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Archive for June, 2020

The Top 7 Email Hosting Services that Aren’t Google

email hosting options

It’s almost impossible to use the internet without using something that’s based on Google. The world’s most popular internet browser? Google Chrome. The world’s most used search engine? Google. The world’s most used navigation system? Google Maps. The world’s most popular email hosting service? Gmail. The world’s most beloved social network? Not Google Circle.

For many businesses and users, using Google is just a normal part of the everyday routine. But what if you are unhappy with the service or are worried about Google’s checkered history with privacy and user data? What are the best options?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Google and we’ve got plenty of experience helping people and businesses take full advantage of G Suite but we also know that people like options.

Fortunately, there are plenty of different options out there when it comes to finding a new email hosting service. We’re going to dive into some of the top options that don’t come from the tech-giants at Google.

Why Use Email Hosting?

We always like to lead off with a few questions before diving into some of the top choices, so let’s focus on why you should be using email hosting in the first place.

Email hosting is email that runs on a server and the requirements for opting into such a service only requires you to have your own domain name. Pretty easy.

Having your own service will allow you to manage your emails and accounts by using your own domain name. If you’ve ever seen a user@domainname.com, then that person is using some sort of email hosting.

The size of your business is going to dictate what kind of service you have. Larger businesses and eCommerce companies sometimes have their own email servers in order to ensure emails are sent out on time. But, you don’t have to be a large business to take advantage of all the benefits email hosting has to offer.

Email hosting often comes hand-in-hand with cloud hosting that makes it an ideal option for remote companies and storing vital information and documents.

Three Types of Email Hosting

There are three different types of email hosting that come with their own list of pros and cons.

Shared Web Hosting

The barebones of email hosting, this type of service is ideal for businesses that don’t have to send out bulk emails on a daily basis. Shared web hosting often comes with its own share of limitations, so if you’re a small business that isn’t overwhelmed with emails, this is the ideal choice for you. This is the cheapest option.

Self-Hosted

As mentioned above, these servers tend to be for larger corporations. They are custom made for your business, require a professional team to monitor them, but are incredibly reliable and can handle bulk emails with ease. Out of the services listed here, it is the most expensive.

Third-Party

The most popular type of email hosting, third-party options are what we’re going to discuss today. They are out-of-the-box ready, require little setup and training, and chances are you or your team members have used them before. The costs will depend on the size of your business, so expect to pay more than shared web hosting.

Now that we’ve covered the different types, let’s jump into some of the best email hosting options.

What Should You Be Looking For?

There are a few items on your checklist that you should look over before deciding on the right service for you.

  • Security: Although everyone knows to be careful about which emails they open, you want to make sure your email hosting service has proper security to protect your account. Things like anti-spam and anti-virus are musts in today’s day and age.email hosting security
  • Storage size: You’d be surprised how quickly storage can run out. If you’re someone sending lots of emails and receiving plenty of attachments, you want to make sure the size of the email storage offered is enough for you. Going through on a monthly basis and deleting emails to free up space is a PAIN.
  • Support: While email is usually pretty straightforward, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into some problems down the line. Make sure your service offers 24/7 support for you and your users.
  • Custom domains: Even though it should be obvious, it needs to be on the list. Making sure your service supports custom domains is a must. How else are you going to look professional to clients?

Different Options of Email Hosting Options

Let’s just into some of the different options we have.

Yandex Mail

yandexmail

One of the cheapest options out there, Yandex is a Russian search engine that also doubles as an email hosting service. It’s recognized for its easy installation, flexibility, and speed.

Yandex comes with a number of other options for using this service, such as a calendar, messenger, cloud storage, issue monitoring, collaborative tools, and more. It is a bit limited on space per user (just 10 GB), but it does come with anti-virus and anti-spam protection as well as two-factor authentication.

Zoho Mail

zohomail

Zoho was made with the office in mind and that’s pretty easy to tell from the beginning. While Zoho does offer a free plan, it is incredibly limited and probably won’t be able to handle your business needs. Depending on the plan you go with, you can get anywhere from 30-100 GB, support, and more.

The service also comes with some productivity tools that can help keep you focused and on-track.

Microsoft 365

microsoft 365

Chances are you’re already familiar with what Microsoft has to offer when it comes to email hosting as Outlook has been around for ages. Not only will you get access to other Microsoft tools like Word, Excel, and more, but the email package it offers is more than capable.

Microsoft deserves credit for taking notes from some other popular email hosting services and making it less clunky and more user-friendly. It does come at a bit of a higher price than other services on the list but it’s well worth it for all the other tools that you get.

Amazon WorkMail

amazon workmail

When it comes to cloud hosting, few places do it better than Amazon. If you’re already familiar with AWS (Amazon Web Services), then you’ll find WorkMail is easy to work with. It’s got tons of customization options that make it a top option for many businesses.

However, if you’re a small business with just a handful of employees, you’re better off looking elsewhere. It does have a bit of a learning curve and was built with larger businesses in mind. It comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, like virus protection, emergency support, and more.

Rackspace

rackspace

At first glance, Rackspace seems to be quite limited. But, it was made for businesses that are only looking for email hosting. It provides the most basic tools, such as email use, shared calendar, contacts, and instant messaging.

It offers various plans that come cheaper than other options but once again, it does not offer the multitude of features you might find with other services.

IceWarp

icewarp

By far the best name on the list, what else does it do to deserve recognition?

