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Stay safe online with these tips

The recent Playstation security breach has opened many Internet users’ eyes to the importance of online security. If the wrong person gets their hands on your information, there is a possibility that the result could be harmful. Luckily, there are a number of easy steps you can take to better protect your online identity.

Use an encrypted connection

Using an encrypted connection is an extremely simple way to achieve greater online security. Many websites, including most social networking sites, have recently adopted more secure connections, although you sometimes have to change the settings to get the extra level of security.

In order to see whether or not your connection is safe, check the URL. A secure connection will have a URL that begins with “https” instead of simply “http.” Unfortunately, all sites don’t use encrypted connections, so this is not always a possibility.

Use strong passwords

Strong passwords are usually one of the best ways to keep your information protected. By using spaces, symbols, numbers and a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, one can easily attain a strong password. Even if you don’t utilize all of these tips, be sure to use something that can’t be easily guessed by hackers.

Also, be sure to use a unique password for each site. If one site is hacked into, your password to that site may become vulnerable. Having the same password for multiple other sites will make the information stored on those sites vulnerable as well.

Look out for phishing

Phishing is basically when a hacker poses as a trustworthy company, like a bank, in order to obtain sensitive information from people. It is fairly common due to its relative ease, since all the hackers need is your name and email address.

The recent data breach suffered by Epsilon is a great example of how phishing can come about. The people that hacked Epsilon’s network immediately gained access to thousands of email addresses and therefore had the opportunity to get sensitive, personal information from people.

These three tips are unbelievably easy to follow through with and instantly increase your online security. If you’d like more information on protecting your online identity, check out this article.

Doing work from the road can be tricky – simplify it with these suggestions

Many people travel frequently for business. Unfortunately, many business travelers don’t know how to be most productive while they’re on the road. We have put together a list of tools and tips that can help you to be more productive and keep your work and devices safe while you’re on the go.

Tools for easier travel

There are virtually countless options when it comes to tools that make traveling easier. The options range from luggage to apps, and everything in between.

One tool that can take a lot of stress out of traveling is TripIt. It is an app that organizes all of your travel information for you. You can email your itinerary to TripIt and it keeps track of your flight times, hotel information, and frequent flier numbers, all in one spot.

Luggage that is conducive to business travel is critical as well. These are some of the key luggage features that can make traveling a breeze:

  • Laptop compartment – It’s best to have a separate compartment for your laptop so that finding it at security, or even once you get to your destination, is a breeze. Nobody enjoys being the person who’s holding up the security line.
  • A wire pouch – Having a specific spot to place all of your chargers and other wires is great for anyone with lots of gadgets. You no longer have to wonder where you placed everything, as there is a designated pocket for it.
  • Convertibility – A convertible bag is ideal for someone who goes on a variety of business trips. If you need to carry everything through the airport one day and carry only your laptop the next, finding a bag that can serve both purposes is beneficial.

Security tools

Many of us travel with our most valued possessions, which just adds to our stress for fear of losing them. Because of that, it’s smart to bring a personal safe and a notebook lock that can keep some of the most valuable items secure when you can’t keep an eye on them.

In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution when you’re traveling with valuable items. If it’s something you can’t afford to lose, keep it somewhere safe, or bring it with you. This article offers a number of great security devices that can help protect your gadgets on the go.

Boosting productivity

Productivity can certainly wane while you’re working from a hotel room or coffee shop on the road. General unfamiliarity with your surroundings can slow down certain processes that are usually quick and painless.

For most jobs, it’s necessary to have Internet access, particularly when you are away from your coworkers. Some hotels do not have access to the Internet, and if that is the case you should consider bringing a wireless card or mobile Wi-Fi device that would let you easily access the Internet and your email.

Finally, consider bringing a back pillow. Hotel desk chairs are typically not ergonomic and can be seriously painful for your back if you sit in them for too long. Back pillows generally aren’t too bulky and can make all the difference when you’re working in an unfamiliar chair.

There are many things that can make working from the road easier and more productive. These tools and tips can be incredibly helpful and help you learn how to be at your best while you’re on the go.

Green your office with these ideas

Being green is a great way to help the environment as well as save some money. Fortunately, turning your office into a green one is not very hard to do. Here are some simple tips for making your office greener.

