Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability
Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many companies like yours. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in-house labor intensive processes. Break-fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. The new innovative tools that can be provided by MSPs generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime and data loss from human error.
MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers. Some of the services and tasks offered include:
  • Remote Desktop Management and Support
  • Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates
  • Fractional Resource Availability of Best-In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs
  • Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes
  • Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software
  • Enforcement of Network/Security Policy
  • Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts
  • Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware
Erase any misconception that managed service providers are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in-house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined new methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventative services that proactively locate and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.
MSPs today put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMBs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMB's business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners." A present day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased total cost of operation by streamlining costs and eliminating unnecessary lost productivity, revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees, in addition to eliminating the need for costly hardware/software repairs or replacement.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Ways Your Business Can Improve Its SEO

5 Tips for SMBs to Improve Search Engine Rankings…
In an age where most business happens online, not showing up in Google search results can really hurt you. While there’s no real shortcut to showing up consistently on web searches, there are a few quick fixes to get your site to show up on your potential customer’s search results...
1. HTML tags - Important HTML tags include the title tag, meta description and meta keywords. Make sure each page of your website has appropriate HTML tags. The title tag of each page should be unique and relevant to that particular page.
2. Alternative text images - Ensure that most of the images on your website have alternative text tags. Alt tags are basically descriptions for images. By adding relevant alternative tags to images, you are allowing search engines to recognize them, which will improve the likelihood of your page showing up in search results.
3. File hierarchy - How simple is your HTML file hierarchy? Check to see if your website’s pages are logically situated and avoid too many unnecessary folders. For example: ‘NFL=>Teams=>PittsburghSteelers’ is a better folder structure than ‘NFL=>Teams=>NFCEast=>PittsburghSteelers’, because here ‘NFCEast’ is redundant and only serves to push the Steelers page deeper down the order. This complexity makes your site less likely to show up on search results for people searching for Steelers websites.
4. Sitemap - A sitemap acts as a navigational guide for your visitors as well as search engines. Does your website have one? If not, then it’s time to put up a site map on your website.
5. Content quality - Read your website content to determine its quality. Is your content written for search engines or actual visitors? Is it stuffed with keywords? Does it truly add value to your audience, or is simply there to fill up the page? Answer these questions and make sure it has value for your audience. Value for your audience translates to better search engine rankings.
Please visit our website at

Monday, August 12, 2013

7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website
A recent article by The Guardian (UK) states that the cloud industry is set to see a growth of around 30% soon. But many small and medium business owners are still struggling to make sense of the cloud and how it can benefit them. If you are one of them, then here’s what’s in store for you when you migrate to the cloud:
1. Connectivity - Being on the cloud gives you unparalleled connectivity to your data—from anywhere and at any time. All you need is a device that can connect you to the web and you are set!
2. Save On Hardware Costs - Using the cloud for certain programs spares you the cost of investing in specific hardware. Even devices as simple as your smartphone or a tablet can help you access those applications so you don’t have to spend money on dedicated hardware. Studies have shown that cloud users end up enjoying as much as a 17% IT cost reduction compared to their non-cloud counterparts.
3. Cloud Enables SAAS - The cloud allows you to use software as a service. Microsoft 365 is one such example. When you use software as a service, you enjoy certain benefits such as more regular updates at a lower cost and the ability to have anyone work on the program for you by sharing the access credentials with them.
4. More Efficient Use of IT Staff - Moving to a cloud-based environment puts the burden of maintenance and downtime reduction on your service provider. That means you can use your limited IT staff more efficiently and also don’t have to worry about the costs associated with such maintenance or downtime.
5. Improved Productivity - Studies have shown that cloud users enjoy better productivity than their non-cloud counterparts. This could be because cloud service providers are better equipped to handle any IT eventualities than the average SMBs.
So, perhaps it’s time to ‘get cloudy’ and enjoy all that the cloud has to offer your SMB. And…if you need help in doing that, we are just a phone call away or you can visit our website for more information on IT Services in Southern New Jersey.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Don't ignore your Facebook "Other" folder

You consider yourself a thoughtful Facebook user, one that invariably replies promptly to messages. But what if you’ve missed tons of messages from co-workers, coaches, managers or friends in the past? Due to Facebook’s “Other” messages folder, you could have.

Uncovering the “Other”

If you don't know what Facebook's "Other" folder is, don't feel bad. You're not alone. David Pogue, technology columnist for the New York Times, recently pointed out how important this folder is. If you are like most Facebook users, your "Other" folder will be stuffed with messages from friends, co-workers, colleagues and close relatives that you've never read. And many of these may be years old.

Missed messages

Sadly, many Facebook users don’t know there is an “Other” folder of messages, Pogue writes. As a result, many users go years without responding to the party invitations, congratulation messages or other missives deposited inside it.

Opening the “Other”

You can locate your “Other” folder by clicking your “Messages” tab on the left side of your Facebook page. Look closely and you’ll find the grey word “Other.” Open it up, and you might be shocked at how many important messages you’ve missed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Digg Reader a worthy heir to Google Reader?

Google Reader, the favored news reader of millions, shut down earlier this summer. But Reader fans should rejoice: There’s a replacement for Google Reader available now. And, according to writer Jill Duffy, it’s an excellent one.

Digg Reader

Digg is a community news voting site with a small development team. But, as Jill Duffy writes in her review on, this hasn’t prevented Digg Reader from being an easy-to-use and intuitive service for all those still missing Google Reader.


In her review, Duffy writes that it’s very easy to navigate Digg Reader and find your news feeds. It’s also very easy to find Digg Reader’s settings and features, both of which make using the RSS reader simple.

Keeping abreast

Entrepreneurs and business owners can rely on Digg Reader - or any RSS reader that they prefer - to easily track the news that most impacts their businesses. That is why, business owners should consider registering with either Digg Reader or another RSS reader today.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Don't slow your meetings with useless tech

Tired of your employees reading email during your meetings? Irritated that your staff waste time logging onto twitter while you’re talking about company strategies? You’re not alone. Laptops, smartphones and tablets are fantastic tools. However, this technology can play havoc in your company meetings.

The Solution

Jake Knapp, though, has a remedy for you. He’s a design partner with Google Ventures. And in a newly released column for the Medium Web site, Knapp suggests bosses prohibit employees from dragging technology into meetings. Bosses that do this will likely substantially improve the actual work that will get done within these meetings.

No gadgets

Knapp proposes that employees say goodbye to their laptops, smartphones and tablets before entering a meeting. This makes sure that they concentrate on what you’re announcing and not a raunchy joke forwarded to them by their best buddy.

An end time

And to provide hope to your suddenly tech-deprived employees? Set up a timer so that everybody in the meeting can see it. When that timer goes off, the meeting is over - no matter what.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

For the wishlist: Duracell Powermat

Do you hate charging your phones? Tired of managing cords that inevitably tangle or get lost? The Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System may well be for you. It provides wireless charging, and includes its own powerful portable back-up battery.

The system

Duracell’s Powermat 24-Hour Power System is sold with its own Powermat, a portable backup battery and a case that will fit either iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smart phones. This system, which retails for about $100, will give you all the charging options you may need.


The Powermat included in the system allows you to wirelessly charge two smart phones at a time for up to 24 hours. You do this by attaching a case that fits securely around either your iPhone or Galaxy phone.

Backup battery

The system also features a portable backup battery. You can charge the battery by way of a wireless or wired Micro-USB connection. Using this feature, you can stay powered throughout the day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New tech will protect your smartphone from falls

It's a sinking feeling: You're showing off your newly purchased smartphone as it slips out of your grip and falls to the concrete sidewalk below. This doesn't have to be the death of your favorite mobile device though, not if you've invested in one of the newest cases -- which have science backing them -- designed to protect smartphones from unexpected falls.

Science of protection

According to the Times, there’s a fresh science developing around cushioning the blows that smartphones suffer when people drop them or inadvertently hit them against a wall. This makes sense -- smartphones have become increasingly important in our lives. It’s little surprise that companies would spend big dollars to produce new solutions to protect them.


The Times concentrated on the London-based Tech21, a company that has created D30, a polymer that it injects in the edges of its smartphone cases. As stated by Tech21, this polymer absorbs any shocks - from falls or bangs - that smartphones receive. The polymer then redirects the impact of these falls and bangs so the smartphone it protects isn’t damaged.

An investment worth making?

Are the cases worth your investment? Probably. According to the Times story, the Impact Band case developed by Tech21 costs $30. The Impact Mesh case runs $35. Both can make smartphone drops less catastrophic occurrences.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Watch out! Your friend might not have sent that e-mail

How often have you gotten an e-mail message from your friend that, when you open it, consists of an advertisement and link to an herbal supplement, weight-loss Web site or impotence drug? The odds are your friend’s e-mail account could have been hacked or spoofed. Never click the links found in these suspicious messages.

