Shopping Cart Affiliate Programs: Not Just for the Shop Owners

It feels at times like I’ve covered all the niches and sub-niches there are, but something catches my attention, or in this case, someone says it outright, and voilà! Another niche to look into and write about.

Such is the case for this week’s Niche of the Week.

I was staring at a blank Word doc, thinking about what to write for the coming week’s NOTW, when another Affilorama staff member, Melissa, bless her, says to me: Have you done a feature on shopping cart affiliate programs? (Editor’s note: Hi folks! I’m Melissa.)

I hadn’t, but here it is now. Grin.

Shopping carts aren’t just the carts we push around at the store. They also include the electronic setups where the items we want to buy from an online store are placed until we “check out” and pay. Shopping carts are essential if you want to sell anything online, making them a crucial e-commerce tool.

E-commerce covers business-to-business marketing, online shopping and online marketplaces. It is a multimillion-dollar industry that continues to grow year after year. It’s easier than ever for someone to set up an online shop and start selling. You don’t even need a significant amount of startup capital thanks to dropshipping.

This has given rise to various e-commerce platforms that offer shopping carts, buy now buttons, store hosting, and various tracking for inventory and sales — in short, everything you need to set up an online store.

If you already run a successful online shop, or you’ve always wanted to run one, you can use these affiliate programs to boost your income.

Keywords: All About Shopping Carts

There’s a decent amount of competition in this niche, as seen in the Competition column in our keyword research results. The obvious target keywords are “shopping cart,” “shopping cart software,” and the like. All of them have high monthly search values alongside equally high competition.

Keywords in these niche are mostly keywords with buyer intent: “best shopping cart,” “ecommerce packages,” and “get shopping cart.” You’ll also see interest in “free” keywords, like “free shopping cart.” They have good monthly search values, but there’s not so many of them in this niche compared to others. Probably because there aren’t that many free shopping carts available.

You’re going to need to dig a bit deeper to get some viable keywords in this niche. Ubersuggest.org can give you good variations. However, you should really consider related keywords that you can write about in blog posts and articles, like “setting up your online store,” “successful online business.” or “what you need for your online store.” These are keywords that are related to the general e-commerce niche, but you can write an article about them that includes and refers to shopping carts. They will also help establish you as an expert, leading your readers to trust you.

Shopping Cart Affiliate Programs

As always, I checked on ClickBank’s Marketplace first before searching online. There were no shopping cart affiliate programs. However, I did come across an interesting WordPress theme that will turn your site to an e-commerce website. It’s related to what I’m looking for, but not related enough to include here.

So, I went online yet again to look for shopping cart affiliate programs. Some of the good ones re as follows :

Shopping Cart Depot

Shopping Cart Depot offers a whole slew of services that helps online store owners run their businesses. The shopping carts are designed to help you sell not just physical goods but also services and digital products. That means the site has tools for recurring billing and subscriptions, as well as inventory management.

The affiliate program pays affiliates 10% commission on all referred customers. Just sign up on Shopping Cart Depot’s affiliate page to join.

E-junkie

 

Some of you may have heard of E-junkie: It’s an affiliate network similar to ClickBank. You can sign up as an affiliate and promote the products on the network.

Like ClickBank, the site offer e-commerce solutions such as shopping carts and buy now buttons. You can promote E-junkie and get 20% recurring commission for up to one year of the referred user’s membership.

X-Cart

X-Cart provides small and large businesses alike with e-commerce solutions ranging from an SEO-friendly catalog, to a newsletter feature for marketing. It’s like a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs looking for a good e-commerce package.

X-Cart manages its own affiliate network and pays affiliates 15% recurring commission for each customer referred that signs up for the program.

Shopify

Shopify is a popular e-commerce provider. On top of shopping carts, the site offers store design templates, online marketing tools (including a Buy on Facebook feature), web hosting, analytics, and a lot more.

Shopify affiliates can earn money two ways: first, you can opt for a 20% recurring commission for each customer you refer who signs up for the service. That’s 20% of the bill — including transactions. That’s more than $35 per month for each customer. The alternative is an upfront payment of 200% of the customer’s subscription fee, or up to $358 per sale.

