The holidays are fast approaching, so is the time for great gifts for your business partners, employees, friends and family members. And we all know, picking the right gift for them can be a daunting task.

That’s why we’ve created this series of guides for you. Each guide features a particular category (iOS, Mac, Gadgets) and contains hardware and software picks alike. That should give you a nice range of options, depending on your budget and needs.

As this is the gadget guide, things are a little bit different this time around. Instead of dividing the guide into software and hardware picks, it’s open season. Everything goes, as long as it can be used with a multitude of different devices or is useful in some other form.

Gadgets

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

The paperless office has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Ever since I bought my very first flatbed scanner in the late 90s and saw the magic of converting physical paper into virtual one, I’ve imagined how, one day, I might be able to live completely paperless. Although I’ve reduced the amount of paper that shows up in my mailbox (and I don’t even own a printer anymore…) there’s still a considerable amount of it. That’s where the iX500 comes in handy.

Granted, this isn’t a cheap device. There are way cheaper scanners on the market. Even Fujitsu sells smaller and less expensive scanners. Take the ScanSnap S1500i for example. It’s small and portable, yet still very powerful. So if you don’t want to spend as much, need something portable or just aren’t scanning as much, that device is a good alternative, too. The iX500, however, is the best choice for normal, day-to-day office use. It’s lightning fast (25 pages per minute), easy to use, and with a little help (e.g. the Paperless Field Guide by Mac Sparky) you can achieve a fully automated processing of almost any incoming mail.

Rickshaw Bags

rickshaw bag

rickshaw bag

We’ve talked about Rickshaw bags at the Professional Apple Users Academy before. In short, we’re all addicted to them.
Every one of us owns multiple bags. They are with us every single day: whether we’re in the office, out shooting a video, traveling the world or attending a party. They are incredibly versatile, unique and robust. They always look good, are a joy to use and never fail to amaze. I think you can guess by now that we’re deeply and madly in love with our Rickshaw gear and Rickshaw as a company.

Rickshaw, a small company based in San Francisco, produces a wide range of bags in different shapes and sizes (Messenger bags, Backpacks, Totes, Duffle bags, …). Fully customizable and build to order. You can even request custom changes to your bag to make it fully unique (for a fair price, of course). It’s not unheard of, that big companies or conferences order bags with a unique design (e.g. the company’s logo printed onto it) as a special treat for their attendees/employees.


Services

Cloak VPN

Security is one of the most important topics you should be thinking about in regards to your business. Whether it’s sensitive data (e.g. your clients addresses and credit card information) or your logins (e.g. to your bank account) your business will depend on this information being as secure as possible.
When you’re in your office, you can generally consider your network as being secure (although you might have to make sure every now and then, that this is really the case). But what happens when you leave this secure environment to work some place else, i.e. in a coffee shop or library? What if you travel and you have to work out of a hotel room?

That’s when you definitely should use a VPN to securely access the internet without fearing someone might eavesdrop and steal your data. And Cloak is my weapon of choice. It’s just so easy to use and really fast and reliable. Once you’ve installed the apps (either on your Mac or iOS device) it will automatically secure your connection when you’re not connected to one of the networks you’ve added to your list of trusted networks. You don’t even have to think about it when you join a network somewhere. This also means, you can’t forget it accidentally leaving your device vulnerable.

Their plans are really awesome ($2.99/month for 5GB of data or $9.99/month for truly unlimited data), and they don’t charge extra for multiple devices. They just ask you not to share your account. Fair is fair.


Books

Remote – Office not required

Remote: Office not required

Remote: Office not required

The number of people working a full-time job from home is growing. What was once looked down on as being unproductive and mainly for lazy people, is nowadays something many people see as something to boost their productivity and overall happiness. This book, written by Basecamp’s founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, shows why and how companies should allow their employees to work from home. They also talk about some common pitfalls and explain why they occur and how you can prevent them from happening.

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

Startups are something of a very special breed in the business world. They strive on having very little resource while at the same time taking big risks. Eric Ries, the author of this book, defines a startup as “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. The book is heavily influenced by the “Lean Manufacturing” approach, first implemented by Toyota. It tries to explain why start-ups are (against all odds) so successful in building their products while being very flexible and creative at the same time. Ries also tries to transfer that knowledge to big, established (Fortune 500) companies and shows how a growing company can successfully maintain their startup spirit and use it as an edge over their competition. Overall a very interesting and eye-opening book.