What is Big Data?

Posted on March 16th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Technology | Comments Off

One of the biggest tech buzzwords of 2014 caught our attention here at RankRep and we decided to figure out just what exactly was Big Data and why was it was drawing so much attention.

Big Data is essentially a large set of raw data. It doesn’t matter what the data is to be considered Big Data as long as it’s in large quantities. You may be thinking, big deal! Why would a large set of data be in the top 10 of tech buzzwords of 2014? It’s because Big Data is an important term when applied to a method of extrapolating valuable data.

The reason we’re seeing Big Data as a buzzword is because the amount of raw data we produce and collect is exponentially growing every day. Businesses, for the most part, know the value of collecting data but sometimes they can be overwhelmed with the amount of data they collect. Because of this, we’re seeing an emergence of new corporations whose sole purpose is to identify a problem within a business and use their Big Data to fix said problem. These situations are better understood through case by case scenario. While going through various success stories on Big Data extrapolating companies, I found a few scenarios that explain Big Data much better.

Without going too much into detail, the first scenario was about a manufacturing business that sold a popular and necessary home appliance. Their problem was the steady amount of support tickets that would trickle in every day. The support tickets consumed both the support staff and engineer’s time and every case was unique. So, in an effort to reduce these tickets, this manufacturing business called a corporation that specialized in Big Data solutions. They analyzed their problem and found an appropriate method of sorting through the manufacturers Big Data until a solution was found. By utilizing the data that would have otherwise been deemed as useless, the manufacturer cut their support ticket issues by a significant margin just from a few small tweaks in their appliance. They can also make pre-emptive support calls to their customers if they see that their appliance is coming up for a scheduled maintenance check.

The second scenario was based on government public services for prison inmates and the ability to provide the right kind of rehabilitation service to each inmate. “Big Data Solutions Inc.” in this predicament was able to sort out exactly what service each inmate needed based off the success chances of past inmates and which paths of reform they had to follow.

You may be wondering where exactly did this Big Data originate from with both scenarios. The data from the manufacturer scenario was gathered through support ticket feed back, previous service reports, and the reports from customers needing to submit multiple service tickets for the same problem. The prison system got their Big Data set from analyzing their inmates and reports based on previous success rates.

Even though Big Data may seem rather abstract, we can understand that because of Big Data, we can find various solutions to problems that were once thought of unmanageable or unyielding of good results.

Hosted Exchange: How to Choose a Provider

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 by admin in Hosting | Comments Off

If you’re tired of managing your own Exchange server and want to free yourself from the costs and pains of doing so, you may want to give a thought to switching to a hosted Exchange provider.

What To Look For

When comparing hosted Exchange providers, look for the following attributes

  • Uptime and a guarantee.  Is there a network uptime guarantee?  Do they provide an SLA
  • Security.  You’ll be trusting the security of your company to the hosting company.  Do they have a good track record of security?  Do they offer anti-spam, anti-virus and SSL encryption?
  • Compatibility.  Ensure their offering is fully compatible with the Microsoft products you use.  Outlook, shared calendars, address lists, syncing to mobile.
  • Support.  Where can you ask for help?  Do they have 24×7 support?  Do they offer both phone and online support?

Features

In addition to the items above, check the specs on the following features

  • Mailbox size.  Will the size of each mailbox work for your company?
  • Attachment size.  Nothing more annoying than attachments that won’t go through.  Is the attachment size reasonable?
  • Email archival.  Do they offer/charge extra to archive your email?
  • Mobile compatibility.  Will your BlackBerry, Iphone, Android phones be compatible and easy to setup?

Costs

Run through a cost calculator and see how much hosted Exchange servers might save you over hosting it yourself.  Compare hardware costs, licenses, and operating costs.

Switching to a hosted Exchange provider may be a great way to save money and headaches for your small business.

What are the Benefits to 3D Printing?

