Over the past few years cloud computing has become an increasingly popular trend. Two of the biggest tech names are also big names in the cloud computing industry: Google and Microsoft. But while both Google and Microsoft may have well-known cloud platforms, they are each extremely different and have met varied levels of success.
Google first launched its cloud computing platform, Google Apps, in 2006. Currently, Google Apps is available in four different platforms – Business, Education, Government, and Non-Profit – as well as a free version for personal use that can be obtained by creating a Google account. Google Apps is a completely cloud-based solution that does not require any additional hardware or software. The suite lives entirely within the web browser making it accessible from anywhere on any web-enabled device.
Microsoft introduced Office 365, its cloud solution, in summer 2011. When it first hit the market, Office 365 was available only for businesses. However, in spring 2012, Microsoft added a new platform for educational institutions. Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution that requires some additional servers and software. This means that Microsoft users will have some patching and licensing and it also limits the mobility that Microsoft users can enjoy, especially in comparison to Google users.
Aside from the difference in user experience and number of platforms, there is also a major price difference between the Google and Microsoft cloud services. Google Apps is a less expensive cloud service than Office 365. The highest-priced platform of Google Apps is the business suite, which runs standard for $50 per user per year. This price includes the entire apps suite and is standard for businesses of all sizes. The least expensive platform of Office 365 costs $48/user/year, but it is only available for businesses with fewer than 50 employees and does not include the entire apps suite. This means that businesses running on this platform must purchase add-ons, which will significantly increase the cost of the service. All other Office 365 platforms are priced higher, except for Office 365 for Education which, like Google Apps for Education, is free.
While the differences between Google and Microsoft might seem quite large now, they were even more distinct a few months ago. Recently, in an effort to better compete with Google, Microsoft added the new Office 365 for Education platform and cut its prices by as much as 20%. While these changes did narrow the gap somewhat, they still leave Office 365 trailing behind Google Apps in terms of platform diversity and pricing.
In May, Gartner Inc., a research firm, reported that businesses looking to move to the cloud for the first time were choosing a Google Apps migration one-third to one-half of the time. Perhaps this high percentage is a result of the differences between Google Apps and Office 365. This report came after a 2009 study by the same firm that predicted that Microsoft would be outselling Google by 4-to-1 in 2012.
In addition to making changes to bring in new users, Microsoft’s efforts are also targeted at keeping existing customers with Microsoft. To better achieve this goal Microsoft also created a “Google Compete” team, dedicated entirely to retaining current Microsoft users. The Wall Street Journal reported on this team’s failed attempt to keep Dominion Enterprises, a Virginia company, a Microsoft customer. Dominion Enterprises CIO Joe Fuller chose to have Google Apps setup even after the “Google Compete” team tried to convince him otherwise. The team invited Fuller to the Microsoft headquarters where he received a tour and saw the research lab, roadmaps to current technologies, and inside looks into new technologies. Nevertheless, Fuller still made the decision to switch to Google Apps. According to the Wall Street Journal, Fuller said he made the decision because he felt Google Apps was the “cooler” product and because he would pay $200,000/year for Google instead of $2 million for Microsoft, resulting in a savings of about 50%.
Although both Google Apps and Office 365 are well-known cloud services, there are very big distinctions that separate the two. Everything from user experience, platform variety, and price are different. Because of these differences, Microsoft has found itself trying to play catch-up in order to truly compete with Google Apps in the cloud.
According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.
An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂
What Slows Computers Down?
The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.
The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.
There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.
Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.
The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.
Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!
Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes
Stopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.
MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.
Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.
Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.
Reorganise Your Hard Disk
Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.
Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.
It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.
Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects
If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.
First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.
From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.
I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!
Here is a quick round up of the latest updates and news from the SEO sphere!
Google+ For Business: It’s Good for You
Unbounce loves infographics – and its latest, impressively long example makes a powerful case for the merits of Google+ for business. Headline benefits include: it’s indexed by Google; it’s new, but already has more than 170 million users; and it’s growing rapidly. According to the article, 60 percent of Google+ users log in every day, compared to only 50 percent for Twitter, and Google+ allows you to curate information that builds a business persona and engages an audience. Add the fact that membership will continue to grow, since all Gmail users have a Google+ account by default, and you’re on to a winner, concludes the piece.
