10 reasons you deserve a raise

Takeaway: If your experience, dedication, and skills make you an excellent IT pro, but your salary doesn’t reflect your hard work or the value you deliver, it could be time to ask for a raise. Jack Wallen explains why you may be worth more than you think.

Recently, I’ve written about reasons for quitting IT and alternative careers to consider if you do decide to change fields. But plenty of IT workers want to stay on their chosen career path. To those people, I say “Bravo,” but I do so with an asterisk: *You need a raise. Being a consultant or working in an IT department is hard, intense work. And although the economy is still a bit shaky, that’s no reason for you to be paid less than you’re worth.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

The second people mention that they have to spend the weekend (or weeknights) on call, I know their soul dies a little. There is nothing worse than staring at a phone during the weekend knowing the minute you start to do something fun, that blasted thing is going to ring. Anyone who has ever worked on call knows how this affects their time off. You live your life stressed and waiting for Monday to roll around. If this is you, and you agree to go on call, you should certainly be compensated for that added stress. I have a special skill set that not a lot of IT workers in my area have: Linux. Because of that, I can demand a bit of a higher wage. Many skill sets allow this. (Cisco, UNIX, and DB admin come to mind.) You have to think of this with respect to a company’s ability to replace you. Are your skills pressed out of a mold so that anyone in your company could do your job? Or do you have skills that no one else in your department/company could cover? If that’s the case, you deserve a raise! The stress levels experienced in IT are high, and they never seem to back off. This stress can lead to health issues, relationship issues, and other problems. If your business thinks you should deal with that stress at a less than acceptable pay level, it has another think coming. I have worked in IT shops that paid just over what I could easily make in retail and with far less stress. If your employer values your work, then it should respect the stress you deal with day in and day out. This goes along with stress. You have to deal with clients on a daily basis, and you have to do so professionally. In fact, it is this engineer-to-client interface that helps make it easier for your company to collect on bills. Because you have this face-to-face interaction with the clients, your employer must trust you with its income. The better you are at dealing with clients, the happier those clients will be. The happier your clients are, the faster they will be at paying their bills. Need I say more? If you’ve gone through the process of upgrading your skills, and those skills are paying off, you deserve a raise in pay. Not only did you take the time to gain those skills, you may well have done so on your own dime. If your employer footed the bill (and you did your classes, studying during work hours), you could still have the firepower needed to claim a raise. This is valid unless your employer did this to get you up to speed on a skill you should have already had. There was a time when MCSE actually meant something. Today? Not so much. Real-world experience far outweighs certifications now, and that experience translates to a better understanding of how technology actually works when deployed. The translation doesn’t end at understanding. Real-world experience should directly translate to higher pay. Along the same lines as experience, maturity plays a huge part in how much money you should be able to demand. I have seen engineers with nearly identical skills but with vastly different maturity levels have very different experiences. Those with more maturity can deal with stress a bit better ,as well as improvise when needed. But more important, those with maturity can deal with people far better. Professionalism goes a long, long way in this industry, and without maturity, professionalism is a hard commodity to come by. There are times when the documented solution simply does not work. When this happens, a level of creativity will help you resolve an issue. Not only that, but creativity can help you come up with solutions that are cheaper and often more reliable. But creativity generally can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t. Most in the IT field don’t have it, so if you are one of the lucky ones, take advantage of that and use it to your benefit when discussing your pay raise. As I mentioned earlier, the engineer-client interface is one of the most critical ones in this industry because it’s where the money changes hands — at least, figuratively. If you have solid relationships with clients or users, you are far more valuable to your company than is an employee of equal skill and poorer client relationships. This is especially true if you have solid relationships with all the clients/users you interact with. And the more important the client or user, the more valuable you become. Are you the administrator who developed your backup system? Did you spend weeks documenting your entire network? Do you know your systems (or your clients’ systems) better than any other engineer in your department? If this is so, you can easily make a good case for a higher salary. Always think of it with this in mind: If you left the company, what would you be taking with you? The answer to that question can be radically altered if you’re more familiar with your systems than any other administrator. Before I sign off on this list, I want to make sure you know this is not a green light for you to bust into your boss’s office, slam down a printed copy of this article, and demand a raise. As we all know, asking for a raise is a tricky river to navigate. You go about it the wrong way and you very well could get tipped over. If you feel confident that you should have a raise in pay, make sure you go about it smartly and with caution. Do not make ultimatums (unless you’re okay with getting fired or downsized). But rest assured, if you work as hard and well as the average IT pro, that raise should be within your reach. Jack Wallen A writer for more than 12 years, Jack’s primary focus is on the Linux operating system and its effects on the open source and non-open source communities.

