Waypoint News

Google’s ‘Earth Ring’ of Internet Balloons

11.18.15

Last year, Facebook announced that it was working on building a fleet of solar powered flying wing drones that would slowly transverse the globe, firing internet at the people below. No wires? No problem. The idea isn’t that people in Silicon Valley need something cool to look at out the window (in most cases that’s a part of their compensation package anyway). No, it’s the fact that developing nations, mountainous regions and hard-to-reach places suffer from a lack of internet and a lack of infrastructure to deliver it with. Sooner than building a mesh of antiquated copper cabling it makes sense to just hop straight to mobile, as Africans are increasingly doing. And since many of those places are non-cell tower friendly too, mobile from above was the logical choice; the utility of satellite uplink without the crippling expense.

When the story came out, most folks just rolled their eyes: another day, another jetpack out of California. But the guys at Alphabet, or the-artist-everyone-still-calls-Google, thought they could go one better.

In a move the looks a bit like the Google playbook was maybe authored by HG Wells, Alphabet are planning to put suborbital balloons up across the globe to… well, to fire internet at you from the skies, of course. Google wants those mountain pass dwellers, rural heartlanders and developing-nation entrepreneurs too.

The project, named ‘Loon,’ is to be tested next in Indonesia, and is expected to supply the country with 4G-like internet speed (Source: TechWeekEurope.co.uk). Considering that Indonesia currently has some of the slowest internet in the world, that’s quite an upgrade. Why does Indonesia have such slow internet? Because the whole country qualifies as ‘hard to reach’ – there are as many Indonesians as Americans, but the country is spread across more than 18,000 islands. Cable’s not really in the race here.

Google’s helium-filled reflective Loon balloons will float at about 12 miles high, well into the stratosphere, and will have to be replaced every 100 days or so. Each balloon will cover a ground area of about 25 square miles, so there will need to be quite a few of them – but one day, there will be many more. After success in Sri Lanka last year and with agreements with Indonesia’s 3 biggest telecoms companies already signed (Source: Google), Loon project director Mike Cassidy one day hopes to ‘make a continuous string [of balloons] around the world.’ (Source: BBC News.)

Top 7 marketing CRMs for small business

11.11.15

CRM – Customer Relationship Management – is a vital business tool. But small businesses need a Swiss Army knife, not a toolbox – integrated tools that can do multiple jobs with minimal human input free staff for more business critical tasks. So a great small business CRM should offer more than sales. Marketing, CRM, project management and analytics can all come in one package if you know where to look.

Here are 7 of the best!

1: Intercom

$49/mo and up

Offering analytics and customer communication as well as CRM functionality, Intercom is an ideal choice for ecommerce stores or businesses seeking to market to contacts they already have. If you have a lot of time-sensitive, online leads, Intercom is for you; if most of your business processes take place offline, not so much.

2: Infusionsoft

$199/mo up to $599/mo

A legend in the industry, Infusionsoft is a one-stop business app. Everything from lead generation through project management, sales and analytics mean you can run a whole business out of the Infusionsoft box. Which is a good thing, because Infusionsoft isn’t cheap. It’s best suited to midsize businesses that want to automate a lot of their marketing.

3: Jumplead

Free – $159/mo

Jumplead excels at geographic and onsite location and customer behavior tracking. So if you’re a local ecommerce business or your business model features a blend of online and physical sales this could be the marketing CRM for you.

4: AgileCRM

Free – $47.99/mo

AgileCRM has one of the widest range of integrations on this list. And it’s all built on top of a sturdy, adaptable sales CRM. Marketing functionality includes social listening and email campaigns and onsite and email reports, while you’ll also find lead management tools and commerce payment integration.

5: Hubspot

Free

Hubspot’s CRM is totally free, despite bulging with integrations and pretty serious functionality. Upgrade to full Hubspot for $800/mo and get the industry standard business suite. Everything Google Analytics offers you is bundled right in with easy landing-page and email creators, Sidekick integrated contact integration and more.

