2/28/2015

Overdue: Using the Power of the Internet to Get Your Rent

As long as there have been renters, there has been late rent. An experienced landlord could tell stories for hours about difficult tenants, and might have a laundry list of excuses he or she has heard over the years. They might think they’ve heard it all but the new reasons why the rent isn’t paid keep on coming. Fortunately the internet can help provide high tech solutions to help make sure you get the money you’re owed.

Screen Tenants Effectively

For as long as there have been late payments, there have been ways of screening prospective tenants. According to at least one real estate blog, it’s far better to screen tenants now than to take them at random and deal with the consequences later. Obviously, the tried and true methods of using a paper application and an in person interview are a great way to get started, but technology allows you to go so much further. One great way to do this is to go online and get a credit check on each one of your prospective tenants. This will let you know how good they’ve been to their previous creditors, giving you an idea what it might be like going forward with them.



Use E-Mail or Text Reminders

Stephen White writes in his blog that because so many people have cell phones, laptops, and tablets these days, an E-mail or text reminder system is a great way of ensuring rent is on time. The use of a rent due reminder via E-mail or text is also a great way to eliminate the “it slipped my mind” type of excuses. When you can show a text or an E-mail that was sent, you are pretty much showing that you more than kept up your side of the bargain. If you have multiple properties or an apartment complex this might seem like a big hassle every month, but it doesn’t have to be. E-mail or text reminders which are sent out every month on the same day to a list of phone numbers or E-mail addresses can be set up relatively simply. This allows you to simply add and remove contacts from the list as tenants change and technology does the rest of the work for you!

Collect Rent Online

Giving your tenants the ability to collect rent online is a great way to encourage on time payment, especially when combined with tech reminders. Furthermore, making this an option can benefit both the tenant and the landlord. There are many online systems available for landlords to tailor to their individual needs. The use of an online system also allows you to put parameters in place to add in late fees automatically when necessary. Additionally when you get paid online the payment is instantaneous which means you get the money you need sooner, and that’s something any landlord can be happy about.

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2/27/2015

5 Recent Tech Developments in the Banking Industry


There are several reasons why banks and other financial institutions are always looking for improved methods of banking to serve their customers. For one thing, using new technologies can be one means of gaining a leg up on the competition, and another appeal stems from the fact that when any new method is more convenient and cost-effective it will presumably appeal to a broader segment of the banking public.

In short, it's just plain good for business. Here is a brief survey of some technological developments in the banking industry, some of which have already gained limited usage, and some of which are poised to gain broader usage in the very near future.

Emails Replaced By Message Centers

Email is already being phased out by banks as a means of communicating with its account holders, because email technology simply cannot be entirely secure, and banking messages often contain sensitive information. According to Bryan Yurcan of BankTech, message centers, which are dedicated web portals that permit totally secure communication between banks and their clients, are becoming increasingly popular. Message centers are virtually immune from the hacking attempts that plague today's email systems, and communications from message centers are easily distinguishable from questionable-looking emails, so clients will have no doubts about their authenticity.

Smartphone Digital Banking

This technology is already in use at some financial institutions and is certain to become much more prevalent, given the lightning expansion of smartphone usage and the convenience offered by this type of banking experience. By simply photographing the front and back of a check, then sending the digital file to a bank, a check deposit transaction can be effected just as if it were done in the bank's lobby. For those who still rely on paper, business checks are easily ordered online to reduce waste.

Smartphone Bill Payments

According to Chad Fisher for GoBankingRates, in a manner similar to digital check deposits, new banking technology is being used via smartphone apps wherein bills can be paid directly from a person's bank on a mobile device. By photographing a bill or invoice and sending it to the bank, all the important information can be retrieved from that digital file, e.g. payee, due date, and invoice amount, and the invoice amount can be transferred to the payee and deducted from the person's bank account.



Banking via Mobile Devices

Historically, banks have not paid a great deal of attention to the emerging field of mobile banking, but that is changing. Undoubtedly this has been attributable to the skyrocketing prevalence of mobile phones, but now tablets are being seen as another fruitful area to exploit for high tech banking. Having the advantage of a very rich user interface, tablets will have all the same benefits of smartphone banking, and an even better user interface to enhance the banking experience.

Increased Security Measures

With the expected significant rise of smartphone usage in the banking industry, there is no question that hackers will turn their attention to finding ways to exploit smartphones and steal sensitive banking information for their own uses. As always in the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between developers and hackers, security methods that prevent this as far as possible will be sought as a means of providing reasonable levels of security for smartphone bankers.

