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Network Services Employee Spotlight

Network Services - Joey Baggott

As part of a new series exploring our “Half-Human” side, we recently (virtually) sat down with Joey Baggott from our Network Services team.

How long have you been with Atiba and what is your role? 

I joined Atiba in March of 2020 as the Business Development Manager, so I’m still fairly new to the Atiba teamI primarily focus on Atiba’s Network Services offering.  My goal is to help businesses develop the most efficient solution to their network environment and architecture. Atiba doesn’t sell “one size fits all” solutions, so I work with our Senior Network Engineers to create custom solutions for every organization. 

What is your favorite part about working at Atiba?  

My favorite thing about working at Atiba is the like-minded people. I’ve always enjoyed video games, comic books, other geeky things, but I’ve never been around others in the workplace who share those interests. At Atiba, I fit in well and I can truly be my nerdy self. I’ve never been able to describe myself well until I got to Atiba and heard the line “Half-geek, Half-human” and I finally understood a little more about my own personality. It’s like I’m in a galaxy far, far away. 

 What motivates you to wake up and go to work? 

My amazing family is my primary motivation. I have three beautiful kids and a gorgeous wife. It’s important to me to show my kids what it looks like to work hard. I also want to be an example to them of what it looks like to truly help people. So many salespeople are just trying to close a deal. Atiba focuses on finding what works for the client, even if that means turning down business. 

 What is something most people don’t know about you? 

When I was in college at the University of Tennessee, I was captain of the UT Paintball Team. We actually won a National Championship in my final year.  

 

 

 

 

 

How to Choose the Right Custom Software Developer

choose custom software developer

There’s a reason people consider tech a frontier. It’s full of all those “never been done before” possibilities to create something new, something novel. From the mundane (but super helpful) database development to cutting edge social platform apps; custom software development transforms the “what could be” and makes it into reality. For many, that’s where custom software comes into play.

While we could talk for hours about all the cool ways software has created new solutions and options in our tech lives, let’s talk about what’s possibly the most crucial part of any custom software project; the software developer.

Choosing a custom software developer can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s talk about what you can do to find the right software developer for your custom software project. We’ll start by looking at what you can do to prepare for your project before moving onto what to look for in a software developer candidate.

Hiring a Great Software Developer

Going from the idea to the product stage can be challenging. Design and development are two of the most crucial areas. Often, embarking on a project to create a custom software solution requires partnering with a software developer. How do you find someone with the right mix of creativity and experience who is also affordable, reliable, and capable?

In a 2018 report on State of Software Development, over 33% of companies listed hiring talent as their biggest software development challenge. So clearly, finding the right person or team to help bring your software development goals into fruition is tough.

custom software development

First step: Identify You Custom Software Needs

Before you jump into quotes and interviews, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of what you need, what its purpose will be, and when you’ll need it by. Without a clear understanding of what the project needs from a developer, you won’t know who’s really qualified for the project.

“The better you describe your needs and what you are developing, the better software developer you will be able to hire.” togglehire

The four questions below should help you clearly define your project before you look for a software development partner.

#1-Is this a new or existing product?

Creating from the ground up is very different than changing something that already exists. Something that exists will be coded in a specific language (think Java, C++, or Python). That means anyone who works on that existing product has to know and be capable of writing in that programming language. When you create from the ground up, you won’t necessarily face that challenge.

Alternatively, creating something new requires much more planning, development, testing, and overall, more time. All of which can be difficult to find and costly.

Each project is different and deciding to update or recreate can be difficult. If you’re having trouble deciding if you should expand functionality on an existing product or create something entirely new, consulting with a reputable IT team can help you identify the pros and cons of each option.

Regardless of which option you choose, having a clear vision of what you want your outcome to be is the first concrete step in a custom software project.

questions#2-Who, What, Where, and Why?

OK, so technically this is four questions rolled all into one, but bear with us here. These are the nuts and bolts of your software. The answers to these questions will help your team build the product to suit both your needs and ambitions.

Who will be using this software? Customers, employees, or both?

What are you building? Are you building a certain software application? A CRM tool? A database solution?

Where will the software be? Will it be an app on mobile devices? Will it be used on computers in an office?

Why would they use this software instead of something else or nothing at all?

The more detail you can provide when answering these questions the better aligned your team will be on what the goals of the project are and what success looks like.

#3-When is the deadline?

This question is difficult. While tomorrow always feels like a great answer, it’s typically not the reality. Providing an honest and realistic target for completion is important. Consider that speed normally comes at the expense of budget or quality.

Most projects can also be completed in phases, rolling out functionality and enhancements over time. Your initial goal may change as you work with your development team on milestones, resources, and budgets. But starting with a target helps everyone involved prioritize and plan.

#4-Will you need help post-launch?

Do you have folks on staff who can pick up maintenance of your software once it’s launched? Or do you need a long-term partner to support your software? If you’ll need help long-term, you’d ideally want the same team that built your software to support it. After all, there is no one else in the world that will know it better.

It would be wonderful if your custom software worked flawlessly and never needed any updates from the first launch day, but we all know that’s not a guarantee. While many development firms offer ongoing support, it’s not a given and should be discussed before embarking on a project together.

Second Step: Choosing a Custom Software Developer

OK, now that you’ve nailed down what you want, you can move on to figuring out how to hire a software developer.

Hiring a custom software developer is more than just finding the right price. Software development is a blended skill that includes both talent and experience. But this process isn’t just about them. You need to make sure you’re comfortable and that you’ll make a good team together.

Are They Qualified?

Qualified can mean a couple of things here. In the most basic sense, you want to know they have the technical expertise to complete the work. In the case of some projects, that may be an array of skills involving things like project management, creating wireframes, writing code, testing, and maintenance.

As you define your project and scope, you may quickly find that the qualified party isn’t just one developer but a group. Many projects require a team approach and require working with a development company instead of an individual contractor.

While that may sound more expensive, hiring a company instead of an individual usually isn’t money but does offer a lot more value. As a client, you’ll be happy to see a broader skill base, faster development timelines, and extended support hours.custom software agreement

Do They Understand You?

Ask any couple what’s been the secret to their success and many will tell you communication is key.

A good partner will take time to get to know what you do, what you need, what you want, and what you’d love to have. A great partner will create a proposal that shows how well they understand the job and you. They’ll explain why they would not only do a great job completing the project but adding value to your business overall.

Can They Provide References and Recommendations?

If they’ve done great work before, there will be people willing to tell you about it. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and recommendations. Don’t be shy about contacting references you’re given, either. Make sure to ask their references what their experience was working with the business.

Ask questions like:

  • Did the project stay on budget?
  • Were they easy to communicate with and quick to respond?
  • Did they provide ongoing support?

After all, good companies will be proud of their work. Steer clear of anyone who doesn’t want their work talked about.

Do They Have the Capacity?

This question can depend on your timeline. If you need work urgently completed, do they have enough team members with the time and ability to work on your project?

Can the company complete independent elements concurrently? When can they start on your project? Having explicit conversations about what their team can do, what can be done when, and other timeline issues before starting work will ensure that everyone understands abilities and limitations.

Can You See Yourself Together Forever?

