Are You an Expert?

Everyone is an expert at something. You might be the expert on shoes. You know all about fixing shoes, trends in shoes, how to protect shoes in different climates or seasons, etc. If you’re in the shoe business, then you should be sharing your expertise.

Perhaps you are the ultimate hair care specialist. You know what styles will be popular in the season ahead. You know what the latest hair care products, from shampoos and conditioners to color products are. You should be sharing your expertise.

Perhaps you are the premier storage specialist. You provide onsite and offsite storage. You help families reclaim their garages and help businesses add storage without having to build. You know all kinds of details about how your customers can maximize the use of their storage. You should be sharing your expertise.

Why should you share your expertise? And why am I asking you to share that expertise for free? Because your customers will love you and you’ll get more of them. The easiest way to share your expertise is with a blog. This newsletter can be found on our blog at I share what I know about technology.

While the newsletter has been around since 1998, we’ve only been blogging for a short time but already we are getting more traffic to our site and more interest in our services. Taking 15 to 30 minutes two to three times a week to put your expertise into writing for your blog can pay off big as a marketing tool.

If you try to write just ad copy, it probably won’t work. What does work is sharing information that helps to inform consumers. Tell your hair care clients how to keep their hair looking its best between visits. Tell your shoe buying clients how to protect their shoes in our four season climate. Tell your storage clients how to figure out how much storage they need. Tell your clients about whatever your expertise is in. And they’ll love you for it.


Losing at Search

I’ve spoken with several clients and colleagues about Search Engine Optimization lately. I am amazed at the wild misunderstandings at how to go about getting ranked well in the search engines.

One business owner I spoke with was quite excited about the concept of cross-linking (having two different web sites link to each other to help each of them improve their rankings). Done correctly, this is indeed a good way to improve your rank. But then he proceeded to describe what was little more than a link farm. If your site is linked to from a link farm, the search engines will toss you from their rankings completely. I tried to dissuade him from that path but don’t know if I was successful or not.

I spoke with another client who knew that he needed to have text on his web site because the search engines like text. The only problem is that his text was actually a part of a graphic (image file) so the search engines didn’t see any of his text. This meant he was not ranked for any words having to do with his business. When he learned that over 40% of all search is local, he was dismayed to realize the piece of the pie that he was missing.

Search engine optimization is a little bit science and a little bit art. To succeed (to get your site ranked well for key words) takes time. It takes time to understand the latest trends and technologies. It takes time to craft your site so that the content is in align with what the search engines look for. It takes time to build good links from other sites to yours.

So as you prepare your site for the search engines, give us a call to discuss your options.


Google Office?

The word Office has come to mean a suite of productivity products from Microsoft that includes Word, Excel, Outlook and depending on your needs other programs like Access, OneNote and more. But Google, which has become a verb in its own right, is determined to give the Bill Gates and company a run for their money.

Enter Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets. This cool new “product” from Google lets you keep all of your data online so you can edit, retrieve, use your documents from anywhere. And yes, you can import your Microsoft documents and use or save them in Docs and Spreadsheets. But can you afford it? If you can afford $0, you can. Check it out and let us know what you think.

But there’s more to it than word processing and spreadsheets. What about email? Sign up for a free Google email account and you can manage your email from the same interface. And Google really does email pretty well. The interface provides you with all the bells and whistles of modern email clients from filters, to archiving and what about storage space? I’ve got 2.8 GB of space! That’s a pretty big mailbox.

Just like the old cable TV commercials though, I have to say “But wait! There’s more . . .” You can manage contacts, your calendar or group calendaring and much more. The docs and spreadsheets interface even lets me collaborate with others on a document. We can all login and work on it together.

It does sound pretty cool and I continue to learn more as I go, but . . . I have to confess I still use Microsoft and my testing of Office 2007 so far leaves me impressed with how they continue to improve upon their products.


Managing your Information

I seem to remember a song with the lyrics “take time to make time”. I invite you to take a little time now to create extra time for yourself. I wrote previously about how SPAM is taking over our inboxes. There are a few concrete steps you can follow to take back your inbox and manage your information flow.

The easiest is configuring your mail server to tag incoming mail that it suspects is spam with an addition to the header. For example, my mail server uses spam assassin and I have configured it to add “SPAM?” to every header that it suspects might be spam. Then I configured my email client (I use Outlook 2003) to move every message with SPAM? in the header to the Junk Email folder. Now instead of having to wade through the junk in my inbox, I can quickly peruse the Junk Email folder to make sure that there’s nothing valid there and then flush them all away.

