16 Jul

How To Anticipate Client Expectations and Gain Their Attention

Anticipate Customer Expectations and Increase Customer Loyalty

Building a relationship with your clients is key to long-term success. One of the best ways to build a strong relationship with your clients is by anticipating their expectations and then delivering on them.

Don’t be mistaken! There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping clients happy – but there are some general guidelines to follow.

This blog post is for you if you want to provide your clients with a stellar experience that will keep them coming back for more.

Here are six tips on anticipating customer needs and creating a win-win situation for both you and your clients.

6 Clever Tips To Anticipate Customer Needs and Gain Their Loyalty

Pro Tip #1: Put Yourself in the Clients’ Shoes

The best way to anticipate customer needs is by understanding their business and what they are looking to achieve.

Anticipate client expectations by understanding their business and goals

Whenever possible, have a conversation with your new customers to learn more about their needs.

Top Questions To Ask Your Customers:

  • What are your goals? TIP: make sure these are measurable goals.
  • How can our service/ our company, contribute to your success?
  • What would make you feel like a success story? 

Pro Tip #2: Create a Customer Journey Map

Creating a customer journey map will give you a clear idea of the customer buying journey and help you predict potential client questions and issues before they arise.

A well-defined customer journey map will allow you to proactively address pain points before they arise or become significant roadblocks in the customer relationship.

Anticipating your customers’ needs and expectations when purchasing a product from your company could be the difference between gaining new customers or losing them.

 What’s included in a customer journey map?

  • The buying journey.
  • Expectations and goals.
  • Pain points.
  • Proactive solutions.

Step-by-Step Process To Create a Customer Journey Map

  1. Define your buyer personas. Create a customer journey map for each buyer persona.
  2. Research how your clients find your company (organic search, paid ads, referrals, etc.)
  3. What do they do once they get to your website? What pages do they visit, do they ask for support (via live chat, email, phone), what is the average purchase time? What steps do they need to follow to become a client?
  4. Identify obstacles that may deter customers from purchasing and how those might be addressed (slow website, complex sign-up process, unclear website content, etc.).
  5. Map out potential client pain points.
  6. Brainstorm solutions to help clients reach their desired outcomes with ease.
  7. Understand what your clients are looking to achieve with the use of your service and set expectations.

Pro Tip #3: Allow Customers to Influence Company Decisions

If you want to anticipate your clients’ needs, it only makes sense to ask for their input and let them have a say on how the business should evolve.

How to make customers part of the decision-making process:

  • Get their input on what new products or services you should offer next. What’s missing from the mix, what would make them achieve their goals easier, what could make the client experience better than before?
  • Be accountable! Share your company roadmap with your clients – let them know what’s coming next and how soon they can expect to see new features/services.
  • When launching a new product or service, make customers early beta testers – get their feedback before making your new service available to the general public. What could say “I value my customers’ input!” more than this?

Pro Tip #4: Make Customer Feedback More Accessible

There are many ways for clients to provide feedback through social media or email. However, a process is only effective if it’s efficient; therefore, you need an organized and timely approach when collecting customer feedback.

How To Collect Customer Feedback the Right Way

  1. Create a dedicated customer feedback email address, for example, [email protected], where customers can submit feedback or feature requests.
  2. Create a customer feedback form on your website, in-app notifications, and social media platforms. You can link this feedback form to the email address you have previously created to gather all feedback in a centralized place.
  3. Let clients know when they should expect a change. Customers need to know how much time it will take for their feedback to be acted upon and which department will review their comments. 
  4. Don’t forget to thank your customers for taking the time to share their feedback and valuable insights.
  5. Implementing these steps will encourage more people to provide their honest opinion and help you identify any service gaps that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Pro Tip #5: Conduct Regular Customer Surveys

Use customer surveys to identify customer expectations

Customer surveys help companies identify customer expectations and learn how to serve their needs better. Businesses that measure customer satisfaction often find they have increased customer retention and loyalty. 

There are a variety of ways to measure customer experience. Here are the most common types used by businesses.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is a way of measuring customer loyalty by asking customers to rate on a scale of 0-10 how likely are they to recommend your company.

Client Satisfaction Surveys

consist of questions about the quality of service received from the company. The company then uses this information to identify client expectations and learn how to better serve its clientele.

Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys

CES measures how much effort the client had to put in for any given interaction. The CES rating ranges from 0-100, where 100 means extremely easy, and 0 means very difficult.

Examples of CES Questions Are:
  • Rate the ease of use of feature X.
  • Rate how easy it was to find information about service Y on our website.

How To Create Customer Surveys That Will Get Results 

  • Conduct client satisfaction surveys regularly.
  • Keep surveys sweet and short. No one likes 30-minute surveys.
  • Include a mix of open-ended questions and “yes or no” questions.
  • Share the survey results with everyone on the team.
  • Keep track of feedback so that you can identify repeated issues.
  • This one is golden! Always and I always follow up with customers that provided feedback.

Pro Tip #6: Offer 24/7 Stellar Technical Support

Providing 24/7 customer support shows that your customers are your top priority.

Offering 24/7 customer support will help your business improve customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty. You will also have the opportunity to identify customer expectations better and learn how to serve your customers better.

To provide 24/7 excellent Technical Support, try these best practices.

Technical Support Best Practices

Technical Support Best Practices. Improve customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty with 25/7 support
  • Offer a dedicated support email address ([email protected]) and/or phone number where your clients can always reach the technical team.
  • Use customer support software that enables your team to prioritize support tickets, collaborate easily, and keep track of customer interactions. 
  • Implement an SLA (Service Level Agreement) – an SLA sets client expectations for an agreed-upon level of service.
  • Answer client questions promptly.
  • Know what you don’t know! – “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer as long as it’s followed by “but I will find out.”
  • Always follow up with customers if you are unable to answer their questions right away.
  • Learn how your clients use your services so that you can proactively offer support.
  • Offer an FAQ page or Knowledgebase where they can find answers themselves on-demand.

Conclusion

Customers are an essential part of every business, but ensuring high-quality customer service can be challenging. 

In this blog post, we’ve listed six pro tips on how to anticipate client needs. These six tips will help you deliver an exceptional customer experience and gain your customer’s loyalty.

About SoftSys Hosting

At SoftSys Hosting, we take pride in providing stellar customer support 24/7. Our team is here to help you with every part of your online business journey: from getting your project or website successfully launched to scaling large traffic mission-critical websites. 

With a team of in-house experienced sysadmins, we’ll do all the heavy lifting so you can focus on what’s important – growing your business.

Let us know how we can help you with your VPS hostingdedicated server, or cloud hosting needs! Contact us at [email protected] or +1-862-214-2255 (Ext 203).

01 Jul

Why Social Media Is Essential For Business Marketing

Social Media Marketing. Tips to grow your business and successful examples.

Social media marketing is a great way to promote your business and grow your customer base. Through social media, you can engage your existing customers while also bringing your brand in front of new users. According to a report from April 2021 by DataReportalan estimated 4.33 billion people are on social networks. That’s over 55% of the entire population. 🤯

It’s no surprise that marketers are noticing the benefits of social media marketing and allocating more resources to it.

In this article, our team at SoftSys Hosting will share some of the benefits we’ve seen from social media marketing. Additionally, we’ll also share a few examples to help you get inspired and achieve success with your strategy!

What Is Social Media Marketing and Why Is It Important For Business?

Social media marketing (SMM) is a marketing strategy that uses social networks to promote a brand, product, or service – all while building relationships that will turn your followers into loyal customers.

We get inundated with emails, texts, and spam phone calls every day.

Quick! How many unwanted emails have you deleted today?

Unlike other marketing strategies that clutter your inbox, social media gives a chance to be seen by potential customers who are interested in what we’re offering at our business.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can use social media to grow your customer base.

How To Use Social Media To Grow Your Business

Nurture Leads

Your leads might not be ready to sign-up for your service yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a future opportunity. It’s been proven that people are more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media channels.

Use social media to keep in touch with new leads and old ones alike by staying top of mind through targeted posts. This makes it easier for your leads to recognize your company as a trusted source of information and reach out to you when there’s a need for what you offer.

Increase Website Traffic

Social media is a quick and effective way to drive site traffic without spending money on ads, as you’re able to share content with your followers. A common form of driving traffic to your website is by linking to your blog posts, support articles, and product pages.

