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The Importance of Firewalls

We live in an age of information. Sensitive information, be it customer credit cards or your banking details, can spell trouble if they fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, hackers and malware pose a real threat to the security of information both at home and in the office. This is when a firewall should be used.

What Is a Firewall?

Firewalls have been an integral part of IT for over two decades now. There are both software and hardware firewalls, but the job of each remains the same: to filter out unwanted data traffic from a source and prevent it from causing trouble.

For example, a firewall can prevent an attack from a malicious internet source from getting into your home network. It scans packets of data in real-time and filters it based on a series of rules. It also monitors traffic from the networks, too, because sometimes malicious programs can send out unwanted data to third-party servers.

What Does a Firewall Do?

A firewall performs the following tasks:

  • Monitors and analyzes incoming and outgoing traffic based on rules
  • Prevents unauthorized access to a network by blocking data
  • Provides notifications of all monitored traffic, including suspicious traffic

In this way, a firewall acts as an intermediate wall of security that sits between the network and the web.

Do You Need One?

What many people don’t understand is that as soon as they connect a computer to the web, it is vulnerable to being accessed by malicious sources. Without a firewall, this network is able to be accessed because there is nothing monitoring, analyzing, and potentially blocking data coming into and going out of the computer.

The Windows operating system has included a software firewall for some time now, but third-party software firewalls can also be downloaded for Windows and other operating systems. In fact, many routers will also have some type of port blocking or firewall capability, and the best course of action is to use a firewall like this and a software firewall on each computer in the network to provide maximum security.

from Lisa Peternel | Technology


How to Build a Remote Customer Support Team for a Seamless Customer Experience

Did you know that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience (CX)?

Also, 49% of buyers have made purchases after receiving a personalized experience and over two-thirds of businesses now compete primarily on customer experience.

Your support team is the primary (and often the only) customer touchpoint. Therefore, it’s important to build a customer care department that can deliver a seamless CX.

Meanwhile, it has become more cost-efficient for companies to leverage a remote workforce for customer support. They can take advantage of the reduced overhead cost, access a larger candidate pool, and provide round-the-clock support to customers in different time zones at no additional cost.

However, running a remote customer support team isn’t without its challenges – especially if you want to deliver a top-notch and personalized experience to every customer.

Some common hurdles include:

  • Ensuring timely communication and information sharing so every team member is on the same page.
  • Tracking work and monitoring results to help employees stay focused and productive.
  • Making sure that team members can deliver an on-brand and consistent customer experience.
  • Enabling team members to work autonomously, especially if their supervisors are in a different time zone.
  • Implementing endpoint security to protect your customer data.

Here’s how you can overcome these challenges and build a remote customer support team to deliver a seamless customer experience:

Hire Team Members With a Customer-Centric Mindset

The interaction between support team members and your customers will define the quality of the customer experience. Hiring the right people is key to delivering an outstanding contact center experience and here are some important traits to look for:

  • Basic soft skills such as patience, empathy, attentiveness, communication skills, positivity, and the ability to “read” the customers.
  • Technical knowledge about your product and general understanding of your industry.
  • Self-management and time-management skills, as well as self-motivation to complete tasks on time.
  • The drive to act proactively and make decisions autonomously.
  • Collaboration skills and a track record of working in virtual teams.
  • The ability to thrive under a low-touch and flexible management style.
  • A customer-centric mindset that drives them to think outside of the box and prioritize the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

Use Cloud-Based Communication and Collaboration Tools

Cloud-based software applications, such as project management, communication, and file-sharing platforms, allow team members to collaborate cost-efficiently from anywhere with an internet connection.

Meanwhile, a unified communications (UC) platform and contact center software enable your team to communicate with customers via multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, chat, social media.) You can have all the interactions synched up in a centralized location to ensure a seamless support experience.

Many of these platforms integrate well with each other so supervisors can manage progress at a glance on a unified dashboard. Also, they allow employees from different time zones to catch up with all the communications when they start their shifts to minimize errors and delays when they interact with customers.

