Friday, January 24, 2014

I was recently asked "what is cloud technology. Isn't that like Google Docs?" and the simple answer is yes. Although we're seeing new cloud computing initiatives and offering appearing everyday (such as Google Docs, iCloud, Azure, and Office 365), cloud computing is nothing new.
So why now you may ask?
Cloud computing has been around for quite some time, and has been a long time in the making. There have been a variety of catalysts over the past few years which have encouraged the momentum of cloud computing.
  • The first and most prevalent one is Internet Access. Access to the web is ubiquitous and high speed Internet access is becoming more and more accessible as time progresses.
  • As Moore's law predicted, processing speed has continued to double every 18 months which has resulted in higher density storage and process speeds continue to increase.
  • The cost of bandwidth is continuing to decrease. As the cost of Internet access and utilisation continue to decrease the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of cloud services decreases.
  • As IT technologies mature, service reliability continues to increase; meaning that large IT systems now have various levels of redundancy built-in which reduces or eliminates services outages in the event of a failure.
So what's the big deal?
Cloud computing introduces a significant paradigm shift in the way IT solutions are designed. IT solutions which live in the cloud no longer rely heavily on infrastructure back in your server room. This infrastructure is now offloaded to the service provider. You will now have the ability to roll out and modify applications faster, at a lower cost, with less training, and less effort is required to support these applications than traditional in-house / on-premises applications.
My blog is currently focusing on one such on-premises system, Exchange. For many years my role was as a systems administrator, looking after the IT Infrastructure for a variety of organisations, ranging from small businesses and educational institutes, to remote mining operations and off-shore oil and gas providers. And during that time I always looked at the Exchange box as a ticking time bomb. Every time something went wrong, it cost thousands and everybody yelled!
Exchange typically requires a high-end server that consumed a lot of resources, electricity, licensing costs. Not to mention antivirus and spam filter maintenance, complicated backup and recovery operations, monitoring staff mailbox utilisation, plus all the security headaches. It cost thousands per year in cash to keep the system working well, and a portion of my time every week monitoring and tweaking to keep things healthy.
This makes Exchange an excellent candidate for organisations to "hand-ball" off to someone else to look after - "hand-ball" it out into the cloud. With cloud services, organisations only need to pay for what they use, and in the case of Exchange costs are typically based on a per user per month basis.
Is it worth it?
One way of thinking about cloud computing is to consider it as the Walmart of IT service delivery. In the same way as bulk purchasing and large logistical operations drive down per-item costs, by purchasing huge amount of IT infrastructure and providing services to large numbers of users / companies, the per user / per service cost of these solutions are also driven down. For IT Managers and CIO's the benefits are three fold:
  1. Lower capital expenditure due to less need to invest in high-end server hardware.
  2. Decreased risk because someone else is looking after their IT services.
  3. Lower day-to-day operating costs as typically a lower IT department head count is required.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

It is my sincere belief that anything you pay for should be getting business back to you. If you're paying for marketing and you're not getting leads off of it is a waste of money!

Your website and online presence is no different. It must be paying you for the effort and money you have put into it.

I trust you will find the following information insightful and useful. Be sure to contact me with any more questions.

1. Not having your website on a SEO friendly platform!

We hear so much about SEO, and most people don't even know what it is. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply put, when someone searches for your company or what you offer they can find it. When this happens your site is optimized.

You do not need to pay for "SEO services". Real SEO is simple and you can handle it. However having said that your website must be agreeable to what the search engines are looking for. So what is a SEO friendly platform?

Let's say you are getting burgers at a restaurant but instead of pictures of the different burgers, they only have boxes. You know there's a hamburger inside but you really don't know what it looks like. This would be a site with bad SEO.

You want a website where the boxes are wide open so you can see the thick, juicy burger inside. This is where a SEO friendly platform comes in. You may have awesome content but if it's an "unfriendly" platform the search engines will never see it.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You don't need to pay for SEO, you can do it yourself

  • When it comes to web sites, don't reinvent the wheel, use what works!

2. Your website not being a direct response tool!

One time I was given a pitch about a $1000 per page magazine ad. I was told not to expect any calls from this ad because it was top of mind advertising. Do you know what this means to me? Well, in nice clean terms, it's a waste of money!!!

So when it comes to your website, is it ready to get you a direct response?

