Top Cloud Computing Services for Businesses

Top Cloud Computing Services for Businesses

Small Business Expert

Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.

As the economy faltered in the late Aughts, many American businesses began to favor cloud computing. That’s not a coincidence. These services let users access servers, applications, storage space, and lots more via the web or a small downloadable desktop file. There’s no need to buy, install, upgrade, or maintain software, nor is it necessary to pair up such solutions with top-of-the-line PCs: the application data and software is stored at a remote server, and streamed to the users’ computers. 

If you have your own business, particularly a small business, you might want to consider looking to the Internet instead of spending money and resources on programs. Here are five of the best cloud computing services for businesses. 

Google Apps for BusinessWhatever you need to help your employees (or yourself) get the job done, Google probably has an app that you can access for free, or for a small fee. Google Apps for Businesses provide web-based emails, calendars, storage, and document management, and it’s all secure and simple to use. You can try out Google Apps for Business free for thirty days. 

DropboxDropbox is a file-hosting service that offers storage and client applications. You can store your documents, pictures, and videos, then bring them up anywhere at any time on any PC, or even smartphones and tablets.   

RackspaceWith Rackspace, you can “rent” as much cloud server space as you need for file and application storage. There’s no long-term contract, you only pay for what you use, and you’re not responsible for managing the server itself. 

Amazon Web ServicesAmazon Web Services offers pay-as-you-go application hosting, storage, backup, and database solutions. It’s a favorite as far as cloud-based computing services go, and its popularity is growing rapidly. 

Windows AzureAzure gives its users access to web applications. It’s had a bit of a rough start, as some of its big-name clients have jumped ship, but mainstream cloud technology is still young. It’ll be interesting to see how Azure rises to challenge its competition. 

Need to find more information about good cloud-based computing services? Read: 

Best  10 Cloud Computing Providers for 2012 at About

5 of the Best Cloud Computing Services at Telegraph

13 Best Cloud Computing Services for Small Businesses at PCMag

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Perhaps the most valuable piece of currency on the Internet today is personal information.  Just as in real life, it needs to be guarded and protected from falling into the wrong hands. Scammers can use nefariously-obtained personal info to open credit card accounts, purchase expensive items and more. And although it’s usually a briefly gratifying experience for the criminal, it can lead to years and years of grief and confusion for the victim. Here are 10 ways to protect yourself from identity theft and keep your online privacy safe:

Identity Theft and Online Safety Tips

 –          Services like Lifelock, Identity Guard or Trusted ID other protection services may be worth the investment for your family if this is something you are particularly worried about.  For as little as $10 a month, these services will keep an eye out for your personal information and in some cases even monitor your credit reports for you.

–          At least once a year, it’s good to check up on your credit reports for you and all members of your family.  This can be done by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is the only site authorized to provide you with the free credit report you’re entitled to by law.  If you find something wrong, you’ll not only want to contact the credit companies directly, but also the proper authorities.  All this information can found at www.ftc.gov.

–          The FBI also recently warned against a surprising danger of posting images online: the use of geolocation tags embedded in the image that can be accessed and show exactly where on earth the picture was taken.  This could be dangerous because you could be unwittingly letting others know where you live and work via these photos you are posting online.  We recommend disabling all “Location Services” on your family’s smartphones, which can easily be done on the Settings menu of most devices.

–          Although this may seem obvious, do what you can to protect your social security number.  Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s really necessary on any form that’s asking for it.  And if it is, make sure you’re comfortable knowing that the place you’re turning it over to, be it a school or a doctor’s office, will adequately protect it.  The last four digits of the number, when combined with the birthdate and place of birth, can be used to generate the complete nine-digit social security number.

–          Practice safe computing habits and password guarding, just as you guard your ATM code when using an ATM machine.  If you’re using a computer on a public network, refrain if possible from checking sites that require login information, and especially avoid doing activities such as online banking.

–          If you or someone in your family starts getting junk mail or credit card applications out of nowhere, that may be a sign that someone is using their identity.  This is an especially important warning flag if it’s a young kid who starts to receive this information.

–          Think twice before sharing your child’s name online or in public.  Whether it’s on your Facebook and Twitter page or on stickers you place on your car, it’s possible that the wrong person can see this information and use this information to steal their identity.

–          It’s important to distinguish that you’re only checking to see if a report exists when you contact the credit companies to see if you have one for your children.  Unless they’ve been a victim of identity theft, they shouldn’t have one, and ordering one could cause the credit bureaus to open on in their name, which is unnecessary.

