We’ve Moved!

 

In an effort to simplify my life (and maximize the value of my blog traffic), I have ported the blog over to our home site at

http://tooq.ca/blog/

Please visit the link there and update your bookmarks!

Thanks to WordPress for an excellent three years.


2012 in review

Well, not being one for looking behind me too much, I figure it can’t hurt to share some of the ol’ WP stats for the year. This is a pretty nice thing WP does at the end of each year and it’s nicely presented, however, I still plan to port things over to tooq.ca sometime this year.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Autumn Product Roundup – Three Tools for the Small Business Owner

It is, as usual, pretty busy around here. I’ve personally been working on a contract for a Fortune 1000 client in the Silicon Valley for a good chunk of the year. We’ve got a couple of other projects on the go, a new server setup and migration, potentially a cool new build for a new client coming up, a couple of internal projects and the list goes on.  But instead of telling you about those, I thought I’d give a quick update on a couple of tools I’ve come across and started using lately. I’ll write-up proper reviews on these a little later, but if you’re a small business owner, these may find themselves to be very helpful for you and your business.

 

1. IFTTT – If This Than That (Free)

This clever tool allows you to “program” actions based on triggers without having to know a lick about code. It is currently set up with a bunch of services (gmail, tumblr, SMS, phone, bit/ly, rss, etc) and it revolves around the trigger (the If this happens, then do this thing logic). Want to automatically post you latest blog post to your Facebook Wall? Easy. Send a text when an event happens on you calendar? Done.  You can browse through “recipes” others have made or create your own. There’s still some other services that would be cool to see, but this tool is pretty slick.

 

2. Fancyhands.com ($25 per month – $585 per year, see site for details)

Ever felt like you’re getting bogged down with simple tasks? Feel like you could get more real work done if you had someone to do those tasks for you? Ended this train of thought when you did the quick math in your head that tells you a full-time personal assistant is not in your budget? Enter Fancyhands.com, This service offers a virtual private assistant service that is easy to use and is staffed by well-trained folks based in the US. You can use the service to complete tasks that need to get done, but don’t specifically have to be done by you.  Send flowers for someone’s retirement party, research hotels for your next business trip, call and make your next doctor’s appointment, research an aspect of a blog post with supporting links, and all kinds of tasks similar to this. You purchase via monthly or annual subscription a certain number of tasks per month and depending on the pricing you choose, tasks will cost between $1.95 and $5.00 each (I went with an Annual Basic Plan with 5 tasks per month for $225). I have had one task completed and another underway and so far, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of work completed and it is indeed saving me time.

* Link above is a referral link and get a $10 credit if you sign up. You could type in the URL manually if you prefer.

 

3. Fitbit $99.00 USD (Same price in CAD at Amazon.ca)

If you hit the gym and eat well all the time without trying, then maybe this isn’t for you. If you get bogged down in work from a desk and don’t make time to get active, then Fitbit might be what you need. In all fairness, I’m on day three, but so far I love it. Over time, mainly the last 10-12 years, my diet and exercise habits have slowly degraded. It wasn’t an overnight thing. I’m aware of this and that I need to change something. Fitbit is a small hardware dongle (I have the Fitbit One, there is an older model called the Ultra, and a lesser featured version too) that you wear on your body all the time. It tracks your steps, number of staircases you climb, distance traveled and calories burned and reports it back to the web where you can log in and see how you’re doing against your goals. You also wear the Fitbit on your wrist at night and it tracks information on your sleep patterns. On the site, you can track your food intake, sleep, exercise, weight, and even join groups and add friends. Fitbit does a good job as motivator and making things fun and challenging. The hardware is beautiful. It is small, unobtrusive and sleek and I barely notice it is there. It syncs within 20 feet of my computer or with an iPhone (there are both iPhone and Android apps, but the Android app unfortunately does not have all the features of the iPhone app. Get on that Fitbit!). My wife and bought them for each other as early Xmas gifts and as long as we stick with it, Fitbit will help us gain the exercise and diet balance that has waned over the last decade.

