Planning

Pedestrian crossing , Caloundra, near Bulcock beach
Imagine you were standing on this road, planning a fishing trip by boat. You would first decide if you wanted to skipper the boat yourself, or if you wanted to go on a charter cruise. If a Cruise, you would look at tourist sites on the web to determine who was a trustworthy operator and maybe call them. You would know what questions to ask and maybe compare prices between the operators. You would make sure you could visit the places you want to visit. If you are doing it yourself, you would either join forces with a mate or purchase or hire a boat. You would make sure you had all the required safety and communication equipment. You would load fishing rods and food and drink. Only then would you be ready to go fishing.

Building a web site is very like planning a trip on the Sea of Technology.
Even if you don’t want to be the skipper, you need to plan and make sure you are safe and end up where you want to go. Let’s briefly look at the steps.
1) Decide how much you want to do yourself
Will you write and update the content? Will you look after changes to the site?
Are you going to build the entire site?
2) Work out how you want it to look. Draw diagrams and sketches if you want. Think about your logo and colour scheme and make sure they are consistent on everything you do.
3) Write it down. Describe everything you want as clearly and simply as you can.
4) Select your implementation partners. Make sure you have a fair payment plan. It is standard practice to pay a deposit and then the balance on completion. For a large project, multiple progress payments may be an option.
We will discuss what to look for in a web designer in a later post.
5) Build or have the site built
6) Test it carefully to see that it meets all the requirements in steps 2 and 3.
7) You have reached your destination, a new web site for your business.

smart phone
There comes a time when the simple solutions you used as a start up on your kitchen table or in your garage no longer provide what you need. Growth can cause headaches but “growing pains” can be reduced by planning for expansion from the beginning.
Here are the top four signs you may need to reexamine your business technology.

1. Running out of space
It may be your cloud storage or external hard drive or it may be the drive in a device but if storage is tight, it might be time to reexamine your backup procedures and devices. This is something that should be reviewed often as it is so important in any case. Think of it as similar to checking your smoke alarm.
2. Limited capabilities of free software
If the limits of a package like Skype that you used before you went into business are “bugging” you, it is time to dig deeper into your software needs. Time to upgrade it? Or does something else meet your new needs better? Some business software has.multi user or more secure features. Are you ready to benefit from these?
3 Unhappy accountant or overwhelming paperwork

Are you spending ages dealing with invoices and handing your accountants a shoebox of receipts that has them pullling their hair out or charging like roaring bulls? Maybe it is time to move to a cloud based accounting solution or hire a bookkeeper or both.
4. Tired of the Compromises Imposed by Consumer Grade Hardware
Computer or laptop suffering “out of warrenty syndrome ” and not lasting as long as you expect ? Have to send a device away interstate or wait for parts if something goes wrong. If you have enough devices that you can do without for a time, that’s ok. Bear in mind though, if you are running a business, you need business grade technology, this means computers that are build from quality components and a company which provides reliable and timely support should something go wrong.
A business can reasonably expect next business day, on site support for computers. This will cost more than the cheap PC or laptop you buy for the kids at a local store but think of the costs of jot having support should you need it. Would you still be able to continue doing business?

We have experienced two of these, chosen to sidestep one and are watching for signs of the remaining one. How about you?
Can you think of any other signs you need to review your business technology? Do you need help doing so? If so, contact us below for a chat.

tablet with keyboard

Tablet and keyboard


Kids are heading back to school and uni, so a huge array of “back to school” specials are everywhere. If you have kids, you have no doubt outfitted them everything from shoes and uniforms to IPads or tablets. But what about your business? Are sales tempting you to buy? If you ask yourself the right questions before you shop, you are much more likely to make the right choice. And now, the top question to ask.
Does it solve a problem for me?
Being tempted by the latest shiny new thing is very understandable but you won’t find it helpful in your business unless you know how you are going to use what it does. I’m lucky being in IT because I can sometimes get around this by claiming I need to research and understand a new thing. Before you buy something for your business, know how it will work in your business. Think as if you were interviewing an employee. Will this electronic “staff member” be a good fit?
A final tip, if you aren’t sure, ask an independent expert. We can help if you need advice.

