An Open Letter to Digital Region

As a small business based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire we take an active interest in what is happening in the region, especially when it comes to anything technology related.  When Digital Region was announced in 2009 we looked forward to seeing the whole of South Yorkshire provided with world-beating broadband speeds and thought what a great asset it would be for the region.  Unfortunately as things progressed slowly we began to realise that it wasn’t going to be all that we had hoped for, especially when we looked at the commercials from an ISP perspective.

Jumping forward a few years we recently tried to get ourselves connected to Digital Region as our current broadband provider (Be There) have had a number of issues over the last year and we’ve had enough and Origin Broadband were offering a “max” product that could see our very short line achieve speeds of >100Mbit/s down and >20Mbit/s up.  Unfortunately this just highlighted how wrong things are with Digital Region at the moment and we can no longer hold back our thoughts on the whole issue.  With this in mind, we have written an open letter to Digital Region which you can find below:

An Open Letter to Digital Region (pdf, ~310KB).

We really want to see Digital Region succeed and fulfil its initial promises, we hope that this will spark useful and interesting debate on the subject and lead to changes and improvements at all levels.

Learning from other people’s web hosting mistakes

As the new series of Dragons’ Den on BBC2 starts it seems that some people in this world are doomed to keep repeating the mistakes of others without learning anything from them.  Every year it is the same without fail, someone will make a pitch to the Dragons and their website instantly becomes unavailable – robbing them of publicity and more importantly, customers.

Even Worse…

It gets even worse when the website is your business!  Last night you may have seen The Present Club do their pitch to the Dragons, like thousands of other people I thought I’d take a look at the website – although more to see if it was still working than anything else.  Unfortunately like so many before they had not prepared themselves adequately for what is probably the largest amount of publicity they are likely to receive in the short term, loosing themselves many potential customers and showing themselves in a poor light to any potential investors – You have to remember that an offer on Dragons’ Den is not binding and may not go ahead once due diligence is completed, but other people may be thinking they are a good business to be involved with (Despite what Duncan Bannatyne may think, you need to keep your options open to get the best deal if things don’t work out).

What can be done?

If you find yourself in such a situation, where you’re going to appear on TV, or your product/service will be featured prominently on Radio/Magazine/Large Event then you need to talk to your web hosting company as soon as possible and ask them what they can do to help you cope with the increase in visitors to your site – of course some of these things will not be free, but as a business person you have to work out the cost of lost customers.

The Maths

If your appearance on TV brings in 200,000 visitors to your site and you usually convert 3% of visitors to customers then that’s 6,000 new customers for you – But only if your website is up and running.  Maybe 5-10% of those will come back the next day to take a look at your site, so now you’re only talking about 300-600 new customers – that’s a significant drop.  If your average sale is £20 then that’s a difference of £114,000 at the worst case (£120,000 – £6,000).

Can You Afford To Throw Away £120,000?

If so then you probably don’t need to be reading this blog post at all and congratulations, you’ve done very well for yourself.  If like the majority you can’t then you need to sit down with your web hosting supplier (or better yet, give us a call about our business web hosting and dedicated servers) and work out a plan – even if it’s only for a temporary increase in capacity for your website.  There are a great many things that can be done, quite a few of them for free that can help your website survive an increase in visitor numbers and help you capture new customers – for <1% of that £120,000 of new business you could potentially increase the capacity of your website by 3-4x, if not more in some cases.

I’d Like To Know More

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you with your web site hosting problems then please get in touch with us to discuss our business hosting solutions.

Secure Offsite Data Backups – For Servers and PCs

How do you backup?

Hopefully the answer isn’t “we don’t”, hopefully you at least take backups to a server in your office, or to disk and keep it in a fire safe.

Data is the key to all businesses, without it there often is no business left, or it soon goes out of business quickly after a data loss – so looking at backups is something you should do right now if you haven’t, and if you have then you should review the situation every year to make sure your current system still meets your needs. Could you survive without payroll data? Without your customer lists? Without your inventory data? Without your emails? Work in progress?

Not just servers

It’s not just servers you should think about taking backups of either, more often than not employees will store critical data on their desktop and laptop PCs, even if company policy says not to. Even if all of your data is stored on a server, you need to think carefully about where you back it up to – we’ve seen a lot of people fall in to the trap of, “Well it’s got RAID so it’s fine” or “It’s got a USB drive attached to it” and leave it at that. RAID isn’t a backup mechanism and a locally attached USB drive isn’t going to help when it’s burnt to a crisp with your server, under 2ft of water or in the back of someones van!

We have the solution!

This is where we can help you, we are proud to announce the launch of our new Protexia® DataSafe backup service providing affordable, secure data backups for servers, desktops and laptops.

  • Secure: Files are encrypted before leaving your machine with AES, TwoFish or 3DES and sent to us over a secure encrypted data connection
  • Fast: Files are compressed before sending, only changes are sent
  • Flexible: You can have multiple backup sets with different backup schedules and retention policies
  • Cross Platform: Supports Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Easy To Use: Windows and Mac have easy to use graphical interfaces for managing backups from the machine and all clients get a web based interface for managing backups and restoring files
  • Databases: Supports backup of MS SQL, Oracle and MySQL Databases
  • Email: Supports Lotus Notes and brick level MS Exchange Backup

We are providing free 30-day trials of Protexia® DataSafe with 50GB of storage space ahead of our full launch. Once you’re happy with the service at the end of the trial you would pay:

  • £20/month + VAT for the first 50GB
  • £15/month + VAT for subsequent 50GB blocks

If you have any questions about the service or backups in general then please contact us.

VAT Changes

Just a reminder if you didn’t know already that UK VAT rises from 17.5% to 20% on the 4th of January (first working day of the new year). This means that if you currently pay us £10 + VAT or £11.75 including VAT, your invoice will now come to £12.00 including VAT.

You’ll also need to remember to update your own shopping carts/ecommerce software if you’re using any to take account of the new rate of standard VAT from the 4th of January – if you don’t, then you’ll end up 2.5% out of pocket – as the VAT man will still want his 20% even if you only charged the customer 17.5%.

Phone calls about SSL renewal – Misrepresentation

Unfortunately it’s a sad sign of the times that we’ve had customers report to us that they are getting calls about renewing their SSL certificates they have purchased through ourselves – there’s nothing unusual in that you might think, but there is when they are claiming to be from either ourselves or the issuing authority for the majority of our SSL certificates (Comodo).

What we’d ask is that if you do get such a call, you find out as much information as possible i.e. telephone number from them, email address or what company they are really calling from – as obviously we don’t like people fraudulently mis-representing themselves to our customers and we don’t want our customers being sold sub-standard certificates or getting a sub-standard service for their SSL certificates.

So please, if you’ve been contacted or get contacted let us know. If you’re the company behind this and you’re reading this then I’d quit whilst you’re ahead :)