Small Business News Briefs

By SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff
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SBA Continues Economic Growth Tour
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was in Bend, Ore. last week as part of its nationwide "Economic Growth Tour." The event provided a forum for area small businesses, SBA's resource partners, community leaders, and elected officials to discuss the challenges that small businesses face in the region.

There are more than 100,000 small businesses in Oregon, and small business makes up 97.6 percent of all Oregon businesses. SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto began the visit to Oregon with a tour of Discovery Corner, a child-care center and preschool. After receiving a tour from Discovery Corner's Susan Sano and founder Dana Heath, Barreto led a roundtable discussion with several local small business owners.

Following the roundtable, Barreto spoke to more than 300 local small business leaders during a luncheon. Barreto said he knows that small businesses are leading the way in growing the economy.

"I can't imagine a more important time for government to reach out to small business and ensure that we are helping where we can, and getting out of the way when we need to," Barreto said. "That's why SBA came to Bend ... to listen to America's small business owner ... and talk about how we can help them do what they do best: grow the economy and create jobs."

Today, the SBA Economic Growth Tour is in Davenport, Iowa. Then the tour will take a break over the holidays and startup again in Jacksonville, Fla. on Jan. 26, 2004. HP is cosponsoring the events and provides live Webcasts of many of the events.

As part of the tour, business owners across the country are being encouraged to send thoughts and comments to the SBA at sbalistens@sba.gov.

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Small Businesses Like Leasing Equipment
Survey results released by The Equipment Leasing Association (ELA) show 77 percent of small businesses agree — leasing equipment is a good business strategy. Increased cash flow, consistent expenses for budget planning, and maintenance options are the top reasons why small businesses would opt to finance new through leasing. The study found that sixty-five percent of small businesses currently lease equipment.

Michael J. Fleming, ELA president, said equipment leasing is consistently recognized by small businesses as an attractive method to finance the equipment they need to run their businesses.

"Leasing offers flexible financing, and in areas such as technology equipment where developments occur rapidly, access to new equipment can boost a small business's productivity and lower costs," he added.

Computers and office equipment are the top equipment types leased — 41 percent of small businesses indicated they lease computers, another 41 percent said they lease office equipment. Interestingly, 59 percent of respondents said their need for technology equipment grew disproportionately to other equipment needs.

But cash is still king among small business owners — 77 percent of survey participants said they consider this option first. Followed by 53 percent that consider bank loans and 41 percent consider using credit cards to make equipment purchases. Furthermore, 53 percent said current economic conditions do not affect their equipment acquisition decisions.

"Considering the recent all-time low interest rates we've been experiencing for other forms of financing, a 65 percent leasing rate among small businesses underscores what an attractive option leasing is," said Fleming.

ELA conducted the survey of SBA State Small Business Winners from the U.S. and Puerto Rico to determine equipment financing and acquisition decisions of successful small businesses.

Organized in 1961, the ELA is a non-profit association representing companies involved in the equipment leasing and finance industry. ELA's mission is to promote the leasing industry as a major source of funds for capital investment in the U.S. In 2003, equipment leasing was reported to be a $208 billion industry.

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WatchGuard Boosts WLAN Security Features
WatchGuard Technologies recently released version 6.3 of its Firebox SOHO 6 software. Designed for small businesses, remote offices and telecommuters, the Firebox SOHO 6 lineup of products includes appliances for both wired and wireless network security.

The revamped software for Firebox SOHO 6 Wireless devices allows Wi-Fi users to share virtual private network (VPN) access and resources. This makes the Firebox SOHO 6 ideal for implementing a secure Wi-Fi network, while providing access to shared resources on the local area network (LAN), such as servers, printers and scanners.

The upgrade also enables two wireless access points to relay traffic to one another while in "bridge mode." This enables a small business to securely extend the reach of a Wi-Fi network in situations where a wireline connection is too costly. For example, when there are offices on different floors, bridge mode allows users to connect without the need to run cabling between floors.

To prevent unauthorized access over the wireless network to a trusted wireline LAN, users are required to connect through VPN client software that authenticates allowable users. This prevents the Wi-Fi network from being a security gap or an unprotected onramp to the main business network.

The Firebox SOHO 6 Wireless product line is designed to provide complete security solutions for small businesses in a single firewall/VPN appliance. The wireless unit features an integrated 802.11b Wireless Access Point (WAP), 4-port LAN Ethernet switch with remote management capabilities.

Version 6.3 of the Firebox SOHO 6 software is expected to be available next month at no additional charge to active LiveSecurity Service subscribers. New pricing is also available for the Firebox SOHO 6 Wireless security appliances. The Firebox SOHO 6 Wireless small office endpoint lists for $599. The Firebox SOHO 6tc Wireless branch office endpoint is priced at $699. The Firebox SOHO 6tc Wireless 50 User branch office endpoint/multi-office endpoint is priced at $999.

Each Firebox SOHO 6 and SOHO 6 Wireless model includes a 90-day renewable subscription to WatchGuard's LiveSecurity Service, which provides customers with systematic updates and security intelligence. WatchGuard's LiveSecurity Service includes software updates, technical support, security broadcasts — threat responses, virus alerts, information alerts, expert editorials, and support flashes — self-help resources and online training. WatchGuard Firebox products are also backed by a one-year limited hardware warranty.

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This article was originally published on November 18, 2003
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