Blog

February 5th, 2014

BusinessValue_Feb03_CMarketing is one of the most challenging aspects of business that companies face. One has to be constantly evolving and trying out new ideas and strategies in order to remain successful. Many businesses start with a website and social media platform, so that they can interact with customers and clients and create business relationships. While these can be effective, there is one really useful marketing tool that shouldn't be forgotten - the blog.

Define business blogging

When we talk about blogging, most people ask two questions: "What is blogging?" and "Is business blogging any different from personal blogging?"

A blog, a portmanteau of Web log, is usually a page on a website where authors post written articles. The content, usually called a post, can be incredibly varied, from along the lines of a journal style to breaking news or even thoughts and opinions to open up debate.

Business blogging is the act of creating content that is related to your business. The topics are usually narrowed down to relate to the products or services you provide. For example, you are reading this post on our blog, which largely focuses on technology in business. The vast majority of business blogs are not profit oriented (the company isn't out to make money directly from their blog articles) and is usually a part of their marketing plan.

Why do businesses blog?

There are 3 main reasons many businesses blog:

1. A blog can increase traffic to your website

One common complaint many business owners have about their website traffic, or the number of people who visit their site, is that it is lower than expected. There can be many reasons behind this, the most common being that the content on the website is static. Think about when it the last time you updated your whole site was.

Even if your site effectively explains what your business does, search engines generally look kindly on websites that are active. It is incredibly hard to keep re-writing your website, so one of the best ways to fix this is by blogging. When you create a new blog post, a new page on your website is usually indexed - added to the site structure, kind of like the index at the back of textbooks. This activity tells search engines that your website is active. Active websites will usually show higher in search results.

Blog articles are also great to share on social media services. By sharing content with your existing customers there is an increased chance of your name and profile being seen by people who aren't your customer yet but could be in the future.

If you have more people seeing your content in different places - search results, social media, etc. - you should see an increase in overall traffic to your website.

2. A blog is a great way to show your expertise

Think about the last time you needed to purchase a new item, say a computer. Did you pick the first shop you saw, then walk in and purchase a computer? Chances are high that you didn't. Most people research companies and retailers who have a good rating or who come across as an expert, and purchase from them.

As many people do this research online, it can be a challenge to establish your company as the expert in your field. Your blog can be the perfect tool to establish your company as a go-to expert. If you answer common questions and provide tips, there is a higher chance that your articles will be regarded as helpful and having potential customers contact you. What this means for you is an increased chance of conversion.

3. Blog articles have a positive long-term effect

When you search on the Internet you will often find a number of blog posts at the top, with some maybe even being from the last year or so. A well crafted blog post will often see a wealth of interest within the first few days of posting largely because of sharing via social media services and users who have subscribed to your posts.

If your posts get a fair number of shares, comments, etc. there is a good chance that search engines will begin to show it higher in results. What this means for you is that the post will continue to be seen in results for a of couple weeks to months or more, depending on keywords, etc. This translates to longer visibility, and a higher chance of traffic and leads in the future.

Of course, not every post will be a smash hit and bring leads pouring in, but an active blog that produces good content could prove to be of great value to your business. It will take time, but most bloggers do see increased payoffs.

Looking to learn more about blogging? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 30th, 2014

BI_Jan27_CThere are many important components of a business, and data is definitely among the most popular. Pause and think for a moment how much of your business relies on it. It would be a challenge for a business to function without it. For business owners that look into data, many will have heard the term 'business analytics' before. However, this term can be a bit ambiguous and confusing.

In this article we will take a brief look at business analytics and why it is so important to businesses of all sizes.

Business analytics defined

When experts talk about analytics most audiences will agree that it is the analysis of data and statistics. The vast majority of business owners have some experience with analytics, with some having even taken courses on it at University. This being said, the idea of business analytics is often hard to pin down - ask 10 people and you will likely get 10 different answers defining what exactly it is.

We like to define business analytics as a process rather than a science. This process uses skills, business experience, technology, applications, and common business practices, to enable business owners, managers, and employees to explore past performance. Simply put, it's the study of the past performance of a business.

With most businesses, the goal of business analytics is to gain insights into the state of the company, and even drive future decisions based on existing data. If you can successfully implement a business analytics process, you and your employees will gain a higher understanding of your business which will lead to better decision making abilities and even higher growth and profits.

