If you've got an Internet-based business, I bet you're spending most of your working time online – probably in front of a desktop computer. This is understandable for many tasks, but it gets frustrating when you're feeling stuck at your desk unnecessarily. As mentioned previously, one of the biggest advantages of the iPad is its portability to take your business on the go.
 
There are certain tasks that are easy to do on your iPad, while others are more difficult. For instance, you may decide you don't want to code an entire website on your iPad (and who would), but you can't argue that the perfect tool for catching up with your favorite business blogs and websites. No longer will you have to waste those random ten minutes here and there in line at the post office or at the doctor's waiting room. Instead you can use the time to catch up on your reading!
 
So here are some quick and easy ways to optimize your iPad for easy Internet surfing. My two favorites are bookmarks and RSS feeds. Here's what you need to know about each:
 
Bookmarks. Just like on your computer, you can save often-frequented websites for quick retrieval. You don't have to type in your horrendously long WordPress dashboard URL; just add it once, then use the bookmark function to save it for the future.
 
1.    Click on the Safari icon from your main iPad page.
2.    Open and view the webpage that you'd like to bookmark in Safari.
3.    Tap the Plus (“+”) icon at the top of the page.
 
A drop-down menu will appear and ask if you want to add a bookmark, add the site to your home screen, or mail the link to that page. Follow the prompts to save your URL for future visits. (Bonus: You can sync your bookmarks with your computer Internet browser.)
 
RSS Feeds. You're likely already familiar with RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds for reading blogs and other websites. If you're using your iPad as a way to keep up on your blog reading while on the go, you will want to configure your favorite RSS feeds to be delivered right to your iPad.
 
Setting up RSS feeds is, as the name promises, real simple! Here's how:
 
1.    Open Safari and navigate to your favorite blog or website.
2.    When the site opens, look for the RSS feed icon and tap on it.
3.    This will open the web-based RSS reader, showing all the latest posts in the feed.
4.    Then just bookmark the feed as you would any other site, using the steps above.
 
Using these steps will ensure that you're ready to get to work, keeping up on the latest and greatest, whenever you have a spare minute.
 
If you'd prefer to use an app news reader, there are several that are rated highly. My favorite is:
  • Pulse News Reader. (Free.) Pulse is a gorgeous app and it lets you add all of your favorite blogs to it. Praise for this app includes “The iPad Pulse Reader Scales the Charts” – NYTimes. This reader also allows you to quickly share articles on facebook and twitter, too. 

 

Remember the days when you had to carry around a stack of business cards to keep all your numbers handy? Then came the 90's when we could enter them into our PDAs… and tote THEM around. Not anymore! Now, your iPad can serve as your virtual phone book – but a heck of a lot less bulky and a lot more fun.
  • Contacts app. (Included on your iPad by default.) The Contacts app stores names, numbers, email addresses, and more so you can get the goods on your lunch date before you sit down at the table. It'll even allow you to store a picture and notes, too. The notes feature is ideal for storing kids' names, favorite foods, last order volume, and more, so you can impress them with your encyclopedic knowledge. And when you enter an address, you an even tap the screen to automatically open Google Maps and get door-to-door directions.
 
If you're looking for something more robust, there are a number of different apps in the App Store to check out, including:
  • Contacts Journal. ($5.99) This is a high-end personal Contacts Relationship Management (CRM) system. More than a phone book, it's more like a “to do” list that you can associate with each contact, along with a filtering option, export capability, and more. This tool is ideal for someone who interacts with a large number of people on an ongoing basis – perfect for sales professionals. This app was featured on Mashable.com as one of the “5 Useful iPhone Apps for Business Networking”. It was also featured on Forbes.com as one of the “10 Best iPhone Apps for Business Networkers”. So, obviously this is an impressive tool.
     
  • ContactsP HD. ($2.99) This is the basic Contacts app with added features. It has more customization options, including a revved-up graphical user interface, lots of search options, and ability to set groups.
     
  • Contacts Pro for iPad. ($1.99) This app allows you to input and password-protect a large number of data, such as credit card info, website/email log-in, etc. This is a useful app if you're concerned about the security of your contacts being compromised.
 
On the calendar front, boy, does the iPad have you covered!
  • Calendar. (Included on your iPad by default.) The basic Calendar app is a super-cool journal-look calendar, to which you can easily add recurring or standalone appointments. View it as a day, week, month, or list, and interface with your desktop.
 
And of course there are other options if you prefer a more specialized calendar:
  • CalenGoo ($6.99) The best feature of this app is that it syncs with your Google Calendar – and it looks just like your Google Calendar screen, too. Includes an integrated task list called Google Tasks; tasks with due dates are automatically displayed on your calendar. They've really done a nice job on this. It can be used when you don't have an internet connection, as well. (For instance, if you're not near a Wi-Fi hot spot.) The changes you make to your calendar will upload the next time you're connected to the internet.
     
