Category Archives: Business Talk

1 Tip for Maximum Website Profits

Do you know how often your website is down?

Website downtime can be a real killer to your bottom line. The more you are offline the MORE MONEY you lose.

The truth is, many businesses NEVER KNOW when their website goes offline.

Is your website consistently up and running or is down and you are not even aware?

There are many issues that can cause your website to go offline. Your server or web host could be conducting routine maintenance on the website, there could be an issue with your website’s code, there could also be an issue with your data center.

Alternatively, there could be network, hardware or hacker issues. Whatever the reason, you need to get your website back online ASAP.

It Can Happen To Anyone

In 2013, Amazon reportedly lost close to $66,240 for EVERY MINUTE they were down.

In March 2017, Amazon Web Services went down and caused a domino effect where Quora, Coursera, Business Insider, Slack and Trello all went offline.

Interestingly, DownDetector, a website used to detect such outages also went offline as a result of Amazon Web Services difficulties.

You should be asking yourself, how much are you losing for every minute you are offline?

If Amazon can go offline, it is safe to say that your website can go offline too?

Downtime is inevitable – but you can minimize the financial damage incurred.

The first step is to enable Proactive Monitoring.

Proactive means that when an alert goes off, a qualified technician responds to the issue… and resolves it. Monitoring by itself isn’t good enough.

Later in this article I’ll show you how to setup Proactive Monitoring affordably and with qualified technicians.

But first, let’s look at the fallout from being offline. All of these issues revolve around lost revenue in one way or another…

4 Downtime Disasters

  1. Tarnished brand image

When first time visitors try to access your website and find it unavailable, you are guaranteeing they will not return.

Worse, if that is paid traffic your ROI numbers will be inaccurate and you also spent money for nothing. The next time they see your ad they are less likely to click on them… giving you a bad image.

Beyond that, research shows that, 88% of people are influenced by the reviews they get of companies online. If your company is constantly experiencing unresolved inaccessibility, then visitors to your site will spread the word and if your website is an e-commerce, people won’t shop there anymore. If it’s a blog, people will not go there for information and it will be an unreliable source of information. Whatever the reason, you do not want a negative image of your site and brand.

An example of this when Virgin Blue’s website went offline in 2010. The downtime affected the travel schedules of their customers. This went on for a week and the reputation of the company suffered greatly as a result.

  1. Unhappy Customers

If customers are not able to access their online account for support, shopping, or information, they will feel frustrated.

Multiple or frequent outages will cause this frustration to grow. Ultimately, causing the customer to make a decision to continue business with you.

I recommend monitoring your support, shopping cart, and blog in addition to your main site.

It is important to keep customers happy in the current competitive market as there are many competitors most likely in your market.

  1. Loss of Revenue

Earlier, I told you that when Amazon went down in August of 2013, it reportedly lost $66,240 every minute.

It experienced a drop in web traffic of 40%.

For Navitaire, the company that managed Virgin Blue’s reservations at the time, this cost was close to $20 million dollars.

This was paid as compensation for the canceled flights.

  1. Google Rankings Drop

Google uses over 200 unique factors to rank websites. However, some factors contribute more than others to this…

One such factor is how fast your website responds to Google.

According to research, when websites respond slowly, users will spend less time on it. The good thing is that Proactive Monitoring can be set to determine if your website is delivering slowly.

If your website has too much downtime or performs slowly, Google will penalize you.

I think we’ve covered all of the bad things that can happen from downtime…

How can you minimize the damage?

Proactive Monitoring.

Proactive Monitoring from Superb Internet delivers the best of both worlds when it comes to monitoring:

  1. Reliable Monitoring Network (from multiple locations)
  2. Guaranteed response from a qualified technician.

#2 in my book is the most important.

What good is an alert notification if you are asleep? What if you are on a trip to a Mexican beach and left your phone in your room?

You don’t need to worry about that if you have paired monitoring with a response team.

I’ll reveal how you can get Proactive Monitoring more affordably than you can image in a moment… but first, let’s look at what you should be monitoring in the first place.

