Wednesday, 29 December 2010

On integrating e-mail, blogs and websites

I've just replied to a question to a facebook friend. They were asking about using separate e-mail addresses for business and linking these to their website. Rereading my reply, I realised that the information was of wider use to others just starting out! So here is the information I sent:

"Dear ........

Apologies for the late reply.

Your questions split into three parts which I will try to answer in the order of relevance (top down so to speak):

1. Website/webhosting

Domain name
It is worth having your own dedicated domain name. This become a unifying identifier for you and your business on the web. You can buy them from a variety of companies. I use for example. Cost for a name is typically about £3 per year, for a .com about £10 a year. (you often have to pay for a minimum of 2 years).

This already allows you to specify your-emeail@yourdomain - with e-mails being forwarded directly on to your existing e-mail, often for free (because these are forwarding e-mails not true e-mail postboxes)

To make your domainname effective, you need to have content that can be associated with it. This requires webspace. Hosting is when you pay the company from whom you purchased your domain name to give you space on the web where you can host material. Typically your website.

By choosing a good provider, you often get a set of free e-mail accounts that you can then use, so you can set up address e-mail-01@yourdomain, e-mail-02@yourdomain etc . . Each is accessed through a separate name and password and are often accessible as webmail too.

Cost can start as low as £2.50 per month for 20GB of hosting space (again I have used, but do shop around)

2. Linking your blog(s) to your domain
The main problem with websites is continually maintaining and updating their content. This is where your blog can actually be very useful.

You can use a blog as your website. Rather than allowing the free provider to host your blog with their identifier in the name, you specify that the blog should be stored on your hosting under your domain name (see point 1 above). This can be done in the blog settings.

I have several blogs going under Google's blogger, so, depending who you have set up your blog with, you should be able to do the same if need be. Effectively you would be creating a separate website for each core activity. These should all be hostable under your domain if you purchase domain and hosting as in 1. above. Alternatively you could have three separate hostings under different domain names,

3. Separate E-Mails for different activites
I have answered your original first question re different e-mail accounts briefly in points 1 & 2 above.

Yes you can set up different e-mail accounts :-)  If you did not want to go down the route of purchasing hosting space, you could buy just the individual e-mail accounts, each at about £1 per month with a domain name included.

Your idea of having separate e-mails for each activity is actually very good. This way you can identify where most of your communication comes from and monitor the activities separately.

What is important - ability to measure effectiveness
Whatever route you go down, it is important to have a measure of how effective your different routes to communication and income are. Webhosting companies provide accessible stats. Alternatively you can link blogs and websites to either google analytics or yahoo analytics for recording such information.

  • I think it is a good idea to have your own domain name or names and to have space provided by a host for your web information under your domain name(s).
  • Your blog(s) could be used as live websites, hosted under your domain name.
  • Having separate e-mails for different activities is a good practice (even if I do not currently  follow it myself :-) )
  • Make sure that whatever you do, you can measure it. The web is great for this.
Again apologies for not replying sooner! I hope that this helps.

If it still seems a bit confusing, feel free to contact me for a meeting in the new year over a cup of tea/coffee.

Best wishes and a Happy New Year!


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Snow business: facts and opportunities

From Snow in Milton 2

There is going to be an incredible blame game once the snow has cleared, with an economic impact of £28bn for 2010. So I'm not going to join in. Instead here are some suggestions on how you can make the best of the snow disruption.

Can you or your staff not get to work? Perhaps the work can still get to you. Forget snow clouds and think internet cloud. Individuals and small businesses can use Dropbox to share folders securely at different locations. Larger companies can set up their own cloud based systems.

Consider making it easier for people to get to you. This starts with clearing snow and ice from the access and path to your premises. Snow shovels are available for under £20 (see e-bay here Cleared paths actually thaw and dry out quicker. To keep the path safe, consider gritting. Salt grit will work down to ground temperatures of about -9 degrees Celsius at around £5 per 20kg bag. An environmentally friendly alternative is to use sand/grit. For those with a large business and big pockets - splash out on a winter service vehicle!

Customers still unwilling to come to you? Can you provide a special "bad-weather service delivery" to them? Even in towns and cities, there are the elderly or others who have been housebound due to the snow for up to a fortnight this year. Often cars or vans can still gain access. Even if it seems like a loss leader at the time, view it as a promotional exercise. People WILL remember those who made an effort and it could even generate positive publicity for you. 

Increase your vehicle mobility in snow in one of three different ways;
Snow chains work by acting as giant treads on the tyres. Winter tyres have softer rubber at lower temperature and a larger tread, giving better traction on snow and ice. The recently introduced snow socks rely on the fact that snow sticks to certain fabrics ensuring grip.
Keep yourself and your staff safer and mobile on snow and ice with special footwear. Methods include studs, grit-like soles or special treads. The stud  solution also comes as units that you can fix to existing shoes or boots (see here for all options

A simple short term stopgap is to wearg old socks over shoes to avoid slipping on snow. This has been demonstrated to work by the University of Otago, New Zealand!

So here's an idea for a future entrepreneur. Disposable non-slip overshoes. I remember from science clean room work that we had elasticated disposable paper overshoes. These could, for example, be made from the same fabric used for the tyre socks mentioned above, or with a similar gripping material.

Interesting facts and figures on snow for your customers

Inform and cheer up your customers with the following miscellany. Feel free to copy, format and brand under your own company letterhead or logo and distribute in print or digitally. My only request is that you
a. Share this information free
b. Include a credit at the bottom - "collated by"

Four books featuring snow:

  1. Peter Hoeg "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow"
  2. "Wintersmith" by Terry Pratchett
  3. "The Box of Delights" by John Masefield
  4. "Ice Station Zebra" Alistair Maclean

On Road Salt

Road grit contains mined rock salt (sea salt is too fine). More than half of all mined salt goes to treat road surfaces worldwide. Highly concentrated salt solutions can withstand freezing down to -27 degrees Centrigrade  but spreading salt only melts snow and ice at temperatures above -9 degrees Celsius. From" The Idiots' Guide to Highways Maintenance"
And "Why do they use salt to melt ice on the road in the winter?"

Get a Grip

Your vehicle's grip in snow can be improved by using one of the below:

Footwear with additional grip in snow and ice

Winter Service Vehicles

Originally, winter snow was compacted to provide a smooth surface for sleds over bumpy ground in winter! The earliest patents for snowplows date back to 1840, but there are no records of their actual use until 1862, when the city of Milwaukee began operating horse-drawn carts fitted with snowplows. Modern Winter Service Vehicles include the gritter, snow blower, snow groomer snow melter, snowplow, snow sweeper and surface friction tester.

The Science and Beauty of Snow

The largest recorded snowflake was 15" (38cm) across and found on Jan 28th 1887 Fort Keough, Montana

Snow crystals are mostly six sided, though three sided and twelve sided forms can exist

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley (1865 - 1931) photographed more than 5000 idividual snow crystals during his lifetime ( The tradition lives on in "Snowflakes", by scientist Kenneth Libbrecht. (

Different types of snow crystal form depending on temperature and humidity.
"We see that thin plates and stars grow around -2 C (28 F), while columns and slender needles appear near -5 C (23 F).  Plates and stars again form near -15 C (5 F), and a combination of plates and columns are made around -30 C (-22 F)."

The Japanese scientist Ukichiro Nakaya was the first to grow snow crystals in the laboratory when he accidently discovered that they grew best at the end of a rabbit hair!