Well, maybe not forever. This doesn’t have to be a story about two star-crossed lovers finding happiness. But it is fair to ask yourself if you could see yourself working with them for a long time. For this one, it’s definitely OK to go with your gut.

Most custom software development involves lots of communication, collaboration, and post-launch support. So if you don’t enjoy talking with them before their hired, you may hate working with them forever. Because custom software is unique in its design; you benefit from the developer being involved in any ongoing maintenance and support.

So you’re likely looking at a long-term relationship. It’s worth finding a group you enjoy working with.

Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how they work and what their culture is. There are three types of questions to understand a company better:

  • General (work process, communication, responsibilities)
  • Technical (tools, tests, documentation, practices)
  • Business (rates, management, experience)

And for the logic side of us on this one, picking a company that’s stable and well established also pays off here. Since you’re going to need ongoing support, it’s best that you choose an established company with a strong reputation. Nobody can predict the future (as we’ve seen with the COVID pandemic) and staffing problems or a lack of physical office space could hint at instability. It pays to do your homework and most of all, listen to your gut.

Conclusion

Custom software can be exciting. It’s the gateway to creative solutions and new ideas. And often, it’s absolutely the right investment for your business. Take your time, create a plan, find the right partner, and get started.

If you’re ready to start your custom software development project, Atiba’s Half Geek, Half Human team is ready to dive in and find the right fit. Reach out to us today for a free quote!

Nashville Software Development Company Announces the Hiring of Chief Growth Officer 

jay-kelley

Atiba, a Nashville custom software development, network services, and digital marketing company, is thrilled to announce the recent hiring of Jay Kelley as Chief Growth Officer. 

Atiba has seen tremendous growth over the past yearTechnology is playing an ever-growing part in our lives, especially in regards to remote work, virtual learning, and increased cyber threats. The demand for custom software solutions, robust websites, and secure network solutions is rapidly expanding. With this in mind, Atiba chose to bring in Jay Kelley to oversee the newly created sales and marketing teams. Jay will oversee strategic growth opportunities as Atiba looks to expand into additional markets and channels.  

“Jay continues to impress me with his creativity and diligence. He is a brilliant problem solver and truly cares about putting client needs first. I know he will bring tremendous value to our internal team, as well as our clients.” 

David Callahan
Chief Legal Officer/Chief Strategy Officer 

Jay brings a wealth of knowledge in the technology space. As a self-described “repeat entrepreneur,” Jay has spent his career creating innovative solutions. His unique experiences in a variety of fields allow him to truly understand client needs and serve as a bridge between developer and end-user. 

Prior to joining Atiba, Jay Kelley served as the CEO and a founding member of Peak Money, the first mobile app that combines goal-based savings with mindfulness tools. Peak began operations in January of 2018 and launched in the App Store in the Fall of 2018. 

He is also a Board Director at Spire Labs, a digital innovation company that builds products to support wellbeing. Spire Labs technology includes Spire, an enterprise social wellness platform for employers and health plans, and Rove, which offers simple, automated step tracking and competitions for individuals and organizations. Spire Labs has a small portfolio of other IPs and is a shareholder in Peak Money.  

Previously, Jay was a Founding Executive of The Documentary Channel, a national cable and satellite network that grew to more than 25 million homes before it was acquired by Participant Media in 2012. Jay raised the initial capital for the channel and served in a variety of top executive positions during his nine-year tenure with the company. He oversaw marketing and PR, commercial operations, digital and social platforms, advertising sales, strategic partnerships, and branded entertainment. Jay was instrumental in growing the network from idea to profitability, and in developing multi-platform partnerships with a number of Fortune 500 brands including P&G, ExxonMobil, and Red Bull. 

Before his involvement with The Documentary Channel, Jay worked in advertising and marketing, developing creative and strategy across all media for brands in the wireless, consumer packaged goods, and energy categories. His clients included Cricket Wireless, Litespeed Bicycles, TVA, Brach’s Candy, Krystal Restaurants, Five Star Ranges, and BullFrog, among others. 

Preceding his career in media and entertainment, Jay taught history and creative writing for several years, both at Johns Hopkins University and at international schools in Latin America and the Middle East. Jay has a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Sewanee. He currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and two sons. 

Jay will focus on growing the Nashville software development division, as well as the network services offerings. He will be a great addition to the Atiba team. Welcome, Jay!

 

10 SEO Copywriting Tips to Boost Your Online Visibility

seo copywriting

Even though it may have been a few years, we all have writing experience. From crafting letters to those old high school research papers, we’ve all written something. Each item, however, has its own unique rules that you need to follow. SEO copywriting is no different.

For example, you should avoid using the passive voice and first-person tense while writing a research paper. You probably don’t need to provide sources for a thank you letter to your grandmother for that (less than comfortable) sweater.

You’ll also find that SEO copywriting adheres to its own set of guidelines. Your goal is to not only write engaging copy but to write copy that’s going to rank highly in Google. Your goals may vary from boosting your organic traffic, providing information, or generating leads. However, none of that can happen if you’re sitting back on Page 19 of the SERPs (search engine results page).

Today, we’re going to run over several tips you need in order to make sure you’re writing effective SEO copy.

1. Write for Search Intent

user intentFans of Shark Tank are well aware of some of the pitfalls that show participants run into. Even though a product may look interesting, the Sharks instantly lose interest when they hear how poor the item is selling.

These would-be-business-moguls probably didn’t do enough research to see what people actually wanted or needed. The all-in-one “Mop and Grill 3000” sure seemed great, but if no one is going to buy it, what’s the point?

The same kind of thought process needs to go into your writing. You might have a great idea for a topic, but if no one is going to search for it, then why write about it?

This Means Writing for Humans!

Even though Google appears to be a big giant machine brain that controls everything, it is still optimized to give the best possible results to humans. SEO copywriting isn’t about trying to trick the algorithm. Always write for a human reader instead of Google itself.

Think about what it’s important to your audience. Are they coming to you for information? Looking to buy something?

Make a list of potential keywords of how your audience could find you. They might be long-tail keywords (four words or longer) or more precise keywords. Whatever they are, you should know what you want to show up in Google.

Knowing your audience’s intent is going to point you in the right direction for making content. It will help you decide your content type and content format.

What type of content are you going to have? A blog? A landing page? A product page?

Format, on the other hand, generally applies to informational content. Think of lists, reviews, and how-to articles. In fact, a recent survey from SEMRush showed that how-to articles are some of the most frequently used.

Making your content based on what the user wants is a surefire way to answer their questions and provide possible solutions.

2. Take Time to Prepare Your Text

prepare textEven the world’s greatest writers start with an outline. Many fiction writers start by writing the ending first and then working their way back to the beginning. That requires plenty of planning, don’t you think?

We’ve already talked about search intent, but it might require you to dive a little deeper into what you’re actually writing.

Here are some questions to think about and answer ahead of time:

  • What are you trying to convey with your post?
  • What is your audience looking for?
  • What will the structure of your article look like?

This doesn’t mean you have to break out the classic outline you used back in high school, but take some time in the planning stage before you jump right into writing.

Target Additional Keywords

Planning out your text gives you the opportunity to also find additional keywords or ancillary keywords, you may want to target.

