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Working from home? Have you considered your ‘tech blind spots’?

Working from home in a small business can be thrilling - it's you proving yourself to the world, working your way.

Working from home? Have you considered your 'tech blind spots'?
Overlooking a few essential tech considerations can lead to a lot of trouble later on. Photo: Getty Images

It can be easy to let yourself get caught up in the excitement of making your own decisions.

However, when it comes to technology, we can often be sidelined by the essential considerations that hadn’t crossed our minds when going into business. 

Together with online telecommunications provider Zadarma, we identify some of the most common ‘tech blind spots’ that internationals encounter while working from home. 

Do you know how safe your online data is? Find out more

Securing your data

Staying safe online and securing your data is essential for anyone wanting to go into business. Fortunately, compared to even 10 years ago, keeping prying eyes away from confidential business data is much easier, even if you are in a place with a reputation for lax cybersecurity and hacking attacks. 

This is partly the fruit of bitter experience. Over the last two decades a number of data leaks, enabled by hackers, have resulted in the details of millions of customers being distributed online. This has included some of their most sensitive information, such as credit card details and medical records – exposing businesses to serious litigation. 

Consequently, the cybersecurity industry increasingly focuses on encryption, meaning that intercepted data is unreadable without the right credentials –hackers and other bad actors will just find a scrambled mess of letters and numbers. 

Therefore, encryption is built into most of the online products you use today, especially those used for business purposes. Email providers such as Gmail provide end-to-end encryption, as well as popular chat products such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. Even services that offer telephony over the internet, such as Zadarma, encrypt phone calls, so nobody can listen in. 

Ensure the online products that you use apply encryption and other security measures – such as two-factor authentication, where you must manually approve logins to services – and you can rest assured that your security needs are met, wherever you are in the world. 

Open access: VoIP technology makes business communication easier than ever. Photo: Getty Images

Keeping track of customers

As a small business operator, keeping track of your customers’ needs used to be quite tricky. Depending on your budget or size, this could depend on paper files, or a small database containing customer information. This wasn’t the most flexible or agile way of tracking customers and led to frustration on both sides. It was especially difficult for internationals, who didn’t have the space or resources to establish complex customer tracking systems. 

In the past decade, the business world has responded to this frustration and business need with the creation of Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) that allow constantly updated records of customer sales and queries to be used when communicating with clients. These database systems also allow outgoing communication to be targeted toward the right consumers, vastly reducing the amount of ‘spam’ customers receive from businesses – something that they are increasingly fed up with.

It’s safe to say that a CRM is now an essential tool for any small business, and one of the few that allow growth beyond a certain scale. There are now CRMs designed for businesses of any size, and there are also CRMs targeted at certain industries. Whatever your needs, there will be something that suits you. You may even like to consider an internet telephony package that comes with a custom CRM built-in, such as that provided by Zadarma

Discover Zadarma’s own custom-built CRM that includes functionality across multiple systems – making assisting and retaining your customers easier than ever

Weathering instability

Up until a few years ago, the measure of how successful a business was included its physical footprint – did it have a shopfront, and how complex were its communications or IT infrastructure?  Small businesses often found it hard to accurately visualize their own success in comparison. 

Recent events have rendered that idea moot. The coronavirus pandemic, overseas conflicts, and economic instability have meant that businesses have had to be flexible to survive. A recent Axios article mentioned earlier found that in some US cities, four out of five physical businesses had closed during the pandemic.

Where businesses have boomed is in the online space instead, as services have arrived to replace physical systems and products with digital equivalents. 

One revolutionary product taking businesses online is internet telephony, known widely as Voice over Internet Protocol, or ‘VoIP’. VoIP technology has meant that the types of phone exchange or ‘PBX’ found at the centre of physical businesses can now be replicated in an online manner – calls can be redirected across town, or across continents to team members. 

This is especially important for internationals, who may be part of remote teams. Also important for internationals is that VoIP  allows for the use of ‘virtual phone numbers’, making setting up phone numbers in different countries incredibly cheap. Internationals going into business can now ensure a global presence, without a massive cost, vastly increasing their customer base.

In 2022, there are a wide variety of VoIP and PBX providers, each offering a wide range of services that mean that those wanting to start a small business no longer need to outlay a significant cost to get started. 

One such provider is Zadarma, whose VoIP and online PBX solutions have worked seamlessly for millions of customers since 2006. They have ensured that businesses have secure, robust fully-featured telephony networks that bring customer data to their fingertips, effortlessly – removing one of the major obstacles for internationals wanting to go into business in 2022. 

Zadarma frees your business from physical networks and international borders, while keeping your data safe – explore solutions that fit your needs today

TECHNOLOGY

Finally there’s an emoji for that Italian hand gesture

Messaging your Italian friends is about to get that much easier with a new emoji representing one of Italy's best-known hand gestures.

Finally there's an emoji for that Italian hand gesture
How the new 'Pinched Fingers' emoji might look. Image: Emojipedia/Twitter

No more searching for a meme or GIF: the palm-up, fingers-closed hand gesture will appear among the new batch of emojis set for release in 2020.

Officially known as the 'Pinched Fingers' emoji, the Italian hand gesture is one of 62 new icons expected to make it onto devices by September or October this year.

The emoji dictionary Emojipedia defines the icon as “an emoji showing all fingers and thumb held together in a vertical orientation, sometimes referred to as the Italian hand gesture ma che vuoi [what do you want]”. 

The gesture will be familiar to pretty much anyone who's ever interacted with an Italian: usually performed while flicking the wrist up and down, it can mean anything from “are you serious” to “come on” to “what the hell”.

It is included in Emoji 13.0, the latest set of standardised emoji, following a request filed by US-based Italian journalist and entrepreneur Adriano Farano and two others, Jennifer 8. Lee and Theo Schear.

“Thanks to Italian immigration and the growing popularity of its way of life, Italian gestures are unique and bear a cultural meaning both in Italian speaking areas and worldwide such as to deserve a place as an emoji,” they argued in an official submission to the Unicode Consortium, the body that sets universal emoji standards.

“Adding the 'what do you want?' emoji would not only be a useful addition for the Italian diaspora abroad who is still proud of its origins. It would also, more broadly, offer users a much needed expression to engage in animated conversations by adding a touch of humour.”

Unicode's samples of how the Italian hand emoji might look on different systems. 

While uses vary, they suggest the gesture chiefly expresses “disbelief to what our interlocutor is pretending us to do or be, unless our interlocutor clarifies his/her intentions; modesty towards a compliment, as to say: 'what are you saying, it’s not true?'; sarcastic surprise when our interlocutor is exaggerating his/her arguments and we ask him/her to come to the point”.

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While Farano identifies 'Pinched Fingers' as “the most important and visually distinct” Italian hand gesture, some may be hoping that it opens the door to the inclusion of more Italianisms in future updates. 

Italian developers have already created a separate app, Neapolicons, that provides users with images of gestures common in southern Italy.

Do you have a favourite Italian hand gesture? Sign to let us know in the comments below.

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