Carrollton Dermatology Associates
Dr. Thomas H. Lamb, MD.
Brighter Image, Inc.
RA-Lin and Associates
North Georgia Turf, Inc.
In the past few weeks the CryptoLocker virus has spread rapidly to become one of the more well known, and dangerous, viruses of the year. Because of the fact that if your system is infected, you likely won't be getting your files back unless you pay the ransom, you likely don't want this to infect your work systems. One of the ways to limit the possibility of this is to educate your employees on how to minimize the chances their systems will be infected.
Here are five tips you can share with your employees about how to keep systems free from malware.
1. Don't turn off or stop your anti-virus scanner There is little doubt as to the usefulness of your anti-virus scanners. These are installed specifically by companies and IT departments the world over in an effort to keep systems free from viruses and malware. Because there are always new pieces of malware being developed and released, the companies that run the antivirus scanners often keep an up-to-date as possible database that is consulted when the scanner is running.
It is these databases that companies push to you in weekly, or daily updates. Therefore, it's a good idea to not only keep your virus-scanner on, but also up-to-date, as the chances of it picking up newer and more serious malware are higher.
If your scanner attempts to run during business hours, some systems may slow down. Why not change the time this scan runs to when you aren't at your desk, say after 5:00 pm, or early in the morning. Working with an IT partner to schedule this could really help.
An important factor to remember is: If you don't run your anti-virus scanner, or turn off your scanner, the chances of your computers being infected increases exponentially.
2. Watch what you download One of the more common ways malicious software makes it onto computers is through downloaded files. That Facebook toolbar that a website is advertising as a must-have, or the file that must be downloaded in order to watch a movie online may actually be teeming with viruses.
Therefore, you should only download files from websites that you know are secure and offer legitimate files. And, before you download anything ask yourself, "Do I really need this, and will I really use it?" If you are unsure, check with a colleague, or reach out to your IT partner.
3. Study email attachments closely Another common way malicious software and viruses spread is through email attachments. Sometimes an email account has been compromised and a hacker is sending emails to users with the virus attached, or the host system has been infected and the virus is essentially sending itself. Regardless of how the email is being sent, you should be wary of all email attachments.
Before you open ANY attachment, verify that it is actually referenced in the email, it is the file referenced, and the name is logical. If you see an email that states a document or file is attached, take a look at the name of the attached file. If it ends in .exe or .dmg, this is a program and likely a virus, and should not be opened. You should also look at who is sending the email too. If you don't know the person it is recommended that you do not open the attachment. If you are unsure, try contacting the sender in another email.
4. Avoid using shared disks when possible While external hard drives and thumb drives may be incredibly useful, viruses can actually be spread by them. For example, if an infected file is on a USB drive and is plugged into a system, this can actually infect the system when the file is opened.
If you do use these drives, many virus scanners can check them. So, when you plug in a drive, before you open any files or the drive itself, right click on it and you should see an option to scan the drive with your virus scanner. If not, you can likely do this from the virus scanner itself. This could take time, but it will help keep your systems secure.
5. Ask yourself whether you really need to have an administrator account for Windows On many systems, when you set up a new user, you can set an account to be the administrator of that system. Administrators automatically have the ability to install programs, change settings and even create new accounts. If you don't need to change your computer's settings, or install programs then you likely don't need to have an administrator account.
This could be a great way to minimize virus infections simply because these viruses need to first be installed. If you can't install programs or even download them, then your chances of being infected are lower.
Looking to learn more about how you can protect your computers? Contact us today as we may have the perfect solution that will not only keep your systems secure, but also free from any malicious software.
There’s no shortage of data for the small business owner. Whether you hire a professional industry analyst to look at your business information, or do it yourself, statistics and reports can reveal valuable information. But making sure that information is enriched with knowledge is the difference between having numbers to hand and having vital data that could transform your business.
Many small businesses depend on their IT personnel to provide data that will enhance their business. However, there’s a difference between mere data and enriched information that improves performance. For instance, you might be surprised to find that page views are largely useless. This figure tells very little about how people are actually using your site, which is the most important information you can have. Data that leads to improvements is more than just information. It’s intelligence. There are many types of information which can help businesses become more intelligent.
