Are You Prepared for Mobilgeddon?

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We live in the end times, right? At least that’s what Google wants you to think. Most are probably somewhat familiar with the term “Armageddon,” which is the biblical prediction for the end of the world.  Well Google's latest update is being dubbed Mobilegeddon because it means the end of high ranking for websites that are not mobile compliant.

While it might not represent the end of the World Wide Web, what Google has indicated is that if your website is deemed “not 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 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 U.S.’ Homeland Security.

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Now, Google stirring the pot with its algorithm changes is nothing new. Remember, we had Penguin, then Humming Bird and its latest monkey wrench called Pigeon thrown at us. All of these were significant changes to Google’s search algorithm and they all caused mayhem in search engines. Each caused losers and winners to call foul or exclaim hooray unless you were truly following the “content-is-king” model that we profess in this blog and our radio show. Our basic strategy is to give Google and the other search engines what they say they want on face value. That is, we provide lots of high-quality, current and relevant content that is optimized for the keywords on daily basis. The accumulation of the high-quality content raises you to the top of search because you are providing the best “answer” to the keyword search that people are searching for. This method does not chase algorithms, it provides what prospects and visitors are seeking: quality content that helps them make a decision to trust you to be their provider.

Before you throw yourself under the Google bus, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. First, test your site to see if it is mobile-friendly. Click here to visit Google test site and check out your site. Another way is to read this and other articles to get educated on the changes. That’s includes listening to the podcast of our show on BlogTalkRadio on this same subject.

Bear in mind that at this juncture, Google’s tool assumes that HTML5 resizing of a web page is inadequate. HTML5 automatically resizes websites to fit any platform, including smartphones. However, in many cases, the print becomes small and links become too close for those of us with fat thumbs to use. Anyone with a smartphone can expand the page view by just moving their fingers on the screen to make the image bigger. And this does solve the problem to some extent. However, Google feels that this is not good or friendly enough. I tend to agree.

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Case in point: When I put our site through Google's test, this is how it displayed our site on their simulated smartphone: This page is coded in HTML5 yet it doesn't fully scale to the smartphone formats. Granted, this is not one of our landing pages, which does scale (pages we hunt with) or our Blogger site, which also scales (because it's owned by Google). However, the test provides the feedback we need to correct this kind of problem.

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This is how it should look when HTML5 scales properly to a smartphone. We're already looking to use Google webmaster tools to resolve the issue on our nexus site. 

Of course, you can always resize the website on a tablet, fablet or smartphone as well. That's one of the advantages of smart devices. I have used this resizing capabilities in stores many times when my aging Baby Boomer eyes can't quite make out the smaller images or text.

To make the mystery even better, we also found that a couple of other company-owned websites built using identical HTML5 architecture came up as mobile-friendly on Google's testing page. So why the difference?  It's possible there may be some code fragment missing that the Google bots need to understand these pages. There may also be some code that blocks Google bots from seeing the dynamic resizing code. Google gives some hints on its test site as to why these sites may not be passing. Either way, it's a good time for every website owner to reassess their site and make sure the website is giving you -- the owner -- the best chance to score when someone visits your page.

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If your site is deemed search-engine-unfriendly, at least you’re in good company ... for now.  According to, you’re hardly alone:

“Losers: Popular news sharing site Reddit topped the list of losers, followed by NBC SportsVogue, Song Lyrics 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 host for ourselves and our clients.  With the exception of the website and seven client-owned sites we created before the advent of HTML5, all our clients came up as mobile search-engine-friendly. (I submitted a new XML sitemap for the site to see if this doesn’t help the Google bots cure their myopia regarding our site.)

What’s it All About, Google?

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So why is Google going out of its way to penalize a website owner who has worked hard to get their website onto Page One? Why is Google in such a big rush to push everyone to have a mobile-friendly website? I believe the answer lies in Google’s need to expand its pay per click market, which is its largest revenue stream. This has caused a relatively flat growth for a while now. Think of it this way, Google likes to sell pay per click advertising to businesses that want to be on Page One of Google search. I believe Google's pay per click sales have been flat because the conversion rate for many who use AdWords is down. Why? Many “regular” websites aren’t converting clicks to sales when people use their smartphones to access the Internet. These websites have poor conversion rates because they are not mobile-friendly. Again, this is speculation on my part, but it makes sense, especially from Google’s perspective.