Set Up a Centralized and Searchable Knowledge Base

Customers expect your support team to help them resolve issues quickly. In fact, 99% of consumers say that interacting with knowledgeable reps is an essential part of a great CX while the first contact resolution rate is a key indicator of customer satisfaction.

However, a remote customer support team member can’t simply walk over to the next desk and ask for help when she encounters a question for which she doesn’t have an answer. Therefore, you need to provide the resources your agents need to resolve customer queries independently.

To do so, set up an online searchable knowledge base (e.g., a private wiki) on which your team can access the latest information about your products. Such information should include detailed step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting procedures, and links to how-to videos that agents can share with customers.

Your team should also have the ability to update the information, ask questions, and add answers on an ongoing basis. This will create a supportive culture, increase employee engagement, and ensure that the knowledge base is current and relevant.

Implement a Customer Service Software Application

A customer service platform enables you to manage customer interactions across all touchpoints in a centralized location so any team member can pick up where the conversations have left off to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Some key features to look for in customer service software include omnichannel communication capabilities, ticketing system, live chat support, customer self-service portal, customer sentiment analysis, and survey tool.

These platforms also allow supervisors to see all customer interactions and metrics on a unified dashboard so they don’t have to micro-manage team members.

For example, managers can see the number of calls taken, the number of issues resolved, hours worked, high-priority issues, and tasks assigned to each team member to ensure that every agent is staying productive and delivering a high-quality customer experience.

Implement a Comprehensive Onboarding Process

A thorough and well-orchestrated onboarding process is particularly important for getting remote employees up to speed since they may not have immediate access to their colleagues or supervisors due to time zone differences and have to make decisions independently.

In order to deliver a seamless customer experience, your reps need to understand internal processes, communication protocols, and other operational procedures so they can resolve issues appropriately or route inquiries to the right departments.

Your team also needs to be trained on how to use all the communication and customer service applications effectively so they can optimize the tools they have at their disposal and ensure the effective functioning of the team.

In addition, since team members need to connect to your systems and access customer information using their own network and equipment, it’s important to ensure the security of the connections and the privacy of their networks.

Data breaches aren’t only costly but will also impact customer experience and erode trust. It’s therefore important to provide the necessary support and training to team members from day one to make sure your network is secure and your customer data is safe.

Educate Your Team About Your Customers

Your team requires an in-depth understanding of your ideal customers in order to deliver the most relevant CX, meet customer expectations, make product recommendations, and resolve product-related issues.

Create customer avatars/buyer personas and share them with your support team. Educate your agents about your audience, such as demographic information, their expectations, what they want from your products, as well as their preferences and values so your team can build rapport with your customers and anticipate their needs.

Also, enable your support team to deliver an on-brand customer experience by educating them about your company’s vision and values. When you build a team culture based on your brand identity, you can empower your agents to proactively take initiatives to surprise and delight your customers with an outstanding CX.

Final Thoughts

Delivering seamless customer experience is the key to acquiring and retaining more customers so you can increase sales and boost your bottom line.

Not to mention, hiring the right customer service agents and providing them with the appropriate tools can improve employee satisfaction and retention. These long-term employees often possess the much-needed institutional knowledge, insights about your audience, and enthusiasm about your brand that will turn any customer interaction into an outstanding experience.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs to Build a Remote Customer Support Team for a Seamless Customer Experience/

The Future of Financial Services Includes Artificial Intelligence

Almost every industry has adopted the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to boost revenue, productivity, and customer satisfaction. According to a recent study, the financial services industry has one of the highest rates of AI implementation among the top firms.

Nearly 70% of companies already use machine learning and other AI solutions. It appears that the future of financial services may rely heavily on these new technologies.

How Is AI Used in Finance?

The frontrunners in the financial services industry have integrated AI into their core business strategies and processes to reduce costs, increase profits, and improve operations. AI implementations can be found in almost every area of the industry.

Current AI solutions for financial services include advanced analytics, machine learning, and automation. The most successful financial services firms use these technologies to address the following:

  • Payment processing
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Fraud detection
  • Risk management
  • Personalization
  • Process automation

49% of the top companies already have company-wide policies for implementing AI solutions and tend to recognize the importance of AI implementation earlier than their less-successful counterparts.

