Open Source Provides Key To Software-As-A-Service Industry

Open source software (OSS), a low cost alternative to proprietary programs, is rapidly gaining popularity in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. Because of the structure of open source, with readily available code for users to change and develop for their particular needs, it is extremely adaptive, responsive, and more secure than the commercial counterparts.

Software-as-a-service is a delivery model where a vendor develops an application and hosts it for use by their clients over the internet. In this business, customers do not have to pay typically hefty licensing fees but instead pay the vendor a periodic fee to use the software. SaaS is generally thought to be a low cost alternative for businesses to obtain the benefits of commercially licensed programs without the high initial cost and internal complexity of running such programs. The idea for SaaS began to circulate around the year 2000 and it has gained in popularity since that time.

According to research by Gartner, up to 90% of SaaS companies will be based on OSS within the next 2 years. The analyst firm states open source solutions can be used in the operating system, application server, or database to reduce overall expenses for the company. Robert DeSisto, vice president of Gartner, proclaimed “the more SaaS vendors use open source in the technology stack, the lower their software acquisition cost becomes.” This cost cutting, however, is not expected to be passed on to the consumer of SaaS services though. Gartner expects the SaaS companies will either reinvest the saved money to improve efficiency or may pocket the money to elevate their overall profitability.

In addition to the use of open source software by SaaS companies, user communities can utilize open source methods to facilitate data and application sharing. Self-policing can occur when both the data and the source code is available for everyone to see, making illegal practices less likely as watchdog groups are naturally created. It is important for businesses and users to not infringe patents in their quest to lower costs. Software-as-a-service provides a legal alternative for companies interested in using licensed software but who are financially unwilling to pay the steep prices associated with such programs.

How to Collect Payment For Cleaning Business Services

Once you have decided to start up a cleaning business, one of many small considerations that you must think of will be how you are going to receive payments from clients for your cleaning services. You will have to think about the choices and decide which options you will offer your customers. There are many ways to collect payments and we have outlined some below along with their advantages and disadvantages.

1) Cash. Traditionally the most popular method of getting paid for a service like cleaning. Popular in the house cleaning sector it is common for households to leave payment in the form of cash or check on the premises to be picked up by the cleaner after the job is complete. This way is still the best if your customers will agree to it as you are paid up front and don’t risk having the account fall behind with payments. Cash also appeals to many small cleaning businesses out there as it helps them to avoid paying tax. Professional cleaning business operators however should operate honestly with the IRS and it is professional to leave a proper receipt for the customer.

2) Another option is to have your clients set up a direct debit from their bank account so that funds are paid to you automatically each week. If cleaning charges are the same and work is done on a regular basis then this arrangement can work well.

3) Credit cards are a popular way of paying for services these days and many of your customers will appreciate the convenience and like to pay by card as they are members of credit card loyalty programs. Getting set up to take credit card payments is costly and there are ongoing fees that you will incur with each transaction so this method is usually only considered by larger, more established cleaning firms. Offering this payment option will however make your services more marketable and if you feature this information in your advertising you may find that many clients are attracted to your service over other companies based solely on the fact that you accept credit cards.

4) Lastly, you can offer to leave an invoice for clients or to mail one to them. This option is not common among house cleaners but is the dominant method in the commercial sector of the cleaning industry. Invoices often offer clients more favorable payment terms with most of them requiring charges to be paid within a thirty day period. This method is very attractive to clients as they can pay in arrears but can give cleaning business owners headaches if invoices become overdue and time and money have to be wasted pursuing bad debts.

The payment options that a cleaning company offers its clients will differ depending on the industry sector and many other factors. Try to get a mix of payment options that offers your customers a healthy choice, enhancing your service yet also offers you as the business owner a simple, low risk solution. If customers have no problems paying you for your services then they will have no reason to complain and your reputation and customer relations will grow.

Software for Small Business Service Companies

There is a lot of software on the market currently for small businesses and if you run a retail outlet or sell a product there are kinds of software that you can buy, which will do just fine. If you run a small service type of business it may not be as easy. You see many of the accounting programs and small-business software out there has to do with inventory and the kinds of things that service businesses do not deal with as much.

Additionally service businesses have multiple customers in multiple locations and they have issues with scheduling, labor hours on the job or service fees that must be incorporated for the software to work properly and make the business more efficient. Many small companies that have maybe only one, two or three vehicles that are in the service business have trouble finding software that will work for them.

Off-the-shelf software for small businesses simply is not good enough. Using mix matched software can often be a problem and sometimes it is more trouble than it is worth because you are putting in information that you will never use or there’s no place to put in information that you really need. It is very unfortunate that more small-business software companies do not make specialized software where you can modify the fields yourself.