Why the ‘Browser’ Method Does Not Work

There is more to monitoring than just opening your website in a browser to check your website. We are all guilty of it, but it doesn’t reveal everything under the hood.

The ‘browser’ method is for rookies.

If you are serious, you need a more sophisticated approach.

Sophisticated DOES NOT mean complicated.

Databases, slowness, and backend systems that are mission critical don’t always pop up when you use the browser method.

In fact, a lot of issue won’t appear until someone tries to opt-in to a newsletter or begin the purchase process.

Here’s just a sample of what you can monitor:

PING measures how long it takes for a message to go from the host to an individual computer. This is like submarine sonar using echo technology. This program gives a summary of the time it takes to receive the response.

DNS
resolves your domain name to your IP address. If DNS is down, your website will not display properly.

FTP
is used to transfer files between a computer and a server. If your customers use FTP to upload logo’s for your online t-shirt business this is critical to monitor. Perfect for Proactive Monitoring.

POP deals with mail. You’ll know if your mail service is down if you provide mail to customers. 🙂

Further, this is perfect for Proactive Monitoring because you will not be able to communicate if your mail is down.

HTTP, is your main web service… this is the ‘browser’ method of checking for uptime.

SMTP is a system that is used to send and receive emails. You will for sure know if this is down quickly from your customers.

HTTP (SSL) is secure version of SSL that sends data between the website you have visited and your browser. This is becoming more common and is recommended all websites use this.

SSH, or secure shell allows Internet users to send information and operating network services securely over an unsecure network. This would inhibit your ability to access and work on your server. Perfect for Proactive Monitoring.

IMAP, Internet Message Access Protocol is a program that stores emails on a server. However, users can change the email as if they were on their own computer. Perfect for Proactive Monitoring.

TCP or the Transmission Control Protocol, is an internet protocol used by the world wide web, file transfer and email. Perfect for Proactive Monitoring.

MS SQL 2000 is a management system for databases that stores and receives data. Perfect for Proactive Monitoring.

…and honestly, you can choose an almost infinite level of monitors such as how long it takes for your website to respond.

Proactive Monitoring Increases Profit and Reduces Loss

Proactive Monitoring from Superb Internet delivers the best of both worlds.

  1. Guaranteed response time
  2. Monitoring of critical services

Superb Internet is a company that is truly ahead of the rest when it comes to web hosting and monitoring. Unlike Amazon Web Services, Superb Internet has qualified technicians that will respond to alerts in five minutes or less.

According to Superb Internet CEO, Haralds Jass, “Our SLA guarantees 5 minute or less response time on every new ticket, so, in short, within 5 minutes or less a tier 1 tech will see it, and it will be promptly looked into… and if it’s not just a one-time issue with prompt subsequent recovery, it will be accordingly investigated and corrected if we have root/admin access to the server to do so.

If you are serious about your online business, then you need to get a serious monitoring solution.

An online business that has downtime is much like a brick and mortar business that has its doors locked.

You can add Proactive Monitoring to ANY existing Superb Internet Cloud or Dedicated Server.

And right now, if you add the 5-in-1 Manages Services plan, you’ll get Proactive Monitoring bundled with the following services and save a bundle of money at the same time:

  1. Vulnerability Scanning
  2. OS Hardening
  3. Cisco Managed Firewall
  4. Proactive Monitoring

You’ll get everything…

… hack prevention
… ransom protection
… data backup
… OS hardening and patch updates
… and a Cisco managed firewall

You get everything you need to SECURE YOUR BUSINESS and protect yourself for a price that’s so low, I don’t want to mention it here for our competition to see.

Login to your customer portal at https://mycp.superb.net/ or contact our sales team for a FREE Security and Data Protection Assessment by clicking the following link: https://www.superb.net/about/contact-us

Sources:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/09/09/how-negative-online-company-reviews-can-impact-your-business-and-recruiting/amp/
https://www.alertra.com/articles/website-downtime-–-setback-business-reputation
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2013/08/19/amazon-com-goes-down-loses-66240-per-minute/#26b9e102495c
https://www.evolven.com/blog/downtime-outages-and-failures-understanding-their-true-costs.html
https://www.alertra.com/blog/how-much-business-will-your-company-lose-during-website-outage
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-web-search-ranking.html?m=1
https://www.google.com/amp/www.coastdigital.co.uk/2015/04/08/how-to-monitor-your-website-for-hacking-with-google-analytics-alerts/amp/

3 Common Errors with Big Data

Error

Everyone knows how valuable big data can be. However, mistakes are often made by companies when they run vast data science projects. Here are a few of the typical errors so you can avoid them yourself or correct them if you feel they are already happening.