Posted on February 20th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Technology | Comments Off

The New Era of Printing

While 3D printing has been around for a long time, it hasn’t been made mainstream until recently with the newer models being much easier to understand and more affordable for the home-based user and start-up project applications. The market for 3D printers is becoming more saturated with healthy competition while the materials to make items are becoming less expensive. Newer models of 3D printers come with their own built in software for standalone work as well as allowing compatibility with the popular 3D software rendering programs on the market. As businesses invest more into the 3D printing industry, we’ll start to see companies produce both less expensive models as well as highly intricate models for the professional field. There’s also a very healthy market of start up businesses looking for crowdfunding to help etch their mark in the newly formed 3D printing industry. With all this sudden surge of 3D technology, one may ask, “What benefits could these printers yield for me?” The answer to this is simply amazing.

Customization

3D printers bring a new level of customization to the market. End users are able to put their own personalization on their projects and still have the same minimal cost going into the project with every single change they make along the production process. Manufacturers usually charge hundreds of dollars to change a prototype in the middle of production. Now, those production costs are taken out of the equation altogether.

Fast Turnaround

3D printing is a fast paced means of production. Where once you had to wait weeks for a manufacturer to finish quality proofing, you can wait literally minutes for a prototype you put the finishing touches on the same day. If you’re a business, you have less overhead costs tied up in finished goods for a demand you’re unsure you can sell. You can make on-demand stock for when you gain demand and save on warehouse costs for storage.

Less Waste

There’s less waste associated with 3D printing. The process used to create a 3D project is additive, where nothing is unused in the production of the piece you’re making. This process is much more beneficial than the original way of manufacturing, which is subtractive. In the older way of manufacturing, you create more than what you need and polish and remove bits and pieces until the project is done. If you don’t use a material that can be recycled, then you’re literally subtracting money from your project.

Accessibility

One of the best aspects of 3D printing is the fact that more people have accessibility to it. If you own a computer, you can own and operate your own 3D printer. If you can’t afford your own 3D printer, there’s no need to be discouraged. Many cities are starting tech workshops where you can rent out a time slot for 3D printing. If you can’t find a local workshop, try your local library! Many libraries are catching on to 3D printing because it teaches fundamental math and engineering skills.

Fewer Limitations

With 3D printing, your imagination is really the limit when it comes to the shapes you can make. Traditional methods of production would need multiple processes to achieve these shapes. Now they can be created with ease.

As 3D printing grows in popularity, it’s certain we’ll see more common, traditional methods of manufacturing get thrown out the window to new techniques brought on by the 3D printers we see today. I’m fully expecting the future to bring actual metal molding 3D printing into the light. Expect easier to learn 3D programs or programs with full capabilities right on your internet browser. Expect more model sharing between people. Who knows, we may even see an 3D print integration in Microsoft’s new HoloLens!

How Important is Cyber Security?

Posted on February 16th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Security, Technology | Comments Off

Understanding Cyber Security

From a National scale to your local businesses, to even your home PC, Cyber Security is an important aspect of every day computing. Over the past decade, computer use by a national scale has increased significantly in both home and work surroundings. With the introduction of the smart phones and tablets, most people don’t need to be at home to stay connected online. Because as a society, we’ve grown so fond of our technological advances, it’s easy to forget the measures we take to protect our valuable information. For us to fully appreciate the importance of cyber security, we must first understand what it means.

The term “cyber security” encompasses the entire field of data protection whether a user is authorized to handle protected data or an unauthorized one is trying to gain access to it. It also includes both physical and non-physical security measures as well. Some examples of physical security would be a physical firewall which directs network flow and connectivity to outside sources or the keypad unlock feature on a smart phone. Non-physical security would consist of such things like your anti-virus software or encryption software.

Attacks

The number of known digital attack methods are numerous and they vary greatly based off their method of gaining entry. Attacks are the sole reason why we take cyber security as a society so seriously. Types of attacks range from a direct attack method such as a computer virus or trojan to using another person’s computer to gain entry to wanted data. Some attacks happen because of the vulnerabilities that already exist in a computer system.

Reasons for Attacks

The reasons for attacks vary as well depending on the person or group who’s committing the attack. Some attacks are performed merely done for bragging rights, thrill-seeking, to cause vandalism. Attackers may also be trying to gain intelligence of some sort or committing some form of espionage. Some are out to gain profit from their attacks, using viruses to gain access to bank account numbers and credit card security codes. Last but not least, there are the attacks that are made to test the vulnerability of a security system which in most cases are done by IT professionals who are looking for ways to bolster up their security.

