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Is Mauritius a Paradise Or a Dead Dodo?

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Both Charles Darwin and Mark Twain referred to Mauritius as a heaven on earth upon arriving on its shores. Both great men visited the island in the 19th century, yet they’re quoted again and again by the tourism industry over a hundred years later. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as paradise on earth, and setting the bar that high will invariably leave you disappointed. If your destination answers your basic whims, you have to accept gracefully the imperfections you’re sure to encounter.

My laundry list of things I require for a country as a place to live: nice beaches, a warm climate, a respectable amount of modern infrastructure, and a residency permit that’s fairly easy to obtain. Mauritius seemed to pass the litmus test for all my main criteria, although in retrospect the information I could gather off the Internet painted a far too rosy picture of my future home. For all I know, I might be the first person to deviate from the formula!

Just to situate ourselves, Mauritius is an independent African democratic nation in the Indian Ocean comprised of a large main island named Mauritius, several uninhabited islets and Rodrigues, a medium-sized island 350 miles (560 km) to the east. The nearest country is Madagascar, which lies 500 miles (805km) to the west of the main island. To the south lies La Réunion, a French island territory. Mauritius is a popular destination for Europeans, with many flights out of London and Paris in particular. It’s not so well known in the rest of the world, and your travel path will be quite a bit longer, typically connecting through a major European airport, Johannesburg, Dubai, or Kuala Lumpur. This is a rather overpopulated little country, with about 1.3 million people, almost all crammed on the main island. Port Louis, the capital and biggest city, is a dirty town, with crumbling old buildings rubbing shoulders with the gleaming bank towers (Mauritius is an offshore banking haven). The best beaches are found on the western coast, north of the capital. The island is a mix of plains and mountains, with a central plateau. The greatest number of people are concentrated on this plateau, where the climate is several degrees cooler and a lot wetter, in a series of town stretching along the main highway that leads from Port Louis to the only airport on the eastern side of the isle.

I came to Mauritius under the Board of Investment (BOI) program that grants three year residence permits to professionals, the self-employed and investors. There’s a fair bit of paperwork and you need to undergo a full medical inspection as well as put up a 50,000 rupee (one US dollar is worth about 33.8 rupees today) guarantee at a local bank (plus 10,000 per dependent). The application itself costs 10,000 rupees and isn’t refundable, but if you follow all the steps to the letter, there shouldn’t be any problem getting your resident status quickly, as your income while you live in Mauritius is more important to them than your prior history. You’ll have to meet the minimum income and/or investment requirements for your class of permit in the first year or your resident status will be rescinded. The goals they set aren’t lofty, fortunately.

Mauritius has a rather sad history. It was uninhabited until the Dutch installed themselves in the 17th century. They abandoned the colony in 1710, but not before exterminating the poor dodos, the flightless birds that appear in effigy everywhere in present day Mauritius. It was only five years later that the French claimed the territory, bringing with them a large number of African slaves to cultivate sugar cane. In the early 19th century, Mauritius become an important pirate base used for harassing British ships in the Indian Ocean. The English put an end to the corsairs, slavery and French rule by invading Mauritius in 1810. It was the English who brought in large numbers of indentured workers from the Indian colonies and whose descendants now form the bulk of the Mauritian population and dominate local politics. French and English are both official languages today, but Creole, a French patois, is what everybody speaks. Many Indo-Mauritians also chatter away in Bhojpuri, a dialect from their ancestral country. The Indian culture is omnipresent in Mauritius, manifesting itself in the saris commonly worn by women, the numerous Hindu temples, and the Mauritian food. Afro-Mauritians represent about 35 percent of the population and are concentrated in the southern part of the main island and are the dominant race on Rodrigues. Blacks contributed many key cultural icons, such as the Creole language, cuisine and the emblematic Sega music and dance. However, blacks don’t share equally in the country’s wealth, which has the highest per capita income in Africa. Mauritius is still a poor country although extreme poverty by no means as extensive as it is in every other African country.

Wanting to live near the best beaches, I rented a furnished townhouse in Mon Choisy, an area of the Pamplemousses district adjacent to Trou aux biches in the northwest corner of the island. The beaches here are mostly of white sand and shaded by the slender filao trees. The warm sea is shallow all the way to the barrier reef that surrounds most of the island and breaks-up the big ocean swells. Sadly, almost all the coral reef is bleached, a desolate underwater spectacle which ironically gives the ocean that turquoise color that tourists so covet. Despite this, there’s still plenty of sea life in the remaining small patches of coral and in the sea grasses. I snorkeled almost daily on one of the more quiet parts of the beach at Trou aux Biches, coming across everything from a large sea turtle to an octopus. I also had close encounters with the many commercial water skiing and hang gliding boats that speed close to shore, oblivious of the many tourists bobbing in the water. Complaining to the Mauritian coast guard won’t do you any good, as they deny there’s any problem.

