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Why monitoring employees is so contentious

Your company supplied you a laptop that can be used at home. Say you are using it to watch movies on Netflix. Should the company be able to track which movies you saw? Perhaps you do the majority of your work on a company-provided iPad. Should your company be allowed to track the Facebook posts you make on it during your off-hours?

The monitoring debate

Thomas Claburn, editor-at-large with InformationWeek, recently tackled the controversy over employee monitoring in a recent online feature. In it, he quoted a wide range of experts, all of whom could see why employers would like to use new tech to monitor their employees. But these experts also suggested that too much monitoring is counterproductive.

Different levels

That’s because today’s technology allows employers to monitor anything from where their employees are throughout the day – thanks to smart phones and GPS – to what Web sites they’re visiting to what e-mail messages they’re sending. Employers implement this for a large number of reasons; they don’t want their employees to embarrass them on social media sites. They need to make sure that their employees aren’t visiting TMZ during working hours. The question is: Does this monitoring pay off for companies?

Mixed opinions

The opinions from the experts quoted by Claburn are a mixed lot. These experts say that some monitoring of employees is reasonable, but other techniques are not. For instance, employers shouldn’t monitor their workers’ locations when these workers are off duty. Possibly the best advice in the story? Those companies who trust their employees are generally rewarded with workers who are harder-working and much more loyal.

Posted in: Facebook, Social Media, Uncategorized

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There are some essentials every business website needs

Your business phone is quiet. Customers aren’t sending you e-mail messages. Worst of all, no one’s spending money at your shop. Your sometimes worry that you will soon be out of business. There may be a host of factors that cause your small business’ struggles. But have you investigated the role your business’ website could be playing? A bad business website is often even worse than no website at all. It might even be costing you business.

Help is on the way

Fortunately, Entrepreneur Magazine recently provided tips to small business owners struggling with their Websites. The magazine’s advice? Keep your business site simple, easy to find and straightforward to navigate. If you do this, your website can be a tool for generating business, not driving it away. The magazine’s first suggestion? Make sure your website immediately tells visitors what your business is and just what it does. You don’t want visitors to have to research your site to figure out what services you provide.

Don’t hide

Entrepreneur next recommends that you don’t make your site hard to find. This can be done by choosing a domain name which makes sense. If your business is Sue’s Beauty Shop, try for the url www.suesbeautyshop.com. If you have to turn to www.clippersue.com, you might find that your potential customers can’t find your site. To make your domain name easy to remember, avoid using dashes or numbers in it.

A clear map

Once customers reach your website, you need to ensure they can find what they’re looking for. This means including easy-to-find links to your site’s pages and an easy to access site map. These navigation tools will guide your customers to what they need. And they’ll keep them from fleeing your website – possibly before they order any services or goods – in disappointment.

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Is it time to turn off your tech?

When is it time to shut down the smartphone, put the tablet in your desk drawer and shut the lid on the laptop? A recent column in the New York Times suggests that we could all benefit from the occasional tech break. The reason why? Too much tech – text messages, Tweets, Facebook postings, Angry Birds – may very well be distracting us so much that we’re struggling to focus. And when we can’t concentrate, we can’t be as productive as we should be.

Techies agree

The Times story concentrated on some highly unlikely supporters of the take-a-tech-break theory: techies themselves. The Times, in fact, highlighted the case of an author and former Twitter employee. This techie was writing a book. But the constant chirping of his iPhone kept him from concentrating. Once this techie ditched the phone, he found that the words flowed. His advice? Ditching the tech can significantly boost productivity.

Many others

This techie is far from alone. The author of the Times column shines a spotlight on himself. Today, when he and his buddies get together for dinner, they immediately toss their smartphones in the center of the table. The first one who reaches for a phone is required to pay the price: That person picks up the tab for dinner.

Your time?

So, how about you? Is it time for you to put away your electronic devices? Maybe. Are you constantly distracted by the sound of incoming text messages? Can you hold a conversation without wanting to get to the next level in Angry Birds? Do you communicate with your friends solely through Tweets? If so, it may be time for you to put away the tech temporarly. You could be astonished at how interesting the world can be without it.

Posted in: Facebook, Uncategorized

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The ultimate site for gadget freaks who love to cook

Do you love to cook? Do you love gadgets, too? Then there’s a site tailored just for you, The Sweethome, which you’ll find at www.thesweethome.com. The site is packed with tips on how to use a wide range of gadgets to cook your favorite meals. You might say it’s heaven for gadget-obsessed cooking nuts.

