More Information About Tech Challenges

Risk taking is second nature to most entrepreneurs, but technology issues can make them turn cautious. Too often, business owners believe they don’t have the expertise or financial resources to take full advantage of technology. But by limiting their use of tech, they also limit their growth opportunities in our always-on, always-connected world.

Turns out, many of these misgivings about tech may be based on misperceptions. Here are three common misconceptions that your business may need to move beyond to open new pathways for growth and innovation:

1. Advanced security protection is too expensive and complicated for most small businesses.
Your data is one of your company’s greatest assets, so investing in its security should be a top priority. The good news is that you don’t need a big IT budget because many security measures are free or inexpensive. In many cases, it doesn’t cost a penny extra to regularly download software updates, take advantage of your operating system’s encryption capabilities, enforce the use of strong passwords and use internet browsers with security features.

One option is Tinfoil Security, which tests your website for vulnerabilities against virtual attacks. Costs start at $59 per month. Another solution to consider is having a portable, encrypted hard drive such as Western Digital’s My Book Essential, starting around $100 for up to 1.5 Terabytes of storage with automatic, continuous data backup and password protection.

2. Reaching more customers requires an in-house social media genius.
You may not be able to afford a social media expert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use social networks to get the word out about your products and services. Many free, online tools can help you increase your visibility, reach more customers and monitor your social media presence.

One of those tools is Brandify, which can help you assess the online strength of your brand. It can help identify simple actions you can take to reach more customers, such as claiming ownership of automatically generated profiles and updating business information in online directories. Brandify can notify you when customers interact with your brand via social networks. And if your company has no social media presence to speak of, it can help you determine the steps required to get started.

Another is Monitter, which tracks Twitter mentions of your company, as well as your competition, in real-time for free. Keep this interface open on your Internet browser and you can remain in-the-know as to what people are saying about your product or service and how your competition fits into the picture.

For managing multiple online social profiles for your business, try a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite. It offers a free version or a professional version ($9.99 per month) with advanced features such as managing unlimited social profiles and message scheduling.

3. Most small businesses can’t afford remote work arrangements.
Advances in technology have enabled us to do our work from practically anywhere at any time. Yet, what many entrepreneurs may not know is that providing employees with remote capabilities can be affordable and even preferable to in-house work arrangements. Remote workers are often more productive and satisfied, plus they give business owners access to a larger talent pool.

Thanks to the power of cloud computing and the wide range of software available over the Internet, you can cost effectively enable employees to work remotely, sometimes even eliminating the need for physical office space, networking infrastructure and an expensive lease.

For instance, programs such as Microsoft Office 365 can give workers online access to a complete set of communication and collaboration tools for $6 per user, per month. And there’s Evernote, which offers a collection of applications to help store and organize information including webpages, photos and text notes. This can make it easier for remote workers to stay connected to the information they need the most, whenever and wherever they need it.

Small businesses also can choose from a number of cloud-based solutions designed to make specific workplace tasks more efficient for mobile employees. San Francisco-based Xobni Pro ($45 per user, per year) can help workers develop and maintain their relationships with customers, peers and industry influencers. This cloud-based solution indexes all of your contacts –even those that aren’t in your address book but that you have interacted with over email, SMS or phone calls — through an application that’s available on any mobile operating system.

Buying a Smartphone or Tablet

Choosing a mobile device for work isn’t just a matter of deciding whether you want an Android smartphone or an iPhone. Maybe what you really need is a large tablet, or a small tablet, or a netbook or a phone/tablet hybrid.

Your choice will depend largely on what you need to do with the mobile device and where you’ll be using it. Answering these simple questions can help you decide which kind of device will meet your mobile work needs.

1. How portable should it be?
Do you regularly carry a briefcase, purse or computer bag? If not — and if you’d rather not start — then a smaller smartphone that slips into your pocket is probably best.

Many smartphones, including the iPhone 4S, are 4.5 inches tall or less, and 2.5 inches wide or less. Hold various models in your hand to see which ones feel most comfortable.

2. How much typing will you need to do?
When writing anything longer than quick search requests, texts or tweets, smartphone typing can be slow and prone to errors. That’s when a physical keyboard can be useful. Options include purchasing a netbook or laptop with a built-in keyboard, or a keyboard that connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth or USB.

