You are crazy if your Small Business is using Microsoft Windows

Sarasota Business Owners

(and you have not moved to Windows 10 and Office 365!)

I know, I know if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Well listen carefully ITS BROKE! Being a small business consultant provides me an opportunity to see the inside of many small businesses. I will tell you flat out just about every single one of them is some definition of controlled chaos (which is usually why I am there). Everyone is running on different hardware all bought at different times all running different versions of everything and they just don’t play nice with each other.

DON’T BE EMBARRASSED MOST SMALL BUSINESSES ARE DOING IT WRONG

I get how you got there. Every time your business grew you hired another person, added a new computer, etc. Years later your office is full of all kinds of different machines running different versions of Windows, probably two or three versions of Office and every anti-virus under the sun.

Sure, it would be nice to buy all the upgrades and get everyone running the same thing but that will cost thousands and take months to migrate everyone’s files and email. Its practically impossible to see any return on that investment. Plus, you’re not in business to be technology experts so you do the best you can and get things working good enough. At the time it was probably the right decision seeing your goal when you first start-up is to just stay in business!

But at some point you grow to where you can’t get out of your own way. Not too long ago owners had to have to make a major decision to invest an uncomfortable amount of capital to get their business to the next level. Often putting up thousands to rebuild their entire platform, hire a full time IT staff and budget even more for on going maintenance and upkeep was the standard. Most always these projects never stayed on budget nor on-time. But for the small business that is the old way. Now it all can be done quickly and cheaply.

GET YOUR HEAD INTO THE CLOUD

The new way is a complete redo. No more server hardware, no more backups, no more buying new versions of software, no more running out of disk space, no more headaches! With modernized desktops and devices everything moves to a secured centralized space on the internet so everything just simply integrates and removes all the pain points the “old way” created.

The best part is you no longer have to pay huge software fees up front. All the software you need to run a business is billed monthly just like Netflix! With Business 365 you can get Windows 10 (W10) and Office 365 (O365) which includes email for ~$20 mo per user and never ever have to upgrade or buy new software again. If you are already running W10 then you are looking a $5 to $12 per. You can have your entire office running the latest and greatest for probably less than a car payment!

IF YOU ARE NOT A HOSTING COMPANY AND STILL WASTE MONEY ON SERVERS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

But wait there is more! All your file storage is online so no more running out of hard-drive space or even worse putting your entire company on a $100 USB drive (that’s going to fail). You can get rid of your email server so no more hardware, failing hard-drives or backups! Outside of a few network devices all your infrastructure becomes instantly redundant and highly available with a few clicks of a mouse.

Modernizing your entire office will not take months or weeks but days. With built-in syncing services all your existing company files automatically get backed up to the cloud. Your apps stay updated with the latest features and all your user management-admin tools are centralized making managing your technology as simple as possible.

ITS SO SIMPLE TO GET ON MICROSOFT OFFICE 365 YOU CAN BE UP AND RUNNING IN JUST DAYS

Today there is no reason your desktop shouldn’t be as reliable as your office phone. We never wonder if there will be a dial tone when we go to make a call. It is just there. It works so well we take for granted the thousands of people and the billions of dollars of infrastructure it takes to make sure its there. Well Microsoft is the thousands of people and billions of infrastructure making your PC just work. Microsoft’s new strategy of “Integrated for Simplicity” means everything will just work.

EVERYONE BECOMES A HIGH PERFORMER

Think about this. How much work could your office put out if everything just worked? If your staff never lost files and had to redo them? What if you could share any file anywhere in the world just by typing in someone’s email address? What if you didn’t have to dig through email after email trying to find the latest version of a spreadsheet? What if you sales team had everything they needed with a few swipes of their thumb? What high value tasks could your IT person be doing if they didn’t have to deal with server maintenance and backups?