There are other factors in play as well that affect visitor conversion (see our articles Making Pay Per Click Pay Big Dividends,” and “Six Things That Turn PPC Ads Into Advertising That Pays”), and these should not be ignored. However, forcing companies to make their site more mobile-friendly is a good move on Google's part. First, it will require a whole lot of new website owners that need Page One position to succeed to start using AdWords again. Especially if they fell off of Page One because of this change. And two, this algorithm change should improve conversion rate for pay per click because mobile users will be able to actually read the web pages they land on.

From Google’s perspective the answer is clear: Mobile is the future of the Internet. 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’re already starting to see phablets that can do nearly everything that a laptop can do and sometimes more.  

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 one-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:

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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 in 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, regardless of what platform they’re using to access your site.  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 their choice, then Mobilegeddon will be the least of your worries.

In this article, I discussed the consequences and implications of Google's latest algorithm change that’s being called Mobilegeddon. I explored the current status of the World Wide Web where most websites are not prepared for Mobilegeddon or the mobile traffic that Google says it now emphasizes. I also provided a link to Google mobile compliance testing page and showed how Google’s test site doesn’t fully take into account HTML5, which dynamically resizes a page to fit the devices it is being displayed on.

If you’d like to read similar articles about Google updates, check out: “Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?," and "Hummingbird is Nothing to Hum About!," or just type words "Google algorithm" in the search box at the top left of this blog.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

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.

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The Evolution of Social Media Networking & its Imminent Future

By Hector Cisneros

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Internet Social Networking (a.k.a., Social Media) as we know it today, has been with us for several years. With only a little more than a decade since the birth of modern social networks, it looks like we’re poised at the beginning of a new era of competition, sophistication and monetization. Some say we’re entering the era of maturity and stability, while others say we’ve just crossed the line of infringing on consumer privacy and implementing a new level of customer-no-service. In this article from Working the Web to Win, we’ll explore the state of affairs for social media, both from a consumer and business perspective, and we’ll predict where social networking is headed. 

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Social Media has evolved from very humble beginnings, and I don’t mean Facebook, LinkedIn or even Friendster! Social media and social networking can be traced back to the very beginning of word-of-mouth messages. This easily takes us back to Martin Luther and the “social posts” of his era, which lead to the beginning of the religious revolution of the Reformation. In fact, this is where the term “posting” was originally coined. Priest and scholar, Martin Luther, had posted his list of grievances against the Catholic Church onto a door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. It went viral (so to speak) and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Centuries and a completely different medium later (hand-scribed post the Guttenberg printing press versus instant electronic media), today social media and social networking has created a new revolution. Advertisers can no longer dupe the general public with fancy, misleading ads and slick TV/radio commercials. Gone are the days where anyone could tout the false virtues of mediocre or poorly made products, in order to get us to buy them.

The actual road to modern social networking and what we call “social media” has many of its electronic roots in the ARPANET era. These roots stem from CompuServe's bulletin board, AOL’s early instant messaging (AIM) and early web logs. Eventually this lead to the first online communities, Blogger and Twitter.  We began with what seemed to be totally free, word-of-mouth connecting networks that evolved into the mega-corporations such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google (which owns YouTube, Blogger and Google+). Here is an excellent historical, social media timeline provided by the “Sun Sentinel”:

1971 – The first email is sent (between two computers sitting on the same desk).
1979 – Usernets and BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) came online, allowing users to exchange data over phone lines.
1980 – CompuServe and Prodigy hit the scene with the first commercial offering of news, weather, shopping, games, and more.
1991 – America Online launches AOL for DOS and quickly rises to one of the most popular online destinations with over 30 million members in its prime. Millions of people used AOL as their first gateway to the World Wide Web.
1994 – Geocities launches as a community where users create their own websites categorized by one of six "cities.”
1995 – gave users the freedom to post their own content and interact with other users.
1995 – is born allowing users to find and connect with former acquaintances from school life.
1997 – ICQ (Internet Relay Chat) is purchased by America Online; AOL Instant Messenger launches, and a “new language” is born (i.e., OMG, LOL, BRB, etc.).
1997 – launches allowing users to create profiles and list friends.
2002 – launches and quickly grows to three million users in three months.
2003 – is frantically coded in 10 days to try and mimic the rapid growth of Friendster. Grows to the most popular social networking site in 2006 with 100 million users. LinkedIn and Photobucket also join the game.
2004 – Facebook launches originally as a way for college students to connect. The year also saw the birth of Digg and Flickr.
2005 – YouTube launches and gives anyone with a video camera the chance to become an Internet sensation.
2006 – Twitter launches and squeezes our communication into 140 character "tweets.”
2008 – Facebook overtakes MySpace as the most popular social networking site. – Google introduces Google+ after two previous failed attempts to break into the social space (Wave and Buzz).

The following video is also very helpful:

Today, there are many new social networks and the number of subscribers easily reaches into the many billions. Newer, more pictorial networks such as Pintrest, Instagram, SnapChat chat and What’s App have provided new havens for those more interested in share pictures, videos and direct messages via smartphones. Let’s face it, there are more mobile users today accessing the Internet than there are desktop users.

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Many have perceived social networks as free, but they have never been totally free. Somebody has always paid for them. You can’t have hundreds of programmers, thousands of servers, huge headquarters, and billions in assets without someone paying the piper! From a consumer perceptive, these networks have appeared to be free because the price we have been paying is not as tangible as cash or other easy-to- perceive assets.  The price we’re paying is equally, if not more precious than gold ... we’ve been playing with our private data and readily giving up our privacy. We have been connecting with each other by exchanging personal information about ourselves in order to create a huge database of private information about our lives that the large social networks then sell to third-party vendors as targeted advertising prospects.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google have always been selling the promise of access to our psychographic information as a mineable commodity, or as it is today, the outright selling our data to third parties. I know what you’re thinking only your friends and people you're connected to can see your data. This may have been true at one point in time, but there’s definitely no online privacy today ― at all. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks, vendors are paying to mine your data and to target your account for advertising. Businesses are paying big money for targeted promotions, running ads and exposing views of their promoted posts on all of these major social networks. The near future will bring new fees to any business who wants its message to show up in its social network timeline.  

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Soon, all the news feeds and timelines will be artificially corrupted with "ad stories" or promoted posts purchaseby vendors vying to sell you their products or services as their prospect. Facebook has already announced that it plans on providing its own news feed and I’m sure it plans on selling your psychographic information as soon as you subscribe to it. Likewise, Twitter is already selling promoted posts that shows up in your Twitter feed that has nothing to do with people you’ve decided to follow. LinkedIn has always had a commercial side and its news service also sells promoted ads and posts in and alongside its time line news feed. Google well, let’s face it, Google sells everything.

Gone are the days where your business post was easily seen by your business followers. Yes, your followers can see you on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ but the post feed is not as “pure” as it was in the past. This is especially true on Facebook where you have to buy ads or promote posts to be easily seen in your followers’ Facebook page timeline.

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Almost five years ago, I wrote about the “Six Cardinal Rules for Success in Social Media Marketing” and in it stated, “No one ever joined a social network to be sold to …” and that “… they joined to connect with others, share and find useful information and to be entertained.”  I contend that this is still true today. Subscribers are either ignorant of the loss of privacy or they believe that it's worth the trade-off.  The fact remains: social networking is more popular than ever.

Today there are over 350 social networks. Yet, there is a change in the air. Younger generations are moving away from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, opting for the more instant and visually oriented What’s App, Snap Chat and Instagram. Some say this is because they don’t want parental oversight, but I say they just want more privacy. The same privacy that we used to enjoy as adults. More adult migrations will begin to take place as unsettling news comes out on how social networking is negatively affecting marriages (linked to more divorces) and the loss of other types of face to face social connections. Plus most adults don’t realize they have lose their privacy. I think we will see other migrations taking place once new, more private networks emerge.

