Don’t Dilly Dally About Data

Do I need a cloud server or should I use a hard drive? Is it worth hiring a data management expert? What type of security do I need? What penalties are there for not remaining compliant? These are just some of the questions that are probably swirling around your head when thinking about data issues in your company. You probably think that you have time to ponder these and make the right decisions, but you don’t.

You may not know that nearly one-third of all companies on the market will be exposed to a cybersecurity issue at some point this year. That means if you haven’t already made the right decisions your data could already be vulnerable. You don’t want that, so let’s look at the ways that you can prevent it. You need to make snap decisions here as soon as your business is on the market or even before.

DO Use A Cloud A Server

You have probably been toying with the idea of either hiring or buying a cloud server for your company data. It’s time to stop thinking about it and start doing it. While some people like to point out the security holes in cloud servers, they are nothing compared to hard drives. Someone can hack into your hard drive from their home in minutes if it’s connected to a network. Or, they could just walk into your property and walk out with all your customer data. With a cloud server, it’s far more complicated because then the data is kept off-site.

When you are thinking about cloud servers, do make sure that you research different companies rather than opting for the first one you find online. Quality of service can vary dramatically here.

DON’T Think Your Industry Is Special

It isn’t, and this is a big mistake that business owners are making right now. It is true to say that some companies need to worry more about data than others. For instance, if you work in the medical sector, you need to make sure that you are remaining HIPAA compliant and you can learn more about that on sites like www.nahs.co. But, all companies are held be similar data guidelines and regulations. In Europe, for instance, The GDPR recently came into full force. This impacts every business with ties to Europe, and that brings us to our next point.

DO Hire An Industry Expert

If companies should learn one thing from the new GDPR it’s that data laws can change fast. You can learn more about the GDPR on www.cio.com. While companies were given two years warning here, it still wasn’t long enough for some businesses to get in shape before the strict penalties were imposed. That’s why you should hire a data compliance expert. They can help make sure that you do remain completely compliant and that your business is up to date with changes to the law.

We hope you find this information useful and start making quick decisions on how to protect your business from data issues right now.

 

 

Tech This Out: 10 Steps To Migrating Your Business Into The Digital Age

Whether your business is a new venture, or one that has been putting off the inevitable for some years, now is the time to take it into the digital arena. This opens up the door to quicker growth, increased profits, and greater stability. Frankly, that’s everything that any entrepreneur could shoot for.

If you’re going to make this transition, though, the migration needs to be smooth. It can be a daunting process, especially when you’re not a tech wizard. As long as you focus on each of the elements below, you should be just fine.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s turn your outdated venture into a modern business that’s set for years of success.

#1. Reaching Digital Audiences

The main incentive for transforming the business comes from the potential to sell products to a far larger customer base. With over 1.3 billion live websites on the internet, grabbing your fair share of the audience isn’t down to luck. You must know how to work for it.

Search engines are your greatest asset by far as most consumers will turn to Google when searching for a product. Meanwhile, a strong social media marketing strategy should stop the threat of customers scrolling on. Just remember that different demographics respond to varying ideas. Therefore, you must know your place in the market.

It’s also worth noting that the methods used for local marketing should vary from those aimed at reaching universal audiences. Show that you understand the needs of an online audience, and the migration will be far smoother.

#2. Handling Online Payments

Gaining interest from the online audiences is one thing, but converting it into a sale is another altogether. Due to the nature of digital business, obtaining their trust needs to be one of the top items on the agenda.

There are many contributing factors to consider. But ensuring that the clients are able to complete their purchases in a convenient manner is one that must be perfected instantly. The choice of ecommerce system is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Accepting as many payment types as possible is key.

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If the business plans to accept credit repayment plans, it must also run the necessary credit history checks. Letting money slip through the net due to bad debts is the last thing any entrepreneur needs. And if you do allow this to happen, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

#3. Using Modern Staffing Management

Moving into the modern business arena isn’t just about the way you interact with clients. The entire operational process can benefit from the introduction of advanced ideas. This is particularly evident when considering the recruitment and management of your team.

