Start-up list of the stuff you just have to have for a new business

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I recently went and did some work with employees in the public sector. While they have to be very carefully with storage, security and content, they are able to use some of the free tools for social media and related ‘stuff’. Being in the public sector and not attending the free events that smaller business would go to, some of the simple free tools had not been presented to them and they have been missing out.

 

Here is my start-up list of the stuff you just have to have for a new business, that you might not be aware of, if you haven’t been to any events yet. Feel free to copy and paste, share and pass on.

 

https://mail.google.com

This is how you would be best served for emails. Sign up an account with the company name and make sure you contact your website developer to make your www.frankswindows.co.uk set up with yourname@frankswindows.co.uk but run through your Gmail account. You can actually run all of your business emails from your own Gmail account, but still send as yourname@frankswindows.co.uk (or accounts, sales or info e,c,t)

https://www.dropbox.com

Why store your documents, posters, articles and work on a PC, only to get to the office (or a customers) and want the document. Sign up for DropBox and use the cloud hosted data option. You can even set it up on more than one PC, as if it was a hard drive on the machine! It’s password protected and you can share folders with other DropBox users.

https://www.linkedin.com (interests, companies, then create a company page)

Are you using LinkedIn personally? If you are in business or have a career then you need to be. You can also add a business to LinkedIn and share your findings, promote your activity and gain followers. You can then add a LinkedIn button to your website.

https://www.canva.com

A free tool for making Facebook banners, posters, flyers and small banners for websites and social media. Use the template size, for the right file and image size to suit the project you are working on. Simple and easy to use for sure.

https://twitter.com

You just have to be on Twitter! – You can then add a Twitter button to your website. If you are not sure about Twitter, contact me for support or find one of your local half day Twitter courses.

https://www.facebook.com/business (create page option)

People are on Facebook, but people can then add a page to Facebook. Do not sign up for a new account on Facebook as the business. Make a lovely banner for the business page using Canva above.

https://tweetdeck.com

What if you could load up all of your Tweets for a month! – I am writing this blog today, but the Tweet will go out with a link when I am on holiday next week – to keep the traffic up on my Twitter account. I will also Tweet it again in a month or so, encase anyone missed it. You can add images to delayed Tweets, but you can’t re-Tweet stuff with it. You can also administer more than one account!

https://ifttt.com

Rule based outcomes from tools. When I share an image on Instagram, it also posts it on Twitter (as an image), saving me having to remember to put out for my Twitter followers. It also switches on the lights behind my TV at home, after sunset, and turns them off at mid-night. You can do so much more with this. Maybe, every time you get an order on your website, a horn sounds in the warehouse!

https://www.evernote.com

This is for when you grow, or have more than a few customers or projects,

 

 

 

 

Where is my website hosted - emails

Hosting and emails explained.

Posted on Posted in Prockie's Blog

Renewals and hosting of websites. (in a simple version for non-teckys)

One of the things I have to explain quite often is the relationship and process of owning a domain, where it sits on the internet, emails and the admin of the domain.

 

I hope this helps!

 

Ownership.

If the website is yours, if you paid for it, or had the idea for the website you should be the owner. You have to be named, with an address (and phone number) to have a domain. It is wrong of the website developer to have their name on the registry as the owner. You can buy your own domain yourself and people flock to Go Daddy and 1&1. If you are getting yourself started, tell a website developer what www name you want, and they can buy it in your name on their account. This makes it much easier when we want to do work for you. But do make sure it’s in your name!

To check your UK website, click here and enter your website domain name and you need the “http://” bit at the start as well as the ‘www’ so best to copy and paste it from your browser.  For non UK, please click this website tool.

If you are the owner, you can retrieve, grab, snatch your website domain off any developer – as long as you can prove to the registry that you are the owner. This never happens, but I wanted to give you the confidence to know it can be done. So make sure the domain is registered in your name to avoid any hassle later. If you are worried, contact your developer – nothing to hide, no embarrassment of course!

 

Where is my website?

Your domain is normally on someone’s hosting account. This might be your own account with Go Daddy , 1&1 or Heart Internet, or a company that a website developer uses. Some people have the website on the server (PC) in their office. On-line hosts normally have better protection and ‘up-time’ so don’t try and save money having it on your own computer. Your files sit on a server with a company or on your PC (rarely) and when someone goes to your website, the domain calls for the files, reads them, works out how you want your website displayed and shows it.

