Working Remotely? Try THE BEST APPS for Remote Work & Freelancing!


Top 10 (Plus One) Apps for Remote Work

Congratulations! Your business is growing and you’re adding employees! However, not all of your new hires need to report to the office – and some kind of jobs, such as regional sales – pretty much require field work. Telecommuting is becoming more desirable for employers as well as employees for such reasons as greatly reduced overhead.

According to The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, companies see an average of $11,000 annual savings per telecommuting employee. The report was produced by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, focusing on full-time employees who work from home at least half of the time.

As one of the major findings from the report is that the number of people telecommuting in the United States increased a whopping 115 percent in the last 10 years, you may be taking a serious look at which of the vast array of apps for remote work are best suited for your business and the way you want your team members to collaborate.

Whether your remote team consists of full-time, part-time or freelancers – or any mix thereof – Virtual Stacks Systems has rounded up the apps for remote work that consistently top the experts’ lists, so you don’t have to! Thanks to HubSpot, Inc., Skillcrush and eServe.

We also reached out to owners of home-based businesses, who provided their valuable input.

The Best Apps for Remote Work & Freelancing!

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools1 -  Asana Project management app that allows you to create and delegate tasks; organize tasks into shared projects, chat with team members within each task; and add attachments from Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. It also includes calendar features, project dashboards and to-do lists.

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 2 - Box Enterprise-friendly tool provides secure file sharing, storage and collaboration, while offering solutions for a wide variety of business needs.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 3 - Dropbox Ideal for exchanging files that are too large to send via email; collaborative work and backups; allows easy access and sharing of folders. Especially useful for organizing freelancer work.

 
 

 4 - Evernote Popular notebook and productivity program that functions as a paperless office; integrates very well with many other productivity apps.

 
 
“I recently started using Evernote for saving various formats of work in one place,” says Jinal Shah, founder of If I Were Marketing, a branding and marketing strategy consultancy. Along with Dropbox, she finds it useful for organizing her business and its diverse client base. “They are among my favorite go-to tools for my work.” 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 5- GoToMeeting Easy, intuitive connectivity for video conferencing.

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 6 - GitHub Powerful tool for web developers to build software with remote teams. Features include code review and management for open source and private projects. GitHub Wiki allows you to share your work with the rest of the GitHub community. Employers can also use it as a company resource for employee onboarding that organizes information for new hires.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 7 - iDoneThis Team progress tracking software that provides easy daily check-ins and powerful progress reports to run more effective and productive teams. Compiles individual responses into a digest and distributes it to all team members.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 8 - Signal – Open-source, free encryption software that allows you to communicate instantly while avoiding SMS and MMS fees; create groups so that you can chat in real time with all team members at once; and share media or attachments – all with complete privacy. The server never has access to any of your communication and never stores any of your data.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 9 - Slack Allows real-time, on-on-one communication with everyone on your team. Chats can be organized by subject, and integrates activity from GitHub, Trello and other applications. Allows communication to be defined by client or team, so that only those in a specific group will be included in conversations.

 
 
“Think of Slack like the professional version of WhatsApp,” says by Monica Mizzi, Content Director at Compose.ly, a freelance content platform that helps businesses tell their brand story. “Slack makes communication easy by pooling essential tasks like messaging, video chat and file sharing in one. You can even integrate your Trello board to it, so you get updates directly to Slack.”

Another fan of Slack is John Jonas, owner of Onlinejobs.ph, a website that helps business owners who want to outsource to Philipino virtual assistants.

 

“The thing we like about Slack is how organized it is,” Jonas says. “Different departments are placed in different rooms. Topics are easy to search, and attaching documents is a breeze.”

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 10 - Trello Elegant in its simplicity, this project management tool is based on a system of cards and project boards for making notes on what needs to be done and who should be assigned to the task. Has been described as a team post-it-note board on steroids.

