How to Keep Money in Your Wallet This Year

Let’s start off 2009 on a positive note, shall we? Americans everywhere were more than relieved to say farewell to 2008 and all of the baggage it carried with it. Today, there is a renewed feeling of hope and if channeled, you can use that optimism to take your economic situation out of the red and into the green.Let’s ignore words like recession, bailout and Great Depression Part 2. Honestly, focusing on our country’s economic downturn is not going to do us any good. Instead, focus your attention on your own personal situation. Are you struggling? Living paycheck to paycheck? Counting down the days to your tax return?You’re not alone. But try to keep in mind that with discipline and a stringent financial plan, you can cushion your bank account and give yourself some much-needed relief.1. Be lean for more green.It’s common sense that spending less means you save more money. However, what many consumers don’t realize is that there are ways to spend money utilizing savings and coupons they never knew existed. For example, if you’re a fan of shopping online and making the most of those clearance sales, search for additional coupon codes. Simply Google coupon codes for the store and you’re likely to find codes for an additional percentage off or free shipping.2. Karmic spending.No, this is not some kind of yoga-induced way of spending your money; rather, it’s all about putting money out to pull money back in. Several credit cards as well as member savings cards give shoppers rewards for spending money. Rewards include coupons and points systems that can lead to anything from free movie tickets to a vacation. Also, if you have children, soup and cereal companies offer rebates. You register their school, buy their products, collect the proof of purchase tabs and turn them in. The schools then receive items like school supplies.3. Budget your little heart out. The economy is hurting and the government would like nothing more than for consumers to buy like there is no tomorrow. Simply stated, we spend when we can but for right now, budgeting is our favorite buzzword. If you’re unsure of how to budget, the best way to go about it is to write out every single one of your expenses over the course of 2 months. Write down everything including that munchies run to the drug store and that impromptu shopping spree. The point of this is to help you understand exactly how much you’re spending and whether that amount is necessary. Odds are there are several expenses that can be avoided and at the very least, toned down. Remember, the key is to start off the year by giving yourself some cushion in your bank account.It sounds trite but we will get through this and the economy will turn around. These suggestions are designed to provide some relief to your bank account though we all know emergencies happen and sometimes spending can’t be avoided. If such a financial emergency arises, know your options and try to have an exit strategy, including a savings account, a low-APR credit card or a payday loan consultant. With these kinds of options, you can take care of the situation without being buried under it.

Education Requirements for Firefighters

If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, one factor you really should not overlook is firefighter education. Firefighting has developed into a very competitive area of expertise, and most municipalities have started requiring firefighter applicants to have a college degree, or some college credits, as well as certification prior to being seriously considered for a position. Then again, even if it’s not necessarily a firm necessity in your city, having the right education and certification is likely to dramatically increase your chance to find a job as a firefighter.There are a few different ways to acquire the training and education you should have to become a firefighter, and this guide will help you to understand your various options. Particularly, you might be interested in college degrees for firefighters, attending fire academy, taking web based classes for firefighting, or firefighter apprenticeships. All of these are viable methods of achieving the education requirements for firefighters, so we will evaluate these options in more detail.Fire Academy Training – Your Local Fire DepartmentDepending on where you want to find a job as a firefighter, the fire department could have a local fire academy set up to train new recruits. This form of education is what a lot of people refer to as “fire school” or “fire academy.” Typically, entry-level workers in large fire departments will be trained for a number of weeks at the department’s fire school training center or fire academy. Firefighter training typically is comprised of classroom instruction and practical training.Firefighter recruits study subjects such as fire prevention, fire fighting techniques, hazardous materials control, local building codes, and emergency medical procedures. Many jurisdictions require firefighters to hold certification as an emergency medicine technician (EMT) or paramedic. During fire school training, recruits also learn how to use tools of the trade like axes, chain saws, fire extinguishers, ladders, as well as other fire fighting and rescue apparatus. After successfully completing training, the recruits are assigned to a fire company, where they undertake a period of probation which will consist of more hands-on training.If the fire department close to you does give you training and education through this sort of fire school, there could possibly be prerequisites you need to meet before being accepted into the program. You could ask at a local fire department to get the essentials of their specific application process and requirements.In addition to the firefighter training provided in the local jurisdiction, many firefighter recruits and career firefighters also opt to sign up for firefighter training courses available through the U.S. Fire Administration and U.S National Fire Academy.U.S. National Fire Academy – National Emergency Training CenterThe National Emergency Training Center is a 107-acre campus situated in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The campus houses the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the National Fire Academy (NFA), and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). The National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute are part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).The National Fire Academy offers firefighter courses at its resident campus in Emmitsburg, and also off-campus, around the Country in collaboration with State and local fire departments and training providers. There are no tuition costs for National Fire Academy courses. All instruction and course materials are provided free of charge. Most of the travel costs and accommodations for students who represent career or volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, or State/local governments attending on-campus courses are now provided as part of funding within the student stipend reimbursement program.Everyone having significant involvement in fire prevention and control, emergency medical services, fire-related emergency management activities, or allied occupations is eligible to apply for National Fire Academy courses. Students have to satisfy the particular selection criteria and prerequisite criteria for every course. These prerequisite courses may be available online through the Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy.The National Fire Academy itself is not an accredited university. However, successfully completed NFA courses may be counted as credits toward a college degree program. However, not all colleges or universities approve these credits.College for FirefightersMany vocational schools, community colleges, and universities provide certificates and degrees for the student who wants to become a firefighter. The most common college certificate or degree is a Fire Science degree. Students enrolled in a Fire Science program usually study fire investigation methods and also techniques for controlling a fire with equipment, like axes, fire extinguishers, ladders and chainsaws. These programs also typically include education in fire prevention and teaching fire safety to the general public. Fire science students are also taught basic first aid, CPR and proper handling of hazardous materials.As part of these college programs for firefighters, students might also earn their certification as an EMT/Paramedic. This is one important reason why college for firefighters is becoming increasingly more in-demand; because in addition to basic requirements for becoming a firefighter, many jurisdictions now mandate EMT training and certification as the minimum education requirement for becoming a firefighter.Key courses in a Fire Science Associates Degree will normally include:

