From Idea to World Wide Marketing – A New Robot Called Ferret

My first reaction to the Ferret was ” I always wanted one to vacuum my floors.” Yeah, I’m sure they get that all the time. But that’s kind of what it looks like; it is, indeed, a low profile disc-shaped thing that glides around on the floor — and that is where the similarity to cleaning products ends.

The Ferret, I discovered, is a rugged industrial quality product designed for a very specific job – to give an investigator or bomb tech a quick and easy way to inspect under vehicles.

And the reason it’s round? It’s the least likely shape to get trapped in a corner.

My first exposure to this little robot was through an informative prototype version video that I found on YouTube. It featured a strapping “law enforcement agent” inspecting the underside of one car after another. With a hand-held controller and video glasses, he showed us how easy it is to maneuver the robot while still doing a superior job of inspecting pretty much every nook, cranny and hiding place that the underside of a vehicle has to offer. The lights and the movable camera seem to be successful — even with the grimiest auto underbellies — in transmitting images that are bright and clear with contrast and definition. So…I was keen to experience some hands-on control of the Ferret.

The first time I met up with Ferret inventor Ted Chavalas in person was when he invited me to join him, in the parking lot of his workshop, to show me his new quad-copter. This, I discovered, was an odd-looking quadrangle with a propeller on each of its four corners. Chavalas got the kit so he could use it with camera attached, to shoot the Ferret from the air.

We had spoken on the phone, but this was my first in-person meeting with the President of General Robotics, and its parent company, Panoscan, Inc. — not to mention the visionary and visualizer/designer of The Ferret and of Panoscan’s MK-3, high resolution panoramic camera.

After the usual “putting faces with voices”, we got right to the lift-off. Considering what he invents, it’s not surprising that Chavalas is handy with a joystick remote. With his thumbs at the ready, and with the slightest flick of his right thumb, the craft left the ground effortlessly and with surprising speed. (kind of how you always picture UFOs taking off, at a dramatic up-swooping angle.) As Chavalas maneuvered his new toy through the heavens above us, I took the opportunity to initiate some Q and A about this and his other brain children, past, present and future.

Q: Why four little propellers, instead of the usual one big one?

A: Less vibration. And when it crashes, there’s less damage.

Q: So you can anticipate crashing?

A: It’s pretty much bound to happen. Wind and other unforeseen factors can get it away from your control. And the margin for error is narrow; how long does it take a little helicopter to fall 12 feet? Not long enough to react with a remedy that’ll keep it from crashing.

Q: I’m assuming that’s less of a problem on the ground, where the Ferret makes its living?

A: Oh, much more forgiving. We had an early prototype model of the Ferret that went out of control at a trade show, and between a full human gallop and a flying leap, it was snatched up just as it was about to tip over a water cooler. So,on the ground, there can sometimes be enough time to avert disaster.

Q: So through testing was one of the final phases in the genesis of the Ferret. If it’s not a hush-hush trade secret, can you tell us some of the kinds of things you discovered and corrected during that testing phase? And who did the testing?

A: The first beta version was given a thorough workout by a major Eastern metropolitan law enforcement agency…I don’t have their permission to say which one, but big. Their bomb tech division’s analysis was the reason we created the long-range kit, which extends the offset from 100 meters to 300. It makes sense. Bomb techs want to be as far away as possible. They also observed the need for more refined sealing to keep out sand, dust, and rain. Using the product at trade shows for 8-hour stretches helped us see that some components that we thought would carry a particular load didn’t stand up, and we also found ways to simplify operation, and we made a lot of travel case refinements.

At this point, Chavalas brought his quad-rotor flying thing to a very soft landing. He handed me the controller, scooped up the machine, and suggested that the best answer to those questions would begin with a cold Pepsi, and then end up back out in the North San Fernando heat for a Ferret test drive.