These findings come from a study published in August 2019 by a major consulting firm. It included interviews with over 1100 executives from the top-performing financial services companies.

Early Adoption of AI Leads to Greater Success

Based on the study, the most successful financial services firms were early adopters of AI technologies. These firms also tend to focus more on the use of AI for revenue growth and improved customer experience instead of cost reduction.

The study shows that the top firms integrate AI across almost every business process, spending millions on implementation. In fact, 45% of the top firms have already invested over $5 million in AI systems. 70% of these companies also plan to increase AI investments by at least 10% in the next year.

While the frontrunners in the industry spend millions on AI technologies, more affordable solutions exist for small to medium-sized businesses. Over two-thirds of financial service firms use machine learning to improve operations. The most used tools for machine learning are cost-effective enterprise services such as Salesforce and other automation systems.

from Lisa Peternel | Business

Tips to Protect Your Organization From Cyber Attacks

Cyberattacks are a very real threat that your organization needs to be taking seriously. If you do not have the right security plans in place, then you could be caught off guard by one of these attacks. There are specific ways that you can protect your business from cyberattacks if you’re ready to take action. Take a look at the tips below so that you can keep your business safe. 

Protecting Your Company Hardware

One of the first things that you should do is ensure that your company hardware is protected. All of your company devices should be protected using a complex password. This password should only be given out to people who absolutely need to have access to it. Also, memorizing the password instead of writing it down is going to keep your hardware much safer in the long run. 

Encrypt Your Data and Back it up

Encrypting your data is going to make it significantly tougher for hackers to get into it. This is a step that you absolutely need to take when you want to keep your data safe. Backing the data up in a secure location is also going to be smart. You’ll be able to have that backup to use in case your data is swiped using some type of ransomware that you weren’t prepared for. 

Create a Security-Focused Work Culture

Creating a security-focused work culture will help your company to stay vigilant. If you are guarded when it comes to security matters, then it won’t be as likely that you’ll make a costly mistake. Remember that you should look for security threats from both internal and external sources. Remain watchful and know that security is always going to be a concern. 

Get the Best Software

Getting the best software to help protect your data is going to be a big part of protecting your organization. You need to make sure that you have the latest software and that you’re ready for whatever might be thrown at you. You can work with a professional cybersecurity team if you feel like you need help, and you have the money. Whatever you decide to do, just know that you’ll need great software to keep things safe. 

Educate Your Workers

Educating your workers is also imperative when you want to decrease the likelihood of having problems. Make sure they know how to use the Internet safely and inform them of your company’s security policies. Having workers appropriately trained will put you in a much safer position. 

from Lisa Peternel | Technology

Choosing a Credit Card Processor for Your Business

Whether you’re the owner of a brick-and-mortar storefront, you’re strictly an online merchant, or you run your business from a food truck, you want to ensure that customers can pay conveniently and that you understand exactly what it costs your business to make that happen.


With the arrival of innovative payment options like digital wallets, businesses of every size have had to transition away from accepting cash-only to choosing merchant account services and mobile payment processors that can keep up with the newer demands of potential customers.

Understanding merchant accounts and credit card processors


If your business will accept credit and debit card payments, that money needs a place to go, and that’s where credit card merchant accounts factor into your business plan.


A merchant account is a bank account that receives money collected from debit and credit card transactions. After each card transaction, the resulting payment gets transferred to the account, and from there the money can be funneled into a standard business account.


If your company takes both online and in-store transactions, the merchant account for card-present transactions may be different than the one you use for online purchases, but basically every modern business needs at least one merchant account to do business in the modern era. Once you have an account, you then have to think about how your customer will be interacting with your business. This will determine what sort of credit card processing solution can best facilitate those transactions.


If your customers come to you and most of your transactions happen inside your physical location at a traditional point of sale, your needs will vary from those of a business that’s physically mobile and brings the business directly to the customer. Likewise, if most of your transactions take place without being face-to-face with your customer, this will affect what type of credit card processor you’ll want to use. Luckily, there are several credit card processing methods to choose from to ensure your business is prepared for your customers’ payment preferences.

