Recapture some of the time and money lost when you travel by using low-cost, PC-based videoconferencing services such as iVisit, SightSpeed and TokBox. If you own a Mac, don't overlook the built-in iChat software.
Another option is entry-level hardware and/or software from vendors that are best known for videoconferencing products that cost four to six digits. One example is Polycom's PVX, which runs about $150, depending on where you buy it.
Upgrade Your E-mail
Sure, it's important to stay in contact with employees and business partners, but e-mail isn't always the most efficient way. One alternative is "enterprise microblogging" services such as Socialcast, Yammer and WizeHive, which create a central point for sharing messages and, in some cases, files.
Most services now have a smartphone app, so you don't need to be at a PC to check in. Prices typically start at free for versions that are bare bones but still useful.
Is your commute 20 minutes each way? That's more than three hours a week that could be spent making money and building your business.
Recapture that productivity by working from home one or more days per week, or go a step further by giving some or all of your employees that option. The ability to telecommute also can be a perk for attracting and retaining employees.
But don't compromise security in the process. Instead, consider a virtual private network (VPN), which is hardware and software that secures an internet connection, including ones running over cellular. Prices and products are all over the map, and the choice often depends on the number of users and whether you want to own the gear or get the VPN as a hosted service. Companies with VPN solutions include vendors such as NETGEAR and telcos such as Verizon.
Spend Less Time Writing
Consider speech-to-text software to minimize manual transcription and, in some cases, use speech for controlling your computer. The productivity benefit? Most people type about 40 words per minute but speak 120 words per minute, says Nuance, one of the best-known vendors in this space.
Products include Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking and MacSpeech Dictate. Prices start around $200, not including the headset that helps improve accuracy.
Tip: Check several reviews of each product you're considering because accuracy varies. Also, these products often do a better job of transcribing a single person, as opposed to a meeting full of people.
Buy multiple telecom services--such as wired and mobile broadband, and voice--from a single provider. Not only does bundling trigger hefty discounts, but it also gives you a single neck to wring when there are problems, so you and your employees don't waste time dealing with multiple operators' finger-pointing. Your provider also should be able to offer productivity-enhancing converged services that would be difficult or expensive to cobble together from multiple operators.
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