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automated ssl

The Importance Of Automated SSL Encryption

When you put your credit card number into a website for an online transaction, surely you know to look for signs of a secure website such as the padlock icon in the web browser or the green address bar.  This is one way to protect yourself from others breaking in to your data. Google, Mozilla, and other major browsers are on a mission to make insecure HTTP a thing of the past. Google has made HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and website loading speeds major ranking factors.  HTTPS uses a connection encrypted by transport-layer security to protect transmitted data from eavesdropping. Most browsers like Firefox and Chrome now prominently show ‘Not Secure’ warnings in the address bar and warnings also appear directly below form fields on pages using HTTP. These changes show that HTTPS is now a necessity for all sites, because of its privacy and security benefits.

Businesses depend upon SSL certificates to encrypt data and authenticate both internal and external systems and applications to ensure appropriate access. By having websites and endpoints on the Web configured with a SSL certificate, users are assured that the endpoint has been authenticated and any communication with these sites over the HTTPS protocol is encrypted. Complete encryption of data transfer with Secure Socket Layer certificates (SSL certificates) is quickly becoming the norm throughout the Internet.

The Need For Automated SSL Encryption

SSL certificates are used not just for browser-based security but also for secure server-to-server communication for applications and data exchange. The implementation of SSL certificates is rarely automated which means trying to recall special commands, going over steps to renew and deploy a certificate and then tackling complicated installation processes, which can be tricky even for experienced website administrators. The consequences of improperly configured or expired certificate can be disastrous for an organization amounting to financial losses, fines for non-compliance, and lower productivity.

All SSL digital certificates have a lifecycle anywhere between one and three years and upon expiration are not considered valid. SSL certificates need to be renewed at the end of their life to avoid outages, service disruption and security concerns. Sometimes certificates may also need to be replaced earlier (e.g., bugs, end-of-life of SHA-1 hashing, change in company policy). Keeping certificates up to date, especially when maintaining a multitude of servers can be really annoying. Moving to an automated SSL certificate lifecycle processes takes out the need to rely on manual processes; it takes the guesswork out to improve efficiency and reduce security risks for your business. cPanel addresses the pain point of SSL installation and renewal through the AutoSSL feature.

Fully Automated SSL Encryption With AutoSSL

cPanel, Inc., has recently added a feature called AutoSSL (automated SSL) to automatically provision, issue, configure and install validated SSL certificates to its web hosting partners’ websites. Automated SSL also enables SSL on admin-based logins, email and internally running services in cPanel. AutoSSL is now available to all cPanel web hosting accounts and those running WHM version 60 or later. It is possible to view the logs for AutoSSL right from the WHM interface. AutoSSL automatically includes corresponding www. domains for each domain and subdomain in the certificate. But AutoSSL only includes domains and subdomains that pass a Domain Control Validation (DCV) test as proof of ownership of the domain.

Take The Hard Work Out With Automated SSL Encryption

With AutoSSL enabled, there is no need to fill out lengthy forms and no more having to manually copy certificates into place.  Your websites are automatically secured and encrypted with free Domain Validated SSL certificate and your coverage never lapses. A cronjob handles the request, download and installation of new SSL certificates around expiration time for all of your hosted domains.

Secure Your Website With Automated SSL Encryption

Users will enjoy a more streamlined experience, with fully automatic issuance, renewal, validation and setup of SSL certificates for all websites, logins and endpoints on the server. An automated SSL encryption system eliminates common human errors in the process, which may be caused by the system admin or anyone installing the certificate. Automated SSL encryption improves the privacy, security and trust of websites for the end users because there will be no lapse in a valid certificate.

end of flash

The Beginning Of The End For Flash

Adobe made an announcement that it will stop updating and distributing the once -ubiquitous multimedia plugin- Flash Player– by the end of 2020. The two-decade long reign of Flash will finally come to an end three years from now. Until that time, Adobe will continue to partner with Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft and Google to offer security updates for Flash in their browsers, including security patches. But beyond that, Adobe will not offer any new Flash features. According to Govind Balakrishnan, the VP of Product Development, Adobe will also be more aggressive in ending support for Flash in places “where unlicensed and outdated versions of Flash Player are being distributed.”  This move is hardly surprising given that Flash and its outdated versions quickly became a prime target for hackers because of its wide distribution, and security vulnerabilities, which allowed easy access into their target’s machines. Flash today is considered a security risk and major source of browser crashes.

