Monday, June 22, 2009

Maximizing Technology Dollars

Using Cloud Computing to Lower your Tech-Spend

Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that you are feeling the squeeze from today's challenging economic climate. In an effort to stay in the black, several small businesses are cutting back on their non-business critical expenses; one of those expenses can be technology. Driven by cost cutting, several small businesses are exploring cloud computing as a way to trim the fat from their technology investment.

What is that cloud computing?

More likely than not, you are using a cloud computing applications already (also called Software-as-a-Service or SaaS in some smaller applications). For instance, Web-based e-mail and online office tools, like Gmail, Google Docs or LexisNexis are cloud applications. Essentially, cloud applications are software programs you use over the Web, requiring less upfront investment and fewer maintenance headaches.

The nice thing about software in the cloud is that it does not cost you maintenance overhead. Think of cloud computing as buying utilities for your home. Analogous to the cloud computing, you would not build a generator in your backyard for electricity. Rather, you let the electric company distribute that cost to all its users. In the same way, cloud applications do not require buying hardware, services or maintenance contracts.

As an added bonus, cloud computing enables you to leverage the same technology muscle as large businesses without all of the costs they incur. For small businesses, this means playing on a more level playing field. Today, cloud computing providers are entering the market for just about every industry, including, health-care, legal, accounting, and sales. The most prominent example of cloud applications today is SalesForce, which provides a Customer Relationship Management ("CRM") tool for Sales and other related industries.

Cloud Computing Adoption

Cloud computing (and SaaS technology) has been around for at least a decade; so, why is cloud computing making headway now? The most important reason is the affordability, reliability and speed of your Internet connection. Being a remotely hosted service, cloud computing requires a fast and stable connection out to the Web to access your data. Internet connections are truly more reliable today. In fact, you will more likely have more downtime with your in-house technology versus downtime with a cloud provider because of a failed connection to the Web.

For small businesses, trusting someone else with their sensitive data can be extremely daunting. But, do not fret. Cloud providers will do a better job securing your data than you can. On your own hardware, chances are you risk hardware theft by employees or anyone else who has access to your computers – authorized or unauthorized. Secondly, you probably do not know much about data encryption. So, to cut your technology-spend the right way, find a reputable provide and begin exploring cloud computing for your business.

Read about Ed Scanlan’s adoption of Cloud computing at Total Attorneys.

What Cloud/SaaS services are available in your industry? What has been your experience with Cloud computing?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Will Bing Create More Work For Your Business?

Small business owners today realize that potential customers have abandoned Yellow Page directories in favor of search engines. Whether it be law, dentistry, or landscaping, your customers are searching one of the many search engines out there to find you. Much to your relief, however, the vast majority of your customer-base uses Google.

Google's dominance works to your advantage because you only need to ensure that customers can find you when they search Google. However, Google's position as "king-of-the-search engine" is being challenged by a serious contender - Microsoft.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft launched a new search engine called Bing that the folks out in Redmond hope will be the next...well, Google. What does that mean for small businesses? If Microsoft succeeds, small businesses may have to adjust their strategies to make it easy for customers to find them on Google AND Bing. That unfortunately would mean more time marketing.

However, its not clear yet how different Bing's algorithms are than Google's. If they are significantly different, which the Bing commercials suggest, small businesses owners have to be ready to react so the Bing population can find you. The good news is, the Bing population is still relatively small and declining.

StatCounter reports that, after Bing's introduction, Bing (teal-blue line) peaked at about 16% market share, surpassing Yahoo (yellow line). More interestingly, Bing's user-base seemed to come directly from Google (red line). Notice Google's inverse usage-rates in comparison to Bing's. Based on StatCounter's data, it seems like Bing lost the curiosity factor and Google is back where it started - the overwhelming market leader.

Small business owners can take a temporary sigh of relief, but the battle far from over. Microsoft has sunk about $100 million into Bing, and are not likely to quit marketing Bing. So, SEO pros will undoubtedly continue exploring Bing's behavior, and I will keep you posted.

Have you tried Bing? Did you find any differences between Bing and Google?