Don’t Let Network Outages Ruin Your Business

In today’s increasingly wired world, network outages — both limited and total — can deal a devastating blow to your business. And if your business is a small one, it is probably less able to cope financially with the consequences of such outages than would be the case with a larger company.

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Whether you lose the link between your headquarters office and an outlying branch office or experience a loss of connectivity throughout your business’s operations, each outage has repercussions that may have a lasting impact on your company.

Consequences of Outages

In its overview of the potential damage that a network outage can cause, Hughes Network Systems LLC lists some of the likely consequences a business might experience:

  • No longer able to access the applications and data they need to do their jobs, your employees sit idle and your company’s productivity grinds to a virtual halt;
  • The reputation of your business takes a hit when existing and prospective customers as well as suppliers cannot engage with your company’s employees in a meaningful way because access to relevant data has been temporarily lost;
  • The loss of sales of products and services that would otherwise be transacted results in a direct decline in revenue. Depending on the magnitude of the network outage, future sales may also be negatively affected;
  • In your business’s efforts to work around the network loss, your company will experience unbudgeted expenses associated with the rental of equipment, hiring of temporary staff, travel expenses, and overtime costs.

May Put Data at Risk

Network outages can sometimes expose your business’s sensitive data to outside hackers who gain access during a period when the system’s security defenses are temporarily disabled.

Although the vast majority of data losses associated with network outages are temporary in nature, some network failures may result in the permanent loss of data that has not been backed up on an outside system and thus unaffected by the outage.

While the actual dollar costs of network outages vary widely based on the size of the company and its network, NetworkComputing.com reports that network services’ company MegaPath estimates the average cost of downtime at $212,200 an hour.

For companies that are web- or network-based, that hourly figure can soar to dizzying heights. During an August 2013 network outage that lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, Amazon.com lost between $3 and $4 million.

Human Error a Factor

The Main Cause of Network Outages and How to Prevent It,” a posting on the blog of BackBox.co, offers some interesting facts and figures about the role that human error plays in triggering many such outages.

“2013 Cost of Data Center Outages,” a survey conducted by Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Emerson Network Power, examines the root causes of network outages among the 67 data centers covered by the survey. The report also offers comparisons between the primary causes of 2013 network outages and those reported in an earlier 2010 survey.

UPS System Failures

Despite the confidence-inspiring nature of their names, the failure of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems accounted for 24 percent of all data center outages in fiscal 2013. That represented a significant decline from 2010 when UPS system failures were blamed for 29 percent of all outages.

Accidental/human error accounted for 22 percent of all data center outages in 2013, down slightly from 24 percent in 2010.

In a disturbing sign of the times, cyber-attacks, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, were blamed for 18 percent of 2013 outages, skyrocketing from only 2 percent in 2010.

Weather-Related Outages

Network outages caused by extreme weather events showed no change from 2010 to 2013, accounting for 12 percent of outages in each of those years.

Outages caused by water, heat, or computer room air conditioning (CRAC) failures made up another 12 percent of 2013 outages, compared with 15 percent in 2010.

Generator failures caused 7 percent of data center outages in 2013, compared with 10 percent in 2010. The failure of IT equipment accounted for 4 percent of 2013 outages, down slightly from 5 percent in 2010.

Given the negative impact network outages can have on your business, what are you doing to stay connected?

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.


Modern Marketing Still Needs The Printed Word

It’s a rather obvious point but it bears repeating: the way that businesses market their products and services will make or break the success of the business itself. However, many businesses make the mistake of letting marketing materials lag behind in exchange for higher quality customer service or products. While these are also important elements to a business, poor marketing materials can ruin the chance for future profit no matter how great the customer service is.

shutterstock_139680334Instead of neglecting this aspect or marketing, consider the benefits of creating a booklet that not only advertises your products and services, but also contains informative content that will inspire sales.

Research the Audience

Before you can even start creating the content for your booklet, it is important to understand who the audience is and what their needs are. Entrepreneur.com offers some great questions for researching and understanding your audience. The demographic to which your products appeal should directly correlate with the way you present those products in the booklet.

Create Clear Content

Useful content is the core element in marketing. People now have the ability to delete emails, skip commercials, and ignore magazine ads. That means that content is even more important to marketing than it ever was before. People want to be educated clearly and quickly on the information they seek. It makes content creation detrimental to the success of marketing materials.