While Mon Choisy looks idyllic thanks to the large number of gaily painted new buildings, it turns into a darkened cemetery at night, as there’s almost no street lighting and virtually no people outside of the peak period which coincides with winter in Europe. It wasn’t long before my wife and I had our first encounter with the modern pirates of Mauritius. Thieves slipped through a window into our home at night after we’d retired to our bedroom. I was alerted by a noise and made my way halfway down the steps before I came to my senses and retreated to the second floor. Apparently that was enough to scare the thieves, who slipped away into the night with my wife’s laptop computer which she had left on the dining room table. It was in the days that followed that I discovered that virtually all foreigners residing in the area had their homes violated by robbers, often four or five times, despite resorting to guard dogs, flood lights and alarm systems. Soon afterward I found myself part of a neighborhood watch, patrolling in complete darkness with a Mauritian neighbor, sometimes at two or three in the morning! It wasn’t just paranoia however, as one night someone had jumped onto our balcony, and was forced to flee when we came running, alerted by my wife’s phone call. “Stealing is also a job” commented Subash, a Mauritian cafe owner in the neighborhood, making crime sound like an institution.

Sugar cane still drives the island’s economy, and pyromania. On any given day, there’s huge columns of smoke rising from cane fields being prepared for harvest by flash burning. Ash was continuously blowing into our home, and I’ll never forget the day when Grand Baie, a touristic town, was completely obscured by dense smoke. Mauritians don’t just burn sugar cane, but also use fire to clear plots of land of trees and debris. Garbage is also a bit of a problem, as it is in many poor countries. Any given Sunday, ordinary Mauritians descend in hordes from the Port Louis or the plateau cities and camp out on the beaches, especially that of Mon Choisy. Sadly, when Monday rolls around, copious amounts of trash sully the beach and the ocean. Ordinary people aren’t the only polluters, as construction companies, some of them with European partners, do their fare share of ecological damage on this fair isle. I waged a little war with one such consortium that was constructing luxury condominiums on the Mon Choisy waterfront. Several times a day, tractors would dump heaps of refuse from the site onto a large empty lot surrounded by expensive homes and apartments, just around the corner from our own abode. It soon became a mountain chain of refuse. When I asked one of their foreman why they weren’t carting away their debris to a more appropriate location, namely a legal dump, he casually responded that they had the lot owner’s permission to store it there. I placed a few calls and eventually connected with the environmental police, who promised to intervene. They soon came around and ordered the miscreants to move their trash. They complied, but the victory was short lived, as they just piled it up along the coastal road in front of the project.

Mauritius does have a lot of good things, mind you. Of course, the sea, the world famous five star hotels, and the tropical weather are a big part of the attraction, but inland there’s a few things you’re not likely to encounter elsewhere. Despite the excessively large population, there’s a sizable area of forest populated with monkeys (non-native) on the central plateau, interspersed with the water reservoirs that quench the island’s thirst. The obligatory itinerary includes a vista of the Black River Gorge which appears too immense to be found on a mere island, the Alexandra river falls and Chamarel waterfall. The latter is a picture perfect cascade that drops into a deep rounded crater. What most impressed me, however, was the Lac Sacré (Sacred Lake) which local Hindus believe contains water from the Ganges. The lake is surrounded by colorful temples and statues of the Gods and swarms of worshipers. Just over a hill is a towering golden statue of Shiva. The Hindu faith prizes visual aesthetics, and there’s many temples spread-out across the island, all worth visiting for an appreciation of the intricate detail and vivid colors of the reliefs found inside and out. There’s no problem for tourists to enter Hindu temples and snap pictures, but be more discreet if you decide to visit any Muslim places of worship, including the large green and white Jummah Mosque in Port Louis. The rocky southern tip of the island has a few attractions of its own, including the breathtaking view driving along the coastal road until you get to Le Gris gris, a high cliff where you can look down at 40 foot waves crashing against the rocks. Another interesting stop is the beach at Le Morne Brabant, an ominous rocky mount sitting in the middle of a point of land shaped like a hammerhead shark head. Fugitive slaves once hid atop that rock and leapt to their deaths to escape capture by posses.

