Also, a new feature automatically sends faxes with photo quality images enabling users to place their signature on the cover or body pages of outgoing faxes.

5 Ways to Create the Perfect How-To Video

Posted By: on August 10, 2014
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Always wanted to be a blogger, but aren’t a wordsmith? Have you been charged with preparing a how-to demonstration for your company and the thought of writing a boring manual is putting you to sleep? Great news: More and more people want videos instead of dull, dry written content. It’s one of the easiest ways to convey information, and you don’t need to be a professional director to create a fantastic video.

However, you do need to keep some how-to video best practices in mind. Skimping on even one of these tricks can take your video from awesome to awful. Just because a video seems simpler than writing doesn’t mean it is. There are a lot more variables at play, so you need to multi-task.

Here’s how to pull off your first how-to video like a pro.

1. Keep it timely

The length of the video will obviously be dictated by the subject matter, but for the most part under four minutes is ideal. If you need much longer, break the videos down into separate segments. Nobody is going to be excited about a how-to with a run time of 20 minutes. Brevity is key.

2. Use lighting

More important than high quality equipment is quality lighting. You can create a stellar video with an average webcam. However, use natural light whenever possible, adjust lighting to get rid of shadows and don’t depend on fluorescent lights to do the trick.

4. Pick the right presenter

Even the dullest subjects can be exciting if the person in the video is charismatic. They should be knowledgeable about the subject, warm and inviting, and have a knack for being a TV host (though no experience is necessary). It sounds easy, but don’t let vanity get in the way. Choose the right person, not the person who wants to do it the most.

5. Get inspired

One of the best ways to prepare is by checking out high quality videos that you can mimic. Maybe it’s the editing, the sound quality or how the presenter talks to the audience. However, be wary when it comes to YouTube for inspiration. Just because a video is trending doesn’t mean it’s of good quality.

Most importantly, don’t overspend. You should be able to make a high quality video with a camera you likely already have and perhaps a new, moderately priced microphone. Spend any more and you may as well hire a pro.

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Making Social Media Work for Medical Offices

Posted By: on August 9, 2014
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When you think of social media, the idea of restaurant locators or product pricing come to mind, but there are many other industries ripe for this modern platform. According to this social marketing blog, even physical therapy offices are seeing a value in sites, including Twitter and Facebook. Before embarking on this virtual adventure, keep some basic parameters in mind.

Connecting Through Reminders

One of the simplest ways to make social media work for you is starting with reminders. Even if you’re new to a particular website, send out a mass message or instant message specific followers or friends. Give them suggestive reminders, such as a next physical appointment or eye exam. Because most people are appreciative of a reminder they don’t have to write down, they’ll be pleased to show up to their appointment on-time or schedule an appointment for as soon as possible. Connections are critical to medical professional relationships with patients.

New Client Growth

There are literally dozens of medical offices in one city alone. Competition is fierce for patient loyalty. Gain your clientele with familiarity. Send out periodic health tips to your social media followers. Make them interesting tips so they’ll continue to read. Whether it’s a blog or status update, they’ll see your professional name attached to the communication. When an issue does arise, patients automatically think of you instead of your competition. Because they’re familiar with your practice on a regular basis, they feel more trust toward your medical background. Helping people think about their health makes them feel that you care, prompting them to call you immediately.

Start with One Platform

If you’re just diving into the world of social media, avoid overextending yourself. Signing up for three or four of the most popular sites all at once only defeats your overall purpose. Start with one website and get truly familiar with its layout and features. From instant messages to posting pictures, there is a wealth of information on just one site alone. Advertise your website participation to your existing patients and ask them to join, like or follow your practice. Continue to use the platform until you feel comfortable joining another social media site. By then, you’ll have many followers that can simply join you on both platforms automatically.

Images More Than Words

Don’t be obsessed with writing prose on each text update for your social media site. In fact, people tend to prefer pictures more than pure text. They are more inclined to click and view a picture, for example. Show photos of the office at night, for example, to give patients an inside look at the practice. Even take pictures of willing employees to show patients the supportive team structure. Making the office feel comfortable and familiar only helps patients visit more often.

From connecting with existing patients to educating potential customers, your medical office can use social media effectively with some commitment. By starting with one platform and expanding outward, you can build a clientele who communicates with you consistently for optimum patient care.