Visitor flow Visitor flow follows how users navigate your website. The most important point is to learn about where your customers enter your site, and where they leave. Simple numbers of visitors is not as useful. Let’s say that you are running an online store and that 350 visitors left your site on the 'confirm order' page. This might suggest there’s some type of sticking point related to this page. It might be that the wrong orders are loading. It might be that a sudden tax add-on that wasn’t fully clarified caused users to cancel the purchase. Regardless of the reason, this type of business intelligence may help you make positive changes in the online experience you create.
Traffic sources Traffic sources tell you where your customers are coming from and therefore what’s driving people to your site. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the type of sites which are leading to yours? With that information, you might step up advertising and marketing within those sites, and bring even more business your way. Traffic sources are also a great way to measure the effectiveness of advertising.
Keywords When you know what keywords people use to find your business online, you can begin tailoring your pages to contain more of them. You can also begin applying those keywords in advertisements, banners, and promotional efforts you invest in online. By better meeting user desire and expectation you can raise your profile above that of competitors.
Conversion rates Your business makes money when people buy your product or services. Conversion rates can help track users through the entire sales experience. By finding out key data about where users spend time online, where they enter the sales experience, and when they leave, you are better able to adjust your product or service, your presentation, and perhaps your website design. By finding peak points of purchase, you can pinpoint successful pages or links too. By finding weak points of purchase, such as abandoned online shopping carts, you might be alerted to tech problems or layout aspects that interfere with more robust conversion rates.
Bounce rates Bounce rates reflect the number of users who visit your site but leave without looking at any other pages. In a best case scenario, it means they find what they are looking for on your site fast. In the worst case scenario, it means that your users lose interest immediately, and big changes on your site have to be made. A high bounce rate can be changed through rich content development that engages users to remain within your site, exploring what your business has to offer in terms of products and services, and more.
Bounce rates are a great example of the difference between metrics and information. IT might present stats that show 3,000 people are visiting a site each day. This might seem like good news, until it's revealed that the bounce rate is 2,999. This is the difference between information and intelligence.
Business intelligence creates a better opportunity to maximize your production and profits. We can help in that process, so get in touch today.
The computer's hard drive is one of the most essential components of your machine. This is where all of the programs and data are stored, and without it, the majority of computers would be more or less useless. Of course, hard drives have a finite amount of space, and you may eventually run out. One way around this is to use external hard drives, but are they useful for businesses?
Hard drives are separate drives that you can connect to almost every computer. The vast majority of drives use a USB cable, while some are Apple specific and use the Thunderbolt cable. Because computers, by default, don't rely on these drives in order to operate, they can usually be connected to other devices as long as they have the correct formatting.
There are numerous ways these hard drives can be used in the office. The most obvious is to back up data. Because many of these drives now come with a large amount of storage, you can easily fit computer backups and even systems onto a drive. Add in the fact that they are relatively cheap to purchase, and you can see how they can be a useful tool, especially when combined with other backup solutions.
Four benefits of using an external hard drive in your business The majority of external hard drives are used as some form of backup solution e.g., to actually back up systems, or to keep a copy of files, which afford several benefits:
Two different types of external hard drives
If you are looking to learn more about how you can leverage external hard drives in your business, please contact us today.
Business is becoming increasingly complex, with the majority of systems and data now being stored online or on a computer. Because of this, a disaster such as one that knocks out power or even destroys your equipment could be devastating. Disasters put all business data at risk and that's why so many businesses take steps to protect their data. But there are still risks that they may miss.
If you are looking to protect your data, one of the best ways to do so is to be informed, and learn from the mistakes other companies make when they develop data protection or Business Continuity Plans.
1. Not backing up data It may seem like common sense when preparing for a disaster or developing a continuity plan that you should back up your data. However, a 2011 study from Semantic found that only half of businesses back up more than 60% of their data. Other businesses don't back up data or only back up certain systems. This means that if these businesses are faced with a disaster, they could lose up to 40% of their data. Some businesses could lose all of it.