 

“My favorite tool for staying organized is Trello,” says Mizzi. “It is a practical visual organizer that allows you to segment all of your different projects into different cards and boards. It is truly a lifesaver for any freelancer who wants to stay on top of all of their tasks!”

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 11 - Wunderlist A tracking and scheduling program for personal to-do lists and client work. Allows task management from a smartphone, tablet, computer or smartwatch.

Conclusion

One parting thought: According to The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice in more than half of the top U.S. metro areas – growing far faster than any other commute mode. Finding the tools that deliver the best results for your remote workforce is now more essential than ever to achieving success!

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Is Freelancing Right For You? The State of Remote Working in 2018


Remote Work in 2018

In 2018, cloud computing continues to grow and businesses across the world are shifting their operations to the cloud. This shift offers several advantages, including cost efficiency, flexibility, and increased productivity and the tools to make all of this a reality. For business owners a primary concern was the overhead and technical infrastructure it takes to set up an office but this is now no longer the case. According to a recent study from Staples, this year, only 32% of employees spent all their time working in or at their office, and 43% of employees say remote work is a must-have.

Richard Heby of Liquid Space provides an interesting tidbit:

"94%  of American workers want to work remotely, at least at the same rate they are now, or more. Another relevant fact – people love remote work because it provides a better work-life balance. In fact, work-life balance is the second most commonly cited positive reason for telecommuting."

Digital nomads use telecommunication technologies to earn a living thus giving them the opportunity to life their life in a nomadic manner. These remote workers often work from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, or co-working spaces and utilize cloud computing to complete their work. Facilitated by the advent of applications like Slack, Asana, and Trello teams can be connected across the world and no longer have the need to work in a share office space.

According to a study by Deloitte, millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and there has been a shift where values mean more than the bottom line. "Those likely to remain longest share their organization’s values, and are more satisfied with its

sense of purpose and support of professional development."

In another report by American Express, 1,363 Millennials were surveyed, those born between 1980 and 1996—in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. As for the 343 U.S. Millennials who were surveyed, they want to make a positive difference in the world (68%) and said a successful business needs to have a genuine purpose (81%) and the values of their employer should match their own (78%). More than one-third define success as doing work that has a positive impact on society.

Millennials are seeking work with meaning beyond just making money and working remotely as a digital nomad is a way to accomplish these lifestyle and work goals.

How to Find Remote Work

There are many avenues to find remote work however, one in particular stands out, called Remote Year.

Millennial entrepreneurs Greg Caplan and Sam Pessin founded Remote Year and the first program occured in 2015. Remote Year helps facilitate a  community of people who want to live and work remotely as a part of a vibrant community.

“Giving your workforce the opportunity to work remotely can result in productivity that exceeds what your employees may have achieved by spending the same number of hours in an office”, says Greg Caplan.

Is Remote Working Right for Your Business

However, working remotely isn’t for everyone. And companies hiring should keep an eye out for certain workforce management traits that can ensure that an employee is best suited for the telecommuting lifestyle. These include things like prior telecommuting experience and autonomy are just a few of the skills. The right kinds of top talent can flourish when they're permitted to work with fewer restrictions.

While there are many advantages, working remotely isn’t without its disadvantages. Many of them stem from the fact that if you are telecommuting then you aren't getting to know your coworkers as well as you would if you were in an office. Some people also lack the discipline it takes to work remotely.

However the only way to see if it is right for you is to try it and give it enough time to see if it works for you.  

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Why Cloud Computing Is A Must For Your Organization

Why Is Cloud Computing Is A Must For Your Organization?

As per the Goldman Sachs report, cloud computing spending is projected to grow at a staggering CAGR of 30%, through 2018. It has been on the same growth trajectory since 2013, astounding isn’t it? 

Cloud is one of the newest buzzwords in the digital world. It is neither a trend nor an illusion, it is a reality and a necessity which is here to stay. Businesses across the world of all sizes are shifting their operations to the cloud, as it offers several advantages including cost efficiency, flexibility, and increased productivity.