Fire Prevention
Principles of Fire and Emergency Services
Safety and Survival
Building Construction for Fire Protection
Fire Behavior and Combustion
Fire Protection Systems
Principles of Emergency Services
Other appropriate firefighter courses offered by many colleges include:

Fire Investigation I
Fire Investigation II
Fire Protection
Hydraulics and Water Supply
Introduction to Fire and Emergency Services Administration
Legal Aspects of the Emergency Services
Occupational Health and Safety
Strategy and Tactics
Hazardous Materials Chemistry
Along with these core Associate’s Degree courses, a Fire Science Bachelors Degree program will commonly also include additional courses such as:

Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection
Applications of Fire Research
Fire Prevention Organization and Management
Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Services
Fire and Emergency Services Administration
Community Risk Reduction for the Fire and Emergency Services
Of course, the actual curriculum varies depending on what college you attend for your firefighter education. Look at the firefighter class descriptions of colleges you’re thinking about to make sure you get the education you need.Firefighter Training Apprenticeship ProgramsAccredited apprenticeships are offered by a lot of fire departments for those interested in becoming a firefighter. These firefighter training programs frequently require students to enroll in a Fire Science degree program at an affiliated school. The student will obtain theoretical knowledge via classroom firefighter courses, while getting realistic, hands-on field training via the fire department. These programs ordinarily take 2- 4 years to complete.Students in apprenticeship programs have a chance to gain paid experience in a fire department, operating equipment and responding to calls. Fire departments which offer apprenticeship programs generally tend to hire firefighter recruits who have undertaken an apprenticeship. So, if your jurisdiction provides this type of program, it could be the best way for you to get your firefighter education and strengthen your likelihood of being hired in this competitive field.

Starting Online Business in Economic Crises – Can You Make Money?

Should you start an online business with the Economic Crises still lingering over society? Seeking an additional income, or replacement income is becoming a top priority for many during this economic downfall, which has crippled our society over the last couple of years. Many are looking to an Internet business opportunity to secure their financial situation. But while businesses online suggests financial freedom, is this truly the best time to start a business?Starting a business whether in hard economic times or in stable financial conditions is bound to create some amount of anxiety mixed with excitement. Yet with the newspaper and media reporting on an economy crisis it creates even a larger fear factor for most. However, the fear of starting an Internet business during an economic crises is often misplaced, and unnecessary.More and more people are coming online to meet their shopping needs. Bypassing malls, and local shops to connecting to the Internet to purchase their necessities. As the Internet continues to open up buying and spending benefits for consumers, it also opens up an avenue for online entrepreneurs.While the economy is allowing businesses to strive and profit, you still have to consider if an online business is right for you. While websites, and slogans offer a message of no work, and carefree days while making money, the reality of what is necessary to truly make your business profit online, is often as unpredictable as the economy. Many are misled by hype and over exaggerated slogans. In order for you to truly make money online you have to be aware of what will actually have you profiting.You cannot go into your business not knowing what will make you money. You are not starting online as a hobby. Most will want to make a financial gain, and profitable career with an online business. In order to that you have to know what it will take in order to be successful.An Online Business RealityWith the economy crises starting to level off, and not being such a large issue as it was even six months ago more people are starting to spend again. You will want to position yourself at the top of the market place. In order to accomplish that you will have to work, and learn marketing strategies to succeed online.No business whether online or offline requires no work to build. You will have to learn how to market, and learn sales strategies in order to be successful. It is also suggested for you to find an online business with a system. Having a system that is established and working for others, will assist you in building your business. If a system is already working with current economic condition than it is more in your favor that it will work for you.While the economic crises is a main question for starting an online business, it becomes more important to be realistic about what your expectations are. As more and more people are seeking financial gains from the Internet, it becomes more important to weed out the fact from the fiction. Making sure that you have a system, and training can assist you in profiting with your business regardless of the economic crisis.