6: Zoho CRM

$12 – $35/mo

Part of Zoho’s modular business software suite, Zoho CRM gives a complete buying-cycle view that’s invaluable for the kind of 10, 000ft perspective you need to make great marketing decisions. Mass emails, marketing customization and reports and CRM functionality come with the Standard plan; upgrade to pro for social CRM functionality that automates social presence centrally and go for Enterprise for custom modules, Adwords integration and more.

7:Call Tracking Metrics

$29/mo

Turns out, not everyone’s business lives online. Some bricks and mortar businesses need to be far more about their phone lines. Call Tracking Metrics sets out to offer the same facilities as other names on this list but for physical businesses that live on the phone.

Four Companies That Are Shaping Tech Right Now

10.07.15

Who’s really shaping tech? Is it Apple? Google? Kind of. What about Intel? They’re up there. But a new generation of tech giants (OK, and one or two of the usual suspects) are changing the whole way we interact with tech – and each other. In the process, they’re changing the face of major areas of industry, altering many people’s working lives and shaping the whole face of the tech landscape. Let’s meet them.

Airbnb

Airbnb’s proposition is pretty simple. You have a spare room, someone needs a room. Airbnb puts you together. As it does so, it creates opportunities for a new kind of hospitality industry to emerge – one that’s not just outside the control of the traditional, hotel-based industry but beyond its capacity to deliver. In facilitating one-off agreements between individuals Airbnb changes what we expect from hospitality; the traditional industry is already running to keep up.

Uber

Uber does what Airbnb does, but for cabbing. You need a ride? Uber puts you in touch with someone who has a car. It’s a uniquely disruptive model that’s got cab drivers honking their horns in frustration, and it’s equally feted and condemned. While it hasn’t had a bump-free ride, it has shocked the whole transport industry awake. Smart industry insiders now face the job of educating everyone else to understand: the smartphone tech that powers Uber is just the how. The why is about meeting previously unmet consumer needs.

DBS

Singapore-based bank DBS is using the available tech in a similar way to Uber, building customer-focussed individualized services that expand banking out of the branch and the ATM and into people’s everyday lives. There’s a smartphone payment app, pop-up ATMS, the beginnings of SMS banking and dozens of other provisions for consumers who never really wanted to stand in lines in a branch. DBS isn’t a startup: it’s one of Asia’s biggest banks. How will the rest of the financial sector respond? Probably by falling over themselves to emulate DBS at the risk of being left behind.

Facebook

At last, an honest-to-goodness tech company. What’s staid, been-there-forever Facebook doing that’s so all-fired disruptive? Well, for one thing Facebook’s still less than a decade old. For another, it’s not tech it’s disrupting: it’s media. The traditional media model is to figure out that an audience exists for something (or hope it does), launch the paper or magazine and try to connect it with the audience. (Plenty of websites do this too.) Facebook’s approach is unique: they already have an audience, with 1.49 billion monthly active users (Source: Statista), and now they’re revolutionizing how that audience consumes media. Facebook’s future isn’t as a place for people to show off pictures of their cats, though sources indicate cats will be a permanent feature of the whole internet, not just Facebook: instead, it’s as a news aggregator, a kind of mutual magazine service.

None of these companies will destroy the older models of its industry. TV didn’t kill theater, the internet didn’t kill TV – arguably, it ushered in a golden age of great TV shows; where’s the ‘90s Breaking Bad, The Wire, or the almighty, globe-bestraddling Game of Thrones? Instead, we’ll see the old and new models living side by side and eventually settling down into a future where there’s room for hotels and Airbnb.

The 5 Best Chromebooks of 2015

10.02.15

Chromebooks are lightweight, fast laptops that use a minimal operating system – just enough to support the Chrome browser. You do everything else through that. While they usually don’t have the spec that a full-on laptop has, the days when they were tiny and couldn’t be used offline at all are past and modern Chromebooks come in sizes up to 13.3” as standard, with some even larger. Squint and you could mistake a Chromebook for a superslim laptop – until you see the price. Low cost, toughness, portability and long battery life make them a great choice for business, so if you’re considering one, here are five of the frontrunners.

