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May 1st, 2014

Security_Apr28_CAs everyone knows, we use passwords to prevent anyone getting access to our personal accounts and gadgets. But, with ever-growing numbers of hackers determined to grab our data, people need to be extra vigilant. These cyber criminals are using sophisticated technology to steal information whenever there is a slight hint of opportunity. So don't give them a chance. Your passwords are your first defence. Use these tips to stay safer online.

Observe proper web security

With the rapid advancements in technology comes sophistication of methodologies used by hackers to steal data and destroy web security. Cyber crime is continuously evolving as new programs are made to unlock accounts and combine numbers, letters and special characters to determine passwords. The big question for internet users is – how to choose a strong password that can drive hackers away?

Passwords should have at least eight characters. It is highly recommended that you use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters. “P@s$w0Rd45%” is a thousand times better than “Password1”. Veer away from using passwords that are found in dictionaries. Furthermore, avoid using your name, a family member’s name, phone number, birth date, social security number or any public information. Hackers have found a way to crack passwords with the aid of the many databases out there.

To create even more secure passwords, try using a password that is a full sentence, with random words. For example "I am a purple donkey" (with the spaces) will take a long time to crack, which means it's more secure then even the examples above.

Keep malware off your system

Malware are malicious programs that have been crafted in such a way that they appear authentic and trustworthy. Be careful not to click on pop-ups and links that will redirect you to that place where your security walls are torn down. And do not open email attachments from anonymous users. Mechanisms are often embedded in these programs to gain control of your system.

Get professional help by installing security software from a trusted name in the industry. Build your defences as early as possible. Remember the cliché – better to be be safe than sorry – and nowhere is this more true than in computer system and web security.

Keep your passwords private

While this may seem to be a no-brainer, sadly, a lot of people still tend to share their passwords with their office mates or friends. If you’re one of them, then it’s high time that you change your habits and your password again. Think like James Bond -passwords are for your eyes only.

In the event that you need to give your password to a co-worker to get an important document or presentation, make sure that you change them as soon as possible. Never use the same combination again.

Change password regularly

It also helps if you schedule a regular password change. Within a period of 30 to 60 days, you should update passwords across multiple sites. Moreover, never use the same passwords for different websites. If you use the same passwords, you are putting all of your accounts at a high level risk. Hackers are relentless. Once is never enough for them and they can come back time after time.

It’s an unsafe online world out there. These online troublemakers will never be satisfied. So never let yourself or your organization fall prey to hackers. Take note of these safety measures and strengthen your web security arsenal.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 30th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr28_CTechnology, while integral to every business, is one of the most challenging aspects of business operations to manage. This is especially true for small to medium businesses, where margins are thin and people are often employed to do more than one job. One option owners and managers can employ in order to better manage their technology is partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don't have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company's IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren't planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don't have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company's needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 25th, 2014

BI_Apr22_CWith the increasing amount of technology and data available to a business, the need to make informed decisions and utilize the data at hand is increasingly important. One function that helps with this is Business Intelligence (BI). While BI is becoming ever more popular with small business owners, there are common misconceptions about BI that could hinder its effectiveness.

But many of these misconceptions are easily clarified and addressed. See how by taking a look at these tips.

1. Business Intelligence is all about reports and dashboards

One of the things that make business intelligence sound intimidating is the notion that businesses will be bombarded with daily reports and have to make use of complicated dashboards in order help to understand how it works and get it operational. While there are standard tools that small businesses will need to use to gather information that will help with their operations, these tools should not be seen as an inconvenience. The systems and processes in BI can be simplified in a way that it doesn’t limit resource gathering but actually enhances efficiency and profitability.

An executive, for instance, can easily look into the sales numbers of a given month, without having to go over other variables and metrics. Other models of BI can cater to more than just reporting stats and data, as analysis can be collaborative and interactive, thus providing more efficient solutions that will deliver the correct information to the people who rely on the data for their decision-making.

2. The tools are the same for all organizations

The assumption is that whether a company is big or small, the tools in business intelligence work the same. This is what makes small businesses hesitant to apply such concepts, thinking that it will not have any practical use in an organization of their size.

But the truth is, every BI strategy is unique, and as a company, you can tailor these strategies to fit in with the way you operate. Before adopting any solution, however, you will first have to evaluate what specific needs BI must address using the data architecture, so that it will measure your requirements correctly.

3. It can only measure big data

Large corporations can maximize the tools to use in BI because they have larger needs to fill, and they also have all the resources. But what about small companies that may not necessarily need big data?

The thing is, any company that has data will have a use for business intelligence. Small businesses can start with simple and basic solutions, for instance Google Analytics, and then later on, expand to a more comprehensive tool as the organization grows. Business intelligence measures the quality of data, and not the quantity, so you can accomplish something even with very few resources.