What makes up business analytics

As we noted above, this is a process that involves a number of separate components. Four to be exact:
  • Analytics - Using modern data mining and predictive tools to identify patterns that can help make better business decisions and give managers foresight into potential future trends. Usually the questions answered include, "What is the best outcome?", "Why did this work?", etc.
  • Data management - This covers the collection and storage of data. Concepts include how and where the data is stored, who has access to it, how it is accessed, and even when it can be accessed. Some examples of this include using cloud-based storage or even a storage server that is hosted in the office. When looking at data management in terms of analytics, most managers will concentrate on what has worked in the past, why it worked, and what will work in the future.
  • Business Intelligence - This is the use of reporting tools and dashboards to gain an understanding of largely event-based questions like, "How many?", etc. When you implement business intelligence operations you will normally gain better insights into current events and what happened in the past to influence them.
  • Performance Management - This broad term covers actions and tools that are used to track and manage business performance. This includes tasks such a financial reporting and budget forecasting.
The main reason businesses implement the components of business analytics is so that they have a way to not only harness the data their business generates, but to also leverage it in a constructive way so that their business can make better decisions. If used properly, it really helps businesses answer two of the hardest questions to answer: "What do I need to know?" and "What do I need to do?"

If you are looking to learn more about using business analytics or the components that make up this process, contact us today to see how our solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 23rd, 2014

Security_Jan20_CLet's face it, technology, while essential, is getting increasingly challenging to manage. Many business owners are struggling to ensure that all of their systems are not only working properly but are also secure. One solution many turn to is the skills and support of an IT partner. These tech partners offer a wide variety of managed services, including managed antivirus solutions that help ensure systems are more secure. However, many business managers are not totally sure what managed antivirus solutions actually are.

What exactly is managed antivirus?

By now, most people are familiar with the term 'antivirus'. They know that the majority of solutions are a monthly or yearly subscription that they pay for. By subscribing, the company that created the program will update virus databases, allowing scanners to identify viruses during a computer scan. This type of antivirus software is often referred to as unmanaged, largely because the end-user has the ability to deny updates, turn off the scanner, or uninstall it.

A managed antivirus solution is provided by IT partners. These tech experts take care of installing the software on computers and other devices, and will then manage the solution. They will also ensure that scanners are up-to-date and scans are scheduled for a convenient time, thus protecting computers. The best way to think of these solutions is that they are specifically provided by a company to look after your computers and protect them from viruses.

Benefits of managed antivirus solutions

Companies that choose to integrate a managed antivirus solution generally see five main benefits.
  1. All systems will have the same level of security - With a managed service, your IT partner will make sure to install software on all your systems. This means that there should be the same program installed on your systems, and that the antivirus will be updated to ensure that systems are protected from new security threats that come along.
  2. It is easier to manage - Managing your antivirus solution can be a tough task, especially in larger companies where different solutions may need to be employed. By working with an IT partner, your antivirus solutions are managed by tech experts. This is a great solution for business owners who aren't too familiar with technology, or an overworked IT department.
  3. The solutions can be low-cost - Most managed antivirus solutions are offered as a monthly package, where companies pay per user. For some companies, this solution is more affordable per user than a non-managed solution. This is especially true if you have a high number of users and need to purchase multiple licenses.
  4. Management is continual - With unmanaged solutions, many users turn the antivirus protection off because it can slow their computer down or because they believe their usage habits are not compromising security. Managed antivirus solutions usually can't be uninstalled or turned off, meaning your systems are continually protected.
  5. Your systems are truly protected - Regardless of how secure your systems are and the steps you take to ensure that malware doesn't get through, the chances are you will eventually be infected. When you are, it may be tricky to actually completely remove the virus. IT partners are trained in how to do this quickly and efficiently and can usually completely remove the virus, ensuring that your systems are truly secure.
If you are looking for a managed antivirus solution, contact us today as we may have a solution that will work with your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 22nd, 2014

BCP_Jan20_CThere is always the chance of a disaster striking your company. That's why many business owners take steps to prevent negative events from affecting their company, often by implementing a disaster recovery or continuity plan. Both of these strategies and the technology that supports them are an important part of business process and planning. As 2014 is underway, many business owners are wondering that disaster recovery trends they should be aware of.