Selecting the processor that’s right for you

If your business is a traditional physical storefront, the most commonly used processor is a retail merchant account. This allows your customers’ credit and debit cards to be swiped (or inserted or tapped) through payment terminals at your store.


It’s becoming less common to see businesses that don’t also have an online component for handling transactions. To process payments online, you need an internet merchant account. You can then process both credit and debit card payments through your website.


In lieu of traditional point-of sale systems used with most cash registers, you can also set up your business to use smartphones and tablets as payment terminals. In these cases, you’d need mobile credit processors to allow your business to accept payments anywhere you have a WiFi or data connection. Nearly any type of business or individual can use this sales processing method, from artists selling paintings at local art fairs, to local coffee shops and beyond.


One payment processor type that’s less often used these days, but can still cater to a specific type of transaction, is mail or telephone order merchant accounts (MOTO). These accounts let you process payments by phone or direct mail as the name suggests, and may be necessary for some businesses.


There are other considerations, too. For one, if necessary, make sure the processor you’re considering supports multiple merchant account types. If you already have a point-of-sale system or website merchant page set up, make sure any processors you’re looking to work with in the future are compatible with your current setup.

Facing the Fees


You may think that you can credit and debit cards at your business along to your customers. This is mostly true, but be wary of adjusting your prices to accommodate this, especially if your business is in a highly competitive space where a rise in prices could put a competitor into a more appealing position in the eyes of the customer. Most merchants choose to eat interchange fees as an expected cost of doing business.

Since costs are arguably the most important factor when choosing a credit card processor, become familiar with the types of fees you can face.


One-Time Fees

Initial costs, like equipment installation and application fees are common one-time fees associated with credit card processors.


Transaction Fees

When using a credit card processor for card payments, you’ll be charged an “interchange” fee for every transaction made with a debit or credit card. These fees usually fall between 1.5%–4% of the total purchase amount. For smaller businesses where low-volume and low-cost purchases are commonplace, this can be a major hurdle when trying to remain competitive with bigger chains.


Several factors, including the type of card used and how the transaction takes place, can affect these fees. For instance, with less risk of credit card fraud with in-person transactions, in-store payments could cost you less than online or phone payments. There are no additional fees to use EMV chip cards at your business, but it does cost money to equip your business with EMV technology, which is basically mandatory in modern times.


Monthly Charges

Look out for small monthly fees, including costs for mailed monthly statements, or rental charges for the processing terminals themselves, generally around $20 to $100 a month. Some processors may charge a fee for early contract cancellation. Plus, most processors will have minimum requirements for the fees they collect every month, and if your business is shy of this minimum amount, you can be charged the difference.


Additional Charges

Another cost to be mindful of is the price of leased equipment, which you’d be responsible for even if you were looking to sell your business, or worse, if you were forced to close shop. Other ancillary costs to keep in mind are modern payment amenities like mobile readers to plug into devices you’re planning to use for your transactions.


Be sure to ask all the relevant questions pertaining to what charges you’ll have to plan for when finding a processor since every business has their own considerations.


The reason merchants may opt to charge customers more for using their credit cards is because they have to pay fees to accept credit card transactions.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, you know your own business the best, and therefore, the most rock-solid thing you can do when choosing a credit card processor is make the most informed decision you can that will accommodate you.


from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs a Credit Card Processor For Your Business/

How to Effortlessly Connect a Team of Remote Workers

Today’s world is growing increasingly remote, which means that if your office can’t handle a remote worker, it may already be out of date. And with the rise and spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), individuals and companies around the world are rapidly beginning to question the way they conduct their business — especially during an outbreak. And this doesn’t just pertain to large businesses. Even small companies of just a few people need to be set up for success or risk major disruptions in productivity.


  • More people are working remotely. According to an Economist Intelligence Unit study, only 28% of those surveyed hadn’t worked remotely in the previous 12 months — meaning 72% had.
  • The technology is here. Video conferencing, Slack integration, remote diagnostics, file transfers—most of the tools you are already using are cloud based, meaning you can do them from anywhere. There’s no reason to hesitate anymore.
  • More people are going to want to work remotely. Even if some of the population hasn’t worked remotely yet, the work-at-home crowd continues to build momentum, increasing some 140% since 2005. And by 2025, about 75% of the global workforce will be millennials—a group that will come to expect more remote working opportunities in the future. While issues like the Coronavirus may be accelerating the remote working trend, it’s a trend that we believe is here to stay.

