How Cloud Computing Can Transform Your Business

Cloud computing has become one of those business buzzwords that we seem to be hearing all the time. Businesses have utilised cloud computing in various ways for a while now, but only in its most basic applications. File storage and remote access are both great, but cloud technologies can be used to achieve so much more.

Businesses of any size and type can benefit enormously from the potential that cloud computing offers. What follows are just some of the ways that cloud computing can completely transform the way your business operates for the better.

Reduce Costs

Saving your data on the cloud is much cheaper than storing it on-site. Storing data on-site means buying and running your own servers and hard drives. As well as the costs of the hardware itself, there are also costs involved in providing constant power to the hardware and ensuring that the environment around it is suitable.

Access Skills and Services

Outsourcing is another business concept that is being transformed by cloud technologies. The concept of hiring third-parties in order to procure skills, equipment or knowledge that a business doesn’t possess in-house is not a new one. However, cloud computing has taken this a step further with cloud-based services.

For example, hiring an accountant for your business is expensive, as is outsourcing your accounting needs to a third-party. However, access to cloud-based accounting tools is much cheaper to secure. There are plenty of cloud-based tools for businesses to choose from, with Xero and QuickBooks being two of the most popular. If you need help deciding which is better for you, you may want to check out this article “Xero Vs QuickBooks” that goes into detail about both. The linked article will provide a general overview of both tools, as well as a more in-depth analysis of specific aspects.

Improve Flexibility

Cloud computing has been used for some time now to enable workers to access corporate networks from home. This doesn’t just mean that employees can access files and documents; they can also run applications and utilize services stored on the network. This is something that many businesses and other institutions have been doing for some time.

However, the concept of true remote working is still relatively new. High-speed internet connections are now common, and even where they aren’t, they are still reliable and more than adequate for most work-related tasks in most businesses. As a result, remote working positions can be beneficial to both businesses and workers, offering much greater flexibility and lower overhead costs.

Keep Your Data Secure

Storing data in the cloud makes it easy to keep automatic backups and ensure that you can’t lose all your data unexpectedly. Data loss can be catastrophic for businesses; transaction records, financial records, customer data, and other important data can be lost for good. Automatic backups are essential for businesses and the cloud makes them easier than ever before.

Cloud computing is more than just a buzzword; it is the future of computing. Businesses that embrace the cloud can reap potentially huge rewards. The above benefits are just an example of the massive potential cloud computing offers.

How printed envelopes benefit businesses

In an increasingly digital world, it can be easy to forget how simple yet effective certain things can be. A printed envelope has many benefits to offer a business, depending on how it operates and how it wants to use them.

There are a range of printed envelopes available to suit a variety of needs. Ordering couldn’t be simpler, and it allows access to a range of tengible benefits.

Saving Time

Properly labelling and addressing labels can be a time consuming experience. When a business has a large mail-shot or a range of daily business communications to manage, it could be faced with dozens and dozens of blank envelopes requiring attention. This is where a printed envelope comes in.

The envelopes can be easily pre-printed with specific business information, to minimise the amount of effort required with each one. The time savings are considerable, considering how many envelopes most businesses actually use on a daily basis.

Design Coherence

It can be difficult for a business to achieve unified design across its mailed communications. There are a number of different sizes and design choices available when it comes to envelopes, but it’s important to show customers unified branding as often as possible.

Ordering envelopes online allows for completely custom printing – that means colour-schemes, logos, typefaces and fonts, and general branding can all be unified. Whether it’s a small, medium, or large envelope, it’s important that businesses do whatever they can to develop a unique brand identity.

Easy Ordering

Ordering envelopes online is simple, efficient, and affordable. The use of pre-existing templates means that it takes a matter of minutes for a business to personalise their envelopes. It’s also easier to achieve strong designs, thanks to previews being available instantly – allowing for immediate changes.

Due to the nature of online ordering, i.e no phyiscal storefront to account for, great savings can be made and passed on to customers. Ordering custom envelopes online gets even more affordable the more that are ordered, and designs can be easily saved for future use.

