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Nearly 38% of companies do not feel they have an effective content marketing strategy and only 13% feel their content marketing is “very successful.” Clearly there are many challenges businesses need to overcome to improve their effectiveness in this area.

I recently reviewed a Content Marketing report from Ascend2 Research, which conducts research for marketing solution providers, on how online marketers utilize different methods to reach customers. They looked at why companies use content marketing.

  • More than half (54%) set lead generation as the main objective of their marketing strategy.
  • They also use content to increase the awareness of their product or brand (41%).
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) ranked at 30%, in terms of why marketers use content.

Acknowledging that content marketing can help your business is important, but one of the biggest challenges facing companies is the actual creation of it. Good content, the kind that will increase your leads and sales, is resource intensive to create. According to the study only about 52% have in-house resources to create all of their content.

Smaller companies may find content creation more difficult and expensive: They often have to outsource all or most of their jobs. Outsourcing can offer its own challenges in that not all content writers are created equal, and frequently the better ones cost more. Either way, it takes time, money, or a combination of the two to develop the kind of content that increases your bottom line.

The good thing for businesses is that there are many marketing software solutions available that help manage content marketing and automate some of the process, but 40% of businesses don’t use such platforms and 41% only use them in a limited way.

Software can streamline content marketing and make it easier and quicker to do a quality job in-house. In the end, businesses need to look toward harnessing all the tools available to them and using them to their fullest potential.

Since the main focus is to create leads from content, most companies require users to register before they can access it.

For the most part, companies offer premium content via:

  • eNewsletters (55%)
  • White papers (53%)
  • Videos (53%)
  • Case studies (47%)

Webinars still rank at 39% as a premium content form and research reports came in at 36 percent. Infographics (31%), product demos (27%), interactive apps (10%), are frequently mentioned, too. Infographics are one of the hotter trends in content marketing with companies of all sizes trying to make their ideas more visual.

Creating videos that are high quality is difficult even for larger companies, but small businesses have a choice of hiring a pro or doing it themselves. At Small Business Trends, I compiled a list of 30+ Ways To Use YouTube Effectively – a list of tips and resources to help you sort out how to create videos for your business.

When looking at the most effective channel for reaching customers, surprisingly, blogs ranked a low fourth for effectiveness at 26% as compared email at 61%, then websites, then social media. You can download a free copy of the report from Ascend2 Research here.

Although blogs are generally considered a great way to market your business online, it may be time to re-evaluate them or how you approach them. I’m a fan of blogs overall, but particularly in combination with email marketing or video, if you cross-pollinate between them.

Since 38% of companies do not feel they have an effective content marketing strategy, it seems like the time is right to do a bit more study on the topic for small and medium sized businesses.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Almost everyone wants to be an innovator, to be known as the Steve Jobs of an industry or niche market. Companies and individuals seek to demonstrate that they are capable of “out of the box” thinking, as the saying goes.

I have recently worked on some projects around innovation for clients and I started wondering – what tools would help business owners brainstorm, create new products, and get rid of innovation cramp that might be slowing company growth to a standstill. Below are 30-plus innovation tools and sites that today’s innovators should check out.