 

As I mentioned, I’m pretty new to all of these, and I plan to write proper reviews when I’ve had a bit more time to experience them, but early on for all three services, things look very promising and I recommend you check them out. Hopefully, in the next several weeks I’ll get some more updates out on what we’re doing and a couple of posts for small business strategy and tools . We have a couple of site launch announcements coming up too that we’d like to share. We recently signed up as a member of live-local, so we’ll talk about that too. Lastly, I’m hoping to move the blog to our site (also re-designed lately), so I have to figure out how to point you there from here.

Thanks for reading.

-b


Using IFTTT

I’m probably late to the party on this one, but I tripped across a very cool app today. IFTTT stands for If This Then That and offers a very simple interface allowing you to build a “recipe” to handle numerous tasks automatically. In fact, I’m writing this to test a recipe that will update Tooq’s Facebook Fan Page automatically when I add a blog post.

Sign up is easy and you can browse some recipes here: https://ifttt.com/recipes

Feel free to share any creative ones you find or create.

Other Updates:

Tooq Inc – We’ve revamped our homepage at http://tooq.ca

There’s definitely a whole new marketing message there and certainly some polishing left to do, but we made a move to a responsive design and have started to shape the message to what we usually end up doing to earn our keep. Feel free to have a look and let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? Meh?

Karmahive – Originally scheduled for an Autumn release, this has been pushed back for now. I got busy and we had some other projects to take care of, so the new kid sits by himself in the corner. It’s still coming, but likely a spring release now.

Client Launches – We’ve launched a few sites in the last few months, but haven’t published much information here. I’ll make a point to showcase some of those in their own blog post soon.

 


Been Awhile…

I haven’t posted for a while. I’ve generally just been pretty busy and there hasn’t been a whole lot of news to share as of late. I’m trying to get as much work lined up before the holidays close in and clients all disappear for two weeks. We’ll take a few days off around here, but the plans are business as usual for the week between Xmas and New Years, so we need to queue things up.

Anyways, I’ve got a couple of projects on the go for clients, a couple of personal ones and a few client sites that we launched recently. For now, here are the recent launches:

1. Brock Communicationshttp://brockcommunications.ca

This site is part of the Brock Group of companies that we built the PHSP enrolment for last year. We’re working on a revamp of some of their sites and this is one of them. We’re streamlining and modernizing the design of their existing sites and implementing eCommerce on some of them.

2. Brock Associates – http://brockassociates.ca

Another from the Brock Group. You can see between the two that the layout and theme are the same with the logo and header font colours being the distinctive changes between sites. I’m happy with the clean look on these and the brand theme running between sites.

3. Pride Automotive – http://prideautomotive.ca

Pride Auto is a family owned auto shop one neighborhood over from me. Mike and Sam are brothers that opened on the southside recently and have invested heavily in their shop and equipment. We’ve thrown around a lot of ideas and there is more to come on this site (fleshing out the forums, eCommerce, etc), but they were lacking an online presence and so we’ve launched before adding all the bells and whistles. Look for more coming here over the holidays and into January.

4. Solalta Group – http://solaltagroup.ca

I’ve done some work on projects with Doug and his partners before and really enjoy working with them. They don’t like being hands on with the “tech” stuff and we work in an iterative fashion to find a solution. Doug needed a site that could start to showcase his 30+ years as a Developer and have some place online to point people to. We’ll be adding to this one over the next few weeks and months, but I think it’s clean and succinct.

That’s it for now. Have a great holiday season, stay safe.

-b


Legacy Hosting Providers – Still a Good Deal?

We create and deploy websites for companies as part of our business offerings. In many cases, the business has an existing site that is usually well neglected, out of date, or using old technology (sometimes all three). When it comes to deploying a new site, there are a lot of changes to be made and a lot of decisions to make, especially when dealing with legacy systems.