Investing in custom envelope printing is an easy and affordable way for a business to both allow itself to streamline the way it operates and improve efficiency. There’s no cheaper or simpler way for a business to set itself apart from the crowd.

Second Charge Lending Up by More than 20%

According to the latest figures from the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA), second charge lending, including mortgages in the UK were up by 24% in February of 2019. With more than 2,000 second charge agreements made in this period, at a value of almost £100 million, these flexible secured loan products are increasing in their popularity and for good reason.

One of the fundamental benefits of taking out second mortgages is that you can leave your first charge mortgage reasonably, if not entirely unaffected.

This means that if you have favourable terms and a beneficial agreement with your mortgage lender, rather than having to remortgage and face potentially large exit fees, you can seek a second mortgage. Furthermore, it means there is a potential second finance option when it comes to funding suitable projects and causes such as a buy to let portfolio, or other commercial investment.

Many landlords and property owners often find that managing a portfolio of properties is difficult enough, with the additional concern of needing to think about commercial finance options (more information).

How Does a Second Charge Mortgage Work in Practice?

Second charge mortgages, as their name suggests, are loans which are secured against a property concurrent with a first charge mortgage. Hence, failure to repay these mortgages, as with others can lead to property repossession and costly court proceedings.

In practice however, these mortgages are secured against a portion of a property’s ‘acquired’ equity (the equity which has been purchased by the property owner through paying a first charge mortgage.) The borrower must agree the terms of the second charge mortgage, and the amount to be provided, known as the ‘loan-to-value’ (LTV) with the second charge lender as well as the first charge mortgage provider.

It is also crucial that there is an agreement between the first and second charge providers as the first charge lender will always get precedence. This in turn means that the risks for the second mortgage lender is far more than that of the first; if the borrower defaults, the second lender stands to lose out, being second in the pecking order when it comes to being reimbursed.

Therefore, if the property is repossessed, the second charge loan provider may actually lose money.

Making Your Repayments

When it comes to repaying second mortgages, this will be done alongside the first charge mortgage, not after. You will therefore have two mortgage debts to pay off and it is vital that you do so to avoid repossession or additional fees and charges. Once you have paid off a portion of the second mortgage and can address the first mortgage, it is possible to remortgage the first mortgage to repay the second, consolidating your mortgage debts back into a single, more affordable loan product.

What Are Second Mortgages Useful For?

Second mortgages, whilst fairly flexible in what they can be used for, have a number of well-established and accepted uses in the UK which typically include:

  • Home Improvements – By investing a portion of money into a property, renovation and improvement works such as conversions, extensions, conservatories and decoration can be undertaken. All of these forms of work can increase the value of properties potentially substantially
  • Debt Consolidation – If a borrower has numerous debts they are paying off, it may be worthwhile and is certainly good credit behaviour to consolidate these loans into a single repayment. This may be achieved with a second mortgage
  • Expanding a Business – If a business is struggling to get to the next level and has real potential for increased profitability, many lenders will consider providing second mortgages in to help kick-start, or even progress a business, so long as there is real scope for growth.

Why an IVA Could be the Best Way to Reduce Debt

If you are in debt and having money troubles then this can understandably cause a great deal of stress and anxiety and interfere with your life. It is important not to panic, though, as there are always solutions to these issues. One solution which might be right for you is to set up an individual voluntary agreement (IVA).

What is an IVA?

So, what is an IVA? This is an agreement which is legally binding between you and your creditors to pay your debts back over an agreed period of time. An IVA could be an intelligent move if you have at least two separate debts, if your debts are over £10,000 and if you do not want to deal with creditors directly. An IVA is not the best solution if your circumstances are likely to change, you do not have spare income to pay your creditors or if you have small debts.


There are a few different benefits to an IVA. The main advantage for the individual is that it is a legally binding agreement which means that creditors must stick to it and they will not be able to chase you up over your debt(s) once the IVA is in place. Additionally, IVAs are time limited so you will only be paying during the IVA period which is usually 5 years. Finally, some of the debt is usually written off when you enter an IVA.

