It’s a good question. A very good one. And one that we need to answer and improve on as right now we’re doing an injustice to ourselves and our customer facing teams that work every hour under the sun to deliver the service that we do.
Let me take a step back and explain where this question comes from. I’ve just returned from a trip to London where I met some of our clients and attended LinkLove, a SEO/marketing conference that attracts some of the smartest SEO minds around.
I used this trip to also do some networking and meet with WebHostingBuzz clients. On Thursday, I met with Neville Hobson and Andrew Grill. Both are dedicated server clients who run high profile WordPress blogs on a WebHostingBuzz dedicated server. We met at The Hospital Club, one of Andrew’s favorite haunts, for an informal meeting. The agenda was blogging, WordPress, hosting, how they find our service and just a general catch up. We all enjoyed it and agreed to make this a regular event. But I came away from the meeting wondering why we aren’t doing more to promote just how good our service us. I know it’s good – I see the figures, the stats, the response times, the uptime that we deliver – but hearing this in person, verbatim, from two of the most influential bloggers around was extremely endearing.
Fast forward to Friday. Two different clients were attending LinkLove and we decided that we’d meet at the post-event networking session. These clients are ScreamingFrog and Spiral Media. ScreamingFrog are a highly innovative SEO agency (we use them ourselves) who have a managed server in our UK datacentre. Spiral Media build some pretty cool Magento-based e-commerce websites and also have a dedicated server with us. We all chatted over a drink at the post event networking session and almost the very same question came up; “Why don’t you tell people how good your support is?”.
That’s twice in two days. 4 different clients, 2 different datacenter locations. Neville and Andrew have US based servers while ScreamingFrog and Spiral Media have UK based servers. But our same team supports both and all 4 have noted just how good our support and service is. They benefit from and enjoy our sub-20 minute response times.
So let’s move on to actually answering that question and doing something about it. Our new website is a work of art. We spent a lot of time trying to make it a little different from the mundane sites our competitors offer. We tried to focus on that our USP is our service. We’re under no illusion that we’re not the cheapest web host (nor the most expensive). But it is obvious we need to do more in mentioning that we are the best for customer service. We’re going to be brainstorming this internally but we’re very open to your ideas and suggestions on how we can do this.
I’ll close by noting what we aspire to. What we do, enjoy and what makes us tick. We like nothing more than to help a client grow their website / business and we have an incredible number of success stories. It’s hugely rewarding to watch a client grow from a shared account to a full dedicated server, or in some cases, multiple dedicated servers. Knowing that we’ve helped them along by maintaining their hosting and providing the underlying infrastructure is something we take great pride in.
When was the last time you checked your website to ensure that it’s effectively supporting your business goals?
In this age of social communication that’s rapidly evolving as tools and channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Vine become part of the mainstream experience for millions of consumers, is your digital presence up to scratch?
We’re now in the post-PC era, according to some, where access to and interaction with content of every type is on demand, anywhere, any time via the device you have to hand, so to speak.
And if you’re the kind of person who visits a store for product and price research and comparisons and then buys from Amazon or other online retailer via your mobile device – often while in that physical store – you’re not alone.
All this brings many important issues to the forefront of your thinking. Search engine optimization, lead generation and sales lead capture, site performance, content curation and marketing, website usability and engagement…and that’s just for starters.
There’s much to think about and future posts here will discuss many of those topics. Today, though, I’d like to address one that is a good place to begin – usability and engagement. Those two words speak to the question: How easy is it for people who land on your website via a mobile device to actually use your website?
Remember, the clear trend is towards mobile. Even though PCs and other fixed-location and portable devices still account for the vast majority of website traffic, more people are coming to your website via a mobile device, whether on the three-inch screen of an iPhone 4S or the ten-inch screen of a Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and everything in between.
Mobile devices are ever more powerful with each new model, offering faster processor speeds and gorgeous graphics capabilities. Networks, wifi and cellular, are popping up everyone so you can be online wherever you are and whenever you want.
All of this translates into one key fact – when someone sees your website on their device screen, what happens at that point?
Do they get to what they want with a couple of swipes or taps? Or are they a bouncer, leaving your site in three seconds or less? If the latter, they’re gone and probably for good.
You can see where this is leading, right? Make sure your website is designed for mobile devices?
