Courtesy navigation

Blog posts in The internet

Are you part of the ‘tech nation’?

March 23, 2015 by John McGarvey
Street mural{{}}
Photo: AC Manley /

Digital pioneer Tim Berners-Lee created the world’s first website back in 1991. And for many years, the internet remained the domain of geeks and hobbyists. Back then, it was hard to believe that the internet would become a vital part of the UK economy

But today, the digital economy is huge. New research from Tech City UK suggests that, in the UK, over 1.46m people are employed in digital businesses and 45,000 digital jobs are being advertised at any given time.

What’s more, the report says that employment in digital jobs is set to jump 5.4% by 2020m ensuring digital businesses form a bigger proportion of the UK economy as a whole.

Digital businesses aren’t just in London

Whenever the digital economy hits the news, there’s a tendency to focus on ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in London. Situated in the east of the capital, the past decade has seen digital and web-based businesses flock to this area.

As you’d expect, the Tech Nation Report reveals that London has more digital businesses than any other town or city in the UK. However, the vast majority (74%) of digital businesses are based outside the capital.

Clusters of digital businesses are spread right across the UK, from Dundee and Glasgow to Cardiff, Bristol and Reading. About half have been formed since 2008 and 15% of all UK companies founded in 2013-14 were digital.

In short: the digital boom isn’t just a London thing. It’s happening across the country and it’s creating opportunities as it disrupts traditional sectors.

Digital businesses are small businesses

Given that digital companies tend to be younger than your average business, it’s no real surprise that they also tend to be smaller companies.

In fact, the research found that 98% of UK digital firms are classed as small businesses (although the definition of a ‘small business’ is hard to pin down from the report).

Indeed, it’s often claimed that digital tools have the ability to level the playing field, enabling tiny companies to compete with big ones.

Innovations like cloud computing, selling online and location services can make it easier for small companies to do more with less.

The future of digital business

So, the digital economy is in rude health then, right?

Well, yes, probably. Although some pundits do speculate that we’re creating another tech bubble of the type that led to the dotcom crash of 2000, there’s a big difference. Digital businesses are bringing in real revenue, as well as spending money.

Sure, there’s going to be some consolidation over the next few years. For instance, how many online laundry companies does London really need?

But when you look at online shopping habits, smart phone ownership, social media use or practically any other indicator, it’s clear we’re all spending more time online than ever before. Digital will have its ups and downs, but its here to stay.

Perhaps the day is approaching where the digital economy is just the economy. And perhaps every business will be a digital business.

More on this topic:

Forget big data - small data can help you now

February 19, 2015 by John McGarvey

Examine your data{{}}Big data is the idea that businesses can start combining and mining the data they own in order to identify new opportunities and make decisions. It’s, well, big at the moment.

But there’s a problem. According to research by Rosslyn Analytics, only 23% of UK decision-makers closely align business strategy to data. And just 44% of business leaders consider their data a strategic asset. You can download the whole report here.

Respondents said that the biggest challenge to using their data effectively was that there are too many types of data and that data comes from too many sources.

And they have a point. Big data is intimidating, especially if you run a smaller company that isn’t able to employ a data analyst or bring in a consultant.

In that case, maybe you should start smaller.

With that in mind, here are four practical ways your business can collect and use data on a smaller scale. You don’t need a degree in maths or statistics to get started.

1. Jump into your web analytics

How often do you check your website statistics? No, really, when was the last time you logged in to Google Analytics? (If you don’t collect data on your website usage, you really should and it’s fairly easy to get started.)

Website statistics packages accumulate a lot of data. If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your website, you could start in these areas:

  • Check how many visitors use mobile devices. In Google Analytics, select Audience > Mobile > Overview in the left navigation. You’ll see what percentage of people arrive at your site on a mobile device. If it’s a significant proportion, the data is telling you to spend some time making sure the mobile experience of your website is up to scratch.
  • See which three pages get most views. On most websites, a few pages receive the majority of traffic. Checking which are your most popular pages will help you focus your work on the areas of your website which attract most eyeballs. In Google Analytics, choose Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.
  • Check your top landing pages. The moment people first see your site is crucial. Give the wrong impression and they’ll bounce back off to wherever they were before. In Google Analytics, select Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages. Review the top four or five pages listed – these landing page tips are a good place to start.

2. Fire up your accounting reports

If you use accounting software — particularly modern packages like QuickBooks Online — you’ll find you have easy access to a range of reports that can delve deep into your figures.

It’s not uncommon for these reports to stay unused. But if you want to understand your financials, playing around in these reports can be much more enlightening than wading through pages of figures.

Here are some ideas:

  • Viewing sales grouped by customers can help you understand who your best customers are. You might also be able to identify when clients are beginning to spend more with you (can you lock them in with a discount?), or if a previously loyal customer is cutting back spending.
  • Checking your business expenses is a key step in identifying ways to cut costs. You won’t always notice if expenditure is creeping up month-on-month, but if you take five minutes to check the report you’ll soon know when this is the case.
  • Reviewing your stock list helps you evaluate how much money is tied up in products you sell, and can make it easier to plan sales and discounts. It also helps you estimate when you’re going to run out of popular lines, so you can reorder in good time and avoid disappointing customers.

If you’re not already using accounting software in your business, it’s a powerful way to save time and get your head round your finances. Learn more about accounting software.

3. Run a quick survey

Market research doesn’t have to involve masses of survey questions, months of work and a chunky report that tries to define your business strategy for years to come. You can learn a lot by running short, snappy surveys. For instance:

  • Ask website visitors a single question. Tool like Qualaroo can pop up a question as people leave your website. Questions like ‘what were you looking for here today?’ or ‘did you find what you wanted?’ can help you understand what’s missing from your \site.
  • Contact your newest customers. What made these people choose you? Are they happy with the service you’ve provided? What could you have done better? It’s easy to create a short survey using a tool like Typeform, then email to a few new customers.
  • Ask employees what they think. Some business owners are great at soliciting ideas from their teams. Others are rubbish at it. Why not send round a survey (again, try Typeform or SurveyMonkey) that asks an easy question, like what’s the one thing they’d change about the office?

Quick-fire surveys are an excellent way to gain a better understanding of what people do or don’t like about your business.

You can learn things from even the smallest surveys, but be wary of using single pieces of feedback to justify big changes. It’s best to act only when you can see a clear pattern to the comments you’re receiving.

Posted in The internet | Tagged big data | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: find out what Google thinks about you

January 26, 2015 by John McGarvey
Google logo{{}}

Image: Lissandra Melo /

IT for Donuts is our regular feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

Today, we explain how to find out what sort of data Google is collecting on you, in order to show targeted advertising.

Your Google profile

You might not realise it, but if you browse the internet while you’re signed into Google, the search engine is using information about the sites you visit to create a profile of you.

It does this by tracking your visits to websites that are part of Google’s ad network. This includes any website that shows Google AdSense or banner adverts, such as those in the screenshot above.

