Month: April 2018

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

Should Startups get Free Resources or Customize Help? (AWS Edition)

As more and more startups sprout from each major city in the world, the number of free and customized services to support startups also grow globally. One of the first expenses that startups will be spending on are servers. No matter what industry your startup company is in, you will need a website. So let’s review which is better: a free server or a paid customized help. As a small gift, our development team has written out FAQs about the Set Up that are not included in Amazon’s free trial. See end of the article.

I Want Freebies! (Obviously)

I love freebies

I love freebies

Freebies

This would be the obvious answer that free is the first resource that unprofitable startups would turn to because of their limit budget. When startups on a budget, words like “free” can mean a lot. You don’t know if you would like to commit to a monthly payment. This is especially true for first-time startups. There are services like Ormuco,Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that offer free startup hosting for a year. We will focus on the one we just switched to which is Amazon Web Hosting from Ormuco. We won’t go into why there was trouble with using Ormuco. It is not the place for that.

Pros

  1. This is FREE for one year for you to try unless you have multiple sites like we do. Then it could be less than 1 year.
  2. Choosing things that are well known will have a lot of documentation that is available online including this one to help you set up.

Cons

  1. They do not have anyone to help you with any support when you are on the free version (so make sure there is someone on the internal team you can trust with handling all of this)! You might not want to outsource this part. This is also attributed to if you have questions about the setup.

Should I Go for Customized Services?

This is a great option if your budget can lean this way. You can get things done faster with less headache.

How can I get set up info for Free?

As part of our company mission, we want to help as many startups save time, be more efficient and achieve their goals. If you do end up choosing the free version, here are a few questions that our internal team has answered for you!

Frequently Asked Questions (AWS Set Up for Beginners)

FAQs
  • How to move to continuous integration with code deploy?
    A: If you are using Bitbucket, this guide will help you. It basically boils down to building a series of scripts that throw your source around from bitbucket to an S3 instance to your EC2 server. If you make sure everything is running (especially the code-deploy agent). That way, it will work beautifully and save you time.
  • Getting charged on free tier/What does the free tier actually encompass?
    A: This is a big one because their support pages dance around it very much. In general, Amazon tells you what will be charged as an extra and what you’ll get for free. For example, Amazon’s free tier includes an EC2 – their cloud instances – running for  750 free hours per month for one year. Since you are billed per hour this sounds pretty straightforward… until you realize you’ll be charged for setting up any additional concurrent instances. You should set up your development environment elsewhere unless you want to pay for your free trial. In general, the free trial availability varies from service to service, so you should check, but they all should cater well enough to early-stage startups.
  • Do I need an Elastic IP?
    A: Yes! Your instance comes with an IP; but every time you stop and re-start it AWS assigns it a new IP. You have to set up an elastic IP under their services and associate it with your instance. That one will persist restarts, so you should definitely assign it to your server.  You get one per instance for free
  • Which set up do I start with?
    A: We went with the free tier t2.micro EC2 and some negligible SSD storage space running Ubuntu. Simply, you pick a tier and a region. Then you name it and configure it.
  • Which region should I use?
    A: This is also a tricky one. On the one hand, at least in theory, you mitigate latency by having an instance closer to where your user base is. On the other hand, certain regions are cheaper. We don’t know exactly what the science of choosing that is. Nevertheless, us-east-2 seems to be the cheapest.
  • What if I want more?
    A: The 1 year free tier is the smallest generic one that anyone could get with just an email.

But for startup, AWS offers much more interesting free tiers though, from 1000$ to 15,000$ over 2 years, depending on your context (backed by an incubator or not, …)
Startup should try to not use just the free tier, but ask for the AWS Activate program: https://aws.amazon.com/activate/

1) https://aws.amazon.com/free/  –  The free-tier central page, which gives information on a plan by plan/product by product basis, notably “what’s covered exactly by the time-bound free tiers, what’s covered by the lifetime (renewed monthly) free tiers, like DynamoDB or Lambda” etc.

