The right security saves you money

We all know that cash flow is important for your business. In these trying economic times you may be faced with decisions of where to cut expenses. Think twice – and even thrice – about cutting corners with your security measures though. It may be especially tempting if you haven’t had a serious security issue in the past so you may think you don’t need all the security you have. However, that is a sign of your security working quietly in the background.

Think of security as an investment. Also, remember that you can still improve both your physical and cyber security while keeping costs down.

Decrease insurance premiums

Keeping your security tight keeps your insurance premiums down. While added security may cost some money upfront, the costs can be negated in the long run. Basically, security measures that lower your risk profile for an insurer can mean lower premiums. That means that the cost of improving security reduces costs elsewhere.  Security measures to take could be installing CCTV surveillance or access control systems.

Storing on the cloud

In the digital age, cyber security has become an important part of any security plan. Traditional centralised data centres can be costly though because they need a lot of resources. However, there is a form of storage called ambient cloud storage that’s not only secure, but cost effective as well. You can securely store your sensitive data on the Internet through ‘distributed cloud storage’. You earn storage space in the cloud by giving up some of your own disk space, which is combined into a large, shared cloud storage platform. Small parts of your data are stored in various places and this makes it very difficult for hackers to get at it.

Preventing internal theft and fraud

When you think of theft and your business, you might typically think of threats from external sources. You might be surprised to learn just how big of an issue internal theft is though. It is estimated that around $50 billion is stolen every year from businesses by employees and seven per cent of annual revenue is lost to theft or fraud – just in the US alone.

Re-evaluate your security needs

Every business has different security needs. Some businesses just need to implement better procedures with the cash register, while others need fully stocked security control rooms. If cost is an issue for you (like it is for everyone) then you need to perform a security risk assessment to make sure that you are utilising the right security measures for your business, otherwise you might be wasting money on security you don’t need.

The latest tech for your bicycle

Cycling is dependent a lot on our own skills but also on what kind of tech we’re using. We usually don’t think about our bikes as pieces of technology, but, as with anything, they are constantly being improved on and are often at the cutting edge of smart thinking. This can range from the incredible and outlandish to the smartly innovative, that improves on what we all need.

For example, a lot of tech has gone into protecting bicycles. This is due to the fact that these are very expensive pieces of equipment, often requiring enormous amounts of money. Yet a lock and key often isn’t sufficient.

The Seatylock, for example, transforms a bike saddle into a lock. This incredible piece of tech extends and locks around stationary objects. The benefits are obvious: it doesn’t require you to carry a heavy lock around, it’s always there, and it’s easy-to-use functionality means it takes only a few seconds to secure (you don’t need bike chains and so on to get the bike secure.)

Another focus for tech and bicycles is Yerka. Here, they decided to engage directly with the bike’s design itself. As they state, they decided to “make a lock out of the bike. Now a thief would have to cut through the main structure to take the bicycle, defeating the purpose.”

There are other solutions to help you. The Standard recommends:

“Having a distinctive bicycle helps, says James Marr founder of the Bamboo Bicycle Club. “One of our customers built his own custom frame out of bamboo, and when it was stolen he went down to Brick Lane Market to see if anyone was stupid enough to sell it. They were! He called the police and could quickly and clearly prove that it was his bike. Other solutions are tape or lights that can make your bike stand out.”

People are applying all sorts of innovation to bikes and bicycle parts. For example, an Australian man built the first ever hybrid petrol/electric bicycle. 3D tech has helped and innovated all sorts of aspects of the world, but applying it to a form of transportation is essential to the overall goal of making a better kind of vehicle. After all, many have been suggesting bikes as an alternative to cars for some time – due to all the advantages.

It’s not surprising then that bikes would also be the focus of tech itself to be better, faster, and at the cutting edge of innovative technology.

 

Home security for 2015

Protecting our homes is one of the most important aspects for home owners. However, what that means isn’t exactly clear: a locked door and closed window is hardly considered sufficient for proper protection. We need to consider all aspects of the home in order to properly prepare and prevent break-ins.

One of the most obvious ways is to consider installing an alarm system. This won’t just be about broken windows, but all manner of activities in the house that are indicative of danger, such as fire or flood. This can trigger an alarm that helps you and the relevant authorities respond.

These systems do not have to be expensive and you can enormously by installing them yourself. The Simple Dollar details, Flashpoint, one such security system, that has been highly-rated by experts consistently.

“Frontpoint® is also one of the few home-security monitoring providers that goes beyond fire, flood, and carbon-monoxide detection by including a service that can detect if there’s a break in your natural-gas line. They also have the ability to connect up to 39 sensors and your mobile device, bringing the safety and security of your home into the palm of your hand.”

This, combined with easy-to-understand installation instructions makes it an ideal option for most home owners.

