Computers:

 

 

Save Money Online Protecting School Records Tuition And Technology Touch-Enabled PC's Work-At-Home Avoid Scams Small Business "Tune-Up" Managed Services E-mail Marketing Campaigns

Research Can Help Online Buyers Save Money

(NAPSI)—If you want to get a great product at a great price when shopping online, investing a little time and effort can pay big dividends.

That’s the word from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency. Its experts offer these tips to help online shoppers get the best deal—and avoid scam artists.

• Think about your goals. Do you want the top-of-the-line product? A particular brand? Are there “must-have” features? What’s your budget? If you decide what’s important to you up front, you’re less likely to make a purchase that could lead to buyer’s remorse.

• Get to know the products in the category. Often, the key features of a basic product and the top-of-the-line version from the same manufacturer are the same, and “add-ons” account for the difference in price.

• Use search engines. If you think you’ve found a good deal but you aren’t familiar with the product or the company selling it, dig a little deeper. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with a term like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk.

• Check comparison shopping sites. With many retailers selling the same product, sometimes there are significant differences in price. Compare your total purchase price, including shipping and handling and taxes, rather than just the selling price. Different sites also have different return policies. Check if you’ll be charged extra fees for returns.

• Consider coupons. Some companies offer discounts to online shoppers via e-mail; other sites collect and list codes for free shipping and other discounts.

• Read reviews and be skeptical. Think about the source of the information: Is it from an impartial expert organization, one consumer, many individual consumers, a columnist?

• Evaluate what you see on retail sites. Some scammers set up “specialty” sites selling a particular type of product. Those can be full of glowing reviews from “shills” who are compensated for their posts, and may not include any negative reviews.

• Ask yourself a few questions: Does the brand have a reputation for good products and excellent customer service? What’s the promised delivery time? How will you contact the seller if there’s a problem? Will the company accept returns?

• Learn more at www.OnGuardOnline.gov/OnlineShopping. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call (877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) toll-free. Watch a video, “How to File a Complaint,” at www.ftc.gov/video.

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Protecting Your Child’s Personal Information At School

(NAPSI)—During the school year, parents are asked to sign many forms. In the wrong hands, the personal information on these forms can be used to commit fraud in your child’s name—to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or rent a place to live.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that when children are victims of identity theft, the crime may go undetected for years.

There are laws that help safeguard your child’s and your family’s personal information. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, protects the privacy of student records. It also gives parents the right to opt out of sharing contact information with third parties, including other families.

If your child is enrolled in school, the FTC suggests that you:

• Find out who has access to your child’s personal information, and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.

• Pay attention to materials sent home asking for personal information. Before you reveal information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared and with whom.

• Read the notice schools must distribute that explains your rights under the FERPA.

• Ask your child’s school about its directory information policy. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy, and gives you the right to opt out of the release of directory information to third parties.

• Ask for a copy of your school’s policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) gives you the right to see such materials before they are distributed to students.

• Take action if your child’s school experiences a data breach. Contact the school to learn more. Talk with teachers, staff or administrators about the incident and their practices. Keep a written record of your conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator, and to the school board, if necessary. The U.S. Department of Education takes complaints about these incidents. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920, and keep a copy for your records.

To learn more about FERPA and PPRA, visitwww2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html. For information about identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, (877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).Watch a video, “How to File a Complaint,” at ftc.gov/video to learn more.

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Trends In Tuition And Technology

(NAPSI)—To help their students get ahead, some schools have gotten a helping hand.

Currently, as college tuition rises, community colleges are seeing a large spike in enrollment. More than one in three postsecondary students spend some time in community colleges.

Community colleges are particularly important for students who are older, working or need remedial classes. Many of them have no computers or only dated, obsolete ones that can’t be taken to class, so widely available technology on campuses is critical to their success. Computer labs and classroom technology remain an important part of community college service and educational offerings but campuses often don’t have a lot of money to spend on technology.

Several schools, however, have found an answer. Here are two inspiring examples:

* With enrollment skyrocketing, Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), the largest community college district in the country, had to expand. Through a $6 billion construction boom, it had to equip an additional building every month for six months with new technology and do so affordably.

“We had the same problems everyone else is having: demand for more and higher-quality services over longer periods of time—without commensurate increases in budgets or staffing,” said Jorge Mata, CIO of the district. “In addition, we needed to align with the district’s environmental vision.”

They decided to outfit the school with HP thin client computers, devices that contain enough information to start up and connect to a more powerful network server that provides the rest of the computing horsepower. This gives students and faculty a personalized computer environment anywhere in the network, lets technology staff manage computers remotely and has cut overall technology power consumption, making the solution a win all around.

