Chromebook diaries – Should you buy a Chromebook?

Dell Chromebook, a viable Windows alternativeIn July 2014 I bought a new laptop. It wasn’t a Windows device, nor an Apple Macbook- it was a Chromebook. Having been a business/power user of Windows since the mid-90s it was a major leap. Although it was less of a leap than it might seem because I  still kept my main PC in the office for most of my work, my laptop being used for working away from the office, making presentations, delivering coaching and use at home.

I wrote a number of posts on the subject,

So, as the end of 2018 approaches, and my Chromebook is 4.5 years old – how has it been?

Well, 1st off, it’s the longest time I’ve ever kept a laptop.

From a software perspective, it’s totally up to date, still receiving automatic updates from Google central and, what’s more, unlike every one of my previous Windows laptops, performance has not fallen off. I can still open more than 10 tabs in my browser without any slowing down. I can access all of the Google Docs suite for word-processing, spreadsheeting and presenting, I can use Office 365 in the cloud for MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint, still read the news, play a few games and do whatever I need to do.

The only thing that has slipped is battery life. I reckon it’s down to about 4.5 to 5 hours now so I cant go a full day anymore. However, that’s a battery issue, endemic to all devices and a simple battery swap would soon restore the status quo

Do I need a new laptop yet?
No.

Would I like a new laptop?
Of course, I’m a techie and a geek and we thrive on new stuff but it’s not a priority.

When it comes to a change, what would I do?
Now, that’s a tough question. I still use Windows in the office and still have a need to work when out and about so nothing has changed in that respect. There are many more lightweight Windows laptops around with long battery lives but to get any decent performance the price is still too high. Way beyond any value that I would obtain so, when it’s time it’ll be another Chromebook although I would go for one with a higher resolution screen. And that’s it – that’s all that I’d ask for.

And if you need any help with technology, websites, SEO or marketing all you have to do is pick up the phone and give me a call on 01793 238020 or send andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk an email for a free, zero obligation chat about your needs.

Digital Leadership

Digital Leaders

What do these three people have in common?

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Tommy Flowers

Tommy Flowers

Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan

 

 

 

 

 

 

All 3 were very early digital leaders, Turing for his “Turing Machine”, an early general purpose computer, Flowers for “Colossus – the first programmable computer used to decrypt German military messages at Bletchley Park and Vaughan for spotting the potential of NASA’s first IBM mainframe and leading the way in programming the device to compute spaceship trajectories.

Closer to today

Pierre Morad Omidyer

Pierre Omidyer

Elon Musk

Martha Lane Fox

Martha Lane Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the above are Digital Leaders who founded exciting, new and very disruptive tech companies in the early naughties. Omidyer founded e-Bay, Musk founded PayPal and Lane Fox founded LastMinute.com.

But what is Digital Leadership?

Digital Leadership is the strategic use of digital to achieve business goals and  uses technology to gain competitive advantage in both internal and external operations.

Companies and individuals can be Digital Leaders.

Benefits of Digital Leadership

Although the people mentioned above were disruptive, introducing new concepts, thoughts and technology, a business doesn’t have to be disruptive to be a digital leader.

When a company looks to make maximum use of technology and IT solutions across their business – striving for Digital Leadership, they stand to make gains across many areas, including

  • Process Simplification
  • Automation
    • Reducing costs
    • Minimising errors
  • Increased Speed to Market
  • Improved Competitiveness
  • Market Advantage
  • Increased Profit

Just look at the evolution in milking technology to see evolution in action. Think back to a time when cows were milked by hand and the revolution that an automated milking machine brought to the market, enabling a herd of cows to be milked at the same time, requiring far fewer people.

Now, the introduction of fully roboticized milking parlours mean that the cows can get themselves milked at a time that suits them, rather than just at dawn and dusk.  Apparently, cows are happiest when they are milked between 3 and 4 times a day, alleviating the discomfort of full udders as required and happier cows lead to improved milk yield and the roboticized process significantly reduces workforce costs.