IceWarp is here because of its ability to manage various accounts across multiple names. If you’re in a business where you’re having to provide clients with their email accounts on a regular basis, then IceWarp is a great choice. It also comes with its own tools for customization and editing various documents. It comes with up to 200GB of storage per user and offers 24/7 support.

Greatmail

greatmail

Greatmail makes the list because of its simplicity and basic plan.

It’s almost about as barebones as you can get but comes with built-in protection, shared calendars and contacts, and finally 25GB in mailbox storage. If you’re a small to medium-sized business, you’re going to want to give Greatmail a look.

Choosing the Right One

At the end of the day, the right email hosting service will depend on your needs and the needs of your business. We offer email hosting assistance as part of our network services and are proud to be product and service agnostic.

Get in touch with us today for a free quote about your upcoming project. We look forward to helping you!

 

 

 

Using Microsoft 365 for Project Management

The workplace is changing. Water cooler talk is being replaced with messaging apps like Teams and Slack. Team meetings are being held on Zoom with fake backgrounds, barking dogs, and children running around.

The tools of business are becoming more flexible, remote, and user-friendly. Project management isn’t done on whiteboards and spreadsheets anymore. But it’s still complex and important work. Offices are using Microsoft 365 for well-executed project management in the new mobile and remote world of business.

Not new to the IT solutions game, Microsoft shows that it understands how people work and what they need, now and in the future. Time and time again, Microsoft has shown that it offers effective tools for businesses.

Microsoft 365 is packed with remote, secure, reliable, and collaborative work solutions that can be scaled and updated quickly. Its available packages include personal, non-profit, small to large businesses, and just anything in between. For users looking for a quick-to-launch, easy-to-use, and reliable tool for project management, Microsoft 365 is a great solution.

As an online subscription service, it’s affordable and fast to implement. We here at Atiba are huge fans of the 365 package and have been using it for years.

Besides our own personal endorsement, what else makes it great?

Let’s dive into some details about what it not only offers businesses but how it can change the project management game.

The New Office: From the Building to the Laptop

Let’s start by talking about how the workplace has changed.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift to remote work solutions. Work has moved away from project management based on in-person meetings, whiteboard timelines, and endless spreadsheets. Managing a team spread across numerous time zones can be tough which is why project managers need new solutions for collaboration, knowledge sharing, coordinating schedules, and reporting.

remote working project management

Despite the upheaval in workplace strategy, standards haven’t changed. One of the biggest challenges that project managers face is making sure the work productivity doesn’t decrease and workers are able to effectively communicate with one another.

We won’t lie to you, effective project management is hard. There is a laundry list of things to do, such as (deep breath) aligning and coordinating many moving parts along a productive and efficient route, towards a common goal, in a set amount of time, on an always too small budget (exhale).

It requires solid communication, effective collaboration, centralized resources, and a way to monitor, schedule, and report project status.

The widespread shift from working in one place to working in many places was empowered by web-based solutions. Fast, affordable internet now connects a workforce that’s spread across the globe. Tools like Office 365 leverage cloud-based and online platforms and allow remote workers in complex projects to work as an organized team.

Project Management with Cloud Solutions

It’s true that computers have become significantly more powerful, lighter, and over the years. We’ve seen enormous desktops with huge boxy monitors and millions of wires abandoned for sleek, lighter laptops. Desktops have also become faster and more powerful. Sometimes, it’s amazing to think about how we got along with our big clunkers.

Even with all those remarkable developments in hardware, there are still a number of limitations. All hardware has limits to storage, computing power, access, and security. The limits to those features can be expanded but there are trade-offs. The more you expand those limits, the less mobile and affordable your hardware becomes.

And the more painful it is to scale and replace the tech per user.

The good news is proper cloud and online solutions offer flexible and adaptable solutions to solve the problems remote and removed workers could encounter. Providers like Microsoft bring experience, familiarity, and reliability businesses can trust.

Cloud 365 vs. Cloud 9

Microsoft 365 offers cloud solutions on a subscription. With a core set of programs (think what you’d have in traditional Microsoft Office) and an app store to supplement any additional services you may need, it’s a robust solution for many types of users.microsoft 365

Apps and services in the Office 365 suite include:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Excel
  • Skype
  • SharePoint
  • Yammer
  • Planner
  • Teams
  • OneDrive

 

While all those programs are great, it’s the larger strategy of 365 that’s a real win for project management. Its flexibility and web-based design set it apart from other products.

Why’s that great for project management? Let’s run through some reasons.