So, how Important is Cyber Security then?

Cyber security is monumentally important to everyone. Risk of loosing anything from your entire identity to something as insignificant as a social media password is becoming more and more of a concern each day. Reports of hacking have only increased over time as computers have been more accessible to people around the world. It’s more commonplace now to hear about a friend losing their email account to a hacker than ever before. Some of you might even be that friend who’s email account was hacked. The deadlines at which software application developers must meet in order to be competitive in today’s markets are leaving more security loop holes and vulnerabilities than ever before. Many super businesses operate strictly online now days, many of which are still reporting to have been the victims of hacking even as they invest millions in their security.

It’s important to realize that anyone can take control of their chance of risk when it comes to cyber security. You don’t need to be an IT professional with a degree to protect your information.  I found that the best place to start learning how to protect yourself is government agency websites, like the FBI’s website, reputable tech websites such as Tech Advisor or reputable blogs like Wiki How.

 


 

Recent Cyber Attack News Headlines

Anthem, Inc. – Records Database Breach
Thursday, January 29, 2015

The well known health insurance provider company Anthem, recently fell prey to a “very sophisticated” cyber attack according to an official company statement from Joseph R. Swedish (President  & CEO). The attack targeted their IT systems and stole a wide assortment of their policy holder’s information. It’s speculated that the hackers were able to obtain names, birthdays, social security information, street addresses, email addresses, and sources of income. The FBI investigative reports are still underway to find out if other customer records that fell prey to the hackers. While Joseph’s press release doesn’t give any clear number of people affected to this attack, the New York Times reported that “…as many as 80 million records” were accessed.  Anthem is one of the primary sources of health coverage in 14 states.  This Anthem attack is being named as one of the largest medical related cyber attacks in history.

Sony Pictures Entertainment – International Cyber Attack
Monday, November 24, 2014

Shortly after Sony Pictures caught insight of a large scale abduction of personal records from their company database, a group by the name “Guardians of Peace” (GOP) came forward to take responsibility.  The demand was for Sony Pictures to cancel a film that featured a plot revolving around the assassination of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.  United States intelligence officials deemed the culprit to be North Korea once the method and style of attack was analyzed.  North Korea denied all U.S. accusations of the attack.  This led to U.S. Government officials raising new arguments for stronger trade sanctions and safe guards against nations vying to hijack U.S. commerce and business property.

Since the attack, skeptics poured over the facts and scrutinized a possible legitimacy of North Korea’s denial claim.  These skeptics included big names from cyber intelligence agencies as well as reformed hackers.  Even with the combined efforts of these individuals bringing new evidence to FBI attention, the FBI remains resolute on placing the blame on North Korea.

Is Fingerprint Recognition on Mobile Devices Secure?

Posted on January 20th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Mobile, Security, Technology | Comments Off

Think about it for a moment. Being able to do things like unlock your phone or tablet to purchasing an entire virtual shopping cart of gifts off Amazon for your loved ones during the holiday – all authorized by you with a simple quick press of your finger on your phone or tablet. This is the type of technology we read about in science fictions novels and saw in movies only 10 years ago and now it’s becoming a reality. Many argue that fingerprint recognition is the holy grail of security. It combines speed, accuracy and minimal brain power, but just how secure is this trending technology?

Before diving into numbers, let’s look at where this technology is available first. The major players currently showcasing biometric fingerprint recognition are Apple with it’s iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6 and as well as Samsung with it’s Galaxy S5. As of current, Apple is allowing the use of their fingerprint recognition to buy items off their Apple stores such as iTunes and through their Apple Pay service with participating apps such as Target Mobile. Samsung has also allowed the use of your fingerprint to authorize PayPal purchases. While these seem rather limited as of now, you can expect more services to be available in the future as this technology becomes more popular. Apple and Samsung will be undoubtedly watching these services closely as they are test cases in the months to come.

fingerprint security

Currently, Apple seems to be the only company out of the two corporate giants, actually coming out forthright about the details of their fingerprint scanner. The scanner is located inside the home button on the bottom of the phone. When you setup your fingerprint for the first time, it takes 20 or so captures of your fingerprint and stores it in a secure part of your phone’s internal memory. While this may seem extreme for some, it allows a fingerprint to be read at any angle it’s positioned. This memory of your fingerprint is only available to the touch sensor app. No other apps are allowed to store this data. The Samsung S5 also stores your fingerprint in the same basic method.

