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Posts for November 2010

Waste not, want not: tips on cutting wasteful printing

November 29, 2010 by Administrator

Printer ink cartridgeWasteful printing causes more damage than the average business realises. Wasted paper and ink or toner supplies are just the tip of the iceberg. That wastefulness has a hidden price: disposal costs, unnecessary wear-and-tear on the printer and higher maintenance, for starters. Annoyingly, it is difficult to nail down a figure for what you are wasting. And that makes it harder to justify a print saving scheme. Indeed, in some companies printing activities are departmentalised, removing any ability to aggregate cost information and so make a start on limiting your printing costs. However, here are four steps you can implement today to begin cutting down on waste. And as they roll out across your business, you will begin to see the cascading benefit of print management - and the tangible bottom line savings. Four ways to curb waste

  1. Check for hidden features. Look into the features of your printers. They now often support add-on applications tailormade for an individual company’s needs. For example, one manufacturer supplies an app dedicated to faxing legal documents securely - meaning you don't need to print off the items in question.
  2. Look at your printing protocols. Create an official printing policy for employees to not only follow, but also contribute to. Encouraging cost saving activities - such as double-sided and greyscale printing where possible - is a good start. Listening listening to employees’ suggestions can highlight great ideas for limiting unnecessary prints.
  3. Make everyone accountable. As part of your printing policy, issue individual user IDs or PIN codes so you can track every single print request in your business. Forcing employees to think about what they print, and whether hard copies are really necessary, is an easy way to put a stop to pointless printing. It also gives you a way to forecast future demand. You can thus tailor your purchasing of consumables in line with your forecast. That's a fantastic way to save even more money and limit the amount of cash tied up in stored supplies.
  4. Consolidate your printers. Unless it is critical to the business, switching from lots of personal printers to one or two centrally-located, networked machines will provide huge savings on running costs. You don't just save the power consumption of numerous idle printers - but you also save ink and electricity by minimising the initialisation processes that printers go through before each print request. And you'll save on maintenance too, of course.

If your company has found other ways to reduce its printing bill, share your tips below. John Sollars, is MD of

Practical IT advice for your business

Ten ways to get free online training

November 22, 2010 by Administrator

This is a guest post from HP Business Answers. Check out our website, blog and Twitter feed. If you have a business IT question, why not ask our IT Agony Aunt for an expert answer? Training is a smart way to increase your productivity. However, training budgets are often the first thing you cut when times get tough. So, how can you use technology to reduce the cost of training or even get it free? Here are some tips.

  1. Free training from manufacturers. HP’s Online Learning Center has hundreds of free classes that are available to everyone, whether an HP customer or not. They include tutorials on PC security and maintenance, classes in online PR and using business applications.
  2. University courses. Apple’s iTunes University gives you free access to 350,000 films, videos and lectures from some of the world’s greatest institutions.
  3. Online teachers. Skype is a great tool for free internet phone and video conferencing. They have a directory of advice and service providers, including tutors and language teachers.
  4. Web conferencing. If you want to run training courses yourself, online webinars can be a way to reach people in different offices or people who are working from home, cutting the cost of room hire and travel. Check out my review of web, video and phone conferencing tools.
  5. LIFE City. HP sponsors LIFE, the Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs. It contains interactive business simulations and other engaging tools for learning new business skills.
  6. Free language training. Have a look at LiveMocha, which gives you access to free online training courses and links you up with native speakers of your chosen language so you can practice.
  7. YouTube. If you need help with something practical, why not look on YouTube? The video site has thousands of how-to videos, such as how to defragment your hard drive in Windows 7.
  8. eBooks. There are free eBooks, guides and other documents on sites such as Issuu and Scribd. Also, check out my free eBook: 30 Days to Better Business Writing.
  9. Blogs. Sometimes a daylong training course is good. Sometimes a drip-feed of new ideas and insights is better. Sites like IT Donut and HP’s Business Answers (and its blog) can be helpful.
  10. Software companies. Don’t overlook the information in your software helpfiles and on manufacturers’ websites. For example, Microsoft has a big library of online training tools.

Practical IT advice for your business

We're now the award winning IT Donut Blog

November 19, 2010 by Administrator

When it comes to awards, there's a little bit of competition in the Donut teams. Our sister site, the Marketing Donut, set the standard by bagging a couple of Golden Twits last year, so our recent nomination in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010 was a good chance for us to emulate their success. Well, the Computer Weekly awards ceremony took place tonight in central London, and we were really pleased and surprised to take home the award in our category, Company / Corporate SME. As a relatively new blog, we're particularly happy to have won as the award is voted by you, our readers: so thank you! And, of course, we'd be nowhere without all the industry experts and guest bloggers who've contributed insightful and interesting posts. As you'd expect, we'll now be referring to ourselves as 'the award winning IT Donut blog', wherever we can. And although our budget probably won't stretch to any Champagne-fuelled celebrations, we might manage a drink or two tomorrow evening. If you voted for us, thanks. We do really appreciate it. And even if you didn't, thanks for stopping by and reading what we have to say. We hope this is the first of many accolades for the site.