Every entrepreneur needs to be supported by productive employees. In today’s climate, it’s important to consider the benefits of outsourcing tasks to companies and freelancers. Or you can look to incorporate smarter recruitment methods when finding permanent on-site staff. The combination of those two ideas should work wonders.

Perhaps most importantly, communication and morale need to be maintained. Automated tracking and staff rewards should have a positive impact.

#4. Going Paperless

Turning your business into a digital operation allows you to bypass many problems. The ability to remove paperwork and physical filing systems is one of the most rewarding elements. This one step can save time, money, and space around the commercial properties.

First and foremost, you must look to improve the organization of anything related to the company’s finances. Investing in a new Accounts Payable system puts you in far better control of the firm’s accounts. However, you must learn to appreciate the importance of change management as well as the project management. After all, the human input is still central to the overall output.

Making the office spaces paperless isn’t just about the invoices and contract agreements. Your company handles many document types. Going digital enables quick access, even when you’re not in the office.

#5. Providing Digital Customer Care

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When thinking about the clients, your initial concerns revolve around the ability to gain their custom. In reality, as is the case with offline ventures, the key to sustained success comes from gaining their loyalty.

The lack of human interaction can encourage digital businesses to forget that consumers are still human. If anything, online interactions have an even greater need to be supported by great customer care. This can range from adding Live Chat to your website to providing telephone care and online FAQs. Either way, showing clients that your commitment doesn’t end with the sale is key.

It’s equally imperative to ensure that the company has established a fair returns policy. Removing any doubts can remove customer apprehensions. Crucially, it protects the company too.

#6. Protecting Your Assets

Avoiding the possibility of unnecessary returns is just the start of protecting assets on the digital platform. As part of the bid to provide a safe transaction, you should have invested in strong data protection. After all, one breach of data could bring long-lasting problems.

Once you become a digital business, intellectual theft becomes a far greater problem. The fact that you’ve reached a bigger audience means that your content could be seen by people that try to steal your ideas. Protecting your brand trademarks and innovative ideas is essential. Running a successful business is tough enough at the best of times. Allowing others to profit from your work is not an option.

There’s still a need to take care of physical assets, including your stock, particularly when you still run an offline store. Once again, though, digital tech and CCTV facilities are your greatest asset.

#7. Joining The Community

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The online community is simply massive, and your business needs to become a part of the conversation. Many entrepreneurs that are new to the digital arena assume that it’s them versus the world. While some companies are your direct competition, not everyone is an enemy.

It’s possible for two companies to share a similar audience without being in direct competition with each other. When this is the case, joint marketing ventures can pay dividends. Alternatively, sharing market insights can help both parties stay ahead of the crowd in their respective crowds. As a digital business, you must grab hold of every opportunity that comes your way. This is one of them.

On a separate note, you can embrace the community vibe by encouraging existing clients to spread the word. Testimonials, customer reviews, and referral schemes can all help the audience grow at a rapid rate. In most cases, this will be far more efficient than your marketing schemes too.

#8. Incorporating Time Savers

Time is the most valuable asset in any business venture. Embracing the digital arena to its full capabilities gives you the best chance of maximized efficiency. Investing in video conferencing systems can be a great starting point, as it removes the need for unnecessary travel.

It’s often worth choosing computerized systems to handle key business activities. From automated stock management to email marketing workflows, the time saved allows you to focus on other areas. If nothing else, reducing the threat of human error should provide a better customer experience.

Forms can also be used to save time during recruitment processes as well as customer interactions. Apart from saving time, it should make life a lot less stressful. In turn, this should promote greater clarity when making other crucial decisions.

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#9. Tailoring Your Operation

Every digital business is unique and should embrace its strengths to find the best route to success. However, it’s equally crucial to remember that those characteristics may need to be altered in some geographic locations. This is because cultural variances impact customer trends.

