Why I No Longer Recommend HostGator

For the past six or so years I’ve recommended HostGator for small sites that shared hosting is designed for.

However in my opinion their customer service and hosting performance has drastically reduced in the past few months. They were purchased by Endurance International Group who own around 50 web hosting and domain related companies. These include JustHost, HostMonster and Bluehost. Continue reading Why I No Longer Recommend HostGator

How An IT Professional Can Help Develop Your Business

This is a guest post written by Belinda Darling. If you’d like to write a guest post please contact me.

It will come as news to nobody that information technology is King these days. No business worth it’s salt is without an online presence. IT departments are par for the course in every major company, and willfully resisting advances in technology is doubtless one of the most detrimental mistakes any business, new or old, can make. Trying to market your business relying solely on traditional offline marketing techniques is a recipe for disappointment. The reward will simply not warrant the effort.

mazeThe vast majority of would be and current business owners are well aware of these facts. But awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into confidence implementing the new technologies that are a must for businesses interested in growing and developing. And that’s no criticism. Business owners cannot be expected to juggle all the balls necessary to keep a business afloat these days. Moreover, trying to take care of specialty areas like IT yourself- or delegating to employees without IT specific training- can do more harm than good. Your attentions are best focused on the core goals of your business. A lawyer can’t be expected to abandon important case work in order to keep the web side of things humming along.

Despite having never owned my own business, my on-again, off-again writing career has  taught me some valuable lessons regarding just how important it is to have a savvy IT professional onboard when you’ve got something to plug. Never underestimate the power of the IT Professional. Temporary jobs- in my case, a book that needed to be promoted primarily using online marketing- can be farmed out simply by registering with an IT recruitment agency and providing them with the specifics of the job you want done. In my case, I needed to establish a strong social media presence. I needed to connect with my demographic- stay at home blogger mum’s who would help spread the word through their own websites. The way to do this, I was to learn, was to share content that they would appreciate and share with their own network of contacts,  ask and answer questions, and put them in contact with people they might be interested in establishing a connection with. It’s a reciprocal arrangement. You get what you give.

Naturally, for many small business people, time is of the essence. They can’t afford to put in the many hours required to build these kinds of relationships, or be responsible for the mechanics of running an efficient website. They need to focus on the nuts and bolts of the business, whether that be practicing law or installing backyard swimming pools. They have neither the hours in the day, the interest, or the faith in their own tech ability to pursue the online aspect of their business, contribute to and monitor their social media presence, update their website with new promotions and content, and to ensure that they have no online vulnerabilities which may be harming their business.

For all these reasons, businesses can benefit tremendously from getting those computer skills they need from a third party. IT professionals don many hats. They may take care of the aforementioned online marketing, website updates and social media duties. They might update your operating systems in order to streamline operations and make the day to day running of your business more efficient. Don’t know the first thing about security scans or vulnerability assessments? Hire an IT professional and you can remain at once blissfully ignorant and safe as houses.

There are a raft of different IT experts out there, each with their own area of specialization. To learn about how your business can develop and grown with the help of an IT professional, visit www.computerskills.com.au

This is a guest post written by Belinda Darling. If you’d like to write a guest post please contact me.

Optimizing WordPress for Mobiles

Can you remember life without a mobile phone? It was different, wasn’t it? Instead of being on call all hours of the day and evening, if we were out and about, we used to have to trudge to a public telephone box to keep in touch, sometimes queuing up in a line, pulling out change, and hoping we wouldn’t run out of coins before we had finished what we needed to say. In a way, I think back to these times with fondness. If you went out fishing, or on holiday with the family, or walking the dog, you knew you were safe from work for a few hours or days, and couldn’t be contacted until you got back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I know mobiles are great devices. What would we do if we didn’t have the capability to refer to a smartphone for help in all sorts of situations? We can go abroad and tap in a translation, removing the need to carry the tourist-shaming phrase book. We can convert money, check the weather, and even order a takeout without actually speaking to anyone. When we’re bored in queues, we can now pull out our phone and play a game, write an article, or take some pictures. In fact, phones are used for all manner of tasks, the least of which is actually dialing a number and connecting with someone.

New Possibilities

We don’t have to like mobiles to appreciate the importance of linking our businesses to them and making sure we have the best possible infrastructure in place to allow customers to access us quickly and easily, no matter where they are. Making your WordPress site more accessible is a critical element in keeping your customers engaged and supportive as you evolve to meet their needs. It brings the following benefits:

  • Enables your readers to order your products swiftly, wherever they happen to be.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to staying at the front-end of technological advancements, eliminating the risk of being left behind as new software and hardware becomes available.
  • Gives you the option of updating your site from anywhere.
  • Opens up your site to a potential new customer base – smartphone users who don’t surf from PCs or laptops.
  • Keeps you close to your dashboard, giving you instant access to your site if things go wrong.
  • Allows you to quickly respond to messages and comments from customers, enhancing your online networking.

Regardless of what you think about the move to smartphones and the impact upon our privacy, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out it’s a great idea to optimize your blog for mobile users. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it . . . .