Things To Keep In Mind

IVAs can be a smart move but you must also carefully think through the decision and weight up the benefits/drawbacks. For example, setting up an IVA can be expensive because it is a legally binding agreement which must be set up by a qualified insolvency practitioner. Additionally, you may have to remortgage your home at the end of the IVA and any savings and/or your pension may have to be used.

Staying On Top of Finances

An IVA can be an effective way to clear your debts but if you do decide to enter one you must make sure that you keep on top of your finances. One excellent way to do this is to set up an IVA bank account with a specialist like Think Money. These accounts can make money management simple by dividing your income into essential payments (such as IVA payments and rent) and then the rest can set aside for day-to-day spending.

Debt can follow you round like a stormy cloud, but there are always solutions available. An IVA agreement can be a smart move for those that are in debt as it will help to get creditors off of your back, help you to clear your debts and even write off some of your existing debt in some cases. As with any legally binding agreement, you must make sure that it is right for you before entering an IVA though.

The impact of blockchain on credit cards

Over the past few years, cryptocurrency has been thrust into the mainstream consciousness, with currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum pitching to become universally legitimate methods of payment.

While questions around crypto’s place in the world remain, blockchain, the payment technology behind it, is making significant strides forward in a number of key markets and is tipped to become the backbone of data collection in future industry.

One of the key markets it’s impacting is credit card transactions. Here’s a quick look at how blockchain is looking to revolutionise card payments.

A quick refresher on blockchain

Not to be confused with Bitcoin, blockchain is simply the technology that was developed alongside it to record and store crypto transactions.

The easiest way to understand blockchain is to imagine a series of blocks that are built into a chain as transactions take place. Each block stores hundreds of transactions, with each transaction designated a complex data code for reference.

Transactions are stored chronologically, with the system validated by a peer-to-peer network of computers, as opposed to one central network. Once a transaction is added to a chain, it cannot be reversed, manipulated or edited in any way.

Because of blockchain’s decentralised nature and its unalterable structure, the technology has attracted the interest of various industries looking to adopt it for their payment framework, including credit card providers.

The benefits to the market

Even though the current credit card payment structure is fairly efficient, there are a number of issues associated with it.

Primary concern surrounds high merchant transaction costs (around 1.5%-3.5% per payment); the number of financial intermediaries involved with each transaction; chargeback fees and the system’s vulnerability to manipulation. Blockchain provides solutions in all of these areas.

Blockchain’s decentralised system removes the need for the intermediary ‘middlemen’, significantly reducing the cost per transaction and chargeback amounts. Any queries are quickly answered by blockchain’s immutable data, whilst its impenetrable makeup removes any risk of data manipulation.

Essentially, blockchain provides a significantly quicker, cheaper and more secure system to the one currently in operation.

The big guns are getting involved

There’s no better indicator of blockchain’s promise in the card market than the recent investment of the industry’s major multinationals.

Towards the end of 2017, Mastercard launched its own blockchain technology, designed for use in B2B markets and cross-border payments, before applying to patent a multi-blockchain in October last year.

The same month, Visa began its launch process for a blockchain-based identity system, putting the two brands in direct competition on their blockchain projects. American Express has also added blockchain technology to its infrastructure, as well as applying for its own patents.

With all the big names pumping money into the technology, it’s apparent blockchain has a critical part to play in the coming years.

Current concerns

While blockchain offers plenty of promise and some considerable improvements, there are a few lingering concerns in relation to its introduction to the market.

There is user apprehension around volatility in the cryptocurrency market and the complexity and accessibility of the systems currently available, but blockchain’s major question lies in its scalability.

As it stands, the energy involved to power the cloud technology around the Bitcoin market is the equivalent to that of Romania. Admittedly, consumption levels have dropped off significantly since November of last year, however blockchain will have to continue to develop a lower energy solution if it’s to truly be brought into mainstream use.

Should an efficient energy solution be found, blockchain is set to become a cornerstone of credit card transactions, as well as a fundamental part of managing everyday finances across a number of industries.

What’s certain is that we’ll hear plenty more about blockchain technology in the next few years.

A Beginner’s Guide to Forex

Foreign currency exchange – or Forex – is a complex and intricate process, with even professional traders struggling to understand it completely. But with over £4 trillion being traded every day in the Forex market, it can be a highly lucrative and profitable business.

