Licensed: keeping track of the rise in professional requirements

While many analysts and experts believe that taxes are the bane of small businesses, a recent article by Slate stipulates that licenses, rather than taxes, are the biggest thorn in a small business' side.

While many companies may use a custom database software to keep track of their expenses, payroll and taxes, it may behoove them to use these custom application softwares to maintain their licenses and records as a form of backups as these are, according to the news source, not only important but can also be very convoluted and becoming a problem for many businesses.

For example, in Nevada, Louisiana, Florida and Washington D.C., all aspiring interior designers must complete 2,190 hours of training and apprenticeship as well as pass an exam before practicing. Meanwhile, the rest of the country requires no such training to be proved to lawmakers.

Furthermore, while most states don't require any sort of licensing or age requirement for being a locksmith, in Oklahoma locksmiths must be at least 21 years of age, New Jersey requires a high-school diploma and Tennessee makes those yearning to be a locksmith to pass two exams.

In fact, licensing has seen a rise in professional requirements, especially since once a licensing system is in place it becomes easy for those currently licensed to lobby for more restrictions to increase barriers of entry for competition. According to the source, in the early 1950s less than 5 percent of American workers were in positions that required a license, now, that number is "well over 20 percent."

While the red tape of licensing becomes an increasingly popular problem for small businesses, the use of custom database software can help those who need to maintain these records in case they are called upon to prove or show them. 

How small businesses can benefit from big data

According to an article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), in order to make the most of "big data" you need to know how to crunch the numbers. While Google can attract fleets of top-notch data analysts, many smaller companies can't afford to maintain or even hire that kind of talent. Some of them go young and seek out college grads but others may invest in a custom database software that can provide the analytical tools needed to process data. Others may even outsource this service with data consultants.

Once companies are able to understand the data, it's time to decide which aspects to use and what are extraneous. HBR uses the example of VinoEno – a winery – that set out to use data to improve its operations. VinoEno's employees not only need to know how to read the data efficiently, but also access it across multiple platforms. The company needed to make a choice on what collection and analysis tools were going to handle its needs.

After this, companies are going to need to decide which types of information make the cut and which are going to stay as numbers in a database. Not every statistic is important to a business, and, for the most part, the statistics any given company will use can vary from one to the other.

The way a company shapes a custom database to handle the data they intend on understanding is determined by the type of company they are. Without a firm understanding of the way they operate, small businesses are not going to be able to get the most out of this increasingly popular way of looking at data. 

Database software can help curtail e-Discovery costs for small businesses

When it comes to running a successful small business, it’s paramount for you to maintain a custom database software that holds crucial information and documents. If businesses happen to find themselves in the midst of a lawsuit, having access to this database can be the difference between showing the necessary documents and information for litigation and conducting what is known as an electronic discovery, or e-Discovery.

According to Inc. Magazine, e-Discovery is the process in which analysts are able to extract data from the internet to be exchanged and analyzed during litigation, or as part of an investigation by government bodies. It’s time consuming, exhausting and very expensive.

“E-Discovery is a complicated, messy process,” said Andrew Sieja, founder and CEO of kCura, a major Chicago data and analytics software company, to Inc. “The collection phase involves the snatching of data from, say, the laptops of 50 different people. It requires experts to really understand where to pull data from the network.”

The expertise needed to pull off a competent e-Discovery has sparked an entire industry. The market has grown by an annual rate of 14 percent over the past few years and is predicted to reach a $1.7 billion worth by 2014.

While the major industry tycoons in tech, oil, finance and energy were the first to issue the use of e-Discovery experts, small to medium sized businesses have started to catch on despite its costs, as all it takes is one lawsuit to significantly harm a company. E-discovery is becoming one of the best ways you can defend yourself in court as it provides a massive amount of data from a very complicated medium.

To help protect against data loss and the costliness of e-Discovery, you should utilize a custom database software much like FileMaker that will allow you to store and access these necessary materials in the chance they are needed for legal issues.

Small business saving through the use of a database

An integral part of maintaining a successful small business is the ability to keep an accurate tally of all the company's finances and the effectiveness of these expenses. One way businesses can accomplish this is by using a custom database software much like FileMaker 12 as a means to manage necessary business expenses such as payroll, accounting services and even travel expenses with a higher level of clarity.

In fact, according to a survey by Sun National Bank, 75 percent of small business owners cite rising gas prices as directly affecting their business. While business owners that require the use of a fleet of vehicles may not be able to control the price of gas, they can control many other expenses they may be spending too much on.