But security alarms are one thing – prevention is another and seems to be the best option. There are all sorts of tricks and tips we can use, both simple and somewhat complicated,  that helps prevent break-ins. For example, as Buzzfeed recommends, you can use a length of wood to prevent a sliding window. This prevents the window sliding open.

Landscaping is another way to ensure security in the home. Forbes notes an important point by a police officer.

“A police officer interviewed by the Sun Sentinel suggested that landscaping and lighting are more critical to securing your home than replacing doors, locks and windows. The article referred to an approach called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design,” which uses natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, access control and “target hardening” to deter crime.”

By landscaping, this can mean everything from having gravel by your windows to having your fencing secure and visible constantly. This prevents burglars using your own property against you and also enhances its primary function as deterrent.

Security is not just alarms and locked doors – but can be a design decision and one that requires a mindset change from all home owners.

The CCTV system that’s bringing down crime in SA

Crime is at a critical stage in South Africa, they range from petty theft, muggings, ATM scams to armed residential home invasions and murder. One would think that these types of premeditated crimes you’ll only see in a Hollywood blockbuster, but in South Africa, the citizens play the role of the victim in a never ending scene. In this crime ridden movie the heroes are those who stand up to crime, but the villains keep prevailing.

The watchdog AKA the CCTV system

Johannesburg, the city with the highest crime rate in South Africa, according to Crimestatssa.com, has a watchdog. We can call it the Batman of Johannesburg; up high in a non-descriptive building, the people inside work aimlessly to help track and discover crime and then convey it to the task team on the ground.  The city implemented CCTV cameras all over the CBD, by setting up their security control room in conjunction with Omega and metro police.

A job well done

Metro police Chief Superintendent, Wayne Minnaar says, “I can say that there hasn’t been a bank robbery, neither an ATM or cash heist, in the CBD for the past five years.”

Clearly the CCTV system has brought about change, not a big enough change that stops crime completely, but change nonetheless.

“Serious crime is definitely reduced. There is still opportunistic minor crime which happens. Bag snatching, pick pocketing, that type of stuff,” says Minnaar.

But who is this Omega?

Omega is the company chosen to install and maintain the CCTV cameras in the CBD of Johannesburg. They have their own staff who monitor the cameras on a 24/7 basis. Initially the cameras were only placed in strategic areas, but because of its positive impact, there are now over 400 cameras in the CBD and neighbouring areas.

The villains fight back

Criminals are aware that they are being monitored and have thus gone as far as to shoot down the cameras. In one particular case, several years ago criminals used an angle grinder to cut down the pole which had a camera installed on it.

Minnaar says, “It was in the middle of the night at one of the Crown Mines hotspots and they used a blanket to cover the camera and they used an angle grinder to cut down the pole.”

The city has thus decided to install the cameras on concrete polls. A criminal will always try to work their way around the system and therefor procedures are now in place to ensure that the police are immediately deployed to cameras that stop working.

And lastly,

The war between crime and the innocent continues. No one really knows when it will end and, but as long as there is hope in the hearts of South Africans, victory will be sweet in the end. At least now with the help of the CCTV cameras, those in the wrong can be brought to book.

 

On buying a company car

drivingDepending on your situation, having a company car can either be an unnecessary luxury or an indisputable necessity. How do you know which camp you fall in?

Reasons to have a company car

If you or your employees do a lot of driving for work-related purposes than you should be considering the merits of buying a company car, especially if the driving requirements are not going to stop ion the foreseeable future. This is especially true if you find you are using your car more for work-related reasons than personal reasons.

Having to drive for work isn’t necessarily enough of a reason to buy a company vehicle, but if your personal vehicle isn’t properly equipped for your business purposes than it certainly makes the case stronger. If you have to transport people, deliver goods or load equipment than your vehicle needs to be up to the challenge.

Also, you might be able to take advantage of the tax breaks that come with having a vehicle for your company.

Reasons to not have a company car

No matter how useful, a company car is still a large expense, especially for a small business. That is of course the main reason against buying a company car. If you are already struggling with your cash flow, be weary of adding further strain with car payments.

You also need to think about how long you would need the car. If you don’t see yourself needing it for five years or more than you could consider leasing a vehicle rather.

Tips for buying a company car

Let’s assume you do need a company car and you can afford it. First of all you need to choose the right car. Perhaps you just need a small, fuel efficient car to attend meetings, or maybe you need a heavy duty vehicle as a work horse.

When the time comes to buy the vehicle, you need to finance it in some way. Remember that there are indeed business vehicle finance options, which is likely to be better suited to your situation than the finance plans dealerships offer to consumer buyers.

Finally, remember that you need to put the car under the business name, not your personal name. Not only do you want to be able to benefit from tax cuts, but it can help protect you from liability in the case of a collision.