The way to this is have a call to action on the first page, above the fold. This is simply a way for someone to take further action with a compelling offer. This offer could be a coupon, texting offer, or downloading a special report just like this one.

Things to ask yourself:

  • When they want to reach me is my phone number easy to find? -This includes getting your phone number into the other parts of your website than the blog posts.

  • If they want more information, can they get it without contacting me? Is it automated?

  • If I stumbled upon my own site, would I enjoy the information I found there? Or would I just move on?

3. Not having a blog. It only means 7x more traffic to your site!

We hear about blogs all the time these days. You might be asking why would I want a blog on my business website? This is somewhat covered in the above two points.

When people are looking for your product or service, they are searching with words. A search engine matches those words with the words in your website. These are keywords.

When your site is loaded with good keywords in a blog then the search engines will find you much more often. Along with keyword rich articles you can link to your other profiles online in your blog.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Can I maintain a blog? There are two sides to this coin. I feel every site should have a blog with at least 6 to 10 posts. To really crank up the SEO you would want to post more often like once a week or even once a month.

  • Having a blog that's not updated is better than no blog all.

4. Having a flashy compass instead of a roadmap! It's shiny, but it only points north!

Have you ever had someone give you directions and they tell you to turn left by the big tree, then right by that rock on the corner?

This is what it means to have a complicated website with no clear direction. It might blink, it might be shiny, but if it doesn't deliver the information quickly, your visitors will just move on.

Not to mention that heavy detailed websites are slow loading, especially on mobile phones. Again this means that your visitors will move on quickly.

You must keep in mind the following thoughts:

  • Is my site simple and clean?

  • Is my site easy to navigate?

  • When is the last time you visited your website on your cell phone?

5. Not making your website the hub of your online presence!

What comes to mind when I say Penn Station? Or perhaps JFK? We know these places because they are hubs. Which means thousands and tens of thousands of people travel through them every year.

Do you want tens of thousands of people flowing through your website? Of course you do. Then I want you to start thinking of your website like a hub.

Use it as your primary base of connection. Connect to your social media, and from your social media back your website. Make sure all your local review sites connect your website.

Check on the following:

  • Do I have the link to my social media from my website?

  • Are the other local review sites linking to my site properly?

6. Not answering the questions your customers are asking!

This links back to your blog, and your simple clean feel. Your site needs be answering your customers questions quickly and simply. It is your sites job to help them understand who you are and what your company offers.

What were they asking when they found your site? Are you answering their question right away? Can they take the next action to get more information? I think this should be done above the fold.

The fold, by the way is the portion of the page that shows without having to scroll down.

Thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Why did they find my site, and am I answering it?

  • How can I find out what they want to know before they look for it?

7. Building your site without your target audience in mind!

So many websites are built by "designers" not marketer experts, with a focus on design instead of understand what your target market is looking for, this is a mistake.

This can be avoided by hiring a marketer as your project manager. Then build your website with a focus on marketing.

Have you ever been to the website, and you thought it was so awesome looking you just had to buy their product? No of course not. When you buy it is because they build trust and a relationship with you.

Going forward:

  • Always keep this priority in mind when building your website; marketing first, design second.

  • Do your research and find out what your target audience is looking for. Then make sure your project manager understands the true needs of your market.

8. Buying website software that is expensive to build and update!

In this day and age you do not need to buy expensive website software. Have you heard of Wikipedia? It is a community built encyclopedia. The same applies for website software. This is called open source.

There's open source documents software -this book is being written on Google docs which is open source. There is open source graphic design software and a course open source website software.

Paying for a website to be built from the ground up in my opinion is like paying to create a whole new Microsoft Word program. Why build it if it's already built?

Because of open source software now you can have a website with virtually free software. With all that is available out there, it is my opinion that the only fees you should pay is the project manager and/or graphic design work when building a website.

The really cool thing about this is that when the website is built on a simple platform you personally should build to update it on your own without any real technical knowledge.

Having said that I believe you should keep people around who could handle these things for you. My point is, you just don't have to pay the big dollars you used to.

Things to keep in mind:

  • With open source software why pay to have it built from the ground up?

  • When we have open source software that ranks better than "ground up" software, why pay the bigger price tag? It's just not good business.

9. Filling your website with a bunch of jargon and technical information that would even put YOU to sleep at night!

Have you heard this phrase yet, content is king? When talking about your business online are you communicating the same way you would to a friend or family member?

