Social networking and microblogging site Twitter made a big splash in 2008. Digital marketing experts are hailing its potential as a business tool to connect with industry leaders and build your online brand. But what most business people want to know is, where do I start?
ecademy – the business-orientated social networking site, that we have covered many times within the pages of Business Matters, gave a stark warning to its members of the possible pitfalls of using social networking as they left supposedly private support emails sent through the site publicly viewable as the result of a programming error earlier this week.
New research by broadband comparison site Broadband Expert has revealed that broadband speeds slow down to nearly half their average speed between 7pm and 9pm in the evening.
UK businesses of all sizes can now turn their premises into wireless broadband (Wi-Fi) hotspots, expanding the range of services they offer to customers and visitors, and potentially creating a new revenue stream, thanks to the latest initiative from BT Business Total Broadband.
Most of us are familiar with the calming disembodied voice of our GPS device informing us to take a left turn just as we overshoot the junction. What’s less familiar is the process by which that voice gets its information. To find out, I spent a day on the road with digital map provider, Navteq.
The map you see on your GPS device (whether it be on your PDA, mobile or in your car) will probably have come from one of two mapping companies, Navteq or Tele Atlas. Both collect map data by driving the roads with a satellite receiver attached to the vehicle and recording information as they go. Information is also collected from other sources, such as Royal Mail, local councils, and the Highways Agency. It is a complex and time-consuming process; no corners can be cut.
Having web pages that have landing pages which load too slowly do not only hurt your conversion rates but they are to be penalised by Google. Google will be giving websites with slow loading landing pages a lower Quality Score and in turn, a higher minimum bid price in an effort to improve user experience. A landing page could also be referred to as a destination page, the destination URL or a target URL and is the web page that a consumer arrives at once a link is clicked.
The emergence of cheap, portable satnav units really has revolutionised travel for most of us. No longer are you destined to spend hours driving randomly around city centres, and even the geographically-challenged now have a fighting chance of making meetings on time.
As the technology has got more advanced, the satnav gadgets themselves have shrunk, and now there are even mobile phones with mapping capabilities built in. When choosing a unit, it’s key to decide what sort of features you want – while basic maps are free, many providers charge for add-on services like live traffic information, for instance. If you plan a lot of travelling, it’s also worth checking you can easily change country maps – you don’t want to discover on the ferry across the channel that you need to buy a new memory card for French maps, for instance.
Why do larger businesses seem to get the benefits of new technology first? These companies typically have enough employees to justify replacing legacy telephony systems with new IP PBXs — they also have the budget for such large-scale investments.
But there isn’t a company, small or large, that would turn down access to 200 million new customers worldwide, let alone an opportunity to cut long-distance calling costs. So how can smaller companies or those with small IT departments or low budgets experience the benefits of VoIP?
By calling other Skype users for free or standard phones via SkypeOut, companies can achieve significant reductions in their long-distance bills.
More and more businesses are now recognising the urgency of saving energy and developing plans to reduce their carbon footprint. Gaining control of the amount of power that a datacentre uses should be at the forefront of these strategies, as understanding where energy is wasted can make a huge impact to the size of your business’s footprint.
Currently, there is no standard for measuring datacentre efficiency which makes it incredibly difficult to benchmark efficiency performance. Generally, users of datacentres have scant understanding of where savings can be made and make little connection between their electricity bill and operational decisions. As a result the majority of datacentres are grossly inefficient.
Modern businesses have started to treat IT as the fourth essential utility after water, electricity and gas. Today, IT is likely to play a vital role in the daily operations of all businesses, from bakers to banks.
Businesses of all sizes are upping their investment in all manner of IT, recognising its ability to streamline processes, improve efficiency as well as productivity and ultimately contribute to the bottom line. However, with this increased dependency on technology the availability and immediacy of good technical support has become a top priority.
One of the main reasons behind this IT services revolution is the availability of off-the-shelf standard software, as opposed to the complex bespoke systems thatwere the mainstay of offices twenty years ago. With the dawn of these off-the-shelf solutions, businesses can now buy software at a fraction of the cost it would to develop them for themselves. This means that IT support organisations are able to provide support for specific standard applications, thus ensuring the investment in technology is maximised.
The emergence of the latest generation of internet applications, dubbed Web 2.0, has meant a renaissance for many technologies that never quite made it. Social networking, with sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and the huge rise of instant messaging and the near cult status of the Blackberry, have all meant we now consider online communication as the norm.
One industry that has been quietly but effectively growing in this area has been video-conferencing – a technique that was once a bit of a black art, with kit that was complex to set up and dodgy video quality, something even industry experts have been forced to admit.
"The legacy of the first wave of video-conferencing is that many firms invested in expensive end-point video equipment and due to various reasons the investment failed to deliver the expected returns," admits Steve Frost of networking company Cisco. "The systems used to be far too complex. People used to step into a room and be given a remote control and told ‘set it up, then’ – it was never going to work."
It used to be a simple equation – on the road you had an underpowered but light machine to take notes, while back in the office was a powerful desktop for most of your day-to-day work. Today, however, things are blurred, to say the least. When you’re out and about there’s a choice of mobile phone, Blackberry, ultra-light portable or laptop, while in the office, it seems you really don’t need a desktop at all, with some laptops now sporting 17-inch screens and enough processing power to handle anything you can throw at them.
There are, however, a few things to bear in mind. The biggest issue is battery life – in a highly powerful machine, don’t expect longevity. These are really designed to be used at a desk, next to a power supply. If battery life is an issue, then it’s well worth looking for something with a slightly lower spec – it may not be as quick, but at least you’ll be able to get your work done without the horror of the "low battery" warnings. For processors, look out for Intel’s Core™ 2 Duo processor – it’s the best around at the moment, and will give you desktop-like performance without almost instantly draining the battery.
Here are a few of the best of the new breed of dual-purpose portables.
Wifi is taking over the world – or so it sometimes seems from a consumer standpoint. Venues from churches to coffee shops are offering internet access to customers as an added enticement, and many homes and offices have also installed hotspots as laptops slowly edge out desktop machines.
One of the biggest UK providers of wifi is BT’s Openzone, which has agreements with several hotel chains, including Thistle and Hilton hotels. It believes that many people now choose hotels based on the quality of their wifi. "Research shows that, for the business traveller, flexible, fast and reliable wifi access is a prerequisite when choosing a hotel," says Chris Bruce of BT Openzone.