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Office for iPad: Is it any good?

Posted by Nicole Footer on 9 April 2014

Microsoft has stayed on the sidelines or been a bit player in the tablet and cloud computing revolution we are witnessing. Finally they have come to the party with Word, Excel and Powerpoint iOS apps. 

The Good Bits

  • A polished app, easy to download and install and Free, well only sort of as you can only view documents without a subscription
  • Menus are optimised for tablets and touchscreens and are intuitive for well versed Word users
  • Feature rich with far more in them than the competitiors without having the entire desktop versions functionality
  • Completely compatible with desktop Office versions for seamless transition from one platform to the other
  • SkyDrive set up and access is quick and easy with access to all existing documents

The Not so Good Bits

  • You have to have a subscription to Microsoft Cloud service to access editing and creation features. This can be either an existing Office365 account a a $100 inapp subscription purchase
  • No multi tasking possible, that is only one document can be open at a time. This is more the iPad limitation than the app
  • Need remote document storage on either SkyDrive or a business server using Sharpoint to access the files so that working offline is difficult. You can leave a document open, work on it offline and then synchronise when you come back online. Means you can only work on one document offline at any time.
  • Editing is not based in the cloud as with GoogleDocs, so that multiple versions may be edited by multiple users. In a highly collaborative environment this method is clunky and can cause problems.
  • Locks you into the Microsoft ecosystem further, but if you already use it on the desktop that is not a big problem

Source: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/4/2/technology/office-ipad-it-any-good

Posted in: Consulting  

What is Inbound Marketing and How it works

Posted by Nicole Footer on 2 September 2013

Inbound Marketing is a catchphrase you may have heard of late. Its a marketing tactic that centres around providing people with the information they are looking for when they want it and having that information slowly lead them towards a sale with your business. Essentially its about making useful information, content, available for people to find when they are looking for it as opposed to blanket advertising that interupts people and may be annoying and often not relevant to the audience. 

Inbound marketing is not easy! It involves creation of GREAT content, efective SEO, social media and then lead generation and lead management. I recently found this fantastic Infographic developed by inbound marketing agency IMPACT Branding & Design.

 

The key technology enablers in here are:

  1. Have a great website
  2. Have a Blog
  3. Get involved on Social Media
  4. Develop an effective SEO campaign
  5. Develop an effective SEM/PPC campaign

Here at Virtual Partners we have can help you with all of the above and even provide content writing services to help with the blog! We also working closely with a number of the top marketing agencies around town and can help you get organised with the most effective strategy before you kick off.

Cheers,

Nicole

 

 

Posted in: Websites  

Erase yourself from the Internet

Posted by Nicole Footer on 26 August 2013

Have you ever wanted to just get off that annoying site or list?

I just read about this great new site on Mashable - JustDelete.me. It creates a directly of URLs that highlights links to pages you may want to remove yourself from. Helpfully it also ranks those sites from "easy" to "impossible" so you know what the task ahead is going to be like. 

Good Luck!

Source - http://mashable.com/2013/08/24/justdelete-me/

 

 

Posted in: Consulting Websites  

10 Ways to Improve SEO

Posted by Nicole Footer on 6 March 2013

Improving SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is constantly on the mind of any savvy business owner and you’re right to be fixated on search for your business. Data shows that 94 per cent of users click on organic search results over paid, and 89 per cent of consumers use search engines to make purchasing decisions – it makes you wonder if 11 per cent didn’t understand the question!

Recent changes to Google’s algorithms have businesses around the world doubling down on their efforts to optimise search. With all other search engines likely to follow suit, SEO is as important as ever.

Here are 10 ways to improve your SEO.

  1. Know your number: Use analytics tools to determine how people are finding your site and what keywords are bringing them there. Test and measure all efforts to increase referrals from search engines – and replicate those that appear to be working. Keep an eye on your page’s rank and any catalysts for improving it. Until you know what helps, you can’t know where you should focus your efforts.
  2. Keywords: Figure out your top 10 keywords and strategically use them on your website, articles and in your blog posts. The key is to be authentic.
  3. Permalinks and titles: Including your top 10 keywords in page titles and permalinks (example.com.au/permalink) is a textbook method of improving search engine indexing.
  4. Internal links: Internally linking to your own site is a good way to encourage clickthroughs – Google’s way of measuring engagement on your site. Be sure to hyperlink to keywords rather than arbitrary phrases like “click here”.
  5. Share the love: Internal links should be balanced with those to external sites. Search engines are seeking evidence of relationships around the web. Give credit to other sites and resources by linking back – they may do the same! The best way to increase SEO juice to your site is to have bigger and better sites link back to yours. Partnerships and PR create this web of awareness.
  6. Use HTML: Legitimate sites no longer use Flash. It might be fun for special effects, but it’s a killer for search. Sites built in HTML are easier for search engines to crawl, and those built entirely in Flash may not be searchable on all mobile devices.
  7. Image optimisation: Spiders crawl text not only on your site, but in your images too. Be sure to label all images with keyword-rich text.
  8. Content: Good content can help you cover it all. The best sites for users – and as a result, search engines – are those that continue to update with new and relevant information. A blog is an easy way to constantly update your site without having to change your homepage or other landing pages.
  9. Social: Promote your content on social channels to increase the likelihood of engagement.
  10. Avoid black hat tactics: Don’t undo your good work with sneaky tactics, as Google will punish you for it! Avoid keyword stuffing, cloaking, duplication or ads above the fold.

