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How to Make Tough Decisions

When facing a major business decision, use the time-tested Benjamin Franklin methodology.
Big decisions can be tough to make because we don’t own a crystal ball to see into the future and it’s easy to go in circles in our own mind. Further, not all consequences—both good and bad—can be predicted. And since most entrepreneurs live in a state of overwhelm already, it’s important to have a trusted process for making important decisions quickly.
If you’re not familiar with the process, start by creating two lists on a single sheet of paper: Pros and Cons. Next, write down every PRO for making a decision or moving ahead, and all the potential downsides (Cons) as well. Give yourself a few days to process this list and allow your mind to think of new pros and cons as they come to you. Get input on the list from people you trust and add their ideas to your list.
Next, give a weight to each pro and each con—after all, one BIG pro can easily outweigh a few minor cons and vice versa. Then tally up both sides and it will become obvious just how risky your decision is or whether the pros outweigh the cons. If nothing else, this process will force you to get all the questions out of your head and onto a piece of paper where they can be evaluated. In the end you have the information you need to make a final decision. Just remember there is no way any of us can guess all the variable pros and cons to any decision—and since you can’t steer a parked car, MAKING a decision is the only way you can truly know if you made the right one or not.
Franklin is credited with the two-column pro and con list method of making decisions, and people have used it for centuries. While simplistic, it’s an easy and effective technique that works.
When you finally announce your new direction or decision to your staff, just tell them that you talked to your business consultant “Ben,” and he is in 100% agreement with what you chose to do.

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Hackers Are Now Targeting Macs

Until recently, MacIntosh computer users have long enjoyed relative freedom from hacker attacks; however, researchers at Symantec Corporation say online criminals are now setting their sites on Mac users.

Online porn hunters are the latest target. Visitors to certain web sites are led to believe they can download a free video player when in fact they are installing malicious code onto their Macs.

Once the users authorize the transaction, the hackers can redirect the users future browsing to fraudulent web sites and possibly steal the user’s information or passwords. Sometimes they simply send ads for other pornographic web sites. This results in thousands of dollars in income for the criminals.

While you may think that Macs are essentially more secure than PCs because they are built better, security experts would argue differently. They believe that the Mac is actually no more secure than a PC. In fact, they note that the relatively low number of viruses, exploits and other cyber attacks directed at Mac users is due to Apple’s relatively small share of the computer market.
“I don’t think that the Mac OS is more secure than Windows — I think it is safer than Windows because there are less people trying to attack it. There is a big difference,” Natalie Lambert, a senior analyst at Forrester Research recently shared with MacNewsWorld.

With that said, the fact remains that for every single attack on a Mac, there are at least 100 attacks on Windows-based systems.

So what should you do if you own a Mac? Use the same safe online surfing practices as PC users, keep your anti-virus software up-to-date, never open strange e-mails from unknown sources, and only verify user names and passwords by phone with your bank or other financial institutions.

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10 Ideas You Need If You Want To Succeed

1. Do what you need to do now so you will eventually get to do what you want to do later.
2. Discipline is the ability to get things done regardless of how you feel about doing them.
3. Passion pays off only when channeled into productive effort.
4. Others may believe in you, help you and support you, but ultimately nobody will do it for you. You are responsible for your own life.
5. If you don’t do your job any differently than anybody else who does it, you won’t get paid more than anybody else.
6. More often than not, you succeed in spite of – not because of – your circumstances.
7. If you think a little better and work a little harder, you will always accomplish more than others.
8. If you can’t control it, get over it.
9. If you don’t appreciate where you are at, you won’t appreciate where you are going.
10. Get clear on what really matters to you and then get busy pursuing it.

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5 Cheap Ways to Make Old Computers Faster and More Reliable

#1. Add Memory. One of the most inexpensive and effective ways to improve a computer’s performance is to install more RAM (random access memory). This will speed up the applications installed on your computer and allow you to open and run more programs simultaneously.

#2. Upgrade The Processor Or Add A Graphics Accelerator. If you are just looking for a little more “zoom,” upgrading the processor or installing a graphics accelerator will give your computer the ability to process information faster and improve its overall speed.