Mr. Chavalas’ very neat and everything-in-its-place home is clearly a metaphor for the neatness and clarity of the thought processes that not only invent, but also engineer the high tech products he specializes in creating.

Not that his space isn’t quirky in its way: There’s a digital clock that somehow only consists of four vacuum tubes with luminous numbers floating inside them, and a hefty telescope in a tripod that invites you to look at a spectacular vista of the 5 North and beyond, as far as the smog permits.

I remarked that his light switches don’t look like mine. Mr. Chavalas, it seems, has a setup so he can control pretty much everything in his house from his iPhone – and he proved it! In early 2011, he traveled to Norway to do training on the Panoscan MK-3. The camera was purchased to create panoramic views of North Sea oil rigs. A laser scanner makes the 3-D wire frame, and MK-3 images are used to fill in the color and texture. While on the oil rig, Mr. Chavalas’s phone alerted him that the alarm system in his home had been activated. He immediately used the phone to log into his home computer, and from there he viewed each room in his house, including his garage, using the cameras mounted in the corner of every space; thus, he was able to determine that it was a false alarm…from a deep sea oil rig on the North Sea. Do you hear the James Bond theme playing? But Mr. Chavalas isn’t Bond; he’s Q.

Over that cold Pepsi, I re-initiated my Q and A.

Q: I’m guessing it was not so easy to try to get a clear video signal from under 2000 pounds of metal Was it hard to get such a clear picture from the Ferret when it was parked under a metal car 300 meters away?

A: Oh yes. I discovered, the hard way, that it’s absolutely the worst place on earth to transmit a TV picture from a little transmitter, two inches off the ground, with a metal car sitting on top of the antenna. It was quite a technical challenge to find a system that would perform well in this hostile environment. It’s was a major technical challenge. After two years of testing, I think we finally succeeded. We even took the prototype Ferret into Midtown Manhattan and tested it in Rockefeller Center. Talk about a harsh radio environment?! Our spectrum analyzer was completely jammed with signals coming from everywhere. And yet somehow the little Ferret performed perfectly without any significant interference. I am still amazed at how well it works.

Q: And the dirt and moisture problem?

A: The Ferret is not designed for forbidding terrain, it is pretty much a pavement-restricted robot; but even pavement can have gravel and other dirt on it and aside from Southern California, most of the country has to think about rain on a regular basis. Testing seals and sealants, we finally have the Ferret roadworthy except for the most extreme circumstances;, and it is water resistant, but we warn against complete submersion. It’s kind of like a car. You can drive through water up to about the body, and beyond that, you start to get into trouble.

Q: In your testing, how did the power systems hold up?

A: Very well! Not surprisingly, because it was tested millions of times before I got to it. From the outset, we decided not to reinvent the battery, since a well-known Japanese power tool company already does it better than we could ever hope to. So we designed our power system around that readily available battery.

Q: You mean the Ferret would run on my Makita drill battery?

A: If it’s charged, yeah. If a Ferret owner needs another battery, or wants another charger, we just send them down to their local hardware store.

Q: Before we get to my test drive, I want to know if it’s true that you got the idea for The Ferret at President Clinton’s second inaugural — or is that just a rumor?

A: It’s actually true. I was hired to help out with Al Gore’s “technology pavilion.” So I was there, in the bitter cold, in a tent, not far from a checkpoint, where a secret service agent would stop a car, look at documents, and then take a mirror on a stick, to try to see bad things hidden under the vehicle. I remember thinking how certain I was that he really couldn’t see much under those cars. So when I got home I tested it out, and all you can see is the outer rim of the car — barely. That leaves a lot of room for hiding dangerous things. And I got to thinking about how else that could be done, but in a way that could see as much as possible of the underside of the whole car.

Q: So the standard Ferret has a line-of-sight offset range of 100 meters. Was it difficult to boost it up to the 300 meters the bomb tech experts recommended?