  • PocketInformant ($14.99) This app is more calendar than most people need. But if you like to be organized to a “T” check it out. You can tag events, group tasks, send appointment meeting requests, set icons for events and tasks, and filter and search your calendar and tasks – as well as perform all the ordinary calendar functions.
 
As with any App (or software program, for that matter), figure out what you need your program to do before you go buy one. Don't assume you “need” the biggest and best, when the default free version might do everything you need in a simple and easy-to-use manner.
 

 

If there's one task most business owners need their computing devices to perform, it's word processing. After all, you can send emails from your phone, but I definitely wouldn't want to compose a 500-word monthly report or blog post on that tiny screen.
 
Thankfully, there are several options so that you can use your iPad as a word processing dynamo. Here are my favorite selections:
 
  •  Notes. (Included on your iPad by default.) Notes is an app that provides you the ability to jot down thoughts, lists, ideas, and more using the iPad's built-in, touch-screen keypad. While not particularly robust (compare it to taking notes on a yellow legal pad, which is exactly what the screen looks like!) it is a quick and dirty way to capture written notes without a lot of extra bells and whistles. It's an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and is perfect to use when you just need to jot down a note and can't find pen or paper.
     
  • Pages. ($9.99) At the other end of the spectrum is the Pages app, available for download from the App Store for less than $10. Want to create brochures, resumes, reports, and other graphic-intensive text documents? Pages is your answer! Most run-of-the-mill business owners may find it to offer more than they need, but if you do a lot of template-based documents, it may be just what you're looking for. Got Microsoft Word documents that you'd like to edit on the fly? You can import them into this program. Amazingly, this program not only allows you to import, but it will export your finished document in Microsoft Word or even in a PDF format. Wow. This app is so powerful it may even entice you to buy the Apple keyboard for iPad and make your iPad your main word processing tool.
     
  • CleanWriter. ($0.99) CleanWriter is just what the name says; a clean and simple approach to creating text documents. With just a few options (three font choices, two black-and-white color themes), CleanWriter will let you create bare-bones documents quickly and easily, and save them as .txt files. You can upload and download the .txt files when synching your iPad via iTunes, and email portions of your documents as well. Their claim to fame is that their tool is so simple, minimalistic, and clutter-free that it allows you to focus on writing. The app page says “All features are hidden from sight, leaving you alone with your words.” Classic.
     
  • Documents. ($0.99) If you want a middle-of-the-road solution, Documents may be what your heart desires. Advertised as a “full office and documents management suite,” Documents allows you to create, edit, and manage spreadsheets and text files. One killer point: You can sync files to your Google Docs account which is very cool. Once saved, files can be opened by MS Word and Excel, Open Office, and all major office suites. So, if you need spreadsheet capability and total integration with Microsoft Office or Open Office, this one might be the one that works best for you.
 
Because the price points on these applications are so low, we suggest that you try a few to see which best fits your needs and which interface fits your working style. If none of these does it for you, keep checking the App Store, as new programs are being developed all the time. 
 

 

If you don't already have an iPad, you may be wondering why you need one, particularly if you already have a laptop or netbook. And if you already own an iPad for personal use, you may want to know how you can use it for your business. There are five main advantages that iPads bring to business computing:
 
1.    Portability. iPads are significantly smaller and weigh less than even the smallest notebook computer, yet they're powerful computing machines. At 1.5 lbs. and half an inch thick, you can take them practically anywhere, with 3G wireless or Wi-Fi giving you immediate access to the Internet. Why not just use your cell phone? The iPad gives you a “big, beautiful Multi-Touch screen” as the Apple.com website describes. It gives you the perfect balance between using your laptop (more portable) verses your phone (bigger screen). They truly are the next generation in mobile computing.
 
2.    Battery life. Because they are smaller than laptops or netbooks, they have a much longer battery life – up to ten hours, depending on the tasks you're performing. (Compared to most laptops which give you only 3-4 hours of use.) And should you need to recharge, you can do so quickly and easily from any standard electrical socket. You can also use a car adapter to keep charged on the road.
 
3.    Cost. The entry-level Wi-Fi iPad costs $499; the fully-loaded 3G version runs $829. For less than the cost of the typical desktop computer, you can be up and running – literally – and managing your business from anywhere.
 
4.    Flexibility. Many smaller pieces of personal electronic equipment were one-dimensional, performing just a single task. But with the iPad, you have everything from a calculator to a GPS system to a calendar to a word processing system right in your hands. If you try to compare the iPad with a Kindle or Nook – unless your only goal is to read books electronically, there's absolutely no comparison.
 
5.    Software. With thousands of apps designed specifically for the iPad – and over 200,000 more for the iTouch and iPhone – you've got a world of software designers working round the clock to make your iPad even more useful, powerful, and just darned cool. Many apps are free, and most cost less than $2.99 (compare that to the $280 you'd pay for Microsoft Office 2010!).
 