Transforming your business

If you want to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital and technological revolution, take a step back from the day-to-day running of your business and analyse EVERYTHING. Look at everything you do, ask who does what, why, when, how and invite others to contribute to your research. In other words, stop working IN and start working ON your business.

You could use Post-It notes on a wall and capture the completed research using your phone
Process Mapping

You could Post-It notes on a wall and capture the completed research using your phone

Next, look at ways of making everything “better”. The goal being to work Smarter not Harder so you’ll be looking to – 

  • Simplify
  • Automate
  • Improve

And you can investigate off-the-shelf solution or have bespoke solutions developed. The former will normally deliver a quicker fix but with compromises which mean you may not gain maximum advantage. A bespoke solution will take longer to develop and implement and will probably cost more in the short term. However, the benefits will be far greater in the medium to long term because the solution will be precisely tailored to meet your exact requirements.

When to start Digital Transformation

There’s no time like the present, you might already be lagging behind your competition!

OK Google, get ready for Voice Search

Amazon Echo with Alexa voice controlOK Google”, “Sir”, “Alexa”, “Cortana” and “Bixby” are all commands that wake your device up and prime them to expect a voice command.

The reality is that your Android Phone, Google Home, Windows 10/X-Box, Apple iDevice, Samsung Galaxy and Amazon Echo are always listening, it”s just the command that alerts them that an instruction is incoming.

And because phone keyboards are harder to use than those of their desktop/laptop cousins more and more people turning to voice control and voice search purely for ease and convenience.

As a consequence, it”s vitally important that you understand what you need to do to make sure that your site is easy to find – even when the search is through voice recognition.

Voice Search and Artificial Intelligence

Google Home with "OK Google"Google, in particular, is using artificial intelligence to better understand our spoken instructions and to encourage more conversational searches, such as “Where can I get my Jeep serviced” rather than a more traditional desktop search “Jeep servicing Bristol”.

According to Google, 20% of searches on Android devices are now voice searches and the number of searches continues to increase as users realise that voice recognition accuracy is improving all the time. According to KPCB Internet trends 2016 Report, the accuracy of voice recognition now exceeds 92%

Searching for local businesses

A lot of people use voice to search for local businesses, “where’s the best Pizza restaurant in Bristol” for example so, if you sell pizza in Bristol you need to ensure that your pages are optimised for “Best pizza restaurant in Bristol” and written in “natural language” (written in a similar way to the way you’d speak) which really helps with voice search results.

Optimising for Voice Search

iPhone waiting for a "Siri" voice commandWith traditional SEO, you’d have researched the words that people were typing when looking for your products or services and built your site optimisation around those. Now you have to get your head around the types of question that they might ask, just as if they were asking their friends, family or colleagues, as demonstrated in the above example about Pizza restaurants.

One way to start addressing this issue is to consider a dedicated Q&A page where you can pose these questions and add your answers – remembering to keep them more conversational than you’d perhaps feature elsewhere.

The pages that you have optimised for voice in this way need to feature in your Site-Map so that Google and Bing can easily find, and index, them. You do have a sitemap (sitemap.xml) don’t you?

You should even look to include microdata, schema, rich snippets and so on because these little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about your business.

Hi, I'm Cortana, ask me a questionYou’ll also need to ensure that your listings on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business is up-to date and accurate because that’s where Google and Cortana will look for the location-specific search results. You should also check out the other business directories that have your business listed, Yell, Thomson, Yelp etc and make sure that your address details are correct. This simply ensures that there’s no ambiguity about the right address for your business.

Responsive Website Design

Don’t forget that because most voice searches are conducted on a mobile device, you MUST have a mobile-friendly site because if your site isn’t mobile-friendly (Responsive) then Google won’t direct people to you. You can use this free Google tool to check the mobile friendliness of your website and if you need further help with your site, SEO for voice search, making your site mobile friendly or anything else related to your website then you should give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me an email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

And Finally

A bit of fun. If you use Google voice search and make an animal related enquiry, try adding “fun facts” to the end of your search to learn something about the animal you have been searching on.

