What price loyalty or a guarantee
Skype suffers worldwide outage for a full day, users of the free app threaten to leave in droves! What price loyalty eh?
Just because something is free, it should still work and nothing is more frustrating than a free and useful product suddenly becoming unavailable. People become resentful and bitter toward the products owners.
Apparently, the business version was unaffected which leads one to imagine that their view is that the free product didn't matter? Cynical yes and probably incorrect but that's the world view.
We recently had to compare product availability for a business continuity plan for a telephone system.
The very best quoted service level agreement on the market is from a leading British Telecom provider. However, their claim of 99.9% availability is only guaranteed if you use their equipment and their broadband! Strangely, our humble Module IT VOIP is currently at 99.975% and we will use any broadband and equipment. To put this in perspective, 99.9% equals about a working day per annum. 99.975% is about 2 hours.
What does this really mean to my business?
Well, you should be cynical about sales claims and work out what the real impact might be but then look at the cost difference between the systems. The one guaranteeing 99.9% costs over 100 times more than the one currently performing better but of course we cannot guarantee that! ;)
UK sales of traditional telephone switchboards (PBX) have fallen behind Internet based (SIP) systems. The decline according to industry analysts, is greater in the UK and Europe indicating that we are leading the change from traditional telephony.
So what does this mean for business in the Forest of Dean? Put simply, if a spiky haired telephone salesman tries to sell you a switchboard, ask him why it isn't a hosted (SIP) system?
We're lucky here in that we are seeing massive improvements in internet speeds throughout Gloucestershire and particularly in the Forest. This means that its getting easier and cheaper to adopt a really sophisticated telephone switchboard.
This means we can all benefit from multiple lines, professional call handling, telephone number portability. I have a great example of a Forest based business wanting to do work in Cheltenham and Gloucester. For less than £10 per month they can have 01452 and 01242 telephone numbers ringing their Forest based business.
An Architects practice in Lydney has numbers in London and Bristol, when a call comes in from those numbers their Lydney switchboard can see which area immediately and answer accordingly.
So why not join the growing number of Forest businesses and Charities making the move to internet telephony by talking to us or emailing email@example.com
We don't need IT support do we?
Heard from a small business operating locally, who were unable to send emails, had hundreds of pop up screens and couldn't print! The business owner was hopping up and down because he couldn't get an important quotation sent.
In this particular case we charged a fee to visit site and resolve the issues, which took around an hour. This company had taken the sensible step of moving to Office 365 which meant they didn't need to buy an expensive server to store their email and files and share information. Unfortunately they had decided to try and save money by setting it up themselves. It actually cost them more to get it unscrambled and put right than to have it professionally installed in the first place.
The trouble with IT is that everybody thinks they know what to do or can figure it out. Solicitors who charge out at £100's per hour seem happy to spend several hours messing around with setting up Outlook! The problem is we rarely value our own time or worse actually waste time we could be spending with our family or relaxing by trying to 'save money'.
Worse still, we give our customers poor service or fail to make time to find new customers whilst we try and fix something better left to a professional.
Inevitably, the first we hear of it is when a frustrated, angry possibly emasculated person calls blaming the PC, the web provider, Bill Gates or anyone except themselves ;)
In the end, this small business signed up for remote support at just £25 plus VAT per month which means that in future they can have someone look at almost any issue before it becomes a costly mistake. Oh and by the way, we'll do it quickly because we've got more than one professional.
Wave Accounting in our opinion has really turned the world of web based accounting on its head, this is a truly fantastic application for small businesses that require a complete accounting application.
The internet is awash with invoicing services and trying to find one that fits your needs can be very difficult, do you want to subscribe to a service?, host the application yourself?, do you need to tie it into your banking system? Or do you just need a very basic way of issuing invoices?
In the last few years services such as Xero and Freeagent have made a massive impact on the way small businesses work, and to be honest I didn’t think that this model would change until I saw Wave Accounting.
What’s different about Wave, is that this service is completely Free, no subscription charge, no trial periods, no limits on the amount of invoices or customers you can create per month, it is truly free to use! The service was always designed to be free from the start and paid for by advertising other business services, these adverts are really unobtrusive and do not in any way hinder the use of the service.
Wave Accounting may not have the VAT and other tax advantages that Freeagent has, but it has all the features that small business needs, you can track payments into and out of your accounts, produce great reports that your accountant can work with, the service also links to your bank account and imports all your transactions automatically making reconciliation of your accounts really easy to do.
As the user base grows and people’s confidence in this business model increase then who knows, perhaps in a few months this may be the one that all competing applications and services will have to follow.