CS-Cart provides a comprehensive shopping cart package, including an eBay add-on and a cloud storage option. The site also offers multi-vendor software for the daring entrepreneurs who want to create their own marketplaces.

BlueSnap manages CS-Cart’s affiliate program. After signing up with BlueSnap, you can start promoting CS-Cart and earn 15% for each license purchased through your affiliate link.

Shopping for Links

Link building is challenging, but it’s a crucial step in getting traffic to your site. Knowing the various link building methods, and having a link building strategy in place helps a lot in transitioning from site building to traffic generation. Make sure to have at least a rough draft of your plan before you build the site so that when the time comes for building links, you won’t get stuck.

Content Strategy

Long gone are the days when an e-commerce store could just stick up some product descriptions and call it done. If you want your online store to thrive, you need to think about content — even before you start thinking about link building.

Content strategy is about planning and managing the content you publish on your site. You can’t just sit down and write something when the mood strikes you. If you want successful content that turns readers into loyal customers, then you need to do proper research on your topic, be creative on how you present your content , and publish regularly. You can do blog posts, videos, and even infographics related to trends in your niche, shopping guides to help people select products, information about sales promotions, and of course, information about shopping carts and e-commerce software. Then, you can spread your content via email newsletters and social media to help get the word out and encourage people to share links back to your site.

Link Indexing

This is an oft-forgotten link building method, probably because you don’t really have to do it often. You can gather the backlinks you’ve created, and after a certain point, run them through sites link Pingler.com and get them all indexed.

Don’t let any good backlinks you’ve made sit and wait to get indexed. You can help speed up the process, which means you might see changes in your search engine results sooner than later.

Press Releases

Businesses often have special offers to help increase sales. They also have product launches, and other sales events. You can write press releases sharing these information, with a link going back to your site. These backlinks have an advantage in that they’ll bring consumers eager to buy right to your site.

Shopping Cart Affiliate Programs: In the Bag or Back on the Shelf?

Shopping cart affiliate programs go in the bag. Definitely! The commission might not seem a lot, but e-commerce packages usually costs hundreds of dollars a year — and sometimes more than $100 a month! A 10% commission for a $300 package gets you $30. Some of the commission are recurring, too, so you earn as long as the member you referred is subscribed to the service. Give your customers some good resources to help them thrive and you’ll have commissions rolling in for a while.

You have to watch out for the competition though. Be ready with your link building and marketing strategies. Having a solid content strategy in place is a must: High-quality, creative content can get users to your site, and get them to keep coming back.

I would recommend this niche to people new to affiliate marketing, but I would suggest they build a site that focuses on e-commerce as a whole. There’s only a few truly great shopping cart affiliate programs you can promote, and you can only write so much about them. I would include some web hosting affiliate programs too, and maybe some email marketing affiliate programs as well. These are all related to creating an online shop.

But I would start small by focusing on any of these affiliate programs, then add more later on.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Niche of the Week! Please share it using the Share buttons below.

Would you go into the shopping cart or e-commerce niche? Are there any niches you think are better than this? Leave a comment and let us know!

Affiloblueprint includes a link building strategy to help you get more traffic to your site. Check it out!

Make Handsome Profits With These 5 Craft Supplies Affiliate Programs

This is another suggestion from fellow Affilorama staff, Melissa. She is definitely on a roll, and having gone through the research for this niche, spot on in suggesting this niche. The handicrafts niche is timely, trending, and full of money-making potential. Why I hadn’t thought of doing a Niche of the Week on handicraft affiliate programs escapes me.

Meh. Just probably didn’t think anyone would make money off recommending a website to buy quilting patterns and such from.

Well, this should teach me not to underestimate any niche — because you can make money telling people where to buy craft supplies online.

I have a whole slew of statistics and numbers to show you. Let’s start with the State of the Craft Industry report by the Craft & Hobby Association:

  • 72% of crafters are women.
  • Their median age is between 35 and 44.
  • 42% have children.
  • Nearly half of crafters (47%) have 10 years of experience or more.