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How to deal with perpetually dissatisfied clients

Takeaway: Brad Egeland discusses two types of dissatisfied clients and suggests how IT consultants can get the customer and the project back on track.

Some clients are never satisfied even though you do everything they ask. I’ve worked with two types of these clients: the ones who always ask for more and the ones who “will know it when they see it.” Let’s look at each type of dissatisfied client in more detail, and explore steps for possibly turning things around and ending the consulting engagement on a positive note.

I encountered one of these clients on a project that I took over from a purely technical person who was assigned to just get the client the proprietary data they needed. After a while, it became clear that the effort was not making progress, and the delivery organization realized they needed project management wrapped around the effort in order to complete the critical tasks.

Every time I delivered the requested data, the client would come up with another request. I couldn’t throw up my hands and tell the client to get lost because they were still holding on to $250,000 of the final payment, which was contingent on them being satisfied with the transition of data and materials.

The only way I could close things out with this client was to go back to the planning phase. We mapped out what tasks had been completed, what the client believed still needed to be provided, and what the final signoff criteria would be in order to obtain the final sale payment. I cared about their satisfaction; my management cared about the money; and the client cared about the data. This planning process set in motion the corrective action needed to fulfill everyone’s needs. Ultimately, we got it done, and the assignment was deemed highly successful.

This client is similar in many ways to the client who always wants more. However, with this type of client, it’s not a situation of the scope constantly being pushed out, but rather a case of the requirements not being adequately documented, which means you have no real yardstick to measure your deliverables against.

I met one of these clients during a consulting engagement for a major university. When I took over this project, I was tasked with getting a final large payment for the software implementation. My direction was to make the customer happy and get the money.

My team was going through some final issue resolution prior to deploying a software solution. As we resolved issues, the signoff criteria the customer was willing to adhere to in order to release the payment kept changing. The client’s response was often something along the lines of, “Well, this isn’t exactly how we wanted the software to perform.”

It was critical that we stop the project and draw up the signoff criteria (again) for deployment. I discovered that the client was worried about what they do post-deployment if issues cropped up. Once I learned about this major client concern, I made post-deployment support and issue resolution for a three-month ongoing period part of the signoff agreement. We got over the hump, and we were soon able to get through deployment and formal signoff.

If you’re dealing with a client who always seems unhappy with the engagement, you should address the situation early on, so it doesn’t potentially derail the momentum, hurt the customer’s confidence in you, and lead to a canceled project. You might need to go back to the planning phase or draw up new acceptance criteria to get the customer back in your corner so you can lead a successful project. Brad Egeland Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 24 years of software development and management experience.

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Increase service agreement renewal rates with these tips

Takeaway: If a client seems unsure about whether to renew a service agreement with your IT consultancy, you should try these strategies for keeping your contract renewal rates high.

All IT consulting clients should be on a service plan. The main reason a client should sign a maintenance agreement is to ensure prompt service. Service agreements also help consultancies determine proper staffing levels, maximize IT investments, and reduce downtime.

Service agreements can be a tough sell, so once these plans are in place, IT consultancies should take the following steps to help ensure clients renew their agreements.

