Category Archives: General

Creating and Verifying a Local Business Page on Google

GPlusScreenshot

One of the most important things that you can do as a business hoping to get seen online is to make sure that you have created a local business page and then make sure that it is verified. Local Business pages are designed to go with local search and your local customers will want to know that you are a genuine business. That is what the verification does – note the small tick in a shield just below right of the logo in the image above.

There are several pieces of the puzzle that need to be in place.

  1. You need to have an existing Google account. This will already be the case if you have a Gmail or Google Apps for Business account.
  2. You will then need to set up the local business details with Google.
  3. You will then need to verify your local business details.
  4. It’s then a good idea to set up a Google Plus page to go with your business.

For Google’s own instructions head over to this page:

Create and verify a local business on Google

DRP for the SME

DRP-for-the-SME

I was chatting with a client last week discussing the dreaded DRP.  For large corporations the Disaster Recovery Plan is a many paged document listing assets, resources, staff, and time frames and also defining what is an isn’t critical. This document will have cost many hours of time and much tearing of hair in creation and management. There will be required annual reviews and tests and there will be an army of IT staff, managers and auditors to ensure that the DRP is not only fit for purpose but tested and proven.

Despite all of this many large organisations slip up on either periodic reviews of their DRP or testing, or both. There’s no point backing up to a tape if the tape won’t restore properly. There’s no point in designating a secondary site if you’ve never proven that you can work effectively from that secondary site alone. The larger the business the more difficult it is to test.

What about the SME?

If it’s that difficult for large organisations to manage backups and disaster recovery plans, what hope is there for the SME or the one man band? The key is to think differently to the larger organisation. Traditionally the SME will have a Small Business Server of some sort containing critical data. This server will have some sort of local backup process running, but it is more than likely that the backups haven’t been checked or tested in months, if not years. The media may have failed, there may be no off site storage of backups because no-one has taken ownership of the task. This is because the SME just doesn’t have the resource to allocate to this sort of maintenance task. So, what do we do?

Think Laterally

With the move to more networked environments the local server is becoming more and more redundant. Why not consider either a partial or total move to cloud storage? Take your files and store them on Google Drive or Dropbox or Onedrive. You can either move them to the cloud and work on them there, or use one of the available sync applications to sync your existing server your cloud storage. Typically the space used by documents, spreadsheets etc. is minimal and will fit very easily into basic cloud allowances.

More and more of those vertical applications – those business specific applications that are essential to your line of business – are available in hosted versions. If your provider offers this for your accounting software or your CRM applications or  your industry specific applications (legal, motor, estate agency, accountancy or other industries) then investigate the possibility of moving to a hosted platform. Not only will this give you peace of mind because backup is now part of their provision to you, but you will also win out on being able to access your application outside of the office if needed.

Embracing the Cloud

Once we get our SME mindset away from mimicking big business ways of doing things and begin to embrace the new technologies and methodologies available to us we will see that the momentum is now with the smaller business: we can change providers more easily, our data is smaller and much more manageable even within the constraints of the base cloud packages. We can store emails, documents and with some work even host our bespoke database outside of our offices – available from anywhere and from many different devices. The incidental benefit of this is that if our physical place of business is lost to us temporarily or more permanently we will still be able to continue to run our businesses effectively while restoring what was lost. So let’s make the most of that small business ability to respond quicker to new technology. Let’s plan not just for disaster but for a more agile way of working, one that by default is robust, resilient and ready for disaster, and ready for continuity.

Transitioning to Google Apps for Business

iconset

I’ve been doing the initial set up today  for moving a client from POP mail to Google Apps for Business and thought it would be a good time to explain some of the benefits to this move.

For the Small Business

For the small business Google Apps for Business gives you all of the big business enterprise class tools without the big business investment or overheads. Many small businesses are still struggling with email addresses that don’t belong to their domain (businessname@btinternet.com or such like). It becomes a pain to administer even a few of these type of email accounts across a small business. The lack of domain based email also looks very unprofessional. Google Apps for Business provides domain based, enterprise class email, contacts and calendaring for everyone.

For the SME

For the SME looking to provide a rock solid resource for the company the usual route is Microsoft’s Exchange Server or Small Business Server. While these are both excellent products they really require ongoing support and an investment in hardware and software on the company LAN. The cost of managing an Exchange server can outweigh the benefits and with increasingly mobile workforces becomes more difficult to deploy, in particular if you require Outlook Web Access. Google Apps for Business removes the need for local server resource and maintenance. Resilience and availability responsibilities lie with Google – this frees your IT resource to do other things. The collaboration tools built in to Google Apps for Business mean that it is a superb resource for growing and geographically diverse businesses. Google Drive Sync allows you to continue to use Outlook as your email client if you so wish.

Collaboration

The collaboration tools within Google Apps for Business mean that it is simple to share calendars, contacts, documents right across the business no matter where the users are physically located. If you have multiple offices, or a mobile sales force then this is the way to go for sharing documents.

Set Up

If you don’t already have domain based email then it’s extremely easy to set up and get going. If you already have some email accounts, depending on how they are presently configured it’s still a simple process to get you up and running. Users can be added and configured using a simple web based management page.

Contact

If you think Google Apps for Business is a contender for your business then drop me a line and inquire.

Is Responsive Design the only game in town?

responsive design

There’s a growing trend in web design towards responsive design. Responsive design is the deliberate design and build of a web site to respond differently to different viewing devices. In other words, the web site will present itself differently depending on whether it is viewed on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop device. The design is done in such a way that the browser itself does the work. This is a great choice in many ways, particularly for smaller web sites. There is only one set of pages to maintain, which makes life simpler, but the styling behind the site actually addresses multiple view ports (the size of the window through which the site is viewed). As a result the underlying code can get a bit complex, even though it’s only in one set of files.

The alternative to responsive design is to detect the device accessing the site and present an alternative set of pages to smaller devices. This obviously will involve more work and more files as you are designing separately for different view ports. At first this may seem to be counter productive, but it all depends on the site content and original design.

Many sites are now quite old and large, and the work involved in redesigning the entire site to a responsive design could be prohibitive. It may well be that you only wish to present a select subset of pages to the mobile user, or even different pages geared towards mobile phone use (such as linking maps and phone numbers).

Many larger sites are also data driven and have a significant amount of back end code that can be easily leveraged to drive new mobile oriented pages with no more work involved than restyling the main pages.

For larger sites, and especially those that have an old design it would seem more productive to produce a subsetted separate site for mobile devices, always presenting the user with the option to use the ‘full fat’ site if they prefer. Responsive design is an elegant design option, particularly when designing from scratch. But depending on the size of the site and the legacy elements, responsive design is not yet the only game in twon