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The future of advertising is PR

If you’re looking into starting a marketing campaign, this blog post by Eric Karljaluoto, creative director at smashLAB, might offer some fresh perspective. It’s an insightful read, though not for someone who’s easily offended. Here are the main points I took away from the article:

  • “Don’t spam, engage people in a dialogue.”
  • “It’s no longer about the number of messages you send; instead, concentrate on the actual interaction or engagement that results.”

Additional reading:

Protecting your password

A client’s Yahoo email account was hijacked recently. She found out after an email was sent out in her name, to her entire contact list, asking to borrow several thousand pounds. This was such an obvious scam that no-one fell for it. Fortunately, other than some embarrassment and inconvenience, there were no serious consequences. It could have been much worse.

How did this happen? She’ll probably never find out but easiest route would have been by getting hold of her password. Criminals use different techniques but common methods are:

  • ‘phishing’;
  • ‘shoulder-surfing’;
  • through an infiltrated computer;
  • by capturing the transmitted information.

‘Phishing’

This method because is so common that I’d be surprised if you’ve never encountered it. Phishing is when someone tries to trick you into visiting a fake website and entering your login credentials. Treat any email asking for your account details with suspicion. If in doubt, contact the company using their published telephone number or email address to double-check.

‘Shoulder-surfing’

Shoulder-surfing is a technique where someone simply looks over your shoulder watching what you type. You’re most susceptible to this when you’re working in a public place, like an internet cafe, airport or train. To avoid this, just be aware of your surroundings.

Through an infiltrated computer

Computers can be infiltrated by software that secretly records everything you type on the keyboard. The most risky are those in internet cafes or hotel business rooms. What happens is that a malicious person will install recording software and wait for people to use the computer. A while later, the person retrieves the captured information, which would include web addresses, usernames, passwords and emails. It can be very difficult to know when this is happening so don’t trust public PCs.

Your own computer can also be infiltrated by a computer virus caught through email attachments or infected websites. Windows users should keep their anti-virus software up to date. Apple users have less to worry about but it’s still a good idea to be cautious and occasionally run virus checks.

Capturing transmitted information

This technique is probably one of the most difficult to avoid. Someone with enough technical knowledge can literally watch the passwords and emails flowing through your internet connection. Although it’s possible for this to happen with your wired office network, you’re most at risk when using WiFi.

If you have wireless internet at home, read the manual to make sure you configure it with the highest security setting possible. Things get more tricky when you’re travelling and using the wireless internet services at cafes and hotels.

To protect against this, you’ll need to use VPN software. VPN stands for Virtual Private Networking and is a way of scrambling your transmitted information, hiding it from prying eyes. Unfortunately this software can tricky to set up. They’re often used by corporations with their own IT department. As a small-business owner, this will probably be outside of your comfort zone unless you have someone technical on-board. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to give it a try, ask a computer retailer about VPN broadband routers.

Just remember to exercise caution

As you can see, the techniques range from old-fashioned confidence tricks to high-tech computerised traps. I’ve glossed over the details but key is to use the same common sense online as you would in the real world: don’t take everything at face value; be cautious when in unfamiliar surroundings; get advice on how to use your tools.

This is a complex topic so if there’s demand, I’ll write a more in-depth articles in the future.

How to get more ink out of your printer

Have you ever been presented with a premature ‘change cartridge’ warning by your printer? This scenario should be quite familiar: your printer is happily churning out pages with no sign of fading when suddenly the low ink indicator lights-up. The thing then becomes useless until you pop in a brand-new (and probably expensive) cartridge. You might suspect that there’s still more ink and you’re probably right. It’s been widely-reported that printer manufacturers’ cut-off system is a little too eager.

Thanks to an article from Slate, an online magazine, I came across fixyourownprinter.com. The site has a forum offering tips on how to squeeze every last drop of ink out of your cartridge. Although Slate’s article focuses on laser printers, fixyourownprinter.com also covers many brands of ink-jets.

