If you’re like most companies, you are overwhelmed with information and technology. Every day you are bombarded with options.

You need help. As a customer-focused media company, BNP Media is committed to delivering information in ways that will make your job easier and more efficient. You can thrive by strategically managing how and when you receive information.

1. Go online for training and certification.

Internet-based training has come of age and keeps getting better. Early attempts at webcasts and webinars were clunky, strained affairs. Fuzzy images and lost connections were typical. Today, high-speed connections, in-house projection, enhanced software and improved two-way communication make Web-based training an engaging experience.

Have a question? Most webinars allow you to submit questions and have them answered.

Want a video clip or additional information? Providers often include entertaining or educational video links and related Web sites so you can dig deeper.

Need proof of participation to qualify for continuing-education credits? You might need to take a short quiz, but many Web-based seminars provide a link allowing you to print a course-completion certificate.

If you ask your staff to use webcasts instead of traveling to seminars, you’ll improve training - and save money.

2. Use the online community to obtain answers.

Perhaps you’ve avoided visiting YouTube, bulletin boards and blogs. Aren’t those for “techies” or people without lives? For a growing number of people, the online community is now an essential source of their business.

A huge benefit of online communities is free access to people just like you who have already tackled your challenges. Whether you are fixing a broken air conditioner, launching a new sales promotion or updating your company, someone is waiting to tell you how they succeeded at that task, or equally valuable, which pitfalls to avoid. Many sites also offer videos that show you how to do it.

Another aspect is the ability to build your reputation. Community participants don’t want a sales pitch - spam - but they respect you for providing useful information and solving problems. Respect translates into trust, and trust translates into opportunities for your company.

Find worthwhile bulletin boards, blogs and communal Web sites that focus on your industry. You’ll benefit by engaging with sharp-minded, impassioned participants.

3. Find information quickly.

Search engine optimization is a geeky way of saying “fast answers.” If you are even a bit Web savvy, you’ve probably used Google to find something. But Google can be overwhelming when you pull up 101,234 results.

A better option is conducting a “vertical search,” which uses the search functions of industry-specific Web sites. These are more targeted and eliminate the useless information found in typical Internet search engines. Some, like BNP Media’s sites, license Google technology for speed but limit the search to highly defined data, such as Snips’ or other BNP magazine archives, making your search more efficient.

You might want to visit the top sheet metal and HVAC Web sites and bookmark those providing the best search results. You’ll save a ton of time.

4. Locate products quickly with online directories.

Finding products sometimes poses a problem when you need specific items to complete a project. Online directories are a great addition to print versions. Most allow you to enter a company name, product category or a brand and receive a tailored list.

But what if you’re already happy using print directories? Why use an online one?

Print directories remain excellent resources, but they are typically updated annually, while online directories can be changed daily. Online directories also usually include links to supplier Web sites, specification sheets and even product videos.

So keep your print directories handy, but visit their online versions for even more updated and comprehensive information.

5. Read breaking news.

Whether you’re a company owner or just a shop worker, staying informed has never been easier. Besides print magazines like Snips, you can check out:

Web sites. Some sites are updated daily, while others languish for weeks. Limit your visits to sites that are updated frequently and offer professional coverage. Snipsmag.com recently added a “Today’s news update” section that features recent news items that typically aren’t in the print edition. It’s updated several times a week, and occasionally more than once a day.

E-newsletters. Electronic newsletters offer a big advantage because they come to you. Not all e-newsletters are as useful as others, so focus on those that provide good industry information. You can sign up for Snips’ e-newsletter at www.snipsmag.com

RSS feeds. This acronym stands for “real simple syndication” and is a way to ensure you are alerted whenever news breaks on the Web. It can also send stories to your computer, cell phone or other personal electronic device. RSS requires you to sign up and select the topics you want to be alerted about. These articles collect until you access them. This is also available on Snips’ Web site.

But avoid news overload. Focus on Web sites, e-news and RSS feeds that best meet your needs and remove yourself from subscription lists to publications that don’t.

6. Study in-depth content for personal development, strategic planning.

While the Web is fantastic for its immediacy, it is equally strong in providing content that will help you obtain comprehensive knowledge, perspective and leadership skills.

Archived articles stored on industry Web sites allow concentrated study of a topic or in-depth analysis of an expert’s opinions.

White papers allow you to read thoughtful analysis and research on new products and procedures, often with statistics and projections.

Syndicated research can help you maintain a high level of expertise on a topic or industry, and provides insight for strategic planning.

Search Web sites for meaty data and expertise. If required, register your name and contact information to gain access to information that others may miss.

7. Conduct business online.

E-commerce is more than a buzzword. Many companies now require online purchase orders, applications, designs, specifications, bids, change-orders, credit checks and payments. A recent survey conducted among subscribers to BNP Media publications showed that while most had company Web sites, only 30 percent allowed customers to place orders online.

Embrace this trend by becoming e-commerce savvy. Promote your company as Web-friendly, making sure your Web site is customer-driven, and you will be rewarded.

8. Buy the right technology.

Your staff may be clamoring for iPhones, Blackberries, the Windows Vista operating system or other technologies. While these products can enhance employees’ ability to receive and relay information, new technology produces a strain on resources. Your information-technology staff may require significant time and your users will need training.

A good solution is to wait a little while on the latest technology, but commit fully when you do jump in. Having everyone using the same version of the same product enhances company-wide efficiency.