Breaking World News

Thanks to technology, there are now countless ways we can access breaking world news instantly, as they happen. This is done trough satellite televisions stations like both national and of course, international. These international stations are uniquely different from the local TV stations people are used to. They are bigger and have the sole aim of bridging the gap in the world. They are trying to bring the world closer to each other via satellite. They see everything that happens in the different countries of the world through satellite, and they have informants in many countries that help to bring in smaller but striking world news.There are other mediums through which breaking world news can be accessed, and that is through the internet, by emails, and through printed media (newspapers and journals).Let’s take a look at the tremendous power that the internet has today. The World Wide Web is the second yet the most effective medium for assessing breaking world news. A lot of websites, social sites and forums like face book, MySpace, hub pages, blogs and international news houses like the CNN websites, and many more are the second easiest ways to get world news as fast as it happens.The internet is a global market with all sorts of people doing business on it and with a whole lot of news report website, both from the popular and unpopular media houses. This news websites, features other packages, like sporting news, entertainment gist, weather reports, politics, travel, health, finance, business, and other interesting activities that should attract the different kinds of people that access the net. Breaking world news are promoted more with photographs, video and catchy headlines.

9 Things to Consider Before Forming a Business Partnership

Getting into a business partnership has its benefits. It allows all contributors to share the stakes in the business. Depending on the risk appetites of partners, a business can have a general or limited liability partnership. Limited partners are only there to provide funding to the business. They have no say in business operations, neither do they share the responsibility of any debt or other business obligations. General Partners operate the business and share its liabilities as well. Since limited liability partnerships require a lot of paperwork, people usually tend to form general partnerships in businesses.Things to Consider Before Setting Up A Business PartnershipBusiness partnerships are a great way to share your profit and loss with someone you can trust. However, a poorly executed partnerships can turn out to be a disaster for the business. Here are some useful ways to protect your interests while forming a new business partnership:1. Being Sure Of Why You Need a PartnerBefore entering into a business partnership with someone, you need to ask yourself why you need a partner. If you are looking for just an investor, then a limited liability partnership should suffice. However, if you are trying to create a tax shield for your business, the general partnership would be a better choice.Business partners should complement each other in terms of experience and skills. If you are a technology enthusiast, teaming up with a professional with extensive marketing experience can be quite beneficial.2. Understanding Your Partner’s Current Financial SituationBefore asking someone to commit to your business, you need to understand their financial situation. When starting up a business, there may be some amount of initial capital required. If business partners have enough financial resources, they will not require funding from other resources. This will lower a firm’s debt and increase the owner’s equity.3. Background CheckEven if you trust someone to be your business partner, there is no harm in performing a background check. Calling a couple of professional and personal references can give you a fair idea about their work ethics. Background checks help you avoid any future surprises when you start working with your business partner. If your business partner is used to sitting late and you are not, you can divide responsibilities accordingly.It is a good idea to check if your partner has any prior experience in running a new business venture. This will tell you how they performed in their previous endeavors.4. Have an Attorney Vet the Partnership DocumentsMake sure you take legal opinion before signing any partnership agreements. It is one of the most useful ways to protect your rights and interests in a business partnership. It is important to have a good understanding of each clause, as a poorly written agreement can make you run into liability issues.You should make sure to add or delete any relevant clause before entering into a partnership. This is because it is cumbersome to make amendments once the agreement has been signed.5. The Partnership Should Be Solely Based On Business TermsBusiness partnerships should not be based on personal relationships or preferences. There should be strong accountability measures put in place from the very first day to track performance. Responsibilities should be clearly defined and performing metrics should indicate every individual’s contribution towards the business.Having a weak accountability and performance measurement system is one of the reasons why many partnerships fail. Rather than putting in their efforts, owners start blaming each other for the wrong decisions and resulting in company losses.6. The Commitment Level of Your Business PartnerAll partnerships start on friendly terms and with great enthusiasm. However, some people lose excitement along the way due to everyday slog. Therefore, you need to understand the commitment level of your partner before entering into a business partnership with them.Your business partner(s) should be able to show the same level of commitment at every stage of the business. If they do not remain committed to the business, it will reflect in their work and can be detrimental to the business as well. The best way to maintain the commitment level of each business partner is to set desired expectations from every person from the very first day.While entering into a partnership agreement, you need to have an idea about your partner’s added responsibilities. Responsibilities such as taking care of an elderly parent should be given due thought to set realistic expectations. This gives room for compassion and flexibility in your work ethics.7. What Will Happen If a Partner Exits the BusinessJust like any other contract, a business venture requires a prenup. This would outline what happens in case a partner wishes to exit the business. Some of the questions to answer in such a scenario include:
How will the exiting party receive compensation?