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TopCultured Legends

Parallel Flight

Posted By: on June 16, 2011

Often the best pictures are those that are taken at the exact perfect time. For other pictures, it’s the angle – being in the right place. Pictures like this are example of being in the Read On »

The Many Dangers of Natural Gas

Posted By: on May 21, 2011

From contaminated water to hazardous emissions, the dangers associated with the “cleaner” natural energy source are starting to become more evident. Then, there’s the whole “it can freakin’ blow up at any time” aspect that Read On »

7 Tips on How to Treat a Snoring Problem and Prevent a Divorce

Posted By: on September 10, 2013

Snoring is a source of marital conflict in many sitcoms and cartoons, but the reality of snoring can be very serious. Not only can it disturb a marriage, it can also be the symptom of Read On »

Dangerously Unsophisticated: Brute Force Hacking On the Rise

Posted By: on August 1, 2014
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The battle between hackers and security professionals is a never ending one: each time a programmer creates a supposedly perfect protocol, the hacking community is quick to respond with new weapons. Sometimes, these weapons are simple yet brutally effective – such as the Brute Force Attack. Brute Force Attacks are among the simplest ways of hacking a system whereby a system is programed to log in to another system by repeatedly trying different passwords until one works. Unfortunately, many modern computer systems can be defeated by such crude and simple measures. Read on for details on how Brute Force Attacks work and how to protect your servers from them.

What is a Brute Force Attack?

Theoretically, a Brute Force Attack is simple: a program runs thousands of random codes trying to crack a machine’s password. Unfortunately, the reality is that brute force attacks often use highly sophisticated automatic programs to fleece businesses and multi-million dollar companies of their hardware, which they then take advantage of to hack into user accounts. At least one group of hackers actually used Amazon Web Service’s own supercomputers against them by taking advantage of free account creation to organize and automate brute-forcing botnets. That sounds complicated, but it means that sufficiently skilled hackers can take advantages of services like these to get at the personal information of the individuals using them.

Who Do Brute Force Attacks Affect?

Brute Force Attacks of this nature are becoming more common as more companies store larger amounts of customer data through cloud services. Last year, major companies such as Target and P.F. Chang’s acknowledged Brute Force Attacks had breached their security systems, which put millions of customers at risk of identity theft. Unfortunately, large companies aren’t the only targets hackers go after with Brute Force Attacks. Even small business are often at risk from low-level hackers who take advantage of insufficient and poorly maintained security systems to steal customer information and records. Even individual consumers are sometimes targeted, especially those who work with small banks or publish large quantities of personal information online. While the attacks leave traces that can sometimes be identified, this is a cold comfort to those who have lost their livelihoods to a cracked bank account password.

Preventing Brute Force Attacks

Fortunately, there are a number of measures individuals and companies can take to avoid Brute Force Attacks. ZDNet recommends changing passwords from their default settings as soon and as often as possible; default passwords are often procedurally generated in the same way as Brute Force Botnet passwords. In addition, don’t clearly mark the “administrator” account on your computer at work, as this presents an obvious target to hackers. For those who are still worried, many software suites such as Brute Protect exist just to combat Brute Force hacking. Finally, it bears mentioning that you should avoid giving out personal information to company databases whenever possible. Be especially careful of giving information to large-scale consumer industries, which will store that information in vulnerable databases.

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Fixed Fee Litigation: What is it and How Does it Work?

Posted By: on July 31, 2014
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Business litigation is an expensive, sometimes lengthy and risky process. From your perspective as a client, the risk is the unpredictability of the costs involved. Even though the attorney attempts to provide an estimate, there is always the possibility that the final outcome is going to be significantly higher than expected. From the perspective of the law firm, it is often difficult to determine whether your case will turn into a longer, more complex case, and let’s face it, scaring you away with a “worst case scenario” quote isn’t good for business.

What is flat fee business litigation?

A fixed, or flat fee, approach to business litigation is, in simple terms, a task-based fee structure. In patent litigation, for example, a Settlement Demand Letter or Initial Disclosure are two separate tasks, and each of those tasks is assessed at a certain fee. The case may still be unpredictable, but you have a more concrete idea of the costs involved as it progresses through each phase.

How does it work?