  • Why all the Fuss? Big Data Stats
  • Operator Error
  • #1 – Expecting the solution to be immediate.
  • #2 – Thinking you should focus on a big data strategy, rather than using big data in carrying out a business strategy.
  • #3 – Entrusting data scientists to find solutions for business problems.

Why all the Fuss? Big Sata Stats

As with any buzzword or trending business concept, it helps to look at some hard numbers to understand the idea from a 10,000-foot view. Here are a couple of telling figures on big data:

  1. If you think of the various data-producing systems your company manages as a pancake house, be assured that you are going to be cranking out a lot of flapjacks. Between 2013 and 2015, more data was produced than throughout all of human history.
  1. Again with the pancake analogy, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re making more pancakes all the time. Information isn’t just growing, but growing at an ever-increasing speed. By the end of the decade, approximately 1.7 megabytes of new data will be generated each second per person globally.

In other words, if you took all the data being produced and divided it evenly across the entire population, each person would be able to fill the storage capacity of the original disk drive in under 3 seconds. That’s right: the first disk drive, 1956’s IBM Model 350 Disk File, had 50 disks that together could store just under 5 MB.

Related: The sheer size of big data projects, and the variability of needs at a given time, makes the affordability of cloud attractive in these situations, notes InfoWorld. For elastic infrastructure to meet the vastness of big data, development and testing of analytics apps is often performed in public cloud environments. At Superb Internet, we remove single points of failure through distributed (rather than centralized) storage and achieve guaranteed always-zero packet loss through InfiniBand (rather than 10 Gigabit Ethernet). Explore our cloud for hosting your big data project.

Operator Error

Many companies that embrace big data projects aren’t able to accurately determine what aspects of big data, predictive modeling, and data science will be of greatest use to them. They want to move forward and keep up with the competition in this regard, but they often end up wasting their time accelerating in the wrong directions.

What are some errors companies make when they work with big data?

#1 – Expecting the solution to be immediate.

Firms want data algorithms or machine learning, designed by a highly skilled professional, to improve their business edge. When business leaders look at their particular challenge, they often think they will be able to get a consultant to quickly create a model or purchase a plan that allows them to do it themselves.

However, the example of one major enterprise reveals why it’s more complicated than that, explains Erik Severinghaus in Forbes. Netflix “employs 300 people to maintain and improve its content recommendations [because] customer data is a continuously changing environment,” he says. “That’s why the company also spends $150 million recommending movies and TV shows to its members every year.”

Essentially, you want to realize the complexity of these projects rather than expecting to find a silver bullet for your problem right away.

#2 – Thinking you should focus on a big data strategy, rather than using big data in carrying out a business strategy.

You want to know what you are trying to achieve for the business over the next 6 to 9 months. Then you can figure out how you can fit big data within that context to meet your goals.

Specifically, what are your major problems as a business? How might big data better help you make decisions?

Here’s a real-life situation from Jessica Davis of InformationWeek: A hospital in a big city noticed that there were more people with injuries arriving at their emergency room following pro sports games. Doctors, nurses, and administrators all saw what was happening, but they needed their hunch to be calculated so they could figure out exactly how they needed to adjust.

“[A]n investigation of the data showed that injuries went up by 27% on game day,” notes Davis, “and that quantification of the injuries was something the hospital could use to figure out how much it needed to augment its ER nursing staff for game days.”

#3 – Entrusting data scientists to find solutions for business problems.

People who focus their careers on machine learning, statistics, and other data science specialties will be pivotal to moving your big data ideas forward. But you can’t just let these folks run without ample guidance and expect to meet your overarching business objectives.