Certain trends relevant to small to medium size businesses are vital for company leaders to be aware of in 2014:

Recovery will get even faster

When looking into recovery options, almost every company wants a solution that is as fast as possible. Recovery speed often depends largely on bandwidth and the storage method used. Each year, companies are able to access faster bandwidth connections and obtain more affordable, yet faster storage options.

In 2014, this trend is set to continue. Businesses around the world will continue to gain access to faster Internet connections and disaster recovery specialists will likely improve the speed with which they can implement a backup.

Many solutions will also be able to help businesses align or optimize their processes. ln turn, this will enable faster recovery and stronger protection. It's highly likely that with this combination you could see a business up and running again within hours instead of days.

Increased reliance on social media as a communications channel

During a disaster it can often be a challenge to communicate with employees and stakeholders. Traditional communication methods, like the phone, may not be working well, if at all, which make it more difficult for plans to be enacted. One alternative is to use social media to make contact and communicate.

Because most social media platforms are hosted in numerous locations around the world, they are hardly ever down. If you have an Internet connection, you can pretty much guarantee that you will be able to get a message out. Combine this with the fact that almost everyone has a social media account on at least one platform, and this proves to be a great option that allows you to reach people quickly.

We predict that in 2014 companies will realize this in higher numbers and begin to implement social media into their existing plans and even train employees on how to use this platform in an emergency situation where other communication lines are down.

Geographical based backup solutions

There were a number of high-profile disasters in 2013 that affected large areas. Some companies saw their backups and secondary backups wiped out because the location at which they were stored was situated in a disaster zone.

In order to have a truly effective backup solution, many experts are suggesting that multiple backups of data should be made and stored in multiple locations that are as geographically diverse as possible.

There is little doubt that businesses have learnt this lesson from the fate of either themselves or others, and will be implementing or looking for solutions that host backups in different locations more readily. In 2014, we predict that many providers will be marketing multi-location backups as a main feature. What this means for businesses is more secure backup and a higher chance of recovery when faced with disaster.

Growing reliance on managed backup solutions

As systems become increasingly complex they become more challenging for many small business owners to back up and manage at the same time. In 2014, there will likely be an increase in the demand for managed backup services.

These services are managed by an IT partner, who can not only help set up backup and recovery systems, but also support recovery after a disaster. The key here is that they give businesses of all sizes a way to implement a backup and continuity plan properly, at a fraction of the cost as was previously the case. We predict that small to medium businesses will take full advantage of services like this, and providers will begin to focus more on offering this type of service.

If you are looking for a backup solution, why not contact us. We may have something that will work for you. Give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 15th, 2014

SocialMedia_Jan13_CSocial media is now so common that it's expected that a company has a presence on at least one network. Because of the high level of use, sites have started to enter a more mature phase, where users are finding other ways to leverage the services. We will undoubtedly see a change in the way businesses use social media platforms in 2014 and new trends emerging which companies will be acting upon.

Here are five social media trends we believe businesses should track throughout 2014.

Successful content will become more helpful

One of the key rules of marketing is that you need to create content that is relevant to your target audience. If you can't show how your company, service or product will help the customer there is a high chance that they won't invest, or will look elsewhere.

Throughout 2014, we should see a shift of strategy with companies using social media to engage with customers to leverage data and create content aimed at being helpful to 'fans' and followers. This might include tips on how to use products and visual images that show fans how to use products, etc.

The key idea business owners should grasp is that they should not be using social media to promote their company, but rather using social media to help. When you can help your followers, you will see more positive association with your brand and possibly even more sales.

Planning ahead will become increasingly important

It used to be enough to simply have a social media account, but now you need to also be active. As more companies break into social media, you will need to post more content on a regular basis.

Because many managers and business owners are busy, they often lack the time to concentrate on social media, especially as demand grows. This means that companies will have to start planning ahead if they want to be successful on social media. What this means is likely hiring a new employee, or appointing a staff member, to run your social media activities. You will also need to schedule posts and content well ahead of time, as well as set budgets.