The Legacy Of Flash

Flash emerged in the late 1990s, and its popularity rose shortly after Microsoft’s Internet Explorer became the default browser in the world’s most widely used operating system. Flash creator Macromedia, was acquired by Adobe in 2006. At a time when all you could find on a webpage was low resolution GIFs or blinking text, Flash allowed designers and developers to make web-based video, animated, and interactive content that would work on any computer or browser. Quirky Flash-based cartoons (Homestar Runner) and video games (QWOP) were a far cry from the traditional media seen so far. In fact the gaming site Kongregate still has more than 100,000 Flash games  Flash has been a website workhorse, making it easy to play online games, stream radio station music and watch YouTube videos. It also allowed people to build features like photo galleries, use webcams for video chat and a whole array of multimedia features. The legacy of Flash is its profound and positive impact on advancing creative content on the web in the internet era.

The Long Road To The End For Flash

The Flash Player loads Flash content in a web browser and ensures that the content looks and behaves the same way for anyone who loads it, regardless of the type of browser or computer being used. But advancing technologies are now capable of running natively in web browsers which has made that same plugin requirement a liability.

The earliest signal of the big fall for Flash came in 2004, when three browser makers — Mozilla, Apple and Opera Software, launched a group to advance core technologies for HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) to build websites. Instead of proprietary softwares they wanted industry standards. But the World Wide Web Consortium, wasn’t interested in their proposal and thus Flash continued its successful run.

But the first nail in the coffin was struck in 2007, when Apple decided not to support it in the newly introduced iPhone. Keeping mobile web in mind and the emergence of the fifth version of HTML that promised to replace some of the functionality Flash provided, developers began moving away from Flash and toward HTML5 and JavaScript. Steve Jobs published his thoughts on Flash in 2010 to further cement HTML5 as the new standard. Rather than use Flash, Apple adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript—all open standards that web browsers could build on. But Flash still remained integral to the web and was used to create native apps for iOS.  But now even video streaming sites such as YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo have made HTML5 the default video player.

Countdown to 2020- What To Expect?

Chrome: began asking permission to run Flash on some websites since 2015, and it’ll do so more often now.  Since end of 2016, Flash is allowed by default only on 10 websites including its own YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.  It will disable Flash by default by 2019.

Firefox: will ask you the sites you want to enable Flash on and it’ll disable Flash altogether by default in 2019. There will be lingering support in Firefox’s Extended Support Release through the end of 2020.

Edge: This Microsoft’s browser uses a click-to-play option for when you want to run Flash on a website, which will continue through mid-2018. After that Edge will be more aggressive about requiring you to authorize Flash. And in 2019, Microsoft will disable Flash by default, and by the end of 2020, Flash will be disabled completely.

Safari:  Apple’s Safari has blocked Flash from running since 2016 but you can re-enable it on websites that offer to download Flash.

Facebook: Facebook hosts a lot of Flash based games, including FarmVille and Words with Friends, which will run on Facebook until the end of 2020. But in a blog post it has urged developers to follow the timelines set by browsers.

Adobe meanwhile has renamed the software for making Flash, Flash Professional CC to Animate CC, which will be its “premier web animation tool for developing HTML5 content. Adobe is also pushing developers to migrate their content to open formats like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly. HTML5 has slowly and surely replaced Flash Player as a viable alternative for delivering content on the web.  Most browser vendors have integrated functionalities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and since HTML5 is built into most of the big name browsers already, there is no need to install anything to use it.

There is no need to spill tears over the demise of the pioneering software. Rather it is more appropriate to rejoice that Adobe is finally ready to help usher in the next era of digital content creation.

secure server

7 Measures To Achieve A Secure Server

The news has been abuzz with reports of latest hacks and data breaches that have caused major mayhem to businesses and users alike.  Web servers that serve as website hosts for your business are vulnerable to a number of security threats and need to be protected from intrusions, hacking attempts, viruses and other malicious attacks (such as phishing and hacking).  Having a secure server is absolutely crucial for any business that operates online and engages in network transactions. Web servers are an easy target for hackers because of the sensitive data they usually host. Therefore, taking proper measures to ensure you have a secure server is as vital as securing the website, web application and also the network around it.