Bluetooth Beacons

Belisha BeaconThe most well known type of beacon is probably the Belisha, the orange ball, containing a flashing light mounted on a striped pole and drawing attention to a zebra crossing.

Well, there’s a new type of beacon in town – the Bluetooth Beacon and businesses can use them in interesting and exciting ways.

What is a Bluetooth Beacon?

Basically, a Bluetooth Beacon is a low energy device (using button batteries that last for up to a year), that can be fixed almost anywhere and which transmits data and/or information to nearby “portable electronic devices” within 40-100 mtrs. Mobile phones and tablets in other words.

Major retail stores are starting to use Beacons to track customers as they move through the store. The Beacon can “push” marketing messages as customers get within range of relevant displays. Your iPhone may use a beacon to determine what section of a grocery store you’re in, see if anything on your shopping list is in that area, so you don’t forget it, and even push a discount voucher to encourage you to buy a particular brand.

Your Android phone could use a beacon to show on a map where you are and provide directions to where you want to go – in your language.

It’s not just for retail outlets though. If you are in business to business you could use a Beacon to push a message out to visitors offering a subscription to your newsletter or  encourage a visitor to install your App. Museums could use Beacons to trigger pictures, audio tracks or videos as you walk past particular displays and exhibits.

You can even use Beacons to provide keyless access, your phone could use a beacon in your car to know it’s your vehicle and send an unlock signal to it, for example.

How do you use a Bluetooth Beacon

The first thing you need to do is decide what you are looking to achieve. You could

  • Push deals and offers
  • Share news
  • Encourage Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Drive engagement at events and shows
  • Help blind people explore locations
  • Push visitor information
  • Unlock doors

Use is only limited by your imagination!

At a trade show, for example – simply place your Beacon on your stand and push your message to any attendee who comes within range of your Beacon.

What’s the likely cost

Avvel X BeaconBeacons can be pretty inexpensive – the Avvel X Beacon (left) for example –

  • runs off a CR2477 button cell which lasts for up to 30 months,
  • has a range up to 100m,
  • is waterproof,
  • is easily programmable
  • 42mm square and 13.4mm thick
  • From £20.00 + VAT


The Next Step

Well, I’ve just ordered one of the Avvel X Beacons to see how it works and what can be done and as soon as I’ve learned how to get the most from it, I’ll post an update here.

In the meantime, if you need any help – get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me a line, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

And remember.

Beacons just send out information, they don’t know who you are, don’t connect to your device, can’t harvest mobile phone numbers and don’t steal any data

Why worry about Accreditations?

I do a lot of work for an IT support company in Bristol – Bristol IT Company – and at the bottom of their website is a list of badges, icons and logos, there’s a couple of ISO related ones and the rest come from well known (and less well known) brands in the IT sector but why are they there and why should you be concerned?

Bristol IT Company accreditationsWell, ISO’s easy, it’s a way of demonstrating a certain credibility by being assessed every year to ensure that we remain up to scratch. A lot of businesses have ISO9001 which is a quality management certification that demonstrates their commitment to consistently provide products and services that meet the needs of our clients. ISO27001 is an information security standard that demonstrates commitment to information security, both their own and that of clients.

The other accreditations come from manufacturers such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, Aruba, Cyberoam, VMWare and Veeam and demonstrate that the Bristol IT Company has the necessary skills to not only supply their equipment but to ensure that it is properly installed, configured and supported.

Why is this important
Let’s take a look at the security of your network – they have 2 vendors that are accredited with in this area, Cisco and Sophos. You can buy some Cisco & Sophos equipment on Amazon at competitive prices, have it delivered pretty much the next day and get it up and running very quickly. This might make you feel secure, after all Cisco are a market leader in networking and security – right?

