3 tips to keep you secure online

On April 29, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

In light of the recent Playstation security breach, a lot of people are growing more concerned over the privacy of their online identities. If your information gets into the wrong hands, the consequences can be detrimental. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to ensure that your online identity is secure.

Use an encrypted connection

Using an encrypted connection is an unbelievably easy way to achieve greater online safety. Many websites, including most social networking sites, have recently adopted more secure connections, although you sometimes have to change the settings to get the extra level of security.

In order to see whether or not your connection is secure, check the URL. A secure connection will have a URL that begins with “https” instead of simply “http.” Unfortunately, all sites don’t use encrypted connections, so this is not always an option.

Use strong passwords

Strong passwords are usually one of the best ways to keep your information protected. By using spaces, symbols, numbers and a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, one can easily achieve a strong password. Even if you don’t utilize all of these tricks, be sure to use something that can’t be easily guessed by hackers.

Also, be sure to use a unique password for each site. If one site is hacked into, your password to that site may become vulnerable. Having the same password for multiple other sites will make the information stored on those sites vulnerable as well.

Look out for phishing

Phishing is quite a common practice because it so often works to help hackers obtain sensitive information. It is essentially when a hacker poses as a reputable business, such as a bank, to try to get your passwords, account numbers or usernames.

Epsilon’s recent data breach was a great example of the possibility of phishing. Their network was hacked into and thousands of names and email addresses were exposed, making thousands of people vulnerable to phishing attempts.

These three tips are unbelievably easy to follow through with and instantly increase your online security. If you’d like more information on protecting your online identity, check out this article.

 

How to be productive while on the road

On April 27, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

Many people that travel for business find that they are less productive while they’re on the road. This can be a result of a number of factors. Fortunately, we have some great tools and tips that can both increase productivity and keep your belongings secure while you’re on the go.

Tools for easier travel

There are hundreds of tools out there that are made to make your business travel easier. From computer bags to organizational apps, the possibilities are practically endless.

TripIt is an easy-to-use tool that almost instantly takes away some of the stress of traveling. It organizes all of your travel details for you, including flight number, hotel information, and frequent flier numbers. With TripIt, you don’t have to fret about the details because they’re all neatly organized in one place.

Good luggage is also essential. It makes getting through the airport easier and can help keep you organized – a big plus when you’re doing business on the road. These are some key features to look for in your luggage:

  • Laptop compartment – It’s best to have a separate compartment for your laptop so that finding it at security, or even once you get to your destination, is easy. Nobody enjoys being the person who’s holding up the security line.
  • A wire pouch – Having a dedicated spot to place all of your chargers and other wires is perfect for anyone with lots of gadgets. You no longer have to wonder where you placed everything, as there is a designated pocket for it.
  • Convertibility – A convertible bag is best for someone who goes on a variety of business trips. If you need to carry everything through the airport one day and carry only your laptop the next, finding a bag that can serve both purposes is beneficial.

Security tools

Many of us travel with our most prized possessions, which just adds to our stress for fear of losing them. Because of that, it’s smart to bring a personal safe and a notebook lock that can keep some of the most valuable items secure when you can’t keep an eye on them.

Typically, taking general safety precautions is enough. Either make sure that your valuable items are somewhere secure, or keep them close by whenever you can. If you’re interested in more tools and tricks to keep your things safe, take a look at this article.

Boosting productivity

Productivity is likely to wane when we’re working from the road for a variety of reasons. Being away from our familiar tools and desk setup can quickly slow us down. Luckily, there are many items that can help bring productivity back up, even when you’re in an unfamiliar workspace.

For most jobs, it’s critical to have Internet access, especially when you are away from your coworkers. Some hotels do not have access to the Internet, and if that is the case you should consider bringing a wireless card or mobile Wi-Fi device that would let you easily access the Internet and your email.

Another thing to consider is the overall comfort level of hotel desk chairs. Most are not ergonomic or comfortable, so a back pillow would be a great asset. They are generally not too bulky, and can quickly boost your productivity by making you more relaxed.

There are many things that can make working from the road easier and more productive. These tools and tips can be incredibly helpful and help you learn how to be at your best while you’re on the go.

