Archive for July 26, 2011

Browser Based Applications For Businesses

July 26, 2011

Businesses today are bombarded with hip jargon lingo as ASP, SaaS, RIA, ‘BI/CRM Strategy’ to name a few. Such waterfall of words apparently is the typical sales-pitch for many representatives in the industry and it takes some effort for the unfortunate layman to extract a meaningful message from this mistreatment of language. It’s probably one of the main reasons why companies hire brigades of consultants to setup a common dictionary presented in fancy reports to management.

One thing that is clear however is that executives do want to know if their software and processes are on par with the latest developments and are aligned with their business needs. In addition companies want to eliminate the continuous aggravation within their IT infrastructure such as viruses, licenses concerns, OS upgrades, dealing with different program versions, installations and maintenance, etc. Can solutions be offered that do away with these monstrosities? Enter the world of browser-based applications.

Browser based applications run anywhere, anytime on any system. Maintenance and updates are done centrally without the hassle for upgrades on local workstations. True, a general perception is that such applications offer a degraded user-experience especially compared to regular desktop software but nowadays functions are on hand that provide virtually the same bells and whistles common to desktop applications. Such flexibility and independence is making traditional business applications seem like coal powered machinery. In addition, browser based application tend to be lightweight that do not require hardware renewals over time. It always baffles me how customary software upgrades tend to grow into bloated atrocities, constantly adding superfluous features and moreover risking incompatibilities thus rendering new versions nothing more than lipstick on a pig.

Web based solutions, for businesses that is, are adequate to handle most functions and requirements: managing client-details, articles, stock, orders, documents, invoices, contracts, subscriptions and correspondence. Of course desktop software is here to stay; who in their right mind is going to shoe-horn huge complex spreadsheets into a browser? The essence however is that core business data, -methods and -logic are easily accessible and maintained centrally regardless of IT infrastructure and environment, basically recycling the thin-client approach (you know those old desk-aquariums).

The benefits boil down mainly in two categories: access and costs.

1. access

Access, connectivity, web 2.0 (whatever that means) basically relates to the ease with which internet applications can communicate and be employed. Things that come in mind are linkage with other websites (e.g. web based ordering), outsourcing customer-services, facilitating home employment, email listings, merger of business units and online payments. I’m sure the list goes on a bit but once management starts to realize and appreciate the potential it will unleash ideas of possibilities. The acquainted trendy internet terminology will by then make more sense and proudly be espoused during office meetings.

A nice showcase example I participated in was to merge various (international) branches into one database system, where the server was (and still is) physically located in one place. All methodologies and procedures are shared by employees and management, websites have their ordering directly linked to the database, external call-centers is are used for contacting clients and prospects and third party partners can access real-time information online like billing details, order statuses, stock insights etc.

2. costs

The second benefit is the cost aspect. Web based solutions are durable meaning they do not tend to require a lot of maintenance once they are up and running. Fossilized websites from 15 year ago still work fine and are not subjected to change in operating system, updated hardware or reliance on deprecated software. If a company has in-house developers to manage applications, tools and technologies for web-development are available in a various forms, both proprietary and open-source, so costs can be allocated to line up proposed budgets.

Interface, data and business logic are maintained and backed up centrally and help solve bugs and other defects should they occur. This way the end-user will always have an up to date application available without the need to deploy or distribute these adjustments. Also online documentation and manuals remain well supervised.

Moving over?

Moving to new technologies requires planning and there certainly must be a compelling business case to do so. Many companies upgrade their software just to join a bandwagon of techie enthusiasts and as such it performs a nice window dressing tool towards others. If you think that’s farfetched try urging a client if they can resend you an attached document in a WP5.1-format because you couldn’t open it. You can always defend it by stating you’re currently involved in a migration to Windows 3.11 to add more ridicule to the experiment.

For start-ups or companies that require updated software, for more adapted integration, choosing browser-based solutions seem the most fitting and strategic approach that makes businesses in the long run more independent and unconstrained. Such applications and services are available out-of-the-box, both for free and licensed, or can be developed custom-made of course.
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4 Sure Fire Tips on How to Gain Free Web Site Content

July 22, 2011

Although it may sound too good to be true, there are ways on how you can get quality but free web site content. If you are indeed maintaining a site, then you should know how much effort is required from you when it comes to scourging up new materials to post. And keeping your site updated is still the best and most secure way of enticing a steady stream of traffic to drop by. There are of course online companies that offer their services of acquiring – or to be more precise, rehashing other people’s website contents for you, but patronizing them might have severe repercussions.