Why does this matter? With increased expectations of remote work availability, modern digital offices have to be able to facilitate today’s employee needs — especially as they pertain to health. Many companies that never believed their office required remote working options are now second guessing this belief. And not only because of the spread of disease, but to allow workers flexibility and the ability to compete for top talent.

Even if you don’t currently have a structure in place, here are some tips to help you build a remote team for the first time:

Step One: Build a Common Culture

The technology is easier than you think — especially with companies like LogMeIn who offer a full range of remote tools. It’s the company culture that can sometimes get in your way.

That means that your human resources team needs to be on board with a remote working policy that makes sense for remote workers as well as your company. Here’s what you’ll need to think about to build a culture that includes remote working:

  • Develop a policy for working from home. This should be a written policy to which any employee can refer. For example, you should have a policy for working from home on non-sick days for employees that request it. The key is to put something in writing, even if you still wish to maintain a flexible arrangement with most employees.
  • Create a basic flow for meetings with remote workers. If you have remote workers that never come in to the office, you’ll need to check in with them every so often. You may want to put in the structure—backed up by regular reminders with your project management software of choice—to make sure these employees never feel out of the loop.
  • Set goals for each remote meeting. Remote working won’t always be done via meetings, but you’ll accomplish a lot more with remote work if you can keep meetings concise. Take the “controlled burn” approach from NASA: each meeting should have a precise aim and a limited duration. And after the controlled burn, you should be able to let workers manage much of their own work for a while.

Step Two: Integrate the Technology for Better Remote Work

Many employers complain that remote work doesn’t have the same in-person connection of the office. That’s true. But with the right technology in place, you can simulate that feeling as much as possible.

The question isn’t whether the technology is here. It’s about what you should expect from your remote working technology. Here are a few features to consider as you weigh the options:

  • Easy logging in. The first step in the structure is to incorporate someone’s home computer with their work computer, especially for those who work part-time in a physical office. Can they log in with a simple browser entry and get to work as if they were at the office?
  • Workflow integration. If you already use a service like Slack, you’ll want to make sure that the technology you’re working with seamlessly integrates. Otherwise, you face the potential of back-and-forth emails as you try to figure out where every remote worker’s progress is regarding their latest project.

Step Three: Create Teamwork Even in the Absence of a Physical Team

It’s tempting to view a remote working operation as exclusively digital. But no matter how we work together, we’re all still flesh and blood. We want to feel like a part of something. When that’s accomplished, telecommuters can report lower stress levels.

But the benefits of telecommuting don’t outweigh the potential downsides if you don’t create a sense of teamwork or basic productivity. That means you’ll have to go beyond building a common culture and focus on what it takes to make people feel like a team.

The first step is creating a culture of reaching out. One study demonstrated that employees who had a chance to socialize for even as little as 15 minutes tended to have higher productivity than those who didn’t. In a remote work situation, that can be as simple as a phone call or a quick face-to-face chat.

The second step is to incorporate your team into major decisions. There’s not going to be much of a “team” if people don’t feel like they get a say. That means including them as you write your remote working policy, for example, or holding meetings about the best way to handle some projects going forward.

The third step is to create some things that employees can have in common and share with each other. That doesn’t have to be an employee newsletter. It can be something as simple as an email you share with a distributed team or a common set of guidelines to which they can all refer.

Changing Technology Means Changing Habits

So while updated technology is critical, you can’t introduce new technology without also helping employees change their current work habits. Pave the way for remote work by building a common culture and creating a policy for remote meetings and communication, integrating technologies commonly used, and creating teamwork in the absence of a physical team.


from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs to Effortlessly Connect a Team of Remote Workers/

Important Tax Deadlines to Keep in Mind for 2020

It’s a new year, which means a lot of exciting things for your business. New chances. New resolutions. New goals. Opportunities to make this a defining year for your company.