Before buying a keyboard, make sure it’s compatible with your specific mobile device. Also consider how you’d carry the keyboard around. Many models, from manufacturers such as Freedom Input (starting at $25) or Inland Products (starting at $15), collapse or roll up to fit easily into a pocket or purse.

If you prefer writing notes by hand or need to sketch designs, most tablets are large enough for you to write with your fingertip. Some devices, such as the smartphone/tablet hybrid Samsung Galaxy Note, offer the option of using a stylus.

Related: Forget the iPhone 5. Apple’s iPad Mini Might Be Better for Business

3. How much battery life will you need?
Poor battery life is the downfall of most mobile devices, especially ones with large, bright touch-screen displays. At a recent online security event, a Symantec senior product manager said that mobile analytics show a steep weekday decline in mobile Internet traffic throughout North America around 2 p.m. local time. The reason? That’s about the time when many smartphones start running low on battery charge.

If you’re often unable to charge up at an electrical outlet, consider spare battery options before you buy. For instance, you can’t swap out the battery on an iPhone, iPad or Macbook Air, but you can on most Android and Windows Phone devices, and on most laptops and non-Apple netbooks.

It’s common for mobile devices to come with a low-capacity battery. Search online for your smartphone’s make and model, plus the word “battery” to find the largest capacity battery your phone can take. Sometimes “extended” batteries are larger in size, so you might need to purchase a special back cover to accommodate one in your phone.

You might also want a charger so you can charge both your phone and the spare battery at once when plugged in. Prices for such a package can range from $25 to $60. Other accessories, such as a car charger (usually $10 to $40) or any of the Mophie spare-battery products for Apple mobile devices, can also come in handy.

Related: 5 Procrastination-Busting Smartphone Strategies

4. Will you be working outside in daylight?
Many mobile devices have screens that are hard to see in full daylight, even when cranked up to full brightness, which drains the battery much faster. The Retina displays on new Apple devices perform well in full daylight, and there’s speculation that Samsung and other manufacturers of Android devices may soon be launching devices with comparable displays.

5. Will you need to record audio or video, or take lots of photos?
If you need a mobile device for creating, not just showing or playing multimedia content, then pay special attention to the built-in camera and microphone. Don’t just go for the highest-megapixel camera. Look for reviews of camera optics and image processing features.

Also consider how you’ll want to physically handle the device when shooting or recording. For instance, most tablets include a camera and will shoot video or photos. This is fine if you’re propping the tablet up for stationary shots or video chats. But to capture live action or pan around, smartphones are generally easier to maneuver than tablets.

A device that shoots high-quality photos should also yield high-quality video. But consider whether you need to shoot high definition (HD) video or photos. These files can be large and difficult to share or work with on a smartphone. If you do need to shoot HD, consider getting a small camera in addition to a smartphone.

The secret to good video is good audio. Because the built-in microphones in most smartphones and tablets aren’t great for more than quick audio notes, consider getting a plug-in microphone. A lavalier microphone to clip onto a shirt or jacket can cost $15 to $40. For an iPhone or iPad, you’ll also need an adapter, which costs about $25.

Some Reasons You Should Make the Switch to Electronic Signature Technology

If you still haven’t made the switch to electronic signatures, you’re missing out. The electronic signature process enables businesses of all sizes to simplify the task of obtaining signatures and expedites the contract signing process, all in a seamless and efficient way.

DocuSign, a San Francisco-based company that helps businesses collect and manage digital signatures for important documents, announced this week that it has raised $55.7 million in the latest round of funding, bringing the total amount raised to $122 million.

This significant funding signals the importance today’s businesses are placing on e-signature. Since its founding in 2003, DocuSign has gathered more than 20 million users who have signed more than 150 million documents.

But if you’re still unsure about moving the execution and storage of your contracts and agreements into the digital age, consider the following:

1. Is e-signature legal? Yes. Properly managed electronic signatures were given legal equivalence to “wet ink” signatures with the passage of the federal ESIGN Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

 2. Is e-signature safe and secure? Electronically signed and sealed documents are more secure than their paper counterparts because they tend to contain more information about who signed them, and they can be protected from unauthorized tampering. This isn’t possible with paper. Most ID theft happens to paper transactions because they are so easily lost, stolen or forged. Electronic records are encrypted and stored securely online.