Create Hype and Encourage Conversations

The quickest way to generate hype and encourage conversations on social media is through contests, promotions, and exclusive announcements that will get people talking.

Another excellent way for you to interact with your fans would be by commenting on their posts, asking questions, and making sure you respond when they comment back.

Build Brand Awareness

Get your followers to know you by sharing your company’s story, events, milestones, mission, and values.

When you share stories about the people behind a business or the values behind a brand, you create an emotional connection between your followers and your company. And guess what? People are more likely to buy from companies that they identify with on an emotional level.

Reach Your Target Audience

Before social media and the internet, people used to advertise in newspapers. But the ad reach was limited by how many readers were getting a copy of that newspaper.

Fast forward to today, you can reach targeted audiences outside your geographical location easily through social media paid ads.

You can target audiences based on location, demographics, interests, behavior, keywords, and more. Then place an ad tailored for your audience so that you can get your message in front of the right people.

Access Real-Time Data Through Social Listening

Social media platforms provide a great way to stay on top of current trends, but it can be challenging sifting through all the noise. That’s where “social listening” comes in!

Social listening is the process of monitoring and analyzing what’s being said about your website or brand online.

It can help a business identify customer needs and keep track of new trends.

Social listening has become an essential tool for understanding what people are talking about online and how their opinions may impact your business or marketing strategy.

Popular social listening tools include Hootsuite, Brandwatch, and Mention.

Create Loyal Customers

Social Media Marketing is a great way to make your customers feel like they are part of the conversation. They’re more likely to be invested and engaged if you let them know that their input matters!

Here are some ways to build trust and increase loyalty within your existing customer base on social media:

  • Create content relevant to their interests or industry.
  • Share product announcements.
  • Highlight customer successes.
  • Address community questions.
  • Share customer testimonials.
  • Learn more about your customers through polls and surveys.
  • Create conversation-starter posts.
  • Get them involved in launching new products by asking for feedback.

Want even more tips for creating loyal customers? Check out our “7 Ways To Improve Customer Loyalty and Retention” guide to learn how you can make your customer base a more profitable one.

Examples of Businesses Who Use Social Media Successfully

First off, it’s essential to acknowledge that the social media landscape is constantly changing, so best practices are always evolving.

There are so many different ways to achieve success. You have to find what’s right for your business and enjoy the process!

Let’s explore the companies that know how to have fun with their social media marketing while also engaging users and increasing brand awareness.

FAST.CO

Fast is bringing much creativity to their hassle-free checkout process. Here’s a post from Fast’s Twitter account before a product launch.

They encouraged Twitter followers to retweet the picture in exchange for having their own profile picture edited with a “Fastronaut” helmet.

Social Media Marketing Examples
Image Source: Fast.co via Twitter

This creative and fun tweet got them hundreds of retweets and a lot of exposure.

Twitter user @guptast1c and her puppy are making a fashionable statement in their Fastronaut helmet.

Social media marketing strategy
Image Source: Fast.co via Twitter

GYMSHARK

The popular fitness clothing company Gymshark creates not only functional products but also creative, fun games for its Facebook community.

One question they posed to their followers was, “Would you rather have an endless supply of the best coffee in the world or best snacks in the world, at your office?”

The post got over 18K likes and nearly 500 comments from the fans on social media.

Social media for business
Image Source: Gymshark via LinkedIn

MICROSOFT

Microsoft took us on a trip down memory lane with this image about Clippie. So many Microsoft users loved the now-discontinued office assistant. No wonder their post got 6K likes!

Nicely done, Microsoft!

successful social media campaigns
Image Source: Microsoft via Twitter

There are many other examples of successful social media campaigns that you can get inspired by. But the bottom line is, don’t do what everyone else does – find what works for you and your followers!

Conclusion

As we’ve seen in this article, social media can be a powerful tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Whether you’re looking to generate buzz, reach new potential customers or just keep your current ones interested in what’s going on with the company, social media can be an invaluable resource for your marketing strategy.

17 May

Best Online Business Ideas For 2021-2022

Best Online Business Ideas For 2022

If you are in the market for a successful online business idea, you’ve come to the right place. We have created a list of some of the most popular online business ideas for 2021-2022, and we know you’ll love them!

The internet is a powerful tool. Alongside computers, it changed the way we interact with each other, the way we work, the way we go about our daily lives. It opened doors to many new business ideas that were difficult to imagine back in the ‘90s when people started buying computers.

You can now build a successful online business from anywhere in the world. If you’ve got something good to offer, all you need is a good internet connection and a computer.

If you’re looking to start your own company, these popular online business ideas should help get the ball rolling.

Popular Online Business Ideas You Can Start Today

  1. Become a Freelance Content Writer.
  2. Offer Consulting Services to Small Businesses.
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant.
  4. Create & Sell Digital Products.
  5. Build an Online Store.
  6. Become a Creator on Patreon.

Become a Freelance Content Writer

With this type of work, you can write from anywhere and set your own schedule. You’ll be able to make money by providing valuable information to people who need it. It’s an exciting opportunity that will allow you to grow as a writer and entrepreneur while being your own boss.

Popular Forms of Content Writing Include:

  • Blog Posts.
  • Case Studies.
  • Email Templates.
  • Copywriting (ads, website copy).
  • Ghost Writing (content credited to other people).
  • User Guides.
  • eBooks.
  • Social Media content.

If you are new to content writing the internet is packed with great books and courses on this topic.

Some of our favorites resources on content writing are:

On Writing Well – a book by William Zinsser, will teach you how to write well. This book is packed with examples and will give you a clear understanding of the fundamentals of writing non-fiction.

Unlearn Essay Writing – by Julia McCoy is a great course for new writers. Julia’s course will teach you the fundamentals of online content writing. It also includes a ton of resources, templates, and tools you can use in your journey to becoming a successful content writer.

Writer’s Digest University – has everything, from writing workshops to self-paced courses, to help you boost your freelance content writing career.

Offer Consulting Services to Small Businesses

Consulting for small businesses it’s a great way to earn revenue. On top of that it gives you the ability to learn many of the ins and outs of running a successful business.

A business consultant is an expert in their field and can provide advice to companies that need some help growing or getting started. Consulting services can include a wide range of topics, including marketing, leadership, business development, product development, technology. The list can go on, it’s up to you to find what you excel at.

While traditionally a lot of the consulting services were done face to face, today this type of business can easily be done online through popular collaboration tools.

Some of our favorite collaboration and project management tools and solutions are:

  • Google Workspace (Google Meet, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Docs).
  • Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Planner).
  • Airtable.
  • Atlassian Tools (Jira, Confluence, Trello).
  • Clubhouse Project Management.

Become a Virtual Assistant

Working as a virtual assistant (VA) offers the perfect opportunity to start your own business. You can work from home, set your own hours, and enjoy the flexibility of working with clients all over the world.

The requests for virtual assistants have been growing at a rapid pace, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

A virtual assistant is the perfect solution for companies that:

  • Need assistance with only a specific project.
  • Want to save time by delegating smaller tasks.
  • Want an extra set of hands without having to hire another employee.

As a virtual assistant you can do anything that a personal assistant would do:

  • Manage a company’s calendar.
  • Schedule appointments.
  • Manage their emails.
  • Respond to phone calls (using VoIP – Voice over IP).
  • Data entry.
  • Marketing and social media management.

Create & Sell Digital Products

Knowing where to start when dealing with a project outside of your area of expertise, can be overwhelming. Sure! There is a ton of information available online but research takes time and then you need to figure out how to implement what you’ve learned. That’s where experts and creative minds come in.

Digital products are becoming increasingly popular because they allow anyone with expertise in a specific process or department to share that knowledge with others who may not have the same level of experience.

If you have valuable insights to share or have a knack for creating digital assets, this is the perfect opportunity to create and sell your products online.

Online Business Ideas: Create and Sell Digital Products.

Start by doing a self-assessment. What are you passionate about, what do you have experience with, what are you secretly good at?

Once you have identified your top skills it’s time to start creating.

Popular Digital Products Ideas:

  • Online courses.
  • Templates (email, resumes, marketing, social media, brand awareness).
  • Calendars, planners, and organizers.
  • “Done for You” spreadsheets.
  • Frameworks.
  • Checklists.
  • Playbooks.
  • Workshops.
  • eBooks.
  • Online graphics.
  • Logos.
  • Digital art.