Power pack
Did you go camping over the holidays? Did you try to work while in a remote area?
If so, you will have tested your disaster recovery plan without knowing it. If not, then you might find it useful to visualise how it might work out.
I didn’t go camping but did experience a power failure during December due to a storm. I had mobile devices fully charged and the backup charger above so work wise the blackout wasn’t an issue as it was fairly short. Food safety was a bigger one. I acted quickly to buy ice from a local shop and pack food into Eskies. So, what lessons for business continuity did you learn from your holidays?

Sunday 16 November
Summary Min 24 Max 39 Hot. Partly cloudy.
Brisbane area
Very hot. Mostly sunny morning. Slight (20%) chance of a shower in the afternoon. The chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Winds north to northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h turning westerly 15 to 20 km/h during the day.
Severe weather
Hot and stormy weather! Schoolies Week! Christmas carols, cards and gifts in the shops!
That sounds like a typical Queensland summer. If I’m running a business, what should I be thinking about to make the best use of this weather and time of year?
1) Prepare for potential severe weather. Summer is the highest risk time of year for bushfires, heatwaves, storms floods and cyclones. What are the risks in my area and what can I do to prepare or reduce the risk? I won’t go into too much detail here as I’ve posted on this before. One thing I will say is, be prepared for power interruptions. These are the most likely issue in Brisbane and the South East. In Brisbane, there have been two severe floods in living memory but every summer there are several severe electrical storms in some part of Brisbane, frequently causing localised damage with things like fallen trees and interruptions to power supply.
2) Target your marketing message to clients who might be in “summer mode”. Your clients might have kids on holidays , be going to the beach, or preparing for a huge family Christmas. Social media and blogs might be more effective if they take on a summery tone.
3) Prepare for your own and your staff’s holidays. If someone who normally looks after your IT or social media is going away, what plans do you have in place. Do you want to continue “as normal” or will you just tell your clients you are on a break?
4) Can you target the holiday or gift markets in a new way? I haven’t got the answers on this one – it will be different for each business.

For myself though, I’m exploring how my target market wants to work with me in the holiday season and at other times.
I am holding a free drop in session in Brisbane to connect with my target market and understand their concern.
See www.electroniclighthouse.com.au/Events for details and if you know people who are struggling with tech gifts for children or grandchildren or just have smart phone or tablet questions, invite them to come along!

If you are a small or solo business, you might think this is not for you. However, if you ever hire staff or even outsource tasks to a vertical assistant, having ” the way you always do it” documented can save time and hassles. What happens when you have an unexpected peak in workload and want to outsource quickly? Or what if you are ill?

If you are a small business, you don’t have to act as if you are a government department and document facebookevery aspect immediately . Start with the things you are most likely to want an employee or virtual assistant to do. For many of us, a staff member would not make IT purchases but may do social media posts on your behalf.

A social media policy might be a good place to start. What platforms do you use? What rules do you want to follow? I would strongly recommend one saying you abide by the law of the country in which you are based, including protecting client privacy and saying you treat all people with respect. Reserve the right to delete public comments that do not comply and then if some person comments on your post advocating violence or hate or publishing illegal material, you are well within your rights to delete their content. What about confidentiality within your business? What do you want to share and what is ” commercial in confidence” ? Can you think of anything else you would tell a virtual assistant or new staff member if they were looking after your social media? What are you going to allow to do what?

If you have answered these questions, you have a social media policy! Congratulations! What other aspects of your business would it be helpful to document?

Powe

 
A vending machine that gets you back online

Traditionally vending machines sell snacks, drinks and other after hours requirements. I recently came upon a vending machine which sell chargers. As I have an iPad with a battery that does not last as long as it should, I purchased the PowerPod Overnighter 2 from the machine in Central Brisbane, near Woolworths for $45.00

testing testing…

My initial impression is that it is a very usefuhl device. It charges my smart phone in the same time as a wall charger and indications are that it will last for the claimed three charges. I’ve done one so far, and two indicator lights are still on. With the iPad, other reviews intricate it will not charge it fully. However, it charged it from completely flat to 60% in a comparable time to the wall charger at which point I swapped over to the wall charger as it was night time and I needed the device first thing so didn’t want to take a risk of it not charging further. I think it would charge further and will do more tests. In any case, it would be enough to get me out of a tight corner on a day or overnight trip.

In summary, initial testing indicates the PowerPod performs as claimed. It’s a very useful device if you travel or as a precaution against power failure and I love the vending machine concept making them available in places where they are needed at times when electronics stores may not be open. Every tourist area and air or sea port or bus station should have one.

