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

Hackers aren’t shy about targeting small businesses. They know that the majority of businesses are vulnerable to cyber crimes. It’s not overly difficult for smart hackers to break into the credit-card accounts or bank accounts of small businesses. Many have no difficulty accessing employee facts such as their Social Security numbers. Fortunately, small business owners do have a tool to use against cyber criminals: common sense. Entrepreneur Magazine recently ran a feature story providing tips for small business owners who want to protect their businesses from hackers. Below are a few suggestions from the story.

Encrypt your Data

Entrepreneur recommends that you first encrypt all of your significant data, anything from bank routing numbers to credit-card account information to employee Social Security numbers. Hackers want to steal these records. It’s how they ultimately drain money from your small business. Entrepreneur’s advice? Turn on the full-disk encryption tools that are included with your computer’s operating systems. On Windows, this tool is labeled BitLocker. On Macintosh computers, it’s known as FileVault. The tool, once activated, will encrypt every file and program on the drive.

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 your employees take this protection measure. It might 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 Protection

Often the easiest way for cyber criminals to gain access to 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, at least protect your Wi-Fi accounts with passwords which are difficult to compromise. A good bet? Long passwords consisting of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

These IT projects will boost your business in 2013

If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying. That’s why it’s important to stay on the lookout for new ways to grow your small business. There is one area, though, where small business owners often fail to look for growth strategies: IT. Yes, you can grow your business’ revenue by investing in IT. Small Business Computing.com provides a roadmap, listing several IT projects to help make your business and employees more efficient and productive.

Bring Wi-Fi to your business

A growing number of businesses permit their staff to bring their own electronic devices – everything from laptops to tablets – to their cubicles. The reasoning driving this movement: When people work on laptops and tablets that they know well, they work more proficiently. But allowing your employees to participate in the bring-your-own-device movement doesn’t mean much if your office isn’t prepared with a reliable Wi-Fi network that allows your workers to access the internet, send e-mail and post to social media sites while at their desks. Make installing a powerful Wi-Fi network in your office a top priority for 2013.

Ultrabooks

Ultrabooks are outstanding tools. They’re not as cumbersome as traditional laptops and far more powerful than Netbooks. They can also help your salesforce bring in more business: They can take their Ultrabooks home with them or on the road when they’re traveling to work on reports and presentations. They can run multimedia presentations for potential customers. And Ultrabooks are more affordable than ever today. If you want your employees to reach their full potential, equip them with Ultrabooks.

No more Windows XP

Do you still have computers running the Windows XP operating system? That’s a mistake. As Small Business Computing.com highlights, Microsoft will not provide technical support for this operating system as of early April 2014. The company will also no longer distribute regular security updates for the system as of this time. Running Windows XP, then, means that not only will your employees be working on a decade-old operating system, but their computers will also be highly susceptible to virus attacks. Make the smart move and upgrade to a more current Windows operating system.

Enhance your Windows 8 experience with right peripherals

Windows 8 represents a dramatic change for Microsoft’s venerable operating system: It’s created to work not just with mouse and keyboard but also with a touchscreen. But many users who upgrade to the new os aren’t going to be running Windows 8 on a touch screen. They will be relying on older computers that still operate the old-fashioned way, with mouse and keyboard controls. Then there are tablet users, users running Windows 8 only on tablets are not receiving the full Windows 8 experience. There are some functions that run better with mouse and keyboard control. That doesn’t mean, though, that owners who rely either on tablets or traditional computers won’t be able to use the many features built into the new operating system. They can. They only have to buy the right peripherals. PC Magazine recently ran an article outlining exactly what these peripherals are.

Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard

PC Magazine points out that the Microsoft Wedge is not merely a portable keyboard. It’s also an indispensable tool to allow tablet users to get the most of the Windows 8 experience. For one thing, the keyboard provides a better typing experience than your tablet’s onscreen keyboard. Secondly, Windows 8 features are included in the keypad. The cover becomes a tablet stand, allowing you to approximate the desktop experience.

Logitech T650 Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad

Want to access all those touch-screen features incorporated into Windows 8 without having to get a tablet or other touch-screen device? Try the Logitech T650 Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad. The product works so well the editors at PC Mag have made it their top choice for Windows 8 computer mice.

Kingston DataTraveler Workspace

The Kingston DataTraveler Workspace is a truly impressive device. It looks like a typical USB drive. However actually holds Windows To Go, a portable Windows 8 operating system. You heard that right, using this device you can now boot up Windows 8 on any PC. It’s a easy way to enjoy the Windows 8 experience while you’re on the road.

