How To Automate And Outsource More Of Your Workload Using Modern Technology

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Companies will spend a lot of time, energy and money often trying to find ways to increase their turnover, hire more staff and generally expand. This is a great way to make a mark and if you can grow quickly and efficiently then you can improve the lives of many in the process.

But expansion shouldn’t always be your goal. Some companies aren’t cut out to become global megacorporations and would rather just turn a profit doing something they love. The more turnover you have, the more things can go wrong. The more you make, the more you’ll spend. And the bigger you grow the more stress you’ll find yourself under.

What’s often better then is to think less about turnover and more about efficiency and profit margins. Instead of taking on more staff and satisfying more customers in order to take home more profit, instead think about doing everything you’ve already been doing – but just doing it quicker and for less so that you can keep more of the profit at the end of every transaction. That way you can still grow your profit, you can still improve the lives of your staff, but you’ll all be happier and less stressed at the same time. The secret to more freedom as a company is not to earn more, but to spend less.

The Tech Takeover

Here’s where technology comes in. You see, rather than making your staff do more work to finish more in a day, or hiring extra team members to share your workload, instead you’re going to look for ways to outsource and automate aspects of the job that lend themselves.

One way to do this is to look for patterns of behaviour – processes that you repeat in the exact same way multiple times a week. Break this down into every stage – from turning on your computer to loading up Chrome/IE and then ask yourself: how could you automate that process?

Well in this example you could set your computers to boot up just before everyone gets into the office, and you could set Chrome to boot on launch with your e-mail as the homepage. You could even set a coffee machine to prepare everyone’s coffee first thing in the morning so less time is wasted in the kitchen.

Similarly you can automate many jobs by writing software. If you run a company blog for instance and you aren’t already using a content management system, then that’s something you should look into right now as it will allow you to save a lot of wasted time you’d normally spend formatting HTML and uploading files to your server.

And if there’s something you do regularly that can’t be done by existing software? Then write some specifically for your business!

Virtual Assistants

That’s how you can do less work using hardware to automate things for you, but what does outsourcing have to do with your technology?

Well outsourcing is very much reliant on technology when you’re talking about a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is someone who can handle admin and other tasks for you for a very small fee – often as little as a few dollars an hour. They can check your e-mail and then give you a set of tasks that your clients have asked you to handle, they can gather research for articles for you, they can filter complaints and queries from customers so that you aren’t wasting your time answering the same questions over and over, and generally they can run every aspect of your business that doesn’t require any particular expertise.

Now normally we would associate VA’s with self-employed entrepreneurs, but they can also be useful for a business. Either you can get a ‘company’ VA to handle the less challenging tasks so that you aren’t wasting the skills of your actual staff, or you could allow all your staff to use VA’s in order to manage their own workloads more effectively.

At any rate, technology can take a lot of work off of your hands in a cost effective way – so you could be earning more but working less. What’s not to like?

Featured images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source 
  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://pixabay.com/en/annual-report-stock-exchange-61851/
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Nancy Baker, the author of this article, is a freelance blogger, currently writing for, Aireus, renowned providers of point of sale software for restaurants. She extremely fond of old  people and often visits the old age home and treats the residents to her chocolate chip cookies. You can get in touch with Nancy on Twitter @Nancy_Baker_.

Can Driving Games Improve Your Real-World Driving Skills?

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When you’re leaping through a hail of bullets, diving through an explosion, and landing hand grenades onto the back of space ships in Halo, it can be hard not to feel at least a little bit impressed with your own abilities. Sure, it’s only a computer game and it’s obviously not real, but there is always the thought at the back of your mind that just maybe you could do it in real life too – after all, you’ve displayed all the reactions and the tactical genius necessary… how much harder can it be to do it all for real?

Of course you might even have considered that the simple act of playing Halo, could have even made you better in a gunfight should the need ever arise. And in that case, couldn’t playing a snooker game make you better at playing snooker in real life? And could playing a driving game make you better at driving?

That last point is actually quite an interesting one, seeing as driving is something that we all need to do on an almost daily basis, and that can be quite dangerous. If playing computer games could really improve your ability to drive well, then that would actually be very useful and it might even be worth going out of your way to play more driving games. Let’s take a look then at whether or not that could really be the case…

The Difference Between Driving and Pretending to Drive

The first thing to bear in mind is that there are indeed a lot of differences between driving in real life and driving on the Xbox. The first is the feedback that you get from driving – when you drive in real life you can feel the engine growl underneath you, you can feel the tug of the steering wheel as it tries to return to the neutral position, and you can feel the weight of the pedal as you push it down. Simply pulling the right trigger on a game controller just doesn’t have that same feel to it, and unfortunately it’s not really a very effective simulation. Sure you can make it a little more realistic – by using a steering wheel controller for instance – but that’s still only going to go so far.

