Google Voice – Why You Must Have It

Google Voice is my new tool that I can now not live without. In fact, I have found it so helpful that I may replace my landline phone number posted on my website with my Google Voice phone number. This last trip, I found my Google Voice account to be an indispensable asset for any business traveler.

There is nothing worse than feeling tethered to your computer when you are a small business owner and there is no faster way to make your family mad at you when you are on vacation and you are stuck doing business on “their” special time. I found that Google Voice put me in the “driver’s seat” when it came to managing my phone calls while on travel.

In the Google Voice settings, I was able to set up groups for my business contacts and then set attributes on who would have immediate access to me by phone. Clients were asked to say their names on dialing, and then Google Voice phoned me and asked if I wanted to answer the call or have it send them directly to my voice mail.

With an additional setting I was able to have all my Google Voice messages transcribed and emailed to my mobile phone. This way I could decide who to call and when. Additionally, when I returned to my office I now had a full archive of all phone calls and transcribed messages. With one click I could listen to the actual phone call to figure out if the transcription was accurate with names. (The transcription was not perfect, but pretty good.)

If you are a business owner on the go, I would highly recommend Google Voice to you for your next trip. For now Google Voice is still by invitation only, but you can sign up to get access when it is opened up for public use from this link.

P.S. Google is not paying me for this post, I just feel they have a great new product and wanted to share it with you.


Traveling With Your Business – Lessons Learned

I have just returned from a week long vacation with my family to the Grand Canyon and for the first time ran into some real email and communication problems. In this world of global communication we can easily forget that remote locations are still using dial up connections or that hotel Internet connections can be excruciatingly slow when everyone is checking their email at the same time.

On this last vacation I found my Verizon Internet enabled phone and IMAP email account at indispensable. I found that having and online email account was a life saver and that you can just not count on being able to download your email when you travel.

Although I did intensive technology planning for my trip – making sure my hotel had high speed Internet, I never bargained that my connection speed would be so slow and that it would be incredibly difficult to work online. As I am getting ready to leave for Russia at the end of July, I am now planning again to be out of the office and work globally.

This is my action plan for stateside travel next time:

  1. Get a Verizon wireless card for my laptop. Then I have my own connection.
  2. Make sure all email accounts I use have online access – in case I can’t download my mail.

I did find that this last trip that my Google Voice account was a terrific asset. I was able to receive my messages when I wanted them, could screen callers to answer when it was convenient to me, and received transcriptions of calls via SMS to my mobile email account.

Sometimes even when you have planned in advance being away from your home computer network can be problematic, what I learned was to be self reliant.


Adding Video to Your Website

As you cruise around the Web, you see videos just about everyplace. Video is an important new way to reach out to customers on your website and in your advertising and one that you should strongly consider.

Not only is a video interesting and adds a dynamic component to your web pages, it can communicate your message in a very compelling way. Yes, video can be overdone, like anything else, but when done tastefully and professionally it can create a compelling call to action that text just can’t do. That being said, not all sites are strong candidates for video integration, but many are.

When you integrate video into your website, it is important to keep in mind the load time. Sometimes a smaller screen and shorter clip are more important than a huge screen with a debilitating download.

Flash is an excellent format for video as most browsers will already have the plug-in in place and typically the download time is snappy. We have also found that using Windows Media Player instead of QuickTime may allow you to show your movie more quickly. Still the best option is sometimes to allow multiple viewer options. Mac users will not have Windows Media Player installed, but they will have QuickTime, and nearly everyone will have Flash already in place. Offer your viewer choices for viewing your video unless you are using Flash.

Other things that you may want to consider before filming and installing a video on your site are:

  • Will you be in your own video? Are you photogenic? Is there someone on your staff who would be better in the role of spokesperson or model than yourself?
  • Will you produce your own video? You can using most digital cameras to create a Quick Time movie.
  • Make sure you have a script and stick to it.
  • Make sure you have good additional lighting. Keep your movie images from being too dark. We’ve seen low lighting as a frequent problem on client movies.
  • Consider using professional video services for the very best results.

Video is definitely a happening Web media and one that you may want to consider adding to your own website.


WebCams 101

I just got a video camera for my browser and wanted to share with you how easy and fun they are to use. I actually decided to buy the webcam so that I could show my smiling face to clients when I am using Acrobat Connect. Acrobat Connect is my new online application sharing and conferencing tool that I use for clients and long distance contractor training. I am finding out that I am having a lot of fun with my webcam using Windows Live Messenger as well.

I use Windows Live Messenger to communicate with my independent contractors, clients with whom I am operating as their contractor, and even with my kids. I like the features, ease of use, and ability to see Yahoo users without them having to change instant messenger applications.