How will the division of resources take place among the remaining business partners?

Also, how will you divide the responsibilities?

8. Who Will Be In Charge Of Daily OperationsEven when there is a 50-50 partnership, someone needs to be in charge of daily operations. Positions including CEO and Director need to be allocated to appropriate individuals including the business partners from the beginning.This helps in creating an organizational structure and further defining the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder. When each individual knows what is expected of him or her, they are more likely to perform better in their role.9. You Share the Same Values and VisionEntering into a business partnership with someone who shares the same values and vision makes the running of daily operations considerably easy. You can make important business decisions quickly and define long-term strategies. However, sometimes, even the most like-minded individuals can disagree on important decisions. In such cases, it is essential to keep in mind the long-term goals of the business.Bottom LineBusiness partnerships are a great way to share liabilities and increase funding when setting up a new business. To make a business partnership successful, it is important to find a partner that will help you make fruitful decisions for the business. Thus, pay attention to the above-mentioned integral aspects, as a weak partner(s) can prove detrimental for your new venture.

SEO Outsourcing Helps Improve Search Engine Visibility

SEO outsourcing helps improve search engine visibility with SEO companies coordinating the various elements that go into creating a successful and evolving search engine optimization strategy.Search engine optimization is a tricky thing to master. There are many aspects involved in SEO. It’s about getting on top of the search rankings for sure, but it requires the coordination of various disciplines to bring about the desired results. In other words, businesses need to maintain a separate department for SEO which could prove resource straining for small and medium sized businesses. For such companies it would make more sense to outsource SEO.Various Elements of SEO Outsourcing ServicesSEO outsourcing is offered by professional SEO companies that have vast experience in SEO and have helped many organizations scale the heights of success. Professional SEO services offered by reliable and efficient SEO companies cover many areas including the following:• Search engine ranking
• Social media optimization
• PPC marketing
• Email campaigns
• Other comprehensive Internet marketing means
• Link building
• Conversion optimization
• E-commerce
• Bounce rate reductionDepending on your specific business requirements, your business needs all these solutions in order to have a website that helps you gain more earnings and fulfill your long term goals. Comprehensive SEO outsourcing can ensure efficient handling of these tasks.User search trends evolve and so do search engine algorithms. A successful SEO strategy is one that evolves according to these changes. The experts at the SEO company are prepared for these, sometimes gradual or sometimes sudden, changes. A small slip-up in the overall rankings could give your rivals a significant advantage.Examples of the SEO Company’s ExpertiseKeyword SelectionThe major factor that affects rankings is still keywords. Choosing the keywords to optimize the content of your website requires research. Professional SEO services are provided on the basis of constant research carried out by the SEO experts using innovative technologies. Keyword tracking tools are one of them. Not only should keywords be selected that are instinctively searched by users, but also those that have not been exploited much by competitors.Once the competitive keywords are decided upon, which will really help improve your search rankings performance, they are judiciously added to the content for which trained SEO copywriters are employed by the SEO company.Social Media PresenceLikewise, SEO outsourcing helps in giving your business a significant presence in the social media platforms. The SEO company can plan the necessary strategies to help increase your followers and friend circles in Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linked In and other networks. The more the followers, the greater is the likelihood of people knowing about your business and clicking the links to your site. Social media experts of SEO companies know how to keep the interest in your social media profile high. The same applies for blogs on Blogger and other blog sites as well as article submissions.These are some of the ways how affordable search engine optimization services make the difference for your business. SEO outsourcing helps improve search engine visibility through various means.

What Makes Online Education a Better Option For You?