 

5 steps to making your office greener

On April 22, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

Creating a greener office is an incredible way to simultaneously save money and help the environment. Some small businesses think that going green takes too much effort, but that’s hardly the case. Here are a handful of quick and simple ways to make your office greener.

1.    Use double-sided printing whenever possible

Setting your printer and/or copier’s default setting to double-sided printing instantly cuts down on the amount of paper used in your office.  This is an incredibly simple step. And if anybody ever needs to utilize the one-sided printing feature, he or she can easily change the setting.

2.    Use a water delivery service

Getting rid of bottled water in your office can have an enormous impact. Consuming bottled water is not only wasteful it can also be unhealthy. Plastic is made using Bisphenol A (BPA) which contains harmful levels of estrogen and has been declared a toxic substance by some countries. Cutting back on that habit eliminates both waste and potential health risks.

3.    Turn lights and machines off when they’re not being used

Although this may seem like an obvious way to be greener, many people overlook its necessity. Some people believe that it’s more efficient to leave computers and other machines on overnight, but it’s far more wasteful than anything else. If you can afford to install motion sensors, they are always a great option as well.

4.    Use recycled and recyclable products when you can

Virtually any paper product can be found in recycled versions at major office supply retailers. While they’re much better for the environment, they are typically comparable in price to non-recycled versions.

Using recyclable and compostable products is also critical. These items are generally easy to find and can make a huge impact if they’re actually recycled after use. If you don’t implement an easy-to-follow recycling plan, you may find that employees aren’t in fact recycling anything.

5.    Cut down on commuting

If you have a lot of employees who commute to work, try setting up a carpool matching service that connects people who live near one another. Offering incentives such as a better parking spot to people who carpool is a great way to generate interest in the idea.

All of these options are incredibly simple and do not take much to implement. If you’re looking for even more ways to make your business greener, check out this article.

 

Clean your keyboard with these suggestions

On April 21, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

Most of us have heard the rumor that our keyboard could be dirtier than a toilet seat. While that statement is startling, many wonder if it’s in fact true. While levels of germs vary from keyboard to keyboard, some have shown higher levels than those on a toilet seat, which is a scary fact.

If that isn’t enough to encourage you to clean your keyboard, consider the fact that you touch it every day, when you’re sick and when you’re eating. If you don’t clean it often enough, those germs can rapidly accumulate and spread to other items on your desk. Here are some tips that can help you clean your keyboard quickly and effectively.

Detach the keyboard

No matter what cleaning method you use, it’s important that you detach the keyboard first. This can prevent you from accidentally performing certain actions on your computer. It also prevents damage to your computer, which could be expensive.

For a quick fix

Try using a can of compressed air to get rid of the loose dirt that has gathered. This is a very basic way to clean your keyboard without taking up too much time.

Turn the keyboard upside down and spray the compressed air onto the keys. Then tap the keyboard on a flat surface several times to get rid of everything that came loose. Follow that up by swiping the edges of the keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the majority of the germs.

For a more thorough cleaning

If simply cleaning out the dirt isn’t enough for you, you can remove the keys for a more squeaky-clean keyboard. The keys can be taken off by gently prying them up with a small screwdriver or something similar.

Once the keys are off, you should utilize the can of compressed air to eliminate all of the loose dirt. Then wipe the entire keyboard with a damp cloth. Finally, clean all of the keys with isopropyl alcohol to get a more serious clean.

After a spill

If you’re simply doing a little damage control after a spill, the solution is easy. Disconnect the keyboard, turn it upside down right away and put a cloth underneath it to soak up all of the excess liquid. You will then want to leave the keyboard upside down for as long as possible to ensure that it is totally dry.

If you’d like more keyboard cleaning tips, take a look at this how-to guide.

 

Make virtual meetings easier to manage with these 3 tips

On April 15, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

While many prefer face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings are a common part of today’s business environment. It is vital, however, to consider certain things when you’re conducting these meetings.

Proper etiquette is essential to the success of a virtual meeting. Many people treat virtual meetings as more casual than face-to-face ones, which is not always appropriate. Etiquette can go a long way in making participants view you as professional and an authority on the issue at hand.

