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What Software as a Service Means

What Software as a Service Means

Don’t look now, but we pulled out the street-sign image for this topic. It’s a very easy thing to do, say that you offer a full suite of support for a client, especially in the internet age where an email address and a domain name can make you a service-based company online. Unfortunately for clients, these things do not automate the process of actually providing valuable service to the client.

When establishing Chewie Media, we decided that we did not wish to keep clients at arms length, or that we would set up ways to distance ourselves and our support from the end user; Chewie Media would be a company that would go the extra mile for the client, even if the request was not explicitly stated in an agreement.

But what does this mean for software as a service?

Since Chewie Media launched its Bid Intent initiative, we’ve been able to better define what a client should expect from a software as a service. Traditional software, such as Quickbooks or Outlook, has a discreet set of features and is advertised to operate a certain way for the life of the product; chances are the bug you find the first day of using it will be there until you buy a new version or use a different program. With software as a service such as Bid Intent, a client is paying an ongoing service fee to use the software. Because of this ongoing service fee, there are a set of characteristics that a client should expect out of anyone providing “software as a service”.

Timely and Substantial Updates – Software as a service should demonstrate consitent growth and maturation of the product; those service fees should be going towards ensuring the product improves all the time.

Sweeping Support – Help Desk is a must, and a willingness to update the product due to feedback should be obvious.

Uptime – While this is never something thought of when initially deciding to use a hosted software, both the track record of uptime as well as the current capabilities to provide consistent opperating hours is the difference between simply using a service or relying on a service.

Feedback – Feedback is a two-way street, and the service provider is also responsible to give feedback to the end user when needed; updates and big fixes are great, but no notification of these leaves every user in the dark about them.

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Nothing worth doing… or Mistakes business owners make with their website and how it may be costing you money

We all know the sayings.  Time is money, nothing worth doing is easy, let the experts be the experts.  As a business owner, you may have romanticized about the idea of spending all of your time doing what you love.  Spending coffee-filled mornings on the laptop answering emails.  The truth is that there is very little time for coffee or emails; you must wear many different hats in a day, especially when you are running a small business – and unfortunately, none of these hats can be silly.  You are your own marketing, accountant, PR, secretary, account manager, project manager, etc.  This leaves very little time to actually do the thing that got you into starting your own business in the first place!  As business owners, we become obsessed with the need to do everything ourselves, to be able to wear all of those hats proudly and with confidence.  We strive to save money and do a great job all at the same time.

This also becomes a cycle that begins taking more and more time away from the actual “business” part of the business.  It eats into hours of potential productive time while we learn that new role, or try and accomplish a task that someone who is an expert in their field would take a fraction of the time doing.

Sometimes, it’s better to hire someone to wear that hat for us.

We’ve been bombarded with services that offer the “do it yourself website.”  It costs next to nothing and you get a website.  I already talk about treating your website as the biggest marketing tool you have, but beyond this, not hiring a professional website builder to build your business’ website may be costing you some serious money.  Here are some costly mistakes, and how easy it is to make them.

 

1. No Call to Action

It’s simply incredible the amount of websites out there that serve to get potential customers to purchase a product or service without actually asking that potential customer to purchase the product or service.  Not telling a visitor of your website what you would like them to do can leave a customer looking elsewhere when they were ready to make a decision.  On top of this, a large portion of small businesses do not even list their contact information on the front page.  These businesses are turning people away at the door.

 

2.  No Ongoing Support

The best way to avoid costly security breaches is to make sure the website is protected in the first place

Chewie Media has changed our preferred method of building sites to a monthly plan instead of a lump sum in large part because it keeps the websites updated and maintained.  Have you ever visited a site and had the link go to a completely different page or domain?  This is the result of that website being hijacked – and with no trained professional to prevent it, that website is down and inflicting damage on the company’s brand and credibility.  If this hijacked website gets too out of hand, Google may even choose to “de-list” the website, making it difficult to get that website back on search engines without costly emergency support.  The best way to avoid costly security breaches is to make sure the website is protected in the first place.  Preventative care costs a mere fraction of what it would cost to fix once it has happened.

 

3.  Set it and Forget it

Similar to number 2, most businesses have a “set it” and “forget it” mentality to their website.  They get it online, breathe a sigh of relief, and then let it sit for a year.  A stagnant website is a dead website and if visitors never see activity, they are quick to move to the next site which does have activity.  With so much to choose from, they can be as picky as they want.  Which brings us to…

 

4.  Poorly Designed and Developed Websites

A properly designed website can give you the confidence to bite off more than you thought you could chew… and that’s really what we’re about here.

This is a big one.  There are so many websites out there now that it is imperative to at the very least look as good as your competitors, and ideally set yourself apart from competitors.  Website design influences the first feelings a person will ever have about your company *cue warm and fuzzy music*.

This is your storefront.

This is what will inspire confidence in your future customers.

This will set the tone for your entire relationship with them.

Yes it sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.  A properly built and designed website can have you handing out business cards and dropping your domain name with confidence.  A properly designed website can give you the confidence to bite off more than you thought you could chew… and that’s really what we’re about here.

Have some honest friends and colleagues look at your existing site through the lens of a first time customer.  What does your site say about your business?  Does it say what you want it to say?