Apple’s biometric fingerprint recognition securities feature a wide range of tests for accuracy. One of the most fascinating is a touch ID sensor that check to see if the fingerprint on the screen is alive and not a reproduction. Yes, this means you’ll be less likely to become the target of a person wanting to sever your hand and use it to gain access to your phone (as seen on many crime series TV dramas). In reality, this means someone would be less likely to get into your phone with just a picture of your finger or by ways of lifting your fingerprint oil patterns. The reader picks up 500ppi (points per inch) very similar to the scan sensitivity to many optical mice on the market now. The fingerprint reader also scans the user’s sub-epidermal skin layers. This means that people with dry skin won’t need to worry too much about the reader not picking them up however, this doesn’t mean the reader can scan through dirty fingers.

While all this security may seem like an overwhelming victory for merchants and a possible reason to look into a new phone, it’s always good to think about new technology as untested. Reports are still coming in from various sources stating that these fingerprint accessible phones are easily hacked. Some are saying that vulnerabilities may still exist in these designs, leaving your fingerprints vulnerable. All these signs lead me to believe this is shaping up to be a trend (like 3D TVs) but that’s not a reason not to check on reports and testimonials in future months. We may see everyone using fingerprints in the near future but as for now, I’ll keep the fingerprint recognition function turned off for my new Samsung Galaxy S5. If I were doing more purchases and got out more often, I could see the benefit of using the fingerprint software in tandem with a password protect. Then again, some of you may think I’m borderline paranoid when it comes to security. For general public use, I’d recommend using your fingerprints as a means to quickly unlock your phone if you find yourself picking it up and down very often.

Best Practices to Backup and Store Your Data

Posted on January 12th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Technology | Comments Off

For many people, losing their computer data ranks fairly high as the worst type of information to lose. Don’t get me wrong, losing actual physical records to something like a fire or flood is still considered catastrophic, however most people now spend and store their lives on their home computer. How many photos, videos, or projects would you lose?

Backing up your data isn’t as rigorous anymore as it used to be. I remember sitting at my computer for hours back in college, backing up my projects and artwork by burning them to CDs. Luckily, the same results can be achieved by either a drag and drop or by pushing a single button if setup right.

Physical Backups

Physical backups are what comes to everyone’s mind when they think of backing up their data. These are backups you can make with disks, CDs, USB thumb drives or external hard drives.

The benefits to having a physical backup of your data is that you can take them with you and use them on the go with other computers. Most physical storage devices are made to easily be recognized on other computers and are relatively cheap for the storage capacity you’re buying.

There are of course downsides to physical backups however. Most physical backups like USB thumb drives come very small now days. It’s easy to lose or misplace your important files during something like a move. Obviously if you lose your data, you run the risk someone else may find it and keep it. There’s also hardware degradation to worry about. CDs will scratch, disks can snap, external hard drives can have their motor damaged and USB thumb drives can be destroyed. I find that USB flash drives are more resilient compared to other methods of backup however.

Network (Remote) Backups

Network backups are becoming slowly phased out by the use of the cloud when it comes to home use however, network backups are still the best method for businesses. I’ll briefly explain both and their uses.

A network backup is considered the backing up of data by sending your files through a network connection to another computer, usually to an off-site location. Network backups are very secure and the reason why most businesses still use this method. The remote computer containing the network backups are usually monitored by a network administrator. These administrators can assist users who forget their passwords or other general problems. There’s no needless worry involved about information falling into the wrong hands since the data is contained on a company computer using a secure line. Most network administrators keep multiple instances of their backups running at the same time in case of hard drive failure. If a flood were to happen at the office and all the computers were damaged, business can still resume as normal once they install new computers.

