Archive for the ‘small business technology’ category

Cool Product: Bitcasa

June 22nd, 2012

A revolutionizing service in the cloud backup and synchronization space

Bitcasa is an app that integrates infinite storage, sync, backup and share into your desktop and across all your devices. When you add any folder to Bitcasa using the Add tab in the Desktop Client, you can choose from the following options depending on how you want Bitcasa to handle it:

Infinite
Your folder never fills up, regardless of what you put in it. It appears on your computer just like a normal folder and Bitcasa instantly streams its contents to your device as you use it. You might want to make your videos Infinite as they take up a lot of space. As long as you’re online, they will be available to watch with an Infinite folder.

Sync
Your folder is copied to every device whenever you make changes. It will be available even when you are offline. You might want to Sync all your work documents so you always have the latest copy handy. With a Sync folder they’ll be available on or offline, whenever you need it.

Backup
Your folder stays on your current computer and is backed up to Bitcasa for safe-keeping. Any changes you make to the folder are automatically propogated to Bitcasa as well.

You can also send any of your folders to someone else using the Send tab in the Bitcasa Desktop Client.

Bitcasa allows you to make any folder infinite, whether they are on your desktop, laptop or external storage device, and access it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Once folders have been made infinite, you can continue to use them just like you would any other folder.

Watch the short demo videos here.

Bitcasa is in beta and is currently free to use. Soon they will be offering the service for only $10 per month when it officially launches.
To visit Bitcasa’s website, click here.

Cool Product: Nitro Pro 7 – Adobe Acrobat Alternative

May 23rd, 2012

The Adobe Portable Document File (PDF) has become a popular standard for publishing documents online, for sending business documents out for review, etc. Adobe Acrobat Professional is the best known standard application for creating and editing PDFs. However, the Adobe PDF is an open, not a closed standard and you actually do have choice for PDF creation tools. If you want to look beyond the full version of Adobe Acrobat, the first place to start is with Nitro Pro 7 from NitroPDF. It is feature rich, robust, with a price well below what you would pay for a full version of Adobe Acrobat Professional.

Leaving Adobe Acrobat behind doesn’t mean leaving behind features. Nitro Pro 7 brings a lot to the table including:

Compatibility Being able to read files somebody else sends you is always a worry if you diverge from the application standards your coworkers, partners, and clients use. But since PDF is not some closed proprietary standard, you can open, read, and edit PDFs generated from Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Office 2010 with Nitro Pro 7.

During testing, Nitro Pro 7 did not have issues with, or even come close to choking on PDFs generated in the current version Adobe Acrobat.

Productivity Nitro Pro 7 integrates with Microsoft Office and Windows providing one-button PDF creation from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (in 32-bit Microsoft Office only). If you are using a 64-bit version of Microsoft Office, the one-button PDF creation isn’t available but Nitro Creator 2 does show up as a Printer option in the Print menu. NitroPDF promises further 64-bit Microsoft Office support in a future release of Nitro Pro 7.

You can open PDFs in Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Nitro Pro 7 also has a handy preview features that allows you to preview PDFs. It also displays PDF files in Windows folders as thumbnail document previews not the standard old static PDF icons.

Other productivity features of note include tools for digital signatures, PDF annotation, forms creation, and securing PDFs. You can also create PDFs from scanned documents and even send PDFs to Evernote from within the.

PDF Creation and Conversion Nitro Pro 7 can create PDF and PDF/A documents from the major document and graphic file formats. You can also use it to batch convert files to PDF and you have the tools to convert and combine separate files into a single PDF document.

The bane of anybody who has ever inherited documents is being able to only find the PDF version, the location of the original Microsoft Word document disappeared with the original author. Nitro Pro 7 includes a Convert PDF to Word feature, which lets you convert a PDF to an Office format. While the conversion wasn’t perfect (they never actually are) but you’ll get the information but, as always, will need to work within a Microsoft Word format to clean it up. You can also convert documents into Microsoft Excel (*.xlsx) files but don’t expect any formulas to make it through the conversion.

Final Thoughts Nitro Pro 7 is a solid alternative to purchasing the full version of Adobe Acrobat. You don’t lose file compatibility and Nitro Pro 7 packs some powerful features in a well implemented user experience. It also has a light footprint, which can be appealing to those who might see Adobe’s core apps as becoming more bloated with each new release.

Cool Product: Constant Contact

May 3rd, 2012

email marketing made easy

I’ve been using Constant Contact to give my emails a professional look for almost a year and a half. I’ve now put out 17 issues of my newsletter, The Small Biz Bulletin (get it free – see the Join Our Email List link to the right —–>), and have noticed that dozens of businesses on my emailing list have adopted this product for their use too. So, it’s high time I did a Cool Product Review on it.

Constant Contact email combines your email campaigns and your social networking efforts into one easy-to-use service. It’s intuitive and easy to use for all skill levels. It breaks down the set-up process into three easy steps: “Create the look, select your audience, then schedule and send.”

Email Campaign Creation

You start by picking one of over 400 templates as the basis of your email, or create your own. The templates come in a variety of layouts, colors and patterns, are easy to customize as well as to insert text, images, documents, blog content, links, surveys, polls, videos and more. There’s a social-share toolbar and buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others to send readers directly to your various social media properties.

