Livescribe Smartpen Gets Facebook and Google Shortcuts, $99 Model

Livescribe smartpens are getting shortcuts for sending notes to popular Web services, as well as the capability to make interactive ?pencast? PDFs than animate recorded handwriting and synced audio.

The company is also introducing a $99 2GB Echo pen on Monday, $50 less than the 4GB model, to a trio of pens that hold up to 8GB of notes and apps.

The new Livescribe Connect service lets you "send" audio and handwritten notes from paper to Facebook, Google Docs, Evernote, your mobile phone, and iOS devices. This is a nice development, although the pen itself doesn't connect to any wireless network. Instead, you choose on paper where to send specified notes by making a series of smart keystrokes, taps, and key words, guided by the pen's OLED display. Not until you sync the pen via microUSB to a desktop app do your notes actually leave the pen.

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Moving to the Cloud Isn't for Everyone: What to Consider First

Turning to Internet services instead of in-house servers appeals to companies seeking lean, mobile operations. The "cloud" is a hot buzzword, but moving the bulk of your infrastructure and data there isn't right for every business. Most small companies plug along with a mix of on-site and off-site hardware and software. For some organizations, maintaining in-house servers is crucial.

Nearly 7 percent of businesses with less than 100 employees use a cloud solution, according to IDC Research. And another 6 percent plan to add a cloud service in the next year. Those numbers nearly double among midsize companies.

Sure, it may make sense to use Web applications, such as Google Apps or Office 365, for online productivity and collaboration. And why not trust a cloud provider to host a modest Website? But ditching critical local applications and servers is downright foolish if you don't plan carefully.

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Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps for Business: Cloud Showdown

Office 365, Microsoft's answer to Google Apps for Business, just became available to the public for beta testing. With this move, Redmond comes closer to delivering a package of tools to companies seeking e-mail, word processing, Web-based meetings, and scores of other services that work on PCs and mobile devices alike.

But wait a minute--wasn't Google Apps essentially Google's answer to Microsoft's dominance in the productivity space? After all, Microsoft has held a steady lead in such desktop software for decades. It wasn't until 2006 that Google released Docs, a bare-bones online word processor formerly known as Writely. And Docs still barely scratches the surface of the features found in Microsoft Word.

That's all true, but Google offered collaboration as a killer feature while Microsoft dragged its heels in migrating Office to the cloud. Office Web Apps--the company's online counterparts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint--didn't reach the masses until nearly a year ago.

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Microsoft Office 365 Beta Opens for Business: What's Inside

Now anyone can try Office 365, Microsoft's cloud productivity package for businesses. The service opened Sunday night for beta testing, coming a step closer to its final launch, which will occur sometime later this year.

Office 365 is built to entice small and large companies that want to stop handling many IT chores in-house and instead entrust the heavy lifting to Microsoft's servers. This bundle of always-on online services ties in to Office software and is meant to enable access to work, contacts, and calendars from your desktop and mobile devices, including Windows Phone 7, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones.

In addition to letting you collaborate live on documents simultaneously with other users, Office 365 offers shared storage space online, and tools for managing sites and intranet pages.

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VoIP Migration Leads to Savings, Worker Mobility

The telephone switchboard and landline desk phone may not be dead, but they are becoming relics of the past along with office ashtrays and typewriters.

Businesses are increasingly turning away from PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems and toward VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony, which enables conversations to travel as data across the Internet. By 2013 more than 80 percent of businesses will use VoIP, according to research by In-Stat.

Is VoIP Right for You?

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Cupcakes, Accounting, and a Microsoft-Dell Makeover

It's not always easy to leave behind your time-tested technology, especially when current systems aren't broken. But Microsoft teamed up with Dell and found two small businesses willing to take the leap. The goal was to transform the companies as examples of the tech brands' new hardware, operating systems, and applications.

Microsoft and Dell offered to pick up the tab and do all the work to migrate the small businesses from outdated legacy systems to current technologies.

The makeover project focused on two distinctly different businesses: Cupcake Royale, a chain of boutique cupcake bakeries, and a family-owned accounting firm, Balin Accountancy. Each has unique computing needs, yet initially relied on Windows XP and other legacy applications and hardware.

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When Nobody Is Watching Your Business, Security Systems Can

Need to watch your business 24/7? It's impossible for any one person to do the job, but a digital security system can show you what's happening in your office or store no matter where you are.

Although not every business requires surveillance cameras, the investment can pay off big time for anyone seeking additional security or monitoring. Cameras may deter crime, and if a stranger graffitis an office window or an employee steals cash from the register, for instance, a recording tells the tale and allows you to take action.

Mobile Access

Case Study: Digital Security System Offers Mobile Monitoring

Property Advisory Group, a real estate developer and management company, manages 2500 units across 25 apartment complexes in five states.

At its 99-unit Mount Vernon apartment complex in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, security staff relied on a strategically placed analog surveillance system. Twenty-five closed-circuit TV cameras around key areas of the building fed recordings to two digital video recorders in a main office.

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