This information is used to show you adverts that Google thinks you’ll be interested in.

See your Google advertising profile

If you’re intrigued about the profile Google has built up, you can view this easily when you’re signed in to Google:

  • Go to the Google home page (make sure you’re signed in).
  • At the top right of the screen, choose the small down arrow beside your Google username.
  • Select Account.
  • From the tabs at the top of the screen, choose Account history.
  • Scroll down to the Related settings
  • You’ll see a label for Ads. Next to this, choose Edit settings.
  • The page that appears will tell you what Google thinks it knows about you.

What information does Google build up?

The screen you see will show two columns. The first will show you what Google thinks it knows about you based on your use of Google services.

The second column shows you what information Google has built up as you’ve visited other websites showing Google ads.

This profile includes your:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Languages
  • Interests

You can use this page to edit these items (so you see more relevant ads).

Alternatively, if you’re worried about how Google uses this data, you can also choose to opt-out of interest-based ads. If you do this, you’ll see generic ads instead of targeted ones.

If – like most web users – Google is the first place you turn to find information, it’s worth checking out this profile page.

It provides an interesting insight into what sort of data the web giant holds about its users. And it’s a good illustration of how we pay for these ‘free’ services with data like this.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

Our technology predictions for 2015

January 19, 2015 by John McGarvey
Contactless card{{}}

Editorial Credit: antb /

At the start of the year, it’s traditional for bloggers and internet pundits to predict what will happen over the next 12 months.

Obviously, those predictions are usually completely inaccurate. For instance, at the start of 2013, one expert said 3D presentations would be a big thing.

In the same spirit, here are four things we think might happen this year in business technology. Leave a comment at the bottom to add your own.

1. Contactless payments (finally) take off

Card issuers hoped we’d all start using contactless payments back in 2012. The London Olympics were meant to be a showcase for the technology, which allows you to make payments by tapping your credit or debit card on a card reader. There’s no need to sign or enter a PIN.

Back then, consumer apathy about the tap-and-go payments meant take-up was slow.

Fast-forward to the end of 2014, and contactless was growing more quickly. October 2014 saw UK contactless payments increase 292%, year-on-year.

We expect contactless to become far more common in 2015. As the convenience factor takes hold, consumers will expect retailers to offer it.

2. Wearable technology niches grow

Although Google Glass was much-trumpeted when it arrived back in 2013, its ungainly looks and intrusive nature have held it back — arguably more than its cost, poor battery life and lack of truly useful applications. It was canned last week, to many cries of 'I told you so'.

(As the BBC’s technology correspondent discovered, you’re in real trouble if Boris Johnson is mocking your choice of face-gear.)

However, wearable technology is on the march, and will grow in many niches this year. Although these will include industry-specific applications (Google Glass can be useful in a warehouse), we expect the idea of the ‘quantified self’ to really drive wearables forward.

That means we’re predicting a big increase in the market for gadgets that measure and track what we do, how we behave, and how healthy we are. Think stress management, exercise tracking and sleep monitoring.

3. Everyone catches up with mobile

According to Ofcom statistics, 58% of UK residents access the internet via mobile devices. Yet many business websites still fail to cater for the smaller screens of smart phones and tablets.

There’s no sign of this trend reversing in 2015, and so we think this will be the year when responsive web design becomes the norm.

If you’re redesigning your website, either by doing it yourself or working with an agency, make sure you think about how you cater for mobile users.

If your website doesn’t work properly on smart phones and other mobile devices then you could be excluding potential customers from your website.

4. We learn to live with security threats

The end of 2014 was marked by one of the highest-profile IT security incidents in history. The Sony Pictures hack included A-list names, embarrassing revelations and political intrigue. It was a reporter’s dream.

But while it might have made a good story, it was just one in a long line of security breaches that made the news. Thousands of others didn’t.

The online battles between hackers, security companies and government agencies are take place largely out of sight. But as online criminals become more sophisticated, they’re beginning to target individual organisations and people rather than relying on brute-force attacks.

We think this shift will make 2015 the year businesses start thinking about security in everything they do – and get better at taking precautions to minimise the risks.

Blog written by John McGarvey, editor of the IT Donut.

Posted in The internet | Tagged predictions | 0 comments

IT Donut: best of 2014

December 17, 2014 by John McGarvey

2014 technology round-up{{}}In the world of technology, 2014 has been full high-profile security breaches, wearable gadgets and new domain names.

And as the end of another year rolls around, we take a look at what’s been most popular on IT Donut. So, what did you miss while you were busy running your business?

Stephen Fry leads the way with a new domain

Ever since 2013 — when the domain name system was changed — new domain name extensions like .london, .xyz and .technology have been tricking onto the market.

And in June this year, Stephen Fry became the first person to start using the short new .uk extension.

At the time, Nominet said: ‘Stephen Fry’s decision to switch from a .com reflects the appeal of shorter, sharper .uk domains.’

But if you search Google for Stephen Fry today, you’ll see the address that comes top is Sure, still works, but it’s not as if the actor has discarded his .com domain altogether.

A PR stunt? Surely not…

M&S shows how hard web design is

Building a good website is not easy. In July, we learnt that the new M&S website cost £150m, yet caused a dip in online sales when it was launched.

As we said at the time, it would have been easy to poke fun at this retail giant. But actually, this experience underlines how tricky it is to build a good website – even when you have a big budget and a powerful brand to draw on.

In fact, it’s very common for sales and traffic to drop when you launch a redesigned website. A soft launch and comprehensive user testing can help, but it’s usually best to stick with the status quo during busy periods.

Heartbleed hits millions of websites

In April, something called Heartbleed was big news. This was the name for a security flaw in OpenSSL, popular encryption software that protects hundreds of thousands of websites.

The breach could allow hackers to break into encrypted data while it was transferred online. OpenSSL underpins transactions and protects data on many big-name websites, so the danger was very real. 

Website owners were advised to check if their own sites were affected, while consumers were warned to consider changing their passwords.

You can use the Heartbleed site checker to make sure your website isn’t still affected. Our Heartbleed advice is here.

Our free IT policy templates prove a hit

We’ve long suspected that business owners struggle to create IT policies that are right for their companies. Those suspicions were confirmed when we relaunched our own set of free IT policy templates in May.

The set of downloadable documents includes policies covering data protection, internet and email use and social media. They’ve been downloaded thousands of times since.

People drop their new iPhones in beer

A new iPhone is usually big news. And when iPhone 6 emerged in the autumn, Revivaphone — which offers a kit to resuscitate liquid-damaged phones — was determined to claim the title of ‘first iPhone 6 to be dunked in beer’.

Sure, it was a thinly-veiled PR stunt. But it was also an entertaining one. It prompted us to put together a quick guide to saving your phone if it’s been damaged by beer, water or another liquid.

