Search Engine madness

Lawrence Strauss, Strauss and Strauss

A long time ago in the Information Age, there was Yahoo!. Yahoo! was the work of Jerry Yang and David Filo, grad students at Stanford, and was a guide to the soon-to-be-bursting-out World Wide Web. Here is a snapshot of an early version of Yahoo!, when there were about 200,000 websites (now there are around a billion).

Yahoo! was the work of people, who spent their time looking for interesting sites on the Web and, when they found something of value, the discovered site would make the Yahoo! list, sometimes with a brief, opinionated review of what to expect on a visit. And an opinionated review is what netizens sought to deal with the voluminous web: What do the people at Yahoo! think is a good resource for any given subject?

But when the sites and the pages ballooned in the mid-’90s, it begged for developers to write software-based means to reveal the Web’s contents in a helpful way. And the engineers adapted database-sorting software to the task, authoring Lycos, Overture, Excite and Alta Vista. AOL was the most popular way to access the Internet at the time. And so it was imitated, generating what became known as “portals”. Each of those software search engines, one by one, tried to follow AOL’s model, and tried to each create a content-rich site so visitors would theoretically never have to leave1.

Google, also developed by students at Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had a different approach. Google emerged from this trend of bloated interfaces as a bare-bones search engine. Google also incorporated a different technology, Page Rank. Page Rank aided in prioritizing search results not just on the basis of the page’s content, but also on the basis of how often it is linked to by other web pages. The thinking behind this was that a good resource will be highly valued by others and so these others will naturally want to link to it on their web pages. Google uses a combination of methods to arrive at its results to a given search. And Google, so confident it would lead visitors to the right answer, included an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to take a visitor directly to the top item on the search result’s page.

Google’s technology and approach left the others in the dust … and now we are in an age in which Google is nearly the only major search engine left. And while still extant, CEO Marissa Mayer is selling Yahoo! for parts.

Today, it’s estimated that 80% of the time that we search the web, we Google.

(See comScore’s comScore Releases February 2016 US Desktop Search Engine Rankings and Search Engine Land’s Who’s Really Winning The Search War? By Eli Schwartz on 10/24/2014.) The other options include Microsoft’s successfully relaunched Live Search, now known as Bing (and on Yahoo’s site, branded as Yahoo! search), which has search engine traffic around 20% of Web searches. And there are lesser-known search engines like DuckDuckGo (although growing because of its privacy aims, it’s mostly a Bing-derived search2 and represents less than 1% of searches) and similar and even less frequently used Google-derived privacy protected search, such as at

The Business of Searching for Business

Although popularly dubbed Web 2.0 around ten years ago and 3.0 more recently3, people still use the web to do most of the same things as in the ’90s. And 70% of the time, we start with a web search (per the 2014 research of 310 million web visits by web content-creating company, Conductor, in the Nathan Safran article: Organic Search is Actually Responsible for 64% of Your Web Traffic). So search is important to businesses who want to use the web to get searchers to consider their services.

And not only is the top position potentially lucky for the Google searcher, according to a study by ad network, Chitika, that top position in the search-results page is clicked 33% of the time (from the article No. 1 position in Google Gets 33% of Search Traffic by Jessica Lee). So, no wonder there is an industry, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), to try to get pages in that top position.

As a result of the desire for the top position, there is an ongoing cat and mouse game between makers of web pages (or their SEO contractors) and search engines. The makers are the cats who want to catch that elusive mouse of top-of-page placement when someone searches using the ideas that connect to their service.

One of the first examples of this game was the infamous Meta name=’keywords’. Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the ’90s out of a desire to get useful indexing information to the search engines the Meta Tag, Keywords could contain a list of words that would help a search engine’s software robot have ready access to the important ideas on a given page4. Only problem was how quickly web-page-writers tried to stuff (aka spam) the Keywords tag with words the writer thought would make it rise to the top of the pack of search results (and I’ve seen some ridiculous things like porn words placed by an “SEO expert” in the Keywords meta tag of a retailer).

In 2002, Alta Vista’s John Glick said, “In the past we have indexed the Meta keywords tag but have found that the high incidence of keyword repetition and spam made it an unreliable indication of site content and quality.” (See the Search Engine Watch article Death of a Meta Tag by Danny Sullivan on 9/30/2002.) And Alta Vista was one of the last to support the Keyword tag.

And this game goes on today, only the venue changes. Google just announced that it is delisting or downgrading sites that have outbound links it considers illegitimate (these links were intended to boost the Page Rank of the page being linked to). In the current case bloggers were linking to sites in exchange for gifts. Google discovered the pattern of behavior and exacted penalties on the offending bloggers’ sites. (See the Search Engine Land article Google’s manual action penalty this weekend was over free product reviews by Barry Schwartz on 4/12/2016.)