“Data scientists typically build new models and solve intricate equations, leaving a business problem, however obvious, not a priority,” says Severinghaus. “Data scientists are only one part of the complex, cross-functional team required to create business value.”

Google reviews = more sales (and how to get them) – Part 2

Yesterday, we covered registering our .reviews domain name and setting up our hosting account so we can build our ‘Reviews Engine’.

If you need to take care of those, you can read the article here for complete instructions: https://www.superb.net/blog/google-reviews-more-sales-and-how-to-get-them-part-1

I’m going to assume you have taken care of both and all we need to do now is build the website.

Please don’t get overwhelmed. I’ll walk you through step-by-step so you can see exactly how to build this website.

All told, you maybe will spend an hour or two building this. The installation takes most of the time… while editing the templates is super easy to do.

Let’s start by installing WordPress…

Step 3: Install WordPress

The main engine behind the scenes is WordPress.

WordPress makes everything work…it creates the website we will use to let customers post reviews and read reviews. In turn, this website will be submitted to Google for indexing.

I’ve created a demo site to show you how to setup WordPress.

So let’s start building the website… first, you will need WordPress in order to use the review system I am recommending.

You will also need a basic template and a plugin that will handle reviews that are ‘Rich Snippets’ friendly.

First, install WordPress.

The myCP portal (https://mycp.superb.net/index.php) makes this incredibly easy:

superbblog-2-1

Click the ‘One-Click Install’ link. Then click ‘Configure WordPress’.

superbblog-2-2

Very simple.

Now, let’s move on to the template you need. WordPress comes with pre-configured templates so you don’t need to spend a penny.

However, they aren’t great aesthetically. Let’s work on our template now.

Step 4: Install WordPress Template

Next, install a template that you like. Here are a few good free ones I have located for you:

https://wordpress.org/themes/auberge
http://justfreethemes.com/italian-restaurant
http://justfreethemes.com/demo?theme=Italian%20Restaurant

Alternatively, you can go the paid route which includes everything you need for your Review Engine.

Here’s the one I used to create the demo site for you: http://restaurant-sample.reviews

And here’s the Theme Author page so you can see how versatile this template truly is: http://theme.co/x/

This is a very versatile theme… that comes with a lot of pre-built site designs. Installing a restaurant, church, and many other sites. It really is as simple as changing the logo and the text on the templates.

Further, the template comes with a point-and-click website builder. You can drag things around and click on text boxes to update.

The cost was just $64. Compare that to a web designer who is going to charge at least $2000 for a similar result.

Again, this is very easy… as easy as using a word processor. It may take you an hour to learn how to use the web building tool and WordPress. The advantage is being able to edit this site at any time, easily.

Of course, if you need help installing a theme – don’t hesitate to contact the support gurus at Superb Internet. In fact, I needed some help getting a few things taken care of. I opened a ticket and was on my way in just a few minutes.

Now, here’s the secret sauce… the reviews plugin.

Step 5: Install Reviews WordPress Plugin

To qualify for Google’s Rich Snippets (https://developers.google.com/structured- data/rich-snippets) inclusion, your plugin must follow Google’s structured data that is relevant to your type and content.

Your plugin should adhere to the Google standards so that the algorithm will index and understand the content.

Here’s one that is highly rated from WordPress.org: http://plugins.nuancedmedia.com/wordpress-reviews-plugin

I used this on the demo site at http://restaurant-sample.reviews

Here’s a look at the control panel where you can manage the reviews:

superbblog-2-3

Once you have downloaded the plugin, installed and activated it inside WordPress, you just need to add a page where the reviews will be listed.

Step 6: Create Your Reviews Page

You’ll go inside WordPress and create a new ‘page’. In the content area, you’ll add the smart code you need and save the page. That’s it.

Here’s what that looks like on the new ‘page’ I created:

superbblog-2-4

Now, we just need to make the reviews pop on our home page.

Depending on your template, you may need to edit your new reviews page from the visual editor for that template.

Next, we need to set the reviews page so it is the first page on our website (home page).