Intranets aren’t going out of fashion

Until recently, we were wondering if the term ‘intranet’ was going slowly out of date.

The language of technology changes fast, and like ‘cyberspace’ or ‘Website’ with a capital ‘W’, we thought ‘intranet’ might be passé in the mobile-enabled, cloud-powered world we live in.

As it turns out, we’re wrong. Intranets are as popular as ever. In fact, new cloud technologies are making it easier for smaller companies to build versatile employee intranets that people actually like to use.

That’s why our information about creating intranets was some of our most popular in 2014.

So, how did your business find its technology in 2014. And what do you have planned for the year ahead?

Further reading

Ten things you could have learned from the Start Up Donut blog in 2014

Ten things we learned from the Marketing Donut in 2014

Ten things you could have learned from the Tax Donut in 2014

Ten things you could have learned from the Law Donut blog in 2014

Posted in The internet | Tagged 2014 | 0 comments

The inconvenient truth of A/B testing

October 07, 2014 by John McGarvey

Should you A/B test your website?{{}}Why guess about how to improve your website, when you can actually measure exactly which changes have the greatest impact?

That’s the basic idea behind A/B testing. Because tracking what people do on your website is easy, you can make a change and then precisely measure what impact it has on your sales or conversion rate.

A/B testing is also called ‘split testing’. Learn the basics on Marketing Donut.

How does A/B testing work?

With A/B testing, you use an A/B testing tool to split your website traffic in two. Half of visitors see your original page design. The others see an edited version.

As visitors interact with your website, you track how visitors behave and measure what they buy.

Over time, you can see which of the two versions is generating more sales. In A/B testing terms, you can see which is the winner. Typical A/B tests might aim to determine:

  • What types of imagery work best on a landing page.
  • What key benefit you should use in your headline.
  • What button text generates more clicks.

Once you’ve proved which of your two versions is better, you can roll it out to all visitors — and move on to your next A/B test.

The awkward truth about A/B testing

In recent years, the popularity of A/B testing has grown enormously. Tools like Google Content Experiments, Optimizely and Unbounce help you run A/B tests even if you don’t have much technical knowledge.

When running A/B tests is so easy, it’s tempting to get carried away. Why bother with market research when you can just try out two options and let the results show — unarguably — which is right?

Well, if you’re a small company that wants to test everything, you’re going to run into a problem pretty quickly. Your website probably doesn’t have enough visitors.

In A/B testing, statistical significance is crucial

An A/B test is only truly useful if you have confidence in the result. You need to know, for sure, that the element you’ve changed is responsible for the improved conversion rate.

Here’s an example. Imagine you’re testing two variants of a landing page.

Half your visitors see the original version, which is converting at 1%. The other remaining visitors see a new version that’s converting at 2%.

At first glance, it looks like the new page has won. Doubling conversion rate is an impressive result — it could double your revenue, too.

But what if these were the full numbers behind that test?

  • The original version was seen by 100 visitors. One of those visitors clicked ‘Buy now’, giving the conversion rate of 1%.
  • The new version was also seen by 100 visitors. Two of those visitors clicked ‘Buy now’, giving the conversion rate of 2%.

Suddenly, things look different. The difference between pages is a single sale. If just one more person chooses to buy from the original page, the score will be even.

For many small business websites, these aren’t unrealistic traffic levels for a single page. However, you need many more visitors to be confident the improvement you’re seeing isn’t down to chance or seasonal factors.

A/B testing may take longer than you think

Most A/B testing tools will give you an indication of how much confidence you can have in the results of your test. Typically, you’ll want a confidence rating of more than 95% before using a test’s outcome to make a decision.

And that takes time. As a general benchmark, you’ll need at least 100 sales or conversions via each page variant before confidence in the result is that high.

If your conversion rate is 2%, that equates to 5,000 visitors to each page. But if those pages only receive a few hundred visitors a week, you’ll be waiting a while for results you can trust.

Have realistic expectations of A/B tests

Sites with massive traffic, like Google, have the ability to test 41 different shades of blue to see which performs better. But your average small business website simply doesn’t have enough traffic to run such detailed tests.

This doesn’t mean A/B testing is a waste of time. It can be a really powerful way to improve your website. But it’s important you go into any project with realistic expectations of how long it will take to get meaningful results.

Online marketing gurus often talk of ‘testing your way to success’. But more often, visitor numbers mean it takes time for a single A/B test to provide conclusive results.

And in practical terms, that means A/B testing is best used as one of many tools to improve your website experience.

Posted in The internet | Tagged Website testing | 0 comments

Is Bitcoin the answer to your business security woes?

June 30, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

Is Bitcoin the answer to your business security woes?/ Bitcoin accepted here{{}}There’s a lot of debate surrounding Bitcoin, and for good reason. This unregulated electronic currency is not backed by a central bank and its value fluctuates wildly.

The Internal Revenue Service (the US equivalent of HMRC) recently decided to treat Bitcoin as property (not a currency). This could have a major impact on the volume of transactions conducted using Bitcoin.

However, while Bitcoin itself is controversial, the encryption technology behind it could be the future of digital security.

How Bitcoin security works

Bitcoin uses an accepted security concept called asymmetric key encryption. When you download a Bitcoin wallet — in which you store your Bitcoins — you’re assigned two encryption keys.

There’s a public encryption key, which you give to anyone from whom you want to receive Bitcoin payments.

Then there’s a private key. This is mathematically linked to your public key, and is used to decrypt information encrypted with your public key.

In practice, this means anyone who wants to pay you can encrypt the transaction using your public key. But only you can decrypt it to receive the money, because only you have the private key.

Bitcoin encryption for email and the cloud

Some email providers use a similar system called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption to send emails securely.

However, as PGP stores your private encryption key on an email server, hackers (or the government) could potentially intercept and decrypt your messages.

A more secure option is to encrypt emails using a Bitcoin key before you send them through your provider’s servers.

You can apply this same concept to data stored in the cloud. If you encrypt it with a Bitcoin key, your information will stay safe even if someone hacks into your cloud provider.

The risks of Bitcoin encryption

While these security measures do offer extra protection, the risks of Bitcoin encryption lie in the human element.

If you don't secure your virtual Bitcoin wallet, you can fall victim to theft. Really, keeping your wallet offline and protecting it with a password is the only straightforward way to secure it.

And you should always remember that encryption is a double-edged sword. If you ever lose your password, your data is lost forever.

The future of Bitcoin

While some governments have banned or restricted its use as a currency, Bitcoin is gaining support among some businesses. There’s even a Bitcoin cash machine in East London.

The supply of Bitcoins is limited and their volatility means the cost of security can easily surpass the value of what you’re protecting.

But perhaps the true value of Bitcoin lies in its potential to educate more people about using encryption to secure information.

In this digital age, information is currency. You should protect yours just as you would protect your money.

Tim Maliyil is the CEO and Data Security Architect for AlertBoot.