For one thing, these companies ask for a lot of money which may not work well with your current budget. Secondly, unless you painstakingly check each and every new material that these companies provide, you are in danger of either copyright infringement or being automatically relegated as a zombie site by search engine bots. These incidences happen because you are posting plagiarized contents without even knowing it. Both consequences will inevitably tarnish your online reputation.

Lastly, even with the help of these so-called professionals, it is still your task as web content manager to check whether or not the articles being submitted are truly accurate, relevant and up-to-date. In many cases, you also have to act as proofreader as well. If you don’t double check the articles, you may find yourself paying for materials that may have absolutely nothing to do with what you are trying to promote with your site; or you may be posting very poorly written articles that your readers lose their interest in you.

If you are seriously on the lookout for quality but free web site content, you might want to:

1. Subscribe to email news alerts. You can then rewrite and post these news alerts on your site. Incredibly, giving a shout out (no matter how brief it may be) about a breaking news item can give your regular patrons something to look forward to. If you have the time, then you can give your own personal opinion about the news you have just posted, which can give you a total of 2 new materials. If you want to make the least effort possible, you can simply write down an intriguing headline and post a link to the website where you acquire the news alert.

2. Give out blurbs, tweets or plurks… or whatever it is you want to call them. Giving tiny bits of shout outs about anything remotely relevant to the topics on your web pages can encourage more people to visit your site more than once a day.

3. Ask a colleague to provide you one or two “free” articles to post. Having a guest writer on your site is a common practice these days, and this helps inject some new insights to your cause. However, “free” is not really the appropriate term here. Rather, this should be an “exchange:” you should also provide free materials on your colleague’s website as a return favor.

4. The best way to get free web site content is to simply make them. You can either start writing new materials or rewrite some of your older articles and update them accordingly. You can also try expounding some topics especially if you get repeated queries or feedback from your subscribers.
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Content Management Systems For Today’s Innovative Web Sites

July 18, 2011

Does this situation sound familiar to you? You want a web site, but don’t have a clue about setting one up. Or, you have successfully managed to create a web site and it has been growing at a healthy rate. Your existing site is becoming increasingly costly or difficult to manage. Or, your site looks dated compared to current design standards. In any case it may be a good time to learn about content management systems (CMS).

A content management system is a system or software application that helps you manage web page content. Web page content can be digital content in any form – audio or video files, computer files, electronic documents, text and so on. A web content management system is used to create and manage a large collection of web related material – usually a dynamic collection of HTML documents, associated images or other files. The main advantage of a web content management system is the ease it brings in not just creating and editing content but also in many technical web maintenance functions.

How a Content Management System Works

The main purpose of a web content management system is to allow a non-technical person to make essential changes to an existing web site with little or no technical knowledge. Some of these systems may require a technical person to set up the initial web site, including the major features and initial configuration. After that, various aspects can be very easily maintained by non-technical people. Let’s see how a CMS works for a large site.

Consider an online magazine company. A team of professionals will initially design the web site giving the various pages the look, feel and flow that the company wants. They will then set up the system so that these pages act as templates and the only editable parts are the new images or text for each page. A CMS may allow varying user editing rights. For example, writers may be allowed to edit or add text through simple web based forms. Editors may be able to correct them through the same form and just clicking on a button will allow them to place this live on the web site. There are easy options for linking to various other files like images or audio or video files. Other non-technical people can easily check for broken links or outdated information and rectify them, all through a simple web interface. Now let’s see how a CMS works for the average web site.

WordPress and Joomla are free CMS programs. You can download the software and install it yourself. Once installed, you can get a free template or theme to match your design needs. The themes are easy to install. You can also purchase premium themes to better match your design goals. Once installed, an interface is provided where you can add new content in the form of text, audio, video, links or whatever makes you happy. You can also add multiple users that have varying rights to change the content on your system.

Advantages of a Content Management System

A CMS allows you complete control of the design and the content of your site. Master templates ensure that there is a consistent look to the site throughout your web pages. If you desire to make changes later, you can incorporate them site-wide by making changes in a single master template. You can publish updates and content faster than ever and can even schedule the publication or expiration of particular pages.

Another advantage of a CMS is the active online communities. These communities have many passionate and creative people resolving technical issues and creating excellent templates (themes). If you have questions or problems, there are many sites where you can ask questions, get answers and find creative ideas.