Some small-business industry software that you might find in a trade journal may work for you, however usually their cost prohibitive for the very small company who needs to have a software system, which can provide exactly what their company needs. There is a gap between the desire of the customer and the needs of the service businesses in the small-business sector and what the marketplace currently provides. This can be a huge dilemma for the small-business man or woman just getting started in a service company.

Business and Industry in Norwich

Once famous for the manufacture of cloth, worsted in particular, the trade has almost ceased to exist in Norwich. Just about the only reminder of the trade in cloth are the tall three story buildings, with dormer windows, that were used to house the looms used in its production. Norwich is now mainly dependent on the service economy for its employment opportunities; the city has attracted over 50 national or regional headquarters of major UK firms and has four of the UKs fastest growing businesses based there. With a total of some 3,000 employers in the area around Norwich, over 75% of them employ five people or fewer. Hence, small businesses are of vital importance to local employment opportunities. Whilst agriculture, another historically important activity in the area, is still important in terms of contributing to the local economy, it now employs only about 8% of the local residents.

Norwich Union is undoubtedly the most famous company in Norwich and it is also the largest employer, employing 8000 local residents. The company is involved in the insurance, assurance, finance and health sectors of the economy and has assets in excess of £300 billion. It is estimated that overall one in four people in Norwich work in a finance or business related environment. Being the city where Barclays bank first started doing business it is perhaps fitting that Virgin Money has its registered office in Discovery House on Whiting Road in Norwich. Virgin Money, with assets in excess of £2.5 billion, is part of the hugely successful Virgin group and was launched in 1995 by the owner, Richard Branson. Virgin Money employs over 400 people in Norwich and the Virgin group employs 35,000 people world-wide. Moneyfacts is a paper and electronic publisher of unbiased financial data, based in Norwich which employs about 115 people. Another company working in the finance sector is Central Trust, which is sited at Austen House in Stannard Place, and employs approximately 350 employees. The company is a provider of financial services, loans, and has assets of around £50 million.

Currently owned by the Malaysian car manufacturing company Proton, Group Lotus has for more than 50 years been renowned for producing sports cars of quality and distinction. Its current range of models are the; Elise, Exige, Europa and the 2-Eleven which re-introduces the motoring philosophy of the old Lotus-7. Whilst the glory days of F1 motor-racing are gone for Lotus, it is still an important employer in Norwich. Its staff of about 1000 produce over 3000 cars a year. The high reputation in which Lotus Engineering, another arm of Group Lotus, is held can be demonstrated in the fact that 10% of all car engines sold in Europe were designed by Lotus. Group Lotus is located at Potash Lane in Hethel. Lotus are not the only company working in the motor trade near Norwich, Racing Technology (Norfolk) Ltd employs 40 people in a purpose built factory at Hingham and designs and manufactures composite bodies, mainly for racing cars, for customers such as Audi, Volkswagen and Bugatti. The company employs around 100 staff including managers, designers and marketing staff. Another company, Triking Cycle Cars Ltd, specialises in making three wheeled ‘kit’ cyclecars.

The Norwich Research Park is typical of the forward looking attitude that the city is taking to its future employment prospects. The park is a site of concentrated research sponsored by several companies into Health, Food and Environmental sciences and provides employment for around 9000 people. Other hi-tech companies located in Norwich include Syfer Technology Ltd, located at Arminghall in ‘state of the art’ premises, who are acknowledged as a world leader in the production of multi-layer components to the electronics industry. This essentially means they produce capacitors and filters for electronic circuit boards. Located nearby in Diss is Hamlin Electronics, they manufacture position and movement sensors that are important to features of car safety. Adobe, the company behind many software applications, has one of its two European development centres in Norwich.

Whilst the number of people working in agriculture has fallen, the farming industry still provides employment opportunities through companies involved in processing locally grown produce. Most famous of the food producing companies must surely be Bernard Matthews. Involved in both the farm rearing of the birds and the processing of them Bernard Matthews is a house-hold name in the UK when it comes to any fowl related produce. With its head office and processing plant at Great Witchingham Hall outside Norwich, it employs close on 1000 people locally and some 6000 world-wide. Started in 1950 by Bernard Matthews the company is now the biggest producer of turkeys in Europe and has an annual turn-over of more than £400 million. The company takes great pride in using farms in the east of England to rear the turkeys that it processes at its 12 hectare centre of operations.

One recent success in this area has been the development of Kettle Foods. With its registered office on Bowthorpe kettle Foods are best known for their range of potato snacks that they produce which contain “absolutely nothing artificial”. Unilever has a factory in Carrow, Norwich, producing Colman’s Mustard, a product that has been made in the city for over 180 years. Coleman’s has been owned by Unilever since 1995 and is the oldest established arm of the company.