4. It takes up IT resources

While BI used to be considered the responsibility of an IT team or expert, now small businesses, which may not have had the resources to in the past to outsource such resources, can use the tools for themselves. There are solutions out there that offer low maintenance, self-service systems wherein reports and dashboards are created and analyzed without the need for an IT expert whatsoever. There are some advantages to having professional IT help sometimes though, but for small businesses, a user-friendly BI system may be sufficient to cover most of your needs.

If you'd like to know about how you might be able to develop your business intelligence systems further. Consult a reputable IT services provider now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 23rd, 2014

SocialMedia_Apr22_CLinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals that was first introduced in 2003. With millions of users from over 200 countries all over the globe, this is a site that business owners, employees and job hunters join to build their connections. As with any other social networking site, an impressive profile is vital as this the first thing that people see when they click on you. And it's worth knowing that it's possible to customize your profile’s URL and this is recommended if you are using the site a lot or seeking work.

Why customize your LinkedIn URL?

When you sign up for a LinkedIn account, there is a default URL set on your profile. It contains random letters and numbers that would be impossible for anyone but a savant to remember. The good news is that you can customize this URL and use something unique and memorable. Before going through the steps on how to do this, let’s first look at the reasons why it's a good idea to personalize your LinkedIn URL.
  • It’s easier to remember - This is one of the top reasons why you need to customize your URL. As we've said, the random line of letters and numbers you get on signing up can't really be remembered. So it you want to grow your connections and find more business or job opportunities, Having a more memorable URL is a very good idea. People can access your profile easily or recommend it to others if they remember it in the first place.
  • It can be used in your email signature and business cards - To increase your exposure even more, you may include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature and business cards. It would look unprofessional and, let's face it, slightly ridiculous if you print the default URL randomly onto a card. The name of your company or your personal moniker looks much more professional.
  • It’s more searchable online - LinkedIn profiles are not only searchable on the site itself. They also appear in the results when queries are made on search engines. You’ll have better chances of being found if part of your URL was searched.

How to customize the URL of your LinkedIn profile

Before customizing the URL of your LinkedIn profile, it’s best to ensure that all vital information is posted since it serves as your online resume. Think of the name that you wish to use in your URL. It must be composed of 3 to 30 numbers or letters. Special characters and spaces are not accepted.
  1. Log in to your LinkedIn account.
  2. Hover your mouse on “Profile”, which can be found on the top part of the screen, then click “edit profile”.
  3. Look below your photo and you’ll see your profile’s URL. Click the “edit” link next to it.
  4. Under “Your public profile URL” on the lower right side of the window, click the “customize your public profile URL” link.
  5. Enter your preferred URL name in the field.
  6. Click “Set Custom URL”.
That’s how you customize your LinkedIn URL. For instance, if you entered “SamJones”, your URL will be “http://www.linkedin.com/in/SamJones”. LinkedIn URL can only be customized up to three times within six months. If you’ve changed it three times in less than six months, you must wait for the said period to pass before you can change your URL again.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 22nd, 2014

BCP_Apr21_CIt’s vital for companies to have a backup plan for disaster, as no one can really predict when they will strike. The most common plan businesses integrate is a business continuity plan or BCP which will ensure that your business can continuously operate and deliver products or services even when catastrophe occurs. If you don’t have an existing BCP for your company, it’s time that you considered creating one. This is true for every business, whether a startup or established, big company that has been operating for years.

Why make a business continuity plan?

Having a BCP for your company has several benefits. One of the most obvious is that your business can continue its everyday operations, thus allowing you to keep making sales. Aside from this, there are other advantages:
  • Possible to work in remote locations - In the event that your office can’t be used because of disaster, you’ll know how to keep key business functions running by thinking ahead about how employees or key personnel can continue working from remote locations. You may also have a certain place ready to be used as your temporary office if needed.
  • Downtime can be lessened - When disaster strikes it can stop your business operations immediately. Without a business continuity plan, you have to figure out what to do next the moment it happens. However, if you have an existing plan in place, you can immediately start to execute what needs to be done so that you get your business up and running in no time. Time means money in every business and that’s why it’s important not to waste any time unnecessarily.
  • Continue to provide for your customers - If your business operations stop, your customers may start trying out other products or services from other companies. They may forget about you if they don’t feel your presence. Since a successful BCP will keep you up and running, you’ll be able to keep hold of your loyal customers and even continue to make new ones, especially if your competitors do not have a business continuity plan and are afflicted with adverse circumstances too.

