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76

Don't Answer the Phone

Consider a PBX with auto attendant, such as Cisco's SPA9000 or TalkSwitch's 244vs, or a hosted service, such as Jazinga (jazinga.com) or RingCentral. The auto attendant can make your company sound professional and big, and features such as find me/follow me call forwarding minimize time wasted on phone tag.

77

MinimizeTrips to the Bank.

One obvious, easy way is by asking your clients if they offer direct deposit. And thanks to the Check 21 Act, passed in 2004, it's now easier than ever to deposit checks without actually going to the bank. This law enabled what's known as "remote deposit capture" (RDC) products--such as Mitek Systems' ImageNet Payments Remote Remit--which scan paper checks to create digital copies that have the same legal and financial clout. A growing number of RDC products use cell phone cameras, such as NCR's APTRA Mobile Passport. Many banks now provide RDC devices and services for small-business customers, so check with yours. The hardware often is free, with a flat monthly fee for using the service. Examples include Bank of America's Small Business Remote Deposit Online and Wachovia's Remote Deposit Capture.

78

Cut the Cord

Use your cell phone frequently but still have a wired desk phone? Consider replacing your desk phone with a femtocell, which routes your cellular calls over a broadband connection. Examples include Verizon Wireless' Network Extender and Sprint's AIRAVE. Wireless carriers frequently offer rate plans that enable unlimited calls for a low, flat rate when you're connected to the femtocell, which typically covers a few thousand square feet. One exception is Verizon, which charges $200 for the femtocell, with no service fees. Bonus No. 1: Because the signal is stronger, femto-enabled calls usually are more reliable and have better audio, so you'll feel comfortable talking longer. Bonus No. 2: A single phone number makes it faster and easier for clients and colleagues to reach you. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon currently market their femtos only to consumers, but that will change, judging by the number of vendors developing business versions. In the meantime, they're a viable option for SOHOers.

79

Don't Lose Power

Eventually, the electrical grid will fail you, so prepare for it. Get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to keep your computers running during brief power outages so time isn't wasted retyping lost information. Manufacturers include APC, Liebert and Tripp Lite. Consider a bigger battery backup or even a generator if you can't afford to have an ice storm or hurricane take down your business for hours or days.

78

Scan Business Cards

Use a business card scanner--such as DYMO's CardScan or Neat's NeatWorks--so you don't waste time manually typing information into Outlook, Lotus or Entourage. Or step up to a model that digitizes other types of documents, too, for additional time savings.