Category Archives: Technology

Should You Buy a Laptop or a Netbook for Your Small Business?

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Netbooks (mini laptops) usually aren’t as capable, but are smaller and cheaper than a PC. The small netbooks are lightweight, less expensive than a PC, and can easily fit into a handbag or a briefcase. More than 11 million consumers bought one for as little as $269 in 2008, and prices may continue to fall. PC makers say notebook computer prices could be affected by the trend, possibly with a 20 percent drop from early 2008 prices by the end of 2009.

The $269 netbook is made by Asus ‘Eee PCs (Eee stands for “Easy to learn, Easy to work, Easy to play.”). They are designed for basic tasks of Web surfing, email and word processing. They can do Wi-Fi but have a limited storage drive capacity. To keep costs down, some Asus models ship with the Linux operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

The keyboards are small, which could be a problem for some people, but the size is perfect for children and high school students.

Dell’s $349 – $399 Inspiron Mini 9 has an 8.9-inch LED screen. It has 512 MB of system memory and Intel’s Atom 1.6-Ghz processor.

You can order it with Windows XP operating system instead of Linux. Dell has three netbooks, all of which have USB ports, other features and four hours of battery life, depending on the applications being used.

The $309 Acer Aspire One has a bright 8.9-inch screen, a 120-gigabyte hard disk and one gigabyte of memory. It’s about an inch thick. The keys are large and separated in order to make typing comfortable for limited work.

For $50 extra, you can double your battery power.

Powered By Dell Laptop Perfect For Small Business

michael_dell.jpgI have owned several laptops – COMPAQ, HPs and couple of TOSHIBAs.  Although I have always admired Michael Dell’s entrepreneurial spirit, I considered Dell to be a brand for Cubicle Nation, corporate offices and call centers. So when I received an email with a message that I have won a DELL laptop, I did not know what to think.

A couple of weeks later I received my Dell Latitude™ E6400 Laptop Computer signed by Michael Dell.

Here are the full details of the configuration:
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz) processor,
Windows Vista®  Business,
14.1″ WXGA+ LED Backlit display,
Integrated webcam,
120GB1 7200rpm HDD with Free Fall Sensor (actually upgraded to a 160GB1 7200 RPM HDD)
Nvidia 265MB Dedicated Graphics2,
Intel 5100 a/g/n wireless,
Backlit keyboard,
Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth®
 
I have grown to really like my new system.  The battery lasts about 11 hours without recharging for me on days when I primarily write and do email, this is way more than I have experienced before. I have never had a laptop with a backlit keyboard, but now I am spoiled and would never consider one without.  My Dell definitely increases my productivity. Since I travel quite a bit, I prefer sturdy systems rather than thin, fragile computers – the Dell is just the right size and weight. The keyboard is nice and the webcam is a great bonus feature.

I would recommend this well performing system to any small business owner.

Obama Turned Out To Be the Best Marketer

Here’s what I wrote in my blog post ‘Who would make the best small business marketer – Clinton, McCain or Obama?‘ in May:

“Senator Obama has the biggest potential to be a web savvy small business marketer. I can see him being successful at creating and delivering marketing messages to/for professional services firms. He is a very good speaker who does not get into too much detail (tactics), but understands his audience and can win over younger decision makers.”

 As it turns out he did win over millions of young people by utilizing new technologies and creating vibrant online and offline communities.

Ten Simple Rules to Help Build Inbound Links for Your Small Business Website

One of our small business customers wanted to know more about creating relevant inbound links. Here’s what I suggested after researching this topic:

1. Choose 4-10 of your most popular keywords that you’re going to use.

2. Write variations of the links that you’d like to use. Test them. You may want to experiment with the Google AdWords keyword tool.

3. Create several inbound links using different variations of linking text.

4. The easiest way to get inbound links is from other websites or blogs that you own or control.

5.  Create online profiles for your small business on social networking sites

6.  Ask friends and colleagues for permission to put links on their sites or blogs.

7.  Buy quality directory links. Don’t buy directory links disapproved by Google. Do your research – at least Google the site’s url or name before you buy.

8. Tell people how you’d like them to link to you. Ask them to copy and paste the code you provide into their web pages/blogs.

9. Write keyword rich press releases and use services such as PRWeb or PR.com to distribute them. For an additional fee PRWeb will let you embed links into the body of your press release.

10. Write and publish quality articles and blog posts. If people like your article, they will likely use your article’s title when they link to you, so make sure that you include keywords in the titles of each article/post.  

Could You Enhance Your Small Business Marketing Efforts With Photosynth?

Photosynth is a service that turns multiple photos of a scene or site, like a building or gallery, into a 3-D scene you can virtually walk through on the Web.

Photosynth allows anyone to create a “synth” using a digital camera or using pictures they already have. Just figure out which ones overlap.  Even pictures taken by different people with different cameras can be used. The software analyzes the pictures, figures which ones overlap in what order, and creates a 3-D synth.

The service is free and entirely web – based at photosynth.net.  You can view your own synths and all the synths created by other users.

It works with Microsoft Windows. Photosynth installs two programs on your computer: a Web browser plug-in for viewing synths, and an application (called “Photosynth”) for creating them.

It takes some skill to get a set of photos the service can match up well, which Microsoft calls being “synthy.” Ideally, portions of each slice of a 3-D scene should show up in at least three photos with a 50 percent overlap between them.

After you upload your pictures, the service does its best with each set to create the scene. It then tells you how synthy the resulting 3-D is.

Should Small Business Owners Call or Email Their Customers and Prospects?

