What Role Does IT Play in Marketing?
Mike Norris: What’s going on guys, happy Wednesday! It’s Mike Norris here to talk to you today about the importance of IT in marketing and for that I have brought my good friend Frank Sarnelli who is our senior network administrator here at Youtech! Or, as we call him, ITelder on Slack! It was previously ITninja but he has since upgraded- so congrats on your new role!
Why don’t you give us a little bit of an overview of your domain, your realm, everything that you take control of here so all the viewers kind of know what to expect.
Overview of the Network Administrator Role
Frank Sarnelli: Yeah, sure! Hey guys. So, I mostly maintain all of the computers here obviously. Internally, anyone whoever has a problem or has a question they come ask me for help. Outside of that, I also maintain all of our clients’ websites that we host on our servers and if they host elsewhere, you know, if they need support with anything I can always hop on the call with them and take care of their issues.
Keeping things secure in house, any automation that needs to be done for redundant processes or any way to streamline our business flows. I’m the person to talk to.
Mike: Anything breaks, I go to Frank basically! So does everyone else! So, let’s talk marketing. Obviously, marketing is such a broad subject, but the IT side of marketing I think often gets overlooked and one of the most important things that we’ve come to find through our experience with our clients is site speed, can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Frank: Yeah, site speed is massively important. The biggest factor with that is going to be the content that gets downloaded to your browser, so if your website has a ton of images on it or even loads videos sometimes- there are some tools out there you can use to shrink those files down.
But, every little bit you could squeeze out of it matters. Outside of that, the other thing that can really help with the site speed is caching.
Caching, in general, means every time you request the page. So, you go to youtechagency.com it’s going to ask to grab all those assets, pull all those images, run all the code that needs to run to put everything together to build the page and download it to your browser.
Well, if nothing’s changing on the homepage you know it’s always loading the same images, always running the same code, it doesn’t need to do that every time. So, what your server will do is just grab a static version of that page and grab that file instead of running the code over and over again so it really saves on your server resources and since everything is pre-built and ready to rock it just downloads it directly to your browser.
Now, there are caveats with that though, so typically you know-
Mike: There always is, right?!
Frank: Always! Most of the time, probably the number one thing I’ll ask someone first when they come up to me and say, “Hey, I changed something on the site and I’m not seeing the change,” is clear your cache! Most times your browser will hang on to a cache file for, you know, it could be a couple of hours, could be a couple of weeks, could even be a couple of months depending on what you have it set to.
So, it’s always important to know when to clear your cache and have your settings set up to blow it away in appropriate times.
Mike: Any quick recommendation on what a good timeline is on the cache, as far as how long it should store?
Frank: Yeah, if it’s stuff that’s not really ever-changing so again, like the home page you could probably set that to be for – I think Google recommends at 90 days – or something along that time period. But if it’s a blog site like on your posts or a category page that holds a bunch of recent posts, that’s changing all the time so you might really need it for an hour or two.
Mike: Ok, that makes sense! So, once you’ve got them coming there and coming there quickly, security is always kind of the next big thing. And, with privacy laws and all that there’s a ton of data, people have credit card information floating around – how do you keep everything safe, first of all?
Frank: Yeah, I mean the originators of the internet you know, had a different name for triple W- it wasn’t worldwide web, it was wild, wild west!
Anything could happen out there on the internet, and in fact, I mean today more than ever there’s constantly a bombardment of bots out there they’re always picking and probing your website trying to find any kind of hole where they can exploit, inject code, try to break in in any way, shape or form.
So it’s super, super important to stay on top of security and make sure your site is using certificates as one of the big ones. It’s probably the easiest thing you can do to lock down your site. So, with certificates specifically talking about SSL you now the little green lock on the top left to your browser, it says, “HTTPS.” That there, all it’s doing is creating a certificate for your site so that way when your clients request content from you server, it’s all encrypted so it’s jumbled up nonsense if someone in the middle is trying to listen in on what’s going on.