A: It was a challenge, but one we knew we had to overcome — and we did. For example, we struggled with costs, because those 200 extended meters are significantly more costly per meter than the first 100. When we were finally happy with the components, we took it out to Hanson Dam, with a straight shot of more than 300 meters, and it performed beautifully. The problem is losing eyesight of that little orange disc, as it disappears into the distance. At that point, you have to rely on the camera at ground level to help you see where you’re driving it. But in a car bomb situation, the tech needs that 300 meter of offset.

Q: But wait — the system that’s like a strip, where the car drives over the camera – doesn’t it do that? It covers the underside of the vehicle, from front to back, and side to side.

A: It does, and that is a very good product. However, it can’t look up and over the drive shafts, or deep into wheel wells. And it can’t search a car that’s already parked and locked. This adventure was inspired by the stick and mirror; but when it got to the design stage, I knew I wanted to create a very effective solution, where need and function lead design. And I believe we have. Our on-board lighting and the high sensitivity movable camera make the underside of a car a much less attractive place to try to hide anything.

Later, In Chavalas’s crammed –but nevertheless very carefully organized workshop, he showed me how quickly the Ferret deploys. It was powered up and on the floor in under 10 seconds; I turned it on, and then put on the transmitter which resides comfortably in a shoulder holster; I took up and turned on the transmitter and put the video glasses on – all of this in well under 30 seconds. That’s a full 90 seconds faster than the portable speed-bump camera video that I saw on that product.

But I was anxious to get the Ferret going. I drove it out of the workshop, and onto the parking lot. Let me say that anyone who has enough dexterity to run a remote control model car can maneuver the Ferret. Getting to know what to look for, and where to look, and to do it all quickly is another matter; but driving the robot is no problem. It is responsive, can turn on a dime, and it even does a two- wheely on certain maneuvers — but that, I learned, was an engineering necessity, as were the three wheels, and the round design, of course. And let me say, I could get hooked on the video glasses. My first reaction was, “Wow!” Amazing picture quality.

Even though it was getting dark now, the powerful LED lights cast a wide circle of illumination around the Ferret. The diffused lighting covers pretty much eliminate the glare that you might expect under a dark, greasy metal car. As I drive under a random innocent bystander car, I realize again what a difficult environment this is to shoot good video in, and how successfully Chavalas has overcome that challenge. There was nothing out of the ordinary under any of the five or six cars I drove under; but had there been, I know I would have been able to see it.

Chavalas crafted every version of the Ferret in his workshop — starting with the most basic, off-the-shelf components, he built it from scratch. Like with the battery system, he used what was out there — find the best value, keep the cost of the Ferret affordable for many applications — and finally, in that same workshop, he steered the design for the entire manufacturing process. And every part of the process is branded with his signature.

Back in the workshop, I asked the inventor when he first became interested in creating new things. For as long as he can remember, he has wanted to invent things. His first really big invention was an electric car that he made in his parents’ garage when he was in high school. It was for a science project. It went 90 miles per hour, and it traveled 60 miles on a charge. When he went off to college to University of the Pacific to double major in Electrical Engineering and Technical Theatre (odd, yes, but you can see a pattern there), he sold the car for exactly $10,000. An entrepreneur even then.

As I bade my farewell to Mr. Chavalas, I found myself thinking about how those who are talented in particular ways are able to create machines and other things that are so simple in their design and function that you keep thinking, “The Ferret seems like such an obvious solution, it’s hard to believe that no one else has ever come up with it before.”

My conclusion about The Ferret is that it is a deadly serious product that does what it says it does, extremely well. And if I found myself in some situation where my safety was dependent on protection from car bombs, I would want the guard shack to be using a Ferret.

I admit, The Ferret’s a little more fun, warm and likeable than your typical industrial gear; but who says there’s any advantage to a product being boring to use?