Your selection of the server, OS and web server is one of the first decisions that will impact what best practices you have to put in place for a secure server and the kind of services that run on it. Irrespective of what web server software and operating system (Microsoft Windows, Linux) you are running, there are certain measures you must take to increase your server security. It is necessary to review and configure every aspect of your server in order to secure it. Maintaining a multi-faceted approach offers in-depth security because each security measure that is implemented adds an additional layer of defense. Here is a list of tasks that individually and collectively will help strengthen your web server security and prevent cyberattacks against your applications and infrastructure.

  1. Automated Security Updates

Most vulnerabilities have a zero-day status. It takes very little time before a public vulnerability is utilized to create a malicious automated exploit. So it helps to keep your eye on the ball when it comes to getting your security updates. You may want to consider applying automatic security updates and security patches as soon as they are available through the system’s package manager.

  1. Review Server Status and Server Security

Being able to quickly review the status of your server and check whether there are any problems with its CPU, RAM, disk usage, running processes and other metrics will often help detect server security issues with the server faster. It is also possible to review the server status server with ubiquitous command line tools. All your network services logs, site access logs, database logs (Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle) present in a web server, should ideally be stored in a segregated area and checked frequently. Keep an eye out for strange log entries. When your server is compromised, having a reliable alerting and server monitoring system in place will prevent the problem from snowballing.

  1. Perimeter Security With Firewalls

Having a secure server means having security applications like border routers and firewalls set up to help filter known threats, automated attacks, malicious traffic, DDoS filters, bogon IPs, and untrusted networks. A local firewall can actively monitor for attacks such as port scans and SSH password guessing to block any security threat from attacking the firewall. And a web application firewall helps to filter incoming web page requests in order to block requests that have been deliberately created to break or compromise a website.

  1. Use Scanners and Security Tools

There are many security tools (URL scan, mod security) provided with web server software to help administrators secure their web server installations. Though configuring these tools can be hard work and time consuming, particularly with custom web applications, they add extra layer of security and give you peace of mind.

Scanners can help automate the process of running advanced security checks against the open ports and network services to ensure you have a secure server and web applications. It usually checks for SQL Injection, Cross site scripting, web server configuration problems and other security vulnerabilities. There are even scanners that can automatically audit shopping carts, forms, dynamic web content and other web applications and provide detailed reports to detect existing vulnerabilities.

  1. Remove Unnecessary Services

Typical default operating system installations and network configurations (Remote Registry Services, Print Server Service, RAS) are not secure. Ports are left vulnerable to abuse with more services running on an operating system. So it is advisable to switch off all unnecessary services and disable them. This also helps boost your server performances, by freeing hardware resources.

  1. Manage Web Application Content

All web application or website files and scripts should be kept on a separate drive, away from the operating system, logs and any other system files. This way even if hackers gain access to the web root directory, they will not be able to use any operating system command to take control of the web server.

  1. Permissions and privileges

File and network services permissions are crucial to having a secure server as it helps limit any potential damage from a compromised account. Malicious users can compromise the web server engine and use the account in order to carry out tasks, such as execute specific files. File system permissions should preferably be granular. Review your file system permissions on a regular basis to prevent users and services from engaging in unintended actions. Consider removing the “root” account to enable login using SSH and disabling any default account shells not normally accessed. Make sure to use the least privilege principle for a specific network service to run and also restrict what each user or service can do.

Sum Up

Securing web servers can help keep corporate data and resources safe from intrusion, or misuse. And as we have established it is as much about people and processes as it is about security products. By taking these hardening measures mentioned in this post, you can begin to create a secure server infrastructure to support web applications and other web services.

best web hosting

Choosing The Best Web Hosting For Small Business

The Internet has opened up access to global and local markets. We live in a highly connected world today, where people discover brands, products and services by searching on the web. Businesses without an online presence have a daunting task to keep up with competitors who do.  Small businesses simply cannot afford to miss this lucrative opportunity of reaching potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through their website. Setting up a website requires proper planning, creativity and execution but it should be pretty painless provided you have the right tools at your disposal. The most critical tool in creating your business website is having the right Web hosting service to publish your site online.

What Is A Web Host?

web host is a business that provides the technologies and servers to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, and other files that make up your website and its content so that it can be viewed by anyone on the web.

You can opt for shared, virtual or dedicated servers.

  1. Shared– As the name suggests, your website gets stored on a server with hundreds of other websites.

 

  1. Virtual Private Server– You are still sharing the server but with far fewer websites therefore, your site gets allocated more of the server’s power, memory, and storage space.