* Merced College, in Merced, California, also needed to find a way to improve technology reliability while cutting costs in order to provide access to the increasing number of new students without raising tuition.

“The biggest thing is finding ways to purchase what we need to keep our technology current,” explained Donald Peterson, director of IT. “It’s hard in any state environment and it’s now harder and harder each year.”

Peterson decided to replace the assorted technology brands that the college had with HP equipment in a budget-friendly strategy. The equipment standardization has made it easier for students and teachers to become confident when using the technology equipment and has provided a stable and reliable environment for the colleges’ IT staff.

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 Encouraging Families To Touch The Future

(NAPSI)—Scheduling family time can be a challenge. Today's kids are often more enthusiastic about owning and burying themselves in the latest piece of technology than spending quality time with family. But technology can also be a great way to keep families in touch and bring them together.

For example, the touch-enabled HP TouchSmart 610 PC with Windows 7 has several ways to promote education and family togetherness. It offers a hands-on experience with a modern-day twist, incorporating advanced technology and features that satisfy both tech-savvy children and their parents. The family communication and entertainment hub encourages users to discover new things and provides endless ways to learn and play.

Learn and Play

The PC comes preloaded with kid-friendly applications from Marvel Comics and the Cartoon Network, and with games like Bounce Symphony, which teaches kids to sort balls by color. The touch capabilities also work well with most educational websites, such as Starfall.com and Fun brain.com.

Creative Fun with No Mess

As the little ones grow older, touch technology promotes creativity without the added stress of cleanup. With the preloaded Paint software or downloadable drawing program Artrage, the touch-enabled PC lets children create digital, printable works of art with the touch of a finger, the tip of a pen or an actual paintbrush.

Entertainment for All Ages

Featuring an HD display that reclines from upright to almost flat, the PC is accessible to kids of all ages and heights. It also features a TV tuner, Blu-ray player and game console connectivity, so the entire family can enjoy movies or video games once homework is complete.

Connect to a Digital Lifestyle

Parents can use the PC to organize, document and share their child's latest masterpieces with friends and family through e-mail or touch-enabled Facebook and Twitter applications. The built-in webcam also enables users to instantly connect and share with family members no matter the distance.

Touch is an intuitive technology that can be shared by the whole family, and early tech engagement helps children unlock the tools for their future.

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Tips On Avoiding Work-At-Home Scams

(NAPSI)—When money is tight, work-at-home opportunities can sound like just the thing to make ends meet. Unfortunately, many of these job offers are scams and the con artists peddling them may try to get you to pay for starter kits or certifications that are useless. Others just don’t deliver on their promises.

Promises of a big income by working from home, especially when the “opportunity” involves an up-front fee or divulging your credit cardinformation, should make you suspicious. It doesn’t matter if the ad is placed in a trusted newspaper or website—or if the people you talk to on the phone sound legitimate. The situation demands both research and skepticism.

Get it in Writing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says legitimate work-at-home program sponsors should tell you-in writing-what’s involved in the program they’re selling. Here are some questions to ask:

• What tasks will I have to perform? Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.

• Will I be paid a salary or will I be paid on commission?

• What is the basis for your claims about my likely earnings? What evidence can you show me to prove your claims are true before I give you any money?

• Who will pay me?

• When will I get my first paycheck?

• What is the total cost of this work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What will I get for my money?

Scams to Avoid

Here are some examples of work-at-home schemes to avoid:

• Envelope Stuffing. For a “small” fee, the ad says, you’ll learn how to earn lots of money stuffing envelopes at home. But once you pay, you find out the promoter never had any work to offer.

• Online Searches. The ad on the website says you can earn as much as $7,000 a month running Internet searches on prominent search engines and filling out forms. Unfortunately, scammers are just trying to trick you into handing over your credit or debit card information.

• Medical Billing. The ads may lure you with promises of full- or part-time work processing medical claims. However, when you call, you are told that a significant investment is required.

To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visitwww.ftc.gov or call toll-free (877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Watch a video, “How to File a Complaint,” at www.ftc.gov/video to learn more.

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Giving Your Business A Needed Tune-up

(NAPSI)—Just as you’d change the plugs and filters to increase fuel efficiency and have your car run at peak performance, you can tune up your business to run better in any economy.

For one thing, you can tune in to the advantages of cloud computing and VoIP with a service especially for small-business success.

With just a broadband connection and a computer—equipment you probably already have—you can now sound, react and run your business communications with the efficacy of a Fortune 500 firm.

What You Can Have

Your phone system can feature such services as:

• Auto Attendant

• Voicemail-to-text

• A dashboard to show workers real-time status

• Integration with your company calendar

• Reports for all incoming and outgoing calls in the system

• The ability to literally link dozens of phones in dozens of places

• A dial-by-name directory

• Command and control functionality from your smartphone

• Ability to pick your phones, then plug and play with confidence.