Sometimes, (like when you have an e-commerce shop), the website points away from your domain to the company providing your shop without the customer even knowing (and this is fine). Your www.name still looks the same, but they could be in a different place.

 

Emails.

I so often see a van with www.andyscarwash.co.uk and then an email address such as andywash11@aol.com.  Why would anyone have a website domain and not have andy@andyscarwash.co.uk as the printed email address? If you have a website and have business cards in this format – you need to sort it out! It is a simple action in the admin area discussed below and will make your business look much stronger. You don’t even ‘need’ to send as andy@andyscarwash.co.uk, but at least have it on your printed media and sign writing.

Emails can be simply forwarding rules like I do with mine – andy@andyproctor.co.uk points to proctorandy@gmail.com. You can of course have a mailbox set up (sometimes extra monthly charges apply). You can also use Gmail to send as the proper email address and this can be done by most teckys. A simple forwarding rule is free and can be done in the admin area.

 

Admin.

The hosting ‘place’ will have an access portal. This is password protected so that the website administration can be access day and night for backing up, tinkering with at file level, changing the emails set up and having the websites records changed for you. For your website to run, without needing any changes this is not accessed from day to day, or even week to week. With software like WordPress and Joomla, you don’t even need to enter the hosting place at all to change the website. With an e-commerce website, you can do all your changes on-line. Don’t worry if your website developer doesn’t give you access to the hosting space – you might break something! I would feel happier if they had given you some kind of access portal (Called Extend with my hosting)

You also need to be sure that when the domain expires each year, someone is renewing it for you!

 

Summary.
  • Do you own your website? If not, get it changed by the developer (and ask why!)
  • Have you got the right looking email set up?
  • Is your hosting secure – ask if it does a daily backup for just encase.
  • Is it being renewed each year?

 

Are you happy and confident that everything is OK?

 

Broadband Speed Test

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I live in a rural area where conventional broadband is just not worth paying for. When I moved in, a neighbour asked what I did for a living and winced, telling me that the BT speed was terrible and it takes up to five minutes to log-in to his banking and pay a single bill.

 

But there was an answer!

Alton Broadband is a community internet based group set up by a few people who needed better broadband in the village. They purchased the infrastructure and installed radio repeaters with a feed from a good connection in another village to provide a faster service than the ‘twisted pair’. With repeaters on larger houses, the church and the pub, locals can benefit from this service at an affordable cost.

Speed testing onlineI live in a small hamlet coming off a unique feed separate to the main incoming signal. I was experiencing issues and losses, so the mangers asked me to do some periodic speed tests.

Using the Speed Checking Tool needed me to remember to do it and then email it to them – and I kept forgetting, for weeks on end!

I suggested using a Raspberry Pi to automate this and they liked it. With the excellent coding skills of Vincent Wilcox, a Raspberry Pi, SD card and power adapter we are giving Alton Broadband a Christmas present.

Vincent has made some code that carries out an automatic speed test every hour. The data is saved to a Raspberry Pi and then uploaded to an email address at 2am each morning. A few adjustments have been made and developments that I don’t understand, but Vincent assured me it would make the whole package stable, consistent and accountable. 

Raspberry Pi Broadband Speed CheckerI purchased a case on-line, Vincent kindly burnt the SD card with an operating system and added his code that runs when the Raspberry Pi starts up. A small buzzer was added to the GPIO pins so that a ‘success beep’ can be heard if the RaspberryPi boots up OK. There is no monitor needed, no keyboard or mouse in the USB, just the Ethernet cable for access to the router for the speed test. It’s intended that the Alton Broadband team can give anyone the box, plug it in to the power socket, plug in a patch cable from the Raspberry Pi to their router and leave it to start up and do the test every hour, on the hour.

Vincent has also burnt the code to my own Raspberry Pi and I will leave it running here at home, emailing Vincent, myself and the Alton Broadband team the results each night. The other one can be loaned to ‘customers’ experiencing difficulties to measure how their broadband is performing for as long as it’s plugged in. It won’t check the WiFi, just the internet coming down the feed from the Alton Broadband service and doesn’t need any attention or commands, input or management on-site.