 

  1. Dedicated hosting- if your website gets a ton of traffic and it requires maximum data privacy then dedicated hosting is the way to go. You can lease your own server that hosts only your website.

Small Business Hosting Basics

Besides publishing websites, strong hosting companies will take on all technical responsibilities of running and updating your website so that you can focus on business-critical functions. Good web hosting services will also provide businesses with an integrated control panel for easy site management, top notch support and many more useful features such as custom domain names, email functionality, rich website creation tools, one-click installation of supported apps and database support.

Features You Definitely Need From Your Web Host

Before pulling out your credit card and signing up with a web hosting service, it is important to understand the resources you will need based on the type of website you will be running. Though different sites have different needs, here are some factors you must consider when looking for the best web Host for your small business.

  1. Reliability

It is important for small businesses to have reliable web hosting partners so that your site does not experience any downtime. The last thing you need to be worrying about is whether potential customers can access your web page. While most web hosting companies will have the occasional outage, the real differentiator is the recovery speed. Selecting a good web host that can handle a lot of traffic and guarantee high uptime will fetch you the most return on your website investment.

  1. Speed

The difference between visitors landing on your site and backing out or staying on to convert may depend on their web experience. Page load speed and performance rates matter to online users. If a web host is slowing down the speed of your website you definitely need to make changes. What you need is a robust host that can handle large files easily and deliver the performance your visitors expect.

  1. Support

Small businesses often do not have an on-site IT team. When something goes wrong with the site, you need Web hosting services to provide helpful and friendly technical support. Ideally you are looking to get an immediate response from your hosting company when you need help the most. A good host should offer 24/7 phone support, and have options for help through email and live chats so that you find a solution to your problem very quickly. Select web hosts that have active user forums, video tutorials and blogs for additional customer support.

  1. Price

Do not fall for the cheapest web hosting plans. Instead try to get the best services and features for your money.  Shared hosting deals are often sold very cheap on signup prices but are significantly hiked on renewals. So do check the terms of service and go over the renewal prices before signing up.

  1. Security

Web hosting services must have highly secure servers to keep your data safe from frauds and cybercriminals. The best Web hosting companies will offer precise security features to protect against the latest malware or virus trying to affect computers accessing your site. Good web hosting companies will have multiple data centers, offer regular data backups, provide free domain privacy and even have servers with RAID pre-installed  to keep your files safe even if the server crashes. For e-commerce sites that accept payment transactions, choosing a web host that lets you set up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure the data being transmitted to and from the website is a must.

Get Started Now

Pick a web hosting company with the most features that best align with your website-building goals. Instead of finding the best in the world, your focus should be on finding the RIGHT web host for YOU.

Lunarpages hosting service offers an array of plans for small businesses with robust features at wallet-friendly prices. Try our Lunarpages Business Web Hosting for reliable services, higher resource limits and faster server hardware.

Web Applications

Understanding Web Applications

Without even knowing it, most of us are using web applications on a daily basis.  In fact, Gmail and Yahoo email, Twitter, Facebook, and eBay are used by most of us daily—and they are web applications. We generally confuse these web applications tools for websites.  So, what is a web application and how is it different from a website? What are some different types of web applications?  We will help you decipher which is best for the business functions you want to achieve- a website or a web application.

Website vs. Web Application

The best way to elucidate the difference between websites and web applications is to think in terms of purpose.  Do you want to provide information or do you want to get it?

Websites are simple, static, single page sites or marketing websites for distributing information. Websites generally feature and promote products, services, and organizations through articles, images, video, and files. A site informs the world about who you are and what you offer. For instance, you can check your local Italian restaurant website as a customer to check out the ‘Day’s Special,’ or hours of operation without giving away any information about yourself.

Web applications on the other hand are less focused on marketing and more on functionality to fulfill specific business purpose (submitting, storing, searching, and retrieving data). Web applications are software that runs on the web to provide some kind of service or to improve efficiency. Web applications generally always use databases, and are therefore called dynamic. It requires user interaction, as in the user has to provide information in order for the application to work. The big advantage of a web application is that it does not need the developer to build a client for a specific type of computer or a specific operating system because it runs in a web browser. Users can even be using Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox, though some web applications may require a specific Web browser.

