Consumers Demand More from Mobile Web Surfing

On January 30, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

In an interview with O’Reilly Radar writer Mac Slocum, Joshua Bixby, president of Strangeloop, said that the days in which consumers were happy to just be able to connect to the Web with their mobile devices are long gone. Today, the owners of smart phones and tablets demand that Web pages load quickly on their mobile devices and that these pages include all the bells and whistles of a full Web experience.

And, Bixby told Slocum, those companies that can provide this experience are the ones poised to thrive. And those that can’t? They’ll fade away.

Web, mobile Web no longer separate entities

As Bixby says in the interview, the Web and the mobile Web can no longer be considered two separate entities. Today’s consumers expect their Web experience to be just as smooth and complete whether they’re reading a forum on their laptop or reading a newspaper on their smart phone.

Of course, what’s most interesting is that the smart phone market is still so young. As prevalent as these devices appear to be, the truth is that the vast majority of consumers still don’t own smart phones. Bixby cites this stat in the O’Reilly Radar story: 155 million U.S. mobile phone users aren’t using smart phones.

The smart phone revolution

Bixby says that this stat shouldn’t prevent developers from creating a rich mobile Web experience. Change happens quickly when it comes to technology, and new mobile users are picking up smart phones before they experiment with lesser mobile models. Many of these new tech users, then, will do the vast majority of their Web browsing through smart phones or other mobile devices.

Too much focus on apps?

Today, Bixby says, too many developers are focusing on apps rather than their own Web sites. This can lead to problems. Bixby points to this example: Users, while accessing their Twitter feeds through a tablet or smart phone, click on a link to a story that interests them. However, instead of the link taking these users directly to the news story, it takes them to a page that demands that they download the news site’s app. Those users who actually do this, and don’t skip this step, are then taken to the news site’s home page and not the location of the actual story they wanted to read. To get to that story, they’ll then have to go back to their Twitter feed to find the original link.

This, Bixby says, is a good example of developers missing an opportunity to take true advantage of mobile devices.

It’s clear that Web sites that don’t create a good experience for mobile users will miss out on traffic and customers. Consider Bixby’s interview a wake-up call.


Mobile Marketing 101: What Your Business Needs to Know

On January 28, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Your business already boasts its own interactive Web site. You run a busy blog promoting your company and its services. You Tweet your followers whenever your business is holding special sales or launches a new service or product. Your business’s Facebook page is steadily adding followers.

Unfortunately, to reach today’s consumers, all that isn’t enough. You must also master mobile marketing.

Mobile marketing matters

For time-strapped business owners, this might seem like one too many ways in which to reach consumers. However, today’s customers rely extensively on their smart phones and tablets. If you want to reach them, you have to make sure that they are receiving your marketing messages on their mobile devices.

There are several ways to do this. The most important is to develop a Web site that is optimized for mobile devices. Far too many businesses today boast highly interactive Web sites that look great on a computer screen but cluttered and messy on a tablet or smart phone.

Optimize your site for mobile

And that’s unfortunate. What happens when customers on the road seek an Italian restaurant near them? They’ll log onto your Web site, struggle to read the particulars on their smart phone or tablet, and then search for an alternative, a competitor who might have a Web site that fits nicely in the confines of the smaller screens common to mobile devices.

Savvy businesses today operate both standard and mobile-optimized Web sites, giving consumers the option to visit their mobile sites when they’re accessing them through smart phones or tablets.

Offer your customers value

Business owners can also send short text messages advertising their business and services to mobile devices. It’s important, though, to make sure that your customers actually want this service. You can, for instance, ask your customers to sign up for mobile messages through your Web site. Usually, you’ll have to entice your customers to sign up. You might, for instance, offer savings and discount opportunities in the mobile messages you send out. A beauty salon might send a message to clients that all perms will be 15 percent off on a specific date. A fast-food restaurant might send a message that French fries are free to all mobile customers with an order of $15 or more.

In short, customers don’t want their smart phones and tablets flooded with marketing messages. But if these messages actually offer them something worthwhile – first crack at a newly released movie or book, a discount on their next purchase – your customers will come to appreciate the value in them.