Persistent threat

As the New York Times explained in its Gadgetwise column, this is a on going threat. Often, hackers infect people’s computers with malware that attempts to spread itself by sending messages to the e-mail accounts in their address books.


Other times, hackers will attempt to forge e-mail addresses to trick recipients into opening them. Then there are those advanced hackers who gain control over other people’s computers and then use them to send out waves of spam messages.


You can protect yourself by never following the links in e-mails that, despite who supposedly sent them, appear suspicious. It's also wise to contact your friend right away. Such victims might not know they’ve been hacked. The Times also recommends that you protect your computer with up-to-date anti-virus software.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The debate over monitoring employees

Is Windows 8 a failed experiment by Microsoft? The media seems to think so. The reviews of Microsoft’s newest operating system haven’t been kind, with a lot of critics pointing out that the company’s one-size-fits-all solution - offering a system that operates both as a touch-based operating system and a more traditional mouse-and-keyboard-based one - has produced a system that satisfies no one. InformationWeek writer Kevin Casey decided, though, to have another look at Windows 8. Here’s what he determined.

The problem with touchscreen and PCs

The biggest problem with Windows 8 remains its desire to offer everything to everyone, Casey said. In other words, there’s no real reason for touch technology on a PC, he writes. Casey considers touch on a PC to be a bonus, not really a requirement. That makes it hard for business owners to warrant spending big on Windows’ new operating system.

Business owners take note

Casey also wrote that he’d never install Windows 8 on a non-touch device. The operating system’s apps and navigation are designed to encourage touch, Casey wrote. In a non-touch device, then, the best features of Windows 8 won’t be accessible. Casey’s advice to business owners? Keep Windows 7 on your company’s PCs.

Steep learning curve

Many users have complained that learning to use Windows 8 is a challenge. Casey agrees. This version of Windows is far different than any that came before it. Business owners who do install Windows 8 on their workers’ computers have to be ready to offer the training needed to teach their workers how to navigate it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The debate over monitoring employees

Your company supplied you a laptop you can use at home. Say you use it to watch movies on Netflix. Should your company get to track which movies you saw? Perhaps you do much of your work on a company-provided iPad. Should your company be able to track the Facebook posts you're making on it in your off-hours?

Privacy in the tech age

Thomas Claburn, editor-at-large with InformationWeek, recently tackled the controversy over employee monitoring in a recent online feature. In it, he quoted a wide array of experts, all of whom could see why employers would want to use new tech to monitor their employees. But these experts also contended that too much monitoring is counterproductive.

High-tech snooping?

That’s because today’s technology allows employers to monitor everything from where their employees are during the day - thanks to smart phones and GPS - to what Web sites they’re visiting to what e-mail messages they’re sending. Employers do this for a variety of reasons; they don’t want their employees to embarrass them on social media sites. They would like to make sure that their employees aren’t visiting TMZ during working hours. The question is: Does this monitoring pay off for companies?

The end of privacy?

The opinions by the experts quoted by Claburn are a mixed lot. These experts say that some monitoring of employees is reasonable, but other tactics are not. Such as, employers shouldn’t monitor their workers’ locations when these workers are off duty. Perhaps the most sage advice in the story? Those companies who trust their employees tend to be rewarded with workers who are harder-working and more loyal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How can you protect your e-mail account?

How secure is your e-mail account? Would it be a somewhat easy matter for crafty hackers to break into your account? And what would happen if they did? Think of all the spam messages and phishing schemes hackers can launch through your e-mail account. Thankfully, you can take steps to protect your e-mail account, and a recent blog by the New York Times explains how to do this. The best news? Protecting yourself doesn't take a lot of work.


The first tip provided by the Times? Maintain your computer's operating system, e-mail program, browsers and security software are all up to date. This means not ignoring it whenever your computer tells you that an update is offered. It may be a pain to constantly update your computer, but these updates often contain important protections against viruses. Ignore them at your own peril.


The Times also recommends that you not make passwords too easy to guess. A lot of computer users succumb to the trap of using simple passwords like their last names, street addresses or children’s names. Hackers can crack these quite easily. Preferably, create passwords that include strings of letters, numbers and symbols, something significantly more challenging for a hacker. Never re-use passwords. Create a new one for every one of your important online accounts.

Two-step authentication

As the Times writes, your biggest protection against hackers might be two-step authentication. Under such a system, you’ll need to provide two pieces of information to log onto your e-mail account. You may first have to provide a traditional password. Then you might have to enter a secret code sent to you smartphone any time you log onto your e-mail account on a different computer. Again, this extra step will keep the hackers out of your e-mail account.

Friday, July 5, 2013

No customers calling? Maybe your business website stinks

Is your business’ website turning away customers? Are customers logging on to your website simply to abandon your online home simply because can’t find what they want? If so, you might need a website upgrade. Don't forget, the only thing worse than not having a website for your small business is having a website that is actually turning off your customers.

Essential ingredients

Fortunately, Entrepreneur Magazine recently provided tips to small business owners struggling with their Websites. The magazine’s advice? Keep your business site simple, easy to find and easy to navigate. If you do this, your website can be a tool for generating business, not driving it away. The magazine’s first suggestion? Make sure your website immediately tells visitors what your business is and what it does. You don’t want visitors to have to research your site to figure out exactly what services you provide.

Don’t hide

A good business website ought to be easy to find, too. This simply means picking a domain name that's easy to remember and intuitive. For instance, if your company name is Steve's Landscaping, your website address ought to be something such as You may like the domain name Nevertheless the odds are that customers can't find your company website if they don't already know your online address. The magazine also suggests using the .com extension - which is the one that most people are acquainted with - and to avoid including dashes or numbers in your Web address.

A clear map

You should also ensure that your site is easy to navigate. Entrepreneur says that your site should include easy to find links and a site map. The site map should provide a quick path to your site’s most significant pages.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gadget freak? Love to cook? Check out this site

You love cooking. You adore gadgets. If only there was a Web site combining both of your passions. You know what? There is. It’s known as The Sweethome, and you can find it online at The website, as its name suggests, provides tips on how homeowners can buy those kitchen gadgets which make cooking an exceptionally sweet experience.

The Best-of

Why visit The Sweethome? Its best-of lists. These lists rank the best kitchen appliances and gadgets that you can buy for your home. Want to purchase the ultimate corkscrew? The Sweethome has you covered. How about the very best vegetable peeler? The site covers that, too. It can even show you which ice cube tray - really - is the best fit for your kitchen.

Bigger buys

The site’s reviews include large, bright photos and a sometimes exhaustive list of why a specific product is best. And the site doesn’t just review small items like ice cube trays. It provides advice on such major purchases as dishwashers, microwave ovens, stoves and refrigerators. The site, then, can save you from spending big dollars on a major appliance that is a lemon.

Outside the kitchen

And The Sweethome doesn’t focus its efforts solely on the kitchen. If you’re a gadget freak who likes to work in the yard or who’s passionate about finding the most efficient washing machine, The Sweethome can help. The site provides reviews of devices for the garage, laundry room, yard, bathroom and home office. What can we say? The Sweethome is a gadget lover’s dream site.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Turning off the tech: Good for your productivity?

Our gadgets make life easier. Now you can get the address of that new Indian restaurant with your cell phone. You can instantly tell all your friends of your new promotion through Twitter and Facebook. If you don’t have time to watch the news, you can read it on the way to work on your tablet. But sometimes our gadgets distract us from the “real” world. And sometimes they decrease our productivity. When we really should be working or thinking, we’re checking our e-mails and sending texts. The New York Times recently asked the big question: Would everyone gain from brief technology breaks?

Even the techies shut down

The Times story concentrated on some highly unlikely supporters of the take-a-tech-break theory: techies themselves. The Times, in fact, highlighted the case of an author and former Twitter employee. This techie was writing a book. But the constant chirping of his iPhone kept him from concentrating. When this techie ditched the phone, he found that the words flowed. His advice? Ditching the tech can significantly boost productivity.

Growing support

This writer is not alone. The author of the Times story, in fact, considers himself a techie. But he and his fellow techie fans are taking their own breaks from their electronic gadgets. As the author writes, when he and his friends gather for dinners, they place their smartphones in the center of the table. Whoever touches a phone first has got to cover dinner.

Your time?

Is it your turn to follow these examples? Do you need to go on a technology break? Have a look at your days: Do you spend hours fiddling with Words with Friends or Angry Birds? Can you pass an hour or so without logging into Facebook? Do you text more than you talk? If so, you, too, might benefit from a technology break. And you might be amazed at how productive you will be.

You don't have to be a luddite to turn off the tech

Can you imagine daily life without your tablet? How about without your laptop or smartphone? How about a day lacking an online game of Words with Friends? Technology has dramatically changed our everyday life. We now get our news online, connect with friends through social media sites, and depend on GPS-equipped smart phones to locate that new Asian restaurant and get back to our homes. But does there come a time to shut down all of this tech? A newly released story by the New York Times suggests that switching off the phones, tablets and laptops -- at least once in a while -- could make us more productive.