1: Google Chromebook Pixel 2015

Price: $1, 144 – $1, 999
Size: 11”
Battery: Up to 12 Hours
The Good:
Superfast Intel i5 or i7 processor
Very long battery life
The Bad:
Ahem. The price?
3:2 screen not great for multitasking

The Lowdown: Yes, it’s one of the best Chromebooks you’ll see. But you could literally buy seven budget chromebooks or a brand new Macbook Air for that price tag. Which is what most people with pockets that deep are likely to do. It is a beauty, though, with crisp graphics and great keyboard feel.

2: Toshiba Chromebook 2

Price: $257 – $399
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 9 hours
The Good:
Full HD screen
High RAM for a Chromebook
Trusted brand
The Bad:
Poor battery life for a Chromebook
Prone to screen glare

The Lowdown:
This is a great all-rounder at an affordable price. It’s also one of the few Chromebooks with really good speakers! Keyboard feel is good, graphics are crisp with a full HD 1080p screen and the machine itself looks and feels high-end. There’s enough RAM to use Google’s ever-expanding offline functionality, and enough battery life to get a full working day away from the socket.

3: Acer Chromebook 13

Price: $349
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 13 hours
The Good:
Battery life is right up there
Very light and quiet
The Bad:
Flimsy keyboard feel
Oddly-placed ports

The Lowdown:

This Acer Chromebook is fanless and silent, and surprisingly light. It comes in any color you like, as long as you don’t mind it being white, and it’s faster than it needs to be thanks to a 2.3Ghz processor. The let-downs are the flimsy keyboard feel and the baffling port placement – they’re all in strange places. Even the charging port is on the right-hand side of the computer. Other than that it’s a good business choice at a good price.

4: Asus C300M

Price: $219
Size: 13”
Battery: Up to 9 hours
The Good:
Long battery life
Solid performance across the board
The Bad:
Lackluster graphics

The Lowdown:

The Asus C300M comes with the spec of a higher-end Chromebook and the price of a lower-end Chromebook. Its 9 hours of battery life will see you through a working day socketless if necessary and unlike the sober blacks, whites and grays we’re used to seeing on laptops Asus have kitted these out in orange and yellow, though there is a black model too.

5: HP Chromebook 11

Price: $199
Size: 11”
Battery: Up to 8 hours, 15 minutes
The Good:
Great build quality
Great quality screen
The Bad:
Poor trackpad
Small screen

The Lowdown: This is the lowest-cost Chromebook on our list and one of the best built. If you’re looking for a runabout rather than a true laptop replacement this could be it, and at under $200 brand new from the manufacturer, it’s hard to go wrong. Having said which, it’s hard to visualize just how small 11 inches is until you see it. The trackpad is jittery and the screen is… well, it’s good, but it’s 11 inches corner to corner. HP does bigger chromebooks with similar quality, though.

Is Page Load Time Sabotaging Your Online Marketing?

09.30.15

Page load time is all too easily forgotten when you’re adding apps, working on content marketing and direct sales and working on, or in, your actual business. Even when business owners turn their attention to their websites, they’ll look at copy, site architecture, appearance. But page load time could be costing you customers.

How is page load time a marketing matter? Because your website is delivering marketing content to you customers. And if it takes too long to load, they’re not seeing it; they’re just clicking away. A website that’s hard to navigate, or where the calls to action aren’t easy to find and intuitive, leaks visitors. So what do you think happens when your page takes too long to load?

In 2006 Greg Linden, of Amazon, tested consumer response to load rates. He found that increments of load time as small as 1/100th of a second caused measurable drops in revenue (Source: Greg Linden). Akamai Technologies found in 2009 that the average user expected a site to load in 2 seconds or less (Source: Akamai Technologies). That was in 2009! In 2015, sites with 3-second load time lose 22% page views and see 50% more bounce and 22% fewer conversions compared to a site with a 1-second load time. Load in 5 seconds? Say goodbye to 35% in page views, 38% conversions and say hello to a 105% higher bounce rate (Source: WebPerformanceToday).

Yet sites are getting slower, not faster.

Customers want bigger sites. They respond well to images, animation, video. Ecommerce customers want more items per page, more detail, more interactivity. But they’re absolutely not prepared to pay for any of it in increased load time. So hostile are users to high load times that Google is bringing out a ‘slow’ warning for mobile websites.

