By R.K. Kliebenstein
It recently occurred to me that with the advent of new technology, we all should to be able to dramatically reduce our office costs. Following are some ways to increase office productivity and cut costs in our daily operations. Please be warned that not all of these cutting-edge ideas are for you, but there are ways to cut costs with services that are absolutely free.
Free Long-Distance Calls
There are a number of websites through which you can make long-distance calls for free. My recommendation is www.dialpad.com. The faster your modem and the better your Internet-connect rate, the better the sound quality. There is absolutely no charge for a subscription. If you'd like to hear the sound quality, send an e-mail to email@example.com, and type "DIALPAD" and your phone number in the subject header. We will call you back on Dialpad so you can hear the quality of voice transmission. There may be a small echo or delay, and the quality is compromised by simultaneous speaking.
Free Internet Access
Again, there are a number of free dial-up connections, but my favorite is www.bluelight.com. The connect speeds are good and they have a good catalog of local-access numbers. There are some annoying banners, but if you are paying the standard $19.95 per month for dial-up access, this can save you more than $239 per year.
Free E-Mail Address
There are at least 15 "free" e-mail portals. My favorites are either Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) or Hotmail (www.hotmail.com). The biggest drawback to these free e-mail sites is you are likely to be bombarded with "SPAM" or junk e-mails, and some of the content is totally unacceptable. There seems to be less inappropriate SPAM sent through yahoo.com, and it seems the site's e-mail client is easier to interface with Eudora or Outlook. Hotmail has a larger capacity, but both services limit your storage capacity (the number of e-mails you can save). There may also be a limitation on the size document you can attach to e-mails (incoming and outgoing).
Free Fax--No Machine Needed
My office subscribes to eFax (www.efax.com). This allows us to send and receive faxes electronically for free. The service can be upgraded to convert incoming faxes to Microsoft Word documents, and to fax directly from either Word or Excel. In addition, for a small monthly fee, you can upgrade to a toll-free fax number so those who send faxes to you can avoid long-distance charges. Through this feature, I can receive weekly reports from facilities, and save them in directories on my computer. Then I can print them later at my leisure. This allows me to archive all incoming faxes without wasting any paper.
Free Hard-Drive Space
Need a place in cyberspace to back up your computer? Storing back-up tapes on site won't help you in the event of a fire--or in the event of theft by an employee who knows where the back-up tapes are. One website, www.xdrive.com, allows you to store files for free. Once you outgrow the provided free space, you can purchase more space at a very nominal cost. It is also a place to store files for other Internet users to access. Imagine telling users they can go to an address on the Internet to get a picture of your storage property or a site plan!
Free Web Hosting
Want to build a personal or business website and have it hosted for free? Try www.homestead.com or www.bigstep.com and you can get a free website. I prefer the latter. The site has a free engine to build a website that gets the basic job done. To see an example of a typical website built through this free service, visit www.virgoselfstorage.bigstep.com.
R.K. Kliebenstein is the president and founder of Coast-To-Coast Storage, a consulting firm in the self-storage industry. Coast-To-Coast has a special interest in technology consulting to assist owners in the upgrade of their facilities. For more information, call 561.367.9241; www.askrk.com.