Maximizing the Link Potential of Infographics
Infographics are also good for link-building, SEOmoz reminds readers, in a guide to getting good link-mileage from your efforts. Make it really easy to share your work by adding an HTML embed code, recommends the piece, and include some form of branding in the body of the graphic in case people don’t credit you. If you’re serious about reaching an international audience, consider translating your work, and tweet about it in the same language. Reuse your content by reformatting it, using video as a powerful repurposing tool, promote it to death among your social networking circles, then wait for it to go viral, concludes the article.
Don’t Neglect Your Video Landing Pages
Given the popularity of video content, don’t waste your creative efforts by failing to optimize your landing pages, warns ReelSEO, in a piece that delivers eight solid tips. Ensure your general SEO is in shape before tackling video-specific tasks, and start by using YouTube’s search filters to research high-quality keywords, advises the article. Add an XML video sitemap, and consider adding a text transcript if your page is short on written content, recommends the author. Make it eye-catching, adding stand-out thumbnails, and finally, check your page loads quickly to avoid losing visitors before they view your masterpiece.
Pinterest Tips for B2B Marketers
There’s no shortage of advice for businesses wanting to use Pinterest as a marketing tool, but most of it’s aimed at consumer-focused organizations. Social Media Examiner offers tips for B2B companies wanting to take the plunge, starting with the ever-popular infographic. Pinning attractive cover images of your gated content, including e-books and white papers, is another proven technique, while images of your products and your brand are must-haves, concludes the article.
Ask the Experts: Link-Building 101
PushFire assembled 10 of the best-known names in the SEO industry to answer a series of probing link-building questions, and unearthed some gems in its 2012 guide to Link Building with the Experts. To compete with brands that dominate the top SERPs slots, become a brand yourself, suggests Rand Fishkin – it’s what “real companies do.” The panel is almost unanimous in asserting that links will remain very important to SEO for years yet, with most members still focusing on quality links as the most significant ranking factor. Recent changes to Google’s algorithm, assert the majority of panelists, don’t change white-hat SEO ground rules one iota.
Keyword Research for SEO: Short Tail vs. Long Tail
Keyword research is a critical part to any SEO campaign. An article on The SEO Agency discusses the importance of keyword research and how to effectively use both short-tail and long-tail keywords in your strategy. It is best to use a mix of both types of keywords and the article suggests two strategies to accomplish this 1) combo pages and 2) individual pages. The key is to keep sight of competitive short-tail keywords in your SEO and content development, while taking advantage of specific long-tail phrases.
Creating Content with Compelling Calls to Action
Every piece of content you create, states SEOmoz, should be “leading people to perform measurable actions.” Simply adding a “Buy Now” button to your page isn’t just inadequate, it’s a turn-off, warns the piece. Be provocative, visionary, authoritative, timely or just different, it opines. Telling a coherent story is another key piece of the puzzle, and allows you to lead the reader gently toward the desired conversion. Rate your content against these factors, concludes the article, and change your writing style to plug the gaps.
Google+: Hyperdrive Yet to be Engaged
According to Google’s Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is still waiting for the intense period of growth that has characterized other social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter. Speaking in London, Product Management VP Horowitz noted that it took other “successful social networks … four years to get to the hypergrowth stage.” Horowitz also hinted at soon-to-launch products that will make a big difference to Google+ usage, one of which, he indicated, is a new Google mobile client.
“Do Not Track” – Better Get Used to It
Ad Age Digital speculates about the impact of do-not-track (DNT) technology on the continuing development of digital marketing. Given the unprecedented ability of publishers and marketers to amass data about online consumers, DNT represents a potential return to the marketing stone-age, asserts the piece, but don’t expect it to go away. Consumers will ultimately opt for privacy, and marketers need to adopt other, less intrusive practices. That said, concludes the article, there will remain “a continuing residue of vague consumer unease even in a DNT-on world.”