Remind clients about the costs associated with downtime. You should remind clients that businesses on service plans receive higher priority from your IT consultancy. Be sure customers understand that, if their agreement lapses, recovery and repair operations could stretch to a couple of days instead of just a couple of hours.Offer lower renewal rates. Clients on service plans may already receive discounted rates (instead of charging $139 an hour, maybe your consultancy charges them $125 an hour), but if your office raised its rates since the last service agreement was signed, you might offer to renew the client’s agreement at the prior year’s lower rate. The goal should be to show clients you wish to form a long-term partnership, not nickel and dime them.Provide regular checkups for free. Instead of charging for a couple of hours of service every quarter or a couple of times a year to review how well systems are working, what upgrades might be needed, etc., you can provide those checkup services free to contract clients.Discount software and hardware sales. While noncontract clients might pay full retail for software applications and hardware, maybe your consultancy could extend discounts on those purchases to clients possessing current service agreements.Schedule regular preventive maintenance tasks. Approximately 70% or 80% of business-disrupting failures likely occur because a neglected system finally broke. By scheduling regular on-site preventive maintenance trips for contract clients, you can help customers avoid disruptive outages.Review service agreement and update for clients’ current needs. Clients’ needs often change over time. It’s possible a client used to have 30 employees and computers when the original service agreement was signed years ago but has downsized and now only maintains a staff of 10. In such cases, you should rewrite the service agreement to provide fewer monthly service hours at a lower cost.Add services in place of time. Sometimes clients’ needs change in other ways. Clients may start a relationship requiring many service hours but gravitate more toward requiring software and annual license renewals once their systems and networks are stabilized. Where it makes sense, offer to leave the agreement’s pricing unchanged but reduce the number of hours provided in exchange for your including annual antivirus and QuickBooks (or similarly needed) license renewals each year. The goal should be to determine the client’s needs and cover them using a single contract whenever possible.Offer customized reports and recommendations. Once a client has been a customer for a year or more, your organization will have developed a trouble ticket and invoicing history. You should review that history, and note trends and common failures and revise service agreements at renewal to include steps to address and eliminate common issues and failures. You should also present simple summary reports and charts, too, to demonstrate where the client’s investment is going (battling infections, troubleshooting recurring telecommunications failures, servicing old machines that should be replaced, etc.). The more you can do to help clients understand where you’re adding value and how you’re working to service their needs, the better.

Does your IT consultancy use other methods to better service contract clients? Share your recommendations in the discussion.

Also read: Three tips for billing maintenance plans.

Erik EckelErik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.

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Data Protection Manager 2010 QFE Rollup Package 2 installation tips

Takeaway: Microsoft has released the QFE Rollup Package 2 for System Center Data Protection Manager 2010. Scott Lowe discusses what the release fixes and shares tips on installing the QFE Rollup Package 2.

At Westminster College, we made the move to Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 last fall and, overall, we’ve been very pleased with the product. This week, I updated Westminster’s DPM 2010 installation with the QFE Rollup Package 2 for System Center DPM 2010. The rollup corrects a number of issues, which includes the following:

When protecting more than 1,000 client data sources from a DPM 2010 system, you’re told that you can’t protect more than 1,000 sources –this is incorrect. DPM 2010 can protect up to 3,000 client data sources.When you change the ports that are used by the DPM 2010 Remote Access service, recovery jobs may fail.On some client computers, the System volume runs out of space when local shadow copies are created and when the shadow copy storage is set to UNBOUNDED.If you are not the administrator on a client computer, you cannot perform an end-user-recovery of protected data on the client computer.If there are many list items within a SharePoint List in a SharePoint Content Database, then the generation of a SharePoint Item level catalog will fail continuously for the SharePoint Content Database.

There are also a number of client-based resolutions (such as i9n, the protected workload – protected desktops) that help bring DPM 2010 further into the realm of enterprise-grade protection software. With DPM, you need to be a pretty strong Microsoft shop; the QFE Rollup Package 2 does not add support for third-party platforms.

Visit the Microsoft site to find out all of the issues that are resolved with the QFE Rollup Package 2 for DPM 2010.