If you just post occasionally now, or have a profile that isn't that active, the first step you need to take is to schedule a day each week where content goes out. Take a look at older posts and see what worked well with your audience and create similar content. Schedule the content to be posted at roughly the same time each day. Over time, ramp up when you post - try posting new content on different days to see how reactions and interest changes. The key is to stick with it, and you will begin to see some positive returns - likely an increase in Likes, Shares and Comments.

Content will need to be mobile

It's not difficult to see that the mobile device - smartphone and tablet - has become the gadget of choice for many social media users. Some have even gone so far as to stop using social media on their computers entirely. This trend will grow throughout 2014 and what this means for businesses is that they need to be creating content that can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Because mobile screens are smaller, and many companies are starting to create mobile oriented content, we should see some more visually oriented posts, including both movies and images. At the very least you should ensure that your content posted on social media platforms can be easily viewed by users on mobile devices and your other social related sites, like your blog, can also scale to fit on smaller screens.

Social data will play a key role in company strategies

As the number of users on social media continues to grow, we are starting to see a trend where many users are basically using social media for everything. Because these systems are online, data regarding nearly everything is being tracked and made available to companies and users. This social data can be a huge help if leveraged properly. For example, it allows you to see what users like and dislike, and the content that works best in certain regions, and different dynamics, etc. You can extrapolate this information to your products or services e.g., if post on how to use your product is liked more than other posts, you can assume that the product is seen to be good.

In 2014, companies will increasingly come to realize that they have access to this data and will start to use it to plot their marketing and social strategies. If you aren't already tracking your social data, now would be a good time to start. It will also pay to learn how to analyze it and develop useful insight.

Social integration is the next step

The first step in social media was to get users, including businesses, online and interacting. Now that this is happening, it's time to move onto the next step. For businesses this means integrating social media into their company. In 2014, that's what we predict we will begin to see businesses doing in larger numbers.

This trend has already started with businesses linking their websites to social media profiles but we predict it will go even further with companies integrating social data and plans into the organization as a whole. This will likely be the connecting of social data with other streams of data to make marketing and overall business decisions. In other words, social media will become an integral part of business.

What do you think the biggest social media trend will be in 2014? Let us know today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 9th, 2014

Security_Jan07_CIn the first few weeks of each new year, you often see business leaders and managers setting goals for the year to come. Most of these goals are determined based off of trends that have been identified as valuable. When it comes to security however, it is a good idea to not look at trends but potential threats. By knowing what could threaten your business in the year to come, you can better prepare and protect.

Here are four security threats businesses should be aware of in 2014.

Increased attacks on cloud end-points

Cloud-based systems saw solid growth throughout 2013, with numerous systems being introduced and older systems reaching new levels or maturity. Small to medium businesses in particular were heavy adopters of these systems. Because of this, we expect to see an increase in attacks against cloud providers.

Providers know this and take steps to ensure security of systems on their end. Hackers know this too, so will be likely going after the weaker points - end users. It is expected that hackers will begin targeting users of cloud systems with various schemes that try to gain control of computers and mobile devices. Once access is gained, they will go after their main target: Corporate or personal clouds and the data stored within.

This could pose a problem for many companies, especially those who access cloud systems from their mobile devices. January and February would be a good time to look into the security of all of your systems, ensuring that your cloud-based systems are secure on all devices.

Mobile malware will continue to gain popularity

Take a step back for a minute next time you are in public and look at how many people have smartphones or tablets in their hands. Chances are, at least 60% or higher will. It is fairly obvious that the mobile device is the most popular trend in tech at the moment, and whatever is popular is also a target.

We predict there will be an increase in mobile malware attacks throughout 2014. This could see either an increase in the number of apps that have malware in their code, or websites that host malware. When you visit a site with this malware, you are informed that you need to update an app, and when you agree to this the malware is downloaded and installed.

This could prove to be a tough for companies to manage, especially since the number of mobile users will likely grow. If you haven't started looking into how to secure mobile devices, now would be a good time to start.

Growth in social engineering scams targeting mobile users

Social engineering is the act of essentially tricking people to give away confidential information. Hackers have been using this for years - for example, emailing users telling them their bank account has been compromised, and that if they click on the link in the email and enter their account info, the account will be secured. In reality, the link is to a fake site that captures information which can then be used for any number of illegal activities.

As we mentioned above, the number of mobile users is steadily increasing. This means that it is highly likely that hackers will begin to target these users with mobile specific social engineering. This could be tricking them into downloading an app which then steals information stored on the phone, or simply targeting those who use just their tablet.