For example, online banking is an excellent way for small businesses to save. Rather than driving to a bank, owners can access their accounts from a computer. Furthermore, by maintaining their finances online or in a custom database software, owners will cut down on unnecessary workplace clutter by eliminating the need for paper financial records.

Another way small businesses can save is by utilizing televideo or video conferencing services that allow communication with clients or other important entities without having to spend on travel. In addition, by providing employees time to work from home, employers can not only stimulate workplace energy savings by requiring fewer employees to use electricity and other utilities, but also help boost employee morale.

While these practices are all excellent ways for small businesses to save on the little expenses that add up, without maintaining an accurate record of these savings in a custom database, business owners may never know exactly how much they're saving. 

Take advantage of tax incentives for small businesses with custom database software

Payroll can be a complex undertaking for most small businesses. While calculating hours and wages may not be the most exhausting duty, understanding and adhering to tax laws, regulations and deductions can be a hard task itself. In order to maintain these essential statistics, small businesses should use a custom database software to store all its payroll records while also paying close attention to the tax incentives recently proposed by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

According to the New York Times, a new bill proposed by President Barack Obama would allow a company to get up to a 10 percent income tax credit against the amount of wages it expands by. This means that if a business increases its payroll by $4 million, it could potentially receive a $400,000 income tax credit. Subsequently, this credit is capped at $500,000 making it more valuable for small to medium sized businesses. Furthermore, the proposal is limited to the top wage that is subject to Social Security tax – $110,100.

According to the news source, many experts believe this new bill may be more of a distinction from the GOP rather than a genuine initiative. The Republican party recently proposed a tax incentive bill that would allow companies with less than 500 employees to deduct 20 percent of their income in 2012. But, this deduction is limited to half of the cash wages that were paid to employees.

Whether any of the bills come to fruition or not, companies will still benefit from maintaining accurate payroll records with use of a custom database software that allow for higher clarity into what can be a complicated process.

Crowdfunding may be next major resource for local businesses

Main Street investing has taken on a major role in the recent cultural and financial landscape. As more consumers are moving towards local shops and products to supply their demands, some of these merchants may be seeing an increase in investments and funding from the newly government supported crowdfunding avenues.

In order to keep track of these investments, business owners may want to invest in a custom database software to help maintain accurate financial records, especially since the Securities and Exchange Commission recently revamped the stipulations behind how much individuals can donate to small businesses.

According to an article from BusinessWeek, consumers can donate five to 10 percent of their wealth to companies through crowdfunding avenues. Although the SEC still has to set in stone its laws on the way crowdfunding works – which may take years before businesses can start to really profit from the expanded clarity – there are still many ways merchants can use crowdfunding to their advantage.

One such way is through a program called Kickstarter. Although Kickstarter is primarily known for the music and film projects it's been able to fund, there are still many opportunities for fashion, food, design, publishing and technology companies to utilize the tool. The only rules are that the fundraising must be for a project with a start and end date, and if the company doesn't reach its goal within the allotted 90 days, it gets none of the donations. Alternatively, if it reaches or exceeds its goal, it keeps all the donations.

While the SEC figures out ways to ensure that its crowdfunding laws eliminate any opportunities for scamming and con artists, local businesses can use Kickstarter and various other sources already in existence as trusted means for project they may need help financing. So long as they remember to use a custom database software to track all investments and finances in the process. 

How a website may represent the company behind it

With consumers being more connected to the internet than ever before, how companies present themselves online has become just as important as in person. In order for a business to maintain the best digital brand, they may want to invest a custom database software or consult software developing companies to ensure they're presenting themselves the best they can. Companies may also want to take into account some of BusinessWeek's examples of good and bad company websites.

According to the news source, websites that belong to Chevron, Disneyworld, and Babycenter are markedly better than most on the internet. This isn't necessarily because of the custom database software that may house or display the website's content, but rather the content itself. For example, Chevron's website publishes articles and profiles that "put human stories first." This creates an interesting foil to help battle the company's inherent "big oil" image.

This is contrasted with British Petroleum (BP), which is another big oil company that has seen some very bad PR recently due to disasters in the Gulf Coast. The website, unfortunately, "suffers from poor presentation." Rather than organizing and displaying the rich content, the website only offers stacks of PDF files and "oversimplified" graphics.

Disneyworld's website provides its viewers with many interactive and engaging content opportunities that play towards the venerable brand. The site provides logistical information for parents such as package pricing, room sizes and dining options with games and entertaining content mixed in for the kids.

