Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are increasingly turning to Apple’s popular iPad tablet PC as an alternative to traditional laptops. Given the mobile device’s gorgeous touchscreen display, user-friendly interface, and infinite selection of downloadable apps, which bestow the ability for the system to double as a growing range of gadgets, we can’t say we blame them. Of course, getting the most out of the gizmo often requires investing in some of the best iPad cases and accessories for businesses available out there as well – a point that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re pondering adding the system to your IT budget.
Important to consider: While the iPad isn’t right for all businesses or industries, it can make a reasonable complement to or replacement for desktop and laptop systems in certain cases, meaning that it’s vital to consider your firm’s needs and high-tech usage patterns before buying. And, of course, recognize the device’s limitations, as its virtual keyboard, limited battery life and suite of software programs (in some cases less robust than those you’d enjoy on a traditional computer system) may not suit your company’s requirements. However, the following add-ons can help mitigate some of these issues, and bestow additional features onto the iPad, which may make the decision somewhat easier.
As you’ll see in our latest column for Inc. magazine, the range of iPad cases, accessories and add-ons continues to grow and expand in new directions – many highly beneficial for today’s business owner.
This leather carrying case has an integrated Bluetooth keyboard and folding kickstand. Beyond the obvious benefits of protecting your device and giving you a more comfortable way to type, it’s also elegantly designed. Heck, it’s even fashionable. Be prepared to pay for the style, however: Units don’t come cheap.
Digital cameras still produce better images than smartphones and tablets on average, especially under dimly-lit conditions. That’s why you might want to pick up this connection kit, which can import photos and videos onto the iPad via your camera’s USB cable or SD card. Support for JPEG and RAW images, and SD and HD video formats (H.264, MP4, etc.), make it especially handy for social media campaigns or those needing to capture low-light shots at product demos or events.
An all-in-one solution for mobile professionals, this “Bluetooth keyboard speaker system” (read: full-service workstation) provides a physical keypad, stereo speakers, and two USB ports for device charging. Using it, you can videoconference, play music while working, and recharge mobile gadgets all while you’re getting work done.
For more of the best iPad cases and accessories, please visit Inc. magazine.
Although it’s quaint to think of working together with someone online on a document or video project as something that can be done while sitting side by side on the same computer, most online collaboration involves the sharing of data and information across separate computers. And whether it’s a problem with large files or trying to decipher multiple edits being done in a parallel, the need for streamlined online file sharing is important for families, individuals and businesses. Thankfully, a number of apps, cloud computing solutions and Web services can teach you how to share data online in seconds flat.
Remember the old trick you used to use where you would e-mail yourself important documents prior to a presentation or meeting to make sure you could at least access them somewhere electronically should we need to make edits? There’s no need anymore, thanks to the rise of wireless networks, mobile devices and cloud services, which make the practice seem woefully outdated. Here are 7 better ways to share data online that don’t involve e-mail attachments.
- GoogleDocs – All you need is a Google account, and you can collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in the cloud. Google Docs eliminates worries over “version control” with quick, automatic saves that ensure that anytime anyone access the document, they’re seeing the most current version. The main drawback with Google Docs is that the functionality of their document and spreadsheet programs is rather limited, although the service does a good job of providing basic functionality and similarity to Microsoft’s popular Office products.
- Microsoft Office Web Apps – Since many folks are most well-versed in Microsoft’s Excel, Word and PowerPoint programs, it’s great that the company has found a way to allow these to be shared online collaboratively. Using only a Windows Live ID (and a valid license for Office products), you can store, edit and share your documents online the way they were created.
- Acrobat – Adobe’s file sharing solutions are less focused on group collaboration and more on interaction. Although the firm does allow for manipulation of their proprietary .PDF docs, it also provides a robust suite of web forms, online signing apps and even large-file sharing services that make it simple to share data online. Although each service does offer a free, limited trial, there are paid versions which allow for deeper and unlimited form creation and sharing.
- Dropnox – Dropbox allows users to upload large files and e-mail a link to others where they can download them, or collaborate and share using cloud folders whose contents synchronze across users’ desktops. It offers a decent amount of space for free (2GB), with bonuses for referring new sign-ups. Depending on your usage, you can update to 50GB or 100GB plans for around $100 per year or $200 year respectively, or choose a more serious, customizable option if your needs are greater than that. Dropbox makes file sharing extremely simple, and doesn’t require passwords for your recipients to download.
