Big Data - A Sample Application 

Exploring Google Books

Google Books, and its associated ngram indices, represent one of the largest publicly available databases in the world. At last count, Google had scanned and indexed over 25 million books containing over 1,000,000,000,000 terms (ngrams) - roughly comparable to all of the text on all of the pages of the internet. Not only is the database impressive in its scale and availability, but in the wealth of knowledge in it about our culture over the last 200 years. 

Here are some examples of some of the insights you can gain with Google Books. These graphs show the relative occurrences in printed material of the specified words and phrases, by year, and to a good approximation reflect what people were thinking (and writing about) during this time.

Political ideologies:

 

Modes of transportation:

Family roles:

Many more examples are here.

Working with data sets this large required Google to pioneer new concepts in highly scalable parallel data processing, such as MapReduce, also known by the name of its popular implementation, Hadoop. These techniques allowed Google to break down the massive problem of indexing this vast database into manageable chunks that could be performed by many machines working in parallel. These systems and techniques are now used by many companies for big data problems, such as customer analytics and machine learning. 

 

View User Profile for Brian Conte Brian founded Fast Track with over 15 years of entrepreneurial experience and technology expertise. Brian managed the development of Microsoft's first browser in 1985 and later founded hDC, the first Windows software company. Brian ran hDC, later named Express Systems, for 10 years before selling it to WRQ in 1996, where he remained as CTO. Brian spearheaded the development of one of WRQ's most successful products, Express 2000, which generated more than $10 million in its first year. Brian holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University.
Posted by Brian Conte Tuesday, October 18, 2016 1:31:00 AM Categories: B2B big data custom development enterprise technology web development

In-House or Outsourced Web Development: Which is Better? 

There’s so much debate about which is better, between hiring in-house developers and outsourcing web development. Some business owners say that they find hiring in-house developers better than getting help from outside the company. But others think differently. This issue has left some small business owners in a quandary which can roadblock operations and threaten ROI.

in-house or outsource web developmentWhile there are many business owners raving about the benefits out of outsourcing work overseas, others see it differently. Below are significant reasons why some want to get their work done in-house.

The Benefits of Hiring-In-House Developers

  • Buy in and not Bail out: People who work within the company are likely to invest time and energy and may often share in company equity plans. This motivates them to stay as a long-term company asset.
  • Hands-on: In-house developers are aware of the various areas the business engages in and capable of offering possible solutions that an external team may not see.                        
  • Aligned with the Company’s Interests: Normally, a regular employee has a mindset aligned to the company he is working with. This means those employed in-house help in building greater revenues because they know that if the company prospers, they will likewise get their own share of success.                                  
  • Controlled Time, Activity and Quality: The company can take control of all activities, quality, and time of in-house personnel. Some business owners feel that they can cut the cost if they use inside talent as the process of requesting for skilled external resources costs more. There are companies that are blessed with outstanding teams that do not require hiring additional help.

Downsides

  • Cost: In general, in-house developers are more expensive than outsourced developers, often by a factor of two or more.
  • Hiring Woes: It’s hard and takes longer to find qualified outsourced expertise, and the longer you wait, the more frustrated you get.
  • Knowledge: Using in-house developers means building up in-house knowledge and expertise, which can take significant time and efforts.

So why do people outsource web development overseas instead of using those that are within arm’s length? Outsourcing is getting the services of consultants, an agency, or a service provider that can manage some portions of a company’s business.

Reasons for outsourcing vary; it could be cost, capacity, or it may be that the company is looking for specialized skills, special equipment a startup company has, or the business only requires limited, temporary, or seasonal resources.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Web Development

  • Special Skills, Specialized Equipment: The success of online websites depends on graphics design, PPC campaigns, website development, and many others. These require special skills and special equipment that companies outside the web development industry typically don’t have in place. These can be done by outside experts who can be tasked to do, including accounting and human resource management.
  • Scalable Capacity: With outsourcing, you only easily scale your development team to the size needed, improving throughput while streamlining costs.
  • Short-Term Commitment: Infrastructure and website upgrading, as well as graphic design are temporary, seasonal or limited needs. By outsourcing you pay for these services only when they are needed.

You may hire another set of minds with different skillsets when another need arises. Hiring short-term saves you from committing to annual salaries and benefits.