The initial consultation enables the attorney to gain a thorough understanding of the business litigation service you want to pursue and then to assess the specific needs of your case and determine whether it is of low, medium or high complexity. Although actionable tasks are, of course, directed according to how the case proceeds, this process helps to provide a greater measure of predictability of the costs to you. Not only does this reduce that “sticker shock” at the end of your case, but it also enables you to have more control over your legal budget as your case progresses.

What is the risk?

Another aspect of a fixed-fee framework is the ability to address and balance the risk between the law firm and you, the client. Your fee structure is based on the type of litigation you are pursuing, the task being completed and the potential complexity of the case. All cases begin with an initial consultation. This gives you an opportunity to determine whether or not you want to pursue the case further, and you are under no further financial obligation to proceed from that point.

If you do proceed, the case is then billed by each task your case requires as it moves forward. The risk to the law firm is that the fixed fee may result in them receiving reduced pay for completed hours, but there is also a risk to you because the task may be completed so quickly that it would have cost less if you paid per billable hour. Thus, the risk is shared.

Concluding whether fixed-fee business litigation is beneficial or not is something that you have to decide for yourself according to your particular situation. That said, having this type of fixed-fee structure may help in the following ways:

  • Your costs are better in line with your needs

  • Reduces attorney temptation to “over-lawyer”

  • Tasks are more focused and productive

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Cutting Healthcare Costs During Your Retirement Years

Posted By: on July 30, 2014
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healthcare

After your mortgage, if you still have one during your retirement years, your next greatest expense is likely to be healthcare. According to this article on CNN Money, a couple that retires at 65 will need nearly a $250,000 to pay for their out-of-pocket healthcare related costs if they live another 20 years to the age of 85. This is a considerable chunk of change even for those who have done well with retirement savings and investments. Learning what options are available to cut down your out-of-pocket healthcare costs during retirement can help you plan for your future.

Healthcare Savings Accounts

You may be surprised to learn that you can put money into a healthcare savings account even while taking advantage of other programs like Medicare Part D insurance and employer-based healthcare. A healthcare savings account allows you to deposit money into an account tax-free and then use those funds in the short term or long term to pay for medication, doctor’s office co-pays and deductibles. According to this article by the Washington Post, these accounts are portable, and your savings can accumulate so long as you maintain coverage in a high-deductible plan such as Medicare Part D.

Long-term Care Insurance

Paying for long-term care insurance may add to your out-of-pocket costs in the short term. However, this type of insurance lessens your out-of-pocket costs should you need to be placed in a long-term care facility. According to this blog, nursing homes can cost upwards of $80,000 annually for a private room. A long-term insurance policy can help reduce this financial burden. You’ll need to thoroughly review each policy because you may still need to enroll in another program for prescription medication coverage.

Medigap Insurance

Medigap insurance policies are another way to reduce your out-of-pocket healthcare costs during your retirement years. According to this article, you must already be enrolled in Medicare parts A and B. You can purchase such a policy from any insurer in your state licensed to sell the policies. These plans cover routine medical services. So long as you pay your premium, your policy can’t be cancelled. These policies do not cover prescription drugs, so if you want prescription medication coverage, you’ll need to enroll in a Medicare Part D program.

Prescription Drugs

During their senior years, many people develop chronic conditions that require medications. Some of these medications can be cost prohibitive for those who must pay out-of-pocket. One way to cut your prescription drug costs during your retirement years is to enroll in a prescription-drug savings plan like the Medicare Part D plans. These programs partner with retail pharmacies in your neighborhood where you have already established a relationship with the on-staff pharmacist and technicians. These programs offer low co-pays and mail-order services. For additional savings on prescription drugs, you can ask your doctor about a generic alternative or a drug that participates in your Medicare Part D plan. With some intelligent planning, retirement can be the relaxing reward it is supposed to be.

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5 Signs You’re Ready for a Relationship

Posted By: on July 29, 2014
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Don’t get into a relationship just because you’re lonely, “at the right age” or because you’re tired of hearing family members ask about when you’re going to settle down. However, do actively seek out a healthy relationship when you’re ready for it. This will happen at different times for different people, but there are certain experiences to enjoy first as well as signs you’re ready. Is a relationship in your future?

Maybe you’re planning date ideas but have no one to be your partner in crime, or maybe you’re truly tired of the bar scene. Consider these signs that you’re gearing up to leave single life behind, and take favorable steps towards the transition.

