Archive for the 'Online technologies' Category

How to prevent your small business from being the next named disaster

Ever since World War II the U.S. government’s weather service has given official human names to tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). Everybody knows that. But am I the only one who didn’t know we were anthropomorphizing winter storms?

It turns out the Weather Channel has unofficially been naming winter storms since 2012. “Jonas” was the most recent winter wallop by Mother Nature, and it earned a moniker due to the magnitude of forecasted disruption. We now know the forecasts were pretty darn accurate: record snows, hurricane force winds and up to 60 million people impacted. Sadly, there was loss of life, and the yet-to-be-determined economic impact will surely be great.

But we knew that storm was coming. Almost 13 years ago a single outage in the electric grid cascaded across eight northeastern states, putting 55 million people and thousands of businesses in the dark for days. The Great Blackout of ‘03, was a catastrophic reminder that we’re all one nosy squirrel in a transformer away from an instantaneous, put-you-out-of-business event.

As business owners we can be forgiven if we aren’t hip to how storms are named. But shame on us if we don’t prepare for disasters like Jonas and the ‘03 Blackout. Sadly, surveys reveal most small business owners believe they will have a business interruption event in any given year, but way fewer say they’re prepared for one. If the latter group sounds like you, use these tips as a starting place. Start now.

Operational: What would you do if your building became unavailable to you or your customers?

  1. Instead of desktop computers, purchase laptops with docking stations that allow key employees to work and connect remotely, both internally and with customers. Make sure the laptops have Wi-Fi and a mobile modems in case your broadband connection goes down. This costs a little more, but it’s good connectivity insurance.
  2. Adopt applications in the cloud as alternatives for any installed programs that may become unavailable.

Financial: Most small business working capital is tied up in operating cash flow. What would happen if your cash flow was interrupted?

  1. Purchasing a business interruption rider on your property and casualty insurance policy that will pay you cash upon the acceptance of a claim. Be sure to read the fine print - all policies are not created equal.
  2. Maintain a close working relationship with your banker so you won’t have to introduce yourself to the person you’re asking for a disaster loan.

Data: More of your assets are now in digital form and less physical. Are you prepared to protect your data as comprehensively as your building, equipment and inventory?

  1. Assign one person to be in charge of keeping all computers enabled with proven digital security and keep it current on all units.
  2. Regularly copy critical data from your hard drives and store it offsite, plus protect your data with a cloud-based data backup and recovery firm.

Don’t become the next named business disaster.

Write this on a rock … The only people who never experience a business interruption event are those who don’t have a business.

Poll Results: Is the mainstream media biased and if so, does it impact how they report the news?

The Question:

Is the mainstream media biased and if so, does it impact how they report the news?

8% - The media are not biased and reporting is fair across the industry.


83% - The media are biased toward Democrats enough to influence their reporting.

6% - The media are biased toward Republicans enough to influence their reporting.
3% - The media seems to have a Democrat bias, but it does not impact reporting.

Jim’s Comments:

For many years, surveys of members of the media have revealed that the vast majority consider themselves liberals and, therefore, likely Democrats. Over the past thirty or forty years, these statistics, as our own polling seemed to indicate, have increasingly manifested as biased reporting.

And you don’t have to take my — or 83% of my audience’s — word for it. There have been a number of cases of high level bias so flagrant that sometimes jobs were lost and careers ended once exposed. In other cased jobs should have been lost but weren’t, like when CNN’s Candy Crowley became part of Team Obama in the 2012 debate she moderated against Romney.

More recently, the bias has been evident in the media’s failure to report on certain issues because it would have been negative toward one of their ideological causes or individuals. Like very little reporting on four dead Americans in Benghazi, while during the same period doing hundreds of reports on Gov. Christie’s Bridge-gate incident, which inconvenienced commuters.

More than a few observers have gone so far as to call the mainstream media corrupt. If this is true, and I wish I could argue with these people, America is the weaker for it. When you consider the state controlled media in Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea, it’s easy to see that an impartial media is essential to liberty and democracy.

RESULTS: Who should own the Internet?