  • Lower Cost: Local developers get paid more than outsourced online workers and this is another reason why many entrepreneurs opt to outsource help. Paying half the cost to outsourced skilled individuals is a welcome idea for those who are just starting up.
  • Good Values through Competition:  With so many outsourcing contractors waiting to be tapped, skilled workers employed in these companies strive hard to outdo the others. This provides assurance to companies looking to hire experts as they would be getting the better if not the best hires to work for their cause.

Downsides

  • Availability: Demand for skilled developers has soared high in the recent years which made experts in this field harder to find. These people are so busy tending to different clients and their availability is scarce.  This calls for being resourceful at choosing service providers to catch up with your deadlines.
  • Language and Cultural Barriers: While there are so many experts from outsourcing companies, there is a great possibility that communication can be difficult. You need time to converse with them on some important aspects but at times, it is difficult to bridge the language gap. You can get help from countries that speak the same language you do.
  • Loss of Knowledge: Using outsourced developers often means knowledge is accrued and maintained outside the organization, and can be substantially lost if there is no relationship with the external development team. What your outsourced workers know cannot be shared with the team, which means lesser internal growth for the company.
  • Ramp up Time: The time between product or software development and capacity utilization may vary due to several reasons. If this happens, there is no control over implementation. So, if an outsourced company cannot deliver on time, expect a delay in your revenues.
  • Management Time: In-house workers can get familiarized with the systems they manage quickly because managing tasks on a personal basis is quite possible. Outsourcing can fail on this area as they do not come face to face with the problems themselves.
  • Greater Risk: Before deciding on outsourcing IT services, running a background check on your shortlisted companies is a good idea. Not all foreign countries have the same security protocols your country has so there is always a risk in terms of private data or intellectual property handling.

Hiring in-house developers has a number of advantages but outsourcing is often a better option for growing companies. While other businesses look at hiring in-house as more ideal, the fact remains that technical expertise and communication skills could break the tie as to what a company really needs.

Have you outsourced some parts of your web development, or other business processes? Do you prefer to have a face-to-face interaction with your employees? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

View User Profile for Brian Conte Brian founded Fast Track with over 15 years of entrepreneurial experience and technology expertise. Brian managed the development of Microsoft's first browser in 1985 and later founded hDC, the first Windows software company. Brian ran hDC, later named Express Systems, for 10 years before selling it to WRQ in 1996, where he remained as CTO. Brian spearheaded the development of one of WRQ's most successful products, Express 2000, which generated more than $10 million in its first year. Brian holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University.
Posted by Brian Conte Friday, September 16, 2016 3:33:00 PM Categories: business partnership content development custom development web development website

What is Agile Methodology? 

Agile methodology

Agile methodology is a set of tools, skills, and knowledge that is considered (collectively) as an alternative method to conventional product management and development. It is often used in software development wherein teams act and decide in response to unpredictability through iterative work sprints.


The Origin of Agile

The 1970 publication by Dr. Winston Royce entitled "Managing the Development of Large Software Systems" criticized the sequential process involved in product development.

Dr. Royce emphasized that software should not be developed like a product on an assembly line where each component is added in sequential phases, and where each phase must be completed before starting the next phase – the so-called “waterfall” approach. He opposed this phase-based approach wherein developers first gather all of the requirements, complete all of the architecture and design elements, write all the code, do all testing, and so on. Dr. Royce specifically opposed this style of process because of the lack of communication between the specific groups which complete every phase.

In waterfall methodology, teams only have a single chance to get things right. It is also not an optimized method compared to the concept of agile. Waterfall method assumes that each requirement can be identified prior to the design and coding processes. Could you tell your developers all they need to know (requirements and all elements) to include in the software before it is up and running? Or would it be easier to illustrate your idea to the development team if you could give feedback on functional software?

Why Go the Agile Way?

Using agile technology provides opportunities for your team to assess the direction of your project during the development process. This is attained through regular iterations, at the end of which, teams should present the resulting product increment. This method is described as 'incremental' and 'iterative' due to the process of repetitive shortened work cycles and the functional product they produce.
 
There are different types of agile methods that use the original principle stated in the agile manifesto. The most popular types are the following:

Scrum

Scrum specifically focuses on how to manage tasks within a team-based development setting. It is the most widely implemented agile method possibly because it is easier for IT development teams to understand and follow. Scrum is not repressive and doesn't demand loads of technical discipline unlike well-defined Agile methods. It lets the development team decide what to do and how to do it; as well as get up to speed and begin doing Agile swiftly and cost-effectively.