Moving your operations to the cloud not only streamlines your workflow, it strengthens the backbone of your company. It increases the liquid funds in your hand, which you can utilize to further your core business interests.

According to Gartner, by 2020 a corporate no-cloud strategy would become as rare as a no-internet policy is in today’s time.

You are already on the cloud...

You are using the cloud in your day to day lives already, in one form or the other. By sending and receiving emails, banking online, and/or listening to music, you are taking part in the cloud revolution that has dominated the landscape of information technology in the last one decade.

Major benefits of moving to the cloud….

Creating an IT infrastructure for your organization requires many investments. From expensive servers, machines, network storage, to backup systems and disaster recovery systems, maintaining a business requires significant capital. You also need space to hold these costly and heavy pieces of machinery, and of course, you require a team of IT professionals to carry out your daily operations. Add all of this together and you are facing a substantial investment up front.

Using cloud services can help your investments pay off, allows you to shrink or cut the use of costly traditional recovery operations, and result in significant growth for your business. According to a report, organizations that have embraced cloud services have shown an overall growth of 19.63% (Vanson Bourne).

Security is not an issue with the cloud….

Security concerns, which were previously thought to be an issue with cloud computing for corporations, are no longer a sticking point, as several checks are in place to safeguard your customer data and company information.

Don’t be surprised to note that 86% of organizations spend some amount of their information technology budget on the cloud.

Other than the benefits mentioned above, what else does it offer that makes it essential for you to shift your operations to the cloud?

Reasons you should shift your business to the cloud

There was a time when cloud services were patronised by big businesses, and small and medium companies thought that there was nothing much in store for them. But, things have dramatically changed since then and even small organizations are now benefitting from the cloud computing services in equal measure.

Here are some of the main reasons why your business needs cloud services:

You get time to focus on your business – You save a lot of time because you don’t have to manage an IT infrastructure or a big software and hardware team. Managing people and day to day IT operations is a long drawn process, which takes away your precious time. You can utilize this time in taking your business to greener pastures and that too at a faster pace. Cloud computing gives you complete freedom to keep your focus on the business at hand. You are able to channelize your energy in the direction required to take your business to a higher level.

Huge cost savings – When you move your business to the cloud, your IT infrastructure saving is substantial. With cloud computing you don’t need to invest in heavy duty IT machinery. You also save on a lot of money as you don’t need to hire and manage a big IT team. Furthermore, you don’t need to waste your space to fit those huge servers. The best part is you only have to pay for what you use, cloud services are on rent, and you don’t have to buy them upfront.

You can increase or decrease the number of head counts according to the need of your business operations, all you have to pay extra is the per user cost.

It is scalable – Cloud computing is a scalable and hassle free option where you don’t have to bother about licensing or upgrades every now and then. When you have an in house set of servers and machineries, and if you have to scale up your operations due the requirements of your business, you need to do a lot of work. Whereas, when you are in the cloud these hassles are well taken care of by the vendor you hire. From hardware, software to maintenance and support, you don’t have to bother about any of those. You get the best services at all times without any of your time being wasted.

Enhanced mobility  – Once you move all your apps to the cloud, you can access any of your applications from wherever you want and at any time. All you require is an internet connection and a browser and you can connect with your work at your convenience. Your team members who have the access can do their work from wherever they want, either from the cool confines of their homes or even from their client’s office. Nobody can give you any excuse for work not being completed on time.

Improved collaboration among your team members  – Working on applications that are up in the cloud increases the efficiency of your team members. It is a platform where team members can collaborate with each other, which is bound to increase their productivity, regardless of their physical location. When your team members work together, it increases their potential and the quality of work improves significantly.

