Comments and observations on business, marketing and life: by Martin Donohoe

Category: business

Disaster recovery – careless computing

Having had that sinking feeling when my laptop declared ‘no os found’ (this means windows has departed your hard drive), I’m remarkably happy to be back online and with more or less all of my data intact. A quick trip to pc world for a new hard drive and external caddy (to be able to access my old drive) together with a midnight download of Acronis Disk Director 11 meant that I was able to rebuild my system quickly and without too much fuss.

Yes, I had backups available to me but in this case I was actually able to retrieve and repair the original hard drive meaning I suffered very little data loss. I’ve taken the opportunity to clear a couple of years of accumulated rubbish off my machine and it runs that much faster for it. Key learning outcomes from this event? Well, point 1, keep doing (very) regular backups and point 2, make use of “the cloud” but don’t rely entirely on it – which is where my normal theme of online marketing comes in.

Over the past year or so, it seems that one cannot move for references to ‘cloud computing’ which in essence is data stored on remote server groups that are 3rd party owned. So far, so good. But, and this is a substantial but, what happens to your data when it is remotely stored?

  • From a business perspective is it compliant with all the rules and regulations that you should know about.
  • Who can access that data?
  • If there’s a problem with your access to the data, how easy is it to work around? Really?

All of these issues were at the forefront of my mind today when I read this article. Sure, we all use cloud computing in some respects: flickr, google tools, facebook, to name but a few. But, when it comes down to it, you cannot beat having physical access to your data (or at least knowing it’s on a dedicated server in a specific location).

Obviously, on a personal level it’s fairly easy to manage the data and make these decisions for your own pc. However, if your entire CRM database with a million customers is floating in the clouds – it raises some interesting questions. Questions that if the average online marketer is being honest, they probably haven’t ever stopped to consider.

BP, reputation management & adwords anger

As with any field, it’s so easy to forget that people outside of  that area don’t have the knowledge that you take for granted.

Leaving aside the obvious environmental aspects and the political blame game, there’s another fascinating element involved (in my opinion). BP clearly have a handle on their PR and are trying to conduct damage limitation, one facet of that is using Google Adwords so that searching for terms like ‘bp oil spill’ brings up a ppc ad which links to a page on their site explaining what they are doing about the oil spill. To someone like myself, who is very familiar with adwords and how it works, this seems like a straightforward and practical thing to do. Whilst the message might be debatable, the mechanism strikes me as ethical and transparent (in the sense that anyone could be using it – the ethics of Google are a whole different conversation).

But, wait, what’s this? Lots of people are complaining that this is somehow underhand and unethical, that Google shouldn’t be jumping into bed with BP (I know!) and that these ads should be banned. Take a look at this page from the bbc site and look at the comments. A quick trawl through other sites reveals similar comments and stories.

Clearly, lots of people are not aware of the mechanism that controls ppc ads like Google Adwords. It strikes me as well that many of the journalists commenting on this story aren’t that clear either. Otherwise, instead of speculating how much BP might be spending on their ads, they’d look at the search volumes, check the cost through an adwords account and make an accurate estimate (just like any online marketer would do).

If I was running BP’s reputation management / damage limitation exercise online, I’d currently be looking at influencing the organic search results using social media, paid links (dodgy ground) and content generation – amongst other seo tactics & tools. If people are getting concerned about the ethics of ppc – how would they react to that! Needless to say, if I was doing that, I’d be doing it discretely, but then isn’t that the essence of online reputation management?

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