As a business owner, if you're not syncing your operations with new technologies for efficiency, security, and productivity, you're falling way behind. It already took a long time for businesses to get up and running from typewriters to computers, and from physical files to digital. But as technologies keep coming out, keeping your finger on the pulse is essential. Here are 8 technologies that will take your business to the next level.

1. HD Video Conferencing

Conference calls are so passé. We all struggle to take our turns, get clear reception, and follow the conversation as more and more people are added to the line. Not being able to see our collaborators is a detriment to productivity. That's why modern businesses are using video conferencing as a way to get that much-needed face time. If you're going to go all out for video conferencing, you might as well get it in HD.

2. Team Messaging

In the old days, if we had a question for one of our coworkers, we had to get up from our seats, walk over, interrupt them on whatever they were doing, and ask our question. Now, businesses are integrating methods of easy online communication a la the AIM of our youth, but all grown up. Slack is one of the leaders in the team messaging field, for its accessible layout and the ability to send and share documents with ease.

3. BYOD and Mobile Solutions

Gone are the days of landline phones! To enable the "work from home" movement, some employers are gung ho about the "bring your own device" policy. It saves money and space. Being mobile-friendly encourages your employees to use their phones. But careful, this could make goofing off look a lot like working. It does however, encourage working before and after business hours.

4. GTD® Software Utilities

For those of you that don't like acronyms, you should start to like them if you're going to have a modern business. GTD® stands for "get things done," and these special software utilities are designed to do just that. These include digital list managers, productivity add-ons, organizers, and note-taking and brainstorming tools to help increase efficiency at the office. Check out more, here.

5. The Cloud

Servers are an unnecessary space-killer in an office. Working on the cloud gives you the ease and convenience of sharing documents on a network (the Internet). Google Drive and Dropbox are two of some of the more popular cloud-based file storing services. Google Drive allows you to comment on documents and share folders so everyone can always be on the same page.

6. Digital Signature

Snail mail is a thing of the past. Now, contracts are being sent as PDFs. Instead of printing, signing, scanning and sending, businesses are using digital signatures to get the job done faster, and with a lot less paper. Here's how to employ the digital signature function on Adobe Reader.

7. CRM

Another acronym, folks. CRM stands for "customer relationship management" and is a valuable tool to track, manage and analyze customer behavior data to inform you on future strategy. This technology can be a useful way to improve a customer's perception of your business. But there are tons of CRM systems out there. Here is a guide from CRM Magazine on how to know what's right for your business.

8. Smart Payment Processing

If you're still mailing out invoices and receiving checks, you're missing out. All-encompassing payment processing solutions like PayPal for small business are out to help your business run smoother. This service allows you to accept diverse payment options, be eligible for credit, and get paid faster and more securely.

Technology is booming at an unprecedented rate. Is your business prepared to keep up?

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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