New website for Munchas Cafe

Very happy with the end result for Munchas Cafe. A new website launched today which is designed on WordPress using only free plugins and the Zakra theme. It’s a larger site with 32 pages and full of imagery, showcasing their award winning Cafe.

Get started with cloud hosting for free

Did you know that most cloud computing providers offer free hosting to get you started? My personal favourite is Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) and their free tier when linked to an EC2 instance. You can read about the offering direct on the AWS site here.

It’s a great way to get into the world of cloud hosting and elastic computing without any financial commitment. You can run your server almost 24 x 7 for up to 12 months and not pay a cent. In order to take advantage you need to sign up for an AWS account and enter billing details. You also need to be mindful not to leave the server running when you don’t need it as it may start accumulating costs.

We had a great example of this for my son this past weekend. He’s been talking about setting up a Minecraft server for some time. Several of his mates have had a go and he wanted to get involved. All his friends had set their server up using their own computer connection at home so game speed is limited by the speed of their own network connections. I helped him setup his server, leaning about several strategies for cloud and server computing.

We discussed and chose the following specifications for his server;

  • Asia Pacific – Sydney hosting
  • t2.micro instance
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Connect via RDP
  • Install, Google Chrome, Java and Minecraft
  • Open ports in AWS and on Windows Firewall for connectivity
  • Test everything is working

The t2.micro instance is probably not going to support his needs once he’s ready to game but it’s getting him used to what is needed and also allows him to test it with his friends.

Once he’s ready to launch with all his friends, he wants to learn how to upgrade (or launch new) instance and possibly assign an elastic IP address.

If you’d like help or advice on how to get started with AWS, please contact me today.

Give your PC or MAC a boost!

Do you have an older PC or Mac computer and wish it was faster but don’t have the cash to splash on the latest and greatest.

Power boost your PC or Mac with an SSD

A new solid state drive (“SSD”) could be just the thing for you. I’ve just replaced the hard drive in my Macbook Pro which is several years old and now feels like new. SSD drives are up to ten times faster than the traditional hard drives that come installed in many older computers. Even today, most desktop computers are sold with a more traditional hard drive.

If you need massive storage, a SSD may not be the only solution for you as they don’t have the same capacity as some hard drives but with cloud and external storage solutions, a SSD might be a cheap option to breath new life into an old PC or Mac.

Integrating Google Tech in Your Website

Did you know that you can integrate Google technology in your website?

If you publish a calendar, you can integrate Google Calendar on your website and your customers can even link to the online calendar and keep up to date with any changes that you make. You can check out Google Calendar here.

Another great feature you can link your website to is Google Forms, you can use these forms to capture information from your customers and prospects via online surveys and the like. Check out Google Forms here.

A new look with a new host

There’s been some talk lately on which web site platform to use. What it will cost, how long it will take so I thought I would jump on board and re-visit WordPress and setup a new site from scratch.

It’s as easy as ever when you know what you are doing and I have been able to halve my hosting costs each year. My needs are quite basic so costs are low already but I’m really happy with the end result.

If you need any help with a WordPress site, let me know and I can give you a hand for a great hourly rate and no long term commitment. I can also provide a fully managed service if that is what you prefer.

What’s a good return on investment for Facebook Ads

We’ve recently started some really targeting ad campaigns on Facebook and have been really keen to find some business cases on what we can expect to see in way of a financial return.
It’s been surprisingly difficult to have someone try to quantify this information for me so I thought I would start my own discussion here for our findings.
At the end of the day we had several discussions about what it is we are trying to achieve. Some had been happy to see the likes grow but without these likes being converted to sales, I need to ask what the point is. We had boosted several of our posts and found that we were getting some good engagement with the posts and our page likes were growing but we were not seeing this translate to sales. We were not targeting our campaign enough and were using a scattered approach.
Enter the new ‘targeted’ product specific campaign. We set a very narrow range of people across Australia with a modest budget and ran the campaign for 5 days in December.  We didn’t promote an offer of sorts but landed users direct onto our home page with a promise of a 10% discount if they sign up to the VIP program. None did!
At the end of the campaign we were able to realise a return of $6 for every $1 spent in advertising which is very pleasing.
We’ll continue to work the different models and I’ll provide further insights as they become available.