Here are a few more suggestions that can help your virtual meetings to be more efficient and professional.

1. Be prepared

Preparedness is vital when it comes to professionalism and helping a meeting run smoothly. When you’re gathering the content and materials for a virtual meeting, you should make sure to remember your audience – something that’s not quite as easy during a virtual meeting.

Also, ensure that everybody invited to the meeting has the appropriate login information. If the invitees can’t actually access the meeting, the entire objective is lost.

2. Engage participants

Virtual meetings can easily become very stiff if you don’t have a relationship with the person on the other end of the meeting. Rather than leaping right into the task at hand, try going around and allowing all of the meeting’s participants to introduce themselves.

Although it might feel like freshman orientation all over again, having everybody go around and share the highlight of his or her weekend or some other little tidbit, can serve as a huge icebreaker.

3. No side conversations

Though you may not be the person on screen at the moment, it’s important to not distract from the goal of the meeting. Side conversations can distract someone on the other end of the meeting, even if they can’t see you. They also may be very distracting to the person who is talking and pull them away from the issue at hand.

These are just a few of many tips for conducting virtual meetings. If you’d like to check out even more tips, take a look at this Inc. article.

 

Is an e-reader ideal for you?

On April 12, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

E-readers are a handy technology that users tend to rely on. They are practical and easy to travel with, making them perfect for many bookworms. The technology isn’t for everybody however, so it’s essential to take the features into consideration when deciding if it’s right for you.

What are the choices?

There are plenty of possibilities available when it comes to e-readers: the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble’s Nook are among the most well-known choices. Some newer versions offer Internet capabilities, but the main purpose is to display e-books.

Tablet owners frequently use their tablets to read e-books as well. Most tablets, however, do far more than just display e-books, so that is not their primary purpose.

Pros

  • E-readers are incredibly portable, which is ideal for any person who likes to read during vacation or a business trip
  • Yet another travel perk – if you are in a foreign country, you may still download an e-book in the language you choose, instead of seeking out an accommodating bookstore.
  • Books are frequently more affordable than you will find in normal bookstores.
  • Privacy – you probably don’t want everyone to know if you’re reading a self-help book. If you’re using an e-reader, they won’t be able to tell.
  • All of your books are in one place.

Cons

  • Depending on the type of e-reader or tablet, you may not be able to read in direct sunlight because of screen glare.
  • Cost – even though you might pay less for books than you normally would, e-readers usually cost more than $140.
  • If you’re accustomed to shopping in used bookstores, these books will cost a great deal more than you’re used to paying.
  • Lending books isn’t always a choice.
  • All of your books are in a single place – if you lose your e-reader, you’re losing all of your books until you buy a replacement.

Overall, when you’re determining whether or not an e-reader suits you, it’s all about personal preference. Some prefer the convenience of having all of their books in one handy device. Others like the weight and feel of a book and prefer to show off the books they’ve read on a bookshelf somewhere.

If you’re contemplating purchasing an e-reader, take a look at this article on the advantages of the technology, and where it may be headed.

 

4 strategies for sustaining employee motivation

On April 8, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

Employee motivation can often be hard to preserve, especially when you’re running a small business with limited funds. Incentives are really essential when it comes to inspiring your employees, however, so finding simple and affordable alternatives is necessary.

Luckily, there are a great deal of ways to keep employee morale high without breaking the bank. Here are a few creative and simple ideas:

1. Ask for input

It means a whole lot to most employees to know that their thoughts and opinions are considered. By asking for input and implementing the best suggestions, you are showing them that you cherish their opinions and that they play a significant role in the company.

2. Change it up

Sometimes repetition can lead to a lack of motivation. When this happens, it’s important to remember the cause for the tapering motivation and mix things up a little. If you know an employee is eager to exercise a certain skill, try giving him or her a project that allows for that.

3. Focus on a great company culture

Some of the best companies to work at are those that employees feel are unique. Creating a great company culture can actually be quite simple and may help you to find and retain strong employees. A game room where employees can take a break and decompress when they’re feeling burned out can do wonders.