The Question:

The Net Neutrality debate is about who controls the Internet: businesses through competition and contracts, or government by turning it into a utility. What do you think?

2% - The government should be in control of the Internet.
74% - The government should leave the Internet alone.
19% - There should be a way to balance control between these two.
5% - Undecided.
Jim’s Comments:

Should the Internet become a utility?

As you may remember, I’ve been reporting on the Net Neutrality issue for over a decade, including all the significant players in the debate.

Most reasonable people agree that one of the reasons the Internet has been such a phenomenal success is because it has been so lightly regulated. However, as I reported recently, President Obama has taken executive steps to make the Internet a public utility, subject to all sorts of government oversight.

When we asked our small business audience what they thought about this plan, almost three-fourths reject the president’s idea, with only 2% who think his plan is good.

One reason for this overwhelming response against the president is because small business owners have benefited on many levels, directly and indirectly, from an unencumbered Internet. And since over half of the U.S. economy is produced by small businesses, the president should pay attention to what this sector thinks.

In case you missed them, here are links to three articles I’ve written about the president’s  behavior regarding the Internet.

Why you should care about the net neutrality debate

If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it

Obama’s Internet words don’t match his actions

RESULTS: How much of your revenue comes from online sales?

The Question:

Small businesses are increasingly using e-business to grow. How much of your annual revenue do you estimate comes from online sales?

0% - 100%
6% - More than 50%
39% - Less than 50%
55% - None
Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, our respondents this week aren’t using the Internet much to drive sales. Over the years our responses have been consistent with several scientific surveys I report on my radio program, but I hope this isn’t the case this time.  Consider the research below:

  • According to an aggregation of sales research, the amount of global online sales reached almost $1.5 TRILLION in 2014 (all caps for emphasis), and is projected to be almost $2.5 TRILLION by 2018. And that’s just business-to-consumer (B2C).
  • But the big online bell ringer is business-to-business (B2B), projected to reach almost $7 TRILLION by 2020.

I’m going to have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article, but for now let me tell you that if you’re not providing at least some online capability for all kinds of customers to do business with you online, you’re becoming a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to dinosaurs.


Obama’s Internet words don’t match his actions

“You will know them by their fruits.” This ancient wisdom is from the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

Sixteen centuries later, in his book “Will and Doom,” the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley, paraphrased Matthew with, “Actions are more significant than words.”

In the 21st century this timeless maxim continues to serve as we hear President Obama say, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet.”

In the past I’ve reported my concerns about the future of the Internet under the Obama administration. If you believe the Internet is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, if you like its current low barrier to entry for personal and professional benefit, if you’re responsible for the future of a business, then you should share my concerns.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

1.  President Obama treats the Internet as a political and diplomatic bargaining tool. After the U.S. government was embarrassed by Edward Snowden’s theft of secrets, the President announced intentions to relinquish U.S. control of Internet governance to a “global, multi-stakeholder community,” even though there was time left on the contract with ICANN (For more on this, see my 3/23/14 column, “If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it”).

It’s no secret the U.N., a global, multi-stakeholder community, covets control of a ubiquitous asset through which it can exert more influence and levy a global use tax. Nothing fits that profile better than the Internet. If Obama’s governance plan for the Internet comes to pass, his words, “protect a free and open Internet … so innovators and entrepreneurs can reshape the world,” won’t match his actions.

2.  The commercial Internet has flourished for more than 20 years thanks to a very lightly regulated environment. By definition such broadband laissez-faire is unacceptable to President Obama, who wants to impose his own version of net neutrality.

Consequently, the President’s FCC chairman and straw man, Tom Wheeler, has announced plans for an “Open Internet Order” to reclassify broadband access as a “telecom service” under Title II of the Communications Act. This means the Internet would become a government regulated – and ultimately taxed – public utility. Turning the Internet into a utility would be like performing a heart transplant on someone who just needs a baby aspirin. (For more, see my 11/16/14 column “Why you should care about Net Neutrality”).

Today the Internet is not without governance and usage issues, but none that can’t be handled by marketplace participants large and small through contract, creativity and competition.

Write this on a rock … If Obama’s plans for the Internet come to pass, his words, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet,” will not match his actions.




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