Factors to consider when creating a BCP

Since every business is unique, there’s no single BCP that works for all. However, there are common factors that must be considered by every company when devising one.
  • People to manage a BCP - As with any project or program, there should be a committee to take over the management of the business continuity process. This is unlikely to be achieved by a single person. It is best being a collaborative effort, where people have specific roles such as appointing an executive sponsor that takes care of funds and coordinators who oversee the overall process.
  • Analysis of business impact - You need to determine which products and services are the most important to your business operations. Ranking your products according to how critical their impact to your business is will help you determine which products to prioritize during the recovery phase. With this in mind, you can prevent bigger losses and maximize the efficiency of your recovery process.

Plan creation

After determining which products, services, and functions are most vital to your business, you can start creating a plan on what to do in the event of a disaster. It should clearly tell the process that must be followed, as well as the specific roles of individuals. There are existing sample plans that you can find on the Web and you can follow the format of a business in the same industry and customize the plan to suit your individual company.

Plan review

Your BCP plan must be studied carefully for quality. Every area should be reviewed properly to ensure the plan is a success. Since the needs and processes of the company may change, it’s also important to review the plan once or twice a year to ensure that it’s still appropriate for your business.

If you are truly serious about establishing business security, a BCP isn’t a process that you can easily neglect. Remember, you never know when a disaster can strike! The sooner you get a plan of action, the better. Contact us today to see how we can help you develop a plan that will work for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 11th, 2014

Security_Apr11_CThe security of your systems and communication, especially those that utilize the Internet should be paramount for any business. Over the past few weeks a massive new security flaw has been uncovered. This flaw, codenamed Heartbleed, could potentially expose all your vital data and communications that flows between your computer and websites online. All businesses and Internet users should be aware of this Heartbleed so that they can take steps to stay safe.

Background info about secure transmission of information on the Web

Most sites on the Internet rely on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to ensure that information is transmitted securely from a computer to server. SSL and the slightly older Transport Layer Security (TLS) are the main technology used to essentially verify that the site you are trying to access is indeed that site, and not a fake one which could contain malware or any other form of security threat. They essentially ensure that the keys needed to confirm that a site is legitimate and communication can be securely exchanged.

You can tell sites are using SSL/TLS by looking at the URL bar of your browser. If there is a padlock or HTTPS:// before the Web address, the site is likely using SSL or TLS verifications to help ensure that the site is legitimate and communication will be secure. These technologies work well and are an essential part of the modern Internet. The problem is not actually with this technology but with a software library called OpenSSL. This breach is called Heartbleed, and has apparently been open for a number of years now.

About Heartbleed

OpenSSL is an open-source version of SSL and TSL. This means that anyone can use it to gain SSL/TSL encryption for their site, and indeed a rather large percentage of sites on the Internet use this software library. The problem is, there was a small software glitch that can be exploited. This glitch is heartbleed.

Heartbleed is a bug/glitch that allows anyone on the Internet to access and read the memory of systems that are using certain versions of OpenSSL software. People who choose to exploit the bugs in the specific versions of OpenSSL can actually access or 'grab' bits of data that should be secured. This data is often related to the 'handshake' or key that is used to encrypt data which can then be observed and copied, allowing others to see what should be secure information.

The problem with Heartbleed

There are two major problems with this bug. The first being that if an attacker can uncover the SSL handshake used by your computer and the server that hosts the site when you login or transmit data they will be able to see this information. This information usually is made up of your login name, password, text messages, content and even your credit card numbers. In other words, anything that gets transmitted to the site using that version of SSL can be viewed.

Scary right? Well, the second problem is much, much bigger. The hacker won't only be able to see the data you transmit, but how the site receiving it employs the SSL code. If a hacker sees this, they can copy it and use it to create spoof sites that use the same handshake code, tricking your browser into thinking the site is legitimate. These sites could be made to look exactly same as the legitimate site, but may contain malware or even data capture software. It's kind of like a criminal getting the key to your house instead of breaking the window.

But wait, it gets worse. This bug has been present in certain versions of OpenSSL for almost two years which means the sites that have been using the version of OpenSSL may have led to exposure of your data and communication. And any attacks that were carried out can't usually be traced.

Am I affected by this?

What makes this so different from other security glitches is that OpenSSL is used by a large percentage of websites. What this means is that you are likely affected. In fact, a report published by Netcraft cited that 66% of active sites on the Internet used OpenSSL. This software is also used to secure chat systems, Virtual Private Networks, and even some email servers.

We have to make it clear here however: Just because OpenSSL is used by a vast percentage of the Internet, it doesn't mean every site is affected by the glitch.

