How to Keep Your Laptop Out of Thieves’ Hands

Here are six guidelines to help you avoid seeing your notebook PC disappear!

So there you are, rushing to catch a plane. You’ve got an important presentation on your laptop, along with sensitive company and personal information. And then, suddenly, it’s gone.

Either you’ve lost it, or it’s been stolen.

Airports and hotels are favourite places for thieves. Laptops disappear from both and that’s bad enough. But often, irreplaceable data has gone with them. According to Safeware, an insurance agency specialising in insuring high-tech equipment, in the US alone 591,000 laptops vanished in 2001.

None of this has to happen to you. But you have to be extra careful today. With the increased security at airports, losing track of a laptop is easier than ever. Here are six guidelines to help you avoid seeing your notebook PC disappear or, if it does, help you find it or get a quick replacement.

Tips for Getting Through Security Checks

Oddly, some airports have collected stacks of laptops. They’re left behind by harried passengers in security areas. Most are reclaimed eventually. But some people never come back for their machines.

Obviously, you’ve got to allow yourself plenty of time when you fly. When I travel, I carry my laptop in a backpack. There’s lots of room in there, and it’s inconspicuous. I see fashionable businesspeople carrying laptops in expensive cases. They’re asking for trouble. Those cases say, “Laptop! Laptop! Steal me!”

Security people most likely will want to check the laptop. If possible, handle it yourself, rather than having them do it.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. You don’t need your machine damaged.

Be sure your battery is charged. The security people may well want to turn on the machine. Most important, don’t let it out of your sight. This becomes especially difficult if you are selected for a random head-to-toe check.

Once on board your flight, put the computer safely stowed in your bag under the seat in front of you. Try to avoid putting it in the overhead bin. Others will have more access to it there.

Have Sensitive Data? Encrypt It

If you have sensitive information on your computer, consider encrypting it. If you have Windows XP, you already have the tools needed. While the thief has your machine, these extra steps will make it much more difficult to access the laptop’s data.

Encryption will protect your business secrets, but it won’t retrieve your data. To do that, you’ve got to back up your information to another computer. If you run your own server, you can easily upload files to it.

You don’t have to back up everything on the laptop. Just copy the files you will need to the server. If your laptop should be stolen on your trip, you may be able to borrow a computer at your destination and download your important files. Finding time for backups is a pain, I know. But they can save you.

Make Your MP3 Player do Double-Duty

If you don’t have a server, or don’t want to back up to it, take a look at MP3 players. Some today have huge hard drives. They are easily hooked to a laptop through the USB or FireWire ports. The data can then be copied to the MP3 player. These things can copy any data, not just MP3s.

Trace a Stolen Laptop’s Location

If your laptop does get stolen, wouldn’t it be great if the system could do the high-tech equivalent of phoning home? There are programs that will report the location of a stolen laptop. They work when the laptop connects to the internet.

Security experts also say that engraving your name on the computer is helpful. That will make it more difficult to sell on so thieves may look elsewhere.

Set a System Password

Every road warrior should protect their laptop with a start-up password. This way, a system password prompt will appear each time you start your computer before Windows even begins to load. It will prohibit any access to the computer at all.

To create a system password, you’ll need to access your computer’s setup utility (also known as BIOS settings, which stands for “Basic Input/Output System”). Typically you do this by pressing Delete, Esc or F1 as soon as you turn on the computer. Check the manual though, as some computers are different.

Consider Laptop PC Insurance

If your laptop is expensive (and aren’t they all?) you might want to insure it. Some homeowners, renters and business insurance policies don’t cover computers, and if they do, there may be many conditions attached.

Today’s laptops are ripe targets for thieves. If you follow these basic guidelines along with some good common sense, you won’t have to give yours up.

Options For Informal And Formal Debt Consolidation Loans

Credit cards are not difficult to get today. You can apply and be approved online, through the mail and even at the cash register. Most people have at least one credit card and it is probably more common than not to find that most people have multiple credit cards. With the increase in credit cards, though, more and more people are finding it difficult to pay more than the minimum monthly payment. If this sounds familiar and resembles your situation, you may have considered credit card debt consolidation.. This is a step in the right direction and there are a few ways to accomplish this.

A common way today is to simply transfer all of your credit card balances onto one credit card with a lower interest rate. This is probably the easiest way to consolidate your credit cards. You can take advantage of introductory rates many companies offer, often rates as low as 0% APR. First, be aware of any transfer fee which can go as high as $75.00 per transfer. Second, you must confirm that the total amounts you will transfer are not more than the credit available on the card to which you are transferring the outstanding balances. Third, pay attention to the promotion periods. The low introductory rates typically end at some point, sometimes six months up to a year. Once that time has passed, the standard and much higher interest rate will apply to any balance remaining on the card.