  • Use SEO in everything you write. Search engines will determine how broad your audience will be.
  • Keep PR in mind. Instead of trying to sell your products and services, write informational articles that help them understand the need for your services.

The Content Marketing Institute offers great tips to successful content marketing strategies.

Eye-Catching Design

For booklets, creating organized and eye-catching designs is important as well. Booklets that are attractive and colorful are more likely to be picked up than those which aren’t. Before you begin, you need to understand what sort of booklet you need to create. If you are creating a handy booklet with instructions, the design will be different than a booklet for a community project.

Audience is also important in design. Young adults are going to be attracted to more colorful, creative, and splashy designs. Middle-age adults look for creativity combined with function and practicality. The elderly are less impacted by color and more by how easy the content is to read and how practical it is.

Consider the important elements of design:

  • Font — It needs to be easy to read, but reflect the branding of the company as well.
  • Color Pallet — Sticking to a four color pallet keeps designing easier, while giving you the flexibility to create what you need. When choosing colors, consider the audience. The older the audience, the more subdued the tones should be.
  • Layout — Yes, it’s a booklet, but some designs require a bleed from one page to the next. It also includes the size of the pages you plan to print. Consider what sort of layout will work for your needs and your audience.

Understanding Printing

You can’t just create a document and ship it off to the printer. There are different important aspects of printing, especially booklet printing, to consider before sending it to the printer.

  • Bleed — It is recommended to leave anywhere from 1/8 in. to 1/4 in. around the edge to be trimmed in printing. This is called the bleed.
  • Resolution — Different printers require different resolutions for printing quality. Adhere to these standards to keep from having blurry or pixilated images.
  • File Format — Printers required high quality DPI file formats. These are often RGB or CMYK for best printing results.

If unsure what to do, contact a company that specializes in these services. They can advise you on what you need to know to print with them.

Author Rachel is a freelance writer and young professional who most enjoys writing about business best practices.


The Business of an Online Degree

With more than 7 million students taking one or more online college courses in 2013, the growth of online education remains robust, showing few signs of slackening within the foreseeable future.

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Babson Survey Research Group’s most recent report on the state of online education found that nearly 75 percent of academic leaders view the learning outcomes for online education as the same or better than face-to-face instruction.

Will I Pass Muster?

While this speaks well of the increasing quality of online education, it doesn’t address the question that most concerns students pursuing online degrees. Simply put, they want to know how well their online diploma will stack up against a traditional degree when they start competing for work in the job market.

In a March 2014 article on USNews.com, education reporter Devon Haynie noted that prospective employers’ views of online degrees have undergone a dramatic change for the better over the last few years.

‘Diploma Mills’

Haynie cited a 2009 literature review by Cleveland State University, which concluded that most human resource managers, executives, and other gatekeepers viewed online diplomas in a negative light.

These negative perceptions were attributed in part to the large number of “diploma mills” that operated online during the late 1990s and early 2000s. These so-called online schools happily supplied a degree to anyone with the money to pay for it.

Opinions Turn Positive

Today, however, prospective employers very rarely question the quality of an online degree, according to Susan Fontana, a regional vice president of Manpower, an international recruiting company.

In fact, Fontana told Haynie, sometimes having an online degree can work in a job candidate’s favor, because certain employers attach a high value to the grit and determination it takes to earn a degree while juggling multiple commitments.

Other Factors Considered

There seems to be little question that most employers look more favorably at online degrees than was the case only a few years ago. At the same time, it’s clear that hiring managers will still scrutinize the reputation of the degree-granting institution and the curriculum behind the degree in evaluating the job candidate.

In the piece What Do Employers Think of an Online Degree?” author Carole Oldroyd points out that the size of the hiring company may also play a role in whether an applicant with an online degree gets the job.

Oldroyd cites recent statistics showing that the vast majority of smaller companies express no preference for traditional over online degrees. Larger companies — those with 500 or more employees — are more evenly split in their sentiments about the relative value of traditional and online degrees.

Growth of e-Learning

Helping to reshape the public’s perception of online education or e-learning is its growth at virtually all educational levels. Technological advances, such as webcams that are now standard on virtually all PCs and tablets, facilitate face-to-face contact between teacher and student for counseling or special instructional sessions.

More students in elementary and secondary education are learning online — both in and out of the classroom. The growing pervasiveness of online education among pre-college students is helping to pave the way for broader acceptance of such programs as a whole.