YOUR BUSINESS IS AVAILABLE AROUND THE CLOCK AND AROUND THE WORLD

Now that your business is on the cloud you can securely access everything from any computer online with a browser. As a business owner myself I know how hard it is to go on vacation…OK, stop laughing I know you never go on vacation. But let’s say you are away and your office calls freaking out because you forgot to give them the quote to close a huge deal. Just pull out your phone, login to your cloud and share the file. You can do it while walking to your connecting flight or enjoying your umbrella drink.

YOU HAVE TO BE CRAZY NOT TO BE DOING THIS

There are so many upsides to getting your business up on this modern desktop I could write for hours, but I know you don’t have hours and I know if you have read this far you get it. However, if you are they type that craves details check out the links down below.

In closing, I know the skeptics will think I am writing this because I am getting kickbacks from Microsoft but I don’t get a penny. The reality is I wrote this article because I just left a client site and they could not stop talking how “everything just works” and how happy they are that they can just focus on the business instead of putting out fires all the time. It’s days like this that reminded me why I love what I do. Nothing better than making IT painless.

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Top 6 Reasons Not to Trust a Top 10 Ranking List

6 Reasons not to trust top 10 list

I have been online longer than Google, Yahoo and Bing so to say I have seen it all and then some is accurate.  In college I would sit in front of the lab terminal and access my email account using a command line program called Pine and search for information on another one called Gopher.  At the time, the “internet” was basically for scholars and user friendly wasn’t even part of the dialect.  Stuff like page ranking and SEO didn’t even exist.

But for a small-town New Hampshire kid having the world at his fingertips was mind-blowing.  I was instantly hooked and have spent the last two decades looking for the next next.  Keeping up with the newest trends (good and bad) is just part of who I am and lately I have seen some that really make me wonder where the internet is going….

If you search anything these days the top results will always have some form of Top 10 list.  It might be 5 or 15, maybe even say the “Best” or “Greatest” but the idea is always the same. 

These ranking pages have exploded over the last few years due to search engines affinity to deem such a page useful to the user mostly because when they first started showing up they appeared to be genuine and provided the consumer value.  But like anything good on the internet it has become overridden with folks exploiting the system trying to make a buck.

It is sad to say that pretty much any ranking page you find out there these days are junk. These sites have two goals;  First, get a high ranking in search engine results on a certain keywords and phrases; Second, get you to visit their page and click a link that will generate revenue. 

Informing you about the product or service is nowhere in their agenda.  As a matter of fact many of these pages just a copy and paste right from the site they are promoting.  There is no commentary or analysis or a breakdown of the good and bad.  There is just the basic marketing polish found on the original site.

Here is what to watch out for when looking at ranking si

1.) Affiliate Marketing

So you find a top 10 site that has a clear list of products and services and the top one lists all the great reasons why it is number one.  Then right next to it in a big pretty button with “get more info” or “Click for Price” in bold letters.  These buttons are called CALL-TO-ACTIONS  or CTAs.

More often than not it is an Affiliate Marketer (AM).  Which is a “professional” marketing someone else’s goods and services for a commission.  An AM’s only loyalty is around the commission they get if you click the link they provide and it converts into a sale.

SO what do you think this does to the quality of their ranking list?  Well just ask yourself this; If an AM gets $5 per sale for one product and $8 for another which one do you think they will rank higher?

The catch with these commissions is the sale doesn’t have to be that day and many times it doesn’t even have to be that product.  As an example, you click an Amazon.com affiliate link and then leave that page only to find yourself on Amazon the next day to by something completely unrelated the AM gets a commission on that sale.

So all the motivation behind their rankings is most likely monetary and you can forget about  finding rich thoughtful feedback or some deep product research that requires hard work and insight. 

So, you basically find a horrible site that provides you no value.  It persuades to leave their site through an affiliate link and you reward them with a sale the following day having no idea it kicked them back a commission.  No wonder AM is a billion-dollar industry and more importantly why the internet is flooded with these Top [put your number here] pages.

The good news here is reputable companies require affiliates to identify themselves as such.  So check out the page, most likely on the very bottom in small font you will find a disclaimer. If you do understand you are not reading unbiased content and be cautious its only purpose is to persuade you into clicking an AM link.