3. Will e-signature work in my current business environment? Many e-signature transaction platforms integrate with the business tools you already use, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Dropbox, Salesforce and more. When looking for an e-signature provider, ask for a list of compatible products and platforms. Every business should be able to use its existing applications and documents instead of printing, faxing, scanning or overnight mailing.

Related: Five Tools for a Smarter Business

4. Why switch to e-signature if what I’m doing works? Many businesses are realizing that it can take a week or more to get a document signed and returned, and that in many cases it needs to be re-done because there were mistakes or missed signatures. Such delays in closing a deal with paper are no longer acceptable when a competitor can do it in minutes.

5. Is e-signature affordable? While the cost of an overnight express envelope varies depending on carrier and distance, the real cost isn’t in dollars. The real cost is in the lost time, manual processing errors, re-keying of data, and printing, signing, scanning and emailing of agreements all without the benefit of auto notification upon receipt.

Start Using The Web In Order To Bring In A Lot More Customers For Your Enterprise

Corporations have to bring in much more customers continuously in order to grow as much as is feasible as swiftly as is possible. Today, the world wide web is an excellent resource for brand new consumers for just about any small business, provided that it really is used properly. Business people may want to be concerned with making sure they attract as numerous potential customers as is possible through inbound marketing as well as may wish to be sure their marketing budget will be used as effectively as is possible. Contacting an inbound marketing agency could help them to do both these things.

A specialist is aware of how to start using the web and also social media properly to be able to help the organization expand. This really is crucial these days because social networking as well as other website marketing techniques continue to evolve and also continue to be far more difficult to start using as efficiently as is possible. If something is executed correctly, it can help the enterprise go viral and also it might help them naturally draw in even more possible shoppers for their small business. In case something goes completely wrong, it can be disastrous for the company. Business owners may want to make sure the specialist they work together with has experience and also can realize just how to handle their particular internet marketing plan effectively.

Along with ensuring it’s done properly, a dallas digital marketing agency is going to help the company owner make certain it is as economical as is possible for them to market their small business on the internet. They’re going to continually monitor the business’s marketing scheme in order to ensure it’s working as well as ensure they aren’t squandering money on strategies which may have a minimal return. Rather, they will move to various other methods which have a higher return on the investment to be able to ensure the organization’s money is actually doing as much as possible.

Companies must market on the internet and also they’ll need to accomplish this as cost effectively as is feasible. However, this isn’t very easy to accomplish. A company owner who desires to make sure they can reach as many potential clients as possible through inbound marketing can desire to meet with a recruitment marketing agency now and also discover far more with regards to how they could help. Stop by right now in order to find an agency that is ready to start helping your organization develop.

Is Complex Training an Afterthought? Methodical Molding Appears to Be Just Getting Started

First of all, scientific molding training usually takes the injection course of action to a very much higher stage of excellence – which makes it best for intricate, critically-applied plastic-type material parts along with merchandise. A lot more organizations are usually checking out scientific molds for their particular implementations, complicated parts along with devices, or perhaps accuracy-molded plastic-type material components, since the common molding processes they have got used inside the prior basically are not able to meet their very own present merchandise specs.

Technological molding is reliant on detectors and also advanced computer software which keep track of each and every period associated with the course of action. This specific injection molding training allows manufacturers to handle and also alter, in actual time, essential variables just like temperature, circulation rate, complete level, and also cooling temperatures to sustain a exact, repeatable generation approach. Gurus use the particular comprehensive coaching and also resources of Paulson Training Courses, the worldwide recognized pro on research molding methods. Their technical engineers have obtained master-level teaching in research molding.

Acquiring scientific molding seminars is usually most helpful during typically the molding period, after the actual tool offers been created and debugged. The method analyzes typically the fill, contain, and may maintain levels individually; in reality, molding technicians are especially trained within each associated with these phases. Any kind of variations inside key guidelines like heat, flow charges, viscosity, wetness information, and so forth, can always be detected and also fixed throughout seconds, making sure constant high quality.