Here’s a summary of the tips from the article:

Be warned though. These procedures will almost certainly invalidate your warranty and might even break your printer. Still, they may be worth a try since—with some printers—it can cheaper to buy a newer model than replace the ink.

Those interested in the inner-workings of inkjet printers might want to see this video:


The Dirty Little Secret of Inkjet PrintersThe most popular videos are here

Incorrect design credits

Ooops!

It appears that I may have incorrectly credited some designs that appeared in our gallery. A designer we used in 2007 submitted some concepts for his portfolio section on our site. Just today, a visitor dropped us a note claiming that some of the concepts do not belong to the designer. Here’s the note:

“On 18 Jul 2008, at 11:21, [address removed] wrote:
i noticed that some web design concepts – of some companies are not originally from your team, like those of lush, Honda Philippines. I happen to know the contact people and they told me that the projects were under Ecommsite, and Ecommsite told me that the Designer of Honda Philippines was Cris Pau. Have truth in advertising”

Unfortunately, I have lost contact with the designer in question so can no longer verify this information. Nevertheless, I also happen to know both the visitor and Ecommsite. Rather than complicate things, I’ve simply removed the designer’s entire portfolio from our site.

If I did indeed make a mistake in the credits, I apologise to Ecommsite and Cris Pau. You can find out more about Ecommsite on their website. If Cris Pau would kindly send me his portfolio site, I will gladly post the link.

Note: Ecommsite is no longer in operation. The link above now directs to Athena E-Services who was, if I remember correctly, their parent company.

BlackBerry mobile email options for small businesses

In response to my post about running your own email server, a reader mentioned the BlackBerry mobile email service. According to his computer consultant, running Exchange (Microsoft’s messaging and collaboration software) as an in-house email server is necessary for the BlackBerry. Coincidentally, this subject came up with three other clients over the past year so there’s obviously another common misunderstanding here—they were going to install a company server for the same reason.

The consultant was partly correct, but it really depends on your needs. BlackBerry has two types of solutions:

  • BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, which is aimed at larger corporations
  • BlackBerry Internet Service for personal users and small to medium-sized businesses

The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution is designed to extend a company’s in-house email system. Choosing this solution does indeed require Microsoft Exchange. (There is also a version for Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise, two other commercial messaging systems.) Keep in mind that you’ll also need to buy and install the Blackberry Enterprise Server. As you can imagine, this route can get complicated and expensive.

Smaller businesses should consider the BlackBerry Internet Service, where your mobile operator takes care of the complicated software. (To use the terminology in my main article, they will host your BlackBerry service.) Here, you simply use a BlackBerry handset together with a regular email account (say from your internet service provider or Gmail). All you need do is configure the settings using the mobile operator’s web-based control panel. Emails will then be forwarded to your BlckBerry handset.

After learning of the options, all three clients chose the Internet Service. So far they’re happy with it.

Should you run your own email server?

A common misconception amongst small-business owners is that you need your own email server. For most companies I’ve encountered, this is just not necessary.

Before continuing, it may help if I explain some basics. There are essentially two ways to have email:

  • Hosted email. This is when someone else manages the email server. If you have a personal Gmail or Yahoo email, it is ‘hosted’ by another company, in this case Google or Yahoo. The same is true if you use the email address provided by your internet service provider or website hosting company.
  • You run your own email server. Many medium-sized and large organisations take this route. They have a server room or data centre space, and an I.T. department who takes care of the servers.

Small-business owners sometimes feel that they need to emulate bigger companies by installing their own email server, perhaps assuming that it’s the way things are ‘supposed to be’. This is unsurprising since founders often come from a corporate environment where this set-up is normal. Furthermore, computer services companies love suggesting this route because it’s a great source of income: not only do they supply you with the hardware and software, they also get continued work through ongoing support.