Depending on how DPM 2010 is configured in your environment, there are up to four files that you need to download in order to complete the installation of the QFE Rollup Package 2: Required hotfix (a reboot may be required): If the DPM 2010 server is running on Windows Server 2008, apply this hotfix before installing the QFE Rollup Package 2.If the DPM 2010 server is running on Windows Server 2008 R2, apply this hotfix before installing the QFE Rollup Package 2.On the DPM server: Install the DPM 2010 QFE rollup 2 hotfix from the QFE rollup 2 download page. This file is named DataProtectionManager2010-KB2465832.exe. No restart is necessary.On the SQL Server that holds your DPM database: You can skip this step if you’re using the DPMDB SQL Server instance on the DPM 2010 server. You only need to apply this step if you’re not using the DPM 2010 default SQL configuration.If the SQL Server is a 32-bit installation, install the file named SqlPrep-KB2465832_x86.msp.If the SQL Server is a 64-bit installation, install the file named SqlPrep-KB2465832_amd64.msp.On any systems used to manage the DPM server: This is not required on the DPM server itself.Install the file named DPMManagementShell2010-KB2465832.msp.

Once the server side of the equation is up-to-date, you need to turn your attention to the client side. Open the Data Protection Manager console, navigate to the Management zone, and choose the Agents tab. On the Agents tab, you will see that all of your agents are now in an OK status, but the Agent Updates column indicates that an update is available for these systems. In Figure A, you can see that most of the listed systems have an update available. I’ve already applied the update for some of the systems, so there is no longer an available update for these systems.

Figure A

When you choose to perform an agent update by clicking the Update Available link, DPM will warn you that any running protection jobs will fail while the agent is being updated, and it may also cause the existing replicas to move into an inconsistent state; this is easily rectified by scheduling a consistency check once the upgrade is complete (Figure B). In my case, all of our protection groups are configured to automatically run a consistency check in the event that a replica becomes inconsistent, so I let DPM do the work for me. Bear in mind that a consistency check can put a strain on the DPM server and the protected item, so schedule it appropriately.

Figure B

DPM 2010 is far superior to earlier versions of the product, and I look forward to seeing what Microsoft adds in more substantial updates in the future. Scott Lowe Scott Lowe has spent 15 years in the IT world and is currently the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

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Samsung has big plans to sell Android tablets to the enterprise

Takeaway: Samsung has taken notice of the fact that business professionals are driving a lot of Apple iPad sales and it is taking steps to make its Android tablets very friendly to the enterprise.

If we could do a scientific poll to find out how many of the people who have purchased the Apple iPad so far got it primarily to use for business, I suspect the number would be at least 50%.

That doesn’t mean that the professionals who buy the iPad are only using it for email and business meetings. They also use it to read books and watch movies, especially on business trips. The point is that business is driving a lot more of the iPad’s success than you’d think by watching Apple’s promo videos and reading the iPad coverage in the media — or, at least most of the media.

However, the iPad’s business story is not lost on everyone. I got a reliable report recently that shows how much Apple understands this dynamic. And, this week at CTIA Wireless 2011 I found out that Samsung gets it, too, because Samsung is putting a lot of resources on the line in order to get its newly-expanded line of Android tablets in the hands of business users.

In terms of Apple, I’ve recently heard from reliable sources that Apple has been holding a series of meetings and training sessions with systems integrators about helping businesses deploy and/or support the iPad. Apple has never been particularly friendly with businesses (Steve Jobs even famously explained what he hates about the enterprise), so this is a significant step for Apple that has been preluded by the steps it has taken in recent years to make the iPhone a lot more enterprise-friendly.

On the other hand, Samsung isn’t hiding its tablet strategy for the enterprise in private meetings or back rooms. It’s going after it with all the resources it can throw at the problem, and it gave enterprise integration and business-friendly features a prominent treatment in the CTIA presentation of its new 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch tablets.

We can break down Samsung’s enterprise plans into three categories:

Enterprise middleware that it’s building into TouchWizBusiness development with enterprise partnersDevelopment of a sales infrastructure for the enterprise

One of the first things Samsung is doing is building software into TouchWiz that makes Samsung tablets easy to connect to backend enterprise systems. That’s not just to support IT deployments but to make it easy for the tablets that consumers purchase and want to use for business to connect with corporate software and be palatable to IT.