So if you’re running a website that’s not using HTTPS, potentially there’s a middleman between your browser and the server you’re trying to access. They can see all your stuff in plain text and I can see exactly what Michael’s been watching or trying to download-
Mike: Nobody would want that!
Frank: Pretty much all of the internet nowadays is HTTPS and it’s super simple now. When SSL first came out, it was super expensive and only a handful of companies were able to sign off and verify, ‘yes these are legit certificates,’ and they would be you know, three hundred, four hundred dollars. But, now you can request still verified certificates, but they’re not super strong but they last for a 90 day period and they’re free!
So, what a lot of people have done now, and what we do, is we have a little robot that just checks our servers every once in awhile, every two months, and just renews all the certificates for us.
Mike: Excellent! Excellent – what about hosting? What would you say is the importance of hosting in marketing? Because from my limited marking knowledge of the hosting world, I know a lot of names get tossed around a lot, AWS being one of them, and I know that through what you’ve explained to me, they’ve got elasticity. Where if you’re a site that is getting – ah, I’ll let you explain it actually!
Frank: Yeah, there’s a lot of different ways you can host! So, it really depends on what kind of site you are planning on building and what kind of content are you going to host on it? So, if it’s just a small little personal blog site you can probably, definitely, get away with just hopping on GoDaddy going to A2 Hosting or InMotion you really don’t need anything crazy or big.
A lot of them are super simple to use and very much like, “hey I just want this, this, this, check, check, check,” and it’s built and ready to go. Where it gets more complicated with like, Youtech being a multi-client agency, we have different demands, different needs all the time for different clients. So, we need something that’s more open.
So, with a tool that’s easier to use, it’s more restrictive because you can only stay inside their framework. With AWS, you can write your own custom scripts to fire up, you know, 100 boxes that will all run this one website or 50 boxes or 1 box, you know- it all depends on how it’s set up.
So, what Mike was trying to say with elasticity, is when certain demand comes in- let’s say you know 3:00 in the middle of the night, there’s no one on your website because it’s you know, most of your customers are US based, lets say. So, your traffic is pretty low, so the amount of servers that you need to run that site can go down to like two or three. But, in primetime, let’s say your site is a restaurant, you know it’s a lunchtime restaurant, so at noon- noon to 3:00- it’s maxed out. Then, it will spawn up to 100 boxes and AWS is pricing model is very on-demand based on almost by the hour. So, even if you use 100 boxes in that period for that three hour period, you don’t need to keep 100 boxes running all the time even at 3:00 in the morning when there’s no on your site. So, that’s where you it can help you save on cost.
Mike: And, it can also help by not bottlenecking traffic-
Frank: Right, exactly!
Mike: You’re getting the benefits of all that site speed stuff we talked about previously because your server response time is as quick, is that correct?
Frank: Right, you don’t have to wait for clients to call and say, “Hey, my sites slow what the heck,” and then you know you have to hop on AWS and spawn more boxes. It can all be done automatically for you.
Mike: Yeah, nice! Any last words or anything else in regards to IT and marketing?
Frank: Yeah I mean, with elasticity, I mean it’s also super important, you know, that you have backups of everything. That’s probably the worst thing that could probably happen to you is it gets hacked and you know the host that you’re on doesn’t do automatic backups. So, the only answer you have is to kind of rebuild or you know something along those lines which is pretty terrible!
Also, a redundancy, I mean, it’s crazy to think in a world of the cloud now, everything is available. You can grab a site on demand. But, there’s a good chance that you know some natural disaster could happen and knock out a whole data set or a whole region- and if your site happens to live in that area and isn’t backed up somewhere else, it could be gone.
So, it’s also super important to make sure if you’re running in the cloud to have your site live in multiple physical locations because of natural disasters.
Mike: Wow, yeah, that’s something I never thought of
Frank: Yeah, you got hurricanes out on the east coast, fires on the west coast and hurricanes in the middle so-
Mike: Yeah, man. Well, thank you so much, Frank. This has been incredibly enlightening for me and I’m sure it’s been for other people as well! So, I appreciate your time today!
Frank: Yeah, thanks for having me!
Mike: Thanks, everyone! Happy Wednesday!