Would we recommend this to our customers? Absolutely, the only issue that we can see is the issue of trust!, will this service have the customer base to survive? and if not what happens to all customers data?, but there again this is a question that should be asked of all hosted services free or otherwise.
Google goes further to the dark side?
SEO for Dummies
Anyone wanting to SEO their site 2 years ago, knew that the two key things they needed to do was to build links from other sites to their site and to identify the keywords that searchers found their site with. For the latter Google provided within their free Analytics tool a free and easy way to check how effective they were.
The Penguin algorithm change in April 24th 2012 link-building was dealt a grievous blow to hit all those who had bought spurious and thin links from stray unrelated sites. Penguin focuses on the quality and relevance of those links.
This year Google has removed the easy accessibility of keywords in Analytics so that site owners could see how they were found organically. For any users of Analytics go to Acquisition, then Keywords then Organic. If 80%+ are coming up as unknown then you are already hit. What you might try is to extend the data range to the full year and then download the keywords shown. For some users this allows them to save some of the key words, which are now dark. But for most it doesn’t.
Why have Google done this?
Well because they can. They own the rules of the game and can change what they want in order to achieve their aim. Their aim is to put in front of the searcher the most relevant page from Google’s databases of pages which they believe, from Google’s understanding of the words entered, is most likely to answer it.
Key words and key word phrases have, as the number of web pages increased, also increased in order to be the most relevant page. Keywords will still be used in Adwords and pay per click advertising to trigger adverts and Google will still use and make available data to those purchasing adverts. Is this wrong? No because with everyone focusing on keywords as the way to optimise and then using Analytics to measure, the game has been corrupted. So no it’s not a breach of a tacit contract whereby Google gained the data on keywords via sites using Analytics and in return we got a free tool.
What can I do?
After gnashing your teeth at the loss of an easy to use tool, move on.
· There are a range of tools which measure the competitiveness of your pages on your defined search terms. Most have a limited free service, which may be more limited as they now need to pay more for Google data.
· If you use Analytics to see entry pages, you will have a good idea of the types of topics that interested your viewer. It is this focus on topics which has become more important. Google has just made it harder to cheat.
· Don’t continue to look for quick fixes as these are likely to break the rules or cause the rules to be changed as too many people pile in. The discipline of writing content around keyword phrases still applies. All that has been lost is the easy way to measure it.
Where Will We Be In 10 Years’ Time?
I first got interested in computers when I was very young, I was given a ZX80 for a birthday present by a friend who had recently upgraded their computer to a ZX81 the year was 1982 an I was hooked.
As I had no games or any other software for it I had no option but to make my own and as such I spent all my pocket-money buying books that listed the code that would create a new game. This normally meant spending hours typing in the code only to find that it didn't work!! this was a great way to learn, as it meant I learnt through trial and error I was also lucky in that two of my friends eventually got one so we would discuss programming at school or whenever we could.
My school had just started a computer club where we would not only play games (on the Vic 20) but also learn Basic, throughout my childhood I had just about every 8Bit PC you could get but the one I found the best ( at least the easiest to program ) was the BBC model B.
It was great and had a brilliant keyboard to type on, the syntax of their version of Basic was stunning.
When 16Bit PC's became the Norm, being able to turn the computer on and program started to get harder, you had to install a programming language, I found Atari's environment very unintuitive to use, and as such I started to lose interest in programming also (discovering women) didn't help either I suppose!
Everything changed for me in 1994 when the Internet first became accessible, and I fell in love with HTML, I read everything I could about it, this involved into Java and Java script and of course PHP, Perl and Python, the thought of being able to program a web page that was dynamic, showing the visitor information based on the content of a databases provided massive potential, so this then brought the need for learning database table structures and query languages.
It amazes me how many kids today use computers but have no understanding of how they work, my son for example takes IT at school, but he is not taught how to resolve software or technical issues but instead is only instructed on using software applications (based toward Microsoft Technology).
There are some great languages to get your children interested in programming a great one is Simple, and is based very roughly on AppleSoft, the Basic language found on Apple-II computers, and is aimed at younger children with no prior knowledge of programming, and another great one is Microsoft Visual Basic Express
This leads me to think, where will we be in the next 10 years? Languages will evolve and technology advances will be massive how is the next generation of programmers / technical support guys supposed to cut their teeth?
Perhaps things will get to a point where the syntax of languages evolves to such a point that you will code programs and web pages by describing them in perfect English.
Where will we be in 10 year’s time? I'm not sure where the futures heading but who knows HTML 5 looks great but HTML 12 may well be the holy grail of programming for the Web, but I doubt it.
Forest PC Repairs, 07541 573117
What would be the impact of an IT system failure in your business?
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