Blog Archives

Toy Story 2 and Why Backup Matters

Pixar’s Toy Story 2 was almost inadvertently deleted due some careless key strokes and a bad backup. Check out the nerve-wracking video on Tested.com.

Like many of you, I have also lost data from time to time as a result of stupid decisions, or a misplaced command (as with the Pixar folks) or even worse circumstances. It is worth recounting some of those tales to show you how important it is to start thinking about your backups.

Backups usually only matter when you lose something, and then you go into a panic state trying to figure out what you actually lost and where you can retrieve the most recent copy of your files. A survey from Mozy found that a mere 15% of small companies actually use cloud backup to protect their business. So why not take some time now and come up with a solid backup strategy for all of your data? Obviously, using a cloud-based backup service such as Mozy is one part of the picture, but you should also consider some other things. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my past mistakes.

Files Aren’t the Only Thing to Back Up

One of the most important things that I do is write a weekly email newsletter to my clients and potential clients. I have been doing it for 16 years or so. The LISTSERV was once maintained by a friend of mine, on a machine sitting in a second friend’s basement. Well, that arrangement wasn’t working for me when the basement flooded and the machine had to be taken offline. I realized that the only thing that I didn’t have a backup copy of was the actual email names on the list itself, which were easily obtained by sending the listserv a simple command. Luckily, the server was eventually brought online and I could get the names from it. Now I send that command every week to get a fresh copy of my subscribers. This could happen to you: part of a good backup strategy is remembering things such as my email list that don’t fit into neat categories or simple files that are on your own hard drive.

Keep Backups of Backups

Another time I lost my laptop from the trunk of my car: I was in a suburban shopping mall and someone saw me put some packages in the trunk before I headed back for some more shopping. Luckily, most of what was on that laptop was backed up, or so I thought. My emails were using Lotus Notes, which automatically backs up the entire stream on my company servers. When I got a replacement, some of the email addresses were missing. Where did they go? No one knew. This shows that you should never take anything for granted, and have backups of your backups.

Don’t Trip Up on Trips

As a result of losing my laptop in this way, whenever I travel I think about what happens if it were to be stolen or lost? I try to always have a backup of the new work that I created when on the road on some other device: such as in the cloud or on a USB stick that I carry separately.

How often have you been working on a document, only to have the computer freeze up and lose some work? This is a minor nuisance, and most modern versions of word processors have auto-save features, but still. Be prepared.

Test Your Systems!

How did it end for Pixar? Luckily, one team member had made her own independent backup copy and took it home. This gets across my final point: always test your backups to make sure they are actually current and you can restore something from them.

 

 

Save time and money with online meeting tools

If you’re like me, you probably hate attending business meetings. Luckily, a number of useful Internet-based tools can help workgroups schedule and run them more effectively. All of the tools here work within most popular Web browsers, and most of them are available for free or for fairly low monthly fees. The challenge is in understanding which tool suits a particular situation, because not every meeting is held under the same circumstances. Let’s look at some of the differences.

Synch Your Calendars

Certainly the most common situations are those where you want to synchronize a common calendar, such as between someone’s PDA and his Microsoft Outlook desktop, or between a boss’s calendar and an assistant’s. Many services can make sharing calendars between work team members (or even between family members or friends) easier. Both Google Calendar (shown below) and Yahoo Calendar offer free calendar sync, and numerous other products–including Apple’s iCal for its computers and iPhones, along with NuevaSync–work with both services. BusySync and Spanning Sync also can synchronize Apple’s iCal calendars with Google Calendar.

Online Meeting Tools

Let Clients Setup Their Own Appointments

What if you want your clients or any other people not employed by your company to book your time directly? In the long-ago past, appointment secretaries would be in charge of the boss’s calendar and would set up meeting times with pencil and paper. Now you can point clients and outside colleagues to self-service appointment Web sites, such as BookFresh,  Tungle.me or TimeDriver. These sites can display your staffers’ free and busy times, as well as what remaining time “inventory” is available for appointments. They also send out e-mail notifications, and they don’t require any special software beyond a Web browser to confirm the appointment. You can easily adjust the schedule when you are going out of town or are otherwise unavailable, too. These services are available for a reasonable cost: TimeDriver has a free 90-day trial and is $30 a year thereafter; BookFresh offers three different plans, including a free one that allows two monthly bookings. Tungle (shown below) is free for the moment.

