Cloud computing is a broad term that can include hosting a website and data management. Unfortunately, small businesses are picking up many misconceptions in the marketplace about what the cloud is and what it means to be in the cloud.

“It’s not always the right solution for every business,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. “It takes research and consultation from someone with knowledge to really understand how it can work for your business.”

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about cloud computing and its applications for small businesses.

What is the cloud?

There are two main aspects to cloud computing. There’s the data management side, which is primarily utilized to back up files — think Dropbox or iCloud. This allows anyone, anytime, anywhere to store and access files on servers that exist all over the world.

The other aspect to cloud computing is hosting services, which provides the infrastructure that allows a company to host its website entirely in the cloud. Anything from an entry-level blog to something of enterprise value could be hosted in the cloud. There’s no need for redundancy between the cloud and a dedicated server because the cloud gives you myriad hosting options in its architecture. Even if you’re on a dedicated server now, that data can be easily migrated to the cloud.

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Is cloud hosting cost prohibitive?

Cloud hosting for small businesses is really the entry-level for commoditization of a website, and there are pay-as-you-go options that suit each company’s needs. While many hosting services take a one-size-fits-all approach, the pay-as-you-go model is more fluid, offering a billing program similar to those offered by utility companies where you pay for what you use. Using this model, business owners can spend 20 percent less than those using a dedicated server.

There are also deeper cost savings. For example, research has shown that cloud computing reduces IT labor by more than 50 percent. Because the cloud is extremely stable, it’s unnecessary to pay for IT support staff to ensure infrastructure stays operational. Cloud hosting saves money on maintenance, hardware, licensing and support, and is all around more efficient than using a dedicated server.

Is cloud hosting secure and reliable?

Cloud infrastructure is at least as secure and possibly more secure than the dedicated servers many companies are currently using. The hardware virtualization architecture used in cloud hosting keeps systems working through redundancy, which means utilizing multiple servers to back up clients’ data. And the transition from one environment to another happens with no perceived interruption in service. There’s no easier way to have that kind of redundancy. It’s a very fluid, secure and dynamic environment that seamlessly adapts to the needs of the client.

Is cloud computing a fad?

Amazon, Google and Apple have adopted the cloud as the new wave of Internet technology, and this new commoditization, pay-as-you-go model is being widely used. More companies are shifting to the cloud from dedicated servers, and much of the new infrastructure being developed by startup companies is in the cloud, so it’s here to stay. It’s where data management and hosting are going.

What sort of savings might a company realize by utilizing the cloud?

On average, companies can expect to realize an 80 percent reduction in their hosting bill if they can optimize their cloud correctly. Once in the cloud, a company can have its bandwidth utilization monitored to establish benchmarks that show usage during high- and low-traffic periods. Bandwidth will be monitored during a three-month settling period to determine the right services for that company’s needs and ensure it’s only paying for what it uses.

Hosting in the cloud is the wave of future. It allows companies to operate more efficiently and effectively, and keeps the bottom line healthy. It’s also the logical progression in the evolution of data management. And with a good partner in the endeavor, it can be a painless and seamless transition.

Ryan Niddel is CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or ryan@quicklaunchsolutions.com.

Insights Internet is brought to you by QuickLaunch Solutions

 

 

Published in Akron/Canton

Customer engagement is key to generating website traffic that translates into more revenue. The good news is that to generate that engagement, businesses don’t need to scrap existing websites to see significant improvements.

“Every Web development shop says you need a completely redesigned website; that’s why customers aren’t becoming engaged. On a case-by-case basis that might be true, but most of the time it’s a matter of optimizing what’s already there,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions.

“It’s about mining data from your customers and getting the most out of the visitors to your site; getting them engaged in your brand by taking them through a proven funnel. Capture their information, get them engaged through a follow-up sequence and get them involved in your social media, so when they need your product or service, you’re at the tip of their tongue,” says Niddel.

Smart Business spoke with Niddel about strategies companies can implement that help them grab the attention of existing and potential customers — a circular marketing campaign unifying their overall Web presence.

Where does the process of building engagement start?

It begins with a few simple changes in the website design; nothing more than a giveaway, something related to your business. A business that paints houses might feature a free e-book on how to care for your house’s paint or the simplest way to scrape it off. When someone provides an email address, he or she is added to a database and gets to download the material for free.

From there, it’s a series of email, text and mail promotions that all circle back to the end goal of getting them involved in your brand. Someone doing research and shopping for a painter might take 30 days to make a decision. You’re staying in front of him or her without being intrusive, giving him or her good information on a regular basis while also providing him or her with a way to connect to you. The best frequency is between once every 10 days and once every 25 days; that’s not intrusive at all.

You can also set up a blog that links to your website to allow customers to provide real-time feedback. If someone’s unhappy, that gives you the chance to apologize to the world, and show how the problem was fixed and what you do for your customers.

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Does that strategy work regardless of the type of business?

It’s more congruent with someone not selling a product, but it will work for e-commerce as well. We worked with a company that sells various pumps and gaskets for industrial use, which is a niche market so it’s not a high visibility website or search term. But it was able to get people engaged with its site and that has increased its customer acquisition 8 percent in 30 days.

How do you get customers to connect with your business via social media?

Offer a simple giveaway, a free quote or a 5 percent discount coupon if they follow you on Twitter or ‘like’ you on Facebook. Make sure every online aspect, whether it’s your website, blog, Facebook or Twitter, interconnects and have links to each other.

If you’re doing a good job and providing helpful information, engagement rates will be about 10 percent. That 10 percent will actively stay involved in the brand and provide vital feedback.

People visiting websites usually don’t take immediate action; it’s too easy to conduct research and shop around. Getting customer engagement sets you aside from every other company prospective clients search. Not every business will become a Nike or an Apple, but Joe’s Painting has people who like and trust Joe, and will tell their friends about Joe. That becomes easier when you stay in touch with them.

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of QuickLaunch Solutions. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or ryan@quicklaunchsolutions.com.

Insights Internet is brought to you by QuickLaunch Solutions

 

Published in Akron/Canton