It further improves your security – Managing heavy-duty servers and machines doesn’t guarantee that your data is hundred percent secure. Imagine your laptop or mobile being stolen, of course, it is not just the monetary value of either device that you are worried about, you get sleepless nights because those devices had all your company information. And, if it falls into the wrong hands you have to pay a heavy price. Whereas, when your applications are up in the cloud, you needn’t worry about these things, as nothing is stored on your device. Even if you lose any of your devices, your company information remains safe, because it is not on your laptop or mobile, but it is up in the cloud. Moreover, with enterprise security in place, the cloud offers more security than your on-premise datacenters. Service providers who are not able to provide adequate security to their clients eventually phase out of the cloud computing business, and that too pretty fast.

It is more reliable – Your customer data and company information can’t be compromised, no matter what the cost. But, you cannot rely only on your servers and systems, after all, they are machines and can crash over time. Therefore, offices not yet on the cloud need costly redundant systems to constantly back up all data. But, once you move your operations to the cloud, you don’t have to worry about these costly systems, because the service provider arranges for the backup of all your information and data. They have completely adaptive disaster recovery systems, powerful servers, and machines, and they constantly back up your data so that you don’t lose any single information. This also ensures that your business is up and running all the time, and there is no major downtime for you to worry about.

Upgrades and maintenance are not your headache – Upgrading and maintaining your on-premise data center is a tedious job, which can take away a lot of your time, money, effort and energy. No matter how top class your machine is, it would require upgrades and maintenance on a periodic basis. Whereas, when you move your business to the cloud, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or upgrades, it is the responsibility of the service provider to maintain and upgrade their offerings. Moreover, as maintenance and upgrades are done by the service provider keep in mind that your business doesn’t get affected.

It is more environment-friendly– When you share resources with others, you are helping to save the environment. If you can contribute to the reduction of datacenters the world over it would definitely have a positive effect on the environment, more so when the efficiency of the operations is not at stake. Cloud services offer you all of these and more.

If you have not as yet moved your business to the cloud, just get in touch with Virtual Stacks Systems, as a company we have been in the cloud business for a long time and have a pretty lengthy list of satisfied customers. We can take care of all your IT needs with perfection.

Virtual Stacks Systems has powerful data centers and completely adaptive disaster recovery systems, which ensures that your company data remains safe with us, always.

With over two decades of exposure and experience in the software and hardware industry, Virtual Stacks Systems is capable of looking after all your cloud requirements.

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Where is the Cloud?

Answering the question you were afraid to ask.

The cloud, to those outside of the data realm, is as intangible as its namesake. An airy, out-of-reach presence that seems to linger above (Around? Beneath?) Us and, somehow, holds all of our data. Where is the cloud, anyway? Yet, as many people struggle to answer this question, they somehow know that they use the cloud every day. From that Google doc to the movie they streamed on the plane, to the dump of photos they cleared off of their iPhone. The “cloud” may be the buzzword to end all buzzwords, seeing as so many people use it, but so very few can describe what it is. Here is some background on the cloud:

The History of Cloud Computing

where is the cloudThe phrase has been in increasing use over the last 10 or so years. But cloud computing or at least its basic infrastructure has been around for over half a century! In the 1950’s, back when computers were much larger (Like, size of a room larger), one would log onto a “dummy terminal”, basically an interface with very limited controls, to use the larger, more capable computer. Without the mainframe, the terminals were pretty much useless. This was the very early conceptual version of cloud computing. In the 1990’s it was becoming increasingly clear that the internet would become the essential information-sharing powerhouse that it is today. Engineers started to draw a “cloud” to represent this network of information sharing. It was not long before engineers at Compac coined the term “cloud computing”. A little less than a decade later, we were using the internet to store and download files, but from where exactly? The cloud.

The cloud: defined.