But before you get ahead of yourself, it’s probably best that you remember that a new year means new tax deadlines, too.

Your Quarterly Estimated Taxes

For some people, the yearly tax return is the end-all, be-all of taxes. But for freelancers, the self employed, and other businesspeople, they’re used to the idea of filing quarterly estimated taxes. 2020 is going to be no different.

Paying your income tax by the quarter will start with finishing the previous tax season with the deadline for filing estimated taxes by January 15, 2020. Here are some of the other important dates you’re going to have to keep in mind for estimated taxes this year:

  • April 15th (same as the deadline for tax returns)—first quarter estimated taxes
  • June 15th—second quarter estimated taxes
  • September 15th—third quarter estimated taxes
  • January 15th, 2021—fourth quarter estimated taxes

January 31, 2020: Sending Out W-2s

When you’re a business who has to think about the taxes of its employees—not only its own taxes—it comes with specific responsibilities and deadlines. One of the most important: the end of January, when you’ll have to send out W-2s for any employees. Keep in mind that 1099 workers don’t fall under this category.

February 28, 2020: 1099 Reports

If you hired an individual contractor for your business activity in 2019 and paid them over the minimum amount, you’ll have to send in your 1099 reports—along with copies to the appropriate parties. This paperwork notifies the IRS about transactions, making sure that the people who collect income via 1099 are honest about their own income and that they pay all proper taxes.

You don’t have to make a tax payment at this time; this is simply a reporting filing that lets the IRS know if a transaction has taken place. For more information, see the IRS’s details on the 1099-MISC and 1099-NEC.

March 16, 2020: Specific Company Tax Dates

Partnerships and S Corporations, pay attention: this is the deadline for your tax returns. Partnerships using Form 1065 and S Corporations using Form 1102-S both have to use this same deadline, but there is a six month tax extension application available if you run too close to the deadline and aren’t sure you’ll be able to update it with completely accurate information without that extension.

April 15, 2020: Deadline for Filing Your Tax Return

Everyone knows April 15—unless that day falls on the weekend or a holiday—is going to be one of the most important days of the year. This is the ultimate deadline for your tax return, unless you filed an extension. And it’s also important to remember that this is the deadline for corporations to file their Form 1120.

In other words, you’re going to want most of your tax return finished well ahead of this deadline. In fact, it’s usually better that it’s finished weeks ahead, depending on the other deadlines and the paperwork you might be waiting on.

Keep in mind that you might be waiting on a tax refund for some time after this, so when you put together your financial calendar for the year, you won’t necessarily want to assume that you’re going to have your refund coming in by the tax filing due date.

There are also a few other deadlines here that are worth noting:

  • This is the last day to make a 2019 IRA contribution if you haven’t already funded your account fully in 2019.
  • Remember that your first quarter estimated tax payment is also due on this date.
  • This is also the deadline to fund your HAS for the previous tax year of 2019.

October 15, 2020: Extended Individual Tax Returns Due

If you filed an extension on the 2019 tax return, it needs to be mailed out by this due date. Make sure that it’s completed and fully finished well ahead of this date, as there are minimal deadlines immediately preceding this date on the tax calendar, which should give you plenty of time to have everything ready by the due date.

How to Make Sure You Hit Every Tax Deadline

It isn’t long after the end of the year that the need to take action on your upcoming taxes becomes apparent. Not only do you have to think about estimated taxes, but the filing deadline for filing your tax return is coming up faster than you might imagine. Now’s the time to track your expenses and file  the relevant reports for your 1099s, and then the tax return at the appropriate time, and before you know it, April 15th has already come and past.

The question is, how do you make sure you hit every deadline effortlessly? Are there any tax tips that will help?

There are a few options here.

You can utilize tax software that helps make the entire process easier. Turbo Tax, for example, makes it easy for you to file your tax return and enter in any and all relevant information that the IRS will want to gather. It also offers free filing if you mail the taxes in yourself.

You should also think about the tools you use to gather information throughout the year. You don’t want to scramble come March and find out that you did a horrible job of tracking expenses and income. Tools like QuickBooks and Freshbooks will help ensure that you have everything you need when it’s time to sit down with your accountant and get everything done.