Interview with Gene Kavner-Former World-Wide Leader of the Amazon.com Associates Program

Shawn Collins: Thank you for Gene Kavner, joining us today for a little chat. If you’re not familiar with Gene, he was formerly of the Worldwide Leader of the Amazon.com Associates program. He’s also an experienced entrepreneur and very active in the affiliate business. He’s a blogger with the site AffiliateBrand.com. It’s great to have you here, Gene.

Gene Kavner: Good morning, Shawn. Thank you. Same here.

Shawn: Great. Just have a handful of questions here. I’d love to hear what you think about them. I’ll jump right in. One thing I’m curious How would you define affiliate marketing, and how is it different than a traditional advertising?

Gene: Well, actually, affiliate marketing is not very well understood. We all understand what advertising is basically a merchant or somebody that’s got something to sell would typically approach a media, whether it’s offline media, such as newspaper or television, or an online website, and purchase some impressions effectively, purchase inventory that they would have and allow their product to be introduced to their viewers or customers or readers of the website. Affiliate marketing actually is the same formula for getting traffic, except for it’s the other side of the coin. This is when the merchant would come up with a set of tools that would allow websites to come to their site, grab those tools, and display those merchants’ products without necessarily the merchant needing to go and establish a relationship with those particular websites. In fact, merchants would not necessarily even need to know all the different websites that are grabbing their tools and displaying those products with the merchant on their site. So effectively it’s the same thing it’s who needs to approach who. In traditional advertising it is the merchant who approaches websites, and in affiliate marketing it’s basically the websites approach the merchant.

Shawn: Ok. Great. That was a nice explanation. Maybe I’ll have to crib that once to get a lot of family and friends asking what affiliate marketing is all about. I always have to try to figure out what to tell them there. Also, with your experience on the affiliate management side, what do you consider to be some essential elements for an affiliate program?

Gene: Well, I’ve made the list. There’s actually about seven really important items of any affiliate program that every single program should have. Not too many merchants or affiliates follow all of those steps, but I’ll go through them as quickly as I can. I have a little bit more information on my site, but number one is; Affiliate program is a relationship between a merchant and an affiliate or a website. Every single affiliate knows who their merchants are, but merchants typically are not even made aware who all the affiliates who sign up. Certainly merchants do not need to contact every single affiliate, but they should have information as to who these affiliates are. They should have their names. They should have their email addresses. Any affiliate that is performing very well they need to establish a relationship with them and understand what is driving that affiliate.

Number two; every single merchant needs to also understand how, what I call elastic every single affiliate is. There are some affiliates who will make more money for a merchant if a merchant were to pay them more. Then there are certain affiliates that, if you pay them more, they will not necessarily drive additional traffic. For example, affiliates that did, on paper, click inventory out there to drive traffic to a merchant will actually make more money for the merchant if the merchant were to pay them more. So merchants need to be aware who those affiliates are. Affiliates such as bloggers typically depend on the traffic they get over the internet, so if you pay them more, it is not quite likely they will drive additional traffic to the merchants, so merchants need to be aware of the distinction between kinds of affiliates and pay them on a different scale based on the type of an affiliate they are.

Next is; every single merchant needs to be able to offer their affiliates tracking ID’s. That’s point number three. These affiliates have different ways of driving traffic to the merchant. Some ways work, and some ways don’t work. Tracking ID’s is what allows affiliates to understand which of their marketing mechanisms works, and which of them don’t work, so they can focus just on the marketing efforts that work. Without these tracking ID’s, an affiliate, which has some marketing programs work and don’t work, they do not know which ones work, which ones don’t, so they could be likely to drop the entire program if overall it’s not performing, rather than focusing on the performing marketing techniques.

Number four: merchants need to be able to incentivize affiliates to produce more traffic and more sales for them. They need to be able to offer what’s called ladder compensation system. As an affiliate, if you sell more of the merchant’s products, you should get accumulatively larger percentage of sales than somebody who is not doing too much in sales. This incents affiliates to do more and more and more for the merchant.