The cloud, while whimsical and mysterious sounding in nature, is actually not all that complicated. Simply, all the data transmitted and shared around the internet needs to go SOMEWHERE. That somewhere is a global infrastructure of connected servers and data center that hold on to, receive, and send back data at absurd speeds. Once high-speed internet became commonplace, it no longer made sense to store all data on your device. That is a lot of information and would require very large amounts of storage. Why do that when you can just save it “online” or, rather, in the innumerable data centers. Now, you do not need a multi-terabyte hard drive to have access to years upon years’ worth of data. It can all go to the cloud (at a cost, for THAT much information) Hardware does not mean as much, provided you are on a reliable network. But here’s where things can get a little tricky, depending on your service provider. When you send your data to the cloud, it lives on your provider’s server. Depending on the contract and/or terms-of-service of that provider, they may technically now own that information.

Critiques and Critics of Cloud Technology

Some of the biggest concerns in regards to the cloud are:
  • Where is the information stored?
  • How many copies of that information exists?
  • Can the company be trusted to remove copies of deleted content?
Furthermore, many service agreements fail to clearly define the ownership of content, leaving a big hole if legal issues were to arise. where is the cloud So where is the cloud? The majority of cloud servers call the United States and Ireland home. But cloud servers are global. This means that the data stored on the servers is subject to the information laws of that specific country. In places that have more stringent laws toward data protection and privacy, this may not be a big deal. In other places were laws are loose or ill-defined, you may run into challenges when it comes to ownership and privacy. At the end of the day, more often than not, cloud service providers are responsible for protecting your data. Why else would you be paying them? Yet, some terms of service do specify that if government organizations request your information, they will pass it on to them. Often, without a warrant. It is worth taking a look at the fine print before choosing a cloud storage provider. Another area of concern for cloud-based technologies is in the workplace. When important documents are password protected in a cloud server, and employees have access to them, there is a certain modicum of trust that must be in place. Often times that sensitive information is available anywhere, just as long as the employee has the password. If an employee were to develop malicious intentions, it can be catastrophic for an Orlando SEO company. That said, it is a lot easier to change passwords and monitor network activity than it is to locate a stolen hard drive, or worse a piece of paper with passwords scribbled down on it.  

The Benefits of the Cloud

Imagine if you had to personally store every photo you’ve ever taken. Every message you’ve ever sent. Every song you’ve enjoyed? That would require a lot of storage. Terabytes of data, rather quickly. So imagine you had all of that information on your personal computer. Your house gets broken into and the burglar steals your computer Now, all that information is gone for good. Now picture that metaphor on a grander scale. An increasing amount of the world’s digital information lives on secure servers, often thousands of miles away. While hacking and privacy are concerns, they occur less often than human error (spilling coffee on your external hard drive is more likely than you may think.) where is the cloud Cloud programs have saved businesses and individuals a lot of money. When a student cannot afford Microsoft Office (which itself has an online version) they can use free Google Docs. Adobe now has the Creative Suite, which is subscription-based, rather than the old tangible versions of its products like Photoshop and Illustrator. Companies save tremendous amounts by not having to worry about server storage or application requirements. Entire businesses now operate remotely, thanks to the cloud. Good-bye, rent! Goodbye, utilities! And Goodbye, administrative costs! The cloud is also pretty reliable when it comes to keeping your services up and running. As servers are spread out globally, up-time is pretty much guaranteed. When servers are on-hand, a lot can go wrong. Power outages, user error, or faulty parts can crash your servers, and potentially shut down your business for hours, to days at a time. The cloud takes this responsibility out of your company’s hands, and into that of a reliable provider. Virtual Stacks is proud to offer cloud hosting and cloud storage to our clients through our data center. Our cloud server will provide the bandwidth you need while protecting your information from online threats, keeping your business secure. Virtual Stacks also offers integrated marketing strategies including web design, SEO, PPC, and video marketing. When it comes to digital solutions, our internet marketing company can support your business all the way. With us, you will never find yourself wondering “Where is the cloud?” ever again.

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Post Hurricane Irma: What’s Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan?

As a tech company based out of Central Florida, just 40 miles from the Atlantic Coast, you better believe we need to have an airtight disaster plan in place.

