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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Blogs Will Change Your Business

April 5th, 2006

This is one of the best articles on the importance of blogs to business that we’ve seen. It’s a bit dated but still a “must read” for any business owner who plans on developing or maintaining a profitable business in the 21st century.

BusinessWeek – Blogs Will Change Your Business By Stephen Baker and Heather Green

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least read these selected quotes:

“..you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because…[blogs are]…simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business — including yours. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping paper clips, pork bellies…blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.

“There are some 9 million blogs out there, with 40,000 new ones popping up each day.”

“The overwhelming majority of the information the world spews out every day is digital — photos from camera phones, PowerPoint presentations, government filings, billions and billions of e-mails, even digital phone messages.”

“Potential customers are out there, sniffing around for deals and partners. While you may be putting it off, you can bet that your competitors are exploring ways to harvest new ideas from blogs, sprinkle ads into them, and yes, find out what you and other competitors are up to.”

“They [blogs] represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art — like how to get other bloggers to link to them — they reach a huge audience.

“Any chance that a blog bubble could pop? The answer is really easy: no…the dot-com era was powered by companies — complete with programmers, marketing budgets, Aeron chairs, and burn rates. The masses of bloggers, by contrast, are normal folks with computers: no budget, no business plan, no burn rate, and — that’s right — no bubble.”

“‘Blogs are what’s causing the Web to grow,’ says Jason Goldman. He’s project manager at Google’s Blogger, the world’s biggest service to set people up as bloggers.”

“While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what’s on our minds. Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking.”

“In time, [RSS] aggregators could turn the Web on its head. Why? They discourage surfing as users increasingly just wait for interesting items to drop onto their page or e-mailbox. Internet advertising, which traditionally counts on page views and clicks, could be thrown for a loop. Already Yahoo is packaging ads on the feeds. Google is testing the waters.”

Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 4

February 1st, 2006

Today’s post is the last in a series of four. In Part 1 we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives, in Part 2 we talked about the importance segregating the data on your hard drive, and Part 3 covered external hard drives.

This concluding post emphasizes archiving your vital data. I recommend creating a special folder within your data folder hierarchy that contains your most important data – something akin to the type of important information you would store physically in a safe deposit box. I protect this data two ways:

  1. First, I periodically burn it on a DVD and keep it in a safe deposit box.
  2. Second I use an encrypted automated FTP backup service that automatically updates my critical files every evening. My company sells this service for less than $30 per year. Search for “online file folder” at RisingLineWeb.com.

These are worst case scenario precautions, if my office burns down my most important data is still secure.

So, in conclusion, you’ve got to have the mindset that your system will crash. So many people who’s life and livelihood are based in the millions of 0’s and 1’s that they’ve created on their PC’s fail to realize the likelihood of a catastrophic system failure and the impact it will have on their lives.

The strategies I mentioned are the only solutions, or even necessarily the best, but if you implement them you will have a multiple redundant system in place to recover your most important data.

Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 3

January 28th, 2006

In Part 1 we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives. In Part 2 we talked about the importance segregating the data on your hard drive.

This weeks strategy is about using an external hard drive for data backup. There are numerous options for dedicated external hard drives designed specifically for small office backup solutions, many that feature automated backup software. There are lots of good products on the market, but some of the better values I’ve found are from SimpleTech:

  • 160GB External USB 2.0 with backup software, 1 yr warranty ($96 at Costco.com at the time of this posting).
  • 500GB External USB 2.0 with 1 touch backup software, 3 yr warranty, Kensington lock bracket.($219 from Costco.com at the time of this posting).
  • 400GB SimpleShare Wireless NAS. It doesn’t seem to be listed on Costco.com but I saw this recently at a Costco store…it featured a 802.11 Network Attached Storage unit that could accept additional external hard drives, was
    priced at Costco at $389.00. More info can be found at simpletech.com

(Costco is one of my preferred suppliers for computer hardware peripherals because they have the most liberal return policy for computer hardware of any supplier of which I’m aware.)

Buying a dedicated hard drive backup solution allows most users to back up an entire drive, but really the critical files you want backed up are your data files. So, depending on how much data you actually have, a large external drive that backs up your whole drive (operating system, application files, and data files) might be overkill, especially if your already replicating your hard drives internally as mentioned in part 1 of this series.

Another, less expensive option, is to buy an external hard drive enclosure ($20-$40) in which you can mount a extra hard drive. If you’re like most small businesses, you probably have accumulated a small stack of these extra hard drives…just make sure the hard drive you pick was not orphaned because it had potential technical issues. External hard drive enclosures connect to your PC via USB or Firewire cable, and you can buy a software utility to automatically backup or just back up manually on a regular basis. As long as you’re not relying on this as your only backup it’s an inexpensive and effective option.

Ideally, you should physically move your external hard drive backup to a safe, or at least another room, when you’re away; or buy one with a Kensignton lock bracket (you’ll have to buy the Kensington cable lock separately). That way you’ll be more likely to retain your data backup if your PC is stolen.

Try searching for “hard drive enclosure” at Tiger Direct, or CDW.

Next weeks post: Remote data archiving for disaster recovery.

Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 2

January 14th, 2006

In part 1, we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives.

Today’s strategy is segregating the data on your hard drive. By keeping all your important data in a primary folder hierarchy you’ll be able to manage your important files more efficiently and reduce the risk of overlooking important
information that needs backed up.

You’ll want to make sure that your data is organized in under a single folder (like My Documents) and organize within that folder. For those who don’t know, there are three basic types of software on your computer: the operating system (e.g. Windows), application software (e.g. Word), and data files (the files that that you’ve created and want to protect).

You’ll need to take a look at your application software settings and insure that your data files created in those programs are stored in the folder you want, examples include your Outlook pst file, other Office applications, and your accounting software.

Next weeks post: Using an external hard drive backup.

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