The Best-of

These best-of lists are the purpose of The Sweethome’s existence. Visitors can learn which corkscrews, ice cube trays, bottle openers and vegetable peelers the site’s editors consider top-of-the-line. It’s a good idea to check out the site before you purchase any kitchen device.

Appliances

The site also covers major appliances. If you’re searching for a new dishwasher, toaster oven, juicer or blender, you might want to visit The Sweethome first. Think of it as a type of Angie’s List for the tech-obsessed. Each one of these best-of stories contain clear pictures of the appliance or kitchen gadget under discussion. They also contain plenty of information about why each gadget or device is the best in its class.

Other tools

The site doesn’t neglect the rest of your home, either. The Sweethome provides reviews of such tools as washing machines, dryers, hammers, screwdrivers, toilets and desks for your home office. Our advice? Before you purchase anything for your home, whether you’re considering a blender or a computer chair, log onto The Sweethome. You just might become a regular visitor.

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Don’t think you need to back up your Evernote notebooks? Think again

How safe do you think your data is when you store them in an Evernote notebook? The surprising answer: Not quite as safe as you might think. That’s because Evernote isn’t a true backup service. It’s a synching service.

Is it really necessary?

You could very well be asking yourself: Do I have to back up my Evernote notebooks? How-To Geek would answer with an emphatic “yes!” Simply because Evernote isn’t a backup system. It’s a synching system. And in a worst-case scenario, Evernote’s remote file store could be wiped. Then, the local file store could be wiped, too.

Top protection

How-To Geek explains several different methods for you to back-up your Evernote notebooks. Some are quite complicated. But one of the simplest ways is to take advantage of Evernote’s “export” option.

The export option

One of the easiest ways to do this is to export your notebooks. This can be done by right-clicking on any notebook and selecting “Export Notes.” Now you can export your notebook in a wide variety of formats. Then, if you lose the data in a notebook, you can import the exported notebook as what How-To Geek calls a wholesale replacement for the missing notebook.

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Hate Windows restarting after updates? Time to stop it

You know that the updates that Windows automatically downloads are important. They often contain important anti-virus protections designed to keep cybercriminals out of your computer and software. But it can be annoying when Windows automatically restarts your computer after every update. Luckily, the Lifehacker Web site recently covered how you can edit your computer’s registry to keep Windows from automatically restarting after an update.

No more automatic restarts

As Lifehacker says, the restarts are an aggravation. Nobody likes seeing that message about your computer restarting in 15 minutes. If you don’t want this to happen, though, you can put a stop to it. Tech site Lifehacker recently covered how to place the automatic update on hold.

Editing the registry

Begin the process of disabling Windows’ automatic reboots by turning on your computer’s “Start” menu. Next, open your computer’s registry by typing “regedit.” Lifehacker now recommends that you start the registry editor. Then find this specific line in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindowsUpdateAU. Click on the “AU” key. This should make this key appear in the right pane. Once this happens right-click on the empty space and select New >DWORD (32-bit) Value. Now, name the new DWORD: “NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers”. To end the process, double-click on the new DWORD and give it a value of 1.

Reboot

Now you’re done. When Windows downloads an update, it won’t automatically restart your computer. You’ll need to remember, though, to reboot your computer from now on. Or else, new updates – and they could be important – won’t take effect.

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How risky are Bitcoin payments?

Bitcoins have become a popular way for people to purchase goods and services online. The question, though, is if your small business should accept this virtual currency. Entrepreneur Magazine recently took a look at this issue. Here are the key questions they outlined about Bitcoins.

What they do

Bitcoins aren’t real money – as Entrepreneur says, they are simply pieces of computer code – however they are used as real money by many online vendors. Not surprisingly, a great number of vendors are disreputable. But more “real” online businesses are starting to accept this currency. Entrepreneur lists such reputable vendors as Reddit, WordPress and Etsy as accepting Bitcoin. Remember, too, that Bitcoins only exist after individuals purchase them with real, old-fashioned money.

Safety issues

Like all online transactions, there are safety risks with taking Bitcoins. These transactions are protected by way of a process known as public key cryptography encryption. That doesn’t mean clever criminals can’t hack these transactions. Businesses also need to be wary of malware that steals Bitcoins.

