Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seven ‘Must Haves’ for Your Small Business Website

7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website

Your website represents your business and so building and maintaining it need to be of primary concern to you as a business owner. We often find business owners struggling with their websites saying things like: "My website looks great, but I am not able to convert" or "I invested so much into creating my website, but I don't get many hits.” These things are very common pains faced by businesses, especially small business. If you aren’t sure where to start your site improvement project, this post will get you rolling in the right direction with seven key areas you need to pay attention to when it comes to your website.

1. Content - Make sure your site has a significant amount of content and that the content is relevant and meaningful. Having the right amount of good content adds value and appeals to your target audience. Don't fill the site with jargon and keywords just for the sake of it, lack of relevant content won’t help you improve your conversion rate.

2. Testimonials - Nothing has more impact on your prospects than them hearing about your product/service from their peers. So make sure your site showcases testimonials from your satisfied customers.

3. Social Media Icons - Social Media, when done correctly, it is a great medium to enhance your brand presence online. Get on popular social media networks and invite your website visitors to join you there - that way they will hear more about you from your fans at the social network.

4. Contact Information - Tell your web visitors how to get in touch with you. They shouldn't have to search the entire site before knowing how to contact you. Provide your contact information/contact form very clearly for them to use.

5. Tracking - Incorporate a web-site tracker that helps you track the leads that come in from your website. You can use services such as Google Analytics that are free and provide you basic details such as number of hits, location, time spent on pages, etc.

6. Loading Time - Web visitors today have little patience and lots of choices. So, it is important that your site loads quickly, otherwise they move on to the next search result.

7. SEO - Search engine optimization is a key factor in determining the ROI of your website. Make sure your site is optimized for search engines so that it shows up when your prospects search for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many companies like yours. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in-house labor intensive processes. Break-fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. The new innovative tools that can be provided by MSPs generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime and data loss from human error.

MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers. Some of the services and tasks offered include:

  • Remote Desktop Management and Support
  • Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates
  • Fractional Resource Availability of Best-In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs
  • Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes
  • Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software
  • Enforcement of Network/Security Policy
  • Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts
  • Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware

Erase any misconception that managed service providers are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in-house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined new methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventative services that proactively locate and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.

MSPs today put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMBs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMB's business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners." A present day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased total cost of operation by streamlining costs and eliminating unnecessary lost productivity, revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees, in addition to eliminating the need for costly hardware/software repairs or replacement.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is your Business Safe from Virtual Threats?

Is Your Business Safe from Online Threats?

Did you know that 50% of small business owners think their businesses are too small to be targeted by the thieves of the virtual world? Contrary to popular belief, 72% of hacker attacks often happen to smaller firms - firms with less than 100 employees! So how prepared is your SMB? Here’s a checklist to help you find out how vulnerable you are to these attacks.

1. Do you have Antivirus protection? - An antivirus software program can protect you from threats that originate from emails such as phishing and virus attacks. However, the most striking fact is that 61% of small businesses don’t install any antivirus software! If you are one of them, then it’s time to change!

2. How sturdy is your Firewall? - A good firewall system protects your computers from the variety of threats that exist in the virtual world. Examples include harmful cookies, viruses, worms and other such malicious programs used by hackers.

3. Do you use a Spam filter? - Using a simple spam filter for your emails keeps junk out of your inbox. The bonus to having a good spam filter is that your employees save time, as they are not distracted by irrelevant emails, but the major perk here is that the potential virus and phishing threats are lessened as spam emails are unlikely to be opened.

4. Do you do backup your data regularly? - Agreed - backups don’t really protect your data, but they are the only way to recover it if data loss does happen. So, be sure you have a regular and reliable backup plan in place - and it is actually being deployed.

Data loss can prove very costly—especially to SMBs, sometimes even resulting in them having to close down. Prevention is certainly better than a cure in such cases.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

Research has revealed that over half of all users end up opening fraudulent emails and often even fall for them. Phishing is done with the aim of gathering personal information about you, generally related to your finances. The most common reason for the large number of people falling for fraudulent emails is that the phishing attempts are often so well-disguised that they escape the eyes of a busy email reader. Here are a few tips that help you identify whether that email really came from your bank or is another attempt at defrauding you…

1. They are asking for personal information - Remember, no bank or financial institution asks you to share your key personal information via email, or even phone. So, if you get an email where they ask for your ATM PIN or your e-banking password, something’s amiss.

