May 30th, 2012

Every once in awhile an innovative technology comes along that completely changes both the way we interact with computers, and the dynamics of how we conduct business. The latest technology to do this is related to the cloud. Many of the popular programs we use have some cloud elements to them. The only problem is there’s a lot of confusing terminology that goes with this technology.

Here are 10 of the most common cloud terms and what they mean.

  • Cloud. Cloud is the general term applied to anything that uses the Internet to provide an end user (in most cases, you) a service. Your information is hosted on a company’s servers and is accessed via an Internet connection. A good way to think of it is it’s equivalent to ordering delivery from a restaurant. Say you want Thai food, but don’t have the ingredients, so you have someone else do all the work and bring it to you.
  • Cloud OS (operating system). A cloud operating system is an OS delivered via the Internet. The OS isn’t physically on your system, it’s located in a company's servers and you use a physical computer to access it. Windows Azure is an example of a cloud OS.
  • Cloud provider. A company that provides a cloud service, storage and servers, usually for a fee. Google is one of the most well known cloud providers.
  • Cloud storage. A cloud service that allows users to store data in another location, away from their computer, and access it using the Internet.
  • Disruptive technology. A technology that’s so different and innovative it changes the way things are done. The cloud is a disruptive technology as it’s changed the way business is being done.
  • Data center. What IT companies call the building where cloud servers are housed.
  • IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service. This is the term used to describe any virtualized service being offered to a user. This can include virtualized servers, maintenance and software.
  • PaaS - Platform as a Service. This term is used to describe any computing platform being offered over the Internet, normally the OS and related software. Google Chrome OS is considered to be a PaaS.
  • SaaS - Software as a Service. The term applied to a single piece of software that’s offered over the Internet. Users access the software using the Internet and don’t need to install it on their computer. Gmail is considered to be SaaS.
  • Client. Despite what many believe, the client is not the person who buys a cloud service. It’s what a user uses to access the cloud service. Computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones are all clients.
While there are many different cloud services out there, these terms are generally applied to all of them. If you’d like to learn more about the cloud and how you can utilize it in your business, please contact us.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web Trends
May 14th, 2012

With a large number of technological devices and access to an incredible amount of data, our collective attention span is shorter than ever. This has posed a serious issue for SMBs. A rising number of companies and app developers are taking popular concepts and elements used in video games and applying them to business situations with the goal of holding our attention.

The term to describe this trend is gamification, but what is it, and how can businesses use it?

What is gamification Gamification is the application of game design techniques and mechanics to non-game applications. Foursquare and its badges is a good example of this - users check in at locations to earn points, unlock badges and compete with their friends. Do they win anything? Nothing physical, but there’s something satisfying with competing with other people to be the best.

While gamification got its start with technological related operations, it has since been integrated by businesses of all sizes. Business that have adopted elements of gamification have seen improved user engagement and ROI.

How can businesses leverage gamification? Gamification is interesting because it can be applied in a variety of different business situations. For example, here are three such uses:

  • To increase employee engagement. It can be hard at times to keep your employees engaged while they’re doing mundane tasks. One of the most common uses of gamification is deploying badges to act as a motivator to encourage employees to put effort into their job. When an employee reaches a predetermined level they are recognized for their achievement. This will go a long way in improving engagement.
  • To create brand advocates. You can use gamification to turn your customers and fans into brand advocates. Before they start singing your praises, they need to be given a reason to do so. The best way to do this is to create a points/reward system. For actions such as purchases or reviews, customers gain points that can be spent on other services. Think of it as akin to the points system used by credit card companies.
  • To generate traffic. Many SMBs are dependent on their websites for revenue but struggle to get traffic to their site. Gamification techniques can be employed to encourage people to spend more time on, and return to, your website, almost like a modern loyalty program.
There are many uses for gamification and we’ll continue to see new and innovative ways to deploy it in organizations. If you’re interested in ways you can implement aspects of gamification in your business, or would like to learn more, we are here happy to sit down with you for a chat. Please contact us.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web Trends
April 10th, 2012

Maps have been integrated with great success into many businesses as a way to provide directions to customers. But what happens when a customer is looking at a map, and would like to know more about the businesses in the area? Before, they would have to close the map, open a new window and search. Now, there’s a new solution.

CityMaps is a novel new online map. At first look it appears similar to any other online map: streets, check; transport routes, check; geographic features, check. So, what sets it apart? Well, when you zoom in on a neighbourhood you don’t get a fancy street view, or outlines of buildings, you get a map populated with businesses.

What is CityMaps? Think of those city maps that we’ve all used while on vacation, the ones with restaurants, shops and tourist attractions, and that’s the basic idea of CityMaps. When you zoom in on an area, you will see icons and logos of businesses. Click on one and a popup window will open with the business name, contact information, pictures, related tweets, reviews, and more.

Essentially, it’s a tool to help you plan your next adventure in the city. If you’re out with your friends and looking for a place to go for dinner, you can search for nearby restaurants, look at reviews and deals, and finally: make a reservation, all from the app.

How will this help my business? With social integration, a business like yours can post a special offer on one of the many deal websites, and it will show up in CityMaps as an unobtrusive blinking green dollar sign. If someone tweets about your business, the tweet will show up on the map as well.

This program is a great example of good integration across social media and business. If a review is posted online, it’ll show up on the map. This can also be beneficial to your business as you will get near real-time feedback. CityMaps also encourages businesses to develop and maintain an Internet presence, while giving them a practically free way to literally put their name on the map.