It makes sense, it really does. Just think of the rise of Etsy — a place for people to sell their handcrafted clothing, home decor, and art. (It’s also a marketplace for craft supplies). There are more than 20 million users on the site and 1.4 million active sellers. And the social media network Pinterest (think of it as a digital corkboard for design inspiration, craft tutorials, infographics, recipes and more) is huge, too, with its membership expected to hit 47 million people this year.

Plus, there has been a steady increase in fabric, craft and sewing supplies stores since 2008. According to Statista, the industry is now worth USD $4 billion.

I could go on and on, but I’ll let MisterArt.com sum it all up as to why the craft supplies niche is worth putting up a site for:

 

Craft Keywords

You’ll need to be creative to find good keywords to target in the craft supplies niche. There’s a good mixture of high-, mid-, and low-competition keywords in this niche, but you need to be specific to get your target market. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting traffic that may be interested in getting craft supplies online, but are not really looking for the specific craft supplies you recommend.

Try for long-tail keywords. If the affiliate program you’ll join will allow you to use brand names as keywords, then look into them. Be as specific as possible. “Craft lace” will get you high monthly search values but high-competition keywords. “black craft strip lace” will get you lower search values, but also lower competition.

You don’t really need to focus much on buyer-intent keywords in this niche. Information keywords will get you plenty of traffic to your site just the same. You can target keywords by writing reviews on specific craft supplies, which works better for some projects than others. Or, you can write about your own creations and show how you did it, then list what materials you used with your affiliate links. This works much like those food blogs where blog owners share their recipes with a link here and there of the things they used. Tutorials for crafting, especially for costume-related projects, will carry you a long way, but it should be something you have some experience with or at least feel passionate about.

The Craft Affiliate Programs

This is yet another niche that does not have any affiliate programs through ClickBank. There are a handful of craft affiliate programs in the ClickBank Marketplace, but they belong to specific crafts, not the craft supplies niche.

So, as always, I went looking for craft supplies affiliate programs online. Now, these 5 options I think best represent the diversity of affiliate programs for this niche. But they are not the only ones, and they are not necessarily the only good options. There are plenty more out there, but the ones I’ve chosen for you are a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak, when starting on this niche.

CreateForLess.com

CreateForLess.com has all the crafting supplies you need for your scrapbooking. sewing, quilting, and beading projects. Ir has a section for kid’s crafts, too. Prices range from a few dollars to about $20 or so.

Affiliates receive a 7% commission for each sale, and bulk orders can get you bigger commissions. Affiliate cookies last for 45 days and you need only apply through Commission Junction to promote CreateForLess.com.

Huge Profits from Tiny Houses Affiliate Programs

Tiny houses may be little, but they are gaining quite a large following. The people who build and live in them don’t just opt for a smaller house. They adopt a simpler lifestyle, too. And as such, there’s a very real need for information, making it perfect for affiliates!

A tiny house requires a whole lot less of a lot of things: heating, cooling, cleaning, upkeep. You can build one for around USD $20,000 on average, but you can build carefully to keep costs low or go all out. The small price tag, compared to monthly mortgage payments, is a massive convenience. That alone is reason enough to consider getting a tiny dwelling of your own.

Is the tiny house movement worth joining? Real estate investor Marko Rubel says it’s definitely a potentially lucrative pursuit in his post on the tiny house movement in Huffington Post.

I could bore you with all details on why this niche is worth going into, but I will let this infographic show you why more and more Americans are considering joining the tiny house movement.

Keywords: All Tiny

The keywords in this niche are mostly high competition. This is expected, as tiny homes are a hot trend. There are some low-competition keywords, mostly information keywords like “how to build a tiny house.” But any keyword that hints at buying a tiny house or a house plan will have high competition.

This is where good research will come in. Doing proper keyword research and really knowing your niche will help you determine which keywords to go for. You’ll also have an idea of which keywords will get you good monthly search values without encountering head-to-head competition. In the tiny house niche, keywords that deal with selecting a house, or ways to increase space in living areas, are worth looking into.