2. The links seem to be fake - Phishing emails always contain links that you are asked to click on. You should verify if the links are genuine. Here are a few things to look for when doing that:

  • Spelling - Check for the misspellings in the URL. For example, if your bank’s web address is www.bankofamerica.com, a phishing scheme email could misspell it as www.bankofamarica.com or www.bankofamerica-verification.com
  • Disguised URLs - Sometimes, URLs can be disguised…meaning, while they look genuine, they ultimately redirect you to some fraudulent site. You can recognize the actual URL upon a mouseover, or by right clicking on the URL, and selecting the ‘copy hyperlink’ option and pasting the hyperlink on a notepad file. But, NEVER ever, paste the hyperlink directly into your web browser.
  • URLs with ‘@’ signs - If you find a URL that has an ‘@’ sign, steer clear of it even if it seems genuine. Browsers ignore URL information that precedes @ sign. That means, the URL www.bankofamerica.com@mysite.net will take you to mysite.net and not to any Bank of America page.

3. Other tell-tale signs - Apart from identifying fake URLs, there are other tell-tale signs that help you identify fraudulent emails. Some of these include:

  • Emails where the main message is in the form of an image, which, upon opening, takes you to the malicious URL.
  • Another sign is an attachment. Never open attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses that can harm your computer and network.
  • The message seems to urge you to do something immediately. Scammers often induce a sense of urgency in their emails and threaten you with consequences if you don’t respond. For example, threat of bank account closure if you don’t verify your ATM PIN or e-banking password.

Finally, get a good anti virus/email protection program installed. It can help you by automatically directing spam and junk mail into spam folders and deactivating malicious attachments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Much Does Downtime Really Cost Your Business?

Downtime Costs SMBs a Lot More Than They Actually Realize….

Many SMB owners think IT downtime only costs them a few productive hours, but there’s a lot more at stake when your systems go down. Customer satisfaction and loss of brand integrity are just two of the key losses apart from the more evident costs such as lost productivity and a temporary dip in sales.

Here’s a few other ways downtime can hurt your business:

1. Customer Loss - Today’s buyer lacks patience; They are used to getting everything at the click of a mouse, at the tap of a finger. Suppose they are looking for the kind of products/services that you offer and your site doesn’t load or is unavailable—even if temporarily-- you are likely to lose them to a competitor—permanently.

2. Damage to Brand Reputation - Customers are now using Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogs to vent their bad brand experiences. Imagine an irate customer who doesn’t know if their card was charged on your site, or not, due to a server error. If it’s your bad day, they could probably be using Facebook or Twitter to share their bad experience, and it could be viewed by hundreds of people, causing irreparable harm to your brand image.

3. Loss of Productivity - When your systems don’t work, this can have a direct impact on your employees’ productivity. Consider a research firm of 200 employees where they primarily rely on internet connectivity to access the knowledge base. If the server hosting the knowledge base is down, there’s a total loss of at least 1600 work hours for one day.

4. Overtime, Repair and Recovery, Compensatory costs - In the above case, imagine the overtime wages the business would have to incur if they were to make up for the work loss they faced owing to downtime. In addition, there’s always the cost of repair—the money the business would have to shell out to fix the issue that caused the downtime and get the server up and running again.

In some cases, businesses would have to incur additional costs to make customers happy. These could include giving away the product for free or at a discount, or using priority shipping to make up for a delayed order.

5. Possible Lawsuits - Businesses could also be at the receiving end of lawsuits. For example, a downtime that has an impact on production, delivery or finances of the customer could invite litigation.

6. Marketing Efforts Rendered Useless - Consider a pay-per-click advertisement that shows up for the right keywords on Google, or an extensive e-mail campaign that your business engages in. However, when the prospect clicks on the link, all they see is an error message - Isn’t that a waste of your marketing budget?

The bottom line—one natural disaster, one technical snag or just one power outage has the power to put you out of business - both virtually and in reality. It’s probably time to think about how you can mitigate the threat of a possible downtime and whether your MSP can act as an effective and efficient ally in this battle for you.