Techies agree

The answer, according to the Times: Yes. And the idea of a tech break has some unlikely proponents: high-use tech fans. By way of example, the Times profiles a former Twitter employee who, while writing a book, found that he struggled to concentrate amid the constant ringing and beeping of his iPhone. So the author took the big step of ditching his tech. The result? His productivity, and creativity, significantly improved.

Growing support

This techie is far from alone. The author of the Times column shines a spotlight on himself. Today, when he and his buddies get together for dinner, they immediately toss their smartphones in the center of the table. The first one who reaches for a phone has to pay the price: That person covers the tab for dinner.

Your turn?

So, what about you? Is it time for you to set aside your electronic devices? Possibly. Are you constantly distracted by the sound of incoming text messages? Can you hold a conversation without wanting to get to the next level in Angry Birds? Do you talk with your friends solely through Tweets? If so, it might be time for you to put away the tech temporarly. You could be amazed at how interesting the world can be without them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don't think you need to back up your Evernote notebooks? Think again.

Evernote is a great tool for saving you important information. When you store notes, videos, photos or other documents in an Evernote notebook, not only is the data saved on your computer, tablet or smart phone, it's also saved in Evernote's servers. However, the tech site How-To Geek provides this warning: This is not enough data security. Fortunately, How-To Geek also reveals how you can provide more security by backing up your Evernote notebooks.

Not as safe

This means someone or something could wipe out both the data you’ve stored on your computer or other device and the version of the same data that you’ve stored on Evernote’s servers. And if that takes place? That data is gone. Fortunately, the How-To Geek Web site explains how users can back-up Evernote notebooks to provide the utmost protection to their files, photos, reports and videos.

Protecting yourself

You can add an extra layer of security to your Evernote notebooks - and the data they contain - by backing them up. There are a few ways to accomplish this - some, as How-To Geek explains, are quite complicated - but there is one simple option: You can export your Evernote notebooks.

The export option

To do this, right-click on any notebook saved in Evernote. Then select the “Export Notes” option. Then you're able to export the notebook in any of several formats. If you should happen to lose the notebook or the information it contains, you can simply choose to import the previously exported notebook. This will bring in a new version of the notebook that can act as a wholesale replacement for the notebook that you previously lost.

Backing up your Evernote notebooks isn't overkill. It's Smart.

How safe do you think your data is when you store them in an Evernote notebook? The surprising answer: Not as safe as you might think. That’s because Evernote isn’t a true backup service. It’s a synching service.

Not as safe

This means someone or something could wipe out both the data you’ve stored on your computer or other device and the version of the same data that you’ve stored on Evernote’s servers. And if that happens? That data is gone. Fortunately, the How-To Geek Web site explains how users can back-up Evernote notebooks to provide the utmost protection to their files, photos, reports and videos.

Top protection

You can add an extra layer of security to your Evernote notebooks - and the data they contain - by backing them up. There are various ways to do this - some, as How-To Geek explains, are quite complicated - however, there is one simple option: You can export your Evernote notebooks.


To do this, right-click on any notebook saved in Evernote. Then select the “Export Notes� option. Then you're able to export the notebook in any of several formats. Should you happen to lose the notebook or the information it contains, you can simply choose to import the formerly exported notebook. This will bring in a new version of the notebook that can act as a wholesale replacement for the notebook that you previously lost.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Time to stop them: Windows doesn't have to restart after an update

You know that the updates that Windows automatically downloads are important. They frequently contain important anti-virus protections intended to keep cybercriminals out of your computer and software. Nevertheless it can be annoying when Windows automatically restarts your machine after every update. Luckily for us, the Lifehacker Web site recently covered how you can edit your computer’s registry to keep Windows from automatically restarting after an update.

No more automatic restarts

Stopping the automatic restarts is going to take a little bit of effort on your part. You’ll have to edit your computer’s registry, something not every user feels confident doing.

The process

Begin the process of disabling Windows’ automatic reboots by turning on your computer’s “Start” menu. Next, open your computer’s registry by typing “regedit.” Lifehacker now recommends that you start the registry editor. Then look for this specific line in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU. Click on the “AU” key. This should make this key appear in the right pane. Once this happens right-click on the empty space and select New >DWORD (32-bit) Value. Now, name the new DWORD: "NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers". To end the process, double-click on the new DWORD and give it a value of 1.

Protecting yourself

Now you’re done. When Windows downloads an update, it won’t automatically restart your computer. You’ll need to remember, though, to reboot your computer in the future. Or else, your new updates - and they could be important - won’t take effect.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The challenges of Bitcoin payments

Bitcoins are becoming a popular way for individuals to purchase goods and services online. The question, though, is if your business should accept this virtual currency. Entrepreneur Magazine recently took a look at this issue. Here are the key things they discussed about Bitcoins.

Is it real money?

Individuals purchase Bitcoins with actual money. They then start using these virtual coins to purchase goods and services from online companies. Many companies that work with Bitcoins aren’t quite legal. However, lots of others are. Entrepreneur says that such online vendors as Etsy, Wordpress and Reddit accept Bitcoins.

Safety issues

Bitcoin transactions are secured by way of a process called public key cryptography encryption, according to Entrepreneur. That doesn't mean, though, that all Bitcoin transactions are perfectly safe. Cybercriminals, especially clever ones, can hack Bitcoins. Additionally, there is Bitcoin-stealing malware to be concerned with.

Why take them?

As a small business owner, should you accept Bitcoins? You might need to in the future to work with certain online vendors. There are several advantages, too, to this digital currency. Bitcoin transactions - currently - aren't taxed. In addition, there aren't any fees or charges from banks, credit cards or financial institutions involving such transactions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The best way to stay in power? Try these battery packs

It's happened to everybody. You're on vacation or far from home when your phone, laptop or tablet begins to run out of juice. Thank goodness, you are able to stop this from happening by plugging your devices into external battery packs, a single gizmo that can charge any device you plug into it. The Lifehacker Web site just ranked several of the best external battery packs. Listed below are the site’s findings.

Anker Astro

The Anker Astro tops Lifehacker's list due to the immense power it holds, with each of the 3E, E4 and Pro versions each packing some serious oomph. Lifehacker readers pointed to these models' portability, small size and reasonable price points.

New Trent

The iCarrier and iGeek battery packs from manufacturer New Trent also score points for portability as well as the powerful charges they supply. These units, too, are priced reasonably. One special feature? The indicator light that quickly lets you know just how much charge your New Trent unit still holds. This way, you’ll never be surprised as you travel.

Energizer XP

Energizer is a huge name in batteries, so it is little surprise that its XP series of external battery packs ranks so high among Lifehacker readers. One of the greatest selling points? These units include a wide variety of tips and cables that allow you to charge almost any phone available, even older models.

Should you upgrade to Word 2013?

It’s the big question: Do you need to upgrade to Microsoft Word 2013, the newest version of Microsoft’s popular word-processing program. According to the editors at PC World Magazine the correct answer is definitely yes. PC World just recently ran a feature story praising the newest version of Word, and pointing out several new features that might dramatically boost your productively. Before you decide whether it’s upgrade time, look at these new features that PC World praises.

More Design Options

The primary reason to upgrade to Word 2013? PC World points to the program's new and improved design tab. Word 2013 lets users choose from a wide variety of themes, colors and fonts. And if you discover a certain combination that you might want to use all the time, you can click the "Set as Default" option to return these themes each time you create a new document. Microsoft Word 2013 also allows users to preview a document style before they apply it to the whole document.

Reading Boost

Do you spend considerable time reading Word documents? Perhaps you even spend more time reading than creating documents? Then Word 2013 is undoubtedly for you. As PC World says, the 2013 version of this program now offers a Read option. This feature makes reading Word documents a far more pleasant experience. If you choose Read, your Word document will automatically resize itself so it fits perfectly on your screen. Read even offers navigation arrows that enable you to easily scroll through a document or flip pages.

Making PDFs Less of a Hassle

Word 2013 makes editing and reading PDF documents an easier task, too. First, Word 2013 can open any PDF document. But that's only the beginning. The program also permits you to edit PDF documents without obtaining a third-party application. As outlined by PC World, you can even move images around a PDF document and edit any information found in a table. For anyone who works with PDFs often, it is an amazing new feature.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quick -- What is your business' cybersecurity plan?

If you’re a small business operator, don’t think hackers aren’t attracted to you. Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran a story, relying on data provided by computer security company Symantec, indicating that small businesses with one to 250 employees suffered 30 percent of all cyber crimes this past year. The message here? You do need to establish a cybersecurity plan to protect your small business.


The Entrepreneur story offers some basic steps all small businesses should employ to defend their companies from cyber criminals. The first? Install anti-virus software on your computers. It’s true that this software won’t catch every virus that comes your company’s way. Nevertheless computers are easy targets if you don’t have anti-virus software set up on them.