We’ve all had this experience: We log onto our computers at work and something’s not working. Maybe we aren’t receiving our e-mail messages. Maybe our Web browser has slowed to a crawl. Maybe the computer crashes every 10 minutes.

Whatever the problem, it makes it impossible for you to complete your work. You now have one option: You have to call your IT department. Unfortunately, that can sometimes cause as many headaches as does your current computing problem.

Be honest: It’s not always easy to communicate with your IT department personnel. The staffers working in IT obviously know a whole lot more about computers, Web browsing and general technology than you do. Because of this, it sometimes sounds as if your company’s IT personnel are speaking a different language. And when this happens, it’s not always easy to effectively communicate your computer problem so that you can receive quick results.

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to make sure that your IT department clearly understands your problem. Once clear communication is established, your IT pros can quickly and effectively repair your ailing computer.

No reason to be intimidated

First, don’t be intimidated. Yes, that IT worker knows more about your computer than you ever will, but remember, you know more about your specialty, too, whether it be the law, accounting, sales, or marketing.

Screen shots

Secondly, take screen shots when you can. If you can show your IT personnel exactly what has gone wrong with your computer, they’ll more easily be able to tackle the problem. If you can’t do that, try to replicate the problem in front of IT workers when they arrive at your desk. If certain actions, for instance, cause your computer to crash, perform those actions – causing the crash – while your IT workers are standing at your desk.

A written report

Finally, keep a written report of your problems. If you notice that the same problems are taking place whenever you check your messages, log onto the company’s Intranet site or visit Google, write this down in a notebook. Make a new entry every time the problem reappears. This, too, will help you better communicate your computing issues with your IT personnel.

Communicating with your IT workers doesn’t have to be an intimidating or frustrating experience. Just follow these simple rules, and you’ll be back computing at full strength in no time.


Don’t Let Your Competitors Set Your Agenda

On January 21, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Even the biggest tech powerhouses make the occasional business mistake. And one of the most frequent? They let their competitors set their agendas.

Take Google. Google remains the undisputed search engine king. It’s also one of the most powerful companies in the world, but that hasn’t stopped Google from trying unsuccessfully to become the next Facebook.

Facebook takes Google to school

Facebook has already established itself as the leading force in social media. Google thought that it should hold that title, so it launched Google+, its own social networking program.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Google+. It boasts some nifty features, especially in the tweaks it offers for business owners. But Google+ is not Facebook. Consumers are simply used to Facebook. They prefer to use the service for their social media needs. Google attempted to break into Facebook’s turf by offering a product that’s not really needed.

It hasn’t worked. Google+ remains a distant afterthought in the world of social media.

An Internet search mistake

Microsoft knows the feeling of falling into this same trap. As everyone knows, Google remains the top dog in the world of Internet search. This hasn’t changed since Microsoft launched Bing, its own Internet search engine.

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Bing. The search program does a good job finding information. And it, too, comes with some nice features. Unfortunately, Google search is still better. It’s easier to use. It’s familiar. And it’s quick. There’s no real reason for consumers to make the switch from Google search to Bing.

Learn from Google, Microsoft mistakes

You can learn from the mistakes made these two tech giants. Focus on improving what you already do. For instance, instead of targeting social media, Google should concentrate on improving its search, e-mail, and online documents servers. These are already successful offerings, and Google can gain even more followers by making them stronger.

Follow this example. Don’t be distracted by what your competitors are doing. Your job is to make the services and products at which you already excel even stronger.


Getting the Most out of Gmail

On January 15, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Gmail, Google’s e-mail system, is steadily growing in popularity. This isn’t a surprise; Google hasn’t developed too many products that prove unpopular with consumers.

But are you using Gmail to its fullest potential?

You aren’t if you’re not using these tips to get the most out of your Gmail account:

Label your messages: Is your e-mail inbox overflowing with messages from friends, co-workers, bosses, and family members? It can prove difficult to keep track of these messages. Fortunately, Gmail allows you to add brightly colored labels to your messages to better keep track of your inbox.