“We think there’s the need to support the acceptability of these devices into the enterprise,” said Gavin Kim, Vice President of Mobile Content and Services at Samsung. Kim said the stuff Samsung is building into its Android tablets via its TouchWiz software is akin to enterprise middleware.

At its CTIA press conference on Tuesday, Samsung made the enterprise-friendly features of the new Samsung tablets a big part of the presentation.

Built-in support for Cisco SSL VPN (the first Android devices to offer that)Device management with Exchange ActiveSyncHardware encryption (Samsung has also added a separate processor to its tablet just to handle the encryption and decryption of data)Lots of support for enterprise software, including Citrix, Polycom, Sybase, SAP, and more

“It’s not bullet-proof, but it’s a good step, and we’re just getting started,” said Kim.

In addition to the software partners just mentioned, Samsung’s Ken Daniels, Director of Strategic Alliances for Enterprise Mobility, said the company is talking to virtually “everybody” in the enterprise software space about making their stuff work with Samsung tablets.

Samsung is also reaching out to much smaller developers of business software, including vendors who focus on vertical markets and line-of-business apps, to help educate them about Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and 3.0 (Honeycomb) and encourage them to develop apps for Android tablets and find ways to make their systems work with Samsung tablets.

Right now, when big companies want to buy smartphones and tablets in large quantities they are typically going through the telecom carriers that they already have contracts with. Samsung is going to support that with a sales force that will serve as advisers and evangelists for companies that want to do large-scale deployments of Samsung tablets. Samsung will help them make the right product choices and then let them buy the tablets from their carriers of choice.

On the other hand, Samsung sees a new opportunity developing where large companies will want to purchase Wi-Fi-only tablets directly from Samsung — for example, a hospital system buying 10,000 Wi-Fi tablets that don’t need mobile broadband because they will only be connecting to the hospital’s campus-wide WLAN. Samsung is setting up a program to make it easy to drop-ship large numbers of tablets directly to these types of enterprises.

Another thing Samsung is doing to make its tablets more business-friendly is developing its own line of accessories aimed at professionals — desktop docks, hardware keyboards, bluetooth accessories, and cases — and partnering with companies like Belkin to make professional accessories for Samsung tablets.

Clearly, Samsung sees a huge opportunity for tablets in the enterprise and is making a lot of smart moves to grease the wheels for business adoption. Apple looks like it’s ready to avoid the mistakes it made with the Macintosh and be a lot more proactive about working with the enterprise on iPad adoption. And, don’t forget about Motorola. Even though the Xoom still needs to be refined, Motorola has a long history of building strong relationships in the enterprise. RIM, of course, wants a piece of this space as well with its forthcoming BlackBerry PlayBook, but it’s facing an uphill battle since it is badly losing the mobile ecosystem game to Apple and Android.

Ultimately, the enterprise tablet race is going to be an important undercurrent to watch in 2011.

Samsung’s new 8.9 and 10.1 inch tablets were headliners at CTIA Wireless 2011. Photo credit: Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. He is a former IT manager and an award-winning journalist.

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Legal considerations regarding smartphone use for business

Takeaway: Deb Shinder presents a number of legal questions to take into consideration when you write your company policies governing smartphone use.

Businesses can’t do much these days without considering the potential legal ramifications. Large corporations will have in-house attorneys and entire staffs to advise them about legal questions, but smaller companies may not always run everything past their lawyers (often because they’re struggling with tight budgets). Here are some legal issues that might come up in regard to your own or your employees’ use of smartphones and other cell phones when conducting business.

Note: I am a small business owner with many years of experience, but I am not an attorney, so nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice.

In many businesses, employees are mobile — they work at customers’ sites, they go out in the field to procure materials or solicit new clients, and they’re expected to be on call nights and weekends. If your company is considering whether to provide employees with mobile phones or reimburse them for all or part of their personal cell phone expenses, you’ll want to consider the cost of each option. It makes sense to assume that the company will have more control over the phone if you purchase it in the company’s name, pay the monthly bills directly, and issue it to the employee. You should consult your attorney as to how this decision will affect legal issues that might arise regarding the use of the phone.

