Jun 14th, 2009 No Comments

Inspirational video – entrepreneurs can change the world

I don’t know anything about this company, but I love their little video called “Entrepreneurs can change the world.”

Sometimes we all need a reminder that our grandparents, parents and many others probably struggled more than we have. They worked hard and generally left the world a little better than the one they were given. Check out this video, maybe it will awaken your inner entrepreneur and encourage some fresh thinking about your own life and business. Drop us a note if you feel motivated.

The company behind this is called Grasshopper and they provide phone services. Check them out. Anyone that can make a cool video like this is worth looking at.

Jun 13th, 2009 No Comments

It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your backup is?

Sorry to be a downer at the beginning of summer, but this is important so pay attention for a few minutes. How long has it been since you made backups of important files? If you make regular backups, have you checked them to be sure they really work to recover your data? Are the only backups in the same room as the original files?

A friend called for help last week. Her computer picked up a nasty virus that left the Windows XP machine unable to boot. It was an older computer that was about due to be upgraded anyway so she bought a new model. She had nightly backups of the most important files, documents, accounting and tax records, and things like that so she was up and running quickly with no stress.

However, she had many gigabytes of photographs, videos and music that were too big for her to back up conveniently so the only copy was on the virus-infected, internal hard disk. We solved that problem by plugging her bad Windows drive into one of our Linux machines and copying the files to an external USB drive.

After solving her problem we went shopping and found that large-size backup drives have gotten really cheap. Our first stop was Staples. They have a 1 TB external USB drive for $149. A 1.5 TB drive is only $179. After that we dropped in at a new Best Buy that just opened yesterday. I don’t know if this is a short-term special, but they had a 1 TB external USB drive for only $119. That’s a lot of storage for the average user and at that price everyone can afford backup.

iDrive Backup Solution

iDrive Backup Solution

Another backup option that you should consider are the “cloud” storage providers that put your important files on their servers in a data center somewhere. That’s really good because it protects your valuable data from flood, fire, vandalism, etc. Two companies to check out for this service are Mozy and iDrive. These services are very reasonable – for about $5/month (both Mozy and iDrive will even give you 2GB for free!) you can have off-site storage for your most important files.

The solution I prefer is a combination of local and remote backup. Keep local copies of everything on one or more large USB drives. Also keep remote copies of the important stuff.

Whatever you do, have a plan for backup. It doesn’t cost much and will eventually save you a lot of time and money.

May 9th, 2009 No Comments

Take a personal Wi-Fi hotspot on the road with MiFi

MiFi portable Internet hotspot

MiFi portable Internet hotspot

UPDATE: As of early June the MiFi is also available from Sprint.

We usually recommend Sprint in the US because of their fast data network, but Verizon has a really interesting new device coming out soon that will make us get a Verizon account for the first time ever. This little thing is a wireless Wi-Fi router, like the one in your home or office, but it has a rechargeable battery and it connects to the Internet through Verizon’s 3G cell phone network.

You can now have your own personal hotspot, for multiple Internet users, wherever you need it. Think about that for a minute. Now your team has Internet access anywhere:

  • remote or outdoor job sites
  • conferences and trade shows
  • a sales presentation where you don’t have time to figure out the customer’s network

How often have you walked into a customer’s conference room and then had to crawl under the table in a skirt looking for the network connection? How often has the customer said “Sure we have wireless Internet” only to find out that you can’t get connected, as valuable presentation time is wasted?

David Pogue of The New York Times was the first to get his hands on the MiFi. Read his initial review here. David’s followup comments are available on his blog.

Verizon doesn’t have any information on their Web site yet, so we’ll have to wait and see about features in the router, battery life, Wi-Fi signal strength and more. But if this is as good as it looks, Verizon has us as a new customer.

Quick Followup:

A couple of days after writing this Sprint announced they would also be offering the MiFi, starting early in June. Read their press release.

Apr 10th, 2009 No Comments

Common questions about online marketing

We answer a lot of questions every week about online marketing. Those conversations usually start with something like: Why doesn’t my Web site show up in a Google search? Why do my competitors all rank above my Web site? Why don’t I get any leads from the Internet? The leads I get from the Internet are all spam e-mails so why should I waste time trying to get more?

These are not simple questions to answer and usually involve a combination of technical issues (design, coding), content and financial reality (limited marketing dollars). But you might be surprised at how much can be done with a relatively small budget, and some regular attention to updating your information.
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Mar 10th, 2009 6 Comments

Firefox becoming the Swiss Army knife of software

The Firefox Web browser is quickly becoming the only software you really need on your computer. And that will make lots of people happy because it will simplify their lives.

Firefox showing my current add-ons

Firefox showing my current add-ons

The online replacements (think Google Apps or Zoho) for your basic desktop office software like word processing, spreadsheets, project management, accounting, and e-mail are getting good enough to replace their desktop cousins. They work in Firefox and any other Web browser, saving users the trouble of buying, installing, and constantly upgrading their programs. But where Firefox really outdoes the competition is the huge collection of "Add-ons." There are thousands of add-ons available at the Firefox Web site. These add-ons can replace almost all the other software people normally have installed on their computers.
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Feb 27th, 2009 1 Comment

Convenient backup for Google Gmail

We have been proponents of Google’s mail service almost since the day it was announced. Low cost (or free), huge storage space, secure IMAP, plus all the resources of Google to keep making it better. Over the past couple of years we’ve helped a number of companies move off of costly private mail systems, and everyone has been happy with the result.

When Gmail is offline

But, no matter how big Google, Amazon, Yahoo, or anyone else gets, or how much money they have, their services will eventually go down. Volumes have been written in just the past week about Google’s Gmail outage. Read the official Google blog post, or yesterday’s Wall Street Journal story.

So this seems like a good time to encourage our readers to take time this weekend to pick up some new ideas to help make your e-mail more reliable, and use a nice free program to back up all of your Google mail.
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Feb 20th, 2009 3 Comments

Social media and your business

Twitter logo


Everywhere you look these days there are stories about social media in general, and Twitter in particular. Just a few examples are: Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age (here, here, here, and many more).

Nobody knows where this is all heading and there isn’t any road map to help guide your particular business. But there are a few things that are already clear:
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Feb 16th, 2009 No Comments

More criticism of annual employee reviews

We’ve written about the dreaded employee performance review before. NPR’s Morning Edition today had a story about the annual performance review process. The transcript should be online to read soon, but you can listen to the piece online now: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100746960