 

Do you want the code?

In the true theme of Raspberry Pi and open source, Vincent has put all of his code on-line and he is working on a new and improved device. He has also expanded his code, to use a permanent ink screen to show results, maybe when talking to a customer service rep about your broadband speed and you can see it working here.

Here is the link to the code that Vincent has very kindly shared for you to use on your own Raspberry Pi to test your own internet connection https://github.com/vwillcox/speedtest-cron.

Are you interested in the Raspberry Pi and the kind of stuff that Vincent does? Why not come to our next event in Ipswich – http://www.ipswichraspberryjam.co.uk/

Thank you to Vincent for his time an efforts making this all possible.

Zello PTT app Ptt Screen

Zello PTT on iPhone

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Being an amateur ration licence holder means I am very interested in radio. I saw the benefits using UHF radios when volunteering with Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue, but being a Community Responder there is a great interest in Airwaves radios as they use a far superior network, with better coverage and Geo-location on the system. I have been through the journey of two app’s for iTunes myself and I am always impressed (and envious) when I see a good job and want to share a good app if it’s free!

Zello App on iPhoneWhile we aren’t supported (CFR’s) with the Airwaves network that Police, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance service are provided with, the PTT over the internet option does interest me. With Airwaves, you are connected to the mobile phone network and a bridge to the internet and as long as you have a phone/radio signal; you are on the network. Airwaves radios also have a small ‘stubby’ external Ariel and get better gain for a better send and receive signal over standard phones.

The Zello app is one of the many that I have tried that I have bothered using, sharing and promoting as Zello actually works really well. If you want to speak to one person, you should call them by dialling in the normal way of course. But what if you wanted to ask a general question, set up a rendezvous with many people or have an open dialogue or debate with more than one person? PTT app’s are very good and behave in a similar way to the Airwaves system with groups, peer-to-peer and password channels.

 

So why do I use it?

I have two friends down in Kent and we are always collaborating on stuff, going down, meeting them out and about and arranging events and projects. Sometimes we need 3 or 4 of us to chip in and have an answer. Only one person can speak at a time and distance is not a limitation so a PTT type conversation is perfect if you have 3G or WiFi. We have our own channel set up on Zello, just for the four of us, that I monitor and can see if they’re logged in or not, or set to ‘busy’ so I know they might not answer if I call.

This morning, I spoke to a fellow Community Responder over in the next Village about who is going to be on call today. If another Responder fancied doing it, he/she could have chipped in and offered to do the afternoon slot for us. We can also arrange swapping over kit and talk about consumables used. We have two new members that are starting calls next week and they can have the Zello App on, calling us if they are waiting at home on call or when they get back home from a job for a de-brief and support. We can all listen in and offer support, even messaging each other, or turn the channel off if we are sleeping or don’t want to be disturbed. (We do have a password on the channel and do not share any sensitive information). You can also have more than one channel open/monitored at a time.

Using it for work or safety.

Zello Channel and moreWhile I don’t see a use for call-outs from Ambulance Control, as the signal is poor in rural communities and it wouldn’t be adopted by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust as it’s not secure or robust, one of my friends does use it commercially for his business. Zello do have a commercial subscription service for business but the free download does all you would need. My friend has one office in Kent and another in Suffolk and all of the staff are now connected in an open way, as if they are in the next room without the limitation of distance. Staff that wouldn’t normally collaborate are now sharing resources and saving costs. You might say that someone could approach Zello and ask them for a version adapted for Community Responders? They have already done the work, have the technology and resources but it’s that Airwaves Radio, with great connection and an external Ariel and made specifically for the job that ensures your transmission makes the trip.

If you’re planning a trip, from many parts of the country all travelling down to the same place, setting up an event with people or just fancy messing around I would recommend the Zello app as it really works well. You can also listen back over conversations you have had in the past, if you missed some critical information. It works!

Give it a try and call me up! – search for Prockie in Zello. https://zello.com/ (Check out the Night Owls Truckers Channel)

Some of the products sold on-line

Evance and flowers!

