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The Best Browser

By Scott Baker on 2014-05-02 in teKBytes

What is the single most important piece of software on your computer?


Right now?


What application do you “live in”?  What connects you to your clients?  What software helps you maintain your revenue stream?


No, it’s not Minesweeper.  


The correct answer is: Your Web Browser.  The web browser has become the single most important piece of software on your hard drive. 


Windows users could argue their anti-virus software is more important, but that is not their fault. I mean, who can blame them?


Your web browser instantly connects you to the world.  Whether it is communication, sales or research, it all happens for you via your Web Browser. We do a lot in our browser, and every day we do more and more.  This is because more and more services are becoming available on the web.  From email to word processing, services we once used software for are now just web sites.  So deciding which browser to use is very important.  


And the best part is, they are free.  And most are not big installs.  How many times have you paid over $400 for email or word processing software?  How often do those programs have costly updates? And they run so slooooooooooow.


For the most part, browsers are small programs. They are not resource intensive, so they do not slow your computer down.  However, some browsers run better than others.


So, let’s cover what is out there.  I will be referring to the latest release on all these.  if you have not updated your browser ( or OS) shame on you!


And I am going to start with the worst, first.  


Internet Explorer by Microsoft


If you run a Windows PC, you have this browser installed as part of the OS.  Every copy of Windows ships with Internet Explorer.  Given this type of distribution, there is good reason that it was king of the browser hill for years. It's how Windows users got on the web.  And Microsoft made it so much a part of the OS, it was difficult for most users to know there were alternatives out there.


If there is one glaring reason that Internet Explorer is not the browser to use, it is security.  But not using it, you are not using the browser that the bad guys target.  Because of the distribution, Internet Explorer has become so popular that the bad guys exploit it daily.


This is further complicated by the way Microsoft fixes issues.  Microsoft releases fixes on a schedule.  Normally bad guys don’t respect that schedule. And what ends up happening is your browser lets malware and other exploits into your computer, your entire computer slows down, and you hate technology.  This is not supposed to be the way it happens.  For this reason alone, I cannot recommend Internet Explorer to anyone.  And believe me, there are plenty of other reasons.


Firefox by Mozilla


A couple of years ago, Firefox was my go to browser.  I loved it.  I could not think of ever browsing the web without it.  It was the fastest, most secure, and most customizable browser available.  And for the most part, it still is.  It isn't the fastest browser anymore, but as far as customizing your browsing experience and workflow, nothing can come close to Firefox.


The problems started with Firefox 4, in which Mozilla sorta re-built the browser from the ground up.  And did so in a year, and then went with a rapid release program.  Every time they had an update, there was a new version.  This has lead to some instability and a decrease in some of the browser’s performance.  


The thing I will always love about Firefox is the community and variety of add-ons and plugins available for the browser.  There is very little that Firefox cannot do without the right set of add-ons.  From developer tools to search engine improvements, with Firefox and the right add ons, you may never need another program.


I still like Firefox, but over the past couple years, it’s speed has really affected the way I do things. It's still a great browser. 



Safari by Apple


Unless you use a Macbook, iPhone, or iPad, you likely have never heard of Safari.  And that is a shame, because it is a decent browser.  It is Apple’s web browser, which means it’s on their devices by default ( see Internet Explorer).  However, it should be noted that Apple does not integrate the browser into the OS like Microsoft has done with IE.  This makes it more stable and reliant.  And if you live in the Apple Ecosystem ( you work from a Mac, iPhone and iPad), Safari is automatically syncing your data via iCloud.  So you can access your bookmarks from any device as well as any webpage you were browsing.  Start reading an article on your iPhone, then finish on your Macbook or iPad.


And Safari is one of, if not the most secure web browser.  That, to some people is a major upside.  But that upside it s direct effect of it’s downside.


The downside to Safari is it’s global exposure.  Not as many people have adopted it.  Sure, a good number of people have iPhones around the world, but a mobile site is different than a desktop site, and not as many people have Macbooks.  So, in many respects, Safari is the forgotten b*astard child of web development.  There are more than a few websites that simply don’t play well with Safari.  Not to mention the forever feud between Apple and Adobe.  Adobe makes Flash, which is a MAJOR component of many websites today.  


Chrome by Google


For my money, there is no better browser than Chrome.  And since it’s free, I can spend that amount all day!


Why is it the best? Chrome is fast.  Very fast.  Web Pages load in a flash. So does Flash! Videos play with no stuttering.  There is a minimalist quality to it that puts your web content in the forefront.  There is no clutter from extra toolbars or options.  You can search directly from the address bar ( something Chrome invented, but has been adopted by other browser versions now).


Chrome is better at respecting and protecting your privacy.  The Chrome Pop Up blocker is second to none.