4. Recognize people for a job well done

One of the biggest de-motivators can be working away on something and feeling like nobody is even aware of your hard work. For this reason, it’s important to let employees know that you recognize their hard work and appreciate it.

Something as simple as a company-wide email showcasing their accomplishments can re-ignite motivation and make employees want to continue working hard. Although the attention may embarrass some, many people like to know that others recognize their effort.

All of these techniques are simple, affordable and can do wonders when it comes to motivating employees. Try out one or two of these ideas to see how they may affect employee morale and motivation.

Check out this article to see a few more methods for motivating employees.

 

Smartpens – what they are and how you can use them

On April 7, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

Smartpens are a new office trend with ever-expanding possibilities. The features of smartpens have grown a lot since the technology first came about, and they’re still increasing.

Smartpens fundamentally keep track of what you’re writing and transfer those notes onto your computer. Each smartpen has different abilities, however, some of which are more useful than others.

IOGEAR Mobile Digital Scribe

This smartpen was the first on the scene. For that reason, it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that you may find in a newer model.

The Mobile Digital Scribe captures and stores everything you write down for later review. Unlike other pens, you don’t need to write on a specific surface in order for it to register, a simple piece of paper will do. It even enables you to connect the pen directly to a computer so that everything you write down will be displayed on the screen.

Logitech IO2 Digital Pen

The Logitech smartpen has many of the basic functions that you might find in the Mobile Digital Scribe. It transcribes your notes and can save them in a variety of different file types.

After you save them, you can browse the files for words and phrases in order to help you scan notes more easily. You can search by date, file type and file name. Unlike the Mobile Digital Scribe, you cannot use any surface to record your notes with this smartpen – you must use Post-It notes or Franklin Covey’s iScribe software.

Livescribe Echo

The Livescribe Echo smartpen is by far the most technologically sophisticated of all the smartpens on the market. It not only transcribes everything you write down, it also records audio and converts the recording into a number of different audio file types.

The Livescribe Echo now has a feature called Pencast, which plays back your audio and synchronizes it with the notes you took. You can play these Pencasts with your iPad, iPhone or iPod helping to make the files super easy to share. This is great for anyone who wants to share the contents of a meeting with their coworkers but doesn’t have the time to tell them about it or transcribe the whole thing.

Smartpens are a great technology that is sure to keep becoming more popular in the office setting. They make it easier to become a more efficient worker with little effort.

If you’d like to take a look at a review of the Livescribe Echo, check out this Inc. article.

 

Gmail Motion – just how awesome is it?

On April 1, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Staff Contributor

The Internet has been abuzz today about the latest feature release from Google. It is called Gmail Motion and it’s Google’s most recent attempt to keep up with the ever-evolving technology of the Internet and email. With Gmail Motion, you can now execute a number of actions in your Gmail account with a variety of gestures.

Common actions like search, forward, reply and mark as unread can all be executed with gestures, instead of the click of a mouse. This makes users feel more in touch with both their email and their computers and makes for an overall more enjoyable email experience.

How does it work?

Gmail Motion is able to combine your computer’s built-in webcam with Google’s new, patented spatial tracking technology. Basically, your webcam tracks your movements and interprets them as Gmail specific commands.

How to use Gmail Motion safely

Of course, like any physical activity, there are certain precautions that should be taken in order to protect against injury. You should make sure that there are no fragile objects around you that can be broken. It is easy to get excited about the new technology and make fast movements, which can cause serious injury if you end up hitting something.

It is also advised that you take frequent breaks, just as you would if you were doing any other sort of work on the computer. Intermittent stretching is best as well. It will prevent your muscles from cramping and feeling overworked.

If this seems like something you’d like to try, check out the Gmail Motion website. It has a printable Motion Guide that fills you in on all of the possible gestures and what they mean. The possibilities with this new technology are endless. As for business users who are looking forward to using the Motion feature, they’re in luck – the Gmail Motion technology will soon be coming to Google Docs.

This is a huge technological advancement that might change the way all of us interact with our computers and complete daily tasks. Google’s latest announcement may seem silly and kind of crazy to some of you, and it is – it’s just another one of Google’s yearly April Fools’ Day pranks.

Happy April Fools’ Day!