 

How much deposit do you need to buy a home?

houseBuying property can be a sound financial investment. Or it could not be. There are many factors to consider and one of them is how much deposit you should put down. It’s not a good idea to buy a home as soon as you make enough money to cover the monthly repayments.

So how much deposit should you put down?

Can you get away without paying deposit?

Hundred per cent home loans aren’t readily available anymore. In other words, you would be hard-pressed to qualify for a home loan without a deposit at all.  Most lenders require at least a five per cent deposit.

Is a five per cent deposit enough?

If most lenders need at least five per cent, does that answer our question? Not if you want the best deal you can get.

The more deposit you can put down, the less you have to borrow to fund your home, but most of all the lower your interest rates will be. Use a bond affordability calculator to play around with the settings and see what a difference the amount of deposit makes to what you will be paying for the next couple decades.

Another advantage is that a bigger deposit will give you more loans to choose from because you are a better candidate, making it easier to negotiate or get a good deal on the right loan.

So how much deposit do you need?

The best deals need a 30 per cent or even a 40 per cent down payment. If you can manage that – great! However, that is unrealistic for most buyers, especially first-time buyers. To still qualify for competitive deals you generally need a deposit of 25 per cent or more.

At the very least you should be in a position to put down a 20 per cent deposit. If you don’t have that much money, then it might be a good idea to wait until you have saved more. Don’t be in a rush. This is probably going to be the biggest financial commitment you make of your life so it is worth doing right. Saving for another year or two will pay off down the road.

 

 

 

How the future means we’ll never leave our homes

One of the most exciting developments for recent technology has been the focus on virtual as well as augmented reality. This new form of engagement with the world is actually quite an old idea, though, until now, the technology and accessibility has not really been in place. The implications for it, if both become widely accepted as cellphones, could have dramatic effects on how we operate as a society.

Already, people are able to “move” around the world and interact meaningfully with their environment. As CNN reports:

“[Marriott, the global hotel chain, is using] new technology that can place people in exotic virtual settings almost anywhere on the planet.

…guests sample virtual destinations with the Oculus Rift, a headset whose high-definition, 3-D display immerses wearers in a lifelike interactive world.”

The travel industry is particularly interested, since it means providing a potent taste to customers. This could entice them to travel the whole way and experience it in real life, as opposed to virtually.

This could mean dramatic changes for the home. For example, getting the right kind of seats, tables, and chairs and general lounge suites could be best for comfort and, perhaps, for movement. Or perhaps enclosing a space just for that, as one company did.

“Virtuix was showing off its omnidirectional “treadmill” at CES, which allows you to travel around in 360 degrees without leaving a four-foot-square area.”

These are the kinds of considerations we’ll need if we start to adopt virtual reality into our lives. Indeed, we can even use the tech itself to help us purchase furniture. As Technology Review reports:

“Vizera Labs [imagines] a future where brick-and-mortar stores could be replaced by smaller, cheaper, simpler spaces whose expensive physical inventory is replaced by virtual designs that can be projected onto just a few floor models.

“While it could allow companies to open smaller stores, it could also let customers get a better idea of how a pattern or color will look across a piece of furniture or the walls of a room.

Though it seems to be the realm of sci-fi, many have already and do experience these kinds of technology every day. Some are building it and improving it. Just like cellphones, it’s hard not to see this – considering the convenience and incredible application – become mainstream and widely used in everyday life.

The best bank for your buck?

We’ve all been there – Standing in line at a bank, waiting. Waiting to live, waiting to die – waiting for an absolution that will take the entire lunch hour to arrive. Banks can be frustrating at the best of times. But occasionally we get exceptional service and are left in awe. So which bank is rated the best in South Africa.

The South African customer service index (SAcsi) is an independent national benchmark of customer satisfaction of the quality of products and services available to household consumers. Banks are one such service, and every year South African banks are rated for the quality of their product and service against the previous year.

The last few years have been particularly progressive for the South African banking system. The rise of Capitec and its competitive prices and innovative banking solutions from FNB, have seen other banks scramble to try and keep up.

SAcsi measures banks by their channels and their products. ATMs, branches, cellphone banking, Internet banking, banking apps and contact centres all form part of the channels, while services such as credit cards, home loans, personal loans and vehicle finance are also monitored. Each is scored out of a possible hundred which then turned into a percentage. And here’s what the last year’s banking channel results look like.

ATMs – It turns out that South Africans are not overly fussy when it comes to ATMs. As long as they have access to one (of any bank), then they’re happy. There was no discernable difference between banks.

Branches – Capitec was a clear leader here. Its customers gave Capitec branches a satisfaction score of 81.2, 7.9% higher than the industry average. Interestingly, the other banks didn’t show any significant difference between each other. It must be their pretty layouts and fast service.

Cellphone banking – FNB leads the cellphone banking sphere with a score that is 4.7% higher than industry average.

