I need a website

Most businesses can and do benefit from a website of some sort.  In the end, it comes down to cost vs usefulness. Is it just an online pamphlet that provides basic information like location, hours and contact details?   Perhaps it’s a list of services provided or some informational content you create and update(blog)?

Are you staging into transaction type site, selling products with a cart and checkout?

How do you expect people to find your site? /Will it be from inside your storefront, your marketing materials or ads you place elsewhere?  Will people be likely to search for your company specifically by name or via some product, category or service type search?

Having a good web presence doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue. Its important to gauge to value of the site page against revenue potential. One can spend a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars on a site that doesn’t generate interest or page views.

“SEO” is the buzz word of late and its oversold as a wonderful site traffic generator, but for many, it could be money better spent elsewhere.

A website, optimized, so it can be efficiently cataloged and indexed by search engines is a good thing.  Its more important to understand how your potential customers will seek you out on the web.

If the majority of clients will find your site by entering your company name and, City/State.  Optimizing the site isn’t as important as considering spending the money to have a local search engine submission service list your business in the various search engines.   Its usually a yearly fee, but your site is submitted to 40-70 search engine databases.

If customers will be searching for you via common product search terms like, “wool sweaters” or “hand crafted candles” or “realtor”.  Its becomes much more challenging to get high ranks.

Long gone are the days when your meta tag keyword list embedded in each page was trusted and used to index your site.  SEO techniques including verbose descriptions containing key words do help rank your site higher in results.

The effort however takes a back seat to companies who purchase key words from search companies like google and others, when users search these terms.   Their sites appear at the very top with an “ad” label around it so searches know this is a paid search result.

You can can read more about search engine technology here.

System Performance & Maintenance

We’ve all lived through spyware, malware and viruses that severely degraded or halted our computers performance.  Sometimes the very software designed to protect our system can add to system sluggishness.

There are many good Anti-Virus and malware software apps out there. From free to inexpensive.  I often come across systems that have two or three apps running which I don’t recommend. They quietly load at startup.  They compete for your systems resources to monitor your system for the same types of activity and files. Sometimes they get entangled over a process or file.

These apps, combined with Windows 7-8-10 enhanced native security protective processes, sometimes can really hamper performance.

Recently, a client recently had 3 apps running, Windows Security Essentials, a freeware AV Program and also an anti malware program. These three apps were taxing their basic computer that was an older upgraded Windows 10 system with a very minimal 4 gigs of ram.

Windows 10 64bit requires 2 gigs ram just to run windows os, When doubled, 4 gigs of ram in a system with apps and devices, the other 2 gigs doesn’t offer much free available ram after all the application helper apps, device drivers, load at startup and run in the background along side the AV and Malware software.

I recommend that systems only have one quality AV program running that monitors the internet and web/network traffic. Its always handy to have a quality malware scanner, but it should not launch and load at startup. It should be disabled or only installed when needed and removed when finished.

Windows versions, 7, 8 and 10 provide adequate rogue process blocking. Its that that annoying “Do you want to allow this application to make changes to your system” message you come across from time to time. Its there for a great reason—to keep your system from being hijacked from a rogue malicious app. Once installed, rogue malware and viruses can really torch systems fast. Anything from encrypting files and forcing you to pay to unlock them just destroying key system level files that render your windows system inoperable.

When you see that message, pause and think about what it is you are doing. Were you actively working with the app mentioned applying an update or were you simply at a website and downloading a file? If you were actively updating an app, then you can say yes to the prompt. Any file you download unless you know its an updater or program file installer, should not launch itself and try to change system files.

If you find your in this group of people who say “when I first bought this, its was fast, now, its really, really slow.” A memory upgrade is a great way speed up system overall performance.

We all see the commercials that guarantee a faster PC if you download and install software and run it. Some do great job scanning and optimizing some key system files,like the registry and purging it of entries and making “other” optimizing adjustments but in the end, these steps are limited in their lasting ability to keep your system optimal.

If its a newer system with 2 or more yrs left of useful life, I always recommend MAXING out the ram in your system.

Maxing out the ram provides more ram memory available for use by apps.  Many people don’t understand what happens when you have a smaller amount of memory installed.   Every app that loads at startup, runs in the background.  Then you start opening apps, email, webpages, documents, they all too, live in memory.  When there is no more memory, windows “manages” memory usage “virtually”.  Windows carves out some predefined amount of your hard drive space to move items in RAM memory to the disk when users switch between applications.  Its known as a memory swap file.