Even filthy Port Louis has a few worthy attractions. One of them is the intact French citadel overlooking the city. Another is the Caudan, a waterfront revitalization project that includes a shopping concourse, casino, and a luxury hotel. Just across the road from the Caudan is the Place d’Armes, with its rows of high palm trees and monuments, ending at the statue of Queen Victoria and a grand old civic building. Then there’s the previously mentioned Jummah Mosque and a variety of Hindu temples. If you decide to visit the bustling market, also near the Caudan, mind the pickpockets. Also, anywhere on the island, be weary of two lads on a motorcycle, as the fellow at the back may very well be the one that grabs your shoulder bag as they speed by. As Subash pointed-out, larceny is a living!

Taxis tend to be expensive in Mauritius, so many travelers and expatriates opt for the grimy but cheap buses that crisscross the island. Word to the wise: wait till the bus comes to a full stop before getting up from your seat, because Mauritian transit drivers like to slam on the brakes and send you sprawling! There’s also a wide variety of tour companies offering day long excursions by mini van, many of which leave from Grand Baie. The rates seem like a bargain, but know that the operators are paid by local businesses to bring them captive customers. One tour we took dragged us to a half dozen shops in the plateau towns before arriving just before closing time at Casela, a zoo and the main attraction. The list of stops was quite creative, calling a high priced jewelry store a “precious gem museum”. The visit to the miniature boat factory and shop in Floreal, however, was very interesting. Mauritius has a lot of spectacular sites to offer, yet the tourism industry insists on pushing some of the lamest so-called attractions. For example, a mandatory stop is the small volcano crater Trou aux Cerfs in Curepipe, which looks nothing like a volcano crater thanks to the heavy vegetation growing in it. Another is the Colored Earths, a half of a football field sized mound of volcanic sand in different shades of red and purple surrounded by a wooden walkway. Then there’s the heavily touted Ile aux Cerfs, a small island that offers a golf course, a few water sports, and a small tourist trap market. It’s nice, but the beaches and the activities at your hotel are likely better and probably cheaper or even free. One highlight of the typical Ile aux Cerfs tour is a lunch and Sega show on an isolated beach only be reached by boat. It was actually fun, however guests are expected to use the wild mangroves at the back of the dining area as toilets. Not exactly sanitary nor ecological! If you want the deserted beaches, you should head to Rodrigues, which so far has escaped the ravages of mass tourism that took its toll on the main Mauritian island.

Hotels tend to be of the all-inclusive five star kind, some of which, such as La Plantation, are world famous. Economic lodging is hard to find, unless it’s in a hostel or a hovel. One notable exception is Villa Jorico, a big beautiful bed and breakfast in Pointe Aux Sables, just south of Port Louis, where you can get a huge room with private bath for under 45 US dollars a night. There’s nothing to do in Pointe Aux Sables and the beaches are bad, so this is a location that might only serve your purposes if you have business to do in Port Louis. Buses run along the coastal road right in front of the inn. Note that if you just stayed at a luxury hotel rather than trying to live here, you might indeed come away with the impression that it’s paradise. The real Mauritius, however, isn’t a luxury hotel with beaches that are manicured to postcard perfection.

What finally killed our residency in Mauritius wasn’t the insecurity we felt after the invasion of our home. It was the water, or rather the lack of. I now realize how stupid it was before signing a lease to not have observed that all the private homes had immense water tanks (and bars on all the windows). Then again the prestigious South African real estate agency that represented the owner and charged me over 700 USD in commissions didn’t tell me that water was a rare commodity, flowing for only one hour a day during the dry season in order to provide the numerous hotels with an adequate supply. At first we suspected the reckless young pair of Australian doctors in the townhouse attached to ours were sucking the shared well dry. When the well went completely dry for two consecutive weeks and I was resorting to drawing filthy water from the pool just to flush the toilets, and we were using damp cloths to bathe ourselves, we decided this experiment could go no further. I had already invested quite a bit of money into this adventure in exotic living, and I wasn’t confident that things would get better if we stuck it out. We returned the keys to the agency, who agreed this was an exceptional situation (and kept their fees), sold the few things we had acquired, packed our bags, and left paradise!

Mauritius may be paradise, depending on which Mauritius you find yourself in!

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Important Elements of PPC Management Campaign

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Nowadays, most search marketers are complaining about the escalating level of complexity with the PPC management services. It is practically not feasible to stay up-to-date with the infinite stream of updates to AdWords search targeting. The newest AdWords feature keeps PPC management services providers so heavily occupied that they often miss out the basic pay per click best practices. Naturally, this ends up in account winds up suffering. The situation is worse for small businesses, budding entrepreneurs and busy marketing director. None of these people can learn all the newest Ad Words features and functionality on their own.