E-mail Skills

Many hacks start with employees accidentally opening suspicious e-mail messages. That is why, Entrepreneur suggests that small business owners constantly remind their workers to delete any suspicious e-mail messages, even if they are supposedly coming from people they know. Business owners need to emphasize to employees, too, to not click links they find after opening suspicious e-mail messages.

Protect Yourself

Entrepreneur recommends, too, that you employ firewalls at your business. This can prevent hackers from accessing your inbound and outbound traffic. Just as important, firewalls can protect your company from your employees, walling off their access to potentially dodgy Web sites.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Watch out for these bad tech habits

Do you practice bad tech habits? You may think you don’t. But you do you re-use passwords, neglect to back up files or frequently leave your tablet alone and in plain sight? Then you’re guilty of many of the most significant bad tech habits recently uncovered by PCWorld Magazine. In order to protect your devices and yourself, you’ll study these bad habits and then make changes to your own behavior. It’s the best way to protect yourself when computing.

Becoming a target

Your tablets and smartphones are valuable. So don’t make it so easy for thieves to snatch them. So many people practice the bad tech habit of leaving their devices unattended at a coffee shop or restaurant booth when they set off to get refills or another cookie. While they’re gone, thieves could easily snatch their devices off of the table and speedily leave the restaurant. Then there are those people that perform the bad habit of staring so intently into their smart phone screens they don’t spare any attention for their surroundings. It’s easier for crooks to sneak up close to these distracted folks, sock them and then escape with their smart phones or tablets.

Don’t Make Yourself Sick

Bad tech habits may harm your health, too. Perhaps you sit all day hunched in front your computer. This bad posture can result in serious back pain. Additionally, it may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. The remedy here? Sit up straight, take frequent computing breaks and get an appropriate chair that places less stress on your back. On the subject of breaks, another bad tech habit is not taking any. As PCWorld says, your can hurt your eyes, strain your back and blur your thought processes if you insist upon spending the entire work day concentrating on your computer screen. Don't forget to take regular breaks to keep yourself healthy.

Lost Data, Personal Information

Do you use the same password at each and every Web site where you register? This is a especially dangerous habit. What happens if hackers crack that go-to password? How much of your personal info will they then be able to access? Or maybe you never take time to back up your files. PCWorld correctly identifies this as another dangerous computer habit. What if your hard-drive crashes? If you don’t have any back-ups, do you lose your most critical files?

Friday, May 17, 2013

The AP: Scammed by a clever phisher

You would never open a phishing e-mail that asks you to deposit $1,000 to obtain $1 million, would you? And you would definitely never open something from a Nigerian prince needing the funds he needs to flee to the United States, right? But what about the most refined of today’s phishing e-mails? Think you will never be seduced by one of these? Think again. A recent phishing e-mail snared the Associated Press, the nation’s top provider of wire-service news. Given that the AP could become a victim of phishing, so could you.

The AP attack

AP fell victim to a phishing scam organized by a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army. This group was able to take over the news service’s Twitter account, sending out a message that President Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House. This message was obviously false, it still had a significant impact, sending the stock market into a brief but precipitous freefall.

The e-mail

How did this attack succeed? Hackers sent legitimate-looking e-mail messages to AP staffers referring them to what was said to be an important news story in the Washington Post. The phishing e-mail was professional enough so that some AP staffers clicked on it, starting the process that gave the Syrian Electronic Army control over the company’s Twitter account. AP had to shut off its Twitter account as a result.

A warning

It’s tempting to blame the AP for this attack. But the true lesson here is that none of us is safe from the savviest of online scammers. Con artists have advanced past the days of phishing e-mails stuffed with horrendous grammar and sent by “senders” with outlandish names. If you want to protect your online life today, you’ll have to be more vigilant than ever. Scammers are adapting. You’ll need to do the same.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hackers love the iPhone

Mobile devices have always been often considered as more safe. Desktop and laptops, the reasoning goes, are way more susceptible to hackers and cyber criminals. That’s true to a certain extent. But hackers are clever enough these days to compromise tablets and smartphones, too. And there’s one particular mobile device that gets compromised a lot more often than any other. According to a recent story by Business Insider, it’s the iPhone which is the most hackable mobile device.

The most hacked

Business Insider reported on the latest statistics from Web security company SourceFire, which released the report "25 Years of Vulnerabilities." This report charted the Critical Vulnerabilities and Exposures -- also known as CVE -- of a host of software and mobile devices. The CVE is the standard that security companies use when charting cyber-exploits. SourceFire found that 210 CVE reports had been filed on the iPhone. For comparison's sake, Android only had 24 CVE reports.


What are the reasons for this? Why have hackers had such a field day with the iPhone while pretty much ignoring other mobile devices? There isn't any simple answer to this. But Business Insider wonders whether the iPhone might be targeted more often simply because of its popularity. All things considered, the device still maintains popular status in the tech world, and customers still flock to purchase each new version of this device. Having said that, this argument falls apart when examining the growing popularity of Android-powered devices. As per the SourceFire report, the number of CVEs on Android devices actually dropped in 2012 when compared to 2011. And it was just last year when Android’s market share – and the number of Android devices purchased – soared.

Going after the king

A recent interview with the SourceFire report author on the ZDNet Web site proposes another reason for the high number of iPhone hacks: Hacking the iPhone might present a challenge worthy of the most gifted hackers. Consider how Android devices work. They rely on an open platform. This means that developers could easily create malicious third-party apps that users can download themselves onto their phones. That’s not very much of a challenge for hackers. But hacking the iPhone, which does not boast an open platform? That’s a real test of a hacker’s skill.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not all LCD computer monitors are created equal

Is it time for you to upgrade your LCD computer monitor? Guess what? It's not as simple a process as you may think. This is because not all LCD monitors are the same. Some respond quicker. Others do a better job reproducing colors. And, of course, some are simply pricier than are others. If you're in the market for a new LCD monitor, you'll need to have a close look at your computing habits. Do you mostly use your computer for writing reports, searching the Web and sending e-mail messages? Or do you use it watch movies and TV shows? Maybe you use it to create art. All of this matters when you're searching for the right LCD monitor for you.

Size isn't everything that matters

The Lifehacker Web site just recently took a look at the different monitors on the market today. The lesson from this site? Monitors are definately not created equal. Some, for instance, feature lightning-fast screen response times. These monitors are favored by hardcore gamers who want their video screens to move as fast as their thumbs. Others do a incredible job of reproducing colors and boast clear viewing angles. These monitors might work better for graphic designers and other visual artists, according to Lifehacker.


The Coding Horror blog, by writer Jeff Atwood, says that most monitors sold these days are TN models. This is because these monitors are less costly. They also have screens that respond swiftly. But TN monitors aren't perfect. Coding Horror ranks their viewing angles and color reproduction abilities as only average. Users can also pick IPS monitors, which boast excellent color reproduction and excellent viewing angles. Their response times are solid, though not as quick as those of TN monitors. The downside? They are the most expensive monitors out there.

The middle choice?

VA monitors are also well-liked. Coding Horror ranks them between IPS and TN monitors. These monitors feature better color reproduction and viewing angles than TN monitors. They also feature slower screen-response times than do TN monitors. They are more costly than TN monitors are but less than IPS versions.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Phone passcodes are far from hacker-proof

You secure your smart phone with a passcode that you need to enter before it springs to life. But just how much protection will this passcode actually give you? The disturbing answer? Not nearly enough, according to a recent story by the tech Web site Lifehacker. The story details the many passcode exploits that hackers have used recently to compromise smart phones. Fortunately, the story does something a lot more comforting, too. It tells users how to best protect the data on their smartphones.

Passcode exploits

The Lifehacker story highlights the newest passcode exploits which have made it possible for hackers to compromise Apple’s iPhone and the Galaxy Samsung smart phones. The Apple exploit, enabled criminals to get into the iPhone phone app. Hackers didn’t gain total access to phones. Nevertheless they were able to use the app to make phone calls, view pictures and look at or edit users’ contact lists. The exploit focusing on Galaxy smart phones operated in a different way. Hackers could flash the phone’s home screen for just about a second. This gave them enough time to launch apps or start downloading an app that gave them full control over the phone.

Not foolproof

As the Lifehacker story says, none of these problems should surprise smart phone users. Passcodes offer protection, nonetheless they have never been failproof. According to Lifehacker, passcodes do no better a job protecting your phone than passwords or PINs do securing your bank accounts or membership Web sites. Hackers can crack your phone's lock-screen passcode or, in the case of skilled cyber thieves, break into your phone's hard drive to gain access to your data.