1.    Use double-sided printing whenever possible

Set your printer or copier’s default setting to double-sided printing to instantly cut down on paper use. This is a simple step and if anyone needs single-sided printing they can easily change the settings.

2.    Use a water delivery service

Bottled water is incredibly wasteful, and unfortunately is prevalent in most offices. Using a water delivery service gives your employees the chance to drink clean water without wasting all that plastic and suffering from the potential health effects of bottled water.

3.    Turn lights and machines off when they’re not being used

Although this may seem like an obvious way to be greener, many people overlook its necessity. Some people think that it’s more efficient to leave computers and other machines on overnight, but it’s far more wasteful than anything else. If you can afford to install motion sensors, they are always a great option as well.

4.    Use recycled and recyclable products when you can

Virtually any paper product can be found in recycled versions at major office supply retailers. While they’re much better for the environment, they are typically comparable in price to non-recycled versions.

Also, if you must use disposable plates and cups, try to find recyclable or compostable options. It’s not enough to simply buy recyclable products, it’s important to have an easy-to-follow recycling program. Stress to your employees the importance of recycling those products, otherwise there’s a good chance they’ll end up in the trash.

5.    Cut down on commuting

If you have a company full of commuters, it can be very helpful to implement some sort of carpool matching service that links employees who live near one another. Offering parking incentives or other bonuses to people who carpool is a great way to generate interest in the program.

All of these options are incredibly simple and do not take much to implement. If you’re looking for even more ways to make your business greener, check out this article.

How to clean your keyboard

You’ve likely heard that your keyboard could be dirtier than a toilet seat – but are the rumors true? Levels of germs on a keyboard vary, but are typically quite high. Some keyboards that have been tested have, in fact, shown levels of germs five times higher than germs found on a toilet.

If that isn’t enough to encourage you to clean your keyboard, consider the fact that you touch it every day, when you’re sick and when you’re eating. If you don’t clean it often enough, those germs can rapidly accumulate and spread to other items on your desk. Here are some tips that can help you clean your keyboard quickly and effectively.

Detach the keyboard

No matter what cleaning method you are using, it’s always critical to disconnect the keyboard from your computer prior to cleaning. This ensures that you won’t inadvertently perform any actions on the computer, as well as keeps your machine safe.

For a quick fix

A can of compressed air can easily get rid of the majority of loose dirt and debris. The dust and dirt that accumulates beneath those keys can get thick pretty quickly. This clears that right up.

Turn the keyboard upside down and spray the compressed air onto the keys. Then tap the keyboard on a flat surface a couple of times to get rid of everything that came loose. Follow that up by swiping the edges of the keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to get rid of most of the germs.

For a more thorough cleaning

If simply getting rid of loose dirt is not enough for you, try removing the keys for a deeper clean. They can be taken off by gently prying them up with a screwdriver or a similar tool.

Once the keys are off, you should use the can of compressed air to remove all of the loose dirt. Then wipe the entire keyboard with a damp cloth. Finally, clean all of the keys with isopropyl alcohol to get a more substantial clean.

After a spill

If you only need to know what to do after you’ve spilled on your keyboard, it’s simple. Immediately unplug the keyboard, turn it upside down and use a cloth to soak up all of the excess liquid. Then leave the keyboard upside down for as long as possible to make sure it is completely dry.

If you’d like more keyboard cleaning tips, take a look at this how-to guide.

How to conduct a virtual meeting

While many prefer face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings are a popular part of today’s business environment. It is essential, however, to remember certain things when you’re conducting these meetings.

Etiquette is essential during virtual meetings and should be taken into consideration, as it would be in any face-to-face meeting. This may seem apparent, but many people think of virtual meetings as more relaxed and laid-back than face-to-face ones, which is not always the case.

Here are a few additional tips that can help you carry out more efficient and professional virtual meetings.

1. Be prepared

Preparedness is vital for any meeting, virtual or not. When you’re conducting a virtual meeting, it can be easy to forget who your audience is. You want to ensure that the information you’re presenting is appropriate for each participant.

You also want to be sure that you have given everyone the information they need to access the meeting, such as passwords, URLs or call-in numbers. You certainly do not want to be left with no attendees because people could not access the meeting.

2. Engage participants

Virtual meetings can quickly become very stiff if you don’t have a relationship with the person on the other end of the meeting. Rather than just leaping right into the task at hand, try going around and allowing all of the meeting’s participants to introduce themselves.