Perhaps the best way to convince someone they need an iPad, though, is to simply put one in their hands. They'll immediately think of a million and one ways they can harness its power to streamline their business activities. But if you would like some ideas, the next series of blog articles should help. Stay tuned!!
 

How productive can you be if you suddenly lose all your data from the past five years when your cocker spaniel knocks your laptop onto the floor and it shatters? Or if a power surge or lightning strike takes out your computer?

I've been horrified by the number of solo entrepreneurs who treat their kids' school photos with more respect and care than they treat their business data. If the rash of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes has taught us anything, it should have taught us that bad things happen to good people, and you need to be prepared for the worst. Here's the minimum you need to keep your business and your data safe:
 
On-site Automatic Backup
An external hard drive for your computer, with a regularly scheduled automatic backup is critical. Do not rely on your memory to back up your computer every day. The best ones will run an automatic scan that will save anything that has been updated or changed since the last scan. Set this to scan on a weekly or daily basis, or more frequently if you deal in high volumes of information every hour. Mac users, you're in luck. The Apple Time Machine will automatically update the backup hard drive with the latest version of your files, every hour of every day.
 
Off-site Automatic Backup and Recovery Service
Having an external backup is great if your computer suddenly dies, but what if your house is flooded, or you're robbed? You'll need an off-site backup to get you up and running quickly. There are many services available, including online storage sites like Dropbox.com and Trueshare.com. But if you want a full-service, hands-off backup provider, check out LogMeIn.com, iBackup.com, Carbonite.com, and Mozy.com
 
Now, all these off-site backup programs have a recovery service. Otherwise, what good would they be, right? You'll want to ask about the recovery services that each provide before you decide. Some just download your data to you, while others will overnight you data CDs. Ask also about storage limits and the number of computers covered. Services are available for as little as $54.95 per year – a pittance if you should ever need it. Just think of it as an insurance policy for your business; you pay and pay and pay until you need it, and then you thank the Lord you were able to pay for this service.
 
Password management
It may seem funny to include password management in this category, but that's probably because you've never lost the file that included all your passwords, or accidentally shredded the piece of paper where you were writing them all down. Use a password manager like RoboForm.com, KeePass.info, or 1Password.com. Not only will these services keep track of all your passwords, they'll also help generate unique passwords for greater safety. Check the password management systems mentioned for prices. Some are free while others are reasonably priced.
 
No one likes to think about computer crashes, natural disasters, or other business-threatening events. But the truth is that computers crash, laptops fall out of cars, and coffee spills happen. The only true disaster is the one you're not prepared for. 

No business operates in a vacuum, and you can't be productive or relevant if you don't know what's going on in the world around you. That's why it's critical that you keep up on the latest news that can affect you and your industry. But how to keep track of the thousands of news sites? Well, you're in the right place. Instead of reading hundreds of newspapers, blogs, and other information sources, you can have the news delivered right to you and keep track of it all. Here are five ways to keep on top of all the news that's fit to print:

Set Google Alerts
By now, you already know that Google pretty much controls the world in front of you on your computer. Tell them what you want to know about, and they'll deliver the latest on the topic right to your email box. Set an alert for your competitor's name to find out what he or she is up to. Or monitor a keyword for your niche. And of course you'll want to keep tabs on your own name! You can set the number of alerts as well as the delivery frequence, and all this is for free! Find out more at Alerts.Google.com
 
Alltop Page
Alltop stands for “All the top stories.” The site, founded by former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, allows you to choose from hundreds of news sources to create your own custom “newspaper.” Check out what other people are reading, too, for free. Find out more at My.Alltop.com.
 
Instapaper
How many bookmarked pages do you have on your web browser? How many of those sites do you actually get back to ever again? Fight the bookmark bulge by turning to this great system. You use a special “read later” bookmark to keep track of information you want to save for later. Then log in on your iPhone, computer, or iPad and check it out when you have a minute. This is all for free. Find out more at Instapaper.com
 
Google Reader
Track all those great blogs in Google Reader. See when they're updated, get the content delivered right to you, and consolidate all the updates in a single spot, for free. Easy-peasy! Find out more at Google.com/reader
 
Netvibes
Their mission; “All you care about. Now.” Sounds good to me! Create numerous dashboards so you can flip through and see what's going on, according to project or interest. Type in a topic get a dashboard for you, including news, videos, Tweets, conversations, and images, which you can then customize. You could have one for sports scores, one for finance, one for your competition, one for your Beanie Baby obsession. Whatever you want, all for free! Find out more at Netvibes.com
 
One word of advice: Be careful not to become an information junkie. It's great to spend time reading blogs, newspapers, and the like, but set a limit on your intake of information. You can go into info overload, and reading can become a distraction and procrastination technique, particularly if you are the type who likes to research and research and research some more before taking action. Instead, give yourself 30 minutes, once or twice a day, to read headlines and catch up on any big developments. Then stop and get back to work. That's where the money is – in action, not in information acquisition.