Posted in The internet | Tagged security | 0 comments

More than a quick guide to ecommerce essentials

June 18, 2014 by John McGarvey

More than a quick guide to ecommerce essentials/ Mobile phone and ecommerce essentials{{}}If you’re starting or running an online shop, you’ll know there’s a lot to think about.

Just getting to grips with the basics can be challenging. Choosing an online shopping system, working out how to get paid, putting together your product catalogue and then making sure people can actually find your website are all tasks which take time and effort.

Then it can seem like there’s a never-ending list of things to think about. Are your prices right? Where should you advertise? Are customers happy with your delivery options? What are your competitors up to?

An enormous collection of resources

If you’re grappling with some of these problems, don’t forget why you might have set up online in the first place.

It’s typically much cheaper and easier to start selling online than through a High Street shop. And instead of having to rely on the right people walking past, you can sell worldwide.

On IT Donut — plus our sister site, Marketing Donut — we’ve put together lots of useful resources, tips and advice to help you run an online shop. You can see some of the most popular at the end of this post.

But we also like this enormous collection of resources from iWeb. It’s an ‘interactive flowchart’ (no, we’ve not seen one before either) that claims to tell you how to set up an ecommerce website.

In reality, the information available covers much more than just how to get started. There are all sorts of ideas about everything from search engine optimisation and seasonal promotions to email marketing and content strategy.

It’s definitely worth a look if you’re running or setting up an online shop.

Visit the ecommerce guide from iWeb >>

Our ecommerce resources

You can also access lots of great ecommerce advice on our websites. For instance:

Basic ecommere advice:

Improving your website:

Ecommerce case studies:

Posted in The internet | Tagged sell online | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: what is a botnet?

June 06, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts: what is a botnet?/ Picture of a botnet{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week, find out what a botnet is.

Botnets: malicious networks

A botnet is a network of computers, servers or other devices that have been infected with malware or compromised in some way.

These computers may be scattered all over the world, but they’re linked together via the internet.

Botnets are created when individual computers get infected by malicious software. It’s just like catching a computer virus via an infected website, email or software.

If your computer is part of a botnet, you may have no idea. Botnet software conceals itself and may only use your computer’s processing power when you don’t need it.

Botnets can consist of thousands or millions of computers. For instance, until security experts took it down, the ZeroAccess botnet consisted of over 1.9m slave computers.

What are botnets for?

The hackers and online criminals who create botnets use them to gain access to enormous computing power and distributed internet connections.

Botnets are powerful tools used for many malicious purposes. For instance:

  • Click fraud. Botnets are used to generate artificial clicks on online adverts, so advertisers receive more revenue.
  • Distributed denial of service (DDoS). Because every computer in a botnet is connected to the internet, they can be used to target a specific website with a massive amount of traffic, taking that site offline. Learn more about DDoS >>
  • Sending spam. Botnets are often set up to distribute enormous quantities of junk email.

Botnets are an important tool for online criminals. Stamping them out would be enormously beneficial for the internet as a whole.

To do your part, take good basic security precautions. Use decent security software. Avoid opening emails and files that look suspicious.

Finally, pay attention if your computer starts behaving oddly. If it slows down or seems to be hard at work while you’re not using it, double-check your security software and perform a full system scan.

Other IT for Donuts tips:

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

Are you about to buy a dumb domain?

June 02, 2014 by John McGarvey

Are you about to buy a dumb domain?{{}}With thousands of new domain name extensions becoming available, choosing a domain for your business seems to have got both easier and more difficult.

On one hand, there’s more choice. You can avoid having to scrabble around for an available or .com domain by simply opting for one of the new extensions. Maybe you’d like or .music.

But on the flipside, nobody really knows which — if any — of these domain names are going to be successful or desirable.

For instance, will some domain extensions get targeted by spammers and scammers? If so, you probably won’t want to be associated with them.

In the past, we’ve been somewhat sceptical of these new domains. With so many to choose from, it seems inevitable some will sink without trace. Perhaps not .London (it made the front page of the Evening Standard, after all). But can you see .guru, .vip and .rehab all catching on?

Now there’s a website, Dumb Domains, designed to showcase some of the more unconventional domain options available.

It’ll show you one available domain at a time. But you won’t have to reload many times before you see a silly one.

For instance, although sounds pretty cool, we’re not so sold on or (Both are available for $28.99, if you fancy taking a punt.) 

Posted in The internet | Tagged domain names | 0 comments

Why the cloud is like a serviced office

May 28, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

Why the cloud is like a serviced office/ Service office{{}}“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I try not to get bogged down with definitions. I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”

That’s the cloud, according to Marc Benioff, CEO and founder of cloud business platform

And while you could argue that he has a vested interest, he has a point. The cloud is so widespread that every business needs to understand what it is and how it can help deliver products and services people will actually pay for.

But there are many definitions of the cloud. If IT is not your main focus, the cloud can quickly turn into brain fog.

The cloud is like a serviced office

For a straightforward, alternative definition of the cloud, take a look at a serviced office like the one we work out of here at Desynit.

Other than a great view of the station and a fantastic local bakery, there are good reasons for us being here: 

  • When we moved in, we didn’t have to worry about sourcing basic office equipment. It was included.
  • All the main services are managed for us: lighting, heating, internet, reception, cleaning and so on.
  • Because we share with other businesses, we can access facilities like meeting rooms on a pay-as-you-go basis.
  • The building is in good condition and well-maintained, with a proper alarm system, locks and security.
  • As our business grows, it’s easy for us to find more suitable premises. (We’ve moved to a bigger office three times so far.)

On top of all that, there’s only one bill to pay each month. That makes life much easier for our finance team and helps us budget accurately.

The real benefits of the cloud

It doesn’t come for free, that’s for sure. But in terms of value to a business, it’s a clear win. So when Marc Benioff talks about businesses running better in the cloud, this is what he means.

Desynit Director, Matt Morris, explains: “You no longer need to think about the bricks and mortar issues of hardware, licensing, maintaining operating systems and installing updates — to name just a few. It’s all taken care of.

“If you need additional services, bolt them on. Need more capacity for peak time? It’s there on a pay-as-you-go basis.”

Oh and one more thing. This particular office is mobile. Wherever you are, as long as you have internet access, just step right in.

The final fittings and fixtures

Let’s come back to the serviced office analogy. The basic building set-up may tick most of the boxes, but what if you have a more unusual requirement?

Some cloud providers open up their platforms so third party vendors can develop apps and add-ons to meet business needs. (At Desynit, we integrate apps from the Salesforce AppExchange.)

When your requirements aren’t standard, being able to do this makes a big difference.

Choosing the right cloud platform will enable you to focus on your core service, rather than on your supporting systems. And that has to be better for your business.

Amy Grenham is the marketing manager at Desynit, a business systems IT consultancy and integration partner.