Nowadays, pursuing a degree through online education is common, and the value of online degree from a proper accredited university or college is equally weight than the traditional campus-based degree. With both campus-based degree and online education you have more options to choose from if you want to earn a degree for you career advancement. Online education has many advantages that can benefit its students, but it may not be a good option for all students; then what makes online education a better option for you?Here a 5 signs that an online education might be a better option for you:1. You want to continue your current job while pursuing a degreeIn order to success in both work and study, you need to have a good time management that helps you to stay focus in both tasks. Online education will make it easier for you if you are the person who does not want to give up your paycheck while earning a degree for better career future. The advantages of online education that allows it students to have the most flexible learning environment can benefit a working individual and plan your times that best fit into both work and study.2. You are managing multiple time commitments Online education helps to cut down wasted time in traveling to and from school while providing flexible scheduling that can enables you to fully utilize your time. If you are a person with full of time commitments with multiple working around obligations, you will appreciate the anytime, anywhere access of the virtual classroom. Online education will be a better option for you if you have such working obligations while you study:
Frequent traveling for job assignment
Unfixed working schedule / work on shift
Involve in project-based work that need long working hour
Need to take care of your children after work hours

3. You are a visual learner Traditional campus-based learning style is more emphasis on auditory activities such as lectures and oral discussions while online education learning style is mostly in visual learning format that involves reading, writing with various visual aids found in virtual classroom. Hence, if you prefer to “read and learn” than “listen and learn” type of style, an online education learning environment will be a better option for you.4. You are self-motivated “Self-motivation” is the key factor to a success online study. Online classes allow you to logon to the class at anytime and remain in the online class for the duration you prefer, nobody will push at your back to urge you complete you projects or assignments. You may move through the material at your own pace, passing quickly on the area you already familiar with and spending more time to understand new concepts. If you equip with a good “self-motivation” characteristic, then you should have no problem in completing an online education program which makes it a better option for you.5. You are interest in a specialized degree not available locally One of the most compelling reasons to opt for online education is you can earn your dream degree offered by any of university in the world as long as the university offers online degree programs. Distance is not an issue for online education because you can reach it with mouse clicks no matter how far it is located from your place. The online education will become a better option for you when the degree you are interested in is not available locally.SummaryEarning a degree online can have many advantages over the traditional campus-based education. It will become your better education option if the advantages of online education can benefit you while helping you to achieve your education goal in a better way.

Emerging Technologies America Has Fallen Behind On

There are many new technologies from all over the world, including America. But the majority of these emerging technologies are hot technology that America doesn’t have. Japan has seemed to corner the market on many of the up and coming technologies such as ones that are connected to computers, consumer electronics and a host of other things that America needs to catch up on.According to the JD Power Asian Pacific 2007 Japan Automotive Study, eight of the 14 new technologies that draw predominantly high levels of consumer interests were either related to fuel economy, safety or the environment.It’s not the Japan is the only one who is working in the emerging technologies; it’s just that America is falling behind in their work within development of new technologies. Funding plays a major role in the fact that America is behind in the technology department when it comes to certain places emerging technology is needed, such as the medical community where monies need to be raised in order to sustain the research. Japan works with many different companies that fund their research in emerging technologies because these companies know how important it is to be on the cutting edge of the science and consumer technology front. Some American companies are starting to get on board when it comes to “going green” and saving the environment, because they know this is a growing concern of many Americans today.The study also found that technologies such as extra airbags in the automobiles the likes of which are knee airbags and anti-whiplash seats have garnered much interest among consumers worldwide. These implements are in place now in Japan however this is a life-saving technology America doesn’t have. They are working on it however they just don’t have it as yet.Japan’s emerging technologies in the IT – Information Technology and computers in general have surpassed America for a long time. Many of the gadgets and computer components that the American companies use today we purchased and received from overseas, simply because we do not have the technology to build these components ourselves. Japan, like many of the other Asian nations, have what it takes to build the emerging technologies to put together smarter, faster computers and technological gadgets such as smarter cell phones, iPods that you can watch full-feature movies on, digital watches and calculators that do a whole host of other things besides keep time and calculate numbers.The software industry is another place where Japan’s emerging technologies surpasses Americas. Many of these software programs come in the form of games but others have practical applications in the business world. Japan’s edge in the game world far surpasses Americas but we seem content purchasing Japan’s gaming technologies. However, America is working hard in the consumer technology industry to come up with better, faster and more efficient ways of doing things. The medical community is one place where America has outdone Japan; medical technology in America now surpasses most countries in developing technology related to medicine and health care.Both countries are far from finding cures for fatal diseases but they are getting close to developing technology that will help us bring cures to these once devastating diseases.

