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How do you know your information is secured?

Information-technology security becomes even more important when operating a business online. It’s critical to take the steps necessary to protect an online business against hackers who could steal vital information, or viruses which could bring your computer system – and your business — to its knees. Of course no system is foolproof. If someone is absolutely determined to break into your system, given enough time and money, they likely can. But it’s wise to put as many safeguards in place as possible, so that hackers will look for easier targets. What follows is a few steps security specialists recommend that business owners take to protect their systems.

1. Change default passwords and account names in place when your computer system was installed.Installing a machine or software out of the box without reconfiguring it for security is one of the most common security mistakes that online businesses make, but it’s one that’s easily corrected. Failing to make these changes makes it simple for hackers to gain access since they know or can determine what these original settings are.

2. Update your computer operating systems. Manufacturers upgrade security safeguards often. Sign up for the automatic updates that install security patches. Hackers often are on the lookout for systems that don’t have the latest safeguards. And look into anti-virus software, again with automatic updates. Software should also be put in place to block spam and detect spyware, the programs that can be surreptitiously installed from outside a computer system and feed sensitive information to the intruder.

3. Use encryption software to protect customers’ financial information from theft during transactions. Visa USA and MasterCard International Inc. require most businesses operating online to verify that they have taken a number of steps, including data encryption, to protect customers who use their credit cards. If you meet those requirements, your online operation is likely to be fairly secure.

Complying with the letter of those standards can be challenging for small businesses, which generally don’t have the resources or the security expertise of larger operations. So it can be a good idea to outsource payment processing to a company like eBay Inc.’s PayPal unit. Ensuring compliance for in-house payment processing can cost at least twice as much as outsourcing.

Encryption is also important for protecting a company’s internal information — personnel files, financial accounts and product information and other data. It can foil a hacker who has gotten into the company’s computer system but can’t decipher the information.

4. Limit access of sensitive information to those who need to see it. Special software can detect unusual patterns of activity in the computer system. There is also software that can monitor outbound communications to make sure certain information isn’t leaking out. For businesses whose employees need remote access to the company computer system, require more than just a user name and password to gain access — for instance, a token that displays a second password that changes regularly.

If these dangers don’t provide enough to worry about, a new concern is emerging about personal smart phones, mobile devices that can handle email and Web surfing. Private phones are more vulnerable to hacker attack than ones connected to a company network. A number of companies are introducing inexpensive mobile software that encrypts email traffic, or monitors phones for suspicious activity. While the threats have been minimal and more of an annoyance so far, they are something to keep an eye on.

Source: http://guides.wsj.com/small-business/technology/how-to-keep-your-business-information-secure/

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Reasons to build cross platform mobile apps

If you decide to build a mobile app for your business, it’s important to be clear about your objectives from the start and strategize around them.

What are the ways that you can harness the power of mobile apps? Here are four of the most popular routes to choose from.

1. Customer engagement.
The best thing about the mobile channel is that it gives companies the potential to engage with their customers in real-time, by location and complete with profile information.

If done right, you can turn those engaged customers into revenue generating ones. Take for instance Kraft’s iFood Assistant. The application offers over 2000 recipes, many of them using Kraft products with shopping lists, interactive deals and coupon features to incentivize shoppers. The app also includes social sharing capabilities, allowing consumers to share recipes with friends on social networks.

2. Customer service and support.
Making it simpler and more efficient for your customers to get in touch with your company and offering them tools to make their life easier while using your products or services can be a great reason to develop a mobile app.

Digital Federal Credit Union, based in Marlborough, Mass., has launched an app called Mobile PC Deposit that allows members to deposit a check using the iPhone and Android-based smartphones, among other platforms. This makes customers’ lives easier and is a value-add to their existing service.

3. Promotion.
One of the most popular means to monetize is offering coupons. And mobile adds an interesting layer of location-based push notifications to the coupon economy. Imagine being the owner of an apparel store in downtown New York with thousands of people walking within a one mile radius of your outlet. If they were to get notified on their mobile phones with a coupon from your store when walking by, you’d increase the likelihood of having them visit by providing a timely reason.

4. If you sell your products or services online, a mobile app may be an option worth considering. This gives your customers the mobility to do the same things they would traditionally have done sitting at their desks, but on their phones.