  1. It’s packed with tools. Project management requires timelines, reports, spreadsheets, presentations, documents of all sizes, and formats. Microsoft has a myriad of tools to meet the development needs of almost any project. In addition to the familiar Microsoft Office tools, Microsoft 365 also includes access to their app store with tons of options (free and paid) to help you get whatever your job is done.
  2. It’s centralized. You don’t have to worry about your timeline, your spreadsheets, and your reports being separated in different tools. They’re all in the 365 platform.
  3. It’s super accessible. From a coffee shop to your client’s office, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access your files. In addition, you can grant access to team members according to need. No need to email large files to lots of people. If someone needs to use a file, just grant them access. Don’t need them on that file anymore? Update your access group. Don’t have an internet connection right now? Choose the work offline option and update it when you connect again.
  4. It’s sized just right. Upgrade when you need to. Because it’s cloud-based, you can buy as much or as little storage as you need. If your needs change, you can adjust your service.
  5. It’s secure. Not only is the cloud service protected by firewalls and passwords, but it’s also backed up. So you don’t have to worry if your office burns down that you’ve lost your files, too. It’s protected from hackers and catastrophe.
  6. It’s collaborative. There’s more than just being able to share files. Microsoft 365 also fosters collaboration by allowing users to create and update resources together, from interacting in real-time through chat to co-editing and authoring documents, to easily assigning tasks and managing timelines and milestones. Maybe you can’t be in the same room together, but Microsoft 365 can help you feel like you’re on the same team.
  7. It’s familiar. Microsoft has been around for a long time. Most folks in the workforce have used some Microsoft products in their lifetime. Many people have used a lot of Microsoft products for a long time. So even if 365 is new to you or your team, the learning curve is better than most. Navigation, icons, terminology will all feel familiar. And if you need additional help, because Microsoft is SO widely used, there are tons of resources available to skill-up users.

Take My Money Microsoft 365!

OK, there are a lot of compelling reasons to purchase Microsoft 365. If you think that it’s the tool your business needs, let’s talk about becoming a 365-er.

First, let’s identify some questions you need to ask yourself:

microsoft 365 questions

  1. How many subscriptions do you need?
  2. Do you want to pay monthly or annually?
  3. What applications from the app store should you add?
  4. How do you migrate from existing platforms?
  5. Do you have anyone in-house to help you make these decisions and get you set-up?

If any of these questions left you saying, “I’m not sure,” then you’re not alone. Many businesses who choose Microsoft 365 for all the flexibility and easy adoption still turn to professionals to help get them going and troubleshoot along the way.

If you’ve decided that Microsoft 365 is the solution there are tons of services that a good tech professional can assist with. You might consider hiring IT to help with services like:

  • Emergency Support
  • Database Application Design
  • Office 365 Migration
  • User Management
  • Mobile Device Support
  • Security Audits
  • Technical Support (24/7)
  • Configuration & Patching
  • Real-time Troubleshooting
  • CIO-to-go Services

Atiba has been an official Microsoft partner for over 20 years, and if you don’t have the required technical expertise on staff, we can help. With the proper configuration and support, Office 365 allows users to take a personalized office experience on the go, on a tablet, computer, or phone, increasing productivity.

The workplace is changing. Project management is changing. The tools we use are changing with it to meet the needs of users. Tools like Microsoft 365 are fantastic platforms for businesses to meet the new needs of their teams.

If you need help with your project management or similar tasks, reach out to us today for a free quote. We look forward to helping you!

 

 

 

 

When & How to Invest in Custom Software Development

custom software development

Do you know the experience of driving a rental car? The seat is in a weird position, it’s too far back or too far forward. You can’t see anything out of the mirrors and the radio is set to some terrible music, or worse, talk radio. The AC is set way too high and is blasting right into your eyeballs.

You can’t even back out of a parking spot until you change almost every setting. There’s nothing functionally wrong with the car but it’s making you miserable. Custom software can feel the same way.

If you’ve had out-of-the-box software that needed tweaking and modifications here and there just to get the basic job done, you know the feeling. You miss your custom software car at home, with its perfect features and comfortability.

When you find that you spend more time and effort adapting a product than using it the way it was designed, maybe it’s time to look at custom software development solutions.

The backbone of most businesses these days is software. While there are plenty of readymade software solutions available, more and more businesses of all sizes are finding that custom software gives them more freedom and efficiency.

So when do you know that it’s time to toss the box and build your own software? Let’s jump into the main differences between these two types of software.

custom vs out of box softwareCustom Software vs. Out-of-The-Box Software

 

What’s out-of-the-box software? Think Microsoft Office tools like Word or Excel or project management software like Workfront.

Adobe is a big fish in the software pond, too. But it can also mean software services like WordPress, Magento, and Square. In short, there are plenty of software solutions ready to install and start using.

Sure, there are customization options but you’re not going to get the freedom and development options you would with custom software. For many, that’s OK.

Frankly, there are plenty of set software solutions for almost any application you would use from everyday administrative work, to point of sale (POS) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, to blog and eCommerce websites.

The one common thread for these types of software is that it’s designed to serve many of the needs of a large group of people. While you might have the ability to add preferences, it’s never really custom.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Affordability

There are reasons that readymade software is so popular. First and foremost, it’s super affordable. Since developers only need to make one product for many users, the return on investment vastly outweighs the cost of development.

Quick Setup

It’s also fast. Really fast. Not only does most software install with just a few clicks, but training also doesn’t take very long either. Even the most tech-challenged individuals know their way around basic Microsoft Office tools.

Easy Upkeep

In addition, most updates for these types of software are easy to install and usually free. Since it’s used by more than one company, testing is usually broad, generally reliable, and paid for by someone else. 

Those are pretty compelling benefits for buying off the shelf. It’s no surprise that so many companies choose such solutions for their software needs. However, there are limitations to these popular software options. Such limitations can create expensive and frustrating problems.

Cons

Designed for the General Audience

The Scrooges of Christmas will often say “no matter how you cut or ice it, it’s still a gingerbread cookie”.

The most obvious downside is that the software isn’t designed for you. It’s designed for the shared general needs of many people. So there will be processes you’ll never use, functions you’ll use frequently, and applications you’ll want but don’t have.