Google is our (mostly) sole arbiter of the content of the voluminous web that we access by its rankings in importance (aka software-derived opinionated review). And an opinionated review is what netizens seek in order to deal with the voluminous web: What does the Google engine think is a good resource for any given subject? Which of course sounds a lot like trying to appeal to David and Jerry’s Yahoo!: Fundamentally the rules that applied to catching Yahoo’s favor are the rules that apply to winning Google’s highest ranks.

Next installment: How the Web is Won.


1Keeping visitors was valuable two ways. In lieu of a truer model, a site’s “eyeball” count was a measure by which too many web-based companies’ valuation went stratospheric. Also ad revenues were based on the traditional media-derived model of cost per impression.

2DuckDuckGo’s search is not identical to Bing in the way Yahoo’s is, as of this writing. DuckDuckGo, per its own site, claims to have its own web robot collecting information on web pages and also aggregates information from disparate sources, chiefly Bing, and uses a proprietary method to weigh the importance of information from all the sources.

3Web 2.0 was to indicate increased content coming from web users (e.g. blogs and YouTube channels). Web 3.0 is a Web-inventor, Tim Berners Lee, proposal to increase and change the nature of the web’s html language to include access to additional code and computer languages so that computers can process data in the html, it’s designed so that both humans and machines can make use of the content in a way native to each. (See the W3C standards on Semantic Web.)

4Meta Tags or Metatags are mostly hidden html content. These include a page refresh function and page-content description.

Recommended Further Reading:

  • The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle.
  • Googled: The End of the World As We Know It by Ken Auletta.

Comparing Cloud-based services (Complete Overview)

Many Cloud-based services fall into one of these categories:

  • Productivity suites – Applications that help you be more productive
  • Storage – Storing, retrieving, and synchronizing files in the Cloud
  • Backup and Recovery – Backing-up data and being able to recover it
  • Prevention – Prevent malware, typically spam and related components

Each category is represented below in its own section.

1. Productivity suites

Productivity suites

Probably the segment with the heaviest hitters, Microsoft and Google are battling for supremacy; Microsoft was late to the Cloud, but is ramping up nicely with its Cloud-services sales exceeding $1B/year.  However, Google still owns this segment with an estimated 33% to 50% of Cloud-based, productivity-suite users, mostly on the strength of its free Google Apps and Google Apps for Education, but also with paid subscriptions to Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Government.

Microsoft Office 365 Logo

Microsoft built Office 365 on its popular, desktop-based, Microsoft Office suite which includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications.  (The current versions are Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010, and Office 2013.)  Microsoft Office users will find Office 365 familiar since most versions include the Microsoft Office suite, which can be downloaded to your PC and to other compatible devices.

Office 365 consists of these primary components:

  • Exchange Online – Email, calendar, contacts, and tasks
  • SharePoint Online – Document collaboration and management
  • Lync Online – Online meetings with instant messaging and desktop sharing
  • Office Web Apps – Cloud versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote

Most versions of Office 365 also include:

  • Office suite – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • SkyDrive – Cloud storage of documents

Full-feature versions range from $96/user per year to $240/user per year.  Microsoft now offers its E1 plan free to qualifying non-profit organizations.

Google Logo

Google Apps are, and always were, Cloud-based; they did not start as applications installed onto your computer.  As such, they are easy to use and maintain and they work on a wide variety of devices, from PCs to tablets to smartphones.  On the downside, due to this setup, they have some functionality and usage limitations when compared to Microsoft Office applications.

Google Apps for Business has a “one size fits all” approach; you get all the features at $50/user per year.  Google Apps for Business includes:

  • Gmail – Email with Google-powered search
  • Calendar – Schedule meetings, share calendars, get reminders
  • Drive – Store files in the Cloud and send files to colleagues
  • Docs – Create, share, and work-on documents
  • Sheets – Manage spreadsheet data
  • Slides – Create presentations

Comparing Productivity Suites

Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Business provide desired applications that are somewhat easy to use; while Microsoft relies on its huge base of Office users to consider switching to Office 365, Google lures its users in with its free versions of Google Apps and Google Apps for Education and then provides a simple upgrade to the paid version of Google Apps for Business (or Google Apps for Government).