#3. Perform Regular Maintenance On Your Servers and Desktops. Computers, like cars, need regular maintenance to perform at top speed and reliability. At a minimum, you should run ScanDisk and the Disk Defrag Utility on your machines once a month. This will make your applications and files load and run faster.

#4. Run A Spyware Scan Once A Week. One telltale sign that your computer is infected with spyware is slow, unstable performance. Spyware sucks up your system’s resources to carry out its evil intent, slowing down your computer and even causing it to freeze and crash.

#5. Disable Or Remove Unnecessary Programs Running In The Background. Many computers have pre-installed software programs that use up system resources and slow down your computer.

While these recommendations will certainly speed up your system, they aren’t a miracle cure for a seriously out-of-date computer network. If your computer or network constantly crashes, freezes up, or runs painfully slow, then it’s time to give us a call for an upgrade.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Computer Networks

Try to talk to most small business owners about setting up a computer network and their eyes will glaze over. Either they fear the complexity of the topic and the mysterious acronyms, or they simply fear the cost of setting up and maintaining one.

But computer networking isn’t as expensive or as complicated as it used to be. Lower costs and “plug and play” devices have made it extremely easy for even small Mom and Pop shops to take advantage of the increased speed, accuracy, and ease of doing business offered by a computer network.

What Is A Network?

A computer network is nothing more than a system of computers and computer devices (like a printer or scanner) that are connected together to share files, information, and resources. If you connect your computer with another computer with a cable, you’ve got a small, peer-to-peer network in place.

The most common network for small businesses is the LAN or Local Area Network. This type of network is usually connected within the same building via cables. Another common small business network is a WAN or Wide Area Network, which is a LAN extended to other geographic locations using the Internet.

Which Network Is Best For You?

If you only have two or three computers, you may want to start off only with a simple peer to peer network where all machines are directly connected to one another. However, there are drawbacks to this set up.

Peer to peer networks make it difficult to backup and manage files because everyone has to store everything – software and data files – on their own machine.
This type of network can also become sluggish and unstable causing unexpected downtime, and makes it difficult to adequately protect against viruses.

A better option is the client-server network where a powerful computer called a server stores and “serves up” the information and software applications (databases, word processing, accounting, etc) to all the machines in your network or office.

This type of network configuration is much faster, secure, and stable. Backups are not only easier to perform, but they are also far more reliable and accurate. Security is improved because virus protection and Internet access can be managed from one central location. Sharing software applications and large files between workers and offices becomes easier, and you can allow for remote access (people working from home).

There are other benefits such as lowered software costs, increases in productivity, and the ability to get practically any device (such as a printer or scanner) to talk to just about any other device, including your phone.

Wireless Networks – The Next Generation of Small Business And Home Computing

Thanks to major advances in wireless technology, now even small businesses on a small budget can benefit from the new wireless networks. If you’re confused, just think of it as a computer that works like a cell phone (look Mom, no wires!).

The only difference between a wireless network and the “old fashioned” cable connected networks is that wireless networks communicate with other computers, devices, and the Internet without any messy cable installations.

This is especially popular in businesses that require mobile workers to enter and access data where wired devices would be inconvenient (or impossible) to carry around, such as a warehouse, a large store, or even in a hospital.

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International Traveling: How to Cut Phone Costs

If you have ever traveled internationally, whether for business or pleasure, and talked on your cell phone, you may have received a shock when you returned home. Most people don’t realize just how darn expensive it is to communicate with people back home while they are gone. If you are going to do it via phone, it is going to cost you! But the good news is that there are things you can do to help curb that expense.

Know what you are up against. If you want to use your cell phone while traveling, first find out what you will be paying for international calls. Making international calls on your cell phone can range from $1 to $2 per minute, and it’s easy to lose track of the time. So before you go, get in the know by calling your cell-phone provider and finding out what it will cost you.