It also helps to create a schedule that you can manage throughout the year. Don’t wait until April 1st to start gathering everything. The time to prepare your taxes is now—even if it’s just a small first step like trying out new tax software for the first time. That will help ensure you meet the tax deadlines, beat the tax deadlines, and get everything as accurately as possible.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs Tax Deadlines to Keep in Mind for 2020/

What You Need to Know About Data Breaches

Most of the time, data breaches occur when cybercriminals steal names, email addresses, user names, credit cards, and other personal information. These data thieves and hackers attack industries on a daily basis, and security is essential to safeguarding your data. The threat of data breaches is real, and you need to know why they happen, the consequences, and how to keep your data safe.

Why Data Breaches Happen

Personal and confidential data can open pathways to theft for hackers and cybercriminals. In most cases, cybercriminals want to steal data to access bank accounts, steal identities, use credit cards fraudulently, and even sell the information for profit. Often, data that has been stolen winds up on the dark web, which is used to traffic illegal goods.

There are different ways that cybercriminals breach data, including:

  • Stolen or hacked passwords
  • Poorly designed software
  • Malware
  • Social engineering
  • Device theft
  • Phishing schemes

A data breach can happen to an individual or an entire corporation. As the use of the Internet and digital products continues to increase, the number of cybercriminals will grow along with it.

The Consequences of a Data Breach

The consequences of a data breach can range from an inconvenience to turning your world upside down. Cybercriminals and hackers can create fake profiles, open credit cards in your name, access your photos on social media, and more.

For a business, the consequences can be dire. A company may need to make legal settlements with individuals whose information was compromised, and they may lose business as their reputation is harmed. The country that experiences the most data breaches is the United States.

How to Keep Your Data Safe

It is difficult to protect your personal data from an attack on a business, but there are measures that you can take to monitor and protect your personal information.

  • Use strong passwords
  • Monitor your financial accounts
  • Use secure websites that have SSL certificates
  • Use identity theft protection
  • Look out for phishing scams
  • Don’t click links in emails from unknown senders

from Lisa Peternel | Technology

Should Your Business Hire Remote Workers?

So many companies are making use of remote workers in the modern era. Workers like being able to work from home, and these jobs are attracting many of the best young professionals. You might be considering whether you should hire remote workers at your business. Take a look at the information below so that you can make an informed decision about whether hiring remote workers is the right call for your company. 

People Enjoy the Freedom of Remote Working

Many people enjoy the freedom of remote working. The ability to work while you are traveling is a nice perk, and people also enjoy not having to deal with a commute. It’s possible that your business might be able to attract some of the best young professionals if you’re willing to open up to offering remote working opportunities. This is a way for you to modernize your business. 

Remote Workers Are Efficient

The best remote workers are very efficient and can do an excellent job for you. One concern that business owners have is whether remote workers will be able to do as good as the workers that are at the physical business location. As long as you hire skilled workers and you train them well, it should never be a problem. You’ll be able to enjoy the contributions of these remote workers for many years to come. 

It’s Still Possible to Set up Meetings

It’s still possible to set up meetings for performance reviews and team-building exercises when you have remote workers. Software makes it very simple to have a video conference with your remote workers. If you hire many remote workers, it’ll also be easy to have a company chat room where all of the employees can help each other and discuss work-related matters. Basically, you can promote a productive and fulfilling work culture when you’re hiring remote workers. 

The Potential to Save Money

Hiring remote workers also gives your business the potential to save money. You won’t need as much physical space if a portion of your workforce is working remotely. This means that you could rent out a smaller building or office space. Many companies make use of this to save a large sum of money each year. 

from Lisa Peternel | Business

How to Build a Modern Digital Office Space That You Will Love

There was a time when a new worker required a desk, a computer, an expensive phone, and four walls. That time is gone. Whether you hire contracted freelancers or host remote workers at your company, today’s digital environment makes it possible to eschew the usual trappings of office life for a far more digital, remote experience. With the right structure in place, you don’t have to give up the collaboration or personal touch of a traditional office. Here are some of the tools that can help you build that office:

Cloud Storage and Office Management

It starts with your digital infrastructure. How will you store the key documents and files that you share with your co-workers and employees? How can you collaborate on these same documents to ensure that work gets done on time? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Google Drive and Google Docs. Whether comparing notes on content for your blog or building group projects for business presentations, you’ll have just about everything you need for remote word processing and more with free Google accounts. Google Calendar syncs neatly with plenty of apps these days so you can automatically schedule meetings and tasks without having to take on additional steps.
  • Dropbox. Many business owners today choose to supplement their cloud storage with at least one Dropbox account—just to have a backup. Dropbox’s free account currently offers enough storage for most people to handle the demands of a modern business, but there’s also a Dropbox Business account for more robust team needs.
  • Microsoft OneDrive. People who use PCs often find that OneDrive fits in neatly with the infrastructure they already have in place. OneDrive’s easy offline access features also make it possible to handle a variety of business needs even when the Internet’s down—though if you have remote workers, this isn’t usually a concern.
  • Use Zapier to automate your most common processes; for example, you can use new tasks on Trello to automatically create Google Calendar reminders for new project assignments.

Meetings and Online Conferencing

What defines a modern digital office is that it’s not limited to the four walls around your computer. But to keep tabs on a remote team, you’ll have to be able to check I from time to time. That means online meetings and conferencing:

  • GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is one of the most popular solutions for handling remote workers, with some 18 million users per month across the globe. They offer easy screen sharing, high-quality video/audio, and great features like commuter mode, voice commands and cloud recording.
  • This easy-to-use meeting tool allows for one-click screen sharing, personalized URLs, and the everyday features you rely on such as audio, recording, scheduling and remote control.
  • Calendly is a nice tool for avoiding the game of email tag that usually happens when you’re trying to match schedules with someone else.

Phone Calls and Voicemail Systems

You no longer need a landline in the modern digital office. But that doesn’t mean a smartphone alone will suffice, either. We recommend that you split up your personal and business calls with a phone system that easily delineates between the two, giving you a separate business phone number.

Grasshopper’s solutions include a separate toll free number for your business, a voicemail system, multiple extensions, call forwarding, and even business texting through your usual phone.

Strategies for Remote Working

A modern digital “office” means you’re not always tethered to one specific location. As long as you have the software and infrastructure in place to handle it, you can simply use an Internet connection to get most of the work done. Zapier has highlighted a wide range of different home offices where many people can get by with a simple Internet connection and a laptop.

But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan effectively. Here are some tips for keeping work going while you’re handling business from the home or on the road:

  • Get off of paper as much as possible. Even if you have a business presence that requires a lot of paperwork, there are still some ways to reduce paper usage, including software that tracks printer usage and arranging for as many paperless statements as possible. It’s also a good idea to digitize essential documents to have electronic backups in the case of emergencies.
  • Set clear rules and guidelines for remote workers. If you hire a remote worker, make sure that you work with them early on in the process so they understand the expectations of a remote office. How much work will you expect them to do? What are your policies on sick days? Vacations? One rule of thumb is to keep your business running like a traditional business, even if many of your workers now handle their job from a remote location.
  • Find co-working spaces when you can. If you work in a digital office from home, you might find it beneficial to find co-working spaces when you can, such as working out of coffee shops with free WiFi or seeking out a co-working space in your area.
  • Use an “upside-down pyramid” schedule. In other words, start with the foundation of your work as soon as you can. Begin with the most important task of your day. If you work out of a mostly digital office, it’s possible for your work day to run into all sorts of non-office issues that can derail your productivity. That freedom can be a great thing. But it also means you’re responsible for getting things done without the traditional 9-5 structure. Get the most important work out of the way first to ensure that even if your day gets disrupted by mid-afternoon, you can still recover the next day.

Building a Flexible Digital Office

There is enough technology out there that you can handle most work with a laptop and an Internet connection. But if you want to maintain the standards and function of a larger office, it helps to supplement these basic tools with the infrastructure to maintain the appearance of a full corporate presence—without all the expense.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs to Build a Modern Digital Office Space That You Will Love/