• You can even take things one step further and let your business phone service integrate with existing software to control your inventory and sales force.

The startup costs are low and the monthly fees are reasonable and there’s never a contract to sign. All this can be done with help from a company called Vocalocity. Unlike most VoIP suppliers, it specializes in small businesses: Most of its customers have 25 employees or less and it’s entirely focused on helping small businesses succeed and grow. It has no residential accounts. The startup costs are low and the monthly fees are both reasonable and predictable. There’s no long-term contract.

The company’s Hosted PBX solution is simple and easy to set up. In fact, you can be up and running in about 15 minutes after receiving your phones.

More Ways To Grow

Eight other things you can do to help your company grow, the experts at the Small Business Administration advise, include:

1. Open at another location.

2. Offer your business as a franchise or business opportunity.

3. License your product.

4. Form an alliance with a similar type of business.

5. Diversify to have multiple streams of income that can fill seasonal voids.

6. Sell complementary products or services.

7. Import or export your or others’ products.

8. Get a government contract.

Free Information And Advice

You can learn more and get a free quote at www.vocalocity.com or by calling (877) VOCALOCITY.

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How Managed Services Can Benefit Your Business

(NAPSI)—Here’s a question asked repeatedly by small-business owners: “Where do I spend the money to improve my business?”

A challenge many small and middle market−business (SMB) owners face is that they recognize the need to grow—whether it’s products or services—yet their funds are in short supply.

Managed Services

One option that owners can consider is managed services, where a third party provides support ranging anywhere from the procurement and installation of IT equipment and hardware, all the way to network management and monitoring.

Unfortunately, value added resellers (VARs) who sell services to SMBsestimate that more than 60 percent of SMBs don’t understand the benefits of managed services, according to a Technology Channel Outlook study conducted by CIT in association with Forbes Insights.

This study suggests that SMBs could benefit by asking more questions about managed services—what the various components are and how they apply to their particular business.

The Benefits

Some of the benefits that managed services offer include:

• Access to the latest technology

• Lower costs

• Increased available resources

• Reduced IT head count.

Managed services could potentially turn a fixed expense into a variable expense and allow an SMB to redeploy expense savings into the business for future growth.

Another Way To Save

Given the current uncertainty in the global economy, many businesses—especially SMBs—are greatly concerned about capital expenditures on equipment. Leasing is an option that can help address these concerns. Leasing equipment, point out the experts at CIT, not only provides a way to procure the equipment and pay for it over time, but also the flexibility to upgrade it, which is particularly important in the technology sector, where life cycles are often shorter than for some other types of equipment.

Free Report

For more information or to download the full study for free, go towww.cit.com/managed-services or call 800-245-0506.

 

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Tips On Using Email Marketing Effectively

(NAPSI)—Many retailers have found that, in times of economic uncertainty, email marketing can be an excellent way to reach potential customers.

There are many reasons why email marketing has proven to be a successful sales tactic for retailers. A few are:

• Email marketing offers practical, cost-effective and results-driven solutions that enable retailers to promote merchandise and hot sales.

• The ability to segment a list enables a business to target its email marketing campaigns by key demographics, including age, buying patterns and location.

• Email marketing allows for campaign optimization and increased efficiencies by testing the effectiveness of an email distribution mid-campaign and making corrections as needed.

Campaigner®, a popular email marketing service that offers segmenting and a user-friendly interface, suggests the following tips to retailers who would like to try email marketing but don’t know where to begin:

• Target your customers. A good email service can segment your list by past purchases to match your subject line and product links to what the customer wants to buy.

• Segment your lists. Segmenting a customer list based on typical order size can help you create targeted emails for low, average and high spenders.

Using these sublists can help you personalize offers for each group with the right incentives to entice potential customers to fill their carts a bit fuller this year.

• Make geography an asset. If you’re near a college campus, sort your list by state or zip code to identify customers who are out of the area. For example, by segmenting the list, you can target students with “move-in” specials for dorm room essentials and parents for hotels and restaurants.

• Connect with your customers. Identify the most loyal customers and personalize campaigns to make them aware of your latest offers. For example, you can include a loyalty promotion, like free shipping or presale notices.

• Keep it simple. Skip the need to learn layout and photo manipulation software by using a service like Campaigner that offers a complete, user-friendly interface and good back-end reporting.

Keep in mind, these tips can work throughout the year. Done correctly, email marketing allows you to become (and remain) visible to customers and prospects with highly targeted messages, at a minimal cost, that deliver measurable results.

To learn more, visit www.campaigner.com.

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