Monthly Archives: March 2015

Big Data Is Here, and It’s Here to Stay

The term ‘Big Data’ is a highly appropriate description of the ever-increasing growth and availability of data.  Largely via the IoT (Internet of Things), users can access vast amounts of data on a huge variety of subjects, from consumer information to social trends to industry averages and much much more.  The availability of data on all sorts of things continues to grow exponentially, so Big Data just keeps getting bigger and bigger.


What are the advantages of accessing Big Data?

Across the board, executives and planners are aware that a robust fund of data can lead to more confident and effective decision making, resulting in improved operational efficiencies, with resultant reductions in costs and risk, which in turn lead to increased profitability.


Is there a down side?

If a user asks for Big Data on their industry – say, apple pie making and selling – they will get a huge amount of stored information on the subject, gleaned from an enormous variety of sources.  They will have a massive, unsorted pile of information about apples, pastries, apple sales, customer preference, seasonal variations and a whole lot more.  The user will be looking at more than enough information to result in apple pie information overload and very probably an upset stomach from trying to digest too much raw apple pie data.


How do you get usable and accessible Big Data?

The granular data that is available can translate into powerful knowledge that makes significant improvements in company performance.  But the data needs to be accessible and that is achieved by the use of an integrated business analysis platform.  Such a platform will force unruly amounts of jumbled data into comprehensive formats.  Expert analysts will produce data analysis relevant to an individual company in various formats which provide the user with a clear and accessible path of exploration, leading them to valuable decisions based on the relevant available Big Data.


Understanding Big Data better

Big Data is a big subject and not always an easy one to manoeuvre around.  Inevitably, several myths have arisen concerning the use of Big Data.  These need to be thoroughly debunked if users are to benefit from data analysis that is easily acceptable to all users, both internal and external.  The bottom line is that if users cannot easily digest the data it has no value whatsoever.  So – let’s go myth busting.


Myth:  Internal users of data value flexibility, but do not want guidanceExecutives and managers want all the data they can get their hands on and do not want guiding through it.

This is so untrue that professional analysts have found that when people do not know what to do with the unsorted data they have, their instinctive reaction is to ask for more of it!  Very few are willing to spend any significant amount of time to sort through the data at hand in order to get answers to their queries.  The key factor is that users do want to be guided through the data and to be presented with information in a way that removes uncertainties.  Analysts know what to look for and how to find the relevant answers in the Big Data haystack.  They present well planned and designed reports that are exactly what the customer wants to guide them in the right direction.


Myth:  Customers do not ask for data analysis.

Well, they may not ask directly for a data product, but often ask indirectly, with, for example, questions about comparing their company to the industry average.  There will also frequently be queries about ease of access to data, both for senior executives and others within the organisation.  They may mention a need to produce monthly reports and ask how best to achieve this.  All these are indirect requests for data analysis.  Professional analysts have found that companies do not always ask for Big Data reporting when a projects starts up, but inevitably they want the product as the project approaches its end.  Savvy analysts will tailor their research and their product accordingly.


Myth:  Analysists cannot charge customers for data the customers supply.

This shows a lack of understanding of the nature of data products.  They do not provide easy access to raw data, but rather an informed solution based on the data available.  What is being sold with data products is not the data itself, but the analysis that makes that data accessible and valuable to the user.  Reports may contain industry-specific metrics, algorithms, displays, benchmarks, recommendations and insights – all of which are of tremendous value to the user and make the raw data something that can be effectively worked with.  This, of course, will lead to the benefits that customers are after from data – enhanced efficiency, lower production costs and increased production and sales figures.  So, while customers do indeed own their data, they value and will pay analysts for knowledgeable categorisation, in-depth analysis and reporting that is specific to their particular industry and market.


Big Data in the future

It is clear that an integrated business analysis platform is the way to make the best use of raw data, whilst avoiding information overload.   Big Data already plays a key role in business and industry and an understanding of the importance of expert analysis of the vast amount of raw data available will increase the growth of Big Data and ensure that users get the best possible results from the data they acquire.

Web Design That Works

An effectively designed and easy to use website is an essential marketing tool for small businesses, significantly increasing sales of your products and services.  Conversely, a poorly designed website can result in serious loss of revenue and can actually drive potential customers away.  So, it is important to get it right.  Here are a few basic Dos and Don’ts that will help you to be sure that your website is answering readers’ questions, providing the information they require and encouraging them to do business with you.