Because almost all the information is noted, professionals could very easily repeat the making process while required – even while generation will be transferred through one equipment to another – protecting a huge quantity involving setup moment. This will be also crucial for validating the course of action and also conference any company requirements based upon decoupled molding training. By simply applying their own molding knowledge, product research information, along with ability to fix problems, engineers design and style robust along with repeatable techniques that constantly provide wonderful parts.

The New Information About Apple

Apple plans to start testing self-driving cars on California roads, the clearest signal yet that the world’s most valuable technology company wants to design or build autonomous vehicle technology.

On Friday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles granted Apple an official test permit that the agency said would allow the company to test autonomous driving technology in three 2015 Lexus RX 450h luxury hybrid sport utility vehicles. The permit authorizes six people to take control of the vehicles if necessary.

Apple has been coy about its self-driving car project, known internally as Project Titan. The iPhone maker has not officially acknowledged the existence of the project, which appeared to be adrift last year. The company laid off dozens of people in the fall and brought in one of its top troubleshooters, Bob Mansfield, to reinvigorate the effort.

In October, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, told investors, “We are always looking at new things, and the car space in general is an area that it’s clear that there are a lot of technologies that will either become available or will be able to revolutionize the car experience.”

Neil Cybart, an independent analyst who writes about Apple at the site Above Avalon, said the company appeared to have moved away from plans to build and sell cars in the way that Tesla does. Instead, he said, “they are working on a transportation platform.”


When Cars Drive Themselves

There are increasing signs that autonomous cars have arrived — and may be driving our city streets sooner than we think.

Apple declined to comment on the California permit or on its broader automotive plans, instead referring to a statement in December, when it submitted comments about autonomous vehicle technology to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

In those comments, the company said: “Apple uses machine learning to make its products and services smarter, more intuitive and more personal. The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

The self-driving car segment is among the most bitterly contested areas in emerging technology, with Apple joining 29 other companies that have received test permits in California.

The competition for talent in the sector is intense, with top employees receiving millions of dollars in compensation a year. The ride-hailing company Uber is locked in a nasty dispute with Google’s former car division, now known as Waymo, over Waymo’s accusations that a former company executive stole crucial technology that was later used by Uber.

Google, an early developer of the technology, considers self-driving cars to be a potential new market, while Uber hopes to eliminate the need for human drivers to shuttle its customers. And traditional automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor view the self-driving car as a natural extension of their existing businesses.

Start-ups are also vying to enter the market. Udacity, an online education company co-founded by a pioneer of Google’s self-driving car initiative, is building an open-source autonomous car and offering a training course to people who want to become self-driving car engineers.

“Every company will have to have some solution for transportation,” Mr. Cybart said.

iPhone Apps for the Office

Apple’s iPhone has more than 200,000 applications in its library, and the list is growing. But with so many options, how do you decide which apps are relevant to your work? Obviously, no one has the time or money to download and review them all.

Nor does anyone plan to start working full-time on a cell phone, but these apps can provide adequate functionality, when necessary, and save the day in a pinch by helping you complete work on an iPhone.

1. ProOnGo Expense : Free (optional ProOnGo Receipt Reader has subscription fees based on number of scanned receipts)

Even if your company already has an online expense program, this free application could make your employees’ lives much easier, not to mention fewer errors for accountants to deal with. You and your employees can organize and track personal or business expenses, mileage, and time.

Users can manage their expenses on the iPhone using the app’s options and features, or export the data to QuickBooks, an Excel spreadsheet, a CSV file, or in XML format. Since CSV data is also ASCII text data–with the fields separated by commas–you can export an expense report to any text-based application on any platform. You can use predefined expenses or add your own; choose from expense, mileage, or time; then just add the data requested by the other fields, such as vendor, category, date, description, and then watch the running total. Touchscreen buttons provide options to sort, export, save, and restore backups.

The Receipt Reader service, which takes a scanned or photographed receipt, deciphers the text on that document, and sends it back to your iPhone. This optional feature is provided for a subscription fee. Check out the ProOnGo website for more information.

2. Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite : $9.99

The primary advantage of this app is the capability to view, create, open, and edit Microsoft Office files on your iPhone. Three weeks ago, my friends and I went camping in the mountains for a week. One friend who manages a small business received an e-mail from her boss about a project that she had completed before we left. He was in a panic over changes that had to be made. She opened the files on her iPhone, made the changes, and e-mailed the new documents back to him–all in less than 10 minutes. Need I say more? Check out their website for information about additional options, features, and updates such as remote access, compatible file formats, and available language versions.

3. Bump for iPhone : Free

This app is so unusual, it’s almost funny; however, it is an excellent time saver for company execs and employees who deal with lots of people, in person, on a daily basis. All you have to do is ask potential clients if they have Bump on their iPhone. If yes, then simply “bump” hands, and the two phones exchange contact data. Ten years ago, that would have seemed like magic.

Setup is easy; just follow the application’s prompts. When you meet another “Bumper,” both users must open the app on both devices; bump hands while holding the phones, abd then confirm the exchange. The application checks for duplicates, and it compares contact lists for shared entries. So, next time you’re at an office function and see everyone bumping hands, you’ll know why. See the vendor’s website for more information.

4. Workday : iTunes and subscription account with Workday required

With companies receiving 300 résumés for every job opening, this app could help streamline the hiring process–through the management tasks, at least. But, more importantly, it’s loaded with features that generally address human resource tasks. All companies have some form of an HR department, but in smaller and mid-size organizations, such staff may be limited to one or two individuals.

Workday allows management to review, approve, and sign off on employees’ expense reports, time sheets, and vacation requests. It also provides a quick method for HR and purchasing departments to secure approval for new hires, terminations, requisitions, purchase orders, and other such documents. Plus, it’s a breeze for remote workers to secure approval on any document. Be aware, however, that although Workday for iPhone is free, the core application, Workday Solutions, is not. This program requires a subscription to Workday. Review the vendor’s website for more information about this application and its benefits and limitations.

5. SurePayroll Mobile Payroll : Based on payroll frequency and number of employees

If your company has an in-house accountant, then payroll may not be an issue. But if you use a firm, or contract out your payroll to another payroll management service, this application may save money and provide the convenience of working through your iPhone.

SurePayroll provides a long list of features, including calculating wages and deductions, managing payroll taxes, issuing checks or direct deposit funds to your employees, providing 24/7 online access to files, sending alerts, and providing labor law information. The service also includes tight security protocols, employee self-service options, HR tools and support, time clock options, and accounting software integration with programs such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, and MYOB. Check out the SurePayroll website for more options and features.

Cautionary Advice
Many of the business applications I researched for this story were advertised as free, but were not really free. Maybe the app was free, but it was a useless, non-functioning waste of space unless you owned the sister application through direct purchase or a subscription-based service. In other words, the car was free, but the gas cost extra and, with gas–like subscription services–you have to keep buying it over and over again. So, be sure to read between the lines when you’re downloading.

Some Tech Gadgets to Help Manage Your Business

When it comes to tech, it pays to think small. Whether you work on the road, in the corner of your garage or from a tiny rented office, space is at a premium for startups. And in the guerrilla struggle of taking on your bigger competitors, you’ll want to be able to move fast and light.

Luckily, startups are built for this kind of action. With the right combination of tools–including low-footprint tablets and pocket-size peripherals–you should be able to find most everything you need to run your business out of a backpack.

Here’s our big list of little tools that can make your small business a huge success.

1. iPad 2
True Apple devotees might write off the iPad 2 as last year’s news, but don’t be fooled. This is still the tablet to get for slimness and size. It’s actually thinner than the new iPad, but the screen is still plenty bright and clear. And, starting at $399, the iPad 2 is a hundred bucks cheaper than Apple’s latest model. That’s actually a great value considering it gives businesses just about everything they would want in a tablet. The iPad 2 is small enough to easily slide into a briefcase or a large purse without weighing you down, but powerful enough to handle critical business tasks. It’s great for writing e-mails and reports, perusing documents or even basic videoconferencing. It also makes a flashy sales presentation tool.