And without these updates, the idea of maintaining a clear, organized approach to PPC management services seems impossible. Current researches and analysis show that a good number of SMBs spend thousands a month on paid search and put on show advertising at every possible every ad extension. Also, they are avidly making efforts to turn on all experimental features. But unfortunately, in the race to get better and more advanced, they are missing out on basic things. Many basic requirements such as blocking and tackling negative keywords, sound use of match types, ad copy testing, and more have been neglected.

Essential to Begin a PPC Campaign

In the game of PPC management services, it is much more important to understand the basics, than starting to learn the way to build a solid methodology around it. Hence in this article, we are going to brief our readers on the basic essentials of it to help advertisers understand the right approach to begin the set up of their campaign with the list of primary sections needed to be focused on. The list includes:

  • Keyword research
  • Campaign structure
  • Free or affordable tools make your first campaign go off the ground
  • Very critical, initial bidding strategies
  • Negative keywords
  • Match types
  • PPC landing pages
  • Ad copy best practices
  • Account settings
  • Measuring results

It goes without saying that all the small business owners attempting to discover a way to collect maximum returns from AdWords should strengthen their ability to understand what makes for solid, efficient campaigns.

The PPC Campaign Maintenance

Post the launch; it is the task of maintenance that boggles your head completely. PPC management services mean much more than just measuring results and moving more and more close to increasing ROI. People often tend to get lost at this stage. The road seems foggy. This is the time when owners should go through the sessions of trouble shooting specific issues you may choose to read a good range of FAQs regarding issues. Also may learn how to make your campaign deliver improved results. Purposeful and efficient insights can be gained from the various available resources, guides and e books on PPC management services.

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Be Aware of a Common Cause of Lung Cancer

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Cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of people and often has no known cure. Environmental surroundings or lifestyle choices can contribute to some kinds of cancer. There are many people who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos without ever realizing it. The production of asbestos as a commercial insulation material began more than 125 years ago. It was only a generation after that, at the turn of the 20th century, that physicians and scientists began to make connections between asbestos exposure and lung diseases. Since then, researches have continued to learn about mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affect the pleura (a sac or lining) around the lungs and lining the chest wall. Scientists continue their research about mesothelioma.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, you can take steps to make sure that you are not putting yourself in further danger. Higher levels of exposure increase the chances of acquiring cancer. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you should consider being screened for cancer as soon as possible. It is never too early and never something that should be put off. Even if you do not have cancer, it is worth going through the screening just to be sure of it. Should you be diagnosed with an early onset of lung cancer, it is better to discover this early as more treatment options may be available.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common methods used to treat cancer. The most frequent chemotherapy technique is by injection into a vein. Depending on the type of cancer and the drug used, chemotherapy drugs can also be administered by mouth, injected into the muscle or skin, or placed directly into a body cavity which is known as intracavitary chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs may be given as single agents, but often, two or more drugs are given simultaneously in combination therapy.

As science advances, treatments for mesothelioma and other lung affiliated diseases move forward as well. In February of 2004, the FDA approved a new drug called Alimta for victims of mesothelioma. Patients treated with Alimta along with cisplatin experienced measurable improvement in their symptoms, including less pain and shortness of breath. Trials also indicate that patients who use this treatment may live up to 30 percent longer.

The more you learn about asbestos and the relation it has to cancer and other serious illnesses the less likely you are to neglect potential symptoms. If you have been exposed to asbestos, stay educated and keep current with screenings, tests and regular checkups.

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Service Scheduling Software: Improve the Appointment Process by Turning to Cloud Applications

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Ask a service provider what’s one of the most important considerations in running a successful business, and he or she is most likely to say accurate appointments. From massage therapists and chiropractors to auto service centers and pet groomers, these small business operators rely on effective and efficient appointment-setting methods to ensure a good customer experience, the best use of staff time and resources, and, ultimately, a full calendar with every available time slot taken.

The appointment-setting process seems simple enough, but in many cases it’s a tedious and time-consuming task that requires a significant amount of staff hours and resources to properly handle. This is especially true for service providers who continue to rely on traditional and outdated scheduling methods, such as booking appointments and reservations primarily over the phone and recording the details and customer contact information in a paper appointment book, file or spreadsheet.

In today’s tough economy, few businesses have the option of one or more staff members devoted entirely to answering phone calls and writing down appointment information. That’s why a growing number of service providers are turning to Web-based scheduling systems to help them improve this important process.