You can sell your digital products on popular marketplaces such as Creative Market, Etsy, Udemy, Skillshare, or, you can create your own online store.

Build an Online Store

If you would rather sell your digital products on your own website, without working with 3rd party websites, you can start your own online store.

The internet is a hotbed for business, with 7.9 million online businesses already in operation around the world! However, there is plenty more room to grow.

To build your online store:

  1. Identify your target customers – what industry are they in, what age group, which states/countries, what is their job function, what are their pain points.
  2. Purchase a domain name for your online store.
  3. Choose an eCommerce platform.
  4. Find a reliable hosting provider.
  5. Build and launch your online store.
  6. Work on your promotion and marketing strategy.

Check out our “Step-by-Step Guide To Starting an Online Store” for a detailed overview of these steps and all the things you need to consider when starting your online store:

Become a Creator on Patreon

You know those cool people on social media that have tons of followers and always seem to be having a great time? They always share small tidbits of valuable tips. But did you know many of them might also be doing awesome deep dives into those topics using Patreon?

If you are an influencer or a well-known speaker you can make money by becoming a content creator on Patreon. This membership platform makes it easy for creators to get paid and offers a great way of monetizing content online. Content creators earn monthly payouts from their supporters, called “patrons.”

You can create any type of content from early releases, exclusive content, and videos, podcasts, behind-the-scenes type of content, mini and micro-courses, templates, frameworks, and more.

Patreon allows creators to set up multiple tiers based on how much people pledge per month (the more you give, the better your rewards).

Some of our favorite Patreon creators are:

Michael Laws – the creator of “Teaching Tech” shares technology-related content, tips, and tutorials to ramp up your technology skills.

Shannon Morse – the creator of “ThreatWire” provides access to news about cybersecurity, privacy, and online threats in addition to exclusive rewards.

John Bonini – creates “Some Good Content” and shares valuable insights on everything from planning, writing, and optimizing content.

To start creating content on Patreon, simply choose one of their available plans.

Patreon Content Creator Plans

A Patreon University (Patreon U) is available to educate creators on how to use Patreon and run a successful business.

We hope these online business ideas inspire you to start your own company in 2021-2022. Whether you’re looking for a side hustle, or want to make the jump into full-time entrepreneurship, it all starts with an idea.

04 May

7 Ways To Improve Customer Loyalty and Retention

Customer loyalty and retention play a key role in the success of any business.

But how can you build customer loyalty? What are some of the strategies to turn customers into your biggest advocates? We’ve got answers to these questions and more!

This blog post will teach you some of the best practices to provide ongoing value and get loyal recurring customers.

Customer Loyalty vs. Customer Retention

Customer loyalty and customer retention are both concepts focused on strengthening your relationship with your customers and increasing revenues. The longer and stronger the relationship with customers is, the more revenues you are going to generate over time.

However, there is a significant difference between these two concepts.

What Is Customer Retention?

Customer retention is focused on preventing your customers from leaving by delivering ongoing value through products and services that address their pains and contribute to your customers’ success.

What Is Customer Loyalty?

Customer loyalty is a measure of how committed customers are to your company or brand.

Loyal customers are more likely to buy additional services from your company and stay with your company for a long time. Loyal customers are also your best brand advocates. They are also more likely to recommend your business to others, which can lead to new sales.

Generating strong customer loyalty will consequently increase customer retention.

How Can You Measure Customer Loyalty?

Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are a great way to measure customer loyalty. When you’re looking for quick feedback, this is the tool that will let you know how satisfied customers are with your services.

The NPS is a data-driven tool that measures customer loyalty by evaluating the willingness of customers to recommend their favorite brands. The term Net Promoter Score was created in 2003 by Fred Reichheld, a partner at Bain & Company. The team at NICE Satmetrix provided data to help find the best questions for measuring customer behavior.

Reichheld and the Bain team found that high scores on one specific question correlate with renewals and positive references!

Use Net Promoter Score to Determine Customer Loyalty and Retention

The results can be divided into three categories

  1. Promoters – Customers that rate you the highest, 9-10, are your loyal customers who are most likely to give you a positive review and have a high Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). These are called promoters.  
  1. Detractors – Customers that rate you between 0-6 are your detractors. They are the opposite of promoters and most likely to cancel and give you a negative review. 
  1. Passives – These are customers that rate you 7-8. They are satisfied for now, but they might just as easily leave if they get a better offer. Passives are not included in the NPS formula.

Net Promoter Score Formula

Net Promoter Score (NPS) Formula

Once you have the results of your survey, calculate the percentage of respondents from each category. Your Net Promoter Score is calculated using a simple equation: subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

NPS it’s a great tool because it lets companies see who are their most loyal customers, and which customers are not getting the expected outcome.

Detractors are customers whom you should follow up with right away. Find out where you’ve missed the mark, what are their expectation and agree on a plan to solve these issues if you want to reduce churn.

7 Ways to Improve Customer Loyalty

  1. Deliver Excellent Customer Service.
  2. Offer an Affiliate (Referral) Program.
  3. Keep in Touch Through Company Newsletters.
  4. Be Active On Social Media Channels.
  5. Make Customers an Integral Part of Your Business.
  6. Build a Customer-Centric Culture.
  7. Encourage Customer Reviews.

Deliver Excellent Customer Service

If you want to build customer loyalty, it’s important that you offer great customer service 24/7. In today’s digital world, with global customer bases, having someone on staff 24/7 is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.

Customers are drawn in by friendly, knowledgeable employees who are able to quickly answer their questions and resolve the issues they have.

To deliver excellent customer service it’s important that you provide your employees with ongoing training related to your products and how to handle specific customer issues.

The main takeaway is this; providing great customer service will help your company stand out from the crowd and build customer loyalty.

Offer An Affiliate (Referral) Program

You’ve probably heard the saying “word of mouth is one of the best advertising methods.”

It’s true!

According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising report which polled more than 28,000 respondents in 56 countries, word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful advertising methods.

In fact, a whopping 83% of respondents from all around the globe said they trust their friends’ or family’s opinions when making a purchase.

The best advertising you can have is a loyal customer.
Source: Shep Hyken, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author via Twitter

Customers are your best brand advocates and love sharing their experiences with friends and family. Why not reward them for bringing in new business?

An affiliate or referral program is one of the best ways to build and increase brand loyalty. It’s an easy and rewarding way to get satisfied customers to talk about your business. With a referral program, you can easily spread more brand awareness and generate more revenues.

You can reward your affiliates by offering a commission on every sale that comes from their referrals or, reward them with a percentage of their next purchase. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for both parties involved.

Keep in Touch Through Company Newsletters

Another way of improving customer loyalty is by sending out regular company newsletters. Sending out a monthly or weekly newsletter will keep your customers up to date on what’s happening in your company.

What can you include in your company newsletter?

  • Relevant information about your products or services.
  • Helpful tutorials.
  • A summary of new blog posts.
  • New feature releases.
  • Customer use cases.
  • Updates about company events.
  • Contests or limited-time promotions.

PRO TIP: Newsletters are meant to be informative and helpful. Don’t use your newsletters just as a means of up-selling or further promoting your services. You have to be able to provide consistent value to your readers if you want to keep them engaged and turn them into loyal customers.

Be Active on Social Media Channels

Social media is a great way to keep your customers informed on your latest updates. It’s also a great way to keep them engaged with your company and services and stay top of mind.

PRO TIP: You don’t have to be on every social media platform. Find the platform(s) that your customers use more frequently and focus on those.

If you are a small business just getting started, it’s better to start with one single social media platform and focus on making that successful. Once you nail your social strategy on one platform you can expand to other social channels.

9 Ways You Can Build Customer Loyalty With Social Media

  1. Engage with other user’s posts.
  2. Respond to comments.
  3. Post updates about new products or services.
  4. Share updates from your blog post.
  5. Create contests.
  6. Offer promotions for social followers only.
  7. Share user guides or how-to tips.
  8. Create social proof by sharing photos/videos/testimonials from other satisfied customers.
  9. Keep your customers informed on industry trends by curating relevant content from other sources.

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Make Customers An Integral Part of Your Business

Every company has a team that’s in charge of testing new products and services. But who will better test your products than the actual users?