And it is stable.  You will find it hard to remember the last time it froze up or crashed on you.


Essentially this is a browser that enhances and improves every aspect of your web experience.  And it goes with you.  No more having to backup your bookmarks, or the name of the plug ins you use.  Once you log into Chrome with your gmail account, that information is immediately tied to your account for life.


Chrome is also powerful enough to be it’s own OS. In fact, it is one.  Google markets a version that is known as Chrome OS, and it is is just a web browser.


You cannot lose with Chrome.  It is my choice for the best browser available and I recommend that you download it immediately after reading this.


Business takes place on the web.  The world now runs from the internet. Is it time you started to get serious about running your business from the web?  From our online order entry to cloud storage, accessing your data in the quickest and most stable method should be your top priority, which makes your choice of web browser all the more important.


So what are you using? I would love to hear.  And if you want more information about moving more of your business to the web, I would be glad to help out.















Taming Your Inbox

By Scott Baker on 2014-01-08 in teKBytes


Email has become the most necessary of evil. And it is the most broken technology that we all use everyday.  Most every other useful communication tool has been upgraded or evolved.  Not email.  Email has become a wasteland of mostly useless notifications.  Take a look at your inbox right now.  Look at the first 20 messages.  How many are honest to goodness communications, versus how many are simple notifications?  Whether it’s from a retail store, a calendar reminder, or worse ( I am looking at you, Spam) I tend to mark the majority as read and mark what I need as important. Then I end up deleting most of that.  Everyday.


And sure, I can go and unsubscribe from these, but that takes me to a web site and involves some sort of form.  Most of the time I can’t be bothered with that. And after almost twenty years of having the same email address, I have a lot of messages coming to me that I really don't care about.


The point is I spend a lot of my time managing my inbox.  I don’t want to do that.  My time is precious and I am willing to bet yours is to.


The vast majority of people use their inbox as a huge storage bin or filing cabinet.  If this is you, then you are doing it wrong!  Your inbox should be your action list.  Communications that need your attention. The focus of your inbox should be what you absolutely should be following up on for that hour, or day, or week.  I want to be able to open my email and see what I need to see and not have to wade through message after message of waste.  


Luckily, most email clients have tool that allow you to manage this, and get yourself to the nirvana known as “inbox zero”.  There are several schools of thought on obtaining “inbox zero”. Some say do it everyday, so at the start of the next day, you have a new list of action items and start fresh.  Some do it every week ( I am in this group), and some do it monthly.  The goal should be to make your workflow as efficient as possible.  


Learning to Let Go.


The first step is admitting you have a problem, and learning to let go. You don’t need to have an inbox with emails dating back three or four years.  Accept that you are going to get emails that are not important, and get rid of them. The belief that a full inbox represents how busy you are is silly.  What it really says is that you are disorganized and a hoarder. Think about it, do you really need that email from a customer about an order from three years ago in your inbox?


Archiving


For those of you using Gmail, you may already be familiar with this concept.  Simply put, archiving an email simply takes it out of your inbox.  They still remain in your mailbox.  So, when you do a search, you can find them.  This is an indispensable tool for achieving “inbox zero”.  The idea is, you are keeping the important emails filed, but out of the way.  


If your email client doesn't have an archive option, first, I would recommend finding one that does.  However, you can file your mail away in a similar style.  Most email clients are based on a paper filing cabinet, meaning you can create folders that can store files.  This method takes a little more work, but provides the same result.  Get the non pending stuff out of your inbox.



Rules and Filters  


The other part of controlling your mail flow are rules and filters.  They allow you to direct your email client to handle all the email coming to your inbox in a specific way.  And most are extremely flexible.  You can really micro manage your inbox, by creating a rule for individual emails, or broaden the scope and just create rules based on domain.


For example, I get a lot of tech related newsletters and blog updates. In fact, over the past 15 years I have signed up for so many that it’s cumbersome to have to manage unsubscribing from the ones I don’t anymore.  However, there are a few I still want to read.  I have to be able to keep up speed with what is going on in the tech industry, it’s part of my job. So, what I have done is create a filter for these types emails. Now, when these emails come in, they don't show up in my inbox at all. I have created a filter that instructs Gmail to have these emails skip my inbox, stay marked as UNREAD, and apply a label.  This allows me, at my leisure, to look at what is coming in and read what really appeals to me.  


But what about emails that are so important that you want them to not only show up in your inbox, but sound trumpets and alert the media?  Gmail makes this easy! (most of it, I am not sure about the trumpets and media).   


Create a filter that simply says “important@important.com” not only stays in your inbox, but gets a label that says IMPORTANT.  Gmail also has a feature that allows you to place a FLAG on emails, or in this case, a colored STAR.  You can add that in the filter as well.