Is this the right way to do things?
Probably not! Even assuming that you order the most appropriate device for your needs, installing equipment using the default settings could cause you a whole heap of pain.

Most hackers worth their salt know, and understand, these default settings making it really easy for them to penetrate your business’s network. It’s almost like advertising that you’ve installed the best locks in the world but have left a key under the doormat.

Not only that but the default settings are a “one size fits all” option that are unlikely to be best suited to the way your business works and could actually slow your network, and internet connectivity, down if left untouched.

You could probably find hundreds of internet forums where people discuss the settings but which ones are the best for your particular needs? Which ones speed things up without compromising security and which ones increase security without compromising speed and which ones are actually posted by hackers looking to lure you into making your network even more insecure?

Accreditation
That’s where accreditation comes into play. By buying your equipment from an accredited supplier, Bristol IT Company will first of all advise you on the correct product that most closely matches your existing and future needs, possibly saving you money – certainly saving you pain.

They then ensure that your network is made as secure as possible by changing default settings to something much more secure and applying their training, experience and skill to ensure that your network is as secure as it can be by optimising the setup and performance of your kit.

Still think accreditation’s just an icon on a website? Well, give them a call on 01173 700 777 or email andy.poulton@bristolitcompany.com to find out that there’s much more to it than a pretty picture

How clean is your phone?

iPhone waiting for a "Siri" voice commandIt’s with us up to 24 hours a day but have you ever given any thought to mobile phone hygiene?

Just think about everything you touch during the course of an average day, keys, door handles, keyboards, pens, credit/debit cards, cash and so on. How many other people have touched those things? How hygienic are they?

Have you ever checked your phone in a bathroom or public toilet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you have, apparently most people have checked their phone in a bathroom which goes some way towards explaining why 1 in 6 phones have faecal matter on them.

Green Bacteria possibly from a dirty mobile phoneAccording to research, the average mobile phone has 18x more harmful bacteria than the handle on the door of a public toilet.

Se we go to the loo and then use our phone and pop it into our pocket or handbag, somewhere that’s nice and warm, in other words an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

A little later, we take our phone out of it’s bacterial breeding ground and hold it to our face to use it. Some of the bacteria transfer to our hands, some to our face where it can cause acne, some of the bacteria is now on our hands so we can transfer it to others when we shake hands, touch money or other door handles

Because few of us bother to really clean our phones (wiping the screen doesn’t count) the germs keep building up and they include E-Coli (great for upset tums), influenza and MRSA (causes rashes and skin infections)

So, the next time you have a spot or rash on your face or go down with an upset tummy or the flu, don’t look at who you’ve been in contact recently, take a long hard look at your mobile phone

So, what should we do? Well, you can buy anti-bacterial wipes specifically designed for electronic devices, or you could use standard rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth or paper towel. Use cotton buds to get in to those nooks and crannies and, finally, don’t forget to take your cover off and clean that too.

How to set expectations and fail to deliver

Old petrol pumpI don’t like filling my car with fuel, but not for the reason you might think!

It’s not the cost, that’s just an unchangeable part of life, no it’s the temptation when I go to pay. Chocolate bars, crisps, sweet drinks, gadgets and all those essential “must haves” strategically placed between the door and the till to tempt you.

That’s why I much prefer “pay at pump” options and can’t wait for the day when all garages offer this.

I need fuel recently so imagine my delight when I saw that Shell are partnering with PayPal to enable “pay at pump” simply by scanning a code on my phone, telling the App how much I wanted to spend and then just filling up without going in to the shop.

Shell call this “Fill up & Go” and it’s being rolled out across the UK later this year.