An Example:

Think of the website of your bank, which promotes the brand and provides customers vital information about their services, and security features. Any member of the public can view the bank’s website but for account holders, the bank also offers web application tools focused on providing specific functionalities. For instance, to help check the balance on their account, submit an online loan application form, or pay bills online.

Technical Foundation

Websites and web applications both are collections of programming code for delivery of content and functionality on the web. The software run on web servers and is accessed through web browsers on a variety of devices.  Both use the same coding languages and tools (HTML, JavaScript, CSS and others) to develop the software. Web applications commonly use a combination of server-side script (ASP, PHP, or Python etc) to deal with databases, storing and retrieving information and client-side script (HTML, Javascript, CSS and others etc.) to present that information, along with frameworks like Rails, Django, etc. to develop and maintain the application.

Types Of Web Applications

There are three different types of web-based applications depending on the roles performed and logic placed and distributed by the server and the client browser.

Server-side HTML Web Application- In this type of web development architecture, the server generates HTML content and sends it to the client as a full-fledged HTML-page.

JS Generation Widgets (AJAX)- The page displayed in the browser shows widgets, where data is uploaded through AJAX query from the server into the content of the page. Any updates from the server show up only for the part of the page requested by the client.

Service-oriented Single-page Web Apps– An HTML-page is downloaded from the server, which acts as a container for JavaScript code to address a particular web service and retrieve business data only. The data is used by the self-sufficient JavaScript application, which generates the HTML content of the page.

It’s also possible to implement hybrid architecture to meet specific business requirements. The architecture of this collection of logically related interactive functions can consist of a number of components, including-

  • Business application functionality
  • Security
  • Browsers such as Internet Explorer
  • E-Mail functionality
  • Forums or bulletin boards
  • Custom-built Advertising

Web Applications Are The Future

Web apps can be customized and tailored for business purposes, like accounting software, reminder systems, order forms, and sales tracking for time saving efficiencies. Web applications can also be designed to strengthen both internal and external communication and improve data delivery and distribution. Advanced web applications are now available as online portals and eCommerce, which delivers content and the functionality of searching, adding to cart, and online financial transaction.

Most business owners understand the value of websites in their marketing plan but not many know the benefits of web applications and how they can offer stronger products and services, improve SEO, reduce cost significantly and help expand their business. Ultimately, whether you choose a website or a web application depends on your assessment of what you want to achieve.

Unscrambling Bandwidth

Unscrambling The Bandwidth Puzzle

We often hear- “You can never have enough bandwidth.” But how much truth is there to that? Our internet usage patterns have changed drastically since the late ’90s, when Yahoo messenger was the hottest communication channel, and email a nice novelty and not a necessity yet. Consumers now have come to expect a rich multimedia web experience with streaming video, music and social media updates. Residential users are heavy bandwidth users too. Thanks to Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and online gaming services from Playstation to Xbox. Today bandwidth needs for business is complex too, with more juice required for cloud-based services, VoIP telephone systems, video conferencing, Google Apps, Office 365 for email and collaboration platforms. Let’s try to make sense of what all this means for businesses.

How Does Bandwidth and Data Transfer Affect Internet Browsing?

Almost every action a user takes online involves downloading some amount of data. The bandwidth and data transfer rate mostly affect the speed at which we browse websites or download files for personal or office use. For instance, your bandwidth would directly affect speed when you download images, songs, videos, movies or access any file across the Internet. The larger the bandwidth, the faster a given file can transfer across the network at any given time. Internet users with more bandwidth also find that web pages load faster and there are no lags when video streaming.

How Does Bandwidth Affect Your Website?

It is also especially important for website owners to understand bandwidth allocations in their hosting accounts. Failure to find the right bandwidth offer can result in an underperforming slow website and additional charges.  Websites and apps require different bandwidths depending on how complicated their design is and how content-rich they are. When someone arrives on your site, all of the assets that are required to display the requested webpage in a person’s browser are downloaded from the server to their computer, which takes up bandwidth allocation. Even if anyone downloads or sends emails through your hosted domain then the size of those emails counts towards your bandwidth usage too.  For example, if your website contains a 1MB picture, which 3,000 visitors view, it uses 3,000MB (3GB) of bandwidth.