2. HP Folio Ultrabook
The zillions of super-thin, so-called ultrabooks flooding the market this year offer a lot of choices for businesses looking to go small. These new notebooks are significantly smaller and lighter than full-size laptops, but just as powerful.

The HP Folio is one of the best. At just over 3 pounds, it’s slightly heavier and thicker than the MacBook Air, but for $999, the Folio is filled with all the business features you need, including a surprising amount of connectivity for an ultrabook. It sports an ethernet jack, a USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot.

And, without question, it has the most user-friendly keyboard on the market. If there is a small-business ultrabook, this is it.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note
Most of the geeks have dismissed the Galaxy Note smartphone and its 5.3-inch screen as a monstrosity, but they’ve got it all wrong. Sure, it’s chunky for a phone, but think about it as the smallest tablet on the market. The Galaxy Note, which costs $299 with a two-year contract from AT&T, works well enough that you could theoretically give up your tablet and laptop entirely on the road. The large screen is perfect for reading e-mail and using other Android-based business apps and office functions, but the device is still small enough to fit in your pocket. There’s a stylus that takes some getting used to, but it’s great for taking notes and marking up documents. And you can load the Note with data: up to 32 GB with an add-on SD card.

4. Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam
For serious videoconferencing, it’s possible to go too small. Built-in webcams that come inside laptops or tablets are sufficient for one-on-one chats, but add any more than two people and things get crowded pretty fast. The BCC950 ConferenceCam by Swiss device-maker Logitech is just the right size. It’s surprisingly nimble for a full-motion, HD studio-quality webcam that zooms, pans and tilts. Picture the cameras you see following the action on ESPN, except the BCC950 is about $250 and you don’t need a camera crew or pulley system to move it around the office. At less than 20 ounces, the Logitech BCC stuffs major videoconferencing features into one very small package. The unit requires high-quality broadband internet service to work properly, but assuming the right connectivity, this tool provides top-notch video and sound for small meetings.

Photo courtesy of Clear Hub Express

5. Clear Hub Express
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the 80 or so cities with 4G WiMax coverage from Bellevue, Wash.-based Clearwire, the company’s teeny-weeny mixed modem and router offers unlimited web access at great rates. Clear Hub Express is a cool $99 and Clear’s blazing-fast 4G service starts at about $35 per month with no long-term contract. The modem-router combination means setup is no fuss (basically plug-and-play), and the device can fit discreetly just about anywhere. For the big-picture web stuff, Clear brings clarity.

6. DocuSign
The reams of office paper your business uses to print contracts and other official documents do more than take up cabinet space–putting ink on those bad boys costs serious money. San Francisco-based DocuSign is an extremely effective online tool for inking deals with contractors, vendors and clients. The cloud-based service lets you upload critical documents and share them securely with anyone. Accounts start at $15 per month with an annual plan. Your clients are notified via e-mail that they need to sign a document; when they log in, they are prompted to draw their signature or initials in the appropriate blanks and boxes. It’s the slickest way to get your clients’ John Hancock no matter where they are.

7. Moo MiniCards
Makers of smartphones will tell you that the paper business card is dead. Don’t believe them. The old-school paper business card is still the smart way to put some marketing punch in your pocket. MiniCards by East Providence, R.I.-based Moo are distinctive, tiny business cards that your clients will love. It’s easy to slip a whole pack in your pocket, and they won’t overcrowd an already-stuffed wallet. Ordering cards is a three-click affair: Go to the website, enter your data, grab a design you like and then wait for the cards to show up. Designing cards is a snap and they really do look cool. Prices start at about $20 for 100 MiniCards.

8. Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones
For hands-free calling, ditch the clunky, plug-in headset and go with a pair of low-profile wireless earbuds with a built-in mic for taking calls. Headphone company Jaybird, based in Sandy, Utah, gets serious credit for making a wireless headset that actually doesn’t suck. Even though they are marketed to the exercise crowd, Freedom headphones are great for business use. For $99, you get high voice quality, easy wireless setup and, best of all, a sleek design.
Photo courtesy of BlueAnt

9. BlueAnt S4 True Handsfree car kit
Work never ceases on Planet Small Biz, and that means you will almost certainly be working in your car. But texting while driving is illegal in many places, and picking up your smartphone to answer a call isn’t much safer. The S4 True Handsfree kit from Melbourne, Australia-based BlueAnt Wireless is a true touch-free speakerphone. This slim gizmo costs about $100 and attaches to the sun visor in your car. It’s voice-activated, meaning you can answer and make calls using simple spoken commands, and it’s compatible with most BlackBerry and Android smartphones. It also reads incoming text messages and even driving directions if you’re using certain GPS-based apps. Your focus will be on the road, but you won’t let any business pass you by.

