Monday, May 23, 2011

Business Insurance

On a non-technical note, one of the things I had to do recently was to get business insurance for my company.  That turned out to be a much bigger pain than I thought it would be.

What happened is that one of my clients decided that they were going to pay all of their contractors through a third party billing agency called MBO Partners.  But MBO Partners had a requirement that in order to be paid through them as a contractor I had to have $1,000,000 of General Liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance.

I got one referral to a business insurance agent from a friend.  He had to collect a whole bunch of information from me over the phone in order to get a quote.  He had to call back to get more information he forgot.  After a couple weeks, he got me a quote from American Family that was about $1060/year.  But that wasn't even official, so I waited longer for him to send an official quote.  This was taking so long that I contacted another agent I just found using Google.  He quoted me a much lower number, but the application process was just as slow and he was slow to return my calls when I wondered what was taking so long.  I contacted yet another agency and they never even called back.  This all dragged on for over one month.

Finally, on my 4th try, I found the site I needed.  It's called NetQuote.  Similar to car insurance sites (and NetQuote also does car insurance quotes), you just fill out one form on their site and they send it to 5-10 business insurance agencies.  I got 3 or more return calls within minutes!  One sent me a great email with comparisons of two plans.  But I ended up going with the first agency that called me because they were able to get me an official quote within an hour, rather than the weeks it took for the first agents I contacted!  And their price for the GL and Workers Comp combined was $715/year.

By the way, I also looked into Professional Insurance, i.e. "Errors and Ommisions", which gives you coverage int he case that a software mistake costs your client money.  The application is *way* longer for that and the only quote I got so far for that was about $1000/year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Amazon Cloud Player

There's been a lot of expectation that Apple's iTunes will eventually run "in the cloud", meaning that you would stream songs that you purchase from an iTunes web site rather than download them to your computer and iPod. Google is also supposed to be working on something similar.  But Amazon beat them both to it and has recently released their Cloud Drive and Cloud Player.  I've been trying it out quite a bit over the last couple weeks and its great.

Any MP3 song or album that you purchase from Amazon can now be stored on their server, the Cloud Drive, so that you can stream it to any device that has a Cloud Player.  Mainly, this would be your computer or your phone.  All music you purchase from them can be stored on the Cloud Drive indefinitely for free.  Also, up to 5GB of other music that you did not purchase from them can be uploaded and stored for free.  If you purchase even one album from them, they will upgrade you to 20 GB of free storage.  It isn't clear to me whether the free 20GB upgrade is for just one year or indefinitely, but I think its just one year.  Otherwise, the 20GB storage plan is $20/year (not per month).

The Cloud Player still lacks some nice features that iTunes has.  You can't edit song information once you've upload a song.  And you can't rate songs, which I found to be a nice feature in iTunes to quickly highlight the best stuff in a big collection.  But the fact that I could immediately listen on my phone to the music that I uploaded via my computer was a big enough plus that I can live without those things.

I imagine that if you're a heavy Apple user, then you'll probably want to wait for the cloud version of iTunes.  But if you use your Amazon account as much as you iTunes account and/or if you have an Android phone rather than an iPhone, then you'll probably want to check out the Cloud Drive and Cloud Player.