To protect yourself, first make sure that your lock-screen passcode is at least complicated to guess. Lifehacker recommends a passcode consisting of letters, symbols and numbers. Next, make sure to encrypt the data that you store on your smart phone. Lastly, consider paying for services such as Prey or Apple’s Find my iPhone. These services give you the ability to track your phone after it’s stolen or you lose it. Even better, it allows you to eliminate the data stored on it, so that hackers can’t reach it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Protecting your privacy doesn't have to be hard

In the era of Facebook and Twitter, you may think that privacy is a thing of the past. However it doesn't need to be. In fact, Forbes recently ran a story detailing some simple steps you can take to increase your privacy in the Internet era. If you don't take these steps, then you've got no one to blame but yourself if cyber criminals gain access to your bank information, e-mail messages or other personal information.

Password Protect

Password-protecting your mobile devices – your tablets, laptops and smartphones – is your first line of defense. If thieves have to first guess your password before they can turn on your iPad or Amazon Fire, the odds are lower that they’ll ever gain access to your personal data. As Forbes says, password-protecting your mobile devices is no different than locking your car doors when you park at the grocery store.

The Power of Google Alerts

To protect your privacy, you might want to find out what people are writing about you online. To make this happen, set up a Google Alert in your name. You’ll then receive a message whenever someone says something about you online. As Forbes says, there is no easier way to track what’s being said about you.

The Sign Out Step

You just completed changing your Facebook page. You've just transmitted money electronically into your PayPal account. What do you do now? Make sure, before leaving the site, that you simply sign out. This is especially important if you're using a computer at a library or other public place. You don't want the next user to see your accounts and gain instant access because you're still signed in. We're all busy. However you are not too busy to remember to sign out.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Google Reader death proves it: Free services don't last forever

This summer, July 1 to be precise, the Google Reader RSS service will vanish. Google is eliminating it, citing a declining user base. That is bad news for fans of the RSS service. But it’s also a learning point: Consumers need to understand that any one of their most favorite cloud-based services can cease to exist. Don’t expect Google Reader to be the last one to do so.

An ever-changing cloud

The cloud is a great service. It allows us to access programs without needing to store them on our computers. However the cloud also isn’t all that permanent. Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo says that the demise of Google Reader should provide a lesson to all computer users on the web: Nothing in the cloud is forever. When Google introduced Reader in 2005, it marketed the service as one that would be around forever. Obviously, it won’t be. And that’s a lesson that consumers need to keep in mind: Nothing in the cloud is certain.

When it’s gone it's gone

This can be considered a downside to the cloud. In the days when software came on discs and we downloaded it to our computers, there was more permanence. Sure, companies would close shop and manufacturers would discontinue software. Nevertheless, you still had access to software, even when the companies behind it terminated it. After all, it was saved on your computer and you still had the discs. This isn’t the situation with the cloud. When something is yanked from the cloud, it's gone.

Issues for Google

Consumers aren’t the only ones facing tough issues with the demise of Reader. Google does, too. As the Economist explains in a recent article, when Google introduces something new, it expects users to flock to it. But why should consumers do that if there’s the possibility that Google will just take away the applications? Getting rid of Reader may have made financial sense for Google. Nonetheless, it may cause consumers to hesitate before embracing the company’s next cloud-based service.

Are you mourning the end of Google Reader?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Worried about security? Time to erase those passwords

We all save passwords and usernames on our browsers. It’s a means to quickly access the membership-based Web sites that we visit every day. Nevertheless, there’s a security risk to this. If someone steals your laptop, this thief would have little trouble opening your favorite sites. And if you’ve saved the password and username combination to your online bank account? Then you could be in some very serious trouble. If you want to improve online security, it might be time to erase those saved usernames and passwords. Thankfully, New York Times tech writer J.D. Biersdorfer just recently presented the steps for doing it on the most widely used browsers.


If you’re a fan of the Firefox Web browser, you’ll be happy to know that erasing saved usernames and passwords is an easy task. If you’re using Windows, first select the tools menu. Next, select options. If you’re relying on a Mac, click on the Firefox menu and then select the preferences option. This will bring up the options box. Once that appears, click the security tab. Next, click on saved passwords. Then click remove all. This makes Firefox forget all those usernames and passwords. If you would like to be more selective, though, you can first choose the view saved passwords choice to hand-select those password/username combinations you would like to erase.


For Google Chrome for Windows, click the "Chrome" menu on the right side of your toolbar. Select "settings" and then select "show advanced settings." Click on the "managed saved passwords" link and choose those passwords you'd like your browser to forget. The process on a Mac computer is similar: Navigate to the "Chrome" menu, choose "preferences" then click "settings." Choose the "show advanced settings" option and, located under "passwords and forms," click "manage saved passwords." Then you can eliminate specific passwords.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and beyond

The steps for eliminating saved passwords are simple for Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, too. First, click the tools menu and choose the safety option. Choose select browsing history. A box will pop up. You’ll see the options passwords and form data. Click the checkboxes next to these. Then click on the delete button. This will eliminate your saved passwords.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why you need to learn two-factor authentication

How much protection do you think passwords provide right now to your company's Web sites, mobile devices and desktop computers? The right answer? Probably not much. Cyber criminals have perfected the art of cracking passwords. And all too often, employees rely on passwords that are easy to guess. This leaves your business vulnerable to cyber attacks. Luckily, there is a solution: two-factor authentication. And, according to a recent story by Biztech Magazine, it's the easiest way to immediately boost your company's ability to guard itself from cyber crimes.

Two steps are better than one

As the name suggests, two-factor authentication requires users to take two different steps to log onto a Web site or device. Usually, people will have to still use a password but will also have to rely on a second device to get into their computers or important Web sites. For illustration, after putting in a password, an employee might have to swipe a smart card, insert a token or use a biometric identifier to continue. This two-step process immediately upgrades a company's online security, according to the Biztech story.

Getting started

Once you decide to implement two-factor authentication, you'll want to make a plan to ensure that the transition is an easy one for your staff. And, as Biztech Magazine says, this begins with selecting the most appropriate second factor. For instance, tokens might work well if the majority of your employees work in a central location. But if your business uses workers that are spread across the country, tokens are probably not the best choice. Same for smart cards: These cards generally don't work with smartphones. If your employees rely on their smartphones to do business, smart cards might be the wrong choice for a second factor.

Take it slowly

Another factor to proficiently launching two-factor authentication? You'll want to take your time. Provide staff members with a window of time to read about the system and ask questions. This will increase the odds that your employees will be on board with the transformation. If you launch the system without providing the proper education, you’ll quite possibly alienate and aggravate your workers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Your small business can write off more tech spending in 2013

Can your small business thrive if you are depending on outdated technology? Probably not. You need current technology today to communicate with your clients and customers, examine sales trends and more successfully handle everything from bookkeeping to payroll. Fortunately, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 includes a hefty tax break for small businesses that put money into new technology. Here's a brief look from BizTech Magazine at how this tax break works and how it can help your small business stay on top of the technology curve.

An important tax break

According to the American Taxpayer Relief Act, businesses can now write off as much as a rather notable $500,000 of new technology and equipment expenditures in 2013. This may provide small businesses with the boost they need to more vigorously update their technology. Businesses, for instance, might elect to upgrade their computer operating systems to Windows 8. Or perhaps they'll make the move to Apple computers. Others might invest in automated bill paying or payroll software. These upgrades will make small businesses more efficient, and boost their chances of beating their competitors.

Help for 2012, too

The tax relief act provides a lot more benefits to small business owners. According to the BizTech story, says that the new law also retroactively ups the total amount that companies can deduct for equipment purchases made in 2012. This amount will be jumping considerably from $139,000 to $500,000. This retroactive move allows business owners to write off more of new tech or equipment investments that they've previously made.

What it means

These higher deduction limits should come as good news to you. You know your business needs good technology to succeed. The higher limits may help you and your business obtain this tech without spending quite as much of your money. And once you're armed with new tech and equipment? Now you have one more tool to help you survive in today's competitive business environment.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Don't leave your small business vulnerable to a cyber attack

Here's what attracts cyber criminals: easy targets. This means that you can leave your small business exposed to a cyber attack if you don't defend your company's Wi-Fi systems with passwords or if you rely upon passwords that are ridiculously simple to guess. In a recent story outlining steps that business owners can take to protect themselves from cybercrimes, Entrepreneur Magazine recommends that you do the small things that might make most hackers move on to less difficult targets.

Encryption Matters

The best defense against hackers? Encrypt your data. This will make it much harder for cyber criminals to access your company’s bank accounts, employee information and credit-card data. Hackers can crack encryption if they're skilled enough. But many will see encrypted data and simply move on to an easier target. Best of all, it’s easy to encrypt your computer data. Simply turn on the full-disk encryption tool that comes with your computers’ operating systems. This tool is known as FileVault on Macintosh computers and BitLocker on Windows. Once these tools are turned on, it will encrypt every file or program on your computers’ drives.


Here’s a surprising fact from the Entrepreneur story: Many businesses end up being the target of cyber crimes only after burglars physically break into their offices and steal their laptops or other devices. Once equipped with your equipment, cyber criminals can potentially access important company accounts and information. That’s why employees should, before leaving for the day, run a cable through the Kensington locks – the small metal loops attached to most computers and laptops – on their electronic devices and lock them to their desks. This may prevent some criminals, obsessed with completing their theft quickly, from bothering with the devices.