INTERNET CONNECTION IS ONLY REQUIREMENT

Many small business owners and operators cringe at the very mention of computers, software and technology, as thoughts of expensive installations, hardware and ongoing maintenance flood their head. Cloud technology has eliminated the need to spend a small fortune on most software programs, and now many are as easy to access and utilize as online banking, social media sites or e-mail. They function in the same manner as any other Web site. Users simply go to the Web site or online portal, log in, and access their software. Such is the case of most Web-based appointment-scheduling software applications, which only require an Internet connection to implement.

The Web accessibility aspect also makes online scheduling software ideal for businesses with multiple locations and owners, administrators and staff that routinely conduct business from outside the office and need access to their appointment schedule from home or on the road. It’s also what differentiates itself from the more traditional “boxed” software that’s installed on individual computers. Those software programs typically confine the appointment calendar or schedule to one local computer, making access difficult unless the individual is working on that specific computer.

The science behind cloud-based scheduling applications also allow for some really beneficial features for both the service provider and its customers. Standard functionality found in online scheduling services includes:

• Online customer self-scheduling. This gives individuals the option to book their own appointments and reservations at their own convenience. The Internet is always open for business, and so are service providers who offer online customer self-scheduling. In addition to the benefit to customers who are increasingly conducting tasks online, this feature can also dramatically reduce the number of telephone calls, which in turn frees up staff for more pressing responsibilities.

• Automated e-mail and text message reminders. Reminders are appreciated by customers. They can also reduce the number of “no-shows” who fail to arrive at their scheduled times. They also can also require a considerable amount of staff time, resources and money. Some online appointment-scheduling programs will automatically send e-mail and text message reminders to customers prior to their scheduled appointment and reservations times.

• Record-keeping and reporting. Proper record-keeping is important for most business operations. But for many service providers, managing appointment details and contact information involves managing separate calendars, appointment books and spreadsheets. This information must then be sorted and organized to include in operating reports. Online appointment-scheduling software helps simplify this important task by centralizing all inputted information in one easy-to-reach location. Some programs even provide standard reports that take only a mouse click or two to generate.

• E-marketing capabilities. It goes without saying that accurate e-mail addresses are a key component of a successful e-marketing campaign. But maintaining and continually updating customer e-mail can be a job in itself. Just as online appointment scheduling software makes record-keeping and reporting a snap by centralizing and maintaining information, this concept also makes e-marketing a simple process. In some instances, a service provider may be able to send the marketing message right through the schedule without any additional steps. And because customers have the ability to update their contact information, the likelihood that the e-mails pulled are current is much greater.

Regardless of the type of service a business provides, chances are it can benefit from online appointment-scheduling software. Users of this technology include spas, salons, massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, home service providers, remodelers, pest control technicians, auto service shops and many others. For most operations, there’s not a more efficient or effective approach for managing, automating and improving their appointment-scheduling and reservation-booking processes. And since most appointment-scheduling providers offer a free trial of their service, there’s nothing to lose. Except, of course, the old and tedious way you previously scheduled appointments!

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Behavioral Sciences Online Career Training Options

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Gaining the education needed to pursue a career in behavioral sciences can be done by enrolling in an accredited online school or college. Students can choose to pursue their desired career by gaining the necessary skills and knowledge from the comfort of home. Online educational training is available at various levels of study for those looking to enter into this exciting field. Students can pursue an accredited associate, bachelor, master, or doctoral degree in behavioral sciences. Training is available in a number of specialized areas for students to choose from.

*Counseling

Students can train for a career in counseling or pastoral counseling with an online school or college. Training can last anywhere from four to eight years with a bachelor, master, or doctoral level degree. Coursework will vary by level of education and desired career. Subjects can include biology, human development, statistics, psychology, and many other relevant courses. Training in counseling will prepare students to enter into careers as mental health counselors, school counselors, counseling psychologists, school counselors, and other professions. Training online for an accredited education in this area will open a world of career opportunities for students.

*Human Development

Online schools and colleges allow students to train for a career in human development at their own leisure. Accredited programs can be completed at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degree levels. Students can expect to spend two to eight years on study depending on the level of education desired. Training is available through a number of subjects such as adolescent development, child abuse, adulthood, gerontology, and much more. Students can gain the skills needed to pursue careers in education, counseling, and more. Accredited online training in this area of the field can provide students with the means to enter the workforce.

*Sociology

Students who wish to gain the education needed to pursue careers in sociology can do so by enrolling in an online educational training program. Online studies are available at the diploma, certificate, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral level. Programs can range from six months to eight years depending on the level of education. Coursework may consist of social problems, humanities, social theory, communication, and more. Training will allow student to enter careers in administration, corrections, education, counseling, business, and much more. Students can prepare for their desired career by enrolling in an online sociology program.

