Do I need a blog?

Remember when blogging was all the rage? You got blogs on everything, from bee keeping, gardening, fast cars – everything under the sun.

Then social media came along and the blogs dried up. Yes, there are still lots out there, but much of the stuff you used to find on blogs is now found in Facebook Groups, on Reddit, hidden under hashtags on Instagram or in Youtube channels.

So why would you want to blog any more?

Well, firstly, the blog is great for your website. Sites that are updated frequently are preferred by search engines as it shows that there is stuff going on.

Secondly, the blog can feed all those other locations. This letter here is sent out to most of you as an email – but's also posted onto the EchoDek blog from where it heads through the ether onto Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Which means that it keeps your social media types happy as well.

Take Action: Find out from your website provider if you can have a blog (attached to the main domain – so not blog.example.com; rather example.com/blog). And if not, ask them to add that facility on.

Notifications

If there’s one thing that has changed about computers, it’s how they are much more “proactive” in our lives now.

In the olden days, the computer would sit on a desk somewhere, you would go over, check stuff, then leave it alone and that would be that.

Today, your computer, your tablet, your phone, your watch, even your room (if you have a voice assistant device) can chirp up at any time, letting you know that something needs or wants your attention.

Except most of the time, it doesn’t need your attention. It’s just a distraction.

So turn it off.

Take Action: Most devices have an option in their settings to choose which notifications are allowed. Go through all your apps and decide if you really need notifying immediately, or if it can wait till you take a look. Then, figure out how to use your device’s “do not disturb” mode and switch that on when you really need to get things done

Do it now

There’s always something.

That task that you’ve been putting off.

For me, I have it on my to-do list, with a due date. When that due date becomes today, I look at it, then shift it back a week.

Two things – if you can do this indefinitely, maybe it’s not that much of an important task. But if you really do need to do it, clear an hour in your diary and do it now. Once you get started, you’ll probably find it’s much easier than you first thought.

Take Action: What’s that one task that you’ve been putting off? Do it now

The Outline Proposal

We have quite a long convoluted process for handling new sales. It takes a while, it means I have to write lots of documents and deal with lots of details, long before we ever think about money.

And the first of these documents is the “Outline Proposal’.

This is vitally important to our process, because it states what I think your business needs. Not what we’re going to build, not how we’re going to build it, not how much it will cost (although I sometimes include a “ballpark” figure in there).

Because no business project is worth pursuing unless the numbers stack up. So I try to figure out what your business needs, which problems need solving and how much it will make you (or save you). Then we talk through these to decide on some objectives for the project – and how we will measure progress towards those objectives.

The Outline Proposal, once agreed, can then form the basis for our discussion of how to move forward – the Action Plan – which is a much more in-depth document that has specific tasks that need to be completed to meet those objectives.

Take Action: What are your business objectives for the next three months? Are they written down? And how are you measuring progress towards them?

The e-myth revisited

This is a very short book review. If you’ve not read “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber and you run a small business, drop what you’re doing, buy it and read it now.

The book is a story about how one woman’s shop became a lead weight on her shoulders – because every task fell to her. By focussing on her role as a business owner, she moves out of this situation and finds a path to expand her business whilst releasing her own time.

I read this book many years ago and it took me years to figure out how to apply it to my business. But I’m making progress now and it’s truly changing how we do things – and you’re seeing a lot of the results reflected in these letters.

Take Action: read it!

Take Action

You might have noticed that each one of these letters now has a “Take Action” section at the bottom. That’s because ideas are nothing without the action behind them.

If you want things to change, you have to make them change. That means getting up and doing something.

Take Action: write down one thing you’re unhappy about in your work life. Then spend five minutes coming up with ways to fix it. And then, pick one and do it

The weekly grind

The weekly grind

I have a whiteboard that hangs above the monitor in my office. At the start of the quarter, I decided on the things I wanted to achieve in the next three months, then broke that down into a whole series of tasks.

Then, on the whiteboard, I write out each of the three months, and add tasks into those months.

And when Monday comes around, I start a new note in my note-taking app, look up at this month's list of tasks, and pick which ones I'm going to get done this week.

That way, no matter what happens, I stay focussed on my longer term goals, despite the distractions that day to day life throws at me.

Take Action: Write out your goals and tasks for the quarter and stick them up above your desk. Look at them every day.

What does your website do?

What does your website do?

When I used to do website builds, a question I used to like asking was "if this website were a member of staff, what would their job title be?"

In some cases, it's "sales person".

But sometimes, it's "support staff". Or "receptionist". Or even "bulletin board".

And in nearly all cases, it's some combination of them all.

But it's really important to figure out what the site's roles actually are, because, it's all very well having this beautiful site, if it doesn't fulfil it's purpose, it's just money wasted.

Take Action: Write a job description for your website. Then, take a look at your site through these eyes – does it do its job?

Should I pay a monthly fee to maintain my website?

Should I pay a monthly fee to maintain my website

So a lot of website providers charge you a fee to build the website, set it up and maybe charge you a hosting fee, just to keep it running. You get a log in to the Dashboard, and you can post updates and make sure your latest cat photos and company news are there for all to see.

But some web developers insist on charging a monthly maintenance fee. And it's sometimes quite a hefty fee as well.

Should you pay this?

Firstly, I'm biased. Very biased. Because I'm a provider, and I have looked after websites for people in the past and I'm sure I will do again.

But, you absolutely should pay for maintenance – provided what you're getting makes sense.

The internet is a big bad place. It's full of threats, anything publicly available is under constant attack.

This isn't an exaggeration. There are "bots" (automated apps) that scan for servers and then when they find one, they automatically try a whole series of different attacks to see if they can break in – and then if they can, they use that server that you're paying for to spread more maliciousness across the world. And of course, as it's your server, you're legally liable for the stuff that it's doing.

So, if your provider offers a maintenance service that ensures that your server and all apps that run on it are kept up to date with the latest security patches and updates, you should take it. Some months, this is a trivial task – just run the update routine and make sure it completes OK. But some months, it can be a bit more in-depth, as the security patches cause knock-on effects – and those fixes need to be carried through as well.

Which is a long way of saying – yes, pay for the maintenance.

Take Action: Ask the person who maintains your website when they last installed the security patches for the software and operating system. If it’s more than an month ago, ask them why.

Is public Wifi still safe?

Is public Wifi still safe?

Recently, they announced that Wifi encryption has been broken. An attack known as Krack.

Does this mean that Wifi is no longer safe?

Well, yes and no.

So the traffic you send over a Wifi network can be encrypted or not. Unencrypted networks aren't safe for sensitive data at any time. Krack affects encrypted networks, so what you think is safe may not be.

But Krack only applies in particular circumstances – the attacker has to be physically close to the network and they have to send a load of data over that network. If they succeed, then they can read the encrypted data that's being sent over the network.

But, if you remember, when you're accessing a secure website (with a padlock in the address bar, an SSL-site), then your traffic to the site is doubly encrypted.

So your Krack attacker is sat there, rubbing their hands in glee at all this traffic that they've broken into. Only to find that they've got another layer of encryption to break into.

Because all the best security runs through layers.

Take Action: Next time you’re using public Wifi, take a note of how you connect – if you have to enter a password when you join, it’s encrypted. If you just connect, or you have to enter your email address on a webpage that opens up automatically, it’s not encrypted – so take extra care