The cons to setting up a network backup is that they are tedious to setup and impractical for home use. A vast majority of home PC users don’t have the luxury of owning a second off-site computer. Some may argue that tedium isn’t a major factor, however most home owners take the time to setup home networks with full file storage capabilities. This isn’t to imply that the home computer owners are limited to their options.

Cloud Backups

Cloud storage is a relatively new feature that service websites are starting to provide. For a small fee, you can pay for a website to backup your data on the cloud. This allows home users to remotely backup their data on a website’s servers run by administrators. Most of these service websites will hold your data on multiple hard drives and at more than one location, giving the user complete accessibility whenever they want. Most sites also offer a means to connect to both your home PC, tablet and smart phone. Big name sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud allow you to enjoy their limited services for free and offer their full services at very reasonable prices.

You may say to yourself that cloud storage sounds like the end-all of backing up your files however there are various downsides to this method. Security is a big problem when it comes to backing up your data to the cloud. Even though most sites take extreme precaution to prevent hacker attacks, they can’t protect you if you happen to write your login info on a piece of paper and lose it. Yes, you can change your password but in most cases it could already be too late. There’s also the problem that service websites are susceptible to going out of business. While this hasn’t been a major problem up to when this article was written, it also doesn’t necessary mean you’re completely protected either.

On-site Backups

On-site backups are any backups you keep with you at all times and on hand. Since this also falls into the realm of physical backups, I’ll be a little more specific. On-site backups are kept for quick restoration purposes. Computers have the capabilities to contain more than one hard drive within the rig. Some of you may experienced hard disk problems or maybe you accidentally deleted something you weren’t supposed to. Backing up your data on more than one drive gives you the quick ability to go back and save your work. From my personal experience, accidental deletion has been the most common form of data loss in the past. Because of this, I always install a second drive for storage reasons whenever I buy a computer. As computers change so do the methods of on-site data storage options. One of the best methods to backup your data is to keep a mirrored image of your hard drive. This puts to use a second hard drive that assures you that you’ll still be able to use your computer should one drive’s motor die on you.

You could probably already guess the apparent issues with on-site backup. You don’t have the benefits of being able to recover data if your computer is completely destroyed and you don’t get the luxury of being able to access the data handily.

Conclusion

Regardless of the cons of all these methods, your percentage of data loss vastly decreases with every method you add to your arsenal of recovery options. I highly recommend home PC users use the rule of three. On-site backups, physical backups and cloud backups. If you’re lazy like me, you can also practice backing up data by importance. I usually keep my every day use files on my on-site backup drive, and my harder to replace files on the cloud and on physical backups. I personally only put my important records and documents on encrypted physical backups that require a password. That way they’re useless to strangers and if they’re destroyed, no one can use it to request a business or government agency to give them duplicates without being me.

Shared Servers vs. Dedicated Servers for Web Hosting

Posted on July 13th, 2012 by admin in Hosting | Comments Off

There are two main types of servers: shared and dedicated.

A dedicated server is in essence “dedicated” to you. You are the only one who has access to use it. In contrast, a shared server is used by multiple entities.

Cost

One of the main benefits of using shared servers is that you are able to choose from a variety of options at a reasonable price. By sharing the server, you also share the cost. Shared server hosting is generally pretty cheap at roughly $5-$10 per month.

In contrast, dedicated servers can be extremely expensive since you incur the cost alone.

Customer Support

Shared servers tend to have very professional customer service teams that maintain the server for the entire group that uses it. Shared servers will generally come equipped with any applications/programs you desire to meet your site building goals. Additionally, the support teams can be extremely helpful if you aren’t exactly a Web guru.

Dedicated servers tend to have less customer support as most server decisions are up to you, not a group of professionals that are managing the server for a number of users. This can be advantageous since you will have 24/7 access to your server whereas a shared server may be down for maintenance at the discretion of customer support. Additionally, many shared server hosting companies will not allow you to load and run your own programs as they can affect the entire group. With a dedicated server, you have much more flexibility in this area since the server is dedicated to you alone. Also, most that go the dedicated route have a higher level of knowledge and do not necessitate as much assistance.

The Downside to Sharing

One negative aspect of shared servers is that any user may accidentally or intentionally do something on the server that affects all the other users in a detrimental way. In the same vein, your site will be much less secure on a server that other users have access to.