Let’s do that now…

Step 7: Set Reviews Page as Home Page

This will make your reviews page the first thing visitors see… which is what you want.

The way we are setting up the website – we are positioning to deliver and receive reviews for our business – in the format Google prefers for indexing.

Go to the ‘Settings’ column on the left-hand pane of your WordPress section.

Click ‘Reading’. From here, you’ll select your new Reviews page you created as the home page.

superbblog-2-5

Now test this by going to your main domain URL. In our case, we are using: http://restaurant-sample.reviews

The home page now shows the reviews as well as a review form.

Perfect… now we need to make sure Google can read these reviews properly. Let’s take care of that now…

Step 8: Add Test Reviews and Test Integration

Go to the left-hand pane of WordPress and click ‘Rich Reviews’. Then click ‘Add New Review’:

superbblog-2-6

From here, you’ll be able to add a test review. Click submit once you have entered all of the required fields:

superbblog-2-7

Now, that gives us enough information to test our integration.

Test your integration here:

Find the URL where your reviews are listed (on the page you created and inserted the shortcode on):

For me, I used the main URL for http://restaurant-sample.reviews to list my reviews.

You can go below and enter your URL to test your feed: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool

Here are the results from my test for http://restaurant-sample.reviews

superbblog-2-9

There were no errors and it clearly listed all 9 reviews.

Success!

Now, we need to print business cards, make flyers, add notes to receipts, and tell our servers to let customers know about the reviews site and how it will help us.

Most people are good natured and want you to succeed… especially if they love your service.

The more reviews you can get, the better!

Chris

PS. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this series… or if you have a question! I would love to help you.

Google reviews = more sales (and how to get them) – Part 1

A better search ranking on Google almost always means more sales…

… if your online or local business has good reviews.

While it is true that you will get more visitors with a higher search ranking, this does not always equal more sales.

Consumers in today’s world understand how to use the Internet. Basically, consumers do their homework. The ease of Internet search makes it easy for any one to post a review of your business.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone at a store Googling and comparing prices or reading reviews of a product. Consumers are smart and search the web for reviews. They don’t want to make a mistake.

While most of these reviews are good, some are going to be downright unfair.

I know…I’ve had my fair share of bad reviews on books I’ve written. The reviews were baseless (the people didn’t even read the books or put the advice into action).

That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up control on what is presented for your business on the web.

What reviews would you rather potential customers read?

For example, authors do not have any control over reviews for books listed on Amazon. Sure, they are allowed to respond… but the most ridiculous review will still be published. Even unfair ones.

The best way to control your reviews is to own the ‘Review Engine’ and encourage happy customers to use this engine. I’ll give you a simple strategy to ‘stack the deck’ in your favor later.

Now, I’m not advocating that you delete bad reviews… I would suggest you respond to those clearly and calmly.

These make for good interaction and prove your business is the real deal. Of course, if you get someone who is totally baseless and just wants to smear your name, feel free to remove them. I’ve actually read articles where businesses were targeted by trolls and smear campaigns… and while this is uncommon – it does happen.

And who knows…you might be able to turn an unhappy customer into a happy customer and earn their repeat business. You can showcase how good you are at handling customer issues and making them happy. This is quite powerful to shoppers reading reviews.

So how do you ‘stack the deck’ in your favor?

Create your own review website.

Creating your own review site allows you to optimize it based on Google’s suggestions. This also allows you to interact easier with happy and unhappy customers.

What I am advocating is a separate domain from your main website. This second domain will support your main website. This is rather easy to setup and I’ll cover the basics in this series.

In addition, I’m encouraging you to open up reviews on your main website if you do not currently.

A 2-for-1 punch here.

Google values reviews and uses reviews to boost your rankings in their search.

By stacking the deck with a lot of reviews for your business, the better your odds of owning page 1 on the Google search for your local business.

Keep in mind, these are REAL REVIEWS. Totally white hat. DO NOT POST FAKE REVIEWS.

Here’s an example of how Google displays reviews for restaurants:

superbblog-1-1

Looks pretty good, and the 4.5 rating is the average of the 56 reviews above. I’ll show you how to setup your website later on how to deliver this information to Google using ‘Rich Snippets’.