–          Credit service Equifax recently launched a family plan that keeps tabs on the identities of two adults and up to four children, but it comes with a potentially steep price tag: $29.95 a month.  For that price parents can get e-mail or text message whenever someone tries to use any of the family’s IDs.

–          The first step if you think you are a victim of identity theft is to place a fraud alert with one of the credit companies.  Once you contact them, verify that they will contact the other two credit bureaus about the fraud alert as well.  You can contact any of the three:

Equifax

18005256285

Experian

18883973742

TransUnion

18006807289

In addition to taking steps to close any fraudulent accounts you find about, you’ll also need to file an Identity Theft Report and a Police Report to begin the process of straightening the identity theft out.  For starters, you can download and fill out the FTC Affidavit at www.ftc.gov/complaint.   Once you’ve done that, you can then take that form to your local police department and use it to fill out a police report.

After that, you can call the credit companies and request an extended fraud alert, which will stay in effect for seven years. 

For more tips like this, make sure to check out this helpful guide from the FTC which contains checklists and step-by-step instructions for what to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.pdf

The FTC also offers a comprehensive site discussing many aspects of identity theft, including tips for how to avoid identity theft http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

 

Best Printers and Faxes for Home or Office Use

Best Printers and Faxes for Home or Office Use

With nearly any computer-using household needing a printer, as well as myriad home-based and small businesses, the market for printers and all-in-one devices remains crowded. And whether it’s a simple dedicated machine you are looking for and one that can perform a number of tasks, the revenue model for many manufacturers seems to be evolving into the well-known razor/razor blade model – give them the printers for cheap and charge them lots for the cartridges. There are obviously a number of choices available for anyone in the market for a printer, so here are some of the best printers and faxes available, including standalone or all-in-one units.

HP DeskJet 1000 – This single-purpose, budget friendly print does one thing, and does it well – print documents.  For those who just need a simple device that’s easy to use, this basic HP DeskJet 1000 model from HP costs only $30 as is the perfect choice for those on a budget that just need to print.

Samsung Laser Single-Function Printer – If you’re looking for a simple approach to printing but have a bit more to spend, consider Samsung’s Laser Single-Function Printer.  It has wireless capability, meaning you can stow it just about anywhere.  It also allows for double-sided printing and can print single-sided docs the quick rate of 29 pages per minute.

Canon Selphy CP800 Compact Photo Printer – If you’re looking to print photos, the Canon Selphy CP800 is a great choice that can provide prints in standard size or as small a credit card.  With its 2.5 inch tilt-up LCD screen, you don’t even need to connect it to a printer – you can create prints directly from your memory cards or other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Epson Expression Home XP-400 – While many do want just the ability to print, increasingly families need a device that can perform many functions at once.  The Expression Home XP-400 is also a scanner and copier in addition to a printer.  With space at a priority for many, Epson has cleverly dubbed their Expression Home XP-400 as the “small-in-one” printer, based on its small size.  And it’s also portable, and able to print documents from Apple devices and PCs straight from the cloud.

Brother IntelliFax-2820 – Although e-mail scanning and communication has overtaken faxing, the need for a fax machine still exists for many, and for a few business and professions it’s still the way much communication gets done.  The Brother IntelliFax-2820 focuses on just the fax, and provides high-quality and quick printouts, as well as a built-in phone receiver to allow for both voice and fax calls.  If faxing is still a priority for your home or business, the Brother Intellifax-2820 is a great choice.

Lexmark Pro5500 – This all-in-one printer, scanner, copier and fax machine from Lexmark features a large 4.3 inch tough screen that helps make job selection and set up simple and easy.  Although the Lexmark Pro5500 is a bit bigger than some smaller all-in-ones, it’s great for small businesses with its handle to handle big jobs from a number of different sources simultaneously.

Xerox WorkCentre 3325 – While they’re best known for the large-scale office copy machines, Xerox also has products designed for the home office, such as the WorkCentre 3325, an all-in one printer, fax machine, copier and scanner that can produce and replicate two-sided documents with ease.  Since Xerox has so much printing and copying and experience, it’s no surprise they can create a dependable and fast home printing option as well.  The Xerox WorkCentre 3325 is wireless and small, so can it go nearly anywhere, and reports a printing rate of 37 pages per minute.