Improving your business with information technology

Tech talk - there’s a time and a place

November 18, 2010 by Administrator

1981: Tories cutting public spending, companies fighting recession, the music industry undergoing a format revolution* and people grappling with a new form of communications technology. Sounds familiar, right? Especially the technology part.

The first form of audio-conferencing

In the 1970s, American truckers used a publically available amateur radio spectrum, ‘citizens' band’, to talk to one another. By 1980, the CB craze had spread across the Atlantic.

British drivers and bedroom-bound students were particularly hooked. They spoke to friends, family and neighbours via a portable radio, a microphone and a ridiculously large aerial.

OK, so transmission was limited to a three mile radius and anyone could listen in to your conversation. But look at the positives: you could talk to more than one person at a time, and for no cost - two very appealing USPs. Remember, mobiles didn’t exist and the cost of a landline call (from the single nationalised telecoms provider) was considerably higher in real terms than it is today.

The death of CB

So why did this quirky, pre-computer form of audio conferencing die out by 1983, years before the mass availability of PC and mobile-based alternatives?**

No doubt it was partly the cost of a licence (CB was technically illegal until November 1981), and I suspect that those transmission limitations won’t have helped. I can’t help thinking, though, that the biggest problem was the CB conversation itself.

First you’d exchange your respective locations, then your ‘handles’ (flamboyant nicknames like Daydreamer, Tommy Gun or Blue Serpent — never just Rob, Keith or Mick). But after these niceties, you’d likely as not be drawn into a discussion about the make of radio you had, the strength of signal, whether reception had varied that day, and so on.

Up to 90% of a conversation would be about the means through which you were communicating, or what kit you’d be buying to improve your communication. Fantastically tedious.

Some clients hate tech

In today’s business world, crammed with ubiquitous communications technologies and social media, it’s worth keeping in mind that the medium should never be the message. Sure, you need to be able to talk about the IT your business uses. What’s more, you need to understand why you’ve made the IT choices you have.

Just be careful who you’re talking to: things could go horribly wrong if you talk tech in a marketing meeting with a client who really hates the stuff.

With plenty of this extraordinary IT revolution for us still to live through, there’s no way that we can avoid talking to clients and suppliers about its impact. But where necessary, it’s worth asking yourself a simple question: is the man in front of me glazing over because my product’s not for him, or because I’ve just spent the last five minutes mentioning our recent move to web sales software / cloud computing / AMD processors?

* Something called a ‘compact disc’. Remember them?
** People still use CB today, but popular use dwindled within two years of legalisation.

Improving your business with information technology

The future of printers: predictions for 2011

November 12, 2010 by Administrator

The IT world moves fast. Products change in response to customer feedback, and new technology arrives, blowing the market open with features you never knew you needed. So amidst all this, what does 2011 have in store for the printer market? Even more importantly, where do you want it to go? Physical changes Printer manufacturers will continue to improve printing efficiency. Whether pushing the world’s smallest colour laser printer or trumpeting power usage (or lack of it), printer companies are trying to rid themselves of the environment-killing stigma whilst also providing better value for money. Network changes The future is in the cloud. You won't just be able to create and edit documents stored in the cloud, but you'll also be able to send them to any printer you have permission to print on, from wherever you are located. The benefits will be subtle but far reaching:

  • You can share a document immediately, without each person having to load up their emails and print it themselves.
  • No need to stay in the office waiting for an out-of-hours fax. Just foward incoming documents to your desired printer.
  • No more fuss with printer setup disks or complicated network installation. Web-enabled printers can access everything they need in the cloud.
  • Fewer delays when uploading or sending files for printing by email. The files are already stored in the cloud, so printing is almost instantaneous.

Using an internet-enabled printer together with cloud-based software like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live will give you a complete working environment, no matter where you are. There are additional features planned for printers such as newspaper feeds, where you can subscribe to your desired newspaper and have it printed at home ready for your morning cup of tea. With your preferences taken into account, you'll even be able to choose only the topics that interest you, saving you wasted pages. Hardware changes Functions we take for granted are also getting a revamp. For example, some new printers now have a high definition a digital camera built in. This acts as a super-fast scanner. These can scan pages in less than a second, so look out for them in the next year. Connectivity changes The last few years have seen USB, card readers and camera connections become standard for nearly every printer on the market. Expect the next year to be focused on smartphone and tablet connectivity. It is surprising that manufacturers are yet to embrace the boom in these bits of equipment, but you can be sure there will be an app from every printer manufacturer soon to allow you to print directly from your new piece of kit. Changes that you want All of this investment in new features is pointless if manufacturers ignore their customers. What do you want from your printer next year? Ignoring the idealistic world of 'no paper jams' and 'bottomless ink', what functions or features do you think are missing? Me personally? I want manufacturers to stop saturating the market with very similar printer models. There should never be the situation where a consumer is looking at several different printer models from the same manufacturer, all of which take the same cartridges, and have similar performance. Give me that, plus an easier way to tell cartridges apart, and I’ll be a happy man. John Sollars, is MD of

Practical IT advice for you business

Top mobile accessories for business

November 09, 2010 by Administrator

From iPhones and BlackBerries to netbooks and satellite navigation systems, businesses use more mobile gadgets than ever before. And that means third-party manufacturers have been hard at work coming up with accessories to protect, improve and personalise these gadgets. We asked mobile accessories retailer and laptop, netbook and iPad accessories retailer to give us a roundup of their most popular accessories for different types of business user. {{}}

For iPad users: the Keycase iPad Folio Deluxe (pictured) is a dust and spill-proof iPad case which holds your Apple pride and joy at an angle and includes a keyboard so you can type and see the screen. As well as looking a bit like one of the first tablet PCs we ever saw, it has a built-in battery that'll let you keep working for longer. The overall effect is to kind of convert your iPad into a mini-laptop, although the keyboard might be better for occasional work on the move rather than permanent use.