Have you checked your Google analytics lately? Implement the tactics above and you’ll likely see your rankings rise.

Source: Bloomtools

Posted in: Websites  

Australians Online Spending Increases

Posted by Nicole Footer on 6 March 2013

Online retail sales rose to an estimated $13 billion in the year to January 2013 according to the latest NAB research paper. The paper also found that growth remains strong, up 27% year-on-year-in January 2013, even though January is typically a slower month for the online sector. 

The top senders are still the households in the 30-40 age bracket, although the biggest growth has been in the under 30 age bracket. These customers tend to be attracted by the increasing number of companies offering free delivery with purchases.

Interestingly the report finds that domestic retailers, rather than international websites, are winning the war. The average price of goods purchased was $60 with 75% of goods purchased from Australian based companies.

Source:  http://business.nab.com.au/online-retail-sales-index-in-depth-report-january-2013-2880/

Posted in: Websites  

Microsoft Surface: Work tool or just another tablet

Posted by Jenni Bowen on 10 December 2012

Microsoft’s debut in the tablet device market has been both praised and criticised. It is naturally compared with the Apple iPad and does not win the battle in the content consumption arena. But as a work tool, the Surface has the potential to come out on top.

Microsoft Surface

The Interface

The first generation Surface is shipped with Windows RT. While most reviewers give the interface the thumbs up, bugs are still apparent. Some non-intuitive aspects exist: retreating 1 web page or retreating to the previous app require similar swipe motions only just offset from each other, Murphy’s law says you’ll do the opposite of what you intended. The tablet is designed to be held in the landscape position with two hands, using your thumbs for swiping. This is different to the iPad and indeed most smart phones.

Productivity Plus

The start up screen of Surface features a tile that takes you to a Windows desktop, similar to your desktop computer without the start button. This interface is less conducive to touch screen navigation and you may be better served using the track pad on the Touch Cover. Still, this interface gives you access to the fully featured Office 2013 product, being far superior to any of the office type applications for the iPad.

Added to the productivity feature of Office is the ability to save documents to USB, MicroSD and Skydrive without the complication of having to email files to yourself or transfer them through iTunes on a desktop computer. The full size USB port is definitely a plus however this first generation Surface tablet with Windows RT does not allow the installation of third party legacy programs so will not completely replace your laptop, just yet. The Surface Pro, due to start shipping in early 2013, is said to be built with a full version of Windows 8 allowing legacy programs to be installed.

Downtime

Where the Surface is lacking is in the app department. With just over 5,000 apps available through the Windows Store it has a long way to go to match the capabilities of both the iPad and the Android tablets. Time is needed for the Windows Store to become populated as it has only been open since the first shipping date of the Surface. Both iPad and Android tablets are able to draw from the stock of apps built for their phone environments – the Surface has no such pool to draw from. When the first generation iPad launched it also had only 5,000 apps optimised for the iPad environment however it could also run the over 200,000 apps built for the iPhone.

The Surface has some advantages in this area, one being the ability to download directly from a web browser window. Another being the ability to run two apps side by side giving you the ability to multitask: this is not something that Apple products do well.

Look and Feel

The Surface has a super handy kickstand however it is not adjustable and does not make typing on your lap the most ideal position. The Surface is not the lightest tablet around but given it’s greater size and solid casing it does well for it’s weight. There is a Touch Cover and a Type Cover attachment available making it far easier to be productive rather than just consume content.

Performance

All reviewers seem to agree that the performance of the interface is quite good. The Surface is speedy to use however in true Microsoft style there are bugs. Apps may crash and the touchscreen may fail to respond the first time, updating the software will help but let’s just say it’s got some teething problems.

The battery performance could be better but it is a high bar set by the iPad. The OS takes up a lot of room on the internal storage you get however the Surface does give you options for external storage that the iPad doesn’t.

