Secure Online Document Sharing 
Friday, March 21, 2008, 06:54 PM - Computers, E-mail, Links, Small Business, Technology, Work Habits
One of the nice things about the Internet is being able to share information quickly - but it's not always secure, especially when a document is sent by e-mail.

In response to the needs of some of our clients, my company, Midwest New Media, has created a secure alternative to e-mailing sensitive information. This new service, SendItWisely (senditwisely.com), facilitates secure online document sharing in a simple, easy-to-use manner.

So now, instead of e-mailing that sensitive document, you can share it quickly and securely via an SSL connection. Best of all, it's free to try.

SendItWisely is currently in beta testing, so please feel free to send us comments about your experience.
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Back up your computer every day 
Friday, January 19, 2007, 03:58 PM - Computers, E-mail, Links, Software, Technology
I've learned from experience that almost every computer, at some point, will crash, whether the hard drive fails or something goes wrong with the operating system. Unless you're highly familiar with computer hardware and software, and you can diagnose problems before they manifest themselves, it is in your best interest to back up your data every day.

For personal computers, I recommend SyncBack, a free program from 2BrightSparks. (There's also a full version, SyncBack SE, which is not free.) After installing it, you can create a profile that will specify what files to back up and where to copy them - preferably an external hard drive, although you can send the files off-site via FTP, which is a viable option if you have the connection speed and the necessary disk space. You can automate each backup using the Scheduled Tasks tool in Windows; I've got mine scheduled for every evening, right after I finish work.

To make backups easier, I've separated my hard drive into two partitions; the C drive is home to my programs and computer settings, and the D drive is where I keep all my files, include:

- Business and personal documents
- Digital photos and music
- Work (local copies of the web sites I've developed)
- E-mail (Outlook PST files)
- Synchronized files from my PDA
- Downloaded files

If you run a server, a tape backup is nice, but you're probably better off with a remote backup, in case of fire or some other disaster. A server can connect with an FTP site a lot faster than a personal computer can, so you can usually run a backup script overnight without too many problems. There are plenty of online services that offer backup space, but you can usually get a better deal with a web hosting company.

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For example, my company currently offers web hosting plans starting at $9.95/month for 5GB of space.
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Even if your computer doesn't die any time soon, it's likely that you'll be replacing your computer within the next three to five years. When that happens, you'll be happy that you have all of your files backed up automatically, which will make it much easier to transition to your new computer.

I've also found it helpful to have immediate access to files that I accidentally overwrite or delete, realizing shortly thereafter that I made a mistake and need to undo my work.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, just remember, it's nothing compared to the work and expense involved in recovering data from a computer that won't boot, or attempting rebuilding all of your important files.
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Get a Headset for Your Cordless Phone 
Friday, September 29, 2006, 08:28 PM - Phone, Reviews, Technology, Work Habits
I recently bought a headset for my cordless phone, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Because I work at a computer, and often have to type while on the phone, I got really tired of constantly wedging the phone between my left ear and my shoulder. Even worse, I think it might have caused a bit of damage to my left ear, having used it exclusively and probably at too high a volume.

Before I was self-employed, I worked in an office where a sales associate wore a headset all day, and I thought it looked ridiculous. (It is important to point out that I have an aversion to gadgets and habits that people use to feel more important than they really are, or to feel more "high-tech" than their coworkers. Hands-free phone devices have always been high on my list.)

However, I decided that something like this might actually be useful, if not a necessity, so I went ahead and picked up a basic GE headset that retails for about $20. It has a padded ear piece on one side (which I generally use on my right ear), a microphone that extends out near my chin, and a volume control and mute button on the cord that connects to the phone's handset.

So far it's been fantastic. I can put the phone in my pocket and walk around, type as much as I want, and relax my head and shoulders when I'm talking to someone. The telephone has become my friend instead of an irritation.

If you sit at a desk and use a phone for more than a half hour a day, stop by your nearest office supply or electronics store and check out the options that are available, including wireless headsets and hands-free phones. Just remember - whatever you end up using, make sure you don't appear to be talking to yourself (i.e., no earpieces), and don't wear it when you're not on the phone. Otherwise you'll look like a jerk.
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