  1. If you want to innovate by real-time whiteboarding-type drawing, try PabloDraw. It’s at the MAC App store but has a cross-platform framework.
  2. Jive is a tool that will allow you to collaborate with others in an online platform. It helps with internal collaboration, marketing, sales, and customer care.
  3. Looking for an innovative new website design? Get inspired at Pattern Tap. It allows you to focus only on the elements of the website you are struggling with such as the header or navigation. Think of it as a search engine for designers — input a term and it showcases great design for that.
  4. SyncSpace allows you to sketch with others in a whiteboard format but also lets you zoom in or out on certain parts of the sketch while doing it.
  5. Innovate with word clouds–text formed shapes–and see what others have created on Wordle.
  6. Use Mindjet to help with your mind mapping collaboration. It acts as a whiteboard, project management, and collaboration base.
  7. You can create diagrams through online collaboration or work entirely offline with creately.
  8. Adobe Kuler allows you to create your own color schemes. Beginner tutorial Designing with Kuler is a must-watch.
  9. Looking for new ways to get your group innovating together? Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers gives you about 80 games to get your crew on the right track.
  10. You can have your work proofed quickly and easily using ProofHQ. Create a proof for a variety of file types and your team will have the tools they need to review it.
  11. Lucidchart not only offers mind mapping and diagramming software, but it enables users to collaborate on software prototypes, website wireframes, and UML designs. All accounts can collaborate, but each user is limited by his account features with free accounts getting very few.
  12. For online collaboration, consider fmyi. Unlike other social networks, this one is private and allows you to track contacts, gather data, manage projects, and share your innovation files (or any file, really).
  13. Spiderscribe allows you to capture ideas and connect them in your mind map. It helps combine planning, visualizing, and organizing.
  14. Make HP Virtual Rooms your virtual meeting place where you can share and store files for your meetings.
  15. 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization – well-reviewed book on Amazon that describes different tools you can use to help drive innovation.
  16. TitanFile is an online file sharing and collaboration cloud-based service that boasts tight security.
  17. If you want mind mapping software that provides you with many features, sharing abilities, and styles, try iMindMap.
  18. Vyew is online whiteboarding that allows you to collaborate in an ad-supported version for free. It supports multiple formats and screen sharing.
  19. Create charts, wireframes, and technical drawings using gliffy. I have mentioned this web-based software before and it is pretty awesome.
  20. To innovate with prototypes across the Internet on Web, mobile, and enterprise applications, try pidoco. Think wireframes.
  21. If you thought matching wine to a meal was tough, try font pairing. The folks at bonfx have the Big Book of Font Combinations available for sale. Overall, it is a good site for graphic design types.
  22. If you are looking for free interactive whiteboard software, try Open-Sankore. It adapts to any device and files can be saved as a PDF.
  23. Balsamiq allows you to collaborate with others using wireframes on a platform that is similar to a whiteboard.
  24. If you find regular mind mapping to be boring and uninspiring, try Pinball. It is a unique way that challenges you to look differently at what you are creating.
  25. Tagxedo allows you to innovate with word clouds and the put your designs on T-shirts, totes, and mugs.
  26. Find innovation through controlled Web surfing. StumbleUpon is a website that connects you with websites that fit your interests.
  27. Tired of mind maps with straight lines? Use Connected Mind from Google Chrome to create more organic mind maps.
  28. You can use XMind to create unique mind maps that are well-organized and show relationships.
  29. ScreenCastOMatic allows you to record your screen or webcam and create a mini-movie to share. Some of the tools are only offered through a $15/year subscription. The free service limits recording time to 15 minutes.
  30. Solvr allows you to collaborate in real time with others you invite on a specific problem.
  31. If you need to mashup a bunch of photos or videos into a hip music video (sorta), then you have to play with Animoto. Love their service.
  32. Freeplane is found on a wiki but offers mind mapping functions including post-its, password protection, ad-ons, and tasking.
  33. If you decide you need a lot more people in your innovation jam session, then check out the paid version of join.me which allows you to hold an online meeting with up to 250 participants.
  34. SkyDrive Pro is a Microsoft product that allows you to sync files between Office SharePoint users. Get your share on.
  35. Comapping uses mind mapping to manage and share information through files, notes, and organizational tools. It keeps everyone on the same page.
  36. Intellinote allows you to take and organize notes on any device, collaborate, share files, and execute projects.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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Getting contact information for new customers interested in the product or service you provide is the lifeblood of any business. More than 50% of professionals surveyed place lead generation at the top of the list for their marketing strategy.

In years past, this frequently involved much travel and long hours manning a booth at a trade show or expensive direct mass mailings. Although the Internet has made lead generation much easier and more cost effective than in the past, only 8% of business leaders would say they have a “very successful” lead generation strategy. In fact, 19% say that their lead generation strategy is not successful at all.


For many businesses, their main objectives concerning lead generation are to improve the quality (62%) and quantity (52%) of the leads while increasing lead-to-customer (43%) and web traffic-to-lead (36%) conversion rates. However, the most challenging obstacles facing them are a lack of an effective lead generation strategy (36%), a lack of original and compelling content (33%), a lack of in-house lead generation resources (32%), and an inadequate budget (27%) for lead generation. The last three of these are linked together. Without a solid base of in-house resources, you will need to outsource. Outsourcing good content that generates leads is expensive and can strain budgets.