*Psychology

Training for an accredited education in this area of the field can be done through various online schools and colleges. Students can gain degrees ranging from the associate level to the doctoral level. Training can be completed in two to eight years based on the individual student’s desires. Courses can include the study of biology, statistics, cognition, social science, development, and more. With training in these areas students can seek employment in therapy, psychological research, social services, and much more. Training in psychology will prepare students for the exciting career they desire.

An accredited education can be obtained through a variety of online programs. Students can gain the quality education they desire by ensuring that the school or college they choose carries full accreditation. Agencies like the Distance Education and Training Council (http://www.detc.org) are approved to accredited online behavioral sciences career training programs. Students can start by enrolling in the program of their choice today.

DISCLAIMER: Above is a GENERIC OUTLINE and may or may not depict precise methods, courses and/or focuses related to ANY ONE specific school(s) that may or may not be advertised at PETAP.org.

Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved by PETAP.org.

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Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Satellite Internet Service Provider

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If you are a corporation in search of disaster recovery networking solutions, a first responder who may need connectivity from anywhere at any time, or you simply need broadband internet connectivity from remote locations you have probably considered that satellite may be your only reliable option. In the midst of a disaster many businesses and first responders may find themselves without communications of any kind due to the loss of terrestrial infrastructures, or the lack of it ever existing in the first place.

The problem is that most business professionals and emergency service workers do not have a complete understanding of the satellite business and the idiosyncrasies of communications via satellite, and why should they? Satellite communications is not their profession. In the quest for a satellite internet service provider there are certain questions you should be prepared to ask before you get locked into a contract for services that won’t satisfy your needs:

1) Do you have Non pre-emptible satellite space segment?

Satellite operators such as SES Americom, Intelsat among others lease space segment to satellite service providers. There are different levels of protection available in varying price ranges. Many service providers will opt to contract for pre-emptible space segment because it’s much less expensive and they can make larger profit margins which they may or may not pass on to their end users. Pre-emptible space segment gives the satellite operator the ability to deny access to the satellite for the service provider in the event of an on board equipment failure, or to make room for a service provider who is willing to pay the Non pre-emptible premium.

During large scale disasters such as the hurricanes in the Gulf States in 2005 many pre-emptible segments of satellite space were cleared to make room for government requests for satellite service leaving other service providers with no access. If you are considering contracting for service for disaster recovery applications it is highly recommended that you find service providers that guarantee that they have contracted for Non pre-emptible space segment. The service provider should be able to provide you with evidence of their service agreement with the operators if you ask. You may pay a little more each month for your non pre-emptible service, but at least it will be available when you most need it.

2) What is your “Over Subscription” or “Contention Ratio”?

Most satellite service providers who are providing Internet services are operating systems that use TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) based systems. A TDMA system is normally controlled by a central hub location which will command the remote units in the field to transmit their data when the hub is ready to receive it. This allows for many remote units to share the same slice of bandwidth improving the overall efficiency of the system. The transmissions from the remote units are sequenced at a very high rate, many times per second, which makes the service appear to be continuous.

However, the more units that are added to the system, the slower the service will be. A true enterprise level operator will never allow their contention ratio to exceed 20:1 or essentially 20 terminals per segment of bandwidth. Many operators that offer lower grade services will over subscribe their systems as high as 40, 80, 120:1 or more. Some operators may not be willing disclose this information to their end users. If a service provider will not tell you their contention ratio, you might consider looking elsewhere as their ratios are likely to be high. This will directly affect the quality of the service you receive. Enterprise level operators with contention ratios of 20:1 or less will charge more for their services since they have fewer users for their contracted space segment. But, you get what you pay for.

3) What is your system Latency, and does your hardware or software include TCP/IP acceleration?

Any IP transport platform will have a certain amount of latency that is inherent to the structure of the system. Latency is normally measured by how long it takes for a TCP/IP “Ping” to be sent to a server on the other side of the transport link and be returned back over the link to the point of origin. Satellite systems, due to the physics involved will have much higher latency figures that any terrestrial link. Data is transmitted to the satellite at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. The satellite is located 22,223 miles above the equator.

For a ping to make its round trip it must travel up to the satellite, back to earth to the server, up to the satellite again and back to the origination point. This is a round trip is approximately 88,892 miles. When calculated with the speed of light, in a perfect world the round trip will take about 448 milliseconds. When you add in coding delays and processing delays you can increase that figure by 100 to 250 milliseconds. On an efficient system, a round trip ping should take between 550 and 700 milliseconds (225 ms one way in each direction).

