Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five Ways Your Business Can Improve Its Search Engine Rankings

5 Tips for SMBs to Improve Search Engine Rankings…

In an age where most business happens online, not showing up in Google search results can really hurt you. While there’s no real shortcut to showing up consistently on web searches, there are a few quick fixes to get your site to show up on your potential customer’s search results...

1. HTML tags - Important HTML tags include the title tag, meta description and meta keywords. Make sure each page of your website has appropriate HTML tags. The title tag of each page should be unique and relevant to that particular page.

2. Alternative text images - Ensure that most of the images on your website have alternative text tags. Alt tags are basically descriptions for images. By adding relevant alternative tags to images, you are allowing search engines to recognize them, which will improve the likelihood of your page showing up in search results.

3. File hierarchy - How simple is your HTML file hierarchy? Check to see if your website’s pages are logically situated and avoid too many unnecessary folders. For example: ‘NFL=>Teams=>PittsburghSteelers’ is a better folder structure than ‘NFL=>Teams=>NFCEast=>PittsburghSteelers’, because here ‘NFCEast’ is redundant and only serves to push the Steelers page deeper down the order. This complexity makes your site less likely to show up on search results for people searching for Steelers websites.

4. Sitemap - A sitemap acts as a navigational guide for your visitors as well as search engines. Does your website have one? If not, then it’s time to put up a site map on your website.

5. Content quality - Read your website content to determine its quality. Is your content written for search engines or actual visitors? Is it stuffed with keywords? Does it truly add value to your audience, or is simply there to fill up the page? Answer these questions and make sure it has value for your audience. Value for your audience translates to better search engine rankings.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Five Things You Should Do Right Now to Preserve Your Network and Systems

5 Things SMBs Can Do Right Now to Preserve Their Network and Systems

1. Backup Files Every Day - As catastrophic as data loss is, the number of businesses that still are not backing up their network is unbelievable. According to the Symantec Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data on a daily basis and fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. Any number of events can result in data loss, so the importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.

2. Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly - Many times business owners think that they have a backup system in place only to find out after it’s too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like your files are being backed up daily, however, the backup could have become corrupt or it is not backing up huge chunks of critical data. Check your backup procedures regularly to ensure they are working properly in order to be sure that ALL of your data can be recovered. In the age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on your employee’s personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys, so make sure you have a procedure in place to check those backups as well.

3. Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled - Far too many companies either have no virus protection, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and unreputable websites. Further, because of inadequate firewall protection about 40% of small to medium businesses will have their network accessed by a hacker. Chances are, when these businesses are attacked they will be entirely unaware it is happening. In order to protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact. Finally, don’t forget to update security patches and change passwords when an employee leaves in order to deter hacking attempts.

4. Monitor Server Drives - Dangerously full server drives can bring their own set of problems - ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server can spare your business a lot of problems down the road.

5. Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs - Very few problems with technology emerge suddenly. These problems typically progress over time and evolve into more serious problems. Frequently review your critical built-in log files to help identify the problem before it has gotten out of control and wreaks havoc on your business infrastructure.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Data Loss Can Cause You to Shut Down

Data Loss Can Cause You To Shut Down — Research by National Archives & !important; Records Administration

Small and medium sized businesses today are relying more than ever on IT systems to efficiently run their business, support customers and optimize productivity. These systems house sensitive digital data ranging from employee and customer information, to internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. This is in addition to applications and programs critical to daily business functions and customer service.

While corporate-level data losses and insider theft are well publicized, many smaller businesses have also become casualties of data loss and theft. Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that a small-to-medium sized business can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week. Projected lost daily revenue increases to 40% one month into a major data loss.

According to The National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, coupled with prolonged downtime for ten or more days, have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident while 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. Finally, 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss.

Still, a survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.

Businesses play on a much bigger playing field than they did two decades ago. Any disruptive technological event - even the smallest of incidents - can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to minimize downtime and soften the impact of such events.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Can You Really Afford Not to Have a Backup Plan?

7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website

According to Symantec SMB, 50% of SMBs admit to having no backup and disaster recovery plan in place. 41% of those surveyed confessed that they had never even given much thought to implementing a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. If you are one of them, then you really need to think about whether you can afford the status quo. Answering these questions will help you decide.