Manual Configuration

If you want to keep tight control of your site during the optimization process, you can configure your changes manually by setting up a mobile.css stylesheet for WordPress. You can then go on to customize your meta information to decide how your site should be scaled to suit various browsers and smartphone applications. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry – there are easier routes to take that are just as effective.

Automated Optimization

Don’t fancy the manual route? I don’t blame you. It’s actually much easier to optimize your WordPress site for mobile use by installing a plugin.

WPtouch

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

In my opinion this is currently the best plugin of its kind. A free version is available and it’s quick and easy to use. If you feel like going a bit further, you can purchase the “Pro” version, which adds a number of extra features including advertising, customizable menu options, and themes designed for the iPad. It also gives you access to a comprehensive support service to troubleshoot any issues.

WP Mobile Detector

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-mobile-detector/

If you want to check out a few more options before making a final decision, take a look at this one.  Again, a free and paid version are available, so consider all the functionality for both options before you make your choice.

WordPress Mobile Pack

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/

Another great plugin, this has a huge number of different themes to choose from, and a really good selection of different options to let you customize your site.

MobilePress

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/

Also worth you consideration, this one is really simple to configure, manage, and use.

Testing Your Site

You don’t need a fancy mobile phone to test whether your modifications work properly, so don’t feel the need to rush out and spend several hundred dollars if you’re still not a convert to the smartphone revolution. You can test your site easily with the Firefox browser by downloading a free add-on called “User Agent Switcher”. Once you have it installed you can switch between different options for site access, to check out how your site will look when accessed using different applications, including the iPhone.

WordPress, once again, demonstrates its incredible flexibility by making it ridiculously easy (and free) to optimize your site for mobile phone users.  No excuses . . . block out an hour in your schedule and you’ll probably only need about half of it to place your site on the cutting edge of Internet technology.

What is Cloud Computing?

Spend any time online these days, and it’s likely you will come across a rather fluffy term which conjures up images of blue skies and drifting white vistas. Welcome to the world of Cloud Computing, which is a rather sweet name for a highly useful piece of technology.

Cloud Computing, for the uninitiated among us, is the term used to describe an online network of computers that are there to offer you resources. The power of the network can be harnessed to bring you benefits in software functionality, computational support, or storage capabilities. In fact, although you might not have been aware of it, if you regularly use Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo!, your email data is already stored online using a Cloud Computing system.  Your email data is stored online so your inbox is freed up and you don’t use up as much memory on your computer.

With me so far? Great.

The Cloud Computing technology has hit the news recently for a few high-profile reasons. Amazon S3 suffered an outage which rendered their customers completely incapacitated for a while, and both the Sony Playstation network and Sony Online entertainment facility both experienced cloud failures which caused equal havoc among their service users. Because of highly visible outages such as these, people are becoming more aware of both the pitfalls and possibilities available through the Cloud Computing concept.

Despite the recent negative press, Cloud Computing is useful because, rather than housing everything on your local computer, you can lean on the resources of an online network, saving valuable space at home or at the office. Even though it takes a leap of faith to entrust your valuable data to an outside source, more and more businesses are realizing the potential of this service. If you choose an option such as the Amazon S3 service, you can back up all of your data online using the same flexible, low-cost, and scalable technology that the Amazon.com site relies upon.

If you want to give Cloud Computing a try, Amazon S3 is a good place to start as it offers a pay-as-you-go option that means you only pay for the resources you actually use. You also don’t have to sign up to any long-term commitments or contracts. You can scale your usage either up or down depending on the size of the resource you need, and it has the flexibility to let you choose which operating system to use, the programming language, and web application platform.

If you want something a little more comprehensive, it’s well worth checking out Google Docs. The search engine giants have developed a system that enables you to use a word processor, spreadsheet software, and presentation software – all housed online instead of on your own laptop or PC. Reliable and user-friendly, the principal advantage of using the system is that nothing is ever installed or housed on your computer, so you can access it anywhere and know that there’s no extra space being taken up on your hard drive that could be used for other valuable activities (such as storing photographs or downloading your favorite games).

The platform is free for users and accepts most file formats on the system which means you are pretty much unrestricted in terms of how you want to use it. Google Docs also has a range of templates for you to choose from, meaning you can start editing from the beginning or get a bit of guidance and save some time by letting them do all the preliminary hard work for you. With the ability to share and collaborate in real time with other people, store all of your information quickly and easily, and decide to whom you want to give access to your document repository, Google Docs is a highly popular choice for people wanting to benefit from Cloud Computing.

In summary, Cloud Computing comes in handy for a number of services:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – your email, perhaps CRM software.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – a computing platform you can use, such as Google’s App Engine where you can host your cloud applications.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – servers and software can be added or removed as needed rather than purchased, saving considerable costs.

If you’re still not convinced about the benefits of Cloud Computing, start somewhere simple such as the Amazon S3 service, and familiarize yourself with the concept and how it works before entrusting the rest of you data to the technology. Even if you haven’t heard the term before, the chances are you regularly benefit from Cloud Computing when you go online and use various sites, and the technology looks set to stick around as an ingenious space-saving device for many years to come.

As the Web becomes increasingly crowded, and new software and advances in technology mean our computers are cluttered with more software downloads than ever before, turning to the power of Cloud Computing seems like a natural progression in the order of things – reliable, space-saving, and efficient.