Wi-Fi Vulnerability

Often the easiest way for cyber thieves to get into your company accounts is through your business’ Wi-Fi network. That’s why Entrepreneur Magazine suggests you do away with Wi-Fi completely and instead install a wired network. If you can’t do that, as a minimum protect your Wi-Fi accounts with passwords which are difficult to compromise. A good bet? Long passwords consisting of an assortment of letters, numbers and symbols.

Worried about cyber attacks? Take these steps

Think your small business is protected from cyber criminals? Rethink it. Most small businesses are remarkably vulnerable to hackers. It’s relatively easy for savvy cyber criminals to hack into your business’ Wi-Fi account, for instance. From there, it’s an easy process for cyber criminals to steal your company’s data and funds. The good thing is, Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran an article offering tips for small business owners who wish to protect their companies from hackers. The good news? Combating cyber crimes sometimes requires the simplest of steps.

Encryption Matters

Make sure the full-disk encryption tools on your company’s computers are turned on. When they are, these tools encrypt every file or program stored on your computers’ drives. This is significant mainly because hackers prefer to go after easy targets. Once they discover that your company’s key data are encrypted, they may move on looking for easier targets. On Macintosh computers, the encryption tool is named FileVault. On Windows-based machines, the tool is known as BitLocker.

The Lockdown Approach

Most computers have a Kensington lock port, a small metal loop that users can run a cable through to lock them to their desks. If you wish to truly protect your business, require that employees take this protection measure. It may sound silly, but the Entrepreneur story said that businesses are often hacked after burglars break in and steal laptops along with other devices. A cable strapping a laptop to a desk won't stop all thieves. But it might scare away those who want to strike especially quickly.

Wi-Fi Vulnerability

Many hackers break into the Wi-Fi networks operated by businesses. That's why it's important for businesses to protect these networks with passwords that are very unlikely for hackers to crack, normally long codes featuring numbers, symbols and letters. Of course, such passwords are difficult for you to remember, too. Solve the problem by writing down your passwords and storing them in a locked safe or some other secure location.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

If the only person with access to your business' online accounts dies, are you in trouble?

Only one key employee can access all of your small business’ crucial online accounts: your cloud-based payroll software, Twitter account, Facebook account and bank account. That’s fine. But what happens if that employee should die suddenly? Would you know the passwords to your company’s online bank account? What about that cloud-based payroll service? And if you did, are you legally be able to access the online accounts after this employee dies?

A big issue

The Wall Street Journal recently covered this issue on its Web site. It might seem like an obscure matter, something that could never impact your company. But give it some thought: How important has the cloud become to your business? How about the Web? Do you run an active social media campaign, connecting regularly with your customers? You might not be able to access your business’ Twitter or Facebook sites if the only person who knew their passwords has died. Do you have vendors to pay? You might not be able to if you can’t gain access to your company’s online bank account. And what about your staff members? They need to get paid on time, right? They might not if you suddenly can’t open your company’s cloud-based payroll software.

The cloud isn’t fail-proof

The Wall Street Journal says that too many small business owners have a false sense of security when it comes to using the cloud. They don't really worry about losing valuable files or information because, they assume, they're safely tucked away in the cloud. Even so the cloud isn't perfect. It, too, may be at risk of hackers. And since everything kept in the cloud needs passwords, getting access to you important information can be challenging when the one person who knew all those passwords suddenly passes away.


Solving this problem, thankfully, isn’t difficult: You just need to make sure that more than one employee knows the passwords for your online accounts. And also you needs to be equally certain that your important accounts are either registered to your company or more than one staff member. This way, should that key employee die, you’ll always be able to conduct business normally.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why is Evernote growing so quickly?

Can a cult develop around an organization app? If it's Evernote, the five-year-old note-taking and organization application that's growing with amazing speed, the answer is an absolute "yes." Evernote has attracted a growing base of devoted fans, fans happy to spread the news about this application for free, fans that would never consider using any other note-taking software, according to a fascinating feature recently run by BloombergBusinessweek.

Devoted fans

According to the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story, Evernote today boasts over 50 million users, amazing for an app that's only been around for five years. Even more remarkable is the fact that new users are signing at a pace of 100,000 a day. That makes chief executive officer Phil Libin's goal of reaching 1 billion users across the globe seem more feasible than farfetched.

Why so hot?

According to the BloombergBusinessweek story, Evernote currently has more than 50 million users around the world. Plus the number of users remains on the rise. The story says that more than 100,000 new users sign up for Evernote each day. That's impressive. And the BloombergBusinessweek interview quotes CEO Phil Libin as saying that his goal is to reach 1 billion users.

Why the popularity?

In the story, Libin says that he doesn't understand the concept of work/life balance. For home, work is part of life, and something that he enjoys doing. It's why he admits to checking e-mail messages late into the evening. Evernote takes advantage of this changing view of the world, one shared by not just Libin. A growing number of individuals work on the fly, scheduling meetings and interviews around the clock. An organizing program like Evernote is the perfect fit for this lifestyle. And that just might reveal why the app has grown to be so popular so quickly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why one tech writer switched to Android

Are you like technology writer Andy Ihnatko? The writer never thought he would dump his iPhone. As he writes in a newly released column for the Tech Hive Website, he obtained his first iPhone when Apple was introducing its first-generation versions. And has raved about the devices in his tech writing. Yet that didn’t stop Ihnatko from converting recently to a Samsung Galaxy S III. The reason? The Android operating system that powers the phone. In Ihnatko’s opinion, this operating system has grown to be better, powerful and intuitive compared to the system powering iPhones, iOS.

Making the move toward Android

Ihnatko writes that he's long been a fan of the iPhone. He obtained the first generation of the device. And he did it during the period when AT&T offered an unlimited data plan. He still had that unlimited plan before making the choice to switch to an Android smart phone. What's that mean? It indicates that Ihnatko really must like Android to surrender that unlimited data plan.

A great operating system?

Ihnatko writes that he converted to Android, and gave up his unlimited data plan, for one reason: The Android operating system has become a great one. Concurrently, the phones using this system grew a lot more powerful. The draw of Android, then, was simply too strong. Today, Ihnatko subscribes to an LTE data plan with a monthly cap of 5 GB. And he uses his Android phone to make all of his calls.

Two crucial factors

So, why is Android better, as stated by Ihnatko? First, Android phones feature better keyboards, he writes. This is very important for anyone who answers several e-mail messages and sends out several Tweets a day. Then there's screen size. Ihnatko says that the screen on his iPhone now seems tiny compared with the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S III. And in today's mobile world -- when we spend considerable time watching video and accessing the Web with our smartphones, that larger screen means a lot.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Manners matter when you're sending e-mail

<p>E-mail can become overwhelming. It clogs our inboxes and slows us down. In some cases, we pound out responses as fast as possible to clear out our inboxes, giving little thought to what we are writing. This is ill-fated. There is a certain etiquette we ought to follow when sending e-mails. When we forget to mind our manners, we might end up insulting or confounding the recipients of our e-mail missives. Here, then, is a quick look at some e-mail etiquette essentials.</p> <p><strong>Sometimes it is possible to too brief</strong></p> <p>When someone receives an e-mail message that simply says &ldquo;yes&rdquo; or, even worse, "no," they may ponder whether you&rsquo;re somewhat ticked at them. After all, that is a very short reply. When sending e-mail messages, be sure to include a bit more meat to help make your recipients feel better. Rather than just answering &ldquo;yes,&rdquo; why not add a, &ldquo;Thanks for asking&rdquo; or a &ldquo;Hope you&rsquo;re doing well today.&rdquo; That can make a big difference. If your message is brief because you&rsquo;re typing it on a smartphone or tablet, make a special e-mail signature that informs recipients that this is the reason for the short message.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t ignore messages</strong></p> <p>CBS News reminds you to definitely answer back when you receive an e-mail message. Our inboxes are often bombarded with e-mails. It can seem like quite a job to reply to all of them. But disregarding an e-mail message is rude, CBS News says, and may turn people off. CBS News states that sometimes a simple reply of "Thanks" is all that senders require to feel positive that you've received and are thinking about their message.</p> <p><strong>Be careful</strong></p> <p>We receive a lot of e-mails each day, it&rsquo;s tempting to pound out responses and send them back without proofreading and editing them. After all, that removes at least some of your e-mail clutter. However, this may also result in messages full of typos, something that&rsquo;s more than a bit off-putting. If you don&rsquo;t proof your messages, you might accidentally forget to attach that report or photo you are promising. That&rsquo;s annoying for recipients.</p> <p><strong>Be polite and don't shout</strong></p> <p>Whatever you do, do not ever send an e-mail message that is written completely in capital letters. This is whats called shouting, and no one likes it. It&rsquo;s easy to see why: A message in all caps is hard on the eyes. Instead, follow the normal rules of capitalization when drafting your e-mail messages.</p>

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is the U.S. government driving a black market in zero-day bugs?

