Technology: can't live with it; can't live without it. I'm waiting for the day when using any technological device is as easy as plugging in a toaster. Until then, here's "Rhonda's Clip-and-Save-Column on Easy Tech Tips."
Get Ziplock ? Bags! Every time I get a new piece of hardware or software I put all the cords, disks, plugs, etc. in a bag and mark and date the bag with a permanent marker. I keep all my Ziplock bags in a big filing box. I can find the right cord for the right piece of equipment in an instant!
Make a "Warranty Notebook." At the same time I put the cords and disks away, I put the warranties, installation guides, and manuals in their own pages of a wide 3-ring notebook with sleeve protectors. Once again, I can instantly find anything I need from any piece of equipment.
Label everything. Keep a roll of tape (masking tape will do, but a light colored tape is "cooler") and a permanent pen marker handy. Label every cord running into each electrical outlet, power strip, hub, telephone jack, etc. You think you'll remember what is connected to what, but you won't.
Keep receipts. My sister likes to tape receipts to the bottom of equipment. I don't. (File them with your tax receipts.) But keep them in case something goes wrong.
If you're using a laptop and you freeze completely, unplug the electricity, remove your battery, wait 3-5 minutes and then replug. This cleans out your RAM (Random Access Memory) for a fresh start.
Look for simple solutions. Check to see if the power switch is turned on, the plug is in, you're connected to the right socket, etc.
Get a fast-speed connection to the Internet. Once you're used to "always on, always fast," you'll wonder how you lived without it. Get a backup connection (perhaps a free one, like Juno) for down times and travel.
Learn how to access your email from the road from the web or from a local access number. Look for local access numbers before you leave home to avoid costly long-distance charges.
Learn how to set up an autoresponse to your email when you're away.
Don't believe the manufacturer when they say "self-install." If it's critical to your business, hire a professional.
Keep your software updated. You may be having trouble on some websites or with some hardware because you're using older versions of software. Go to www.catchup.com and download a program that will automatically search your computer. (Full disclosure: my friend Nate Saal invented it. It's now owned by cnet.)
Nate also told me about help.cnet.com where you can go to ask other users specific questions and find a lot of answers.
Use the appropriate technology. Just because you can do something electronically doesn't mean you should. I particularly like the big Rolodex file that you can slip business cards into. Very user friendly!
If you're not sure if your connection to the Internet is working, go to a site that loads fast. I use www.google.com or my own site, RhondaOnline.com, because it has the day's date on it (and I know if I have a current version).
Buy a CD-R or CD-RW drive, a compact disc recorder/rewritable "burner" to backup all your files on your hard drive. If you also use it to make CD music disks, well, that's your business -- and your teenagers'. It's still tax deductible.
Buy the extended tech support for critical software, especially the first year you use it.
Get a battery backup, especially if you live in California, and you're facing rolling black-outs.
Use your laptop as your main computer and have two docking ports --- one at home, one at the office, two monitors and two keyboards.
Get stuff just because it's "cool." You'll enjoy it more and you'll use it more and be more productive. So won't someone -- please -- send me a really cool, big, flat-screen monitor?
Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies and Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. For free business tips, register at www.RhondaOnline.com or write Rhonda at 555 Bryant St, number 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.