2.) Clickbait

Sites make money by displaying advertising on their sites. They can be AM links or just straight up Click Ads.

When you come to a page full of Ads its hard not to argue the author’s only motivation all around the revenue they get paid per click or what is called PPC.

Their pages are not designed for the user to easily and quickly read the article maximizing the value to the reader but to maximize the ad space, the click thru’s and value to their bank account.

The classic overdone PPC sites are those that are almost impossible to read because so much stuff is loading and everything on the page keeps moving and stuff flies at you from all directions.  This of course is by design, they want you to accidently click an Ad as you navigate the page.  This not only tricks the user but it is also screwing over the advertiser because they are paying for bad clicks and traffic from users that never wanted to be there.

These sites are nothing less than annoying.  You can’t trust anything they write seeing half the time they are trying to bore you to death so you leave their page through one of their ads.  The entire page is just one piece of click bait and should not be encouraged.  So unless you stop clicking they are not going away anytime soon.

3.) Slide Shows and Galleries

This is arguably the most arduous page of the web.  Its right there with Fake News so it is not uncommon to see both together.  These sites are the worst of the worst and often take the Top [your number here] list to the extreme.

The top 50 places to [whatever] will be no less than 50 pages loaded full of advertising to get through.  They will even have “Next” buttons as Affiliate or Click-Throughs. Which drive me nuts.  You think you are going to the next slide but then you find yourself in the middle of pop-up-palooza!  They will throw flyout ads at you, imbed ads in between slides and the info on what that slide is even on the list is non-existent.  They are nothing but a time-thief and provide little to no value for the reader. 

If you find yourself on one of these sites and you don’t know the source just leave because all you are doing is setting a cookie that tells advertisers you’re a sucker for click bait.  Just stay away from slideshows.

4.) Pseudo Sites

Some ranking sites are written by the company selling one of the items on the list. But they do it on a site that appears to be someone other than themselves.  It is common practice for a product manager to deploy many sites with content about their product and work like hell to get them all ranked high and basically push the competition to the second page of search results. 

As the user you think you have found a bunch of different sources and after reading them you are impressed with the overall consensus across all these top sites and feel well informed to make a buying decision.  However, you have been duped! The product assessments on these pages are aligned because they were all created by the same marketing department!

Its sad, you think you are reading separate perspectives from unconnected sources however you just spent the majority of your morning in one big sales funnel.  If you don’t know who owns the site you really should question the validity of the information they present.  Always always know you source.

5.) Lead Generation Sites

Have you ever looked online for car insurance and found a “Top X List” that was covered in “get free quote” buttons, you read their rankings and are impressed about the offer promising to save you money so you decide to click one? 

Well I hope you read the fine print because there is a good chance your information was sent to EVERYONE on the list resulting in robo calls and junk mail.  On top of that your information gets sold over and over as someone “interested in car insurance” resulting in more calls and spam.  A site that seemed useful has now made the sound of your phone cringe-worthy and your inbox full of distractions and refuse.

6.) Fake Buying Guides

These are just another form of “Top 10” sites that are just as bad for all the same reasons.  They just use another important part of the search engines weighting calculation…  Age.  By putting the Year in the title it tells Google, Yahoo and Bing this list is relevant to NOW (or last year) so you should show it first.  Sites use this to exploit the system and give their pages an instant boost.  Most of the time these pages are recycled from the previous year.  I strongly suggest you stick to buying guides by reputable places like Consumer Reports and ConsumerSearch.com

To sum things up, AM and other types of passive income are all the rage so the internet is getting saturated with these pages. I get those that want to create an online stream of cash with the flexibility to work from anywhere whenever they want.  Unfortunately, there are many just looking for a quick buck and will stop at nothing to keep the clicks coming. 

So be an informed surfer.  Understand the motivation behind the info you are reading and be skeptical of all those pretty buttons and links that trigger that impulse to click. Only user behavior will change how these sites go about things. So if you’re sick of seeing these pages littering the front pages of your search pages don’t feed the frenzy by rewarding them with a visit.

