Can You Say Mobilegeddon?

By Carl Weiss

I’m sure you’re familiar with the term Armageddon, which is the biblical prediction for the end of the world.  However, Google introduced the Internet version of the phenomenon which has been deemed Mobilegeddon.  While it might not represent the end of the World Wide Web, what Google has indicated is that if your website is not deemed “mobile-friendly,” your listing could soon be relegated to the backwaters of the world’s most popular search engine.  While this could be cause for many website owners to panic, they should take some comfort in the fact that when a major web portal tested the top 25,000 websites in the world, more than 10,000 of them failed, including the site of Homeland Security.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that before you throw yourself under the Google bus, there is a way to test your site to see if it is mobile-friendly.

If your site is deemed search engine unfriendly, you are in good company.  According to you are hardly alone:

Losers: Popular news sharing site Reddit topped the list of losers, followed by NBC Sports, Vogue,SongLyrics and Bloomberg Business. I suspect a bunch of people at Reddit are about to lose their minds over this. But the Reddit home page doesn’t test as mobile friendly, and that could be true of many other pages inside the site, as well.
The home pages of NBC Sports and SongLyrics didn’t test friendly either; I couldn’t even get Google’s mobile friendly testing tool to process SongLyrics. Vogue’s home page did test as friendly, but potentially it has problems with internal pages.
Knowing this, I spent the next three hours manually entering every one of the 173 websites we created and hosted for us and our clients.  With the exception of one companyowned website and 7 client-owned sites we created before the advent of html5, all our clients came up as search engine friendly. (I am working with our webmaster to see why the one site created in html 5 has failed.)

What’s It All About, Google?

From Google’s perspective the answer is clear: Mobile is the future.  Cellphone providers in the past five years have put a web-capable smartphone in the hands of 75% of the citizens in this country.  (Nearly 80 million smartphone users do their social networking on the device as well.) As the price of smartphones continues to fall and desktop and laptops continue to shrink, will there come a time when ALL computers are quasi-mobile? 

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The popularity of phablets is also another way in which the lines between laptops, tablets and smartphones continues to blur.  While phablets were merely smartphones on steroids two years ago, as solid state memory chips continue to get more powerful and ever more affordable, we are already starting to see phablets that can do nearly everything that a laptop can do. 

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While cutting edge phablets, tablets, micro-pcs and mini-laptops give computer users an ever-expanding range of choices, from a website owner’s perspective, trying to create a 1-size-fits-all site can prove to be a challenge.  That’s one of the reasons that dynamic programming languages such as html5 are all the rage.  Below are the three most popular perspectives viewed via html5.

With the pick-a-size web surfing world, using a platform or code that can dynamically adapt your websites to whatever platform they might be viewed doesn’t just make sense from a Google-centric perspective.  It also makes sense from a visibility issue, since the secret to online success is to make it easy for people to do business with you.  Today that means different online strokes for different folks.  If you aren’t ready, willing and able to allow people to view your sites on the platform of your choice, then Mobilegeddon will be the least of your worries.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio  

Does Cloud Computing Have a Silver Lining?

By Carl Weiss

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Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple years, you have either heard of or are now using cloud computing. Users looking to save money are embracing it. IT pros and investors are looking to make money are plowing money into it. What you have to ask yourself is how can you use the cloud to line your pockets with silver? In today’s blog, we will look at the emergence of cloud computing as a way of both making and saving money.  We will also point out some of the movers and shakers in the industry, as well as identifying some well-heeled interlopers who are trying to rain on everybody’s parade.

Most people think that cloud computing is a relatively new technology.  The truth of the matter is that it has been around since the 1960’s. A blog on points out that,

