Have You Checked the Health of Your Small Business PC?

If you haven’t you are at huge risk of catastrophic failure!

Here are five tips to ensure your computer’s viability: I guarantee you, you will have problems if you do not follow these simple tips and when it happens, not if, you will be kicking yourself! Many of us including myself believe our computers are reliable and that we will never have a computer or hard disk crash until it happens. Yes, computer reliability has increased dramatically reducing the risk of failure, still no matter how reliable you believe, you cannot protect yourself against the unexpected, whether it is accidental or malicious. Once you have a problem all hell breaks loose as we begin to realize the potential of what we may have lost and just watch your stress level rocket!. All small businesses including my own CANNOT rely on a single system with no form of checkup and redundancy, it is just crass lunacy. Yet I bet some 95% of us just do that. Sure we understand the need to check the health of our computers, sure we make commitments to do it but it all comes down to a decision and sure enough we get distracted, we promise ourselves we will do this but we don’t.

You need to follow these five simple tips, they require no expertise on your behalf, these are easy and simple to do:

TIP 1: Backup Your Hard Disk: Always have a redundant hard drive that basically mirrors you’re PC’s hard driver. This means that every file you create as you are creating it is also created on a backup drive. This is really easy to do, there are external hard drives that you can purchase with built-in software. These drives can be plugged into your PCs USB port. As an example I used Seagate Freeagent , if you Google them you will find a selection of good low priced drives (TIP 2: Check The Health Of Your PC Register: Your PC registry, basically controls all software running on your PC, frequently corrupts which can cause a host of problems from unexplained performance issues and sometimes unexpected system crashes. For less than $30 you can get a registry cleaner and optimizer; this keeps your system in tip-top shape and really does maintain your system’s performance. The product I used was regCure which was simple to install and use. It detects problems in your PC registry and fixes them without any intervention from you!

TIP 3:Check The Health Of Your Hard Disk: System performance is not only about the registry it is also about your hard disk. There is a FREE option in Microsoft’s windows operating system that allows you to check your hard disk for errors and for the file fragmentation, namely pieces of a file can be stored in many locations on your hard drive, the defragmentation tool brings those file pieces together which makes your disk access faster as the system finds the file in one location and loads it. To find where these FREE tools are located on your PC simply select your hard disk icon in the ‘My Computer’ icon on your desktop, right click on it and select properties. In properties you will find a tool tab select it and then select error checking. Make sure you check both the automatically fix file system errors and scan for bad sectors and recover. This process normally takes several hours to complete and requires you to reboot your PC. I do this monthly and I start it before I go to bed at night so in the morning it has completed. Defragment for hard disk: Once you have checked your hard disk follow the same steps above but this time select defragmentation instead of error checking. This process again may take several hours to complete so let it run overnight. These two simple tips (3&4) will keep your hard disk fit and healthy and will keep your PC performance at its best.

TIP 4: Cleanup your internet files and cookies: I don’t know if you realize that when operating on the internet many small files are created on your PC, some are temporary files that are deleted when you leave a site other files like cookies (aka HTTP cookies, web cookies, tracking cookies) are not. They remain on your PC and these cookies store information about your PC that websites use to maintain specific information about users such as site preference, contents of your shopping cart, signed on status, including encrypted passwords etc. It is advisable to clean these files on a regular basis as they do provide some website owners interesting information about you and your preferences. I use the internet a lot, it is a part of my business and so weekly I cleanse my system of these cookies and temporary files. It is very simple to do. Go to your web browsers, I will use IE (v7.0) for this example, select tools on the toolbar menu, then internet options, then browsing history under the general tab then click on the delete button. You will get a host of options but I usually select the delete all. You are done, that’s it!

TIP 5: Get virus protection for your PC: This is an absolute must. If you do not do this, you will regret it as viruses effectively corrupt your hard drive putting you data at huge risk. There are many good products on the market. I use AVG Internet security, it just works quietly behind the scene doing its thing and today (touch wood) I’m still virus free and believe me I’ve been around some very shady areas on the internet

I’ve been in the IT industry for over 25 years and I think I have seen it all, but what is most potent is when a system crash happens to a small business whose livelihood is dependent upon its data. It can be devastating and very costly to recover data if at all possible. With the explosion of the home based businesses using PCs on the internet, the risk of PC failure has compounded many fold. Those who use computers just to access the internet have become complacent because we understand that our PCs are like our autos, we know how to operate them but we don’t know what to do if they need fixing and unlike our autos we may actually lose something important that we cannot get back.

