Google’s ‘Earth Ring’ of Internet Balloons

On November 18, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

Last year, Facebook announced that it was working on building a fleet of solar powered flying wing drones that would slowly transverse the globe, firing internet at the people below. No wires? No problem. The idea isn’t that people in Silicon Valley need something cool to look at out the window (in most cases that’s a part of their compensation package anyway). No, it’s the fact that developing nations, mountainous regions and hard-to-reach places suffer from a lack of internet and a lack of infrastructure to deliver it with. Sooner than building a mesh of antiquated copper cabling it makes sense to just hop straight to mobile, as Africans are increasingly doing. And since many of those places are non-cell tower friendly too, mobile from above was the logical choice; the utility of satellite uplink without the crippling expense.

When the story came out, most folks just rolled their eyes: another day, another jetpack out of California. But the guys at Alphabet, or the-artist-everyone-still-calls-Google, thought they could go one better.

In a move the looks a bit like the Google playbook was maybe authored by HG Wells, Alphabet are planning to put suborbital balloons up across the globe to… well, to fire internet at you from the skies, of course. Google wants those mountain pass dwellers, rural heartlanders and developing-nation entrepreneurs too.

The project, named ‘Loon,’ is to be tested next in Indonesia, and is expected to supply the country with 4G-like internet speed (Source: Considering that Indonesia currently has some of the slowest internet in the world, that’s quite an upgrade. Why does Indonesia have such slow internet? Because the whole country qualifies as ‘hard to reach’ – there are as many Indonesians as Americans, but the country is spread across more than 18,000 islands. Cable’s not really in the race here.

Google’s helium-filled reflective Loon balloons will float at about 12 miles high, well into the stratosphere, and will have to be replaced every 100 days or so. Each balloon will cover a ground area of about 25 square miles, so there will need to be quite a few of them – but one day, there will be many more. After success in Sri Lanka last year and with agreements with Indonesia’s 3 biggest telecoms companies already signed (Source: Google), Loon project director Mike Cassidy one day hopes to ‘make a continuous string [of balloons] around the world.’ (Source: BBC News.)


Top 7 marketing CRMs for small business

On November 11, 2015, in Business Technology, by Staff Contributor

CRM – Customer Relationship Management – is a vital business tool. But small businesses need a Swiss Army knife, not a toolbox – integrated tools that can do multiple jobs with minimal human input free staff for more business critical tasks. So a great small business CRM should offer more than sales. Marketing, CRM, project management and analytics can all come in one package if you know where to look.

Here are 7 of the best!

1: Intercom

$49/mo and up

Offering analytics and customer communication as well as CRM functionality, Intercom is an ideal choice for ecommerce stores or businesses seeking to market to contacts they already have. If you have a lot of time-sensitive, online leads, Intercom is for you; if most of your business processes take place offline, not so much.

2: Infusionsoft

$199/mo up to $599/mo

A legend in the industry, Infusionsoft is a one-stop business app. Everything from lead generation through project management, sales and analytics mean you can run a whole business out of the Infusionsoft box. Which is a good thing, because Infusionsoft isn’t cheap. It’s best suited to midsize businesses that want to automate a lot of their marketing.

3: Jumplead

Free – $159/mo

Jumplead excels at geographic and onsite location and customer behavior tracking. So if you’re a local ecommerce business or your business model features a blend of online and physical sales this could be the marketing CRM for you.

4: AgileCRM

Free – $47.99/mo

AgileCRM has one of the widest range of integrations on this list. And it’s all built on top of a sturdy, adaptable sales CRM. Marketing functionality includes social listening and email campaigns and onsite and email reports, while you’ll also find lead management tools and commerce payment integration.

5: Hubspot


Hubspot’s CRM is totally free, despite bulging with integrations and pretty serious functionality. Upgrade to full Hubspot for $800/mo and get the industry standard business suite. Everything Google Analytics offers you is bundled right in with easy landing-page and email creators, Sidekick integrated contact integration and more.

6: Zoho CRM

$12 – $35/mo

Part of Zoho’s modular business software suite, Zoho CRM gives a complete buying-cycle view that’s invaluable for the kind of 10, 000ft perspective you need to make great marketing decisions. Mass emails, marketing customization and reports and CRM functionality come with the Standard plan; upgrade to pro for social CRM functionality that automates social presence centrally and go for Enterprise for custom modules, Adwords integration and more.

7:Call Tracking Metrics


Turns out, not everyone’s business lives online. Some bricks and mortar businesses need to be far more about their phone lines. Call Tracking Metrics sets out to offer the same facilities as other names on this list but for physical businesses that live on the phone.