Scrum certification helps fulfill the objective of the Agile manifesto by encouraging collaboration, productivity, and accomplishment among team members.      

Dynamic Systems Delivery Method (DSDM)
Possibly the original agile method, DSDM was already in existence even before the term 'agile' was used and adapted in software development.  DSDM fixes cost, time and quality at the outset and uses prioritization scope into “musts”, “shoulds”, “coulds”, and “won’t haves”.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming or XP is a more thorough type of agile method which focuses on process analysis, development, and test phases through frequent releases in short development cycles intended to improve productivity and introduce checkpoints to accommodate new customer requirements.

Among the three popular types, DSDM is possibly the most comprehensive agile method, while Scrum and XP are a lot easier to implement and complementary since they deal with various aspects of software development projects and both are established on very similar concepts.

In the last decade, many industries have seen the benefits of using agile technology. Media, marketing, technology, large corporations, as well as government sectors have seen a dramatic improvement in their IT development projects and team efforts, which also provides that much-needed competitive edge.

In agile product development, project management is a little different as it relies more on the team leader's skills in coordination, communication, and facilitation with less emphasis on planning and control. However, not all projects go well with this method and it is not always the key to instant success. The key is to understand many techniques from different agile and waterfall methodologies, and pick out the best approaches that will suit a specific situation.

Agile technology, with a combination of your team's skill and experience, can help you have a more flexible approach and less documentation, more collaboration and visibility that allows for a more rewarding team experience and better products as a result.

 

View User Profile for Brian Conte Brian founded Fast Track with over 15 years of entrepreneurial experience and technology expertise. Brian managed the development of Microsoft's first browser in 1985 and later founded hDC, the first Windows software company. Brian ran hDC, later named Express Systems, for 10 years before selling it to WRQ in 1996, where he remained as CTO. Brian spearheaded the development of one of WRQ's most successful products, Express 2000, which generated more than $10 million in its first year. Brian holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University.
Posted by Brian Conte Thursday, January 21, 2016 5:08:00 PM Categories: business partnership custom development enterprise project management small business tips technology web design web development

Custom Development vs. Website Builder: What Business Owners Need to Know 

Custom web development is quite different from creating your website using a website builder.

Custom web development is quite different from creating your website using a website builder. For most people who promote a website builder, they are usually focusing on the differences in costs.

What does a web design and development firm do?

A web design and development firm provides a number of services to clients apart from design and development. These other services may include search engine optimization, online marketing, social media marketing, and content creation.

Web designers usually provide the design and artistic side which involve the visual look and feel of the website, and ergonomics. A web developer is similar to a programmer or someone who works on a website's functionality or how the site works.

A full service web design and development firm is often competent in providing these services. But it's essential to find one that caters to small and medium enterprises since they usually charge reasonably. Finding a reputable firm makes a huge difference since their team of designers and developers are vetted and committed to their clients' needs. And of course, fast custom development is a priority for these firms especially if it's a client's business necessity.

What is a website builder?

A website builder, on the other hand, is software that provides customers with a drag-and-drop user interface and hundreds of templates. Notable website builders include Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, Jimdo, IMCreator, and GoDaddy.

Website builders require a monthly fee (starting at $4 per month) and a customer can develop his own website by using the drag-and-drop interface. They've made the learning on their software quite small, so it's easy and fast to get a website.

If you need a website built for your business, it's best to take a look at the other main points that separate custom web development from website builder.

(1) Cost

Website builders usually start at $4 per month. But if you'll need to extend and add other features, you'll have to pay for them as well. Comparatively, if you'll work with an outsourced web development team, you may need to pay from $50 to $200 per hour depending on their geographic location and level of expertise.

(2) Design

Using a website builder limits your options since the company provides the design templates. A custom web design, however, may cost you from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars if you'll hire a freelance designer/developer, and upwards (a few thousand dollars) if you'll choose a web development and design company.

(3) Access

Website builders are usually owned by large companies, so it's often expected that they offer very limited access to customers. Comparatively, web development teams provide all accessible communication lines to customers. Many of them even have 24/7 access to online chats and phone calls to provide instant solutions to customers' problems.

(4) User interface

Website builders are known for using WYSWYG (what you see is what you get) drag-and-drop user interface. This is similar to a CMS (content management system) editor like that of WordPress.