IT disaster recovery

With countless web and email hosting clients worldwide, securing their data and protecting our datacenter firewalls is a top priority for us - one that no force of nature should ever be able to break.

However, here in Florida, the forces of nature we face have only gotten stronger. This past week, Hurricane Irma reared her ugly head and in a matter of 2 days caused $100 Billion in damage to the state of Florida and left 10 million residents without power or internet. (To put that into perspective, that's 5 times worse than Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Charley combined.

Can you imagine what would have happened to our clients' websites or their data if we did not have a disaster recovery plan in place?

Thankfully, we didn't have to answer that question. However, because so many people are asking how a hurricane like Irma could have hit our building without affecting their operations, we decided to write this post.

After all, hurricanes are the only threat facing an organization's digital systems. System failures can also occur due to employee negligence, hacking, data theft, tornadoes, earthquakes or international espionage.

That should scare you if you don't have a disaster plan in place already! But here's some good news: with the right disaster plan, you can combat any and all of these issues with ease.

First and foremost, you need to have a virtual private server, or dedicated server, that can easily be used as a backup and disaster recovery solution.

Beyond that, here are some tip on how to ensure that your plan will take care of your business no matter what mayhem brings.

What Does a Disaster Recovery Plan Do?

The first thing to realize is that disaster recovery plans need to be very dynamic and consider all of the moving parts in your business plan. If you have a backup solution, but it's just a routine backup solution, you probably are missing out on some core data being stored that will greatly hinder your business if it was ever corrupted.

IT disaster recoveryThere are a lot of limitations to impersonal disaster recovery and backup solutions. When you back up data, the focus should be how to get that data back instantly when there is a disaster.

If your current plan doesn't allow your business to keep going through different disasters, then you need to consider how to get your business up to that level and what must be done.

There are also different disasters to consider:

  1. Natural disasters - hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, earthquakes, etc.
  2. Man-made disasters - spills, bio terrorism, infrastructure failure, etc.
  3. Cyber terrorism - hacking, stolen data, fraud, etc.

You should consider every type of disaster that can involve your business and create a plan that will encompass a procedure to prevent any major type of loss.

Creating a Foolproof IT Disaster Recovery Plan

Business continuity is of the greatest importance. With the right processes and procedures in place, you can return to functional business operations takes less time, possibly even under five minutes.

If you have good backup procedures, then you may not be at risk. However, there are still some issues that you can prepare completely for using a disaster recovery plan. Take these steps to add to your backup plan and get a better recovery.

1.  Test (& Retest) Your Backup Procedures

Test your backups regularly to ensure that they are working and saving all of the right data. The data that you backup should be easy to get back and not corrupt. In addition, another step to take involves building fault tolerance into critical systems. You can start by installing RAID drives, which are redundant copies of clustered systems and other local recovery procedures to create another layer of protection.

Here's a great video from NCIX Tech Tips on what RAID is and how to install it on your system.

2.  Have a "Complete Fallout" or "Total Loss" Disaster Plan in Place 

Good backups and archiving procedures need fault tolerant critical systems. The next part is to put together procedures for remote disaster recovery. Mainly, this provides an answer to "What happens if this computer center is completely obliterated?" You should have a plan for these situations that will most likely involve virtual private servers, off-location dedicated servers or private cloud computing, cloud hosting or cloud storage. In addition, you need to make agreements with computer vendors beforehand so that you can always get new computers in a disaster.

3. Use Cold Site Disaster Recovery

hurricane irmaThis is a pretty simple way to backup and conduct a disaster recovery. A cold site is a simple way to to serve data in a datacenter where your business keeps information in the event of disaster. This is a cost effective way to set up a disaster recovery plan because you only pay for what you need, and your company can survive various disasters by storing your data elsewhere. Virtual Stacks offers several options to store data and keep your information secure so you don't have to worry about recovering data quickly in the event of a situation.

We also partner with eServe LLC, a corporate data encryption company, which offers secure storage of contracts, corporate training materials and other intellectual property. Their content distribution platform is used by e-learning companies worldwide.

4.  Split Site Disaster Recovery

If you have a bigger organization, then it's important to house your IT department in several locations. If a natural disaster hits one site, you can still resume operations because your information is also stored at another disaster center in another location. You don't have to build a dedicated server as well. You can do this reasonably with a virtual private server.

5. Hot Site Disaster Recovery

This is a premium IT disaster recovery plan, in which systems and real-time data are duplicated and managed at a separate datacenter. The duplicate computer center will always have your business ready in case of any data being lost or stolen. Businesses can switch to the hot site with only minimal disruption.

Is Cloud Computing a Good Disaster Recovery Plan?

There are a few benefits for using cloud disaster recovery plans. These can be done with virtual private servers fairly easily. It's cost effective and with fast uptime, your business is running again in seconds. Faster recovery times are necessary for businesses so it's important to look at datacenters with a 100 percent uptime guarantee and fully redundant datacenters.

With any disaster recovery plan, you have to consider how to create a strategy that is comprehensive for all of your business processes and will get your business up and running quickly. We have a fully functioning datacenter, secure cloud hosting, ecommerce hosting, internet marketing, mobile app development and more!

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3 Super Simple Ways to Get More ROI from Your Web Development

With the ever-growing use of social media marketing and online portfolios, you may think websites are a thing of the past. That, or you might be neglecting your website in favor of your social media profiles. Who has the time to design and maintain a website, when posting to Instagram takes mere minutes?

But if you ask the most successful business owners, SEO experts, and web designers what they think? Well, you’ll likely receive an earful on why design matters, when it comes to your company’s website. 

Picture this...

You are walking through an outdoor shopping mall, looking for a gift for a friend. On your left, there is a brand new store. Through the window, it appears clean, modern, and well-organized. On your right, a store that sells similar items, but has a cluttered storefront. The sidewalk out front is littered with trash and grass clippings. A hand-written sign that reads “Sale! Sale! Sale!” in neon colors flutters in the wind. When given the option, are you going to choose the store on your right or on your left?

Why?

web developmentThink of a website, as a storefront. With the intent of making an online purchase, you have a relative idea of what you want to buy, what your budget is, and when you need it. A quick Google search yields a list of online retailers ready, willing and able to sell you what you are looking for. But how do you determine which to choose? Here’s a hint: it isn’t always the price, shipping cost, OR delivery date.

In a matter of milliseconds, users decide whether to stay on your website. You can have the greatest content in the world on your site, and it will not make them stay.  First impressions are everything, from the outdoor shopping mall to the thousands of e commerce hosting websites. Cluttered, non-intuitive, unattractive web design is a dirty digital storefront. No one will enter. No one will spend their money.

What are Visitors Looking For, Anyway?

web developmentKnowing what works for your individual website takes a bit of a time investment. In many cases, your website is never truly “finished”, but rather evolves as needed. However, to minimize the number of edits or tweaks your website will need, consider the following:

People enjoy visuals. Striking images, contrasting colors, memorable phrases, these all help grab a viewer’s attention. Content may be king, but you need a reason for people to look at the content, in the first place.

Here are things that tend to capture the attention of a website visitor:

1.  A Featured Image or Graphic. It should be large enough to appear “more important” than the rest of the information.
2.  Logo or another marker of your brand. These can include your brand’s specific colors, a prominent slogan, or even your company mascot.
3.  Navigation bars, menus, and maps.
4.  Headings, in large text
5.  A search box
6.  Contact information. After all, how else will people find you?

Above The Fold

web development“Above the Fold” refers to the content that appears on a page before you have to scroll. In the past, you wanted everything of importance to be at this location, otherwise, people would lose interest.

Thanks to parallax scrolling, things have changed a bit. It isn’t as big of a deal to force someone to scroll to get all the necessary content. That said, first impressions DO still matter. You still want to make sure that the most attractive aspects of your website are still above the fold.

