3 strategies for custom app deployment

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Organizations are realizing the benefits of deploying custom applications for workers and potential customers alike. More employees are working from home as well. Mobile workers make up nearly one-third of the workforce in the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany, according to a recent survey published by Strategy Analytics. The trend seen in enterprises toward a diverse smartphone environment will continue to grow. Businesses will want to take advantage of that new work atmosphere to foster productivity, and custom software development can help.

"The continued growth of business mobile devices, BYOD, cloud, security, and business applications and contents will continue to drive the growth of the enterprise mobility market moving forward," said Gina Luk, senior analyst of mobile workforce strategies at Strategy Analytics.

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Topics: Development

How can virtualization save small businesses money?

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Physical servers are expensive, take up space, and consume a lot of electricity. Virtualizing your servers can help small businesses save money, and here are three reasons why:

1. No need for physical equipment
Virtualization provides businesses with the tools necessary to let go of some parts of their physical IT infrastructure. Buying and maintaining servers, whether they are in a data center environment or located at the place of business, can be a costly endeavor. When applications are created in a virtual environment, they basically eliminate the need for at least some of those machines.

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For microbusinesses, sales tax can seem like no big deal (but it is)

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Post originally appeared on the Avalara Blog on October 29, 2015.

Most businesses don’t start out big. Some of America’s most beloved companies—from Apple to Amazon — started out with an entrepreneur, a dream and a garage. But business is about more than dreams. At some point, every home-based business (also called “microbusinesses”) needs to understand government regulations, like those surrounding sales tax.

Why? Well, whether your microbusiness has big dreams of growth or you just want to work for yourself, keeping in compliance with sales tax regulations is critical to continued success. Sales tax audits can put a huge dent into profits, and states are hiring more auditors than ever to ensure that every business, big and small, is paying its fair share.

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Franchise frenzy: U.S. and global tax implications

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Post originally appeared on the Avalara blog on October 8, 2015

Franchise business is booming! According to the International Franchise Association, a new franchise will be opened every 8 minutes in 2015. But did you know that franchisors face additional sales tax challenges as they expand — both at home and abroad?

For many franchise businesses, one of the biggest challenges is exemption certificate management. Often, individual franchises receive shipments of branded products from the franchisor intended for resale to customers. Sales tax only applies to the final end user in a transaction, so franchisees are considered resellers and do not pay sales tax when they buy these products.

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Let’s talk turkey…and sales tax

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Post originally appeared on the Avalara Blog on October 30, 2015.

Turkey and taxes. The U.S. has a long history of both. And in 2010, the two converged in Virginia as part of an annual Thanksgiving tradition where tribal and state leaders pay homage to a more than 330-year-old treaty: then-governor Bob McDonnell was presented with a turkey (and two deer) by tribal chiefs in lieu of taxes. Unfortunately, paying taxes in trade doesn’t work for most of us. Depending on where and how you celebrate this year, your Thanksgiving feast could be served up with a side of sales tax.

Home cooking. Stop by your local supermarket for your traditional Thanksgiving dinner fixings – turkey, potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin, etc. – and you won’t pay sales tax on those food items in most states. That’s most, not all; 14 states tax groceries at either the full sales tax rate or a reduced rate. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. Buying local? Some states, like Virginia, consider farmers and co-ops that sell at outdoor markets or through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs or websites to be engaged in “direct marketing.” Since they sell to consumers or end users, sales tax is collected on taxable goods and must be separated out from the item price. Some states, like Kansas, also require sales tax to be collected on monthly CSA subscription fees.

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How to keep data safe in a BYOD era

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When employees can utilize their own mobile devices for work, they are often more productive. As a result, organizations are beginning to utilize them more as business tools by adopting cloud-based services and custom apps that foster productivity.

Unfortunately, the rise in the mobile workforce has also led to an increase in security risks. In August of this year, a report from Check Point Software found that mobile devices are the biggest point of vulnerability in any enterprise's cybersecurity efforts. In fact, the survey found that companies with more than 2,000 mobile devices, there is a 50 percent chance that at least six of them have been infected with some type of malware. Given that mobile workers are out and about, accessing company data from anywhere, business leaders are rightly concerned about the security of these devices.

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Topics: Cloud Services, Bring Your Own Device, Mobile

Let’s be direct: If you sell to consumers, sales tax is an issue

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Post originally appeared on the Avalara blog on October 7, 2015

Getting closer to the customer is no longer a retail-centric sales strategy. More manufacturers, suppliers and wholesalers are starting to sell direct to consumers (D2C). Motivations vary: brand awareness, customer loyalty, even product innovation. But for the most part, B2B sellers are simply looking to give consumers what they want — the ability to buy products directly from the source. Many are already doing it. A June 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that 70% of U.S. consumers already purchase directly from manufacturers.

Adding a D2C sales channel can help you grow and expand your business, but it’s a vastly different buying experience for the customer. Before diving in, you should ask yourself: is the company operationally ready to handle direct to consumer transactions? Is your web store mobile-friendly? Can you manage high-volume inventory and order management? Have you ramped up customer support? How are you handling transactional tax? That’s right. As soon as you supply items to the end user, you’re on the hook to collect sales and use tax.

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Curious about Business Intelligence tools but unsure where to start?

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Business Intelligence (BI) tools allow business leaders to stay informed of the inner working of their companies so that the decisions they make have the best possible outcomes for business growth. According to Gartner, Business Intelligence tools include the applications, infrastructure and best practices that enable a business to analyze data to improve decisions.

Having BI tools can help organizations increase their competitive advantage. By centralizing data, business leaders are able to spot trends, uncover inefficiencies, and gain a deeper understanding of their customers. According to ComputerWeekly contributors Martha Bennett and Boris Evelson, as more pressure is placed on businesses to make the shift to the digital and mobile realms, data and information becomes ever more important.

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Topics: Business Intelligence, Business Consulting/Strategy

Will it be happy holidays for retailers this year?

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Five To-Do’s for 2015 that will have you wrapping up the season in the Black (Friday).

Post originally appeared on the Avalara blog on September 9, 2015

November and December are no “ho-ho-ho” laughing matter for retailers. Seasonal shopping is serious business. Nearly 20% of total retail sales occur during this period. But shopping trends are a lot like fashion trends; what was hot last year may not be now. Here’s a closer look at some key takeaways from 2014 as well as a “nice list” for what retailers can do this year to keep customers happy and keep them spending.

  1. Get the early birds and the last-minute shoppers

Why wait for the day after when you shop on Thanksgiving! The shopping calendar is getting longer with more people getting a jump start on holiday gift-buying and others waiting to snap up last-minute deals. Last year retailers offered premium deals on Thanksgiving Day rather than holding off until Good Friday or Cyber Monday. Drawn-out discounts also led more people to shop later into the season causing sales to spike on December 21 and 22. Continue the tradition this year by:

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Pinnacle announces new Customer Immersion Experience

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The Future of Productivity has come to Indiana!

Pinnacle, An Advanced Imaging Solutions Company is taking business productivity to the next level - and business leaders are invited to experience the difference. The certified Microsoft partner has recently opened a Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience Center in their Mishawaka office.

The Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) allows businesses to test-drive Microsoft's cloud productivity suite in a hands-on environment. These sessions enable you to explore the full potential of Microsoft's best-in-class technologies, including Office 365, SharePoint Server, Skype for Business, and Dynamics CRM.

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Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Azure, Cloud Services, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Office 365