Online Meeting Tools

Set Up a Common Meeting Time

How about a situation where you want to arrange a common meeting time for people coming from different companies? A meeting organizer could send out an e-mail notification with a series of possible open times, and ask each participant to check off which of those times work for them. But if you have ever tried to organize this kind of meeting, you know how quickly you can get buried under all the back-and-forth e-mail responses.

The free services SetMeeting.com (from Meeting Agent) and Doodle.com are useful in this respect. SetMeeting.com’s biggest weakness is that once you initiate the process it doesn’t allow you to change the meeting location without canceling and starting from scratch. Doodle, which is less sophisticated and has fewer features, is really more of a polling device to help you find a common time; but you may find it attractive if that’s all you wish to do.

As you can see, there are a variety of simple websites that can be used to enhance your meetings. Now if only there was an app that could make the actual meetings shorter.

 

 

How to share simple databases online

Sharing simple databases onlineIf you are part of a business, sooner or later you want to be able to collaborate on a database with a colleague or customer. In the past, the easiest way to share a small database was to create a spreadsheet and email it to your collaborators. While this isn’t the best method, it has withstood more sophisticated competition.

For many people, the spreadsheet is still one of the most popular low-end database applications. The rubric of a table of rows and columns is easily understood and can easily be used as a way to view records and fields of a database. Plus, you don’t need to design special reports to view your data entries, and you can easily sort your data without having to create data dictionaries or other database structures, just use the appropriate Excel commands.

But emailing attachments can get tiresome, particularly if you have more than one collaborator. Having a specialized service that can share this data makes it easier, and you always have the current version of the data you are working on. Enter the online spreadsheet/database service provider.

Using these online spreadsheet services is very straightforward: you either copy and paste data or take your spreadsheet and upload it to the service, after creating accounts for you and your collaborators. Then you can make changes via your Web browser, no other software is required. Some of the services allow for more bells and whistles. Setup time is minimal; your data is properly protected by the service and safe from harm. And you don’t need to learn any Web/database programming skills either.

Pricing and support

When you decide on the particular service, it pays to read the fine print about pricing. There are discounts for annual subscriptions on most services. All of these services have 14-day or 30-day free trials to get started, so you can get a feel of what is involved in manipulating your data and how easy it is to make changes, produce reports, and receive notifications. TrackVia has a free plan that is a great way to get started with these services.

The downside is that some of these services can be pricey, as you add collaborators or different spreadsheets. Each service has different ways to count actual “users”. For example, if you want to jointly edit the same spreadsheet with two others — that usually counts as a three-user license. But if you want others to just view your data but not change it, these users usually don’t consume additional licenses.

Customer support can be extra too. TrackVia, HyperBase, and QuickBase all include phone support in their offerings, and TrackVia actually emails you automatically with the name and phone number of an account rep should you need additional help.

Distinguishing features

Let’s touch on some of the services’ distinguishing features. First is how they notify you of changes to your file’s content. Some services give you more control over how they will email you when one of your collaborators has made changes. Another feature is publishing your data, if you want to invite others to view it. While this throws all hope of security to the winds, for less-secure information it is a great way to start a collaboration process. Some services can design very sophisticated reports while others show you your data in the familiar grid layout that Excel uses.

Another thing to look for is how each service loads your data: with some, you can upload an Excel file from your hard drive, while with others you have to either import a comma separated file or manually cut and paste your data from your spreadsheet. Why is this important? If you have more than a simple table of numbers, cut and paste will probably not work and you will have some cleanup to do after the import.