One promising technology that can help in this area is the field of biometrics, which uses voice recognition, thumbprint identification, and facial recognition techniques to positively identify a person. Once proper identity has been established, any transactions might be conducted through secure web portals. No matter which security measures are used however, this area of banking technology will continually call for improvements and innovations to combat inroads made by hackers aiming to circumvent each new security feature.
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2/13/2015

Tech Tips to Highlight Professionalism at Corporate Conferences

Corporate conferences may or may not be a necessarily evil in today’s business world, but it is still important to put on a good show as a presenter. Using technology to this end will promote a better experience for organizers and attendees, so there are a few tips you can follow to have the most seamless event possible – make technology word to your advantage, pay close attention to serving the right food, and keep everything as simple as possible.

Making Technology Work To Your Advantage
Especially at the corporate level, a certain degree of technology is expected at conferences, so do you research and make sure you have the right audio-visual experience set to go. If this means hiring a third-party to get this accomplished, then make it happen. Also, consider running through a dress rehearsal of the event, so that you and the organizers aren’t surprised by anything during the actual presentation. Don’t get caught with “what do you mean there aren’t enough wall outlets?”

For tips about audio-visual presentations, looking into the most recent editions of high quality tech magazines should point you in the right direction.


Get the Food Right
Your presentation may be spectacular, but if attendees are hungry, or dissatisfied with the food, all may be for nothing. Contact a caterer, or reserve a room in a banquet hall of some sort, and talk to the event coordinators well ahead of the event. They will have great information about what kind of food is appropriate, and they will also have price lists, reviews from previous clients, and other helpful tips for you. It is their job to make you happy, and their business reputation relies on clear communication and fantastic results. Food is of the top things guests will remember, according to GrandView, a wedding venue in San Jose, so make sure you get it right.

Searching through the Internet may get a little cloudy while looking for some catering resources, so always be sure to contact people directly when possible.

Tech Can Be Complicated, but Presentations Should Be Simple
It’s easy to get lost in details about audio-visual presentations, especially when it comes to trying to impress people at corporate conferences. Just keep in mind that even though the equipment itself may be complicated, you want to keep presentations as simply as possible. Short, entertaining, memorable, and with a call to action near the end – always keep those ideas in mind when putting together speakers and an itinerary. If there is too much to handle, even the best technology can’t make people remember it.

For help on putting together great presentations, there are amazing resources available, and some of the most modern tips are available in TED talks or other similar things. The key is to do as much logical research as possible early on in your planning process.
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2/11/2015

The Demands Placed on Technology in the Transport Sector

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, the transport sector plays an increasingly important role in the trade between countries. It would be impossible to efficiently route shipments of goods across borders without engineers and scientists developing new technology to turn these logistical problems into applied math and computer science problems, using routing algorithms such as Dijkstra's shortest path function and the A Star algorithm to find the best shipping routes. This use of technology in the transport industry is an example of specialists in one field being called upon to lend their expertise to a different industry.

Making Logistics More Efficient
The need in trucking and shipping for technology that guarantees the optimal cost for delivering goods across borders has compelled engineers and computer scientists to find answers to these problems, and it has created a greater demand for college graduates in the logistics industry, according to Justine Brown of Inbound Logistics. In the recent past, careers in logistics didn't require advanced education or even a college degree in most cases. Globalization had not reached the level it has reached today, and the people designing trucking routes could simply use static routing and naive methods for finding shortest paths. This approach cannot be continued with any serious expectation of profit from international trade.



The Growing Importance of Logistics
Even within a country's borders, trucking is expected to increase significantly over the next several years. According to FreightRun, by the year 2040, shipments by truck are expected to reach 460 million miles a day in the United States alone. With outdated, inefficient routing technology, billions of dollars per year will be thrown away on fuel and wasted time. By the year 2030, the amount of money spent on global trade is expected to reach $27 trillion per year, and a shortage of educated workers in the logistics industry will mean slower growth of the global economy. Logistics plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of international trade, and the global economy will increasingly require college-educated technicians to work out the logistics of these trades.

Automating Complicated Tasks
Satellites and GPS are helpful, but a great deal of pre-processing will have to go into the path-finding formulas to plan the most efficient routes possible. If a truck driver simply sets off for his destination with a GPS device, he is likely to run into any number of blocked paths, so a database of alternative routes is needed, along with a fast method for calling up the next best path when the first choice doesn't work.