Stuxnet made big headlines in 2010. That's when online security specialists first discovered this new piece of malware, one powerful enough to attack and control the industrial systems used in the nuclear program being developed by Iran. As a recent story by the MIT Technology Review says, many people today believe the intelligence departments of Israel and the United States teamed up to develop Stuxnet. And that, to many, is unsettling news. It's evidence of a new from of virtual warfare, one in which countries create powerful malware to unleash against their enemies. And the United States seems to be leading the charge.

A more dangerous Internet?

According to the Technology Review story, investigators are continually uncovering new malware that, like Stuxnet, has one goal: to act as a weapon. How many malware weapons have governments across the globe created? Nobody knows the answer to that. But the story does say that governments and companies, including in the United States, are paying big dollars to computer pros who create these malware weapons. That leaves a significant question left unanswered: Are these new malware weapons making the Internet an even more hazardous place?

Watch your smartphone

Don't believe that you can avoid malware weapons by doing most of your computing on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. The reality is, governments are very interested in targeting these mobile devices. First, progressively more people are doing the majority of their computing on these mobile devices. Secondly, mobile devices are particularly susceptible to malware because their operating systems are updated so rarely. The Technology Review story points to Apple, which only updates its iPhone operating system a couple of times each year. That represents a golden opportunity for governments to infect the smartphones of suspects with spyware.

Nothing new?

The Technology Review story ends on a somber note. Perhaps, it suggests, these malware weapons are not so unusual. Countries around the world routinely develop new weapons. Malware exploits might be the latest version of an arms race. However, consumers might be caught in the crossfire of a Web that's suddenly become infinitely more dangerous.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why do we need washing machines that talk to us?

Would you purchase a rice cooker with the Android operating system built into it? What about a dryer or refrigerator? Would you ever consider installing a microwave oven that was partially operated by Android? You might soon get the option, according to a recent story by BusinessWeek. According to that story, Google is installing its Android operating system in many of the wierder places you can imagine. But here’s what’s especially interesting: This move actually makes financial sense for Google.

Android’s rise

The Android operating system has already dominated the smartphone world, conquering out its rivals easily. The BusinessWeek story quotes numbers from research firm Gartner showing that smartphones running the Android operating system accounted for 72 percent of the market share in the third quarter of last year. How impressive is that? The nearest competition, Apple, could only claim 14 percent of this market.

Why the refrigerator?

That still, though, leaves open the big question: Why on Earth would Google want its Android operating system in your rice cooker, microwave oven or washing machine? The easy answer? The more places where Android appears, the greater amount of customer data that Google can collect. And the more customer data that Google collects, the more it can tune its already uber-powerful search engine. Google still makes a ton of money from search. Anything that can help it refine and improve search, then, needs to be viewed as a key investment.

What would it do?

But just how could having Android in your household appliances make your life easier? BusinessWeek covers that, too, in their story. Say you cook lots of rice. And say you cook a lot of different kinds of rice, from jasmine to white to brown. It can be a pain to remember how long to cook each one of these kinds of rice. A smart rice cooker programmed with Android, though, could make this easier. Simply put in your rice for the evening, tell your rice cooker which kind of rice you’ve poured in and sit back. The rice cooker, thanks to Android, will automatically cook your rice for the right amount of time. That might look like a relatively minor benefit. But if all of your household appliances were as smart, imagine the time you’d shave off your everyday chores.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

These tech trends will change your business this year

There was a point in time when e-mail was considered cutting-edge tech. Before that, businesses were considered tech-savvy if they had their own fax machines. Technology, though, is constantly evolving. What companies needed three years ago is nowhere near what they need now to thrive. CIO Magazine, naturally, recognizes this. That’s why the magazine so emphasized the evolving nature of technology when it listed its top tech trends for companies. The trends the magazine’s editors cited will certainly change the way businesses work in 2013. If you’re a smart company leader, you’ll pay particularly close attention to them.

Hospitals and BYOD

The BYOD movement -- bring your own device -- has recently changed the way many businesses operate. By allowing their employees to bring their personal computers and tablets to the workplace, organizations have boosted their workers' productivity and saved themselves big dollars. CIO Magazine, though, predicts that the BYOD movement will this coming year move to hospitals. The magazine's editors state that a growing number of hospitals across the nation will encourage their doctors, nurses and administrators to bring their iPads and laptops to their stations.

3-D Printing Continues to Soar

3-D printing is a marvel to many people. It feels almost like magic. But in 2013, 3-D printing will end up being less awe-inspiring and more of a given. That's great news for the industry. It signifies that a growing number of companies are recognizing the value of 3-D printers. 3-D printers today let businesses fabricate their own plastic parts. That's pretty incredible. It's little surprise that companies will continue to embrace this technology in 2013.

The End of Passwords?

Passwords have always been a technological problem for businesses. Too many of their employees rely on their children’s names, street addresses or favorite basketball team when deciding on passwords. These passwords are easier for hackers to guess. When hackers guess a password, they can quickly access confidential company information. But what if companies instead used biometrics to protect their computers and confidential data? That day is on its way, predicts CIO. In biometrics, companies use such body parts as the iris’ of their workers’ eyes or their fingerprints as replacements for passwords. It truly is a very secure way for businesses to secure their critical data.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mailbox: The killer e-mail app for iPhone?

Here's a simple truth: Most everyone who has a smartphone uses it to read and send e-mail messages. But nobody seems to like their mobile e-mail applications. Tech company Orchestra, though, hopes to change this. The company just recently published Mailbox, its new e-mail client for your iPhone. The iphone app has been receiving rave reviews.


So why has the tech press weighed in so positively on the iPhone version of Mailbox? Probably because it operates like it was designed to be used with smart phones. Numerous other mobile e-mail programs feel like they're simply rehashes of e-mail software applications that work better on desktop or computers. Here's the big difference: With Mailbox, users save, delete or archive messages by swiping, just like they do most anything else using their smart phones or tablet computers. For example: If you swipe an e-mail message to the left, you'll save it. Should you instead swipe to the right, you'll archive it. And when you swipe to the right while holding at the same time, you'll delete an e-mail message. Swipe to the left while holding? A List screen will show up. Using this new screen, you can either label messages or move them to new locations. Put simply, using Mailbox is intuitive.


Another challenge with most mobile e-mail programs is that messages when they open are just too large. There is too much information displayed for the size of the smart phone screen. Mailbox for iPhone, though, avoids this error. When originally showing messages, Mailbox only displays the main parts. Signatures, for instances, are not visible, removing much of the clutter associated with standard mobile e-mail programs. Once you tap an e-mail message, though, it's going to open into an expanded state, showing such information as signatures and the "To" and "From" fields. Positive reviews have remarked that sending an e-mail message from Mailbox for your iPhone feels more like Tweeting. This is excellent for today's smart phone users. Finally, Mailbox earns kudos for the texting feel of its app. Users don't see traditional e-mail messages every time they open messages. Instead, their screens display smaller chat bubbles. Again, this can be a nice feature for mobile users who are more comfortable with texting.

To Do

Mailbox for iPhone also acts as a handy to-do list for replying to e-mail messages. For example, when you read a message, it is easy to assign it a priority. You could choose to have the message reappear in the e-mail inbox, for action, two days later. If the message carries a lower priority, you could request for it to appear again in a month. This supplies users with a simple way to gain some control over their incoming e-mail messages. For anyone who is aggravated by your present mobile e-mail program, it is the perfect time to explore the iPhone version of Mailbox. You just might find that it's the perfect e-mail app on your favorite smart phone.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Need a tablet? Think small

Looking for that perfect tablet? You have an abundance of options today, from the classic iPad to the upstart Galaxy tablets. But which device is really the best to buy? Which gives you top effectiveness at a reasonable price? And, this being tablets we're talking about, which best fits in your purse or book bag? One Web site has a interesting answer: the iPad Mini.

The Benefits of the Mini

The editors at WireCutter selected the Mini for one simple reason: It weighs significantly less than its larger cousin, the traditional iPad. But though it weighs less, the iPad Mini is just as powerful as its larger cousin. This, the editors contend, is all important in terms of judging a tablet. The main benefit of a tablet, naturally, is that it is smaller than a notebook. Consumers can more easily tote it with them on the train, to the gym or to the local diner. A tablet that is easy to carry, then, should really rank near the top of the tablet world. If that very same tablet is equally as powerful as much larger versions? Then that tablet wins recognition as the best on the market, based upon WireCutter.


The editors at WireCutter ran the iPad Mini through a group of tests to figure out just how well it works. What did they learn? That it performs equally as well as any tablet already out there. For instance, even though the Mini has a smaller screen, watching movies with the device is just as impressive as enjoying them on the larger iPad. This holds true for reading books, scanning the Internet and playing games. The bottomline is, the iPad Mini's smaller size is under no circumstances a hindrance to experiencing the tablet.