10. ChicoBag Messenger10 rePETe
The best thing about a tiny tech arsenal is that you can carry your entire shop with you. But a sweet setup requires a sweet ride, and in this case the Messenger10 rePETe delivers. The urban messenger bag from Chico, Calif.-based ChicoBag costs about $25 and boasts a light, simple design that comes in five colors to suit your style. Best of all: The bag stuffs down into a palm-size pouch for storage (it’s even small enough to store underneath a bike seat). Other bags cost more and have lots of extraneous features. For a lightweight, professional-looking carryall for your tech goodies, ChicoBag is the chic choice.

Prevent a Website Crash After a Traffic Spike

Q: How can I manage crash-inducing traffic spikes to my website?

A: First off, congratulations–this is a good problem to have. Maybe a new product on your retail website got big media attention. Suddenly your online traffic jumped sevenfold, and 90 minutes later, your site shut down, the victim of too many consumers trying to access your product.

What could have prevented this catastrophe is a content delivery network (CDN) from Akamai, Amazon, CDNetworks or one of the many other providers worldwide. It’s a cloud-based automatic scaling service designed to optimize the delivery of any content–most commonly software and video–to your customers in the most reliable fashion. With a CDN in place, customers can access your site no matter how many visitors have the same idea at the same time. And they can quickly download your content whether they’re across town or halfway around the world.

We turned to Michael Kuperman, senior director of platform operations at Akamai, who has a decade of experience in the content delivery network space.

Who needs a CDN?
If your consumer base is distributed over a wide geographic area, or if you have predictable online traffic patterns–for example, you know Cyber Monday and Mother’s Day are big days–or concerns about unexpected flash crowds due to content or a promotion, you need a CDN. If you require online speed to compete with rivals, as you would with online shopping services or travel reservations, you need a CDN. If your concern is a denial of service or cyber attacks, you, too, need a CDN.

Who doesn’t need one?
If your business is regional with a focus on local customers, you might not need one. If your website’s revenue isn’t tied to its performance, or if you have no global audience or no chance of showing up on Yahoo News, you don’t need a CDN.

How do you choose a CDN?
If your network is to serve, say, the Chinese market, you’ll want a CDN with a Chinese presence to add stability. You’ll also need to know if the CDN will support your application and meet your goals. And ask your short list of providers if they’re willing to do a head-to-head test using your application and content.

How much do CDNs charge?
If yours is a video delivery site, you’ll likely be charged in GBT (gigabytes transferred) or Mbps (megabits per second). If you have a shopping site or advertising application, costs may be by transaction, page views or other metrics related to your application. The prices per data delivery or transaction requests are mere fractions of a penny, but when you’re talking about millions of people flooding your site, keep in mind that it can quickly add up to real money.

How fast can a CDN be put into place?
With a good provider, once the terms are ironed out, turning it on can take just a few minutes. However, complicated applications can take a few days or weeks to configure. Give yourself at least one month to sort out what you need and whom you’ll use so you can make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly With Responsive Design

Virtually every business needs a website, but these days the web isn’t just about what you see on a computer screen. People are using the internet on an increasingly diverse array of devices, from smartphones to gaming consoles. Some experts predict that by 2014, most web traffic in the U.S. will be on mobile devices.

The trouble is, most business websites are still designed with only a desktop or laptop computer in mind. When you view a typical business website on the browser of mobile device, it usually requires pinching, zooming and scrolling just to see what’s on the page. And interacting with the site via a touchscreen can be clumsy at best.

To compensate, more businesses are deploying one or more mobile-optimized web designs, or “themes,” that the web server sends to a user when a mobile device is detected. That’s a first step, but mobile devices come in many sizes and shapes. What looks great on, say, an iPhone may look and perform poorly on a Kindle Fire.

