Category Archives: Business

Join.me Review

Why join.me?
Join.me, a LogMeIn product, is neither the cheapest video conference system nor the one with the most available room for participants. However, join.me struck the right balance between cost and maximum number of participants for us to name it the best video conference service for many participants. It remains very affordable while allowing up to 250 participants into a meeting at any given time, and it also offers a powerful, easy-to-use system.

Features
Join.me includes all the major features we looked for, as well as some ancillary features we enjoyed (despite its professed aim to cut out the bells and whistles). Here are some of the features available on join.me:

App integration: Join.me can integrate a wide array of applications your business might use, including major products such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, Salesforce and Microsoft Office 365. By integrating apps, you can operate directly through join.me; for example, you can schedule a conference ahead of time and provide the necessary details to your team on Outlook.
Audio calls: Included in the license is the ability to make audio calls using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). If you choose, join.me could double as your phone system.
Control over user permissions: The system allows the administrator to control user permissions. Do you want to restrict who can record meetings or use the presenter-swap feature? Do you want to view your team’s most used features or monitor ongoing meetings? Admins have the power to do all of those things.
Meeting branding: A nice touch to join.me’s conferences is the ability to brand the room with a custom meeting link name and your organization’s logo as the background image.
Mobile applications: You don’t have to be confined to your office or home to use join.me video conferencing. Download the mobile application on your smartphone to use it on the go.
One-click scheduling: There are multiple ways to schedule conferences and presentations in join.me, whether through the service’s own scheduler, Microsoft Outlook or Google Chrome. Once a meeting is scheduled, it takes one click to start it up.
Recording: Join.me is capable of both video and audio recording, and depending on which package you purchase, it offers a great deal of cloud storage space. The Pro package includes 5GB of cloud storage, while the Business package includes 5TB.
Screen sharing: An essential aspect of video conferencing, screen sharing allows you to show other participants what’s on your screen. One useful aspect of join.me’s screen-sharing feature is the Window Share option, which lets you share one window with participants while leaving others open on your desktop to take notes, for example.
Training: Purchasing join.me entitles you and your organization to free training from the company. After you complete the training, join.me will do regular check-in calls to ensure your satisfaction and answer any new questions your users might have.
Presenter swap: The presenter-swap feature allows you to switch presenters at any time during a meeting. The new presenter will be able to broadcast their screen, just as you broadcast your own. This feature is especially useful if multiple members in your organization intend to deliver a portion of the presentation.
Video bubbles: Video bubbles appear in the video conference to show you who is dialed in and what’s happening on their webcams. Seeing all the participants’ faces not only helps to facilitate the flow of the meeting but also allows the presenter to ensure that everybody is engaged in the conference.
Whiteboards: Whiteboards are a collaborative tool to sketch out ideas or jot down notes. The Pro and Business packages come with unlimited whiteboards for use by participants. One drawback of join.me’s whiteboards, however, is that they are supported only by Apple products.
Ease of use
Another big reason we chose join.me as a best pick is the software’s simplicity. Video conference systems need to be easy to navigate in order to minimize the training your employees and other users will need. Join.me is intuitive and straightforward, with a simple interface and helpful tutorials like this one.

The majority of essential controls are confined to a small panel that opens along with the conferencing tool. The panel displays four buttons, which you can use to access many functions, such as sending email invitations to your meeting, muting and unmuting participants, and broadcasting your screen to participants. Adjacent to the main controls are settings for your own personal line; here, you can turn your camera or microphone on and off, open a presentation, and invite additional users directly from the join.me application.

ClickMeeting Review

Why ClickMeeting?
ClickMeeting is our top choice for video conference systems for businesses because it blends diverse features, high-quality audio and video, and ease of use without the headache of integrating a complex or unwieldy system. Because of its user-friendly interface, training for your employees should be minimal. There’s also a 30-day free trial available, so your staff can take it out for a spin before you commit to buying.

Features
ClickMeeting offers a wide array of features essential to businesses in a video conferencing system. There are different pricing plans, some of which have additional uses. Here are some of the features available in every plan.