Number five; some affiliates are just better at negotiating, so merchants need to have a way to compensate different affiliates differently. Not just based on the kind of an affiliate they are, but simply based on the fact that some affiliates want to make more money, and some affiliates do not, are not as good at negotiating and you can simply pay them less. There are some very big affiliates that simply will not deal with a particular merchant if their pay structure is too low. However, that merchant doesn’t necessarily need to raise the fees for everybody. Some affiliates would be happy to make what they make. There needs to be a way for a merchant to select this affiliate will make so much, and this affiliate will make so much.

Direct links; number six. Direct links are also extremely important. In the days of Google, where we all depend on free search traffic coming to our site, a merchant should get a second benefit of an affiliate program, which an increase in it’s page rank to the site. If affiliates offer direct links, linking directly to a merchant’s site, that causes a merchant’s site to go up in its page rank. If an affiliate program redirects these links through the program, the merchant does not get the same benefit. It is really important for an affiliate program to allow a direct link from an affiliate to the merchant.

Number seven; and this is the last point, but it’s not any less important than any of the other ones: Every merchant program should have a two tier affiliate program, meaning if an affiliate finds another affiliate for that merchant, the merchant should compensate that first referring affiliate for that find, based on sales that second merchant makes. Effectively the two tier structure incentivizes people not only to sell merchant product but also find other people, other affiliates, who sell the same merchant’s product. It effectively serves this double benefit to the merchants.

So these, Shawn, are the seven really important parts of affiliate programs. There are some affiliate programs that actually do all seven; some that barely touch on a couple of them. For us to be successful in the affiliate program and for merchants to be successful, this is what I see the world moving towards, is everybody getting those really important features into their programs.

Shawn: That’s some great insight. I’ve often wondered, from your seventh point, why the big affiliate networks don’t offer two tiers, and maybe with some prodding they’ll do it in the future.

Gene: Amazon, for example is one of those big main programs that does not offer a second tier. Google, on the other hand, does. You definitely see some really big names that do offer it and some big names that don’t. Overall, it’s about how much traffic those merchants get, and as they see a lot more and more affiliates displaying advertising for programs that have two tiers, they will all move in that direction as well.

Shawn: Sure. What do you think is the biggest challenge for an affiliate manager?

Gene: Well, I think the biggest challenge obviously is for many people, if you’re an affiliate manage, is how do you get above the noise level of all the different affiliate programs out there. If you are a brand new manager on the scene, there is probably already 20 or 30 other affiliate managers trying to push a different merchant that sells somewhat similar products. Getting above noise level is really, really tough. One of the most important things that an affiliate manager would need to do is figure out how to incent certain affiliates more than their competitors, going after certain big name affiliates and being able to offer a higher commission structure. Effectively, I know it is kind of buying traffic, and you can only pay so much, but many affiliate programs will in fact build their program around some affiliates on which they do not make any money, but these are the affiliates that bring the name, that bring the traffic, and bring the recognition to that merchant. The merchant will then make money on other affiliates who they did not necessarily need to pay as much. Getting that traffic and getting above the noise level is one of the biggest challenges in today’s internet, which is full of many opportunities for many different affiliates to make money.

Shawn: Sure. I saw in your blog that you stated that widgets are the future with affiliate marketing. Could you share some examples of widgets that maybe affiliates could leverage?

Gene: Sure. Widgets are actually a reasonably new phenomenon in the world of online marketing. Basically a widget is a piece of code, a little component, somebody could easily place their website and it displays something for a consumer or reader of the site. It is also something that somebody who’s reading the site should be able to easily grab, copy, and paste right from the site they’re watching and put it on their site. We’ve seen YouTube, for example they’ve done a phenomenal job at allowing people to grab videos from each other’s site and putting them on their site. This has been not a big thing in the affiliate marketing, and I really do believe this is about to change.

