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    Entries in IT (2)

    Wednesday
    Mar302011

    Techno Treats

    When trying to find a solid internet/email marketing program is like trying to find something that tastes good in a Fillet-O-Fish wrapper…it’s a struggle even if you look hard.  As many of my friends and colleagues know, I’m a huge advocate for referrals.  While in search of an option for a program to meet our needs to email clients without it looking to template-like or spam-ish (not the meat, although, I didn’t want it looking like that either), I reached out to a good friend who often has a plethora of program/software solutions.  He did, I tried it and it was amazing.  The program we use now is called: MailChimp.  As I mentioned, there a many options and solutions within this sector, but MailChimp does an excellent job of taking existing tools like Google Analytics and Gmail and marrying them with their own innovations.

    After setting up an account, it literally took me 30 minutes to customize a JMA-branded template and within 1 hour of setting up my account, I had sent my first email campaign.  Since then, I have signed up a few other company’s we work with and sent a few email campaigns myself.  As for the top 3 features I like, here it goes:

    1)   Platform. It’s clean, it’s easy and with the solid analytics of Google behind them, it’s very informative.

    2)   Price.  As for most “cloud” software programs, they have various pricing structures.  Most (including MailChimp) have a free (yes, it really is free) option.  The free option allows me to send 12,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers.  Now for a larger retail-based company, this would not be enough, but they have very reasonable monthly pricing options.

    3)   Purity. Okay, so I was reaching for another “P” word, but in all honesty, it’s true.  MailChimp doesn’t bog the user down with onerous processing or features that are complex and don’t make sense.  It literally is like: Design a template | Upload your email list | Press send.

    So there you have it.  If you are looking for a solution for this that is cheap (or even free) that’s what I use and I highly recommend it.

    Thursday
    Mar172011

    Techno Treats

    At the internet continues to expand its reach into new avenues, men and women way smarter than me continue to invent things that solve problems I don’t even know I have yet.  As a part of this blog/space/community, I’m going to outline different tech tools, software, etc. that I find, use and love/hate.  These posts WILL be geeky in nature.  If you judge people for loving technology and talking about it…stop reading now.

    As a part of the first post, I wanted to touch on the world of Google.   Google is truly an amazing company.  From being one of the top employers (YouTube it, the place has a rocking workplace culture) to revolutionizing the way that business’ leverage each other and ultimately connect with their customers…Google has changed the game…more than once.

    SIDE NOTE: There is a running joke within the world of Venture Capitalism (VC) and Management Consulting that pokes fun at how many start-ups and tech co’s base a good portion of their business plan on being “bought by Google.”  I can’t count how many times I have heard people hint and or full out claim that they have one exit strategy: Google will buy us.  Wow, other than being very narcissistic, it does raise some significant red flags as a) Google has probably never heard of you and b) You don’t have anything they want.

    Okay, back to reality.  Recently, our firm switched from an in-house Exchange server as our email solution to Google Apps.  I was pretty skeptical at first, as I had seen the Gmail platform and although I did find it functional, I had a hard time imaging how Google could have it interface better than hosted exchange.  After a little over 6 months…I’m in love.  Here’s why:

    1)   The Cost.  The start-up to get a server going with exchange and the regular maintenance costs paid to an IT guy get destroyed by Google’s $50/year/user price tag.  I get all the innovation of Google’s strong email platform for LESS than the annual cost of just maintaining an average exchange server.

    2)   The Peace of Mind.  When you host your own exchange with no back-up Internet in place, you risk that if the internet goes down…all emails that come in our lost.  When you have hosted exchange (pay a company to host your email server) you avoid this risk, BUT at a fairly significant cost (roughly $10/month/user).  Because Google is cloud-based (everything is stored for online access), not only am I covered against Internet outages, but I can also utilize the same platform internally as I do externally (no VPN, or remote access needed).

    3)   The Structure.  As I’ve already discussed, Gmail offers MUCH more than a simple webmail platform seen in many .POP accounts (like that dumb squirrel one).  By leveraging IMAP, Gmail pretends like it is exchange in that it syncs my calendar, contacts, and emails with most mobile devices and makes real-time changes (change an appointment on my phone, changes it everywhere).  For anyone that lives and dies by their calendar, this is HUGE, and for me (Pre-Iphone) blackberry did not to a great job executing as one had to sync the BB with the home computer using a USB cord.

    I could go on and on, but I think those 3 facts summarize why I am in love with Google Apps.  I know several business, churches and non-profits that are on Google Apps and have heard nothing but great things.  And just think, some little company that had “Google will buy us” on the top of their “How We Monetize” page came up with many of the great technologies within GoogleApps!