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Cloud hosting in plain English

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Put it in the cloud!" This seems to be the battle cry of the decade as more and more organizations are moving to a cloud-based hosting structure. At SpinWeb, we make use of cloud-based website hosting to serve our clients and we sometimes get questions about it.

One of our trusted hosting partners is Verio, and so we decided to sit down with Fred White, VP of Product Management at Verio, for some answers. We think you'll find our conversation illuminating!

SpinWeb: How do you define cloud hosting?

Fred: Verio would generally define Cloud Hosting as convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources that enables users to leverage servers, storage, and apps anywhere in the world, any time. However, we internally believe that Cloud Hosting is really about making high-quality, scalable, and reliable resources available at a price people can afford and at a very high level of customer satisfaction.

SpinWeb: Why are some people still confused about what cloud hosting means?

Fred: It’s understandable that there are so many different notions about Cloud. For nearly a decade, there has been enormous hype around the concept of Cloud, and endless ideas have been presented about the benefits that it can provide. This is actually a good thing: the public discussion has been a very effective way to move Cloud innovations forward, and it also provides a strong incentive to deliver solid solutions. So, while people are still confused, the reality is that Cloud Hosting and Cloud Services in general are becoming absolutely pervasive, and it almost won’t matter in a short period of time because virtually all hosted services will be some variant of “Cloud.”

I’m not sure if that means the term “Cloud” will go away over time – after all, it’s not like you hear a lot of people talking about Application Service Providers anymore even though that was the hot sector for quite a while, but they are still all over the place (as “Cloud” providers, mainly) and we just take the term for granted – but it really will become more trivial because so much of what we do in our personal and professional lives will happen “in the Cloud.”

SpinWeb: What is the biggest misconception about cloud hosting?

Fred: There seem to be a lot of worries around security with Cloud. The fact is that most of your data is already stored on servers in a datacenter today, and Cloud doesn’t change that. What does change is that Cloud usually means you get high availability, high durability, and overall better management and maintenance of servers. For most users, this means improved security with Cloud vs. traditional servers.

SpinWeb: How do you know if you need cloud hosting?

Fred: Cloud is perfect for companies who are technology-dependent, but not technology-centric. So, if you want to focus more on your business and less on the technology you need to run it, Cloud-based solutions are a great option for you.

SpinWeb: What are the biggest advantages of cloud hosting over traditional web hosting?

Fred: The biggest advantage of Cloud is that you can “outsource” much of your IT. Cloud enables you to get rid of the ongoing overhead associated with running your own network, hardware, and even applications. With Cloud, you go to a specialist (a Service Provider who knows what it takes to keep things moving) so that you can spend your valuable time growing your business, not your IT department.

SpinWeb: What are some of the biggest disadvantages of cloud hosting?

Fred: Perhaps the biggest problem for the current state of the industry is providers who aren’t willing to admit that not every workload is appropriate for the Cloud, and they try to force solutions that just aren’t in the customer’s best interest.

A classic example is an environment where very large files are worked on collaboratively – so think a graphic design firm or an architect’s office. In that kind of environment, having everything on a very fast, local area network is more appealing than having to rely on an external network or an internet connection. The performance simply won’t be appealing to the end-user. Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t still some great use cases in for these situations – like long-term file retention as an example – but for real-time collaboration on large files, Cloud would be cumbersome. This will change over time as quality, high-speed connectivity is available pervasively, but can present a problem in the short-term.

SpinWeb: Besides Verio, who is doing cloud hosting really well?

Fred: A lot of service providers are doing a great job of Cloud: Amazon, SoftLayer, Rackspace and more are providing solid Cloud Hosting. This is another great thing about Cloud: you don’t need to be limited to one service provider, because Cloud is more of an ecosystem. You can find providers whose strengths match your needs, and even combine solutions between providers.

SpinWeb: What types of organizations are typically showing up as "early adopters" of cloud hosting?

Fred: Technically-oriented business, such as application developers and MSPs seem to be the first to the starting line. However, many more general businesses are beginning to see the benefit of outsourcing their IT as well.

SpinWeb: What is the future of cloud hosting?

Fred: A lot of the solutions that companies pay big money to have as part of their IT today will become available to smaller players. Because the tools you have at your disposal can help you run a more efficient business, this can be big news. It can begin to level the playing field for SMBs who want to grow but don’t have the time, budget, or tools at their disposal today.

