Google Drive – Spanner thrown into cloud storage works

Google finally opened up the Google online storage locker today. Or was it the day before yesterday? But then who cares. All I know is that I now have 5GB of space on Google Docs to store as much dross as my heart desires.
So what’s dropbox’s gonna do?

Over the next few days, I expect Mountainview to bring a slew of mobile apps out so we can video just anything that moves and save it right there. Oh, did I forget that Google owns YouTube. More view means more advert opportunities.

If only Nibbles, our communal doggy, can do a dance routine for me…

Getting online on shoestrings

There is no better time to get your business online than now. Nigeria is rapidly embracing the internet for business and if you have read the previous article on why you need get your business online, you would have known about the multitude of inherent benefits. Despite the opportunities, it still makes sense to proceed with measured steps. Nothing sours up an internet initiative faster than spending so much and getting little in return.

There are two major reasons to launch a business website on shoes strings. One, it makes sense to experiment with a little as possible and if things go fine, it should not be a problem to devote a larger budget for a website that does a lot more. Two, if you are running a small business there might not be enough to shell out to an IT company to string out a website.  Either way, your business could go online without asking for a bank loan.

Someone asked me the other day about the difference between getting online and having a business website. It could be confusing but I will explain: Going online is more than having a website. You have to register your domain name, have an email system and probably have a website. Having a website is part of going online.

Good results come after good plans and going online is no exception.
Deciding on what domain name could be a blood pressure inducing exercise especially when your business name is slightly generic. Most often than not, the solution would be to add qualifiers to get a passable name. For example if your business is Viva Consulting Limited, obviously,, have all been taken but and are still available.

The business must decide on the budget. Even though a shoestring is a low budget affair you still need to estimate the maximum to be spent on this experiment because the budget would have limiting effect on how elaborate the online adventure could be. However we would assume the lowest possible budget of N1,600. As low as it seems, a business could go online with full complements of email and hosting on an amount that small.

Lastly a decision would be made on what content to put online and how much interactions customers are expected to have via the website. A business could go online starting with emails alone and no content or it could go online with acres of product and service information. The best option is usually somewhere in-between.

Let us assume some facts to make going ahead easy. One the user doing this is savvy enough with a browser to use the internet and two, there is an internet connection. Furthermore, the following steps cannot be done on a mobile phone but on a proper PC or laptop (or tablet).

The first task is to decide on the domain name. Naming a domain after its business name is important, for the simple reason that when people think of your website, they will think of it by your business name and if it is your business name is also your domain name, they’ll inevitably know where to go. You can use any domain registration service, such as, to check the availability of the desired domain name but it is most likely that the coveted domain has been taken. Using variation of the business name, a passable name could be secured. However great domain names are still available under the Nigeria’s Top Level Domain (TLD) and one could easily register one on sites such as

Once a suitable domain name has been decided on, the next thing is to buy the domain name. The choice of the domain name TLD would determine how we proceed from here. If you are able to get a good domain name on the .com TLD then head over to Google Apps for Business website and select the Google Apps (free) edition.

The Google Apps for Business is a full suite of enterprise grade online applications that are designed as an integrated package for any business. It offers most Google services integrated into a coherent platform. The Google Apps (free) edition is free but with a limitation of just 10 users. This is suitable and perfect for a small business with small budget.

The Google Apps allows you to buy a domain name for just $10 a year which translates to about N1,600 when you use your Nigerian Visa or MasterCard.  The advantage of using Google Apps to pay for your domain name is that all the technical settings required are automatically preconfigured.

If your business name would be flying the Nigerian TLD then the process would be a bit longer, slightly complicated and marginally more expensive. The first step would be to register with a Nigerian registrar and the process is now as easy as registering any domain name on the internet. For example, you can register domain names with any type of Nigerian TLD on for about N2,400 a year. The registration is done 100% online using a standard ATM debit card issued by Nigerian banks. However some TLDs such as,,, etc. require documentary processes.

Once your domain is bought you will need to create a Google Apps (free) account and configure your domain to work with it. The process is a bit complicated and could take up to 24 hours to get it to work properly. However, this is not a function of the shoestrings but the method of setup.

If your business wants to have more than 10 users then the free Google Apps is not for you. The paid for editions are very expensive and does not in any way look like shoe strings. For example, it cost $50/N8,000 per user for the yearly plan which is even 5 times the cost of the domain name.

The alternative is to buy a no-frill basic hosting service. There are thousands of these on the internet that offer unlimited emails, unlimited hosting space and unlimited bandwidth for as low as $30/N4,800 a year. A note of caution though – what you pay for is what you get. You can start with them for your website but when your business is matured enough for serious online endeavors you will have to migrate to something reliable but more expensive. By then your business would have had the experience and justifications for such move.

Once your domain is registered and other settings configured. The next step is to create the content for your website. Putting content together could be hard but it is a rewarding experience, especially when your website starts to get hits and referrals on the internet. Content from brochures and proposals for customers can be reused and spruced up. Google does not support upload of web pages but has great tools to create and publish web pages. It is not as flexible as having your own hosting system but then it is free and does not cost anything to try out. Running your own hosting provides greater control but is also more complex. If you are up to it, you could use loads of available tutorials or get someone to do it for you.