One consideration is that if the company purchases the smartphone, it owns the phone number assigned to that device. If the employee leaves the company, that phone number can be given to another employee. If the employee owns the phone and leaves the company, customers and other business contacts who had that phone number will no longer be able to use it to get in touch with the company.

You should also keep in mind that state laws vary widely, and employers and employees may have rights in one location that they don’t have in another.

If the company buys and issues the phone and pays the phone bill, will employees be required to use their phones for business use only, and carry a second phone for their own personal use? If so, you should have a written policy stipulating this, and employees should sign an agreement to abide by the policy when they’re issued their phones.

Many companies tolerate a certain amount of personal use of the company-owned phone. If you decide to allow it, your policy should specify that employees will be required to pay for any services they access on the phone that cost extra, such as text messages, ringtone downloads, entertainment services, and navigation and mobile hotspot services (unless you pay for those so they can use them for business purposes).

An important consideration that you’ll want to clarify when you issue phones or reimburse employees is who owns the data stored on the devices. Smartphones are really miniature computers and can have all the same sorts of data on them as resides on a desktop or a laptop computer (email messages, customer contact information, company documents and spreadsheets, and so forth), but almost always in the case of employee-owned phones and often in the case of employer-owned phones, the users will also store personal data on their phones. Who owns what?

If you’re in a regulated industry, such as healthcare or financial services, it’s important to remember that you may be mandated to protect the confidentiality of personal data pertaining to clients. If you own the phones, you can select the models that are most secure, and ensure that they are running the most up-to-date version of the smartphone operating system. In addition, you can enforce encryption of the data stored on them.

What if the company buys and issues the smartphones, but when an employee quits the job or is terminated, the employee refuses to return the phone? If the phone is in the company’s name, you should be able to contact the carrier and have the phone deactivated, and the number reassigned to someone else in the company.

Can you have the carrier use the phone’s GPS functionality (or the cell tower triangulation method) to track down the user and retrieve the phone? What legal action can you take against the employee? Can you file theft charges, or would you have to take the former employee to civil court to get a judgment requiring the phone to be returned to you? If you merely reimburse an employee’s mobile phone expenses, you wouldn’t have to worry about any of these issues since the employee would keep the phone. However, you still need to think about whether and how you can make the former employee remove company data from the phone. Can you require the phone’s storage be wiped (factory reset) to ensure that no company data is left on the device? If you have the technological capability to remotely wipe the phone, is it legal for you to do when the phone is owned by the employee?

Again, these are questions to ask your attorney in advance, and to take into consideration when you write your company policies governing cell phone use.

Another issue that you may want to consult your attorney about is whether you can legally track the employee’s movements via the company cell phone. If you do track the employee, do you have to inform the individual that you’re doing it? Can you track the employee during off-duty hours when they are carrying the company phone or only during business hours?

Can you require employees to keep their phones on all the time when they’re away from the office? If you do, will you have to pay them “standby pay” for that time? It’s technologically possible to turn a cell phone on remotely; is it legal for you to do this if an employee turns the phone off, and you want to get in touch and/or track their location?

Software is available for several phone platforms that can be installed on a cell phone to allow you to listen to and/or record conversations and remotely read call logs, email messages, and SMS messages. Is it legal for you to use such software to monitor your employees’ company-issued phones? Do you have to notify them that you’re doing so? These are questions you need to ask your attorney.

Another question to ask your attorney: What is the company’s liability if an employee uses a company-owned cell phone as a platform for launching an attack, hacking into a network or computer, downloading child pornography, harassing someone, or committing other illegal acts? Could a wronged party sue the company as well as the individual employee, claiming that by using company equipment, the employee was acting as a representative of the company?

It’s important for you to put policies in place that specifically prohibit employees from using company-issued phones for any illegal activities, or actions that would be likely to result in a civil suit. This helps protect the company by providing tangible evidence that the employee was acting outside the scope of employment.