Although nearly one-third of the respondents claimed that they did not have enough in-house lead generation resources, 55% only use in-house resources. Compare this to the 5% that only use external resources. It seems that most businesses prefer to do at least some of the work in-house, so developing more in-house resources is important. This may mean hiring employees who are specifically trained to write quality content that will generate more leads.


Marketing software can also make it easier for managing and generating leads in-house. Interestingly, only 11% of the surveyed business professionals believe increasing the use of marketing software should be an objective for their lead generation strategy. Yet 78% of those surveyed either did not use marketing software or only use it in limited ways. Internet marketing software is designed to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on your online marketing strategy. However, only 13% of businesses claimed that not having this software was a challenging obstacle to their lead generation.


Due to the different marketing software available, the question is threefold: have businesses never tried the software and just assume it will not help them; did they not know how to use the software to its fullest potential; or haven’t they taken the time to find the software that would best suit their business model? I would suspect it is a combination of the last two since only 18% of those who have used marketing software say they have a complete set of lead segmentation fields available to them. This is an important feature of good marketing software that is used for targeting lead generation campaigns precisely. Not having this ability available is detrimental to any campaign.


Using product reviews to find the right software for your business and learning how to use all the features of that product are important first steps toward boosting lead generation effectiveness. This should be one of the foremost challenges for businesses embracing the technological age. Based on the survey results, it is not a priority for many. Instead, we find professionals relying on older methods for generating their leads, such as through the tradeshows and direct mailings mentioned at the beginning of this article.


It is not surprising that some of the most difficult tactics companies use for lead generation include social media marketing (42%), content marketing (39%), and SEO (32%). For companies not making use of effective marketing software and for companies with few in-house resources for creating good content, these would be the most difficult items to produce. The tasks companies found most successful are email marketing (49%), content marketing (41%), and SEO (36 %). This makes sense because good content will attract customers not only through email but also through your website, and SEO will help customers find the good content you produce. That content marketing and SEO have increased in effectiveness over the past year shows more businesses are learning how to use the techniques better.


Strategies considered both easy and effective are email marketing, SEO, and offline events such as tradeshows. I think this illuminates a trend for marketing and sales people to have more knowledge of, experience with, and preference for person-to-person interaction over mass broadcasting. The shift toward an Internet based society is evident when we see the tactics that are now most difficult and least effective include direct mail/print ads and telemarketing. Online events also rank low effectively and seem to be highly difficult to create. Perhaps this is because those in sales and marketing are trying to move the tradeshow into an Internet format and have not discovered the best way to achieve that transition, yet. Whether the ineffectiveness is due to lack of in-house resources or lack of interest on the part of the customer is unknown at this time.


Surprisingly, the most difficult tactic to execute that returns minimal effectiveness is social media. With the diverse areas and ways of engaging the public in social media, it would seem to be the easiest method to perform. Again, it is unclear whether businesses are having trouble mastering this art or whether customers are rejecting it. It will be interesting to see if its effectiveness will increase as the ease of using it to produce meaningful interactions increases.


This post is based on research from Ascend2.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Remember everything. 

Evernote’s tagline captures the attention and probably makes you nod in agreement – “sure, that would be great – to remember everything.” If you are trying to keep up with your workload and your team, then you will want to consider this well-known productivity tool. But it is not just for individual to-do lists, make no mistake, this is a power-user tool for business owners.

Evernote is an online notebook, but more so. It is a combination of notebook (typed, handwritten, or verbally recording notes), photo gallery, web bookmark service, and overall organizing tool. This is a must-have tool for any business owner or executive who runs a company from many different machines, locations and devices. There are loads of ways to use it.

Here are some amazing stories on the Evernote YouTube channel called Evernote Stories that specifically lists customer stories from companies like H&R Block, MailChimp, and a bakery use it. There are 22 stories, including how a public high school uses it.

Let me walk through how I’ve been using Evernote through this test as a way to illustrate how it might serve your business.  I have a meeting coming up and suddenly remember something I want to share with the client, so I record a message on my phone and send it to my private Evernote email address. I clip about a dozen Web pages and tag them for future reviews or, even better, save them to the appropriate notebook.