But there’s more you can do besides just managing junk. You can also set up rules and filters to copy and move messages around. For example, for most of my subscriptions, I have rules that move the incoming message into a specified subfolder instead of living in my inbox. For example, I belong to several Microsoft newsletters. When one of these newsletters arrives, Outlook looks at it and says “Oh, this is from Microsoft” and moves it my Microsoft folder. Then when I am ready to focus my attention on Microsoft newsletters, I can go and look in that folder.

You can set up rules or filters in any email client worth it’s weight. I’ve got about 20 different rules set up so that I can focus my attention on the unfiltered messages in my inbox when that’s the task I’m focusing on and then focus on the filtered messages when that’s what I’m focusing on.


Unwanted Email

According to Postini (, the amount of spam we get in our inboxes is continuing to rise and is in fact rising dramatically. The question I often get is “Why”? Why would anyone want to do this and who, if anyone benefits?

The question has several answers. One is the “Technology anarchists” who delight in causing mayhem on the Internet. For the sheer pleasure of it, they go out and create viruses and spam to fill up the internet pipelines. I know that I have spent more time than I care to think of simply eliminating junk from my inbox.

Then there are the spammers that actually make money. Even if they only get a .001 response rate from their spam, if they send out 10,000,000 messages, they can make a lot of money. And they obviously don’t care who they inconvenience in the process.

Next there’s folks like you and me. If we don’t have our computers and networks sufficiently protected, the bad guys will use our systems for their launching grounds. They hack into our computers and use their network of 100’s or 1000’s of compromised computers to launch new spam and virus attacks.

There may not be a lot we can do about the first two answers but we can do an awful lot about the third one. First, you need to have a functioning firewall in place that blocks unwanted incoming traffic and monitors outgoing traffic (to alert you if there is unusual outgoing traffic). Next you need to make sure you keep your computer up-to-date with security updates. That used to just mean from Microsoft but now you need to check just about every program you have including Adobe Acrobat Reader and Java to make sure that they are all securely up-to-date.

Then we need to make sure that our computers and network devices have valid, up-to-date antivirus software on them. I am amazed at the number of small businesses that we work with that just don’t “get” the importance of protecting their data, their employees, and their customers by keeping antivirus software up to date.

And in 2007 an anti-spyware package is also essential. Many manufacturer’s now bundle anti-spyware with their anti-virus products but whether they’re bundled or not, you need this protection. Microsoft has a free anti-spyware program that you can download from their web site. It is called Defender.

Finally, we can all exercise a little caution when our surfing. If a web site is trying to download and install a program onto your computer, make sure you understand what it is and what you’re getting yourself into. Many sites have “handy” toolbars that you can use. Many of these are valid like the major search engine toolbars that actually improve your surfing experience. But others are designed to track what pages you visit and then “serve” you ads based on what sites you visit. Also take time to read the license agreement. Often buried deep is the key information saying that by downloading said program, you also agree to download and install another program that will, in effect spy on you.


Weather and Technology

Ain’t technology great? We were pretty much snowed in for the better part of two days and yet we were never more than a couple of clicks from most of our network clients. Via technologies like Remote Desktop Connection and GoToMyPc, as long as both ends have an Internet connection, we are connected.

The Remote Desktop Connection isn’t as fully featured as gotomypc but it is fairly easy to set up. The essentials are:

  1. Running windows xp professional or higher
    The computer want to be the host (the one you will access), needs to be running Windows XP Pro (not home), Vista or Windows 2003 Server.
  2. Having a strong, secure password
    If you’re going to access your computer from the Internet, then others (such as hackers) could too. Make your password AT LEAST 8 characters long. Use letters, numbers and special characters.
  3. Knowing your IP address
    If your computer is hooked directly to the Internet via a cable modem, this is easy but hopefully you have a firewall or router between you and the Internet. In any case, the first step is to visit If you have a router or firewall you’ll need to open port 3389.
  4. Turning on Remote Desktop access
    This is an easy step. Just open the System Properties in the Control Panel and click on the Remote tab. Under Remote Desktop, check the box to Allow User to connect remotely.

Once those are done, on the computer you are trying to connect from, Click on Start, Accessories, Communications and Remote Desktop. In the Computer blank, type in the IP address you got from step 3 and click Connect. Type in your user name and password and you’re off and running.



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