But first, we need a platform that not only delivers these reviews to Google in the proper format (Rich Snippets) – but also collects reviews from your customers. The more reviews the better.

How to setup your own review site

The great thing is that Superb Internet makes building your own ‘Review Engine’ easy.

You need:

  1. Domain Name (get that here: https://registrar.superb.net)
  2. Webhosting (get that here: https://www.superb.net/web-hosting/web-hosting-plans)
  3. WordPress
  4. Rich Snippets Plug-in for WordPress

I suggest setting up a brand new .reviews website that compliments your existing website.

The advantage of setting up a separate .reviews website is that you can offer customers an easy to remember URL where they can review your business.

To get reviews, I’ve seen quite a few places that offer a chance to win a gift certificate for taking a survey…you could do the same for posting a review.

Reviews are the lifeblood of restaurants, hotels, mechanics, and practically everything on the web including physical products.

The goal here is to build credible reviews so Google places those stars by your business name… one that is easy to find by customers and with a memorable URL.

So let’s get started by first registering a .reviews domain.

Step 1: Register a .reviews Domain

The first thing you need to stack the deck in your favor for Google rankings is register a new domain name. This is in addition to your .com, .net or existing domain extension. This is used to create more review content of your business for Google.

.reviews is the new domain extension I recommend for your new Review Engine.

If you don’t want a second website, you can purchase the .reviews domain for your business and have Superb Internet ‘map’ it to your existing website. This makes it easy for customers to remember.

Go here to lock down your .reviews domain name -> https://registrar.superb.net

In fact, Superb Internet now offers over 400 brand new domain extensions you can search from the above link.

The new .reviews domain will only set you back $19.99 for a full year. You can also get .review as a domain extension for $25.99 for a year.

If you’re a current customers, register your domain by logging into your myCP portal (https://mycp.superb.net/index.php) and hoverover ‘Domains’ and then click  ‘Register Domain’.

superbblog-1-2

Select your domain name choice and the .reviews extension.

YOURCOMPANYNAME.reviews

The .reviews extension is important because it tells what it is about in the domain name itself. While this may not be factored in by Google (I have to think it carries some importance).

Currently, here’s what most Google search results look like:

superbblog-1-3

The above is an example of a page that has ‘restaurant reviews’. We are aiming to have our restaurant name AND reviews in the URL: http://restaurant-sample.reviews

This means if we place reviews content on the home page – we have an excellent chance at a good ranking with Google as long as we use their recommended Rich Snippets format.

Having ‘reviews’ in the domain name will help potential customers attention searching for reviews about your business. This will hit home with them because this is the exact information they are looking for. Your restaurant name AND reviews in the same URL.

In a nutshell, your target will be reading a review site that you control and delivering exactly the information they searched for.

Let’s move on, assuming you have the .reviews domain and let’s start to build the ‘Review Engine’.

Step 2: Setup Hosting

If you already have hosting with Superb Internet, you just need to add a new domain using step 1 above. Superb Internet offers great plans and you can host multiple domains (even with the $4.99/month GridLITE package).

Essentially, with the GridLITE and above package, you are able to add a few more websites (11 in GridLITE, 50 in GridPRO, and UNLIMITED in GridMAX)… for no additional cost per month.

If you need hosting, just go here and find the package that best suits your needs: https://www.superb.net/web-hosting/web-hosting-plans

Now that we’ve registered our .reviews domain and hosting is dealt with, let’s move onto the engine itself.

We’ll build the site in tomorrow’s article. See you tomorrow!

Chris

Smart Tactics to Reuse Your Data Center’s Waste Heat

Heat

Many companies want to figure out ways to turn their waste heat into a positive. After all, data centers produce it in the normal course of operation. Figuring out how to turn it into a sustainability initiative can increase job satisfaction, provide opportunities for press, and even build your bottom line. Here are a few tips on how to reuse your waste energy wisely.

  • Transforming Energy Isn’t All Bad
  • It’s Getting Hot in Here
  • Collaboration with Power Plants

At Superb Internet, we are always looking toward the future in planning our business, and part of that forward-thinking focus includes addressing the growing concerns of climate change. Conservation is both our responsibility as a business and a way that we embrace efficiency for cost reductions that we pass on to our clients.