Would you enjoyed reading your website information? Now it is a given that there is going to be some lackluster information about any business or career that might make sense having on your website.

This is again good for SEO. When you have good content presented in the same way as you would to a close friend or family member this is good for SEO and business.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Would you enjoy reading your own website?

  • Think of a close friend if they read the information would they understand it?

  • What is good for your target audience, is good for SEO.

10. Making your site complicated to navigate!

This one thing you must keep in mind, many people are visiting your site for the very first time. They don't have time to read through a tutorial on how to navigate your site. It must be simple and intuitive.

If they're looking for pictures, then give them a button that says pictures. If they're searching from a mobile phone give them an address, and phone number.

By keeping in mind what your target audience is looking for, they will find your site more enjoyable, more informative, and you will get more business.

Keeping in mind that your website is a direct response tool, it should be easy for them to take action that means business for you. That is, after all, why they're on your site the first place right? To get more information and see if they want to business with you.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Is your site ready for the mode that your target is using, e.g. desktop = above the fold action, or from a mobile phone = phone number and address?

  • Is it easy for your target audience to take action on your "next step" for them?

11. Not tracking your traffic!

Do you know who is visiting your website? You should! Especially since the tool is free. It is called Google analytics.

Okay, so this might be a little bit techy and you might want to leave this up to your project manager but the fact is you need to know this information to further understand any changes needed to your website.

This information gives you understanding to know if you're answering the questions that your client is looking for. For example you might be getting found for different phrase or keyword than you thought you were, so then you can write your blog posts differently with that information.

Keep this in mind and with the off-line world of networking groups and friends. Find out what they think of when they think of your company. Listen to the keywords they use and make that part of your website agenda.

Information that you want to look for is:

  • How much traffic

  • Where it is coming from

  • What search terms they are using when they find your site

12. Not being mobile ready!

The fact is, more more people are browsing the Internet on their cell phone. So the web is under a forced reset. Now the whole web must fit on a tiny screen once again. Is your site ready?

The statistics show that half of all Internet searches are from a cell phone. This is very important if you want your website to be effective and relevant in the times to come.

It is already very important to be on such local sites like Google places, now called Google local. For the fact that when people are searching for your business name from a cell phone typically they're looking for your: phone number, hours of operation, or address.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Your site must be mobile ready or for half the people out there it does not exist.

  • Don't plan on mobile software picking up your site correctly, make sure your phone number is easily findable anywhere.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Computer engineering, as the name suggests, is related to the engineering of your system hardware. It includes the designing of computer hardware and devices. It is derived from the science of computing such that it is the practical application of the computing science principles.It also includes some principles of electrical engineering. In short this engineering is based on the laws of computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics and physics.

The main subjects dealt in this engineering includes display engineering, multimedia computations, image and speech processing, networking, pattern recognition, computer perception and sensors, VLSI systems, robotics, computer architecture etc.

Display engineering deals with the display mechanisms of a system. Multimedia computing include the handling of all kinds of data like the textual data, sounds, voice or audio, still images, animated images, video and more. It involves encryption, coding and decoding etc. Image and speech processing methods are used to deal with the processing of multimedia in a secure way. Networking of computers is a vast field that takes care of all the networking operations such as assembling network units, establishing connections, configuring them, initiating communication and data transfer and so on. It also handles designing and implementation of vast distributed computing networks that includes LAN, MAN and WAN. Pattern recognition and computer sensors are used for information security. Robotics is a practical application of artificial intelligence. Very Large Scale Integrated systems are a study to design microelectronic devices. Architectures from these take care of the designing of hardware and software for optimal results.

Continuing with our computer engineering vs computer science, we are now going to move on to the science, which on the other hand is the study of methods, principles and laws for handling of information. It also lays the theories for designing and implementing them. The science subject leads to the subject of engineering.

The main subjects that come under computer science are artificial intelligence, computer architecture, software systems, numerical methods, algorithms, theory of computations, computer graphics, networking protocols, databases, operating systems, simulation and modeling, parallel computations and software engineering.