It’s pretty easy to find out those additional keywords. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to help give you an idea or just use the Google homepage as a start.

There are plenty of SEO tools out there, but many of them are paid. One that offers a bit longer of a free trial is UberSuggest. It will give you additional ideas to help you flesh out your content.

3. Look at What’s Already Out There

keyword researchThis goes with your research phase. You need to look at what content is already ranking for what you are trying to answer or provide.

If you’re writing a blog post about the best car stereos, plug that into Google and see what is already out there. You can start to make a guideline for yourself and have an idea of what readers are already clicking on.

Here are some of the questions that you need to find out:

  • How long are the articles?
  • What does their format look like?
  • Are they conversational in tone or more professional?
  • Are the other articles lists, how-to guides, informational pieces?
  • Do they make use of media? Are there lots of videos or images?

It may take some time to go through 8-10 posts, but it’s worth it in the long run.

4. Make it Easy to Read

With many people’s past writing experiences based in the academic world, it’s time to throw (almost) everything you learned out the window. If something is too long, too complicated, or just not interesting, your website visitors will be clicking that back button immediately.

So, how can you make your content easier to read and digest?

  1. Break up your writing. Use things like quotes, numbered lists, bullet points, and more to make your information more digestible and readable.
  2. Use media. We’re not just talking about pictures, but videos and GIFs as well. Not only do they break up the text, but they give you a chance to show off your personality a little bit.
  3. Be more like Ernest Hemingway. Those that have read Hemingway know he loved to use short sentences. Don’t drag on and on, you’re more likely to cause your readers to lose interest.

Finally, it always helps to read your copy out loud to make sure it not only looks right but sounds right.

Speaking of sounding right…

5. Use Simple Text

If you’re coming out and writing everything in technical jargon, you may turn off your readers. Even though you put lots of work into a certain piece, no one is going to be reading each word in grave detail. Readers on the internet are more likely to be skimmers.

If you have complicated text and long words, those skimming may not want to put forth the effort into reading your whole post.

Remember, it’s vital to think like your customer. While you may know all the acronyms, fancy language, and trendy words, your customers may not. Don’t consider it dumbing down, just think of it as making your language more accessible.

6. Use Proper Grammar and Spelling

One of the quickest ways to erode the confidence of your readers is to use poor grammar. While they may not be such grammar-fiends that they’re picking out where you should have put a semicolon instead of a colon, most people can recognize misspelled words or spot missed punctuation.

Many times these errors can be caught while you’re reading text out loud. You may notice you substituted a “their” for a “there” or “roll” for a “role”.

At the very least, make sure you’re running a spell and grammar check after your article. We are big fans of the plugin Grammarly which will suggest spelling and word changes. But remember! Don’t rely on these checkers to do the work for you. Make sure you go over your text with your fine-toothed comb.

7. Write to Solve a Problem

Unless you’re writing news-based articles, people likely aren’t clicking around your content just for fun. That’s why you need to help them solve a problem. You could be answering a question, telling them how to do something, or offering a product for their needs.

Writing copy based around problem-solving is just like any proper commercial you see on TV. They revolve around presenting the problem, explaining why it’s a problem, and then offering their products or services as the solution.

Think of the classic Flex Tape commercial that has spawned thousands of memes across the internet.

  • The Problem: You’ve got a hole in your pipe/house/swimming pool and you need to fix it now!
  • Why it’s a Problem: If you don’t take care of it, it could lead to thousands of dollars in damage!
  • The Solution: Flex Tape can seal up those holes and save you money and a huge headache!

It’s best to put this information in the introduction of your article, that way you can draw readers in instead of having them snore their way out of your website.

8. Use Simple Headlines to Help Your Readers

Compelling, attention-grabbing headlines can make or break your article, even before readers click on it.

A 2017 BuzzSumo study unearthed a lot about what makes a great headline. For starters, headlines with numbers tend to work the best. And not just regular numbers, but odd numbers as well. Instead of doing a Top 10 list, why not do a Top 13?

When it comes to the length of your headline, you should be shooting for anywhere between 12-18 words. Those tend to get the highest number of engagements. Curiosity also plays a huge role in headlines. Make sure you leave something for readers to discover and entice them. Add something that will make them click. Phrases like ‘this is why’ and ‘the reason is’ performed quite well in the survey’s findings.

9. Throw in a Table of Contents

While CTRL+F is a great trick for many, readers aren’t going to be coming to your website ready to do extra searching. So why not hand them a map as soon as they arrive?

Adding a table of contents will let the reader scan through your list of headings to see if the article or blog will satisfy their search. If they don’t find what they’re searching for quickly, then they’ll leave. Even if it’s on your page. Your goal should be to make things as easy as possible for them. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to continue reading.

10. Take a Break

Copywriting can be hard and mentally draining, especially when you’re doing a ton of research and trying to take plenty of things into account. That’s why it’s always good to take a break once and awhile. Are the words all starting to look the same? Does everything you write seem to sound awful?

Step away from the document and focus on something else. Let it simmer before coming back and giving it a look-over. A new eye and refreshed mind can make a huge difference.

Final Thoughts

Whew! As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into writing effective SEO copy. But don’t worry! Just because there’s a lot of things to consider doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

At Atiba, we’re copywriting experts and have worked on many projects using both SEO and copywriting skills. If you’re looking for someone to help you with your next project or have an expert take a look at what you’ve already written, reach out to Atiba for a free quote today. We look forward to working with you!

 

Office 365 vs G Suite-Which One is Best for Business?

g suite office 365

There was a time when it seemed Microsoft had offices and schools everywhere using Microsoft Office products. But in the past decade, Google’s G Suite has grown as a true competitor. Where once there was almost no question of which programs to use, now we ask ourselves, “Should my business be using Office 365 or G Suite?”

Here at Atiba, we’re experts on both and can help you get set up with either.

With so many similarities, it’s a tough question. Let’s go through and break down what each offers, what’s similar, what’s different, and a few personal insights.

How’d We Get Here?

office 365Most people’s early computing years were spent using Microsoft Office products. We used Word for our essays, PowerPoint for our presentations, and learned the basics of Excel. G Suite products, up until the last few years, were more based around personal use. There are plenty of businesses that used G Suite, but Google started to dip its toes into the business world on a more regular basis.

You’d think by having the world’s most popular search engine that Google would be hitting you across the face with G Suite every five seconds. Maybe it was a habit, maybe it was because Microsoft Office was loaded on seemingly every PC. But as more and more people are turning towards G Suite as an option for their business, we have to start weighing out the pros and cons of each service.

How They Compare

While the core applications offered on the platforms are the same (see the infographic below for the full list), the design philosophy for the products is pretty different.

Both platforms are subscription-based and offer cloud and web programs (Microsoft also offers a robust desktop version). Both are comprehensive platforms with almost any tool you’d need in a modern office including word processing, spreadsheets, and video conferencing. Regardless of the platform you choose, you’ll have what you need to do effective, quality work.

However, the products are suited to different users. For those who value collaboration and speed, G Suite products often come out on top. Microsoft offers a product that is better for those who work independently and value complexity.