One innovation we’ve adopted is floor-mounted air conditioners with electronically commutated (EC) plug fans. They reduce energy use 30%, as described here.

Sustainability isn’t just about reducing waste, though. It’s also about using waste wisely. Let’s look at how waste heat can smartly be used by your data center.

Transforming Energy Isn’t All Bad

Data centers around the world essentially serve as energy transformation facilities. They take in electric power, cause electrons to spin, and perform tasks. Almost all of the electricity – 98% – is released as heat energy. It’s similar to being the exact reverse of a wind turbine or hydroelectric dam that takes the kinetic energy of rushing water and turns it into affordable, portable power to be used in distant cities.

It’s possible, though, that data centers don’t have to be the opposite of a power plant or other energy generator. Energy transformation isn’t essentially negative. Sustainability expert and author William McDonough trains organizations on how to look at their process waste as something not just to limit but to reuse. Waste is a form of nourishment, either for the earth or for industry, he says. “We manufacture products that go from cradle to grave. We want to manufacture them from cradle to cradle.”

It’s possible to use this same line of thinking for pairing of facilities. Data centers could work in conjunction with facilities that use heat, such as local energy systems, so that waste isn’t just released but utilized to its full capacity.

The idea of reusing waste heat is not new. There are many situations worldwide in which data centers are partnering with nearby companies to use that heat that would otherwise be waste.

For instance, one corporation in Switzerland started reusing its heat to warm a public pool. A couple of firms in Finland offload their heat energy to local homes, which provides enough power for the annual needs of 500-1000 families. This reusing of heat, in some form or another, has been accomplished in the United States, the UK, and Canada as well.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

A couple major obstacles hold back these heat-reuse projects. First, heat waste isn’t at an exceptionally high temperature. It also is difficult to get from place to place – which is why many projects send the energy to a pool or greenhouse that’s directly adjacent.

Data center return air is typically not extraordinarily hot, usually about 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Transporting it means that you need insulated ducts or pipes rather than low-cost electrical cables, explains Mark Monroe in Data Center Knowledge. “Trenching and installation to run a hot water pipe from a data center to a heat user may cost as much as $600 per linear foot,” he says. “Just the piping to share heat with a facility one-quarter mile away might add $750,000 or more to a data center construction project.” Right now, it isn’t easy to get those costs down.

In order to get the temperature higher so that the waste heat is worth more, data centers have started using heat pumps to boost the temperature. If it comes out in the range of 130-160 degrees, it can then be transported as a liquid for use in local heating, manufacturing, laundromats, or various other applications. You can get specialized heat pumps that increase the temperature even more.

You want a heat pump with a Coefficient of Performance (COP) between 3 and 6. It’s affordable. If you use heat pumps with COPs of 5.0, and your power costs $0.10 per kWh, you should be able to get the low-grade heat up to a valuable level for $0.0083 per kWh.

Your waste heat could make you money. Steam heat is generated by Con Edison at $0.07 per kWh. “For a 1.2MW data centers that sells all of its waste heat, that could translate into more than $350,000… per year,” says Monroe. “That may be as much as 14% of the annual gross rental income from a data center that size, with very high profit margins.”

Collaboration with Power Plants

It’s an interesting possibility to consider the idea of combining a data center and a power plant so that waste heat can be reused easily and immediately. A couple basic arguments for this type of arrangement are:

  1. 8-10% of power is lost in transmission throughout the US. Building data centers next to power plants would mean the data center doesn’t experience that reduction in energy or the cost of getting it to their facility.
  2. “[A] co-located data center could transfer heat pump-boosted thermal energy back to the power plant for use in the feed water heater or low-pressure turbine stages,” explains Monroe, “creating a neat closed-loop system.”

Working with a power plant is of course just one idea. When you look for a way to make the most of your waste heat, consider businesses or other projects that would benefit from the heat throughout the year. Also, be certain to choose heat pumps that are efficient and designed for high temperatures to make your heat energy as valuable as possible.

