Free Help Desk Software Manages Tech Needs

IT management and help desk software can help maintain the technical side of your business, but costly packages designed for big companies don't scale well to smaller businesses. I've already mentioned the free Spiceworks IT Desktop, but a couple other alternatives might serve your business at no cost.

Illient's SysAid runs on Linux and Windows servers, with its free version supporting up to 100 clients and two administrators. Paid versions are available for bigger organizations or SaaS users, although the free edition has no ads. The free edition even includes phone tech support for six months.

SysAid includes typical help desk features to keep track of issues, generate reports, build a knowledge base archive, and stay in touch with users through email, SMS, and IM. Its internal focus includes knowledge base support to archive old solutions for new users.

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Check Out On Hotel Wi-Fi Fees

Many hotels still charge money for Internet connections, and just because you pay an extra $10 a night doesn't mean that it'll work well. Instead of paying--or before you click that approve button--try finding a free network nearby, even in the hotel lobby.

On a laptop, use an application such as inSSIDer to constantly scan for open networks. I've even found signals from coffee shops or cafes that reach into a lobby, but you might have to walk outside the hotel to find a suitable signal.

Just leave inSSIDer running, and it'll scan for networks. If you find one that doesn't require a password to log in--keep an eye in the Security column--connect through the Networking and Sharing Center. (You can often reach this directly by right-clicking a Wi-Fi or network icon in the System Tray.)

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Decide When to Spend and Save on Business Travel

Sometimes, paying more in the short term can save money in the long run. I lost sight of my big-picture travel plans when comparing hotel rates.

While covering the E3 tradeshow, I saved about $40 a night by staying two miles away from the Los Angeles Convention Center. The closest hotels charged a premium on which I passed.

While most of my trips back and forth were on a free shuttle bus, I wasted time en route. Plus, the few times that I've had to take a taxi through traffic have cost about $10 each.

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Keep Laptops and Phones Powered for Productive Travel

Time is money, right? If your laptop and mobile gadgets have a dead battery when you need them, you're wasting time that could have been spent on-the-clock. And as a result, you're wasting money.

Today's mobile tech can be powered in many ways. Here are a few of my favorites.

Universal power adapter
These multiple-device power adapters can be a pricy purchase, but they replace all of your mobile chargers. You'll just need interchangeable adapters to attach a laptop, iPod, mobile phone, or nearly anything.

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Free Adobe Online Tools Create Documents and Presentations

Acrobat.com includes several free content creation tools that can help out in a pinch or even be a regular part of your workday. Most of the web-based apps are collaborative, and Adobe will even host your files, so both the application and documents can be accessed on any computer. It's a great touch if you bounce between machines and don't carry a USB drive.

Among the tools, Adobe Buzzword is a word processor and Adobe ConnectNow handles online meetings. Plus Adobe has just released its presentation tool, simple called, Presentations.

All of these tools just take a system powerful enough to run Flash. (Most of the tools require Flash 9, while Presentation needs Flash 10.) You'll create a free account, log in, and begin creating content.

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Add System-Wide PDF Creation for Free

Mac OS X has long had the ability to create PDFs of any printable screen. (Mac fans, just choose Print, then click the PDF button.) Some Windows applications create PDFs as part of their functionality; that option is often in the File menu or an export command. But PCs normally have to rely on a paid version of Adobe Acrobat to create PDFs. Here's how to add that Mac-like PDF "printing" into Windows for free.

Download and install PDFCreator. Then, like on a Mac, choose to print a document. Instead of selecting your normal printer, choose PDFCreator. Click OK, then click Save.

PDFCreator's advanced options can also be useful, such as requiring a password to read sensitive PDFs. In this situation, before you click Save, click Options. Click Formats, then click the Security tab. Check the box to Use Security, and click the option Password required to open document. Click Save. Continue saving the document as before. You'll be prompted to create the password.

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Chart Expenses to Find Ways to Save

You can enlist an outside company to audit your expenses, such as phone costs. But if you personally chart costs for everything, you'll maintain a better pulse on your business while saving costs of those auditors.

Even with a minimal level of bookkeeping, you probably already see where your big expenses originate. But you might not have cast a cost-cutting eye over those spreadsheets before. Look at every single expense, and devise ways to save on each. A few percent here and there can add up.

For example, you could watch energy costs, saving money by turning down thermostats at night or turning them off in storage rooms. You could negotiate lower insurance premiums and other service costs. Arm yourself with quotes from competing companies, and threaten to switch.

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