What if the police need to seize the phone as evidence of a crime? The company may lose the use of it for a very long time as the case winds its way through the court system.

What if you purchase and issue a phone to an employee and it’s defective and overheats or explodes, causing an injury? Could the employee sue you for issuing the defective phone? These may seem like far out scenarios, but it pays to be prepared for every eventuality.

This blog post is meant to serve as a starting point regarding some of the types of issues that can have legal ramifications, and some of the questions that you need to ask when you decide to provide (or reimburse for) employee smartphones. The article’s purpose is not to provide answers to your legal questions — only an attorney versed in your locality’s applicable laws can do that for you.

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Identify which cells in Excel are formula cells

Takeaway: Learn how to identify formula cells the easy way using VBA, and then combine VBA and conditional formatting for more permanent identification.

If you practice good spreadsheet design, formulas shouldn’t be hard to find. That’s a nice thought, but it’s not terribly practical. You might be working in a legacy workbook that you didn’t design or perhaps the sheet contains a lot of data. Fortunately, there are two quick ways to find formula cells: [F5] and VBA.

Using [F5]

Pressing [F5] is the easiest way to identify formula cells. Doing so actually selects the cells, so it’s temporary. To use this method, do the following:

Press [F5].Click Special.Select Formulas. By default, this option selects all formula cells in the current sheet, but you can be more selective by excluding specific suboptions: Number, Text, Logical, and Errors.Click OK and Excel selects cells that contain formulas.

Using VBA

Using the Special option works, but it’s temporary – it’s a quick way to get a quick look. If you want to identify formula cells in a permanent way, you’ll need to do so manually, or you can use VBA. For example, add the following function to a module and run it as a macro to apply a yellow highlight to formula cells:

Sub IdentifyFormulaCells() ‘Apply yellow highlight to all formula cells. Dim ws As Worksheet Dim rng As Range Set ws = ActiveSheet For Each rng In ws.Cells.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeFormulas) rng.Interior.ColorIndex = 36 Next rngEnd Sub

You can call a similar function from a conditional format. This method is probably more appropriate if you want to offer users a method they can apply themselves. In this case, add the following function to a module: Function IdentifyFormulaCellsUsingCF(rng As Range) As Boolean’Called from conditional formatting to determine’if cell contains a formula.IdentifyFormulaCellsUsingCF = rng.HasFormulaEnd Function

Then, show the user how to call the function from conditional formatting as follows (in Excel 2007 and 2010): Select the range where you want to identify formula cells. This can be the entire sheet or a simple data range. In the case of the example sheet, you might select cells B3:E11.Click the Home tab.Click the Conditional Formatting dropdown in the Styles group.Choose New Rule.In the resulting dialog box, select the Use A Formula To Determine Which Cells To Format option.In the Format Values Where The Formula Is True control, enter the following expression: =IdentifyFormulaCellsUsingCF(B3).Click Format.On the Fill tab, click Yellow.Click OK twice.

In Excel 2003, do the following: Select cells B3:E11.Choose Conditional Formatting from the Format toolbar.Choose Formula Is from the Condition 1 dropdown.Enter the expression =IdentifyFormulaCellsUsingCF(B3).Click Format.From the Patterns tab, select yellow and then click OK twice.

When showing users how to apply this conditional format, make sure that you emphasize that they must enter the first cell in the selected range, as in =IdentifyFormulaCellsUsingCF(B3). If they enter the wrong cell reference, Excel won’t highlight the right cells.

Users will have no trouble applying formats in a familiar way using this method. (They probably won’t have the VBA expertise to update the original macro code.) The rule applies yellow highlighting just to formula cells within the selected range. This is another advantage for this method – you can control the range in which you identify formula cells. In addition, this method is dynamic. If you add a formula cell to the selected range, the conditional format will automatically kick in and highlight the cell. The original macro can’t do that for you–you’ll have to execute it each time you want to identify new formula cells.

Susan Harkins Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world’s largest publisher of technical journals.

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TR Community scoreboard for March 25, 2011 – Alternative careers

Takeaway: In this weekly recap, you’ll get a quick look at the top discussions and members on the TechRepublic forums.