Limited Customization Options

The second downside is while most of these solutions do some customization options, it can be limited and sometimes difficult to do. Instead of the freedom that customization offers, you’re more likely to be given a number of various preferences to choose from.

Those looking to customize certain software often become frustrated by their lack of options.

Customizations Can be Difficult to Maintain

Another downside to customizing this type of software is that updates will be designed for the un-customized platform. That can lead to frustrating and time-consuming issues. It can also lead to you deciding that maybe custom software is the way to go.

If a pair of shoes can change your life, what can custom software do for your company?

Custom Software Benefits

Enough about other types of software, let’s talk about what custom software can do for you.

It’s easy to see the benefits of custom software. It’s the glass slipper of software and you’re Cinderella without the pumpkin carriage. Instead of being designed to meet some of the needs of lots of users, custom software development is just for you.

It can make you more efficient, more focused, and create a better customer experience for your users, both customers and employees alike. You can change it as your business needs change and it can grow with you.

The Two Different Types of Custom Software

Standalone

Standalone software is designed to serve a specific business need. Project management systems are a great example.

While there are almost countless project management software solutions available, they often require tremendous amounts of customization to suit the needs of a business. Building custom project management software is usually a better solution.

Integrated

This would allow existing products (either custom or out of the box) you already use to communicate with one another and work as a team. For example, if you use a chatbot, a CRM platform, and a POS (point of sale) system and you need certain information to be shared between them, a custom software solution is the perfect option for you.

How Can Custom Software Development Help You?

So you might be thinking custom software development can help my business. You’re probably dreaming of all the ways it can help productivity and improve customer experience. But first, let’s just into a few of the need-to-know things about custom software.

There’s a project management theory that does a great job breaking down what you need to consider when taking on a project as large as developing custom software.

To better illustrate this, let’s use the Project Management Triangle to discuss the most important factors of a custom software project.

project management and custom software development

Cost

For the same reason that out-of-the-box software is inexpensive, custom software can be expensive, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. A birthday cake with your name and favorite flavoring will always be more expensive than a generic store-bought one. Understanding where the development costs come from can help you mitigate and plan for the cost of development and maintenance.

The more you plan the better. Here’s what you should do when planning:

  • Be detailed in the schematic you need
  • Think about who it needs to help, how it needs to work, and what problem it’s fixingcustom software solutions
  • Organize and delegate projects to members early on

The more information you can gather, organize and utilize at the beginning of the process, the less likely you’ll be to change your scope of work during development.

Changing scope (or scope creep) is one of the fastest ways to blow any development budget. While changes during the development process are common,  we always like to think the fewer changes, the cheaper!

Time

This everyday software is often plug-and-play. Think about how quickly you can install QuickBooks or Microsoft Office. It’s already designed so you just have to go in, set your preferences, and you’re ready to get started.

Training can be fast, too. If the software is used widely in your industry already, chances are employees but old and new are familiar with the product. Even if they haven’t, there are probably plenty of training programs or online courses.

A custom software solution has to be created from the ground up. Development, testing, rollout, and training all require time. But like cost, there are ways to shorten timelines.

planning

A skilled project manager can add significant value and save time by ensuring the large and complex process of custom software development is planned systematically and monitored for any disruption.

Have a detailed timeline with reasonable and recognizable milestones. Make responsibilities and ownership of each element clear and known to the team. And focus on solid communication between team members.

If (and when) you encounter a delay or a change to the timeline, make sure it’s clear where the change came from and what the new timeline (and cost) will be. Set new milestones if necessary.

Resources

Who’s building your custom software solution?

While you might have an in-house IT team already, developing custom software might be more than they’re able to take on. Maybe they don’t have the time to take on such a big project. Most in-house IT teams have full plates already. They might have the time, but do they have the necessary skills?

Carrying out a custom software project requires extensive knowledge and a specific skill set. Of the three major considerations, appropriate resources have the biggest impact to custom software. If you don’t have the right people building your software, it can set you back on two of life’s most valuable things: time and money.

When Do you Outsource?

outsourcing services

Depending on your needs, you may find that the best solution is hiring qualified professionals to help with your custom software development. Remember, while you may encounter additional costs up-front from hiring a company to do the work, there might be big payoffs in time to develop and overall quality.

Using Custom Software Development

There’s a term in the project management world called “Technical Debt.” John Leo Weber wrote a great article on the topic. He defines Technical Debt as-

“The costs of having to go back and resolve problems that arise because of an earlier decision to take the easy route, instead of the best one. In a sense, that choice for an easy solution is incurring a debt to the project that will have to be paid later.”

It’s like buying shoes that don’t quite fit but are cheaper than the right size. They’ll work but you’ll have blisters for sure. Can you afford the right shoes now or blisters later?

There’s a big difference between making software work and having software that makes your work better. For many, custom software makes their business better. The investments in time, money, and resources can pay-off big time when you have the right solution for you and your customers.

Here at Atiba, we specialize in our custom software development services. Our experts have plenty of experience in working with businesses of all sizes to find something that fits your needs and helps you accomplish your business goals. Reach out to us today in order to get a free quote for your project.

 

What is the Best B2B eCommerce Platform?

best b2b ecommerce platforms

When it comes to eCommerce, there are countless factors to consider but one of the most important is which platform will be best for your business. In order to have a successful business, you need to make sure you have the right B2B eCommerce platform.