Many experts suggest that businesses not only back up their data, but take more of an all-or-nothing approach. All data should be backed up so that should a disaster happen you can guarantee that nothing will be lost.
2. Failing to protect off site data Business is becoming increasingly spread out, with many employees working from outside of the office, or on their own systems. People who telecommute or use their own systems usually store important data on their local machines. When a company goes to protect or back up their data, some may forget to back up data on machines outside of the company premises.
What's more, some industries have regulations stating that you must back up data from all end-points (e.g., computers and devices) regardless of their location. So, when you are backing up data, be sure that you also back up data on systems that aren't in the office.
3. Not backing up data consistently The data in your business is always evolving and growing. Therefore, you need to ensure that it is backed up regularly. Because backups take time, there is a higher chance for them to fail. If you only back up once a year without checking, and disaster strikes, you could find that your data is incomplete, inaccessible or out of date. This may make any recovered data essentially useless.
The question is, how often should you back up your data? For most small businesses, a full backup at least once a week is suggested. If you work with client data on a regular basis or in a regulated industry, daily backups would likely be the best plan.
4. Using outdated backup methods Just because you back up your data doesn't mean it will always be available, especially if you use older backup methods such as data tapes or disks. These physical backups can be lost or even destroyed in a disaster and possibly even stolen. You may want to employ a more modern data backup solution that is more reliable, such as cloud backup.
That being said, you don't have to give up older methods as these can come in handy, especially if you are going to be operating without the Internet for an extended period of time. By employing more than one solution, you can cover all bases while ensuring that data is largely backed up and available.
If you are looking to learn more about how you can protect your data, please contact us today to see how our systems and solutions can help.
Malware comes in many different forms and some of the more common are viruses are those that infect systems when they are downloaded and opened by the user. Combating any malware can be a never ending battle. It seems as if there is always some new security threat you need to be aware of. One of the latest is CryptoLocker - a new form of ransomware.
Knowledge is power so finding out more about CryptoLocker is recommended, as well as how you can take steps to protect your systems.
What is CryptoLocker? Ransomware is a virus that locks important files or systems and requests that users pay a ransom to unlock them. This is not a new form of malware, but there has been a recent resurgence and CryptoLocker is leading the way.
This particularly nasty piece of malware infects user systems and locks files, threatening to delete them unless the hacker is paid. It is being spread four different ways:
What happens if I get infected? If your system is infected your files will be encrypted and a pop-up message displayed informing you that your personal files have been encrypted and that in order to get the key to unlock them (the private key) you need to pay up to USD$300, or a similar amount in another currency. This amount seems to change and has increased, with older versions asking for USD$100.
You will also see a timer counting down from 100 hours. If this reaches zero, your encrypted data will be deleted with a very slim chance of the files being recoverable. The preferred method of payment is in BitCoins - a digital currency. The pop-up window has instructions on how to submit the payment - usually through an online payment method like Green Dot - MoneyPak.
The good news is, once you submit the payment, you will receive a key you can enter to unlock your files. The hackers have said that they won't re-infect systems, and network security companies have confirmed that so far, this has been the case.
While many up-to-date virus and security scanners will pick up CryptoLocker, most won't be able to recover or decrypt files even if the malware itself is deleted. If you see the pop-up window, it's probably too late.
How do I prevent CryptoLocker from infecting my systems? This is a serious piece of malware that should not be taken lightly. If you are worried about your systems being infected, here are five things you can do to prevent that from happening:
Companies are increasingly turning to social media platforms for their marketing and to connect with customers. While the bigger networks like Facebook are the most popular, others like Instagram, which can connect with Facebook are just as useful. If your company isn't on Instagram, you could be missing out on a valuable marketing opportunity.
Here are three ways your company can leverage Instagram for better marketing.
1. Post at the most opportune time Many social media platforms like Facebook, have a strategic time for you to post content in order to have a higher chance of getting your name and content in front of users. But with Instagram, the time is actually different.
Because Instagram is largely mobile based, users tend to be accessing the platform at nearly all hours. One would think that if users access the platform mainly from their mobile devices, optimal time to post content would be after working hours. But, most people use their phones throughout the day, so there really is no major difference; users are online at all hours.