The right recommendation?

The WireCutter recommendation, though, mustn't be taken as being the last word on the subject. The advice reflects the viewpoint of that Web site's staff. Your thoughts and opinions might vary. Fortunately, you've got plenty of tablets to select from. And after you do your own research, you might find you prefer the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet or perhaps the traditional iPad to the Mini. The WireCutter review, however, is a compelling bit of evidence the Mini is no mere novelty act. It's a legitimate contender in the increasingly jampacked tablet world.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What do you really know about the Internet

Business Insider recently ran an interesting look at the way the Internet works. It's a fascinating article because so many of us are dependent upon the internet in such a short period of time. Most people don't really know how this massive communications and information tool really works. Business Insider, though, revealed several interesting facts about what actually takes place online. As stated by the story, 27 percent of U.S. consumers use their mobile phones and the mobile Internet to shop. Seven percent of U.S. consumers have obtained items from online auctions. U.S. residents aren’t shy about banking on the internet, either. According to Business Insider, 33 percent of U.S. residents use their mobile phones and Internet for mobile banking. Here's a few more of the most intriguing:

Facebook is King

First, take a more detailed look at Facebook. You know it is an extremely useful site for keeping up with your friends and relatives. But did you know, too, that Facebook is the dominant player in regards to online traffic? As stated by the Business Insider story, and data from Hitwise, Facebook accounts for about one in every five Internet page views. That's impressive. So is the number of members that Facebook reached recently: As per Business Insider, the social media site now boasts more than 1 billion users.

The Biggest Data Center is Rising in Utah

Business Insider also noted that the biggest data center in the world is now being built in Utah. The National Security Agency is behind this center, and when the data center is complete, it will store a yottabyte of data. You might not know just what a yottabyte is. But it is huge. It equals 1,000 zettabytes or 1 million exabytes, as reported by Business Insider.

Streaming is on the Rise

If you stream movies and TV shows using Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus, you're definately not alone. According to Business Insider, in excess of 50 % of U.S. resident watch TV on the internet. That is rather amazing considering how relatively new streaming is. The Business Insider story mentioned that residents below the age of 35 have grown particularly fond of using the Internet to deliver their favorite TV shows and movies on their tablets and smart phones.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Build a standing desk to boost your health

If you work inside an office, you may unknowingly be in for health difficulties. According to a recent story by NPR, individuals who spend too much time sitting during the week face a much greater potential for heart related illnesses than do individuals who are more physically active. The NPR story quoted a researcher from South Carolina University who discovered that men that sat more than 23 hours per week were 64 percent more likely to die from heart disease than were those who sat fewer than 11 hours in an average week.

The Good News

Want to prevent potentially terminal heart issues? Why not make your own standing desk? A standing desk is just what it sounds like, a desk at which you stand instead of sit. If you are using a standing desk as your main desk, you will end up eliminating a great deal of those idle hours of sitting. And the best news? You may build your own standing desk with little effort and few bucks. The editors at Website Lifehacker provided an easy recipe for building a simple, effective standing desk. Here's the short version of it.

The Easy Way

If you only want a simple desk, Lifehacker suggests making a standing desk that utilizes Ikea's Utby legs. Though this desk is going to be smaller, it will be possible to fit your laptop, monitor and keyboard easily enough on it. You ought to have space, too, for a lamp and storage. To create this desk, purchase a Vika Amon Top, Utby under frame, Ekby Jarpen shelf and one set of Capita legs. You will find all these parts at Ikea for the total of about $140. Best of all? Based on the Lifehacker story, you can put this desk together with just a screwdriver.

A Bit More Complicated

You don't need to be satisfied with a homemade standing desk having a narrow top. You can easily step up to one using a wider top. And you can get it done while still confining your desk-part shopping to your nearest Ikea. First, as Lifehacker recommends, find two packages of Capita brackets, one Lack shelf, one Vika Amon tabletop and five Vika Byske legs at your Ikea. Then grab your power drill and get busy. Lifehacker ranks this desk as a "medium" one to build, so it ought not to be overly tricky to set up.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Use these three tips to boost your Excel power

Excel is a must-have software program, whether you're using your laptop at home or the desktop in your office. With Excel, you are able to quickly determine whether you're pulling in enough income to pay for your mortgage bill this month. You can instantly determine which of the company's sales reps are or aren't boosting the results. You can calculate which of one's fantasy football team's running backs and wide receivers are getting you the most fantasy points. Nevertheless, many users aren't using Excel to the full capability. Avoid being one too. Read the three tips below to make Excel work better .

Adding non-contiguous values

You know that Excel's AutoSum option is an incredible tool, allowing you to add rows of numbers together fast. However, were you aware that you can use AutoSum to add values that are not contiguous, or adjacent, to each other? The TechRebpublic blog recently explored how to make this happen. As the Web site says, if you want to add the sales numbers of two sales guys -- whose sales numbers aren't listed next to each other -- simply choose one sales person's column of numbers then hold down your computer's "Control" key to pick a second column. Then you can use AutoSum to calculate the sales numbers of these two sales guys.

Preventing bad data entry

What's more frustrating than when your employees enter the wrong kind of data -- say words in place of numbers or numbers with decimal points instead of whole numbers -- in their spreadsheets? Who knows? But the good news is the fact that Excel incorporates a function that can stop this incorrect data entry. As PC Magazine wrote in a recent online story, the Excel feature that is able to stop these problems is termed Data Validation. Basically, the feature will allow you to set the boundaries about what kind of data -- say, text and not numbers -- your spreadsheet will accept. To reach Data Validation, select the "Table Tools" tab. Next, click "Data Validation." You will be now allowed to enter exactly what form of data your employees should enter in your spreadsheet. For example, you can tell Excel to permit only whole numbers and not numbers with decimal points.

Don't let unsaved files ruin your day

You're in the middle of developing a long Excel file when your computer suddenly shuts down. That's a great deal of effort now wasted, right? Actually, no. Excel now comes with a function that allows you to easily recover these "lost" documents. Here's the trick: First, select the "File" tab within your Excel program. Next, select the "Recover Unsaved Documents" option. You can now simply click on the document once it shows up on your screen. On top of that, here's another amazing fact: This will work even for those Excel files which you never even gave a name before you lost them.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reflecting on 2012's big tech stories; predicting 2013's

Technology is advancing rapidly. So it will be little surprise that 2012 will go down as a year that saw technology firm up its hold on the imagination with the U.S. public. Everything from the way the election was covered to the way consumers tackled their holiday shopping was influenced by technology this year. And next year? That appears to be yet another big year in technology.Here's a look back at the tech trends of this past year and look toward what might be the important tech stories of 2013.

Obama's grip on election tech

Pres. Obama relied heavily on social media to spread his information and reach his core group of younger voters during his historic 2008 presidential victory. This Year, technology again proved to be a formidable ally to Pres. Obama. This time around, Obama was aided by a sophisticated "get-out-the-vote" program dubbed Narwhal. This communications system allowed campaign staffers to frequently contact key voters in equally key states. The end result? Obama's core of voters -- whom many pundits predicted would largely stay home this year -- again flocked to the polls. Obama's commanding leads among African-American, Hispanic and young voters helped push him with an easy Electoral College victory. Romney tried his own communication technology, a program referred to as Project Orca. While Narwhal succeeded, Orca failed, rather terribly. The program even crashed for a important chunk of time on election day. No one would debate that technology was the main reason why Obama defeated Romney. But Obama's superior grasp of technology certainly played a role in his election victory. You can bet that future presidential candidates will arm themselves with the maximum amount of technology as possible in coming presidential elections.

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Technology is evolving how the U . S . battles terrorists. Unmanned Predator drones made news headlines in 2012, especially because their deadly strikes claimed a number of the United State's most-wanted terrorists. The drones, obviously, were never without critics. Some worried they would be employed to spy on law-abiding citizens. Others worried that drone strikes routinely kill civilians along with terrorists or other military objectives. What's not up for debate, though, is that unmanned drones will continue to be a significant weapon in the United States' war on terror. As drone technology grows, their accuracy and effectiveness stand to increase.

The coming year

What can shoppers anticipate seeing tech-wise in the coming year? More. That's more consumers embracing mobile computing, turning off their desktop PCs and browsing the web, sending e-mail messages, texting, reading books, watching movies and enjoying music on tablets and powerful smart phones. More also means that consumers will continue to open their wallets for the latest technology. Tablets and smart phones were sizzling sellers during the recently concluded holiday shopping season. Count on seeing a lot more of these mobile devices under Christmas trees next season. And lastly, more means that technology will spread to a growing number of emerging countries. Expect developing countries to flock to social media, laptops and mobile devices simply because these technologies gradually become open to them. People like technology, regardless of where they live.