Although it might feel like freshman orientation all over again, having everyone go around and share the highlight of his or her weekend or some other little tidbit, can serve as a huge icebreaker.

3. No side conversations

Side conversations can be extremely distracting to all participants, even if you’re not on screen at the moment. Not only can side conversations grab the concentration of the presenter, it can distract other attendees and deter from the point of the meeting.

Virtual meetings are excellent assets and there are many ways to ensure that you are conducting them in a professional and interesting manner. If you’d like to take a look at more suggestions for conducting virtual meetings, check out this Inc. article.

Is an e-reader best for you?

E-readers are a convenient technology that users often swear by. They are convenient and easy to travel with, causing them to be perfect for many bookworms. The technology isn’t for everyone however, so it’s important to take the features into consideration when deciding if it’s right for you.

What are the options?

E-readers are primarily devices that display e-books, although some have additional capabilities, such as Internet connectivity. The most well-known choices are the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Tablets can also function as e-readers, although they have many functions aside from displaying e-books.

Pros

  • E-readers are extremely portable, which is great for any person who likes to read during vacation or a business trip
  • An additional travel perk – if you are in a foreign country, you may still download an e-book in the language you choose, instead of seeking out an accommodating bookstore.
  • Books are frequently cheaper than you will find in standard bookstores.
  • Privacy – you probably don’t want everyone to know if you’re reading a self-help book. If you’re using an e-reader, they won’t be able to tell.
  • All of your books are located in a single place.

Cons

  • Depending on the style of e-reader or tablet, you might not be able to read in direct sunlight because of screen glare.
  • Cost – although you may pay less for books than you normally would, e-readers commonly cost upwards of $140.
  • If you’re accustomed to shopping in used bookstores, these books will cost much more than you’re used to spending.
  • Lending books isn’t always a choice.
  • All of your books are in a single location – if you lose your e-reader, you’re losing all of your books until you buy a replacement.

Overall, when you’re figuring out whether or not an e-reader suits you, it’s all about personal preference. Some prefer the convenience of having all of their books in one convenient device. Others like the weight and feel of a book and like to show off the books they’ve read on a bookshelf somewhere.

If you’re contemplating purchasing an e-reader, take a look at this article on the advantages of the technology, and where it may be headed.

4 strategies for sustaining employee motivation

Employee motivation can often be hard to maintain, particularly when you’re running a small business with limited funds. Incentives are really critical when it comes to inspiring your employees, however, so finding simple and inexpensive alternatives is necessary.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep employee morale high without breaking the bank. Here are a few creative and easy ideas:

1. Ask for input

By encouraging input from employees you are letting them know that their opinions are valued. This goes a long way in making them feel like a part of the team, which then encourages them to work hard for the good of the team.

2. Change it up

Sometimes repetition can lead to a lack of motivation. When this happens, it’s crucial to remember the cause for the tapering motivation and mix things up a little. If you know an employee is eager to exercise a certain skill, try giving him or her a project that allows for that.

3. Focus on a great company culture

People enjoy working for companies that they feel are different from the rest. Setting your company apart by incorporating unique ideas into the company culture can help you find and retain great, motivated employees. Things like complimentary professional massages once a month can go a long way in building a unique company culture.

4. Recognize people for a job well done

One of the biggest de-motivators can be toiling away on something and feeling like nobody is even aware of your hard work. Because of this, it’s vital to let employees know that you recognize their hard work and appreciate it.

Something as simple as a company-wide email showcasing their accomplishments can re-ignite motivation and make employees want to continue working hard. Although the attention may embarrass some, most people like to know that others recognize their effort.

All of these ideas are great, affordable options for motivating employees when you don’t have a lot of resources. Testing out a few of these ideas could do wonders for employee motivation and keep morale high.

For more examples of inexpensive employee motivators, check out this article.

How you can utilize smartpens

Smartpens are a new office trend with ever-expanding possibilities. The capabilities of smartpens have grown a lot since the technology first came about, and they’re still expanding.

Most smartpens essentially translate your handwritten notes into computer files for easier review. Exactly what each smartpen is capable of doing, however, varies greatly.

IOGEAR Mobile Digital Scribe

This smartpen was the first on the scene. For that reason, it doesn’t have all of the features that you may find in a newer model.

