Easy VOIP Calling for a Small Business

by Xavier Comments: 0

Did your company had to transition immediately to WFH?

Are you now in a disadvantage because you had your small business phone system all set up but now it does not work when everyone is at home or it gets quite expensive?

Here is the solution that has worked the best for me over the years, using Skype Manager—which does not involve any setup and has a reduced cost. You just need to install Skype, which runs in a computer in pretty much any OS, tablet, iOS, Android… you name it.

Here’s my business case. I own a support center that provides support to a tech company.

We are in Costa Rica, their customers are in the US and Canada.

When I was asked to implement the phone system I had several options which included setting up an Asterisk central or looking for other solutions.

I had tried Asterisk before but it had several drawbacks.

So what I did is use Skype Manager to invite the collaborators, assigned them a subscription so that they can make calls and, assigned them a land line to receive calls.

You can allocate credit in case they are calling an area not covered by their subscription, you can allocate a Live Chat button if you want to, or Skype Connect in case you need to integrate with an existing SIP-enabled PBX.

You have very good control of how you spend your money.

And there are plans for everywhere.

Each plan even has multiple options tailed to your needs.

The cost savings, easy setup, and control are amazing.

I know, there are newer options like RingCentral or others that provide good functionality.

But this one worked for me, and it gets the job done.

Hope it helps.

Tip of the Day: The Best Screen Capture Tool

by Xavier Comments: 1

One of the things about working from home is that you can’t just pick up your laptop, turn it around, and tell your coworker: “look here, this is what I need”.

If you are remote or distributed, the story is different. You have to share in a particular way. You could start a screen sharing session, but that may be overkill.

Here is where screen capture comes to the rescue.

The “standard” way is to press the print screen key (PrtScr), open mspaint, paste, save, and then send via email or chat.

Well, that did not sound that convenient.

Let me tell you about a lovely tool called Jing that I have been using for many years—although it is now known as Techsmith Capture:


The lovely thing about this tool is that it is pretty easy to use. One nice feature of Jing is that it puts a small sun in the corner of your screen, so you can hover over it and it expands showing the available options.

You then select which part of the screen you want to capture, and then it gives you the option to add text, arrows, and more.

Then you can save locally, to your clipboard, or upload to TechSmith servers and it gives you a URL.

This last one is quite nice as you can share immediately.

By far Jing is the best tool that I’ve used for the last 10 years. Hopefully the transition to Techsmith Capture won’t let me down.

Oh and it works with images as well as short videos too!

What are you waiting for, download the tool and share away.

Working from Home 101

by Xavier Comments: 0

Work from Home 101 – Costa Rica Edition
I live in Costa Rica, which may come in handy if you need any travel tips.

However, because of “life”, I’ve spent my entire career working for project in either USA or in the UK, hence I’ve done this remote-thing (or distributed, use your choice of words) for a while.

I began as an employee, but I eventually transitioned into entrepreneurship where I have a few things going on, including my Pluralsight courses, a tech support center, and supporting from time to time Cloudera.

But let’s cut to the chase. I am not going to bother you with details or anecdotes—I’ll do a few posts some other day on those.

Today, I am going to tell you what has worked for me over the years.

Hopefully, this will help you too.

First of all, work from home (WFH) is still work. The fact that you are at home does not mean that it is not serious business.

It is.

How others perceive you is going to be a reflection of your actions, including the quality of your work and how responsive you are.

So, one of the things that I suggest is to set a schedule. In my case, for many years, despite the fact that in many of my projects I did not have to “clock in”, I still had a predictable work schedule.

I also took advantage of starting early, as that allowed me to work for a few hours undisturbed, focused, before you start to get asked to attend meetings or “can you help me for just a sec on this?”.

Something important here is that you need to be flexible too. In this pandemic, with work from home, home schooling, and quarantine in general, I am modifying schedules a bit.

I am still working on a predictable schedule, where people can reach me, but I am also using the late night hours to work as they provide quieter times—invaluable when you are focusing on something hard.

Next tip, create a dedicated work area. I have to admit that even though I work remote/distributed, I’ve done a lot of my work in a really small room where I have all my recording equipment. This includes the dedicated recording machine, Whisperroom, and all kinds of equipment that I cannot fit at home.

Although, at the moment I haven’t been there in more than a month as I am trully-fully working from home now.

This means that I have a very small desk and I am using an iPad as second monitor.

This works quite well. Although if you think about it, working at an office means you are moving all the time too. How many times have you moved to a conference room for a meeting or some focused time?

Same here. The kitchen counter-top is pretty high, so I am using it as a standing desk. It is far from the cooking utensils, so it works quite well.

Talking about moving, here is another tip.

Don’t sit down for hours straight. Try to get up every now and then, move a bit around. Your health comes first, so if possible also throw in some exercise every now and then.

Yes, exercise is important. It helps you think better and I don’t think I need to convince you of this.

Here’s more. Stick to a ritual. Just as I mentioned that having a schedule works well, try to also have a ritual of how you approach your work.

The more that you make your daily work a habit, the more the subconscious will take over and you will move forward faster.

Here, it is important that you block all distractions. It is said that whenever you are working on something and you are deeply focused, if someone interrupts you, then it will take 15 minutes to get back to what you were doing.

What if you get interrupted every 10 minutes? Well, you get my point…

But on the other hand, you still have to be responsive.

If you are part of a team, let them know that you will be focused on your work, and that you will check for messages at a certain interval.

But don’t forget to be responsive and prioritize your work. I had a remote worker once not respond for like half an hour. When she finally showed up, she said “well I was reading a novel and the chapter was pretty interesting”.

For her, being responsive was her top priority as she was in charge of distributing work.

I turn off all Whatsapp, email, Slack, and other notifications. But I check them after I finish a certain amount of work.

Better yet, as we all know, getting those messages releases some endorphines so it makes you addicted to checking “what’s new”.

If you make a habit of completing something and then checking, then this will help you be more productive.

Additionally, on checking what’s new… try to reduce your consumption of those things that do not add value to your life.

Instead of binging on Netflix, get a new skill by binging on Pluralsight.

Did I mentioned they are free during April?

And remember that what you learn is yours for life!

I’ll leave it here today, but tomorrow I will come back with more on what can help you with this new WFH (for many) situation.