Unified Communications & Contact Center Options – Making the Transition

Imagine a customer calling for detailed, technical information about your products and services. These calls can be cumbersome for customer service employees who don’t possess the technical knowledge about a specific product or service. Now imagine those same customer service employees having a comprehensive menu on their computer screens describing the exact technical knowledge about that specific product or service, as well as other detailed information the inquiring customer can use to make an informed decision right away.In the world of UC (Unified Communications), technical customer service calls are handled and processed much differently than they were just a decade ago.Transitioning to a UC platform improves communications both internally and externally by arming employees with better technology tools that add value to the overall communication process. This article contains helpful knowledge and insights to assist you in the transition to a unified communications platform. UC is essentially a unified platform for communications in all its forms. Potentially, this can include land-lines and cellular phones, e-mail, instant messaging (IM), VoIP, IP-PBX, fax, voice mail, conference calls, video conferencing, whiteboard and unified messaging. Your employees will have presence within your business communications – whether they are physically in the office or not.  The concept of presence is easy to understand within instant messaging where a “buddy status” is available at a glance. UC takes this a step further by grouping these “buddies” together by specialized skills and attaching them to specific knowledge areas. All of this would be available at a glance.  UC allows for real-time delivery of all these forms of communication within a single environment that users can access within a simple interface. For example, customer service staff could have a list of employees knowledgeable about a product, along with the best method for immediately contacting that person who has the correct answers about the details of the product.  By clicking on a contact icon, a call can be made, or even a page or a whiteboard session accessed to bridge key information on the product, customer and employee contacts simultaneously.   If your business doesn’t already have it, Unified Messaging (UM) can offer communications integration, albeit on a smaller scale than UC.Unified Messaging is capable of grouping together communications from different sources, such as e-mail, faxes and voice mail, but does not allow (in all instances) real-time delivery. Unified   Messaging systems store these multi-platform communications for the user to access information at his or her discretion.Still, nowadays, UM does provide improved communication synchronization to an extent that was not available just a decade ago.   It is important to understand that while UM does offer efficiencies by grouping communications together; it is not the same thing as UC. Oftentimes, these terms are interchanged and interpreted to have the same meaning.Again, they are not the same. Tying communications together in a UC platform can have a tremendous positive impact on productivity at your business. Businesses with offices across the globe have an excellent opportunity to synchronize communications as they occur around the clock in real time. Additional functionality allows calls to be routed according to preset rules.  For example, if an employee is working at a remote location outside the office, the UC system can route a call to their cell phone and then a voice message into their voice mail.   At the heart of UC is the Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology that allows analog phone conversations to be transmitted over the Internet. UC basically expands that functionality by allowing other communications through the same protocol.   Transitioning to UC does not have to be an overwhelming process.First, consider what usable technology your business already has and how those assets could be integrated into the new platform. Consider what communications are already transmitted utilizing the Internet Protocol (IP). It could be that your business is only a few steps away from integrating these into a truly unified format that dramatically increases productivity. Another benefit of introducing UC to your business is enhanced security within your company’s communications that was never present before. Without UC, communications occur over multiple data formats using multiple protocols, and you may not have control over certain information. Integrating these data formats using UC gives your company the ability to better manage the overall communications process. The necessary equipment for creating a UC infrastructure includes various software applications and hardware equipment. The Microsoft version of the UC solution is built around the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 for the interface. Microsoft, of course, is geared toward the software UC solution. Its server software is designed to be deployed on a dedicated communications server.  Cisco, the IT hardware equipment manufacturer most widely known for its routers and switches and its reputation as the “backbone of the Internet,” also offers software UC solutions, along with the necessary hardware equipment. Cisco is more widely known as a hardware company; so naturally, the company’s UC solution is more hardware-based.  The two big players in the world of IT have developed UC solutions. Which one is best for you is really a function of your specific requirements and your company’s monetary resources to support and maintain the technology. Keep in mind that there are tailored solutions available from both Microsoft and Cisco customized for the size of your business. Microsoft’s Office Communications Server 2007 comes in two editions: Standard and Enterprise. The Standard Edition is intended for SMBs that have one server platform on one machine. Along with the accompanying Standard Client Access License (CAL) it allows for messaging, peer-to-peer video and voice, and file transfers all to occur within an integrated and familiar Microsoft Office environment.   An advantage Microsoft has in the small-business world is the familiarity of its products. As with any Microsoft application, upon installing Office Communications Server 2007 and starting up the application, you become instantly familiar with the interface and notice that it is very intuitive based on your familiarity with Microsoft products.The Standard Edition is intended for organizations that do not require server clustering and does not utilize the virtual server environment. The Enterprise Edition is intended for larger businesses running more than one server. With this edition, your organization gains the features offered by the Standard Edition, with the purchase of a Standard license, along with additional enterprise features. These include the sharing of applications, VoIP backed by a software solution, Web conferencing and comprehensive telephony management.  The Enterprise Edition requires that Standard Edition licensing be purchased. Once the correct licenses are purchased, full access to the entire range of features offered by the Enterprise version and the Standard version of the Microsoft Unified Communications platform becomes available. Communicator is the client application for the Microsoft UC platform. Accessing the application allows the user an integrated communications environment, including instant messaging, voice and video communications. Of course, all communications are easily integrated into Microsoft software such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the newer ones such as SharePoint, Groove, and OneNote.  Deploying the solution within a pre-existing Microsoft environment allows for easy integration of address books and other directories established at the corporate level. Calendars are also integrated within the UC platform, even out-of-office messages previously established within Outlook. With UC in place, users find they can easily change modes of communication. A conversation could begin with a simple IM, for example, and then with a quick click on a button, users can switch to a video conference should the need arise. Or, users could transfer files back and forth from the Communicator interface. However communications occurred previously, by using various Microsoft applications, these are all integrated into one interface within Communicator. Cisco’s approach to a UC solution is quite different from Microsoft’s. Cisco offers a set of managed services at the SMB and mid-market level, and a different set of managed services customized for the enterprise-sized business.Cisco approaches the UC platform with both hardware and software solutions.   