Your customers are the experts on their own needs. They know what they want from a product, what works for them, and what doesn’t. So why not make your customers’ feedback an integral part of your business?

Create better relationships with your customers by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the service roadmaps, beta-test new features before releasing them to the general public, and give them the tools to submit feature requests.

Take your customers’ feedback seriously and make them feel valued. You’ll be surprised how much more successful your company will become by listening to those who use your products most often!

Build a Customer-Centric Culture

Every company has its own distinct corporate culture that is shaped by a set of common beliefs and values. A customer-centric culture (also referred to as customer-first culture), creates an organization where customers are at the center of everything.

The internet it’s packed with stories and insights from companies who have been successful in building a customer-centric culture in their organizations. Companies such as Zappos have gained many loyal customers due to their focus on customer needs and customer excellence.

Make sure everyone is aligned across your organization and incentivized to deliver the outcome that your customer needs. The goal of your employees should not be to make the customer temporarily happy. The goal should be to solve their issues and provide the outcomes that will help your customers succeed.

PRO TIP: Whether in service value or support, always give your customers a little more than what you promise. This will help your customer feel valued and will increase customer loyalty.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Asking your customers for reviews can seem intimidating. You may be worried that you’ll come across as pushy, but the truth is that most people love to share their experiences with others. You just have to ask!

Another reason why companies don’t often ask for reviews is they are afraid of bad reviews. If you offer a high-quality product and service, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you get some negative reviews the majority of your customers will be happy to recommend your services if they are also getting value from them.

And the truth is every company will have a disgruntled customer who could leave a bad review. That doesn’t necessarily mean the company cannot be trusted. According to Bizibl Marketing, 95% of users suspect a company’s reviews are fake if they only see 5-star reviews.

Good or bad, make sure to respond to every review. This will show customers you care about their feedback and value their opinions.

What Is the Best Time To Ask for a Review?

Don’t ask for a review immediately after purchase. Give your customers a chance to use your product or service first. The best time to ask a customer to provide a review is right after you have assisted them with an issue or after or immediately after they have renewed their service.

You can also use a third-party app such as Trustpilot, G2, Reviews.io, Google My Business, and other tools to send review requests to long-time customers periodically.

Final Takeaways

Loyal customers are essential to the success of any business. They are your best advertising! To retain them, you need to be thoughtful about how you engage with your customers and provide ongoing value. The seven strategies we’ve outlined above will help you do just that!

30 Mar

Critical IT Infrastructure Required To Ensure Business Success

It’s no secret that IT infrastructure plays a key role in the success of any business. Can you try picturing a scenario where your IT infrastructure that hosts your business-critical application or website fails? Imagine the time it would take to restore your data and apps. You may be losing thousands of dollars or even be out of business before you have a chance to be back online.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, businesses need to have a secure and reliable IT infrastructure in place.

Moreover, they need an IT infrastructure that is flexible enough to adapt to their ever-changing business needs, yet robust and resilient enough to withstand potential system disruptions.

What Is IT Infrastructure?

The term IT infrastructure refers to the underlying framework for how technology services are delivered. These technologies include servers, storage devices, routers, operating systems and software applications, and other tools that support business processes.

The purpose of a critical IT infrastructure is to ensure business continuity by ensuring that you can run your business smoothly without any glitches or interruptions.

What Are the Key Components of IT Infrastructure?

Every IT infrastructure has key components that need to work together. The two main groups are hardware and software:

Hardware – includes everything from facilities, data centers, servers, storage devices, network switches, routers, to the physical workstations or laptops.

Software – includes operating systems (OS), web applications such as PHP or Java applications, database systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) & more.

Types of IT Infrastructure

There are two primary types of IT infrastructure:

Traditional IT Infrastructure

A traditional IT infrastructure consists of physical servers and desktop computers that are typically installed on-premise for a single company or organization.

Benefits of Traditional IT Infrastructure

One of the major benefits of traditional IT infrastructure is increased security. With all hardware being set up on-premise and access being restricted, there are fewer risks for vulnerabilities. Increased data security and compliance requirements are the reasons why some organizations might still opt for this type of infrastructure.

On the other hand, it is more expensive to set up and maintain traditional IT infrastructure. It requires large upfront investments and a dedicated IT team within the organization that can maintain the infrastructure. Changes to resources or software upgrades are also not as flexible as with a cloud infrastructure.

Cloud Infrastructure

A cloud infrastructure, also referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), is an infrastructure that can be provisioned and managed over the internet from anywhere in the world! IaaS it’s one of the three main types of cloud computing service models along with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). In a cloud infrastructure, hosting providers can deliver resources that are typically bound to physical hardware, virtually, in any location around the world that is accessible via the Internet. The process that makes this possible is known as virtualization technology.

Cloud IT Infrastructure

Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure

  • Lower Cost – A cloud infrastructure requires a lower upfront investment since the hosting provider is responsible for acquiring and maintaining the underlying hardware.
  • Flexible Commitments – Most hosting providers will offer flexible terms of contracts with monthly, quarterly, or annual billing options. Some services might even include a pay-as-you-go billing model.
  • Improved Agility and Flexibility – Thanks to the cloud, you can now have your software and application up-and-running in no time. That means small businesses and start-ups can remain agile with their IT needs while also being able to use resources at a much lower cost than if they had invested in traditional IT infrastructure. Similarly, businesses can use their time more wisely by being able to quickly set up multiple virtual machines from different locations around the world. In other words, you no longer have to deal with all the heavy lifting that comes with setting up and maintaining your own servers.
  • More Efficient Resource Scaling – In a cloud infrastructure, you can easily scale your business without having to worry about what type of equipment you’ll be using down the line. You can scale servers vertically (upgrade specific resources) or horizontally (add more servers) as needed. When you need more computing resources for your business, you or your hosting provider can easily upgrade/downgrade resources, typically with just a few clicks.

Minimize Downtime, Maximize Success!

Network availability, or uptime, is one of the critical features to look for when choosing a web hosting provider. A study performed by Gartner in 2014, estimated the average cost of downtime to be $5,600 per minute, well over $300K per hour.

What is the cost of downtime

These numbers are reinforced by a 2019 survey by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC). In their 2019 Global Server Hardware Server OS Reliability Report, which polled over 1,000 businesses worldwide, 86% of the respondents indicated that one hour of downtime can cost their organization $300.000 or more.

Furthermore, from the 1,000 businesses polled by ITIC, almost 300 indicated the cost of one hour of downtime exceeds $1 million.

Best Practice: To maintain critical business functions or quickly recover in the event of an unplanned downtime all companies and organizations should have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

Why Every Business Needs An Effective Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan will outline the procedures that you need to follow to be up and running in the event of a major infrastructure disaster or unplanned downtime.

There is a common misconception that natural disasters are unlikely to affect a datacenter. Anyone who has ever lost data due to natural disasters knows it can happen at any time. The recent fire at the OVH datacenter in Strasbourg, France is a clear example of this.

Having a business continuity plan can save your business not only millions of dollars but years’ worth of work.

Tip: Think of a business continuity plan as a checklist that you can follow to bring your website and applications back online in the event of a major natural disaster or cyberattack.

Five Key Services to Improve Website Availability

Along with the business continuity plan you should consider the following key services when thinking of your IT infrastructure:

Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Your web hosting provider should have an SLA of at least 99.9%. Anything less than “three nines” is something to be concerned about.

Redundancy – Verify that the hardware that your IT infrastructure runs on has an additional redundant layer to eliminate single points of failure.

Uptime Monitoring – Having a monitoring system in place will help you track availability and know right away if there’s an issue. SNMP and PING are commonly used at the server or router level while advanced monitoring tools can be set up for HTTP/SMTP/SQL services.

Backup Policy – Make sure you always have at least one automated backup policy with multiple days or even weeks of backup retentions.

Best Practice: In addition to automated backups keep also an additional local copy of your critical data. You can never have too many backups!

Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) – In a major disaster, such as the OVH datacenter fire, or unplanned downtime you will want to have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place. These can vary based on an organization’s requirements.

An effective way to implement a disaster recovery plan is by using replicated servers. With replicated servers, you have an identical copy of your primary server that can be spun up in the event of a disaster. Servers can be replicated:

  • In the same datacenter – which would ensure that your websites are up and running in the event in which the underlying hardware that hosts your primary server fails.
  • In different datacenters/locations – this adds an additional layer of uptime protection, in case of a major disaster that affects the entire datacenter, as in the case of the OVH fire.

The Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan are both designed with maximum availability in mind in case of a major disaster or cyberattack. The primary difference between them is WHEN they are implemented. A Business Continuity Plan will focus on keeping your business up for as long as possible DURING a major incident while a Disaster Recovery Plan is focused on bringing your website/applications up as soon as possible AFTER a major incident.

Conclusion

Today’s businesses need more than just an IT team, they need a reliable hosting infrastructure and the tools and means to ensure continuous data availability.

Hosting critical websites and applications can often be a burden for businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. By having a Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan plan in place you can ensure that your website is always up and running in the event of a disaster.

About SoftSys Hosting

At SoftSys Hosting we use 100% redundant Juniper network devices that eliminate single points of failure and can handle more packets with higher throughput.

With a team of 24×7 in-house experienced sysadmins and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, we take care of your entire IT requirements so that you can focus on growing your business.

If you are looking for high availability and disaster recovery solutions from a reliable web hosting provider, please get in touch. We’d love to learn more about your business and provide solutions that will empower your team to accelerate growth.

17 Mar

Which Corporate Culture Is Yours (5 Major Types)?

Corporate Culture

A corporate culture can be described as a company’s overall attitude towards the work environment, the people who perform the work and their interaction with their customers.

A great corporate culture can motivate employees, increase productivity, and contribute to the overall success of the company. A poor corporate culture can lead to poor employee performance, low satisfaction, and low revenue turnover.

Corporate cultures differ greatly from company to company. They start with a company’s unique brand vision and are shaped by a set of common beliefs and values. They are the Do’s and Don’ts of growing a business.

Let’s look at five most popular corporate culture types and how to determine which one is yours.

5 Types of Corporate Culture

Clan Culture

Corporate Culture

“A company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company culture and propel you forward.”

Kathryn Minshew, CEO & Founder of The Muse

A clan or team-first culture model relies primarily on building strong relationships with employees. This type of corporate culture is focused on open communication and employee engagement.

Your Company May Have a Clan Culture If:

  • Employees play a key role in the company’s direction and success.
  • You have regular team meetings where everyone’s input is welcomed.
  • There is a strong focus on employee training and development.
  • Team building is implemented and encouraged.
  • Culture fit is critical when hiring new staff.

The goal of the clan culture is to build trust among employees. By paying attention to and actively encouraging communication within your workplace, you can foster positive team-first cultures. This directly correlates with happier employees who are committed to the success of the company.

Example of Companies With a Clan Corporate Culture:

  • Zappos
  • Google
  • Hubspot

Elite Culture

An elite culture exposes its employees to a wide variety of innovative and cutting-edge ideas and brings about new advancements in their industry. This type of corporate culture is focused on fostering innovation and finding creative solutions to customer needs and wants.

Your Company May Have an Elite Culture If:

  • It’s managed by effective leaders who are not afraid of taking risks.
  • Hires only the best of the best in your field.
  • Is focused on providing innovative solutions to existing problems.
  • It’s a dynamic, entrepreneurial place.
  • Change and agility are highly valued.
  • Creativity and thinking “outside the box” are encouraged.
  • Employees make work their top priority often working overtime.

The goal of the elite culture is to achieve rapid growth and be at the forefront of its industry, by making innovation an inherent part of the company’s mindset.

Example of Companies With an Elite Culture:

  • Apple
  • Tesla
  • Intuit

Horizontal Culture

The horizontal culture model, or flat culture, can often be identified in smaller companies and startups since it creates a family-like environment. This type of corporate culture has very little hierarchy and much like the clan culture is focused on collaboration, teamwork, and a team-oriented attitude. There is a high level of loyalty and commitment within companies with a horizontal culture.

Your Company May Have a Horizontal Culture If:

  • Job titles are less important.
  • There are very few management levels.
  • The CEO is often involved in day-to-day operations.
  • Everyone wears multiple hats.
  • Communication and teamwork are encouraged.
  • There’s a focus on personalized support and interactions with customers.

The goal of the horizontal culture is to make everyone feel as part of the company and having a stake in its future success.

Example of Companies With a Horizontal Culture:

Hierarchy Culture

The hierarchy culture is the opposite of the clan culture. While a clan culture has a more relaxed, family-like structure, the hierarchy culture is very conservative and tightly controlled. In a hierarchy culture, you don’t just get things done, you do it the “right way” following rigorous procedures. There are several layers of management and leaders are there to implement and ensure adherence to tried and tested processes.

Your Company Might Have a Hierarchy Culture If:

  • There is a clearly defined hierarchy with multiple layers of management.
  • There are strict rules and guidelines in interacting with other departments and customers.
  • There is a process-oriented and data-driven approach.
  • There is a formal dress code culture.
  • You have rigid office hours and organizational structure.
  • Career progression and pay are based on seniority.

The goal of the hierarchy culture is to minimize risks and increase results.

Example of Organizations With a Hierarchy Culture:

  • The Military
  • Banks
  • Most Government Organizations

Market Culture

A company with a market culture is driven by market share and increasing competition. Companies with this type of culture have a lot of external partnerships, investors or are focused on growth often through acquisitions.

Your Company May Have a Market Culture If:

  • It’s a large company with high market penetration.
  • It’s a result-oriented workplace focused on productivity and profits.
  • There are a lot of acquisitions and mergers.
  • It’s a competitive work environment that prioritizes profitability.

The goal of the market culture is to surpass competition and become a market leader.

Example of Companies With a Market Culture:

  • Amazon
  • IKEA
  • Walmart

About SoftSys Hosting

At SoftSys Hosting, we’re focused on providing a world-class managed cloud, VPS, and dedicated hosting service to our customers.

We’re passionate about customers and we train our staff to take a customer-first approach in everything they do.

With a team of 24/7 in-house experienced sysadmins, we take pride in providing unparalleled support so that you can focus on growing your own business.

Click the button below to learn more about SoftSys Hosting and how we can help your business grow.

16 Feb

Google Workspace Now Available at SoftSys Hosting

Google Workspace

More employees are working remotely in 2021 than ever before. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way businesses operate. Our workplace is no longer limited to a business’s physical office. We can work from anywhere using any number of devices from laptops to mobile.

According to the 2020 survey conducted by Gartner on over 4000 employees, 48% of employees will continue to work remotely post COVID-19.

They call it the “new normal”.

In order to continue to work efficiently and maintain productivity, we require tools that can simplify our daily tasks and make it easier to collaborate in a remote world.

This is why we are excited to announce … drum roll please 🥁 … the availability of Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) services at SoftSys Hosting. 

What is Google Workspace?

Google Workspace is a suite of integrated apps designed to enhance the productivity, collaboration, and security of your team.

Google Workspace provides you with all the tools you need to communicate and collaborate efficiently, all from a centralized location.

What’s Included With Google Workspace?

Google Workspace includes all the popular applications that you’ve been familiar with, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Chat, Meet, and more.

Google Workspace Included Applications

  • Gmail – the popular email client on your own custom domain.
  • Meet – secure and reliable video conferencing solution.
  • Chat – direct 1:1 messages or group conversations.
  • Calendar – shareable online calendar.
  • Drive – secure storage and file sharing.
  • Docs – popular online word processor.
  • Sheets – smart, secure spreadsheets.
  • Slides – online presentation app.
  • Forms – custom forms for surveys and questionnaires.
  • Sites – to build internal projects or public websites with no programming or design skills.
  • Keep – note-taking app to quickly capture ideas and brainstorm.
  • Currents – create online communities and improve internal communication (formerly known as Google+).
  • Apps Script – rapid, low-code application development to create apps that integrate with Google.
  • Cloud Search – AI-powered app to search and retrieve information across all your Google apps, including Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar.

In addition to these apps Google Enterprise Plus users also have access to AppSheet PRO. AppsSheet allows users to build apps without the use of code, for rapid application development.

Google Workspace Security and Management

  • Admin – manages your Google Workspace users, devices, and security on the go.
  • Endpoint – enables network managers to keep data secure on end-user devices by managing screen lock, disk encryption, enforces passwords, and more.
  • Vault – data retention and eDiscovery tool, enables users to retain, hold, search and export Google Workspace data.
  • Work Insights – reporting tool that gives you insights on Google Workspace adoption, work patterns, and collaboration within your organization.