Last year, global B2B eCommerce grew by almost 20% which represented over $10.3 trillion dollars in sales. That means there is a ton of potential for your business but also a ton of competition. You want to stick out to your B2B customers, but how do you do that? What platform gives you the best chance for eCommerce personalization?

But there are plenty of options out there when it comes to choosing the ideal platform, where do you even start? How can you make sure that you’re choosing the best path for your business? Switching platforms is both costly and difficult so when you make your decision, you’re going to want to stick with it.

Let’s run through some of the platforms that you should be checking out, as well as their pros and cons.

Magento

magento ecommerce

We’ve talked about how Magento can help grow your eCommerce business and it makes our list without even a second thought.

Magento is a fantastic open-source B2B eCommerce platform and can work for almost any kind of business out there. We love Magento because in the topsy-turvy world of eCommerce, it provides a sense of customization and easy startup that puts users at ease.

There are some great features, like a flexible shopping cart system, total control over your website’s look, and functional selling options.

Plus, Magento was designed with businesses in mind. While there is plenty of overlap in the Venn diagram of B2B and B2C, Magento’s features were definitely designed to handle a business’s needs. That is also one of its downsides, however.

In order to make proper use of Magento, you need to have an experienced coder with you and the bandwidth to be able to take advantage of all the features.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Incredibly flexible, unique options
  • Made for businesses
  • Scalable for big and small businesses alike

Cons:

  • Needs experienced developers to take full advantage
  • A dedicated server is needed to properly host
  • Is a bit more expensive than others

Shopify

shopify ecommerce

It’s almost impossible to talk about eCommerce without mentioning Shopify. In fact, the snowboard store turned eCommerce-giant has recently teamed up with Walmart in order to go toe-to-toe with Amazon.

If you’ve got a small business, you might be thinking you’re not a big enough fish for the likes of Shopify. Many people consider using Shopify for their eCommerce platform like people use WordPress for their blogging platform.

So what makes Shopify so great?

For one, it’s quite user-friendly and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge to set up. It’s got a low start-up cost and the interface won’t have you frustrated. There are also plenty of free themes you can take advantage of to give your site the best look possible.

Shopify’s simplicity is also one of its shortcomings. In making a user-friendly platform, you won’t find the extensive customization you might find with other platforms. Its content marketing features are also noticeably weak.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Affordable pricing
  • Plenty of free plugins, themes, and apps to improve your website

Cons:

  • Customization can be limited and cumbersome at times
  • Basic content marketing
  • Lacks multi-language capabilities

 

WooCommerce

woocommerce ecommerce

If you’re a WordPress fan and comfortable with that platform, then WooCommerce might be the right call for you. WordPress already powers around 30% of the entire internet (including us here at Atiba!) and is also responsible for about 40% of eCommerce sites around the world. So, if you’ve got WordPress experience, then you’ll be quite happy with what WooCommerce has to offer.

What makes WooCommerce as a solid B2B eCommerce platform?

When it comes to the list of pros, it shares a lot of similarities with what WordPress is already doing well. It is incredibly easy to use, launch, and there are countless themes and plugins to check out. There are also tons of performance and SEO tools that come built-in so you can make sure your eCommerce site is ready for the World Wide Web.

Plus, as your business grows and evolves it’s quite easy to expand your site as well. It’s quite scalable.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Seamless integration with WordPress
  • 100’s of themes, plugins, and add-ons
  • SEO and performance tools

Cons:

  • Number of plugins can be overwhelming
  • Developer knowledge is needed to take full advantage
  • Limited customer support despite large community

Oracle NetSuite

netsuite ecommerce

Oracle isn’t a name that jumps at you when it comes to other B2B eCommerce platforms, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look.

This cloud-based platform is ideal for businesses that have a storefront and various online stores. The multichannel capabilities are perfect for those looking to sell across different avenues and make the most of their business opportunities. It also has multi-country support if your business spans the globe.

NetSuite can be fully integrated with ERP and CRM technologies, making it easy to sync with other tools in order to save you both time and money when it comes to launching your site.

Unfortunately, NetSuite does have a steep learning curve when it comes to the initial stages. You will need an experienced developer or consultant to get you moving down the right track.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Global support for businesses that operate around the world
  • Multi-channel selling
  • Seamless integration with other technologies

Cons:

  • Steady price increases over the last few years
  • Limited support for some customers
  • Limited customization options

OpenCart

opencart ecommerce

Last on our list is another popular platform for the eCommerce world. OpenCart is a free and open-source software that comes with a number of powerful and useful tools to make the most of your online presence. OpenCart has been around for a while and they continue to make strides, most notably with their extension “OpenCart B2B marketplace”. This extension has made it much easier for B2B users.

OpenCart is also a multi-channel marketplace that will allow your business to access services across the web for easy and optimal wholesale selling. The platform is easy to update, extremely user-friendly and will help you set up a basic store even if you have little to no experience.

Of course, in order to take full advantage of the platform and all its features you’ll have to bring in an experienced developer or coder to help maximize your site’s opportunities. When it comes to payment and checkout, OpenCart has shown to be a bit limited as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use, ideal for beginners
  • Simple metrics and reporting documents
  • Built-in email templates make marketing easy

Cons:

  • While not universal, is known to be a bit buggy
  • Noticeably slower checkout process
  • Limited long-term features

What’s the best B2B eCommerce Platform For You?