These filters, while easy to setup, can take a good deal of time to setup.  But the work you do on the front end, is worth it.  You will find that once you create a couple, you will quickly get the hang of it.  In no time, you will be churning out rules and filters and your inbox will become a land of order and unity.  


Old Habits Are Old.  


Stop letting items stay in your inbox.  Set aside sometime every week to take a hard look at what is sitting in your inbox.  It may take awhile the first time you do it, but once you get your inbox tamed, it will become more efficient.  


Ideally what you want to do, is go through your inbox, see what is pending, what is not, and what requires action from you.   You archive what you want to keep (filed, but out of sight), you delete junk, and you create an action list for the next day, week, or month.  


My day is Friday, and it only takes me about 15-20 mins now.  I make sure before I leave the office that I am sitting at inbox zero.  



Give some of these tips a try and I am sure you will a better functioning inbox for 2014!




Move to the Cloud

By Scott Baker on 2013-11-11 in teKBytes

Where is your stuff?


It has happened to all of us.  That moment when you realize that the document/file you needed is not in your folder, not in your briefcase or bag, or worse, you have no idea where it is.


How much time have we all spent organizing out paperwork or computer files? How often are you backing that up?  Are you backing that up? What happens if you lose all that information?  I am willing to bet that if you are like me, losing your data would bring death.  So what do we do? We print, we save.  We print and place things in a folder.  We save files to a local hard drive or thumb drive.  These methods work, but only when you have access to the folder or the drive.


How great would it be if you no longer had to worry about where your stuff was?  You could just get to them from wherever  you were.  Not a care in the world.  As long as you have a device and a network, your stuff is with you.


ENTER THE CLOUD.


For those of you still stuck in paper workflows, there isn't much you can do except carry folder after folder of your sales data with you, and hope you have the right stuff if and when you are with a customer.  And you really need to rethink that system.  Or even those of you who keep your files digitally, in a single folder called “WORK” with little to no organization, finding anything can be a chore.  


Technology is now at a point in which your stuff is accessible from practically anywhere on the planet.  Provided you have the tools and have taken the time to set it up. Cloud based storage services have changed the way many of us access our data and work.  Log in to your service of choice and BAM! you have your stuff.


What is the Cloud?


The Cloud is what we refer to when we talk about the Internet.  Back in the day, whenever a network diagram was created the internet was always represented as a CLOUD.   Also, back then, the internet was really nothing more than a way to connect and display data.  Today, the internet has evolved into a robust tool for storing data and a place to run full on applications.  Cloud Back Up, SAS ( software as a service ) are all common functions of business today.


The great thing about the cloud is that it stores information that can be shared across multiple devices and locations.  Create a file on your home computer, access it later on your smart phone or tablet. Or let others have access to that same file from their home computer. What used to require programming skills is now as easy as point, click and drag.



What is out there?


If you are interested in moving your business to the cloud, there are a number of services and applications that can help you.  And the great thing? Most are free!



The easiest way to move to the Cloud is to utilize it as an online hard drive.  There are a few services that are great for this.  Here are my favorites.


Dropbox

Dropbox is the current King of the Hill.  The free version gives you 2GBs of storage. There are pay plans you can sign up for that allows you to get more storage. Even better, the more people you can get to sign up for Dropbox, the more storage they give.  I am up to 6 GBS free just by doing that.   And that is storage to do anything you want with.  Treat it as you would a regular drive.  Dropbox has a website that you can drag folders to directly from your computer, and it has a free client you can download that allows you to see the drive on your computer as you would a flash drive.  This allows you to treat it as you would any other storage medium.  Dropbox also has mobile apps for smart phones and tablets, so you can access your data on the go.  Another great feature is the ability to share with others.  No more having to worry about emailing that large file.  You can treat your Dropbox account like your own personal FTP server, giving others access on a folder by folder basis.  They can upload files for you and you can save files for them.


Because of it’s popularity, Dropbox also integrates with other apps, so you can connect your account and save directly to it from those apps.  Head over to www.dropbox.com for more details.