Another option is to borrow money from a friend or family to payoff your credit cards and then pay them on a regular basis the agreed upon amount. Having the agreement in writing is important, even though you may not feel you need it originally. This can help avoid any unanticipated problems in the future should there be any misunderstandings. If this is an available option, though, it is an effective form of consolidation.

Finally, credit card debt consolidation can be accomplished through more formal terms by utilizing the services of a debt settlement program or the debt consolidation services through an organization, company or bank. Many non-profit organizations or similar debt settlement companies will negotiate with your creditors for a reduced interest rate and payment amount to help you avoid the need to take out a consolidation loan. If you do need to take out a consolidation loan, these companies or a bank can assist with that as well.

Making The Sale By Proving Value

What does value mean? When addressing this fundamental question I first thought about its relationship to money which got me thinking about when money was invented and who invented it. Internet to the rescue

What is money?

Money means different things to different people to you it may mean coins, notes or credit cards. To some people in developing nations it may mean beads, shells, acorns or human toes. In short, money is whatever we think has value.

So who invented it?

The first written records of the use of money date from 1200BC, in the area of land now known as Southern Algeria, although then it was covered with water. Inscriptions in stones record that ‘twelve shekels’ were paid into the bank account belonging to Algar Hammurabi, in return for ‘use of his daughter’. Twelve shekels in today’s money would buy you hundreds of prostitutes, all better looking than Hammurabi’s daughter, who was, by all accounts rather dull.

More generally, before money’ was introduced as a common currency, cost was determined by the effort / innovation we personally had to apply in return for other things that we needed to be supplied by others. For example, the local Blacksmith might shoe a farmer’s horse in return for a few sacks of flour. In the modern world, common currency allows us to purchase products and services from a broad range of suppliers, many of them offering similar items at sometimes similar and sometimes very different prices! Why is this? Why does a hotdog at a pop concert or a football match cost 3 times as much as at the village fete? Why does a bunch of bananas sell for 3 times as much in Marks & Spencer as it does from a market stall? Why do 80% of consumers use BT for their domestic telephone services when the same services are available from other vendors at half the cost?

The answer lies in the value propositions’ that these products and organizations offer in terms of the customer’s perception of the cost / benefit equation. The, key word, of course, is: perception’ which gives us a clue regarding the importance of, not only our value propositions, but also how we communicate them to our customers.

Why is it important for a company to define its value propositions?

Any organization that has to sell things (and most do), needs to be able to communicate value to its customers if it is to optimize its long-term profitability. The sales team in particular needs to be able to articulate value to its customers to demonstrate that their cost / benefit equation is stronger than the competitions’. But what is customer benefit? It is clearly not just a long list of the company’s offerings in terms of features and advantages. It is only a benefit if the customer gains pay-off’ in relation to their needs and wants. The salesperson’s job is to define these needs and wants through careful positioning, questioning and listening but to do this, the value propositions of the organization and its products / services need to be clearly defined.

So who seeks the value?

Shareholders want value in terms of profitability and ROI. The CEO and Board members usually have a weather eye on this! Departmental heads tend to look at the value that is added to the department and the achievement of their local objectives. In all cases, value is sought by the individual driven by their personal, emotional wants as much as the needs of the business. Again, sales people need to expose and develop these.

Brainstorming

There are likely to be several key people in your organization who are well placed to help build value propositions. Form a task group comprising sales people, marketing, product development, finance and any others who might be able to contribute (they can soon leave the party if they can’t).

In traditional brainstorming style, fill up flipcharts with all ideas, no matter how zany’ they may be at first. (Mind Mapping software can also be a useful tool for doing this). Assuming you are in a business-to-business selling environment, start with the fundamentals of the value a customer might be seeking. The central theme is profit. How to increase sales and / or how to reduce costs. Remember you can sell more by increasing volumes or prices. You can reduce costs by paying less or increasing productivity. Consider the functions within the customers’ business that contribute towards these goals, and then consider what your value propositions are to help your customers to achieve them. Think about the negative consequences of them not having your products / services. These negative impacts can soon be converted into positive value propositions. Draw up where your product / service fits in their value chain. How much value does it add? What profits do they make as a result of your inputs? If in a product’ business, don’t forget your service wrapper’. Very often, in the customers’ eyes this is of more value than the product!

Once you have listed your value propositions, prioritize them into ABC’s in terms of how much competitive edge you think they represent. A’s being USP’s (unique selling point), B’s generally strong v the competition and C’s as me too’s.

Finally, alongside each proposition, consider the best possible proofs’ you have to substantiate your claims. Technical bulletins, case studies, presentations, testimonials etc.

Oh, and one more thing!

Make sure the sales team develop the value propositions by adding the questions that need to be asked of specific individuals to engage needs and wants for your propositions.

Otherwise, no deal!