To be clear, both approaches have plenty of merits.

What exactly are these merits?

Office 365 and G Suite: Side by Side

 

 

While this infographic does a solid job of breaking down their main differences, how does it feel to use them? We can talk all day about what they offer, but what about functionality and use?

What’s it Like to Use Them?

One of the most recognizable services from G Suite is Google Docs, their rival to Word. From an opening glance, the setup is quite similar.

All your options are located at the top of the page. The core tools are all pretty similar and even the layout of where to find things, their groupings, and their icons were similar. It’s pretty easy to make the switch.

This was no accident. We often hear the phrase “if you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em” but sometimes tech takes an “if you can’t beat ‘em, copy ‘em and change a few details” approach.

googleIt’s easy to find your way around and navigate because most people are used to Word. Even if you’re not sure where something is, you have an idea where you can go about finding it. There could be an argument that the choice by Google to make things so similar was a shortcoming of the product, maybe unoriginal. But it makes adoption less painful and faster. So, it’s an understandable choice.

It’s also much easier to implement browser extensions or tools into G Suite. Extensions like Grammarly or SEO writing assistant tools work much better on the G Suite platform.

This doesn’t mean that Word lacks in tools, however. There are plenty of tools to choose from in the store but they might not always be the ones you’re looking for.

If you want a comparison of where the two products differ, check out the difference in the number of templates offered. Word offers dozens of templates of almost every kind. Clippy was a popular figure who would often offer assistance when writing certain documents.

The templates are more varied and more adaptable to almost any need. It’s another place where the type of user matters. Some people find all the template options overwhelming and cluttered. While others use templates as a springboard. Regardless, the tone of the product is set on that first page where you’re given the option of how to start a new doc.

Comparing the Spreadsheet Options

The spreadsheet tools were also pretty different. Excel has always had a strong foothold in the realm of spreadsheets and to this day, it still rules supreme. It doesn’t take long to see the limitations of Google Sheets compared to Excel. There are significantly fewer chart options to choose from and the templates are significantly limited as well.  It’s the template situation all over again. Microsoft was overflowing with options to choose from, G Suite had only the essentials.

Just like Google Docs, you can find Google Sheets within Google Drive.

While Excel can feel completely overwhelming when you’re new to it, once you’re familiar with the program you’d be surprised how reliant you can become on all the features. Even doing basic tasks like creating a budget estimate for something as simple as a family vacation is just easier to complete in Excel.

On the flip side, Google Sheets was all about efficiency and clarity. It was just the numbers without a lot of other stuff in the way.

Email, Calendars, and Contacts

Let’s not assume that less is just less though. Google’s philosophy of getting extra out of the way is well executed in their email service.

They have thoughtful sorting and prioritizing functions in Gmail that makes working through messages efficient. While Outlook doesn’t have some of the clever email features of Gmail, it does integrate contacts and calendars. Based on the user, that integration might be key to effectively navigating a workday or workweek. Again, the choice for which platform becomes your approach to work.

What About the Price?

We can’t go this far without talking about the pricing options of G Suite and Office 365.

Here is where the streamline vs. individuality choice is enormously evident. While G Suite offers three package options with simple pricing and features, Microsoft 365 is broken into three main groups with subgroups. Each of those options is priced differently and there are options to add a la carte features.

While it gives the user a chance to buy exactly what they need, it also means you might find yourself wading through charts and feature lists, weighing cost and options for a long time. It’s just one more way Microsoft creates options but also complexity.

Here is the price breakdown for both:

G Suite:

  • Basic-$5 per user per month with 30 GB of cloud storage
  • Business-$10 per user per month with unlimited cloud storage
  • Enterprise-$29 per user per month with unlimited cloud storage

Office 365:

  • Business essentials-$6 per month per user
  • Business-$10 per month per user
  • Business premium-$15 per month per user

Annual Commitment Costs

  • Business essentials-$5 per month per user
  • Business-$8.25 per month per user
  • Business premium-$12.50 per month per user
  • Enterprise E1-$8 per month per user
  • Enterprise ProPlus-$12 per month per user
  • Enterprise E3-$20 per month per user
  • Enterprise E5-$35 per user per month

All of these plans come with a hefty 1 TB of storage and 50 GB of email storage for each user.

Final thoughts

So, let’s wrap with a summary almost as broad as the initial distinction. Like so many things, it comes down to what your individual business needs and values. If your goal is to find a product (or product suite) that helps your team work together and produce quickly, G Suite might be your best bet. It’s a platform that streamlines what and how to focus on the who and done of work.

However, if you’re willing to give a little on the collaboration process in exchange for lots of powerful features that help create, enrich, and personalize your work, you may find that there’s a richness to Microsoft’s complexity. The right answer for you depends on what your needs are.

Like so many tech questions, which platform to choose comes down to what you like, want, and need. If you need more help deciding what the best platform is for your work, Atiba is here to figure out which best suits your business. Not only can we help you weigh all the offerings of the platforms against your wants and needs, but we can also help you set up and transition.

Atiba’s Half Geek, Half Human team is ready to dive in and find the right fit. Reach out to us today for a free quote!

 

What are the Primary Benefits of Agile Project Management?

agile project management

One of the greatest sports movies of our time, Remember the Titans, is filled with great quotes. One of those quotes is when coach Herman Boone is trying to pump up his team at the end of practice:

What are you?

Mobile, agile, hostile!

What is pain?

French bread!

What is fatigue?

Army clothes!

Will you ever quit?

No! We want some mo’, we want some mo’, we want some mo’!

While your project manager or fellow developers may not have such a memorable chant, you still can become quite agile and mobile (and potentially hostile). You might have seen agile thrown around a bit, but what does it mean and what does it have to do with project management? Does it have any benefits? What does it mean for the end product?

Today, we’re going to be jumping into how the benefits of agile project management, how you can use it with a number of different areas, and how they can help you accomplish tasks and achieve your goals more quickly and fluidly.

Let’s Talk About Agile Project Management

For starters, what exactly is agile project management? Is it a method of working? A philosophy? A unique approach to project management?

The answer to those questions is: yes, it is.

Project development can take on many forms, especially during the early stages. Planning is crucial for any new project and inexperienced project managers might take a bit of time before they feel 100% confident in their approach.

One of the reasons we’re such big fans of agile project management is because it’s an iterative approach to project management. Stepping away from traditional project management This means that development has multiple releases and sessions with customer feedback. While regular customer feedback may seem scary to some, we’ve found that there are multiple benefits that come with using agile project management. Let’s dive into those benefits right away.

Continuous Feedback

agile feedback

Continuous feedback might sound quite scary to some, but there are plenty of benefits from receiving constant and regular feedback. As anyone that’s ever designed or built something for a customer, their opinion is important but too much of their opinion may cause delays and frustration on both sides.

However, it’s not just feedback from the client that you’ll be receiving, but feedback from your team. One of the big components of agile is making sure your team feels comfortable and open to exchange ideas or thoughts. Therefore, you’re going to be seeking feedback from each member on a regular basis.