I use my smartphone to snap a photo of a great storefront and then of a handwritten note with the Skitch app that’s part of the service – it lets you write the note with a stylus or finger. But you might just sketch something to illustrate something you are thinking about, but if you write a word, Evernote will find that word. The most amazing part of this, for me, is Evernote can take my handwritten note and “digitally translate it” automatically so I can search on the words that were in that note. Again, I tag it so I can find it quickly later, but I don’t have to do this – Evernote search works very well.

I also record audio notes and there is also an option to transcribe my notes. Think of a way to share your ideas and thoughts and Evernote has found a way to make it intuitive and easy.

When I tweet about something I want to remember, I can include an Evernote handle and it will copy that tweet into my Evernote notebook. You simply include @myEN in your tweet and as long as you link your Twitter account with your Evernote account, it knows what to do. I’m not sure if I can do the same to my Facebook page.

The basic free service allows up to 60MB of “notes” and other filetypes.  The account settings let you see remaining uploads for each month.  For example, I’ve added about 20 notes this month and can add 24,000 more. You read that correctly; text-based notes don’t take up much space.  I can add about 330 more Web clips, in which I’ve simply grabbed the entire page. Premium level is $5/mo if you need a lot more space or want to run Evernote for your business, school or nonprofit. Or $45 for the year, prepaid. Well worth it.

Overall, Evernote provides a way to toss all your ideas, to-do’s, photos, and virtual sticky notes into a large bucket and then sort and find them using tags and a super-powerful search function (especially the handwriting recognition).  Evernote has a great page on their site that showcases how other people are using the tool.

Learn more about Evernote.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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When it comes time for your small business to upgrade to a significant new server, especially if that server needs to share part of your internet presence, you’ll often look to the cloud. So I wanted to take a look at the solutions that SoftLayer, an IBM company, offers to small and midsize businesses. Would it be an easy process? Affordable? Would the first step be cumbersome or smooth?

I’ll admit that I typed in their URL with some skepticism. I have attended many large enterprise conferences – as an analyst, as a media guy, and as an advisor/consultant occasionally.  I don’t buy into the conversation where the large company says they really want to serve the small guy. It is not that they don’t have true intentions, they do, but it simply isn’t very easy for them to make money at it.

To be fair, small companies are often “high maintenance” – equal to the larger customers that the IBMs of the world typically serve. So why do they do it? — Because in aggregate, there is a lot of money on the table if you can figure out how to help the small business.

As a long-time product / service review guy, I can say that SoftLayer passed the first big test that I have for if they are truly serious to serve the small business segment: Do you make it possible for them to sign up and configure the service you offer without talking to a sales person? Here’s a screenshot from their first signup screen, which has a one-month free trial.

SoftLayer for SMB _one month free offer

You can easily configure/choose which server operating system (OS) you prefer – between CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu Linux, and Vyatta – including different versions/flavors of each one. You can even pick what region of the country you want your server located in — which if you have a local presence can make a big difference in download/load times.

I have a test project coming up in which I plan to test SoftLayer more intensely, but the purpose of this review was to save you time as you search different options. You may have been like me and discounted the message from a big company making an offer to you as a small or midsize company owner. But the reality is that you can try it without a lot of hurdles and that’s a good first step.

What I’d like to see from SoftLayer – is a better SMB section that lets you immediately find the case studies of how other companies in the 11-50 employee or 51-200 employee range are using their service. That content exists, but you have to dig.

Here’s the basic SMB page at SoftLayer and here is the more important information, in my opinion, some of the case studies for SMB successes. Struq (51-200 employees) and KuuLuu (10-50 employees) are two SMBs I found by cross-checking their LinkedIn profiles for size. But this main page of case studies lists out more companies. It would be great if they marked them on the list by size.

Overall, SoftLayer delivers on what they claim – making cloud, including servers and storage, easier for the small and midsize business owner. Take a closer look as you evaluate the cloud space and I think you’ll find them affordable, as you scale, and easy to manage.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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IBM Watson Is Evidence Of A Growth Mindset

Not long ago, I watched a TED talk about “growth mindset.” Numerous studies have been done to evaluate children and adults and whether they have a “fixed” or “growth” mindset. The terms are fairly intuitive – are you closed to change or open to it? Are you rigid or flexible in your thinking, but it is far more than that.