Therefore, the best time to post is almost any time. This means you need to figure out when the best time to post is for your company. Try picking a time when you think your audience will be looking at their devices and post then. Keep track of how many shares, likes and comments you get. Be sure to do this for a few weeks, then try another time. Over time, you should find when you get the most interaction, which becomes the best time to post.
Also looking at your industry could help. If you are a restaurant who is only open for dinner, posting pictures in the evening may not be the best. Instead post in the afternoon, before you open.
2. Hashtag it! Like Twitter and now Facebook, Instagram supports hashtags. By adding one in front of the terms in the image or video's description, you will make your post searchable and could increase the chances others will see it. Unlike the other networks however, numerous hashtags could actually increase interactions.
That being said, not every word should have a hashtag. Instead, hashtag words related to the image or video and try to integrate them seamlessly into the description. By putting all of the tags at the bottom or first, you could risk driving users away, largely because they are jumbled.
3. Videos or photos? Instagram recently introduced videos, which have proven to be useful for many marketers. While this is still a new feature, the bigger companies are using it while the smaller ones haven't begun to adopt it.
If you can find a use for your 15 second videos, for example how to use your product, you could see an increase in traffic and interactions. Because you can also upload or link these to your Facebook and even your website, Instagram could turn out to be a valuable tool for short video promotions.
Of course, you can do this with photos as well, so be sure to try incorporate both features. There are also numerous filters you can apply to both your videos and photos, so be sure to look through them all to see what makes your content look the best.
If you are looking to learn more about Instagram and how it can help with your social media and marketing presence, please contact us today.
Virtualization is the creation of a virtual version of a physical technological service or solution. While this concept can be seemingly complex, it does bring benefits to companies, especially small businesses, that can't be passed up. If your company is curious about moving your systems to a virtual environment, it can be a little confusing as to which should be moved.
If you need some ideas as to how your small business can leverage virtualization then here are five ways to do so:
1. Simplify IT processes As business grow they inevitably introduce new technology and systems that need to be installed and maintained. Because many small companies don't have actual IT departments, or rely on a small number of staff, their resources are stretched even thinner, resulting in even greater potential tech problems.
By virtualizing systems, these can be easier to look after by either an IT partner or in-house teams. This will also free up resources which can be diverted to more business specific tasks. Combine virtualization with an IT partner and your IT becomes even easier to manage, largely because you won't have to.
2. Enhance security Cyber attacks are on the rise, and have always been a problem which many companies struggle to deal with or prevent. Virtualizing some systems, like the desktop or even Web browsing, could limit the chance of infection and malware attacks.
Take for example a read-only virtualized desktop, where you log in and are presented with a copy of the OS that can only be read. Files created or downloaded normally won't be saved. When you log off this session is closed and a completely new one is started when you log in again. The majority of viruses downloaded are usually eradicated, thereby enhancing the security of your systems.
Many IT partners and vendors provide scanning services and work to keep other virtualized systems clean and secure, with many systems being as secure, or more so, than their physical counterparts.
3. Backup systems As a business you likely have important data and information stored on various systems. Backing these up can be a chore, especially if the backup is done manually. There are virtual solutions out there that actually allow you to take what are called snapshots - a backup of your whole system at a specific time - that can be easily reverted to should something go wrong.
While you can do this with existing physical systems and backups, the virtual versions can often be quicker because you don't need to find the physical medium on which you stored the backup. Most services allow you to simply log on and begin the recovery process.
4. Enhance mobility Devices like the tablet have enabled us to become increasingly mobile. It's not uncommon for employees to access their systems while on the road, and truth be told the apps available now allow us to do the majority of our work from a mobile device.
There are times however when you will need to access an app or program on your PC. Using a solution such as a remote manager essentially turns your computer into a virtual machine, allowing you to access the files and programs stored on it from your mobile device. This is a powerful tool for the business manager or any employee who is on the road and needs to access their computers.