Many lower grade systems on the market today will actually return ping times of 1200 milliseconds or greater which is too slow to allow for functionality of certain software applications. Some system operators have added TCP/IP acceleration products to their equipment. This can either be a hardware or software solution. Acceleration of TCP/IP does not speed up the actual transmission as it is already being transmitted at the highest speed possible, the speed of light. The acceleration is achieved by modifying the TCP protocol in ways that allow for more efficient transmission over high latency networks such as satellite. Acceleration can significantly improve the speed of loading web pages, so it is a highly desirable product to have. Most of the products are not capable of accelerating encapsulated data such as VPN’s, but the system should still pass that data, however more slowly. Be sure to ask whether or not the system has an acceleration product included.

4) Does your system support VoIP, VPN, and Streaming Video transmissions?

If you have certain applications that you intend to operate, be sure to inquire whether or not these applications are supported on the system. VoIP (Voice over IP) for telephone connectivity is becoming a very common need in satellite communications. All types of users from emergency services to business continuity are asking for telephone connectivity. The biggest concern most prospective users of VoIP over satellite have is that the latency will be too high for effective voice communications. This has largely been proven to not be true. In fact, most cellular telephone systems will experience as much or more delay in their systems than VoIP over satellite. Most satellite providers will support these systems, but if the system latency is more that about 800 milliseconds, you may experience difficulty carrying on a conversation. Some service providers will also sell VoIP equipment. If you choose to purchase from them, or on your own you will want to make sure the equipment includes good voice compression.

Most off the shelf VoIP systems that are not designed for use with satellite will occupy between 40 Kbps and 90 Kbps of bandwidth to complete each call. If you purchase 128K of satellite uplink bandwidth you may consume all of your bandwidth with one or two phone calls leaving none for internet access for your computers. There are compression VoIP systems available that have been designed for use over satellite that will use as little as 8 Kbps per phone call and the call is toll quality. There are even compression systems that will allow for a 1544 Kbps T1/PRI connection over less than 256 Kbps of satellite bandwidth. You will also want to inquire about connectivity to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). When the signal lands at the hub it will need to connect your VoIP traffic to a telephone line. Some service providers will provide this service for a fee; some will not provide it at all, so be sure to ask. If you need to operate a VPN over the system, keep in mind that it will likely not be accelerated over the satellite.

Acceleration of VPNs can be achieved with external hardware; however it is normally up to the customer to provide that equipment. There are some systems, mostly consumer grade, that will not support VPN’s at all or there are additional charges so be sure to ask. The same goes for Video transmissions from a streaming device, or a web cam. Video streams are highly bandwidth intensive applications and most service providers will require dedicated bandwidth for these applications. The pricing for dedicated bandwidth will be substantially higher than the shared ratio pricing as it consumes 100% of the bandwidth 100% of the time. If you are planning to stream video to multiple receive sites it is recommended that you stream the video over the satellite to a server, and allow other users to get the stream from the server. This way there is only one active stream over the satellite where the bandwidth is expensive.

5) Do you offer CIR or CRA services?

CIR (Committed Information Rate) and CRA (Committed Rate Assignment) are different acronyms with the same meaning. It is dedicated satellite bandwidth that is usually required by the service provider if you intend to operate high bandwidth applications such as video streaming over the satellite. Most enterprise level service providers offer CIR/CRA packages, most consumer level operators do not. The pricing for these services will be significantly higher than shared ratio services, so be prepared. Some providers also require CIR/CRA services for VoIP. Be sure to inquire if this is something you need as some operators may not volunteer this information until it’s too late.

6) How many public IP addresses do I get?

Many consumer level services do not assign public static IP addresses for you to use. This is primarily why they don’t support services such as VoIP and VPN. Enterprise level providers usually provide at least one address, some will provide more. Most providers will give you a fixed number of addresses with your service and charge you if you want additional static IPs. The recommended way to avoid the additional charges is by using your own router on the system and natting your own addresses. Some systems will not support natting so be sure to inquire if this is what you need.

7) Do you have a FAP?

A FAP or Fair Access Policy is a set of rules that you agree to abide by when contracting for their services. They also will include certain restrictions on your service. Read this policy very carefully as the providers like to include wording that can seriously restrict your usage. Some service providers will “meter” your throughput on the system. If you reach a certain level of usage, usually recorded in Kbps, or Mbps they may restrict your bandwidth to a low level, or cut off your service entirely until the next billing cycle. It is very difficult to measure your own usage since most people have no Idea how many Kbps are sent or received when loading a web page. The FAP is also where the provider will spell out the rules of usage concerning applications such as streaming video and VoIP. Going over that document with a fine toothed comb will be in your best interest.