All customers need to feel comfortable. This is why you must understand the importance of presenting information in their natural language. Even if they can read English, many clients will prefer to use a website that’s easier to navigate. Besides, this step shows that you’ve actively thought about their needs.

With this in mind, many digital businesses find that hiring external help is the best way to branch out. Turn the company into a franchise, and the small profits in each new location will increase the overall takings without any extra work.

#10. Maintaining Offline Endeavors

Transforming your offline company into a digital one can take everything to the next level. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon the existing company model. If you’ve been making money from those traditional ideas, there’s nothing wrong with continuing them alongside the new ones.

In truth, the digital presence is likely to increase the company’s local presence. Still, printed marketing materials and promotional events can still play a positive role. If you make the transition to the digital playground without appreciating your old clients, they may feel alienated.

Besides, a company that achieves success on both platforms is sure to reach its goals far sooner. Given that this is the whole point of taking the venture online, this should all the incentive that you’ll ever need.

Trends in #CyberSecurity

The world of cybersecurity is in a state of constant flux, and every year brings new challenges, along with technological breakthroughs to keep constantly multiplying virtual threats at bay. In 2017 and afterwards, chief cybersecurity trends will comprise heightened focus on cloud data security, shift of attention from threat prevention to threat detection and response, increased demand for talent and skills in the niche, and merging of security and software development and operations sectors. So, how will each of these trends impact the general cyber protection landscape, and which direction will industry developments take in the months to come?

1. Cloud data security becomes a top priority

As more and more companies continue to jump onboard the cloud computing boat, security of data stored online will become one of the main concerns for businesses around the world. For this reason, companies looking to move their line of work to the cloud should invest additional thought and planning when selecting cloud service providers to avoid large-scale complications and expenses caused by compromised security of confidential business data. On top of that, in-house IT teams can develop special security guidelines for staff members who want to sync their devices with company servers as to ensure maximum protection for sensitive corporate data. By doing so, important business information will stay out of harm’s way but employees will still be get to access it from their smart gadgets even if these are not supported by in-house IT team.

2. Security skills get more precious by the day

Right now, the security sector takes pride in zero percent unemployment rate in most countries, and the demand for talent and skills in the industry is constantly rising. Over the next few years, companies around the world are expected to generate more data than ever before but the type of cyber security protection which will be in highest demand will be slightly different than today. Namely, the skill set of an average security expert will be centered mainly on new skills in data science and analytics, and the need for continuous education will only grow further. In addition to that, the global increase in the quantity of virtual information will push the need for artificial security intelligence to unprecedented heights, putting adaptive skills and innovative security solutions front and center in overall IT development trends.

3. Push for detection and response solutions

Up until recently, businesses used to allocate the greatest portion of their cyber security budget to threat prevention purposes, but the future will be painted in quite a different shade of cyber protection. With the number of virtual threats multiplying at the speed of light, your in-house IT won’t always be able to prevent attacks coming from the worldwide web, and it’ll have to focus more on the threat response aspect of data protection and use special tools such as penetration tests to detect security system vulnerabilities and threats and remedy them. In this light, brands looking to take their cyber security game to the next level should adapt their security setups for threat response and malware removal instead of focusing on prevention of attacks on sensitive corporate data.

4. DevOps need to evolve into DevSecOps

The importance of cyber security for businesses both large and small has been on a steady rise for years now, and it’ll remain in the limelight in the decades to come, which is in itself a good reason for companies to start treating their IT sector with greater respect. To reduce long-term cyber security costs, companies should merge their security sector and software development and operations teams to boost safety of virtual information and improve coordination of data protection measures. By turning DevOps into DevSecOps, companies will optimize their cyber security game and ensure smooth running of key IT activities while at the same time avoiding the expenses they’d otherwise incur by outsourcing security protection to third-party services.

