Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Go Virtual and Save Thousands

The internet and modern communications had made it possible to work and live anywhere. You do not need to be tied down to a specific location. When I was practicing law, I was able to maintain my practice in Colorado from various locations including Kentucky, Texas, England, Germany and Mexico. Here is how I did it:

1. Find a Virtual Office Company

I use a Denver based company, The Intelligent Office. For a monthly fee, they provide live telephone answering, a mail box, and copy machine, fax and conference rooms for rent by the hour. They call it a la carte service and it means that you only pay for what you use. They have locations all over the United States. They provide a professional image. When clients call, their calls are answered live. The receptionist then forwards the calls to voicemail or to any location that you request. They will even schedule your appointments. By going virtual, we no longer needed a receptionist, cut our office expenses, sold our telephone system, and were able to replicate all of the features of a “brick and mortar” office for less than we paid for parking.

2. Leverage The Internet

Most things that were handled by administrative staff can now be done for little or no cost on the internet. Here are some examples:

a. Fax and Mail

I use for my business faxes. For a small fee, I can have my faxes sent directly to my email account. They do not need to be printed and I can automatically forward them to the correct people in my organization. When I was working from Europe and Mexico I used efax to have my mail forwarded to me. That way I could respond to it as if I was at home.

A new service Remote Control Mail scans all of your incoming envelopes and emails them to you. You let them know which pieces of mail you want to have discarded and the ones which need to be opened. They then open and scan the ones you request. This way, you never need to see the paper, and all of your incoming mail is stored electronically. This saves trips to the mail box, as well as enables you to monitor your mail from anywhere in the world.

b. Messages and Reminders

You can have all of your voicemails sent to one number. This way you only need to check one voicemail box instead of many. Google has just purchased Grand Central. It lets you listen as your voicemail is being left. If you want to speak to the person, you can jump in. Otherwise it goes to your voicemail.

Another service, Simulscribe, uses voice-recognition software to transcribe your messages and forward them to your email so you can check your messages and emails at the same time.

Many people are time-wasters. If you call them, even on a simple matter, you will spend at least an hour on the phone with them. By using pinger, you can return their call by leaving a voicemail. Your call goes direct to their voicemail so you can convey the necessary information without getting into a long, drawn-out, discussion.

Jott lets you send emails by telephone. You phone Jott, tell them who you want to message and dictate the message. Jott then transcribes the message and sends it as an email. I have found that their transcription is quite accurate, even for long messages.

Oh Don’t Forget, lets you send text messages by computer. You go to their website and input the phone number, message you want delivered, and the time that you want it sent. The site then delivers your message according to your instructions.

Finally Iping lets you schedule reminder messages. It then calls your phone to remind you of anything you choose from appointments, birthdays, or even medication reminders.

c. Calendaring

I use Google Callendar. It lets me input and retrieve my appointments from anywhere on the internet. It can also be configured to send my schedule to my cell phone or PDA.

d. Online Software

Open Source as Alternative is a service which compares commercial software products and offers open source (Free) alternatives. If you need software for a specific purpose, check it out before paying for commercial software. Many of their products are as easy to use as the commercial versions and offer similar or superior performance.

Thieves Use Google to Crack Safes

For the second time in a month, burglars have downloaded information from Google during the commission of their crimes to learn how to crack safes. On June 10, 2007 a pair of burglars in Colorado used to learn how to crack a safe at Bigg City, an indoor amusement center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The thieves stole $12,000 in cash and have not yet been caught. Apparently the pair had tried unsuccessfully for over an hour. They then used Google to look up information on safecracking, found what they needed and were able to crack the safe. Later in June 2007 a fired restaurant manager in Wilmington, Delaware was caught after using Google for tips during an attempted burglary.

A Google search for “how to crack a safe” yielded 4.5 million web pages. According to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, the information on the internet can assist terrorists. "They can train themselves over the Internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination. According to the Times online, European regulators are considering whether or not to outlaw the publication of bomb making information on the internet. A recent Google search for “bomb making” produced over 700,000 websites. Personal Finance News