Eduardo Briceño is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works, an organization that helps schools and other organizations cultivate a growth mindset culture. In his TED talk, embedded just below:

Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they’re naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals. But this belief is itself malleable, and there are clear actions we can all take to establish a growth mindset and enable success for our children, our peers and ourselves.” –YouTube TEDxTalks Channel

Changing a mindset is not easy. We get people, ideas, and brands into our heads and we lock them in place there – rarely letting them change without conscious effort. So, let me be very candid, when you think nimble, startup, entrepreneurial, small or medium-size business, you do not think about IBM with its deep heritage in serving the large company enterprise.

That is about to change with its effort to build a whole new era of startups out of its Watson Ecosystem, which is focused on incubating new ventures based on the advanced cognitive system.  This move to build out cognitive computing is not new, but the way that IBM is opening up their API (still in progress) and inviting applications is new.

IBM is investing a billion dollars into Watson with a $100 Million venture capital fund. The headquarters and accelerator type space will be in the heart of Manhattan, upping the game in Silicon Alley. They have received hundreds of applications to date.

You can dig in and learn more here on the IBM Watson site.

History was made when the Watson Ecosystem launched in November 2013. The program is designed for ISVs whose business or application can benefit from Watson’s cognitive capabilities, specifically those looking to dramatically disrupt and transform an existing market. Partners can leverage the Watson Developer Cloud to develop their Powered by Watson prototype application.

IBM is gradually expanding the program and access to the Watson Developer Cloud and experimenting with different ways to give access to ISVs that want to build a Powered by Watson application. If you’re interested in learning more as the community expands, sign up for more information and tell us your Powered by Watson idea.” – IBM Watson site

The question I would like to leave you with – are you incubating and encouraging your own growth mindset? Great things are happening in tech and they don’t always happen from a garage with two people in it. Sometimes they happen from the biggest players in the market helping to make things happen for the smaller players. Shift your thinking and tap into this rapidly growing arena called Cognitive Computing and take a look at what Watson is doing.

Note: I had the privilege of hanging out with some big thinkers: @danielnewmanUV @markwschaefer @stoweboyd to name a few, at this IBM event in Las Vegas in early February. We had such an amazing, ongoing jam session with the IBM folks that we rarely left the building despite hearing that Elvis had.

If you want to learn more about how Google search may face a serious game-changing tech, read Daniel’s excellent post: Watson May End Search As We Know It? #IBMPWLC.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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There’s a crowded, noisy, high intensity party going on and you decide to join later than everyone else. You stand at the door and hear a lot of laughter and hesitate before you ring the doorbell. You might wonder if maybe you are too late to join. That’s a bit what social media feels like to those who have not yet had a need or interest in joining Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn, to name just a few.

Just to be clear: Figuring out social media can be a bit intimidating for those who have never used it. What do you do to get over that hurdle?

As I was attending the IBM Partner World Leadership Conference this week, I was impressed to learn that Big Blue has a plan for any employee or business partner who wants to learn – they’ll put you into a Social Media Boot Camp, facilitated by Profitecture, a company that helps you build social authority.

“As we transform skills together, partners can take advantage of our bootcamps to become more social and digitally savvy in their marketing.”

– Heidi Dethloff, VP Marketing, IBM Midmarket

I spent some time talking to the founder of Profitecture, Paul Doyle, and his partners. We talked about many of the core concepts needed to help someone make the leap into social media, into this ever-changing digital landscape. We briefly talked about listening, about how challenging it can be to keep up a blog with useful content, and about engagement (as in building deeper relationships by well, listening better). Of course, they cover these topics and many others at a deeper level in the Boot Camp.

This conversation with the Profitecture team reminded me of a post I did at Forbes that explored social authority as capital. You can earn and spend that capital, as you see fit. It isn’t hard to do, but it does take effort and intention. And sometimes you need a friend and ally to help guide you – exactly what IBM, in this case, is doing for its people and partners.

Social capital is a new term that is gaining some attention. It is a term that builds on its more popular (and recent) cousin of “social selling” that claims that sales and business are changed by social media. Social capital is the idea that relationships and trust are like economic capital — you can save it up and spend it.”  — Forbes: Social Capital Is Path To Social Selling

By the way, there is a Digital Media Marketing page on the IBM site that gives prospective partners an idea of the educational resources and support that the company offers.