Disadvantages of a Content Management System

A CMS is designed around a software application which may or may not meet all of your needs. For example, WordPress was originally designed around blogging. If you want a site based on pages rather than blog posts and blog categories, you may need technical help designing a site around pages. You may also need a technical person to install and configure your site. Additionally, if you want to make changes to the template, this may require a technical person as well.

CMS – Innovation for Today

Recently, CMSs like Joomla, Drupal, Mambo and WordPress have become extremely popular because of their powerful features and even medium to large web sites and companies are beginning to realize the advantages of using them. These systems can be installed and configured by someone with basic technical knowledge. If you’re setting up a new site or considering an overhaul of your current site, check into a CMS. 
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What Makes a Web Content Management System ‘Fast to Deploy’?

July 16, 2011

You know that an effective web content management system is easy to use, feature rich, fast to deploy, and affordable.  A demo or trial of the product will help you to determine fairly quickly whether a system is easy to use; a sneak peek at the price tag and licensing costs will satisfy the “affordable” part of the equation. But what measures can you use to decide whether or not a system is “fast to deploy”?

First let’s discuss the environment, meaning the hardware and software configuration. The question to be answered is “Will the CMS play nicely on and with my existing hardware and software, or will I need to build this into the budget?”  If the CMS has to reside on its own server (or two), requires an Oracle database when you currently run SQL Server or anything else that means a costly  or time consuming change to your environment – then it immediately fails the ” fast to deploy” (and maybe even the “affordable” ) test. Of course, if your  environment needed these upgrades just to get your organization into the 21st century then the CMS can’t be judged by that at all.

Once you are sure that the environment is in place, you will want to focus your search on a web content management system whereby you are provided with everything necessary for implementation.  In general, there shouldn’t be any need to customize the product; for those exceptional situations when customizations are required, they will be part of an optional professional services offering that begins after deployment.

The components of a system deployment are installation, user training, and user testing. The entire process will take anywhere from one week to one month depending on the number of users to be trained and the scope of the project.  If a CMS can be installed in a couple of hours and user training and testing can be accomplished by the end of the week, then it’s safe to say that the product is indeed fast to deploy.

The following measures can be used to decide whether or not a system is “fast to deploy”. The answers to these questions should be an unequivocal “yes”:

1.       Can deployment take place in one week (maybe 2 depending upon training requirements)?  – Of course if the system is installed in June, but various members  of your staff  will be on  vacation throughout July and training cannot commence until August, the answer would still have to be “yes” as that is a scheduling issue not a system problem.

2.       Can deployment take place without product customizations? In other words, does the base product have everything that is required to produce your desired results?

3.       Will your users be able to use the product immediately once it has been deployed, without any additional application configuration(s)?

4.       Is product installation painless and simple? Will your IT department be able to install and verify the product quickly and easily (within hours and not days)?

5.       Can the CMS software be installed on an existing web server and (peacefully) co-exist with other web applications, effectively leveraging existing resources?
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Mini Skid Steer Loader

July 9, 2011

Skid Steers and Mini Skid Steers can be one of the greatest investment in your new construction business. There are also a lot of people who own multiple properties and a lot of acres of land and find that they need a piece of equipment to maintain the property and do some landscaping work. There is a big difference in sizes of machines and it is important to think about what you will be using the machine for and the tight spaces that you may need to get into with your new handy machine. There are lots of tools out there to help you decide if a smaller skid loader or a larger skid loader is what will work best for you and your needs.

Some of the major differences between the sizes of machine is the width of the machine. If you are going to be trying to get your machine it between narrow spots or fence openings, a few inches can make or break whether you are digging some holes for new trees by hand or with your skid machine. You can usually get statistics on the width of machine by asking your local sales representative, by looking on line, or even by walking up to the machine and measuring the exact with.

The width of your mini skid steer is not only important for getting through small areas or narrow openings but also for what types of work tools you can put on the front of your machine. Some attachments that you will want to use on your machine may be too wide if you go with a mini skid steer. Also, you need the appropriate hydraulic flow to run certain attachments and the smaller the machine, the less hydraulic flow that machine will have. It is really good to think about all of the tasks that you will want to do with whatever machine you will purchase.

Sometimes a smaller machine will do the exact job that you need it to do so don’t always assume that bigger is better. You can save yourself a lot of money by not spending it all on a machine that is too big for the job you need it to do. Overall, no matter what size of Skid Steer machine you decide to purchase you will not be disappointed with your purchase. You will be able to use that machine for years to come in your business or on your acres of land.
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