Getting through the maze of choices on a big company’s phone system can be aggravating.  Sometimes you keep going in circles without an opportunity to  speak to a human being.

Small business people can have a problem handling phones during busy business hours, too. But, for small business owners, the initial telephone contact can be crucial to making a sale.

Customers and prospects usually don’t call to chat. They want information and they want it now. They want to speak with someone who can help them.  If the person who “just answers the phone” is the lowest-paid, least knowledgeable person in the building, customers can get frustrated.

One idea for small businesses: Put your best people on the phone and if necessary, share the duty. If that is impossible, then the receptionist should know the company terrain and staff and should not seem rushed or upset on the phone.

I often find it to be more effient to communicate with customers via email. Will email and Twitter replace phone calls in the future? Is Microblogging the future of communications?

Working Anywhere and Everywhere

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Digital nomad is not a title or a profession. It represents the mindset and lifestyle of people who have chosen or allowed to break free from a cubicle and make their living working anywhere and everywhere.  New technologies enable us to do so. One of my recurring nightmares now and then is a dream where I find myself working in a gray cubicle covered
with yellow sticky notes,  eight pairs of eyes looking at me all at once. This dream motivates me to get back on my laptop and learn new software in addition to developing  multitude of other new skills. Wikipedia states that “traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries.”  Times are changing partially driven by corporate economies
of scale and societal circumstances.  I see this trend from cubicle to home based work expand in the future across national economies both in developed and emerging markets.

Read more about Digital Nomads on digitalnomads.com.

Where Can I Get Web 2.0 for My Small Business?

Several small business owners have asked this question.  Well, sometimes it’s hard to respond.

For me Web 2.0 is a mindset or a philosophy.  It is a way of creating dialogs with your audiences via the world wide web.  Everyone participating becomes a contributor.  Finally there is a level playing field for like-minded individuals.  Small business owners, hockey moms,  pet lovers, etc. can become thought leaders and create their own communities if they have passion for a certain topic or field and they are willing and able to share their  interest and  knowledge.

We don’t have time for this knowledge sharing stuff and online networking some small business owners say. Could I just put up my website and update it once or twice a year? Yes, you can.  But you may miss out.

Web 2.0 has opened new avenues for keeping up with global connections as well. I have been able to re-connect with people in different countries via social networking tools.  It is amazing – they can get glimpse of my life and accomplishments  by looking at my profile and I can see what they have been up to.   I can see their current photographs and family life…and avoid asking embarrassing questions.

Protecting Laptop Data

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If your small business is among the many that have remote workers, you could be sending sensitive customer data, credit card or Social Security numbers out the door.

Half of all organizations reported a laptop or other mobile device stolen last year. Each customer record may cost a company $150 more in legal fees, notification costs, and other expenses, according to Inc. magazine.

For about $9.95 – $149 per month, you can give a laptop its own GPS system. Free trial is available. If MyLaptop GPS is installed on your laptop, the stolen machine will report its location as soon as the thief connects to the Internet.

Encrypting the hard drive will keep thieves from using the data. The Enterprise edition of the Windows Vista has an encryption feature built into it. Other systems cost from $50 to $120 per computer.

Without encryption or a GPS system, your only course of action is just to report the theft to police. Always keep laptop serial numbers in a handy place. If the unit goes to a repair shop, the police will be notified.

Treat your laptop like a wallet. You wouldn’t leave your wallet in the car or laying around where someone could pick it up.

Content is King, President and Pope

newrulesofmarketing.jpgI just finished re-reading an excellent book The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Some stuffy PR guys would probably like to challenge the contents of this book as it does not promote the old truths of PR and marketing. David Meerman Scott has focused on explaining the world of opportunities that have opened up for aspiring journalists, marketers and small business owners via web-based tools and services. Free or low cost applications such as blogs, podcasts and social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn are changing the old rules. Niche buyers can be reached with targeted messages that cost a fraction of big-budget advertising campaign. In addition, these marketing efforts often allow instant feedback and measurable results, so the “train can be stopped much sooner when it’s headed to the wrong direction”.

One-way interruption does not work as well as it used to. Instead, marketers have to create a dialogue with potential buyers and deliver useful content at the moment their prospects, buyers or constituents need it.

Readers learn that online marketing is not about pretty websites either. Per Meerman Scott, content is not only KING, but President and Pope as well. The key to interesting and entertaining content is the collaboration between the different departments of the organization. Websites cannot be stale either – content needs to be fresh and the reactions of the visitors should be measured and analyzed, so the content can be improved. I agree with all these points as I prefer information rich blogs and websites to flashy and design driven sites.

Here are some steps David Meerman Scott suggests for creating thoughtful content. These steps apply to websites and all social media tools in my opinion.

  1. Do not focus on writing primarily about your company and products. Content should be designed to solve buyer problems or answer questions.

  2. Define your organizational goals before you design your website.

  3. Based on your goals, decide whether you want to provide the content for free without any registration, or you want to include some kind of registration mechanism (much lower response rates).

  4. Think like a publisher. Consider buyer personas.

  5. Write for your audience. Use examples and stories, make it interesting.

  6. Choose a great title that grabs attention.

  7. Promote the effort like crazy. Offer the content with easy-to-find links.

  8. Alert appropriate bloggers, reporters and analysts that the content is available and send them a download link.

What is the main reason I like The New Rules of PR and Marketing?

It gives easy to read instructions on how to become a thought leader while remaining authentic and transparent. No need to pay a top dollar to reach your audience if you have expertise, find your voice, target a specific group of people and keep improving your skills.

Educate, entertain and motivate!