 

5.  Doing it yourself

Cheap website solutions and do it yourself options are attractive to the checkbook at first, but spending evenings and weekends figuring out how to use whichever special form of “drag and drop” the website service is using and then getting everything to sit just the way you like it can add up quickly.  Time that could have been better spent on the business.  On top of this, every update further adds to this tally.  Unfortunately, all of that hard work still doesn’t hold a candle to websites designed and developed by professional website builders – and if your competition is using one, they are going to be the ones that stand out, not you.

 

6.  No Analytics/No Metrics

How many people visited your site yesterday?  How did they find you?  Where did they find you?  What did they do on your site?

These are import questions that you should be armed with when making changes to your website.  Activity on your site can tell you what pages are popular and effective, as well as what pages may be causing people to leave and why.  Finding out where your customers are coming from can inform your marketing decisions by focusing on certain areas, or even keywords.  This can also help inform if you should run a sale on a specific product.  Say 50% of your customers are coming to your site in search of widgets, you would know that a sale on your most popular widget might increase sales.

It is amazing how many businesses do not have this information.  A properly built website can provide this information and more – making your website begin working for you.

 

7.  No Mobile Optimization

More and more traffic is now being delivered by mobile devices.  38% of our visitors are using smart phones to find us.  Despite this trend, a very large portion of websites, and especially small business websites, do not have the capability to display properly on a phone or tablet.

There are more pitfalls than this for a business looking to build their website, but this is a great start and a good starting point.  As with most things in life, you get back what you put in – put in the effort with your website and it will become your best marketing tool and amazing storefront.

I genuinely care about your web presence and about making it the best it can be.  Leave a message in the comments below if you have any questions, or contact us with your exiting project or questions if you would like to know more about what we can do to make your website exactly what you want it to be

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Back in the saddle again (or “What happens when your host is no longer fulfilling your needs”)

Okay, here we go.  I know, we broke our rule on blog writing… again.  We but we adhered to another cardinal rule in business: keep your clients happy.  And we did this over the last 2 months as we positioned all of our offerings to reinforce this core value at Chewie Media.  A pillar in our services ecosystem that this became most obvious was our hosting offering.

Chewie Media offers a completely managed hosting service for a nominal fee, or completely included in our monthly website plans.  This is part of our desire to take the headaches out of website building and design.  Being a completely managed hosting service, this can sometimes incur significant time investment from us during times of site migration, unexpected content loss by our clients (hey, mistakes happen!  That’s what we’re here for), or the occasional security breach (I’m looking at you, SSL).  We also have to make sure we are up on some of the latest requirements by governing bodies such as the new Canadian anti-spam laws which put some of the onus on the website hosts running email services, such as us.

 

Drupal has been a cornerstone of our development platform for years, and some of our developers, primarily myself, have been working with Drupal for almost a decade.

 

I mention all of this because we ran into an issue with our service provider – we lease out servers as a way to provide more value for what is paid, and to ensure that one singular point of failure would be unable to bring down any website.  This issue had been cropping up now for the previous few months – websites were responding slower than expected and large-scale websites were noticeably sluggish.  We were unhappy with this situation and had worked previously with techs at this service provider to remedy the situation.  All attempts to fix this sluggish response was met with responses such as “Drupal is known to be slow, this is a software issue.”

We knew this wasn’t the case; Drupal has been a cornerstone of our development platform for years, and some of our developers, primarily myself, have been working with Drupal for almost a decade.  Drupal can be slow if configured incorrectly, but in the right hands it can be snappy and powerful.

Eventually we had to look elsewhere.

 

if we are available to our clients at 3:00 am in the morning during an emergency, then our service provider should be right there as well if things get hairy (and not the good, four-legged kind).

 

We went with a company which has been known to work with Drupal and other CMS frameworks, and has had significantly good reviews.  Scratch that, we actually ran tests on multiple providers before settling on this one.  We decided to test out a different offering from MediaTemple, Bluehost Virtual Servers, and StormOnDemand Virtual Servers.  We decided number one had to be speed, but a close second had to be service; if we are available to our clients at 3:00 am in the morning during an emergency, then our service provider should be right there as well if things get hairy (and not the good, four-legged kind).  Our third option was customizability; how well would we be able to customize things to get precisely what we wanted out of the service provider.

Sparing the details, we were amazed with what we got out of the service and technologies provided by StormOnDemand.  They completely overshot what we had experienced from our other two test cases, and confirmed our suspicions that all of the websites we were hosting should be able to respond quicker.  For most of the websites we host, we encountered a 200% increase in speed.  This increased to 800% for large-scale websites, and over 1000% for e-commerce websites – the results were simply staggering.  As we began focusing on e-commerce websites and other large-scale sites with over 10,000 pages per site, this was an amazing development!

 

We believe in the long run, the payoff in performance and added client satisfaction should more than make up for the amount of time invested by us up-front.

 

Why this was exciting to us was that we were then able to provide this increase in service back to all of our clients without charging a dime.  However, the man-hours to make this change were significant, but this is one of the differences between self-serve hosting for your website and fully managed hosting by us.  We believe in the long run, the payoff in performance and added client satisfaction should more than make up for the amount of time invested by us up-front.

Making a change like this, while also providing our usual website development and design services to our clients has kept us busy, but we hope to not use this as an excuse with neglecting our blog in the future.  As always, I am here to answer any additional questions you may have; I’m watching the facebook and twitter feeds for all of your website questions.

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