Where does this leave small businesses? We still have to strike a balance between a super basic site and a site that loads fast enough. Here’s what to do:

Shoot for a 2-second load speed or less on desktop and mobile. Remove anything that puts load time above 2 seconds.

Consider a Content Delivery network (CDN). This puts critical files on servers close to the viewer’s location, accelerating load times.

Look again at images. Change formats to achieve lighter weight and faster load.

Get the most from your cache; spread the load by having as much data as possible carried in users’ caches.

Check your JavaScript and CSS. Fewer breaks and less space means quicker parsing and faster loads.

Check hardware, including servers; check hosting.

You might not have the time or skillset to do all these yourself, but your developer should be able to substantially increase load speed on your current site by prioritising it. Even if you wind up having to move servers or get new hosting, the jump in revenues delivered by fast load speed is worth it!

Malware Ninjas Can Be Beaten: Here’s How

09.18.15

The digital threats business faces are becoming ever more sophisticated. Yes, the biggest gaps remain easy and simple to fix, but even if you’ve disabled links in emails,chosen a password that’s not ‘123456’ and patched Java and Flash, you’re still at risk.

That’s enough to keep the slouching criminals in burglar’s masks out, the ones who just try to guess your password, or email you suspicious-looking links in poorly-worded spam emails. But it won’t keep out the skilful, professional malware ninjas hiding under the eaves of the internet.

What do the threats look like?

Cyber Espionage

Cyber espionage involves gaining network or computer access, usually via infected emails or documents. Having achieved this,the next step is to install RATs – Remote Access Trojans – allowing remote access at will. The ultimate aim? To steal money, data or intellectual property.

Advanced Targeted Attacks

Advanced targeted attacks are typically aimed at individuals with access to sensitive information. Hackers know individuals tend to be softer targets than organizations, so they target individuals using many of the same tricks as marketers including finding them on social channels, then stealing the individual’s credentials to steal or damage what they have access to.

Financial Malware and Ransomware

Browsers, Java, Flash and Acrobat Reader are the main avenue (not the only ones) through which infections like this enter systems. The criminals responsible are often half a continent away, in Eastern Europe or Africa. Special exploit kits infect users by means of Zeuss or Zbot financial malware downloads, enabling hackers to steal online banking credentials. Databases can be infected with ransomware like Cryptolocker by the same means, encrypting your data and demanding payment to release it.

The standard response to cybersecurity threats is reactive, and it’s not enough. Think of it like medicine: the cyberthreat environment is like the flu, constantly mutating. Just like the flu,what we really need is a vaccine that works now, before anybody gets sick. What we have is drugs tailored to each new threat, once it’s already a problem. It’s the same with cybersecurity. So even though you may have antivirus, web filters, firewalls and built-in OS protections in place, you still need a way to lock the stable door – before the horse bolts.

What’s needed is a multilayered system that’s active rather than reactive, spearheaded by anti-exploitation tools configured to monitor sensitive applications and prevent them from performing the actions that lead to infection. It’s not a good idea to drop all your current security measures and put something brand new in place; instead, integrate passive and reactive security measures into a strategic approach the begins with active monitoring and intervention, resting on traditional firewalls, antivirus and – always crucial – staff best practice.

The time to jump in is when Acrobat downloads a .exe file, not when you’re putting your disaster recovery plan to the test.This is also the only method to guard against unknown threats that haven’t yet been identified: a vaccine for before you get sick.

5 SEO Tools To Get a Google-Eye View of Your Website

09.16.15

Article 5 Content (to put into HTML creator) –

Seeing your website the same way your visitors do is pretty important. But if Google doesn’t love you, no-one else is going to get the chance,so it makes sense to look for tools that let you see your website the way Sundar Pichai and friends do.

Here are the top 5 tools to let you get a Google-eye view of your website:

1: Google Webmaster Tools

Who knows Google better than Google? And at the low, low cost of free, it’s smart to start at the source. If you’re relatively inexperienced in this area, this is also a good place to start; it’s a novice-friendly tool with lots of support and intuitive design.

Cost: Free

Standout feature: Fetch as Google, which allows you to see a given URL as Google sees it.

