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April 11th, 2014

Security_Apr11_AThe security of systems like servers and computers that connect to the Internet should be one of utmost importance for business owners and managers. However, there are always security flaws being exposed which could expose your systems and data to malicious hackers, who could really endanger your business. Over the past few weeks a massive massive security flaw with cryptographic software has come to light. Codenamed Heartbleed, this bug makes stealing data almost ridiculously easy.

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_ABusiness owners often have more than one role, overseeing many different aspects of the day-to-day operations at once. A possible problem that can arise though is that they may not be experts in every area which can cause confusion or issues. Take for example Web design - business owners might know what they want their pages to look like, but lack the ability to effectively communicate their ideas to Web designers. The best way to get what you want is to speak the same lingo and learn some popular Web designer 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_ASocial media is an important tool for any business, and those that want to really engage with customers and valuable connections really need to have visual forward content. The problem many business owners come across is in finding the right software to create this content. Sure, you can use a program like Adobe Photoshop, but while using an expert can prove too expensive, going it alone can be too difficult to achieve for many. There are other tools available.

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_AMalicious software (more commonly known as malware) can be found on almost any system, most often being downloaded and installed on computers. It can cause a myriad of annoyances, like unwanted pop-ups and system freezing, and some forms can even gain unauthorized access to your PC, stealing personal information. It's therefore essential that malware is prevented. Malware on work computers can disrupt a company’s operations and may put the security of data in jeopardy.

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_AThe website is one of the most important marketing and branding tools a small business can utilize. Potential and even current customers visit business websites looking for information and will often judge whether they will purchase from this point. That means that your site needs to be designed properly. In order to achieve this it pays to be aware of the common mistakes businesses make when designing their corporate website.

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.

April 1st, 2014

Facebook_March31_AWith Facebook change is the rule not the exception. However, changes can be a challenge for business users to keep track of. One of the most common features that is changed or updated, is the algorithm that determines what content is shown on a user's News Feed. With many of the recent feature changes many business owners are commenting that it feels like they are being shoehorned into buy ads in order to reach their audience. While ads can be beneficial, one way to get your content in front of users is by improving your newsfeed performance.

There are many ways you can improve your News Feed performance and the best is to improve the reach of your content. Before we get into how you can do this, we should first describe what your Facebook reach is. Basically, your reach on Facebook is the number of unique users who see the content you post and your updates. When it comes to reach there are four actions you can take to influence it:

  1. Posting content on your own Page - This is commonly referred to as organic reach by Facebook.
  2. Facebook users interacting with your content - When users interact with the content on your Page e.g., commenting or sharing, this is shown in their News Feed, an act which Facebook calls viral reach.
  3. Sending users to view your content - This could be as simple as putting a link to your content on an email, or even on your website asking people to visit your Page. This is a form of organic reach.
  4. Paying to get content in front of people - This is using Facebook's ad services and paying to target your content to specific audiences, thereby increasing the chance they see and interact with it. This is commonly referred to as paid reach.
By combining these four actions together, you can get a picture of your overall reach. By increasing the reach of each post through the above actions you stand a higher chance of getting your content in front of other people. The more people who see your updates the higher the chance of interaction with your company on Facebook or through other mediums, including avenues of sales.

The question is: How can a company do this? Here are seven of the most effective ways to improve your News Feed and its performance.

1. Develop a strategy

The key to posts being shared is that they need to be useful and interesting to your audience. Take a look at your Page's Insights (Open your Page's Admin panel and click on Insights) to see what content has been popular with your followers. From there develop a content strategy that covers what content to produce, when it should be produced, and when it should be shared.

Take a look at the most popular posts and see when they were interacted with most. This will give you a good idea of when your followers are most active and likely to interact with your content - thus increasing reach and overall effectiveness of your posts.

2. Know your audience

This will take time and research, but you should be able to paint a pretty solid picture as to who your audience is. If you can define a few personalities or even target individuals, you can better come up with content your audience will be more willing to interact with, or be more receptive to should you promote it.

3. Let people interact with your Page

Some companies have allowed users to post content on their News Feed or even tag companies, having the post show up on the company's News Feed, only for the content to be trolling or negative. This can potentially harm your company brand and reputation.

While there is a chance of this happening, the benefits of allowing your fans and followers to mention you in their posts far outweighs the potential negative outcomes of a few. This is because when a user mentions or tags you in a post on their News Feed, their friends are more likely to see it too. In other words, this can be a massive contributor to your overall viral reach.

4. Be active after you post your content

Don't just post content onto your Page and leave it. If people are interacting with it by commenting then you should make an effort to reply to the comments. This shows that you are interested and responsive, and willing to communicate and create a dialogue.

Mentioning the poster using @username when you comment will highlight the name and post your comment on their News Feed, thereby increasing the number of people who view your original content and encouraging the commenter to return to your Page.

5. Don't be afraid to repost

If you have had successful posts in the past, don't be afraid to reintroduce them. You could try updating the content a bit if need be and reposting it. This will increase the chance of other users seeing content they may have missed and interacting with it. Just be sure to comment somewhere that this content is a repost. You could comment that it was popular in the past and you think it is still relevant to today.

Be sure not to recycle too often however, as this can be viewed as lazy and turn users off. Aim for one to two posts every couple of months.

6. Integrate successful posts with other aspects of your online presence

While there is a good chance that your posts will be seen on Facebook, try boosting this by sharing your most popular content on other mediums. For example, paste the link into your email signature asking people to check it out, or add a list of your most popular posts to newsletters. This will encourage more people to visit the content and even interact with it.