- YouSendIt – A service that lets you upload large files then send them to coworkers and family members as simple web links. YouSendIt’s paid programs are more impressive than the free service, although if your file is less than 50MB big, then YouSendIt Lite is a nice version. But for files larger than that, you’ll need to spend either $100 or $150 per year to receive greater storage, control over expiration dates, and even tracking results in the YouSendIt premium ProPlus package.
- Box.com – Box.com offers 5GB of free file storage, and offers a number of other user-friendly features, such as the ability to upload entire folders with of data and files at the same time. It also offers apps that are maximized for mobile devices, and provide online document collaboration as well. This is a great solution for businesses large and small that need a common drive for their materials that can be accessed by many different people from many different locations. Plans start at $15 per user per month, but the company also provides customizable options and quotes for businesses and users with greater needs.
- Google Drive – Google is attempting to make “cloud storage” simple, easy and understandable for casual users with Google Drive. Its simple drag and drop interface and connection to users’ Google e-mail accounts just may help them succeed. It’s a great free option, with up to 5GB for free to store photos, resumes, school projects and more.
Experts estimate that around 90% of all e-mail is spam, with some placing the figure even higher. Now consider that statistics, extrapolations and research by the Radicati Group estimate the number of emails sent per day (in 2010) to be close to 300 billion. If that much of these millions and trillions of message are indeed spam and viruses, this means that more than 3 million spam e-mails were sent EVERY SECOND of the day – and that was two years ago, before smartphone and tablet PC usage became meteoric. Needless to say, learning how to stop spam, phishing and unwanted emails is becoming an increasingly vital topic.
But first, a bit of background info: The goal of spammers is to get their unsolicited messages in front of as many people as possible, increasing the chances that some of them will click contained links and expose their personal information, make junk purchases or fall for whatever other scam they’re pushing. And just as companies such as McAfee and Norton work to stop it, so too are spammers working hard to create new ways to circumvent any spam filters or other restrictions. On the bright side, a growing number of e-mail programs such as Yahoo! and Gmail are doing an increasingly good job of filtering out a lot of junk e-mail automatically.
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and Facebook further recently announced that, despite the fact they are corporate rivals, they’re uniting to fight spam and phishing. Working together with major companies like Bank of America and PayPal the e-mail providers announced the formation of a technical working group called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). The idea is that these e-mail providers will work with major companies on the back-end to make sure that any e-mail that says it’s from them really is. However, for those hoping to keep their inboxes free of junk in the interim, here’s how to give spam the cold shoulder.
10 tips to help identify, control and stop spam and unwanted email
- When you first set up an e-mail account, protect it and use it only very selectively. Although companies promise not to give out e-mail addresses to others, it’s amazing to see the amount of spam an e-mail address can generate once spammers know it’s active.
- Don’t post your e-mail address in its normal form on a publicly accessible Web page. Instead, post something along the lines of jane (at) doe DOT com.
- Luckily, most major e-mail programs offer a great level of basic spam protection, so use a reputable online mail program for your workplace or home which should be able to catch most of the unwanted e-mail.
- Be aware also that spam exists outside of e-mail as well. Whether in the form of direct messages on Twitter or likejacked stories on Facebook, users need to be on guard when using social networks, as well. If something seems fishy or weird – don’t click it!
- Resist the urge to attempt to “unsubscribe” to spam. Replying to messages will often do nothing more than confirm that your e-mail address works for the sender, leading to more spam. Instead, remember to use (and teach kids to employ) the “Report” or “Mark as Spam” button from their e-mail program.
- Remember that you should be leery of any e-mail or other communication received from someone that you don’t know. If you don’t know who an email’s from, don’t click it!
- Check the To: and From: fields in an e-mail if you think it might be Spam. If there are other addresses on the To: line, it’s likely spam. Additionally, e-mails sent from addresses that contain large strings of numbers in them may be a good indicator that spam is present.
- Hover over links to make sure their destination leads where it says it does. And just because links match doesn’t mean to click on them – or that you can verify if it’s a legitimate site by doing so. If you have questions, instead of clicking the link, input the URL into Google and see what comes up, and – if supposedly contacted by a business or service provider – surf on your on to its official website (don’t click on the contained link!) and contact representatives using the number on actual corporate HQs.
- If friends’ e-mail addresses are suddenly sending you spam, make sure to contact your friend via a different method and let them know their account has been compromised. This seems to especially happen with Hotmail users, and often simply changing the password puts an end to the unwanted e-mailing.
- To help the Federal Trade Commission control spam, forward it to email@example.com.