2: Moz Pro Tools

Moz Pro comes at a pro price, but it delivers a wide range of powerful tools. With Moz you can identify SEO opportunities, build reports and track growth. On the flipside from Google Webmaster Tools, this is definitely for the more experienced professional.

Cost: Free 30-day trial, then plans between $99 and $599 a month.

Standout feature: Crawl Test Tool. The Moz Pro Crawl Test Tool employs the company’s own Roger crawler bot to crawl your pages the way Google does, and analyse up to 3, 000 links from a single URL.

3: SEO Report Card

UpCity’s SEO Report Card offering lets you check your website’s performance against your competitors. You do have to hand over some contact information, but in return you get onsite analysis, link building, rank analysis, and more.

Cost: Free

Standout Feature: Website Accessibility, measuring your website’s load speed and accessibility to crawlers.

4: WooRank

WooRank is built for the larger organization, with touches like the ability to download reports as branded PDFs making distribution of data across a company easier and more professional. It also offers one of the widest arrays of tools in terms of metrics covered – over 70 – so if you’ve got the usual bases covered and want to find new avenues for improvement, this might be the tool for you.

Cost: Free 14-day trial, then Pro at $49 per month or Premium at $149 per month.

Standout Feature: WooRank looks closely at mobile, an underscrutinized aspect of website performance and SEO.

5: HubSpot Website Grader

HubSpot Website Grader first came out in 2007; don’t worry, this is the new version. Website Grader lets you see performance information like load speed, page size and requests, gives you a thorough look at your website’s mobile readiness in terms of viewport settings and responsiveness, and checks up on your SSL certification.

Cost: Free

Standout Feature: SEO testing that shows how easy your website is – or isn’t – to find, by both humans and bots, for a comprehensive search overview.

Windows 10 Wants Your Data: Be Prepared

09.11.15

With Windows 10, Microsoft has had to swallow two bitter pills: the poor reception of Windows 8 and the end of software as a product. To sweeten that medicine, the colossus of business IT has also swallowed something else: the keys to your data.

The new Windows business model involves a 30% cut from sales from the app store and ads delivered with Bing search results, as well as ads already inserted into pre-installed apps. But many of these do their targeting with the help of personal data that Windows 10 collects by default.

In fact, Microsoft’s privacy policy explicitly states: ‘We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.’ (Source: Microsoft Privacy Policy.)

If you use your Windows machine for sensitive business data or you just don’t want Microsoft to know as much about you as Google, Facebook and your ISP already do, what’s to do?

1: Custom Install

Many of us are used to bypassing the custom install option.But if you’re planning to install Windows 10 and you haven’t done it yet, do a custom install and you’ll be able to turn off some of the OS’ data-gathering right from the start.

2: Privacy Settings

Head over to the Privacy Settings (Start>Settings>Privacy), and click General. Under that, look for a column of toggle switches you can flip on and off. The top toggle, ‘Let apps see my advertising ID…’ is the most important one, but if you’d like a belt-and-braces approach, turn them all off.

3: Apps and Location

The next tab down in the Privacy Settings menu is Location. While it’snot a new Windows 10 feature, it does need some atention: the more pps can use your location the more data is being collected. By default, these are all switched to ‘on.’

4: Cortana

Cortana will get to know you if you let it, sharing your information with Microsoft as it does. To stop that happening, go to the Speech, Inking and Typing tab and click the ‘stop getting to know me’ button in the middie of the screen. Bear in mind that turning this off will also turn off both Cortana and dictation capabilities.

5: Other Devices

When your computer syncs with other devices it shares information with them and then back to Microsoft. It’s also used for connecting with beacons which in turn are used for advertising – and data gathering. To stop that happening, simply turn the feature off.

6: Wi-Fi Settings

Finally, set up the Wi-Fi Sense feature. Go out of the Privacy menu and into General Settings, then select Network and Internet. Under that heading click Manage Wi-Fi Settings. There, you’ll find the controls for the wi-fi sense feature that lets you stop your computer doing things like connecting to open networks shared by your contacts and sharing around your Skype and Outlook details.

While that isn’t the whole story,it will cover all the major bases when it comes to keeping your data safe from the prying eyes that came with your computer or OS.