Conclusion

A good first effort from Microsoft however those looking for a productivity tool may be better served waiting until the Pro version is released in 2013. Hopefully then developers will have added to the Windows Store with some essential apps such as Twitter and Facebook.

 

Posted in: Consulting  

Workshop Invitation - How to get you Website working for you

Posted by Nicole Footer on 8 November 2012

We have recently set up a series of workshops on helping businesses understand how to get their website really working for them.

How to get your Website Working for You

Have you ever wondered...

  • What is the point of my website?
  • How many visitors to my website turn into customers?
  • How much of my revenue is being generated online?
  • How can I contact visitors to my website and follow up after their visit?
  • Why don't I rate well on Google?

This interactive session will take you through the 5Ps and help you develop an understanding for the components of your online presence and why keeping your website fresh and up to date will assist you to reach potential customers and keep your existing customers coming back.

Workshop Details

Date: Tuesday 27th November, 2012
Time: 10am - 11am
Where: Business SA, Room 1a, 136 Greenhill Rd, Unley (parking available in undercroft)
Refreshments and morning tea supplied

Please join us for this special interactive workshop and get clued in on how to make your website work for YOU.

Registration

Numbers are limited so please register now using the link below.

To Register Click Here

Or email us at info@virtual-partners.com.au or call us on 1300 429 310

Looking forward to seeing you there.

 

Posted in: Websites  

Storing and accessing data in the cloud

Posted by Jenni Bowen on 5 November 2012

Options for storing and accessing your business data

Is your business expanding? Do you a need a server for the first time or an upgrade to your existing one?

Servers are very useful computers as they allow you to store files in a common location that everyone can access and allow you to run software programs that everyone can use and update data in at the same time.

Servers are also very expensive beasts and take a lot of effort and time to keep working efficiently and effectively. So what are your options?

  1. Buy a physical server and look after it yourself
  2. Rent some space on a cloud based server to create your own “Virtual Private Server”; or
  3. Use a cloud based service that runs the applications you want to use, effectively meaning you don’t need a new server at all!

Below we run through the pros and cons for the cloud options and look at when you might want to look at each of these.

So what is the cloud again?

The Cloud is most simply thought of as an extension of the Internet. It is where you are using computers and services that are hosted elsewhere and are accessed over the Internet. It is characterised by 3 key elements. Firstly it is sold on a demand basis, by time or space used, secondly it is elastic so you can use as little or as much as you need, usually only paying for what you use. Lastly it is fully managed by the provider so that all the user needs is a PC and Internet access.

Chances are you have been using cloud computing in one form or another for years. You may not have realised that if you have a gmail or a hotmail account, you are logging in to a cloud based server when you log in to check your email. The example of these services also serves to illustrate another cloud computing phenomenon of software as a service. You do not need to download a software application, like Microsoft Outlook, to your computer in order to access your email. You simply interact with your email via a web browser window. The software (the email client program) is then maintained by the email provider (Google, Hotmail, etc) and kept up to date so that your program is the latest release at all times, all without you having to lift a finger.

These 2 examples embody the essence of cloud computing, moving the requirements from you keeping the software on your computer or server up to date to the provider doing this. Most times all you need is a browser and a connection to the Internet in order to access your data or program.

Option 2: Virtual Private Servers – Your Server in the Cloud

If you really need your own private and secure server to have more control over your environment, store your data or run applications that don’t have a cloud service available rather than buying a physical server you could use cloud computing to effectively “rent” a server or space on a server. This is called having a “virtual private server”.

This allows you access to server infrastructure on a pay as you go basis. In comparison a physical server requires upfront capital expenditure and may need on-site management. Don’t be fooled by the term, the physical infrastructure exists somewhere and someone does have to pay for it upfront but they choose to “rent” it out and recoup their costs over time through hire fees.

Most cloud server infrastructure can be found in data centres, one of the worlds best being found here in Sydney – Global Switch. This centre has state of the art power and cooling systems and is guarded 24x7. Many companies such as Internet service providers (ISPs) have put servers in the Global Switch data centre. This means they have purchased physical servers that they have placed into a space in the data centre, taking advantage of the power, cooling and security that the data centre provides. The ISPs in turn rent out the server infrastructure to end customers like you and me.

Global Switch access way
Access way for one of the 1,500m2 data suites. Photo courtesy of itnews 6 Apr 2009.

There are many of these data centres around the world and providers of cloud based services are most likely utilising space on them in order to deliver your program to you via your web browser. The question may be which country is that data centre in?