You can always go into Ubersuggest.org for variations on your keyword.

Tiny House Affiliate Programs

I found a lot of tiny house affiliate programs online in the course of my research for this niche, but I still took the time to look at ClickBank’s Marketplace, in case the site had any good ones. I always make it a point to check ClickBank because it’s still one of the easiest affiliate networks to join.

There are a handful tiny homes affiliate programs in ClickBank, but only 1 is good enough to include in this list. The rest are only mildly related to the tiny homes niche, or have little to zero commission.

Tiny House Plans

This is the most common product you’ll find on this niche. House plans are important in this niche for the same reason people want to get a tiny house: to save space. This means homeowners need to have a house plan that maximizes the available square footage.

Tiny House Plans go to the website DIYhousebuilding.com, where you will be able to select and purchase different floorplans for small homes. You get 50% for each sale.

Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed has been in the tiny house business since 1999. That was way before the tiny house boom. Back then, the homes the company built were classified as RVs. Some still are, as Tumbleweed offers options for tiny homes on wheels (also known as THoWs) as well as slab-built designs.

Tumbleweed also offers workshops. Affiliates get $10 commission for sales of books, house plans and workshops, while sales of trailers and materials get you 10%.

You can join the affiliate program through AvantLink.com.

Tiny House Design

Blog owner Michael Janzen is not an architect but a designer, as he says on his website’s About page. He has designed 12 “houses on wheels” that he sells on his website, tinyhousedesign.com.

His website is a great resource for anyone looking to build and live in their own tiny house. You get 30% commission for each sale of his house plans. You can also join Amazon’s affiliate network, and promote his other e-book on tiny house plans.

Head on to DPD to promote Tiny House Design. Or, just register through the site’s affiliate page.

Humble Homes

Humble Homes offers tiny house and modular house plans. The site also has plans for cabins and retreat houses for people who want something a bit different.

The site offers affiliates 25% commission for each sale. You need to register with E-Junkie to promote the program.

Four Lights Tiny House Company

Four Lights is similar to Tumbleweed in that it offers workshops along with the usual array of house plans.

The affiliate program is also on AvantLink.com. Affiliates enjoy 20% commission on each sale of books, e-books, workshops and house plans.

Tiny-Project.com

Tiny-Project.com, like TinyHouseDesign.com, is one man’s website devoted to living a simpler life in a tiny home he built. Alek, the site’s owner, is a “web designer by trade.” according to his About page.

He manages his own affiliate program so you can register right on the Tiny-Project.com’s affiliates page. He offers 20% commission for each sale of his construction plans.

Building A Presence

Link building and inbound marketing is challenging. There are a lot of methods to try, and it’s almost always trial-and-error when you’re first starting out. Even when you’ve built a site or two and know your way around, you can find yourself getting stumped in this area occasionally.

You may have a link-building strategy that has worked for three of your sites. That is no guarantee the same will work for your fourth site.

So, it’s always a good idea to keep up with the times. Read and learn more about current link-building and inbound marketing methods. And if you’re starting out, have a strategy ready, even while in the early stages of building your site.

Link building can creep up on you before you know it, so it’s best to have at least a rough draft of how you’ll promote the site once it’s up.

Social Media Marketing

Pinterest is a good place to share images of these lovely homes, then include your affiliate link, or a link to a relevant article on your site where your affiliate link is waiting.

You can use other social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, but Pinterest and Instagram, with their image-sharing features and millions of users, are the best venues for promoting tiny houses.

Amazon Kindle Traffic

Take your research further, or have someone do the research for you, and create a small e-book on tiny houses. It does not have to be comprehensive. Focus on a specific topic, like current design trends, or how you can further maximize space in these small dwellings.

Place your affiliate links, or links to relevant pages on your site, in the e-book and then upload it to Amazon. You can charge a small fee for each download, but giving it away for free will most likely get you more traffic to your site.

You can also use the same e-book as bait to increase your subscribers.

Link Baiting

If you have the research and know a good designer (or you are one yourself), consider creating a cool infographic about tiny houses and link back to your resources. This is not just so you have content that can easily go viral, but also so that you’ll have some “bait” for the authority sites in your niche.

