Web users just can't get enough bandwidth--wonk talk for Internet access speed--and these days, choices for high-speed access are proliferating. Want to know if your part of the country offers something speedier than 56 Kbps? Hop over to http://www.getspeed.com , where you enter your ZIP code, street address and phone number, and, in a jiff, you see on-screen exactly what choices you have in cable modems, wireless access and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). All will speed up your online access rates to at least 50 times that achieved by a conventional modem. Even better news is that prices for increased speed are tumbling. Clickable links at getspeed.com transport you to providers in your area, where exact terms of deals (costs, contract length and so forth) are spelled out.
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Face The Fax
Faxing may be going the way of the dodo bird, but it's not extinct yet--so you still need a fax number. The good news is, now you can get one for free, with a visit to eFax. Complete the short sign-up form, download the viewer software, and you'll be ready to receive faxes. Since faxes come to you as e-mail attachments, they can be retrieved wherever you are--there's no more wondering what faxes have piled up in your inbox back at the office.
The hitches: eFax is advertising-supported, so whenever you look at a fax, you see an ad. Also, phone numbers are randomly assigned, so you may get a number in a distant area code. Ads are fairly unobtrusive, however, and as for the area codes, with so many new and "overlay" codes, who knows where any phone number is from anymore?
Want to choose your own area code? Sign up for eFax Plus at $2.95 a month. The premium service also throws in optical character recognition (OCR) software that allows for easy conversion of incoming faxes to text, and a "preview fax" button lets you quickly view a few pages of incoming faxes so you can decide whether to receive, delete or postpone until a later time.
For years now, syndicated columnist Jane Applegate has been the friendliest, smartest voice in newspapers when it comes to small-business issues. With ApplegateWay, she puts her advice online in a Web site worth a look by any entrepreneur. Click on Columnists, and you'll find articles by Applegate as well as a small-business-savvy lawyer, tech experts and more. Probably the site's jewel, though, is Expert Network, which features in-depth interviews with leading experts in e-commerce, Internet marketing, customer service and more.
Who's doing what online
Do you have a Web site? Sell products online? Bank online? Banking giant Bank One decided to find out just what small businesses are doing online in a survey earlier this year. (Survey participants were small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.) Among the findings:
- 49% - Have Internet access
- 41% - Use e-mail
- 19% - Have a Web site
- 12% - Sell products online
Bank One identified the fax as the most popular office tool (45 percent of respondents). However, top issues for small businesses in the future are time and greater exposure. The Internet, which garnered just 7 percent of the votes this year, will likely be the tool of choice to address those issues in the future.
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