As computer software develops, fewer workers will be needed to operate this technology, and most tasks can be done automatically. There is even speculation about unmanned drones delivering small shipments to end consumers, but this technology is still at least a decade away. The artificial intelligence of drones still isn't good enough to reasonably expect to avoid collisions, injuries or property damage, although some of the biggest names in logistics are hard at work finding ways to make it happen.
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2/07/2015

Healthcare and Information Technology Jobs in Great Demand

After an extended period of time when unemployment rates were elevated and jobs were in such low demand, it feels somewhat strange to say that employees in certain industries are no longer having trouble finding jobs. In fact, many professionals in healthcare and information technology are getting to choose where they want to work.

Top In-Demand Jobs
According to a recent report from Indeed – coupled with the Bureau of Labor’s January statistics – 2015 is positioned to be an employee’s job market in many sectors of the economy. In cities and communities like Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia – where a number of healthcare facilities and IT companies are situated – residents are taking notice and excited for the growth.

According to Benjamin Snyder of Fortune.com, both the information technology and healthcare industries have five different jobs in the top 25 for the first two weeks of January 2015. For IT, those jobs included network administrators, software engineers, and computer information systems managers. For healthcare, the top jobs included physical therapists, nurses, and personal home care aids.

Looking at the entire list, the top five in-demand jobs in order are registered nurses, truck drivers, customer service representatives, sales managers, and sales representatives. Rounding out the top ten are first-line supervisors, software quality assurance engineers and testers, general managers, managers (other), and accountants.

Exciting News for the IT Industry
According to Indeed’s report, unfilled jobs cost businesses a collective $160 billion annually. This comes as good news for IT professionals, as it signals a strong incentive for companies to quickly hire employees. If you’re an IT professional, here are a few things to keep in mind as you look for a job in what’s now an employee’s job market:
  • Don’t corner yourself. In a job market where the power has shifted from the employer to the employee, it’s important to keep all your options open. If possible, line up multiple opportunities before selecting the job that’s right for you.
  • Don’t sign without negotiating. Just as employees were forced to take lower wages when the recession was in full swing, many employers are now expected to overpay for employees. If you know a company is having difficulty finding an employee for their open position, use it to your advantage. Negotiate the terms of your contract and leverage the power you have.
  • Find the job you want. No longer do you have to take just any job that’s given to you. You can actually take time to find a job you want. The happier you are with the job you have, the better you will likely perform. In the end, this will lead to more job satisfaction and acknowledgment from your employer.
The Power Shift
From healthcare to IT, the power has shifted in the job market and cities all across the country are taking notice. Keep an eye out for positions that interest you and don’t be afraid to take on a new challenge or opportunity.
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2/05/2015

Negative Reviews: Not the End of the World

One need only visit a wealth of popular sites that provide the chance for consumers to offer feedback concerning products, services or locations to witness the combination of good and bad reviews. When looking for a particular item, the opinions of others often serve as a helpful guide as to which model or version outperforms the others. The same is true of businesses whether looking for a dining location or accommodations for an upcoming vacation. According to PatientSites.com, bad reviews may put some into a state of panic, while other proprietors view them as a chance to implement improvements or make amends. There are a number of approaches business owners might take when getting a bad review.

What Not to Do
Megan Totka at Small Business Trends offers some valuable advice when faced with negative comments. Some business owners are under the false assumption that blatant denial is beneficial. Ignoring the problem creates an air of complacency and a lack of concern for the consumer. Simply publicly denying that the problem exists will not sufficiently alter general opinion. Whether the complaint is legitimate or unjust, confront and acknowledge the input in a professional manner without expressing anger or soliciting an argument. Present your side of the story in a tactful manner. Apologize for mistakes and vow to make corrections if needed. When the complaint is justified, some recommend confronting the disgruntled client or customer directly if possible. Attempt making amends by offering rebates, refunds or a discount on future services.


When faced with a number of complaints, some may falsely believe that by inserting a series of positive but fabricated reviews, the action provides a sense of balance. This options lends itself to unpleasant consequences. If the falsehoods come to light, the comments may damage a business even further. It is far better to review the comments, evaluate the problem and take steps to remedy the situation that instigated the complaints.

Negativity in a Positive Light
Matthew Peneycad from Business 2 Community offers a different perspective on negative reviews. Being naturally skeptical, a long list of only positive comments may cause some to mistrust the general consensus. People are fallible. Not every product is perfect. An occasional negative comment may lend credibility and provide a more realistic picture. Nevertheless, the competitive nature of business necessitates that businesses take negativity seriously and remedy the situation. The manner in which company owners address and handle the situation may actually serve to swerve public opinion in your favor by taking ownership and assuming responsibility.