1. You’d have zero single life regrets if you got married tomorrow

You probably have a friend or two who settled down too early, well before they got all their wild, crazy single stories behind them. However, you’ve reached a point where you have plenty of bad date stories and flings under your belt. You’ve lived single life to the fullest, and now you’re ready for the next step.

2. You’re financially secure

This isn’t because you want to support someone, but it shows you’ve got your ducks in a row. Like attracts like, so what it’s only fair that you get from someone else what you bring to the table. Nobody wants to get serious with someone who can’t handle their finances.

3. You’re realistic in what you want

There’s a fine line between having a serious “dream list” that has you nixing potential paramours for ridiculous reasons and having decently high standards. You’re not asking anything you can’t deliver yourself, and while there’s a sprinkling of vanity (hey, everyone has preferences for hair color, etc.) the bulk of your want list is made up of genuine characteristics.

4. Your baggage is checked

Depending on your age, some baggage might be expected such as a previous marriage. However, if you do have baggage, it’s been checked and not impacting your life today. Be honest with yourself and if you’re having trouble with it, there’s no harm in checking in with a counselor.

5. Most other aspects of your life are on track

While finances are a biggie, there are many other parts of your life that should also be on track before delving into a relationship: This includes enriching hobbies and a solid core group of friends. When “your house” is in order, you’re prime for that special someone to come on over.

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Entry Level Cars That are Cool to Own

Posted By: on July 27, 2014
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2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

Cars prices under $18,000 in the past were boring and didn’t actually offer any real benefit to the owner, but with a move toward the smaller cars automakers have built many models that are fuel efficient, tech-savvy and much more functional than ever before including being really cool and fun to drive.  How would a shopper go about finding one of these great cars or knowing which ones to take a look at?  Kelley Blue Book publishes a list each year of the ten coolest cars under $18,000 and here is a look at each one.

They’re the type of cars you’ll see on Indy Buy Here Pay Here lots in a few years and they’re worth every penny.

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Tips for Long Distance Moves

Posted By: on July 26, 2014
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Think of the stress of moving just a few miles away from your current house and the imagine the stress of moving your family across the country. You know that moving is one of life’s most aggravating ventures, and moving long distance is exponentially more difficult than a local move. Avoid the mishaps of a long-distance move with these tips to make the experience as smooth as possible.

Reconsider Using a Large Scale Moving Company

Moving companies are known for their tricky tactics, promising you a certain price and then, once your stuff is held hostage, raising the price. Then, you have to come up with hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than originally planned. Instead, try to find some local Chicago movers to assist in you. Local companies have more pride in their reputations and can cost significantly less than the larger moving companies. Aim for companies with great reviews and don’t be afraid to ask them for references.

Lighten the Load

There’s no better time to get rid of those items lurking in closets and dark corners of the attic than before a big move. The last thing you want is more stuff you have to pay to move. And really, who wants to pay to move a bunch of stuff that’s going to go right back into a closet at your new home? Reconsider the furniture you bring too. If you’re hauling along a bunch of thrift store finds, it’s probably going to cost more to ship them than it cost to buy them. Hold on to necessities and sentimental items and get rid of the rest. Sell what you can and add it to your budget for purchasing new things when you’re relocated.

Drive, Don’t Fly

It sounds counterintuitive, but paying to ship your vehicles across country can be expensive and a huge hassle. You have to reserve a spot months ahead of time, and depending on the nature of your move, you might not have that much notice. Add to that the fact that you’ll be without a car for a week or so on either end of your move, and it might not be worth it to your family. Pack what you need for the journey and a few days’ worth of living in your new house and consider the move a great chance for a family road trip.

Make a Schedule

You’ll want to coordinate your belongings’ arrival with your own before you hit the road and wave goodbye to your furniture. You definitely want to be at your new destination at the same time as the movers, but you don’t want to be in your new house for a week without beds, furniture or kitchen supplies. Discuss a deadline with your moving company and plan your travel to coincide with the movers’ arrival. If you have kids, it’s probably best to plan your own arrival within a day or two of the moving company’s so you aren’t all sleeping on the floor and eating cold sandwiches.

A successful long-distance move is all about organization and planning. If you keep everything organized and do all of your preparation ahead of time, you’ll be able to move right into your new house and work on getting settled with minimal stress.