DON’T PREVARICATE, just follow these five simple tips and you will avoid the stress of losing your access to your livelihood. There is of course no 100% guarantee that you will have no problems but at least you will have significantly reduced the likelihood of problems and if you do get any catastrophic failure if you have used a mirrored approach to your hard disk as I explained in tip 1 you will be up and running in no time with no loss of data.

Four Effective Small Business Marketing Tips

The time is now for small businesses to take control of their marketing. Consumers are gravitating towards the internet every day looking for solutions to their problems. We’ve listed a few tips for small businesses that will effectively generate interest and traffic.

Utilize Your Customers

The most overlooked aspect of growing your business could be staring right at you every day. Your current customers already know you and trust, or at least they should know and trust you. Take advantage of your customer base by offering incentives or special deals for referrals. People who experience a good product or service enjoy sharing it with their friends. Use your customers as publicity agents to spread the word of your business to their friends and family. Often business owners don’t like to push their customers for referrals but you would be surprised how many people would do just that when they had a good experience with your business.

Don’t Feel the Need to Advertise Like a Big Business

Big businesses have the marketing budget to spend on commercial slots or print ads. Small businesses typically do not which means you should not treat your marketing plan as if you need to advertise like the big businesses. Small businesses should look to inbound marketing and internet marketing to gain ground on the leaders of your industry. Provide opportunities for people to respond to your marketing efforts with special offers to new members or customers.

Join Forces with Other Small Businesses

Small business owners often know other small business owners. There is a connection between small business owners and the dedication and hard work it takes to run a business. Contact your friends at other businesses and offer a joint promotion. Exchange links or banners to be placed on each others websites. Refer your customers to their business and ask them to do the same. This is a free and easy way to gain new business.

YouTube

The next time you do a job or service have a camera set up and record and narrate the process of your service. After you have recorded go to YouTube and upload the content. You could also upload it to your website as an instructional video. YouTube is a great avenue for exposure and prospects can actually see your results and you or your business in action. You can conduct interviews with industry leaders or have customers comment on your work for others to hear. Introduce your staff or your office/warehouse, taking visitors on a tour is second best to being there in person.

There are many ideas for small business marketing tips and we have outlined just a few. The fact is there are many ways to market your business or brand with a limited budget and there are many internet marketers eager to help your small business compete with the corporations.

10 Keys to Great Small Business Websites

  1. The first thing you need to know about small business websites is that people and search engines need to see quality content.  Why does anyone pass along a URL to their friend?  It’s not because the color scheme is pretty, it’s because they think they will find the information useful, helpful, or interesting. It is advised that webmasters add new content weekly, if not daily.
  2. The second key to a great website is current, fresh content. If your site is stale, the search engines won’t like it much. Blogs are a great way to prevent this.
  3. Look at search engine rules to find out what they are looking for and give it to them. This is the 3rd tip for a great site.
  4. The fourth thing that makes small business websites great is when they are linked up well.  We are talking about links that lead to your website, to other people’s websites, and within your own pages.  These links help your page’s rankings.
  5. The structure of your web page is important, because nobody likes to see a big mess. Nobody wants to clean it up with their eyes and figure it out. Having a relatively well organized website is tip 5.
  6. Sixth, your site should be accessible. Consider disabilities such as deafness, colorblindness, and blindness. Check out the Web Accessibility Initiative to learn more.
  7. Tip 7 is to have quality code on your page. Choose an experienced web designer or SEO expert, if you are hiring one, who knows how to create clean, quality code for your page.  If you aren’t a web designer, you might not be too familiar with this, but just ask your designer if they know how to be compliant on their code and use various types of design work that function well in all browsers and operating systems.
  8. Tip 8 is to choose URLs that highlight your keywords and are going to help your rankings rather than hurt them. This is especially important for small business websites.
  9. Tip 9 revolves around style. Although many small business websites are very attractive, that’s not really what we’re talking about. First, yes, your site should be appealing to look at, but it’s even more important that people can find what they are looking for quickly, and that they can read it. Use easy to read text, light backgrounds with dark text, and avoid writing in caps.
  10. Tenth, make sure your photographs are good. Low resolution images are a huge turn off for online audiences but if you use too high resolution they will take too long to load.  Learn the best format for images to find the proper balance between quality and function.

Follow these tips and you are sure to be well on your way to a good website for your small business.

Your website is the shop window for your small business, so it has to be inviting, attractive and informative  to your potential customers. Although we have considered many attributes that make up a good small business website here, it is crucial that you seek the expert advice of an experienced internet marketing service to ensure your business is represented professionally. If you neither have the time nor the skills yourself, they can be an invaluable service. Furthermore, an SEO expert will cover many other important areas that we have not had time to address in this article.