There are some pundits who might argue that the train has left the station; that the party is already almost over, but that’s not true. There is always an opportunity to shake a hand, virtual or in person, to build a relationship. Social media is a tool. You can put that tool in your toolbox at any point. Sure, it may feel awkward, it may feel like you’re late, but as someone once said – half of life is just showing up.

Welcome to the party.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Is Your Cloud Secure?

Edward Snowden may have singlehandedly made the entire business world nervous about its data. Many analysts predicted we would see a frenzied flight from the cloud back to onsite, on-premise servers. What happened in reality is that we just started asking tougher questions and updating our own security plans and protocols.

Despite the Snowden leaks, last year at about the same time, 56% of organizations surveyed stated that they “trust the ability of cloud providers to protect the sensitive and confidential data entrusted to them,” according to the Thales and Ponemon Institute.

This study included more than 4,000 organizations and looked at the attitudes around data protection and encryption in the cloud. To be fair, the full extent of Snowden’s release of information was not fully understood, but I don’t believe it would change this study much. We have to make a choice at some point, to trust the people building and managing our computing systems.

The reality of computer security is – even if you have your data hosted on your own servers, if you connect them to the internet to allow anyone access, e.g., employees, owners, customers, partners, you will have just as big a risk and a challenge to secure your server as a cloud provider. Your only true secure computer system sits locked down in a vault, away from any prying eyes or spiders/bots, with no connection to the outside world.

Staying Secure in the Cloud” is a presentation that IBM put together regarding midsize businesses using cloud and the security ramifications/considerations.  The four points include:

1. Determine what you want to put in the cloud

2. Spend wisely

3. Accept that security is about risk management

4. Make security relatable and understandable

So the big issue to tackle first – figure out what you want to have in the cloud. What risks are manageable, tolerable? Do you have customer data that should be kept onsite or in a different, ultra-secure server? For a great list of questions, visit TechRepublic’s post: Tough Questions To Ask Your Cloud Provider.

As IBM wisely points out – “Only allow data into the cloud that you’re willing to risk putting into the hands of a third party, and which may be located anywhere in the world.”

Overall, the cloud is a safe place to run your business, but you must ensure that your chosen cloud solution is well managed and secure. You just need to ask the right questions and pay close attention to the security expertise of your cloud provider – whether it is a private, hybrid, or public cloud.

Final note: You can read the full study mentioned above at this link: Second annual global survey by Thales and Ponemon Institute examines attitudes towards data protection and encryption in the cloud.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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As someone who covers cloud computing trends as well as 3D printing, I was excited to see this infographic from IBM that talked about both. One of the challenges I’ve heard from startups using 3D technology that requires collaboration is the difficulty of connecting remote workers who need to be involved.

Working online together to create a 3D model for a static, non-living object is quite common, but when you start talking about creating human parts – bone, tissue, prosthetics, well, that’s another thing entirely. You want that custom work to be precise, right? After all, it is going to end up in or on your body.

According to a recent blog post, “Finceramica is a biotech company that manufactures a unique, custom-made bioceramic material for cranioplasty, which allows bone regeneration in patients who have suffered traumatic skull injuries.”

But, creating these custom implants was bogged down by 20th-century limitations. To make the implants, surgeons and engineers had to share patient data like CT scans and 3-D prototypes via courier, increasing the chances of human error and delay.” The process clearly needed some help to remove these barriers.

Finceramica teamed up with IBM to create a virtual cloud that allows surgeons and designers to work simultaneously, in real time. This dynamic method of bioceramic implants can help bones heal faster. By working with directly with the surgeons, they found they could make the implants 30 percent faster and which ultimately helps the patient heal sooner.

In one of my Forbes posts this week, Cloud Computing: United States Businesses Will Spend $13 Billion On It, I highlighted how the cloud is often what drives great collaboration and innovation. My summary: “From improved collaboration to productivity increases, the cloud has the potential to change your business. The cloud is rapidly growing, moving quickly – if you’ve been on the fence around investing in new infrastructure, you should look to the cloud.” Clearly, this is what this biotech company decided to do.