Although your web designer is the expert, sending that design to the web developer to receive some feedback keeps them in the loop. Your content writer may send over a quick draft to the web designer to make sure everything seems clear. These feedback loops allow ideas and decisions to be tested early and often. That way, problems can be detected earlier and resolved quicker.

Flexible Changes

The biggest “enemy” (remember, we have to be hostile!) to agile is what’s typically referred to as waterfall management. Projects advance through certain phases and once a project passes on from one phase to another, it’s extremely to revisit a past phase as teams are constantly pressing forward. Any revisitation is both costly, feels like a setback, and can cause more delays.

That’s why making changes with the waterfall approach is so difficult. A tiny change in Phase One could mean bigger changes in Phases Two or Three. Plus, parts of your team might be ready to move onto the next phases but a certain part of your team might be holding everything back. This can grind the project to a halt and make any demo sessions difficult or impossible.

When it comes to agile project management, however, your team is going to have constant opportunities to build, adapt, and learn. Team members can be moved around seamlessly to other areas while issues are resolved. This allows members with overlapping skill sets to make changes and avoid any blocking issues.

Improved Client Satisfaction

At the end of the day, teams want to make sure the client is satisfied with the project. High satisfaction means positive feedback, potential referrals, more future clients, and a happier business. Hooray!

How does agile improve customer satisfaction? 

By implementing agile methodologies, you’ll be able to provide different reviews and checkpoints at a more frequent part. Since you won’t be hamstrung by certain processes, you can show features, functionalities, and progress at standups or reviews.  

Your client can also get early access to projects and help provide important feedback. How much of that feedback you want to take into consideration is up to you, but anytime the client feels like they’re being listened to is important for overall satisfaction. 

Risk Reduction

There isn’t a project out there that doesn’t have some kind of risk attached. Problems can arise unexpectedly at just about anytime, catching your team off guard and instantly setting everyone back.

Agile can reduce your risks almost to zero. Failing or falling short is almost impossible by making use of agile, meaning you and your team can have the confidence in knowing while projects may experience setbacks, failures will be almost non-existent. 

With constant feedback loops and checks, there aren’t long periods of time between the initial investment and checks. If there is project failure, however, it’s likely to be caught early through your open channels and feedback. That saves you both time and money in having to reevaluate or potentially start over.

With agile, you’ll be able to release products earlier to gain customer feedback and make any necessary adaptations to market changes. You’ll be able to stay one step ahead of the competition by making quick adjustments and changes without experiencing any setbacks. 

Speaking of money…

Cost-Saving Methods

All of the above points are all well and good, but we all know that the bottom line is one of the most important factors in any business decision. With the extra money, you can reinvest back into the project itself or into your business.

Not only does agile project management save you money, but it also saves you money quicker. For starters, projects can begin earlier. Development can take place quicker and less is invested in the initial planning stages. Less time there allows for more development to take place. Add in the fact that agile encourages flexibility and regular feedback, and you’re more likely to fix small errors or resolve errors before they become large problems.

A large problem, such as a data breach, can cost millions of dollars. No business can risk such a mistake.

Things to Watch Out For

agile warning

Of course, using agile isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some pitfalls that you and your team have to make sure you’re keeping an eye out for.  One of the biggest pitfalls is the ease to get sidetracked. With waterfall management, it’s easy to know when you’re onto the next phase of a project and new team members can be implemented on the go. 

With agile, it can sometimes be hard to ensure everyone is working on the correct process. Documentation can easily fall out of order and management can be a little bit tougher. Because of this, it’s also a bit more difficult to measure exact progress. Without being able to track progress by solid benchmarks using numbered phases, it’s a bit tougher to say exactly where a project is in development. In connection with that point, projects can sometimes have no clear end-date in sight. There is no “final phase” and it can be easier to get discouraged with an unclear ending. 

How can you go about avoiding these potential pitfalls?

One way is to make sure you’re working with a small team and keeping things tight together. Agile can certainly fall apart if there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” and feedback loops look more like continuous, endless cycles. 

You should also be documenting all processes and functions in a place where everyone has access. Here at Atiba, we love to use Jira as it’s a great way to monitor progress and communication among team members.

This does mean that everyone will have to be diligent note-takers and project managers should encourage members to document their work and bring in other team members when necessary. 

Wrapping Up

As you can see, there are a number of fantastic benefits when it comes to making use of agile project management. Communication is improved, processes don’t face certain roadblocks, and projects can be finished at a faster rate.  Clients will be happier as they feel more involved in the project and your team can react quickly to any sudden changes or market trends. 

At Atiba, we are fans of the agile methodology as it allows us to work better with our clients, maintain higher satisfaction, and get your project pushed out quicker. If your company is looking to get started on your next project, reach out to us today for a free quote. We look forward to working together and becoming more agile, mobile, and (potentially) hostile!

The Value of Wireframes in Website Design

why wireframing is important

If you have a business, you need a website. Customers begin judging a business and their website as soon as they find it. Maybe the website is completely new. Maybe you’re redesigning an existing site. Regardless, you know you’ll be designing, building, and launching something new. As you embark on the journey to building your new website, the right planning and process can save you tremendous time and money. And if you’re committed to creating a website to help your business, the most valuable part of a web design process is wireframes. 

Websites can be incredibly flexible. The opportunity to find creative, unique solutions and experiences on the web can be exciting but also overwhelming. Where do you start when you want to create a website? There’s so much to think about when building a website. From how a user navigates from page to page and element to element. 

Wireframes are Flexible

That flexible complexity of the design and use offers so many opportunities for failure in design. And while having a website is compulsory for any business these days, well-designed websites stand out, help develop customer relationships, and build your business.

Poorly designed websites give customers an excuse to give their money to a competitor. 

With the value of a well-designed site so clear, it stands to reason that the fundamentals of design and the help of qualified experts can pay-off in spades. When it comes to your business, if you plan to go cheap on your website, you might as well just go home. 

website design fundamentals

Source: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/following-a-web-design-process/

The five milestones mentioned above are important but it leaves out the necessary attention to the design step. Wireframing is found in the design stage, which is a make-or-break milestone for any website. Wireframes align the website owner, designer, and development team on what will be built, how, and why. 

Why Wireframes Are So Important to Website Design

Without the agreement and clarity of wireframes, there will always be a gap between what was intended and what was created. Even a great idea for a website can fail if the team building the website isn’t aligned around a clear and comprehensive plan. And that’s exactly the function of a wireframe. 

Wireframes give structure, guidance, vision, and purpose to the designer and architect. They ensure that everyone knows where and why each part of the site exists and how the parts work together. Skipping this crucial process step can leave everyone involved feeling disconnected and lost. When people don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, it’ll cost you time, money, and sanity.

Let’s talk about what wireframes are, how they work, why they’re the backbone of website design. 

Bad Web Design Equals Bad Experience

frustrated web design

If you’re running an eCommerce site, users are often showing up to your online store with their wallets out. A bad experience on your site is like a negative interaction with a staff member in your storefront. Confusing layouts, poor navigation, and more can lead to a bad experience that sticks around.

In a study by Akamai, “88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience” and “64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site visit will go somewhere else to shop.” So it’s clear that the majority of customers who don’t like a website will go somewhere else to spend their money. Yikes!