Once the infographic is published, send an email to your resources and let them know you featured them. If they take the bait, then you have a high-profile site linking back to yours. If not, well, you still have that awesome content.

It doesn’t have to be an infographic, either. Any content, a well-written article, a slideshow or whiteboard video, will do for this particular method.

Tiny House Affiliate Programs: Huge Profits or Too Small for Comfort?

The tiny house movement is becoming more and more popular. it’s not just a fad; it’s a lifestyle that’s building a following, and over time, this niche could easily become an evergreen one. The commissions you could earn from the affiliate programs in this niche are substantial, too.

Whether you want to go and buy a tiny house yourself, you’re already living in one, or even if you just fancy a tiny house, This is a good niche to go into. It’s also a great way to expand a website on real estate.

There’s the usual competition, especially for a trending topic. The way around that is to have a link building and inbound marketing strategy ready. Do your research and plan out the content for your site too.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Niche of the Week. Are you interested in tiny houses? Would you live in one? Are there any niches you want featured? Don’t be shy — leave a comment and let us know!

How do you find profitable niches? Affiloblueprint has the answer!

Hands-On with Push Button SEO for WordPress

One of the coolest thing about the WordPress platform is the huge number of plugins available to make your job easier. From spam protection through to SEO (and everything inbetween) there is bound to be either a free or paid plugin available. In fact, SEO plugins are some of the most popular WordPress plugins out there. If you’ve been using WordPress for a while then you will probably have tried a few different SEO plugins – some are bad, some are good, and some are even better.

In today’s Affilorama blog post I’m going to be giving you a hands on look at one of the newest SEO plugins available. It’s called ‘Push Button SEO‘, and has been developed by a guy called Brian Johnson. What I’ll be doing in this blog post is showing you some of the different features of Push Button SEO. I’ve installed the plugin on one of my personal WordPress blogs, and deactivated any other SEO plugins I had setup previously.

At-a-glance SEO analysis

My favorite feature of Push Button SEO is it’s very simple graphical representation of how well your posts are optimized for on page SEO. You can enter the main keyword you are targeting for your post or page, and then see how well your content has been optimized for that particular keyword. This is very handy, as it means you don’t have to crunch any numbers

Let’s see an example of this in action. I’ve got a post on my blog that is targeting the keyword “gold investment guidelines”. So what I do is enter this keyword into the “Primary Keyword” field of Push Button SEO, and then I press “analyze”:

As you can see, Push Button SEO then returns a graphical representation of my on-page SEO for this post. I’ve got an orange bar that is half full; this tells me that there’s quite a bit of room for improvement here. But what if I want to get more in-depth information? To get Push Button SEO’s full page report I simply click the “Report” tab.

Even more graphical representations here in the in-depth report, which is once again useful for quickly informing you as to what needs work. I can easily see that my URL is matched properly (this is because my post is /gold-investment-guidelines – an exact match for the keyword “gold investment guidelines”)

My META Title, page headings (h1, h2, h3 tags) and internal linking are all good. My META description and outbound links are letting the page down, according to Push Button SEO. A good META description will encourage visitors to click through to my website from the search engine results, and having outbound links optimized for anchor text gives your page more credibility and weight with Google.

This kind of graphical analysis really does make proper on-page SEO much more simple and accessible. In my humble opinion, a lot of people are put off doing proper SEO because they find it confusing. With this plugin, there really is no excuse.

Suggestions, suggestions, suggestions

Take another look at that screenshot above. Beneath the fancy colored bars are a list of suggestions for simple SEO improvements. This is usually pretty simple stuff, but done correctly will have a good impact on your rankings and site optimization.

Embedding a video in your main content, for example, is always a good idea (especially if you embed a video from your own YouTube account, as this will increase your view count) as this will keep visitors on your page for longer. If you can keep people on your site for longer then your bounce rate will decrease, and a lower bounce rate will see your site being rewarded in the search engines.

