Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Concept of Managed Services

The term ‘managed services’ has become a buzz word in the technology field.  What it means is that we in the IT business have found a way for you to have the advantages of a large enterprise with its own in-house IT department.  Managed service providers (MSPs) have the software to monitor all of your systems remotely and continuously at a reasonable price.

What this really saves you is time. You no longer need to concern yourself about updates and patches.  The MSP handles those.  Routine maintenance items are handled, like defragging the hard drive, or cleaning out the old .tmp files.  These are things that can slow your systems’ performance.  These items, plus a hundred other things are monitored and managed without you even knowing it.  Your systems and network are kept operating as efficiently as possible.  Potential problems are caught and either corrected, or brought to your attention for action before they become actual problems.

It is essentially having your own IT department without all the expense of hiring and training and salaries and benefits.  This takes one more thing off your plate, and allows that time to be focused where it should be. On your business.

Beware of ‘Sneakware’

Have you opened up your internet browser recently only to find that there are two or three new toolbars installed?  Or perhaps there are new icons on your desktop and you have no idea where they came from?  This is Sneakware.

Companies are being paid to sneak their software on to our computers.  These are not small firms just trying to make a few extra bucks when you download a trial version of their game.  Now there are big firms doing the same thing, companies like Java, Adobe, and Yahoo.

Each time you update Java now it will try to load Google Chrome and the Google toolbar.  Installing the Yahoo toolbar brings with it four or five other programs that will interfere with your browser.

To prevent this we must all break a long held habit.  While you are installing software or updates, you have to pay attention to and read the license agreements.  Not every line and detail but enough to make sure you are agreeing to install only the software you want.  Read the text next to any radio buttons or check boxes.  Gone are the days when you could just click past all of these screens to get what you want.

This phenomenon will only get worse.  These companies are being paid for each program they can install on your system.  I am sure it pays well because we are seeing it more and more.  Paying close attention when you are installing a product will save you a lot of frustration in the long run.  Beware of Sneakware!O365 banner2

Marketing your Business without Breaking the Bank

Are you in the final stages of planning your Super Bowl commercial for this year?  Then this article is not for you.  Most of us don’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget.  So how do you get the word out about your business?  Go Guerilla!

Guerilla marketing is a term coined years ago to describe creative marketing ideas that are either low or no cost.  This is one area where the old adage “you get what you pay for” simply does not apply.   The payment you will make for most of these ideas is time, specifically your time.  Of course, if you wanted to work a 9-5, Monday through Friday schedule, you wouldn’t have started a business.  We will assume you started because you are passionate about what you do.  That passion can be turned into your greatest asset.

Now there are entire books written on this subject and by those who have much greater knowledge, but let me give you a few areas to perhaps get your campaign started.  The first way to market your business should always be community involvement.  Actively participating in the local Chamber of Commerce and other community groups will allow you to make personal contact with your potential customers.  Always have a good stock of business cards with you and trade them with the people you meet.  Make sure you save the cards you receive.  This can be the start of your ‘leads’ list.  This will allow you to form good mailing and emailing lists.

The next part of this type of personal marketing is to join networking groups.  Organizations such as AmSpirit, Synergy, Big Fish, and others, can provide you with solid business to business contacts and referrals.  The way AmSpirit works is to gather a group of business owners together.  The groups contain representatives from a good mix of business services.  There may be an accountant, a lawyer, a realtor, and insurance agent, an IT person, a financial planner, a marketing person, etc.  These groups meet once a week to discuss and exchange ideas on a variety of business issues.  They also exchange referrals.  The accountant may have a client who is in need of IT services so he would refer the client to the IT person.  The IT person may have a client who is complaining about their insurance costs.  That client is referred to the insurance agent.  These referrals are considered qualified leads.

Another type of Guerilla marketing is called viral marketing.  This encompasses the use of social media.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the rest can be effective tools to get your potential customers’ attention.  Make sure you are not just posting advertising content.  There is a reason we all fast forward through the commercials when watching content on the DVR.  Constant bombardment with sales messages becomes background noise quickly.  Try to offer your potential clients content of value.  Information and expert advice will keep them actually reading what you post.

A third type of marketing involves getting creative. Cross promotion can be very effective.  For example; say you run a home health company, specializing in keeping the elderly in their homes.  Make contact with a local doctor’s office.  Offer to exchange referrals for the ability to place information about your business in their waiting room.  Make sure you take some time to explain your business to the doctor’s staff, maybe over lunch one day.  Or, you run a pet store.  You might run a giveaway at a local theater.  Offer to give away a full aquarium setup to promote the new Aquaman movie (it’s only a matter of time).  Get movie posters to place in your store and have the theater gather the entries.  Make sure your entry form has name, address and email.  You get some advertising and grow your mailing lists at the same time.

These are just a few ideas you can do with little or no money.  You might also invite ideas from your staff.  You are already paying for their brainpower, take advantage of it.  They just might surprise you.

Are You Getting All the Speed You are Paying For?

We have all gotten annoyed at the internet from time to time.  It just seems to run slow.  My downloads aren’t fast enough.  This page is taking forever to load…  But is this a problem with your computer, your internet service, or the site you are surfing?  How do you tell?

There are a number of sites on the internet that will test the speed of your connection.  Go to your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, MSN, etc.) and enter ‘speed test’.  You can run the test over several of these sites and get an average.  They will give you a pretty good indication of both the download and upload speed of your internet connection.  Generally, your upload speed will be a fraction of your download speed.  This is usually fine unless you are hosting your own internet site.   We spend much more time downloading than uploading.

The type of service can greatly influence your speed as well.  Cable internet services are usually shared connections.  This is why they advertise speeds up to…  A cable company may allocate a certain bandwidth to a neighborhood, limiting your individual speed through the firmware in the router.   If your area is mainly residential, you may get better performance early in the morning or in the middle of the day when most people are at work.  You may notice (depending on the population of your area) that as soon as the kids get home from school your performance drops.  This is because you are all sharing the available bandwidth.  The internet becomes much like the highway during rush hour.  You should have better results for your business if your area is mainly businesses.

DSL type services, T-1, and T-3 lines on the other hand, promise dedicated bandwidth.  If you are paying for 10 Mbps service, you should always test at that level.  AT&T’s UVerse service is a DSL type service that is popular with small business.

So you have tested the speed.  If it is not within the range you have contracted, you need to contact your provider to come out and diagnose your problem.  If it is within that range, we need to look elsewhere.  The first place to check is your own computer.  Is it just the internet that is slow, or has the system’s total performance suffered?

If it is just internet performance the culprit may be your browser’s add-ons.  Add-ons are small programs that run with your browser.  Things like flash and java help interpret features on webpages.  Others like many of the toolbars, eat up parts of your bandwidth.  If you go to your browser settings (that sprocket looking thing), and click on internet options.  Go to the programs tab and about a third of the way down the window you will see ‘manage add-ons’.  Here you will be able to see the list of programs that run in the background with your browser.  A huge list can explain your slow performance.  Disable all the add-on toolbars.  Close the options window and try to surf.  If your performance is greatly improved, you have your culprit.

The other item to consider is the sites you are accessing.  You may have a 50 Mbps connection to the internet, but if the site you are accessing is on a host with a 10 Mbps connection that is the best you will do.  And if there are 100 people on the site at the same time, the performance is degraded further.

So the next time you notice your internet speeds seem to be slow, don’t just cuss out your Internet Service Provider.  Do a little testing and make sure you are getting what you are paying for.