While Forex trading is a popular route for a number of people trying to make money online, diving straight in can be daunting. Luckily, we’re here to help with our beginner’s guide to Forex. Read on to discover exactly what Forex is, how you can make money trading currency and the essentials all traders need to know.

The basics

First things first, in order to make money online, you must understand the basics. Essentially, Forex is the process of converting one currency into another. Generally, currency is converted for ecommerce, trading and tourism purposes, but there are a number of reasons that people would exchange currency.

The Forex global trading market is the largest in the world, based on trading volume and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, wherever in the world you are, whatever time of day it is, you can stay on top of your currency exchanges.

When starting to trade, you may find yourself slightly overwhelmed by some of the jargon. It may be beneficial to take a look at a glossary beforehand to familiarise yourself with the language used.

Boosting your income

Once you understand the basics of trading, you’ll need to learn how to predict and understand trends in order to trade effectively. By estimating when currency rates will dip or rise, you can figure out the best times to spend your money and increase your overall return.

Of course, the amount of money you can make through Forex trading is dependent on a number of factors. Firstly, how much money you’re willing to trade will affect the potential return. The more money you put in, the more you can get out. Trading in any form has no guaranteed results and so each trade is a risk. The larger your account, the less risk there is on smaller trades.

So, for instance, if you have £1000 in your account, a £10 trade would be only a 1% risk, whereas £100 would increase to 10%. While there is no guarantee when it comes to trading, you should aim for a win rate of at least 50%. That means you should be winning at least half of your trades, with your wins ideally being higher reward trades to counteract any losses.

Forex is different to almost all other forms of trading as it is highly fast-paced. You need to be constantly up-to-date with the latest changes in currency, such as how the value of the Pound is changing. Even those with years of trading experience may struggle to keep up with the constant highs and lows. Because of this, you must be dedicated and willing to put in the time if you want to be successful in Forex trading, so it may not suit everyone.

That said, due to the fast-paced nature of Forex, you can make large amounts of money fairly quickly with the right trading discipline, as there is always demand from another buyer. So, you’ll never be left with a lot of currency that you cannot get rid of. The market is also open 24 hours a day and so you can trade around the clock, making it an easy entry into the trading world.

From Demo to Real Trading: When Are You Ready to Move?

Going from demo to live trading is exciting, as you can start making real money in the market. But how do you know that you are ready to do so? This article will give you 4 signs that show you can start trading for real.

1. You’re Making Consistent Profits

Trading with a demo account is not the same as trading with a real account because real trading has emotions involved, to a much higher degree. Nonetheless, if you can’t make consistent profits on a demo account, how can you make money in the real market?

Therefore, to move into real money trading, you need to make sure that your trading strategy is consistently profitable during a specific period. The ideal duration for testing is within 6 months.

Keep in mind that making consistent profits doesn’t mean you have to win all the time. There’s no trader who doesn’t lose a single trade in his entire trading career.

2. Having Clear Money Management Rules

Money management plays an important role in a trader’s success. According to trading coach Dr Van Tharp’s theory, 30% of your success in trading is determined by how you manage your money.

Therefore, having a well-defined set of money management rules is a must before you move into real trading.

Traders always love to trade in smooth market conditions. However, the market is an unstable object that can sometimes move erratically and makes you doubt your analysis. During those periods when your bravery is tested, whether you can survive in the trading battle or not largely depends on your money management plan.

3. Having a Cool Head When Your Trade is Losing

Money management rules are important for your success. Subtly, psychology management rules are the key to it.

It’s undeniable that we love winning trades. They make us feel positive and celebrate our day. However, the trading battle is not where winning trades exist only; there are losing ones too. Do you panic when you see the market is going against you?

Well, if you do, you are not ready to go live.

Keeping a cool head when you are losing is necessary to win in the real battle. It indicates that you understand your trading system and can control yourself.

4. Being Satisfied With Your Broker and Trading Platform

You have a good trading system, a well-defined set of money management rules, and a cool head. You are ready to go live. However, when you get into real money trading, you have issues with opening and exiting positions, or withdrawing money from your broker.