Finally, there is the consideration of how much control they give you over the look and feel of your data. Some of the services, such as TrackVia and QuickBase have dozens of pre-built templates to help you get started with organizing your data, such as client contacts, issue tracking, or expense reports. The others you are left to be your own designer.

One caveat: Web services are constantly being changed, especially prices, as the vendors tweak their offerings. This analysis is based on what we saw in mid-April 2012, so do spend some of your own time checking out particular features that are deal-makers or breakers for you.

So what services are available?

Smartsheet.com $16/mo for 10 spreadsheets 3 GB

HyperBase $600 per year for 5 users 

TrackVia.com Free for 5 users and 1 GB, paid plans available

Intuit QuickBase $299/mo for 10 users 1 GB for entry plan

 

 

5 Things to Ask Your Cloud Backup Services Provider

Online backup is a booming industry, with dozens of vendors providing storage in the cloud. The idea is a compelling one: for a few dollars a year, you have immediate and automatic offsite storage of your most critical files. No messing with tapes, making DVDs, or worrying if you have the most current files backed up. But how to get started with finding the right service for you? Here are five questions to ask your potential provider.

1. What does it cost for my backups?

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to backup and how much data you are talking about. Are you just interesting in saving critical files, such as photographs and documents? Or do you want a backup of the entire PC itself, including program files and the operating system? Now, think about how much data you had on your computers a year ago, and how fast your storage needs are growing. You want to make sure that you anticipate this growth, too. If you are storing lots of photographs, audio or video files, this is very important because these are all big files compared to ordinary documents.

Once you know how much data you are dealing with, you can calculate what your monthly backup costs will be. Some providers offer discounts on annual service contracts too. Some providers offer unlimited space for a fixed fee too.

2. Can I backup more than one computer on a single account?

Some services assume that each account will be setup with a single computer, while others offer the ability to backup an entire collection of PCs. While you are checking this out, also look to see if they support the specific operating system versions of your entire computer collection. Some services don’t support 64-bit Windows, or Windows Server versions, or Macs for example.

3. Does your service save previous file versions?

Many products have the ability to save multiple versions of each file, up to a pre-set maximum that you can specify. This means you can go back in time if you have made a mistake in your work, or saved something that you would have rather not have done. If this is important to you, then consider which services have this feature. Note that some providers will include the space occupied by multiple file versions in their storage quotas.

4. How does my first backup get saved?

The first backup that you make can take several hours or days, depending on how much data you are sending to the cloud and how fast your Internet connection is. But once that chore is done, your incremental backups shouldn’t take too long, and happen in the background anyway. Some vendors, such as Mozy with its Data Shuttle, provide for this by having you mail them (via the postal mail) an actual external hard drive so the initial backup “seed,” as it is called, can be stored quickly. Other vendors have software that create backups locally and allow you to move the backup to another location across the Internet.

5. What kind of support do you offer?

Most service providers offer email-based support but not much beyond that. That is great if you don’t have many problems or are fairly confident and comfortable with using the service. But if something goes wrong, you want to talk to a live person. Some services only have live support during their business hours. If you want 24/7 support, then consider vendors such as Mozy, who offer the service.

 

 

How to create trust with your online presence

How can online relationships fuel and shape how we interact with our colleagues in the real world? You know, that environment that exists outside our desktops?

Our newspapers and websites are filled with stories about how the nature of friendship has become devalued as we go about connecting on MyLinkFaceSpace et al. But what few have covered is how the online world creates new kinds of communities, and builds trusted relationships that carry on in the real world of face-to-face interaction. This post is how small businesses can enhance their online reputations to build trust in their brands.

Oddly, where I started thinking about this was reading a book from a couple who I have worked with in the past. Now, this isn’t your typical business book with about 10 pages of content and the rest is mostly common sense. Instead, it is a very practical hands-on book on geocaching.

