks as well as physical security for its servers and hardware.
 – Internal Controls. For many businesses a lack of controls internally can expose businesses and their owners to theft and fraud from within. This risk is one of the most common as well as one of the most damaging.
Controls to protect against employee theft is often as simple as ensuring there is appropriate separation of duties. Unfortunately, employee fraud conducted by two or more individuals is harder to stop, but with effective controls the risk of this occurring can be reduced.
Other obvious risk areas that need attention and prevention/mitigation policies prepared for are; Financial risk, Competitor risk, Economy risk, Location risk, Succession risk, Reputation risk just to name a few.
Risk management is often undertaken on an ad-hoc and reactive basis, but as always, prevention is better than cure. Because business planning centres around the risks faced by businesses it makes sense that risk management forms an integral part of a business’ strategic plan.

Creating a passive income stream

Passive income comes in many shapes and forms. There are thousands of ways that people have created automatic streams of income, and more are being created all the time.

All sources fall into one of two types of passive income; Investing Passive Income and Business Passive Income. Out of these two primary vehicles, business and investing, an unlimited number of possibilities arise. Mastering just one area and building a portfolio of investments can help you reach your financial and lifestyle goals! This article will focus on how to build passive investment income.
A passive investment may include both a retail financial product and other managed investments where the activities do not constitute the carrying on of a business. Unlike active investors, passive investors buy a security and typically don’t actively attempt to profit from short-term price fluctuations. Passive investors instead rely on their belief that in the long term the investment will be profitable.
There are many arenas of investing that can be used to generate passive income. Stocks, bonds, money markets, managed funds, rental properties and other financial investments can be used to generate income. There a wide variety of products available with differing levels of risk. It is important that before making any investment decisions, that you contact your financial advisor to analyse your current financial situation and develop an appropriate strategy. With the right strategy you could be on your way to building multiple streams of income!

Tax Benefits 
There are also number of tax benefits that relate to passive investment. A number of deductions can be claimed on your tax return such as interest paid on the loan to fund your investment.  With respect to rental properties, you can also claim repairs and maintenance of, rates and taxes, insurance, agent’s fees, travel to and from the property to facilitate repairs, and buildings depreciation. Tax deductions can also be claimed as a result of negative gearing, where the costs of keeping the investment instruments exceed the income gained from it.
Owning rental properties can be a great way to put your money into something that will pay you regularly for many years. Unfortunately many people attempt to get into rental real estate they end up spending all of their time managing, maintaining, and overlooking their properties! This is not passive income. If you are working around the clock to maintain your rental properties, you may be earning money but it is requiring your time! Passive income means automation!

Building a passive income is a vital part of wealth creation and an important aspect of balancing risk. After all, wouldn’t you rather that your money work for you?

For a more comprehensive analysis of your financial situation and for a strategy to build passive income please contact our head financial planner Christine Hallowes CFP on (02) 9868 3900 or email her at christine@elitefinance.com.au.
The ATO has provided comprehensive guideline on rental property deduction. For more information, please visit http://www.ato.gov.au/corporate/content.aspx?doc=/content/00282530.htm

Thinking of applying for a personal loan? Here are some valuable tips!

If you are thinking of borrowing money to buy a car, boat, for debt consolidation, home repairs, medical bills or anything else for that matter, here are some red hot tips to make the process much easier!

1. Be honest in your loan application
The process of entering your personal and financial details should not take more than 15 minutes to complete online. Being honest in your application, explaining things like why you are applying for a loan or existing debt considerations are essential for your bank to offer you a loan option that best suits your circumstances. There are an increasing variety of different types of personal credit available; car loans, commercial loans, leases, home equity loans, are just some of the examples. With complex credit rating analysis tools at a financial instituion’s disposal – honesty is the best policy!

2. Have the right information when applying
Documents typically include personal identification items (i.e. photo ID like a Driver’s licence or passport), rates notices, and employment wage pay slips or most recent Notice of Assessment. Further information to have handy include copies of recent bank statement and other loan accounts. These are often essential when applying for higher value personal loans. It is important that you confirm with the lender what documents you will need when applying or before attending to the interview.

3. Try lenders with whom you are a regular customer
Take advantage of the human factor. Being a familiar face or regular customer may mean you are offered a better rate. However, keep lenders competitive by shopping around for better value if your primary lender is not willing to play ball!