Data protection is one of the most sensitive aspects of business conduct, and its importance will only grow as an increasing number of companies move their line of work over to the web. Still, if you take heed of the trends listed above on time and makes cyber security system tweaks, your business will be able to withstand the threats and challenges hackers decide to throw its way without major difficulties or extensive cyber protection costs. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you’ll need to keep investing active efforts and funding into cyber protection if you want your corporate empire to stay safe and flourish.

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Guest Author is Alex Williams is a journalism graduate, and a rookie blogger trying to find my luck. Blogs are the perfect opportunity for presenting yourself to wider audience, getting the chance to showcase my expertise and receiving recognition. I am a regular contributor at Bizzmark Blog

Is Your Home Business Well Protected?

When you’re running a business from home, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of not taking it especially seriously. Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t put in a huge amount of care and attention to the work that you do or that you don’t rely on the income for your business in order to make a living. Rather, it means that you see your business as somehow not quite as legitimate as a business that might be run from a professional office space. However, there’s one area of your business that you should always treat exactly as seriously as you would if you were running your business out of an office: security. If your business isn’t properly protected, then it could leave you in an incredibly dangerous position, and this is even more true for home business owners than any others. With that in mind, here are three ways to make sure that your home business is properly protected.

Cybersecurity

The assumption that most people make when they think about security and protection for a business is padlocks and security cameras. And sure, those are incredibly important, but in the modern age, there’s another kind of security that has become even more important: cybersecurity. Most business is conducted online these days, and without fully up to date anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewall software in place, your entire system is going to be pretty vulnerable. Make sure that you keep all of these as up to date as possible since that’s really the only thing keeping a lot of dedicated cyber criminals at bay.

Legal Support

When you start running any kind of business, no matter how small, you are going to find yourself dealing with issues of legality that you never had to understand before. This can be pretty overwhelming, but the last thing you want is to end up falling victim to or even accidentally engaging in, any kind of illegal activity. Because of this, it’s crucial that you get in touch with someone like The Law Office of Jaimee C. McDowell. That way you’ve always got someone who can protect you and your business and support you in the event of any illegal activity.

Home security

Of course, as important as cybersecurity is, you should also think about the premises for your business, aka, your home. A lot of intruders will assume that a home business is an easy target because it won’t have as many security features in place as an office. It’s important that you don’t prove them right and have an alarm system in place. After all, not only is this your place of business but it’s also where you live and break in can be incredibly traumatic for you and your family.

Of course, when it comes to some of these things, it’s a good idea to have these in place in your personal life anyway. Far too often we allow ourselves to fall into this false sense of security when we really could use a much greater level of protection than we have.

Turn Your Online Business Into A Fortress

The internet has made it possible for so many people to build businesses from their own home; it saves them on paying rent for a premises, it makes it cheaper for them to advertise their products and services, and it gives them a wider customer base to buy their products. Unfortunately, no one really considers that online businesses have a few vulnerabilities that aren’t usually seen in physical stores. Whether you’re conducting your business part-time, or you depend on it as your sole source of income, here are a few vulnerabilities that could affect your business, and how you can protect it like a fortress.

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Cyber safety

Since 2016, there has been an increase in reports of online businesses being targeted and held to ransom by cyber-criminals. Experts are warning that small businesses are fast becoming their favorite target because most of them are woefully unprepared for hacks to their online domain. Don’t make your business a weak target for cyber-criminals – this is your livelihood, so protect it like a fortress. Invest in antivirus and encryption software that automatically updates to patch vulnerable spots in your security, blocks spam, and detects spyware. Companies that sell this type of software include McAfee, Norton, AVG and Avira. Cyber criminals also look for exploits in WordPress and popular plugins, so it’s vital you keep them up to date if you’re using this to host your website.

Get insurance

Depending on the kind of service you offer, you might want to consider professional indemnity insurance; this will protect you if a client accuses you of providing  inadequate advice, services or designs that resulted in a financial loss. You can get professional indemnity insurance to cover both defence costs and any liability found owing in the event of a claim up to the limit of indemnity. There are different kinds of insurance for different services, so make sure you do your research to ensure you’re properly covered.

