Small Business News Briefs

Watchfire Launches Free Online Testing Service
Watchfire, a Mass.-based provider of Web site management software and services, launched WebXACT this week, a free online service that allows users to test single pages of Web content for quality, privacy and accessibility.

WebXACT checks one page of Web content at a time and reports results immediately through Web-based reports that help expose website quality, privacy and accessibility defects. By testing Web pages with WebXACT, developers can encourage compliance with industry standards and best practices, and small business operators will know if their site is friendly for all customers.

Michael Weider, founder and chief technology office of Watchfire, said the website testing service is based on technology developed from its enterprise WebXM solution.

“We wanted to provide a free service to the Web development community that would aid their efforts to design Web pages that comply with industry standards and best practices,” Weider said. “WebXACT can be also used by website stakeholders who are interested in understanding the types of issues exist on websites today.”

The Quality Status Report in WebXACT explains the page’s quality issues and indicates whether it has defects like broken links or anchors, warnings, or issues with the page. Users benefit as WebXACT identifies common issues that can drive potential customers off a website.

Of course, the bulk of Web development issues that WebXACT roots out can be addressed on a much larger scale by Watchfire’s enterprise Website Management software. We gave the free online test a whirl and we’re happy to report that all 132 links on the home page of are in good order. But we could update a few meta tags and titles that were not changed when we recently redesigned the site. If nothing else, this quick check-up from WebXACT gave us peace of mind that nearly all is well in working order.

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Kurant Offers Canadian Version of StoreSense
Kurant, an e-business software maker serving small- and medium-sized businesses, this week launched a version of its StoreSense e-business platform optimized for the Canadian market.

The new version of StoreSense offers merchants the e-commerce features they need to conduct business online in Canada, including sophisticated tax calculation capabilities to determine GST (Goods and Services Tax) and PST (Provincial Sales Tax), and integration with Canada Post for easy shipping of customers’ orders.

Additionally, StoreSense now offers data integration with Canadian versions of QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier 2003, as well as the newly launched QuickBooks Premier 2003 Retail Edition. This integration allows merchants to build and manage back office business systems into the e-commerce application using existing QuickBooks data.

Curtis Pierce, Kurant chief executive officer, said the company continues to focus on developing products to meet the needs of small businesses anywhere and everywhere.

“The Internet is a global phenomenon, so it’s essential that we give customers the tools to conduct business online anywhere in the world,” Pierce said. “Canada, where more than half of the population is online, is a critical market.”

The new Canadian version of Kurant’s StoreSense enables small businesses, whether they sell products, services, or a combination of both, to conduct all types of business online. StoreSense offers a full range of e-business features, including building a website and webstore as well as inventory management, supply chain communication and accounting system integration.

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Mobile E-Mail: Necessity or Luxury?
A new Yankee Group report, A Practical Assessment of Mobile E-Mail for a European SMB, finds that although e-mail is embedded firmly in the fabric of business life, mobile e-mail will never achieve the same pervasiveness within small businesses.

This is largely because mobile e-mail provides little quantifiable benefit in a local context, except during extended commutes. According to the study, mobile e-mail is truly valued only when traveling abroad. It also remains relatively expensive compared to other forms of communication, rendering it unjustifiable for most small- and medium-sized businesses. These findings reinforce the Yankee Group’s projection that fewer than five percent of Western Europe’s full-time workforce will be using standalone mobile e-mail solutions, even in 2007.

Farid Yunus, Yankee Group wireless and mobile Europe senior analyst, said the study does not dispute that mobile e-mail provides convenience, peace of mind, greater efficiency, and perhaps even real savings.

“The final prognosis on the concept of mobile e-mail is that most people simply do not have jobs that require the utmost mobility, immediacy, and availability via e-mail,” Yunus said.

Whether the cost of secure mobile e-mail is justifiable on its own merits, however, remains debatable. In the future, these solutions may become the norm, just as most office-based employees now have their own PC, e-mail address, and Internet access. Nevertheless, costs will have to fall considerably before mobile e-mail becomes a working reality among small businesses.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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