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Archive for March, 2015

Stop advertisers from violating your digital privacy

Advertisers are creating digital dossiers on you. Here’s how to stop them.

Your digital privacy is being violated by ad networks.digital privacy

Have you ever noticed an advertisement in your web browser or on your phone that seemed perfect for you? Or maybe you noticed an ad that wasn’t perhaps perfect for you, but it did relate to something you had recently searched the Internet for information about? When you browse the Internet, many sites are violating your digital privacy by collecting information about you. When you search for specific terms, or add certain items to a cart, or read some articles– really, just about anything you do– sites are tracking you and selling that information to advertisers, or selling advertisers space on their websites so that the advertisers can place “tracking cookies” on your computer for themselves. Even worse, many of these advertisers belong to ad networks, so that they all share information they learn about you with all the other members of the network. That allows them to create very detailed profiles about users.

A couple years ago, a father called Target angry that they had started sending his 16 year old daughter expectant-mother ads. He had to call back and apologize because it turned out his daughter was actually pregnant! The advertising network had figured it out before the girl’s father did. Such targeting (pardon the pun!) advertising is referred to as “online behavioral advertising.”

And guess what? Facebook is a member of one of these ad networks called the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). Think about everything Facebook knows about you. Every time you Like something, post on a business’s wall, look at business’s wall, or entertainment page. Where you live, your favorite sports teams, where you went to school, who you spend time with. And they share that information will all the members, which includes Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Chrysler, GM, Harley Davidson, Allstate, American Express, citi, Bank of America, Amazon, Comcast, Disney, ESPN, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon…. how’s that for some powerhouse companies? Think if all of these combine their datastreams regarding your online activities they might be able create a pretty good profile about you?

Fortunately, there is a something you can do. The DAA provides an opt-out page that will search your computer for cookies left by participating companies, and allow you to opt out of any (or all) you choose. You can find the opt-out tool at http://www.aboutads.info/choices/. Any companies you opt out of will still collect information on you when you visit their site, but they won’t share it with anyone. Not a perfect solution, but it does prevent a large, detailed shared profile being created about you. Since this opt-out tool is based on cookies, you’ll need to run the tool for each browser you use, and for each computer you use. (Facebook is an exception, opt out just once for Facebook, and it will respect your request everywhere.)

Again, since the tool relies on cookies, there is an issue if those opt out cookies get deleted. If you occasionally clean all your cookies out, either using the browser or some 3rd party software, that will delete your opt out cookies. The DAA provides “Protect My Choices” extensions for various browsers so that your opt out cookies won’t get deleted.

 

Posted in: Privacy, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Outsource IT: Should You Hire Or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When is it time to outsource IT to an external service provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the Information Technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make more sense to use your business-building time on handling IT issues or outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

Unless you are an Information Technology Service Provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business – so why not outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – then it’s already beyond the point to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an external IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

In the almost 30 years we’ve been working with small and medium businesses, we have generally seen the following rules of thumb play out: Unless  you’re very good with all aspects of computing, then having an IT support company is going to be necessary no matter how small you are. Even a single person company is going to need help sometime. Having an outsourced IT department (letting a vendor handle all your IT needs) is going to cheaper and more efficient all the way to somewhere between 50 and 75 desktops (meaning computer users). Somewhere right around that number, it is probably going to make sense to bring on a full-time staff IT employee to handle a lot of the day to day issues that occur with your users, but you’re still going to need to an IT support company to provide additional assistance in the form of labor fill and advanced topics. By the time a business grows to around 100 desktops or so, the need and costs will flip and it will start making sense to have multiple IT employees on staff handling all your IT needs. At this point, you’ll probably only require outsourced IT for special projects involving new or advanced technologies, or for some specialty services (cloud services, business continuity, etc.)

 

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Click here to learn how WJP Enterprises, Inc. can help you with your IT outsourcing needs. The first step is to schedule a meeting to go over our Technology Consulting Services for your business in Brandon, Plant City, and the rest of Hillsborough and Polk counties with you.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Recover Your Lost Computer Files – Inexpensively and Easily

We maintain our computers similarly to how we maintain our own health – rarely do we take the time to learn about preventing health complications, and instead work to repair our health once we’ve become ill! We take care of our computers the same way, in that we rarely think about the safety or well-being of our data until something happens that leads to data loss or corruption. And when that does happen, how do you recover your lost computer files?

Have you ever taken a moment to imagine what would happen if you lost some or all of your computer files? Whether you only use your computer for personal reasons; or for school or work, file or data loss can be devastating! Think of all of those family photographs, music files or class assignments! Think of the report you spent weeks working on. Some files can be replaced with time and effort, while others (particularly your photos or home videos) cannot.

Numerous reports tell us that over a third of computer users don’t back up their files; and of those that actually do perform some data backup – 76% of people don’t do it often enough.