Push Button SEO also offers a keyword suggestion function. This is a quick and easy way of finding additional keywords to target in your post. Having used this function quite a few times, I’ve got a feeling that the keyword suggestion tool is very similar to the free one you find on Ubersuggest.org – of course you do get the added convenience of it being built right into your WordPress editor window.

Mind your links

Internal linking is a very important part of proper on-site SEO. Building strong links throughout your website acts as a kind of glue that holds the whole thing together. You can also use internal linking to boost the ranking of a particular page (for example, if there is one page on your site that you really want to rank highly, build anchor text links from other pages to it) as well as for indexing new pages.

Push Button SEO has a useful internal linking function that allows you to assign certain pages as “SEO Targets” – pages that are the most important – and then quickly insert links when making new posts/pages. Here’s how to do it:

Let’s say that I want my “gold investment guidelines” page to become an SEO Target. From the “Links” tab of Push Button SEO, I just check the box that says “Assign as SEO Target”:

Now whenever I make or edit another post or page, I have a quick option to add an internal link to “gold investment guidelines” from within the post editor:

That’s a useful time saving feature, as you could create a list of a few pages you really want to rank well for and build lots of internal links to them. One little tip – make sure you vary the anchor text for your internal links, as this creates a more natural link profile.

You can also use Push Button SEO to add links to authority content. This is good SEO practice, as the search engines seem to reward websites that actively link to informative and authoritative pages – sometimes helping your competition out can actually be beneficial for yourself.

To do this, click the “Authority” tab and enter a keyword you want to find authority content links for (in this case I’ve searched “gold investment”)

You can preview the content snippets, and then add any authority links you choose with a simple mouse click. Adding authority content is a great way of boosting your website’s credibility, and adding to the overall user experience.

Content Curation 101

The final tab of Push Button SEO we have left to explore is the “Content” tab. From here you can pull in  images, videos, blog links, and news links and add them into your own posts. This kind of thing was made popular with Web 2.0 platforms such as Squidoo and Hubpages, where you could easily pull in other content and incorporate it into your own pages to add more value for readers.

To use the image function of Push Button SEO you will need a Flickr API key. Fortunately, you can apply for one of these for free, and all the details of how to do this are actually present in the plugin settings.

Mixing Profits with Pleasure: Baking Affiliate Programs

Two years ago, I featured cooking affiliate programs as my Niche of the Week. My cooking has improved greatly since I wrote that article, and so I have moved on to learning baking. I decided this week, while searching for yet another pastry recipe to try, that I might as well feature baking as my Niche of the Week. 2 topics, 1 round of research. Yes. Because it’s fun to multi-task. 🙂

According to AmericanBakers.org, the baking industry accounts for about USD $300 billion in total economic output. More than a million Americans were employed, directly or indirectly, within the industry.

But never mind the statistics. Just head on over to Pinterest, or Google any recipe, and you’ll find plenty of websites full of baking recipes, clever decorating ideas, and tips  to make your recipes turn out great. I’m telling you now, you’ll be competing with A LOT of other websites in this niche. A thorough research into the niche though will help you select a good angle for your site and map out a marketing strategy.

Keywords: Sharp and Piping Hot

Yes, that’s right. Forgive the mixed metaphors here, but the keywords in this niche need to be sharp, precise, on the point, like a good knife. You’ll know they are because they will be piping hot and highly competitive, too.

You can go for the general, information keywords like “baking,” “bread recipes,” or “pastry.” These are low competition keywords with good monthly search values.

How does this work then?

I suggest you get a good fusion of product-specific, buyer-intent, and informative how-to keywords. This means baking recipes and guides sprinkled with product reviews here and there.

If you find you’re running low on keyword variations, you can use Keyword Spy or Ubersuggest.org.

Baking Affiliate Programs

As you probably know, I always check ClickBank before I venture out onto the web in search of affiliate programs. The ClickBank Marketplace did not disappoint this time. I was able to find several baking affiliate programs in the MarketPlace that are worth looking into.

Keikos-Cake.com

Professional pastry chef and instructor Keiko shares her knowledge of how to create delicious baked confections through her website. She offers site members exclusive video lessons and unique recipes, too.