Add-ons: Even if you’re not interested in all the bells and whistles, you can purchase specific expansions such as extra seats in a conference, additional presenters and more recording capacity.
App integration: ClickMeeting allows you to integrate with multiple applications such as Adobe, Dropbox, Facebook, LinkedIn and Office 2016.
Chat text translations: ClickMeeting includes 52 languages that can be used to translate chat text in real time. This is a useful feature for companies that regularly work with international partners.
Customized invitations: Create custom email invitations that can be tailored to match your brand’s color scheme. This includes agendas and webinar objectives, as well as a registration button for participants.
Interoperability: ClickMeeting is interoperable with virtually any other video conference platforms.
Polls and surveys: Users can create polls or surveys for the audience so presenters can gain feedback or insights about the topic at hand. The information could be used to determine a specific course of action, delegate responsibilities or simply solicit feedback to improve future webinars. You can choose single choice, multiple choice and open-ended formats.
Private chat: ClickMeeting supports one-on-one direct messages during conferences.
Screen sharing: Whether you need to walk colleagues through presentations and files or you’re training new employees or clients on how to use the system, the ability to share your screen – or remotely command another user’s – often comes in handy.
Social media sharing: Are you trying to cast a wide net with your video conference? Share your room with your social networks and expand your reach.
Subaccounts: This enables you to grant other users access to a specific account. All users have their own separate storage space and available recording time, as well as their own unique login credentials.
Waiting room with agenda: While participants wait to enter a meeting, they can view a waiting room screen that includes the agenda for the meeting, additional information about the presenter or more details about the organization’s objectives.
Webinar timelines: This timeline of your webinars and events allows you to review your past use of ClickMeeting. It also lets you dive deeper with a fuller examination of statistics and a report-generation tool to focus on a particular topic or trend. Timelines also allow you to duplicate past events in case an upcoming conference will use a similar format.
Webinar rebranding: You can add logos and alter color schemes to match the conference room’s appearance to your own brand, making ClickMeeting an extension of your organization.
Webinar recording: Recording allows you to archive previous conferences, meetings and presentations for future review. Use them for training material, allow absent employees to catch up on their own time, or revisit for the purposes of modifying your strategic objectives.
Whiteboard: This built-in collaboration tool allows users to draw and write to one another to facilitate brainstorming and innovative thinking.
Simplicity
ClickMeeting’s interface is intuitive, simple to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Its sleek dashboard doesn’t feel cluttered or overwhelming. Scheduling meetings, reviewing statistics, creating a conference room and connecting with other users is simple and straightforward, and requires minimal training.

Skype for Business Review

Most video conference services require you to make the choice between paying higher prices to get more robust features or forgoing them for a cheaper price. Skype for Business, however, is an affordable and effective tool that retains its most valuable assets. You’ll spend less each month on this service than for most others, but you won’t have to sacrifice reliability, high-definition video feeds or the most essential features of video conferencing software. Moreover, the large conference rooms and ability to stream multiple video feeds at once make Skype for Business a good tool for hosting many participants in a single meeting.

In September 2017, Microsoft announced that it will replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams, though it has not given a timeline for the transition at this time. Microsoft Teams will allow users to make calls, hold meetings and collaborate with others from a single place.

The No. 1 highlight of Skype for Business is its affordable cost. There are two packages that include Skype for Business (along with other Microsoft Office software), so it’s important to know what you really need before you buy. However, if you don’t already own a license to use Microsoft Office applications, this could be a cost-effective way to bundle those services. Up to 250 participants can be included in a Skype for Business conference under either of these plans. Skype for Business also offers a 30-day free trial.

Skype for Business has a variety of uses beyond video conferencing. When you purchase Skype for Business primarily as a video conference tool, you also get a text chat platform, the ability to make audio calls, and a way to send files quickly and easily (even without setting up a video meeting).

