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The 10 Days of Google AdWords

Google Adwords

We’ve partnered with Google to bring you a gift to propel your business into the New Year:

$100 worth of Google AdWords

For 10 business days, from December 14-28, we’ll be awarding one $100 Google AdWords coupon to a qualified STRATA Member.

With Google AdWords, you create ads and choose keywords related to your business. When people search on Google using one of your keywords, your ad may appear next to the search results. People can simply click your ad to make a purchase or learn more about you. You don’t even need a webpage to get started – Google will help you create one for free. It’s that easy!

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Google Apps

Google Apps is a suite of online business-class applications that includes Gmail for business with integrated IM, voice and video chat, shared calendars, word processing, spreadsheets, internal websites, and more.

Not only that, it’s a great deal — it costs less than $5 per user a month (only $50 per user a year). Plus, you can try Google Apps for 30 days, free.

Try Google Apps for 30 days, FREE.

Learn More


Time and Attendance Costs

Time and Attendance Introduction
Time and Attendance Options
Time and Attendance Costs
Time and Attendance Tips

Time and attendance software
Time and attendance systems are also very cost-effective. When budgeting for one of these systems, the main thing to keep in mind is how much money you want to invest in this project. If you want to “pull out all the stops” then you might end up paying more.

Toptenreviews.com has compiled a list of ten time card software systems and they rang anywhere from $29.95-$249 (these are the starting costs for each system). Remember to consider the size of your company, the smaller your company is the less money you need to spend. This is due to the fact that the fewer the workers you have, the more likely you won’t need too intricate of a time and attendance system. The more employees you have, the more complicated it gets to track each of them down, and more intricate systems might be needed.

Although the prices of biometric clock systems run much higher than time card systems, they can be an investment. Prices range from $115-$1,000. It all depends on what you need and again how large your business is.

Web-based computer time and attendance programs are best if you need to implement something fast and cost effective. Some businesses can get you up and running for as low as $2 a month and the best part is there is usually no software to purchase. IVR systems are also a low cost way to go. Legiant offers an IVR attendance system for $1.50 per employee.

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Time and Attendance Tips

Time and Attendance Introduction
Time and Attendance Options
Time and Attendance Costs
Time and Attendance Tips

Time and attendance softwareThe best tip on purchasing a time and attendance system is research, research, research. You need to decide on what your company needs as well as what different vendors are offering. Once you know exactly what you want and need, the easier it will be to choose the best system for your business.

If equipment will need to be installed, discuss in advance a plan for how the installation process will work and what in-house technology you might have to provide. Also discuss on how you will be educated on the system. Make sure the company you are interested in will supply you with all the information you will need to run the system at its best and most efficient.

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Time and Attendance Options

Time and Attendance Introduction
Time and Attendance Options
Time and Attendance Costs
Time and Attendance Tips

Time and attendance software
Deciding on what specific features your business will need in a time and attendance system will help you when considering the different types of systems available. Questions to ask yourself are: Do you need the software to include a schedule management system? Does the software need to set rules for scheduling staffers and include break times, holiday and/or overtime pay?

After you have determined on what your company needs, you can more effectively search for the perfect system. Time card software packages allow your company to track and evaluate the execution and work activities of your workers. A popular choice is a single software application, and they are very user friendly. Single software applications are useful because everything you need to track and monitor is available on your own computer. Your employees will need ID cards to log in and out of work for these applications though. These time clocks resemble credit card machines, and because the ID cards are small, your employees can have the benefit of carrying their ID card in their wallet.

Biometric time clocks are gaining popularity and one company has seen a savings of $300,000 in the first year of using this type of time clock. Biometric clocks work by scanning an employee’s hand or finger to report them clocking in and out. If buddy punching (when one employee punches in and out for an employee who is not really at work) is a problem for your business then these systems are a great solution. Because ID cards are not used, no one can punch in and out for another employee. You also cut costs of printing/reprinting time cards.

You should also consider web-based computer log in stations. Most systems use a static IP address (that you have specified) to monitor employees punching in and out. If you your business doesn’t have a static IP address don’t worry, you can still use this technology by using an administrator to log in. This log in would be on all employees computers and each person would be tracked by their own log in code, and wouldn’t be able to begin work on their computer until they log in.

IVR systems are a great idea if you have many employees at a remote office or who work in the field. IVR systems work by using cell phones or land lines. Employees are able to punch in and out with their business phones and submit their time sheets and transfer labor hours in real time.

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Time and Attendance Introduction

Time and Attendance Introduction
Time and Attendance Options
Time and Attendance Costs
Time and Attendance Tips

Time and attendance software
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that October of 2009 had the highest unemployment rate in 26 years with a rate of 10.2%. They go on to report that as of June of this year the average compensation for workers was $29.31 per hours worked. Because more and more businesses are going out of business with these hard economic conditions, it is important to keep a tight track on all your costs for your company and save money wherever you can.