The recurring commission is 50% per sale.

The Macaron Master

If Keiko’s shows you how to make scrumptious bakery goodies, The Macaron Master shows you how to make delicate macarons. Their step by step guide shows you how to master macaron making and turn it into a home business.

Commission is at 35% per sale.

Turning Cupcakes Into Cash

Macarons not your thing? How about cupcakes? Turning Cupcakes Into Cash is for cupcake lovers what The Macaron Master is to macaron fans. Learn how to make cupcakes, and turn it to cash.

Unlike The Macaron Master, each sale of this product gets you 50% commission.

Cake Decorating Business Secrets

Another home business that stems from a baking skill: cake decorating. This guide to making a business out of decorating cakes offers affiliates 75% commission per sale.

The Cabinet vs the Cloud: Why You Need to Get Out of the IT Closet

Setting up a full computing system in an office can be pricey, especially for small businesses, which are always looking at ways to save money and space. If you’re fed up with paying endless IT costs, barricading your IT closet and shunning the ‘traditional’ way of doing things won’t necessarily do your business any harm thanks to the growing popularity and improving security of the Cloud, which is fast becoming a more viable means of hosting and managing data for small companies with big ideas.

Why are so many businesses still storing their systems in the IT ‘cabinet’?

Despite the many benefits to migrating to the Cloud, many people are still skeptical. It’s understandable. Sending your data to third parties and losing an element of control is off-putting, especially if you need to make sure you comply with all those pesky data protection laws. But this really shouldn’t concern you too much. These companies look after masses of data, and pride themselves on their multi-layer, military-grade encryption (for those who are interested, a more detailed explanation of what is meant by ‘military grade’ can be found here).

With the sophisticated security systems they have in place, they should do a better job of looking after your data then you would.

The real question is, why would you want to store your valuable company data in what is essentially a dark corner or cupboard in the office when your information will, in most cases, be much more secure sitting behind multiple layers of impossible-to-crack coding in the Cloud?

The cost-saving benefits offered by the Cloud

Few small businesses are blessed with the sums of money sufficient to support expensive hardware and software licenses. Just a few years ago, these budgetary restrictions might have stopped some businesses from ever starting up. At the very least, small enterprises would have had to dedicate whole rooms to servers that housed their data and powered their company. These units filled up valuable office space and incurred plenty of budget-draining servicing and maintenance costs.

The Cloud works differently. You don’t need to invest in expensive hardware to run ‘cloudware’ (a name commonly given to software that is hosted and run on a remote server). In many cases, cloudware providers won’t charge an initial start-up fee – and if they do, it’s likely to be minimal. Instead, businesses pay a far more manageable monthly subscription, saving them large sums of money, particularly in those all-important early days.

According to a recent Hurwitz white paper, the total cost of ownership for cloud-based services versus those hosted on-premise was 55% lower; add to this the fact that there are no infrastructure costs involved in running applications in the Cloud, and the potential savings really begin to stack up.

Although after a while a monthly subscription fee will eventually overtake the one-off bulk fee you’d normally pay for on-site computing but even then running costs are surprisingly high for non-Cloud services. And the convenience and scalability offered by working in the Cloud more than justifies the long-term cost: all software updates will be taken care of, you won’t need to pay to have any faulty gear replaced, and, should you want to cancel or upgrade your package, this can usually be done online with minimal hassle. Put simply, cloudware is a great choice if you want to safeguard your business against any obstacles or surprise expansions it may encounter as it grows.

Finding a compromise

For those who, even after working their way through our very convincing argument for cloud adoption, still have their concerns, this whitepaper from GFI.com is worth a read. The report suggests a ‘hybrid’ halfway home between on-premise and the cloud; a model which maximizes the strengths of both systems and presents minimal risk.

The point reiterated by this piece is that decision makers need to adapt their system to fit the needs of their business. Indeed, it’s crucial that companies aren’t swayed by trends and are not tempted to invest in cloudware purely because it’s seen as the ‘thing to do’.