Support for Skype for Business was satisfactory in our experience. While there isn’t a direct sales support line for Skype for Business, calling Microsoft led us to a customer service rep who was relatively knowledgeable and happy to help us resolve our questions. There were a few instances where we encountered wait times, but they weren’t long enough for us to give up. Moreover, Microsoft offers plenty of help documents and tutorials on how to use the system. We never felt as if we’d run into an obstacle with Skype for Business that could not be overcome with relatively little effort.

No dial-in audio: The most notable drawback is that Skype for Business lacks a dial-in feature for meetings. Despite this shortcoming, if your primary interest is using Skype for Business as a video conference platform simply to host meetings and presentations, it shouldn’t be a huge problem if your team has access to a laptop or mobile device.

Learning curve: Skype for Business isn’t particularly difficult to use, but it’s not necessarily intuitive either. It takes some clicking around, especially given its other functions beyond video conferencing. It might take some time to familiarize yourself and your team with the service. Still, this minor learning curve doesn’t impact the overall quality of the service. Also, for users already familiar with Skype, the barriers are significantly reduced.

Vend Review

Our 2018 research and analysis of POS systems leads us to again recommend Vend as the best all-in-one POS system for small businesses.

We chose Vend from the dozens of POS systems we considered. To read our full methodology and see a more comprehensive list of POS systems, visit our best picks page here.
Why Vend?
Vend is an affordable, scalable POS system that gives you a choice of payment processors to work with and is compatible with third-party POS hardware, which means if you already own equipment, you may be able to continue using it. It also partners with a variety of companies to offer add-ons, such as appointment-scheduling features that make it a good option for retail stores, salons and other professional service-based businesses.

Competitive Pricing and Favorable Terms
Vend is packed with features at a price that’s very friendly to small businesses. Like most of the top POS systems, Vend charges a monthly subscription fee for its software and doesn’t require you to sign a long-term service contract, so you can cancel at any time without incurring an expensive fee.

Vend is transparent with its pricing. You can see the subscription rates for its four plans on its website. Vend is one of the few POS systems that has a free plan, which is a valuable service for businesses that are just getting off the ground. This plan is also a good option if you want to test-drive Vend longer than the trial period allows. It supports a single register, 10 products and up to 1,000 customers. However, it doesn’t come with email or phone support.

The Starter plan costs $69 per month and supports one register, three users, and an unlimited number of products and customers. It includes reporting and inventory features and gives you 24/7 access to customer support via email and chat.

The Advanced plan costs $99 per month (or $79 per month if you pay annually rather than month to month). In addition to the Starter plan feature, it comes with a loyalty program, Vend Ecommerce and advanced reporting. It also allows you to add more registers for $49 each per month and priority phone support for $19 per month.

If you have multiple locations, you’ll need the Multi-Outlet plan, which costs $249 per month (or $199 per month if you pay annually). It includes all the features of the Advanced plan plus priority phone support and the tools to manage your reporting, inventory and customers across all of your locations.

Choosing a Payroll Service

Looking for an online payroll service in 2018? Here’s everything you need to know about what an online payroll service is, what it offers and how to choose one. If you already know what you’re looking for, visit our best picks page to see which ones we recommend, as well as a complete list of others that might work for you.

What is Online Payroll?
Online payroll services operate in the cloud. They don’t require any software to be installed or maintained, and businesses can manage and run payroll from anywhere.
They can be used to pay full-time and part-time employees as well as contract and freelance workers.
Online payroll typically includes a variety of services:
Payroll processing: Online payroll services automatically calculate how much employees should be paid each pay period. The systems take into account shift differentials, overtime, holiday pay and taxes, as well as Social Security and benefit deductions. They then make payments to employees by direct deposit or check.
File and pay payroll taxes: These services can withhold employee taxes, file quarterly payroll tax reports and pay tax withholdings to the proper state and federal agencies. In addition, they issue employee W-2 and 1099 forms at the end of the year.
New hire reporting: Many services report new hires to the government on your behalf.
Integrations: Online payroll services can integrate with a variety of payroll-related programs businesses are already using, such as accounting software, time and attendance systems and human resources software.
Paid-time-off management: Many of these services manage paid time off by tracking how many vacation and sick hours employees have earned and how much they’ve used.
Employee self-service: Typically, employees can access the system in order to view pay stubs, PTO balances and year-end tax forms.
Mobile access: Many systems offer mobile apps or mobile-friendly websites that let businesses manage and run payroll from smartphones or tablets.
Payroll reports: Most systems offer detailed wage and labor reports that provide a deeper look at how a business operates.
Pros and cons: The biggest benefit of online payroll services is that all of the work – payroll calculations, payroll tax payments, year-end tax forms, etc. – is completed for you. With these systems, payroll can typically be run in just several minutes.