It is possible to create designs for each of the major screen sizes and devices types, but ultimately that’s a losing game. New device types will outpace any designer’s ability to spin off customized themes.

One solution is something called “responsive web design,” which can make your website easier and cheaper to manage, while giving mobile users a better experience. This allows you to create one design that will fit almost any screen and device type, and can also enhance your search visibility. Additionally, it avoids the hurdle of expecting users to type in “m.” before your site URL to access the mobile-friendly version.

When a user accesses a responsively designed website, the site senses the constraints of that user’s device and automatically “responds” or reconfigures itself to display and function reasonably well. It reorganizes the layout, for instance, swapping out images and navigation features.

As new web-enabled device types become popular, such as Android-powered cameras, you’ll only need to tweak your responsive design to accommodate them.

To create a responsive site for your business, you can either hire a designer or use a site-building tool that supports responsive web design. Either way, these five tips can help you make the switch to responsive design.

1. Decide when to make the change.
Responsive design is a radically different way of managing the elements of a website, which means it’s hard to introduce responsive design to an existing conventional website. You’ll probably want to wait until you’re creating a new site or rebuilding your existing one.

2. Track your mobile traffic patterns.
Check your site statistics for the number of mobile visitors, plot how that segment of your online market has been growing and project it two to five years into the future. The steeper that growth curve, the more important it is to implement responsive web design sooner rather than later.

Related: 5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Smartphone or Tablet for Business

3. Check out competitors’ sites on various devices.
Keep a list of URLs for businesses similar to yours. Periodically check them all out on a variety of computers, smartphones and tablets. Which are easiest to navigate and use, requiring the least pinching, zooming and scrolling? Use the best as guidance for your designer.

4. Hire web designers with responsive design experience.
Many designers serving small-to-medium business clients are still focused on designing sites intended for viewing on computers. Be sure to ask for recent examples of a designer’s responsively designed sites. Don’t just get screenshots — ask for the URLs and check those sites on a variety of device types, paying attention both to how they look and how well they function.

5. Use effective, affordable tools if you do it yourself.
If you decide to create a responsively designed site on your own, consider trying the latest version of Squarespace. It’s an inexpensive web hosting service that lets you create a responsive website via a drag-and-drop interface.

There are also many pre-made responsive themes (both free and paid, usually between $30 and $100) for sites built with WordPress, a popular open-source platform. The hosted version of that platform,, is starting to offer responsive themes, as well.

Beefing Up Password Security

From email to social media to all types of apps for business, we need a collection of passwords to protect our sensitive data. And with the number of data breaches on the rise, it’s more important than ever to protect important information with the strongest passwords possible.

That means if you’ve used the same predictable formula to come up with all your passwords, such as a pet’s name or your birthday, you’re putting yourself — and your business — at risk. Good news is that there are several things you can do to make sure your sensitive data stays out of the hands of hackers.

Here, Ed Barrett, vice president of marketing and channel sales for Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based software security company SecurityCoverage, offers three tips for beefing up password security at your company:

1. Make it complicated.
The trick is to come up with something that’s not easy to guess based on other information, such as your name, date of birth or phone number. Barrett suggests creating passwords that:

  • Use upper and lower case letters
  • Contain letters as well as numbers
  • Are at least 14 characters long

“Hackers are in the business of compromising your data and have strong tools and a lot of experience cracking password files,” Barrett says. “The only way to make their jobs harder is to create longer, more complex passwords.”

2. Mix it up.
Since passwords are needed to access all types of applications and devices, you might be tempted to simplify things by using the same password for all of them. Don’t do it, Barrett warns.

“You probably don’t care if, say, your dormant Hotmail account is compromised, but maybe you used the same password for your credit card or, and now that information is in the bad guys hands,” he says. Use different passwords across platforms to decrease the likelihood that hackers will get more of your information.

3. Stay organized.
Remembering complicated passwords for every application you use personally and for business can be a lot to commit to memory. One trick is to pick long words you like and won’t forget, remove the vowels and replace them with numbers you’ll remember. Or you could develop a system for creating multiple passwords using the same formula for each.