When using a dedicated server, you don’t have to worry about others on the server causing problems for you. Moreover, if information security is essential to you, you will certainly want to host your site on a dedicated server.

Overview

Ultimately, shared servers are a good choice for those that want to host a site for the lowest possible price, as well as for those who do not have as much site building knowledge and can benefit from customer support teams.

Dedicated servers are important for those that are building sites wherein security is a factor. They’re also great for those with more site building knowledge who want to be able to access their servers 24/7, as well as use applications that are not often used on shared servers.

Businesses and organizations generally use dedicated services while those building personal sites tend to lean toward the lower cost and ease of using shared servers.

Keep your overall concerns in mind when deciding what type of server to use to host your site. Also, even if you know what type of server is right for you, hosting companies can vary greatly.

Dreamhost is a great hosting company that offers both shared and dedicated servers, as well as virtual private servers.  I highly recommend them.

Facebook: The Black Sheep of Social Media Optimization?

Posted on July 6th, 2012 by admin in Social Media, Technology | Comments Off

It’s no secret that individual professionals and organizations alike are learning the value of social media as an advertising tool. Whether you’re advertising your personal skills in order to land a job, or you run a business that is hungry for success, optimizing your social media can help you get there. Not only does social media offer the opportunity for individuals and businesses to personally connect, but the discussion that occurs on social media sites will bolster an individual’s, or a business’, online presence. Additionally, most social media sites are free to sign up with and provide more utility than most individuals or businesses are able to keep up with. Yet, while most professionals wouldn’t bat an eye when signing up for a site like LinkedIn, in regards to one of the most prominent social media sites, Facebook, opinions are divided.

Many feel that Facebook is not a professional site and should not be affiliated with their business or career. Others have maintained personal Facebook pages for a longtime and desire to keep that part of their life separate from their work life. Still, some find Facebook to be a perfect fit for their personality or occupation and embrace it as a tool that can be used in their professional life.

With so many divided opinions over the professional use of Facebook, who is right? Like many things in life, the answer depends on individual personality and what one hopes to accomplish.

One of the first questions to ask is, “Where will people be looking for me?”. If you happen to be the CEO of a company that works on government defense contracts, it’s not likely that your clients will be searching for you on Facebook, and any attempt to advertise on Facebook may be an inefficient use of time and money. Additionally, some occupations and businesses may require a deft touch in regards to publicity, and a site that allows users to comment as they wish will be less than desirable in these situations.

For those that wish to keep Facebook personal, there is the option to create a “public figure” profile which can be maintained separately from a personal page. Again, whether or not creating such a page is beneficial will come down to the career and end goal of the individual in question.

One thing is certain though. Facebook has one of the largest audiences available on the Web and even if people aren’t searching for you on Facebook directly, Facebook scores highly on other search engines. Many who fear to advertise on Facebook may very well be missing out on a great opportunity.

Currently, the individuals and companies that are having the most success with Facebook are embracing it for what it is. At its heart, Facebook is still primarily a personal site people use to socialize with their friends. Thus, those who find their personality and career go hand and hand may be extremely successful when networking and/or advertising on Facebook. Additionally, any business that serves a social function, such as a bar or a restaurant, may find that Facebook is a great place to build a local following. The appeal to join Facebook has increased for these businesses due to the advent of Facebook’s location feature which allows users to post their location at any time over almost any device. When people see businesses their friends patronize on Facebook, they may become interested themselves. Other businesses that work well with Facebook tie in with things frequently discussed on Facebook. For example, the music, movie, TV, publishing, and other entertainment related industries are starting to find traction by advertising to Facebook users.