Posted in The internet | Tagged cloud computing | 0 comments

Five ways contactless payments can help your business

April 30, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

Five ways contactless payments can help your business/Contractless payment in action{{}}There are about 36 million credit and debit cards in the UK that can perform contactless transactions, where you tap the card on a card reader instead of using chip and PIN.

And after a bit of a slow start, it seems people are starting to embrace contactless. An estimated 125 contactless payments a minute are made with VISA cards alone.

So, here are five reasons your business should offer contactless payments:

1. Make speedier sales

Queues are bad for business. They frustrate customers, who sometimes walk away if they don’t have time to wait.

Contactless payments only take a second or so.

It might not sound like that’ll make much difference compared to using chip and PIN or counting out change. However, if you serve hundreds of people a day, you’ll notice a drop in queue length and an increase in happy customers.

2. Customers buy more

Currently, contactless payments are limited to £20 per transaction. But research shows that because consumers can spend more than just the change in their pockets, they do tend to spend a bit more.

In future, it’s likely the £20 ceiling will be raised, giving customers even greater contactless spending power.

3. It’s cheaper than chips

To start using contactless, you may need to buy a new payment terminal. Once up and running, it’s unlikely transactions will cost you more.

In fact, contactless transactions on debit cards usually attract lower charges than chip and PIN. And that means you’ll have a little extra in the till at the end of the day.

4. Get more time to talk

Although contactless saves time on transactions, it doesn’t have to strip away all human engagement.

It’s important businesses develop relationships with regular customers. And with less time spent focusing on the mechanics of paying, you have more time to make conversation.

5. Stay on top of new trends

Keeping up with new trends can be daunting. But if you embrace those that come your way, you’ll keep your business on top of its game — and ahead of the competition.

Or to put it another way: contactless is growing. Maybe your customers aren’t that bothered about using it yet. And maybe none of your competitors have it today. But both those facts will change. Are you ready?

Andy Macauley is chief operating officer of Handepay.

Posted in The internet | Tagged Mobile hardware | 0 comments

Look at how far web design has come

April 28, 2014 by John McGarvey

By the standards of traditional industries, web design is incredibly young. Yet in the 20-ish years it’s been possible to make a living from building websites, the approaches and techniques involved have changed remarkably.

You only have to browse back through the Internet Archive to see the differences between then and now. Just check out Microsoft in 1996, Ford in 2000 or British Airways in 1999.

Web design agency Aptitude has taken a look back over the history of web design in this interesting infographic:

The Rapid Growth of Web Design: Past to Present (Infographic) 

(Incidentally, we don’t think it’s accurate to say mobile internet access exceeded desktop access as early as 2008. It probably hasn’t happened yet — but we’ll let that slide.)

Posted in The internet | Tagged web design | 0 comments

Is responsive web design the future?

April 22, 2014 by Adrian Case

Is responsive web design the future?/ Responsive web design in action{{}}With mobile devices still increasing in popularity, it’s never been more important for your website to cater for mobile users.

As Ofcom said nearly three years ago, we are a ‘nation addicted to smartphones’. While sales of traditional PCs are gradually declining, smart phones and tablets are on the up.

If you’ve never done anything about your mobile presence, the time for action is now. There are many factors to consider.

Different devices have varying screen sizes, resolutions and processing power. There’s a choice of platforms, too — like iOS, Android and Windows.

It would be virtually impossible to create a different version of your website tailored to each individual device. However, you can use responsive web design instead.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive web design is a way of making sure your website provides a universally good experience for visitors, regardless of what device they use.

It’s the ‘one size fits all’ approach to web design. When you create a responsive website, the various elements (images, content, navigation and so on) shift and change with the screen size.

You’ll soon understand if you see a responsive website in action. Go and visit Time Magazine on your computer, then resize your web browser window. As the size of the window changes, the content moves around to fit.

This means responsive sites work well on both large monitors and tiny smart phones.

The benefits of responsive web design

So, responsive web design sounds good. But is there evidence to say it’s worth investing time and money in?

Many companies that have moved to a responsive web design have experienced growth in conversion rates, creating a sales uplift from mobile traffic. We are yet to see the full impact mobile devices will have on online behavior. However, they’re certainly here to stay.

This means it’s vital to consider taking a responsive approach with any new or redesigned websites.

Some businesses have a much higher proportion of mobile visitors than others. But as mobile devices become even more common, you really should think about the responsive web.

Blog by Adrian Case of Akita Systems, providing IT support and consultancy to the South East of England since 1996.

Posted in The internet | Tagged security | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: how to buy a domain name

March 28, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts: how to buy a domain name/How to buy a domain name{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: how to buy a domain name. If you’ve chosen the domain you want for your website, how do you go about securing it?

Who sells domain names?

Although domain names are controlled centrally (for instance, all domains ending in .uk are managed by a non-profit organisation called Nominet), they can be bought from many different companies.

These companies are called domain name registrars. They can register a domain name for you, enabling you to use that domain for your website, email and so on.

Major domain name registrars in the UK include GoDaddy, 123-reg, Heart Internet, 1and1, Fasthosts and

To buy a domain name from one of these providers, go to their website and search for a domain. Choose the one you want and enter your payment details. It’s that easy!

How does buying domains work?

When you buy a domain name, you get the right to use it for a certain period of time. When that period ends, you must renew your domain to keep using it. You can usually buy a domain for anything from one to ten years.

You can normally register your domain with one company, host your website with another, and then link the two so that people who type in your domain name end up at your website.

However, it’s important to check how easy it is to do this. It often involves some technical steps.

Many domain name registrars offer support to get everything working. But for a hassle-free setup, it can be easiest to buy your domain name and web hosting from the same company.

You might also get your domain name free or discounted if you buy it as part of a bundle that also includes hosting and email services.

What are the catches?

The domain name market is competitive, so registrars frequently offer deals to tempt new customers in.

However, these heavy discounts usually only apply to the first year’s registration. After that, you can end up paying an inflated renewal fee.

Other things to check include:

  • Watch out for lock-ins. Once you’ve bought a domain, the registrar should make it easy for you to transfer it to another supplier or point it at a different website, without excessive charges.
  • Get it in your name. Your domain is central to your online brand, so make sure it’s registered in your name — not that of your web designer or another supplier.
  • Auto-renewal can be handy. This means the registrar will renew your domain for you when the registration period expires. (Of course, you may prefer to renew manually to retain more control over payments.)

Finally, be aware that many domain name registrars now offer domains for sale on both the primary and secondary markets.

The primary market is where most people buy their domains. When you buy from the primary market, you’re buying a domain that nobody else currently owns. These domains are available at standard prices. Expect to pay around £5 a year for a domain, or £10 — £15 a year for a .com.