Don’t let these issues happen.

Bad trading platforms will bring you headaches and test your patience. Imagine how you will feel if you can’t exit a position when you need to, or frequently see widened spreads and slippages when trading.

Therefore, make sure that you test your broker with a small live account before seriously going real. Many brokers offer good demo trading services, but things start to get worse when you trade real.

The Bottom Line

So, you must check all the 4 signs above, to know when you’re ready to move from demo to real trading. Here’s a recap:

  • Making consistent profits
  • Having clear money management rules
  • Having a cool head when your trade is losing
  • Being satisfied with your broker and trading platform

Keep in mind that demo trading is not the same as the real one; your trading decisions will be greatly affected by your emotions when real money is at risk. Therefore, do not start with big amounts – try to gain real experience by making small trades first. And ensure your broker provides resources for learning forex that will help you acquire the knowledge you need to become successful.

5 Things You Need to Know About SMCR

The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) is a hot compliancy issue at the moment and following three years since its initial implementation, we are one step closer to its deadline this December.

The Senior Managers Certification Regime is commonly known as SMCR (or SM&CR) and its main function aims to hold top level executives and Non-Executive Directors individually accountable for their part of the business. Accordingly, every senior manager must be assessed as fit and proper for regulatory approval. We highlight the main things you need to know about SMCR.

  1. Who does it impact?

The SMCR affects any deposit taking banks, insurers and investment managers. The rollout of this regulatory change already applies to UK banks, building societies, credit unions and branches of foreign banks operating in the UK, who should have been fully compliant by December 2016.

The insurance industry were required to be fully compliant by December 2018 and if your firm is currently regulated under the Approved Persons Regime, this will be replaced by SM&CR from 9 December 2019.

On an organisational level, the SMCR affects senior managers who need to show responsibility for their actions or anything that is deemed potentially ‘harmful’ and this is something that should be enforced as part of the corporate culture and facilitated by HR teams. It sometimes been misunderstood or minimised as merely as HR re-papering exercise, when in fact it is far more extensive change across companies.

  • Why was it started?

The new regulation was driven by the banking crisis of 2008 and aims to hold senior staff more accountable for harmful functions. This means that organisations and their managers should carry out better standards of conduct at all levels of banking – and therefore any damages can be made accountable for, rather than being able to hide behind a large entity.

  • What changes must companies make?

Formal procedures must be put in place to identify and monitor people and structural changes. For example, when senior managers change, their roles and accountability must be clearly identified.

Another rule is that managers must be assessed annually to prove that they are fit and proper, including vetting results, competence, Regulatory References and Conduct Rule breaches.

Any senior managers and certified individuals must obtain and provide regulatory references over a 6-year period.

Conduct rules must be executed including regular training of impacted individuals, disciplinary investigations and support processed.

  • Will there be extra costs for companies?

Yes, there will be extra costs for firms and their HR departments to ensure that they are SMCR compliant, and this cost may be incurred in-house or passed onto clients. Whilst organisations can become SMCR ready by following instructions from the FCA, they can also source the help of SMCR consultants, which may incur a higher cost short-term, but provide excellent value in the longer run.

Crucially, there is also the conversation over the extra time and additional resources required to be SMCR compliant, which may add pressure to existing managers and HR staff.

  • What are the challengers to regulated firms?

Keeping up with new regulations may impact productivity for many regulated firms, with reference to the extra workload to be SMCR compliant. This may require the hiring of additional consultants and HR employees to manage the increased provisions.

Complications have emerged over determining who is a certified individual and whether one or multiple people can be held responsible for potentially harmful functions. This may lead to reluctance of senior managers to avoid proceeding with business for the potential risks to their position and reputation. There is additional pressure on senior managers to be held accountable for huge sums of revenue, whereby this previously fell at board-level.

Financially flexible technology you can’t afford to miss

Many of us have financial outgoings that, from a practical point of view, we can’t simply avert. This can apply at both home and work, but relief could be at hand in form of flexible technology. Through wisely utilising it, you could trim or, at least, better manage your financial obligations.