Most people tend to think computer files are lost only due to catastrophic events – like tornadoes and hurricanes. Don’t forget about slightly more common events, including fire, flood or computer viruses. A computer “disaster” does not necessarily have to be one from Mother Nature, either. Suppose you dropped your laptop down the stairs or spilled your coffee on the keyboard?

Losing personal files is devastating because of their sentimental value – while business owners who rely on content and files can consider the loss of data fatal to their business if they don’t have a data backup plan in place.

Create a Plan to Recover Your Lost Computer Files Before Disaster Strikes

Just like many human health issues can be prevented with proper diet and care, having a complete backup plan in place can prevent disaster from occurring to your precious data. Data backup isn’t as complicated or expensive as you might believe. It is far easier to back up your files to be able to restore them after something damages your computer, than it is to recover them after disaster strikes. Consider a data backup plan to be your computer’s insurance policy.

Picking Up The Pieces

If you’ve already experienced the loss of data and you hadn’t backed up your data and files, you’ll need to use data recovery services to recover as much of the lost information as possible. Data recovery makes it possible to save some of the data from damaged, corrupted or failed storage devices, but it’s expensive, and you may never recover 100% of the data you’ve lost.

Data Backup and Recovery Solution

Your best solution is to use a remote data backup system. This will backup and store your data files and information at regularly scheduled intervals to an online data store accessed via the web. Your backed-up information can then be restored to any computer if your computer’s hard disk fails, or if it has been attacked by a virus, or physically damaged. Some people back up their files to CDs or flash drives – and then keep these storage devices in the same location as the computer. If there is a natural disaster, chances are the computer and the backup copies will be ruined.

Remote data backup services exist for both personal computer users and businesses of all sizes. Prices range from very reasonable to very expensive – based on how much storage you require and other factors. Prevention is the best medicine – give yourself peace of mind with a data backup insurance policy for your computer files.

Ensuring business continuity and having a plan in place to recover your data is a critical aspect of a business’s IT Department’s responsibilities. Small businesses without an IT Department need to outsource their IT department to a local provider to ensure that critical tasks such as planning for recovery, and testing that plan, are taken care of.

Click here to learn how WJP Enterprises, Inc. can help you prevent data loss and quickly recover your lost computer files with our Remote Data Storage Services for your business in Brandon, Plant City, and the rest of Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Posted in: Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Password Strength is Key in Business and Personal Information Security

In today’s technologically driven business marketplace one of most often overlooked points of vulnerability to your business and personal information security is the strength or weakness of the passwords that you define for usage when logging into: your computer network, email provider, online banking, accounting or payroll applications. To underestimate the importance of strong passwords is to leave the door wide open to identity theft and corporate piracy. Your passwords must be a robust combination of all the characters that are available, must be unique for different applications and must not be a word commonly found in any dictionaries, in any language.

How do you maximize your business and personal information security?

We have been conditioned to use weak passwords. For many people the first password we ever needed was for our ATM cards. If this is the case we were limited to the numerals on the keypad 0-9. That simply will not cut it anymore. Malicious computer deciphering programs can run through all of the possible combinations in a matter of seconds. The same types of programs can run through all of the words in the dictionary, plus most common names, in multiple languages even spelled backwards, in a matter of minutes. You cannot have the same password for all of your password needs; if that one password was to get compromised then all of your sensitive private data would be at risk.

How do you come up with strong passwords that you can actually remember, without writing them down where they could be easliy found and used to cause you or your business harm?

A good method is to come up with a phrase that is meaningfully unique to you, and therefore it will be something you will be likely to remember. For example: “I love muscle cars and custom motorcycles” or “Ping golf clubs are my favorites”

Use the first or last letter of each word to create a string or characters, from the example above: “I love muscle cars and custom motorcycles” I could come up with: “Ilmcacm” or “Iemsdms”

Replace one or more of the characters with its numeric position in the alphabet or a special character as in: Ilm3a3m or Ilmc@cm

Add a suffix or prefix to make it unique to each application that you will use it for.

  • For my Yahoo email I could use: YeIlm3a3m
  • For my Chase bank account I could use: CbIl3ma3m

Make sure that your each unique string of characters is at least eight characters long.

Now that you have a strong passwords, that last thing you need to worry about is using them wisely.

Do not write them down on a sticky note and put them under your keyboard or behind your monitor. Do not store them in the file system of your computer.

Do not use your passwords on computers that have open access to the general public, such as those found in Internet cafes, airports or mall kiosks.

Do not enter personal information such as your user names and passwords on unsecured websites.

Do make sure that the computer terminals that you use your passwords on have up to date anti-spyware and anti-virus applications.

Click here to learn how WJP Enterprises, Inc. can help you strengthen your business and personal information security with our Network Security Services for your business in Brandon, Plant City, and the rest of Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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