Coming soon … Should I use it?

What should you do when you have a new domain but you don’t have a website yet? Your website project is large and you have lots of ideas.

By the same token, you have a new business or product and you want to tell someone about it, or you have had your business cards printed and you don’t want your potential customers to receive an error message when they try to visit your website.

A coming soon or under construction page can provide your visitors with some basic information that they have found the right site, if done correctly it can help build excitement about a new product, service or business, but only if it’s for a short term.

If you’re final site is going to take weeks (or months) to build, you should consider either forwarding your new page to an existing location in your current website or using a free or low cost content management system to create a basic website very quickly which tells your customers something about your business.

There’s plenty of options out there and a web site need not take months to build unless it’s an e-commerce site. Even then, you can get the public site up and running quickly.

Am I over-engineering my website?

Just as with the adaptation “if you built it, they will come” the same should be considered for your online presence.

There is a fine line with delivering what you (or your client) needs today with trying to safeguard and future proof your technology choices. Time to market sometimes is sacrificed when trying to deliver a solution which meets every perceived eventuality.

With dozens, if not hundreds of applications available to you, how do you make the right choice for your business and then support you into the future. You need to ask yourself a number of key questions to help make the right first steps in your decision making;

What’s my scale? How many orders do I want a week or what’s the value of these orders?

If I must customise an application, will my customisation make it difficult to take on free (or licenced) upgrades when they are available from the vendor or community?

Has someone else already delivered my customisation and can I buy a plug-in to help me meet my business goals.

Do I need all these features today or can some of the functionality come later (someone may build it for you and you can leverage their development)

With these thoughts in place, try to select a platform which has a large array of plug-ins or 3rd party tools to extend the standard functionality as well as open architecture to allow for future integration opportunities.

Mobile Device Management at Home

A subject of much conversation for us at home is protecting our kids when using the many different devices they have access to.

We’ve followed the normal rules of ensuring that they are in the room with us when online and explaining the dangers of being online and over-sharing information. Generally they have been very good at following these instructions, we have however found that inappropriate content is only a couple of clicks away online and we need to be vigilant and continue to discuss our strategies with the kids.

We’ve chosen the apple device path as the settings can be locked down very tightly on these devices. Although I am yet to find a parental control app that works as advertised I find that with the exception of time limits, the iOS options work very well.

Go to General – Restrictions and then set on. You will be prompted to enter a password. Obviously, make this something the kids cannot guess.  Normally we have the following settings configured for each of our kids.

Safari – No (See below note)
Camera – On for older kids
Siri – No
FaceTime – On for older kids
Airdrop – No
CarPlay – No
iTunes Store – No
Apple Music Connect – no
Podcasts – No
News – No
Installing Apps – On (See below note)
Deleting Apps – On
In-App Purchases – Off

Allowed Content. Set these all appropriate to the age of the child

Privacy and Allow Changes. It’s important to have set all privacy options in other apps before you turn restrictions on. You can then lock all privacy options to block changes so the kids cannot make any changes to your settings.

Once you navigate out of restrictions they will immediately be applied.

Notes. My experience has found that Safari allows too much freedom if you choose to allow kids freedom over browsing. Using the Norton Family iOS app allows kids to browse safely. This functionality is available in the free version.

When allowing Installing Apps, this works best when each child has their own iCloud account with their correct age and that these accounts are linked to their parents accounts via the family feature. You can then set the requirements so that all purchase must be approved before being installed. If the child goes to the app store and tries to install an app, you will receive a message to any signed in OS or iOS device running up to date versions of the operating system. You need to be concious that if you approve an app and then remove it from their device, they can re-install it without seeking additional permission.

These are a few suggestions for helping manage your kids time online and protecting them from the darker side of the Internet.

My area for reflection

We all have a lot of thoughts every day. Some of these you’ll look back on and think ‘I wish I had written that down’ or ‘That didn’t come out as I planned’.

This will be my space for sharing some of these thoughts and observations online. I’ve always been keen to share my opinions and I hope that this area will become a source of information on my experience for others.

Generally, these posts will have a technology spin on them and how I have been using both paid and free tools to my advantage to navigate the digital world we live in.