SpinWeb: Anything else you would like to add?

Fred: Our focus has always been on the SMB market -- and particularly the partners who service this market.  We have been fortunate to have our partners provide input on Cloud over the past several years – and continue to provide input – to help us shape our future Cloud development.  We see our partners changing their approach to business and solutions with the increased adoption of Cloud Hosting and look forward to working with partners in the future to help them adopt this technology as a standard part of their business.  

Fred WhiteAs Vice President of Product Management, Fred White leads all of Verio's product initiatives including its core service offering as well as identifying and evaluating emerging technologies for inclusion in the company's future product portfolio. With almost two decades of success in bridging business and technology, White works collaboratively with Verio's customers and partners worldwide to ensure the delivery of innovative, market leading solutions that meet both current business requirements as well as future business growth.

Why should I care about Google+?

Posted by: in General on Thursday, March 28, 2013

We've been getting lots of questions lately about Google+. Questions like: "do I need to be on Google+?" and "What are your thoughts on Google+?"

It's understandable that you might be fatigued with the thought of joining yet another social network and then keeping up with it. Sounds dreadful, right?

Maybe. While no one should feel obligated to join this network or that network, there is value in being informed so you can make a good decision about how to spend your time in marketing.

What is Google+?

Let's start with the basics. Google+ is a social network from Google. Plain and simple. Ok, there's more to it than that but if you're looking for a very basic explanation, that will do. You can post status updates, photos, links, comments, and videos – just like that other popular social network out there.

So, if you're looking for another social network to keep up with... here you go! No? Well, let's dig deeper.

How Google+ affects your business visibility

If you genuinely like Google+ and you find it fun to hang out on, then go for it. You're all set. However, if you like most marketing pros and business leaders, you're probably more interested in how it can help your business.

There is one main reason to care about this network from a business standpoint, and it's spelled SEO. Your search engine rankings can play a big part in your visibility as an organization, especially in the B2B market. Many organizations spend thousands of dollars per month and lots of time in order to try to push their rankings higher in Google's search results for targeted keywords.

Social signals have played a part in search rankings for a while now, but the game is changing (again) to favor individual authors more heavily in the mix of signals. AuthorRank is Google's way of taking some weight away from PageRank (based on the organization's overall score) and onto actual people – which actually makes a lot of sense.

People want to work with people that they know, like, and trust. This has been true since the dawn of time. This is why I love AuthorRank. It gets back to basics and creates a world where companies can't simply throw lots of money and time at SEO and achieve great (and sometimes undeserved) rankings. Instead, we are entering a world where individual people have to contribute value. The philosophy then becomes an adaptation: people want to work with and learn from people they know, like, and trust.

What does this mean for you? It means no more hiding behind your logo and corporate brand. Smart organizations are learning how to nurture the online profiles of their sales people, their marketing team, and their executives. These individuals must learn to produce content and value and be a trusted resource in the virtual world.

And since Google owns Google+, is there any doubt which network it will favor most?

This quote from Eric Schmidt sums it up nicely:

"Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance."

An eye toward collaboration

Google+ also has a strong focus on business collaboration. The Hangout feature is shaking up the world of collaboration by making group video conferencing free, easy, and fun. Hangouts can be accessed from virtually (no pun intended) any device, such as computer, tablet, or smart phone. The quality is surprisingly good and this tool is helping small groups, committees, and boards save time and money by meeting virtually.

Google+ Communities are also allowing organizations to create private spaces for collaboration internally or with customers/members. We're running a community right now for Inbound Marketing Academy, which allows our participants to share ideas and start ad-hoc video hangouts to collaborate.

Is Google+ right for you?

Bottom line: there is no one size fits all recommendation when it comes to marketing. We have many clients who are very successful completely ignoring a particular social network while others get 25% of their business from it. It depends on your goals, your business, and your target market.

Whatever you decide, it's important to understand how Google is positioning this social network. I would ask the following questions:

  1. Is search engine visibility important to my business?
  2. Am I in a business in which personal relationships are valued?
  3. Am I willing to build a team of highly visible people?

If you feel positive about all of these points, I would recommend carving out some time to include Google+ in your strategy. If you do, circle me and hit me up for a hangout sometime. I'd love to chat.