“The idea of an "intergalactic computer network" was introduced in the sixties by J.C.R. Licklider, who was responsible for enabling the development of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) in 1969. His vision was for everyone on the globe to be interconnected and accessing programs and data at any site, from anywhere, explained Margaret Lewis, product marketing director at AMD. "It is a vision that sounds a lot like what we are calling cloud computing."
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While other experts in the field even back then thought that computing would inevitably be rendered as a kind of public utility, it wasn’t until 1999 that the bandwidth required was broad enough to accomplish the task.  That was the year that began pioneering the concept of delivering enterprise solutions via the web.  This was followed by that in 2002 started vending cloud storage and computing.  By 2006, this service morphed into a commercial service called Elastic Compute Cloud, that permitted small businesses to run their applications remotely.  By 2009 Google and Microsoft jumped into cloud computing in a big way, which legitimized and promoted the cloud computing concept as a user-friendly resource.
Other criteria that took the concept away from early adopters and made it more mainstream were the obvious financial benefits that the technology offered in terms of backing up data, as well as increased storage capacity without having to invest in new hardware.  The downside was that those wishing to store sensitive data on the cloud had to deal with worrisome the question of online security.
Andreas Asander, vice-principal of product management at virtualisation security specialist Clavister, said that once the security issues are resolved, cloud computing services "can enable an enterprise to expand its infrastructure, add capacity on demand, or outsource the whole infrastructure, resulting in greater flexibility, a wider choice of computing resources and significant cost savings."
What Color is Your Cloud?
While the cloud offers a number of opportunities to users, currently there are three operating models:
1.      Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) –IaaS provide physical or virtual machines, image libraries, block storage, firewalls, IP addresses, Virtual Local Area Networks and software bundles to users.
2.      Platform as a Service (PaaS) – The Paas model provides a computing platform such as a web server where programmers and developers can run their software solutions on a platform without having to buy and manage the hardware.
3.      Software as a Service (SaaS) – SaaS users are provided access tp databases and/or applications for a flat or monthly fee.  In a SaaS model, users access the software from the cloud client. 
While users can access all of the abovementioned services using a variety of devices, some users rely on the cloud to run nearly all their applications.  The cloud services can be mixed and matched depending upon the user’s needs.  Generally, there are six service models from which to choose:
1.      Private Cloud is an infrastructure designed and managed for the users of a single entity or organization.  Corporate data centers are examples of private clouds. The infrastructure for these data centers can be either managed internally or by a third-party. 
2.      Public Cloud renders services to the general public.  Providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft provide public access to their managed data centers via the Internet.
3.      Hybrid Clouds are created when two or more cloud services from different providers are offered to users.  They can pull together some combination of public, private, and community cloud services under one umbrella.
4.      Community Clouds serve several organizations with a common interest.  This way costs can be shared between two or more organizations wishing to avail themselves of a Private Cloud.
5.      Distributed Cloud – Where a Community Cloud allows organizations to share cloud resources, a Distributed Cloud shares machines located at different locations by a single network or hub service.
6.      Multicloud uses multiple services to reduce the risk of a single vendor going down and thus leaving the user with no service. 

The Dark Cloud

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The biggest danger to cloud users has to do with privacy.  Since users are relying on a third-party to host their data, the primary concern is that the service provider and/or their employees can access this
data.  Anyone with access to the data could either accidentally or purposely alter or delete the data.  Since some cloud providers share access with this information with outside entities, this would mean that the only practical way to protect the data would be to encrypt it.
Anyone that uses cloud services such as social networks or blogging platforms (which are a kind of cloud service) knows that the information contained therein is not only shared with the hosting agency, but they actively profit from data mining this information.  What many people are unaware of is the fact that ALL of the information displayed on social nets and blogs is actually owned by the service provider and not the author.
There is also the real risk that a hacker can not only gain access to a user’s cloud service, but it is also possible for a hacker to not only alter the content contained in the cloud, but to lock out the legitimate user.  It is not uncommon for hackers to demand a ransom in order to have the legitimate user’s access restored.  (Failure to pay the ransom usually causes the hacker to delete the users information.)  It is also possible that hackers can use the information gleaned from a user’s social networks to hack their way into a user’s computer, tablet and/or smartphone.
In a recent article in entitled, Hackers Ramp Up Computer Attacks That  Demand Ransom, writer Erin Coker points out that,
“Hackers operating on the Internet's "Dark Web" are spreading a new, more sophisticated generation of the malicious software known as "ransomware," anonymously shaking down anyone with an unprotected computer, from lawyers and cops to small businesses. Where small groups of anonymous hackers once hit individual consumers, the hackers have now organized into crime syndicates that boldly launch massive attacks against entire companies.”
She also pointed out that these attacks are usually initiated when someone boots up only to find an ominous warning with a ticking countdown clock informing them that they have a limited time to pay the ransom or risk the destruction of their data. This can result in one of three scenarios:
1.     The user pays up and their asset is unlocked.
2.     The user runs out of time and their data is destroyed or their machine is locked permanently.
3.     The user pays and the hacker takes the money only to renege on freeing the user’s data or machine.

Hackers operating on the Internet's "Dark Web" are spreading a new, more sophisticated generation of the malicious software known as "ransomware," anonymously shaking down anyone with an unprotected computer, from lawyers and cops to small businesses. Where small groups of anonymous hackers once hit individual consumers, the hackers have now organized into crime syndicates that boldly launch massive attacks against entire companies, computer experts and law enforcement authorities said.
When you take into consideration that some of these coordinated ransomware attacks were successfully delivered to hundreds of thousands of victims in ten days, this results in tens of millions of dollars in ransom.  The worst thing is the fact that ransomware is on the rise.  The FBI’s own website reads,
Ransomware has been around for several years, but there’s been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals. And the FBI, along with public and private sector partners, is targeting these offenders and their scams. . Recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of incidents involving so-called “drive-by” ransomware, where users can infect their computers simply by clicking on a compromised website, often lured there by a deceptive e-mail or pop-up window. Another new trend involves the ransom payment method. While some of the earlier ransomware scams involved having victims pay “ransom” with pre-paid cards, victims are now increasingly asked to pay with Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency network that attracts criminals because of the anonymity the system offers.