You may may 4 gigs of ram, but if you’ve been scrolling Facebook or Pinterest and have another window open with your online banking and have your email open, running outlook, and maybe a opened PDF of a receipt you just received via email, windows is actively moving the data from these each of these programs from your RAM to this special “swap file”as you moved from app to app.  When you change focus from outlook back to the PDF, behind the scenes, its moving the outlook memory items to the swap file, then moving the PDF memory items back into ram. Each time you move from open app to another open app, or launch a new one, windows is diligently  moving all the ram memory data from your hard drive to the memory sticks, back and forth, back and forth…

That movement activity can really slow down performance when hard drives are slower or have little free space, and when the memory data chunk to be moved about is large, .  In the case of drives with little space left, windows has to find empty “holes” to store the data in and then has to jump around to all these holes where “swap memory” data was placed.  this process can slow down a system quite a bit.

Air flow restricted computer vent , heat sink and CPU fan.

Air flow restricted computer vent , heat sink and CPU fan.

Lastly, a physical cleaning is always recommended. If you see dust accumulation on any vent on your system, you can rest assured the inside looks just the same. CPU fan blades, just like your ceiling fan at home, will accumulate dust on the blades and in the heat sink blades that disperse the heat your CPU generates. Over time, fan slow down, move air less efficiently and air flow in the heat sinks are restricted and even closed off, preventing the fan from drawing the heat off the processor.Left unattended, this dust builds up slows down the cooling processes inside your computers case. It can can cause your hard drive and/or CPU to overheat and destroy your data and even your system board. Air flow is key to heat dissipation. Often times the computer is wedged in a location that doesn’t offer a great airflow to begin with. Under a desk, inside a credenza, or in a corner of a shelf These systems are dust magnets. They should be opened at least yearly and the fans, heat sinks, and vents properly cleaned.

Backups and Data Management

Data, Data, Data

Timely backups guard against data loss. The more data to be backed up, the longer some types of backups will take. Some backup types take longer to restore than others. Types of backups should be considered based on available backup drive space and how quickly backups may need restored.

There are several backup options available, from the cloud to external drives that replicate your storage. OS’s come with basic backup apps, and there are many others. Good backup strategies include system level backups that include repair boot disk and file level backups.

Failure notification triggers are a good way to prevent data loss. When known, the backup job can reviewed and adjustments made.

Its worthwhile to have a professional review backup strategies. We can verify backups have occured, and test that the data is restorable and also look out for other system level conflicts that may prevent backups from running or cause them to fail.

Data management is often a task set aside for slow times. Drives fill up over time and it seems an easier path to add an external drive and just keep adding to the pile. Although storage is inexpensive, drives and storage should systems fail.

Here are some good tips to manage data efficiently.

  1. Define a storage area for your files.  Too often people drag files to their desktops or drop in a folder without properly identifying the contents. They build up over time and clutter your desktop. Use shortcuts on your desktop to access the data from a proper storage location for easy access. Accidental drag and drops create unnecessary duplicate files that over time, become a nightmare to weed through. This is normally noticed when you perform a search and the document show up in a few places.
  2. Deal with existing data. Start with paper & pencil, categorize the data you have by logical folder structures that are meaningful to your business and others who may also access the data. Solicit input by others who will access the shared file system.
  3. Assign a level of importance to data. Classify your data by where it fits in with your business activities. Identify data that is current and actively used daily, weekly, monthly versus what is important to have available for easy access, versus what is historic, items that you want to archive for reference, this is data that is infrequently accessed and finally, data that can simply be deleted.
  4. Use searches and inexpensive file utilities.  File searches can be filtered by date stamps, like Date Created, or date last accessed. There are some great file utilities that make short work of managing duplicates and moving files about based on criteria.
  5. Creating time frame based rules may work well to help manage your data.   Example rules may be:  Finished job files will remain on a local drive for 6 months, after that the folders can be moved to near-line storage (like a network drive) that can still be accessed with ease, after 1.5 yrs, its archived to CD or DVD.

Utilizing CD-R & DVD-R is an effective and inexpensive option for long term data archive storage.

Non ReWritable media like CD-R and DVD-R are rated for 100-200 years of shelf life with proper storage which is generally defined as protected from sunlight, temps in the 70s and 50% humidity or less housed in a protective case. The reality in business is that with a little use here and there minor wear and tear occurs. 20 to 30 yrs is a likely life span for media. Many recall how we left cd’s in our cars and were surprised that took such abuse but were equally disappointed at some point after a few years, they became so damaged, they wuold not play. Eventually degraded to the loss point, due to extremes in temperature, sunlight and scratches.

Users should handle business storage cd’s gently and return the media back to its case and storage location promptly.

Digital Photos can be resource hogs. Depending on the settings of your camera, you may be storing poster sized images. Consider image software that can batch resize older unused photos. Depending on your business, these too can be candidates for offline storage, like a dvd.

In the end, its well worth investing an hour or two thinking about your data and define some rules about how to keep it organized and protected. Backups are the “defacto” insurance policy against loss. Just like with insurance, its best to implement a backup strategy that will provide you the best coverage for the cost, and be able to restore your business data back to a pre-loss state in a time frame that doesn’t significantly impact your daily operations.

 

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