Your decision

As a small business owner, is it advisable to accept Bitcoins? You may want to sometime soon to do business with certain online vendors. There are some benefits, too, to this online currency. Bitcoin transactions – as of now – aren’t taxed. Additionally, there aren’t any fees or charges from banks, credit cards or financial institutions involving such transactions.

Posted in: Malware, Uncategorized

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Never lose power again with these top battery packs

Planning a vacation? Going to bring your laptop, smartphone or tablet along? Then you will want to invest in an external battery pack. These portable units allow you to plug nearly any device in them. The battery pack charges them whenever they begin running out of juice. But which external battery packs work best? The tech site Lifehacker recently asked its readers to rate the top battery packs. Below are their three favorites.

Anker Astro

Lifehacker readers chose the Anker Astro as their favorite line of external battery packs. Anker manufactures three packs, the 3E, Pro and E4 versions. Each of these devices are given praise for the powerful charging ability they have. The devices also score points for their portability and good prices.

New Trent

New Trent’s external battery packs – the iCarrier and iGeek – both scored very high with Lifehacker readers, too. These models, too, hold a lot of power, and the devices offer an easy-to-read indicator light that tells you clearly how much charge the battery pack has in it.

Energizer XP

Want an adaptable external battery pack? Try any battery in the Energizer XP line. These external battery packs come packaged with a variety of cables and tips. These accessories enable you to quickly connect to almost any gadget, even smartphones or laptops that are several years old.

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Don’t expect any OS to unseat Windows

Quick: Name the best desktop operating system available today. Did you say Windows 8? If not, PC World writer Brad Chacos would like to debate you. He just recently wrote that Windows 8, despite having its well-publicized problems, ranks as the best desktop OS today. This goes against the trend, of course, with a long line of critics slamming Windows 8 frequently in the tech press. Is Chacos right? Is Windows 8 unfairly belittled? Take a look at some of the positive Windows 8 features that Chacos highlights.

The Offerings

Windows 8 blows away any other operating system when it comes to the programs and software that it provides, Chacos writes. No other desktop operating system can come close to the variety of programs that Windows 8 gives its users. Rare is a user who will ever use all of these programs. Looking for something? If you have Windows 8, the odds are good that it’s already provided by your Windows 8 operating system.

Syncing

Apple’s iCloud service has received excellent reviews. But Chacos writes that Microsoft warrants more praise for the syncing abilities built into Windows 8. As Chacos writes, you just need a Microsoft online account to immediately sync files, videos, photos and reports to any other computer running Windows 8. You can also immediately synch everything from browser specifications to desktop preferences. This syncing ability easily outpaces iCloud and the syncing capabilities of any other operating system, Chacos writes.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer doesn’t get a lot of respect. However the browser has actually improved in the years since Firefox has hit the scene, Chacos says. Today, the browser is easy to navigate. It’s also quite customizable. Best of all? Internet Explorer offers lots of protection from hackers and cyber criminals, Chacos writes. Computer-security company Symantec recently ranked Internet Explorer as one of the most secure browsers available.

Posted in: Security, Uncategorized, Windows 8

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Quick — What is your business’ cybersecurity plan?

Here’s a statistic that should frighten the owners of small businesses. According to a recent story by Entrepreneur Magazine – the magazine cited data from tech security company Symantec – companies with one to 250 employees were the unwilling recipient of 30 percent of all cyber crimes in 2012. What makes this statistic important? It provides proof that small businesses who don’t enact a cybersecurity plan are placing themselves at risk of suffering their own cyber attacks.

Anti-Virus

The Entrepreneur story provides some simple steps all small business owners should implement to protect their companies from cyber criminals. The first? Install anti-virus software on your computers. It’s true that this software won’t catch every virus that comes your company’s way. Nevertheless computers are easy targets if you don’t have any anti-virus software installed on them.

Suspicious E-mails

Many company hacks start with employees accidentally opening suspicious e-mail messages. Because of this, Entrepreneur suggests that small business owners constantly remind their workers to delete any suspicious e-mail messages, even if they are supposedly coming from people they know. Business owners need to emphasize to employees, to not click on links they find after opening suspicious e-mail messages.

You Need Firewalls

Entrepreneur recommends, too, that you employ firewalls at your business. This can prevent hackers from getting at your inbound and outbound traffic. Just as importantly, firewalls can protect your company from your employees, walling off their access to potentially dodgy Web sites.

Posted in: Security, Uncategorized

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