Online banking – eBucks appear to be destroying the competition here as FNB leads the industry for online banking satisfaction with consumers rating FNB 7.0% above industry average. Nedbank is on par with the industry, while the other banks lag under the average. Debit order systems are also taken into consideration.

Banking apps – Apps which put banking capabilities in the hands of the consumers are still a relatively new innovation in SA. Regardless, FNB (+6.8%) and Nedbank (+4.3%) take the lead here, while Standard Bank is on par with industry average and Absa brings up the final spot, 4.3% below the industry average. Capitec is still trying to work out what a cellphone is and how to use it (They don’t offer a banking app).

Contact centres – Contact centres have been a long-standing service to support customers with bank-related queries. Awkwardly though, no single bank can boast a high satisfaction rating.

What’s abundantly clear from this is that there’s room for improvement. In a time where instant gratification is everything, banks need to catch up. Waiting in a bank queue? Ain’t nobody got time for dat anymore.

Are there significant financial benefits to working from home?

workingWe all recognise the importance of office jobs, yet there are also ways that home offices indicate independence. Offices after all are themselves expenses – both for business owners and workers. For business owners, it means paying rent or municipal fees; for workers, it means travel and arrangements that require us to be comfortable to be there.

To work from home is, of course, ideal for many people. Though not everyone enjoys it, many are finding that it helps them in many ways – especially in terms of finances. As Forbes notes, many who work from home consider a reduction in expenses the main reason to consider it, listing petrol cost saving as one of the highest reasons to work from home.

Of course, business managers do have an issue with this. The paper Forbes analyses says:

“Business leaders assume employees who work remotely and take advantage of the policy are not really working. This is because of the loss of control. Employers lose direct oversight and cannot witness productivity firsthand.”

But as Kevin Kruse highlights, employers who think this “think they are “witnessing productivity” when a worker sits in her cube, but they are really just witnessing presence.” Indeed, employers need other, better and measurable ways to see whether productivity occurs – that way, physical presence in the office would not be considered mandatory for the work at all.

After all, if the employee can’t be trusted to do the work they’re paid for every day, then that is not an employee worth paying in the first place.

But if you wish to start your own business, perhaps home offices are the best way to do that. To help start that, you need to be aware of different kinds of finance interventions and applications. You need to be aware of your finances and what you can and can’t pay for.

By working from home, you need to be able to still support yourself. Your home still needs to be paid for of course, so that might be your first focus even before you begin thinking about setting up a business – though you might end up in a scenario of needing money to pay for it in the first place.

By looking at tools like a bond affordability calculator for instance, you can have a better sense of what to do and what to pay for. This means setting up with proper office tools and so on, that can lead to productivity. It might be beneficial to not work from home immediately, but share cheaper spaces with others in order to get started.

These are just some considerations, tied directly to finance, about whether or not we should work from home – whether as business owners or employees.

Working on autopilot – How to automate your business

The future of business is automation. Computer algorithms can create cookbooks and robots can write newspaper articles.

At the rate technology is going we can envision a future like we saw as kids in the animated show, The Jetsons, where George Jetson merely had to push a single button now and then.

Is your business benefitting from automation tools as much as it can? You might be surprised to know what business processes you can automate.

Your inventory

Stocktaking is tedious and time-consuming, but it also doesn’t have to be done manually. There are several tools that can streamline the whole process, helping you keep track of your business in real time. For instance, an inventory system manager such as Wasp Barcode, which is especially useful for retailers, manages your inventory and syncs your online business.

Receiving and making payments

You can use debit order systems to not only make payments to your employees or suppliers, but to also collect payments from your customers. This saves you time on invoicing, paperwork, and helps avoid discrepancies or unpaids.

Data entry

Nobody likes admin. Especially not admin that is as tedious as data entry. While data entry isn’t usually particularly difficult, the point is that it still takes up a lot of business resources, such as employee hours that could be better used elsewhere. Something like Shoeboxed however will scan and organise your receipts, invoices and documents securely online for you. You simply send in your paperwork to be automatically analysed and have the required data extracted. Not to worry though because the key fields for accounting and taxing purposes are still human-verified.

IT processes

There are a number of IT processes that you can automate, like software testing, data transfers, generating and distributing reports, data backup, monitoring systems and rectifying system problems and outages.

Budgeting

We bet you didn’t know that you can automate your budget. A well-planned budget (that you actually stick to) is a very important component of running a business. You Need A Budget (YNAB) will help you manage your business’ money, letting you know how much money is going out and coming in at whatever point.  There is therefore less chance of overspending, you always have a good idea about your business’ financial situation, and you can easily manage your cash flow.

Staying on top requires being as efficient as can be. Automating components of your business is one way to do this because you free up resources, streamline your processes and reduce human error.

It’s a brave new world. Welcome.