101 Top Tech Solutions

Topics 62-76

Buying Used & Refurbished Equipment

62. Online Bargains
Refurbished hardware can be a smart way to save money. Many online manufacturers and retailers have sections of their web sites devoted to clearance outlets. You may have to poke around the site to find them, but it's worth checking into when you're on a tight budget.

Refurbished items are usually returns that have been looked over and checked for functionality. As with auctions, check to see if all documentation and software is included. Compare prices to what is normally charged to see if the savings is worthwhile.

Often warranties are shortened. What might have originally come with a one-year warranty may only include a 90-day warranty when it's sold as refurbished. If you're comfortable with that, go ahead and save some money.

63. Software Beware
Used software can be tempting, but you should proceed with caution. Some software is not legally transferable to other computers. Watch out for bootlegs or pirated software and stay on guard for disreputable sellers. It's usually better in the long run to just purchase new copies.

64. Sitting Pretty
When it comes to buying used equipment, furniture is one of your safer bets. Chances are, you'll buy local and have the opportunity to examine the pieces before you pay up. Used desks, dividers and file cabinets can help you furnish or expand your office at substantial savings.

Use more caution when it comes to chairs. Your long-term comfort is more important than saving a few dollars. Some higher end ergonomic chairs come in different sizes, so be sure to get the one that fits.

65. All About Warranties
One of the biggest sacrifices you can make when buying used equipment is lack of a warranty. That's not always the case, though. If there is still warranty time remaining, check to see if the warranty is transferable. Otherwise, you might want to think twice, particularly when it comes to business critical hardware.

Laptops, for example, are more prone to problems than desktops and you might want at least a partial warranty in case anything goes wrong. For less critical items, like a mouse or keyboard, the savings may be worthwhile.

66. Up for Bids
Auction sites like eBay are popular hunting grounds for technology bargains. The up side is that you can often find great deals on equipment. The down side is that you need to proceed with a healthy dose of buyer beware, especially when it comes to used equipment.

Take a moment to look into the background of the seller. Do they have a lot of poor feedback or have their previous customers been happy? Is all documentation and software included? What is their return policy? Is shipping refundable? Be sure to calculate shipping costs before you bid. Some sellers charge handling fees that can add up to more trouble than it's worth.

Keeping Up on the Road

67. Upgrade Your Cell Phone
Sure, you don't leave your office and hit the road without your cell phone. But there may be ways to maximize its effectiveness as a business tool. If you haven't upgraded your phone in a few years, check out some of the new models that let you access your email or browse the web. Even a camera phone can have smart business uses if you need to email images from trade shows or completed projects back to the office. If you want the power and flexibility of on-the-road access to email, the internet and certain organizer features, a smartphone may be up your alley. Just be sure that you'll use those extra features before you put out the extra cash.

68. Take Advantage of Hotspots
The internet is your ticket for staying in touch. Whether you need to check email, check up on your web site or do some research, a Wi-Fi hotspot is the place to go. The easiest way to find a hotspot is to book your room at a Wi-Fi equipped hotel. Some hotels include it as a free service for guests. Others charge a small fee.

Before you hit the road, take a moment to find some hotspots at your destination. There are several hotspot conglomerators that let you access the internet through their nationwide networks for a daily or monthly fee. Just be sure to use a VPN if you need to protect your business data.

You don't have to be traveling far from the office to take advantage of hotspots. Local cafes, coffeehouse or public buildings can be convenient stopovers when you're out at lunch or just need to step away from the desk for a while.

69. Travel Light With a PDA
Some entrepreneurs leave their laptops back at the office and opt to travel with just a PDA. Many PDAs these days come stocked with the kind of processing power and memory you would have seen in a full-fledged notebook a few years ago. Throw in a smartphone features for making phone calls and accessing the web, or add in Wi-Fi, and you have a well-connected device that can easily tide you over until your get back to your desk.