In order to prevent this from happening, you need to brush up on how most social engineering schemes work. You should also encourage your employees to look where the links in emails lead to and be aware that generally, most major businesses like banks don't email customers asking for passwords or user names.

Windows XP will become a big target

Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP and Office 2003 in April of this year. What this means is that they will no longer be offering security updates, software updates or support for these products. It is a sure thing that these programs are about to become a big target, and that new security loopholes and exploits will be found on a regular basis after the cessation of support.

For businesses that are using a newer version of Windows like 7 or 8, you should be secure from these exploits. If you are using XP on the other hand, you might want to upgrade as soon as possible. Contact us, we can help with that.

From the overall looks of things, we think this year will see a drastic increase in mobile based security threats, along with attacks on older versions of software. Now is a good time to review your strategies regarding both mobile and the software/hardware you use, to ensure that it is secure. If you would like help with this, please contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 8th, 2014

BusinessValue_Jan07_CEach year there are a number of popular tech related trends that come and go, and some business owners often struggle to stay on top of what's hot and what's not. 2013 saw a number of important tech developments and changes, such as the continued rise of social media and the increased use of mobile devices. Now that the year is over, it's time to look forward to what tech advancements we can expect to see in 2014.

Here are five tech trends small to medium business owners and managers should keep their eyes on for 2014.

Tech we wear

Wearable devices like the smartwatch will become one of the hottest gadgets in 2014. While this concept really began in 2013, with devices like the Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear, you can bet that most device manufacturers are developing some form of wearable tech for this year.

The biggest evidence that supports this claim is the inclusion of newer, faster BlueTooth standards in both iOS and Android updates. These updates allow devices like phones and tablets to connect to existing wearable devices like fitness bands and wireless headphones.

What this means for businesses is a potential increase in the number of devices connecting to networks, such as from employees bringing devices into the office. Companies will need to look back at their mobile device policies to ensure that their systems remain safe. Concerns aside, these devices could pose a new way to interact with customers or even to create different, engaging content.

It really remains to be seen as to how businesses will benefit from this type of tech, but there is a good chance that many companies will find a productive use for it.

Changing views on the cloud

Many experts like to think of cloud systems as a new concept, but it's really reaching the end of this part of its life cycle. By now, most businesses are using at least one cloud-based system and have at least a basic grasp of what it is.

Because of its prevalence and increased use, it's difficult to actually completely avoid the cloud. Many have started to realize this fact and we think 2014 will see an increasing number of business owners begin to change their views on the cloud. They will start educating themselves and looking for systems that really meet their needs instead of simply picking one that everyone else uses.

This change of view, and increased education will likely lead to an increased adoption of cloud systems. This will be due to strategic decision-making rather than because business owners feel they simply need to be in on the cloud. This also likely means that many cloud providers will become even more transparent and likely more willing to help customers by creating systems that are truly useful to small businesses.

Mobile marketing will become mainstream

It is pretty apparent that mobile devices are the next big thing, and in 2014 mobile marketing will become one of the most popular forms of marketing. From developing mobile specific content to advertising only on mobile platforms through apps like Facebook, we should see a rise in the number of mobile ad campaigns.

Overall, this should lead to more ads being shorter, visually forward; essentially easily digested by mobile viewers. Beyond that, businesses of all sizes will start to pay attention to mobile related data, distinguishing mobile users from desktop users, and looking for ways to cater to both crowds through different campaigns.

Increased use of two-factor authentication

Security is always an issue that many business owners are worried about, as well it should be because there is a good chance that security concerns will increase in 2014 - especially if mobile wearable devices really take off.

In order to make it more difficult for accounts to be hacked, many of the larger companies like Google, have introduced two-factor authentication which requires users to enter a password and another form of information, usually a PIN number sent to a mobile device.

In 2014, it is highly likely that we will see an increase in the number of services that offer this form of authentication. What this means for many businesses is increased security, which should be welcomed.

IT becomes more of a core business function

Historically, IT has been seen as a separate business entity, something that supports core business functions. But, as many companies increasingly rely on technology, it has started to shift and become more of a core business function.