Google: We’re Not Crowd-Sourcing, We Just Want Your Opinion
Last week, Internet strategist Nathan Sauser noticed a new Google pop-up asking his opinion of the search results it had just delivered, and posted details of the event on his blog. Trying to second-guess Google’s motives, he provoked a number of articles on SEO blogs, including a piece by WebProNews that concluded it was no more than an exercise in gathering live feedback. “This is one of our experiments,” confirmed Google, one which WebProNews believes is easier to use than the current offering.
Conversion Rate Improvement Tips
Too many business websites still fail to deliver content that satisfies visitors, suggests Search Engine Journal, citing missing phone numbers, prices and company information as the main oversights. Many pages also lack a coherent call to action, observes the article. Search Engine Watch, in similar vein, looks at ways to improve conversion rates, starting with gauging customer intent. Structure content according to your visitor’s likely stage in the buying cycle, suggests the piece, avoiding ambiguity throughout and reducing the level of choice at each stage. Remember to ask for feedback, concludes the author, as the first step in building brand loyalty.
Microsoft finally shook hands on a deal to acquire Yammer, worth $1.2 billion, reports Wired.com, confirming one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets. Microsoft says that Yammer, “a Facebook-like social network designed specifically for businesses,” will remain independent initially, eventually being wrapped into the company’s other products, including SharePoint and Office 365. Yammer CEO David Sacks, who will stay in post, made headlines in March 2012 when, in response to what he saw as “patent trolling” by Yahoo, he offered a $25,000 signing bonus to any Yahoo employee who left to join Yammer.
SEO: Big Business – and Getting Bigger
BlueCaribu’s infographic on the size of the SEO industry answers a heap of questions, but raises a few more. Every month, 2.4 million Americans, just over half of them male, search for “SEO,” reveals the graphic, and 863 million websites around the globe mention the term. Interestingly, as a nation, the United States has only the fourth-highest interest in SEO, behind India, Pakistan and the Philippines. But try to locate any numbers that show the monetary scale of the industry and you’ll come up short – this piece is more likely to fuel water-cooler debate than board-room strategy.
Bing Image Search – Pretty as a Picture
Having introduced a minimalist look to its SERPs pages in May 2012, Bing announced one month later that it had extended the process to Bing Image Search. Noting that image search accounted for 7 percent of all Bing searches, the company introduced a tile-based layout that received positive responses from Search Engine Land and others. Now sporting a look-and-feel that resembles Pinterest’s much-mimicked layout, the revamped Image Search also features filter bars, trending searches and search suggestions.
Short of Inspiration for Fresh Content? – You May Already Have Written it
Econsultancy takes an outside-the-box look at content generation, often rated by marketers as one of the more difficult techniques to get right, and suggests repurposing existing business communication, including emails, phone calls, training materials and customer service stories. Taking time to reuse some of the content that you already write in response to customer queries and service calls can provide great articles and blog posts that are fresh, original and fun-to-read, asserts the piece.
Try Event-Driven Local Link Building
Local events present great opportunities for link building, suggests SEOmoz, in a post that considers the collateral value of seminars, training days, shows and conferences. While you need to focus primarily on the benefits of the event itself, warns the article, taking a little time to add your event to relevant event-listing websites can result in useful, natural links that are entirely spam-free. Good targets include regional news sites, business magazines and local trade associations; remember to check your competitors’ backlinks to identify link sources, reminds the piece.
Low-Cost Mobile Conversions Largely Ignored
Many search marketers are ignoring the potential of mobile search advertising, squandering the chance of conversions that cost far less than the corresponding desktop ads, suggests Marketing Land, offering two contrasting case studies. Although primarily aimed at pay-per-click practitioners, the advice applies equally well to mobile SEO, and underscores the fact that “most marketers [are] still not serious about mobile,” according to the article. The studies show that driving visitors to call a live agent is a highly effective conversion technique, and reflects the increased use of smartphones in early stages of the buying process.