The bottom line is while cloud computing is a tremendous boon to the public in terms of saving time and money when it comes to accessing computing power, unless serious security issues are resolved, there could come a time when cloud computing disappears like a puff of smoke.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio  

Is it Time for a Little Hi-Tech Spring Cleaning?

By Carl Weiss

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Every year at this time we break out the rakes, the weed whacker and the lawn mower to do a little spring cleaning.  So why should we treat our technology any different.  After all, a year is a long time online.  A lot can happen to your technology in a year. You load new apps, write and save documents, browse the web thousands of times and save and delete files right? All of this activity effectively rearranges the information stored on your hard drive and begins to slow down our machines. Websites, free apps, adware and other programs can easily clog our tech with accumulated junk until they slow to a crawl. The number one complaint of any computing devices is ”my computer is really slow”  So I thought I’d take the time to show you how to shake out the bugs in order to clean up your computers, tablets and smartphones.

Step #1: Clear out the Cobwebs

If you’re a Windows user, start off by opening the control panel and accessing Programs and Features.  This will bring up all the programs that are currently running on your desktop or laptop.  Presented in alphabetical order, the first thing I do is click on the “Installed On” tab at the top of the page.  This causes the programs to be listed by the date of install, which is a much better way to clear out the cobwebs.  You’d be amazed at the number of unused programs, add-on programs and all sorts of other digital detritus that can make its way onto your machines without your knowledge.   Many times when you install a program, other add-ons are installed as well.  By date sorting you can forensically trace when and where these programs made their way onto your system. Then it’s just a matter of weeding them out.

On Android tablets and smartphones, you need to peruse the apps that populate it and decide where to start trimming.  You’d be surprised at how much faster your smartphone or tablet will run once you have weeded out little used apps.  To edit and/or remove unwanted apps, hit the app icon and the “Edit” tab.  This will highlight your apps and allow you to uninstall them by clicking on the app.

Step #2: Beef Up Your Security

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No matter the device, you can never have too much security.  Every week, millions of cyber attacks take place.  This results in the loss of data and dollars.  If your virus protection has expired, you need to renew it.  If you are only running one form of protection, you need to augment it by adding anti-malware software.  I personally have three layers of protection on all my devices, including my smartphone.  That’s because the hundred dollars or so that I pay in antivirus/anti malware software is a small price to pay to protect my business and financial data.

Some programs such as Advanced System Care 8.1 not only help you protect your system, it also clears out junk files, optimizes your hard drive, checks and fixes shortcuts.  Just make sure that you buy it direct from 

Another thing you should do at least twice a year is change your passwords.  Make your passwords at least ten characters long.  Eight character passwords are all too easy to crack. 

Step #3: Backup Your Data

You wouldn’t drive a car or own a home without insuring it, would you?  The reason you pay your premiums month in and month out is to protect two of the biggest investments you possess.  Then why don’t more people backup their data?  Especially when you consider the small cost of storing your data on an external drive or on the cloud, making a backup of your hard drive is one of the cheapest insurance policies around.  Or, you can wait until some hacker compromises your system or the hard drive crashes before you start backing up your drive.

Step #4: Break out the Rake

A couple of months ago my laptop started sounding like a Boeing 757 winding up for takeoff every time I started it up.  Then it simply stopped working one afternoon, leaving me with a “Cooling Fan Disabled” warning that I heeded immediately by shutting down the system and driving it over to a local computer repair shop.  An hour (and $100) later I got a call from their technician.

“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,” he told me.

“What’s the good news?” I asked.

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“Your laptop is running as good as new and I didn’t even have to replace the fan.  All I
did was pop open the case and blow out a warren of dust bunnies.  When I plugged it in, it fired up right away.  The dust had pilled in the cooling fan enough that it jammed.”

“Then what’s the bad news?” I wondered out loud.

“I still have to charge you the one hundred dollar laptop service fee.”

When I considered the fact that I not only didn’t have to sweat the cost of replacing the cooling fan, but the time it would take to ship the part, I considered the $100 cleaning a bargain.  As soon as I got back to the office I popped the case off my desktop as well and gave it a thorough dusting as well. (All it takes is a screwdriver and a can of compressed air.)

Step# 5: Time to Defrag

If it has been more than three months since you last defragged your hard drive, then spring cleaning is definitely time to perform this chore.  While it could take an hour or more to do, it will speed up your drive’s response time considerably.

Step# 6: Update Your Drivers

If you are using out of date drivers, especially those associated with your system’s operating system, then you are leaving the door wide open to hackers.  The reason that companies spend so much time and money tweaking their drivers is predominantly due to the fact that there are millions of hackers who spend billions of man hours searching for vulnerabilities in systems and software.  I have known users who intentionally disabled the automatic updates, or who don’t allow updates to take place when notified by their system.  Then they complain when their system gets hacked. 

While all these tasks could collectively take you the better part of a day to perform, when you consider the increase in speed and security that a little hi-tech spring cleaning can provide, you will more than make up for it in added productivity. 

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio