Will Web Hosting Companies Need to Change to Meet the Rising Mobile Market?

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The term “smartphone” is somewhat of a misnomer these days, since the millions of people who are using these so-called phones every day are actually using them to do much more than just talk to one another. In fact, a 2013 Experian Marketing survey indicated that an average adult user spends about an hour on his or her smartphone each day (iPhone users actually spend an hour and 15 minutes each day), but only 26 percent of that time is actually talking. The other 74 percent is divided between texting, social networking, browsing the web, emailing, and playing games.

Phones are also not the only way that we browse the web on the go. The rise of tablet usage in the United States has also pushed companies toward creating even more mobile-friendly options so sites can be ready at customers’ fingertips whenever they want to access information about the company online. As companies adapt and demand more and more mobile options, web hosting companies must also adapt to meet businesses needs.

Mobile Trends in the U.S.

The Pew Internet Research Project’s Mobile Technology Fact Sheet highlights the prevalence of mobile devices in our lives. As of January 2014, 9 out of 10 Americans have a cell phone, and about 65 percent of those people have smartphones. Another 42 percent of people in the U.S. own a tablet computer. In fact, people love their mobile devices so much that almost half of cell phone owners admit to sleeping with the phone next to the bed so they won’t miss anything important overnight.

Men own smartphones at a slightly higher rate than women, and not surprisingly, the bulk of smartphone owners are between the ages of 18-49, although about half of adults ages 50 to 64 now have a smartphone as well.

The Rise of Mobile Web Browsing

A 2013 survey showed that about two-thirds of mobile users use the device to go online—since 90 percent of Americans own cell phones, that means about 57 percent of all Americans are going online using a mobile device, a number that has doubled just since 2009. The same study revealed that about one-third of those accessing the internet on their cell phones actually uses their mobile device as their primary method of going online.

Groups most likely to be found online using a mobile device include young adults, African-Americans and Latinos, college-educated adults, people with household incomes above $ 75,000, and urban and suburban dwellers. These are key demographics for many businesses to capture, which is why it’s so critical that companies adopt mobile-friendly formats for their website.

Survey Says: Get a Mobile Website

Numerous surveys have shown that companies would benefit from a mobile website. In response to that need, many web hosting companies are now offering options to help get businesses online with a format that is easy to browse on small portable devices, such as smartphones and laptops. If you pay attention to market trends, you know that having a mobile website is critical to business success.

In addition, users today want more than just a “skeleton” version of a full desktop website; they want to be able to browse, find information, shop, and do all the other things they do online from their desktop, right from the palm of their hand.

Differences Between Mobile and Desktop Websites

Mobile and desktop websites have different browsing and usage habits, and require a different approach based on consumer behaviors. Some of the common differences to keep in mind when you’re building a mobile website include:

  • Touch versus click – mobile users navigate by touchscreen, so buttons and clicks should be simple and large, allowing users to see and click them easily.
  • On-demand usage – users have their mobile device available at their fingertips at almost any time of the day, and want to be able to access information instantly through their device. That means web hosting companies need to offer a quality online experience with fast load times and simple design.
  • App usage – many consumers also prefer to use mobile apps instead of browsing a company’s website, so it’s important to find a web hosting company that can help with app support if this is something you want to do.
  • Social sharing – mobile users spend significant time on social networks sharing information, and want a seamless experience when uploading, viewing, and downloading videos and pictures.
  • Information – studies have shown that about half of consumers use their mobile devices for pre-purchase research, and many of them do it while they are in the store. If they can’t get the information they need quickly, companies could easily lose a sale, which is why it’s critical that web hosting companies offer fast speeds and seamless service. 

There is also a third type of web design that is becoming increasingly popular, called a “responsive design.” A responsive site will automatically adapt to whatever screen it is on—desktop, tablet, or mobile phone—so a user can access the whole site in the most device-friendly way. It’s sort of a hybrid between a mobile site and a desktop site, giving you the best of both worlds.

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How Hosting Companies Are Adjusting to Meet the Demand for Mobile

Mobile users demand information right now, and web hosting companies also see the importance of responding to the growing demands and unique needs of mobile users. Many of these companies are now offering mobile website building tools, mobile-friendly hosting plans, and other options that can help your company get online.

While some of these web hosting companies are still offering just the basics (some web hosts, for example, will automatically adjust to mobile devices, but offer very little in the way of allowing companies to customize their users’ mobile experience), others are going all-in on mobile offerings. The most successful web hosting companies offer mobile design interfaces that are included as part of an overall web hosting package, have intuitive and easy-to-use tools, and provide fast response times to keep customers connected, even when they’re browsing on a mobile device.

Mobile users are not going away any time soon, so as more and more customers demand access to these sites, web hosting companies will have no choice but to adapt to help companies develop mobile websites that will reach these customers.

Top image ©GL Stock Images

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Data Center: Best Practices For Change Management

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As system and network administrators our job is to keep everything as it is yet to keep up with the current technology. In case of an event, you will be in a position to have touched something which was not broken but at the same time you will be asked whether people will continue to live with Windows 2000 systems.

Inevitably the time will come to make changes in the data center: you will be upgrading existing hardware or deploying new hardware, upgrading existing software or deploying new, migrating physical machines to virtual infrastructure, upgrading network infrastructure, deploying new services etc.. These are technological issues that we undertake as part of our daily jobs. The formal definition of the change management process in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) concepts is more broad and strict than that I will discuss in this article. This is the point I will base my post: I will be discussing about my experiences in the data center rather than an overview of ITIL concepts.

Let me start with the obvious. Have redundancy and make the redundant components as identical as possible. With identical I mean the same operating system, same level of patches, same switch, and if virtual, same virtualization platform, same guest tools version, same network card type (both -say- E1000 or VMNetx version) and the like. If you have time and if it is possible, introduce the redundant system in the production system to see if everything is working as expected. For example in a remote desktop server farm, I have 3 servers more than needed so I can make changes and if anything goes wrong, I immediately remove servers. Document everything from start to finish and identify all the components involved: you can discuss the procedure with your colleagues in detail and have their inputs, and if anything goes wrong everybody can follow your steps (more on that later).

Even if you have set everything up correctly and your change went without any problems, wait at least a couple of days, preferably a full week to ensure that the change is successful. Data center is a complex environment and it is sometimes impossible  to predict what a small change can affect many things in the background.

For patch management, implement a central patch management solution. This can be Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Group Policy, Dell KACE or a similar method. You will be able to control the updates centrally, get a holistic view of the update process, and make sure that updates are downloaded once.

After all these steps, even if everything went perfectly, wait until the old server is really really obsolete. Never assume that after a successful change everything is done and the old server can be decommissioned. Even if you have decommissioned the server, wait for some more time. I cannot count how many times I need to boot the server after decommissioning it and how I tried to pull data or configuration from a server that’s computer account is deleted from the Active Directory. Pull the plug when you are definitely, absolutely sure that the server is no longer needed. You may not know what waits you down the road.

Always have multiple inputs, more people you ask more gaps you find out. Remember how I advised you to document your change in detail? Use this document to discuss with your colleagues. Ideally this document should be as thorough as possible to fill all the gaps but of course we are humans and may have left out something. Plus, different people will have different points of view, and they may tell you things that you did not notice and sometimes will give you completely different ideas. When finished, you can prepare yourself a checklist and see if everything fits in your test system. Update your checklist with your experiences in your tests and discuss again. Repeat this until everybody is comfortable with the change. You cannot imagine how many headaches this process will save you from. (… and one more thing: don’t skip any items on the checklist, don’t try to cut steps, Murphy will catch you.)

What will you do if your change is not successful? How will you roll back changes? How will you ensure that the business is not interrupted? You need to have a solid backup plan which is as  detailed as possible as the change plan. Have the same steps: prepare the document, discuss, revise, test if possible. Think about all the options in the backup plan, and if you ask me, go creative: take snapshots, export registry keys, have system information in a text file, prepare drivers etc.. If that unfortunate moment comes, you will see how important all these are.

Of course you have to schedule your plan wisely. If you are working for a retail company with peak sales during the weekends, then you cannot schedule the change in Friday evening. Conversely, if you are working for a marine port, you have to find a time spot according to the ships. Suppose that you scheduled your change for the Sunday evening at 2000 and you expect the change to take 4 hours. What if everything stops working after 2 hours? Will you have enough time from Sunday 2200 to Monday 0830 to make sure everything is up and running? Make sure that you speak with all the people – users, stakeholders, colleagues – and choose your change schedule accordingly (… and one more thing: if you schedule it on Friday evening don’t forget to check the results during the weekend. I did this many times only to come on Monday morning to see messed up systems.)

Prepare all these and present to the managers, owners, VPs, whoever involved and ask for their approval. This process will let everybody know that some serious and risky business is going on with the systems, will ensure that everybody has approval and has support. Don’t try to be the hero and go all on your own. Make sure that everybody is carrying the risk somehow and if anything fails, people are informed and will be prepared  to provide the support you need. Then you can go on with your work.

We, IT people, are always under pressure to rush things, finish the task at hand, move on to the next and keep the systems as updated as possible. I advise you to be a little conservative, test everything as much as possible, and play safe. This way of working will make a good track of yourself over time. When the time comes to take a risk, people will say that you had to take it because you had to, not because you are someone who loves to play risky.

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Will Google Glass Change Society for the Worst?

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The mobile phone is accused of killing face-to-face human interaction. Facebook is now inserting suggested pages and advertisements that are making users very angry. What can be expected from Google Glass? Will this invention become the stuff of science fiction movies that destroy societal interaction by replacing it with virtual reality lifestyles?

Years ago, I reported on an iPad-style invention with a glass front that when held up to the street scene, would give you information about architecture, places to eat and transportation information. Sounded great and essentially, that is the basis of the Google Glass. Of course, there is much, much more — perhaps too much?

Hello Information, Goodbye Real Life!

A cute video, but frightening in that this is exactly how people will interact with others. Sherrie Schneider (no relation to the author of this article), dating coach and co-author of “The Rules,” is in the “don’t wear it” camp, at least in the beginning.

Glass is not “a first date accessory,” she argues. “You need to treat Google Glass like any special issue on a first date. You don’t eat meat. You’re a Republican. You had breast cancer. Google Glass.”

That said, “don’t think that Google Glass will prevent a guy from asking you out again,” Schneider clarifies. “If he likes you, he will say ‘I want to see you Saturday night, but please don’t wear Google Glass.’”

No matter what, Glass “shouldn’t be a surprise,” Schneider emphasizes. If you’re gonna wear it, make sure your date knows ahead of time. Casey agrees. “I think you need to put it on your dating profile that you may be wearing Glass,” she said.

Whitney Casey, a relationship expert for Match.com, says the overarching rule when it comes to Glass and dates is simple: “Don’t wear it.”

Well, up until now there was only one thing that ruined dating — my personality!

Dating of course, is only a side to the problems Google Glass will cause in human interaction. Complaints about texting will be nothing compared to the attention stealing device, although it will make for a very quiet society.

When you imagine the dangers of texting while walking and driving, multiply it times 100 for Glass users. There will be people so involved with their augmented reality through Google Glass, they’ll be walking into oncoming traffic, falling into open sewers, driving off cliffs and unable to pay attention to the simplest task.The quiet of society will only be broken by the crashing of metal and bone and screams of the injured.

There are the memes on the internet of groups of people sitting at the dinner table, each one glued to their mobile device, not interactive with each other. So what will Google Glass do for human interaction? Will people need to even leave their homes? Will they want to do it at all?

Privacy Issues

The very functions and capabilities that make Google Glass so incredible, are of grave concern to many, including the U.S. Congress. Joann Stern, of ABC News reports:

While some members of Congress might have been excited to try on Google’s Glass this week, others are concerned about their privacy implications.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and seven other members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus have sent a letter to Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page requesting answers to a series of privacy questions and concerns raised by the camera-equipped glasses.

“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans,” the letter reads. “Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google’s plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share.”

Eight questions are put forth in the letter, which can be read in full here. The first question addresses Google’s track record for ignoring consumer privacy and cites that in 2010 Google had collected user data over wireless networks without permission: “While we are thankful that Google acknowledged that there was an issue and took responsible measures to address it, we would like to know how Google plans to prevent Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user / non-user without consent?”

Later questions focus on the concerns about the integrated camera and computing capabilities. “When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even inanimate objects that the user is viewing?”

The group even asks about what privacy restrictions have been put in place for Glass app developers. While not referenced in the letter, a developer named Michael DiGiovanni created a Glass app called “Winky,” which allows a photo to be taken with just a blink of the eye.

Since the request for answers on privacy issues, the Congressional committee has expressed “disappointment” with the answers provided by Google.

The technology and services it offers users, it seems, have surpassed any ability to assure anyone of privacy issues. The Orwellian “1984 fear” of “Big Brother,” seems to not have come from the government, but from an electronic device put into play by users, the very victims themselves.