We recently had a client that was using a small ISP to provide internet service to his location and as part of the package, web hosting was available. His site had been running on their servers for some time and the service was reliable for several years. We encouraged the client to switch to our hosting. Why?

1. Accessibility – the current provider holds Monday through Friday from eight am to ten pm office hours. Unfortunately, the ‘net’ runs 24/7, so what can one do when something happens on a weekend? We work all kinds of stupid hours anyways and have no trouble fixing an issue in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or on a holiday.

2. Ease of Development and Deployment – If we can’t control the pieces, it makes development much more difficult and deployment has to be done nearly blindly. We have to provide explicit instruction to the other party to get things done and hope that they don’t screw it up. Working on our own system allows us to troubleshoot and correct the odd mistake much more quickly.

3. Cost – In this particular case, the hosting was an added cost to the service (not really built in). The system we built required a SQL database which was not included, but could be added to the service package for $10.00 per month. TEN FRICKEN DOLLARS PER MONTH! For a database! Having a look at their site, their pricing model is easily 5-8 years out of date and I think they managed to build a large enough client list, that now they just continue to gouge them, though the costs of operation have dropped dramatically.  The monthly cost of their database is the monthly cost for our entire hosting package for most small business clients.

Now, moving a site, or repointing an entire domain, involves some risk. There will always be downtime, the risk falls in how much downtime there is. We’ve had great success in minimizing downtime when deploying sites and probably been fairly lucky on DNS servers resolving in a timely fashion. Relying on others only seeks to increase the amount of work, frustration and risk we deal with in trying to help small businesses get their sites deployed.

Measuring up your hosting costs between providers is pretty easy. While were not the most inexpensive out there, we do manage servers for most of our clients and ensure that they don’t have to worry about their site being down over a weekend. When deciding to move your server environment or domain records, it is important to not only understand the risks involved, but the opportunity gained and plan well. Well this post is not meant to serve as an advertisement for our hosting, I honestly think we offer a lot more in terms of service and reliability at a much lower cost. The ease gained by us is mostly a side benefit that helps us deliver while minimizing risk.

If you have a website, or websites, hosted on a service and they have been there a while, I’d like to suggest you spend thirty minutes to do a little comparison shopping and make sure you’re not wasting money you don’t have to. In this one case, the annual costs for hosting (without SQL), email and domain registration are $530.00. With us, the same package comes in at $150. Trust me, it’s worth a look.

Other Updates:

– Sounds like we may have a pretty large hardware project coming up that will keep us busy on a part time basis for several months. Details to come.

– Check out Armwerks.com. We’re still sorting out our product list and the legal paperwork to start bringing in Linux embedded hardware systems and accesories, but we’re already gaining some small consulting projects on the site. Lots of work to get this one polished up.

– About to release our first add-on to the Concrete5 Marketplace. I’m not sure on the turnaround time for approval, but hopefully it will hit soon. Just a touch more testing to do and then submit.

– Working on a few new sites for clients and a few more sound like they are on their way. Here’s hoping for a busy summer.

Thanks for reading,

-b


Updates

Just a quick note about the blog. It’s now flying under the Tooq Inc banner instead of myTooq.com. This is mainly due to being too busy/lazy to blog in two different places for overlapping content. I’ll still update about myTooq product updates here, but work through Tooq.ca has some serious overlap with small business info and I don’t have the time or inclination to duplicate content in two places.  Under the Tooq Inc flag, it becomes easy to point both myTooq subscribers and tooq.ca client, potential clients and general web traffic to one place.

Also, I’ve stripped the blog down and rethemed the whole thing. At some point, I’ll work on my own theme for WordPress so I have something I like. This will have to do for now.

Lastly, I haven’t forgotten about the marketing series, I’ve just been busy marketing and trying to keep bacon on the table while creating client sites and delving into Ruby on Rails. I should be back to it soon.

-b