As with just about anything in the tech world, the answer is often those two frustrating words “it depends.”

It really does depend on the size of your business, the global scope, and how much control you want over your website. In order to determine which is the best for you, we recommend writing down a list of things that matter most to you for your eCommerce platform.

Your list should include things like:

  • Speed
  • Customization
  • Security
  • Setup ease
  • Support
  • Price
  • Features
  • And more

While we can’t put those in order for you, we can make a recommendation on our favorites. It’s no secret that we are big WordPress fans and as a part of that, big WooCommerce fans. We believe its functionality and ease make it a great option for eCommerce businesses.

If you’d rather not go the WordPress route, we suggest taking a look at Magento. It’s perfect for both big and small businesses and can go with your business if it continues to grow.

So if you’re looking to start your eCommerce website or just need help, reach out to our eCommerce team to help you get set up with all the tools you need. We look forward to helping you!

 

 

 

6 Mistakes to Avoid With eCommerce Website Development

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The COVID pandemic hit a number of industries hard. There were some industries, however, that were able to withstand the global upheaval. One of these was eCommerce.

For proof, we don’t have to look any further than Amazon. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos saw his net worth grow by $25 billion during the pandemic. They also hired around 75,000 workers in order to keep up with the demand.

Although the growth of a colossus enterprise such as Amazon isn’t exactly shocking, eCommerce growth tends to be a national trend. In fact, US eCommerce sales rose by 14.5% from the previous year. With so much attention in the industry, it’s only natural that interest in starting an eCommerce business has risen over the past year as well.

Check out this graph from Google Trends on “how to eCommerce” grew over the last 6 months.

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So, what does that mean? It means a lot of people are trying to break into the eCommerce world and if you’re one of them, how do you stand out?

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is by using sound eCommerce website development. Web development can be tough but necessary to keep visitors coming back to your website and increase sales over time. Web development plays a huge role.

When it comes to building the perfect eCommerce site, what web development mistakes do you need to look out for? Check out six things you should be aware of.

 

Consuming too Much Bandwidth

In today’s environment, people expect things ASAP and that’s never been more true than someone visiting a webpage. In fact, studies show that if your site or a page doesn’t load in three seconds, the user will bounce right off.

The average website is filled with high-quality images, banners, push notifications, and more. But if those items aren’t properly optimized, then your website will look like it’s trying to wade through mashed potatoes.

What are the processes and items you should be optimizing? For starters, you should:

  • Optimize all images, compress their file size so they load faster
  • Minify JavaScript and CSS. Too much on a page is going to slow it down
  • Lower the amount of HTTP requests

There are other things you can be doing, but it’s best to start off with those three. Not only will you have a fast-loading site, but you’ll also rank better in Google.

Speaking of ranking better in Google…

Underestimating the Importance of SEO

Get ready to see this little acronym everywhere when you start developing an eCommerce website. You might think that search engine optimization is all about on-page elements, such as content, title tags, meta descriptions, and more.

While those things are very important, there are plenty of other SEO aspects you should be concerned about.

On the web development side you have to ask yourself: is this site crawlable?

For a website to be crawlable, it needs to have a proper site structure, minimal redirects, proper canonical tags, no duplicate content, a sitemap, and much more. The easier you make it for Google to crawl your website, the more visibility you’re going to gain over time.

You can check how Google sees your website by making use of Google Search Console. It’s a free tool that can easily be connected to your site.

Ignoring Responsive Design

eocmmerce-responsive-design

Whenever you hear someone talk about web development, you’re almost guaranteed to hear them talk about responsive design. These two are the new peanut butter and jelly.

These days, the three devices people browse the internet on are: computers, mobile phones, and tablets (and iPod touches for those who were locked in a time capsule in 2008).

That means your website must be able to adapt to the various screens that people are using to browse the web. When it comes to building responsive websites, there are a number of proper practices and methods for doing so. WordPress will let you know if their themes are responsive or not.

However, even though you may be choosing a theme or design that says it’s responsive, there might be some more work to do on the development side to make it so. Oftentimes a theme or layout will look responsive but menus or other sections may not display properly, frustrating any visitors.

Being Browser Specific

Even though over 60% of web users have Chrome set as their primary browser, that doesn’t mean you should make your site Chrome-specific. Everyone has their favorite browser, but some of your users might be in that small percentage of people who still use Internet Explorer. If your website isn’t working properly for them, why would they stick around or ever come back?

It would be overkill to test out your website on every browser with every major change, but you need to be doing periodic checks in order to make sure your website is functional with each browser.

CSS is often a culprit in robbing you of all-browser functionality, so make sure you feel confident in your abilities if you jump into complex tasks.

Implementing Poor Web Security

ecommerce-web-security

“Identity theft is not a joke, Jim!” is just one of the many great quotes that Dwight Schrute had from The Office. But Dwight does have a point.

eCommerce websites with poor security can damage relationships with customers and torpedo your business efforts. When it comes to security, we often run into two words: authentication and authorization. What’s the difference?

Authentication is verifying the identity of a user and confirming who they are whereas authorization is giving said user access to a website, system, etc. More often than not, inexperienced eCommerce web developers will grant authorization without authentication.

Yikes.

In order to best protect users on your site, you need to implement proper security measures by using proper authentication and authorization methods. While the two words may be different, they must come together as one.