More often than not, companies skip the wireframes step as they deem it unnecessary and time-consuming. Had they invested in wireframes in the early stages of their website design, problems could have been identified: pages that were cluttered, page connections that looked like spilled spaghetti, and a lack of general organization or purpose. 

How Do Wireframes Help?

So how would a wireframe help?  If you Google “what’s a wireframe” you’ll come across countless articles all using the same metaphor. “Just like you have blueprints for a house you have wireframes for the construction of a website.” And the reason you’ll find that comparison almost everywhere is because it’s a solid description

Wireframes layout in black and white where everything is, how they connect, and how they function. They function just like blueprints for a house and like blueprints, they’re best when designed by a knowledgeable, experienced, expert.

You wouldn’t want your painter drawing up the blueprints for your house. You’d want an architect. 

The same goes for wireframes. Understanding how websites, code limitations, and user experience all play into designing a website. Add to that understanding what the owner wants to accomplish, with a set budget for build, design, and launch, and you have a very complicated but crucial part of your website design.

Skipping or skimping on wireframes is a surefire way to torpedo any web design project.

So don’t. 

What Do Wireframes Accomplish?

blueprints

OK, we got the how and why out of the way. Let’s talk about what a wireframe should accomplish. 

What

A wireframe will define the pages and structure of your site. This framework will show everyone what all the pieces are. It will outline what is text, image, and action. Showing the design and build team every component and where to put it in relation to the other pieces.

How

Once all the pieces are identified, a wireframe will also show you how they work together. Identifying things like what happens when you click a button and where it takes the user. It will explain if a user sees a pop-up or a redirect. This crucial element is how the design and development team understands the user experience.

Who

Once everyone knows what’s to be built and how they can assign the who to each part. Once people know their roles and responsibilities, they can provide accurate quotes for time, expense, and possible roadblocks.

From those three wireframe outcomes, the project can be fully realized for its scope. You’ll understand what your actual budget, timeline, and the finished product should resemble. You’ll understand how you’ll get there, who’ll contribute, and what they’ll each do.

That’s why skipping the wireframing step any website design process is such a risk. Without it, any design team, regardless of their qualifications or experience, will work without the guidance and alignment they need.

Getting Wireframes

getting wireframes

Ok, I hope I’ve finally sold you on the value of wireframes. So how do you acquire them?

If you’re embarking on a web design project and you don’t already have someone on staff who’s knowledgeable and experienced in building wireframes, I highly recommend you consider hiring someone who is. And let me explain why.

The person who creates a wireframe for a website can listen to all the goals, ambitions, and dreams of a website owner and translate those abstract ideas into a two-dimensional guide that manifests a vision into reality.

That’s heavy stuff and it takes a special person. The reasons you need a wireframe, all those opportunities for crossed wires and misunderstandings, are the same reason not just anyone can build them.

Qualities of a good wireframe designer:

  • Translate non-tech into tech. They have to have listening skills to take what a website designer says they want and need and put that into a schematic and framework IT teams need to create that vision.
  • Identify potential gaps and cliffs. This comes from experience. A good wireframe designer makes sure all loops and paths lead to the right places and that users are never led to an internet wasteland without a way back.
  • Passion for user experience. They should have a vision for how all the parts create the user experience the website owner is trying to accomplish.

Remember, a bad wireframe will result in a bad design. Good wireframe designers are worth paying for. Find the best person you can to help you build your wireframes. It’s absolutely an investment.

Here at Atiba, web design is one of our specialties. We not only work with wireframes but all parts of the web design process. Reach out to us today for a free quote!

 

How to Do a Local SEO Audit in Under an Hour

local seo audit

If you’re a local business, one of the most important things you need to do is build up your local SEO. Local SEO is a bit different than regular SEO and while the broad strokes are the same, the nitty-gritty is going to vary slightly.

That’s why you need to perform a local SEO audit. You can take the pulse of your current standings on the web while also looking at what your direct competitors are doing. Running an audit can sound scary, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, we’re going to tell you how to do a local SEO audit in under an hour.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Don’t Freak Out

When people run audits on their websites, they can sometimes get overwhelmed by the number of things they feel like they should be doing immediately. If pages aren’t optimized and listings aren’t perfect, then your site is bound to fall into the depths on Google and never be seen again, right?

Wrong.

An audit is a part of the process to give you a comprehensive local SEO strategy. From your audit’s findings, you can lay out what has to be done and what steps should be taken next. Don’t feel like you have to rush in and fix everything immediately. Take the time to make those changes and best improve your rankings.

So, what are those steps?

Step 2: Layout Keyword Research

keyword research

Keyword research can be a lengthy process for big websites but for local sites like yours, it doesn’t have to be a giant ordeal. That’s because your website should be focused around a few search terms in order to zero in on your audience.

One of the best free tools to start out with is the Google Keyword Planner. It can tell you keyword volume and difficulty for ranking for a specific keyword. You do have to create a Google Ads account to make use of the tool, you can access it without paying.

If you’re willing to pay, there are a few other options such as SEMRush, Brightlocal, Moz, and Keyword Finder which can help you find certain keywords and terms related to your business. Many of these services offer free trials, so you can test the waters to decide if you want to pay or not.

For example, if you were running a local plumbing business, you might want to target keywords such as:

  • Plumber Nashville
  • Nashville plumber
  • Nashville plumbing service
  • Best plumber in Nashville

Once you target some of your keywords, you’re going to want to move onto the next step.

Step 3: Competitor Research

One of the most important steps during a local SEO audit is checking to see what exactly your competitors are doing. How do you expect to outrank them if you don’t know their strategy?

You don’t have to deep dive into each competitor, but you should know who you’re competing against to start. If you’re not sure, start by Googling the keywords that you came up with. From there, make a list of the top 5-10 competitors in your niche. That number could vary based on things like location, local area, and more.

You should be looking at things like:

  • Their GMB profile
  • Rankings for the KWs you’ve selected
  • Local listings
  • Review count and presence
  • Basic social media presence

Most of this information can be taken right from a quick Google search. It’s best to put it into a spreadsheet so you have a bird’s-eye view of everything.

Step 4: Audit Your Google My Business Page

Get ready to see the acronym GMB so many times it will make your head spin. You can’t do any local SEO without making sure you have a proper GMB page.

If you don’t have a GMB page, then it should be one of your top priorities to make one as part of your local SEO strategy. For those that already have a GM page, what should you be looking for? Your quick checklist should include:

  • HIGH-QUALITY Images related to your business (we cannot stress high-quality enough)
  • Correct category and sub-category
  • Description and proper keywords (750-word maximum)
  • Hours of operation
  • Any relevant information (menu for restaurants, basic Q&A, etc.)

If you don’t have any of these items, make sure you add them to your to-do list of things to take care of. Having all of those properly listed will not only give potential customers all the information they need but will also help build up your local SEO and improve rankings.

Step 5: Check Out Your Links and Citations

links and citations

There are plenty of things that determine your ranking on Google, but one of the most important is the number of links you have pointing towards your website. The more links you have coming from high-authority, relevant domains, the better it’s going to be for your business. On the flip side, if you have lots of low-authority domains pointing towards your website, that could be hurting your rankings.