In order to tell what is working, use the information on your Page's Insight panel.

7. Don't be afraid to be innovative

If you hit on a strategy that works, that's great! But, you should not be afraid to try new ideas. If, for example, you see that captions on photo posts are becoming popular with your audience give one a try to see how it works. The key here is to be resourceful and always on the lookout for new ideas.

Looking to get more out of Facebook? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_ABusiness Intelligence, or BI, refers to the processes and systems involved in the collection of business information for analysis to determine the past and current status of your company. It serves to give a better insight into what is about to transpire. Many companies from different industries use BI tools in their business, but the question is how can different departments use them?

There are various BI tools available nowadays that support small to large companies. You can find Business Intelligence tools that fit your company’s size, needs and budget. These applications can be used in different areas of the business:

Marketing Department

A marketing department is responsible for promoting a company’s products, services and brand to increase public awareness. With successful marketing, a business can attract potential clients that can be possibly turned into creating sales revenue. The company can use BI to determine which campaigns are successful or not, as the case may be. Through this, investments can be focused on those campaigns that work whilst avoiding those that have previously failed.

Sales Department

Sales managers and supervisors can also use BI to analyze successful deals, as well as those that they have lost, to see what strategies have worked. The system can also help determine which sales teams hit or exceed set goals in order to analyze what they are doing right. Moreover, this helps determine which products or services are most saleable so these can be pushed further to attain more goals.

Finance Department

BI software makes analyzing, reporting, and managing financial data more convenient. Those who are involved in the process can easily access the information they need through the system. Analysis is easier as the data is organized and accurate. Money in and money out can also be tracked with greater efficiency.

Moreover, these tools often come with features that allow users to create scenarios and determine the possible results from there. This is extremely helpful in deciding on the best action to take as the tool gives you a view of the probable outcome. The success rate is higher if forecasting using a BI tool.

Inventory

Business Intelligence also plays a vital role in inventory tracking of products, items or supplies. For instance, companies in the retail industry can track the movement of products or items from the suppliers to the warehouse and on to their delivery to clients. Any problems encountered in the process can be quickly identified so they can be fixed in time.

Items in demand can also be pinpointed, as well as low stock and overstocks. Items that are low in stock can be ordered immediately, especially if they are in demand, to ensure that the needs of clients are met. This also lets you avoid overstocking, which can be a waste of money when investment is better used for fast moving items.

These are just some of the ways businesses can use BI in their operations. If you have further questions about the topic, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Security_Mar17_ASecurity of a business's systems and networks should be important to many business owners and managers. In fact, an increasing number of companies are implementing security strategies. While these strategies do keep businesses secure, there is one critical element that could cause plans to fail, leading to an increased chance of a breach of security: The audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company's security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:
  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don't know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.
If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_AA business without a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) is like a circus acrobat without a safety net. The question is, are you willing to take that kind of a risk with your business? Considering how attacks to your business can come in many forms be it cyber, natural disaster or man made (among many others), it makes perfect sense to have an effective DRP in place.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 12th, 2014

Facebook_Mar10_AAnyone who has used Facebook for any period of time is likely to know that the company is constantly making changes to the platform. One week they are introducing a new update to their mobile app, the next they are changing how we view posts and so on. Many of these changes are made to policies regarding use. Over the past few months Facebook has changed the Pages policy for businesses. These changes are something any business using Facebook for promotion needs to know about.

Background on Facebook Promotions

Business that have Facebook profiles orient the majority of their activity around their Page. Much like a user's profile this is where all the content and information about and from the business is posted. When business Pages were first launched many companies started to join and run promotions, often to the point of spamming or at least annoying users.

To curb this, Facebook implemented a series of regulations as to how companies can run promotions. Break these regulations and you could see your posts and content punished in the form of showing up lower on user's News Feeds, or not at all. This is obviously something many companies don't want, so it would be a good idea to keep up with the rules supporting how you can use the platform for promotions.

The problem with this is that it's easier said than done especially since Facebook is known to change regulations on a regular basis, often making it hard for businesses to know whether the promotion they are running meets regulations or not. In recent months, Facebook has actually changed their Page guidelines around promotions, actually eliminating some that you should be aware of. Below are four of the old guidelines along with the recent changes made.

Old guideline 1: Promotions on Facebook must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com, either on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

This guideline meant that if you wanted to run a promotion, you had to use an app from facebook.com, usually on your Page. Facebook dropped this rule in the summer of 2013, and now allows businesses to use third party apps (not developed by Facebook) to host a promotion on their Timeline.

Old guideline 2: You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.

This guideline stated that you could not have a promotion where people can enter by using Facebook features, for example liking a post or commenting on it. With the removal of this guideline, you can now encourage people to enter a promotion by liking a post or commenting on it.

You can't however ask your fans to enter a contest by sharing the promotion on their timeline.

Old guideline 3: You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting mechanism for a promotion.

In conjunction with the change above, Facebook had to also allow users to vote using the established features. The most common example of this is a promotion that encourages users to comment which counts as an entry. Then others vote on the comment they like by pressing Like. The comment with the most likes at the end of the promotion wins.

Old guideline 4: You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) or Pages.

This has been removed and Facebook is now allowing businesses to contact promotion winners through a status update or a direct message. You can also use other methods such as direct email, an update on a blog or even another social media service like Twitter.

While Facebook has removed some of the guidelines, they didn't get rid of all of them. It would be a good idea to read their guidelines for Facebook Pages which cover not only how to use promotions but your Page properly.

If you are looking to learn more about using Facebook as a part of your marketing strategy or to represent your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.