2) https://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html – The official cost calculator  where you can include/exclude the 1- year free tier

For more great information about AWS, here is a Medium article from another user: Bootstrap to Billions on AWS. Enjoy!

Share this:
Posted by VenturX in Blog, 0 comments
15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

Employee engagement is more than a buzzword.

Time and time again, studies have found that higher employee engagement rates contribute to greater productivity and with it, profitability. According to the Gallup State of the American Workplace Report companies were indicated to also experience 37% less absenteeism and 90% less turnover.

So, why do so few small businesses invest in employee engagement? Three words: budget, budget, and budget. With limited resources, it’s easy to see why investing in employee engagement tends to dwell on the bottom of SMB to-do lists. But here’s the good news. There are many low-cost ways for small businesses to increase employee engagement, and with it, foster a happy and healthy work environment.

1. Host a Brown Bag Presentation

lunch

Often used for training or information sessions, a brown bag is an employee-hosted casual meeting during lunch with a short presentation on a topic that usually relates to the business. Participants bring their lunches, listen in, and ask questions. Learning from a fellow co-worker versus reading a 60-page PDF is certainly optimal, and far more memorable.

2. Take a Half Day and Hang Out

bubble soccer

Friday is known to be the least productive day of the week. The work slows down, people slip off to happy hour, and slam their computers shut at 3:00. Once in a while, encourage a final boost of productivity by offering a half day and then afterwards getting the team together for an outdoor event. This can be anything from a picnic in the park to a department-vs-department sporting event to a relaxing barbeque where employees can invite friends and family.

3. Try to Complete an Escape Room

escape room

An escape room is a physical adventure game, where puzzles and riddles have to be solved using clues and other strategies to get from one room to another. Perfect for the small company, escape rooms are known for encouraging teamwork. Learning to communicate with each other and solve puzzles is a positive skill that is directly transferred to the workplace. Another plus is seeing how individuals think and come up with solutions so you know the best person to bring certain problems to.

4. Host Work Clubs

football

Ever notice how certain hobbies bring about like-minded people? There can be different work clubs for beer, fantasy football, improv, and more! They’re a great way to change the conversation from purely work to personal life, and offer an environment to develop friendships in. When co-workers are also friends, they’ll be more likely to help each other out at work, which makes working less stressful and more enjoyable. A workplace comprised of good friends consists of better communication and greater engagement as a whole, which means they’ll be sticking around for a while. The Society for Human Resources Management found that the more friends an employee has at work, the more likely they are to reject another job offer.

5. Make Onboarding and Learning Fun

trivia

Ever have a job where you’re told that the first few months are like drinking out of a firehose? It can be stressful to have to learn so much in such a short time. If you have a lot of new information for employees to learn, you can make things easier by gamifying the process. Whether you have unique terminology for your line of business, lots of stats, or case studies, there are all sorts of creative ways you can incentivize learning. Encourage competition and set up an afternoon trivia game between teams, or hand out personal quizzes and set a timer. (Don’t forget the prizes!) Once onboarding is finished, have your new employees present to the larger team to ensure they understand the rules, regulations, and processes at your business.

6. Ask for Feedback Often — and Act upon It

survey

Everyone wants to be heard. This is as true in the office as it is anywhere. Make it clear that you care and want all feedback — the good, the bad, the ugly. Then actually do something. Let your team know what you are changing or implementing based on what feedback was received. Connecting the feedback to real change makes employees feel valued and appreciated. The smaller a business is, the fewer decision makers there are. To act in the majority’s best interest, bring your employees’ voices in to help make decisions. Send out surveys on which snacks they’d like, how to utilize a currently empty room, or which brown bag topic they’d like next. Knowing one is heard and respected provides a huge incentive to stay.