There are many examples for this in which online retailers have extended their offerings to customers who want to shop on-the-go using their mobile phones. If you’re a service company, you too can capture a larger share of the market, as, for example, Dropbox did.

Think of creative ways to capture your existing or potential customers’ attention, enhance your offerings, entice people to buy and make life easier for your customer and you’ll reap the results.

 

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228240

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5 Financial Benefits of Moving to the Cloud

Why move to the cloud? There are plenty of good reasons, but mainly it makes good business sense. You can call it efficiency, or call it doing more with less. But whichever spin you prefer, cloud computing lets you focus on what’s important: your business.

Cloud computing can be used for almost all types of applications, not just business security. While the idea of cloud computing can sometimes seem hard to grasp, it’s clear that it saves its users money – especially SMBs, including small office/home office (SOHO).

Plenty of oh-so-clever industry people will tell you what cloud computing is and isn’t. Here’s my simple view: It’s what we used to call software as a service (SaaS), but it’s set up so it’s easy to switch on, simple to expand and contract, and usually has a usage-based pricing model.

Read on to discover why moving to the cloud will save you money in five ways (six, if you’re picky)….

 

1. Fully utilized hardware

Cloud computing brings natural economies of scale. The practicalities of cloud computing mean high utilization and smoothing of the inevitable peaks and troughs in workloads. Your workloads will share server infrastructure with other organizations’ computing needs. This allows the cloud-computing provider to optimize the hardware needs of its data centers, which means lower costs for you.

2. Lower power costs

Cloud computing uses less electricity. That’s an inevitable result of the economies of scale I just discussed: Better hardware utilization means more efficient power use. When you run your own data center, your servers won’t be fully-utilized (unless yours is a very unusual organization). Idle servers waste energy. So a cloud service provider can charge you less for energy used than you’re spending in your own data center.

3. Lower people costs

Whenever I analyze organizations’ computing costs, the staffing budget is usually the biggest single line item; it often makes up more than half of the total. Why so high? Good IT people are expensive; their salaries, benefits, and other employment costs usually outweigh the costs of hardware and software. And that’s even before you add in the cost of recruiting good staff with the right experience.

When you move to the cloud, some of the money you pay for the service goes to the provider’s staffing costs. But it’s typically a much smaller amount than if you did all that work in-house. Yet again, we have to thank our old friend:economies of scale.

(In case you worry that moving to the cloud means firing good workers, don’t. Many organizations that move to cloud computing find they can redeploy their scarce, valuable IT people resources to areas that make more money for the business.)

4. Zero capital costs

When you run your own servers, you’re looking at up-front capital costs. But in the world of cloud-computing, financing that capital investment is someone else’s problem.

Sure, if you run the servers yourself, the accounting wizards do their amortization magic which makes it appear that the cost gets spread over a server’s life. But that money still has to come from somewhere, so it’s capital that otherwise can’t be invested in the business—be it actual money or a line of credit.

5. Resilience without redundancy

When you run your own servers, you need to buy more hardware than you need in case of failure. In extreme cases, you need to duplicate everything. Having spare hardware lying idle, “just in case,” is an expensive way to maximize uptime.

Instead, why not let a cloud computing service deal with the redundancy requirement? Typical clouds have several locations for their data centers, and they mirror your data and applications across at least two of them. That’s a less expensive way of doing it, and another way to enjoy the cloud’s economies of scale.

Bonus benefit: climate change

Whether or not they believe in global warming, many organizations want to do something about it. This is either because their customers want to do business with green companies, or simply through a genuine desire to emit less CO2 , or other gases believed to warm the planet.

By moving to the cloud, you’ll be greener in two ways. First, you’ll be saving energy, as we talked about earlier. Second, you’ll be taking advantage of the work that your cloud service provider has done to reduce its data centers’ carbon footprint. Think of it as saving money that you might otherwise spend on carbon offsets.

It’s Reality

Cloud computing is now a proven, mainstream alternative for SMBs and SoHo. Moving to the cloud will save you money, not just for your cloud security needs, but for many other types of data center workloads.

Source: http://www.webroot.com/ie/en/business/resources/articles/cloud-computing/five-financial-benefits-of-moving-to-the-cloud

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