The secondary market is where people trade domain names that they already own. Prices here tend to be higher and less predictable — you can pay anything from £50 to thousands.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

Broadband and the British national obsession

March 26, 2014 by John McGarvey

Broadband and the British national obsession/House keys - Broadband included?{{}}Well now. Here’s a news story that marries broadband speeds (one of the IT Donut’s own obsessions) with one of the Great British public’s favourite topics of conversation.

You see, property listings website Rightmove has released research suggesting that slow or non-existent broadband could wipe to 20% off the price of a house.

Cue — obviously — a story in the Daily Mail, complete with ropey stock photography and everything.

Broadband is the fourth utility

Even if you doubt the specifics of this research (a 20% reduction sounds like an awful lot), it certainly backs up the idea that broadband is fast becoming the fourth utility.

And it’s true: we treat our internet connections like turning on the lights or central heating. When we need it to get online, we expect to be able to do so.

A reminder for your business

The Rightmove story was released because the property firm has now added a broadband checker to its own website, to tell you what sort of connection you should get at a house you’re interested in.

But it provides an interesting reminder about the increasing importance of the web in our lives.

We spend more time online than ever. We’re connected not just at home, but nearly wherever we go. We’re buying things when we’re on the move.

If we’re at a point where broadband availability ranks alongside off-street parking, good schools and public transport links as factors in house desirability, surely it’s time to make the internet more central to your company, too.

In short, if you’re running a business — any sort of business — and you’re not thinking regularly about how the internet can help you, you’re missing a trick.

More than just a website

The internet is so ingrained in our lives that it’s not enough to build a website and leave it at that.

You need to stay up to date with new developments, like Google’s continued efforts to appeal to target mobile ads by location, or the fact that showrooming is rife. Is there any way you can turn these — and other — trends to your advantage?

You don’t need to transform how you do business. Nor do you need to panic.

But these days, people tend to turn to the internet first, no matter what they’re looking for. That creates new threats, and new opportunities. Are you ready to take advantage?

Posted in The internet | Tagged broadband | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: how can I create a website on a budget?

March 21, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts: how can I create a website on a budget?/Build a website{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: if you need to build a website but you’re on a tight budget, what’s your best option?

Building your own website

If you’re looking to build a website on the cheap, you won’t have the cash to commission a designer to create your site for you.

And unless you’re already familiar with the principles of web design and the ins and outs of the HTML computer code that websites are built from, you won’t be able to create a convincing site from scratch. (Professional web designers and developers take years to learn how to do this well.)

But being cash-strapped doesn’t mean you have to make do with a below-par website.

Use a DIY website builder

There are many packages available that enable you to construct a website using pre-defined templates.

You don’t need to have any technical knowledge to use these website builder packages. You just have to choose your templates, add images, content and other elements like videos, then arrange everything as you want.

It used to be that the limited range of templates in most website builders meant they all looked rather similar.

However, nowadays website builders are more versatile. You still have to spend time learning how your website builder works, experimenting with templates and creating the content for your site.

But a few days’ work over a couple of weekends can leave you with a site you’re justifiably proud of.

That means a website builder is a good way to create a web presence for your business when you’re starting out or on a tight budget.

Finding a website builder

There are many website builder packages on the market. Here are some things to think about when choosing one:

  • How easy is it to use? Do you need any technical knowledge to make a start? Is the interface clear and simple to understand?
  • Does it have the features you need? Are there limits on the number of pages you can create? Can you add in ecommerce functions?
  • Will it cater for mobile users? Any new website should be easy to access from a mobile device, like a smart phone or tablet.
  • What other sites use it? Try and find examples of real sites that use the website builder you’re looking at. Are they any good?
  • Do you get everything you need? Every website needs a domain name and web hosting. Many site builders include these, but not all.
  • How much will it cost? You usually have to pay a monthly charge for your website builder. Check whether there’s a minimum contract period.
  • What happens if you decide to cancel? It’s important you’re able to extract and keep all your website content and data.

To get you started, here are some companies offering popular website builder packages: 

Most popular packages offer a free trial to begin with, so you can get a feel for the website builder before you commit to using it. 

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: what is a dongle?

March 14, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts: what is a dongle?/A typical 3G dongle{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: if you’ve been investigating how to connect to the internet when you’re out and about, you might have been told that you need a dongle. So, what is a dongle and should you buy one?

Get online on the move

If you travel for work, it’s important to be able to get online from different locations. You can use your smart phone to check for email and look at web pages, but it can be trickier getting online with your laptop or tablet.

Free Wi-Fi is a good option, but isn’t always convenient. You usually have to buy a drink in a café. In rural locations it might not be available at all.

A dongle gives you flexibility in when and where you connect to the internet, because it lets you use a mobile data connection rather than requiring you to be near a wireless network.

This means you can get online wherever there’s a mobile phone signal.

Alternatives to a dongle

A dongle isn’t the only way to connect to the internet when you’re out and about. You can also consider:

  • Tethering your laptop to your smart phone. You may be able to connect your laptop to your phone via Bluetooth, so your laptop can use your phone’s data connection. However, some networks charge extra for this and it can run your phone’s battery down faster.
  • Getting a tablet or laptop with a slot for a SIM card. Some laptops and tablets include a slot for a SIM card, enabling them to connect to directly to a 3G or 4G data network without a separate dongle.

What is a dongle?

A dongle is a small gadget that looks very much like a memory stick (see image).

Most dongles have a standard USB connection, so you can plug them into your laptop. They may work with some tablets too, although this depends which model of tablet you have.

A dongle has a slot for a SIM card, like the one in your mobile phone. Once you’ve inserted a SIM, it can connect to the internet.

How to use a dongle

To start using a dongle, you need a SIM card as well as the dongle itself.

All major mobile phone networks sell special ‘data SIMs’, designed to be used in dongles rather than mobile phones.

The amount you pay for your SIM depends on how much data you need to transfer. For occasional use, it’s usually best to pay as you go, topping up your data allowance when it gets low.

If you’ll be using the dongle regularly, you can get a SIM on a contract, paying a fixed amount each month (usually £15 — £30) for a fixed amount of data.

If you’ve not used a dongle before, a good way to get started is to buy a package that includes a dongle and pay-as-you-go SIM card. These are available for £30 — £50, including some data.

This lets you see what it’s like to use a dongle in practice, before you sign up to an expensive contract.

Once you have your SIM card in the dongle, all you need to do is plug it into your computer. Most dongles will automatically install software to connect you to the internet. Then you can browse the internet as normal.

Dongle connection speeds

When you buy your dongle, you can choose between a 3G (third generation) or 4G (fourth generation) connection. Although 4G is faster, it’s also more expensive and coverage is generally limited to larger towns and cities.

A 4G dongle will automatically drop down to 3G when necessary, so you’ll still be able to get online.

In strong signal areas, both 3G and 4G dongles will provide a good enough connection to browse web pages and check email. However, 4G is better for transferring large files and watching video.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

A beginner's guide to server colocation

March 10, 2014 by Albie Attias

A beginner's guide to server colocation/Data centre{{}}Colocation. Sure, it’s an unfortunate term that sounds a bit like one of those painful body cleansing treatments you get in health clubs.

