Are You Risking Your Job By Using Your Office Computer for Personal Use?

Office computers are the property of the company you work for.  According to an article in the current issue of PCWorld magazine, studies show that nearly two-thirds of all small and medium sized companies monitor the activities of their computers.  It also reports that one out of four companies have fired people for “Net related misdeeds.”

What this means is that it is possible for your employer to see all your incoming and outgoing e-mails as well as maintain a history of all websites visited. Not only are they concerned about you wasting time shopping, checking the weather, etc which impacts productivity, but the possible loss of proprietary information. Many companies have established elaborate controls that forbid downloading of programs and games.

Companies have the capacity to gather information if they are displeased with an employee or they feel that they are involved in activities detrimental to the organization.  It is not uncommon to find employees  conducting job searches in the office or texting disparaging remarks about their supervisors or other co-workers.

The safest course of action is to conduct all non-related company business on your own computer.  You will never know whether or not you are the target of company scrutiny.

Oh, one last thing.  If the company has given you a cell phone or blackberry, remember it is also their property.  Buy your own cell phone for personal use.

What you need to know before you buy a new computer

Since your present computer no longer supports your needs or constant problems are driving you crazy and proving costly to repair, you have decided it is finally time to buy.  It has probably been several years since your last purchase. Now, the number of choices available are staggering.

No doubt when buying a car, you think about how you will use it, price, brand, size, etc.  You don’t just walk into a dealership and drive out with a car.  The same is true when buying a computer.  So many models!! What do all those specifications mean?

Before walking into a store, you need to think about your needs.  Here are some things to consider.

Desktop or Laptop?  First, consider that whatever your choice, for the average home user, you are not giving up functionality by choosing a laptop.  If the computer is going to be stationary, then you probably should consider a desktop:  Big screen, and larger keyboard.  If you want mobility, then you need to think about a laptop.  However, what type of laptop?

There are 3 basic types of laptops.  1) A desktop replacement – Up to a 17 inch screen, larger in size and heavier.  Not meant to carry around with you, but a good choice if you have a space problem.  2) Standard Laptop – Usually up to a 15 inch screen, portable, compact. 3) Netbook – The most popular models have 10″ inch screens.  Small keys, but the ultimate for the mobile traveler.

When selecting a laptop, you must consider screen size, keypad and weight.  Go into a store and look and feel several different types.  You must be comfortable with each of three items.  Keyboards vary by vendor; some have raised keys like  standard keyboards, while some are flat.  If you plan on taking the computer with you regularly, consider the weight of the machine.

PC or MAC? The Windows 7 operating system and MAC’s Snow Leopard operating system are now quite competitive from a performance standpoint.  The PC still has a 90% + market share, primarily because Microsoft’s focus has been on the business community.  Home users are buying more MACs every year.  PCs are far less expensive than MACs, with entry level price points in the $300 range.  You will probably have to spend a least $1,000 for an entry level MAC.

MACs are more reliable, start up quicker, have fewer maintenance issues, and so far, not prone to viruses and spyware. Plus, Apple often scores higher on surveys of customer support.  MAC  built-in software is considered excellent.

Regardless of your choice, PC or MAC, desktop or laptop, there are certain specifications that are a must.  Don’t be fooled by price as bargain prices do not always mean you are getting the best machine for your needs.  Here are some of the more important specifications to consider.

Operating System – With a PC, insist on Windows 7.  With a MAC, go with  Snow Leopard.  Most machines come with 64 bit system and will enable programs to operate faster.

Speed – You do not have to go with the fastest.  Get one level lower, you will not be able to tell the difference and save some money.

RAM – Probably the most important and least expensive component – 2 GIGs is a minimum but go with 4 GIG, if possible. The more RAM, the faster the computer operates.

Hard Drive –  At least 250 GIG and more if within your budget.

There are many other items to consider, but these are the most important.  Most computers come with built in Wi-fi for wireless networks, a video camera for video chats, and several trial programs such as Microsoft Office and an anti-virus program.  You will probably want to purchase the basic version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, however there are free similar programs available online.  Same with anti-virus programs, there are quite a few good ones online for free for the PC.

These are just some points to consider before you purchase your next computer.  If you are interested in a more comprehensive discussion, you may click on the link below which will take you to my Radio Program.  Click on the April 30th show.

The Net Radio Show

Phone Bill To High?

When should you use Skype? I use video conferencing with my family, whether they are here in the United States or abroad. Great to have a visit with your child in college or studying abroad. For business, using Skype from the office computer to another Skype user. No long distance charges!! FREE, FREE, FREE.

Skype is a great way to save money on your telephone bill. The service is widely used as a communication tool to reach out to friends and business associates around the world. Best of all, the program is FREE (my favorite 4 letter word!), as are many telephone calls. In addition, you are able to hold a Skype video conference with anyone in the world who has Internet access, and yes, for FREE.

Before you all flock to their website ( to download the program, there are certain things you must know about the service, what truly is free and what is not.

What is Free

1. Skype to Skype. Calls placed from your FREE Skype account to another Skype user on the computer.

2. Calls to and from any hand-held device with wi-fi capability such as an I-Phone that is within range of a wi-fi network. Not all blackberry phones have wi-fi capability. Check with your provider (Verizon, AT&T, etc.). Also check your minutes used plan.

3. Video conferencing with both parties using their Skype account.

What is Not

1. Skype calls to land-lines and mobile phones.

2. Skype calls from Mobile phones without wi-fi capability. Internet access through a cell phone carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) is a different network.

Although calls using Skype to landlines and cell phones are not free, the rates are significantly lower than calling from either your landline or cell phone. For example International rates are as low as $.02 cents a minute depending on where you are calling. Calls to cell phones are usually higher but still significantly lower than standard telephone rates.

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