Your email provider (Google or no-frills option) should also provide settings for configuring your email with your Blackberry service (if you use one) which allows dealing with business issues while on the move.

If properly done, going online will provide more upsides for your business than you can imagine. Starting small is also good. It allows you to evaluate what works and what does not. And as you get more comfortable you can start adding features that would make your business stand out.

Getting your business online

It would be interesting to know how most Nigerian businesses have survived without having websites so far. But then the reasons are not farfetched. Internet penetration in Nigeria used to be very low, so low that years before now the only way you could send an email, even business correspondences with sensitive information, would be to visit the local business center or cybercafé.

But 11 years of the telecom reforms have changed all that. Things have transformed dramatically in the last few years; recent figures released by the World Bank in 2010 showed Nigeria has at about 43 million internet users although the CEO of MainOne, Funke Opeke, put the figure at a less stratospheric 16.5 million. Even using the smaller figure, we can still ask the small to medium size business why this is not the time to have a website. After all, if all Nigerian internet users should form a nation, they would have a population more than 72% of all countries.

A business owner might question if there is a compelling reason why she needs to spend the hard-to-come-by money to put up a website and update it, which is a bigger headache than going online, when she has run a successful business so far? Absolutely! More than ever before, there are so many tangible and immediate benefits, and I will discuss some of them.

In the more developed countries, the average business website generates more business leads than any other means of advertising and Nigeria would rapidly reach that point as more citizens use the internet on a daily basis. Websites are indexed by Google and other search engines and when internet users search for information, your business website would be shown on the search results. You will be amazed at how many searches people from all corners of the globe make about products and information in Nigeria.

A business website extends its brand. Small and medium size businesses need good branding and reputation as much as bigger companies. For a small company, a well-done website can project a bigger profile and a more professional image than it actually has. This should provide leverage when trying to land a new customer.

Customers and casual readers can easily know about your company and other important information without having to work the telephone. People can contact your business using website forms and emails during your non-working hours. Your business telephone contact would also be a relief to anyone trying to call for more details than you have on the website. The opportunities are almost endless. A business with information about itself and its products and services will always trump competitors that cannot be found online.

You can effortlessly keep in touch with your customers by sending newsletters and can easily allow new ones to sign up. In fact, it is so convenient for anyone to keep in touch with your company progress by following the news items which can be posted online.

Printing and sending product information to customers is expensive and modifying the information with new product updates is no less burdensome. A website allows you to publish and update your product and service information easily and as often as you want. You can even tailor your website to allow prospective customers to interact with the information, such as configuring products to get pricing, in ways not possible with paper brochures.

By the time your business is matured enough to transition to ecommerce, sales can happen 24 hours each day to customers that could not have been reached in the ordinary course of business. If possible, you might even be able to run a business 100% online without much of a physical presence.

Nevertheless, going online can be a daunting move for the average business. Questions like what we should do; how much it will cost; who it for us will do; how we maintain this; constantly come up with no easy answer. While there are no clear-cut answers, having a business website is a whole lot easier than it used to be.

For a business that has never been online before, the first question is why should we have a website? Some of the reasons I have talked about, and countless others, would provide justifications.

So what type of website should we have? It could be so tempting to be carried away with the euphoria of having a website. Running before walking can only lead to broken bones. Without the resources and experience, it is almost impossible to have a successful big feature-rich website. So, it is better to start small and expand incrementally with sure, measured steps.

The business must also decide on a domain name – choosing an appropriate domain name could be a frustrating experience. A domain name must reflect the business name as it would be part of the brand. It must also be short and memorable because it is more difficult for customers to remember long or cryptic domain names. Decision must also be made on the Top-Level Domain to register the domain on. A Top-Level Domain, TLD, is the ending part of a website name such as .com,, .org, etc. A business domain name, as a matter of professionalism, must be registered under the appropriate TLD.

Registering a commercial business under .org (for non-profit organizations) is a professional faux pas. If the desired domain name is not available in the .com TLD, the same domain name under a would be appropriate as long as it does not infringe on any trademark.

Cost has been a big deterrent to going online for businesses trying to break even. But this has been due to ignorance. You can get your business online for as little as N1,600 a year and you could also spend millions. The electronic payments reforms in Nigeria now allows the use of the humble ATM cards (Visa, VPay and GTB MasterCard) to be used to buy domain names and hosting online without the hassles of getting an international debit/credit card.

Furthermore, there are countless IT companies that would build websites with reasonable budget without breaking the bank. You can even build and host a business website for free with Google or Yola.

A website is like a living organism; it needs constant care and attention. Leaving a business website without updates on news and products information portrays a business as badly run or clueless – the last of the impressions a business wants customers to have.

As she flew away, her wings whipped the air gently

She came on a quiet Sunday (May 19, 1946) but left on not such a quiet note. On April 7, 2012  DT Olowe was buried. A perfect example of what we should aspire to be.

She flew away serenely, never to be seen again. As her wings whipped the air gently; we the kids were supported by mortal men; those with the heart of gold.

On behalf of my siblings and extended family, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has offered support, love and a shoulder to wet with our tears.

The good Lord shall be with you all.

Ojó á jìnà sí ara. Àmín