Google Workspace Plans and Pricing

Google Workspace starts as low as $5.90 per user per month and it’s available in two editions:

  • Business Edition (up to 300 users) – designed for personal use or SMBs.
  • Enterprise Edition (unlimited users) – geared towards larger organizations.

With multiple plans within each edition, Google Workspace can meet the needs of any user organization.

Google Workspace pricing

SoftSys Hosting Advantage

You might be asking yourself why purchase Google Workspace through SoftSys Hosting. We’ve bundled the flexible and easy-to-use Google Workspace plans with the celestial support offered by SoftSys Hosting.

When you purchase a Google Workspace plan through SoftSys Hosting you get:

  • More time to test the service.
  • 24/7 technical support assistance.
  • Discounted migration assistance.
  • Better pricing per user & more.
SoftSys Hosting Advantage

Get Started With Google Workspace

Experience the full potential of Google Workspace with a free 30-day trial. Click the button below to activate your *trial.

  • Offer limited to one (1) trial per customer.
  • Maximum of 10 users only. For more than 10 users, a paid plain is required.
  • Existing G Suite or Google Workspace subscriptions cannot be moved to trial.
  • No Credit/Debit Card Required.
  • The trial will auto-expire at the end of 30 days unless renewed.

02 Feb

A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting an Online Store

Start an Online Store

If there ever was a great time to launch an online business, it is now. According to etailinsights, there are now 7.9 million online retailers in the world, and 2.1 million of them are in the United States.

After 2020, online shopping is growing faster than ever before.

Why Is Online Shopping So Popular?

Traditionally people have turned to online shopping because:

  • They hate waiting in line at the store.
  • They get fast access to a larger variety of products and services, many of which were beyond reach prior to online shopping.
  • They get better deals online.

Today, in a world disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping is for a lot of us a necessity more so than a convenience.

In this article we’ve aimed to give business owners a step-by-step guide on how to launch an online store.

You have a great idea for a service or product. You feel it in your bones that this is going to be successful and you know that there’s a real need in the market for what you want to sell. But how do you actually start selling your products or services online?

What are all the things that you need to be aware of when selling online and where do you start?

When you are right at the beginning, things can get overwhelming fast.

But don’t worry! We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get started with your online store.

1. Identify Your Target Market and Buyer Persona

Before you can even set up your online store you need to know who your customers are so that you can market to that niche. You may think that your product or service can appeal to everyone, however that is a difficult way to market your service.

Buyer Persona

Tips To Identify Your Target Market

  • Identify why a customer would buy your service or product. Start by making a list of all the pain points that your service/product can solve.
  • Find out who your competitors are and what markets do they target.
  • Create a buyer persona – this is your ideal customer. Get as specific as possible including location, age, education, financial status, industry, job, skills, interests, frustrations.

Knowing your buyer persona is the BEST way to identify your target market. It will help you optimize your website copy and marketing materials to ensure that your message reaches the right audience.

Keep in mind that you are not limited to a single buyer persona. You can have as many personas as you would like, but at a minimum, you should have at least one.

TIP – If you’re not quite sure where to start when creating your buyer personas, try this fun buyer persona generator, from HubSpot.

2. Buy a Domain Name for Your Online Store

To create your online store, you need both a domain name and an eCommerce platform.

A domain name is what users type in their browser to access your website. In other words, it’s the address of your website.

It is possible to create your online store without owning a domain name. Some web hosts or eCommerce companies will allow you to create your online shop on one of their subdomains.

But keep in mind that your domain represents your identity online and it’s a crucial part of your brand. Even if you start your online shop by using another provider’s subdomain, you will eventually want to have your own domain.

Having your own domain name will give you more control over your website and allow it to build domain authority in Google.

TIP – As a general rule try to choose a domain name that is short and easy to remember.

3. Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Your Online Store

Now that you have identified your target market and bought your domain name, it’s time to choose the best eCommerce platform for your online store.

You don’t have to be an expert developer or designer to build an online store that looks great and works well. But there are so many different platforms out there that it can be hard to know where to start. In this article, we will look at two types of approaches for building your online store:

  1. Using a Website Builder
  2. Using a Hosted eCommerce Solution

Building an eCommerce Store Using a Website Builder

Website builders such as Wix or Shopify are turn-key eCommerce solutions, providing users with everything they need to set up an eCommerce store. They are popular solutions when building your first online shop, especially with users that don’t have a lot of technical skills.

However, while website builders are easy to get started with, there are also some disadvantages that might not make them the best choice for your business in the long run.

Things to be aware of when evaluating website builders as an option for your online shop:

  • Costs – although website builders are low budget when starting, they can get expensive fast as your online store grows.
  • Features – website builders are typically more limited in features compared to nopCommerce, and other eCommerce solutions.
  • Transaction Fees – you might incur transaction fees on payments received through website builders. Shopify charges up to 2% in transaction fees when using external payment gateways such as PayPal. Wix also charges a processing fee for every payment you receive through them.
  • Limited Control – website builders such as Wix host your website content exclusively. In other words, you are locked in, you cannot easily export your website code if you want to leave.

Building an eCommerce Store Using a Hosted eCommerce Solution

WooCommerce, NopCommerce, and Magento are some of the most popular eCommerce solutions used by many eCommerce stores today. Both nopCommerce and Magento were released in 2008. WooCommerce was released in 2011.

Let’s look at each of these eCommerce platforms and their specific advantages.

What is WooCommerce?

WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin that transforms WordPress-based websites into powerful, fully functional online stores.

As the most popular eCommerce platform in use today, WooCommerce powers over 30% of all online stores across the web. BuiltWith reports that in April 2021 a total of 4,414,537 live websites use WooCommerce for their online store.

eCommerce Websites
Source: BuiltWith, April 2021

WordPress is a great platform for building websites, but it’s not an eCommerce solution. WooCommerce was developed specifically as an extension of WordPress so that anyone can install and run a full-fledged online store with no coding knowledge required.

Woocommerce Hosting – A Complete Solution To Create Your Online Store From A to Z!

WooCommerce and WordPress make it easy to launch your online store. The friendly design interface gives you full control over the functionality of your online store.

WooCommerce includes out-of-the-box functionality for a complete eCommerce experience. Easily create products, configure payment gateways, customize taxes, shipping, and inventory – the list goes on!

Plus there are hundreds of third-party extensions available if you want more features or something specific that isn’t included by default.

WooCommerce Advantage

  • Affordable pricing with no long-term fees.
  • 140 payment gateways available (including PayPal, Amazon Pay, Stripe).
  • Coupon codes or percentage discount options.
  • Bulk product upload, shipping management features.
  • A large number of themes and plugins available.
  • Fully Integrated with Gooten, Printify, Printful, CustomCat, Facebook Shopping & more.

What is nopCommerce?

nopCommerce is a free open-source eCommerce solution running on the popular .NET Core framework.

nopCommerce it’s a robust, stable, and user-friendly solution for your online store. It has many out-of-the-box features to help you get started with your online store, including SEO features, email marketing, product review, and affiliate marketing.

nopCommerce Advantage

  • Rich, modular architecture with out-of-the-box eCommerce functionality.
  • Open source, so highly customizable.
  • Short learning curve and great documentation.
  • Easy to use and develop being based on .NET technology.
  • Growing community with over 250 000 members (about half the population of Wyoming).
  • Responsive customer support and development teams.

nopCommerce makes it easy to build your online store. All you need to do is find a reliable nopCommerce hosting solution to get started.

What is Magento?

Magento is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms being currently used by 0.7% of all websites worldwide. Unlike nopCommerce which is entirely open-source, Magento comes in two editions:

  • An open-source Community Edition.
  • A paid Magento Commerce Edition (former Magento Enterprise).

Robust and highly scalable Magento is a great solution for large online stores with a high volume of sales.

Magento Advantage

  • Very robust, can support online stores with massive traffic.
  • Supports transactions in multiple countries, multiple currencies and offers access to a network of global shipping carriers.
  • Mobile optimized shopping with an optimal experience across a variety of devices
  • High number of extensions available.
  • Large community of Magento developers.

Magento is one of the most popular eCommerce solutions today. Magento Community Edition offers all the needed functionality to get started with your online store. You can opt for quality Magento hosting, geared towards enterprise companies.

However, if you are looking for rich, out-of-the-box functionality most of it is only available through the paid Magento Commerce Edition.