One downside is that using an online payroll service is more expensive than handling payroll on your own. Another potential negative is that you are entrusting your payroll provider to get everything right. If the provider makes a mistake, you may face a rash of angry employees or a fine from the government. Also, if you are in an area with spotty internet service, an online payroll provider will likely not be a fit for you.

TeleDirect Review

After conducting considerable research and analysis of call center services, we recommend TeleDirect as the best overall call center service for small businesses in 2018.

When it comes to a call center service that can cover both your inbound and outbound needs, you’ll want to be sure that the company you partner with offers extensive features on both sides of the equation. A quality call center service should be able to shift seamlessly from one task to another, be it answering customer service calls and processing orders, or conducting surveys and lead generation services for your business. And, of course, you need to trust that the call center service you choose will treat your customers with the utmost respect, just as your own staff would.

In order to help you decide which call center is best for you, Business News Daily reviewed a dozens of call center services. Ultimately, we recommend TeleDirect, which received an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, as the best overall call center for small businesses in 2018 because of its comprehensive array of functions.
Why TeleDirect?
Full slate of services
TeleDirect offers nearly every service you could expect from a call center. TeleDirect’s inbound services include reliable customer support, order processing, media support, tech support, reservation services and help desk services. The outbound services are equally robust, including lead generation, customer retention efforts, market research, appointment setting, telemarketing, follow-up calls and survey conducting. A unique feature of TeleDirect’s outbound services is cold-calling, which helps to forge new customer relationships and expand your base; most other services do not perform cold-calling in addition to their other outbound functions. This slate of services made TeleDirect one of the most comprehensive call center service we reviewed.

24/7 availability
TeleDirect is available 24/7/365, providing a constant destination for your customers’ phone calls, regardless of your business hours or time zone. Not only is constant availability a boon for cementing customer relationships, but it also means a representative will always be available on holidays and weekends.

Our customer-service experience with TeleDirect was satisfactory. Agents were knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we had, though our interactions did lack a personal touch or a friendliness that might leave an even better impact on a customer. However, we never had to wait and always obtained the information we needed quickly.

Dedicated agents
TeleDirect employs any combination of shared, blended or dedicated agents, depending on what your needs are. Having the option to use dedicated agents, which are call center employees specifically assigned to work for your business, can help ensure more accurate and engaging service. Shared agents manage several different accounts with the call center service, meaning they have to pay attention to more than just your business. Blended agents, as the name suggests, are a mix of shared and dedicated agents for your campaign.

Working with a dedicated agent ensures not only that your customers are of particular importance to the agent, but also helps to improve the call center’s individual accountability.

Multiple languages
TeleDirect’s agents can field calls in multiple languages, not just English and Spanish like many other call centers. If your business engages with a clientele that speaks a different language, TeleDirect is likely able to accommodate them. If your customers often speak a foreign language, TeleDirect is a great option for staying in constant communication with them in their native tongue.

Business Loan Myths Busted

Obtaining a loan for your small business is a great way to boost investment and even grow your business when the time is ripe. You might have heard some grumblings about small business loans: they’re hard to obtain; your credit has to be flawless; don’t ask for too much money or you’ll be denied. Fortunately, these prominent myths surrounding small business lending aren’t necessarily true.