Campaign Reporting

You’ll get comprehensive reports on your campaigns, including bounces, spam complaints, opt-outs, click-throughs, forwards and more. And Social Stats reporting tools tell you the number of Facebook shares and likes, tweets from Twitter and more, that your messages receive. You can also see the number of total social shares and page views your email campaign has generated.

Contact Management

You can add customers to your list by typing them in, importing a spreadsheet list or your address book from Gmail or Outlook. Contact fields are customizable so your contact database can hold all the info you need to keep on each contact.

Help & Support

Support includes a searchable knowledge base, tutorials, FAQs, a user manual, a blog, user forums, recorded demos and webinars. And the phone support is the best I’ve ever had for any product I’ve ever needed help on. They will even edit your email directly to fix a problem.

Try Constant Contact for Free!

You can try Constant Contact for free for 60 days to see if it fits your needs. If you do want to try it, click on the link below (or the logo at the top) and you will also receive a $30 credit when the free trial is over. Full disclosure: Yes, they will be kicking me back a $30 credit too, but if a couple hundred of you stick with it, well it could be sweet! Thanks!

Click here to get your 60 day free trial and your $30 credit if you continue beyond the trial period.

 

3 Tools 2B a Better Twitter Tweeter

March 21st, 2012

When you’ve been on Twitter for some amount of time, the number of people you follow can add up. So you’ll probably find a smaller number much more manageable. It may be that your stream has been clogged with all manner of tweets which don’t add much value to your stream.

It could even be that some of those irrelevant tweets come from people you only followed as a courtesy and who no longer follow you. Here are three simple tools to manage your following/follower ratio.

 

Friend or Follow

This useful website breaks your followers down into three categories:

Following: Those you follow who don’t reciprocate
Fans: Those who follow you, yet you aren’t following them
Friends: Those with whom you share a mutual following/follower relationship

Head to www.friendorfollow.com, and in the box on the homepage, type in your Twitter username and submit. The site then displays the users you follow but, for whatever reason, don’t follow you back.

Although you can’t unfollow people directly from the site, you can click on their avatar to load their profile to handle unfollowing via Twitter. Hit the fans tab, and you’ll be presented with those folks you’re not following back. Maybe you don’t want to follow them, but if you lost track of who to follow back, this tab comes in handy. And the friends tab, it shows the followers who also follow you.

 

Qwitter

If you’d rather not have to visit a website to manage your followers, Qwitter, rounds up a list of who stops following you and e-mails it to you weekly. The website, http://beta.useqwitter.com, is simple to use. Submit your username on the homepage and hook up Qwitter to your Twitter account. Then enter your email address, and each week you’ll get a list of everyone who’s abandoned you that week. It’s a few more steps than the Friend or Follow site, but once you’re set up you never need visit the site again.

 

Untweeps

Untweeps seeks out any inactive accounts you’re following and tells you how long they’ve been inactive. Head to the site, http://untweeps.com, and authorize it to access your Twitter account. Then enter how many days back you’d like to search for inactive accounts. You’ll be presented with a list of those inactive users, along with the last date they tweeted. And you can take care of any unfollowing you’d like to do right from the site. After all, who wants to be following someone who never tweets?

These three tools should be everything you need to keep tabs of your Twitter followers.

Cool Product: Carbonite Business

January 19th, 2012

If you want the ultimate in off-site data protection, look to cloud computing solutions such as Carbonite Business to help you survive and recover from disasters that wipe out your physical systems.

Unlike traditional daily or weekly backups, Carbonite Business continually backs up the files on your PCs to its secure data centers throughout the day. There’s no intervention required by your employees, and you have complete visibility into, and control over, individual backups via the handy My Company Dashboard, where you can see your users, computers, storage in use, backup status and more.

Best of all, the pricing scheme for Carbonite Business can’t be beat. Instead of paying per PC, you pick the plan that fits your storage needs, 250GB for $229 per year or 500GB for $599 (which includes service for one Windows server), and protects as many machines as you need, resulting in one of the lowest per-gigabyte storage prices of any online business backup solution. The home and home office version starts at $59 per year per computer.

Never interrupts your business
With Carbonite, your backup happens automatically, in the background. Users never have to stop working, and after the initial backup, shouldn’t notice any impact on performance. And no one has to choose between backing up and doing their jobs.

No hardware required
Carbonite is 100% software-based backup – there’s no hardware to install or maintain, no wires to connect, no disks or tapes to deal with, no technician needed. You simply install the software and Carbonite takes care of the rest.

Safer than local backups
Your backup is encrypted at all times, and stored on redundant disk arrays that are immeasurably more reliable than internal or external hard drives. (If you have external hard drives you can back them up with Carbonite Business, too.) Our state-of-the-art, guarded data centers protect your business backup from theft, fire, water damage and anything else that can happen at your office.

Smarter than scheduled backups
Carbonite backs up your data continually, updating your backup in the background – eliminating the potentially costly ‘backup gaps’ created by daily or weekly backups.

Restores files fast to minimize downtime
If you lose a file, get it back with a few clicks. If your hard drive crashes, restore all your backed up files to another computer via Carbonite.com – or, for mission-critical recovery, have your backed up files shipped to you on a portable hard drive.

Anytime, anywhere access to backed up files
With Anytime, Anywhere Access, you can open, view and share any file in your backup from any computer connected to the Internet. Or use one of our free mobile apps to access your files from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ or BlackBerry® device.