Basic reasons to choose Microsoft Office 365:

  • Users are familiar and comfortable with Microsoft Office interface
  • Multiple plan options exist to fit your needs and budget
  • Greater functionality within applications

Basic reasons to choose Google Apps for Business:

  • Relatively inexpensive with only one plan to select
  • Low maintenance with no updating necessary
  • Works over a wide range of devices

Get more Microsoft Office 365 versus Google Apps from our August newsletter at


2. Storage

Storage often comes in a free version with separate professional/business (paid) versions that includes advanced features.  The basic premise is that your data is stored in the Cloud – hopefully in a secure manner with sufficient redundancy – is available from any location on any device, and is synchronized between devices.

Most free versions offer these minimum features:

  • At least 2Gb of storage with synchronization across multiple computers
  • Easy access from mobile devices and PCs via downloadable client software
  • Direct access to files through a web browser
  • File sharing with other users

However, you typically must upgrade to a paid version to receive these capabilities:

  • Access control – Define and control who can access what, where, and when
  • Additional storage – Purchase extra storage once your limit is exceeded
  • Auditing – Identify and record what files are stored where and by whom
  • Integration – Integrate with other platforms (i.e.: Active Directory)
  • Security – Enable advanced encryption and security techniques

Popular services (alphabetically) include:

  • Box – 10 Gb free storage with NetSkope’s second-highest rating
  • Dropbox – 2 Gb free storage with over 200 million subscribers
  • Google Drive – 15 Gb free storage shared with Gmail and Google+ Photo
  • SkyDrive – 7 Gb free storage and integrated within Microsoft Office apps


Box ( is a Q3-2013 leader in Forrester’s “File Sync & Share Platforms”.  It offers a free version, but is built for professional use with available integration to Active Directory and LDAP, security with rotating encryption keys, access control, and auditing.

According to Netskope’s review of Cloud-based applications, Box was the second highest-scoring Cloud application, coming in the number two spot on the NetSkope Q3-2013 Cloud Report.  (Please visit Netskope’s for the complete report.)

My take:  Box is the most-comprehensive offering, but a bit more complex due to its advanced features.  It is a serious choice for those that value advanced features (access control, auditing, integration, etc.) and are willing to pay to get them.


With over 200 million users, Dropbox ( claims market leadership.  It is built upon Amazon’s S3 storage and is easy to use.  The free version offers 2 Gb, but there is a professional (Dropbox Pro) version with greater functionality (and storage) and a business version (Dropbox for Business) that offers team collaboration.  All three versions offer synchronization and file-sharing; the help screens are brief, useful, and entertaining.

My take:  Dropbox is the easiest and most-fun to use, but it has the least amount of free storage and its paid plans are a bit more expensive than others.

Google Drive

Google offers Google Drive ( as a stand-alone service or bundled within Google Apps.  The free version offers 15 Gb with synchronization among devices and sharing among peers.  It is a no-frills alternative with little glitz, just reliable storage at reasonable cost.  It is the base of Google Apps.

My take:  Google Drive has fewer doodads and the least amount of whimsy, but it is reliable and offers the greatest amount of free storage.


Microsoft offers its free version of SkyDrive ( with seven Gb plus an additional three Gb for students.  SkyDrive is an option in newer versions of Microsoft Office and integrates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing.  You can also “fetch” files from your base computer via web-browser on a remote computer.

My take:  SkyDrive offers the most for the least, although there is some buzz about slow synchronization between devices.  Its “fetch” feature is unique among these alternatives and its integration within Microsoft Office is a killer feature.


3. Backup and Recovery

Backup and Recovery automatically copies files and folders to an offsite location at periodic intervals.  It is similar to Storage, but is unique in that these files are held separately, unchanged, for the purpose of restoration (recovery) if the original files become unavailable.  Backups are typically encrypted and are somewhat resistant to malicious attacks; however, if the original files were infected before the backup process begins, the backup files will also be infected.

Recovery is the reason for backups.  The most common recovery scenarios:

  • A user changes a document and then wishes to retrieve the previous version.
  • Changes are saved to a template document, rather than creating a new file.
  • An upgrade to an application fails and corrupts its data files.
  • Access is needed to a deleted file.

Popular, Cloud-based, Backup and Recovery services include (alphabetically):

  • Carbonite – Extremely popular; starts at $59.99/year per device
  • Mozy – Also well-known with prices starting at $5.99/month for up to 50Gb
  • SOS Online Backup – Starts at $9.99/month for 100Gb; unlimited devices
  • SugarSync – More synchronization than backup starting at $7.49/month


Carbonite is automated, encrypted, and easy to use.  It is available for home users, but includes business-oriented plans.  Home-user plans are per-device; each device is priced at $59.99/year with unlimited backup.  Business plans start at $299.99/year with an unlimited number of devices.