Many business owners will begin to question their existing technology and whether it really is giving them the best value possible and if they are using it effectively. Because of the largely complex nature of many systems, small business owners that take an interest in their IT will likely find that they struggle with managing and optimizing it. They will instead turn to an IT management partner who can help them find customized solutions.

While this isn't a new trend by any means, technology is becoming increasingly advanced and many companies are struggling. If you are looking to make IT more of a core business function, or would like to gain control of rampant systems please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2014

BI_Jan02_COne of the more important business functions is making decisions. In order to make any choice and resolution in business you need to ensure that you have the correct background information. That's why Business Intelligence has become so popular - it helps us make better decisions with the data in hand. As we enter 2014, this function will continue to be important, but what trends can we expect?

Here is an overview of the potential Business Intelligence (BI) trends we could see emerging and growing in 2014.

1. BI is more accessible

Historically, to get the most out of Business Intelligence you need to be experienced or to employ a data scientist. Over the past couple of years BI methodologies have become easier to execute. Throughout 2014 it is highly likely that we will see most ordinary business users continue to gain skills in this area and consequently carrying out business analysis and BI activities.

This means we should see an increase in the number of programs that are user-friendly, while still providing the powerful tools that experts have been using.

2. BI and Big Data solutions forecast clouds

Cloud-based solutions have helped allow small to medium businesses to access tools that were previously only used by enterprises. Many BI solutions are starting to incorporate cloud-based versions and this trend will undoubtedly continue in 2014.

These solutions will put important data in the hands of individual businesses, while also providing them with the ability to store and analyze their data with ease, as long as they have an Internet connection. Many of these solutions also allow for increased collaboration and some even have mobile apps which could help make adoption easier.

3. Predictive analytics are more accessible

Predictive analytics is the process of looking at existing data for trends and important information that you can use to help make predictions and decisions. This type of analysis has largely been the domain of experts and large companies, but in 2014 this process should become increasingly available to small businesses.

4. Social data is even more important

The majority of customers are active on social media. This has led to a huge source of potential information that businesses can benefit from. From Likes to Shares, Comments, etc., companies will begin to pay closer attention to this data. It can help businesses gain insight into brand awareness, how relevant they are to customers, and even gain important information they can use to conduct competitive analysis.

5. Storytelling from existing data

One of the main objectives of analyzing your data is so that you can tell a story with it. If you have no narrative arc attached to your data, it is highly likely that the message you want to get across won't sink in.

By visualizing your data in a way so that it tells a story you will be better able to gain a concise meaning from an overwhelming amount of data

If you are looking to learn more about BI and how it can help your business, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 27th, 2013

Security_Dec23_CThe number of accounts and websites we have to log in to is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. One downside of this increased activity is that security breaches will also continue to rise as well. When it comes to security, often the weakest points are the passwords people use. Far too many passwords are weak and easily guessed, which puts systems and data at risk.

Many of the major security threats that harm a business have one factor in common - a hacker gaining access to systems by cracking a user's password. The one reason hackers are able to get into systems again and again is largely because users often don't pick strong enough passwords.

Even what we might perceive to be a strong password may not actually be as secure as we think. Sure, when you enter a new password many websites have a bar that indicates how strong your password is, but the issue is, these so called strong passwords are becoming easier to guess as more websites utilize the same requirements.

Think about the last time you changed your password. You were likely told to key in a password longer than 6-8 characters, with at least one capital letter, one number, and a special character like '!' or '$'. Many major systems have these exact, or at least very similar, requirements for password setting. However, If this is the norm, and you use a password like this too often then your passwords likely aren't as secure as you might believe them to be.

The reason for this is because of the way hackers usually capture passwords. The most common method adopted is brute force - getting a username then trying every password combination until the hacker finds one that works. There are programs you can download from the Internet that try thousands or more passwords a second, and many now include special characters, numbers, and capital letters, which makes finding passwords even easier.

How do I know if my password is secure?

In an effort to showcase how unsecure some passwords are, Microsoft's Research (MSR) Center and an intern from Carnegie Mellon University developed a password guesser called Telepathwords.

The way it works is you enter the first few letters of your password and the system guesses the next. It uses common letters and combinations to help gauge the effectiveness of a password. For example, if your password begins with the letter 'v', it will tell you that 'I', 'S' and 'A' are the most common letters to follow. If the next letter of your password isn't one of these three, there is a good chance it is more secure. If the second letter is one of these three, then your password is less secure. This may sound a little complicated, but you should check out the system here.