Resisting Camouflage
There are many different companies that offer removal techniques that eliminate negative comments and reviews while trying to convince business owners that this option minimizes possible damage. Public relation specialists advise against this philosophy. Allowing the negativity to remain visible for all to see demonstrates transparency. By becoming vulnerable to scrutiny, proprietors create a sense of humanity and trust. Positive comments carry greater weight. Balance is key. Negative reviews are bound to happen. However, they need not destroy a business.
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2/01/2015

5 Must-Have Tech Tools For Graphic Artists

These days everyone wants to work in design, but there isn't room for everyone. To really make a splash, and a living, in graphic design one needs talent, inspiration, motivation, and a strong work ethic. Even with those key things in place, here are some tech tools that every designer needs in their kit, according to real designers.

Apple Computer
There is a whole line of Apple computers, from the iMac to the Macbook Pro and Air, and with their sleek design it's no wonder they are the standard for graphic designers. It's not just the beautiful aesthetics that make these machines so popular in the arts community, however. Macs work intuitively, are highly compatible with a variety of designer apps, and are highly resilient to virus attacks. There are plenty of designers who work on Windows as well, but Apple offers a much stronger history and built-in support for peripherals for the graphic design community and creative professionals in general, say the graphic design experts at Creative Bloq.
Adobe Creative Cloud & Software Apps
Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are no brainers for graphic designers; not knowing how to use them basically excludes an individual from breaking into the field. The Creatove Cloud gives access to the latest application software and updates that allow designers to make their ideas a reality. There are also plenty of other useful design apps and tools, so don't stop with just Adobe. Check out other useful services, such as Dropbox, Google apps, Asana, and Skype. Cloud computing gives designers tons of free storage space and the ability to share projects between several computers as well as communicate with clients from afar.

Pantone Color Guide
Designers need to know color, and the best way to make color theory simple is following a Pantone color guide. It's the quintessential cheat sheet to mastering the science of color, allowing the designer to check their color choices against a standard to and to pick colors that will fit together harmoniously. Naturally, someone has already designed an app for that! Designers can download MyPantone for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The guides come in several varieties, like Solid or Coated and, though they can seem costly at first, it is a small investment if one thinks about the potentially astronomical prices for re-running a print job.

A Decent DSLR Camera
Graphic designers don't necessarily do the shooting themselves on many projects, but there's no denying that having a decent DSLR camera is essential to, at the very least, documenting one's own work. In addition, photography can be a great way to document ideas or create a personal database of textures and backgrounds for use in future work. There's no need to break the bank, though: a good starter choice is something that can deliver at least 12.2 MP images.

A Professionally Designed Website
No designer or creative professional can survive in today's market without their own website. Designers in particular need to have well-laid out and professional looking website because it will serve as most clients' first impression of the designer's work. According to professional web designers, a website serves as a resume and is the best way to post projects and highlight the strong points of a portfolio. With hundreds of services and an infinite number of templates that make it easy to maintain a website at little to no cost, there's absolutely no excuse not to have an internet presence.  
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1/09/2015

5 Things Your Database Should Be Doing for You

Is your database making your business easier, or do you feel like you’re serving it? If you don’t have the right database, it can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Think hours of inputting extra spaces manually because files weren’t imported properly or having to overlook endless blank fields that don’t apply to your business. Whether it’s selecting the best in-memory database option for you or delving into a little more research before changing software, there are a few basic things databases should offer up.

1. Making big data analysis easier
Organizing and analyzing your data are different, yet complementary, tasks. Obviously your database is where you store the data you collect or curate, but is your database easily turning it into actionable material? Whether it’s generating reports that even your Luddite CEO can read or being able to select key mailing address for simple label creation, make sure your database offers organization and analysis.

2. Welcoming new managers with ease
Granted some of the more complex database will require training, but the employees brought into the database should already have skillsets that complement that particular database. If it’s “normal” to take weeks to “get the hang of” your database, something’s wrong. Either you hired wrong or the database isn’t a good match for your business/department.

3. Offering customization
Even an industry-specific database isn’t going to perfectly align with what you need. Customization and personalization should be intuitive and easy. According to Business2Community, marketing automation is catching on and your database should support this by catering to your unique needs.

4. Generating a variety of reports
Maybe you need to use data in your database to present to investors, the CEO, potential new partners or new hires. People have a variety of learning styles, and the types of reports your database offers should cater to all types. This means text-based, pie graphs, charts and narrative reports. Plus, it should be simple to figure out how to generate different types of reports.

5. Offering regular updates (without paying)
There’s no way any database will be evergreen, and it needs to keep up with technology. Updates to the software should be free, regular, but not so regular that it’s annoying. You should be able to choose auto upgrades and it shouldn’t shut down your entire computer to make it happen. Is your database serving you? If not, make 2015 the year you find one that does.
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