Reducing how much paper your business uses is one of the easiest ways to go a bit greener, cut costs, and perhaps even improve your productivity.
Last week I headed on down to the Future of Web Design conference. Held in an old brewery in the City of London, this annual event brings together web designers and developers from all over the world.
I really enjoyed the conference and it was a great chance to get away from my day-to-day tasks for a bit. Although a lot of what I heard was quite detailed information aimed at professional web developers and designers, I took away a few bits of knowledge that I think nearly any business with an online presence can benefit from. Here they are:
What do you think the future of web design holds? What new innovations are you planning for your website? Leave a comment and let us know.
You might have read about problems last month with Amazon’s web hosting service. These affected many well-known websites, including Q&A social network Quora, Foursquare and Reddit.
The outage sparked some debate about how far businesses can rely on cloud services, especially if they’re unable or unwilling to commit to services offering a high level of security and backup.
’The cloud’ has been billed as the be all and end all, but like any other business-critical service, you can only count on it if it’s backed up by solid business continuity planning.
Reading between the lines, the Amazon customers least affected by the outage were those with budgets big enough to afford the company’s premium service. They get the peace of mind of knowing that their data’s stored in more than one location.
However, many start-ups and small businesses use cloud services in order to benefit from low up-front costs and manageable ‘pay as you go’ charging. For some, this means they invest in a bottom dollar package from a mass market provider.
But if you don’t choose wisely, taking this route can end up compromising business continuity. What’s more, you may eliminate one of the main reasons for taking the cloud computing route in the first place: complete assurance that your data and systems are protected in every eventuality.
If your chosen cloud computing supplier can only offer hosting from a single location – also called a ‘data centre’ - within your budget allowance, it’s usually worth shopping around. A niche provider that caters specifically for smaller businesses like yours may understand and meet your requirements more effectively.
The key thing is the number of places where your data is stored. Without at least two data centres, you leave yourself at higher risk of service interruptions and failures. Having all your applications and data stored at one site may be no safer than sticking your server in the corner of the office.
True, cloud services have expert engineers available to fix problems quickly, but if your data’s hosted in at least two separate locations it is highly unlikely that both environments will be affected at the same time. So if there’s a problem, you can keep working as normal.
My message to companies out there that are questioning cloud technologies after the Amazon outage is to take heed: remote networks are more secure than many traditional systems and, moreover, easier to reinstall should onsite disaster strike.
However, this only applies if you’ve got the right provisions in place. Make sure your cloud provider has more than one data centre, and examine their business continuity plans in detail.
Adrian Smith is MD of Heywood-based IT services provider Flexsys.
Working freelance has its own particular challenges. If you're busy with work, you're forever juggling projects, priorities and individual tasks, leaving scant time for other important jobs, like admin and marketing your own services.
I should know: when I'm not hard at work on the IT Donut, I'm usually helping other clients.
To keep in touch with my clients and on top of everything, I rely on three key tools. Fellow freelancers, if you haven't tried these yet, give them a go:
Are you freelance? What online tool couldn't you operate without?
This is a guest post from Huw Carrington, who heads up sales and customer service at Stinkyink.com.
If you own a printer, at some point you're likely to ask: "How much printing will my cartridge do?" Unfortunately there’s no simple answer.
It is not even a simple question for computer printer manufacturers to address. Differences in printing technology, resolution and colour production mean that a cartridge containing five millilitres of ink from one manufacturer will produce a different number of pages compared to one from another company. Confused yet?
After several manufacturers requested a method of measurement to address this confusion, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) stepped in.
The obvious starting point for any printing standard is the document bring printed. So ISO first produced a standard document for performance measurements to be based on. The current version has the snappy name of ISO/IEC 24712:2007.
It's a five page document, consisting of four 'typical' documents, like a standard presentation document or letter, and one diagnostic page.
There's no standard for photo printing, so you will never (or at least should never) find a photo cartridge with an expected yield on.
Once this standard document was in place, standards could be created for the performance of printer cartridges. These standards are split into three individual areas, with the following codes:
With these standards established, it became possible to measure the 'print-till-dry' yield of cartridges with the same settings, same documents and same environment being used. In short: when it comes to printer cartridge lifespans, you can start comparing like with like.
The results from these standards are used to calculate how many pages a cartridge will print based on the paper having five per cent of its surface covered in ink.
You might have seen a figure quoted as being 'at five per cent page yield'. These standards are where that figure comes from. You see it on manufacturers’ cartridges, where they use this set of standards.
In reality, five per cent coverage on a normal text document only amounts to about a third of a page using a common font, like Arial in size 10. So, when a cartridge says you might get 1,000 printed pages, you're more likely to actually get a few hundred. Throw in a couple of images and you can quickly be getting through an ink cartridge three times as quickly as you expected.