1. How often is employee productivity and customer accessibility or service stalled each day from a downed network or system?

2. How much downtime can your business truly afford and what kind of backup or recovery solutions are in effect when systems are unavailable?

3. What level of IT support can be accessed? Can it be accessed quickly enough to minimize damage? Are you confident that your business can either be back online or be able to access lost data with minimal disruption, no matter what?

4. Is your most critical data frequently backed up? Is the data on the personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys of employees backed up? Are all backups stored in a location off-site and quickly accessible in the event of theft, fire or flooding? Are you using any custom installed software and is the supplier still in business should this software need to be re-installed or updated? Are account details, licensing agreements, and security settings somewhere on record, and is it duplicated off-site?

5. Are your systems truly protected from theft, hackers, and viruses? Are passwords to sensitive data changed whenever employees leave the company or business unit?

6. When was the last time you tested backup processes to ensure they are working properly? How quick were your back ups?

Answering these questions will help you understand if you are needlessly bleeding money every day by subjecting your business to the high hourly rates, service charges, trip fees and wait times of on-call IT support. If you are an SMB, you don’t have to fear technology failure. A trusted MSP can help you resolve these challenges in a more effective and efficient manner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

VoIP: A New Dimension in Communication for SMBs

VoIP: A New Dimension in Communication for SMBs
Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is about a decade old technology that is gaining popularity among individual subscribers and businesses. In conventional systems, phone calls are made using telephones or handsets that are connected by phone cables. These calls are routed using the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN,) carrying a signal from one telephone to the other. But instead of connecting telephones to the phone cables through phone jacks in the walls, VoIP uses the internet where phones can be connected to broadband devices, adapters or PCs using broadband. With this system, voice is converted into a digital signal and carried over the Internet. Let's take a look at all the options that are available to make calls using VoIP.
Make Calls from a PC: Using this platform a call can be placed from your PC. Your computer is connected to the Internet via broadband. A specially designed software app allows you to place and receive phone calls right from your PC. When deployed, this software displays a dial pad. You can dial a number using a mouse or keyboard. You will need a headphone or speaker to hear and a microphone to speak. When your PC is connected to a phone or another PC on the other end, you can talk like you would on a regular phone. The software with video capabilities will let you see each other (you and the recipient of your call) if it is a PC to PC call and both computers are equipped with cameras. In this case you don't even need a telephone handset.
Make Calls using a regular phone: You can make phone calls with a regular phone using VoIP technology, but for this you will have to have a service, such as Vonage, that provides VoIP access. You can subscribe to their service for a monthly flat fee or a per-minute rate. Your regular phone can be plugged into an adapter which is then connected to a broadband device. Some services will allow you to make calls within their service network only. But there are other services that will let you make calls anywhere. That means you can call local, long distance, international and through mobile devices.
VoIP telephones: There are VoIP service providers that provide special phones. To use these phones you don't need an adapter. Their telephones are designed to work with your broadband device. You can connect this phone directly into your broadband modem using an Ethernet cable and use the phone like any regular phone.
Companies providing VoIP services are focusing on providing unified communication platforms that will include phone, emails, faxes, videos and voice mail capabilities. Their goal is to deliver these capabilities that can be used by all means of communication including handheld devices.
The Role of MSPs: Managed Service Providers or MSPs can help businesses with the installation of hardware and software, enabling VoIP technology. This will also organize their communication networks by integrating those networks into their IT infrastructure. Now SMBs can eliminate another worry (management of their communication systems) by outsourcing their IT services.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SMBs: It is Hackers v. You - Don't Let Them Score