One of the biggest challenges that I just mentioned for an affiliate manager is to get traffic and get affiliates to come and display their products. What any program should be able to have going forward is allowing an affiliate to not only display advertising to a particular merchant, but to allow any reader of that website to easily grab a piece of code from that website and quickly put it on their site to display the same ad. In this case there should be a compensation incentive for that originating website as well as to the merchant. So let’s say your site, Shawn, displays an Amazon ad, for example, to something, and I come to your site and grab it and put it on my site, you should get some compensation from Amazon based on the sales I make off of this ad as well, because I noticed it on your site. It’s not yet something that people implement; this is what I believe many, many merchants will be moving to in 2007 and 2008 and in the next number of years because it allows people to break through a lot of that clutter and allows them to display some very interesting content. We’ve seen that happen already in non affiliate space, and I think it will expand greatly into the affiliate space as well.

Shawn: Sure. Yeah. And Amazon has certainly done quite a bit of innovation with their affiliate program. What would you consider to be some of the best tools that Amazon has provided to affiliates over the years?

Gene: Well, in the last year, definitely the biggest, the most innovative, improvement has been what they call their e Store. When I ran the program, what I noticed is there are many, many people who were building Amazon storefronts using Amazon Web Services. Web Services is a fairly complicated piece of technology that you have to really understand programming and have a lot of expertise in building. Because we saw so many people going out and building those kinds of stores, what we basically thought is that if we could build a store that you can just point and click and build in five minutes without requiring any expertise, you will have a lot of people adopting them. People who don’t have the same expertise that you need to build the web services store, and this is what we did. We build a store that literally takes two minutes to build, and you can have the entire store front of products that you could put on your site out of the Amazon catalog. So you can have a store about affiliate marketing books for example, if let’s say you would want to have them on your site. Another site about GPS equipment may want to have various global positioning systems that Amazon sales on their site, and build their own store without any programming whatsoever.

There are a number of other initiatives and innovations there are for example, popover links. You can mouse over some Amazon links and without clicking on them, a little java based pop up will happen that where you can see a little bit more detail about the product that is being sold such as price, availability, customer rating, and so on.

Omakase links is another innovation that Amazon has made recently where you can basically put a little piece of code on your site, and a Amazon ad will appear, and it will base a product on not only the content end out of your website, but also on what the visitors have typically seen on other sites, and what they’ve bought from Amazon in the past for example. So Amazon makes a decision to put an ad that will generate the most amount of revenue to the affiliate based on who the customer is, and what the website it is that their typically visiting.

There’s still a lot more work, it’s a very complicated technology. A lot of work for Amazon to do, but they’ve done a really, really good job to date in getting those products out. There are a number of other products that are in beta right now, but I cannot discuss, but some of them actually my website has. So if you go to my site you can notice some new interesting tools that you may not see on anywhere else from Amazon, but those are the kind of things that they’re still working on, and I can’t discuss too much.

Shawn: OK, great. Well another thing I wanted to touch base on is, as a blogger the recent decision with the FDC I guess the announcement that people should have to disclose if they’re getting compensated in any way, so what is your position on that?

Gene: Well I’ve followed the discussion pretty closely, and there are a lot of very passionate opinions out there in the Internet space. And I respect certainly everybody’s perspective, and it’s just not an easy one way answer. But you know, I personally believe that we listen to recommendations based on the track record of a particular blogger, or a website that we visit. A website that is not respectable, the website that simply produce an opinion based on whether or not they are compensated, are typically not the sites that people will go to, and listen to, and buy products.

We have off line media that takes advertising for example; you know any magazine will take advertising from potential companies that they will review in an editorial portions of their page. So at the end of the day we live in the world where there are biases, where people are compensated, some people are not compensated.

So my overall perspective is no, I don’t believe that, that should be a requirement, because while some people who do get compensated, they may be telling the exact unbiased perspective on their product even though they’re being compensated. So it’s not automatically that they’re somehow affected by that advertising. So I guess my perspective is no, we’ve done very well in the off line media where people don’t necessarily disclose, and I think this should carry itself in the online media as well.