Image credit: AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA / Shutterstock.com

Best practices for a killer mobile website [Slide Deck]

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at CJ McClanahan's RLS program, as well as the Revenue North Conference. The topic? Mobile website best practices.

By now, it should be clear that mobile is a significant part if your marketing stragy. According to a study by Google and Nielsen on mobile web, 55% of purchase-related conversions happen within one hour of a mobile search.

It should be apparent that if you are not making it easy for your website visitors to navigate your website on a smart phone, you are likely losing customers.

We covered a lot of great points during the presentation and I appreciate all who attended. Below is the slide deck for reference. Enjoy!

 

If you like, you can also download a PDF of this presention on mobile websites. Feel free to share it with your team.

What is inbound marketing? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by: in General on Thursday, March 7, 2013

While we try not to use too much industry jargon, we are sometimes guilty of using unfamiliar terminology at SpinWeb when talking with clients. When decscribing what we do, we explain that we deliver corporate web solutions and inbound marketing.

Another way of saying it is that we create and maintain industry-leading corporate websites, deliver a robust Content Management System, and help our clients maintain content. Then, we help turn their sales teams into super-heros by generating leads using SEO, social media, content strategies, email, and marketing intelligence.

We sometimes get the question: "What is inbound marketing?"

We explain that inbound marketing is the practice of earning attention (rather than buying it), and then creating a system to turn that attention into sales. However, sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words so we've put together a detailed infogrographic that explains the inbound marketing process. Enjoy!

Inbound Marketing Infographic

What do The Harlem Shake, viral videos, and memes have to do with your content marketing?

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This is a guest post by Rocky Walls, CEO of 12 Stars Media, an Indianapolis video production company  that  provides full service production, strategy and outsourced video editing services  through their Candidio service line to companies around the world.

Memes, gifs, and viral videos seem to come and go on an weekly basis these days. The last trend to hit YouTube was the The Harlem Shake meme. In the last month you've undoubtedly been unable to log onto your computer or check your social media feeds without seeing at least one person linking or embedding a Harlem Shake video. In some cases, you may have even participated in one of the attempted viral videos.

However, after all the hullabaloo dies down we were left with these ultimate questions during last week's episode of Video Pep Talk (watch the full episode at the bottom of this post): what is the point of a Harlem Shake video and can it really help us in the content marketing world?

Use of viral videos

Viral videos are almost unanimously one thing: entertaining. But while they may grab your attention, do they really make good content marketing material for your audience? Will a viral video really help promote who you are or what you do as a company?

Videos, like other forms of content marketing, should answer questions or solve problems for your customers. Unless you have unlimited resources and especially if your company is trying to identify the the only video you plan to produce this month or year, the viral video route probably ends in disappoint for you.

Originality is key - or is it?

When you take a look at the advertising world overall, there are copycats and trends that make it seem like you should be following suit. In the case of the Harlem Shake craze, many ad agencies and other companies jumped on the bandwagon and started creating their own versions. But these videos rarely, if at all, go viral. Instead, it’s the original video that makes the most waves. For instance, the Dollar Shave Club video showed off personality in a whole new way last year. The California based company made a video that explains who they are in a fun and new way. The problem? Companies started copying the style used in the original video, and it just didn’t work the same.

So, instead of trying to follow suit and create the next viral video, think about how you can create original content to share. BUT, here's the real kicker - originality isn't really the secret sauce, value is. That's right, I said it. These days people don't care nearly as much about how original and entertaining you are as they do how much value you actually bring to them. Dollar Shave Club had originality, but even more importantly it showed value to its audience.

End results

The ultimate purpose of any video should not be to go viral, but rather, it should be your call-to-action. What is it that you want your viewers to do after the video? The Dollar Shave Club video lucked out by going viral and getting so many orders that they were back ordered by a few months. Instead of creating a video with the intentions of going viral, create content that is useful and moves your viewers to click a link, contact you, or purchase your services or products.

You shouldn’t be wasting resources like time, money, and energy to make a video that hundreds or even millions of people watch but don’t do anything after. Make videos that are original and solve problems. In other words, you should be creating valuable content that engages with a viewer and encourages them to do something after watching the video. Watch the full episode of Video Pep Talk below and sign up to stay notified about our weekly Video Pep Talks on Google+ Hangouts On Air every Wednesday for more thoughts on digital video marketing and communications.