Introduce Yourself via Your Website

Think of your website as a digital business card. You can only hand out so many business cards in person. A website, can reach anyone, anywhere, especially with the help of an internet marketing company. Design with that in mind. If you run a cupcake shop, you would not hand out an attorney-like business card. Instead, your card would appear much more lighthearted and whimsical. Let your design speak before your potential customers read a single word of content. It should be clear what service, product, or purpose you offer within seconds.

Using the example of a cupcake shop, think pastel colors, high-definition photos of your sweet treats, and a few dessert-related puns. Channel the experience of visiting your business into the website design.

I’m Here, Now What?

By bringing visitors to your site, you’ve already won half of the battle. The bad news is, you’ve only won half of the battle. Getting people to stay on your site can be a challenge, especially when some visitors are in a hurry and need only a short tidbit of information.

Prioritize the information on your site. Are there walls of text that would better serve as a small graphic? Can that graphic also include a button that directs the visitor elsewhere, for more information? Better yet, would the wall-of-text or graphic be better received as a video?

How about a call-to-action? If your site does not have one, this needs to be one of the first things you need to fix. Let your call-to-action be your one opportunity to take pride in telling people what to do. Call now? Sign Up? Subscribe? Whatever you want to make your visitors do, make the option easy and clear for all who visit, via a button, or animation. A shocking amount of websites fail to include a clear call-to-action and lose out on revenue because of it.

Design Matters on Mobile Devices, too!

Web design has both a direct and indirect effect on your search engine rankings. Directly, the appropriate use of keywords, links, and site structure all help Google and other search engines crawl your site.

web development

But search engines also rely on user metrics to determine the authority and credibility of a site. If your website design is user-friendly, and gains popularity through visits and links, over time it will rank higher. Visitors do not stick around on low-quality websites, and Google will recognize this.

Speaking of design’s impact on search engine ranking, do you know if your site is mobile friendly?

Besides the fact that the majority of search now takes place on a mobile device, Google has now included mobile friendliness into its ranking algorithm.

Not only does your site need to look great on a mobile device, it needs to be responsive. Choosing a responsive design from the jump allows you to have a website coded to adapt to any screen size. Alternatively, you could build a second mobile website using a mobile template, or custom mobile apps. The biggest drawback of this is: 1. The risk of running duplicate content and 2. Having your two nearly-identical websites competing against one another for ranking space. Save yourself the trouble and aim for mobile optimization, without the hassle of a second domain registration.

Gain the Trust of Your Visitors

Throwing a simple website online does not take a lot of time or money. Because of this, there are a lot of not-so-great websites out there. Perhaps even worse, there are a lot of attractive websites that are not very credible. A well-designed website helps build credibility with its visitors.

What it takes to create a credible-looking website:

1.  Provide an FAQ with well-thought-out answers
2.  Gain and Provide Citations - THIS CAN HELP BOOST YOUR SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS AS WELL! 
3. Update Your Site Regularly- A not-so-recent date on the first page can be a big turn-off visitors. It implies your company is not up to a whole lot.
4.  Limit the Amount of White Space- Have some, but never too much. 

Like Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Don’t be afraid to get opinions and be experimental with your website design, as long you cover the essentials. But you must be consistent. Your brand’s colors, logo, and preferred fonts need to be present.

Be wary of the things that can turn people off of a site like:

1.  Complex or Noisy Layouts
2.  Invasive Ads –Pop-ups or inappropriate content will drive people away, and fast.
3.  Small print
4.  Monochromatic/Minimal Design- Some sites thrive in greyscale and minimalist design, but most do not. Unless it serves the purpose of your business, step up your design.
5.  Slow Load Time- Avoid complex graphics and auto playing videos.

If these tips have forced you to question the quality of your website, before starting from scratch, consult Virtual Stacks Systems. From a full site redesign to Orlando SEO services, we can show you first hand why design matters, for your business.

 

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