4 Linux Myths That Need to Die

09.09.15

The days when there were two and a half operating systems – Mac for creative types, Windows for everyone else and Linux for the weird kids in the corner – are well and truly over. For a start, OSX and Windows both owe a debt to Linux; Microsoft is courting Linux for its Azure cloud service, for instance, too. It’s been awhile since Linux was the sole preserve of bitcoin-waving digital mountain men. It’s coming to business; time to get to grips with it.

Linux Myths
The biggest Linux myth is that it’s too difficult to start using. Unfamiliarity and the sense that there’s a steep learning curve vie with the feeling – based on nothing, usually – that you’ll have to learn a whole new suite of apps and basically, you’d rather just stick with XP, please. But many of these ideas are false. Let’s let some light in on the Linux debate.

Myth: The interface is unfamiliar

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that OSX, Apple’s flagship operating system, is built from the same Unix base as Linux, don’t you jump from OS to OS all the time? Even iOS and OSX are different; throw half-a-dozen Windows variants and a couple of Androids into the mix and you’re an OS jetsetter. What’s one more? And like every modern OS, Linux is based on 60s research into the way children with learning difficulties absorb new information. It’s pretty intuitive.

Myth: Solving Linux issues is too difficult and unintuitive

First, Linux is pretty difficult to break and when it goes wrong (which is rare) it’s easy to fix, thanks to comprehensive log files and a simple troubleshooting system. Compare that to Windows, which breaks all the time, and OSX, which is really hard to fix (see you in the Console?) and it comes out favorably.

Myth: Linux doesn’t support the apps I need

OK. This isn’t Linux’ fault, but it is sometimes kind of true. It’s more to do with software companies shunning cross-platform support, though that ship has now well and truly sailed and three-OS Windows/OSX/Linux support is increasingly the norm. As Linux user numbers creep up, though, app licensing will catch up. Meantime, you probably spend 70% or more of your time in a web browser anyway, right?

Myth: I’ve never installed an OS before

Again,this one is half right… for the wrong reasons. The majority of computer users haven’t done an OS install, because they normally just upgrade when the new Windows comes out by buying a new computer. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do it. And a lot of those upgraded from the ill-fated Windows 8 to Windows 10, so they now know how to install a pretty substantive upgrade, even if it’s not technically a whole new OS. Besides which, installing an OS isn’t hard. Linux in particular is about as easy as installing an app, especially one of the more user-friendly variants like Mint.

Open source, agile, and easy to use: maybe it’s time to give Linux a shot?

Consolidate Your Contacts to Stave Off the Phishing Attacks

08.28.15

Consolidate Your Contacts to Stave Off the Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are still largely clumsy. You’ll get a message in your e-mail inbox from someone you’ve never met. If you open the mail, you’ll likely find a link to a strange Web site. Don’t click that link! But if you do visit the site, there will usually be a request for personal information, maybe even your bank information. If you provide this information? You might find your bank account drained. You can protect yourself from phishing with a bit of common sense: Don’t open strange e-mails and never visit the links in them. But Dennis O’Reilly, a writer with CNET, provides one big tip to prevent phishing e-mails from even reaching your inbox.

Consolidate Your Contacts

You might have several e-mail accounts, all of which have their own list of e-mail contacts. Certainly, many of these contacts will be duplicates. O’Reilly’s advice? Consolidate all the contacts you have with different e-mail accounts into one single address book. If you do this, you should leave yourself with one point of access to your e-mail addresses.

The Steps

To do this, O’Reilly suggests that you first export all of your contacts from your Web-based mail services. The steps to doing this vary by your e-mail service. For instance, to export your Gmail address book, first open “contacts” and the click “more>export.” Select the contacts you want to export, select the right format and then click “export.” To do the same thing with Outlook.com, select the “people” app and click “manage>export.” Select the “contacts” tab in the left pane. Click “actions>export all,” enter the captcha code and choose an export format.

Finishing

Next you should delete the contacts from your Web mail services, import your contact list to your ISP mail account and forward messages from your Web mail service to your ISP account. There’s no guarantee that your e-mail inbox won’t again fall victim to a phishing attack. But taking these steps will dramatically reduce the odds.