Artificial intelligence is an area that is concerned with the intelligent behavior in machines or software. Computer architecture explains the science behind the designing and construction of computer hardware and software for effective and efficient working. Software systems deal with programming languages, programming environments, operating systems, interpreters, compilers etc. Algorithms and theory of computations are used to develop programs that produce effective, efficient and optimal results and solve the computer problems. To conclude, we can say that the computer science is a subject that is mostly studied by scientists while on the other hand, computer engineering is a subject that is studied by the engineers.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Data privacy is of utmost importance in this age wherein the influx of information seems to be as fast as the speed of light. Organizations and individuals are exerting efforts in maintaining their privacy without sacrificing the quality of data being passed on from one source to another. Aside from data de-identification software, data masking software has also been created to cater to the needs of the world of information technology (IT).

First, let us define "data masking"-it is the process of obscuring particular elements of info within a data store. This ensures that sensitive data will be replaced with realistic data, and by this we mean data that does not really exist. The primary purpose of data masking is to make sensitive information inaccessible and unavailable outside of the authorized milieu. This process is usually done to provide copies of data to support development and test processes without exposing sensitive information and avoid leaking. In addition, masking algorithms are made to be repeatable to maintain referential integrity.

For data masking to be effective, data must be altered in such a way that the real actual values are impossible to be re-engineered or determined. Since the functional appearance of the info is maintained, the user can still test it. The data can also be encrypted and decrypted while security policies are established. The separation of duties between administration and security is also instituted.

You can perform data masking by using an array of techniques that includes the following:

Shuffling - This uses the existing data as the substitution dataset and moves the values in such a way that no value appears in its original row.

Substitution - A technique that replaces existing data with random values from previously prepared datasets.

Encryption - Scrambles data algorithmically and this technique does not leave the data appearing to be realistic. Also, encryption tends to make the data bigger.

Nulling out or deletion - This technique simply removes the sensitive data through deletion.

Number and date variance - Varies the existing values in a specific range to disguise them.

Masking tool possesses some key features to achieve the following results and goals:To create realistic test data that ensure the appearance of unusual patterns in data testing

  • Caters to the needs of health and clinical databases

  • Deals with massive databases in a continuous mode to refresh test data cycles rapidly

  • To save masking function specifications to be used on other databases at scheduled intervals

  • Retains referential integrity across tables to guarantee that patient information is always masked

  • Ensures that adversaries will not be able to reverse engineer data masking

  • Processes large amounts of data rapidly

  • Masks keys to retain the same size and field type to maintain referential integrity

  • Includes reference databases and templates for the most common direct identifiers

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

As technology advances consumers are looking for ways to get the same user-experience at a considerably lower price. When it comes to computing, netbooks are the newest trend. A netbook is a computer that has very little power and processing speed on it. It's designed to do one thing and one thing only: to connect to the Internet. Hence the name "netbook."
Netbooks do not need to have Windows installed on them, thus saving the manufactures from paying hefty licensing fees. There is no software installed on the machines either. They do nothing but plug into the Internet. Since there's no operating system and no software required, they don't need much processing speed and not much memory or hard drive space. They are the bare bones version of the modern computer, essentially getting back to the very basics of computing power.
Cloud Computing
You might be wondering what good a computer with little memory, power and hard drive space and no operating system or programs is. On the surface it may seem like a useless machine that isn't worth its weight in salt. That's where cloud computing comes in.
Cloud computing is the new way to access programs over the Internet. Instead of buying a word processing program and installing it on your machine, you can now go online and use the same exact programs, free of charge online. Currently Google Docs is in its beta testing phase and there are other companies working on creating similar programs. These programs are not stored on your computer; rather users access them directly online. This way, users are able to buy a small, basic computer that does nothing but connect to the Internet and still do all the work they've always been able to do on their regular computers.
Data Centers
This relates to data centers in that the computing power that used to be on actual computers has to go somewhere. With cloud computing instead of having programs hosted on personal computers, they will have to be hosted on servers. Companies will need to host more servers in order to accommodate the programs and all the users plugging into the web-based programs.
Netbooks, which first came on the market at around $300- $500 are getting less and less expensive to manufacture. As the price drops, and it's estimated that very soon there will be netbooks retailing for around $100, more consumers will start to take advantage of this technology. With more people using netbooks and cloud computing, data centers are going to fill up with servers hosting these programs. It is yet to be determined how companies are going to make money off of cloud computing. However, one thing remains for sure, data centers will fill up quickly with servers hosting these programs.
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