Shell Fill and GoI discovered this by reading a card attached to the pump that I was using, it had a picture attached to it, not unlike the one here with the added message that there was more information “in store”

When paying for my fuel, and successfully avoiding temptation, I picked up a leaflet that answered a lot of my questions and which told me “If you want to be one of the first to use it, visit our website to register your interest, www.shell.co.uk”

So, when I reached my destination, I went to www.shell.co.uk and was instantly, and automatically, sent to www.shellsmart.com where I learned I could get a Shell loyalty card, find out more information about Shell’s “Partners” and other information but NOTHING about paying at the pump via PayPal

So, I scrolled down the ShellSmart page and found a link to Shell.co.uk and finally managed to reach the Shell website.

I expected to see information about “Fill up & Go” front and centre, but it wasn’t.

Where was it? I still don’t know, I scrolled down the page, I clicked on some links, I read some text and finally gave up in frustration. What a waste of time.

Why couldn’t Shell have had info right in front of my eyes or used a dedicated URL on their leaflet, www.shell.co.uk/FillAndGo for example?

Not difficult, not even clever but it would certainly have saved me from frustration and meltdown with yet another corporate entity which has a good idea but fails in the execution.

 

When “now” is too late!

Fire Escape SignLast week saw an underground fire in Holborn, London, lead to the cancellation of a number of West End shows, costing theatres thousands in lost revenue.

More than 1,900 homes and businesses were left without electricity when the power had to be cut for safety reasons, directly affecting around 5,000 people who were forced out of their homes and offices whilst the underground fire was brought under control.

A small number of larger businesses were able to continue functioning because they had suitable contingency plans in place to cover precisely this type of eventuality. These were the ones that had back-up generators to ensure a continuity of electricity supply which enabled them to continue their activities whilst all around ground to a halt.

A small explosionSo what provisions have you made for business continuity in the event of an incident that leads to you having to vacate your offices?

Remember, this fire, although disruptive, was not classed as a “major” incident and similar issues could happen almost anywhere, at any time. Would your business cope, could it survive should you have to be evacuated, without warning.

What would be the impact on your business if you couldn’t access your office for hours, days or even weeks?

How do you manage the data and documents that are critical to the survival of your business?

Would your business be able to move seamlessly to a different location, would your key staff be able to work from home or elsewhere?

How do you manage and store the documents that are essential to the running of your business? Are they stored on your laptop/PC, on a server, back-up, in the cloud or a USB stick?

Are your clients and business contacts in a Customer Relationship Management application, on a spreadsheet, on your phone or in your head?

How about your financial records, are they saved in Excel or a dedicated software application?

Bits and BytesThere are many ways to store and manage your essential data, you just have to be sure that you can access the business critical information from a location away from your office.

Companies most reliant on data may have back-up locations, complete with computers and data connectivity that they can move key personnel to, ensuring that service and continuity continues with the shortest of interruptions.

Smaller businesses might have file servers storing their data attached to their network with back-up devices regularly creating copies with the back-ups being taken off-site.

Micro-businesses and sole traders could make effective use external hard-drives, whether attached by USB or shared on a network, automatically cloned to one of the numerous, and inexpensive, cloud data services.

Remember, it’s too late to do anything about business resilience once an incident has started.

We all need more visits to our websites…..

It’s true isn’t it – we all need more visits to our website because more visits = more opportunities which equate to more inquiries which lead to more sales – right?

Wrong
Before looking to bring in more visitors to your website, take a long, hard look at your website, if it’s not generating inquiries for you today, bringing in more visitors does not mean that they’ll increase tomorrow, they’ll just do what every other visitor does.

You need to….

  • …make sure that your content focuses on your visitors – that’s less “me” and more “you”
  • …stop talking about the things you do – you should be talking about the benefits a client will gain from engaging with you (tip – it’s the latter that people use when making their buying decisions)
  • …make sure your website is easy to navigate
  • …ensure that your site is easy to read – copy and paste key content in to read-able.com to make sure that the average reading age is no higher than 13
  • …have clear calls-to-action on every page so that visitors know what is expected of them. “Buy Now” and “Browse for More” work really well on e-commerce sites whilst “Call“, “Email“, Subscribe Now” work for more serviced focused businesses.
  • …make sure that your pages open quickly – you only have about 3 seconds to capture a visitors interest so you have to be on the ball. Google Analytics and Pingdom are valuable tools to help assess the speed of your site.
  • …make good use of your USP – that special magic that you do that sets you apart from your competition?

