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SMEs adapt to IT

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The evolution of IT means that SMEs no longer need to be responsible for IT in the traditional sense. In fact, they have surpassed their larger counterparts as early adopters of cloud-based services, writes BRIAN TIMPERLEY, MD of Turrito Networks

The SME’s requirements are clear: compute, connect, communicate, and backup their data. The hosted environment provides the perfect way to do just that. It offers scalability, redundancy, and security; all with enormous convenience and highly cost effective.

But, the one critical enabler for all of this, of course, is internet connectivity.

After all, cloud-enabled businesses rely on uninterrupted connectivity, in some ways even more than they rely on electricity.

South African businesses have adapted well to having standby batteries, solar backups and generators at the ready for when Eskom decides to fail us. But in the same way, businesses need to have backups for when their Internet provision fails. Fortunately, because there is competition in the connectivity market between access mediums, as well as between providers, second- and third-tier failover options are available.

SMEs are developing much closer and more demanding relationships with their connectivity and ICT providers. They need partners who can help them make strategic decisions about which services and infrastructure to invest in, and how to get the best available service within their budget. Now more than ever, customer service is a critical differentiator.

As a result of the commoditization of technology, service and solution providers need to find ways to differentiate themselves beyond their products. The current situation is that very few people trust the intentions of ISPs, and to some extent, this is warranted as the interest of the customer is often secondary to the bottom line of the business.

For example, if you are a network provider, it is in your interest to sell your network solutions irrespective of whether there is a perfect customer fit or not.

The service and solutions providers best suited to a changing ICT environment will be the ones who have zero interest in specific vendor solutions – the aggregators, who consider the best interests of the customer.  The companies able to excel are those that can provide multiple tailored models as opposed to one specific solution – it is a case of providing customers with service levels that show they are not small fish in a big pond. Businesses that rely on a single network provider for their connectivity are putting themselves at risk.

Businesses, irrespective of size, should be able to move if one network is no longer serving their needs – or even a combination of networks – without changing your service provider. This, we believe, is the link that’s been missing in the industry.

The ideal solution is to become aligned with a service provider who offers the business service layer that links multiple networks to multiple clients.

And this is exactly what SMEs are starting to do.

Technology is a means to an end – not a business feature that takes hold of them and prevents them from going about their day-to-day operations. For those SMEs willing to embrace this new order, the inevitable next step is to leave their more traditional competitors in their wake.

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2-in-1 devices may save PCs

Overall PC sales are expected to decline over the next four years, while 2-in-1 PCs are expected to grow over the same period.

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Shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs), inclusive of traditional PCs and tablets, are expected to decline at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -2.4% over the 2019-2023 forecast period. However, 2-in-1 devices (convertible PCs and detachable tablets) and ultraslim notebook PCs are expected to grow 5% collectively over the same period. According to a new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, overall PCD shipments will drop below 400 million in 2020, which would be the first time this has happened since 2010, the year the original iPad launched. The bright spots in this challenged category have been thin and light products and detachable tablets, which includes Apple’s iPad Pro devices and Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

“So far in 2019 we’ve seen some unexpected positive trends within the traditional PC market,” says Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “The commercial demand driven by the approaching end of support for Windows 7 was somewhat expected and still leaves room for growth in the second half of 2019. But we’ve also seen some surprising areas of consumer demand. Concerns about whether tariffs will drive consumer costs up has many vendors trying to put product into the channel early, so the real focus will be monitoring sell out for the remainder of the year and into 2020.”

IDC anticipates a splintering of the 2-in-1 category as Apple and Microsoft continue to push forward the detachable form factor while other PC vendors continue to promote convertible PCs. Looking ahead, IDC expects iOS detachables will capture almost one quarter of the 2-in-1 market throughout the forecast.

Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, says: “Apple’s support for a physical keyboard by adding a smart connector to the 2019 iPad and the launch of iPadOS will help to further cement detachables as a viable alternative to modern notebooks and convertibles.”

Outside of the growth from these modern form factors, the introduction of 5G will also play a role in the PCD market, although the ramp is expected to follow smartphones. IDC forecasts that by 2023 10% of detachable tablets will have built in 5G, which is in addition to another 29% running 4G. Meanwhile, the number of ultraslim and convertible notebooks with cellular connectivity is also expected to grow with a double-digit CAGR.