Sloppy Navigation

Above we mentioned some sound practices for making sure your website is crawlable by Google. Now we need to talk about how to make it easy for users. User interface and user experience will often fall onto the web design side. But you can make it easy for your web design team by thinking about navigation during the development process.

Plus, a crawlable website is much easier to navigate.

That means making easy-to-read menus, using simple structures, plainly distinctive categories, and a handy search function. The last thing you want to do is have visitors come to your site and be confused or frustrated while trying to navigate to a product page. Don’t count on users “figuring it out”. With thousands of other websites begging for their attention, they’ll just leave.

When it comes to eCommerce web development, there are plenty of mistakes that can be made. Some of them may be too complicated for those not fluent in web development. Here at Atiba, we have web development experts on hand to help you with any doubts. Make sure and reach out when you’re ready to take your eCommerce website to the next level.

 

 

 

Hiring the Right IT Services Company for Your Business

it-services-company

As a small business, you are always making difficult decisions about when to do things in-house, and when to outsource certain processes or projects. When it comes to IT work, there is often a steep learning curve. Sure, you can do the work yourself but it may take precious time and resources to train yourself, and even then, it might be done wrong. That’s even before we get into regular maintenance and troubleshooting.

From creating secure and reliable networks to digital marketing plans and collateral, there is so much to consider when building the IT side of even a small business. But investing in proper IT services can have fantastic dividends.

Holding back on properly investing in IT services may lower your productivity, reduce efficiency, and see you fall behind your competitors. Nobody wants to miss out on any of that. So let’s talk about why small businesses hire IT service companies to hire experts.

What are IT Services?

IT Services is a broad term for the contracted development of custom software for business. So just like you might hire a cleaning service to vacuum your office, you might hire an IT Service company to manage the development and management of your services and systems.

What Services are included?

There are many kinds of IT Services and each company is going to have its own unique options. Let’s talk about some of the most common IT Services that small companies contract out:

  1. Website Design and Hosting
  2. Network Services
  3. Custom Program Development
  4. Digital Marketing

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Let’s run through each one and check them out a bit more.

Website Design and Hosting

It seems almost unimaginable that you could have a business without a website these days. You might be surprised to learn that around 40% of businesses these days don’t have a website. If you find yourself in that camp, then it’s time to get on board.

website design

And people’s expectations for how a website should look and function are higher than ever before. But building and hosting websites takes skills and knowledge a small business owner might not have. And even those who do may find their time is better spent running the business than the website.

Building a great website goes hand-in-hand with online marketing and SEO (search engine optimization). You want your website to be mobile responsive, load quickly, and look nice. You can reach your target audience better having solid marketing and SEO tactics.

Your website might be the first interaction a customer has with your business and the value of that first impression is huge. Ensuring that customers see your business in the best possible light is worth investing in experts.

Network Services

Even small companies find they need their various devices to connect and talk to one another. Plus, they need all of their tech protected from intruders. But sometimes setting up reliable, secure networks can be complicated and is often time-consuming.

We’ve all had fights with printers or faulty internet. Who hasn’t ever wanted to toss their laptop right out the window?

network-services

Fighting with tech is exhausting and frustrating. Bad IT setups can leach time and efficiency out of business. You want your tech and devices to be reliable so you can spend more time working and less time troubleshooting.

Businesses who’ve hired high-quality IT services contractors often find the experience worth the investment. Network services often expand from basic services to more comprehensive services like emergency help desk support, data backup, disaster recovery services, and more. Hiring professionals can expedite the process and ensure that it facilitates work instead of making more of it.

And it might keep you from throwing a laptop out a window. 

Custom Program Management

Custom software can create fantastic opportunities for businesses to optimize workflows and services. In her article on Technology Advice, Tamara Scott says, “The software that provides the highest value to companies is often the hardest to implement.” 

We know this to be true from years of experience. When software is built for your business it provides the biggest return on investment. And when there is so much value to be had from custom software, it’s worth hiring a company with knowledgeable and reliable experts to help you along.

Digital Marketing

Marketing has grown into a living part of business. The days of brochures and billboards doing the majority of marketing are long gone. Social networks, blogs, video, email, and many other forms of digital marketing are becoming common, trusted forms of building a customer base and communication channels.

digital-marketing

In his Business.com article, Don’t Go It Alone: The Case for Hiring a Marketing Expert Ryan Ayers says, “Modern marketing is complex and requires a wide variety of skills and breadth of knowledge that can take years to acquire. Your business can’t limp along until you’ve learned everything you need to know about digital marketing.” That’s a powerful endorsement for the value of hiring an experienced digital marketing team.

How to Choose a Great Service Provider

How do you go about choosing the right service provider?

Just because a business is large doesn’t necessitate the need for a large IT services company. The company you hire needs to be able to make you a priority. You’ll be able to identify over-extended and bolstered promises from IT Service companies pretty quickly.

it-services-hire

 

So, what do you look for?

  • Clear and reasonable SLAs (service-level agreement). If the company has experience in solving tech issues, they’ll know how long a service should take and what you can expect to spend. Make sure they can offer service agreements that are created before the work begins.
  • Specific services and areas of expertise. A great IT Services company will have individuals who are experts in specific parts of IT Services. They’ll offer years of experience and knowledge that only a focus can offer.
  • A company that wants to understand what you do so they can provide what you need. Are they asking you a lot of questions about what your needs are, or are they only talking about what they do?
  • Look for references! Who have they worked for and who was happy with the job they did.