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Secure payments

If you’re selling something online, enabling mobile payments such as PayPal can increase your sales by allowing more impulsive purchases. You’ll also receive prompt payments rather than dealing with a billing or invoicing system. A good merchant service provider can sort you out with an online payment system for your eCommerce store. But more importantly, they can help you set up secure payments. The minute your customers enter their card details into your system, they are vulnerable to cyber attacks. You need excellent encryption software and top of the line credit card security to keep these details safe from cyber thieves. No one will use your store again if they’re worried about their details being stolen.

Reputation

The best kind of protection you can provide for your business is building up a solid reputation. Establish yourself as a reliable salesperson, a provider of good quality products, and someone who responds well to customer feedback. Customers are usually very trusting of online businesses, but once they hear of any hacking incidents or lawsuits, they are less likely to return.

Secure Your Business and Protect Your Data

Unless you’ve been living in the Arctic Circle or the International Space Station for the past few years, you can’t fail to have noticed that a lot of business, many of them very prominent, have had their data hacked and stolen in recent years.

This is, in part, due to the fact that data in itself has become big business, as has conducting one’s business online, and partly because hackers have never been more skilled than they are right now. What this means for you is, if you run a business, which stores data and which is connected in any way to the internet, you need to step up your game to secure your business and protect your data. Here are a few things that will help you with that:

Access to Excellent IT Support

If you have a good IT Support team on your side, then you’ve already won half of the battle because they will be able to look at your current IT infrastructure and practices and tell you what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved. What’s more, they’ll be able to ensure that any measures you take, are implemented correctly, so that your systems really are safe.

Brief Your Staff

Often, it is the unwise actions of an employee, such as opening an unsolicited attachment or logging onto a suspect site, that cause company networks to be hacked and infected with malware and viruses that steal data and put them at risk. That’s why, if you want to avoid having your sensitive data held to ransom of your business being forced to stop, you need to brief your employees on all the things they shouldn’t be doing (opening attachments, sharing passwords, visiting non-approved websites) that could prove disastrous.

Use Strong Passwords

It’s also important that anyone who has access to your network is compelled to use a strong password, which consists of a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and which is random enough that it won’t be easily guessed. They should also change these passwords on a monthly basis to avoid data breaches, and they should really not write their passwords down, where they could be found either.

Encrypt Everything

Encryption is probably the best tool you have to secure your business and protect your data. Once your files are encrypted, they will be almost impossible to access by anyone who doesn’t have the key.

Back It Up

If you don’t want to lose your important data -the data that keeps your business running successfully -then you simply must back it up, preferably off-site at a location run by professionals. The cost of lost data and run into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the size of your business, so don’t let it happen!

Install Antivirus on Every Device

Last, but definitely not least, you should install antivirus and malware protection on every single device any of your employees may use to connect to your network and conduct business, including their personal smartphones and tablets. If you don’t do this, it could be so easy for a hacker to steal your data.

Securing your data will cost you time, and you will need to invest some money into it, but if you don’t do at least the things outline above, well, it could be very expensive and completely disastrous to your business!

How to Keep Your Business Safe from Ransomware

The recent global ransomware attack known as WannaCry, left thousands of users locked out of the data on their computers. Luckily, thanks to a tech blogger who reverse-engineered samples of the malware, the threat was soon eradicated.

Unfortunately, recovering the data once you are hit with a ransomware attack is not possible. However, there are certain measures you can take to minimize or even completely eliminate the possibility of such an attack

Understanding ransomware, how it works and how to prevent it is an important step towards keeping your business and your data safe.

Know What You’re Dealing With

While many cyber-attacks focus on stealing your data, ransomware works a bit differently. Cybercriminals that use ransomware, a type of malware, are after your money and attempt to blackmail a payment out of you by threatening your data. Hackers either don’t allow you to access your data or claim that your data is at risk and then offer to fix the issue if you pay.