But how do you check out the quality of your backlinks? The tools listed above also have backlink checkers, but Ahrefs offers a free trial of their backlink checker tool. You’ll be able to plug in your domain and check out how your links look from a quality and quantity perspective.

Along with the topic of links, you’re going to want to check out your citations. A good citation is one that has the following criteria:

  • Lists the NAP (name, address, phone number)
  • Uniform across all citations
  • Placed on high-authority websites

When we say uniform, that means uniform. That means “street” isn’t the same as “st.” or “Nashville Plumber Service” isn’t the same as “Plumber Service Nashville”.  When it comes to finding citations, BrightLocal is a great tool to help you manage them. Run your business through their checker and see where errors may be popping up.

For adding citations, should you just blast your business listing everywhere? Most certainly not. In fact, there is a list of the top citation sites where you should be building out your business listing.

Step 6: Review Your Reviews

One of the most important parts of running a business is garnering online reviews. Over 90% of Americans say they trust online reviews, so having a few one-star reviews may send your business cratering.

Do you have a lot of reviews? If you don’t, what can you do to get more reviews? Are you responding to reviews?

Responding to reviews is a way to show Google that you are an active business that continues to participate and pay attention to your customers. In fact, it’s a sneaky important ranking factor. For your reviews, make a plan on how to obtain more of them and the best way to respond to customers who aren’t satisfied.

Conclusion

Performing a local SEO audit may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can do all of these steps in just under an hour. Remember, this is just an audit and not a list of things you need to do immediately. Proper SEO takes time and while you may want to see results right away, a thorough audit is the first step to climbing in the rankings and seeing more results.

Here at Atiba, we perform SEO audits and a larger number of other SEO services. We can look at your local SEO and also do a complete audit including analytics, links, in-depth competitor research, and more. Reach out to us today to schedule a free SEO audit and start achieving the rankings you want to achieve!

What are the Benefits of Cloud Migration Services?

cloud migration services

If you’re responsible for the storage, strategy, or maintenance of business data this post is for you. Because in the new digital, work-from-home, buy everything online world we live in, you probably need a cloud strategy for your business data and servers. Cloud migration services provide savings, flexibility, security, and simplicity to all kinds of businesses. Let’s talk about how. 

The Future is Cloudy

Rat Race is an all-time silly comedy. One of the characters, Nick Schaffer, says, My grandfather used to say that good things take time, but great things happen all at once.” Midway through 2020 and people are still trying to decide if things are changing all at once or if it’s taking time. Regardless, I think it’s clear to many people that things are definitely changing. 

The way we work, shop, socialize, memorialize, are all changing. Increasingly, what we see is a dependence on digital lifelines to connect us. Businesses who can create reliable, helpful, and effective solutions for their customers and employees will inevitably fare better than those who don’t. 

There are many ways that businesses create those digital solutions, but one of the most powerful and most helpful is by utilizing the cloud.

Let’s talk about how a solid cloud strategy can benefit almost any business. We’ll start with a quick overview of what a cloud solution is. Then, how cloud solutions save businesses money. Finally, we’ll dive into what you need to do if you aren’t already using cloud solutions for your business. 

How Cloud Migration Services Help Your Business

Just what are cloud migration services? How do they connect with cloud solutions? Amazon, one of the most prolific cloud service providers, has a great definition

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. Instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical data centers and servers, you can access technology services, such as computing power, storage, and databases, on an as-needed basis from a cloud provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It’s hard to believe that people still keep money in their mattresses. While you could put bundles of cash in your mattress, they probably won’t be as safe as they would be in a bank. 

Even though a bank could cost you a little money for the service, your money will be protected from looting, nibbling mice, housefires, or a lack of space. Additionally, if you need to send or transfer money, it’ll be much easier to go to a bank instead of digging around in your bedding. 

The cloud lets businesses keep their digital valuables (systems, data, etc..) in a secure, accessible, and scalable space that is safe from disasters and thieves.  For many of the same reasons you don’t want to keep your life savings under your mattress, you should consider keeping your business servers and data on the cloud. 

Let’s dive into how a cloud solution can provide business savings, security, and flexibility. Let’s look at cost first, because, after all, money talks, right?

 

Space

Let’s start with space you’ll need to store data and servers.

Even modern equipment, as sleek and compact as it is, takes up space. For almost any business, space costs money. Paying for a box to sit on a shelf in an office probably isn’t the best use of your business dollars. If the “location, location, location” motto holds true, then you’re likely also paying a premium for space to hold your data and servers

Utilities

The boxes that already cost you space are heating up that space, too. In order for servers and data systems to work properly, they must be effectively cooled.

This means you’re going to have to crank the AC and invest in infrastructure to keep those boxes happy. If you ever got upset because someone left the fridge door open while they tried to decide if they were hungry, you might want to draft up a will before you check your utility bill in summer for in-house data and server equipment. 

Staff

staff consulting cloud

Once you get into on-site data and server territory, you’ll quickly discover that setting-up and maintaining that equipment takes knowledge and time. Because it isn’t just plug-and-play. If you want an in-house solution, you’re going to have to look for custom solutions.

Which likely also means custom software.  Which will likely lead to additional costs in staffing and or consultants.

Even if you don’t hire full-time employees, you’ll likely need to contract part-time experts. The average salary of a data specialist can run you $93,750 a year! YIKES! 

Disaster

If all your business data and systems rely on the equipment in your office, you’re in trouble if that place ever floods, burns down, collapses, or is seized.

Real trouble.

If you can’t get to your systems or data, you’re probably not doing much business. Having redundancies and backups only works if those are securely stored in different locations. The backroom may feel separate but won’t be separate when the building burns down. 

You might also have SLAs (service-level agreement) with customers about how quickly you’ll be restored and running again if anything ever does happen. So in addition to being out equipment cost, an inability to do business because you don’t have data or systems, you might also face fees and penalties for missing deadlines and agreements.

That’s gonna sting. 

Equipment

If space, utilities, and staffing aren’t already barriers to an affordable solution, then equipment might be the straw to break the camel’s back. One estimate puts the price of purchase and installation can easily run into thousands of dollarsDepending on the number of servers your business needs, you could be looking at a significant upfront cost. 

And here’s the fun part. The lifespan of that equipment might be shorter than you think. Some recommendations give server and data equipment a 3-5 year lifespan

Stretch equipment to make it last beyond its lifespan will cost you additional maintenance costs.  One source estimated that “servers reaching that 5-year mark have an estimated increase of 200% service cost.” Double Yikes! 

Sizing 

When businesses make plans, flexibility and adaptability are crucial. Unfortunately, your physical equipment just doesn’t provide that level of flexibility.

Imagine you had a business where your entire staff came into an office every day and worked off shared resources stored on a server they could only access from the office. In an age where remote work is becoming more of the norm, do you have a plan in place?

What if you own a brick-and-mortar store with limited eCommerce action? With a huge shift to eCommerce, can your server adapt its capacity to handle such a change?

2020 taught us that changes like this can literally happen overnight. We can go from needing very little computing power to doubling, tripling, quadrupling our needs. Unfortunately, we can see the inverse. We can go from needing a ton of space and resources to only being able to afford a fraction of what we could a month ago.