NNancy McCord as viewed in her new webcam.ow enter my webcam. First, I bought mine at Staples. I got a Logitech QuickCam for about $50. There are webcam versions from $25 all the way up to $150. In a snap I had loaded the software hung the camera on the top of my flat screen monitor and was looking at myself “live” via webcam.

Acrobat Connect auto-sensed my new webcam and started showing video online in the application immediately without any adjustments to my settings.

Windows Live Messenger also auto-sensed my new webcam and after clicking show my webcam in the settings options on the personal tab, other people with whom I am talking to via Windows Live Messenger can see and hear me online. The other party to your conversation has to have a webcam and microphone set up and installed to be able to talk back on a video call. I have to say that my new webcam is really very neat and super easy to set up. I only need to make sure that my hair looks great every day as you can now see me.

I have had more clients tell me how nice it easy to see who you are talking to and what cool new technology this is to allow them to see me online.

Up early working in your bath robe? Not to worry, you can choose a webcam model that comes with a lever to block the camera lens for added security on really bad hair days. Mine also has a software privacy screen setting to block video, so you can select to show your video only when you want.

Once you have your webcam installed, here are the steps on how to make a video call using Windows Live Messenger:

1. Click “Actions” in the top tool bar and then “Video” and then last of all “Start a Video Call”. You may also see an icon on the tool button bar just above contacts it looks like a phone with a piece of film behind it. You can click that icon if you see it to start a video call as well.

2. Live Messenger shows your online contacts. Double click the person who you want to talk to. The Live Messenger screen opens and you will see your live video on the right. If the other person has a video cam, you will be able to see them there on the side as well. For them to hear you, make sure that you have turned off microphone mute in your webcam software that is on by default before you start your call.

Wow, is that it? Yup, easy isn’t it. As you install your webcam software, sound wizards pop up and allow you to tune your settings, select which hardware to use for speakers and microphone, test settings, and to use Windows Live Messenger, Skype Video Calling, and even Yahoo Messenger Video Calling. Set up is easy and fast.

How can YOU use video calling? Wow, the opportunities are endless: call grandchildren, see the new baby, really connect with team members – get to know your clients better connect a face with a name, try out new technology, or just have some fun. Get the free Windows Live Messenger now then go to Staples or your other favorite store and get your own webcam.


Backup, Backup, Backup!

If you’ve had your hard drive crash and have lost all your data, I will be “preaching to the choir”, as you will most likely have kicked yourself and then bought an external backup drive already. If not make sure to read this post so you are not kicking yourself in three months about backing up your data.

There is nothing worse than starting your computer and nothing happens. Especially if all your business and billing financial records on on the computer. For any business, student, or computer user regular routine backups should be part of your routine. Businesses should back up their systems at a minimum of once a day and should both backup to the working disk as well as to another network location and to an external drive. Sounds redundant doesn’t it, you bet it is, but have a problem and you will be so glad that you had multiple backups in different locations. For the typical homeowner and student backing up your computer may be best done once a week.

There are many backup utilities and some external drives even come with their own. I use several systems. I use the Windows backup utility that comes with Vista once a week and I use my Seagate External drive back up utility once a day. Once a month I back up to another location in my network.

With redundant backups you can assure that your data is covered and you won’t miss a beat if your system crashes, computer gets stolen, or your files get corrupted.


Your Website is Down! What Should You Do?

You just looked or a prospect or client emailed you to tell you your website was down, what do you do?

First don’t panic. Sometimes a website will go down because the server at the web host is being refreshed, serviced, or the host had a power outage. Wait for 15 minutes and try to access your site again.

In some cases you will get an error message. Make sure to copy the error message. If you get a reference to your database or header files, don’t call your web host, this is a website and webmaster problem. Meaning that something is wrong with the source code of your website or the database that runs your website has gone down (that may be a web host issue).

If your website is not up in 15 minutes or your get a database error that you have never seen before and your site was working fine before, it is time to contact your web host. In some cases it is most practical to pickup the phone and in others more practical to do a tech support ticket.

If your email is down as well, it is time to make sure that the problem really isn’t that you’ve let your domain name expire or that you did not pay your web hosting renewal bill. Here a prompt call to your web host sales department is in order. Typically if your web host has had a hiccup and our website is down, your email will still be operational.

Personally I have only seen both email and the site go down when the client has let the domain name or web hosting expire. Of course there may be other reasons, but letting the domain expire or even the web hosting expire are the most common reasons.

So if your site is down for more than a day or if your email is down too you need to take action and start by calling your web host first.