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3 Ways Mobile Readiness is Like Responsive Design

Posted By: on July 23, 2014
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In 2013, “responsive design” was the buzzword of the year and it had web designers and companies scrambling to make sure their sites were “responding” on every platform and gadget. In 2014, the buzzword is “mobile readiness,” but these two hot commodities have a lot more in common than people think. In fact, in some instances, they completely overlap one another.

Whether you’re a website designer, business owner or simply want to figure out what exactly these two things are, this is your ultimate comparison sheet. As it turns out, the push towards responsive design was the perfect prelude to our now majorly mobile demanding world. These two top dogs play very nicely together.

1. They’re both about the end user experience

Responsive design is the act of ensuring that a website “responds” flawlessly on every type of platform or gadget. In other words, a website is attractive and easy to read whether it’s on an old desktop or the latest imported smartphone. Mobile readiness is ensuring that a company’s presence is accessible on any type of smartphone.

The big difference is that “mobile readiness” can include apps whereas responsive design is all about websites. It’s possible (and sometimes preferable) for a company to have three components in this realm: A website that’s responsively designed, a mobile version of a website and/or an app for the business. However, “responsive design” is only possible for the first two of this trifecta since obviously an app will have responsive design already built in.

2. They require skilled designers and testers

How can you ensure that an app or website will perform perfectly across the scores of gadgets out there? By hiring the best designers and testing non-stop. A brand new device or platform could be released tomorrow, and you need to make sure your website and/or app performs well on it. This requires constant monitoring.

3. It’s about anticipation

However, there’s only so much testing on existing devices that can be done. To really embrace both mobile readiness and responsive design, you need to anticipate what’s to come. This means following industry news and trends, and keeping ahead of the curve. Research, following industry leaders and getting ready for releases in advance is key.

The most important parallel between mobile readiness and responsive design is understanding the desires and needs of consumers. All signs point to users wanting more mobile at a faster pace. Make sure you keep up.

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The Benefits of Display Advertising for Business

Posted By: on July 22, 2014
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dsiplayad

Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. Whether you sell houses, electronics or online services, it’s important to promote your brand. From social media to direct marketing and display advertising, there are various ways to market your products and reach your target audience. Display ads are convenient, affordable and visually appealing. When used properly, they can boost your conversion rate by more than 30 percent. The key is to choose promotional items, banner stands and hanging signs that are both functional and attractive. Your marketing message is vital to the success of your business.

Are Display Ads Worth It?

Display ads come in all shapes and sizes. You can use videos, text, graphics and animation. This form of marketing allows you to advertise products and services on the street, in your store or at special events. Depending on your budget, you may opt for LED and LCD monitors, folding panel displays, pop-up displays, 8-foot table-top stands and other accessories. These products can be customized with your company’s name, logo and marketing message.

The most effective display ads combine images, text and animation to convey a message. They are easy to create and can take any form. Many business owners use free graphics programs and photo editing software to create display ads. Some hire Web designers and marketing experts. The decision is up to you. From small businesses to online stores, fashion boutiques and service providers, anyone can benefit from display advertising.

This form of marketing has many advantages. It’s less expensive than TV and radio advertising, offers greater exposure than newspaper ads do, and can reach thousands of people in a short time frame. Pole banners, sidewalk signs, flags and portable billboards offer maximum exposure for your business. These products are cheap, eye-catching and highly portable. All you have to do is to come up with a strong call to action and some graphics that reflect your brand.

How Display Advertising Can Boost Your Marketing Campaign

Recent studies indicate that more than 46 percent of customers are more likely to buy a product after seeing an ad on the street or in a store. Display ads can help you grow your business and attract new clients. A strategically located billboard or a giant poster can direct people to your store as soon as they leave home.

This form of marketing is 50 percent less expensive than radio advertising and 80 percent less expensive than television ads. Even those who are on a tight budget can use this display advertising to gain exposure. The best part is that you can choose from hundreds of different products including table throws, hybrid displays, counters and kiosks, banner walls, retractable banner stands and hanging signs with vibrant, attention-grabbing messages.

These products are available in a wide range of sizes and colors. They are seen by people every day, allowing an unrivaled connection between your brand and your customers. Most companies selling display ads offer marketing and design services too. If you don’t have your own marketing team, you can request these services anytime.

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