For instance, you can slap a bright red “Urgent” label to all messages that you need to address quickly. You can put a blue “Vacation” label on e-mail messages relating to hotel reservations, car rentals, and other vacation-planning activities. If you’re conducting a job search, e-mails from prospective employees and networking contacts might include a purple “Job search” label.

Free up space with archiving: Is the number of e-mails in your inbox fast approaching the 5,000 mark? Then it might be time to archive your messages. This nifty feature from Google allows you to place messages that you don’t need right now but don’t want to delete to the “All Mail” folder. Unlike messages that you place in “Trash,” e-mails archived in “All Mail” don’t disappear forever after 30 days.

Add a signature: Tired of typing your name, phone number, and e-mail address at the bottom of each of your Gmail messages? Why not create an e-mail signature? Gmail allows you to save signatures that you can then simply drop into the bottom of your messages. This is a great time saver for anyone who writes dozens of e-mail messages during an average day.

Filter your incoming messages: Gmail also allows you to create filters that can automatically label, archive, delete, or forward specific incoming messages. By choosing the “Filter messages like this” option from Gmail’s “More” drop-down menu, you can tell Gmail to automatically apply the “Job Search” label to any messages that include the words resume, apply, career or job. You can tell Gmail to automatically send all messages with the words “hotel,” “car rental,” or “reservation” to your Gmail “Vacation” folder.


Got questions? These Three Sites Have Answers

On January 13, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

It’s human nature to question. After all, if we never wondered about the world around us, how would we ever be inspired to create?

Fortunately, if you have questions, the Internet has answers. The Web is filled with sites dedicated to answering any question that might pop into your head.

Here, though, is a look at three of the sites that can best answer your most pressing questions.

Quora: The designers behind Quora boast that the site connects you to everything you want to know about. And that’s not an empty boast.

If you have a question, you can log onto Quora to get answers from people who share your interests. This often means that doctors, lawyers, economists, screenwriters, and police officers are providing your answers.

As an example, a dietitian might answer your question about how to eat healthy without grains. A long-distance runner might answer your query about how to best prepare for a marathon in chilly temperatures.

Ask MetaFilter: Ask MetaFilter operates under the concept that there are plenty of experts out there with the answers to just about any question you might have. It’s an intriguing concept and, surprisingly, Ask MetaFilter usually does provide reliable answers to questions.

The questions on this site are broken into various categories, everything from human relations to technology to health to law and government.

On a recent visit to the site, for instance, people were asking when the fifth season of Mad Men will become available on iTunes Canada. Others asked more philosophical questions. One user, for instance, asked how mature she could possibly be when she considers the best way to make friends is to have the same enemies.

StackExchange: StackExchange is a relative newcomer to the online question-and-answer game. It is made up of a network of 85 question-and-answer sites, though, so it certainly boasts the breadth and depth that you’d want whether you have a question about your dog’s incessant barking or the meaning behind that Nietzsche quote.

The site has certainly become popular. It already has 1.7 million users and has provided 7.1 million answers to 3.4 million questions.

Best of all? StackExchange’s question-and-answer sites, broken into those serving fans of science fiction and fantasy, database users, cartographers, Web designers, chefs, gaming junkies, and everyone else, are free and open to all users.


Four Options for Sharing Big Files

On January 8, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

We’ve all faced the same problem: we need to send large photos, complex PDF reports or videos to friends, family members or co-workers. Unfortunately, these files are so big that they can clog even the fastest e-mail system.

There is good news: There are plenty of programs – many of which are free – that you can use to send large files with ease.

Here are four of the most popular:


YouSendIt’s cloud-based online storage allows users to share everything from gigantic pictures to videos for free. The service is known for how easy it is to use.

YouSendIt also gives users control over their large files. For instance, they can set expiration dates for these files and control who can and can’t access them.


DropSend operates in much the same way as YouSendIt. DropSend, though, offers file-sharing programs in a variety of option.

For instance, you can choose DropSend Lite, which is free. This version allows you to send five files a month. The basic version of the program costs $5 a month, and allows you to send 15 files a month. The business version — $99 a month – allows users to send an unlimited number of files each month.


SugarSync has grown in popularity along with the rise in smart phones and tablet computers. That’s because users can create a SugarSync account that instantly saves their files on all their devices at once – everything from their smart phones to their desktop computers to their tablets.