Time and attendance systems are a way to do this because they accurately record the time of each employee’s hours. People make mistakes, so having employee’s track their time manually can lead to errors, and in turn can affect your company’s bottom line. It is estimated that on average 8 minutes a week are spent on chasing and manually processing employee’s time sheets.

Your company can benefit greatly from time and attendance systems. Because they computerize and organize your employee’s time, they can save you money and hopefully motivate your workers to be on time. There are a few different choices to choose from when buying a time and attendance system. Some are:

* Time card software packages
* Biometric meters
* Web-based computer login stations
* Touch screens
* Interactive voice response (IVR) systems

This guide will go over all of these options, the costs of them and tips on how to select the perfect time and attendance system for your business.

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Mailing System Equipment

Reasons for a Postage Scale
Postage Meter Features
Postage Meter Supplies and Materials
Mailing System Equipment
Costs and Billing Options
Tips for Buyers

postage metersA postage meter alone won’t be everything you will need if you want to make shipments directly from your office. A postage meter allows you to send all outgoing mail-letters, bulk and direct mail campaigns, packages, and expedites shipping from your own office, but in order to have all of these features run smoothly, you will need the correct mailing system supplies.

Postage Meter Base

A basic mailing system, the postage meter base, is around the same size as a fax machine. Business sized envelopes meant to be sent out are stacked neatly into a feeder tray and labeled as it goes through the meter. Packages that are oversized, odd-shaped, or too heavy can’t be fed through these machines, so meters are usually equipped with sticker printers and postal scales for these situations. A basic postage meter base can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, and can be purchased used or refurbished.

Digital Scales and Other Equipment

If your business sends many different oddly-shaped packages, or generally anything that would not fit in a typical postage meter base feeder, then a good option would be to purchase a postage scale. A scale will accurately weigh the package, ensuring that you don’t have to round up your postage, saving money in the process. Digital scales are more accurate, have higher weight limits, and don’t require calibrations as often as different scales. The price tag on a digital scale will vary, depending on the weight of the packages that you will be measuring. Smaller scales can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.

Other Mailing System Components:

* Letter-folding machines: Fold different materials such as brochures or flyers, allowing for more cost-effective mailing. For example a normal sized sheet of paper can be –tri-folded and placed into an envelope.
* Shrink-wrap machines: Wrap goods into vacuum-sealed plastic bags for mailing
* Bundling/bagging equipment: Feed a stack of documents or other items into an envelope for shipping
* Self-seal envelope “tabbers:” Often used in direct mailing campaigns that seal the envelopes automatically, leaving a perforated edge in the paper so the recipient can open the letter easier.

You should ask postage meter vendors which equipment they would recommend to use, depending on the shipping requirements of your company. You can always use used or refurbished equipment as long as it works correctly with the rest of your equipment.

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Tips for Buyers

Reasons for a Postage Scale
Postage Meter Features
Postage Meter Supplies and Materials
Mailing System Equipment
Costs and Billing Options
Tips for Buyers

postage metersAfter looking at the postage costs, looking at the time required going to the post office, as well as the volume of mail you are sending, it may make sense to have an in-office shipping center. A postage meter can do anything a US Post office can, but before you go out of your way to bring in a meter, you should consider a few things.

Let Volume Dictate Your Purchase

You should have a good idea of your shipping volume before bringing in any equipment. A company shipping large amounts of packages should look into applying for a permit to receive discount bulk prices.

Consider Online Postage Providers

A smaller business that has a small volume of outgoing mail may consider using an online postage program. Simply using your computer, you can input how heavy the package is, and print off the appropriate postage. These services usually have no contracts or monthly charges. Companies that don’t need postage machines should look into these services.

Use a Digital Scale

A digital scale can be pricier than a “spring” model, especially when used for heavier packages, but are the best value in the long run. A digital scale doesn’t require calibration as often and are more accurate. They also often complement complete mailing systems quite well.

Use Different Sources for Supplies

It is often wise to look at different suppliers for different needs. For example, the same person who leases their postage meter to you may not be the best option for buying ink and envelopes. Often it is better to get different supplies from a variety of vendors.

Take Advantage of Online Access

It is wise to make sure that the postage meter you have has access to automatically download the current USPS rate. However be aware that some vendors charge a fee each time you reset the rate, so make sure you know whether or not you will be charged. If you can be charged, sometimes you can purchase “rate insurance.” Rate insurance is a flat fee that you pay that will waive any fees of changing the rate.

Purchasing a postage meter can be a large positive impact on your company. By saving time from not going back and forth to the post office, as well as potentially saving thousands a year by paying the exact postage amount, you can be doing yourself a huge service. However you should have a good idea of what your needs are, and compare the costs before any decisions are made.