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Right now, there’s a great opportunity for new, more private and less commercial social networks to emerge. Ones that are easier for us to use, are more respectful of privacy, and that provide better customer service (or at least a phone number where you can call for help and receive it in real time when you need it). The current social network leaders are becoming highly monetized, provide little or no customer service, and record and sell all of your private data. As consumers begin to realize they have been taken, they’ll either give in to a life that is less private or they’ll rebel. Right now, the top social networks are vulnerable because their monopoly has allowed them to provide poor customer service with little consequences, they sell our personal data and none of them have consumer’s interest at heart.

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Think of it this way: For some, the trading of your privacy for the ability to connect to friends, family and co-workers, is worth the price of admission. For others, the idea of not owning what you post is repugnant. Let’s take the example of an items that made headlines in the news recently. Some think that keeping a dead person’s Facebook page up and running is a monument to their life. Others will feel that this is not in good taste and just another way of abusing personal and private data. Even though you're related to the deceased, you cannot gain access or pull down to their page if you don’t have their username and password.

In the past, I’ve written several prediction articles about social media. So in this article I am going to stick my neck out again. I predict right here and now that we’re on the verge of a new social networking era. One that will usher in private social networks that are pay to play. New (startup) social networks that will attack the current social network leaders where they are weakest (that currently poor consumer service, lack of privacy, aren't user-friendly, etc.). We will move into a dichotomy of pay-to-play or pay-with-your-privacy.

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Having said all of this, it’s my belief that social media has been a good influence on society as a whole. It has diminished the influence of the old media giants like TV, radio and print that allowed many advertisers to run misleading ads that influenced our choices, even though those products were mediocre or just plain bad. Social media has forced many businesses with poor or no customer service to improve their customer service game. Plus, as consumers, we have benefited from the sharing of product ratings and vendor testimonials, which have led us to make better product choices and receive better customer service. For many, a real bonus is that we have made all those long-lost connections with friends, family and former school mates.

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So what do you say? Do you think it’s OK to give up the ownership of your posts, pictures, videos and give control to the big social networks? Or are you one of those people who are becoming disgruntled with the directions that social networking has taken? Are you looking for a more private way to network, even if it means paying a nominal fee each month? Either way, the reality is that it costs money ― lots of it ― to build, run and maintain these large social networks. The days of what seemed like “free” social media are gone forever.

My recommendation is if you have any social network accounts, take the time to back up the data you have posted to them. You can find out how to do this by Googling it or by looking in the help section of the specific social network. If you don’t like what you have learned in this article, backup your data and asked to be removed from that network. Still, understand that whatever you have posted will be staying in their unlisted database for as long as they feel that data is valuable.

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As consumers, we have a lot of say in the way our world treats us. If we don’t like how we are treated we have to choose to act. We just have to work together and take affirmative action. We’ve seen this happen in elections, with social injustices, and with companies that have been selling poor products and providing lousy customer service.

The same is true for how the social media giants treat us. If we work together, we can hold these social media firms accountable for how they treat us and what kind of service they provide. I recommend you contact your social networks if you have complaints and share those stories of abuse with your friends, family and co-workers. It might be a good idea to share your complaint on a different social network to avoid any retaliation from the offending network. If the stories go viral and get enough traction, the social giants will stand up and take notice. They have backed down in the past when enough people complained about bad policies or poor service.

Do yourself a favor: think carefully about what I have said and decide. It’s your life and privacy that’s at stake. Social Networking is at a crossroads and everyone is going to have to make a choice.

In this article, I have provided a brief history of the evolution of Social Networking, discussed its current state of affairs, and prognosticated about its imminent future. I provided a timeline of social media’s development and pointed out the direction that I see Social Networking taking in the near future.

That's my opinion.  I look forward to reading yours.

If you liked this article, you can find more by typing “social media or social networking” in the search box at the top left of this blog. I further recommend reading “ Hector's the Connector’s Social Media Predictions for 2014,” “Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned & Best Practices Part 3 – The Social Media Dynamic,” “The Evolution of Internet Advertising,” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the 21st Century - Take Two.”

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment sections below. I hope you have found these questions and answers useful. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we'll email it to you. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

Is There a Silver Lining Inside Cloud Computing?