7. Promote Perks That Support Physical and Mental Health

yoga

As a small business, providing great care is expensive. It also eats away at other perks you could be offering, and when 4 out of 5 employees want benefits more than a pay raise, it’s time to get with the program. Try giving a stipend each month to go to exercise classes or see a nutritionist. Employees will love the perks, be more encouraged to make healthy decisions, and feel that you really care about their well-being. Healthy employees also need less sick time, get more done, and are generally happier!

8. Offer Healthy Snacks

Snacks

More and more, employees are expecting snacks in the office. (I blame the millennials!) You can help everyone out by offering snacks that give your team energy without the sugar crash. No more digging into the receptionist’s candy bowl — make it a fruit bowl. Healthy food improves concentration, provides lasting energy, helps with digestion, and overall increases happiness levels. For snacks consider having avocados, blueberries, nuts, and other fruits to munch on.

9. Ongoing Training and Mentorship

mentor

Once onboarding is complete, that shouldn’t mark the end of learning. Employees who are consistently challenged are more engaged! Communicate with employees and find out who their mentors are. Make an effort to connect young employees with other mentors you know of to help them grow. This will help build solid work experience, and offer your employees a way to grow their skills, their network, and their careers.

10. Bring in Motivational Speakers

Tony Robbins

This idea may be skipped over more than it should be. Having a good motivational speaker can do wonders. Think about your favorite pep talk or an inspiring speech from your favorite movie. Goosebumps, right? You’d watch it on YouTube the night before your 5,000 word essay you haven’t started and bang it out. Now, imagine hearing one for real. It may sound cheesy, but motivational speakers can be genuinely inspiring, and a good story can reignite some fading embers and inspire your employees to reach farther and work harder.

11. Sip’n’paint Night Vs Hackathon (Creatives vs Brainiacs)

hackathon

Know what employees appreciate? Choices. Have activities geared more toward right-brained individuals, and activities geared more toward left-brained individuals. Then, encourage full participation at both! Each event will have different stars of the show, and give others the opportunity to try something new. Add in a little wine, and those not holding a paintbrush or clicking away can mingle and chat with others.

12. Create a Comfortable Work Space

workplace

Think about it. When your back hurts, when the sun is too bright, when the coffee machine is broken — are you really thinking about work? Make sure your employees have all the supplies they need to feel comfortable and focus for longer periods of time. Keep snacks stocked, the AC at a reasonable level, and be willing to invest in good chairs and more. Making the office feel like the home office will increase productivity and satisfaction. If you could use a time tracker to see how many hours your team spends in the office, you would agree: It’s time for better chairs.

13. SWAG

Swag

Everyone has seen the company backpacks, fleeces, and water bottles. They’re useful, memorable, and pretty cool! It’s a great way to get the word out when others see them and ask about the company, and employees can feel company pride using them. Some kind of onboarding goodie bag is a treat, and having smaller knick knacks to give away such as bottle openers and stickers are also fun for employees. Never underestimate the value of SWAG, it really is something that employees talk about and want to have.

14. Performance-based Promotions

promotion

Retention, you say? Millennials are notorious for job hopping, staying at the same company between 18 months and 3 years. Giving promotions based on performance rather than tenure can motivate employees to stick around longer if they continue to advance. Emphasizing performance will encourage more consistent communication between leaders and employees, build trust, and strengthen mutual respect. These take time and dedication to achieve, something an engaged employee won’t want to lose so soon.

15. Freedom in the Office

Working outside

In 1981, Adam Osborne invented the very first laptop, “Osborne 1”. With all the major technological advancements made to computers since, laptops are more portable and cheaper than ever before, and there should be no excuse as to why any employee shouldn’t have access to one. Being constrained to a desk for several consecutive hours has been shown to cause back pain, migraines, and dangerous blood clots. Instead, have employees freely move to rooms they can concentrate better in, stretch their legs throughout the day, and reap the benefits of a more productive, happy employee.

Investing in your employees’ happiness and education is the key to fostering employee engagement, and will ultimately benefit the both of you in the long term.

employee happiness
Share this:
Posted by VenturX, 0 comments