5. Server consolidation The server is an integral business component. These machines power many technical functions, like email, that your business relies on. If you are using older technology, you likely have more than a few servers in your office. How virtualization helps is that it allows you to create virtual servers on one physical server. This allows companies to decrease the number of servers in the office and save money.
If you are looking to virtualize your systems, or would like to learn more, please contact us today.
Did you know that October is National Cyber Security month in the US? This means it's the perfect time to stop for a minute and think about the security of your digital systems, both in the office and at home. One of the increasingly important areas to focus on however exists in between these systems - your mobile devices. As the number of people carrying smartphones increases, these devices will be increasingly targeted by dubious people and you should take steps to ensure they are secure.
Here are five questions to ask if you want to properly protect your devices.
1. What do I know about Wi-Fi hotspots? With a tablet or phone it can be easy and tempting to check in with the office, write a few emails or even do your finances on the go. This usually means connecting to the Internet, and because so many mobile plans limit the amount of data you can use, you will likely use Wi-Fi.
The thing is, many of these Wi-Fi hotspots found in airports, coffee shops and even in public transport zones are open. This means that anyone with the tools and knowledge could gain access to devices connected to this network. Simply put: Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network or hotspot could put your data and device at risk.
You should take steps to limit that amount of important business oriented tasks you do while connected to these networks. At the very least, you should not allow your device to connect automatically to open or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. By physically signing into networks or choosing what networks you connect to, you can somewhat control or limit security issues that stem from Wi-Fi connections.
2. Do I want a stranger to see what's on my phone? There seems to be this view that whatever you are looking at on your phone or tablet can't be physically seen by other people. While your device is relatively small, many are large enough to allow strangers to see what you are looking at and even typing.
If you are sending or reading confidential info on your phone or tablet be sure to check that people aren't looking over your shoulder or watching you type PINs or passwords. In fact, it would be best to read or type this type of information in private, where other people aren't likely to be looking over your shoulder and privy to private data.
3. Is my phone secure? Security is a big issue for many businesses. You want to ensure that your information, files and systems are secure from intrusions and threats, and likely implement measures to keep them so. However, few users pause to think about their mobile devices.
Take for example Android's marketplace Google Play. While the vast majority of apps are legitimate, some are fake and contain malware that could harm your device. Beyond that, hackers are increasingly targeting mobile devices by placing fake apps online or even malware on sites that will automatically be downloaded if users visit the page or click on a link. To combat this you can download a virus or malware scanner for your device and run it on a regular basis. When downloading apps be sure to verify the publisher and source of the app.
Securing your device with a password or pin makes it harder for third parties to gain access should they pick up a lost device or try to get in when you aren't looking.
4. What info is stored on my phone? Stop for a minute and think about the information you have stored on your device. Many users keep records of their passwords, important documents and even private information. The thing is, many devices are easy to hack, and also lose. If you lose your device, your valuable information could also be lost and potentially stolen.
You should take a look through your information and ensure that nothing incredibly important is stored on your device and if there is, back it up or remove it.
5. Is it necessary for apps to know my location? Geo-location has become a popular feature of many apps. The truth is, many of these apps probably don't need this information, instead requesting it to provide a slightly better service or more personalized experience.
However, this information about you and your phone could be stolen so you might want to think about limiting how much a third party can see about you. Both Android and Apple's iOS have apps that allow you to select what programs are allowed to gather and send your location-based information to developers, with iOS actually allowing you to shut down location-based services from the Settings menu.
If you would like to learn more about mobile security, contact us today as we may have a solution that will work with your business.
When it comes to marketing and PR, many companies have taken their campaigns online. These can vary from something as simple as a Google AdWords campaign promoting a product to a presence on social media services. There is one form of digital marketing that stands above the others - email marketing. When this is done right, it is a powerful marketing vehicle, yet many companies struggle to make it successful.
If you have been struggling with your email marketing campaigns, here are five helpful tips.
1. Sort out your contact database If you have had an email newsletter or marketing campaign for more than a couple of years you likely have a large or fair-sized contact database. A problem many businesses run into is that their contact databases are simply out of date. Emails are being sent to accounts that have been closed, or to recipients who have moved jobs. An out-of-date database can really hurt the effectiveness of email marketing.
