The Werks is an IT related commentary bringing you the unvarnished truth steeped in a vat of reality. The information contained herein is the opinion and rantings of a 30+ year veteran of the IT industry. This will hopefully give you helpful knowledge untainted by any specific vendor focused kool-aide. Occasionally, you may find that this collection of brain droppings will also give you the laugh you needed to make it through another day locked in the IT gulag. Read-on, brave soldier!
Many SMB owners think IT downtime only costs them a few productive hours, but there’s a lot more at stake when your systems go down. Customer satisfaction and loss of brand integrity are just two of the key losses apart from the more evident costs such as lost productivity and a temporary dip in sales.
Here’s a few other ways downtime can hurt your business:
1. Customer Loss - Today’s buyer lacks patience; They are used to getting everything at the click of a mouse, at the tap of a finger. Suppose they are looking for the kind of products/services that you offer and your site doesn’t load or is unavailable—even if temporarily-- you are likely to lose them to a competitor—permanently.
2. Damage to Brand Reputation - Customers are now using Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogs to vent their bad brand experiences. Imagine an irate customer who doesn’t know if their card was charged on your site, or not, due to a server error. If it’s your bad day, they could probably be using Facebook or Twitter to share their bad experience, and it could be viewed by hundreds of people, causing irreparable harm to your brand image.
3. Loss of Productivity - When your systems don’t work, this can have a direct impact on your employees’ productivity. Consider a research firm of 200 employees where they primarily rely on internet connectivity to access the knowledge base. If the server hosting the knowledge base is down, there’s a total loss of at least 1600 work hours for one day.
4. Overtime, Repair and Recovery, Compensatory costs - In the above case, imagine the overtime wages the business would have to incur if they were to make up for the work loss they faced owing to downtime. In addition, there’s always the cost of repair—the money the business would have to shell out to fix the issue that caused the downtime and get the server up and running again.
In some cases, businesses would have to incur additional costs to make customers happy. These could include giving away the product for free or at a discount, or using priority shipping to make up for a delayed order.
5. Possible Lawsuits - Businesses could also be at the receiving end of lawsuits. For example, a downtime that has an impact on production, delivery or finances of the customer could invite litigation.
6. Marketing Efforts Rendered Useless - Consider a pay-per-click advertisement that shows up for the right keywords on Google, or an extensive e-mail campaign that your business engages in. However, when the prospect clicks on the link, all they see is an error message - Isn’t that a waste of your marketing budget?
The bottom line—one natural disaster, one technical snag or just one power outage has the power to put you out of business - both virtually and in reality. It’s probably time to think about how you can mitigate the threat of a possible downtime and whether your MSP can act as an effective and efficient ally in this battle for you.
Did you know that this year there will be more mobile web surfers than stationary ones? That means more prospects are accessing your business website more through their smart phones, tablets or other mobile devices than with a laptop or PC. If you thought you had time to make the switch this year, you may want to reconsider in light of new research. A recent study revealed that around 40% of prospects move on to a competitor if they have a poor mobile experience. How prepared is your business for this change? Well, if you are just starting out, the following checklist will help...
1. Make sure your mobile site is different from your regular website - While you must stick to your branding standards, your mobile website should be simpler than your web version. The reason being is that complicated designs that load well and look good on computers are often distorted when accessed through a mobile device. Plus, mobile surfers don’t really have the time to sift through a lot of content. Bottom line: your website’s mobile friendly version should be short, simple and sweet...offering your viewers the most important and basic sections of your website.
2. Option to access the actual website - That said, do provide your viewers with the option to access your regular website through their mobile device, as some viewers will prefer to stick with what is familiar.
3. Sitemap - Whether it’s your actual website or the mobile version, make sure you have a sitemap in place. A sitemap just makes it easier for your viewers to navigate through the site.
4. Get rid of flash - Most mobile devices don’t support flash. Keep this in mind when optimizing your website for the mobile surfer. Simple images that load fast are your best bet.
5. Testing - Make sure you test your mobile website thoroughly on different operating systems, browsers and devices. What looks good on one device might be totally distorted on another.
You could also develop a mobile application instead of a website, but most SMBs find that option too expensive and complicated. So, for now, put the 5 tips mentioned above into use and get your mobile-friendly website into action...
In an age where most business happens online, not showing up in Google search results can really hurt you. While there’s no real shortcut to showing up consistently on web searches, there are a few quick fixes to get your site to show up on your potential customer’s search results...
1. HTML tags - Important HTML tags include the title tag, meta description and meta keywords. Make sure each page of your website has appropriate HTML tags. The title tag of each page should be unique and relevant to that particular page.
2. Alternative text images - Ensure that most of the images on your website have alternative text tags. Alt tags are basically descriptions for images. By adding relevant alternative tags to images, you are allowing search engines to recognize them, which will improve the likelihood of your page showing up in search results.
3. File hierarchy - How simple is your HTML file hierarchy? Check to see if your website’s pages are logically situated and avoid too many unnecessary folders. For example: ‘NFL=>Teams=>PittsburghSteelers’ is a better folder structure than ‘NFL=>Teams=>NFCEast=>PittsburghSteelers’, because here ‘NFCEast’ is redundant and only serves to push the Steelers page deeper down the order. This complexity makes your site less likely to show up on search results for people searching for Steelers websites.
4. Sitemap - A sitemap acts as a navigational guide for your visitors as well as search engines. Does your website have one? If not, then it’s time to put up a site map on your website.
5. Content quality - Read your website content to determine its quality. Is your content written for search engines or actual visitors? Is it stuffed with keywords? Does it truly add value to your audience, or is simply there to fill up the page? Answer these questions and make sure it has value for your audience. Value for your audience translates to better search engine rankings.
1. Backup Files Every Day - As catastrophic as data loss is, the number of businesses that still are not backing up their network is unbelievable. According to the Symantec Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data on a daily basis and fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. Any number of events can result in data loss, so the importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.
2. Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly - Many times business owners think that they have a backup system in place only to find out after it’s too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like your files are being backed up daily, however, the backup could have become corrupt or it is not backing up huge chunks of critical data. Check your backup procedures regularly to ensure they are working properly in order to be sure that ALL of your data can be recovered. In the age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on your employee’s personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys, so make sure you have a procedure in place to check those backups as well.
3. Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled - Far too many companies either have no virus protection, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and unreputable websites. Further, because of inadequate firewall protection about 40% of small to medium businesses will have their network accessed by a hacker. Chances are, when these businesses are attacked they will be entirely unaware it is happening. In order to protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact. Finally, don’t forget to update security patches and change passwords when an employee leaves in order to deter hacking attempts.
4. Monitor Server Drives - Dangerously full server drives can bring their own set of problems - ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server can spare your business a lot of problems down the road.
5. Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs - Very few problems with technology emerge suddenly. These problems typically progress over time and evolve into more serious problems. Frequently review your critical built-in log files to help identify the problem before it has gotten out of control and wreaks havoc on your business infrastructure.