Search Not Just Numbers

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Excel Advice by Email

If you build and use spreadsheets at work (or at home for that matter), what do you do when you get stuck?

Excel Advice by Email

I have just launched a new service from my Spreadsheets by Email business to provide email support for Excel users such as yourself.

For a small monthly or annual fee, you can email any queries you have and they will be answered by me, or one of my colleagues.

If you act quickly (before Midnight GMT on Thursday 20th May), you can get a 20% discount on the annual subscription.

Find out more details (and subscribe) at:

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Tuesday 11 May 2010

Is it just me, or have our politicians been acting responsibly?

After an an incredible few days, as I write this it looks like the UK will be governed by a coalition of David Cameron's Conservative Party and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats. Hopefully this gives us a strong and stable government.

I do feel some hope as I have been very impressed (and pleasantly surprised) at the responsible approach taken by politicians of all three parties, given the hung parliament that they had to work with.

The challenge of concocting a government where no party has a majority and the only two parties that could muster one between them are not natural bedfellows is quite an ask.

Gordon Brown agreed that these two parties should speak first while carrying out his constitutional duty to maintain the role of Prime Minister until a new government could be formed (far from squatting in Number 10 as the Sun rather shamefully called it). Both Nick Clegg and David Cameron appear to have treated these talks with the seriousness they deserve. Gordon Brown then offered to step down so that if these two could not agree, the politically more obvious (but mathematically more challenging) pairing of Labour and the Lib Dems could become a possibility without his baggage. Nick Clegg then explored this avenue, although it appears to have come to nothing.

Throughout all of this all three parties seem to have acted responsibly and without the usual mudslinging. There may be hope for our parliamentary democracy yet.

As for our press, that's a different matter. A surprising (and rather shocking) number of members of the press don't seem to understand how a parliamentary democracy works.

For a prime example take a look at Adam Boulton's (Sky's main news anchor) remarkable outburst on Sky News below (even Alistair Campbell looked responsible and statesmanlike in comparison):

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Thursday 6 May 2010

Real benefits of the cloud to smaller businesses

The latest techie buzz-phrase is Cloud Computing, but what it actually is and why it is important to real businesses gets lost in all of the technical and corporate jargon surrounding it. This also leads many of us to think that it is only for the big boys.

Although the technology behind the scenes can be complex, the premise is simple - instead of accessing your applications and data using software installed on your desktop , laptop or server in your office - you access them via a browser on the web.

I have started using many of these tools in my, very small, business and have typically found them simpler, cheaper and more powerful than their locally installed counterparts.

For the record, I am using Kashflow for my accounts, to manage my relationships with clients, Payroo for my payroll (amazingly this one is free) and have just started using Google Apps for email, calendar, online documents and spreadsheets, etc.

There are numerous other similar packages out there, but I can only talk from my own experience. Please comment below with your own experiences, so that we can have a broader picture.

The general benefits I have found:
  • No IT headaches - I have no software to install, no updates to worry about, no concerns about which version I am using. As long as I have an internet connection, that's all I need to concern myself with;
  • Manageable cost - I can use all of these for a total of less than £65/$100 per month, with no set-up costs;
  • Ease of use - I have found all of the above to be far easier to use than their desktop counterparts;
  • Greater functionality - with these packages I have the kind of functionality only previously available to large organisations who had invested a fortune in their IT infrastructure. I have access from anywhere, on any machine (including my Blackberry). The programs pass information to each other in real time as well as integrating with my web site where I need them to. Even ignoring the benefits resulting from online access, the functionality of each of these programs is typically greater than their desktop equivalent (with the exception of documents and spreadsheets in Google Apps which have far fewer features than the Microsoft Office equivalents, although this is compensated by the fact that they can be shared with anyone, and any number of people can edit them at the same time!);
  • No obsolescence - I am always on the latest version as upgrades happen seamlessly behind the scenes and I am notified of additional features I can now use.
It is early days for me and I will post on this subject again as I learn more, but I genuinely feel that this is a fantastic opportunity for smaller businesses to level the playing field and urge you to give some of these a try - they all have free trial periods.

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