It would therefore be a good idea to conduct a periodical audit of your database. Take the time to update information like names, positions, email addresses, etc. You should also look at how your database is organized.
Because of the varying nature of many email campaigns, it is highly likely that you will eventually develop email campaigns that target specific emails. If your database isn't segmented, it could be a nightmare to create effective campaigns. At the very least you should include information like the contact's:
There are a number of ways you can get people to opt-in including:
When developing a campaign take time to define the purpose, what do you want the recipient to do. From there, develop the content and layout around that purpose. Be sure to also define the type of people you want the email to reach because this will make it easier to define a recipient list from your database.
4. KISS Many email marketing initiatives fail because the company tries to include too much information or has an overly complex layout and sign up procedure. Try writing content that gets to the point and tells what the audience needs to know in a clear, concise and correct manner.
When developing the layout, aim for something that looks clean with ample white space and only essential information. Careful use of images and design should also drive attention to the most important content.
Beyond that, content should also be optimized for mobile devices. Because many recipients will deem your email marketing as non-essential, they may not look at it while at work. This means that they will likely look at it on their mobile device. If your content doesn't scale to fit smaller screens, this could lead to the reader simply deleting the email.
5. Don't be afraid to get some help Email marketing can get overly complex so, why not get some help? Try working with different email marketing providers to see what works for you, your content and what provides the best results.
By working with an email service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, you could drastically improve the effectiveness of your campaigns.
If you are looking for an email marketing solution contact us to see how we can help.
The hashtag has long been an intrinsic component of Twitter, becoming so popular that people began using it on other social media platforms. Because of its popularity, Facebook introduced hashtag support allowing posts to become searchable and giving businesses the ability to possibly get their posts in front of more users. The only issue is, hashtags can be a challenge to master.
If you are looking to use hashtags on Facebook, it is going to take some time to master how to do so effectively. Here are three tips that should help make using hashtags easier.
Create a personalized hashtag Because the hashtag has made its way into mainstream social media, it has become another way for companies to promote and grow their brand. If they can develop a personalized hashtag and use it effectively, users will likely start to use that tag when speaking about the company.
When tags are used, they can be clicked on and users can see other posts that have also added this specific tag. If you have used tags in your own statuses before, these posts will also show up, which could prompt people to visit your page, interact with your content and maybe even continue onto your site.
There is no official way you can claim your own personalized hashtag. What you can do is come up with a few ideas related to your company or brand and do a search for them on Facebook. If you see a tag has been used on numerous occasions and doesn't refer to your company or Facebook Page, then try another one. When you find one that has either been used for your company or hasn't been used at all, start using it in posts and other content. Be sure to use it on a regular basis and it's highly likely that your followers will start using it as well.
Be warned however that companies struggle with this. Some Facebook users will use the hashtag to troll, or post negative comments. It is a good idea to track comments that use the tag to see if this happens. If it does, it may be beneficial to stop using it, or try another one. That being said, if it works, it can work really well.
Use hashtags to emphasize While putting tags into posts and content will make them searchable, there is another effective way to use hashtags. If you create posts and want to emphasize certain words, hashtag them. This will change the color of the word and make it stand out, drawing the viewers attention.
When this is done correctly, it has proven to be quite effective. For example, if you are selling a car words like #reliable and #efficient could really make the post stand out.
Just be careful to not overuse these tags, as this will detract from the emphasis. Aim to use a maximum of two tags, three if the post is longer.
Use hashtags to identify and latch on to trends Some of the most popular and efficient social media campaigns leverage current events and trends and the hashtag has made it even easier to find and track these trends. The easiest way to be effective with this method is to latch onto bigger events. For example if your company operates in Austin Texas, and you are hosting an event or having a sale related to the F1 race in November, you could put the #F1 tag in your posts promoting the event if you notice that it starts to trend.
It is important to remember that mastering hashtags and seeing a benefit from them takes time and effort. You are going to have to try a number of different approaches, but one should eventually work. If you are looking to learn more about Facebook and how your business can leverage it to full effect, please contact us today.