The media source compares Disneyworld's to Six Flags' website, which has been run over with a "mishmash of ads, social media widgets, images and links," making the viewing experience cumbersome and confusing. That is an example that consumers will want to steer clear from. 

Hospitals turning to database software to help maintain health records

Hospitals contain a wealth of data. Not only do physicians need to know immediate data – what may have happened to a patient and how – but also medical history and the complicated web of medical insurance.

These institutions may benefit from a custom database software that can provide the robust information processing systems that are also easy to use – much like database software FileMaker – which is why, according to BusinessWeek, many hospitals are seeking help to keep track of this wealth of data.

According to the media source, only 35 percent of hospitals have integrated electronic health records into their daily operation. In response to the rising IT crisis in America's hospitals, a group of New York healthcare providers created the New York Digital Health Accelerator. Started on May 10, the program will give 12 health IT startups the opportunity to design a custom database software that will, hopefully, improve the access and processing of medical data and records.

The program is backed by numerous hospitals and care providers as well as a slew of venture capital firms and the New York City Investment Fund. Startups have until June 1 to design and implement their software, which will be chosen over the summer.

One of the main goals of the operation is to improve the State Health Information Network of New York, a database that provides caregivers with a wealth of information, but requires an upgrade in access as many physicians are still unable to gain the necessary data from this source.

One example comes from the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. According to BusinessWeek, one woman was hospitalized due to a cough she claimed was "brought on by the spirits." She was given psychiatric medicine and released to her family, who the doctors kept regular contact with for two months before losing track. When the hospital finally found her, it turns out she had been admitted twice without the hospital knowing until months after the fact. 

Athletic programs use custom database programs to maintain expenses

In the world of major Division I athletics, being able to maintain finances and expenses is extremely important and most often schools will need a custom database software to be able to handle the imperative task. This may be especially true for the University of Texas' athletic department as it is the most funded college sports program in the country, according to USA Today.

For the past three years the newspaper has maintained its own custom database of major collegiate athletic finances and it found that no programs have earned or spent more than Texas. In the 2010-11 school year, the Longhorns raked in more than $150 million in revenue. Ohio State University came in second with a comparatively low $18.5 million. Furthermore, Texas expenses for football and 19 other varsity sports was roughly $130 million, which was nearly $11.5 million more than Ohio State spent on all 36 of its varsity teams. 

"There's nothing to stop Texas or other very successful financial enterprises with these gigantic television contracts from continuing to grow, grow, grow because their revenues match their expenditures," said former University of Arizona president Peter Likins to USA Today. Likins was also the head of a high-level NCAA panel that examined college athletics finances. "But the disconnect between what's happening in athletics and what's happening elsewhere in the same universities create stress, and the stresses will create a breakdown."

Furthermore, according to information the newspaper collected from its database, Texas' athletic program is one of only 22 in Division I athletics that operate in the black. This has become a touchy subject as economic factors add stress to higher education finances. In fact, the University of Texas' athletic department spotted $6 million to the school's academic side last year.

Some experts believe that a government intervention may be needed for the amount of finances flowing through these programs, while others fear that this may proceed for years due to the economic advantages that many schools and communities gain from programs like Texas'.

Cloud computing security becoming a major concern

IT security is an increasingly important facet of operating a business – whether it be a small corner store or a major multinational corporation. This is especially true as many more companies are beginning to shift their data – an important aspect of decision making – from hard paper copies, to taking up space on hard drives and then to being stored in the cloud.

But, a recent BusinessWeek article cites that just because some businesses may have moved their data from the more manual services to the cloud, it doesn't mean they should skimp out on making sure that data is secure.

"They say they're getting rid of their IT department," said Joe Coyle, the CTO of Capegemini North America that created a service that helps companies determine whether they should migrate data to the cloud or not, to BusinessWeek. "I say, 'No. You still have to do this.'"

According to BusinessWeek, the biggest threat to cloud-stored data may be the company's inability to understand who is responsible for keeping it protected. Global tech provider IBM is customizing each contract it creates for clients before they start using their services for cloud computing to increase data security awareness.

This means some of the company's contracts go into great detail on what exactly happens when a server goes down or gets breached, while others hardly mention it.

Furthermore, more often than not, when a company leases space on a server to store data on that server it will most likely be in a remote location. The data's location complicates everything to the point where about 74 percent of IT security providers say that more training is needed for cloud issues.

In order for companies to maintain an accurate track on their data, they may want to consult a software application development company that can create a custom database software to store the data, regardless if they use the cloud as well.