Absolutely, but not exclusively. You need to ensure that your website works for your visitors when they see your website on whatever device they are using, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC.
While discussion can get quite technical when you dive into topics like HTML5, not to mention the pragmatism of how much things will cost, there are three simple words you and I can easily understand.
In a nutshell, this is about enabling your content to be seen, consumed, shared and otherwise give value to those who come to see you online, no matter how they do it – with a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC.
Your website just works and works seamlessly on whatever device, delivering a consistent usability and user experience.
If you want to see what I mean, check out this imaginative video published by tech news website ReadWrite on their website relaunch last October. It’s the best video I’ve seen so far that lets you see exactly what ‘responsive web design’ means to the user.
Making sure your website is usable when seen on any device is not as complex as it may seem. And if you use a content management system such as WordPress, it gets even easier. Note, too, these broad web design trends.
Think about it. Delivering satisfied and engaged website users, on their terms using their preferred device, is today’s business aspiration.
We are launching iPad mini and Kindle giveaway for affiliates who perform most sales in March. This is on top of our already generous affiliate commissions!
We suggest you list WebHostingBuzz as the most prominent host on your website to increase your chances of winning. Need a custom coupon code, banner, graphic of landing page? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get this created for you.
1. First prize is an iPad mini 16GB for the affiliate who drives the most converted sales in March. Second prize is an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Wifi for the affiliate who sends the second highest amount of sales in March.
2013 marks 30 years since the release of the Apple Lisa the first personal computer that featured a graphical user interface.
In a celebration that nerds would be proud of, we have created an interactive timeline of personal computers through the years. You can see this at www.webhostingbuzz.com/evolution-of-computer/. Don’t forget to hover over a computers name to read about it’s impact on the computing world. It’s worth noting that for some reason the timeline runs best in Firefox.
The timeline doesn’t cover every PC ever released but it covers those that were the greatest milestones in the evolution of the PC’s to what they are today.
We found oldcomputers.net to be a fantastic resource when we were researching the timeline and we recommend anyone looking into the history of computers to check it out.
Is your favourite PC missing from the timeline then let us know why it should be included in the comments below (these are powered by Facebook).
Those of you that have followed WebHostingBuzz for some time will know that we take the environment very seriously. We care about the world in which we do business and as a fairly heavy consumer of electricity due to the amount of servers we run, we like to give back and minimize any impact our operations have.
Almost 6 years ago we partnered with the ITF (International Tree Foundation) to sponsor tree planting campaigns across Africa. This partnership ran its course and in recent weeks, we’ve been looking for a new partner to work with to help reduce our environmental impact.
Introducing the Woodland Trust…
The Woodland Trust is a UK based organization that looks to conserve woods and trees. They also help businesses minimise their impact by allowing businesses to make financial contributions and grants to the good work that they do. And we at WebHostingBuzz have done just that. We’ve joined The Woodland Trust as a corporate member and will be making an annual donation to help the good work that they do.
Why The Woodland Trust?
When we work with an organization, we look for one that shares similar values to us. We don’t just buy carbon credits to make some feeble claim that we’re carbon neutral. Instead, we select a partner carefully that we can work with long-term and work with to promote a greener, environmentally friendly hosting market. The Woodland Trust met all of our selection criteria and further to that, they are headquartered just 20 miles from our UK datacenter.
Our partnership with them means we’ll both be presenting regular news and updates on the good work that our sponsorship is allowing them to do.
Any business that provides a service that involves storing data should understand the importance of data security. And to be honest, all too often we’ve witnessed the undesirable results when data security is breached. It can be human error (or judgement – Wikileaks?), system error (hacking/compromised systems) or a combination of both. From wikileaks secrets being made public, to governments losing important documents, to bank/credit card details being exposed – any breach of data security can have catastrophic results.
As a hosting provider, you are entrusting us with important and perhaps confidential website files, databases and emails. We’ve spoken before about the great lengths we go to to secure, protect and manage data in an appropriate manner on our live production servers. And the methods we employ, most of which we keep private for security through obscurity, constantly evolve.