It’s important to manage debt properly, but doing so can help grow your business at a faster rate than scrimping and saving. To help you obtain a small business loan for your company, Business News Daily spoke with finance experts to debunk six common myths about getting a business loan.
Myth No. 1: Getting a small business loan is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.
Like other forms of financing, obtaining a small business loan is all about preparation. Ensuring your books are transparent and you maintain the reserve liquidity to encourage the lender that you’ll be able to service your debt on time and consistently will lead to success. And experts agree the best way to avoid unnecessary snags is to prepare ahead of time for the application process.
Myth No. 2: You must have perfect credit to get a small business loan.
Low credit scores are a concern for some lenders, but banks aren’t the only lenders out there. Alternative and private lenders are often able to offer more flexible terms, including which level of creditworthiness they can approve.

“While traditional banks may be restrictive when it comes to obtaining credit, there are alternative options,” said Michael Kevitch, president and founder of Small Business Funding.
Myth No. 3: The best way to obtain a loan for your business is through a bank.
Entrepreneurs have more than one option for obtaining financing; banks are not the only game in town. There are alternative and private lenders, as well as creative types of lending like invoice factoring, which can help business owners shore up their capital without going through the lengthy and restrictive application process required by conventional lenders.

For business owners looking to borrow a relatively small sum (between $5,000 and $250,000), getting a bank loan is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth, Kevitch said. Banks are more suitable for businesses that are interested in borrowing a large amount of cash and repaying the loan over a long period of time at a relatively low interest rate. Kevitch advised business owners to make sure they fall under those categories before applying through a bank.

The Evolution of Business Technology

Technology has spurred human advancement for centuries. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in business. The economic and business implications from advancing technologies have resulted in substantial societal change, from the iPhone to the Telegraph.

Appreciating technology means examining the past to understand where we came from. The people interpreting Morse code in 1870 are the same as we are today – they used technology to change lives and build the U.S. on the backs of business and enterprise. The only thing they were missing was the smartphone.

Our relationship with technology has changed drastically within the last decade, and with new and exciting tech on the horizon, looking at our journey up until this point will illuminate some of the challenges that lie ahead.
In its infancy, social media seemed like the latest way for people to connect, revolutionizing communication across the globe. As it developed in the mid-2000s, it proved to be a useful business tool as well.

Much like the smartphone, social media became another platform for businesses and technology companies to connect with users and market products. This eventually led to the emergence of companies that market only on social media. Glossier, a beauty and cosmetics startup, is the latest example of a company that markets via user-generated content on social media.
The telegraph started the telecommunications revolution in America back in the mid-19th century. Samuel Morse worked on the telegraph and sent the first telegram from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore in 1844.

The impact the telegraph had on business is immeasurable – it allowed for instantaneous communication between points hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It helped usher in the railroad in America, which allowed for the transportation of goods, services and people across the nation.
Like the telegraph, the telephone acted as another way communication revolutionized the way people lived, worked and interacted with each other.

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. The technology allowed for easy, cheap communication across large regions of the U.S. It also revolutionized the way businesses communicated forever.
The smartphone melds both the laptop and the mobile phone – workers could communicate from anywhere, contribute on company-based platforms like email or messaging apps, and finish work wherever they were. The smartphone also ushered in another wave of consumer culture. The technology industry, spurred in the past by the computer, laptop, and mobile phone, now had a new opportunity to create programs and market products.
3D printing is the latest major tech development to impact business. The 3D printing process has been around since the late 1980s, but it is poised for tremendous growth and could change the way businesses manufacture and develop hardware.

It’s expected that 3D printing will impact different types of business like the automotive, aviation and machinery industries. This technology is expected to continue to have a major impact on American business and could change the way some companies operate.

Best Call Centers and Answering 2018

Fielding calls can take up a lot of valuable time that you and your staff could spend managing day to day operations. Still, customer service is essential and, for some businesses, the phone lines are a major channel for lead generation and even sales.

If you’re having trouble managing the phones effectively, or if you want to improve outreach without burdening your staff, you need a call center service. These services often specialize in both inbound and outbound services; that means services as different as customer support and lead generation are provided under one roof. The best services will boost customer satisfaction, retention and help generate new leads that will eventually become customers as well.