The latest versions of OpenSSL have already patched this issue and any website using these versions will still be secure. The version with Heartbleed came out in 2011. The issue is while sites may not be using the 2011 version now, they likely did in the past meaning your data could have been at risk. On the other hand, there are still a wide number of sites using this version of OpenSSL.

What should I do?

This is a big issue, regardless of whether a website uses this version of OpenSSL or not. The absolute first thing you should do is go and change your passwords for everything. When we say everything, we mean everything. Make the passwords as different as possible from the old ones and ensure that they are strong.

It can be hard to tell whether your data or communications were or are actually exposed or not, but it is safe to assume that at some time or another it was. Changing your passwords should be the first step to ensuring that you are secure and that the SSL/TSL transmissions are secure. Another thing you should be aware of is what sites are actually using this version of OpenSSL. According to articles on the Web some of the most popular sites have used the version with the bug, or are as of the writing of this article, using it. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Amazon Web Services
  • GoDaddy
  • Intuit
It would be a good idea to visit the blogs of each service to see whether they have updated to a new version of OpenSSL. As of the writing of this article, most had actually done so but some were still looking into upgrading. For a full list of sites, check out this Mashable article.

If you have a website that uses SSL/TSL and OpenSSL you should update it to the latest version ASAP. This isn't a large update but it needs to be done properly, so it is best to contact an IT partner like us who can help ensure the upgrade goes smoothly and that all communication is infact secure.

Contact us today to see how we can help ensure that your company is secure.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_CPretty much every profession has its own language or set of terms that those working in that field quickly master and use on an everyday level with colleagues. However, this can pose problems for those people not involved directly with a specific industry. For example, it can be a challenge for business owners to effectively communicate with Web designers and developers. To make things easier, it can be useful to know some of the more common Web design terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_CBusiness customers can be largely visual creatures; judging a company by how it looks. When it comes to social media campaigns if the content of your business posts is not visually appealing you may find it hard to engage your clients. The question is, what tools can you can use to create visual content, especially if you aren't a Photoshop expert or graphic designer.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 4th, 2014

Security_March31_CComputers must have appropriate protection from malware attacks. Aside from creating annoyances, malware infections can also affect the performance of your computer. Furthermore, the data on your system and confidential information that you use online may also be tracked and used without your knowledge. Because of the severity of the problems that it can cause you need to be very cautious about preventing malware infections, and know how to deal with them properly.

Signs of a malware infection

Before proceeding with the steps on how to respond to malware infections, we first need to learn about the signs and symptoms of a malware infection. These include:
  • Several pop-ups appear even when not browsing the Web.
  • Unusual slowness of the computer and Internet connection.
  • System hangs or freezes.
  • Corrupted programs.
  • Antivirus is disabled.
  • E-mails sent to or from your account which you did not send.
  • High network activity, even when not using large programs or accessing huge data.
  • Redirected access to some sites.

How to respond to a malware infection

In case you experience any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to ensure that your antivirus and antispyware program is updated. This is to make sure that they detect the latest known threats on their database. You should then run scans to see if an infection is detected. If it is, the programs usually have a way to remove the infection. You then need to follow the steps the program recommends.

If this doesn't work, disconnect the infected computer from the network to prevent the spread of the malware. Furthermore, avoid accessing the Web and using vital information such as bank account and credit card information. Let the technical department or your IT partner handle the concern since they are trained in determining and eradicating system malware infections.

Once the problem has been pinpointed, a tech specialist will go through the process of eliminating the infection. This includes backing up data on the computer and restoring the system to its original state. Depending on the extent of the infection, the computer may need to be wiped clean, or reformatted before restoring backed-up files.

After the whole process, the computer must be tested to ensure that the infection has been totally removed. Moreover, further investigation and studies must also be done to determine where the problem started, as well as to create a strategy as to how to prevent this from happening in the future.

How to prevent a malware attack

Prevention is better than a cure and this definitely applies to malware infections. It’s best to arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid malware attacks and prevent your systems from being infected.
  1. Ensure that security protection is always updated and that you run system scans on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sites or senders.
  3. Enable firewall protection.
Malware can hugely affect business operations and the security of private information. One of the best ways to prevent this is to work with an IT partner, like us, who can help recommend and install protection systems. You might want to think about getting help in managing these solutions too, to ensure that your systems are secure at all times.

If you have questions or concerns with regards to malware prevention and resolution, feel free to call us. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_CA business website is arguably the most important marketing and branding tool today. It is often the first level of interaction customers have with your company and many visitors will decide whether to work with you based solely on how your website is designed. Therefore, you need a website that is designed to engage and meet your visitors' needs. One of the best ways to achieve this is to learn about common mistakes other businesses have made when designing their websites to avoid making the same errors.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.