By Jon Ho

Web Hosting Server

Exabytes has been around for a decade. Although I advocated webhost that I personally uses like Inmotion, iPage, and WebHostingHub; my web design company has been using Exabytes to host several customers site the past couple of years. I only tried hosting with them last year and boy, did it pay off.

This site (DotCom Smarties) has been hosted by Exabytes for a year now. Unlike Hostgator, I have no problems uploading or downloading content. Installing and managing web applications are a cinch. The admin panels are easy to use, and they made sure to keep their web administration tools up to date.

Recently, I receive a notice to renew my domain and hosting. I decided to renew for two years instead of just one. Renewing the domain and hosting was hassle free and quite straightforward, unlike Hostgator. It is all automated and done in a few minutes. Great!

The hosting plan are quite average. The shared web hosting starts at $3.35 – $6.23 a month for two years plan. VPS hosting has setup fees at $20, but the service goes for $28.72 – $79.92 a month. Which is a pretty good deal compared to other webhost.

If you want to set up a personal site, this is the place to go. If you want to set up an internet business, this is one of the best host you can go for.

DotCom Smarties Score : 4.0

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Name
Exabytes

Link
http://www.exabytes.com/

Features
Reseller Hosting, VPS Hosting, Dedicated Server Hosting, and Extremely cheap Shared Web Hosting.

By Jon Ho

Ever wondered why 95% of new businesses failed in the first 5 years? Most are because they did not plan properly. Some didn’t even have a plan in the first place! A good business plan will usually have elements of SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats. It is a good technique to analyse the viability of a business when you are starting one, especially if you don’t have any experience. If you don’t have any experience in starting a business, don’t jump into it. This is a sure recipe for disaster.

Recently, a friend of mine decided to start not one, but two totally new business venture. His current computer hardware and accessory sales business has not even reach its first fiscal end of year yet, and he is already looking into starting a laundry franchise AND a fast food franchise.

The problem (Weakness!) is that he lacks experience with the two new venture whereas the bulk of his experience lies in IT sales. Now of course starting a new business that you don’t have experience in can somewhat be mitigated if you have a partner who is experienced (Opportunities). Unfortunately, my friend does not, and he is adamant on starting this venture alone (Threats). I wish him all the luck, I really hope he doesn’t become another statistic.

So how does one go about starting a business while utilizing their strength? First of all, what is your strength? If you have been programming for the last 5 years, you can start up a software company. If you have been cooking in the hotel kitchen, starting a restaurant will be a cinch since you can come up with the menu and cook it without poisoning your clientele.

If you are a programmer and want to open up a restaurant, your greatest weakness is knowing what to cook, and then to actually cook it perfectly without causing food poisoning. Of course you may have the opportunity to partner an experienced cook, although the threat of shutting down business looms if your partner decide to quit.

In fact, the previous paragraph is actually me doing a SWOT Analysis about a dream restaurant that I had always wanted to open. :)

By Jon Ho

In my previous article, I talked about how to setup an online business. So you setup a business and waited for a few weeks, and have a lot of visitors coming to your site. And yet, nobody bought anything. You check your site, and you find that your visitors spent less than a minute on your front page, and none visited the other contents of your site. So what went wrong?

Well, like I wrote before, the biggest problem is pitching your sales to potential customers. Web surfers are a fickle lot, and any sales pitch that takes more than 15 seconds will make them lose interest. Think about it: Same thing happens when you watch television and the commercials came on; how long do viewers spend before they lose interest? 15 seconds at the most. Any more the viewers are liable to switch to another channel.

Try this for an experiment. Get into an elevator, and anyone you meet try to introduce yourself, what you do, and where you are based, before you reach your floor. Initially it will be hard; you’ll find yourself mumbling about weather, news, or something else (Hint: This problem is exactly what your online business marketing suffering right now). Keep practising and refining your 15 seconds elevator pitch. Pretty soon you will find that after some fine tuning, you will be able to tell people about yourself and your business in 15 seconds, and get people interested enough to actually want to know more!

So how do we apply this 15 seconds pitch secret to successfully leverage our online business? How to make your visitors spend more than a minute on your front page and content pages, and to finally convert these visits into a sale? Do the same thing as the elevator experiment; keep refining your front page by removing all the clutter and unnecessary things! Remove any and all text that has nothing to do with what you are selling.

Keep it simple and minimal like this. In less than 15 seconds you can tell that this is Google and they are selling the ability to search for things online.

Avoid clutter like this. This is basically information overload. Not only is there too much text for a search engine, the way it is presented basically turns people off.

Although both helps you search for information, you will find that people will be more interested in using Google. Clearly Google has applied the 15 seconds pitch well! And now you have learned the secret of 15 seconds marketing, so can you. Have fun tweaking your website.

By Jon Ho

How do you start a dotcom business? Why, just like any other business, selling a product like software or providing some services like movie download services. So why do some online business crash after burning through millions of dollars?

One main reason is because they were started by technological whiz kid who has no idea what business is about, nor how to run one properly. Of course the internet bubble burst, and people are much wiser nowadays.

The scary thing is, with a new techno-jargon, Web 2.0, the whole internet bubble thing may be coming back. I therefore feels obliged to remind those aspiring dotcom entrepreneurs what and how to start a dotcom business.

“What is business?”

Business has always stayed the same; buy and sell, buy and sell. Customers buy, and you sell. The money used to buy the goods are called cost, the money gained from selling them are called revenue, and the difference between revenue and cost are your profits.

“How to start an online business?”