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I recently did 10 weeks e-commerce consultancy for a Felixstowe based Weddings and Flower craft importer.  Their existing website just wasn’t up to scratch.  The director Chris, saw my BBC video and that I had posted my CV on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and got me in to update and help with the company’s on-line presence. I am now a director of the company and looking forward to the new opportunity.

E-commerce is a simple thing, but knowing the business of selling, as well as how websites are made is a real bonus.  If you can tie all of this up with the people that need to administer it and getting sales – you’v cracked it.  Once you have the sales, if you can deliver the goods efficiently you’re half way there. The rest of the success is planning, financing and running the business. While someone else manages the money and I do the ‘techy’ stuff, it’s going to grow and grow and I am looking forward to being part of something amazing.

Some the products we sell on-lineThe old website for the company was on Zencart and the developers struggled to get the databased of products and customers of it. It seems very clunky and sales weren’t forthcoming at all.  We have chosen Evance for the platform. I am aware of Shopify, and Woo Commerce and have used Big Commerce for many years but the fact that they are based in Ipswich means that we have have a face-to-face relationship. Evance has a lead developer who is a great communicator and listens to development ideas and input making you feel part owner of the improvements in some way. Having used the platform, I love it!

The photography has been hard and is still ongoing but I have (of course) managed to get a Raspberry Pi involved with a stepper motor and a co-directors Lazy Susan and that will be a blog for next time!  Evance has a fantastic 360 imaging tool and something was needed to help automate and standardise this – so I got the soldering iron out and made something to help with this (see blog)

Work goes on and you can see the website live here http://www.wfctrade.co.uk/

 

Andy Proctor on the BBC

BBC Film about me.

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The BBC came and filmed me about the iDataTruck RaspberryPi project in early December 2014 and it was shown on the home page of the BBC website on Wednesday 14th January 2015.  It was the second most watched on-line video that day, often being the most watched a few times during the day.  It had 196,00 views in 24 hours and was re-tweeted to over 3.5million people within 48 hours.

This website (www.idatatruck.co.uk) saw 10,000 hits in the initial 72 hours with a very strong bounce rate. My own website had 750 new users in 96 hours and mostly from the UK.  (there is a link on the bottom of the IDataTruck website to my own website, as I made the website myself).

35 people Googled “Andy Proctor” to find my website (and 28 stayed).  My own bounce rate on this website has suffered as a result though. I wouldn’t say that I have had any more work for websites from it, but I have had over 25 emails offering tools, support and services from Universities, Businesses and individuals wanting help and support me with my RaspberryPi projects.

I am very excited and humbled by the contacts, tweets and people saying that they have shown my video to classes, presentations and seminars on programming, self development and motivational sessions as one-to-one and large groups – all because of the YouTube video I uploaded and the BBC seeing this and contacting me about making this film.

The video is below and can also be watched on the BBC website.

Dave's review about volunteering at YoungVoice

A review to be proud of – Mentoring.

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Dave, one of the YoungVoice successes has left a lovely review on LinkedIn and I wanted to share it here in this post.  I am very proud of him indeed and thank him for his kind words.
“I attended a job fare at the university campus in Ipswich to see if there were any local opportunities with my skills after graduating from Bucks New University (Ba Hons Digital animation and interactive design).

I spoke to an advisor and said I was interested in going freelance as a web design/graphic designer and perhaps starting my own small design business. She introduced me to Andy and he kindly welcomed me into his office and spoke to me very openly about his business Andy Proctor Ltd and his charity project YoungVoice, and asked me what I did and where I hoped to go with it. It was inspiring to actually meet someone doing what I hoped to be doing one day (Building websites for actual customers for a living and not just for fun).

After Andy gave up over an hour of his time talking to me and sharing, what I now believe to be invaluable information in the field of web development and good business in general. He offered me a volunteer position with YoungVoice, where I could work on real projects and at the same time, offered to be my mentor.
I accepted the offer immediately as I could tell that it was an amazing opportunity for me, plus I could tell that Andy was a really friendly, knowledgeable and honest guy that I would enjoy working with and being mentored by.

