"I live in Sheboygan," offered a kitchen dealer from Wisconsin. Replied another: "I can use e-mail!" ("with help," his wife whispered as an aside). "I use a digital camera," was thrown out by a Denver dealer.
These are all real responses I received from kitchen designers of whom I recently inquired, "Is anyone using any form of advanced and/or mobile technology out in the field?"
Admittedly, it's difficult to stay on top of all of
the rapid changes taking place as we navigate our way through the
beginnings of the Information Age. But hey, almost all of us have
figured out how to use our fax machines and cell phones, so don't
despair just yet.
Let's get mobile. GoToMyPC (www.GoToMyPC.com) is a secure, remote-access technology. To simplify, by subscribing to this service, you can open up files and work on your home computer's desktop (or whatever computer you designate) from any computer that is also connected to the Internet.
This is no fly-by-night operation. In fact, the company that puts out this technology, Expertcity, has been around since 1997. GoToMyPC has been recognized by Time, Fortune, PC and PCWorld magazines.
GoToMyPC allows you to be able to access files and anything else you store on your designated computer from anywhere. The technology could come in handy when you're out trying to sell a job and you realize too late that you forgot to print out the information you needed to share with your client. To remedy this, simply ask your client to direct you to their computer and visit www.GoToMyPC.com. Just enter your password and you're ready to share the "forgotten" information.
It's also a great technology for the many out there working from both their home and an office. No longer will you need to run into the office still dressed in your PJs to download the forgotten files onto a CD so you can really work from home that day.
Now, imagine yourself on the beach. You've promised your spouse that you wouldn't bring your computer on this vacation, and you didn't. But hey, you're one of those self-employed, hands-on types. You could slip into the hotel's business office and bingo, next thing you know, thanks to GoToMyPC, you're checking your e-mail or wrapping up that proposal AND you've kept your promise.
Pricing runs from $14.95 to $19.95 per month, depending on whether you choose a monthly or yearly plan. If you're not sure this is for you, but would like to try it out, there is a free trial on the company's Web site. And, oh yeah no real technical know-how is necessary. You simply go to the Web site and wait two minutes for the download. Then, log in.
Other programs similar to GoToMyPC are LapLink
(www.LapLink.com), Symantec's pcAnywhere (www.Symantec.com
/pcanywhere) and 01 Communique's ImInTouch (www.imintouch.net).
Many of their Web sites offer free trials, comparisons to the other
software programs and pricing.
FieldRanger (www.FieldRanger .com) offers mobile software aimed at specialty trades and contractors. It provides wireless work order solutions for those of you who use QuickBooks or MasterBuilder to run your businesses. By using FieldRanger's Dispatch Software, you can send work orders to the palm devices/PDAs of your contractors/installers and view the work orders that are currently active or inactive. You can also put together a calendar and view a crew list, as well as view which employee is scheduled to be working on what job.
Using Field Ranger's Mobile Software, employees can start the day by signing in to the mobile timecard. There, they can find notes on the day's job and, as the day progresses, send back notes on materials needed to complete the next day's work.
The software can save you lots of phone time and running back and forth between the office and job site. When the day is done, the contractor can sync data from the field to your QuickBooks or MasterBuilder software. Your installers can sign out of the mobile timecard and can even capture the client's signature via a palm device/PDA.
If the above has left your inner Geek yearning for even more, check out www.SmallBusiness Computing.com. It's a great catch-all for small businesses seeking more information on a range of technology. The site's News & Trends section is a great place to learn about current computer viruses and other tech info affecting your day-to-day routine.
In need of new software or hardware for your company? There are two additional sections addressing those needs.
Buyers Guide is probably my favorite section. It offers everything from a rating of suppliers of technology for small businesses to a listing of antispam, virus and firewall programs (some available gratis) to which software programs are out there to help you move bookmarks, files and the like from your old PC to your new notebook computer.
Under Small Business Essentials you can find everything from how to choose the right palm device/ PDA for your needs to how to choose an IT consultant.
I believe most of us would agree the software programs I've written about undoubtedly save you time and streamline the day-to-day activities of your company. So, let's not forget about the perceived value they additionally bring to the table. Today, any client signing a PDA or watching you remotely access your own computer is going to be impressed by your integration of technology. Consciously or unconsciously, you are building on their rational reasoning for having hired your company.
So, no matter where you live and work, no matter if e-mail or digital cameras are the equivalent of your knowledge base of technology you're now well equipped to be on your way to being that much more tech savvy, in addition to saving yourself and your company time and money.