Cryptovirus, cryptoworm or cryptotrojan, as ransomware is also called, can hit anyone from home users to businesses and public institutions. Each target presents different opportunities for cyber criminals.

Home users and public institution employees often don’t have advanced cyber security knowledge. Public institutions may also have valuable information that they cannot afford to lose.Hitting a business could mean big money, and businesses sometimes would rather just pay up than deal with the inconvenience of reporting the attack.

Types of Ransomware

Scareware, also called fraudware and rogue scanner software, is intended to scare you with a pop-up message about malware in the system. There’s no real threat, but the scareware gives the illusion that there is and says that you need to pay a certain amount to remove the malware. Knowing the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sites and programs is instrumental in recognizing scareware.

Locker ransomware is similar to scareware in that it attempts to scare you into paying, except in this case, the pop-up message claims that it has detected illegal activity on your computer. It often has the seal of either the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice and says that you need to pay to avoid legal trouble. You can safely close and ignore such messages, as no government organization would operate like this.

The worst-case scenario is encrypting ransomware, where the malware actually encrypts your files and cybercriminals demand payment to give you your information back. The problem is that there’s no guarantee they’ll follow through on their end of the bargain if you pay them, and it opens the door for future attacks. For those reasons, cyber security professionals advise against paying.

How to Protect Your Device

  1. Invest in Cyber Security.

The first thing you should do to protect your data is to find a high-quality antivirus program. Ask a cyber-security professional for a recommendation and use the advice to help make your decision.

For complete protection, look for a comprehensive security suite that can handle all kinds of threats, or combine your antivirus program with separate antimalware and antiransomware programs. Antivirus programs typically have free trial periods available, so try out a few to see which one suits you best. Once you’ve found it, it’s a good idea to purchase the full version for superior protection, especially if you often have sensitive data on your device.

  1. Backup, Backup, Backup.

The prices for external hard drives and personal cloud storage seemingly get lower every day. If your business needs to store a lot of data consider cloud backups, there are plenty of excellent cloud storage services on the market. Regardless of which option you prefer, not backing up your data is a crucial mistake.

It can be tedious to backup data, especially if you work with a large amount of it every day. Just remember that taking the time to make a backup is far better than being left with nothing because of a cyber-attack.

If you go with a cloud service, check the encryption and authentication features to ensure that your data will be secure. Remember to physically remove external hard drivers after making the backup so they can’t get infected.

  1. Education Is Power.

The best way to be ready for potential threats is to know what’s out there, and this is much easier thanks to all the useful information available in a couple clicks. Stay up to date by reading tech blogs and by getting in touch with your IT team or cyber security professionals.

Ransomware has been around since the early 2000s, and it doesn’t choose its victims, so even Mac users are no longer safe. Read about what other users did when hit with ransomware in case you find yourself in the same situation, and share your knowledge with the people you know.

  1. Skepticism Pays Off

You can never be too careful about what you see online. Look closely at all your emails, and if you get one from a stranger with an attachment, just delete it. Watch out for shortened links, as you can’t be sure where they will lead. Use online services that can show you the full URL before you click on it.

There are a few suspicious signs to look for with emails you receive, even those that appear to be from a company. These include generic messages that don’t mention your name, a format that looks different from the company’s usual emails and any requests for personal information, which you should never provide over email.

  1. Don’t Pay the Ransom.

How much do cybercriminals try to get with ransomware? It could be anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

A ransom demand is a crime, and if you give in, all you’re doing is encouraging it. Cybercriminals will use ransomware as long as people pay them. And once they get their money, they have no incentive to help you decrypt your files.

A Kaspersky survey supports the strategy of not paying ransom. It found that of the ransomware victims who paid the ransom, one in five didn’t recover their files.

Final Thoughts

A ransomware attack that results in your sensitive data being encrypted could be devastating for your business. However, being proactive instead of reactive is crucial. Following the information outlined in this article can help you secure your data. Just remember to back up everything so even if you’re hit with an attack, you can get your data back yourself.

About the Author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.