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.

Copyright © Rhonda Abrams, 2001

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