A Little Bit About Windows 8

Much of the tech press has reported about Windows 8, although it has only recently come out. This is good for you, as you can learn a little of the ins and outs before you use it. One article we found particularly interesting was one written by InfoWorld’s J. Peter Bruzzese. It covers several useful features about Windows 8. We have highlighted a few below.

The charms bar

The charms bar is essentially a shortcuts bar that exists on the right side of the screen in Windows 8. An example of a shortcut available to users is that by clicking “settings” then clicking “power” they can put their computer to sleep. The charms bar has several settings for searching, switching to the Windows 7 desktop, if you liked that better, and for sharing.

Retrieving lost files

What’s worse than losing a file? Not much with regards to computing. Fortunately, Windows 8 can help. The operating system comes with a new way of saving copies of files that lets users recover previous versions if their current file is lost or damaged. This feature works in much the same way as does OS X’s Time Machine utility.

Windows on the go

Here’s an especially nifty feature: With the Enterprise Edition of Windows 8, users can put their entire Windows environment on a USB drive and then take it with them. They can then pull it up on any PC that is compatible with Windows 7 or 8.

Some Alternatives to Microsoft Word

Using a word processor ought to be easy, right? All you do is type, right? Microsoft Word is the most commonly used word processor and it’s not very simple. While some people enjoy the range of features of Word, others don’t need all the extras.

Too many features with Word?

Because Microsoft Word has so many features it may be slow, and some of the features are applied automatically to your document. This can be annoying; what if you don’t want a specific word capitalized and Microsoft Word keeps capitalizing it? Also, it underlines phrases it thinks are grammatical errors even if they aren’t.

If you do not use all of the features of Word and are looking for the best alternative, there are many out there. The best thing about them is that they don’t cost anything.

Free Word alternatives

One of the greatest word processors on the market, other than Microsoft Word, is WordPad. This program comes preinstalled on Microsoft-powered desktops and has evolved considerably since it’s release on Windows 95. What started as a very bare-bones text editor, now has most of the features that most people use when in Word. To access this program: Navigate to the Windows’ start button, go to “All Programs.” WordPad may be found in the “Accessories” file.

Word’s online competitors

An online program that may be even better then WordPad is OpenOffice.org Writer. It offers most of the features of Word and is highly intuitive. If you are looking to explore some alternatives to Word, OpenOffice.org Writer may be worth a shot.

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Screen ADD: What It Is And How To Fight It

Do you have many tabs open at once, while working on a spreadsheet, and a report? If the answer is yes, then you might have computer-screen ADD. It’s become more and more common as people often have more than one responsibility, particularly if they work for a start up. The biggest issue with this is that if you are working on too much at once, you can spread yourself too thin.

Computer-screen ADD hinders you from truly concentrating on one thing and finishing it. Moreover it can be challenging to prioritize your tasks and get the most important ones done first as you are distracted by all the other minor ones.

This can utterly wreck your productivity. Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do to overcome this. Read about them below.

Resist the minimization urge

First, never minimize windows. This can be difficult at first. By minimizing windows, you can tackle numerous projects at once. However, if you don’t minimize anything, you’ll be forced to react to issues immediately. Rather than minimizing that business report and forgetting about it until tomorrow morning, you’ll have to proof it immediately. Instead of shrinking that email message about setting a meeting later in the week, you’ll need to take care of it now, actually setting up that meeting. You can see how this “no-minimization” rule can force you to become a more productive person: It makes sure that you take care of issues and jobs promptly, not at some unspecified future time.

Email filters

This may seem too easy to be helpful, but by creating some filters that move, for instance, emails from your boss into your inbox, and emails from everyone else into a second inbox, you’ll be forced to pay attention to the most important ones. You will be surprised at how often you skim over more essential emails because another one is easier to deal with, or more fun. These things can just be distractions. It’s more helpful to focus on the important ones and when you have time, get to the less important ones.

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Making your Facebook Experience more Efficient

Facebook is a great way to put things off. Don’t want to read that business report? Why don’t you log onto your Facebook page? Not in the mood to put the finishing touches on that PowerPoint presentation? Now’s a great time to post regarding your upcoming family trip to Disney. But as good as you may well be at procrastinating with Facebook, the odds are good that the following three tips can boost your time-wasting skills.

Filtering Friends

Have some Facebook friends that always clutter your news feed? If it’s not in regards to what they’re eating that day, then it’s about all of the articles that they’ve read – or maybe even their opinion on their favorite reality show. Without de-friending this individual, there is a way that you can get rid of the clutter.

Facebook helps you restrict your news feed to things that you want to read. All you need to do is locate an update from this prolific Facebook friend, click the arrow that will appear when you hover over that update with your cursor, then choose to “unsubscribe from status updates” in the menu that will appear.

