I wrote earlier this year on how to succeed in creating a Web site for your SMB, where I elaborated on a number of practical steps that a small or medium-sized business can take to ensure the creation of a successful corporate Web site.
However, what if the downturn has left your SMB with limited budget that has to go toward site design and development? While load-balanced, dedicated servers on a fat pipe coupled with an arrangement with a Content Delivery Network like Akamai are wonderful to have for scaling, they are far from affordable.
With all the recent talk about cloud computing, let's explore some ways to leverage free cloud resources to reduce the stress on your SMB site -- and stretch your dollar.
Photos using image hosting services
I came across a popular tech enthusiast forum just last night that made use of Picasa Web Albums in a clever way. A blogger had visited a large exhibition in town recently and had come back with a huge stack of promotional brochures which he proceeded to scanned into JPGs. Rather than host the entire archive on the site -- which would have been a tremendous drain of bandwidth and resources -- the more than 200 mid-resolution JPGs (many of them were double-sided) were uploaded into a Picasa gallery. A link was created to the gallery, and regular readers were kept happy at no additional cost to the site.
Analytics using Google Analytics
This isn't so much about hosting content in the clouds as opposed to making use of the powerful cloud-hosted Google Analytics tool. I'll cover more about this topic in my next blog entry. For now, while I'm sure using server-based tools to track traffic has its own merits, is just so passe. Not only does Google Analytics give you detailed tracking statistics presented in the in the form of wonderful graphical charts, it does its magic without taking up an iota of your own computer cycles.
Videos using YouTube
In the beginning, it was unprofessional to host video content outside of your own domain. That time has now passed, and it is very common to see popular blogs and even corporate sites uploading videos over to YouTube and embedding it into their blog entries or Web page. George Ou in an IM conversation pointed out to me that videos embedded via YouTube might draw users to YouTube depending on where they click. In case you find that unacceptable, there are alternative video providers that does the same thing -- some free, some that charge for traffic.
RSS and newsletters using Feedburner
An increasing number of Internet-savvy users consume news on the Internet using RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. A simple yet effective way to offload this would be to make use of FeedBurner to host the RSS service for your site. As a bonus, FeedBurner also allows readers to "subscribe" to your site -- taking care of user verification and all -- and delivers newsletters (configurable) to your user base. In fact, I have come across popular sites that leverage FeedBurner to send out newsletters to hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Related information using Wikipedia
One final way to leverage the Cloud would be to make use of Wikipedia to host information that does not absolutely have to be on your site. An example would be pertaining to knowledge that is not central to your product or services, but which would nevertheless be beneficial for your customers to know about. While a little unorthodox, an additional benefit would be that creating relevant entries this way will mark your organization as a specialist in a particular domain and will certainly add credibility your company.
Do you have any suggestions on how you can leverage the cloud for your SMB site? If so, do feel free to post your comments and feedback below.