Small Business Owners And Data Security

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This post brought to you by Carbonite. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Jason Yormark.

The importance of data protection in our day and age has grown exponentially. Practically everything is moving to the cloud, and at the same time, more and more instances of identity and data theft are happening at an alarming rate. It can get really easy to de-prioritize how you manage your data whether it’s local or cloud based. Most people feel like they are immune to the threats, and small business owners are no different. Options such as Dropbox and OneDrive are great for personal use but don’t offer data protection and automatic back up solutions. When you own a small business, you really need something that is designed to be flexible and grow with your business. That’s where a company like Carbonite comes in that is a leading provider of data protection solutions.

There are plenty of small business stories involving lost data and I’m a perfect example of such in that I just never felt I was ever at risk, but I learned the hard way that it happens. I’ve experienced data loss on hard drives and laptops in my past before moving my data to a cloud based system. It felt more safe to me to have my stuff “protected” by not having it in the cloud, but that approach was the opposite of what I needed to do. Being a content creator I had quite a bit of documents, video, audio and photos that were lost simply from an external hard drive crashing and being unrecoverable.

In addition, during my time as a small business owner I found myself purchasing frequently on corporate cards on online sites and despite my mild attempts at protecting my financial and personal data, I was hit hard. My personal information was stolen and used to open a corporate credit card in my name. I believe this came from storing personally identifiable information locally as opposed to keeping those things more secure in a cloud based system. That’s what you get if you just keep your data on your laptop with little to no security. After experiencing both episodes of data loss I’ve moved to a cloud based system for all of my data, and haven’t had any episodes of data loss or identity theft.

On the surface having your data backup in the cloud might seem counterproductive to staying safe, but it’s quite the opposite. Cloud solutions like Carbonite are built from the ground up around keeping data safe from all threats such as vindictive ex-employees, accidental deletes, or even acts of nature. While it’s important to use traditional protection such as firewalls and anti-virus programs, that just protects your borders. All it takes is one errant click on a bad link by an employee and you’re compromised. Same goes for insurance coverage; important, but insurance is only going to cover replacing systems, not lost data that lived on those systems.

What small business owners need to get right with (and anyone for that matter), is that moving your data to the cloud is the safest, most cost effective way to protect your data not only from theft, but from situations often out of your control.

Protect your data your data today with a free trial from Carbonite.

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Do People Really Suck This Bad?

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I’ve never cared about politics. It’s all bullshit really. Nobody is going to save us. Nobody is going to swoop in and make your life better. That’s up to you. I’ve always concentrated my effort on the things I can control. Taking care of the things in my world. My friends, family, co-workers, etc. It’s a far better and more productive use of my time. But this past election cycle has been unavoidable. It seeps and oozes into your life no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It’s been the ultimate shit show. If it wasn’t so depressingly sad and pathetic, it might actually be entertaining to watch.

Because of what I do, I see everything. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. And because of that, I’ve had to endure months of people’s political BS. It’s become like a car wreck. You practically can’t turn away. When did we become a society of people that can’t respectfully disagree with one another? For months all I’ve seen are people attack one another on who they support and/or what they believe. Not to mention 2 candidates that can’t seem to spend a single minute talking about their qualifications or what they would actually do in office. They’ve spent the majority of their time attacking and disrespecting each other. I get it. That’s politics. But sure seems like it’s reached an all time high.

Name calling, profanity, anger, un-friending, you name it. It starts to really hit home when you start to see it in a network of people that you thought you actually knew. Friends, family, acquaintances. People you thought you knew or kind of knew, all of a sudden losing their shit, or acting like their opinion is the ONLY opinion. And if you don’t agree, well than you’re a racist, homophobe, criminal, etc. Guilt by candidate association.

I’ve tried to stay out of it, and for the most part I have. Sometimes I feel like my wifey and I are the only normal people left in the world. The only people that can see that both candidates are seriously flawed. But also that both of them could probably change some things for the good. We’re not blinded by everything we read, see and hear. We don’t feel so strongly about a candidate that we completely dismiss other’s opinions and certainly not to the point where we judge others based on their’s. Where are all those people? Can we all go live on an island together and get away from the crazies? I feel like I’m living in an episode of The Walking Dead, but instead of zombies it’s Clinton or Trump zealots.

Lots of people say as you get older you start to like people less. There’s certainly some truth to that. I think it’s more about you having less patience and tolerance for things that are upsetting or shitty in your life. Makes sense. Hell, I’m all about maximizing the remaining time I have on this marble and spending it doing the things I want with the people I actually give a shit about…and I find that number shrinking.

Do people really suck this bad? I hope not. But this election cycle has certainly brought out the worst in a lot of people. I feel like this has opened up a can worms that is not going away anytime soon. Let’s be honest, there’s a very high likelihood that whoever wins this thing is going to be a 1 term president. I know there is better out there to choose from, but they probably don’t have the money, power and influence to be more than a blip on the radar.

Such is life. Maybe I’ll start a Kickstarter for Normal People Island. Anyone in?

