Google Analytics–The Shortcomings

graph1If you’re in business and have a website you are probably familiar with Google Analytics.

Since 2005, this handy service has helped countless businesses keep track of their web traffic sources and more recently, customised reporting, API based access and advanced segmentation.

But despite it being an invaluable (free) information source, as a page tag-based hosted service, it has limitations that you should be aware of.

In an article on ZDNet, Darren Guarnaccia (VP of product marketing at content management system firm Sitecore) outlines these shortcomings.

Browser blocking

Google Analytics relies on 3 things:

  • JavaScript
  • First-party cookies
  • Third-party images

To ensure it works, Google Analytics depends on the ability to trigger an image on its servers to transmit information back – a technique increasingly blocked by browsers by default.

Plus, more browsers and anti-spyware plug-ins are blocking analytics cookies from Google so your reports from Google could be missing an increasing amount of traffic. As more and more of today’s websites are being used for marketing and sales (rather than being an online brochure), these missing details can be a problem.

Marketers today need more detailed information to keep one step ahead of their competitors – data Google simply can’t provide.

Why?

Simply because it would be impossible to record and store comprehensive details of each and every browser session, over many years, for every single site it handles. The volume of data would be unmanageable.

Now solutions are appearing on the market to allow marketers to record all the intimate nuances of user behaviour on each page of their website. These details could include anything from what site content visitors read, their user profile and how they respond to a poll question to what company they are from to how they completed a web form. All highly useful information for today’s online marketer so they can follow individual visitor sessions, learn what is working, or not, and pass that real-time customer intelligence to sales.

Watching you watching me

But that’s not enough. Marketers also want to be able to interpret visitors’ online behaviour accurately to spot the tell tale signs that indicate they are ready to buy. Also known as lead scoring, this allows you to prioritise the ones that are most ready to engage.

This is achieved by assigning values to website content and activity to show a visitor’s propensity to buy, or at least engage with sales – something you can’t do through Google Analytics. 

But it’s not all bad news, Google Analytics does provide some good, advanced segmentation features, allowing you to understand smaller cross-sections of your visitor base by geography, returning visit or visit duration, for example. You just can’t drill down further. 

All in all, for most small online businesses Google Analytics is an excellent tool for understanding high-level traffic patterns for your website.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

IT Security–Everyone’s Responsibility

computersafety

Your business is founded on IT.

Through it you control your stock, marketing, orders, communications…everything.

Without it your business wouldn’t be able to function which is why is it essential you keep your IT safe from  other competitors, sabotage or the anonymous hackers that lurk in cyber space.

It is very difficult for most people to understand the motivations behind these attacks. Some may be due to unscrupulous competitors who want to create valuable (to them) down time in your systems. Others do it simply because they can.

This is why it is essential for your business to have strict IT security measures for everyone.

IT security threats

The types of threats that are out to get your business are:

  • Spoofing email – these come with attachments that normally format your C: drive (e.g. W32.sobig.a, W32.nachi.worm and Netsky)
  • Tampering – (or sabotage) someone with an axe to grind could internally alter documentation before sending it out. This could harm your business by falsifying information etc.
  • Repudiation – a disgruntled employee could delete critical information to cause chaos etc.

Therefore it is vital that you have excellent security in place and all your staff understand the importance of not opening attachments in suspicious emails.

What’s the password?

Passwords are an important part of securing your network system.

Keeping your password secret is vital because if someone works it out there’s no telling what might happen.

Using a complex password is essential to make sure no one guesses it. By mixing text and numbers at least 6-8 characters long will make it virtually impossible for someone to crack.

Whatever it is, make sure you can remember it – never write it down – and change it every month or so.

Who are you?

Another aspect of IT security is being vigilant to who’s about.

If you see someone roaming around your office on their own and you don’t know who they are, don’t be afraid to ask them.

When you leave your desk always log off so someone can’t gain access to the system under your name.

Of course a potential threat might not appear in person, if you get a phone call saying it’s your IT department and they need to know  your login and password – DON’T TELL THEM. If it is genuine they’ll come and find you in person.

All of this might sound like common sense but it’s worth reinforcing it amongst your staff every so often.

Be vigilant, be safe, be secure.

Welcome To The World of Databases–Part 3

Drawbacks of Database Development

database

In this mini series of posts about databases, we’ve already looked at the benefits they offer businesses and the different types of databases that are available.

This time round we’ll look at how they are developed and the possible drawbacks of that development.

Databases will benefit any business that needs to process and manipulate large amounts of data. Because database development tools are designed to make maintaining and managing the structure of data files easier, they impose strict parameters on developers to make sure the data retains its accuracy.

Most modern database development systems use structured query language (SQL) processing. This allows you to analyse large amounts of data and generate reports in a variety of different ways.

As with all systems, SQL will require a certain level of expertise to be used effectively so it is advantageous to obtain the necessary IT training and guidance.

The problems with database development

Relational database management system (RDBMS) technology allows the building of applications that can be tailored to your specific business requirements. But it can be expensive and time-consuming.