If you’ve nailed all of the above – then it’s time to start looking for more web traffic and I’ll be looking at this in a later post although you can get ahead of the game by exploring my website or attending one of my workshops –

RIP HTC One

HTC One M7About 3 weeks ago my phone, an 18 month old HTC One, just died. There were no hints, no clues it just died. The battery was nearly full, I’d not added any new apps or done anything different or unusual, it had just chosen that particular time to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I swore a little and went to Google for help and tried various arcane combinations of button presses but the phone was totally and irretrievably dead, deceased, it was no more, it was an ex-phone.

I called my mobile phone company to ”explore my options”. I knew it was out of 12 month warranty and I couldn’t use “un-merchantable quality” (which I have used for a variety of out of warranty items in the past) because I’d dropped the phone a couple of times and it was showing its age.

I was informed that I was eligible for an “early upgrade”. I got a little excited and asked what that meant. It meant that I could actually buy myself out of the remaining 6 months of my contract for ” just £240″, pay “just £20” for a new phone and another £2 per month on my, now new, 24 month contract. A quick calculation showed that I’d pay more than £300 more over the life of the contract.

So, I decided t go for Plan B but I didn’t have a Plan B so turned to eBay instead.

My thoughts were to find a cheaper phone and then go back to my carrier at the end of my contract and go for a free upgrade, as we all do when contract renewal comes around..

I quickly hit a speed bump – all the phones that did what I needed them too do cost pretty close to the £300 so there wasn’t anything to gain.

Blackview CrownHowever, I did spot a lot of relatively inexpensive non-branded phones from Chinese manufacturers. There were the direct iPhone clones, Samsung Galaxy clones and even phones from a brand called HDC – guess what they did? I steered away from these and focused on phones that had a spec that matched my needs and ended up paying just over £100 for a Blackview Crown.

And it’s worked out pretty well. It has no major drawbacks or performance issues. Battery life is shorter than I am used to but I have a car and portable charger so the reality is that its not an issue. Its not 4G, but my HTC wasn’t either. The screen isn’t as good as the HTC, if you look at the specs, but its good enough in the real world and that’s what counts.

It will do until my contract is up for renewal which is when I’ll probably switch back to a more recognised brand at zero cost. The big benefit to me is that I’ll be able to choose the time that I upgrade which means that I can wait until the 2015 models are released and take my pick from one of those.

If you are really interested, here’s a detailed comparison here is a side by side comparison table.
Blackview Crown HTC One M7 Comments
NFC No Yes Did not use
4G No No
Battery Life Lasts less than a day Last a day
Camera 13Mp 4Mp More pixels does not equate to better, but it’s good enough
Screen Size 5″ 4.7″
Resolution 1280 x 720 1920 x 1080
Screen Glass Toughened Gorilla Glass I just have to make sure I don’t drop it
Touch sensitivity OK Really good
Looks Looks average Looks good
Peripheral availability Very Poor Pretty Good
RAM 2Gb 2Gb
Storage 16Gb 32GB
Micro SD Yes – to 64Gb No
Android Version Stock 4.4 4.4 with HTC Sense It’s unlikely that the Crown will be upgraded to the latest version of Android
Processor ARM Cortex A7 1.7Ghz MT6592 Quad Core 1.7Ghz Krait 300 It’s not as good as the HTC but in the real world it’s more than fast enough
Sim Dual Sim, unlocked Single Sim, locked
Sound Average Excellent speakers
Headphones Realy poor Beats – Excellent
Weight 158gms 143gms
Feel OK Feels solid and well put together