SugarSync also allows users to provide access to these large files to specific users. It’s an easy way to allow family members or co-workers to view movies, pictures and other big files without the use of e-mail.


Dropbox, too, has become a must-have program for mobile computing. Like SugarSync, it allows you to instantly store files on all of your devices at once. It also comes in both free and paid varieties.


Avoid the Most Common PowerPoint Mistakes

On January 6, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

PowerPoint presentations are the vacation slide shows of the business world: we’ve all sat through boring ones that seemed to last forever.

Fortunately, there are several tips that you can follow to avoid creating a PowerPoint presentation that bores your co-workers. This is important: You create PowerPoint presentations to spread your message, promote products and achieve results.

You can’t do this if no one’s paying attention to them.

Don’t Forget the Creativity

As the writers at Microsoft’s Business Hub say, PowerPoint doesn’t give you permission to get lazy. You still have to be creative if you want to develop a winning presentation that grabs the attention of your audience.

This means that you can’t let PowerPoint’s ease of use trick you into thinking that you don’t have to come up with compelling content. Just because you can create an endless series of text-filled slides doesn’t mean that you should.

So don’t. Come to your sales pitch or company meeting armed with interesting and useful information. Don’t just slap some sales numbers on a series of slides. Instead, explain what these numbers mean.

Come with Solutions

You’ll also want to come armed with ways in which your company’s employees can improve these sales numbers.

Another fault of many PowerPoint presentations: they provide information. But they don’t provide useful strategies for how employees can use that information to better the company’s performance.

If your PowerPoint presentation shows that sales are down, make sure you follow up with your own suggestions on why sales have fallen and what the company can do to boost them. If sales are up? Provide information on how your company can maintain its momentum.

Don’t Get Too Fancy

As TrainSignal Training says, it is possible to get too creative with PowerPoint. Many managers clutter their slides with unnecessary photos and graphics. Others stuff charts that are too small to read on their slides. Still others add moving images that do little other than distract.

Don’t fall into this trap. The best way to convey a business message is to do it as directly and simply as possible.

And don’t simply fill your PowerPoint slides with the same words that you’re going to read aloud to your audience. You’re not in the first grade. Your audience doesn’t want to read along while you repeat every word that’s on your PowerPoint slides.

PowerPoint remains a powerful business tool. But it’s one that is easy to misuse. Don’t make the mistake of creating a PowerPoint presentation that turns off your audience.


Squeeze More Life Out of Your Aging Servers

On January 1, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Companies today rely heavily on the power of their servers. Unfortunately, servers have relatively short life spans. This means that businesses must frequently make the difficult, and costly, decision to junk their old servers and replace them with newer, faster versions.

However, if your company is running short on dollars, there is some good news. Even old servers often have more life in them than we suspect. By taking some fairly simple steps, companies can squeeze some extra years out of their aging fleet of servers.

The technology Web site TechRepublic listed some tips for managers hoping to prolong the lives of their servers. Following these tips won’t prevent you from ever having to replace your aging servers, but they will help you put off the replacements for as long as possible.

Turn old servers into network-attached storage devices: TechRepublic points out that businesses can purchase inexpensive software that can turn their old servers into network-attached storage devices that businesses can use as back-up servers.

The only products that your IT pros will need are that software, NASLite-2 CDD, and some large drives. This combination can transform that aging, inefficient server into a powerful back-up server.

Old servers and disk imaging: IT professionals know how important it is to have up-to-date disk clones, known as ghost images, of important machines. However, as TechRepublic points out, it can be challenging finding storage space for these large images.

This is another area in which an old server can come in handy. By adding large drives to an old server, your company’s IT professionals can easily store images in your business’ old servers.

Testing, testing: Finally, consider transforming your aging servers into test servers. As TechRepublic says, your IT professionals won’t the most current specs when they’re using a server strictly for testing purposes. With just a bit of extra RAM, IT pros can use old servers to test new applications or new server offerings.

In today’s challenging financial environment, companies are looking for a variety of ways to save money. Squeezing more life out of aging servers is one very powerful way to cut costs.