70. PCs for Note-Takers
There is another option besides a regular laptop. Tablet PCs are hybrid machines that combine notebooks with slate-style writing tablets. Handwriting recognition, which lets you use your notes in other programs, and a pen-based interface make the whole thing run. They come in convertible forms that switch from a regular laptop to a tablet and in slate forms that emphasize the tablet features and are very lightweight.

Entrepreneurs who work in warehouse situations or who simply like the flexibility of using handwriting will want to consider a tablet. As new generations of Tablet PCs arrive on the market, expect even more refined features and wider availability of tablet-specific software.

71. Choosing a Laptop
The most powerful way to stay connected to your business while on the road is with a laptop. Two popular classes of laptops are desktop replacements and ultraportables. Which you choose depends on your needs.

Desktop replacements pack all the punch of a regular desktop with large displays, plenty of processing power and useful extras like DVD-rewritable drives. The downside is their hefty weight. If you place a premium on power or are looking to get rid of your desktop altogether, this is the way to go.

Ultraportables are just like they sound: svelte, lightweight traveling machines. While they're easy on your shoulder, you often make sacrifices in peripherals, screen size and sometimes power. Still, mobile warriors that are constantly running through airports may find the compromises very worthwhile.

E-mail Safety and Security

72. Watch What You Write
While you're formulating an e-mail security policy, give some thought to e-mail content. Unlike a phone conversation, e-mail doesn't just disappear into the ether after it's sent. A record remains--one that can come back to haunt your business.

Discuss with your employees what is considered appropriate content. You may want to minimize personal use of business e-mail. Even sending seemingly innocuous jokes around the office can be risky. Tie e-mail usage in with your sexual harassment policy. Make sure that the e-mail usage guidelines are clear for your employees.

73. Educating Your Employees
One of the best ways to ward off e-mail security issues is to educate your employees. Have an e-mail security policy and make sure they are familiar with it and adhere to it. Some spam will inevitably get through. The best ways to keep the problem from increasing is to simply not reply and not click on any links it contains. Just delete the messages.

Also, make sure employees aren't giving out their e-mail addresses online. For example, if they post to message boards or blogs, they shouldn't leave their e-mail addresses out for spammers to harvest. Keep them up to date on new threats like phishing attacks. A proactive policy for e-mail security is better than dealing with breaches later.

74. Don't Get Hooked
Phishing isn't a strictly business-related problem, but it can have serious consequences for unsuspecting entrepreneurs. Phishing is when a deceptive e-mail arrives that often asks you to visit a web site and verify personal information like pin numbers, usernames, passwords or account numbers.

Some phishing attacks are blatantly obvious and loaded with misspellings and bad grammar. Some are very sophisticated and look like they could be a real communication from a credit card company, bank or online auction site.

What's the best way to deal with it? Delete it. Any e-mail that asks for personal information to be given out through the web or through a form embedded in the e-mail is likely a phishing attack. If you're still not convinced, take a moment to check in with the company that supposedly sent it. A few minutes can save you a lot of grief.

75. Fighting Spam
Spam is more than just a nuisance; it's a drain on your time and resources. It's impossible to avoid, so you have to deal with it. If you don't have spam protection through your email service provider, put anti-spam software on your shopping list right after anti-virus. Some vendors bundle it all together in a security suite package.

76. Keeping Viruses Away
When it comes to email security, anti-virus software is one of the first items that come to mind. Whether you purchase an off-the-shelf software package or choose to go with an online service solution, it's a must-have. Users of some free services, like Hotmail, may already have this area covered. Check to see what your email provider has to say about it.

You'll want to make sure all your employees' desktops and laptops are protected. The cost of anti-virus is minimal compared to the potential damage a virus or worm outbreak could cause your business. They can not only get at your computer systems, but also send emails out to your address book. That's not something your customers will want to receive.

Here are a couple of tips for keeping an eye on your anti-virus measures. Double check that you're getting the latest virus updates. Most programs will update themselves automatically, but it doesn't hurt to do a manual update on occasion to make sure the process is working. Also, when your software subscription time period is up, be sure to renew. Don't let it lapse.

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