4. Setup and Launch Your Online Store

Once you have decided on the best eCommerce platform, it’s time to build and launch your online store.

how to launch an online store

Regardless if you work with a web developer or build the online store yourself, you need to ensure that the website looks professional. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Perform an audit of all the products/services that have been created. Ensure they all have the proper name, description, price, and any relevant information.
  • Make sure you have all the products in inventory.
  • Set up your sales tax. Keep in mind, in the US, sales tax is decided at the state level. Each state can have different rules and a different sales tax.
  • Choose your payment gateways.
  • Add information about your business and contact details (About Us & Contact Us pages).
  • Create your Terms and Conditions Agreement.
  • Define your Shipping and Returns Policy.
  • Optimize your website and product description for SEO (define your primary keywords, add meta description, use internal linking, define your site structure).
  • Ensure your website is optimized for mobile.
  • Check the website speed and performance. Users are less likely to purchase from a slow website.
  • Test your checkout before going into production.
  • Build your company’s Social Media channels and integrate them with your website.

TIP – Announce your new online store and build hype before the actual launch. A great way to do this is through Social Media networking. Another way is by building an email list. You can build your email list by using a free lead generation form, like this one from Typeform.

Once your store is live you can start driving traffic to your website. You can drive traffic by creating high-quality, educational content, using email marketing, social media, and affiliates or influencers.

You now have all the steps needed to launch your online store. Happy selling!

25 Jan

Key Features To Consider When Choosing a Web Hosting Company | Part II

Last week we’ve provided you with some of our best tips to help you choose a reliable hosting provider

This week, we’re taking it a step further.

We’ve talked to clients, partners, developers, and more to identify the top things to look for when choosing a reliable web hosting provider. 

Based on this we’ve settled on four features that are essential to any good web hosting provider:

  1. Speed
  2. Uptime
  3. Technical Support
  4. Security

1. Speed (Fast Servers/Website)

We’ve recently asked developers and IT professionals across several LinkedIn groups which feature was most critical to their business. 

We’ve got a response from 79 users over three days. Yes, we know that number of respondents is not high enough. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing how everyone responded and we want to share the results with you.

These four features were ranked according to the percentage of total votes that we’ve received.  More than half of the respondents said that speed is the most critical feature they were looking for. 

Critical Web Hosting Features

So WHY does speed matter?

A website’s speed or load time is significant for a variety of reasons:

  • It affects your bounce rate – slow pages lose website users fast! In a 2019 report by Unbounce nearly 70% of the respondents admitted they are less likely to make a purchase from a slow website.
  • It affects conversion rate – a 1-second delay in page response can drop your conversion rate by 7%!
  • Has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and as a result, can affect your churn.
  • It affects how your website ranks in search results. In 2010 Google officially introduced speed as one of the ranking factors for desktop and in 2018 they’ve applied this to mobile searches as well. The recommended page load time is under 3 seconds, says Google.

What’s the solution?

While there are many factors that can affect a website’s speed you should verify that your web hosting provider has up to date technology and hardware to ensure that your website runs at a fast speed.

Here are three questions to ask when evaluating the server speed of a hosting provider:

SSD or HDD Storage?

HDD (hard disk drives) use platters that move and spin. Eventually, these platters will wear out and start failing. Unlike HDD, SSDs (Solid State Drives) have no moving parts that can break or fail. SSDs use flash memory-based transistors which offer faster data transfer speeds.  In other words, SSDs are architecturally designed for higher performance, providing faster storage and lower latency than HDD.  If you have a choice always choose a server with SSD.

What Type of RAID Is Used?

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks. It’s a way of storing data across multiple physical disks for increased speed and performance. 

There are different levels of RAID. 

A RAID 10 disk is one of the most efficient and highest performing levels, combining both RAID 1 (mirroring – or writing data on two or more drives) + RAID 0 (striping – or dividing data across multiple areas).

A RAID 10 disk will deliver a fast and redundant solution.

Check out this video from Spiceworks to learn more about RAID and the different levels.

Is There a Content Delivery Network (CDN) Service?

A CDN is a highly distributed network of servers or POPs (Points of Presence) that work together to provide fast delivery of content over the Internet.

This is possible by caching the content of your website and delivering it from a server closest to your website’s users. In most cases, the content cached is only static content, but some providers, such as Cloudflare, also offer options to cache dynamic content, through their Railgun web proxy system.

There are different CDN services out there but the most popular by far is Cloudflare CDN. With POPs in over 200 cities in more than 100 countries, Cloudflare has become the CDN of choice for many website owners today.

Some hosting providers will offer a CDN service as an included or optional service because it is highly effective in increasing a website’s speed.

2. Uptime Guarantee (Availability)

One crucial thing to consider when choosing a web hosting provider is the Uptime Guarantee or service availability. Uptime is important because it ensures your website is available online to your users. Poor uptime will have a direct impact on your business.

Let me start by saying this: no web hosting provider can guarantee 100% uptime all the time! Not unless you have a complex setup with replicated servers across multiple data centers.

There are some things a hosting provider can do to ensure high uptime. 

Here are three things to consider when evaluating a web hosting provider’s uptime:

Redundant Network Devices

Redundant network devices highly reduce the risk of downtime in the event of network failure by swapping network operations to the redundant device in an outage.

ISP Connections

Something that is not often taken into account is the type of ISP connection a web hosting provider uses to connect their routers to the Internet.  The ISP connections can be single-homed, dual-homed, or multi-homed.

  • Single-homed connection – means that you have a single connection to a single ISP. While this highly reduces costs for the hosting provider and for you, the end-user, this is the least reliable connection. If the ISP goes down or if there is any breakage in the connectivity, it will cause downtime.
  • Dual-homed connections – you still connect to a single ISP but with two routers, so you have two separate connections, two circuits. This approach offers some degree of redundancy, since it has two connections. However, it still poses a lot of risk if the ISP goes down, has a maintenance event, or has internal routing issues.
  • Multi-homed connections – also known as multihoming, means you connect to two or more ISPs. This type of connection offers the highest degree of redundancy, performance and stability. Any reliable hosting provider should offer a multi-homed connection.

Another thing to consider with multi-homed connection is the routing. You need to ensure a web hosting provider has an optimized routing process that can analyze traffic and choose the best and fastest path for your traffic.

At SoftSys Hosting we do this by using Noction Intelligent Routing Platform (IRP) to route our traffic through our multi-homed connections. By analyzing traffic at the network edge (WAN edge), Noction identifies congestions and blackouts and reroutes your traffic towards the fastest and best-performing path. This in turn reduces latency by up to 40% and increases performance.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

A reliable hosting provider should have a documented SLA publicly available on the website. The SLA will define the level of service that you can expect from your hosting provider. It will also address financial penalties for cases in which the hosting provider fails to meet the level of service that was stated. The SLA should also include the Network SLA which states the uptime guarantee.

3. Technical Support

“It’s the level of support that makes a great host stand out! The others should really be a given.” – says Alex Wells, Website Developer at Simpsons Creative, a full-service creative agency based in the UK.

Technical support is the backbone of any reliable hosting company.

Here are some critical things to consider when evaluating a web hosting company’s support:

Support Staff Available 24/7

best technical support

Issues can occur at any time, and often are beyond your control. A reliable web hosting provider should have staff available 24/7 to support your business. Response time – in a lot of cases the SLA will define the response times based on issue priority. If it’s not stated in the SLA find out what the average response times are so you are not caught off guard.

In-House Support

A support staff that’s available in-house and not outsourced will always provide superior technical support. In-house technicians have excellent knowledge of the company’s services and can respond immediately when issues arise.

Managed Server or Unmanaged Server

Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has different priorities. If you have an in-house IT department or prefer to manage everything yourself you might choose to have an unmanaged server.

However, if you don’t have an IT department, if you don’t have the time to manage a server, or simply prefer to have an additional layer of support you can opt to have your server fully managed by the hosting provider.

Typically, that includes at a minimum system/server administration support, server and application updates and patches, managed backups, and proactive monitoring.

4. Enhanced Security

Every day we read about a new cyberattack taking down well-established businesses. What does this tell us? Security cannot be overlooked these days!

Good security starts at the data center level and goes down up to the individual server level.