Why Cloud Computing is a Smart Choice for Finance (Part 2 of 2)

Financial

Finance, both as an industry and as a department within businesses, has been slow to move to the cloud. This piece continues our discussion (see Part 1) of what’s holding financial pros back and why it’s worth it to make the transition.

  • 15 Reasons Cloud Makes Sense for Finance Departments (cont.)
  • Lower Your Risk with a Slower Transition

15 Reasons Cloud Makes Sense for Finance Departments (cont.)

Wise Development

  1. International readiness – If you plan to find customers and otherwise operate in other countries, finances will become more sophisticated, as will compliance. That means you have to keep updating your current system. Cloud systems are updated on-the-go, by the cloud provider.
  2. Smoother M & A – Computing is the most expensive part of merging with or acquiring another company. On the other hand, it can create points of integration as well. “The heavy reliance on ERP for business operations, management information, and financial reporting make it a priority item in the M&A agenda,” explains Forbes.
  3. Testing a different market – When you go into a different market, you find a different type of customer. Cloud allows you to easily customize the back-end support to meet diverse needs.
  4. Hypergrowth – When you are growing incredibly fast, as occurs during the hypergrowth phase of startups, you need your system to be able to scale with you. That’s cloud. It also allows you to more efficiently use your resources for peaks and valleys.
  5. IPO – Are you about to become publicly traded? If you choose a strong cloud provider, they will have all the parameters in place to be compliant with financial regulations.

RELATED: At Superb Internet, in order to meet the needs of our customers, we must prove to them that our systems are transparent, highly secure, and multiply redundant. That’s why all our cloud systems meet international standards such as SSAE 16 and ISO 27001. See our full list of compliance and security certifications.

Efficient Use of Resources

  1. Divisional planning – To get back to the issue of standardization, what about divisional offices or subsidiaries that aren’t running the same ERP? “This disrupts the flow of data and necessitates manual workarounds such as spreadsheets,” notes Forbes. “Consolidating on the cloud can provide a single view of operations without the cost and lengthy implementations that inhibit on-premises ERP.”
  2. Skipping upgrades – Upgrading ERP systems is costly and can be a huge undertaking. You can transition to cloud faster and more affordably.
  3. Sharing services – Many organizations want to look for ways to simplify and streamline by unifying tasks that are unnecessarily performed through multiple departments. It’s much easier to achieve pain-free shared services via cloud, which is essentially designed for collaboration.
  4. No on-site server or data center costs – Often businesses have to get more sophisticated accounting programs as they expand. These firms set up their enterprise resource planning as a cloud service so they don’t have to buy equipment and hire IT support staff.
  5. Standardization throughout the company – If you have more than one ERP system in place now, cloud allows you to consolidate within an environment that is built to meet strict compliance guidelines.
  6. Safer operations – Many people in financial departments are so concerned about the idea of someone else hosting their data that they don’t move to cloud. Ironically, though, cloud is typically the safest possible hands – especially because the providers are so obsessed with security for the sake of their own credibility. “The cloud providers are much better at systemic security services, such as looking out for attacks using pattern matching technology and even AI systems,” says David Linthicum of InfoWorld. “This combination means they have very secure systems.”

Lower Your Risk with a Slower Transition

There are fifteen basic reasons why cloud could be a great choice for any finance department. However, people are still standing their ground. Finance is mission-critical. Errors can become systemic. Finance executives sometimes decide not to go to the cloud to avoid huge headaches.

Keep in mind, cloud is by no means an “all or nothing” proposition. You can switch over your finances in smaller pieces if you want to test the waters. Some organizations that have an international presence now have the finances of one of their global offices in the cloud as they decide on the full organization. Some firms just decide that they want to have their primary ERP software hosted on-site. Those companies “can move some independent finance applications to the cloud, such as planning and budgeting, narrative reporting, financial reporting compliance, and more,” says Forbes.

If you do decide to switch everything over, it won’t take as long as it does to replace the on-site system. The entire process can often be completed in 10 weeks.

Given all the above information, does waiting to move to the cloud really make sense for finance departments? We think not.