Mozy is a subsidiary of EMC, a Fortune 500 company in Hopkinton, MA.  Like Carbonite, they offer both home and business packages.

There is a free version, but most MozyHome plans start at $5.99/month per device with up to 50Gb. The business option, MozyPro, starts at $19.99/month for unlimited devices up to 50Gb; $26.98/month with servers.


SOS Online Backup

Plans from SOS Online Backup do not restrict the number of devices, but their base plan is restricted to a single user starting at $9.99/month.  Plans that include unlimited devices and unlimited users start at $99.99/month and include monitoring, password encryption, and phone support.



SugarSync is more of a folder-synchronization service than a backup service; it synchronizes a folder across multiple devices.  SugarSync is user-based with plans starting at $7.49/month per user; multi-user plans start at $55/month.

My take:  Of these four options, we hear more about Carbonite and Mozy than SOS Online Backup or SugarSync.  Although SugarSync is popular, it is not as good a backup and restore solution as the other three.

Mozy has the deepest pockets with a large corporate partner, but Carbonite has, at this time, greater momentum.  The monitoring and telephone support included with SOS Online Backup makes it attractive.

Visit for an extensive review of 40 backup services by Tim Fisher at  Another comparison at ranks 10 services from one through 10.

Bryley Systems offers our Backup/Disaster Recovery (BU/DR) service for servers; it is a monitored, secure, service hosted within our data-center in Hudson, MA with onsite appliance included.  Please visit for details.


4. Prevention

Prevention is a necessary evil; it can slow end-point performance (since these tools are using computing resources to constantly scan for problems), but it is critical in keeping end-users safe from external threats like spam, malware, and viruses.  Cloud-oriented Prevention includes:

  • Email protection – Control spam plus encrypt and archive emails
  • End-point security – Secure end-user computers against attacks
  • Web filtering – Prevent unauthorized access to undesired websites

Email protection is wholly Cloud-based, but end-point security tools usually deploy an application onto the end-user computer while web filtering requires at least an adjustment to (ie: setup a proxy server), or an application installed on, the end-user computer.  We’ll cover only Cloud-based, email protection in this article.

Key issues for email-protection options include:

  • Administration – Easy setup and enforcement
  • Effectiveness – Works reliably and consistently
  • End-user interface – Intuitive, secure, and easy-to-use
  • Granularity – Allows multi-level policies and permissions

Popular, email-protection options (alphabetically) include:

  • Google Message Secure (formerly Postini; now bundled within Google Apps)
  • McAfee® (now Intel Security) SaaS Email Prevention and Continuity
  • Microsoft® Exchange Online Protection
  • ProofPointEssentials Business
  • Symantec Email (formerly MessageLabs)

Google Message Secure (GMS)

GMS was one of the best products at an excellent price of $12/user per year.  In 2013, Google discontinued GMS as a stand-alone service and bundled it within Google Apps.  Former GMS clients will retain the $12 pricing for a period of time, but will eventually pay the Google Apps for Business price of $50/user per year.

Visit for details on this transition.

McAfee SaaS Email Prevention and Continuity (MEPC)

Intel is currently rebranding McAfee within Intel Security; no timeframe on the conversion, but the McAfee logo (a red “M” on a shield) will remain associated with these services.

MEPC prevents spam, but also includes Continuity, which allows end-users to retrieve and send email even if their email service is unavailable; once the email service becomes available, all emails received and sent via MEPC are then resynchronized with the email service.  The price is $27/user per year.

McAfee also offers email encryption and email archiving.  (Please visit our site at for details on MEPC and related offerings.)

Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP)

Microsoft provides email protection and archiving within its Office 365 suite, but also offers it as a stand–alone service under EOP, although it is directed solely at Exchange-based email.  In addition to spam and malware prevention, you can establish content and policy-based filtering to ensure outbound emails do not violate company standards.  Price is $12/user per year.

Visit for details on EOP.  Or, visit our site for information on

Office 365 at

Proofpoint Essentials Business

Proofpoint Essentials Business is a comprehensive offering that classifies security threats and then manages against their intrusion.  Outbound filtering, content filtering, and 14-day spooling are included; archiving is also available.  Proofpoint Essentials Business starts at $26.40/user per year.

Please visit for more information.

Symantec Email

Symantec recently acquired MessageLabs spam filter and rebranded it within their services under Email  It protects against targeted attacks, malware, spam, and the like using proprietary Skeptic technologies.  Content filtering is included; email encryption is available.

See for details.


For more information, please email or call us at 978.562.6077.