How To Create A Business Blog With Massive Traffic

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Perhaps you are in the early stages of creating your blog. Or maybe you have a blog, but the traffic is low. Traffic is vital to the growth and success of any blog and should be the top concern when building your online presence.

Success Is In The Title

The very first thing anyone sees on your blog, or shared links to posts, is the title. It should be catchy, relevant to the subject, and contain keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases people use in their search engines when looking for pertinent information, so they are essential to helping you be found, while also describing what the post is about.

Enjoyment Is Key

Are you writing about something you really enjoy and are passionate about? Your attitude towards the subject always comes through. Be sure all your content is something you enjoy and are knowledgeable about. Your readers are more likely to share something they can get excited about because you are excited about it.

Sharing Is Caring

You want people to share your posts, right? But if you’re not sharing them, how can you really set everything in motion? Share your posts across all social media networks  you use. Don’t think you can only share them once. People are on social at different days and times, so there’s nothing wrong with sharing the posts again a few days later.

Make it easy for your readers to share your posts with their audience. Include social sharing buttons on all of your posts – making sure to include the top networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. However, don’t discount some of the smaller platforms your readers may also enjoy using. If you build your blog with WordPress, there are a number of social sharing plugins available you can use to automatically include buttons on each of your posts.

Bring On The Guests

Bloggers love to network with one another, and guest posting is a wonderful way to expand your audience. When you post content on someone else’s blog, their audience gets new, fresh content, and will likely check out your blog. If they like what they see, you’ve just earned yourself a new reader.

If someone asks to guest post on your blog, you’re not obligated to accept the offer, but, keep in mind that they’ll send traffic from their blog because they’ll be promoting the post, too. And, it gives you content with a fresh, unique perspective, without having to write an additional post yourself.

Revamp Your Posts

If you find that one particular post is more popular than another, consider how to revamp that post. Perhaps you should embellish more on the subject in a podcast or YouTube video? An e-book is also a great way to take a short subject and expand on it. An added benefit of an e-book, you can link to other posts so that people can read more on your site. Pay attention to what your readers are really enjoying and grow with it.

It may mean deviating from your initial strategy and focusing more on a certain topic, but you’ve got to listen to what the audience is saying and give the what they want, if you want any kind of long-term success.

Share The Link Love

Being knowledgeable is fantastic, but having the ability to research and prove your knowledge is even better. It lends you to more credibility. Google loves to see you linking to other useful, related, outside sources and will increase your ranking in searches. It also helps other businesses know who is appreciative of their information and are more likely to reach out to you and even link to your blog. It’s a hidden gem of networking that is highly beneficial.

Know What They Are Looking For

While you do want to create content pertinent to your business, what is it that people want to know that is related? Searching keywords about your business is great because you can see what people are saying. Quora is super helpful as you can type in your keyword and see what people are asking. This is a great way to help with those times when you can’t figure out what to write.

Respond To Your Audience

Whether it is a comment on the blog or a comment on a Facebook status, answer and engage with those who took the time to read and comment. The more engaged you are with your clientele, the more likely they are to talk to you and about you online. And that leads to new people finding you and reading your posts. If you continuously avoid responding, people won’t want to read you anymore, because they don’t think you’re paying attention or that you care about what they have to say.

Write More Often

If you are only writing once a week and not seeing growth, it’s time to write more. People forget about your blog when they don’t see a lot of updated information. Your posts need to be informative, but they are also conversations with your clientele. Growth is often stunted by limited conversations. Grow it slowly until you find that manageable amount of posting to substantial growth that benefits you in the long run.

It is not easy to create massive traffic. There is an incredible amount of information available online so becoming noticeable is a challenge. But these tips should help you travel the road to increased visibility and long term benefits to your business.

6 Ways to Get the Most Out Of Business Dashboards

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Business dashboards are all the rage in companies around the world. Some companies use them solely to help senior management with decision making while others use them company wide. Many businesses still use manual dashboards created using spreadsheet programs but the trend now is to automate the process. Some business leaders see dashboards as simply charts while others see them as key decision making tools.

There is no denying that many businesses now use dashboards but, while many can see a direct correlation with business performance, others can’t see the benefit. The reason for this; it all comes down to how they are used.

The following are six ways to ensure you get the most out of your business dashboards.

1.    Expand their Use

Many business managers make the mistake of using dashboards for just one purpose. For example, for one department, one process, or only during meetings. This is a very narrow view. To get the most benefit, cascade the use of dashboards across the organization. Every business unit should have a dashboard to keep track of their key performance metrics.

2.    Make them real-time

A good dashboard should be up-to-date by the second. The impact of any business process should be immediately visible. This way, problems can be fixed as soon as they occur and not one week later. For example, a sales dashboard should be able to show sales as they trickle in. A line graph or simple graphic can effectively achieve this; if a daily trend is noticed where sales are slackening, sales managers can quickly convene a meeting with sales staff to find out why activity has dropped and get to the root of the problem before things get out of hand.

There should also be alerts whenever an important event happens. This could be a positive or negative event. For example, once a milestone is met, an alert should go out to all staff congratulating them for hitting the milestone. The vice versa is true where a milestone is missed.