Use the WiFi connections to make calls. Depending on the type of phone you have, it may be possible to place free calls and texts if you use the WiFi connection available in certain spots. In order to take advantage of this, however, the conditions need to be right, including having a WiFi-enabled phone system and being at a location where free WiFi is offered at the time you need to take or make a call.

Screen your calls. At home, you probably just pick up every call that comes through on your cell phone. But if you are traveling abroad and answer an unnecessary call, you may end up paying a couple of bucks per minute as you try to get off the phone again. If you don’t know who is calling you, or whether or not you need to answer it, let the call go to voice mail and then determine whether you need to call them back.

Look into the available apps. There are some apps available that can be helpful for making international calls and saving money. Check to see which ones would work for you and whether it would be worth it. Usually, such apps are under $10 and may save you a bundle in the end.

Consider using Skype or VoIP. Consider alternative methods of making calls, such as using Skype or VoIP. With Skype, you can make the calls online or with your phone, and it is much cheaper per minute than using your cell phone. Also, VoIP providers offer a variety of plans that allow people to pay one low fee for making international calls. They are both worth checking out.

Respond via e-mail. If you get a message from someone and you can easily address their issue via e-mail, just respond that way. Most likely you will have your laptop with you anyway, so while you are in your hotel room you can catch up on communication that way.

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Seven Ways to Add Value to Your Job

Adding value to your job – making your contribution unique – is key to survival and success in a competitive job market. What could you do within your existing (or future) company to increase your value and influence? The seven job skills that follow won’t mean you necessarily work harder, but that you work differently and more creatively. You can add value if you choose to be:

Experience Manager. Every interaction with another person creates an experience that leaves a memory of you and your work. How are you consciously designing these experiences to be positive? Enriching? Rewarding? Lasting? Since most people don’t tell you about their experience unless it is awful, you have to work intentionally to design experiences that draw people back for more and that get them to tell others about you, your products and your services.

Value Creator. All great employees (including CEOs, owners, board members, etc.) add value to the organization’s offerings. Being a value creator is a form of job security. Value-neutral employees are interchangeable or, worse, replaceable.

Talent scout. Identify people within and outside your organization who would be a valuable addition to your team. Talents scouts have the ability to understand the talents and abilities individuals possess and match them with organizational needs. This makes your team stronger, but it also makes you a go-to person for resources and talent advice. Others will want to know who you know who can help.

Ambassador. A person is known by the company he or she keeps, and an organization is known by the people it keeps. You represent your organization, as well as yourself, to customers and vendors. Learn the history of your organization well enough that you can share it frankly and passionately with outsiders.

Amplifier. Increase the good that happens around you by noticing and noting it to others. Most people can spot what’s wrong and complain about it. An amplifier knows the work around him or her well enough to spot what’s right, praise the work and praise the person or people responsible for it. Good news often is so subtle that it needs amplification to be heard. Noticing good work and telling others is a positive influence on any organizational culture.

Router. Internet data is broken into chunks called “packets,” and routers make sure those packets go where they are supposed to go. Similarly, a good communicator makes sure information gets to the right people in a timely manner. Peter Drucker famously said that good communication is about who needs what information and when. Developing the judgment and discernment for routing information correctly and efficiently is a valuable skill set.

Interpreter. As Erwin Raphael McManus put it, “People don’t need more information. They need more insights.” Understand information and how it applies to the people and circumstances around you. Offer context. Offer insights. Provide the links that turn chaos and confusion into order.

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Is Your Computer Keyboard Making You Sick?

Now that we’re at the height of cold and flu season, you might want to take a closer look at what’s living on your keyboard. A series of studies called “Germs in the Workplace,” found that the following four office surfaces had the most bacteria (in this order):

· Phones
· Desks
· Computer keyboard
· Computer mouse

Obviously these are items you touch all day, every day. Germs and dirt from your hands and mouth get transferred easily on to these items, and vice-versa, making them breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. To lessen your chances of picking up colds and flu, we recommend cleaning your mouse and keyboard daily with disinfecting wipes. It’s also smart to clean these items before a new person uses them.