The simple precept of making making a profit is the most basic of all principle to business. After finding a product or a service you can sell, all you need to do is find a webhost, build a website to showcase your product or services, add a snazzy online purchasing module, and you’re halfway done.

The next thing to do is marketing, and this is where it vastly differ from brick and mortar business. The techniques of acquiring customers or colloquially called marketing are varied. Some are insidious like Multi Level Marketing while others are targetted for growth speed like Viral Marketing.

The advantage that an online business has in terms of marketing is that its market covers the whole world. The potential to convert traffic to customer is much, much greater than opening a shop and waiting for people to come in and buy stuffs.

The biggest problem though is pitching your sales to potential customers. Web surfers are a fickle lot, and any sales pitch that takes more than 15 seconds will make them lose interest.

And there you have it, the gist of online business. Always remember, an online business needs to make Profit, and Profit = Revenue – Cost.

By Jon Ho

Technology Site

Techradar is is everything about new technology. Want to know the top 10 netbook list? Go to Techradar. Want to get a top 10 handphone list with android? Techradar again. 20 best free IPhone apps? Techradar Techradar.

So what sets Techradar apart from its contemporaries like Engadget, for example? The extreme barrage of information available. Indeed, the salvo of information was so overwhelming this reviewer actually got turned off by the site. Everything you need, from who said what in the tech industry to what’s new will be covered by Techradar.

And herein lies the problem with the site : information overload. The site actually looked like a technology version of a Craigslist. All you see are headlines squashed into space saving titles, replicating itself many, many times across the front page. In short, it is FUGLY.

The one saving grace for this site is that the information are always fresh. ALWAYS. Except for those few old new, the information on Techradar will usually be only hours old, never days. And the news covered from all over the world, which in itself is a good thing. All in all, an ok site if you like Craigslistesque looking site.

DotCom Smarties Score : 2.5

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Name
Techradar

Link
Techradar

Features
Anything and everything you want to know about the latest tech you can find it here.

By Jon Ho

This article was originally posted on clickgoplay.com

Aaah, Zynga. The “Poster Boy” for the Social Network site Facebook. Founded in 2007, by CEO Mark Pincus, Zynga has catapulted into the limelight with its massive revenue earnings and fast track to an IPO.

Zynga has published many games on Facebook. Some of them, like Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, Mafiawars or Farmville, are wildly popular. So what makes them so special?

Well, for starters, Zynga is like the Microsoft of the 80s. They stole copied everyone’s idea, and executed the stolen copied clone much better. Mob Wars? Modify some bits here and there, give it a new paint job and a new name, and voila! Mafia Wars. Farmville is another prime example of stealing copying from Farm Town and making it look nicer.

Clearly the lack of testing and experimenting because they know what works and what doesn’t gave them a significant edge. Now if they let you buy and sell virtual items from other player, that will add a whole new dimension to the whole thing. It has been rumoured that Mark Pincus has a playbook of recipes for making games.

But stealing copying other people’s games are just the icing on the cake. What did he do to make the company profitable?

“I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues…. we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I dont know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it, lol”

Wow. Doesn’t this guy just make you feel like going postal on his ass?

So what’s wrong with this picture? Earlier I posted on Games Equals Fun about how games are being made just because it makes profit instead of bringing fun and amusement to the gamers. Maybe this Mark Pincus fellow should take a gander.

And somebody please tell me how to get rid of this zwinky toolbar!

By Jon Ho

The other day I was commissioned by a customer to rebuild a website. Their old website was created using Joomla 1.0, and they wanted me to rebuild their new site using Joomla 1.5. The pay? $8,000 for a one month job. This is a story about something being too good to be true (which it wasn’t).

First thing first, a thing about Joomla for the uninitiated. Joomla is an Open Source Content Management System (CMS) tool written in PHP, stores data in MySQL and includes features such as page caching, RSS feeds, printable versions of pages, news flashes, blogs, polls, search, and support for language internationalization.

All you need to do is install it using Fantastico (in Linux), download the look and feel design templates and activate it, modify some settings, add some content, and your good to go. All these took me less than an hour to do.

Of course the really hard part, is modifying the templates and adding plugins to match your customers needs. This part is usually 80% of the work done and requires a lot of skill and experience. So how does this tie in with the story above?

Initially I said yes after receiving the technical specs. I’ve used Joomla before, and was sure I could finish it in less than a month. But after a while, I find the specs changed a few times. Then the customers cancelled the project and tried to get another group to work on it for $2k only, but they do not know Joomla so the customers came back to me. However, I was then commissioned by another customer to work on another system so I told the Joomla lovers I need to put them on hold. And they complained. WTF.

If you have a customer who is too damn FUSSY, WISHY-WASHY and keeps changing his mind, and totally CLUELESS about what they want, say NO to them.

Even though the job pays 3 times as much as normal and takes only half the time to complete, say NO.

Why? Think about this scenario:

It is the end of the month. The site has all the bells, whistles, and functions they wanted. BUT just because they didn’t like 2 column layout, I have to change it to a 3 column, with sidebars only on one side. So I spend a few days to change to a 3 column with single sidebar. Time to meet the customer and get paid. BUT! It still doesn’t look good enough, so it now has to be changed to 4 column, with all content in a 125×125 thumbnails, and sidebars on both side, etc. So I keep modifying it, and what should’ve been a 1 month high paying gem suddenly turns into a 1 year unprofitable monster.

So yeah, learn to say no to your customers. Even to a $8k job that you can finish in a couple of weeks.