However, if you run a new or small business, it’s actually something that can really help your company.

What is colocation?

Colocation is just like web hosting. The only difference is that rather than your data living on a server owned by the web hosting company, it lives on a server that you own.

The physical server belongs to you, but it lives in a datacentre owned by your colocation provider.

A datacentre is a special building designed to keep servers safe, sound and running 24 hours a day.

You use the colocation provider’s building, internet bandwidth and electricity. But you own the server that holds your data.

Colocation is more expensive than standard web hosting, but costs less than doing everything yourself. It’s also sometimes called ‘colo’, ‘co-lo’ or ‘CoLo’.

Why use colocation?

Colocation offers smaller businesses the benefits of a large, well-resourced IT department, but without the large costs:

  • Get more bandwidth for your buck. For instance, if you need to stream video from your server then you can do so for a relatively small cost.
  • Improve your cash flow. You only pay as you go, and usually only for what you need.
  • Get better protection and security. Because your server will be kept in a proper data centre (not in a corner of your office), you get redundant power supplies, firewalls and other extras to keep your server running.
  • You retain control. You’re just paying for space in the data centre, but you keep full control over your server and can use it however you wish.
  • It’s easy to move. If your business moves premises, you don’t have to figure out how to take your server with you. It stays in the data centre.

For smaller companies that don’t have much of their own IT infrastructure, colocation helps you compete with larger businesses on a level playing field.

So, what’s not to like?

One of the biggest problems with colocation is that it can be quite hard to find providers, especially outside cities. And even if you do, you need to consider:

  • Physical access to your server. This is likely to be only available during the provider’s office hours.
  • Cost. Colocation certainly costs more than basic web hosting. You can also end up paying a different amount each month, depending on how much bandwidth you use.
  • Upgrades and maintenance. You have to do this all yourself. Although you’re renting space from your supplier, the server is your responsibility. (If you’re not confident, managed hosting might be more suitable.)

It’s true that colocation isn’t for everyone. But for smaller businesses that have a modicum of IT expertise in-house, it can be a good way to gain access to the kinds of IT services that have previously been the preserve of larger organisations.

This is a post from Albie Attias of King of Serversan IT hardware supplier specialising in servers and networking.


Posted in The internet | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: how to view a website that's currently offline

February 28, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: you need to urgently check a website for information, but that website has gone offline. It's probably having technical problems, but how can you get the information you need without delay?

How to get round 'website unavailable'

Once in a while, websites go down. It even happens to Google and the BBC occasionally, so pretty much nobody is immune.

If a site you need to access in a hurry is having a moment, don't panic. Google will almost certainly come to the rescue for you.

As Google crawls web pages to keep its index up to date, it takes a snapshot of most of them. This is called the 'cached' copy, and you can view it easily. Here's how...

First, go to Google and search for the website you're looking for. (If you know the exact URL of the page you need, just paste that into the search box.)

In the search results, find the page you're looking for. (If you searched by URL, it should be the top result.)

Select the green down arrow beside the result's URL, then choose Cached from the options:

Google cached search result{{}}

You'll see Google's copy of the page. At the top will be a line of text explaining when this snapshot is from.

When this won't work

Most of the time, this method should let you look up information you need.

However, if you're after something that's particularly time-sensitive, like the latest train disruptions or the weather forecast, Google's cached copy will probably be too old to provide accurate results.

To avoid any out-of-date information, always check when Google took its copy of the page.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 0 comments

How to stop internet downtime crippling your business

January 30, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

How to stop internet downtime crippling your business/Frayed Internet Cable{{}}When your internet connection goes down, your business can suffer disruption that wastes your time and hits your bottom line.

If that sounds all-too-familiar to you and your company, here are a few ways to reduce disruption caused by an unreliable internet connection.

1. Upgrade your old router

Consider upgrading your router if it’s more than five years old. Newer routers offer more reliable, stronger wireless signals, better security and faster downloads.

If you have laptops, smart phones or tablets that can operate using newer, faster wireless networking standards then make sure your router can perform at the same speed, too.

2. Check your computers for security problems

Security problems like malware and viruses can hit your internet speed by consuming your computer’s processing power and sending data across your internet connection.

Make sure you have good security software that’s working properly and gets regularly updated.

3. Reposition your router

If you rely on a wireless internet connection on your premises, where you position your router can dramatically affect the strength of the signal — and therefore the speed of your connection. Try and position it near the centre of your office, rather than leaving it in the corner by your phone socket.

If you still struggle to get a strong connection, consider getting a signal booster to improve coverage or connecting the most important devices to the router via a cable.

4. Check your contract

Some ‘unlimited internet’ packages aren’t actually unlimited. They have fair-use clauses or restrictions to ensure that one user’s heavy use doesn’t slow the service for others

If you exceed your package’s usage limit, you might be charged extra of have the speed of your connection capped. Your internet provider may also limit speeds at peak time, or slow access to sites that require a lot of bandwidth, like YouTube.

Ultimately, if your business requires a reliable, fast connection then you should consider investing in a fibre connection, if fibre is available in your area. However, these tips are a good way to make your connection more reliable without having to splash out on an upgrade.

This is a guest post from Christian Nellemann, founder and group CEO of XLN Telecom, a specialist provider of small business broadband and phone services.

Posted in The internet | Tagged broadband | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: do I need a 4G connection?

January 17, 2014 by John McGarvey

4G mobile phone{{}}

Image: 1000 Words /

IT for Donuts is our regular Friday feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week: now that most mobile phone networks offer 4G tariffs and handsets, is it worth considering 4G for your business?

What is 4G?

4G is a relatively new kind of mobile internet connection. It allows you to connect your smart phone or tablet computer to the internet at very high speeds, while you’re out and about.

4G is named because it’s a fourth generation mobile network. It follows on from 3G, which you probably use at the moment if you access the internet through a smart phone. The main mobile phone networks offer 4G connections, including O2EE and Vodafone.

What makes 4G special?

If you’re familiar with 3G, you can think of 4G as the same thing, but much speedier. In the right circumstances, a 4G connection can be three to four times faster than your average home broadband connection, giving you the ability to do more online when you’re out and about.

All that speed means 4G can be a boon if you need to send and receive large files when you're on the move, like this aerial photography company that uses it to process large images.

But because 4G is faster, it's also makes for snappier all-round internet access. For instance, your phone or tablet should download emails and display websites faster, reducing those frustrating moments while you wait for something to load.

Sounds great. What's the catch?

To get a 4G connection, you need three things:

  • A mobile device capable of 4G. Many of the latest smart phones and tablets can connect to 4G networks, but you'll find most older devices won't be able to.
  • A 4G mobile tariff. Guess what? Because 4G is better than 3G, it costs more to get a 4G contract from your mobile network. Expect to pay at least £5 — £10 a month extra.
  • A 4G signal. 4G network coverage is improving fast in urban areas, but if you spend a lot of time outside major towns and cities then you'll find 4G availability is patchy.