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3 Common and Costly Mistakes with Online Backups

Offsite backups have been touted in the past few years as the answer to everyone’s bad habit of not doing backups. Once signed up for an online service it’s easy to ‘set it and forget it;’ but too many business owners don’t know what they are buying and end up paying a lot more than they should. They also end up shocked when they discover they weren’t backing up the right files or that they can’t restore the files as quickly as they had hoped.

If you want to make sure you don’t get burned by your online backup, avoid these 3 common mistakes:

Mistake #1: Not choosing an online backup service that offers a file versioning feature.
In the old days of tape backups when a proper tape rotation was used, it would be possible to go back to a specific version of a file from different time periods. In other words it was possible to restore a spreadsheet you worked on last night and three weeks ago.

Most online backup services only back up the last version of a file; so make sure you choose one that features file versioning and configure it for 60-90 days of versioning on files that are frequently used.

Mistake #2: Backing up everything.
In most cases, only data files need to be backed up. Some business owners accidently select their whole server and/or computer when beginning the process and end up paying to back up files and programs that do not need to be copied. This can lead to exponentially higher monthly charges with no added benefit. It’s often best to have a professional help you set up your backup criteria the first time to make sure you’re not missing files or data that might be buried a few levels deep—or backing up unnecessary files.

Mistake #3: Not having a local backup.
Online backup services are great as a daily backup and eliminate the headache of changing tapes, disks, etc. However, if you only have an online backup, it can take a few hours to a few days to fully download your data back onto your server. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a current local backup using inexpensive hard disks or other mediums. Aside from being able to retrieve data a lot more quickly from your local backup, it can make the process of rebuilding an entire system a lot faster and less painful.

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10 Easy Ways to Eliminate E-mail Overload

E-mail driving you crazy? Every time you delete one, do five more show up? Are you finding it impossible to answer every e-mail you receive? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone!

Some people are even declaring e-mail bankruptcy — they dump every e-mail in their inbox and start over. If that’s not an option for you, then here are 10 tips to reduce e-mail overload.

1. Get a good spam filter. Even if it saves you just 10 minutes a day, that adds up to over 59 hours a year.
2. Cancel subscriptions to unwanted mailing lists, and opt-out of LEGITIMATE e-zines. But be careful! Trying to opt-out of spam e-mails will only alert the sender that they have a LIVE address. Also, make sure you are careful to check the “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” box when purchasing items online.
3. Ask your friends to remove you from joke groups or chain messages. Simply explain your situation and, if they are good friends, they’ll take you out of their message group.
4. Don’t post or publish your e-mail on web sites. Spammers will steal it and put it on their lists.
5. Don’t respond to every e-mail you receive. Yes, it’s okay NOT to respond to some e-mails. If it’s a group e-mail, don’t respond with “okay” or “:)” — it’s not necessary unless the sender is specifically asking you a question or requesting a response.
6. Be succinct. Restrict your messages to a few sentences. If you can’t, pick up the phone or talk in person. This will avoid the back-and-forth of e-mail conversation.
7. Take advantage of subject lines. If possible, put your question in the subject line, or your message. If that’s not possible, make your subject line very descriptive so the recipient knows what your message is about. Here’s another tip; create a set of codes with your coworkers and place them in the subject line to help them process and prioritize messages. For example, use “FYI” for informational messages. Use “AR” for action required and “URG” 1. for urgent messages.
8. Block time to answer your e-mail and fight the temptation to check your e-mail every few minutes. You will save yourself a lot of time and be far more productive.
9. Respond to messages when you open them so you only read them once. If the e-mail requires an action step, schedule the action step and delete it from your inbox.
10. Set time aside in the morning and the evening to process your inbox. Shoot for a completely empty inbox. File messages you need to keep and set reminders for messages that require you to follow up.

Now, here are some tips to keep from adding to the e-mail overload of others…
1. Be courteous when forwarding an e-mail: summarize the thread and why you are sending it at the top of the e-mail.
2. Don’t copy someone on a message unless it is necessary. And explain why you’re copying them. Recipients won’t need to guess your intentions. This means less back and forth messages.

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