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Our Tax Dollars At Work?

California welfare recipients have found that state-issued debit cards make accessing cash easy…in fact, a little too easy. These debit cards are meant to help poor families feed their families; however, an investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Times revealed that more than $12,000 in welfare funds were dispensed at strip clubs, and $1.8 million of the funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families were dispensed at casino and poker-room ATMs. Luckily, the state has put an end to this practice.

Shiny New Gadget Of The Month: www.WorkFlowy.com

Who doesn’t want to be more organized? You’re less likely to forget important projects, dates and tasks, which in turn will reduce your stress and wasted energy. But if you think getting (and staying) organized is tough, maybe you just haven’t found the right tool. If so, you should check out WorkFlowy. WorkFlowy makes capturing and organizing your ideas, projects and “to-do” list simple. It’s based around the idea of outlines. Just pick a topic to organize and start typing. The outlining is handled almost automatically through its intuitive interface. You can create outlines within outlines and break up a large project into smaller actionable tasks. It’s great for multi-step processes or even planning your week. Best of all, it’s all online so you can access it from anywhere. All you need to do is create a free account and install Google’s Chrome browser. Since it’s free, you’ve got nothing to lose for giving it a try!

When Can You Retire?

Here are some interesting facts about Social Security and saving for retirement that we thought you would find interesting as you file your taxes this year. “By 2037, all the social security reserves will have been drained and the income flowing into the program will be only enough to pay 75% of the schedule benefits. If that sounds tolerable, consider that two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security as their main source of income. The average annual benefit is $14,000.” – Washington Post “Nearly eight in ten small business owners prior to the recession in 2007 thought they would have enough money to live comfortably when they retire. By 2010, fewer than two in three felt this way.” – Dennis Jacobe, gallup.com “The average life expectancy was only 63 years when Social Security was first created, and there were 40 workers supporting each retiree. We now have about 3.1 workers for each retiree. And by the time I reach my mid-60s, there will be about two workers supporting me – and I don’t think they’re going to want to do that.” – Ken Dychtwald, New York Times “56% of retirees had outstanding debt when they left the workforce, and 96% refused to delay retirement because of the outstanding debt. In addition, 59% had saved less than $50,000 towards retirement.” – Survey, nonprofit CESI Debt Solutions

Outsourced Wi-Fi Hotspot Solutions

With the growing need to provide free Wi-Fi for clients and customers, small businesses are faced with the problem of whether to set up the connection themselves, or hire an outsourced company to do the job. Many businesses have seen the demand for free Wi-Fi at their establishments jump drastically, as more and more people feel the need to be online as often as possible for personal and business purposes. In response to this demand, one of the most common solutions is to allow clients and customers to use the business’s existing internal network. Some companies provide a password, while others simply leave the connection open to all. However, a better solution is to have an outsourced service or company provide the Wi-Fi hotspot you allow others to use for free. Why? One of the most important benefits is security. Companies trying to handle their own Wi-Fi hotspots – especially small businesses without in-house IT resources – are likely to make fundamental mistakes that leave their networks vulnerable and exposed to abuse and infiltration. Outsourced Wi-Fi providers are experts in giving you a secure system that protects your own network and by extension, your business. Another benefit of using an outsourced Wi-Fi hotspot provider is that you also have greater control over the network, allowing you to impose rules such as bandwidth and website limits. You can also determine whether you want to require the people who’ll be using the hotspot to log in with a password (which you provide), or simply enjoy an open connection. Another important point is the marketing that comes with the free Wi-Fi service – while you are providing your clients with a free internet connection, your primary goal is to promote your business. If you want to know more about outsourced Wi-Fi, feel free to contact us so we can discuss a custom blueprint for a Wi-Fi hotspot for your business.