Web design and development firms may or may not offer a CMS with the website they build for you. However, many of today's firms are aware that this is a necessity since business owners may need a client-facing CMS that they can use on their own (such as for blogging, posting ads, etc.).

(5) Scalability

A business website that's built by an expert web development firm is usually more scalable and extendable than one that's built by a website builder. The complexity of building a custom business website that's ready for scale and extension can only be done by an experienced firm.

Website builders are usually ideal for DIY webmasters and those who create and maintain websites for their hobbies. But if you have a business that needs more features and functionalities, it's only right to choose a web development team.

If you'd like to team up with an expert development and design firm, Fast Track development team can help you. Give us call today and let's discuss on building you a professional business website.

View User Profile for Shubhada Paranjape Shubhada worked as a team lead for the Objectstar testing group (a product of Fujitsu) for two years. Later, she was the product lead for the e-filing development and support team for two years. Shubhada then joined Brian and her husband Ajey to start and run the Fast Track India operations. She holds a Masters in Mathematics from Pune University and an advanced diploma in Computer Science. She's on Twitter as @ShubhadaPar.
Posted by Shubhada Paranjape Wednesday, May 27, 2015 1:35:00 AM Categories: custom development web development website

Website Custom Development: Why Businesses Need It and What Benefits Do They Have 

website custom development

Today's business owners understand the need for an online presence. Whether online or brick-and-mortar, it’s important to connect to its target audience in order to attract more customers.

In order for a business to have online presence, it’s important to have a website that's strategically built in terms of what it offers to consumers. Some small businesses will only have a Facebook Page and/or Twitter account. They don't have real .COM websites, but blogs hosted by either WordPress or BlogSpot.

If you haven't been able to put up a website, now is the time it. But, it should be a customized site to better represent your business. Here are some of the main reasons why your business needs a full .COM site:

  • A customized website gives your business a unique look and the design represents your brand. This may consist of a custom-made logo, color scheme, features and user-friendly interface in which a website custom development provider can do for you.
  • With your target customers in mind, you and your design/development provider can create a simple and easy to understand site structure.
  • A fast turnaround time is always possible with an outsourced web development provider. They are able to provide a dedicated team to build your site within a specific time frame, so you can provide the web pages your target customers are searching for.
  • It's less likely that you'll see a similar or duplicate site design. This allows you to give a good impression and unique experience to your site visitors.
  • You can always add and update your site's features as your business grows.

You can also save on costs since most web development companies operate online - which means you don't need to call them often via phone, no commuting or gas expenses, and their overhead costs are fairly low. The key is proper communication, so the development team knows exactly what you need and what they have to do, based on your requirements.

Among the major reasons why businesses fail to have a .COM website is the cost. However, in this day and age, it's important to have a site that caters to both the needs of the business and its customers. That's why a website custom development is the best solution to meet these needs and to make a mark in a specific industry.
    
The competitive nature of being found online is reason enough to delve into outsourced web development. The cost of having a great website is no longer too expensive even for a small business because there are many providers such as Fast Track who are offering competitive prices based on the type of work required.

In your search for website custom development provider, you'll find that there are a lot of solutions that have great features that can benefit small to medium businesses. When you’re looking for a solutions provider, look for the following:

  1. A customized website comes with custom features and design. Based on your agreement, the developer/designer will be able to match your specific needs and vision for the site.
  2. Free services included when you work with a website custom development team. These vary per provider, so make sure to ask if anything for free is included in your agreed package.
  3. A cost-effective customized website because you pay for the services rendered and not for tools - which they already have.
  4. Support services. These are likened to after-sales services which you can avail of especially in time of need.
  5. A developer that can help you meet the requirements of your business.
  6. You work together with a tenured team or individual who knows how to implement your ideas and goals for the website. This happens when there's constant communication, proper planning, and coordination.

Outsourced web development and design is the beginning of your business's online journey. Providers such as Fast Track can help to give you a better understanding of where and when to begin, and how this project can take your business to the next level. Consider these benefits and your needs when speaking to the web development team in order to achieve a smooth process throughout the project.

View User Profile for Power Site Power Site is subsidiary of Fast Track. It's a robust, customizable website solution package especially developed to help small businesses how to leverage their website as a marketing tool. Follow Power Site on Twitter as @FTPowerSite.
Posted by Power Site Thursday, March 5, 2015 6:43:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C business partnership custom development small business tips SMB web development website