In order to find the call center services you can trust with your business in 2018, we reviewed about three dozen companies that offer inbound and outbound calling services. Here is a roundup of our best picks and an explanation of how we chose them.

Best Call Center Service for Small Business: TeleDirect
TeleDirect was selected as our best overall call center service for small businesses primarily because it boasts a complete selection of both inbound and outbound services, including some of the harder-to-find features like cold-calling services. TeleDirect’s services are also available 24/7/365, meaning your customers will always have someone to speak with, even on weekends and holidays. Depending on your particular needs, you can select shared agents, who conduct multiple campaigns, or dedicated agents, who will be focused solely on your business. TeleDirect also supports English and Spanish, as well as a number of other languages depending on the requirements of your clientele. Find out more about TeleDirect on the call center service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

Best Affordable Call Center Service: Xact Telesolutions
When it comes to bang for your buck, it’s important to find a solution with low requirements and reasonable rates. Xact Telesolutions has packages featuring low monthly invoice requirements or call minimums, making it an affordable solution for even the smallest businesses. Xact’s agents are prepared to answer calls 24/7/365, and the company enables you to monitor any phone call in real time using a supervisory tool. Xact also offers one of the most comprehensive language services, with agents fluent in English and Spanish, and a third-party translation partner that can support more than 100 additional languages. Find out more about Xact Telesolutions on the call center service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices: Specialty Answering Services
Medical practices have unique needs in communications. Not only do medical practices have to ensure security, but they also have to do so in accordance with the federally required HIPAA standards. Specialty Answering Service offers a HIPAA-compliant answering service at affordable rates. There are a number of plans to choose from based on your expected call volume, from the pay-as-you-go economy plan all the way up to the massive 10,000-minute plan. Specialty Answering Service also offers an extremely effective appointment scheduler, complete with follow-ups, which adds a layer of redundancy to your practice-management system’s scheduler. Find out more about Specialty Answering Service on the answering service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

System for Your Business

Security is imperative for any business; after all, how can you be profitable if you can’t protect your assets? Luckily, video surveillance systems are more intelligent and effective than ever. The best cameras now offer computer-like functions and features, like motion sensors and automatic mobile notifications. Some even let you automatically contact law enforcement instantly if need be. Technological development has also lead to more efficient ways of managing recording and storage, as well. Now small business owners have access to immensely powerful surveillance systems at relatively affordable prices.

When it comes to buying and implementing a new system, most vendors allow for a large degree of customizability, meaning you can tailor a system to your business’s specific needs. Whether you need a widespread system that can cover multiple locations or just a few cameras to watch your storefront, there’s a solution for everyone. Not sure where to start? Here’s our 2018 video surveillance buyer’s guide to help break down the component parts of video surveillance systems.

Editor’s Note: Trying to find the video surveillance system that’s right for you? Fill in the questionnaire below, and you will be contacted by our partner vendors with the right system for your business.

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Already know everything you need to know about video surveillance systems? Check out Business News Daily’s Best Picks for Video Surveillance Systems for our recommendations.

Benefits of a Surveillance System
Before diving into the details, it’s important to note the many benefits offered by a video surveillance system. Not only can surveillance cameras deter criminals and help law enforcement quickly catch any would-be thieves, but these systems can also improve the accountability of your employees, help you monitor productivity and sometimes even reduce your insurance premiums. While the up-front costs of installing a video surveillance system can seem a little steep, the long-term payoff and the peace of mind may well be worth the expense.

IP Cameras vs. Analog Cameras
There are two primary types of cameras that can be wired into a video surveillance system: internet protocol (IP) cameras and the traditional analog cameras. IP cameras are the more modern iteration of analog cameras, and while the individual cameras tend to be a little more expensive, they offer a number of features that analog cameras do not. Here’s a look at the differences between the two types of camera.

Resolution
IP cameras are far more powerful than analog cameras, usually shooting footage of between 1 megapixel and 5 megapixels. That makes for incredibly clear image quality, especially compared to the more grainy analog footage, which runs around one-half of a megapixel. IP cameras generally have a larger field of vision than analog cameras.