Free Video Conferencing Using Skype and Your TV

The Skype-enabled TV was developed by David Dinka and his team as a result of a series of worldwide interviews asking respondents about their communication needs. Common desires was discovered:  to be able to communicate with colleagues, family, and friends from somewhere comfortable, and to make video calls on a big screen. Technology continues to evolve each day, and the internet especially has made life easier and more convenient. You can shop online, conduct research from any location, bank online, and even have meetings and conferences online. There’s no need to fly from one state or country to another for board meetings, and no need to pay for expensive telephone bills for conference calls. Downloadable internet programs allow you to meet as long as you want, and if both parties have downloaded the same program – it’s free. One such program is Skype. Skype is a software application that enables registered users to make voice calls and group chats over the internet, as well as use offline messaging, instant messaging, and chat history storage. Calls between Skype users are free, and calls to landline and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. In January 2006, video conferencing between two users was introduced, and in 2010 Skype began offering free video conferencing with up to 5 people. Today, Skype has brought video conferencing a step further:  to your widescreen TV. The Skype-enabled TV was developed by David Dinka and his team as a result of interviews conducted worldwide asking respondents about their communication needs. The interviews uncovered a common desire to be able to speak to their colleagues, family, and friends from a more comfortable place than their desks, and they prefer to make video calls on a big screen. Together with its partners Panasonic and Samsung, Skype has developed the first generation of Skype-enabled TVs that allow you to call and receive video calls from anyone who has Skype. You can also video call users with Skype for Windows or Mac (version 5.0 and above) on their computers or laptops. How does it work? You’ll need a Skype-enabled TV (Sony and VIZIO will also offer models later this year) and a webcam developed specifically to work with your TV and Skype. These special webcams have built-in microphones that allow you to make calls from a distance without having to shout or move closer to the TV. Some Panasonic TVs will even allow you to make HD video calls. To maximize your video calls, it’s recommended that you have a 1Mbs symmetric broadband connection. For entrepreneurs with several offices around the country or even around the world, this will be especially useful, allowing them to link offices and have a full-time video connection for free. And with Skype TV, you won’t have to stay glued to your desk staring into the small screen of your computer during conference calls. You can be seated comfortably on your sofa with a clear view of everyone involved. And because the service is free, you won’t have to worry about rushing through meetings to keep operation costs down. You get your work done at the pace that you set. For more details about Skype TV, please visit the Skype website:  www.skype.com.

Softphones and PABX 101

Softphones – software programs that allow you to make calls through the internet – can be a convenient way to communicate, but they can also pose security risks to businesses. Fortunately, softphones for PABX networks provide all the same conveniences but with more exclusivity and security. Technology has always had a profound impact on the way we do business, especially these days with the constant need to stay in touch with bosses, clients, and co-workers. A breakdown in communication often means a dip in productivity – so you always need to have the best and most effective means of communication at your disposal. One of these means is softphones, which are basically software programs that allow you to make calls in much the same way as you do using a telephone or mobile device, except it’s through your internet connection. The most popular softphones include Skype, MagicJack, or Yahoo Messenger’s call feature. However, there are also softphone technologies that can utilize your PABX (private automatic branch exchange) network, which – while more limited in a general sense – are much better for businesses because of the security they offer. Softphones on PABX work better for business purposes because of the nature of the PABX networks themselves. The privacy and exclusivity for your business communications are maintained, and PABX softphones make communication convenient without compromising security. If you want to know more about softphone technology for your PABX network, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss a detailed service blueprint that will work for you.

Important Update: President Signs Red Flag Clarification Act into Law

Professional service providers such as attorneys, accountants, and doctors no longer fall within the definition of a creditor under the Red Flag Rule. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) so-called “Red Flag Rule,” which requires all businesses that are potential identity-theft targets to develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft, received much criticism for being too broad. But now there’s some relief:  S. 3987, the Red Flag Clarification Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2010. To recap, under the Red Flag Rule, the FTC had been interpreting “creditor” broadly by including organizations that defer payment for goods or services and bill clients later. This led to widespread concern that the Red Flag Rule would be applicable to entities not typically thought of as creditors, including law firms and health care providers. The Red Flag Clarification Act exempts such entities by revising the definition of creditor to exclude creditors “that advance funds on behalf of a person for expenses incidental to a service provided by the creditor to that person.” Essentially, the Red Flag Clarification Act limits the scope of the Red Flag Rule to creditors that regularly and in the ordinary course of business obtain or use consumer reports in connection with a credit transaction; furnish information to consumer reporting agencies in connection with a credit transaction; or advance funds to a person based on the person’s obligation to repay the funds. The legislation does include a provision that would allow other types of creditors to be subject to the Red Flag Rule if the agency with authority over the creditor (such as federal banking agencies) determines that the creditor has accounts that are subject to a reasonably foreseeable risk of identity theft.