Geocaching? You mean that hobby where people hide stuff in public places and then use their GPS to try to find them? Let me explain. The book, which is called The Joy of Geocaching by Paul and Dana Gillin, talks about what you need to get started, and has some great stories of very involved cachers that the couple met over the course of doing their research. This is where the lessons about online relationships come into play.

There is one story of a woman who traveled to Toronto on a business trip with several colleagues. She left them at the airport, and was picked up by a stranger – with the only thing in common being that both were cachers. How many of us would climb into a car in another country with nothing more than exchanging a few emails? That involves a certain level of trust and comfort that just doesn’t happen in the real world.

Other examples are people that use the Meetup.com site to find people of similar circumstances. And of course there are the online dating sites, too. Crowdsourcing is another. I am sure you could think of other examples.

This use of online connections to prime the pump for a face-to-face meeting happens more and more frequently because we are doing more than just sending emails, or friend requests, or linking to others via online sites. We are sharing a common bond, a series of interests. We are building an authoritative source of content, context and identity. And along the way, we start shaping these micro-communities one person at a time.

Yes, there are people who pride themselves on having thousands of “friends” or who can connect with celebs and CEOs alike. But that isn’t what today’s Internets are all about.

Yes, it takes a village. But increasingly, our villages are formed online and with hyper-specific interests – not just because we share a common street block or elementary school classroom of our children. This is nothing new. The early bulletin board systems were great at this. But what is new is the potency of these relationships, and how quickly they can come to fruition.

Sure, I belong to lots of different communities, some based here in St. Louis, some that include people from all over the world. So take a moment to think about the online communities that you are a member, or should be a member. And see if you can start building some trust.

And if you want to learn about geocaching, go get a copy of the Gillins’ book. It is a good read, even if you never leave the comfort of your home.

 

 

Should you consider a co-working space?

Co-working spaceMost of you are familiar with the idea of a shared tenant services for small businesses that can’t afford their own office space but want to take advantage of a common collection of services such as fax machines, conference rooms, reception areas, and the like. But what if the $400 or so a month fee for these services is still out of the park for your nascent business owner? And what if working out of a coffee shop or other free WiFi place isn’t really professional enough? In between these setups, several different kinds of shared office spaces are also available. Let’s look at the options.

First up is co-working, which also goes under various names, including the “Jelly” movement started by Amit Gupta. The idea is that people who want more than just a virtual water cooler of email, Tweeting and posting online can actually get out of the house and spend some time nearby other humans doing their work too. The goal is to create a community of like-minded people but from different walks of life, skill sets, and interests – just like your local Faceless Big Company Cubicle Warren. Bring your own laptop and cell phone, tie into a WiFi connection, and sip some of the included coffee. The “rent” is reasonable – about $50 a month or even less, depending on how often you need to show up. Some facilities have more, such as multiple-line phones and conference rooms, and some have less. All are a step up from Starbucks, though. Some are in business district locations, some in more residential areas that are not much more than a converted home with a bunch of desks in them. Some are sponsored by local governments, others are setup by private businesses.

Probably the best thing to do is just to check out some of the many resources on co-working on the web. Look at the co-working wikilistings by city, or the link for Jelly (listed above). Call a few of the places that are in these directories and find out the basics, such as price, hours of operation, and what else is included.

Before you visit with your laptop and cell phone, make sure you have a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones along too. Some of these places can get noisy, and you’ll want some protection from all the hubbub. Also, if you do get a lot of phone calls, consider leaving your desk and finding someplace a bit more private, so as not to disturb your fellow co-workers.

Somewhat different from co-working is where companies are renting spare office space by the hour. This is the growing trend in some California cities. An article in ReadWriteWeb talks about this and where you can find these kinds of services.

Still, my work style wouldn’t tolerate such close quarters – at one of the co-working sites that I visited last week, it could easily house ten people in a large bullpen area. I like it nice and quiet and no one else around, because that is what I need to write and to interview people on the phone. But perhaps you are different, and crave the company and companionship. You might want to investigate co-working, and see if there is someone in your area that has such a setup, or even start one in your own house.

