Small-business computing Archive

The Badgy card printer–a tool to turn out custom ID cards and short-run plastic cards

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Badgy

Badgy Card Printer – Design & Print id badges on plastic pvc cards

My Comments

A common question for anyone in business is what tools do exist for printing out plastic cards in short runs whether with the same design or populated with particular data such as a person’s details for an ID or membership card. Situations may include turning out membership or ID cards on an “as-required, while-you-wait” basis such as for late attendees at a conference or new library members, or making a test print of a card design to see how it looks.

There is a machine that can do this in colour in the form of the Badgy dye-sublimation card printer. This unit, which connects to a regular computer via USB, can print up cards using a ribbon that has a 100-card yield and can work with thin or thick cards. It can work with third-party cards such as magstripe and smart cards, but can’t encode any of the machine-readable cards itself.

It is based around you downloading templates with pre-designed art from the site and using the supplied software to turn out the cards. Of course, this unit would use a Windows printer driver so you could press your desktop-publishing software in to printing to these cards as long as they have the ability to print to the standard “credit-card” size, which is supplied by the driver software as a defined paper size. This could include the ability to use the software to turn out ID cards using the software’s mail-merging abilities or turn out short-run “for approval” card designs before you commit to a large card-print run.

The fact that it doesn’t encode the magstripe or smart cards shouldn’t phase you as long as you have a separate machine which encodes these cards. This wouldn’t be an issue with, for example, a hotel-based conference or event application where you may turn out ID or participant cards which are to be used as guest-room keycards. In this case, the workflow would require the staff member to transfer the card between the Badgy machine and the card encoder to create a useable custom-printed keycard which is the event ID card.

The cost per card would typically be AUD$0.88 per thin card or AUD$0.96 per thick card. But to develop this concept further, it could be feasible to work with other cheaper methods like ink-jet printing for these short-run applications appealing to small businesses. At least this machine is for plastic cards like the colour laser or high-volume inkjet printer is for brochures and stationery.

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Lenovo now shows up with a firmware upgrade that gives enterprise abilities to their small-business NAS products

Article

LenovoEMC fortifies small-business storage with enterprise smarts – virtualization, servers, storage, hardware systems, Lenovo, emc – PC World Australia

My Comments

Small business can now move towards what the “big boys” at the top end of town are doing courtesy of LenovoEMC (Iomega). This is through the latest firmware update for the StorCenter ix and px series of small-business network-attached storage systems.

Here, the business can benefit from “virtualisation” where the network-attached storage system can become effectively two or more servers with dedicated performance to these servers. This can appeal to the small business who wants to run various “headless” servers on this device like a database server or a Web server.

Similarly the NAS units can implement solid-state-drive caching in order to speed up data throughput on these systems. There is even the ability to implement solid-state RAID arrays in order to assure higher capacity or failsafe operation.

As well the systems can offer snapshot backup ability so as to grab an “image” of volumes of data across the system at particular moments in time.

What I am amazed about is that this kind of functionality is available in the “breadbox” and “pizza-box” NAS units that can appeal to the small business and the IT value-added resellers that pitch these businesses. In some cases, these systems could continue to serve as a business grows and has different needs. It also is an example of technologies that were just used to satisfy the big end of town filtering down to the smaller operations.

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Using online technology to keep the work-life balance in the connected workplace

Articles

How do you plan a working holiday?

My Comments

Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable on coffee bar

Toshiba Satellite L730 full-function ultraportable

A very difficult issue for most people who run small businesses is to be able to balance work and life. The article referred primarily to whenever you are on holiday but it can encompass business trips as well as other situations where you may not be able to have your hands “on deck” such as when you or a family member falls ill or there is a major event such as a birth or death in your family.

Here, you have to use the IT and communications technology available to you to satisfy this requirement.

Managing email, messaging and voicemail

This may involve the use of email, messaging and voicemail systems as a “store and forward” communications tools that help you separate the “wheat from the chaff”. This is compared to a common practice where people use text messaging, email or social-network messaging to seek instant replies and instant action.

Filtering messages

With email, you could “skim” the Inbox’s List view so you can look for messages from particular people, check on those messages and reply to them. Well-bread email interfaces also allow you to set up message filters or contact groups  so you can see only those messages that matter. You could also use contact groups on your mobile phone so you set distinct ring tones for those contacts you need to hear from.

The “sent from smartphone” tagline

The tagline used with most mobile-phone email clients which says “Sent from my smartphone”, “Sent from my iPhone” or something similar can have benefits and disadvantages. In some cases, removing it may convey a professional look of staying at your desk and slaving over your work but having it there may let one know that you are _away_ from your desk. This may say “Don’t expect me to reply instantly” or “Expect a short reply rather than the long one”.

You do not always have to be contacted

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet with stylus

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – fit for business

The late 1980s has brought in to general business the culture of the 24-hour / day, 365-day / year working lifestyle. This has been facilitated with technologies like mobile phones, emails and text messaging. Here, you end up with people having the mobile phone always on hand or fielding work calls even when they are meant to be relaxing.

Convey the “contact me only if urgent” requirement

When you are on holiday, you may have to communicate a “contact me only if urgent” requirement to whom you deal with at work, which is an issue that may be difficult for anyone with a managerial or executive role. This may be through the use of “out-of-office” auto-reply emails or voicemails.

Being ready to delegate

You may also have to be ready to delegate your role on a temporary basis. Doctors have made an art of achieving this by having the clinics or hospitals they work with engage a “locum” doctor when they aren’t able to work at the clinic or hospital.

It may also involve underscoring the role of, empowering and preparing the “duty” or “acting” managers in the business’s decision flow. These situations may include regularly briefing the staff who will assume these roles when you are not there to preparing information documents like manuals or “crib sheets” for the staff.

Establishing the “portable office”

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook on tray table

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – suits air travel very well

A lightweight portable computer device like a tablet, netbook or ultraportable could be used as a tool to “keep tabs on everything” with work. Here, you could use it to check or reply to email or keep an eye on key figures provided by your business’s management-information system.

These devices can work alongside remote-access technologies like remote-desktop tools (LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, etc), cloud-storage services (Dropbox, etc) or cloud-assisted local NAS storage (WD MyBook Live) to provide remote access to your work data. Some of the consumer-focused cloud-storage services are starting to offer a small-business variant of these services which will provide a secure operating environment that suits most business needs.

Here, you can then use this connectivity in response to an event at the office. Similarly, if the management-information system allows for email, SMS or app-driven notifications in response to key events, you can then use this feature to avoid the need to look at the “dashboard” of the management-information system regularly.

Conclusion

Once you know what technological resources you have at your business and have these resources set up properly, you can then use them to reclaim a healthy work-life balance.

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