At the same time, driving for real means dealing with a lot more information and a much wider field of vision. Most driving games are about F1, or about grand theft auto – they don’t require you to keep an eye out for people crossing the road, or to follow the highway code, thus they could potentially even lull you into a false sense of security when driving. Worst of all, these games often have entirely different objectives to real world driving – sometimes actually encouraging you to crash or at least have ‘near misses’. Not exactly great practice for real-world driving…

On the Other Hand…

But games aren’t out of the race just yet – you see playing computer games can actually have a very positive impact on your brain. Many studies have shown how computer games can improve your reaction times for example, as well as your concentration and even your ability to split your attention between tasks. These are all skills that you would have to use when driving, and so it’s easy to imagine how that might be beneficial when you’re really on the road. But the surprising part of this, is that it’s not necessarily the driving games that will improve your driving most. It may well be that you’re better off playing something that simply demands a lot of attention and good reflexes – such as Space Invaders or Tetris.

At the same time, it’s also worth considering that some ‘games’ are designed specifically to help your driving in other ways. There are plenty of software packages out there aimed at learner drivers for instance, and these can help to challenge your perception by getting you to press keys whenever you spot hazards or just to become more familiar with the highway code by testing your knowledge.

So no, ‘Need for Speed’ isn’t going to help you to get to work any safer or more efficiently each morning. That said though, it’s still an awful lot of fun and it may just improve your reactions that little bit – which can sometimes make all the difference.

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Todd Jacobson, the writer of this post, is a driving instructor at a race driving school in Florida. He is a blogging enthusiast and loves to share his knowledge on sports cars and driving techniques through guest posting.

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Top 5 Ebook Readers You Don’t Want To Miss

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While most people use their tablets as e-reader devices, there are still a good number of people that want a real e-reader. These devices are often much better for reading ebooks because the screens are whiter and similar to reading a real book. There are dozens of e-readers, but only a handful of them are really worth your time. These are the five best e-readers currently available.

Kindle Paperwhite 2013 Edition

Amazon has ruled the e-reader market for a long time, so it’s no surprise that the Paperwhite is one of the best e-reader models. This version improves over the last one by using a whiter screen that is similar to paper, and it uses better lighting so that you can read outside in the sun or in a dark room. The processor is also much faster, and the screen rarely refreshes. Perhaps the only problem is that the common version of the Paperwhite comes with ads, but you can get rid of them with a $20 upgrade.

Kindle 2012 Edition

If you want an inexpensive and compact e-reader, then this is the best choice. While it might be an entry-level device, it gives you all the speed and power that you need to read basic ebooks. It lacks a touch screen or backlight, but that’s no surprise due to its low price point. And it will become even cheaper with Smart Phone Reviews this year. This is best if you want a basic device without all the bells and whistles.

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

The Simple Touch with GlowLight gives you everything that you could want from a dedicated e-reader. It uses an advanced e-ink screen that looks great and is very responsive. You also get a fast processor that can easily download new books, and the battery lasts for days. The GlowLight feature is very uniform, which ensures that you can read the whole page without squinting. The only issue is that this is a dedicated device. It doesn’t have 3G or 4G connectivity, a Web browser or audio. At the same time, it’s a great device for reading books.

Nook Simple Touch

This is basically the same as the other Nook, but it lacks a backlight. At the same time, this small change reduces the price by almost half. This is another basic e-reader with an expansion slot and amazing battery life, but you won’t be able to read it in a dark room without a light.

Kobo Glo

This is another device that uses a backlight to improve your reading experience. It also has many of the essential features, like an expansion slot, wireless connectivity and it supports EPUB files. Many people are calling this a worthy alternative to the Kindle. The Kobo store doesn’t have quite as many books as Kindle or Nook, but the unique thing is that this device can load books from any online store as long as they use the Adobe DRM format.

Conclusion

While tablets work well for reading ebooks, e-readers are definitely the best if you plan on finishing dozens of novels. They won’t hurt your eyes, and they definitely won’t hurt your wallet. These devices are much cheaper than most tablets, and they are the best e-readers that you can find.

Andy Jones loves to blog about gadgets and money saving tips. He recommends shopping at Amazon.com on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to take advantage of the best discount available.

