The cloud is not just about storage

cindy bates– Cindy Bates is vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. SMB organization where she is responsible for the company’s end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts. The views expressed are her own. –

Have you ever owned something that you didn’t use to its full potential? Perhaps you have a four-wheel drive vehicle that you’ve never taken off the city streets or a digital camera you didn’t know had video capabilities.

The same phenomenon can occur with technology. Take cloud computing, for instance. By now, most small and mid-sized business (SMB) decision makers know they can use the cloud for storage. Hosts of online service providers offer space in the cloud to safely backup business data, and scores of SMBs are taking advantage of this cost-effective way to store data.

However, SMBs aren’t always aware of the cloud’s uses beyond data storage. Yet, cloud computing solutions have advanced to the point where they now provide businesses with a myriad of ways to improve operations. Here are a few examples of what else you could be doing with the cloud:

Improving communication and collaboration. Consider the communication/productivity tools you use everyday – e-mail, phone, chat, contacts, calendars, document creation software and more – deploying cloud-based versions of these programs can give you access to enterprise-level capabilities. You’ll also be well taken care of when it comes to daily troubleshooting as well as more involved IT issues. Instead of worrying about how much it’s going to cost to get support for a critical IT issue that evolves over the weekend, your subscription to the online service may afford you the ability to call a support line and get help within minutes, or reach out to your IT partner for expert help in navigating your issue.

Whole Foods on lookout for emerging brands

A woman shops at a Whole Foods supermarket in New York. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A woman shops at a Whole Foods supermarket in New York. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Got the next great organic food product? Wondering how to get it into your local Whole Foods store? Then Tom Rich is the guy to talk to.

Rich is the grocery coordinator for the 27-store Rocky Mountain region of the Austin, Texas-based supermarket chain. He works in the health-oriented, food-centric city of Boulder, Colorado, where the company’s recently expanded Pearl Street store is considered a rich testing ground for new concepts.

From a notebook to launching a startup

shane mac– Shane Mac is the co-founder of online job recruitment startup Hello There. He is also the director of marketing at Zaarly and formerly spearheaded marketing at Gist (acquired by RIM). This is an edited version of the original article that appeared on Quick Sprout. The views expressed are his own. –

About a year ago, I sat in a coffee shop pitching a new idea to one of the founders of Startup Weekend, Clint Nelson. Never would I have predicted that this one meeting would have such an impact on the next year of my life.

The entire concept was all on one page of my notebook: sketches, pricing models, tag lines and even people I should sell it to. I’ve put every idea from notes, books, speeches, and product sketches in an indexed notebook since I read a post by Tim Ferriss two years ago.

It’s Tax Day: Do you know where your tax return is?

kelly erb– Kelly Phillips Erb is a small business owner and practicing tax attorney at the Erb Law Firm in Philadelphia. She is also the author of the popular Tax Girl blog. The views expressed are her own. –

Chances are, you’ve already filed, as only a third of all tax returns are filed during the last week of tax season. But if you haven’t, keep these tips in mind:

- Postage rates for large envelopes went up yesterday (yes, yesterday). If you’re mailing your return – and it’s a big one – make sure to allow extra time at the post office.

What is tax deductible for small business?

A woman fills out an income tax form in New York. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A woman fills out an income tax form in New York. REUTERS/Mike Segar

– Stephanie Rabiner is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

There is no definite answer for those of you who wish to know just what is tax deductible for a small business.

According to the painfully dry tax code, a business may deduct all expenses that are ordinary, necessary and reasonable.

Common budget mistakes for tech startups

A call centre personnel uses a calculator as she answers a call from a investor at an online brokerage company in Tokyo October 23, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

A call center employee uses a calculator in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

– Ed Buchholz is the co-founder and CEO of 60mo, a cloud-based financial services company catering to small business owners. The views expressed are his own. –

Most everyone is familiar with the cliché: more money, more problems. But what if the problem is money?

Keeping your tech startup solvent requires the avoidance of several common budget mistakes. A budget or lack thereof can make or break a startup. Keep your overhead intact by doing the following:

6 reasons your business hates you

South Korean fighting bulls lock horns with each other during a 2005 Seoul bullfighting festival April 30, 2005. REUTERS/You Sung-Ho

South Korean fighting bulls lock horns with each other during a 2005 Seoul bullfighting festival April 30, 2005. REUTERS/You Sung-Ho

– Jeff Haden writes for BNET. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

Sadly, many people grow to hate their businesses. (You may be one of them.) What you once loved has become a source of disillusionment, pressure, and stress. You’re sick of your business.

Scoutmob tries to outdeal Groupon

Despite Groupon’s virtual stranglehold on the group-buying space, David Payne thinks it’s vulnerable.

The co-founder of rival startup Scoutmob said Groupon’s margins aren’t sustainable and feels he has a better solution for deal-crazy consumers and businesses.

“When people look at this space they see it as a zero-sum game,” said Payne, who has heard all the naysayers since launching his Atlanta-based company last year. “They see it as Groupon’s raised a billion dollars in private capital and some (other) companies have raised one, or ten or twenty (million)… how can they compete?”

GroupPrice targets small business with daily deals

Price and value is what led Chris Gafoor to purchase a press release distribution plan from GroupPrice.

“It gives you more bang for your buck,” said the president and CEO of Miami-based BluStar Media Inc, who paid $39 for a GroupPrice deal that he estimated would have cost $200 elsewhere. The deal guaranteed Gafoor’s company a minimum of 5,000 views of its press release in 30 days.

GroupPrice is a business-to-business version of the group-buying trend that offers deals specifically for Internet-based small businesses. Van Jepson, CEO of the Redwood City, California-based firm, got the idea for the business when he ran a previous Web company.

Eight up-and-coming VCs worth knowing

– Mark Boslet is a senior editor for the Venture Capital Journal, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article appeared on PE Hub. –

Last week, Forbes published its Midas List of venture investors with Jim Breyer of Accel Partners edging out Sequoia’s Michael Moritz and Greylock’s Reid Hoffman for the top spot.

This closely followed list of VC moneymen has become something of a Who’s Who of the business. Its focus is the highest-profile GPs with the best track records.