Nevertheless, while email is critical for most companies, having an in-house mail server is a distraction from running the business. Do you have the resources to keep yours running reliably? Here are some examples of the many worries you’ll have if you take care of your own email server:

  • What happens to your messages if you lose power, say, from a blown fuse or road works?
  • Will the new cleaner unplug the cable to use for the vacuum cleaner?
  • What if the server is stolen during a break-in?
  • Do you have spare parts in case a component fails?
  • Can you keep the server virus-free?
  • Are you running regular backups?
  • Which software updates can you apply without causing problems?
  • Will the server overheat in the summer?

Compare this with a hosted service. Reputable providers house the servers in a data centre with backup power generators, building security, air conditioners and a round-the-clock technical team. The chances are that your email service will be more robust with them than in a computer sitting in the corner of your office.

If you think you genuinely need your own server, make sure that you’re aware of the implications. Don’t let your technology advisor push you towards this direction without a clear explanation.

A web technology blog for small-business owners

This blog will be about helping small companies use the internet more effectively.

As a small-business owner or entrepreneur, you know that reaching a wide audience is vital. You’ve heard that the internet can play a big part in a successful business but perhaps don’t know where to start. You have enough on your plate just keeping things running smoothly. There’s no time to become an expert and there’s no budget to hire an expensive consultant. Besides, who can you trust? There are charlatans out there who’d happily run away with your hard-earned savings.

Sound familiar? If so, this blog is for you. It will help you apply technology to your business, spot new ideas that might otherwise go unnoticed, and find ways to make your life easier. As a result, you’ll be able to use the internet to improve your business.

OK, this sounds good. But at this point, you’re probably expecting the sales pitch for my book or seminar. Of course, there is always an ulterior motive and it would be foolish of me to think you’re not intelligent or savvy enough to realise this. So here’s what I’m trying to achieve with this blog:

  • I want to convert readers to customers by proving that we’re useful to their business.
  • I want existing customers to get to know us a little more.

It’s all about building trust. The more people know you, the more likely they are to spend money on you. And this leads me nicely to my first internet tip for small businesses.

Blogs are a proven way for companies to reach a wider marketplace. But some companies take the wrong approach, using it as a glorified press-release section, publishing nothing but “why we’re so great” articles. In reality, people aren’t that interested in a constant stream of spin and new project wins.

A personal blog is, by definition, about you and it’s OK to be self-absorbed; your family and friends are a natural audience who want to know what you’re up to. Company blogs are different. Readers need a reason to keep coming back so articles also have to be relevant to their lives. Two ways to do this are:

  • Including helpful information.
  • Generating discussion that engages them.

I will aim to do both.

Future articles

Future articles will explore this topic in more detail. Other themes will include explanations about technology without the geek-speak; tips to make your life online easier; and news in my industry that may affect you. Once in a while, I’ll indulge myself by telling you about developments at Another Cup of Coffee, how we work, and the method behind our madness.

Since blogs are also about creating dialogue, please feel free to post your opinions and questions. No doubt, other readers will find your input valuable. If you’d like me to cover a specific topic, drop me a note and I’ll try to fit it in.

About the author

If I’m to make claims about helping you, you’ll probably need to know a little more about me. As a quick introduction, I’m Anthony Lopez-Vito, founder of Another Cup of Coffee. Rather than use up space writing about myself here, I’ll direct you to my LinkedIn profile. Other members of the team may also contribute at some point. In the near future, I aim to present guest authors who are clients, partner companies, or suppliers.

Linking to a file in Drupal

  1. Login to your CMS at http://YOURSITE/user (replace YOURSITE with your own domain name).
  2. Create a new page or edit an existing page where you’d like to add the link.
  3. In the ‘Body’ editor box, type some text and highlight the words that you’d like to convert into a link. You may also highlight existing text.
    Linking text in Drupal
  4. With the link text highlighted, click in the ‘Insert/edit link’ icon in the editor tool bar.
    Image of Drupal's link text icon
  5. The ‘Insert/edit link’ window should now appear. If it does not, please temporarily disable your browser’s pop-up blocker.
    Image of Drupal's insert/edit link window

    • Link URL: Enter the filename prefixed by /files/
      Example: if your file is my_document.doc, you must enter /files/my_document.doc
    • Target: You may leave the setting at ‘Open link in the same window’
    • Title: Enter a descriptive title. This sets the text that appears when a visitor hovers the mouse over the link.
  6. Click ‘Insert’ on the ‘Insert/edit link’ window, then scroll down to the bottom of the page editor window and click ‘Submit’. The page will now be saved with your new link. View the page and click the link to make sure your file downloads as expected.