Extending Messages, not Friendships

Another little known tip is that you can send messages to individuals who aren’t Facebook friends – of course, this requires that their settings allow this. To accomplish this, all you need to do is navigate to their Facebook profile page, then click on the “Message” button that’ll be located on the upper-right corner of their page.

Also, are you aware that you can connect Facebook Chat to other services? It’s true. If you’re a Hotmail user, you can link your Windows Live profile to Facebook. This lets you talk with online friends from your mail window. You can do the same with instant message services such as Yahoo messenger. Simply search Facebook for information about how you can connect your chat programs to the service.

Microsoft is Inspiring Innovation with the Kinect

It’s been some time since Windows was thought to be cool but the Kinect may change all that. The Kinect is a voice and motion-sensing device that was initially created as a feature for the Xbox gaming console.

Microsoft in February launched Kinect for Windows. This version of the device works with, of course, Windows-operated personal computers. Now a number of users are putting the device to work in surprising ways.

Innovative Uses for the Kinect

Earlier this year the Chief Marketing Manager for Nissan North America created a virtual tour of the Pathfinder’s interior at the Chicago Auto Show. The only thing that was physically presented was the outer shell of the Pathfinder, but participants could see the up-graded interior on a large screen using the Kinect.

Microsoft is also encouraging companies to make use of the Kinect imaginatively by working with them to create custom Kinect applications. Nearly 350 companies today are working with Microsoft in this manner. As an example, Boeing uses the device to create virtual tours of its 737 jets. Medical providers at a hospital in Canada are also using the device’s gesture-recognition to swipe through CT scans, eliminating the risk of touching germs on a keyboard or mouse.

Kinect: A Solid Hit

The Kinect is a hit for Microsoft. Last year the device helped turn the Xbox 360 into the year’s best-selling computer game console. In fact, Microsoft has sold over 18 million Kinect devices since November of 2010. It makes sense then, that a version created especially for Windows would be a hit, too.

It might seem hard to believe, but Windows and its creator could have actually found something that’s not only practical, but cool, which can do nothing but good for their reputation.

Photoshop is Expensive: Here are Some Alternatives

Businesses can use Adobe Photoshop to generate professional marketing material easily. It is a very robust program with many features so it’s no surprise that it can cost over $600, depending on the version. Many small business owners don’t want to invest this much, and they don’t require all the features that come with it. However, there are some alternatives to Photoshop that are economical or free.

These solutions are not quite as powerful as Photoshop but they offer enough of the elements to be beneficial to the small business owner. This is a list of three that make photo-manipulation easy, without straining the wallet.

GIMP

GIMP is very user friendly and contains most of the features from Photoshop that a business owner might need to create marketing material. The beauty of GIMP is that it’s completely free!

Paint.NET

Did you ever use MSPiant? It was included with your Windows operating system and was very basic. Paint.NET is its successor and is much more powerful then its forerunner. One fantastic aspect for designers is an unlimited undo button. Paint.NET is a free program; the only negative about it is that it only works on Windows machines.

Picnik

Picnik is fast, free, and easy to use. It works on the Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems and you don’t need to download files to use it. It has some interesting special effects as well, making it a well liked photo-editing program.

In the end, if you’re searching for a program that allows you to create professional marketing material, it is not necessary to spend a lot. These programs will let you accomplish this task at no cost.

The Up and Coming Windows Phone

Microsoft is a household name. And Bill Gates is arguably one of the most important names in the technology field. But has Microsoft ever been “cool”? Not really, in the eyes of consumers it’s always fell a tad short of hip, but Microsoft’s new software for smartphones may alter the way the organization is viewed.

Microsoft has long fought an industry reputation as a sort of stodgy dullard. There is a decent list of unsuccessful Microsoft products. Remember the Zune music player? Maybe not. What about the Kin phone? That flop has long vanished from the minds of most consumers.

Windows Phone software, though, seems to be a hit among the technology press. Many media critics are saying that Windows Phone is probably the best looking and performing smartphone operating systems currently available. That’s heady praise for any company, not just Microsoft.

Windows Phone gets praise for its easy to use interface, and its fresh look. Users have easier access to social networks the in the past, the tiles on the home screen come to life when friends update their Twitter of Facebook keeping users up-to-date.

It is intriguing that even with all these features, Windows Phone hasn’t been a big seller. This may be, in part, a result of the phones which use Windows Phone as an operating system, many people think they are bland. Another contributing factor is that most wireless providers push iPhone and Android devices.

The Windows Phone, though, provides some hope for Microsoft’s attempts to capture some cool. Certainly, big sales and ubiquitous products are important, but a little hipness never hurt a company, either.