Key Points to Consider

Because not all online college degree programs are created equal, students who are considering pursuing an online degree should keep sight of these criteria, which CollegeNetwork.com says will probably be closely checked by prospective employers:

  1. Ensure that the online degree program you enroll in is operated by a college or university that is regionally accredited.
  2. Online programs offered by brick-and-mortar institutions generally are viewed more favorably than those that operate exclusively online. Even though you may never take any in-person classes, getting a degree from a college or university that has a physical campus tends to lend added credibility to their online diplomas.
  3. Getting an online degree from a widely recognized institution also generally carries more weight with hiring managers than a similar degree from a college or university that has no name recognition.

About the Author: Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics.

 


Seniors Can Write Themselves Some Extra Income

In today’s economy, everyone is looking to supplement their income. This even includes seniors living off their retirement income. However, it can be difficult to find a job either because of health, age or for other reasons.

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However, there are ways that they can earn money at home if they have an interest and talent for writing.

Blogging

It’s easy to set up a blog on one of the numerous blogging websites available. This allows you to write about things that interest you, whether it is health issues, the grandkids, or your latest hobby creation. To monetize your site so that you can make a small income while doing what you enjoy, you can allow ads. Every time someone clicks on the ad, you earn a small reward.

You can also promote products through your blogging. Just become an affiliate with a company that you like and you earn a small commission when someone makes a purchase after visiting your site and clicking on the link. While there are hundreds of affiliate programs out there, one of the best known is Amazon.

Freelance Writing

You can also earn a decent income by freelance writing. Many magazines today have both online and print editions, which require them to find double the content. This means that they are looking for more writers to fill the empty space. Check out some of your favorite magazines to see what their requirements are.

If you want something that provides steady income, you can check out the online sites that match writers with people needing content. Some well-known names include Guru.com, Elance, and oDesk. You can also check out Craigslist ads, but beware of scammers. This is a great method to find a client that needs regular articles or blog posts though. You can choose the type of writing or subject that you enjoy and look for jobs that match your skills.

What You Need

To make it easier for you to provide a regular income as a blogger or freelance writer, you need a computer, monitor, and computer keyboard much like what you will find at major retailers such as Walmart.

If you haven’t done writing professionally before, you can take online courses to help you learn the technical aspects. You can also find many good books on writing, and specifically for writing online. Even if your goal is to become a freelance writer, you can begin by starting your own blog. This is a great way for prospective clients to see your writing ability, and it gives you some practice on writing for online readers.

Even with a limited budget, it is easy to get started as a freelance writer. You can join writing groups that provide support and information and read articles on the topic.

Thanks to today’s technology, it is easier than ever before for seniors to continue earning money even after retirement. The added bonus is that you get to work from home and do something you enjoy.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes pieces on seniors and technology.


SEO Plays Key Role to Market Health Insurance and Other Products

Marketing has changed over the years thanks to advances in technology and the growth of online shopping. While this is a well-known fact for retail businesses, it is also true of service-oriented companies and those that offer other products such as insurance.

Dollarphotoclub_54933137In the past, many health insurance companies sent out agents to knock on doors and encourage people to choose their insurance product. They also made phone calls to prospects to turn them into customers. Today, these hard-hitting marketing techniques are almost a thing of the past. The focus is on inbound marketing rather than outbound. This includes social media and blogs as well as emails and ecommerce sites. It is less intrusive to the customer and allows them to make the decision at their own convenience.

However, it has also made the challenge of gaining new customers harder for some companies as the competition has expanded from the business across the street to the one across the state or even across the country.

Importance of SEO

Companies that have moved from face-to-face marketing strategies to online advertising must learn SEO or search engine optimization and how the online marketing world works if they want to be successful. The bottom line is that more people are going online to do research before choosing a company to work with. They check out reviews and look at the website to find out information instead of calling the company. For instance, when they need to find a medical provider, they may search for their options online.

People looking to buy a house often start online before finding a real estate agent. It may be as they are conducting their research that they stumble onto a broker’s site and decide to give him or her a call. It is these scenarios that make the understanding of SEO for health insurance companies and other businesses so important. When someone is choosing a health insurance plan, you want to be the company they go to. But how will they know you exist amidst the thousands of others unless you are in their view? Proper SEO techniques allow a company to be seen first and to stand above the competition.

Finding and Educating the Audience

Finding the right audience means knowing how they are searching and what information they are looking for. The company can then provide that information, making them an authority in the field that people will continue to go to when they need answers. At the point when someone is ready to make a purchase decision, he or she will remember the business that provided them with answers in the past.