By Carl Weiss

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Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple years, you’ve either heard of or are now using cloud computing. The Cloud sounds so peaceful, beautiful, and magnificent. But like all clouds, there are many different kinds and even though they can have silver linings, they can also bring rain and thunder. Today, users are looking to save money by embracing it. IT pros are implementing it to lower their cost for infrastructure and investors are plowing money into it looking to make a profit.

Likewise, you have to ask yourself these questions: How can I use the cloud to line my pockets with silver? Can I do it by saving money or by making more is the real question at hand. In today’s blog, we’ll look at the emergence of cloud computing as a way of both making and saving money.  We’ll 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 is that it’s been around since the 1960s. A blog on points out:

“The idea of an ‘intergalactic network’ was introduced in the '60s 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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Even back then, while other experts in the field thought 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 when began pioneering the concept of delivering enterprise solutions via the web.  This was followed by, which, in 2002, started vending cloud storage and computing.  By 2006, this service morphed into a commercial service called Elastic Compute Cloud, which 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 to make 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 the worrisome question of online security.

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Andreas Asander, vice-principal of product management at virtualization 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:
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – IaaS provides physical or virtual machines, image libraries, block storage, firewalls, IP addresses, Virtual Local Area Networks, and software bundles to users.
  • 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.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – SaaS users are provided access to databases and/or applications for a flat or monthly fee.  In an SaaS model, users access the software from the cloud client. 

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While users can access all of the above-mentioned 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:
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Distributed Clouds are 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.
  • Multicloud uses multiple services to reduce the risk of a single vendor going down and thus leaving the user with no service.  

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Let’s look at the many benefits that cloud computing has to offer. Cloud computing, when implemented with safeguards, can save individuals and especially businesses huge amounts of money on infrastructure, security, process management, software cost, content distribution and team collaboration.

Ten real benefits that cloud computing offers today:

1. It can achieve economies of scale – You can increase output and productivity with less people. Your cost per project, unit or product will go down.

2. Inexpensively globalize your workforce – Your employees worldwide can access the cloud with any kind of Internet connection to collaborate and share information.

3.Reduce the need to keep up technology and infrastructure upgrades - for hardware, software, etc.

4. Reduce capital expenditures – This lowers your need to for purchasing new hardware, software licensing, and labor to install all of these assets.

5. You can codify and streamline processes on a global scale – All of your employees can be using the same software and thus using the same process to complete work.

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6. You can monitor your business globally – The cloud allows you to manage employee access and security worldwide.

7. Improved access – likewise you have worldwide access. You can gain access anywhere you have a smart device and an Internet connection.

8. It will lower the cost of training, especially if you standardize on the use of cloud SaaS (Software as a Service) programs to run your business.

8. In most cases, it will save you money on annual software licensing. SaaS monthly fees are usually much lower than the cost for ongoing purchase of software licenses per employee.

10. You’ll have greater flexibility to add news capabilities, divest from an existing relationship or change directions. You can scale your needs up and down seasonally as well as economically.

The Dark Cloud

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The biggest danger to cloud users has to do with privacy and security.  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 to this information with outside entities, this would mean that the only practical way to protect the data would be to encrypt it.

In cloud services such as social networks or blogging platforms (which are a kind of cloud service), 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 that all of the information displayed on social nets and blogs is actually owned by the service provider and not the author.

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There is also the real risk a hacker can not only gain access to a user’s cloud service, but it’s also possible for a hacker to not only alter the content contained in the cloud, but to lock out legitimate users.  It’s 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,” Erin Coker points out:

“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 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:
  • The user pays up and their asset is unlocked.
  • The user runs out of time and their data is destroyed or their machine is locked permanently.
  • The user pays and the hacker takes the money only to renege on freeing the user’s data or machine.

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 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 that ransomware is on the rise.  The FBI’s website states:

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.

In this article, I presented an overview of the development of the cloud computing and discussed the different types of cloud services available. I also cited many attributes of cloud computing but also discussed some of the dangers and developments that are growing regarding dark cloud and ransomware.

To read previous blogs on cloud computing and similar topics, check out: "New Year, New Tech," "It's Time for Some Hi-Tech Spring Cleaning," "Attack of the Botnets," or just type words such as "cloud," "cyber terrorism, "hacking" in the search frame.

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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.

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