At the SMB level, Cisco’s UC platform solution is the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business. This system supports varied common communications needs within a small business including voice, video, secure wireless access and productivity enhancements for external users.Deploying the solution enhances network security at your small business with tried-and-true Cisco technology. This edition is designed for businesses with 50 or fewer users of the system.   Depending on the size of your SMB, the Cisco UC solution is available at increased levels of accessibility.The Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express is designed for up to 240 users, the Business Edition for up to 500 users and the full version of Cisco Unified Communications Manager is extensible from 150 to an unlimited number of users. Advanced features are available with the Cisco system even at the SMB level. Features such as music on hold and basic call-center capability are built into the UC platform.  At the enterprise level, Cisco’s UC solution includes routing, switching and security hardware along with the software applications used to manage the entire network. Security on the enterprise is enhanced with the Cisco hardware and software approach, including wireless communications, which are notoriously susceptible to a security breach.The enterprise solution is tailor-made for your business, taking into consideration the lifecycle of your network, and includes the option to outsource management of network resources to Cisco and the installation of third-party communications software.  The hardware bundled with the Cisco UC platform includes the VoIP-enabled phones and various other hardware options, depending on the size of your business. SMBs get software that monitors and manages the VoIP phones on a single server, while enterprise-level organizations also get routers and switches, as needed. Enterprises that already have Cisco routers and switches find the UC platform an added feature that only needs to be enabled to use. Cisco’s most advanced phones, the Unified IP Phones 7900 Series, are capable of integrating voice data and video straight through the phone. Voice mail can be accessed using a computer, and applications can be run on the phone itself, including clock-in functions for payroll services, on-screen display of information customized for your business needs and support for wireless communications standards.  Cisco hardware provides an extra level of security for your network. For example, the Catalyst 6500 Series switch, Cisco’s flagship model, virtually guarantees confidential communications between client and customer with the ability to instantly detect threats and contain them. Network administrators have control over whom and what can attach to the network and can define specific security policies. Cisco routers are where communications integration occurs. Security is also standard here through firewalls, data encryption and built-in protection from would-be hackers. These routers are modular in nature, so as your business expands, more devices can be easily added, as needed.   Basically, switches are used to connect various IP-enabled devices within your network, and routers are used to tie the networks together. Switches can be managed or unmanaged in that a managed switch is programmable, while an unmanaged switch comes fully ready upon shipment. Routers become the first line of defense to your network against outside Internet threats.  Whichever solution is best for your business, it’s important to keep in mind that a UC solution will provide enhanced security within your network. Inherent within Unified Communications is the ability to integrate the various forms of communications that occur at your business.The transparency involved also provides an enhanced level of management including the ability to back up all the communications including voice mail.  At first, it may seem unnecessary to back up all the communications at your company, but if your organization needs to comply to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, as all U.S. publicly traded companies are, then you have a need to create these backups.Additionally, if you work in a health-care-related environment, your company may have to be compliant to certain HIPPA mandates.   Consider a situation where you have a need for disaster recovery. Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, forced many executives in the New Orleans area to act on the urgent need for disaster recovery.   Remember, UC allows for real-time delivery of communications in its varied forms within a single environment that a user can access using a simple client interface. This interface is standardized across the business environment. UC also enhances employee collaboration regardless of where employees are physically located. For example, employees brainstorming about a new project could establish a live whiteboard session and work interactively in real time even if the office sites are thousands of miles apart.  It is important to consider what communications platforms you already possess at your business and how integrating these would enhance productivity in your operations.Do you utilize instant messaging? How about voice mail or whiteboard sessions? Are any of these communications transmitted over IP already? By further tying your communications together on a true Unified Communications platform, your customers and employees are able to communicate in multiple data formats.  In retrospect, the concept of UC began with the development of VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol), which allowed analog phone conversations to be transmitted in a digital format over the Internet. With core-business processes becoming more and more digitized, UC basically expands that concept by allowing other forms of communication to be transmitted digitally. Another important consideration when you decide to transition to a UC platform is the enhanced level of security that will be introduced to your business communications. Without UC, the varied forms of communication are transmitted over a diversity of media minimally controlled by your company. Bringing these together under a UC platform gives your company the ability to manage and monitor these transmissions just as it would with basic e-mail. ransitioning to a UC platform can help your business accelerate past the competition and streamlines your business operations. Below are some important considerations when making the transition to a unified platform. Answering these questions will help you understand how transitioning to a Unified Communications platform can significantly improve both internal employees and external communications with customers:  1. Does your business really need to transition to a UM platform at this time or can it wait until later?  2. What current technologies and assets do you currently own that can be integrated into a UC platform?  3. What resources (including all equipment, software, technical skills, training and maintenance) will it take to make this transition over to a Unified Communications platform?  4. How will the transition to a UC platform affect communication internally within your business and externally to your customers?  5. By what means and methods will your company communicate the rollout of a Unified Communications system?  For many companies, introducing Unified Communications to your business will enhance productivity and give your employees access to more useful information in real time.  It’s critical that management objectively calculate the total cost of owning and managing its own internal UC platform versus having certain of the components outsourced through a hosted solution.Many companies find it more cost effective to own some components and outsource others. Companies that at least consider the options available to them by adopting a fully integrated UC platform position themselves to differentiate their company from the competition with high-impact, time-sensitive communications across the enterprise.  