Are you burnt out on IT? Jack Wallen’s post about alternative careers generated the hottest discussion this past week. Find out what other topics and TechRepublic members were the most active on the boards.

Top 5 discussion threads:

10 alternative careers for burned-out IT workers (Jack Wallen)Review: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 (Mark Kaelin)Dirty little secrets of HR (Toni Bowers)10 IT positions ranked by prestige (Alan Norton)Supervisor wants employee to quit part-time job (Toni Bowers)

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Sonja Thompson Sonja Thompson is a Senior Editor of TechRepublic.com.

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What anime films and shows are your favorites?

Takeaway: Princess Mononoke and Mushi-shi opened Nicole Bremer Nash’s eyes to what anime can be, and now she’s hooked. Anime fans, help this Geekend contributor figure out what film or show to watch next.

When I think of anime, I usually think of loud cartoons that have a strange obsession with women. Anime cons seem like they are as much fun as any other geeky con, and actually make more sense to me than the shows they celebrate. Every now and then, however, somebody sends a little anime my way that completely unravels the stereotype in my head.

The first was several years ago when a person who is distinctly un-geeky gifted us Princess Mononoke with the promise that I would love the film. I think I rolled my eyes and tossed it in a drawer until somebody suggested watching it months later. Turns out, the gifter was right. Princess Mononoke is possibly one of my favorite movies. I admit that I am particularly partial to anything dealing with nature’s plight as humans do our best to destroy the planet. Even so, Princess Mononoke is particularly well done and opened my eyes to what anime can be.

I hadn’t seen any anime that really impressed since then until another very un-geeky friend recently convinced me to check out Mushi-shi. The show follows Ginko, who is a Mushi Master. Mushi are described as being nearly supernatural because they are so in tune with the essence of life. Each episode features a different Mushi wreaking havoc on some poor unsuspecting person, often a child. Ginko shows up and explains the particular type of Mushi and then saves the day. The show is quiet and lovely, and the Mushi are always interesting.

I’ve seen almost all the Mushi-shi episodes, and I need suggestions for other anime shows or movies to check out. What do you recommend? Please tell me in the comments.

Also read:

Nicole Bremer Nash While Nicole likes to fancy herself an artistic type, years of living with a Computer Programmer have rubbed off. Now, she enjoys researching and using new software, particularly freeware and Open Source programs.

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MintiBoost workshop for geek women at LVL1 Hackerspace

Takeaway: A recent Tweetup in Louisville, KY offered female tech enthusiasts the chance to learn hands-on geek skills. Look at photos from the hackerspace workshop on how to make MintiBoosts, battery-powered USB chargers made with Altoid tins.

Every so often, a group of women gets together in Louisville, KY to discuss the newest technologies, apps, and other generally geek-related stuff. The group was founded by Michelle Jones, and usually meets at a local bakery — hence the group name Let Them Tweet Cake.

A couple of Tweet Cake regulars are also involved with LVL1 Hackerspace, and thus we were invited to a special workshop at LVL1. The project was the making of MintiBoosts, battery-powered USB chargers made with Altoid tins. We learned how to solder and attach transistors to tiny motherboards. The group also enjoyed a tour of the warehouse where LVL1 has workspace for everything from the free and low-cost workshops that LVL1 hosts for the public, to the area dedicated to the development of LVL1’s White Star Balloons project.

The cost of the MintiBoost workshop held at LVL1 Hackerspace was minimal, to cover the cost of materials. Folks from LVL1 were kind to volunteer time to lead the Let Them Tweet Cake group through the process of learning how to solder. Each attendee made her own pocket-size MintiBoost USB charger.

Check out the TechRepublic gallery Battery-powered USB chargers made with Altoids tins to see images of yours truly trying to learn some geek skills and build my own MintiBoost!

Nicole Bremer Nash While Nicole likes to fancy herself an artistic type, years of living with a Computer Programmer have rubbed off. Now, she enjoys researching and using new software, particularly freeware and Open Source programs.

View the original article here

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