Option 3: Cloud Based Applications - Everybody’s in the cloud

It’s true, almost everyone is offering cloud based services these days, Microsoft, Google, MYOB, Reckon, Sage, and many, many more.

Accounting applications in the cloud from MYOB and Reckon allow you to give access to your accountant meaning no more transferring data files on disk to and fro. This also allows multiple users at one time no matter where they are, utilising record locking features to ensure no-one is altering the same data at the same time.

Productivity applications like word processors and spreadsheets from Microsoft and Google allow you to create business documents without having to purchase the software outright. You can also store these documents centrally allowing access to them by other users making collaboration easy without needing to share your own hard drive.

The common theme here is that anyone can access these programs from anywhere on multiple device types, all you need is a connection to the Internet and a browser window.

So what’s the downside of the cloud?

Well, the obvious one is connectivity. If you lose connectivity to the Internet then you are unable to access most of these programs. Some programs offer a hybrid option, MYOB for example provides you with the option to back your data up to your hard drive so that you can use it offline. And these outages can happen at either end, your provider’s server may go down meaning you and everyone else using their program are inconvenienced.

Security is a big concern for most. I hark back to the question of which data centre is your provider using. Your data is sitting outside of your corporate firewall and you have little control over the operating system of the underlying physical server. Is it patched and up to date? What security measures are deployed? Given that most providers would not like you to run forensic tools across their servers or even let you visit their data centre, what are your options? You can contractually insist that any breach involving your data is made known to you and you should definitely ask to view a copy of their audit report.

There are a number of data types that companies are averse to shifting into the cloud:
  • Company financial data
  • Credit card data
  • Intellectual property/trade secrets
  • Employee files
  • Customer contact information

Customisation is another concern for potential cloud-based service users. Cloud-based service offerings are generally inexpensive because they are produced on “a one size fits all” basis. If you are unable to find a cloud-based service that exactly meets your needs you may be restricted to a custom on-site or hosted solution. Some cloud service providers may offer you the ability to modify or customise their solution to suit your needs, at a cost of course. However if the cloud solution is unable to be modified to suit your needs then you may have to purchase a solution outright and host it on-site on your own server, thereby removing it entirely from the cloud.

Summary

Use the table below to determine which approach may suit you best.

Y = Perfect platform
? = Can be done but questions remain
X = Not the right platform

  Physical Server Virtual Private Server Cloud Based Application
Security Y Y ?
Connectivity Y ? ?
Customised Applications Y Y X
Multiple Access Points ? Y Y
Sensitive Data Y ? X
Could Based Applications X X Y
Shared Data Y Y Y

 

Our web products are hosted in the Global Switch data centre in Sydney, one the most state-of-the-art centres in the world, making them totally secure with 99.9% uptime guarantees. Our virtual private servers are also hosted in the Global Switch data centre. We offer a number of different platforms and add-on software options, giving you control. Contact us today for your cloud computing needs.

Posted in: Consulting Websites  

What is an Exchange Server and do I need one?

Posted by Jenni Bowen on 11 October 2012

We were asked this question recently and thought we would explore the issue in more than just a returned phone call…

Firstly, a server is a physical piece of computer infrastructure that a lot of companies need to host applications or store data on. They enable users to share and collaborate with data on a network whilst maintaining a central point for management and control.

What is Exchange?

Microsoft Exchange is a software application that provides a business with powerful messaging solutions. Using the email client, Microsoft Outlook, users of companies that operate Microsoft Exchange can:

  • Access their email from any location in the world
  • Access their mail from multiple devices
  • Share information with other users through calendars, contacts and tasks.

Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook are very popular solutions for collaborative messaging. As well as being able to run these solutions in-house on physical server infrastructure you can also now implement these solutions utilising a hosted environment.

Physical vs Hosted

The main difference between physical infrastructure and the hosted environment is that you may not be using the entire capacity of your physical infrastructure at all times whereas in a hosted environment you often only pay for what you use.

You may have deployed a physical server to cope for both current and future demand, i.e. you currently have 10 users but may need the capacity to cater for 25 users in the future. With your current 10 users you may only be using 40% of your server capacity but you had to pay for 100% of the cost up front for the capacity to cater for 25 users. In a hosted environment you generally pay per user and are therefore only paying for 10 users today and no wasted capacity. In a hosted environment you can simply add users as you require, only increasing your costs when new users are added to the system.

Control and Security

Microsoft Exchange provides administrators with great control; adding, removing and restricting users as necessary. There are also high-level security features built in that protects users against spam and viruses. Unified messaging is now available making voicemail available to users through the email client. There are enhanced monitoring abilities available to administrators, enabling them to stay on top of issues, keeping users connected.

So what are the alternatives?