There is work to be done even before the website starts to take shape.  The temptation is to try to get something up and running as quickly as possible, but don’t forget the crucial first step, which is to research your target audience.  Many factors should be considered, including age of target audience.  An older demographic might, for example, benefit from a large font, whilst a younger group is likely to be accessing your site via smartphones, so you need to make sure your site is compatible.  You should also avoid trying to target everyone – focus on creating the best experience for your target audience.



A clean and unfussy design is always best.  Don’t fill up your pages with clutter, as this is distracting and unproductive.  White space gives your visitor room to breathe and to think.  Bear in mind also that flashy websites do not look good on mobile phones or tablets, and a lot of visitors will be using these.



It’s amazing the number of websites that seem to be trying to hide their contact details.  Be very clear on all the various ways a customer can contact you and don’t make them search for details. Customers may have queries they need resolved before deciding to purchase, or perhaps would like to speak to someone about one of your products or services.  This is to be encouraged.  A contact page with full information and perhaps even a location map is essential. A ‘click to contact box’ is another good idea.



You need to make it very clear what a visitor should do next to take advantage of the benefits your business offers.  Explain the advantages you are offering and then tell the visitor exactly what to do to get the ball rolling, and encourage them to do it now.  They might, for example, click to subscribe to your newsletter or to contact you for more information.  Your product pages should make it very easy for them to order from you.



Your website should contain the latest up to date information about your company and products or services.  Customers want to know that you are innovative and moving with the times.  So do make sure to regularly update your site and check that it contains all the latest information.  If you are including a blog on your site, it should be updated at least once a week – or more frequently if possible.



A load of flashy graphics and scripts slows things down.  People have become used to fast computers and don’t want to hang around waiting for your site to load.  Computer users are not a very patient lot these days.  It doesn’t matter how amazing your site looks when it’s finally up and running if potential customers have given up and gone away.  So minimize graphics, flash and scripts, optimise your code and delete any unnecessary tags or scripts.



It isn’t just dusty old pedants who are put off by poor spelling and grammar.  When it comes to spelling mistakes you can, of course, use the spell checker, but do remember that it does not take context into account and won’t recognise that a pier of the realm standing on Brighton Peer is not possible.  Grammar too plays a very important part in ensuring that your text is clear and understandable.  Even people unfamiliar with the rules of grammar ‘hiccup’ when they stumble across a glaring error.  It might be an idea to ask someone who is good with spelling and grammar to have a look over your text before you put it on the site.



Visitors to your site do not want to have to make their way through a maze to visit the pages that interest them.  An easy to use navigation system is essential to ensure that potential customers do not get lost and confused and go away to another site.



It is worth considering paying a professional designer if you feel you do not have the necessary experience.  Your customers will make assumptions about your business based on the website, so it must reflect care and professionalism.  Often looking at the site will be their first experience of your business and first impressions really do count.  So, be realistic about your capabilities and get a good professional on board if it seems necessary.



The above are a few basic, but essential, things to look out for that will help you to be sure that your website is appealing, informative and, above all, effective.

How Much Money do Spammers Make?

We have all experienced the annoyance and inconvenience of spam, whether it be junk email, manipulative links or even something more insidious such as malware infection. It may be a daily occurrence but have you ever thought about the spammers themselves or more specifically what they get out of the deal? What could be intrusive and potentially dangerous for you and your computer is actually making the perpetrators huge amounts of money.


We are all accustomed to receiving a large amount of junk mail each and every day. The fact that nearly everyone receives this form of spam is key to its use. Spammers will send out an email to millions of people containing a link to a website selling something. Even if only a tiny amount of recipients make a purchase this can still mean big money considering the vast amount of junk mail sent.

Obviously in order to send so many emails at once spammers require a large number of computers. Some companies actually provide this sort of service to spammers, charging them for the bandwidth and taking a cut of the profit, even if only indirectly. Unfortunately, many spammers will choose the cheaper option of hacking a large number of computers in order to create a botnet. As well as using their own botnets they will also sell them to other spammers for further use.

Computers are hacked across the globe and it can be difficult to recognise that your system has been infected. A research team from a US in 2008 investigated a large botnet infrastructure that was being utilised to send junk mail. They concluded that the spammers running the operation would have been receiving around $2 million a year.

Social Media

Social networking sites are a hotbed for spamming activity, especially websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Spammers will create popular fan pages which are liked by hundreds or even thousands of users. Spammers will then post links to other sites, paid for by third parties who want more traffic on their website. In 2013, a group of Italian researchers looked into this phenomenon and found that spamming activity on Facebook was generating around 200 million dollars per year. The team also looked at Twitter and found that a business was booming selling fake Twitter followers to users who want to artificially boost their following. Staggeringly, the team found that this practice alone was generating anything from $40 million to $360 million per year.