Contact Atiba for IT Hosted Services

Atiba has a talented and knowledgeable crew ready to help you get the most out of your IT. Our team of IT professionals over 20 has years of experience in focus areas to ensure that the work you need is done properly, quickly, and meets your needs.

We’ve helped many businesses just like yours grow their IT capabilities to better serve their business (check out our Case Studies).

We’re part human and part geek and we’re excited to help you! Contact us today for a free project quote.

How Microsoft Access Helps Small Businesses Leverage Data

In 2017 The Economist published a report titled, The World’s Most Valuable Resource is no Longer Oil but Data. That’s a pretty punchy title that garnered plenty of attention, and for good reason.

There seems to be no dispute these days that data can make or break a business. While large companies pump huge budgets into their data machines, small businesses have to find affordable and effective ways to leverage the data available to them.

“If you run a business, and you want to do anything with your data, the first thing you need to do is create the infrastructure required to store and query that data. Data does not live in spreadsheets.” –Samuel Flender

Gathering, sorting, and making meaning of all that data can be a huge undertaking.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Tools like Microsoft Access help small businesses do big business tasks by offering custom database solutions.

Despite the dynamic landscape of IT, there are some tools that have stood the test of time, continuing to show value for users. Microsoft Access software is one of those tools that businesses turn to again and again to help make the most of data for understanding cost, opportunity, and clarity.

It might not have a flashy name, but it’s quite the workhorse. Let’s talk about what Microsoft Access software can do for your business.

What is Microsoft Access?

First things first, let’s talk about what Microsoft Access actually is.

We like to describe Microsoft Access as “Excel after 100 Red Bulls.”

All jokes aside, it’s a versatile database development tool that’s available in the Microsoft Office suite. It helps small and medium businesses gather, organize, and utilize multiple sources of data to help run their business.

Over the years it’s gained a reputation for its value. It allows businesses to gather, analyze, and use data in ways that would otherwise require expensive custom databases built from the ground up and maintained by an in-house IT team.

Because Microsoft Access is an “out of the box” solution, design and maintenance are easy to contract out. It can be customized to the needs of the business while operating off a standard design foundation. That means as long as the company you contract has a knowledgeable Microsoft Access development expert, they can build your database or jump in and maintain or modify a design set up by someone else.

For an “out of the box” solution it’s surprisingly powerful and adaptable in the hands of a knowledgeable IT expert. This makes it an affordable, dynamic, reliable database option for the small business.

How Would a Small Business Use It?

Let’s say you’re a small landscaping company, how would you go about using this tool? Microsoft Access can help stream-line tons of office work for you with the right setup. You have a lot of info coming into, and going out of even a small office. Microsoft Access development can help you make and utilize all that data.

microsoft-access-business-data

Even a landscape business has lots of business data

Things like rent, materials, equipment purchases, maintenance, payroll, accounts payable, insurance, taxes, and more all come from various sources. Plus, they all get billed and paid at different times, to different people.

And because your business is impacted by seasonal changes, you also need to plan ahead for things like ordering, staffing, and advertising. It’s a lot of information and it all impacts your profitability and budgets. You can use the various Microsoft Access templates to get the best results for your business.

“Executives often underestimate the financial returns that can be generated by using data to create operational efficiencies” – Barbara H. Wixom & Jeanne W. Ross 

A Microsoft Access database can help you bring all of those costs and expenditures into one place, allowing you to view them in meaningful reports, and share that information with those in the company who need it. It also reduces opportunities for errors from duplication or entry mistakes, ensuring more reliable and useful data.

You can help plan ahead by analyzing data and building reports based on trends from the previous months and years. You can identify where time, money and resources are well used, and when they’re bleeding you dry.

If you set it up on a cloud source, you can even make all that information as mobile as you are.

Why Doesn’t Everyone use Microsoft Access?

With all these benefits, why isn’t every business out there making use of this stellar tool? While Microsoft Access will look and feel like other Microsoft tools, it definitely requires some knowledge and expertise to set up and manage.

Many small business owners find hiring consultants is the fastest way to get the most bang for the buck when using it. A good consultant can help you build the intake, analysis, and reporting tools that make Microsoft Access so valuable.

How Atiba Can Help You With Microsoft Access

Finding a knowledgeable, reliable team to consult and provide Microsoft Access development services may seem hard but that’s where we come in. Atiba has been a Microsoft Partner for over 20 years now and our team of experts knows just about everything there is to know when it comes to Microsoft tools.

Here’s what we provide:

  1. Local Knowledge. Because Microsoft Access’ function is to personalize your business data, it can be really valuable to have a company that can work directly and personally with you to customize the setup and functionality of your data.
  2. Microsoft Experts. While Microsoft Access looks a lot like other Microsoft tools that are very user friendly, it takes knowledge and experience to set up and maintain. Our team is knowledgeable and experienced with the tool.
  3. Continual Support. Even the best setups for Microsoft Access will require support over time. We can partner with you so that you have a great experience on day one and years down the road. A well supported Microsoft Access database can adapt with you as a business grows and changes.

As you can see, Microsoft Access comes with a myriad of options to help your small business grow and leverage data effectively.

Ready to get started?

No matter what problem you’re having, we can fix it. As leading IT experts and consultants, we provide immediate response times and 24/7 support.

Reach out to us today!