Microsoft Outlook email client software does have rivals in the marketplace, such as Google’s Gmail, Thunderbird, Pegasus and more, however most of them cannot connect to Exchange. Microsoft Exchange enables you to have all your users on the same domain (i.e. yourname@yourdomain.com, nextuser@yourdomain.com, etc) and allows those users to share information such as contacts, calendars and tasks. Exchange also allows an administrator to have control over users and shared information.

Do you need Exchange support?

There are many options for hosting your email in the cloud without an Exchange back end. If you don’t need the features that Microsoft Exchange can offer you can still host your email in the cloud using your domain and users can still have an email address at your domain. Often users will have access to their email via a webmail interface and on multiple devices, however this may be through a 3rd part application.

Contact Us for hosted email options.

Posted in: Telco Websites  

Linked In for Business, is it worth it?

Posted by Nicole Footer on 8 October 2012
Linked In for Business, is it worth it?

We often get asked is, “Is it worth setting up a LinkedIn page for myself, and/or one for our business?”

The resounding response from clients and the B2B market is, “Yes!”.

You’re in good company if you already have a LinkedIn profile - taking new age networking to its full potential. Executives from most Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members all the way through to business managers, small business owners, and everyone in between. Linkedin networks are now also being extensively used for recruiting, a LinkedIn profile is a now a business necessity.

LinkedIn is becoming a valuable resource for smaller business in the B2B market to build their connections and generate leads in order to grow their businesses. It’s also a great way to keep abreast of your industry and target markets, with features such as latest news snippets, groups and the sharing of ideas and events.

If you’re thinking of putting up a link to your LinkedIn profile, here are some useful statistics:

  • It has more than 150 million members - and 2 new members join every second
  • Australia has over 3 million members
  • Membership demographics are 39% female; 61% male
  • 40% of salaries are $100K +
  • 41% of people who use LinkedIn for marketing have generated business with it
  • 80% of people use LinkedIn for recruiting - as a tool to find and research employees
  • 70% of people are using LinkedIn for job-hunting

If you are trying to find someone in particular, or want to be introduced to the decision-maker within a company, if you follow the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ rule on LinkedIn you will probably be surprised to find that you know someone who knows someone who can introduce you using this form of social media. You never know maybe you will even find a connection to Kevin Bacon himself!

How Using LinkedIn Can Help Your Business

LinkedIn’s core purpose is making business-to-business contacts, but its power goes beyond simple connections. No matter what your line of work or type of business, LinkedIn can be beneficial for:

  • Staying on top of industry news. Using LinkedIn today, you can have the latest news sent straight to your inbox and/or seen immediately at the top of your screen every time you log in.
  • Regularly refer to your connections to see whether or not they may become potential clients, alliances and referrers.
  • Find experts or other business people to assist you in a particular challenge. People in business are usually quite happy to help others by passing on their expertise or sharing lessons they’ve learnt the hard - or easy - way.
  • Ask others for certain recommendations about suppliers of services and products.
  • Review businesses you are thinking of doing business with by reading their client reviews on their LinkedIn pages, and seeing who they know.
  • Reviewing and attracting potential employees. LinkedIn is another great way to source and research potential employees. On the flip side, LinkedIn provides a resource for potential employees to check you out, too. They can read about your strengths, what people are saying about you, the relative businesses you deal with and more.
  • Define your strengths and prove your competence by posting content on the website’s Answers section. Check out the Recently Asked Questions posted by others and you can choose to answer any that may relate to your level of expertise.
  • Communicate in real-time with professionals like yourself in the Groups area. Like most social media websites, LinkedIn offers a platform to discuss current affairs, products and opportunities. Groups is a discussion forum, whereby you can share ideas, gain advice to help build your company and connect with like-minded peers.
  • Assist your search engine optimisation. To help you achieve a higher pagerank in Google searches, your personal profile and company page can both link back to your website.

Check out Virtual Partners Linked In page, its very new and we are actually just getting going ourselves.  Follow us to keep up-to-date with the latest industry news and receive great tips to enable you to grow your business through the Internet.

Posted in: Websites  
< Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next >

Office for iPad: Is it any good?

Apr 09 2014
Microsoft has stayed on the sidelines or been a bit player in the tablet and cloud computing r...

What is Inbound Marketing and How it works

Sep 02 2013
Inbound Marketing is a catchphrase you may have heard of late. Its a marketing tactic that cen...

Erase yourself from the Internet

Aug 26 2013
Have you ever wanted to just get off that annoying site or list? I just read about this gr...
Read More
We are really happy with the end result - its simple and useful and presents with quality.

Nick Walter
Read More
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