 

 

How a More Visual Firewall Can Help Protect Your Network

Any business with a network needs a firewall to keep the bad guys out and the data safe. And it has done so behind a complex dashboard that was difficult to navigate and operate.

But lately a few vendors have begun to offer a more visual take on this venerable category, placing a premium on the User Experience. For smaller businesses this can be especially useful. Let’s look at what is involved with these products with some samples from McAfee, Palo Alto Networks and Sonicwall.

In olden times, firewalls were anything but visual dashboards. You had to navigate long lists of rule sets that would take a lot of expertise to craft correctly. The order of how the rules were listed were also important, as the firewall would process one rule at a time. Each rule would either permit or deny a particular kind of traffic to a particular port and protocol. They had dashboards like this one from Cisco’s ASA firewall that had densely-packed information.

That was great back when the Internet was young but these days playing ports and protocol games is more complex. Just about every new application uses the Web ports 80 and 443, so filtering on those doesn’t help much. And for corporations that want to be more sophisticated in what they block, you want something that offers more granularity and understands the way particular applications behave. For example, let’s say I want to allow people to use Gmail but not Google Earth. So my firewall has to distinguish between these

two actions. Here is how the McAfee Firewall handles it. You can see a long list of Google applications here in the screen capture above. It is very easy to click on the particular situation and quickly set it up to block other Google functions.

McAfee has a add-on option to its Enterprise Firewall called Profiler that includes a very graphical mechanism for managing its operations.

You can use its graphical interface to spot trends quickly, make adjustments to firewall rule sets, and see the results of your changes instantly, without having to plow through network traces and protocol details.

In the screen capture below, we are looking at the main Profiler screen and you see these bubbles that indicate by color whether traffic is allowed or blocked by particular user department and application category.The size of the bubble indicates the volume of traffic that is involved in a particular situation.

Some of the firewalls come with very graphical real-time monitors, such as this display from Sonicwall’s unified threat appliances below where you can see traffic patterns and drill down if you spot something that doesn’t look quite right.

Palo Alto Networks has this interesting global map of all your network traffic, again to help you spot some particular network flow to a country where you normally don’t do any business. Many of the firewalls have geo-location features where you can block traffic originating or destined for particular countries too.

These are just some of the more innovative firewall vendors out there who have begun to harness visual information displays to help you manage your network traffic and operations. If you are still looking at long lists of log files or rule sets, you might want to investigate one or more of these products.

 

 

Junk Your Company Intranet

Remember when Intranets were all the rage? I do, I wrote a paper on them way back in 1995 that was at their height of interest. The idea was to produce a corporate Web portal that was just for internal use, to enable staff to share documents, best practices, customer information and the like. Well, the time has come to retire your Intranet, and look at the new crop of enterprise social networking products that are designed for that purpose.

Originally, these products were called microblogs or Twitter-behind-the-firewall. The latter appellation was because they took the Twitter user interface and presented a small text window to type a brief message in, and then displayed the stream of status updates in a similar fashion.

But in the past several years these products have become more capable, and can be very useful as the next-gen Intranet. For example, you can share files with comments them, such as if a team is collaborating on a presentation slide deck for example. Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis has written an excellent analysis of why you should use these products here.

These tools might also be a better place to start than using a standard blogging tool such as WordPress or even Facebook for your internal communications. A recent study from UMass at Dartmouth shows that nearly 3/4s of the Inc. 500 (the fastest growing 500 American private companies) are using Facebook or LinkedIn, which is about twice the percentage that are using corporate blogs. “Ninety percent of responding executives report that social media tools are important for brand awareness and company reputation.  Eighty-eight percent see these tools as important for generating Web traffic while 81% find them important for lead generation.  Seventy-three percent say that social media tools are important for customer support programs.”

These tools (like the screenshot of Socialcast’s Town Hall feature above) mean more than a “Like” button on a particular page of content: it is a way to curate and disseminate that content quickly and easily. It has replaced the Usenet “news groups” that many of us remember with a certain fondness for their arcane and complex structure.