Is your mobile phone an essential part of your business? Often you don’t realise how much you need technology until something goes wrong.
I recently had an issue with my smart phone and I would like to share my three top tips for surviving phone breakdown.
Keep an old phone
I had a very old Nokia stored away and while it doesn’t do social media or internet, at least I could make and receive calls and SMS .
If you upgrade a working phone, consider keeping it as a backup.
Back everything up
I had used Google to back up my phone contents, including apps which saved me a lot of stress when resetting my phone and then reinstalling apps. My problem was a faulty part but I chose to Restore to Factory Default as I had also been fiddling with the software and compounded issues. Also, if you want to ensure no-one can look through confidential business info while servicing it, this is the way to go. Most phones have an option on the settings menu. Here is a useful guide for Android users. https://itservices.stanford.edu/service/mobiledevice/management/manage_android/backup
Apple users should consider using iCloud.
http://support.apple.com/kb/PH12519?viewlocale=en_US
Know where to take it
Is it covered by warranty? Will it have to be sent away and take a long time? Mine was a grey area, may have been covered but would have taken a month so in the end I opted for a same day repair for $100 from a local shop.

Calaxy Nexus phone

My phone back home

Tablet computers
Do you feel as if your business technology is not quite as effective as it should be? Want to streamline things?
1) Know your processes and how the serve you
Write down what you do as if you were writing instructions for a new employee. Draw flow charts or pictures if you want. Now, think about what you would like to do better. Does anything take too long? Do you want anything to change? Use this information as a basis for deciding if a new technology purchase will help or if something else should be done. If there is a problem area for you, start there. You don’t have to do it all at once.
2) Explore the hidden talents of your devices
Consider any “gaps” you identified above that you feel technology can help to close. Do you know if your existing devices can fill those gaps?
Smart phones can run a huge variety of apps and it is quite probably that your phone can do much more than you think. A number of very useful apps for business are free or low cost. It is worth investing some time in browsing around the app store to see if you want to give something new a try. Can you use less devices if you have some of them doing more?
3) Know the settings
Also, know the settings on your devices and how to customise them as you wish. Sometimes a simple change can make a big difference, An IPad which persistently showed a time ten minutes fast was a perfect example. This was fixed by changing a setting to set the time automatically from the cellular network and the IPad now keeps perfect time. Consider using YouTube for free tutorials on aspects of your device and asking a friend if you have questions. Web sites such as www.whirlpool.net.au are also a valuable source of information but look for the independent user run sites where possible. Be wary of web sites with disguised sales pitches.
4) Get them talking together
Consider using cloud storage to enable you to access information from all your devices and all your locations. Make sure you password protect anything highly confidential and keep a local copy of anything important.
5) Build resilience in
Know the risks to your business and try to mitigate them as you go along. Design your processes and solutions so that they adapt to the likely situations which could interfere with your business. Some examples include a local supermarket with a generator in case of power interruption and a flood-prone cafe designed in a modular way so it can all be packed up, taken away and then brought back after a flood. Technology related examples including having a battery based charging dock or external battery for your phone.
6) Build security in
Keep your devices up to date. Make sure you have them set up to receive the regular security updates that most suppliers release and if you have security software, keep it up to date as well. Make sure your access point to the internet is secure – if you use wi-fi, set it up with a password.
7) Take advantage of the features of software
If there are things you want to do that are talking up a lot of time, it is worth checking if software and make them easier. For example, if you don’t like having to monitor two email accounts, you can usually forward one to the other. Be aware that your replies will come from the main account.
8) Keep up to date
Technology is ever changing. Check up on the latest developments in case something has changed that significantly benefits you. If you don’t have time to do this, keep in contact with some geeks or school age children, who spend ages researching this stuff
9) Know what you want
Don’t allow a store or provider to upsell you to something you don’t want and need keep things simple and always choose the simplest solution that meets your needs. However, this is not always the cheapest solutions as you may have a need for future proofing, which justifies a little extra effort and expense at the beginning.
10) Don’t be afraid to seek help.
If something is worrying you, discuss it with your friends or a trusted IT professional. If possible, make sure that he or she is independent, not acting on behalf of a vendor or solution provider. Don’t rely exclusively on advice from stores or vendor web sites.

Post a message on this site or find us on Facebook if there is anything you want to know, big or small. Check back later if you want to know more, as we regularly post tips and hints.

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