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Our secret ingredient - Soylent Green
As the blog title indicates, and assuming you’re up on your 1970’s sci-fi movies, the key ingredient in our business is people. The team we’ve assembled including those that work in our Cherry Hill, NJ office and the external team members we can call into action, enable us to keep our clients happy. The tools of our trade are just that tools. Knowing which paint brush Picasso used won’t make you a great painter, and knowing which tools we use won’t turn you into marketing & design savants.
We attribute our success (which is really the success of our clients) to the fact that every member of our team genuinely cares and is passionate about what they do. And the tools are only as capable as the people using them. And since our secret is Soylent Green I’m comfortable revealing the tools we use to help our clients succeed. To our clients, these aren’t secrets any way.
1) Apple Computer
No revelation here, like any other design studio you enter, our predominant computer platform is Apple Computer. It’s the de facto standard because the computer fades away and allows you to get things done. Yes, we have a few PCs in the office, for developing and testing websites - but that’s it really. We even have the first Apple Mac Plus purchased in 1988 sitting in our lobby - and the last time we checked - it still booted.
2) Adobe Creative Suite
While our allegiance to Adobe wavers as does Adobe’s commitment to Apple, the fact of the matter is, there is no comparison to the power that Adobe offers and bundles together in their various creative suites. Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and even Dreamweaver still offer unrivaled capabilities and ease of use.
3) Storage & Backup
Our file server is a tower PowerMac Quad core with RAID5 built-in. An external 4TB drive is used by TimeMachine to backup the internal files even though it’s RAID5. A PC Server holds a DDS4 DAT drive and runs Retrospect Multi-Server. It backs up all working project files to DAT Tapes and performs a daily incremental backup of all the workstations and our file server. The daily backup is kept on a LaCie external RAID drive. We also use to do incremental tape backup too - but it became ridiculous when we crossed the 10 tape requirement. Yes, the DAT tape is an old, out-of-date tape storage medium - but we have so many legacy files we keep it going. We’ve examined new tape carousels - but have never been ready. Now, it seems, we’ll probably skip it all together - the cloud is the new off-site backup solution. We’re currently evaluating several solutions - perhaps I’ll update this later when we decide.
4) Output & Proofing
I always liked Tektronix and when they were bought by Xerox I became a Xerox guy. Currently we have a Xerox 7760 color laser with duplex capabilities. We also have an old Xerox 790, but we can’t get supplies for it anymore which is a shame. Epson is my other output favorite. We have an Epson 4800 and Epson 7800 for proofing. They’re both run by ColorBurst RIP software which has been terrific at handling all we can throw at it usually.
5) Project Management & Time Tracking
A quick check of our early blog posts will reveal our choice. We use MyIntervals.com for project & time management. It continues to improve and does 95% of what we want and need - and it’s rock solid performance and reliability has proven to be terrific. It also has a mobile version so we can track our time at meetings on our iPhones.
6) Sharing Files
Dropbox.com is our favorite tool around here. It’s simple to use and easy to share files with clients, printers, etc. We’ve been big fans since its debut and continue to hope it improves. It’s replaced FTP for us - we simply say “we’ll dropbox it to you” and we send clients or vendors a link to the file in dropbox. It’s remarkably easy.
7) Rackspace & Cloudsites
We ran our our servers for a while, email, web, database. And while it was a learning experience, the most important lesson it taught us was - we don’t want to run our own servers. Eventually we migrated to Rackspace and utilized dedicate servers for a time. But then, as cloud computing matured, we fell in love with Rackspace’s Cloudsites. The cloud based hosting platform allows us to do our development work for ASP, ASP.NET or PHP with ease. And once the dev work is done - hosting the live site is simple too. You can setup each client with their own admin access and even resell the service - we do - but we also tell each client that if they want - they can sign-up for their own cloudsite account for $150/month. It’s their choice.
8) Email Marketing
CampaignMonitor.com is hands down the easiest solution and most flexible we’ve found. You can create templates for clients so they have the power to send emails themselves or you can “import” web pages or files directly from your computer if you need a special custom email. Emails can be setup to automatically tag links with Google Analytics and Twitter and Facebook can now be added to emails too. Sure, Campaignmonitor is meant for designers to resell - but again - we tell clients they can setup their own account or run under ours. Again, it’s their choice.
9) Social Media Marketing
As clients asked us to do more and more with social media we started to evaluate options that would let us enter “copy” once and post it to lots of places. Sendible.com was the solution we gravitated towards. It allows you to take a social media post and distribute it to lots of different services: Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr, and lots of others. It offers general reporting on activity and is simple to use.
10) Search Engine Optimization (monitoring)
There are lots of tools to choose from, including great online options such as SEOMOZ.org, but we started using Caphyon’s Advanced Web Ranking a long time ago - and with each update it gets better and better. It’s available in several versions and is relatively inexpensive to get started using. It provides good trackability of SEO success.
Jun 07, 2011
Additional Posts You May Find Interesting:
We're not a good fit for everyone... but that's OK.
We work with large and small companies, but sometimes budgets, schedules, or differences get in the way. There's always the next one.
We produce results quickly and long-term.
We're not miracle workers, but we've been known to perform a little magic and help your businesses take off. And we keep working hard.
What our clients say about us means a lot.
Our biggest reward is when our clients tell us we've done a good job and thank us for it. And then when they hire us again and again.
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