Stop a Catastrophe Don’t let your email get hacked!

Keep this guy from hacking your email

Let’s start with why it is really really really bad!

Say someone with a criminal mind had access to your inbox right now.  What if they did searches for “direct deposit”, “order number”,  “receipt” , “password, “account”, “autopay”, “invoice” or “payment”?

How easy would it be to know where you work, bank, shop, and play by looking in your inbox, sent and trash folders?  What could they figure out about your kids, their school, your parents, friends, coworkers etc.  What addresses would they have? Phone numbers? Schedules? Website links?

They might also have access to things like tax returns, account statements, medical records, resumes that have gone through your email account.  All of which have information that can be combined with other sources to piece together your life.

Once the hacker collects all this info they will try to access your web accounts with the password they just hacked. But if that doesn’t work they can leverage the “forgot my password” until they find one that sends the password instead of resetting it.  Then that password will get used on everything to see what other sites use it.  Hackers are tenacious and will chip away day after day undetected until they have everything they want.

When all else fails they can reset your passwords and login as you and hijack your entire online existence.  They can shut down balance alerts, start moving money around, send emails in your name asking your contacts to click on links that are back doors into their lives. They will create new accounts with your email and delete all the confirmations from your inbox so you have no idea these accounts exists and use them for as long as they need.  With your email and passwords, they can do pretty much do what they want.

Bottom-line, a criminal having access to your inbox is not good and opens you up for all kinds of headaches and embarrassment that can take years to recover.

So who is really at risk?

Anyone on gmail for business or office 365 are in a much better place than a small company that has their own email server because these services know they are a huge target and keep on the cutting edge to stay in front of the evil and do a great job.  A hacker getting access to your password with a brute force attack on your cloud account is probably low.

But, if you have your own email server and are not a Fortune 500 company with a multimillion dollar IT budget you are crazy to think you’re safe and you are not dealing with “if you get hacked” it’s “when you get hacked” which is why I don’t even deal with self-hosted email servers anymore (unless you are paying me to migrate them to the cloud).

Do I really need to worry about my email getting hacked? No one will guess my password.

So here is the deal, hackers don’t try and “guess” your password. (Ro)Bot Software does all the guessing using lists of every dictionary in the world with all the misspellings and possible combinations.  When they run this software against your system it is called a “Brute Force Attack” and can process millions of guesses per second which is why many website have password rules like must be 8-12 characters and contain numbers making it harder for these programs to cipher your password.

There are two main things that affect the strength of your password.  First one is LENGTH, second is COMPLEXITY.

So if you have a short simple password that can be found in a dictionary or a baby’s name book these bots can “guess” them almost INSTANTLY!

Why longer passwords are better.

A password with 8 characters has 218,340,105,584,896 or 628 combinations when using a mixture of numbers (10) and letters (52).  A password with 9 characters (629) has 13,537,086,546,263,552 combinations which is almost double with  13,318,746,440,678,656 more combinations just by just adding one character to your password. So it might seem like only one small addition but it makes an exponential difference.

However, don’t let these enormous numbers fool you.  If your password lacks complexity it still can easily get hacked!

Don’t use PASSWORDS use a PASSPHRASE!

When I first started using passwords I used my childhood dog’s name, “georgia“.  As the years past and password requirements grew it became “Georgia1” then “Georgia0ne” then up to the day I published this article it was the PHRASE “GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch“.

GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch is long, complex with lower case, upper case and a number.  I could have added a special character but a mixed case 20-character passphrase is pretty solid according to www.howsecureismypassword.net

Georgia will get hacked instantly
Georgia1 will take 2 days to crack
Georgia0ne will take 8 months to crack
GeorgiaOnemy1stPooch 558 QUADRILLION YEARS

A password that takes 558 quadrillion years to hack is virtually un-hackable (with today’s technology).

In Summary

Don’t use the same passwords for everything.  Make your passwords passphrases that are long and complex.  Change them often and protect your email passwords.  Your life might depend on it.