Let’s look at a few of the distinguishing features for this class of products.

  • Team workspace. You can segregate your work teams by project and have all the materials for that project in a single place for easy access. These spaces can be persistent to serve as an archival record for completed projects, too.
  • Activity stream. The Twitter-like stream is useful to keep track of what your colleagues are doing in any given day.
  • Presence detection. Like corporate Instant Message tools, you can keep track of when your co-workers are in the office or ask them quick questions via text or video chats.
  • Document collaboration. You can edit documents in real-time to shape a particular deliverable for a client without having to do serial emails.
  • External services connections. Many of these products can search and interact with CRM systems, SharePoint servers, Salesforce (see the screenshot below from Yammer), emails, and other external services.
  • Mobile clients. Most products have specialized clients that have been optimized for iOS and Android phones.
  • Public or private deployments. You can start with a public cloud deployment of the product to try out, and then move your system to your own server behind a firewall for the ultimate security.
Obviously, there is a lot to these products that this kind of brief treatment doesn’t really do justice. But if you are looking to upgrade your existing Intranet and don’t want to spend a lot of time or money, take a closer look at what these enterprise products can offer.

 

 

Startup Rules of the Road

Before you start your next business, you should consider a few of my own tenets that I have gleaned from working with numerous startup companies
over the years. There is so much more to a business than the actual day-to-day operations, and finding the right combination of ideas, skills, and people will help you
create the best small business. Take a look at the following rules of the road:

  • First, it is so often said that you have to find your passion. It might sound cliche, but it is very true. If you are going to suffer the long hours and the many frustrations of starting your own business, you need to have something that is going to power you through the darkest times. If you come up with a business idea that doesn’t get your groove on, drop it and think of something else.
  • Identify the narrowest niche you can and fill it completely. It doesn’t really matter what you do. What matters is what everyone else isn’t doing, and how you can complement or fill in the gaps. The narrower the niche, the better. It helps if you can explain your niche in a short sound bite too, because that is what you are going to be doing a lot of. And don’t be afraid to change to a new niche when the market shifts or as you get better at understanding what your customers need, too. You aren’t going to be running MegaCorp (at least, not yet), so being flexible is key.
  • Understand your own limitations and use them to decide on the nature of the business you wish to create. For years I have had a one-person freelance writing business — not because I am anti-social, but because that is my preferred work style. You need to think through the implications of your ideas and understand what you are getting yourself into with the particular business you have in mind. One friend of mine designed her freelance business around a small staff, because that was what she was comfortable with. Different strokes….
  • Building a website isn’t the same thing as building a business. While is certainly is the case that many businesses are going to have
    some kind of online presence, they just begin with the website.
  • If you aren’t technical, find someone who can help and treat them well. Make that: treat them extra well. When I built my first website back in the early days, I hired a kid all of 19 years of age. Now I would hire even younger: they have the skills, and they work cheaply. But sometimes you want to partner with someone with more maturity, and realize when that is needed.
  • Pick domain names, corporate names, and other names to match and be easy to speak and remember. This is so important. There is a site called KnowEm.com that can help you figure out if your chosen name is available on hundreds of social networks, and even search the US Patent and Trademark Database. This is a good place to start. See the screen shot below.

  • Don’t forget about email newsletter marketing. Email isn’t the flashiest mode of communication, but it is still a very powerful tool that can help spread your word and get you customers. One friend of mine built up his business big time with a weekly newsletter: over a year he had more than two thousand subscribers, and a regular business. The service provider that I use for my email newsletter charges me the grand sum of less than $5 a month.
  • Speaking of monthly costs, keep your recurring costs low. It is amazing what kinds of services you can get these days for free or
    nearly so in just about everything. Look at what you can get on open source sites. You can host your own blog, set up your own domain, sign up for cloud-based accounting, and a lot more for less than $500 a year, in some cases a lot less. It used to cost me $500 just to have a server sit in a rack someplace. My friend Bruce Fryer has a site called CheapBastardStartup that has links to running his 100% virtual corporation. He suggests raising $50,000 and get a product and customers and then go after the big money once you have proven your concept. But I suggest starting with
    even less dough – say $5000 – and see how far you can run with your idea with that.
  • Finally, don’t figure on paying yourself a salary, at least initially. My wife has her own interior design business and she is glad when she clears her monthly expenses, at least for the first couple of months. Of course, you want to eventually make some money!