Unless you happen to have the specific knowledge it is unlikely you’d be able to develop your own in-house application because you’ll need:

  • An initial consultation
  • Analysis of your requirements
  • System specification
  • Database design
  • Programming
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Training
  • On-going maintenance

As you can see that would be a tall order for most businesses to come up with.

You must ensure your database fulfils all your needs for  the daily running of your business. The other option is to utilise an off the shelf solution which gives you the core functions you need and then build your own specific needs into it.

If you do decide to get one developed for you, here are a few questions to ask your potential suppliers:

  • How long have they been an established supplier?
  • What are all the costs involved? (e.g. set up fee, annual renewable licence etc.)
  • How much do they charge for technical support?
  • Is the system scalable?
  • Can they recommend any third-party developers that make use of their RDBMS?
  • Is there an active independent user group?
  • Can they provide references for businesses in your industry using their software?
  • Do they offer training for the RDBMS and what are the associated costs?

As you can see there’s a lot to think about when considering which database solution is right for you. Before you dive in, make sure you know precisely what you need for your business now and in the future. Once you are armed with that information you will be better placed to make sure you get the right system for your business.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

How to Avoid Losing Important Server Data

lose

It can happen to the best of us.

Lost data is inconvenient, annoying and can be down right expensive.

So how can you made sure you don’t fall foul of the data gremlins that love to cause chaos?

Well, before we get to that, here are a few sobering statistics to think about:

  • 60% of businesses close down within 6 months of losing their data
  • You could be fined up to £500,000 under the amended Data Protection Act if you’re found to have recklessly lost confidential data
  • 45% of business still have insufficient back-up procedures in place to protect their data

Sounds scary when you look at it like that, doesn’t it?

If you are one of the 45% read on (in fact even if you think you have sufficient procedures in place it would be a good idea to keep reading) because this blog post could save you time, money and your reputation.

9 Ways to reduce the risk of losing your data

1. Back-up system

We’ll start with the most obvious. If you don’t already have one, set up a back-up system both on and off site. You also need to test them regularly and should consider having a disaster recovery package.

By having an off site back-up you’ll help protect yourself from possible disasters such as fire or burglary.

2. Maintain your network

Set yourself up an early warning system. Using anti virus and keeping your patches up to date will help you maintain your network and hardware. This will help show up any devices that could potentially cause problems before they arise.

3. Keep an eye on your data

Understanding what data you store, where it’s stored and who has access to it will help you make sure it’s safe at all times. You should also regularly review your IT risk assessment and IT security policy.

4. Keep it secret

Wireless networks can run the risk of being hacked into because you don’t need a physical connection to access the data. To boost your security use a complicated password or hide the name of the network to stop potential intruders being aware of its existence.

5. USB

It’s a good idea to restrict the usage of USB memory sticks. This will prevent data being copied to unsecure devices and so reduce the risk of malware being introduced to your network.

6. Encrypt

If you have data going off site make sure it’s encrypted. You should also secure remote access to prevent data being stolen from mobile hardware.

7. Training

Make sure all your staff are trained in the importance of IT security (such as the use of passwords) and give them their own space on the service to save their documents.

8. Be up to date

Keep your asset register and user accounts up to date.

9. Keep it clean

Wipe data before disposing of old hardware or make sure recyclers do this for you.

By following these simple steps you will help prevent your company becoming yet another statistic.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

How Tight Is Your Security?

bouncer

There’s been a lot of press coverage recently about cyber-terrorism. The backlash from the Wikileaks saga has highlighted how even some of the biggest companies on the internet are not completely immune to cyber attack.

Admittedly the average business is unlikely to subjected to such a sustained and organised attack, but it does raise the question of how secure your network is.

Too many businesses have the ‘but it will never happen to us’ attitude when it comes to keeping their computer systems safe and secure. And yet, you’d never catch any of them leaving their homes unlocked and valuables unprotected – so why should your network be any different?

Your company’s IT security should be maintained and kept up to date at all times. Yes, it can be a real headache and yes it can be expensive but working with an IT Consultant and IT security specialist can save you a lot of money and stress in  the long run.

There are many security products out there designed to minimise security risks such as:

  • Firewalls – either integrated with internet routers or as stand-alone solutions.
  • Anti-Virus – this is absolutely vital to protect individual machines, servers and complete networks from viruses. There are numerous products available such as Bullguard Internet Security that also benefits from superb online support.
  • Patches and updates – if you don’t have someone to regularly keep your PCs and servers up to date, outsource your PC security and IT maintenance to ensure regular checks are made to your system.

Security Audits

To ensure your system is as safe as possible, make sure you undertake security audits to make sure all users are following your security guidelines.

How many of your staff have usernames and passwords like this?

Username – John

Password – password123

You’d be amazed at how many do.

Get your IT Consultancy to check your security situation so they have provide genuine recommendations to improve your security.

Remember a secure ship is a safe ship – don’t fall foul of viruses and hackers. Make sure your system’s security is reviewed regularly.