SMBs: It is Hackers v. You - Don't Let Them Score
Selling stolen IDs and other personal data is a lucrative trade for hackers. They are always looking for sources where vital information is stored. As a small to midsize business you store your client's personal information, collected from different sources, on your computers and servers. Your Point-of-sale (PoS) terminal and some website transactions can be completed by use of electronic banking, credit cards or debit cards only. Your customers have to key-in their pins or passwords to make payments. That information has to be saved. Also, depending on the kind of services or products you provide, you may be collecting Social Security numbers, addresses, driver's license numbers and DOBs of your clients. Information that personal is as important as it can get. Any source of that information is like a gold mine for a hacker. All this means only one thing for you: A data security nightmare.
Here are the channels hackers can use to break into your IT infrastructure
  • Your website: Hackers have become very sophisticated in cyber attacks on websites. They can access specific information by targeting websites that have the information they are looking for. For example, if they want only financial information about their victims, they can use tools that will fish for the websites that carry that kind of information. Implementation of web-based applications has made it easier for cyber criminals to connect to your website data base. They are able to find the loopholes and hack into systems. They can then access your customer's personal information, allowing them to steal from your clients by committing credit card and bank fraud. Or they can just sell your client's info on the Internet.
  • Your computers and servers: Your computers and servers are treasure-troves of information. By sending malware into your systems they can steal your admin passwords, and then login to your servers and other network devices. These hardware devices are the ultimate prize for cyber thieves because these devices not only hold important information about your clients, they also have all the information about your business and possibly about your vendors and associates. There is nothing about your business that these hackers don't know. Imagine how devastating this attack can be.
  • Mobile devices used by your employees: If you are one of those entities that allow their employees to use their mobile devices to conduct business, you have another security dimension to worry about. You don't know how secure their mobile phones, iPads, laptops or tablets are. You don't know how hard or easy their passwords are to crack. Breach of security into those devices will lead hackers right into your networks where they can steal data at will.
  • Unsecure Wi-Fi network: Most businesses keep their Wi-Fi networks well protected, but unsecured Wi-Fi is an open invitation to cyber criminals. If your Wi-Fi network is not secure, hackers are one step closer to breaking into your systems without even trying.
  • Your PoS systems: PoS systems are the prime targets for hackers who want to commit financial fraud. Cyber thieves know that PoS systems that come with pre-loaded software can be hacked using an unsecured Wi-Fi network. This fraud has a direct impact on an individual's finances because a hacker can make unauthorized credit card charges quickly and move on before anyone realizes what happened. Ruined credit can take years to mend.
  • Your emails: Email is another venue that hackers use to infect computers with malicious software. They send viruses that replicate themselves in the host computers, performing various tasks such as denial of service to the users of your systems, spamming your contacts and accessing data without authorization.
Summary: After reading this article you probably feel like you are in cyber warfare with hackers and your IT infrastructure is the battlefield. You are absolutely right. Hackers are relentless and they are devising new methods all the time to steal from businesses. But this is one fight you can't let them win. Protecting client data is not just a moral obligation. You are legally bound by the privacy laws to protect this information by all means. Breach in data security can ruin your reputation, and the financial liability to meet legal obligations may become too much to sustain.
So how do you fight this war in which you have to make certain that there is only one winner?Outsource your IT managed services to professionals who will monitor your networks 24/7 from a remote location. Your in-house IT management team may be able to fix problems, but it is important that proactive solutions are in place in case there is data loss as a result of a breach. Managed services can create solid data backup & recovery plans that will have your systems up and running quickly, so you can reduce downtime and protect your revenue.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Business Disaster: What Threatens Small Businesses the Most?

 Business Disaster: What Threatens Small Businesses the Most?
There are many threats to the integrity of a small business, and not all of them are as dramatic as a cyberattack or a hurricane. Every small business needs to do a risk assessment to determine all the threats that exist that could bring harm. External threats are the ones that get the the most attention. These can be big snowstorms or hurricanes that bring down power lines and network connections. They can also be man-made. A power outage due to a grid failure, or an act of terror. Also in this category are phishing scams, cyber attacks and data theft from external sources.
All of these are the ones that make the evening network news, and every business needs to plan how to handle them. However, there are some internal threats that can be just as serious, but are far less attention getting.
For example, human error. Stolen data can occur because someone forgot about changing their passcode, or they left a smartphone containing critical data on the bus. These aren't nefarious acts, but they can still have serious consequences. Have you looked at how you might wipe clean a lost phone? What about the person who forgot to do a backup the day before a server failed?
Another area where human error can occur is a technical oversight. Perhaps an overworked tech who did not recognize the existence of a single point of failure in your IT infrastructure.To learn how outsourcing some tasks such as proactive management and security audits can solve these problems, see "Outsourcing Isn't a Dirty Word: Meet Managed Services, Your IT Team's New Best Friend - Managed Services"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Data Protection and Bring Your Own Device to Work