It was an absolute pleasure and an awesome learning curve working with Andy, from the start I felt that he trusted me and had faith in my skills which boosted my confidence right from the off. I was building websites for YoungVoice on day one, which is what I wanted to be doing (so was invaluable for me). I knew WordPress fairly well before meeting Andy, but he taught me lots of tips and tricks that I wasn’t aware of.

Andy also recognised my graphic design and animation skills, and went out of his way to find me many graphic design and animation jobs and promote my skills amongst his many contacts in various industries, which was ideal for me as it gave me a chance to work on my full range of skills pretty much daily.

Andy’s positivity and determination was infectious and really motivated me.
Without fail, at some point each day he would stop what he was doing and kindly take time out to share valuable knowledge, not only specific to the web design industry but business in general, eg negotiating, tax, Admin e.g. Pitching, quoting, invoicing, correspondence and much more.

Within Three months of working with Andy, I set up my own Business Starfuse Design. I know this would not of been possible so soon without the masses of support and encouragement from Andy. Every step of the way he was there and happy to help.

I don’t think I could ever have learnt the skills I learned while working with Andy, at university. (Especially the practical skills like negotiating, pitching and admin).
Thank you Andy.

David Letts.

See Dave’s company here http://starfuse.co.uk/

Why is Google Places For Business Important

Google places for business

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One way to be sure to ‘help’ your business, community or groups website get found on Google is of course doing the things that Google asks of you. We all understand that having Google Analytics installed will give you the results you need for the visits you have had and that Webmaster Tools will tell you how many times the ones you aren’t being found for are used, but what tools can we use to help our rankings?

Using free tools is of course a good start. Using Googles tools keeps them happy and also shows them that you are doing what you should be with your website, as your doing this, where others may not be.

This is the important bit!

Google places for business is linked to your gmail email account (Google account) and you need to create your listing for your location on Google Places For Business maps. This regionalises your search and you can put a radius that you operate on it as well as opening hours. I find that putting your business hours of opening actually helps with your website being shown at the right time of day for your business as well as the actual map listings results with the red pin on the map in the search results. The radius makes your website shown in the right area, not wasted nationally affecting your bounce rate.

So, if your business is not on Google Places for business you can do this yourself and need to do it.

For more support and advice, I have another blog with more about how to get found on Google.

How to think of the customer when blogging

Boring Blogging – For Business

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So we all hear how important it is to blog.  And this is easy right? – How many of us sit at our computer, and think “must blog”.  You are right and regular ‘relevant’ updated content is very important for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and of course marketing through engagement and return visitors also works for some websites.

Next time you blog, make it engaging and entertaining but make sure you use the right language to make it found and achieve a better bounce rate for your website.

My most inspiring and rewarding interjection in my training that has the most outcomes is asking staff or stakeholders how their customers describe their products or services.  This week I worked with an industrial paint company and their task seemed easy as all the customers are ‘trade’ and therefore use trade words (to find them).  But what if they are painting something new?  They know that they need a Prima, Epoxy based powder paint and an oven to bake it in, but what would they Google (and connect with the company) if they had never painted this material before?

The language you use, may not be what comes off the end of your customers fingers!

I found out that when you paint a shipping container, you need a specific type of paint.  So if someone who has never painted a shipping container before looks for the paint they need, they may enter “Shipping Container Paint” or “TEU 40ft Paint”… Where on the website, do they have “40ft and 20ft TEU Metal Shipping Container Paint” on a page talking about metal paint – or a product in their store with this in the description?

Seems easy right? –

Well it may be if you’re from the outside looking in, but it’s hard if you’re in that industry to be your customer with their own unique language and words (maybe even slang)

If you’re looking for keywords for what people use to find your products and services, maybe the sales team need to put some pages, blog and content on the descriptions – but maybe the people that answer the phones, the van drivers and guys in the warehouse need to have a say in this from their alternative environment.  Perhaps an open and active learning session with the staff, for the webmaster to have more vision of the needs of wording and long tail keywords on the website and product descriptions is needed?

There is much more to blogging, like structure and tagging and thinking why you are blogging that day for the right attraction, but the language of your customers is one that I wanted to share with you, so thanks for reading. – And no,  I was not thinking about the language that people would use and put it on this page when I wrote it (maybe I didn’t know what it was!)

Here is another blog about how to get your website found online.