So, to start using 4G you're probably going to need to buy a new mobile device, get a new contract, and check the coverage in areas you expect to use it.

Should I move to 4G?

4G is a genuinely worthwhile upgrade, if you can afford it and if it's available in the places where you spend most of your time. You'll notice a real improvement even compared with a good 3G connection, and it should eliminate some of the frustrations of mobile internet access.

However, at the moment it's hard for your average company to make a convincing case for moving to 4G. In fact, 3G is still more than adequate in most circumstances, even if you might have to wait a few extra seconds to download your email.

That means most businesses will be fine with 3G for now. But improving coverage and (hopefully) falling prices, the story could be different in six to 12 months' time.

Posted in The internet | Tagged IT for donuts | 1 comment

How to stop internet downtime crippling your business

January 15, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

How to stop internet downtime crippling your business{{}}When your internet connection goes down, your business can suffer disruption that wastes your time and hits your bottom line.

If that sounds all-too-familiar to you and your company, here are a few ways to reduce disruption caused by an unreliable internet connection.

1. Upgrade your old router

Consider upgrading your router if it’s more than five years old. Newer routers offer more reliable, stronger wireless signals, better security and faster downloads.

If you have laptops, smart phones or tablets that can operate using newer, faster wireless networking standards then make sure your router can perform at the same speed, too.

2. Check your computers for security problems

Security problems like malware and viruses can hit your internet speed by consuming your computer’s processing power and sending data across your internet connection.

Make sure you have good security software that’s working properly and gets regularly updated.

3. Reposition your router

If you rely on a wireless internet connection on your premises, where you position your router can dramatically affect the strength of the signal — and therefore the speed of your connection. Try and position it near the centre of your office, rather than leaving it in the corner by your phone socket.

If you still struggle to get a strong connection, consider getting a signal booster to improve coverage or connecting the most important devices to the router via a cable.

4. Check your contract

Some ‘unlimited internet’ packages aren’t actually unlimited. They have fair-use clauses or restrictions to ensure that one user’s heavy use doesn’t slow the service for others

If you exceed your package’s usage limit, you might be charged extra of have the speed of your connection capped. Your internet provider may also limit speeds at peak time, or slow access to sites that require a lot of bandwidth, like YouTube.

Ultimately, if your business requires a reliable, fast connection then you should consider investing in a fibre connection, if fibre is available in your area. However, these tips are a good way to make your connection more reliable without having to splash out on an upgrade.

This is a guest post from Christian Nellemann, founder and group CEO of XLN Telecom, a specialist provider of small business broadband and phone services.


Posted in The internet | Tagged broadband | 0 comments

Product intelligence: the future of ecommerce?

January 02, 2014 by IT Donut contributor

Product intelligence: the future of ecommerce?/boxes stack for delivery{{}}When you’re selling online, how quickly you’re able to deliver your products can make or break your business. If your next-day delivery promise turns out to be hogwash then you’ll see customers switching to more reliable competitors.

The University of Cambridge, working together with James and James Fulfilment, is carrying out research that it thinks could lead to a new means of online order delivery — allowing consumers to interact with their order almost right up until it arrives.

Ecommerce product intelligence

The research is based on the concept of ‘product intelligence’, where computer models allow every product and order in a warehouse to effectively think for itself.

What does that mean? Well, if the researchers are correct, orders themselves will soon be able to communicate with warehouse and delivery staff to make sure that they are processed correctly.

Product intelligence could let consumers interact with their order right up until it is delivered.

For instance, currently if a customer wants to change the delivery address once an order has been dispatched, they have to contact the courier. But with product intelligence, they could let the order know the new address — electronically.

Popping out? Let your order know

In fact, it could be possible for consumers to interact directly with their online orders at every stage of the journey.

You might be able to tell your order that you’re are not at home because you’ve popped to a café down the road. Or you could even say: ‘use my mobile phone to come and find me’ while your parcel is out for delivery. Imagine that: no more ‘we called while you were out’ cards.

The difference with product intelligence is that the order will tell the carrier what it needs to do, rather than the customer telling the carrier. It sounds futuristic, but the infrastructure is mostly already in place, so the technology could become available very soon.

Product intelligence and efficiency

Product intelligence could also allow goods to decide where in a warehouse they should be stored. The researchers have found that doing this can be 20% more efficient than current best practice.

Although it might seem obvious that the fastest-selling products should be kept closest to the packing station, actually getting the information required to arrange products correctly is not easy.

When the products can confer amongst themselves, products that are frequently shipped together will know they should be stored together.

While online ordering has vastly improved in the past decade to become a slick, real-time process, many fulfilment centres and carriers have failed to invest at the same rate.

That’s why product intelligence has such huge potential: it could save businesses considerable time and money, and deliver much higher levels of customer satisfaction.

This is a guest post from James and James Fulfilment.

Posted in The internet | Tagged ecommerce | 0 comments

If your customers don’t know what SSL is, do you need it?

December 17, 2013 by IT Donut contributor

If your customers don’t know what SSL is, do you need it?/SSL secure{{}}The average internet shopper doesn’t have a clue what an SSL certificate. Come to think of it, do you know what an SSL certificate is?

If not, here’s a brief explanation: an SSL certificate allows your website to display the secure padlock when people visit it. It also encrypts data transferred between your website and its visitors (like their credit card details), so it can’t be accessed by online criminals.

If you sell online, it is important to have an SSL certificate — and not just because it protects your customer’s card details. Here’s why:

1. Your customers do care about security

Just because your customers don’t know what an SSL certificate is doesn’t mean they don’t want reassurance when they’re shopping online.

Many factors help determine whether online shoppers feel safe enough to make a purchase from you, and you don’t control all of them. For instance, you can’t invent a trusted brand that’s been around for a hundred years.

However, you can make your customers feel more at ease by displaying an SSL certificate. One study found 94% of consumers were more likely to proceed with an online purchase when they saw the Norton Secured Seal during checkout.

2. It’s a legal requirement

Every website owner has a responsibility to make sure the data their website collects or uses is kept safe.

This responsibility may be a legal obligation, depending on what type of data you collect or use. If you process credit card details, for example, it’s essential that this data is securely encrypted.

3. Your reputation could be at risk

Barely a week goes by without news of data being stolen or hacked. Just one such incident can damage your company’s reputation.

Don’t think this will ever happen to your business? The numbers don’t look great: according to government figures, 76% of small companies suffered a security breach in 2012. What’s more, experts have warned that smaller companies are increasingly being targeted by online criminals.

This post was written by John Philips from, a reseller of SSL certificates.

Posted in The internet | Tagged ecommerce | 0 comments
Syndicate content