By jumping quickly into a cloud environment, Finceramica is going to help save more lives, heal more lives. In addition to this important work, there are often other benefits for small and midsized companies that make a big difference in whether a company grows or not – the cloud saves money. 82 percent of companies reportedly saved money by moving to the cloud. Most companies see process improvements from the cloud, too, because you have more than one smart mind working on a project at a time.


You can read the original post here, which includes a hip infographic…

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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9 Steps To Career Zen: 50+ Quotes

It is all too easy to dispense advice to friends and co-workers, even to family. But what do you do when you want to help someone build a true foundation and inspire BIG thinking? My wife put together this list to help us capture the ideas and values we want to share with our young son as he ponders “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

I felt these 50+ quotes and nine ideas captured the good life in startup or enterprise mode, too, so share how you balance your own success in the comments.

1) Have an Attitude of Gratitude
2) To Thine Own Self Be True
3) Take the Road Less Traveled
4) Be a Friend, Make a Friend
5) Have a sense of humor
6) Learn from Your Mistakes (Move On, Forgive Yourself)
7) Take a Sabbath Rest
8) Pass it On, Pay it Forward
9) And if all else fails, just Keep putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Have an Attitude of Gratitude

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
–Friedrich Nietzsche

To Thine Own Self Be True

The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
–Arthur C. Clarke

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.

Real riches are the riches possessed inside.
–B. C. Forbes

To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.
–Richard Branson

An untruth kept in the heart, is a burden which weighs down the soul.
–Blake Beattie

Take the Road Less Traveled

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
–Mark Twain

In business or in life, don’t follow the wagon tracks too closely.
–H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows.
–Aristotle Onassis

No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
–Niccolo Machiavelli

Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.
–Virginia Woolf

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.
–Thomas A. Edison

Be a Friend, Make a Friend

All lasting business is built on friendship.
–Alfred A. Montapert

You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.
–Dale Carnegie

I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.
–H. P. Lovecraft

The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them.
–Benjamin Jowett

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.
–Howard Aiken

Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it.
–Colin Powell

Pass it on / Pay it forward

Be the change you want to see in the world.

A life lived for others, is the only life worth living.
–Albert Einstein

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.
–Mother Teresa

You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world.

I hope the fruits of my labor are ripe for many generations to come.
–Donovan Nichols

Have A Sense Of Humor

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
–Groucho Marx

My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.
–Billy Connolly

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
–Henry A. Kissinger

To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.
–Reba McEntire

I’m odd looking. Sometimes I think I look like a funny muppet.
–Angelina Jolie

The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.
–David Ogilvy

Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.
–Stephen Hawking

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.
–Dr. Seuss

It’s a funny old world.
–Margaret Thatcher

Life can be dramatic and funny all in the same day.
–Jennifer Aniston

You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.
–Ken Kesey

You need to be silly to be funny.
–William Shatner

If you tell the truth about how you’re feeling, it becomes funny.
–Larry David

Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.
–Bill Gates

Learn from Your Mistakes (Move On, Forgive Yourself)

A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know.
–Laurence J. Peter

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
–Thomas Sowell

Have enough sense to know, ahead of time, when your skills will not extend to wallpapering.
–Marilyn vos Savant

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.
–Tallulah Bankhead

If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.
–George Bernard Shaw

Never put a sock in a toaster.
–Eddie Izzard

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
–Colin Powell

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
–Steve Jobs

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.
–Thomas A. Edison

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.
–Robert H. Schuller

Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure it just means you haven’t succeeded yet.
–Robert H. Schuller

When times are bad is when the real entrepreneurs emerge.
–Robert Kiyosaki

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.
–W. Clement Stone

My recipe for dealing with anger and frustration: set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant, and rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.
–Phyllis Diller

Take a Sabbath Rest

A man should never neglect his family for business.
–Walt Disney

I have never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren.
–Mitt Romney

All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.
–Samuel Butler

And if all else fails, just Keep putting One Foot in Front of the Other

“Concentrate on what you need to do… Do step one. Begin! That’s the important thing- Did you do step one? Did you actually do it?. . . It’s not a matter of  ‘Can you do it?’ If you do it, you’re doing it.”
― Laurence G. Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
–Thomas Carlyle

There is no such thing as can’t.
–Christopher Reeve

That’s the best way to end this post, with a quote from a man who is a super-man.