Data Protection and Bring Your Own Device to Work
BYOD refers to a firm's policy of allowing employees to use their own personal phones, tablets and laptops for all their work applications.This is a pretty common policy, and it has many benefits, but it brings along risks. How are you addressing these risks?
Here are some of the issues raised by BYOD
  1. A lost device - If you issue company phones, you have the ability to remotely wipe the unit clean if it is lost or stolen. With employee's personal devices, do you still have that ability. If not, your data is at risk.
  2. Software updates - Is the employee responsible for updating all the software and virus protection programs on their own devices? If that responsibility transfers to them, you are at the mercy of their willingness to keep track of such tedious tasks. If you accept responsibility for it, do you have the in-house staff to handle all the extra work?
  3. Back ups - with data being entered on many different devices, something must be done to ensure back up procedures are routinely followed.
In short, BYOD is probably an unavoidable approach to device management. It is unrealistic to expect people to carry around 2 different phones or tablets 24/7. But BYOD means extra work for the in-house staff of a small business. To learn more about these risks and a more affordable, comprehensive approach to BYOD Management, see our e-guide "Now you see it, There IT...Stays"

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Everyday Human Error Can Affect Data Protection

Everyday Human Error Can Affect Data Protection
Are you under the impression that data loss is all about putting up firewalls to protect against evil cyber attacks? Some of the biggest sources of data loss include sloppiness, human error, and just plain forgetfulness.
What are some of the unglamorous things that we do every day that leave us vulnerable?
Passwords
Old or easy passwords are a good first example. Employees set up simple passwords that are easy to crack. More importantly, employees may share passwords, and many often fail to create new ones on a frequent basis. Both of these represent critical breakdowns of good data protection practices.
Emails
Another significant problem caused by bad judgement is the tendency of people to open phishing scams. Most everyone now knows about the Nigerian who wants to send money to your bank account, but many new scams come along everyday and people fall for them. This is such a serious source of virus infection that some companies now deliberately send out their own phishing email to teach workers not to open anything from an unknown source. (The employee who opens one of these gets a pop up screen that tells them they've been tricked and then offers guidelines for identifying bad emails.)
Browsing the Web
Bad websites. Yes, everyone has policies about internet use at work, but that doesn't mean people pay attention and don't visit places they shouldn't. Most significantly, a lot of those "sites they shouldn't visit" are far more likely to be infected than CNN, Ebay or Amazon!
Losing Your Belongings
And finally there is just old-fashioned forgetfulness. Phones left on a barstool.Or the bus. Sigh. There isn't much more to be said about this one.
To learn more about the risks that your employees pose to your business's data integrity, see our e-guide "Now you see it, There IT...Stays".

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Small Businesses Shouldn't Avoid Making Disaster Recovery Plans.

Why Small Businesses Shouldn't Avoid Making Disaster Recovery Plans.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially ones that are fairly new, often don't think about making plans to recover in case of a disaster. However, it is the smallest business that most likely has the fewest resources to fall back on in case of disaster.
Why does this happen?
  1. It isn't on an entrepreneur's radar - The challenge and hurdles of starting out are what drive small business owners. The excitement that comes with getting a new client or releasing a new product are what motivates them. To be honest, things like disaster recovery plans are a little dull and aren't part of the exciting day-to-day hustle of running a company. As a result, these issues get put on the back burner.
  2. Planning tools can seem too complex - Ideas like "risk assessment" and "business impact analysis" can be intimidating. Many SMBs may just feel the whole area is overwhelming and leave it to another day.
  3. It is perceived to be unaffordable - Many owners may believe that putting disaster recovery plans into place involves a lot of additional spending on consultants, backup hardware and more software. That isn't true. With cloud technology and the use of a managed service provider, disaster recovery doesn't need to be an intimidating or expensive proposition.