Google Drive

Drive is no slouch, and is just as functional as Dropbox.  Drives best feature is that it’s part of the Google Ecosystem.  That means that if you use GMAIL or any other of Google’s many services, you have shared storage built right in.  What Drive allows you to do that Dropbox does not, is real time collaboration.   If you have a document , be it a Word Processor, Spreadsheet, or Presentation, you can work with anyone from anywhere in the world on it at the same time.   Notes and edit records are kept so you can see who did what.  You can even see the person typing and making changes in real time.   Drive gives you 30GBs free that is used across your account(this includes your mail storage).  Like Dropbox, there are pay plans that allow you to increase the limit. Another benefit of using Drive, is that Kaeser & Blair uses Google Apps, and therefore you are instantly compatible with the home office.  For more details, check out www.google.com/drive


Box

Coming in a close third, is Box.  Box gives you the most storage free, out of the box.  25GBS to do whatever you want with.  Box also has collaboration and integrates with Google Apps.  It does everything Dropbox and Drive do, and on the surface looks like the best deal.  However, I don’t recommend this as much because of it’s lack of overall distribution.  Many sites and services have Dropbox and Drive integration,  Box isn't as widespread yet.   More details can be found at ww.box.com


iCloud

If you live in the Apple Ecosystem, you already have some experience with iCloud.  If you have an iPhone, iPad and Macbook, iCloud is a dream.  And there is very little you have to do.  With iCloud, your documents, music, pictures, emails, and book marks show up on all your devices.  Start a word processing doc on your Phone, finish it on your Macbook later.  Or iPad.  Viewing a web page on your Macbook…but then are out and have your iPad with you?  No problem, the web page you were viewing is there.  iCloud is now a standard part of the Apple experience.  However, that is also it’s weakness, as Apple demands that you use their apps and formats.  Sharing and collaboration is only available with other Apple users.  While it makes your personal life a symphony, working with others can be difficult.


So there you have it.  Using the Cloud is something that everyone of you should at least look into.  It will open up new opportunities and create efficiencies you didn't know existed.  You can really take your dealership to the next level.


It’s a great way to go green as well.  Why print when you can access and share the same data online?


And by the way, I started this article on my iPad earlier.  I turned on my iMac, opened Google Drive, and there it was, waiting for me to finish.  I didn’t email it to myself, or have to save it to a clumsy flash drive.  


It was just there.  


Personal Domain Names

By Scott Baker on 2013-03-15 in teKBytes

Does your EMail Address Promote YOU?

I would be willing to bet that a large part of your daily correspondence is done via email.  For some of you it may have surpassed your phone.  However, unlike your phone number, an email address can say a lot more about you.  

Nowadays, free email is everywhere.  Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo.  One does not have to look very hard to find a free email account.  They are super easy to sign up for and incredibly flexible when it comes to different devices and applications.

But when you contact  a prospective client via email, they see your email address.  Sure, you may have put Joe Smith as your display name, but if your email address is jumpinjoe420@yahoo.com?  That might send a bad impression. Or not enough of an impression.   Besides, you are your own business...you want a business name. Promote it!

ENTER: THE CUSTOM DOMAIN

How nice would it be to send emails from Joe@joescompany.com?  Not only does it look way more professional, but it also tells the customer that you are a real company.  Even if you are just a part time sales person, running your dealership from your kitchen, a personalized domain can go a long way to adding to your business gravitas!

Personalizing your domain is actually very easy.  The hard part will be coming up with a name that 1) no one has taken and, 2) you are happy with.  

Obviously, if your last name is Ford and you want to use ford.com, you can't.  That domain is already owned by the Ford Motor Company. However, you may try going with FordPromos.com or FordB2BPromos.com. If you already have a company name, obviously you would want to get that. Any service you use to acquire your domain will tell you if it's available or not.

Regardless, I recommend purchasing the domain for your company brand even if you don't plan on using it right away.

There are several services for getting your own domain. The cheapest and easiest is to go through Google.  For as little as $60 a year...you can register your own domain.  That will give you an email, web services, even a suite of office applications ( word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tools...even a PDF editor). Another nice feature is that a Google Apps domain is ready "out of the box".  You can set it all up in under an hour and be running your business the next. Each user is $5 a month or $50 a year.  Domain registration is $10. Add that up and that is $60 a year to promote your dealership with every email you send.

Further, if you are not tech savvy, Google Apps is likely your best option.  And a added bonus, if you make the switch to Google Apps, you are a INSTANTLY compatible with Kaeser's home office system.

Check out Google Apps here.

Another option is to so straight to a domain register service, like Go Daddy or Network Solutions.  Each of these will allow you to find and register your own domain, and give you an email inbox.  It"s fairly cut and dry.  You get a name and and email.  Prices can vary, but they run deals all the time.  Especially Go Daddy.  

Check out Go Daddy.
Check out Network Solutions.

If you decide to go this route, you will need to know a bit more about what you are doing, or have someone around to help you.  The backend controls are extremely “techy”.  Honestly, they are designed for web hosting companies, not a business owner.  If you go this route, I strongly recommend getting help.

Regardless of the route you go, having a personalized domain provides huge benefits to your business.  And, just like a business card or pen with your name on it, you are leaving a reminder of yourself with every contact.  

Sounds like a certain industry I know.....

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