What are some of the dangers to society and individual privacy? According to the article, “3 New Ways Google Glass Invades Your Privacy,” appearing on PolicyMic, these are the biggest threats:

Glass accesses your subconscious:

The nature of a phone is that we have to pick it up and then swipe and click on things to make requests to the device. Sometimes, there are apps in the background, but we generally have to make a conscious decision to use our phones.

Google Glass, on the other hand, tracks your eye movements and makes data requests based on where you’re looking. This means the device collects information without active permission. Eye movements are largely unconscious and have significant psychological meanings. For example, eye movements show who you’re attracted to and how you weigh your purchase options when shopping. Even creepier, it can even show if you’re lying or telling the truth.

You’ll become a snitch:

Did you pass by two people shaking hands on the street?  You might have revealed a drug deal to the police.

Police are increasingly resorting to digital information to catch criminals, sometimes finding hot spots for crimes before they even occur. The New York Police Department is beginning to use big data, which combines information from 3000 surveillance cameras, license plate readers, radiation detectors, 911 calls, arrest records, crime reports, and files of data on individuals’ personal characteristics from tattoos to limps. This data is put together to predict crimes and catch criminals. Similarly, ShotSpotter is used in 70 U.S. cities and gathers aggregate data to predict criminal events. Expect law enforcement to add some sort of information collected from Glass devices to the complicated algorithms designed to locate criminals.

What about the police getting access directly into what you see? This would be a new level of wiretapping, in which police would have get a warrant to as well as overcome some constitutional hurdles. Still, seeing that Google complied with 93% of the 6,321 government requests of private user information in the second half of 2011.

You lose everything if there’s a breach:

How many of you will turn off your Glass while punching in your PIN? How about when a person’s credit card is visible from the edge of your vision? How about when opening your bills, filing out tax information, or filing out a health form? Remember that computers can recognize numbers and letters blazingly fast – even a passing glance as you walk past a stranger’s wallet can mean that the device on your face learns her credit card number. All of this information can be compromised with a security breach, revealing both the information of the one using Glass and the people they surrounds themselves with.

Security breaches occur on phones frequently, often without the user ever being aware of it. The FTC recently brought charges against Android phone manufacturer HTC for having a serious security hole in 18 million smartphones. Hackers with access to your Glass could rob your apartment by knowing when you’re not home and where you keep your spare keys, gain access to your PIN and account numbers, and watch your fingers as you type in your passwords to other accounts on your computer. With this information, they could take every cent you have and e-mail your scandalous pictures to your boss.

Even Google Glass engineers, who claim privacy issues were a concern from day one, admit there are still concerns over hacking.

TECH: Google Glass augmented reality computer

Are There Health Issues?

According to this article from the Mail Online:

Google has warned,  its Glass wearable computer could result in eye strain and headaches – and has banned children from wearing the gadget amid fears it could damage their eyesight. The search giant also advises people who have had laser eye surgery to check with their doctors. The warnings come amid growing concern over the safety of looking at the tiny screen all day.

“Glass isn’t for everyone,” the firm says on a web site for the gadget, which is currently only available to a handful of developers.

‘Like when wearing glasses, some people may feel eye strain or get a headache.

‘If you’ve had Lasik surgery, ask your doctor about risks of eye impact damage before using Glass. Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision.”

Google has also banned those under 13 from connecting Glass to their account. It also revealed customers who struggle with health issues will be given a refund.

“If Glass is not for you and you wish to return it, do so before the end of the applicable refund period,” it said.

It also claims that internal tests have given it “no cause for concern.”

‘It’s something we’ll continue to watch carefully,’ a spokesman said. “We have been working with ophthalmologists throughout our development process.”

Dr. Eli Peli, a professor of opthalmology at Harvard Medical School who has been “offering advice and guidance” to the Glass team, said, “all told, the results we see so far are encouraging.”

“As with regular eyeglasses or a new spectacle prescription, some people’s eyes take a bit longer to adjust to these systems.”

Dr. James Salz, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told NBC News the experience of wearing Glass was similar to reading a small print book.

‘Other than feeling a bit uncomfortable or getting a headache from this … there’s no evidence that this would do permanent damage to your eye,’ he claimed.

However, he believes it could lead to eye dryness.

Whatever happened to the old fear of electromagnetic forces causing brain cancer when people held their mobile phones up to their ears too long? And what of the pop up ads that will appear? will heart palpitations be part of the reIt’s probably not as much of a concern as most Glass users will be walking into oncoming traffic while they read their email and watch YouTube videos while on the streets.