Here are a few examples of such technology that, should you take them up, could prove surprisingly financially rewarding in various aspects of your life – both professional and personal.

Sophisticated algorithms in the finance sector

Technological advances have engulfed the finance industry, leaving certain responsibilities capable of being completed in seconds due to an automated algorithm, rather than hours on the initiative of an expert with years of analysing experience. The implications are largely positive for consumers.

Complex algorithms can efficiently assess risk and analyse data, enabling customers to access a wider range of digital services while reigning in their expenditure, says The Next Web.

Software solutions available for leasing

Your business probably relies on a broad variety of office technology which must be updated or replaced in timely ways to prevent blatant holes opening up in your workplace security and privacy.

If all of that seems like it could be expensive, that’s because it can be… if you buy corporate software. An alternative strategy is leasing it; consider, for example, that Microsoft allows users to subscribe to high-end service and product suites, as Entrepreneur points out.

Management apps

Staying on the subject of software, you shouldn’t overlook how the software itself can equip you with tools conducive to eased financial management. Through using this software, you can add more skills to your financial management repertoire, making these skills truly transferable.

Examples of suitable management apps include money-saving, stock exchange and budgeting apps, which can spare you having to learn tips from financial advisors and other professionals. These apps also tend to be laid out intuitively, allowing you to make sense of otherwise complex topics.


With every year seeing 45% of financial intermediary services falling victim to economic crime, the finance industry understandably prioritises security and privacy. A fresh layer of security – this one practically impregnable – could be added in the form of blockchain technology.

While blockchain technology can’t quite always prevent fraud arising from human error and traditional scams, it remains much safer than current practices relying on digital exchanges. One day, blockchain could even form the foundation for pretty much every virtual transaction.

A cloud-based phone service

If your firm’s phone system currently remains PBX-based, it could be needlessly losing you money for potentially spending on other aspects of the business. However, making your phone system a cloud-based one accessible through a web-based portal can save you that money.

One example of a cloud-based phone service is Gamma’s Horizon, which would let you freely terminate calls to UK fixed destinations and tweak the price imposed for your customers. You can easily imagine the kind of competitive edge that this can lend to your business.

Dealing with finances as a sole trader

There are a number of advantages to working for someone else that being a sole trader does not offer. However, for some people, the number of advantages to working for yourself is immeasurable, and as such, more and more people are becoming sole traders each year. What are the advantages to having an employer, and is it possible to enjoy those advantages while still remaining self-employed?

Taking charge of your accounts

As a sole trader, you will be in total charge of your accounts. You will have to collect all invoices, calculate and pay your tax, and ensure that the price you charge for your services manages to cover both your wages and your costs. You will even need to be aware of all VAT-related issues that might come up – whether you need to collect it and send it to the tax man, and whether you can claim it back on items that you have bought.

This is something that in the past, your employer would have taken care of. While you will have a lot more freedom as a sole trader, you will also have a lot more headaches when you realise just how much there is to consider. It is not just your wages and costs that need to be put aside either – you will also need to ensure that you put aside money for tax and NI contributions each month.

These are all aspects of working that you never had to think about when you were employed by someone else. The shift to being a sole trader means that you will have a whole new bunch of responsibilities. This is both in terms of administration and your personal finances.

Can this be avoided?

One of the main reasons why people go self-employed is to avoid hassle. The ability to work for yourself on your own terms is something that a lot of people dream of. However, the associated headaches that come with being self-employed can put people off. There is a solution though – you can cover it all with an umbrella company. This will remove a great deal of the hassle and headache involved with being a sole trader but will allow you to retain the benefits of being a sole trader. How exactly?

Put simply, an umbrella company will take over the finances of your business. The umbrella company will collect invoices, calculate tax and NI contributions, and pay you a wage. It is basically like an accountancy service that goes the extra mile for you. You are not answerable to the umbrella company, so you will not suddenly have a boss again – all they do is deal with your finances. If you operate under an umbrella company instead of being a sole trader, then you are able to enjoy all of the benefits of being self-employed without having to endure the drawbacks. It is a win-win situation. If you want to be self-employed but struggle with the financial side of it, then an umbrella company might just be what you need.