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Costs and Billing Options

Reasons for a Postage Scale
Postage Meter Features
Postage Meter Supplies and Materials
Mailing System Equipment
Costs and Billing Options
Tips for Buyers

postage meters

Different postage meters and mailing systems differ in costs, all depending on the kind of equipment you use, how much mail is being sent, and the billing machine that you will use.

Supply and Equipment Costs

Different supplies such as envelope sealers and ink can be bought in large quantities or ordered from a mailing system supplier, or other various sources. Mailing equipment used to be paired with your meter such as scales, can be purchased or leased as well. The general rule of thumb though is that leasing is best for a company that requires specialized or pricey equipment, or machines that need to be updated frequently. Digital scales are one of the many pieces of mailing equipment that can be purchased used.

Leasing a postage meter is a cost that should be considered at all. A meter can only be leased to a business through providers that have been approved by the USPS (their website has a complete list), or through independent vendors that have these products. A postage meter lease can cost less than $30 a month. You will also need to sign a contract that specifies how long you will have the meter, what your responsibilities are in terms of payment and keeping it maintained, and any other arrangement that may be necessary. This is all just to have the meter, using the meter for postage to send mail is not included.

Postage Meter Billing Options

Postage meters are leased, not bought so you will have to pay a monthly charge to have the meter itself and then pay the additional charges for using it. Most postage meter providers have pay-as-you-go plans and pre-pay plans.

Pay-as-you-go: This option simply keeps track of your postage use during a pre-decided period of time, and you are billed when that period of time ends. Most postage meter suppliers will charge a fee for this plan, usually less than $20 a month.

Pre-pay: Your meter can be refilled (up to $1,000 often) by paying online or by mailing a check to the USPS. You can also tether the account to a checking account so that your meter will always have postage available.

Both of the options will work for businesses, regardless of their mailing requirements. A good idea would be to find out the exact costs of each plan, including the prices of leasing equipment, and then base your choice off of what you discover will work best for your particular company.

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Postage Meter Supplies and Materials

Reasons for a Postage Scale
Postage Meter Features
Postage Meter Supplies and Materials
Mailing System Equipment
Costs and Billing Options
Tips for Buyers

postage metersDepending on the kind of mail you will be shipping, you will need different supplies and different materials. Some of the more basic supplies that would be required by a postage meter are envelope sealers and printer ink, and both of these can be bought from a postage meter vendor, or even an office supply store. An online vendor can also sell these supplies and usually for less than a regular postage meter vendor.

If you will be sending packages using your meter, then you will probably require printable shipping labels. A majority of postage meters have postal or digital scales already installed that weigh and calculate the price of your parcels. A label is then printed onto the package rather than simply being stamped. Labels are also relatively inexpensive. One option that a few businesses do is to have mailing supplies such as ink, envelopes, and other materials shipped to them on a regular and pre-determined basis. Sometimes this is the best option financially if you are getting the best deal on supplies this way; however it is always important to get different quotes before committing to any one supplier.

Advanced Supply Options

If you are planning on having a complete mailing system as a part of your office, then you will need more to go with the ink and envelopes. Such supplies are letter folding machines, “tabbing” devices and other unique supplies. It is important to always inquire about what maintenance or contracts will be required.

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Postage Meter Features

Reasons for a Postage Scale
Postage Meter Features
Postage Meter Supplies and Materials
Mailing System Equipment
Costs and Billing Options
Tips for Buyers

postage metersMost postage meters have the same basic function, they get rid of the need to go to the post office every time you need to make a drop off or to pay for stamps or shipments by stamping and postmarking mail in your own office, just as they would by someone from the USPS. Postage meters can also be used to:

* Ship Registered and First Class mail
* Create proof of shipment (a receipt that gives the date and time of shipment)
* Add insurance to valuable mail
* COD (collect on delivery) for sending products or goods to customers
* Confirm Delivery

These features can be used with any mailing system. These are a few of the more popular features:

Login/Password access: This feature forces a user to enter a code before any mail can be postmarked. Different codes can be assigned to different employees, departments, and even clients. This is particularly helpful for companies that charge for services such as postage and materials. A login/password access also lets a business track their postal expenses accurately, and in real time.

Saved “Bulk” Mailing Settings: For specific items that are shipped out regularly, such as employee’s pay stubs, you can save the settings for each time that item is shipped, for example you can save the number of envelopes and the total postage cost for when you need to send them again. Many meters allow you to save the settings for re-occurring mailing weights such as a stack of envelopes or brochures through the use of postage scales.

Automatic Reset and Date Advance: Most meters have some kind of built in calendar that is used to postmark mail. If you do buy a postage meter, it is important that it changes the date automatically for you so you can avoid having to manually update the information each time you mail something out.

The features that some people believe are part of a meter’s job are actually the functions of other pieces of equipment that compliments the meter. For example, equipment for tasks such as folding brochures and sealing envelopes is sold separately, but is usually far cheaper than the meter itself.

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