Regardless of what type of hardware you are using, it’s important to keep it running in tip-top shape. Here are four key ways to achieve maximum performance from your hardware in 2009.

1. Make sure you’re using a cell phone with a full computer-style keyboard.
At Triple Play last month, I did a seminar called "Why Didn’t You Just Text Me?"

Regardless of what type of hardware you are using, it’s important to keep it running in tip-top shape. Here are four key ways to achieve maximum performance from your hardware in 2009.

1. Make sure you’re using a cell phone with a full computer-style keyboard
At Triple Play last month, I did a seminar called "Why Didn’t You Just Text Me?" Although the session focused on generational differences, we had eight agents who had never sent a text message. Before the session began, I offered to help them send their first text message. What I did not anticipate was that seven of eight agents had the traditional phone keyboard with just 10 numbers. If you wanted to use letters, you had to hit "shift" and then hit the appropriate button one, two or three times to get the letter you want. No wonder text messaging seemed incredibly difficult!

If your cell phone doesn’t have a keyboard like the one on your computer, upgrading your phone will save you both time and money. Gen X and Gen Y are currently the most active buyers in today’s market. To do business with them, you must be able to text message. Also, the number one complaint about agents is that they don’t stay in touch. Using a smart phone with e-mail and text functionality makes keeping in touch simple. The latest generation of smart phones also make it easy to do posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

There are multiple options available in the $200 price range including the new Blackberry and iPhones. While I loved my Palm TREO because of the touch screen coupled with an easy-to-use full keyboard, the iPhone definitely provides a much better Web surfing experience. On the TREO, text messaging is as simple as tapping the "message" key on the touch screen and typing in your message, exactly the same way you would send an e-mail. The new Blackberry and the iPhone rely exclusively on the touch screen. The older Blackberry products have the full keyboard, but lack the touch-screen application. Many of the touch screens are not as accurate as the push-button keyboards and can be particularly challenging for older agents. Both the Blackberry and Palm products work with most MLS key safes. In contrast, finding an MLS that supports this function on the iPhone is rare.

Google’s new Android phones have a full keyboard plus most of the touch-screen functions found on iPhone, Palm and Blackberry. They also integrate all the functions you would normally use on Google.

Before you purchase a new cell phone, check with your local MLS to see which, if any phone, allows you to access your MLS key safes. BTW (which is Internet speak for "by the way"), all eight of our agents did successfully send their first text message.

2. Is your computer backed up?
If you have ever had a computer virus, had your computer die or had it stolen, you know how devastating losing your data can be. You have two options. First, you can use a Web-based system such as Mozy.com or Carbonite.com. These systems charge a fee and automatically back up your system at a specified time each day. A different alternative is to back up on to a hard-drive system such as the well-reviewed system from iomega.com. The cost is approximately $300. Due to the direct connection to your computer, it’s much faster than most Web-based solutions. Personally, I prefer a Web-based product because if there is a fire or something else that damages the location where my backup system is, I’m backed up elsewhere. If you’re using an iPhone or Apple computer, MobileMe automatically backs up your music, photos, calendar and e-mail simply by plugging your phone into your computer. If you lose your phone or there’s a problem with your computer, you can still retrieve your lost information from MobileMe online.

3. Eliminate spam
If you are using Outlook, Eudora, or any e-mail program that resides on your computer rather than on a Web-based system such as Gmail, allowing your inbox to become crammed with too many e-mails can crash your hard drive. One of the best ways to eliminate spam from your computer is to send and receive your messages through social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Only people that you personally approve can contact you. Another approach is to use your ISP (Internet Service Provider) system or a program such as Spam Arrest. Many of these programs require the user to do a one-time approval of the sender. Most users find these aggravating. A third approach is to use a company such as Postini that scans for viruses and spam at the level of your server. Postini eliminates hundreds of pieces of spam from my inbox daily, but some spam still gets through. The virus protection, however, is great. I receive a warning from my virus protection service only about three or four times per year.

4. Get rid of adware
If your computer seems to be sluggish, it may be due to "adware." In a typical week of Web browsing, it’s very common to pick up more than 100 adware "tracking cookies." I had let my adware protection expire and just renewed it. I had 348 items the program needed to repair. I like www.adaware.com since it is priced at $26.95 and is lightning-fast.

While it may cost some money to install these upgrades to your hardware, they will more than pay for themselves in the time and money you will save throughout 2009.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.

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