Good luck with your own startup, and do feel free to share other best practices that you have come across in your travels.

 

 

How to Use Video Analytics to Improve Your Audience Response

As Web-based video becomes more prominent and more useful for businesses, the biggest issue is figuring out what resonates with your audience. You post a video and then what: how many people watch it all the way through? Should you have broken it up into shorter segments? Did you need additional details? Did people like the video and link back to it? Depending on the video site you use to share your content, you have a number of cloud-based analytic and tracking tools at your disposal.

Lots of companies are using video to spread the word on their products and engage their customers. Here are a couple of notable examples:

  • Wingsuits’s Vimeo channel shows more than 100 videos of those crazy folks that don a suit and jump off high cliffs and pretend to fly. I admit the visuals are stunning, but I sure wouldn’t want to be a customer!
  • MadMapper has more than 60 videos showcasing how their customers use their advanced projector mapping tools to create some stunning visual displays.
  • Infusionsoft has this YouTube channel with 500 subscribers and more than 120,000 views with quotes of dozens of employees about their experience using the company’s software. They also have this Vimeo channel which shows in-depth demos and longer tutorials about how to use their products.

YouTube, first and foremost

Certainly, when it comes to video, YouTube is first and foremost. More than 30 hours of video are uploaded every minute, or is it every second?

Whatever the number, YouTube still has the lion’s share of the traffic and is great for beginners. It is easy to upload a video, embed it or share it across your Web site, and collect some very basic traffic statistics too. But you get what you pay for. Here is an example of the kind of analysis that you can get from one of my more popular videos that I have on YouTube:

In addition to the overall viewership report shown above, you can review demographic information (age and gender of viewer), whether the video was played from the main YouTube Web page or a mobile device or embedded on another site, and whether your audience abandoned watching the video at some point before its end. This last point is very important in terms of feedback. The longer the video the more the audience drop-off will probably be, and this should be good ammunition to create shorter and to-the-point videos.

Wistia

There are other video hosting services besides YouTube, and one that I use frequently is from Wistia.com. They actually provide several things in one neat package:

First is its own flash embedded player that allows you to easily adjust the size of your video window to match the dimensions of your Web pages. You can easily choose the thumbnail that you want displayed when the Web page is first viewed. Wistia isn’t alone in this particular space: Kaltura for example has a popular WordPress plug-in. But adding a Wistia embed tag to a custom WordPress self-hosted site is easier and no plug-ins are required to play your videos.

It is also a video hosting and sharing site. You have up to 20 GB of storage included, with additional storage available at $2/GB/month. Included this 20 GB figure is just the size of the uploaded video files, and not any additional storage for encoding or processing.  Videos can be shared with your project team, where they can make comments (like Facebook) and downloaded, saving you the trouble of trying to send videos as email attachments. As video files can be larger than email attachment limits, this saves a lot of time and frustration.

Finally, Wistia has excellent analytics too.  Like YouTube, you can see gross viewership by day, some demographics, how they got to your video (via organic search or some other Web site). But unlike YouTube they go into lots more detail with these “heat maps” as you see below.

This is a nice service: you can see who your potential customers might be and what part of the world they live. (I’ve masked the IP addresses visible in the above screenshot.) You can also see here where each viewer stopped watching, or rewound it to see again (in red). Again, this provides valuable feedback on whether your subject is relevant to your viewers. It is also a good report to share with your management to convince them of the value of your efforts.

Wistia has three differently priced plans, starting at $79 a month. You can try it out for 15 days for free.