Updating or removing the link

You can also edit or remove the link text.

  • To update the link, follow the instructions above to bring up the ‘Insert/edit link’ window. It should appear with your pre-filled information.
  • To remove the link, highlight the link text and click the ‘Unlink’ icon. (This appears as a broken chain graphic and can be found next to the ‘Insert/edit link’ icon.

How to upload a file to your server

Introduction

These instructions relate to your public website. It will show you how to upload a file to your server. Your site is controlled by a content management system (CMS) and there are several ways to achieve the same result. Here I will show you one method, but if you find it to be unwieldy, please let us know as we can suggest alternatives.

Prerequisites

You will need the following in order to upload your file:

  1. File transfer software, also known as an ‘FTP client’.
  2. Your username and passwords to login to the server. For security, I’ve sent your username and password separately. (These credentials are not the same as those used to login to the CMS and edit your site pages.)
  3. The file you’d like to upload (of course!). You can upload any file type but to make things easier for yourself, I suggest you follow the guidelines below.

Uploading a file

  1. Open your FTP client and in the connection screen, use the following settings.
    • Host or Server
    • Username
    • Password
    • Path: you may leave this blank
    • Protocol: Use FTP or SFTP
    • Port: Most clients will fill this in for you. If it doesn’t, enter port 21 if connecting through FTP, or enter port 22 if connecting through SFTP.
  2. Click the ‘Connect’ button. Once the software has connected, it should display the files currently on the server.
  3. The files on the server are organised in a hierarchy similar to your own computer. If you did not enter a path in step one, you will be placed on the uppermost level so you’ll need to navigate to your ‘files’ directory. If you don’t know where this is, please contact the project manager or developer who worked on your site.
  4. Drag your file into the window showing the server files. (Some programs also have a section displaying your local computer files so make sure you drag it into the server window.)
  5. Wait for the file to finish uploading, then click ‘Disconnect’.

Please take care when manipulating files on the server. Deleting files here will cause content to permanently disappear from your website.

Notes

About the Protocol

The protocol is the method used by the software and server to communicate.

FTP is widely supported by file transfer programs but it’s not secure. Malicious people on your network can easily intercept your password and files when connecting through FTP.

SFTP is the secure version of FTP because it encrypts the password and files. Use SFTP if your software supports it.

File Guidelines

Following these guidelines will help reduce problems when creating your link.

  1. Try to keep the file size small. Anything up to a few megabytes (MB) is acceptable on modern internet connection speeds. If you’re pushing 25 MB or more, your visitors might not like the wait.
  2. Place the file in an easy-to-find location, such as your desktop.
  3. Use only alphanumeric characters in the filename and make sure there are no spaces. If you like, you can also use dashes ( – ) or underscores ( _ ). Unless you’re quite proficient with creating web pages, using any other characters may give you problems when creating a link to the file.

    The following examples are OK:

    • my-file-1.doc
    • MyFile.doc
    • myfile1.pdf
    • document_2.txt

    These may give you trouble when creating the link:

    • Jane’s document.pdf
    • John’s file 1.doc
    • mydocument (with hidden file extension)
    • SoldFor$10.doc

File transfer software

There are many FTP client vendors and some can be downloaded from the internet at no cost. Below are a few suggestions but an internet search for ‘FTP client’ will show more.

For Microsoft Windows

  • http://filezilla-project.org
  • http://www.smartftp.com
  • http://winscp.net

For Mac OS X

  • http://filezilla-project.org
  • http://www.panic.com/transmit/
  • http://cyberduck.ch