2009 April (3)

Browse Month: April 2009

Hotmail Awakens With POP3 and SMTP

It’s only been a quarter into year 2009 when Microsoft had awakened to realities of the simple things on the web. Like e-mail.

As of March 12, 2009, POP3 access is now available to Hotmail users WORLDWIDE.

When you set up Hotmail in the e-mail program on your PC or mobile device, you may be asked for the following information:

POP server: pop3.live.com (Port 995)
POP SSL required? Yes
User name: Your Windows Live ID, for example yourname@hotmail.com
Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
SMTP server: smtp.live.com (Port 25)
Authentication required? Yes (this matches your POP username and password)
TLS/SSL required? Yes

As you can see, in about 10 – 15 years Microsoft will add IMAP support. Stay tuned.

On the other hand, if you simply check Google, you will see that:

@aol.com and @aim.com (those poor souls who got themselves an AIM instant messenger) total around 350 million results
@live.com yields about 281 million results
@hotmail.com – 325 million results
which totals around 600 million
@yahoo.com – 1.48 billion resuls (first place so far)
@gmail.com and @googlemail.com in total produce well below 200 million results.

Or in other words, second largest e-mail provider has just realized that people may want to check their e-mails outside of the flashy advertising interface. Personally I have abandoned Hotmail a long time ago because the loading times were awful (compared to any other web mail back then) and all the advertisements were so in-your-face that I barely saw actual messages. Of course, Firefox was in early alpha (if that), there was no AdBlock plugin and Hotmail simply refused to work in any other browser except Internet Explorer. Add to this the fact that my Hotmail ID was even more popular target for spam then one with Yahoo and spam blocking options were largely non-existant… well, let’s just say I have logged into Hotmail today for the first time in three years. The ID was still alive primarily because of a few services that were tied into it, like MSN messenger, Webmaster Tools and MSDN subscriptions.

Of course, you may want to argue (at least those of you who paid attention during Outlook initial startup) that Microsoft had long availed checking Hotmail/Live.com e-mails from Outlook and Outlook Express. Guess what? I only been using Outlook since 2007, I have been using a lot of other e-mail clients before. Even more so now, I use Outlook from home and Thunderbird on the go. And all my work-related messages are copied into Google account (both received AND SENT!). All this have been done using IMAP/SMTP. Which Microsoft, probably, hadn’t researched yet in their version of Civilization game they’re playing. Which is, honestly, surprising, given the advances the company makes with operating systems and developer tools.

Staying tuned for company’s response, there were a lot of requests for IMAP as far as I know…

Self-Improvement For Small Business Owner – Part I

Self Improvement and Time Management - iStudioWeb.com Recently I had a chance to take couple of instructor-led courses. One was on time-management, the other was on managing your goals. Even though I had a pretty good idea on how to do both, I still heard a bunch new things and another bunch was definitely a welcome refreshment. I already wrote about my new strategy in this post, so it all falls into places steadily.

Let’s start with time management. One of the most important things about owning a business is knowing how to manage your own time. If you got to the point when you don’t have time to solve the problems that take all your time – you know you’re in trouble. Take it from the person who’s been there, done that and haven’t even got a T-shirt. And it’s a pretty obvious thing – no matter how hard you try there’s still same old 24 hours in each day, so you have to make do with what you got. Twice harder if you have a family. That’s when goal management kicks in.

Classic goal management approach is simple – you divide all your goals into short-term and long-term goals on a time scale and into “must-haves”, “should-haves” and “nice-to-haves” on priority scale. This matrix should give you an idea of where you must be, should be and rather would be in short and long term. As I’ve said – pretty simple.

Now comes the tricky part – you have to stick to it. If you have never done this before – it’s twice as hard, because you keep forgetting what you have to do because you’re doing something that you’d rather do and it’s much more fun. Again – I know because I’ve been there too.

All this brings us to a simple conclusion – any entrepreneur must have nerves of steel to impose a very strict time and goal discipline onto himself. There is plenty of tools to help you do that, but for me most of them didn’t work – I had to come up with my own way of doing things. More on that – in next posts.

A List Of 5 Popular Tools Small Business Should NOT Use And Why

Everybody’s raving (if I still can use this expression in ’09) about online tools: social media, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and getting on the front page of Digg. While not even remotely contesting the overall usefulness of each of these tools I’d like to take a step back and look at them from a different perspective.

Many small business owners (my direct clients and their peers) are asking me whether they should get a blog. Or if they should be on the Digg (it’s not the question of how – these things are up for sale and that’s the reality of the market). Should they go for promoting themselves on PRWeb or YouTube? Should they hire people to sparkle discussions on forums or start getting a gathering on MySpace?

There is, obviously, no single answer. There is, however, a good chance you will be able to make a decision based on the list below.

Twitter: if you don’t have a dedicated person who is willing to update the twitter stream constantly – DON’T use it. If you have a few large clients or if your clients are using your services once in a blue moon (like limo company) – DON’T waste your time for Twitter, use other means of getting your point across.

Blogs: if there is no one to keep up with posting to your blog – DON’T. It damages your image much more significantly if your prospective clients spot a blog that hasn’t been updated since last year and the only posts there are either obviously professionally crafted PR pitches, SEO texts or updates like “We moved to new address”. You don’t need a separate blog for content that would perfectly fit into your main web site structure. Discounts, promotions, case studies – they all belong to the main site.

Digg: if your company isn’t selling nationwide (or worldwide) – don’t waste your efforts on Digg. For the time, effort and money you spend getting on a frontpage of Digg and receiving that huge traffic bump you better off with more reasonable ways to advertise. Besides the fact that your web host may not be adeqate to support such a spike in visitors, most of them are not your target audience. Put your money where your clients are, and if it’s not Digg – DON’T waste your resources on that.

MySpace/Facebook: it’s hard to say what goes and what doesn’t for these two social platforms, but the same rule as with Twitter applies here. If your services or goods are one-time deal – DON’T waste your effort on building a significant presense on MySpace/Facebook. While it may look like it makes sense – chances are that once your service is consumed your clients would rarely come back to post their feedback. So unless you have a teenage kid who spends his time on MySpace and Facebook anyway and you can talk him into doing this stuff for you – DON’T waste your time, it’s not worth it. Abandoned two-year old profile with your old address and disconnected phone number is the last thing you want your potential clients to see before they try to contact you.

YouTube: converting traffic from YouTube is one of the hardest tasks so far. Aside from that – creating a good video takes time, posting it takes time, keeping tabs on what’s going on with it takes time – and you don’t even know who’s watching it. So unless you’re absolutely know what you are doing – DON’T spend your money and time on video. Spend it on AdWords, local ads or something that gets you better conversion.

As you can see – the list is not definitive and is stuffed with ifs and whens. As a general rule – try to estimate how many actual clients you will get for what price. Compare it with existing ways of advertising, see if you get a better deal there. With all the latest hype about online tools business owners forget about simple old-fashion advertising. It still works – stay tuned to find out how.