But what we can share is what we do when a server, or in this case a hard drive, is retired. Our web servers are generally on a 4-5 year upgrade cycle to keep hardware fresh, powerful and reliable. But hard drives, with all of their moving parts, are more prone to failure. Hard drive manufacturers (Hitachi, Western Digital, Seagate) now offer some of the best warranties that they ever have. The Enteprise drives we use now come with a 5 year warranty. But previous drives came with a 3 year warranty and can fail when out of warranty. We take a very pro-active approach to hard drive maintenance and at the first sign of something being untoward with a particular disk, it is removed from the server (all of our servers use RAID so we can do this on the fly), tested, warranty checked and if in warranty, securely returned to the vendor for replacement.
Drives that fail out of warranty are dealt with in a secure way. They meed an untimely end at the hands of our datacenter staff. And a picture is worth 1000 words here…
8 drives that have gone to hard drive heaven
So rest assured that any data remaining on a failed drive is destroyed in a secure way
I often get asked how to get started with social media. What is the best way, the best place, to talk to customers? How do you do that? Just start tweeting or posting to Facebook or LinkedIn?
These are natural questions, yet they shouldn’t be the first ones to come to mind, even if they seem the obvious ones.
There’s a far more important step to take before you start talking.
If you want to understand how your customers perceive you, your company or your brand, you have to do that on their terms, not yours. You need to be where they are, not trying to get them to come to a place that you prefer, eg, your business website.
While that can mean spending time on a Facebook page, creating a Twitter handle or uploading video to YouTube, you ought to take a more strategic look at what’s happening online before you make that jump.
Not only that, you need to know what they’re talking about.
That starts with listening not talking. Pay attention to all those online voices and discover what they’re saying about you and the things that are important to your business, whatever size it is. You need to know what the conversation is before you join it.
Think about that. Can you answer these three primary questions:
Do you know how, where and when your customers discuss your brand online?
And what they’re talking about in relation to topics you care about?
Do you really know?
There are simple steps you can easily follow that will not only give you valuable insight into how others see you and what they say about you online but also give you actionable insight and confidence on what your first steps should be.
You can take your first step today. That first step includes asking yourself what you are going to listen for.
For instance, are you listening to online discussions for reputation management or customer service reasons? Do you want to gather business intelligence and get feedback on your brand? Or are you looking to find conversations you can join so your organization can get exposure in front of new audiences?
And, you need to be clear in your focus:
You must have a clear objective.
Your objective should be measurable.
You must be able to answer the question: how does your use of social media help you achieve your objective? (what some would say “What’s the ROI?”).
With those foundational steps taken, you can now make a start:
Listen and learn – know your customer’s world online with precision. No more guesswork.
Focus on actionable insights – what exactly can inform your planning.
Identify who drives share of conversation – who you should pay attention to: with whom you might engage.
Expand your reach with a clear focus – think of new ways to add value and really engage with your customers and communities.
What’s important isn’t the tools and the channels. Social media is about people and new, simpler and more effective means of connecting with other people.
Above all else, listening is paramount. It’s what you do before you start or conduct any engagement activity online, from leaving simple comments on a blog or typing your update message in Twitter, to a deeper relationship-building exercise with a prominent influencer.
Listening lets you discover who’s saying what – useful knowledge in planning how to engage effectively, before you start to engage.
Guest blogger Neville Hobson is an entrepreneurial communications professional with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. He’s an early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. He co-hosts the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. He’s an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects and he’s a WHB Ambassador. Follow Neville on Twitter and Google+.
We maintain a datacenter right outside New York City in Clifton, NJ. Like most people on the eastern seaboard, we’ve been monitoring the progress of Hurricane Sandy. Given the possible severity of Hurricane Sandy, we have rolled our a hurricane response plan and will be fully operational throughout.
Like all the datacenters we use, the facility has fully redundant power systems including UPS and generator backup. The datacenter is sufficiently inland to not be at risk from any storm surge and the building is hurricane resistant but there is possibility of losing grid power as a result of the hurricane.
With this in mind, we’ve undertaken a number of precautions:
Generators, already tested on a regular basis, have been re-tested for readiness.
Generators, UPS and transfer systems have had an extra maintenance check. This is in addition to the regular scheduled checks.
Extra diesel fuel is on site to fuel the generators for up to a week. Refueling contracts are (and always have been) in place.
For those in the path of the storm, stay safe. Our thoughts are with you.