Finding the right solution for your business

Moving to the Cloud is a big step, so all plans need to be strategically thought through. This is no time for knee-jerk decisions. You’ll reap more rewards in the long term if you can accurately pinpoint the area of your business that will be the most improved by a new cloud-based system, then expand your adoption from there on in.

In a nutshell, don’t blindly transfer over to the Cloud for the sake of cutting costs – make the move count.

Ultimately, the cost and deliverance benefits of moving to the Cloud should outweigh the cons, and quite simply the hassle, of setting up or retaining an on-site computing system and continuing to bury your data in your dusty, and somewhat dated, IT cabinet.

Cloud Computing: Will Amazon Web Services Retain Its Top Position In Cloud?

The last week of July witnessed Chinese internet firm Alibaba investing US$1 billion in its cloud computing division Aliyun. It had recently expressed a wish to beat Amazon in the cloud services business. Though Alibaba has a long road to tread, it is not the only competitor that Amazon has. Should the latter be worried about its future in the cloud services market.

Latest Developments in Cloud Computing Market: Security Emerges as Key Issue

Amazon Web Services has been a revenue driver for Amazon in the last two quarters. The e-commerce giant’s cloud business has led it to earn handsome quarterly profits. However, its arch rivals in the cloud services market have recently made some smart moves to bolster their businesses.

  • Microsoft plans to buy Israeli cloud-security firm Adallom: If Microsoft buys Adallom Inc. for a whopping US$320 million, it would ensure the expansion of the technology giant’s cyber-security-focused operations in Israel. Adallom offers services aimed to ensure the security of the cloud-based applications such as Google’s Google Apps, Microsoft’s Office 365, and the applications developed by Service Now Inc., and Salesforce.com Inc. By monitoring the use of cloud application by individual employees, Adallom’s services point out the anomalies as possible security breaches. The Israeli firm has an envious list of clients that includes LinkedIn, NetFlix, and SAP SE.
  • IBM gains FedRAMP approval for cloud services: IBM’s cloud-based MaaS360 is the first enterprise mobility management solution to meet all the stringent security requirements of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) Joint Authorization Board. MaaS360 offers advanced security by allowing organizations to monitor and control smartphones, tablets, PCS, and other personally-owned devices.
  • Google Offers ‘Encryption Keys’: To address the security issue, Google Compute Engine is offering a “bring your own encryption keys” feature in trial form. Though GCE already supports the AES-256-bit encryption, the current feature will let users control the keys to access data. Google has mentioned that no one would be able to access the data without obtaining access to the encryption keys.

Interestingly, Amazon Web Services had already raised the bar last year when it announced BYO encryption keys for its S3 storage service. Also, the company offers Cloud HSM to allow customers to manage their own keys.

How Does Amazon Web Services Manage to Retain Top Position in Cloud Services Market?

Amid the price war between the top cloud service providers, aggressive pricing has been the key word for Amazon to manage its stronghold in the cloud services market. Recently, Amazon Web Services massively slashed prices by 28% – 51% for its various services. Though this has made investors worry about the company’s long-term profitability, it has helped Amazon register revenue worth US$1.57 billion from its cloud services arm in the first quarter of this year.

Aggressive pricing has also helped Amazon to expand its clientele across different geographical regions. Amazon Web Services has recently opened its office in Johannesburg to tap the expanding customer base in South Africa. Adcorp and Medscheme are some of the established clients of Amazon’s cloud services in the region.

What Does the Future Hold for Amazon’s Cloud Services?

Last week of August saw Amazon and Microsoft winning a huge contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), led by IT consultant CSC. The FAA is in the process of shrinking its data centers and moving data to both Amazon’s cloud Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s cloud, Azure. This contract might lead to new opportunities for Amazon to offer its cloud services to other government agencies.

However, a growing number of players in the cloud services market will threaten the top position enjoyed by Amazon Web Services in the market so far. Further price cuts will definitely affect the company’s profitability goals in the future. Also, potential customers are increasingly becoming reluctant to outsource their operations to cloud service providers due to security threats. Under these circumstances, Amazon has to come up with innovations and strategies to protect its stronghold in the cloud services market.

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