8) What will be my actual measured speeds?

The service providers will sell you a specific rate plan that will have an uplink or return data rate, and a downlink or forward data rate. This will usually be expressed in a manner such as “128/512” or sometimes “512/128”. The larger number will always be the forward channel which is your downlink as a user. Most providers will not tell you that the speeds include IP overhead. Every internet system whether its satellite or terrestrial uses IP protocols that require a certain amount of bandwidth to process the IP traffic. Because of the overhead you can expect that your actual measured payload speeds will be around 20% lower than what you are paying for. Actual speeds can be measured by running a speed test from a PC over the satellite link.

If the service provider has their own speed test server at the hub location this will give you a more accurate test of the satellite link than an Internet based speed server. The internet based servers have too many variables to obtain accurate results since the data is being transferred over connections that are not under your control, or theirs. Most systems will be similar in their IP overhead usage, but be aware of this when you purchase your service. If you don’t think the speeds will be high enough when you factor in the 20% overhead you may want to consider a higher service level plan.

9) What Pricing plans do you offer?

In your search for a service provider you will likely encounter a multitude of pricing plans. Each provider will create pricing structures that meet their business model, and that will give them an edge over their competition. Because of this you may find it difficult to compare price. All providers will offer full time 24x7x365 service plans. Some will also offer plans based on usage, and some will sell daily or hourly plans. There are even providers that will sell service for a fixed number of days each month. These plans can be attractive as you will not likely use a system designed for disaster recovery every day of the month, so why should you pay for full time service? If you are comparing price between providers it is easiest to look at their full time rates to determine the cost. However, keep in mind that operators base their pricing on their cost for the satellite space segment. If they are charging less it may be because they don’t have non pre-emptible space or because they operate with high contention ratios, or both.

10) Do you offer other services such as terrestrial connectivity and collocation?

Be sure to inquire about value added services such as collocation space and terrestrial connectivity. Unless you are only buying internet access and have no need for VoIP, streaming, or data backup, you will likely need these services. Some service providers will provide connectivity to the telephone network, and some will not. If you need dial tone you will probably want to contract for that as well. For disaster recovery solutions it is highly recommended that you originate your dial tone from a safe location that is far away from the affected area.

In many disaster scenarios the terrestrial connectivity including cellular phones will not be available. It is important that this is taken into account when designing a backup network. Some of the satellite providers will also offer services to back up corporate or government server data at the satellite hub location. This is highly beneficial to the customer as it provides both off site storage of valuable data, and easy access to that data via the satellite when it is most needed. A satellite hub with a collocation facility can be a powerful tool, and should be highly considered when contracting for satellite services.

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Preparing The Merchandising Mind: How To Use The Four P’s Of Marketing

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In the business world of merchandise marketing, competition is fierce. So if you’re planning on trying your own luck in the game, you better come prepared with business strategies and marketing plans that will be sure to hold their own against the competition. If you’ve ever taken a marketing class while studying for a merchandise marketing degree or independently, then you have probably learning about the four P’s of marketing. If not, or if you need a review, we have listed the four P’s below, and how they all contribute to a stellar marketing strategy.

1. Product. In merchandise marketing, it is important to remain impeccably true to the product you are trying to sell. Think hard about all of the different features of the product. What sets your product apart from all the others? Why would someone benefit from choosing your product or service compared to others in the market that are similar? Make sure you play up these aspects in your marketing plan, and make it clear to consumers why your product is superior.

2. Placement. Nowadays, many people choose to shop online instead of going to stores. When it comes to strategizing how to market your product, you must consider if you think sales would do better on the internet, in stores, or perhaps both. Given your industry, where might your customers expect to find you? Are your locations convenient and accessible? Do they make sense, given the product you are marketing?

3. Promotion. Promotion is where the real marketing strategy comes in. A promotion strategy usually refers to the way in which you are going to let people know about your product. Additionally, a promotion strategy gives you the chance to offer incentives for interest in your product. Maybe you are going to give away coupons with purchase. Maybe you are holding a grand opening gala event of your store, etc…

4. Price. How will you determine your product’s pricing structure? Setting a price often requires a little bit of industry research. Look for other similarly-marketed products that are similar to your own. Find out the pricing range of this type of product. Determine what the cheapest prices are versus the most expensive you can find. The trick is to price your item competitively without unnecessarily lowering your product’s value.

This concludes your review of the four P’s of marketing. Now it is up to you to launch your product successfully, using your very own merchandise marketing skills!

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