4. Know what interest rate applies
This advice seems simple enough yet all too often consumers get caught out with introductory rate discounts! Always be sure you know what interest rate applies over the complete term of your loan. Lenders may often ‘sell’ you their finance packages by quoting the monthly repayments only. This may disguise a high interest rate, so be certain that you know your ongoing obligations.

5. Know how much will be your repayments
Most personal loans require a repayment each month with most allowing you to repay weekly, fortnightly or on an ad hoc basis. Your repayment amount will be calculated by your loan provider and it will be depend on the interest rate, fees and term of your loan. The shorter the loan period the less the amount of interest charged will be, but the higher the repayment amount.

6. Know about the fees on your loan
If no fees are charged then the interest rate might be a little bit higher than a comparable loan from another provider. Most loan providers will also charge fees to end the loan early, for account keeping on a monthly basis or for making any extra repayments in general. Make sure you know what fees will or can be charged before committing to a loan. If you have extra funds available and are considering paying out your loan early, make sure you check before doing so as it may be more beneficial to hold off and only pay the required amount.

For a great personal loan comparison tool visit: www.ratecity.com.au

Government support for small businesses

The Federal Government and the States and Territories are all keen to support the establishment and growth of small businesses in Australia. A robust small business environment has strong flow on effects for the rest of the economy and as such, encouraging investment and training as well as providing grants to budding entrepreneurs are important aspects of government support for small business.
Funding
The difficulty for many small businesses is finding finance to bring their ideas to reality. Many of the best business concepts don’t come to fruition due to the lack of funding available. Fortunately, there are grant programs available through government agencies to support small businesses in finding adequate funds to start up a new business or grow their existing venture. For example, the Repayable Contributions Program offers various avenues of access to funds for small businesses. Some programs take the form of interest-free, unsecured repayable loan, where all or part of the loan is repayable or conditionally repayable depending on the terms and conditions of the contribution agreement. Please see www.grantslink.gov.au for more information on grant programs.
Training Programs
Training assistance programs are another incentive tool that governments have up their sleeves to encourage investment in small business. Some programs provide financial funding to encourage business owners to create long-term employment opportunities, especially with regards to unemployed individuals and post-secondary graduates. Other programs offer wage subsidies to eligible employers in exchange for employers providing job experiences to post-secondary graduates or unemployed individuals.
In addition to money, the government provides a number of programs which offer valuable services and resources. These might include skills training programs, consulting services, mentorship programs, the opportunity to attend trade fairs abroad and introductions to potential suppliers, partners and customers. In many cases, these services would normally bear a substantial cost, so you’re not only getting the business building value of the service, but you’re saving money, too!
Helpful Government Links

LOST SUPERANNUATION

Did you know that billions of dollars is sitting in lost superannuation accounts waiting for Australians to claim?

Lost super is a special term used to describe superannuation benefits that are recorded in the Lost Members Register. Your super benefits may be recorded as lost if your super fund cannot contact you due to changes in your member details or similar events. You may also have lost super if your account has not received any contributions in the past 5 years.
If you change jobs regularly or you have had part-time jobs while at school or university, then it is highly likely that you have more than one super account. On average, every working Australian has three super accounts.

Should I be concerned if I think I have lost superannuation?

Don’t worry if you haven’t kept track of your multiple accounts. It’s never too late, but you must locate your super accounts before you can roll them over into one super account.Generally, your super fund/s sends you a statement each year reporting your account balance and fund returns. If you’re not receiving these statements and/or don’t know which super funds that you belong to, then you have access to plenty of services to help you find your lost accounts, and increase your super benefits instantly.

 

 

 

 

 

How can I find out if I have lost superannuation?

  • Use the ATO’s SuperSeeker service (www.ato.gov.au/super) which searches the Lost Members Register and other ATO records, such as unclaimed super money, for your lost super accounts. You can also contact them on the phone for advice and information ( 13 28 65).
  • Try AUSfund (www.unclaimedsuper.com.au) which looks after the lost super of millions of Australians for some of the largest super funds in Australia. If they have your super, they will find it free.
  • Ask your current super fund if they offer a service for finding your lost super.
  • Ask your previous employers for the names of the super funds that received contributions on your behalf