A reliable web hosting provider should take and offer a variety of security measures. We’ve got six for you:

SOC compliance

A System and Organization Control audit (SOC) certifies that an organization protects and securely manages a customer’s information. It audits how a service provider complies with one or more of the following principles: security (required), confidentiality, processing integrity, privacy, and availability.

24/7 Network Monitoring

All network infrastructure should be monitored 24/7 to quickly identify any potential issues.

DDoS Protection

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are growing rapidly in volume and frequency and becoming one of the most. DDoS attacks are anticipated to grow to 15.4 million by 2023. That’s nearly double the number of attacks since 2018. DDoS protection, either at the data center level or the server level is thus a critical security measure to consider when evaluating hosting providers.

Network Security Solutions

Network security solutions such as firewalls, IDS, and IPS are critical for cybersecurity.

A firewall keeps hackers and bad actors out of your server. An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) identifies possible security breaches or intrusions at the network or server level. An Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) creates rules to automatically block malicious access identified by the IDS. All of these are critical security solutions that the hosting provider should make available either as part of your plan or as an added service.

Malware and Ransomware Solutions

With the high increase in cyberattacks, you need to pay extra attention to server security. A good web hosting provider should be prepared to offer solutions that can protect your server from malware and ransomware attacks

Ongoing Backup Solutions

Backups are often underrated. But the truth is anything that is not properly backed up could be lost in seconds. A good web hosting provider should offer ongoing backups solutions with multiple retention options that allow for easy restores.

About SoftSys Hosting

At SoftSys Hosting we provide a complete suite of web hosting and related business services from our 4 datacenter locations: Denver, Chicago, London & Singapore.

Our primary goal is to help your business succeed. When you’re doing great, so are we!

We provide high-performance servers with pure SSD RAID 10 disk array. We use 100% redundant Juniper network devices that eliminate single points of failure and can handle more packets with higher throughput.

With a team of 24×7 in-house experienced sysadmins and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, we take care of your entire IT requirements so that you can focus on growing your business.

If you are looking for a reliable web hosting company with stellar technical support, fast SSD servers, great uptime, and enhanced security solutions please get in touch. We’d love to learn more about your business and provide solutions that will empower your team to accelerate growth.

Contact us at [email protected] or +1-862-214-2255 (Ext 203).

19 Jan

How To Find a Reliable Web Hosting Company | Part I

Best Web Hosting

So, you’ve decided to bite the bullet and take your business online.

Or perhaps you already have a successful online business and are looking for a reliable hosting provider to partner with as you continue to grow.

But what makes a web hosting provider reliable?

With hundreds of hosting providers out there finding the best one for your website is not an easy task. Don’t worry, we’ve got you!

We’ve rounded up some of our best tips on helping you choose a reliable hosting provider.

What Is a Web Hosting Service and How Does It Work?

For those unfamiliar, a web hosting service is a type of service that stores the files and data of your website or application and serves them, or makes them available, over the Internet. These files can be web pages (text content), images, media content, scripts, and more.

Each website needs a home where it can live.

When you get a web hosting service you basically rent a space on a server for your website. In other words, a web hosting provider is like a digital landlord. Instead of leasing or renting space in a building, it rents space on the Internet.

A web hosting provider, therefore, is a company that leases or rents the technology and resources needed to make your website accessible over the Internet.

What is Web Hosting
When website visitors type your website URL in their browser, the browser requests the website information from the server that stores it, downloads the files, and displays the web content.

To make your website accessible over the Internet you need to:

  • Own a domain name.
  • Purchase a hosting plan.
  • Upload your files into your web server.
  • Point your domain to the server’s IP.

When your website visitors type your website URL in their browser (Google Chrome, Safari, etc.), the browser requests the website information from the server that stores it, downloads the files, and displays the web page.

How Many Types of Web Hosting Services Are There?

Web Hosting Services
The most common types of web hosting services are shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated server hosting.

There are a few different types of web hosting services. The most common types are shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated server hosting.

Shared Hosting

As the name indicates you are sharing your hosting with many other users, sometimes hundreds of users. So, if your web hosting provider is your landlord, shared hosting is like having a small apartment unit in a large apartment complex. You share the complex with hundreds of other tenants.

The advantage of shared hosting is that the prices are lower. The server is also maintained and managed by the hosting provider. All you have to do is upload your website and start growing your business.

The disadvantage of shared hosting is that you get a small allotment of resources and you have less control over the server. You cannot upload custom applications or access the server from the command line.

In some cases, there is not a lot of insulation between the different users. If one tenant overuses their resource allotment it could have a negative impact on your service. This can be significantly reduced if the hosting providers use an Operating System such as CloudLinux OS, which offers better isolation and increased performance.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

A private server, as the name suggests, is a server where all the resources are dedicated to you. If shared hosting is like renting a small apartment unit, with VPS hosting you get your own condo.

The advantage of VPS hosting is that you get more resources, better insulation, and full control over your server (SSH/RDP).

A VPS server also allows you to scale as needed. You can also choose if you want to manage the server yourself or have the hosting provider manage it for you.

The disadvantage of VPS hosting is that it’s more expensive than shared hosting.

Dedicated Server

A dedicated server is like having your own private house. It provides the highest level of privacy and you don’t share the building with anyone.

The advantage of dedicated servers is it can include a large number of resources.

The disadvantage of dedicated servers is cost. Dedicated server hosting is typically the most expensive type of hosting. Dedicated servers are also more difficult to manage and maintain.

There are VPS servers that can be just as large or powerful as a dedicated server.  However, some companies might still prefer to use a dedicated server due to the higher degree of privacy offered, or due to various compliance requirements.

How To Find a Web Hosting Provider?

Ask a friend

If you have a friend, colleague, or business partner who has a website, ask for web hosting referrals. This is the BEST way to find a reliable hosting provider. You can learn from someone else’s experience.

But make sure the referrals you are getting are meeting your requirements and expectations.

Everyone has different needs.

Just because your friend/business partner is pleased with his/her Windows hosting provider, it doesn’t mean it will work for you, if you are looking for a Linux provider.

Go through your list and get specific information based on your own requirements.

Do Your Own Research

Another good way to find a good web hosting provider is through old fashion research.

Start with the obvious. Do a Google search and be as specific as possible.

Some examples of popular searches include: “managed vps hosting,” ”linux vps hosting,” “shared windows hosting”.

Check Online Reviews

Once you have identified your requirements and done your research, make a list of all the hosting providers that fit your needs.

Do your due diligence and find user reviews for the providers that match your requirements. Make sure you use reviews from reliable sources such as Trustpilot, Google Reviews, or G2.

Check Blogs and Social Channels

To a lesser extent, check which providers have a social media presence and periodic website updates. This will give you a sense of whether or not the hosting company is actively working on improving its services and communicating with its online community.

Is It Easy To Change Web Hosting Providers?  

Changing web hosting providers can be a daunting task. If you use a Control Panel such as cPanel/WHM or Plesk and the destination provider uses the same Control Panel it’s a matter of copying your data from the old server to the new server using internal migration tools.

If you migrate to a different Control Panel or don’t use one at all, it’s a much more complicated task. In either case, if you’re not a developer yourself you need to make sure you have your developer on standby to test the migration and assist with any possible issues that arise.

A reliable web hosting company should offer you either a free migration or a discounted quote for assisting with the migration.

When choosing your web hosting provider, you should:

  • Have a monthly budget.
  • Estimate your monthly traffic.
  • Understand the different types of web hosting services (Shared, VPS, Dedicated).
  • Estimate your server’s resource requirements.
  • Define the location – where are you and your website visitors are located.
  • Know what application your website is built with (Java, WordPress, Magento, etc.)
  • Get a sense of how much support you expect to require. Do you need a fully managed server, unmanaged, or something in between?

Most of these are pretty straight forward, but identifying the resource requirements often poses a challenge.

If you are completely new to web hosting, your web developer should give you an idea about the resource requirements.

If this is an existing website you can get this information from your current web hosting provider.

Coming Up Next

You are now equipped with all the tips needed to find a reliable web hosting provider.

If you’ve enjoyed this article check out the second part of this blog post series: Key Features to Consider When Choosing a Web Hosting Company

Need assistance choosing the best web hosting plan for your needs?

Get in touch!

We would love to learn more about your business and provide a solution that will accelerate your online growth.

Contact us at [email protected] or +1-862-214-2255 (Ext 203).