Among the ways insurers can best use SEO in 2014 and moving forward:

  • Blogging – Keeping insurance consumers up to speed on the latest happenings in your respective market (be it health, auto, renter’s etc.) easily begins with blogging. Use your company blog to promote your product/s and services, keep readers updated on changes in the industry regarding regulations, policies etc. is critical too;
  • Keywords – If you are doing guest posting (see below) on sites in order to promote your insurance product/s and services, make sure you use relevant keywords. As you may or may not know, Google has clamped down in recent times on spam aka keyword stuffing. Don’t watch your company’s website page rank take a hit because you’re using irrelevant keywords;
  • Guest posting – Lastly, despite challenges from Google over the last year-plus, guest posting can still be a boon to your insurance business. Finding sites to run posts on (consumer sites geared towards those who need insurance etc.) doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember, however, your guest posts should inform readers, not be a running advertorial. Inform them about coverage availability and terms, premium pricing, how Obamacare has changed the health insurance market and requirements in 2014 and so on.

SEO makes sure your business is seen by the right people at the right time. It has replaced the door-to-door insurance salesman that only had an audience of one with a website, social media page, or blog that has the potential to reach thousands at once. While the potential is large, it only works when it is done correctly.

About the Author: Joyce Morse is an author who writes on a variety of topics, including SEO and marketing your business.


Visualize Big Data for Your Business

Over the past year or two, an increasing number of businesses have adopted big data solutions to manage and analyze their data, and you need to jump on the big data bandwagon too if you want to stay abreast of your competitors.Big data can be greatly beneficial to businesses, but it will not reach its full potential unless it is properly visualized.

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Here is a look at how you can visualize big data for your business.

Benefits of Big Data

Big data is more than just a vast and varied collection of data; it can help you boost your business intelligence and perform certain tasks more effectively and efficiently. If you are not leveraging all the information that is available to you, you may miss out on opportunities to improve your business insight and achieve greater value.

A big data solution enables you to:

  • Discover new data patterns and relationships that have an impact on your business
  • Gather more accurate and detailed information to enhance decision-making
  • Predict outcomes and trends more precisely
  • Gain a better understanding of the preferences and buying habits of your customers
  • Develop products and services that can better meet the needs of your customers
  • Identify and fix operational problems more efficiently

Understanding Big Data Visualization

Big data consists of an enormous amount of information, and it can mean different things to different people. As such, it can be difficult to make it comprehensible to human beings. Big data visualization is the act of making big data easy to understand and analyze, and it enables you to gain clear and valuable insights from your data.

According to an article entitled “Visualization for Big Data”, David McCandless said that data is like new soil and visualizations are the flowers of the plants that are planted in the soil. When big data is properly visualized, it can be an effective tool for conveying critical information that can lead to better decision-making.

Using the Right Big Data Visualization Tools

Big data visualization involves using the sizes, colors and positions of abstract elements to convey information. In order to be really actionable, it should provide an appropriate amount of interactivity. It has to be well-designed, user-friendly, comprehensible, approachable and meaningful. As technology changes, new tools are constantly being developed to harness the value of data visualization for application across different industries.

Examples of data visualization tools that are widely used today include maps, charts, diagrams, pictures, infographics and videos. These tools can vary significantly in terms of effectiveness, depending on the type of information that you are conveying, the audience that you are presenting the information to and the objective of the presentation.

Businesses are gathering more data than ever before, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to manage, analyze and visualize their data. Information is only powerful when it is comprehensible. Using the right big data visualization tools will enable you to derive maximum value from your data.

About the Author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to Cloud computing.

 

 


Ready, Set…Telecommute

The Long Island Railroad is set to strike on July 20th and, if it happens, commuting will be a nightmare.

telecommuteWorkers are being told to either take vacation days, telecommute, or prepare for a limited amount of transportation options for those that absolutely must get to their offices in New York City.

Contingency Plans Issued in Event of an L.I.R.R. Strike

When faced with something such as a looming transportation strike, companies that do not offer telecommuting options are now faced with the fact that they will have to, and soon! Are you prepared for a transportation crisis? What is your plan for your employees if you were faced with such a situation? Not sure. Here are some tips to consider.

Telecommuting Tools: What’s Your Plan?

Is Telecommuting For Your Business?

Telecommuting: 5 Ways Companies Benefit

 

 

 


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