For your desk: The Desk Genie charging stand caught our eye because it includes a phone holder, universal charger, memory card reader and USB hub. This means you can charge and keep your phone within reach on your desk, as well as having easy access to a memory card slot and USB connections to plug things like memory sticks into your computer. If it means an end to crawling round on all fours to find a free connection, we're all for it.

For drivers: the Dash Genie in-car holder sticks to your dashboard or windscreen - and you can move it around or between cars if you want. You can slot virtually any phone or other small gadget into the Dash Genie, and it'll hold it in place with clever high-tech rubber. Unless you have an HTC Hero - the Dash Genie can't grip its fancy teflon coating.

For BlackBerry owners: there are loads of BlackBerry cases and covers to choose from our there, but we like this BlackBerry Torch cover. It protects your shiny new BlackBerry, covering both sliding parts of the phone without adding much to the size.

For people with lots of gadgets: if you have more than one mobile phone or a few different portable gadgets, you've probably been stuck with a flat battery and the wrong charger once or twice. Maybe you need something like the TrailBlazer universal car charger and holder - it'll keep your phone, camera, GPS unit, camera or MP3 player safe in your car, and comes with a bunch of adaptors so you can charge up almost anything. Just doublecheck your car is suitable first though - it protrudes from the cigarette lighter, so that needs to be unobstructed. What are your indispensible mobile accessories? Leave a comment and let us know.

Are you still feeling the fascination?

November 04, 2010 by Administrator

Business team looking shocked at computerThis one goes out to those of a certain age. Those who instinctively reach for the office techie whenever a potential IT solution is under discussion; children of the seventies or eighties for whom IT is no more than an endless parade of specifications, upgrades and grudgingly signed-off expense.

Embrace your inner geek

The message? These days, you have to be enthused by IT. You can no longer treat IT as a utility, let  the next generation sort it out, or palm it off to an outsider. Specifying the correct IT to steal a march on your competitors — while maintaining a tight rein on costs — means embracing your inner geek.

Things change too quickly these days for you to grudgingly “take a look at our IT” every now and then. Hardware, software and services change on a daily basis. If your response to that last sentence is to wonder when the HELL it will EVER END, you may be worried that you’ve never really had the necessary geekiness in you. Let’s put it to the test.

1) When using a pocket calculator at school, what was your response?

A) You did your working out in the margins anyway.
B) You did your sum on the calculator, then checked it manually to be safe.
C) You worked out that if you typed 5318008 and turned the calculator upside down, you could proudly display the word 'BOOBIES' to your classmates.

2) What did the introduction of the CD mean to you?

A) Twice as expensive as an LP. Scandalous.
B) New racks to store them in. Another costly trip to MFI, then.
C) No scratches! Even with the volume to 10 you hear ABSOLUTELY NOTHING between tracks! You can smear jam on a CD, clean it and it STILL plays.

3) What’s the most impressive thing about a smartphone?

A) It keeps your daughter quiet, although you worry about what all that loud music might be doing to her ears.
B) The phone bill: That’s quite a profit for the operators.
C) 32GB of storage! Your 1998 PC only had 6GB! What people don’t realise is that these things are powerful computers in their own right. You could leave it to record an audio conference for an entire week! And look at that — the GPS means it knows where I am! It’s just like that film Minority Report…

Your score

So, how you did you do? Straight As? You’re in trouble. All Bs? You need a wake-up call.

Three Cs in a row? Congratulations, you still have an innate curiosity about IT — that initial astonishment surrounding each technological innovation followed by a desire to explore its potential for your business. In short, you’re still feeling the fascination. Looking, learning, moving on…

Practical IT advice for your business

New on the IT Donut: cheaper printing, cloud computing and contracts

November 02, 2010 by Administrator

Since the IT Donut launched back in August, we've been working hard with our experts to build up lots more interesting, useful content for the site. Over the last few weeks we've published a bunch of new stuff, so here are some of the highlights:

We've got lots of other great resources in the pipeline. To keep up-to-date with what we're up to, you can:

  • Register on the site. Make sure you tick the box to receive the MyDonut newsletter. It's free, and you'll get access to exclusive offers and members' only tools too.
  • Follow us on Twitter. We regularly post links to new resources there, as well as highlighting other interesting things we discover.
  • Visit us regularly. There's always something new to look at, so add us to your bookmarks and come back soon.

Improving your business with information technology

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