The Mobile Digital Scribe captures and stores everything you write down for later review. Unlike other pens, you don’t need to write on a specific surface in order for it to register, a simple piece of paper will do. It even lets you connect the pen directly to a computer so that everything you write down will be displayed on the screen.

Logitech IO2 Digital Pen

The Logitech IO2 Digital Pen is also a more simple model, like the IOGEAR version. It lets you save your notes in a number of different file types and formats.

You can then search for words and phrases by date, file type, or file name. You can add items to your calendar merely by writing them down. The Logitech IO2 Digital Pen doesn’t work on any surface like the IOGEAR pen, but it works with Post-It notes and Franklin Covey’s iScribe software and digital planning pages.

Livescribe Echo

The Livescribe Echo smartpen is by far the most technologically sophisticated of all the smartpens out there. It not only transcribes everything you write down, it also records audio and converts the recording into a number of different audio file types.

One of the best features that you can find on the Livescribe Echo is the introduction of Pencasts. Pencasts are basically when you are able to play back the audio along with the written notes, so you can see it all in one place. Apple has created an app that allows you to play these Pencasts, so sharing is straightforward and quick.

These pens are pretty great tools that can be great for just about anyone. They take a great deal of time out of transcription and make remembering details of a meeting or conversation much easier.

If you’d like to take a look at a review of the Livescribe Echo, check out this Inc. article.

Motion is the next big thing from Google

As you may have heard already, Google has just released its new feature, aptly named Gmail Motion. In an effort to keep up with the ever-changing technology of the Internet, Google has built a series of motions that is translated into actions and commands in Gmail.

Common actions like reply all, search and archive can now be completed with simple gestures, instead of a keyboard and mouse. This advancement will probably make users feel more in sync with their computers and enjoy their email experiences even more.

How does it work?

Gmail Motion combines your computer’s built-in webcam with Google’s new, patented spatial tracking technology. Basically, your webcam tracks your movements and interprets them as Gmail specific commands.

How to use Gmail Motion safely

As with any physical activity, it is important to take a number of safety precautions in order to avoid injury. First, clear the area around you. It is easy to get excited about the technology, which can result in sudden movements. If the area is not clear, you could easily hit something and injure yourself or damage property.

It is also vital to take breaks every 30 to 40 minutes and stretch in between sessions, so you don’t strain yourself.

If this seems like something you’d like to try, check out the Gmail Motion website. It has a printable Motion Guide that fills you in on all of the possible gestures and what they mean. The possibilities with this new technology are endless. As for business users who are looking forward to using the Motion feature, they’re in luck – the Gmail Motion technology will soon be coming to Google Docs.

This spatial tracking technology from Google is spectacular – it could potentially change the way we all work and interact with our computers on a regular basis. To some people, this announcement may seem kind of silly, and it is. Gmail Motion is just the latest of Google’s yearly April Fools’ jokes.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

3 on-the-go security tools

If you’re traveling a lot for business purposes, or even working every once in a while at the local coffee shop, you know how valuable data security is. Sometimes, security isn’t all that attainable when you’re on the move all the time, but there are plenty of tools like these three that make it more feasible.

Laptop privacy screens

When you’re working in public, it can be pretty easy for someone to take a look at your screen and see everything you’re typing and doing. These privacy screens make that seemingly simple invasion of privacy much more difficult.

Laptop privacy screens get rid of the need to crouch over your screen and constantly minimize windows by obscuring any view from an angle. Viewing the screen from an angle results in a seriously darkened screen, which makes it challenging to really see anything.

Handheld paper shredder

Shredding documents is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to data security. Unfortunately, traditional paper shredders aren’t very portable, so it’s not so easy to do when you’re on the go. Handheld shredders make it easy to keep up with this simple security measure even when you’re not at home or in the office.

Mandylion Password Manager

Secure passwords are hard to come up with. Even when you do this, that password should only be used for one account so you have to do it once again next time.

The Mandylion Password Manager eliminates that problem and makes it simple to keep track of all of those strong passwords you create. With its “military-grade password protection,” this gadget is ideal for anyone who has trouble coming up with and remembering passwords – and you can even attach it to your keychain!

Anyone who works outside of the office from time to time knows how tricky it can be to really secure your belongings as well as information. These tools, and others like them, make the security much easier to attain.

For more security gadget ideas, check out this Mashable article.