Personal Computing Device Forecast, 2019-2023 (shipments in millions)

Product2019 
Shipments*
2019 
Share*
2023 
Shipments*
2023 
Share*
2019-2023 
CAGR*
2-in-140.910.2%47.513.0%3.8%
Desktop + Desktop Workstation92.423.0%77.521.2%-4.3%
Notebook + Mobile Workstation73.018.1%47.713.0%-10.1%
Slate Tablet116.028.8%93.825.6%-5.2%
Ultraslim80.019.9%99.327.1%5.5%
Grand Total402.2100.0%365.7100.0%-2.4%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, September 11, 2019

Notes:

* All figures represent forecast data.

  • Traditional PCs include Desktop, Notebook, and Workstation.
  • 2-in-1 devices are a category including convertible PCs and detachable tablets. Convertible PCs are notebook computers equipped with an integrated keyboard and display that can be used in either a traditional notebook configuration or a slate configuration. A detachable tablet meets all the criteria of a slate tablet but is designed to operate with a first-party keyboard designed specifically for the device.

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Launching a website? Follow these SEO tips

By KATIE CHODOSH, content consultant at TopLine Comms

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There is an abundance of small businesses in South Africa and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) could be the key to getting them off the ground. SEO isn’t easy, but it’s crucial for company growth. When done right, it can help businesses beat out their competitors (both on a national and global scale) and secure quality leads. As a B2B SEO agency, we spend a lot of time working with clients on their company’s SEO strategy (both in South Africa and the UK) and have seen them reap the benefits. 

Launching a new website provides the perfect excuse to create an SEO strategy. As tempting as it is to get writing straight away, there are many elements to SEO that you need to consider before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). We’ve managed plenty of site launches from an SEO perspective (including our own website, TopLine Film, earlier this year) which means that we have a blueprint to work from.Here’s what we’ve learned over the years. 

Get ready to launch

There’s a lot of planning that goes into launching a websiteand you need to have a good understanding of SEO before itgoes live. Google’s resources on how search works and its SEO Starter Guide are good places to start.

Next is your keyword research. Keywords are what your audience are actively searching for and the terms that you want to rank for. The research itself will help you get a better understanding of your target market and might even get you thinking differently about your business. Moz has a good beginners guide to keywords and is also a great tool for carrying out keyword searches.

Once you’ve identified your keywords, you’ll want to sort them by bottom, middle and top of funnel. Those at the bottom are the closest to checking out (i.e. they already want your product). Those in the middle are looking for further information and those at the top are just browsing, generally looking for answers to a problem they’re having (their keywords tend to be questions). From there, you can plan your parent and child pages, as these should be based on bottom funnel keywords. 

Then you can plan your site directory. You need to organise your website in a way that Google deems logical. It’s worth checking out Google’s own resources on site hierarchy to make sure you get it right.

After you’ve completed all these steps, you can think about drafting your website content.

Start writing

Now that you’ve done all the preparation and have all your keywords to hand, you can get writing. The main things to consider are:

  • Your key messages. Make sure relevant key messages are included throughout.
  • Top, middle and bottom funnels. Remember those in the top, middle and bottom funnel, and consider whether your content is catering to them.
  • Consider your target audience and their intent. Try to consider what the searchers are looking for, rather than just giving the information you want them to have. Focus on their pain – if they’re asking a question, answer it before moving on to your key message. You want your audience to feel satisfied with the information they’ve been given, not hoodwinked into purchasing your product.
  • Content length. It’s worth looking at the current page one results for your target keyword to see what the content looks like so that you can write something better.
  • Keywords. Make sure your target and secondary keywords are mentioned throughout (without being too forced – Google will punish you for that).
  • Relevant details. There are certain details that you need for an SEO friendly page, including a title tag, header tagand meta description. All should include the target keyword.
  • Your URL. Ideally, the URL will include the target keyword and be under 60 characters.
  • Images and video. If you’re including images and video, help Google out by giving them descriptive captions, file names and surrounding text.
  • Internal links. Make sure you’re linking to other pages on your website as often as possible. Also make sure to give those links a proper description (i.e. don’t say ‘if you want to see more, click here.’ Instead, say ‘click if you want to learn more about XYZ’.).
  • A content calendar. Google will reward you for quality over quantity, so it’s worth spending time creating a content calendar of about two interesting blog posts a month. 

Once you’ve got your content down, you can find a web agency and produce a brief or get ready to do it yourself. Either way, you’ll need to start tracking your keywords and doing technical spot checks with Search Console. SEO doesn’t stop the moment your website launches – it’s a long-term game that needs constant attention. But it’s all worth it when you start getting some quality leads. Keep at it and it could make a significant difference to your business.

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