Featured image ©MIT Technology Review

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Change How You Think About the Level 1 Support: No Down Payment, Immediate Returns

Posted by: Admin  :  Category: Web Hosting

Everything is changing and so is the IT department. Not only the focus, but also the users. Add the constant pressure of doing more with less and understaffing (about half) you probably end up with burned out Level 1 support employees. Under these conditions, it does not make sense to insist on the traditional Level 1 support. Of course, we have to review procedures, paying more attention and time to training but, the reality is we need a different way of thinking.

Let’s start with the users: With the Generation Y already in the workforce, we have born-digital users. They are already capable

No Investment

No down payment, no direct investment but immediate returns. Yes, you can do this with your existing IT support personnel.

of taking care of many problems they encounter (ok, sometimes they create worse problems than they can solve). Some of them want to use their own devices (the famous Bring Your Own Device – BYOD issue), which makes IT executives scream “unsupported device.” But, on the other hand this is a luck. Users are already familiar with technology and comfortable with it.

The same users, both born-digital and the tech-savvy first go to the Internet to find the answers to their questions. In fact, the born-digital generation had friends from the social networks before they have any real-life friends. The same people are already active users on the forums, asking questions and answering them. Instead of keeping their knowledge as a secret, they share it. They are also familiar with the online forums and their rules.

Add all the ingredients together: familiarity with the technology + ability to make friends on computer networks + active forum use. The only thing left is the platform on which they will express themselves, which is Sharepoint Foundation in Microsoft platforms (there are many open source products of course).

What I say is, create a social help desk. Assign tech-savvy users to departments (key users) who can solve their colleagues’ problems without help desk assistance. Create a self-service portal where users can ask questions and receive answers from other users. Those questions and answers will be your knowledge-base. Assign one or more Level 1 support personnel for forum moderation and knowledge-base creation and management.

You will need some time and some extra effort to establish this base. After that, or in parallel, depending on your resources, you can establish policies on making calls to help desk. For example you can establish policies to go through the knowledge base before asking for support. Or, since you have assigned key users to departments, you can establish a policy to go through the key user first or require the support tickets to be opened by the key users. There are also points which you can direct users to self-service portals. One example to this is the password-reset issue. Deploying an Identity Management solution, even for the sole purpose of password resetting, will provide huge returns in the short run. One of my clients reported that more than 50% of the help desk calls are password reset requests. Just imagine the benefits the company will reap when the identity management is deployed. Most probably you have similar Level 1 calls which you can deploy self-service solutions.

There is one more thing you can do, which is to inform the users when there is a problem. There may be issues with the terminal servers,  there may be issues with the Internet connection or there may be some connection problems. Just tell the users what the problem is. Many IT managers think this as a loss of control, or admitting that they are incapable of performing their own jobs. But this simply is not true. Letting users know about the problem means that you are in good control of your job and you are respecting others’ work and time. They will not lose time to figure out what is wrong, or try to fix it on their own or making a support call. I have a handful of clients who do that. And believe me, their users are incredibly happy with and supportive to their IT departments.

You will be asking why IT training is not in my list. Because there is no discussion to that, you should already have a clear training policy for your users. However, revisiting your training content with your help desk personnel will make the training right to the point. What I have seen so far in my clients is that they fail to follow-up after the training. They think that continuous training is the cure. While there is no apparent downside to this, not following up means that if you have excluded an important thing in the first training, you will be missing it in the subsequent trainings, plus you will not be able to see if the training has the desired effect.

The bottomline is, we are living in a turbulent environment. Things change rapidly and we need to adapt instead of whine. We need to consider the alternatives and think about the opportunities. We need to speak this out to the corporate management and seek their support. As I have just said, our users are changing and so must we. If the management still resists, tell the people that what we have discussed (throughout the article) does not involve any down payment. They will be most likely to think different.

References

  • Featured image: http://www.temple.edu
  • Inline image: http://woodbridge-va.inetgiant.co

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True or False: SEO Hosting can Help Change your Rankings

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For starters, there is the difference between SEO (Search engine optimization) and SEO hosting. While most of you know that SEO is the ability of a certain article to be searchable through specific and dedicated key words, SEO hosting comes out as the more complex version of web hosting, only, it hosts certain search engines.
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How To Change Your cPanel Style

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Choose a theme to work with.
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