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The challenges of enterprise file storage

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File storage is a burgeoning problem and the one that isn’t going away anytime soon. Did you know that less than half of all corporate data is stored on file servers? The figure is 46 percent, with the remainder being stored on desktops, smartphones and tablets, collaboration systems, in email systems, and on consumer cloud storage services.

For many enterprises this is a ticking time bomb. Such fragmented storage holds a very high risk and threatens a potential failing in legislative compliance, legal hold and e-discovery with severe financial penalties.

Other business risks include poor decision making. If the necessary data is not available within the necessary time frame then there are chances that any decisions that are made without it will be the wrong decisions.

Although email is growing exponentially, most of the stored corporate data is in the form of files such as Word documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, design data and other user generated content. Taking file storage and email storage together, while the majority of files tend to be stored on file servers that are managed by IT departments, many are stored on devices that are not controlled by IT, for instance laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and consumer cloud services such as Google Docs either with or without the approval of IT.

While many organizations are adopting cloud based email archiving as a solution to their burgeoning email problems, fewer are turning to cloud based file archiving. Although email archiving is a natural place to enter the cloud, it is only one step in the right direction. In many ways it is illogical to have multiple archiving systems such as cloud based email archiving and IT managed file archiving. A much better approach is to adopt a single system that is able to manage email, files and every other form of electronic corporate data.

However the problems involved in achieving this should not be underestimated; file archiving can be more challenging than email archiving. A lot of the email resides on email servers, but files can reside on file servers, desktop computers, laptops and all other devices mentioned above. Although the ‘bring your own device’ policies adopted by many trendy organisations have their benefits, they have significant downsides too, and particularly in terms of the number of alternative locations for corporate data that should be archived.

According to an Osterman report sponsored by Mimecast, 37% of enterprise electronic data is in the form of email, 46% is stored on file servers; 12% on user desktop computers; 12% on collaboration systems; 10% on user laptops; 4% on tablets and smartphones; 2% on home computers; and 4% on a variety of other devices for instance on USB memory sticks.

Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that finding a complete archiving solution must be given high priority by enterprise boards which are otherwise risking stringent penalties imposed for failure to comply with regulatory requirements as well as facing potentially serious data security problems. Email archiving is a good start, but without file archiving it is less than half of the battle.

What You Need to Know Before Buying Computers for Stock Trading

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Buying a computer can be a challenge. Large corporations likely have an entire department dedicated to managing computer technology needs, but self-employed professionals like stock traders are on their own to decide which computer to buy. Here is what you need to know before buying computers for stock trading.

Decide what you need
This may seem obvious, but it is easy to start shopping for a new computer for stock trading without first knowing what your needs really are. The result can be a lot like visiting a new car lot with no clear idea of what you need in a new car. Without knowing the requirements for your stock trading system, you may end up being sold something that will underperform, thereby costing you money in missed trades, or you may end up paying more for the system than what you actually need today.

Stock trading requires a fast, reliable computer system. Consider what your current trading software application requires to operate smoothly, how many monitors you plan to use, and what amount of storage you will need. Technology tends to have a short usable life, so starting with an evaluation of your current system can be a good starting point to determine what kind of upgrades you need in your new system.

Knowing what you need in your trading computer system can save time, stress, and problems when it comes time to make the purchase.

Decide how you will finance
How do you plan to finance your next computer system? Will you be paying cash, using a credit card, or using a financing option like PayPal’s “Bill Me Later?”
Paying cash certainly has advantages but, depending on your financial situation, there may be tax advantages to leasing or deferring payment until a later date. Regardless of which option is best for you, it can save time and stress if you know in advance how you will finance the purchase.

Decide criteria for vendor selection
Once you have decided what you need in your next computer system and how you will pay for the purchase, it is time to compare offers from different vendors.
It is important to compare like with like when comparison shopping. The cheaper, off-the-shelf computer that looks the same on the outside as a specialized stock trading computer may have very different components. A vendor that specializes in trading computers will likely be a better fit than off-the-shelf computer vendor.

Similarly, compare the warranty and technical support offered by each vendor before making a decision. The computer that seems a little bit cheaper may actually cost more if you need to buy an extended warranty to make up for a limited warranty.

Find out more about what you need in your trading computer in this free buyer’s guide.

Author Bio: Eddie Z. – Since the day he took his first Apple II apart, Eddie Z has been obsessed with making computers more powerful and more functional. At the age of 18 he started working on Wall Street filling out paper charts and since then has learned to combine his passion for building computers with stock trading. The result is his company, EZ Trading computers, where he sells custom PCS and blogs regularly. Find him on Google+.

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