Cloud Computing

Posted on June 29th, 2012 by admin in Basics, Hosting, Technology | Comments Off

Cloud Computing Simplified

The term “cloud computing” has been increasingly used in computer and Web-related talk, but what exactly does it mean? The ideas behind cloud computing likely originated in the 1960s when figures, such as John McCarthy, expressed the opinion that computer use may someday be used in a fashion similar to that of public utilities. In the standard Web services schema, if you wanted to rent file storage space for example, you would have to come up with an estimation of how much storage space you actually need so that you don’t a) end up paying for more space than you use, or b) end up exceeding your space needs and having to go through the hassle of upgrading to a more expensive plan. This standard schema is applied to many services that can be rendered over the Web, from hosting for a website to your phone’s data plan, and is still in use today. Cloud computing seeks to make this an obsolete business model by providing users with plans under which they pay for exactly what they use, no more and no less. This is very similar to the way in which we pay for public utilities. In essence, cloud computing is the use of technology that offers resources and services over the Web in a manner in which a client’s use can be tracked, thus allowing the client to pay for exactly what they use without having to worry about different plans, scalability, etc.

What Cloud Hosting Brings to the Table

Besides providing the obvious benefit of not causing a client to examine different hosting plans and upgrading or downgrading at the appropriate time, companies that offer cloud hosting really bring something magical to the table when it comes to scalability. Imagine you’re starting a business on the Web. Not only will you need hosting for your site, but you may also need storage space for your files, dedicated servers, and to have the ability for your business to scale upwards if it is a success. The last thing you want is for your business site to be down because it was so successful that the data limits of your current hosting plan were exceeded. With cloud hosting, scalability is never an issue; as your business expands and necessitates the use of more resources from your hosting company, you will automatically be given these resources and charged for exactly what you use without having to worry about your data usage. Likewise, if your business is not as successful as you may have hoped, you will not be over-charged by any expensive plans you may have over-optimistically purchased.

What is E-commerce?

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by admin in Basics | Comments Off

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, is the buying, selling, or trade of products and services over any electronic system. Today, the vast majority of e-commerce occurs over the Internet. E-commerce is most commonly used by e-businesses, that is, businesses that are run in part, or completely, on the Web. Some of the largest e-businesses include Amazon and eBay.

There are a number of components necessary in order to operate a successful e-business. Like any business, a way to accept payment, as well as deliver the product or service, is needed. Depending on the business, the ability to accept returns and/or provide customer service may also be needed. And of course, an e-business requires a “place” to sell a product or service. This place generally comes in the form of an e-commerce website that includes an online store where a potential customer can browse items and place them in a virtual “shopping cart.” When they’re done shopping, a customer can then add or remove items from their cart before making a purchase.

E-businesses can provide advantages over a typical brick and mortar store. One major advantage is that an e-business can save its owner money in regards to the physical space required to run the business. Another enormous advantage of running an e-business is having the ability to reach millions, or even billions, of customers internationally. Additionally, e-businesses are not subject to normal time restrictions and can keep their business open all day and all night.

E-commerce Solutions

Starting or expanding a business on the Internet comes with a host of issues that must be addressed in order to achieve success. Firstly, owners and customers alike need a way to transfer money and goods while both providing legitimate credentials that prove they are who they say they are, and keeping their information secure from third parties. A high standard in regards to security is essential for running an e-business. Most e-commerce sites employ Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology to help protect information at the point of purchase.
Additional concerns for an e-business include the endless sea of possibilities for site design, as well as the plethora of marketing strategies which are available on the Web. The correct site design and/or marketing campaign can make or break an e-business. And of course, search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important for any e-business. If customers do not find an e-business site while searching for the products or services said business offers, the business is not likely to be successful.

There are a number of free and/or inexpensive tools a business owner can use to set up an e-business. However, a business owner will generally have many other things to focus on and there are a many online companies (e-businesses themselves) that offer e-commerce solutions. These companies can help a business owner do anything from reliably host an e-commerce site, design the site with a specific business in mind, provide a secure shopping cart to process orders, develop marketing plans that fit the business model, use techniques to improve the business site’s search ranking, provide customer service, and more.

Ultimately, a business owner should be sure to conduct a fair amount of research before deciding whether or not to start an e-business or expand an existing business to the Internet. Not all businesses will benefit from the Web (for example, a business that makes most of its profit from a loyal, local following may waste money by attempting to expand to the Internet). Likewise, if a business owner decides that creating an e-business will provide him or her with advantages, he or she should be knowledgeable enough to know whether creating and managing the site on their own will be more or less beneficial than hiring one of the many e-commerce solutions companies that are available online.