Both social networking sites have guidelines in place to discourage this behaviour but with so many users involved it can be difficult to police. That being said, Twitter recently completed a cull of all of the fake accounts on its server and Facebook are continuously updating their security features in order to tackle spam. It may be that more heavy handed techniques will achieve better results but it could also be that the problem is just too big.


The problem with policing spamming is that techniques that use email or social media can fall into a grey area. However, in recent years there has been a shift with many groups moving into outright criminal behaviour. For example, DoS attacks involve hackers utilising a botnet in order to bombard a specific website with thousands of requests and in the process overwhelming and disabling it. Some hackers will then use this as leverage and ask for money from the website owner in exchange for stopping the attack.

Another type of attack often employed by hackers is phishing which is basically a tactic for stealing a persons or companies identity. Phishing usually involves the use of emails or links to fake websites which look just like their official counterparts but are actually controlled by the hackers. The unsuspecting user enters their private information or financial details for  the hacker to do with as they please. An extreme example of this took place in 2007 when the Swedish bank Nordea was a victim of phishing on a grand scale. The hackers managed to get away with $1,200,000 thanks to Trojan infected emails sent to customers.

Five Ways to Protect Your Reputation Online

A company’s reputation has always been integral to its overall success and popularity. This being said, with the rapid growth of the online world and the countless ways in which consumers interact with this world, reputation has never been more important. In the past it was usually only larger businesses which had to worry about their brand but now any company with an online presence can fall victim to disaster. With this in mind, there are a number of ways to proactively protect your online reputation in order to safeguard your business and its appeal.


Monitoring your online presence is vital for gaining a complete understanding of your company’s reputation. This includes your main website, social media outlets and even pages which you haven’t personally set up, e.g. customer review sites. It’s also worth pointing out that there are hundreds of social networking sites online and it may be necessary to look beyond the main few. Even if you’re not discussing your business on these sites it doesn’t mean nobody else is. Being vigilant will allow you to spot any problems before they become too big and much more difficult to deal with.


Whether it’s praise, queries or even criticism, it’s imperative to reply to customer interactions as much as possible. If a customer has a complaint and they discuss this issue online it will have an effect on your company’s reputation, even if it’s unfounded. Reply to customers in a calm and professional manner and try to provide a solution to their problem. If somebody has a complaint and there is any truth to this complaint try to move the discussion into a more positive area. Acknowledge your fault in the matter and talk about how you will rectify the situation. This will showcase you as a fair and attentive business, not only to that single customer but also to everyone viewing the interaction.

Communication is incredibly important to building a strong and successful online reputation. Businesses who ignore their customers are going to find it difficult to build loyalty and therefore are likely to lose revenue.


Consumers like to feel secure about visiting or purchasing from a website. With so many of the bigger players benefiting from exceptional security, customers have become complacent that their private information will be safe. This means that any company, however small is required to provide an online environment which is not only interactive but also completely secure. One of the best ways to do this is by employing the use of seals.

Seals  signify that your website has been approved by an official source. There are many different seals to choose from covering issues such as those which identify the site as free from malware or safe to complete transactions with. It’s worth noting that there are also seals available which simply signify that the website and therefore the company have a good reputation and can therefore be trusted.


Creating high quality content not only attracts new customers to your brand but can also help to improve your reputation with existing customers. The content that you create will be unique to your business and what it offers but can include things such as videos, articles, podcasts, interviews or just general news updates. Whatever it is that you decide to upload try and put a unique spin on it to help you stand out from the pack. You can also try using different platforms to publish your content in order to reach a wide audience. For example, LinkedIn and Google+ both allow users to publish blogs and videos and link these posts with similar content elsewhere.

Although good business practices are still extremely important, consumers want more from their companies. A comprehensive online infrastructure is now the norm and this can have a substantial effect on your overall reputation.


The business world can be incredibly unpredictable and sometimes unfair. It is therefore imperative that companies be proactive in their approach to issues such as negative feedback, bad press and even scandal. We have seen countless businesses over the years become irreparably damaged due to controversy and often these situations are mishandled. Of course larger businesses are more likely to be attacked but that doesn’t mean small and medium companies should be complacent. With the internet permeating every facet of business, every company is fair game, whatever the size.

Your reputation is a precious commodity that cannot be bought and once lost can be irretrievable. With this in mind, approach the situation proactively and put a plan in place before it is actually required. For example discuss the procedure your company will follow in the event of negative press or create a list of guidelines for dealing with negative feedback online.