Businesses choose cloud services because you can make those changes immediately and remotely. Physical hardware has limitations of time, space, resources, and knowledge. Making rapid scaling changes can be difficult, even impossible.

Cloud Solutions Might be Your Solution

OK, so you’ve decided that because of all the reasons above, cloud solutions are perfect for your business. How do you begin the process of utilizing cloud services? How do you move all the data and systems you had on servers and databases? How do you decide which cloud services you need?

Step One: What’s Most Important

deciding what's important

Decide what’s most important to your business. The migration process is no small undertaking and listing out your most important assets is crucial.

For some businesses, data (like customer information, employee files, inventories, etc). For other businesses, systems are the priority.  Ask yourself: “If I couldn’t get into my office/shop/building tomorrow, what would be the most important thing to gain access to first?”

Step Two: What’s it Worth?

This tricky but important step. Once you figure out what’s most important to your business, try to assign a price point for it’s value to you.

If you lost it tomorrow, what would it cost you; what would you pay to replace it? If you’re honest with yourself in this step, this figure might surprise you.

Step Three: Get Help

If you’re not techy, this is a good time to get help from an expert. That might be an in-house employee or it might be time to contract some help.

While cloud services will allow you peace of mind, flexibility, and greater accessibility once their set-up, it takes knowledge and experience to create a strategy, migration plan, and maintenance program. An expert will not only help you plan and implement your cloud solution, but they can also help you assess and plan for set-up and maintenance costs.

There are many pricing programs to consider and it’s worth a little planning ahead of time for the best solution based on your needs.

Cost Questions

As you work with your expert on what you need, here are a few questions you should consider:

  1. What do you need to move to a cloud service (a system, data, or both)?
  2. How much space will you need?
  3. How will you be billed to migrate (by the hour, by gigabit, etc.)?
  4. Ongoing Cloud Service charges
    1. Will you be billed for each backup/sync/user?
    2. Will you be billed for each gigabit?
    3. Are there other ongoing or incidental charges?

Those questions will be a good foundation to understand what your investment will look like. Even if you start small, moving only essential business to cloud services, you might find in time that the flexibility, security, and other advantages of cloud solutions outweigh the cost. Many businesses do.

Here at Atiba, we specialize in cloud solutions, including migrations and maintenance. We can help you lay out a cloud migration strategy. 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 for a free quote!

 

What is Load Testing? 4 Reasons You Need this Crucial Process

importance of load testing

Circus and street performer fans are no strangers to jugglers. They always start with a small number of ordinary objects before slowly advancing to tossing 10 flaming chainsaws over their head.

While tossing flaming chainsaws is impressive (and dangerous), they weren’t able to perform their routine at the same speed or ability as they were with a smaller number of chainsaws. There was also a higher chance they’d drop one or some other catastrophe might occur.

The juggler could stop their routine whenever they wanted, but your system or software doesn’t have that luxury. That’s where load testing comes in.

You need to be up and running at all times so you can’t face a crucial failure. Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of load testing and why it’s vital for your business.

Load Testing vs. Stress Testing

load and stress testing

Many times, load testing and stress testing are mixed.

What’s the difference between the two?

Simply put, load testing is measuring a system’s performance under a specific and expected load. A load test might be simulating a large number of users accessing a system to test its performance.

Stress testing, on the other hand, is a test to find the breaking point of a system. The goal of a stress test is to see how far a system can go before it breaks.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what makes load testing so important?

Load Testing Gives you Measurable Data

In the IT world, data is often king. Both historical and recent data can help you make decisions about a system or software. It can be hard to make long-term decisions when you don’t have adequate data. 

What data can be collected through load testing? For starters, you can find:

  • Response times
  • Resource-utilization levels
  • Throughput rates
  • Memory leakage
  • Breaking point (assuming this happens below the peak load)

Those items listed above are all crucial KPIs, or key performance indicators. You can find out where you might be lacking, where you’re right on track, or where you need to improve.

In addition to those issues listed above, you can also check out any system lag, loading times, or other potential errors that may pop up with a large influx of users. This is something that typically can’t be carried out when fixing bugs.

Bug testing is single-user based and resolves issues like “application randomly quit” or “user was redirected to a blank page when clicking X button”.

Testing for bugs and other code issues is incredibly important but doesn’t allow you to get a bigger picture as load testing does. One can find problems that arise when hundreds or thousands of people are performing actions around the same time.

It Saves You Money

A 2014 study by Gartner showed that network downtime can cost up to $5,600 per minute or a whopping $300,000 per hour. Even if your business is booming, losing out on over $5,000 per minute is tough. Amazon once lost around $5 million after their website went down in 2013.

Talk about racing against the clock.

Load testing, on the other hand, isn’t going to demand you spill open your wallet nor will it cause such a huge headache. You’re going to be glad you invested in load testing.

Even if you only experience big spikes of activity around certain days, like Cyber Monday or Black Friday, you still need to be prepared. Those can be huge money opportunities for your website and you’ll be watching the money go down the drain if your site goes down.

It’s going to be much easier to patch any holes or issues before release than after a release. Plus, you could have plenty of angry users calling you about an issue or even worse, abandoning altogether. Users aren’t very forgiving and a bad experience is likely to stick in their heads.

It’s a Great Way to Measure Progress

With all the data you’ll be collecting, performing load testing makes it much easier to measure progress, report to the client, or judge how much work you have left to do.

You might be getting plagued by the following questions to the point where your replies are bordering on automatic responses.

  • Will we be ready by the deadline?
  • Is everything going to be working right?
  • Do we have time to make a last-minute change?
  • Just how far along are we?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know where you are exactly during a project. Even though you set a timeline in advance, finding out exactly where you are on that timeline isn’t always easy. It can also be a great way to simulate user activity and progress. While you’re going to carry out in-house testing on your own, there’s nothing quite like releasing your software to the public or going live with your website.

Load testing can give you a great idea of where you are and how much further you need to go. It allows you to set (attainable) benchmarks and then measure your progress over a certain period of time.

You can set multiple tests at certain points along your timeline to see how your system is handling any changes or additions that you may make.

Load Testing is Efficient

efficiency

Many people may think that carrying out load testing is going to be overly time-consuming and set them back from their goals and smaller objectives. While it’s true that load testing shouldn’t be something you pass over quickly, load testing doesn’t have to take up the majority of your work efforts.

That’s because load testing can be automated and collaborative. Load testing services can give cloud-based results, meaning that it’s easier to see what is happening and why.

You can schedule these tests throughout different parts of the day such as during your peak hours or during the evening so you can wake up to a new report.

Quite simply, load testing is an efficient way to obtain an overall picture of your system, software, or website and its performance over time.

Conclusion

While load testing may seem like an arduous, tedious process, it can save you money and help your system become more efficient. It’s better to find and fix the errors before you go live or risk the ire of potential customers.

Not only will you feel more prepared to release, but you can take pride in knowing that you’re providing the consumer with a great product that won’t fail and continue bringing all customers back.

Here at Atiba, we specialize in many IT solutions, including load testing. 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 for a free quote!