It is eerie at how accurate the next letters and characters often match, and this is a good tool to determine whether to create a more robust password. You don't have to worry about testing your password out either as Microsoft has noted that they don't track the keystrokes, so you password should remain secure.

How do I create a stronger password?

Ask 10 experts and you will likely get 10 different answers as to what makes a strong password. Here are three different ways to create secure passwords:
  1. Use an algorithm - The easiest way to do this is take the first letter of a saying and add a number before or after. You can also create a saying and take the first letter of each word, then add the first letter of the website, followed by the last, and then a number. This method is best for when you have a large number of websites you access on a regular basis, it can help you remember your passwords for each without you having to write these down.
  2. Use a sentence or saying - For systems that allow you to have spaces in your password, try using a random saying like, 'Dogs like pudding cups'. Sayings like this are harder to crack. This is largely because they include the space and are longer than usual.
  3. Use an acronym - Come up with a saying that describes you e.g., 'I've worked at a gas station for 20 years', and take the first letter/number of each word to create: 'Iwaagsf2y'. This gives you an easy to remember password that can be adapted for other sites.
Regardless of what type of password you develop, you should be aware that even strong passwords can still be cracked with enough persistence. So, you should be sure to change passwords on a regular basis and also not to use the same one twice. This will limit the chances of hackers being able to access your other accounts.

If you are looking for more ways to secure your systems, we can help, so get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 25th, 2013

BCP_Dec23_CIt appears as if there is an increase in disasters striking companies around the globe. From something as small as a hacker stealing important information, to as large as a disaster that leaves your premises in ruins, disaster can strike at any time. Many companies are starting to develop plans to prepare for any disasters, two of the most common being Disaster Recovery (DR) and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

What is a BCP?

BCP entered the mainstream just before the year 2000, with the Y2K scare. It's a plan that covers the way a business plans for and maintains critical business functions, directly before, during and after a disaster.

The majority of plans are comprised of activities that ensure maintenance, stability, and recoverability of service. The plan is typically set up on a day-to-day basis, and covers the whole organization. In other words, it's a plan on how to remain operational during and after a disaster.

The main reason companies implement a plan like this is because they wish to remain able to provide their service or product to customers. If something happens and you are not able to deliver to your customers, there is a risk that they will simply go to another company. This will obviously cause you to lose not only customers, but valuable income, some of which may be needed to further recovery.

What is DR?

Disaster Recovery is really more focused on what happens after a disaster. Many times, it's actually a part of the overall continuity plan. While BCP focuses on the whole business, DR plans tend to focus more on the technical side of the business. This includes components such as data backup and recovery, and computer systems.

It's best to think of a BCP as an umbrella policy, with DR as part of it. If companies don't have a DR component of their overall continuity plan, there is a good chance the whole strategy will be either less effective, or useless. On the other hand, DR can actually stand alone, and many companies can do just fine without a full continuity plan.

What should DR and BCP contain?

While these plans are slightly different, they do share the same common goals - to offer support and assistance during a disaster. Therefore, regardless of what type of plan you decide to adopt, there are common elements both need to incorporate in order to be successful.
  1. An operational plan for potential disasters that could happen in your geographical area.
  2. A succession plan for you or your top management.
  3. Employee training and cross-training. Your employees should know their role in the plan and be trained in other responsibilities should someone else be unable to perform their role.
  4. A communication plan that includes ways of communicating if networks are down.
  5. Off-site locations for staff and managers to meet and work.
  6. A focus on safety. Foster partnerships and communication with local and emergency response services. Ideally, all employees should at least know basic first aid. Employees who are members of local Emergency Response Teams make great team leaders.
  7. Daily backups of your systems and data. Be sure to also train staff in the testing and recovery of systems.
  8. Training and testing of all employees to practice recovery activities in realistic role-playing scenarios.
  9. Regular audits and updates of your plans to ensure they are still relevant and able to protect your systems and company.
With a plan that is carefully prepared, tested, and updated on a regular basis, you should be able to better weather any disaster. If you are looking for information on how to develop or improve your plans get in touch with us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.