Currently, the map is only available for New York, San Francisco and Austin. There’ll be more cities soon, but it’ll be a few years before every city in the US is on the map. So keep your eye on this program if you’re not in the three cities, as you’ll soon be able to take advantage of it.

If you would like to learn more about CityMaps, or other Web trends, please let us know, we are happy to help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web Trends
March 21st, 2012

Cloud computing is fairly new, which only means that there are still a lot of good things about it to be discovered and developed. Let’s take a look at some promising trends in the industry that are poised to make cloud computing even better than it is right now.

Anyone who tells you that the cloud has reached a peak is definitely mistaken. While cloud computing is already a powerful IT service that has made a positive difference in the way businesses operate—especially small and medium sized ones—there are still many aspects of it that are continuously being improved and developed.

Better security One of the major trends in cloud services is improvements in the security aspect. Businesses trust cloud providers with important and sensitive data, and with cyber-attacks becoming more frequent and clever, vendors have to step up their security protocols and keep clients’ data safe.

Wider integration and compatibility As it stands, there are still several issues between clouds (especially public ones) and an enterprise's systems, which limits the connectivity and data exchange between users. The same can be said for the current standards being used, which have the tendency to be very vendor-centric. The trend now is to reverse this, and provide better connectivity and data sharing, as well as less vendor-centric standards for better compatibility and integration.

A more ‘solid’ cloud It’s unfortunate, but expected, that there are service providers who are hitching onto the increasing popularity of cloud computing by offering half-baked cloud services. As time progresses, expect to see a better definition—which will reflect in the service provided—of what cloud computing can and cannot do.

As expected of any emerging technology, cloud computing has a ways to go before it reaches its peak. Expect to hear better things about the cloud in the coming months and years as businesses continue to maximize the potential of cloud computing, and vendors and service providers constantly find ways to improve what is already a fantastic concept.

If you are interested in knowing more about cloud services and what it can do for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can address your specific inquiries and concerns.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web Trends
March 11th, 2012

With the integration of business and the Internet, business reputations are built or destroyed online. While you can’t control all of what ends up online about your company, there are many ways to manage how it affects your or your company’s reputation.

Reputation is important to all businesses. If your business does not have a good reputation, it’s almost certain that you are scaring away customers. In the past it was easy to judge the reputation of your business: all you had to do was ask the local population what they thought. With the advent of the Internet and, more specifically, social media, your reputation has gone online, and is easily observed and influenced by many millions.

Your online reputation can be tricky to measure and manage, but it can be done effectively. Here are some tips for getting started.

Be Aware of Your Internet Presence Many companies have pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. The only problem is that they don’t spend time maintaining them. It’s a well known fact that when a customer wants to find information on your company, they are not going to call you. They will Google you, or check you out on Facebook, Linkedin, or another social media outlet. It’s important that you know exactly where and how your business appears on these websites.

How to Assess Your Presence It’s a good idea to do a web search using keywords pertaining to your business on the major search engines. Simply enter these keywords into the search engine:

  1. Your name
  2. Your company’s name
  3. Your main product or service
  4. High profile employees, past and present
  5. User names
Record the results of each search. It’s important to look for the number of negative responses, indifferent responses, and responses in which your company is not mentioned. If you have a large number of negative responses, especially in the top results, you need to work on improving your reputation. If you have lots of results with no information, it’s time to start getting your name out there.

When searching, take note: Due to the increasing personalization of search engines it’s best to log out of all your accounts, and turn off personalized search. When searching for your company, the majority of users will enter a keyword and normally only look at the first few pages of results, so be sure to review the first three pages of your search results.

Protect yourself You may have the Social Media side covered, but what about your URL? Be sure to buy not only the direct URL of your company’s name, but also any related URLs for your company. For example, if your company has a unique product, buy the URL under that name. This is important not only in helping people find you, but also in preventing a disgruntled customer or employee from buying a similar URL and creating a website to slander you and damage your reputation.

Be Proactive With Your Presence It’s important that once you know your reputation, you are proactive about monitoring and improving it. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours each week searching for your company online. Tools such as Google Alerts help you automatically track result changes based on keywords, and website such as Technorati allow you to quickly search for keywords across many blogs and set up alerts for new mentions.

You should also be involved in industry blogs, monitoring them regularly and becoming part of the “conversation” in your industry. Try to establish a strong presence in your industry by showing how knowledgeable you are. You can also encourage employees to share company news and act as brand ambassadors by empowering them to be open with their thoughts on the company. With careful management, they can be a powerful brand tool.

Be Accountable If you come across negative reviews or posts about your company, consider objectively what is being said. While some people are simply out there to harm the company, many others will be more than willing to discuss what you have done wrong, or at least provide some feedback. It’s also a good idea to be proactive and set up a FAQ section on your website that covers the most commonly asked questions as well as negative issues, such as: “What do I do if I am unhappy with my product or service?”

Use a Social Media Management Company Small business owners like yourself may not have the time to manage your reputation effectively, or the money to hire a full-time staff member to manage it for you. What you can do is to work with a company that specializes in reputation management, allowing you to concentrate on your business. Online Reputation Management has become big business, and will continue to be a major trend in 2012 and beyond.

It’s important to keep up with your reputation management because the success of your company is directly affected by it. There are many ways to improve and manage your reputation, but positive changes won’t happen overnight. If you have questions about reputation management and would like to learn more, please contact us.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Web Trends