Gold, One of the Safest Ways to Invest

The precious metals market has always been one of the best ways to invest for virtually every investor. Gold stands at the head of the precious metals market as the most covered and easiest investment to get into. Here are just a few of the ways that gold can protect and build your wealth.- There are more ways to invest in gold than many other kinds of securities.The safe-haven investor is made even more safe because of the many ways that there are to invest in the metal. This ensures a high volume on the metal, and the high volume in turn secures a more stable price for the investments of everyone.You can invest directly in gold bullion in most countries; however, you will need a professional partner in order to protect your investment from the government. If you do not feel like going through this hassle, then you can invest in many derivatives of gold such as exchange traded funds and mutual funds that include gold. These investments may be slightly off of the true value of gold; the derivative investments tend to be affected by the short term attitudes in the market more than gold bullion direct investments. All of these investments are still safer than other securities because they respond much less to short term movements in the market.In order to decide between the ways to invest in gold, you should consult a professional financial advisor whom you trust. If you want to protect and build your wealth, then you must be sure that you deal with an investment that is within your budget as well as the one that is right for your portfolio.- The safe-haven investor invests in gold for the long term.If you are looking for investment that you can keep for a while without having to monitor it, then gold is definitely the investment for you. Most people do not have the time to look over their investments on a day-to-day basis. However, the only investments that truly make money outside of the precious metals market require a great deal of personal management in order to succeed. You get the best of both worlds when you invest in gold – the safety of a precious metal along with the ability to create wealth for yourself while saving time.- Gold can maintain your portfolio even when the market is going down.One of the main reasons that people invest in gold is the ability of the precious metal to maintain value and even go up in value during a bear market or recession. Gold is usually the investment that people look to when the dollar is falling. This means that you can actually reverse some of the negative effects of a recession including higher interest rates and a higher cost of living. Once the recession is over, precious metals tend to retain their value. This means that you do not have to sell your holdings once the recession is over – you can keep them as an addition to your net worth.As one of the safest ways to invest, gold is quickly becoming a staple in the portfolios of many people. In order to get the most value out of the investment, you should start to invest in the product before people begin to truly understand what gold does. Once the general public is made aware of the true nature of the precious metals market, those people will likely flood the market and drive up the price. If you get in ahead of them, then you will reap the benefits of your good decision without having to pay a premium.Try to invest in gold at a basic level if you can. The upfront cost of time that you will have to put in for bullion is well worth it. You will get the safest investment of all gold investments.