3.    Make Them Interactive & Customizable

The process many companies follow to create their dashboards goes something like this. The team leader or senior person in a department will request the analytics team to prepare a dashboard. After some initial consultation, it will be solely up to the analytics techies to come with what they think suits the department/unit best. The problem with this is that the analytics guys won’t use the dashboard and are not on the business side of things. So, when all decisions are left to them, the often come up with dashboards that have pre-determined metrics and a static layout.

A good dashboard should be customizable and interactive. For example, someone on the team may want to see filter the data in a different way and get different insights. This should be possible. Each user should be able to adjust the dashboard to meet their unique needs.

4.    Include Goals & Reference Points

Dashboards should allow people to always keep their eyes on the prize. Without a reference point, the business will be like a rudderless ship. Benchmarks will be different in every unit of the business. For marketing, a reference point could be a targeted number of new customers/users. For accounting, the goal could be a 10 percent reduction in fixed overheads and so forth. Including goals on the dashboard truly maximize the value of the dashboard.

5.    Automate, Automate, Automate!

It’s really unfortunate that many businesses are still using manual spreadsheet dashboards. This includes leading Fortune 500 companies. A lot of manual work is involved, which results in employees spending too much time doing tasks that aren’t core to the business. There is the additional danger that manual dashboards are rarely current and when management demands they be current, a human resource has to be fully committed to the task. There are many business dashboard solutions. In fact many of the leading CRM, accounting, project management and marketing solutions have beautiful dashboards that do all the heavy lifting for you. If security is an issue, you can always have a custom solution that operates within your closed network designed by a software firm.

6.    Make them Accessible via Different Technologies

Gone are the days when dashboards where designed with only desktop in mind. To get the most out of your dashboards, ensure they are accessible via smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop and even television. This way, anyone with an urgent need to view the data can do so on the fly.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that dashboards have the power to positively impact how an organization makes decisions. Implemented well, dashboards help an organization make smart decisions. At the end of the day, a significant part of smart decision making is having accurate information on a timely basis. And, business success is the result of a series of smart decisions.

Best Managed WordPress Hosting? WPEngine. No Contest.

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10 years. That’s about how long I’ve been working with WordPress sites. It’s grown from a simple blogging platform, so a fully fledged content management system that most use for their website needs, regardless of how they use it. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re currently researching WordPress hosting. Let me make it very simple for you. Stop. This blog post can end any questions you have about who to choose for your managed WordPress hosting. It’s WPEngine. By a long shot. Let’s chat briefly why, and if you’re not convinced after reading through this, caveat emptor.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, this post is designed to earn referrals with WPEngine, but that doesn’t mean what I’m sharing here isn’t 100% on point. WPEngine is a phenomenal hosting company first, and guess what? They’re also a phenomenal affiliate program. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s break down why you shouldn’t even bother with anyone else when it comes to shopping for managed WordPress hosting.

  1. The hosting is 99.999999% dependable. I’ve been with them for a few years now. Guess how many times any of my sites have been down? ZERO. I’d say 100% here, but nothing in life is that. Seriously, you can’t beat the reliability they offer.
  2. Your site will fly. The difference between the loading time of your site on WPEngine vs. the cheap options is staggering. I’ve used the cheap guys and they will slow your site down to a crawl on numerous occasions. With WPEngine my sites are always loading as quickly as they possibly can. Every time.
  3. The control panel is idiot proof. I’ve used GoDaddy, Bluehost, all the cheap offerings, and their control panels are a mess. WPEngine? Wonderfully designed, easy to use. Which means less time searching for answers or contacting support.
  4. Incredible features. They have so many useful features. The staging site feature is killer and so easy to use. You can work on your site or site redesigns outside your live install, and with the click of a button switch ’em. Awesome. Have a site you need to transfer in or out? Piece of cake. WPEngine makes it as easy as clicking a few buttons. Everything is on point and helps make hosting your site seamless.
  5. Unbeatable support. You ever tried getting on support with the cheap hosting companies? Have fun for the next hour or more. Any time I’ve ever had to reach out to support, I’m talking or chatting to someone within 5 minutes at most. Love it.

Everything can’t be rainbows and unicorns through right? Of course. You can’t host your email with WPEngine, so you’ll have to find alternative options in that regard. At first I found it a little cumbersome to deal with, but what I’ve learned over the years is that this is actually better. It allows WPEngine to focus on what they do best…host your WordPress site. Take your email to Google Apps or Office 365 where it belongs. It’s much more dependable and easier to manage. Plus most web hosting companies that offer email hosting have terrible user interfaces.

WPEngine is also more expensive than many of the cheap managed wordpress hosting companies. It’s easy to be enticed by the less than $10/month options, but trust me when I say you get what you pay for. If you’re serious about your website, be serious enough to pay a few extra bucks for all of the above. The speed, reliability, ease of use, and lack of headaches you’ll have are worth every penny. I’ve learned that a 1000 times over the past few years.

So end your search, take my word, you won’t be disappointed. And as always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to discuss.

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