But that's just the start. With a three-colour cartridge, the yield is based on a five per cent coverage of each colour in the cartridge - so the whole paper is covered with 15% of colour. If you have individual colour cartridges this doesn't make a huge difference as each will print as much as it can. However, if you’re using a three-colour cartridge (as many inkjets do) then the same size cartridge is trying to cover three times as much, and so can print, at best, a third as much.
In the world of printer cartridges, there's rarely a simple answer.
Launching a new website is a big job. It's easy to let important tasks slip through the net. So, if you're getting ready to go live, here are some key tasks to make sure you've ticked off.
Email consultant Monica Seeley explains five common email blunders to watch for.
As a consultant and coach in email best practice, I often see examples of amazing email blunders which have cost an organisation dearly.
They might have suffered financially (because of a lost sale), but often reputational damage is the result - and it's hard to put an exact figure on that.
Here are the top five blunders I see time and again, along with some simple tips to help you reduce the risk of making such a blunder yourself:
If your email program has an 'auto complete' feature, it is very easy to send an email to the wrong Monica Seeley and find you have disclosed either confidential or sensitive information. Recently one client told me they had learnt about a colleague’s affair this way. Another said their IT manager frequently received information destined for the Company Secretary and vice-versa.
How to manage the risk: check all names very carefully, or switch off the auto fill function.
In haste you forward an email (often containing many replies in a long email chain). Then you realise that one of the early messages contains either information people should not see (e.g. price, product specification), or worse, a comment about the person to whom you are forwarding the email. The resulting damage can be anything from a lost sale to an industrial tribunal or lawsuit for defamation of character.
How to manage the risk: check and edit the content of the email before forwarding.
We've probably all seen examples of this. The least damaging type is a sender telling the whole world that they can attend a meeting. The worst is when the reply contains a potentially damaging comment. The latter is very common amongst politicians (both local and national). Here, the main cost is time wasted and a perception that the sender is playing corporate politics. However, again there may be reputational and legal costs.
How to manage the risk: educate users about the email etiquette of 'reply' and 'reply all'. If you have Outlook 2010 or other email software that allows it, consider disabling the 'reply all' function.
You feel such an idiot (and this can create an impression of carelessness), and then you have to play an extra, unnecessary round of email ping-pong. The main cost is time wasted and personal reputational damage as you are perceived as less than professional.
How to manage the risk: always attach files first, then write the email. If you use Google Mail, it will try to detect forgotten attachments. You can get a forgotten attachment detector for Outlook too.
'Bcc' stands for blind carbon copy. When you include someone's email address in the Bcc field, they receive your email, but can't see who any of the the other recipients are.
If you don't use Bcc, you risk sharing confidential information. For example, you circulate a new price schedule to all your third party re-sellers and hence disclose to each who are the others. You may also breach the Data Protection Act. My email address is a private piece of data and you need my permission to share it with others.
Not using Bcc can cause annoyance and demonstrate a lack of professionalism, because often more space is taken up with the list of names than the content of the email. And - of course - there is always someone who hits 'reply all' and wastes everyone’s time.
How to manage the risk: educate people either always to use the Bcc address line for lists of names (e.g. more than seven), or create distribution lists which hide the email addresses from view.
For more ways to save time by using email more effectively either go to one of Dr Monica Seeley’s new ninety minute Brilliant Email Master Classes or get a copy of her latest book, ‘Brilliant Email: How to improve productivity and save time’.
A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft opened up access to Office 365, its online productivity and communications service for businesses.
The service is in beta, which means it's virtually finished and just being tweaked. This also means it's free, so there's no reason not to sign up to the Office 365 beta and try it for yourself. Do just be aware that there'll be a charge when the beta ends.
Office 365 is Microsoft's latest attempt to offer software online, rather than making you install it on your own computer. It's a form of cloud computing.
Say, for example, you want to write a letter using Microsoft Word. With the 'old way' of doing things, you'd click the Microsoft Word icon on your desktop, then start typing.
But with Office 365, you open your web browser (like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome) and log in to a special website. This gives you access to Microsoft Word functions. The screenshot at the top of this blog post shows you how it looks. When you save your document, it's saved online - 'in the cloud'.
As well as giving you access to a cut-down version of Microsoft Word, Office 365 includes a bunch of other stuff aimed at small businesses:
(Just to confuse matters, there's another version, called 'Enterprise', which seems to offer more functions and control, but also quite a lot more complexity.)
There seem to be three main reasons Microsoft reckons businesses will be attracted to Office 365:
Of course, these benefits aren't unique to Office 365. They also apply to many other cloud computing services - most notably, perhaps, Google Apps, which is considered one of Office 365's main competitors.
But it'll be interesting to see what weight the Microsoft Office name carries, and whether that alone can encourage companies to switch from traditional software to this new model.
They may not have been first, but they're the biggest name in the world of business software. That's why what happens next could help determine how small firms buy and use software in the years ahead. How do you feel about it all? Are you going to try out Office 365?
Microsoft is holding a series of Webinars about Office 365 on the following dates;