Shawn: OK, great. One last question for you about the futuristic marketing as far as 2007. I was curious what you think about, whether or not video and mobile phones will play prominent roles in the industry this year?

Gene: Well honestly I’ve seen places where they actually do work. I think video is going to be the first area where we will see some innovation on. It is difficult for an affiliate to produce their own video clips, so they would basically need to grab it from a merchant. And it’s again, somewhat expensive for those merchants to produce them. So, we will see I think with the video clips will start getting introduced, it’s not necessarily going to catch on fire the same way as other ways of marketing is has gone.

As far as the mobile phones, the interesting part of it, interesting country to watch that has done just an incredibly great job is Japan. In Japan, every cell phone with a video camera is equipped in a way that you can take a photograph of a particular ad in a newspaper or magazine, or even while shopping at a store somewhere, and taking a picture of a bar code, and it will automatically translate the bar code into a particular website that also sells those products, and give you a price of the product, and with a single click you can actually order the product. They’ve been doing that for a couple of years now.

The U.S. is behind Japan, and I think we will see that innovation take place, if not in ’07, probably in 2008 2009 time frame. It’s just some technologies are catching on still here while they’re certainly ahead in Japan and that space. But as far as mobile technologies, Japan is definitely the country for us to watch and follow what they’ve been doing. They’ve done some very exciting things.

Shawn: OK, very interesting. I really appreciate your time Gene. Thanks a lot to Gene Kavner for answering a bunch of questions here, and best of luck in the New Year.

Gene: My pleasure Shawn, the same to you. Look forward to seeing you at the affiliate summit.

Shawn: Great same here, thank you. And don’t forget to check out Gene’s blog at AffiliateBrand.com.

Learning the Language of the World Wide Web

It probably goes without saying that any 21st century business that is looking to succeed in the long-term will require some sort of online presence. It is a simple fact of life that, with the majority of the population now being connected to the World Wide Web, most companies will benefit significantly from the extra business that will arrive at their doorstep via cyberspace.

But whilst creating a basic HTML website no longer requires the skill of a technical wizard – thanks to the plethora of web design software that now exists – there are plenty of issues to be aware of for those businesses that are looking to optimise their online presence beyond having a simple information portal.

A fully functional, interactive website does require a reasonable degree of technical know-how. It is possible to research many of the issues that will be of concern to any business that is involved as an e-business. However, having the confidence, expertise and even the equipment to implement many of the technical tasks involved in setting up online may be a step too far for most businesses to manage without external support.

Security is a major issue. With so many hackers, spammers and online scammers out there, it certainly pays not to cut corners when it comes to protecting valuable and confidential company information.

A worm for example is a self-replicating computer program that typically spreads itself onto other computers via network connections. Whilst computer worms don’t always cause a massive amount of damage, they can be very damaging to networks by consuming a considerable amount of bandwidth; thereby slowing every user’s computer down in the process.

Then there is the issue of SSLs (Secure Socket Layer) and its successor TLS (Transport Layer Security) to consider. Such cryptographic protocols are designed to ensure documents that are transmitted via the internet are secure and are not intercepted by any unwelcome third party.

For those who are too busy running their own business to worry about learning in more detail about such technical matters, it can prove worthwhile to consider employing the services of a reliable hosting company. That way, you can be sure that the website of a business is kept functional and above all else, secure.

An experienced web hosting service will have all the latest technological know-how and equipment that would be impossible for most small to medium sized companies to have in-house. The ability to tap into ‘cloud hosting’ services that use many large servers which are interlinked and load-balanced, will mean that any organisation that is looking to optimise its website to handle sudden increases in internet traffic can be confident that they are not losing customers unnecessarily.

And given that the internet plays such an important role in the 21st century business world, it really is crucial not to cut corners when it comes to a company’s online presence.