As your site begins to attract more visitors, the traffic between the web server and local computer slows down the loading time of your site for visitors, regardless of their internet connection speed. Your hosting company cycles through each user request and transfers a small portion of the data at a time, as visitors are forced to line up in a queue. And if there is a huge spurt in visitors at the same time, you may well find that your site is unavailable because the server has transferred the maximum amount of data for the allowed bandwidth.

Bandwidth And Web Hosting

When picking a web host to run your website, you should look for the best server resources available to keep your site online and consider factors such as bandwidth, data transfer, and disk space. Imagine you’re moving goods from your warehouse across a highway using trucks for delivery to customers. Bandwidth can be likened to the number of lanes on the highway and the volume of goods your trucks transfer across that highway would be data transfer rate. And disk space could be compared to the space your goods take up in the warehouse. With high bandwidth, your site will cope better because more people can visit your site at the same time and fully enjoy the optimum web experience you created for them. So, understanding traffic patterns is extremely important when choosing a bandwidth option.

Most web hosting companies offer a variety of bandwidth options for their tiers of hosting packages from 1 G to 100 G, with some even offering unlimited bandwidth. Lunarpages can provide the maximum bandwidth you need within its cheapest hosting account too. It is also easy to upgrade should you need to.

For businesses that have “bandwidth-heavy” content such as video, online apps, large images, audio files and those with a lot of traffic, a dedicated server with about 1TB of monthly bandwidth allotment should be enough to handle the data moving in and out of the network. Feel free to discuss with us about which web hosting option would be best for your bandwidth needs.

Cryptocurrency

The Age Of Cryptocurrencies And Blockchain Technology

There is a lot of buzz around cryptocurrencies not just in the investment market and tech companies, like Amazon and Microsoft but also among common consumers, who are keen to know more about it. The cryptocurrency market is now worth nearly a whopping $19 billion. For the uninitiated, cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that is completely stored and generated electronically. This digital currency uses cryptography to control the creation of monetary units and also to verify the transfer of funds.

Cryptocurrency has no physical form and is generally decentralized, meaning that transactions are tracked by every person on the cryptocurrency network, not by one central figure or entity (generally called the blockchain or ledger.) Since it is not backed by any government or legal entity, its supply is not determined by a central bank either. It is instead based on a decentralized network with all transactions and new currency minting performed by the users of the system.

So how did cryptocurrency first come into existence, especially without the backing of any government?

History Of Cryptocurrency

The first decentralized cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was the creation of a shadowy figure (or group of figures) with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, who first published the Bitcoin white paper in 2008. The concept of Bitcoin was based on the idea of an open-source, ownerless, transparent currency to replace the government backed fiat currencies, which are susceptible to risk of manipulation during exchange and settlement. With a distributed ledger system, Bitcoin cannot be debased and its value cannot be manipulated by a single, controlling entity.

Following Bitcoin, many other cryptocurrencies came into existence to change the mechanics of moving money. Currently there are over 700 currencies recorded from the well-known Ethereum to the obscured Coinye West. Ether is the cryptocurrency that is powered by the ethereum network, which runs a different blockchain and “if:then” system to Bitcoin. This smart contract system allows Ethereum to be traded if a certain condition is met. Ethereum, XRP is the fastest & most scalable digital asset, enabling real-time global payments anywhere in the world. ETH became one of the world’s best-performing digital currencies with $8,204,416,132 market cap, despite a well-publicized hack. In comparison, alternative digital currency Dash has a market capitalization of $690 million, while Monero is worth about $430 million, according to price tracking website https://Coincap.io.

Cyrptocurrencies make money more efficient, with lower transaction fees, less overhead and reduced volatility risk due to instantaneous settlement and no single point of failure. It also diminishes risks associated with cyber security, and regulatory requirements.

What Is Blockchain Technology?

Although nearly everyone has heard of Bitcoin, the most famous digital currency, very few people are aware of the underlying mechanics – blockchain ledgers and decentralized transactions, or their power to change the current system of financial transactions, storage, and security systems.

A blockchain is a public ledger or list of records of all cryptocurrency transactions that take place across the peer-to-peer network, which is arranged in data batches called blocks. Each block uses cryptographic validation and references the previous block by a hashing function to link together into an unbroken chain. The ledger is not stored in a master location and neither is it managed centrally; instead it gets distributed on multiple computers at the same time so that anyone with an interest can maintain a copy of it. Users provide computational power to assist with the verification of transactions in real time (known as “mining”). Using this method of verification, every transaction ever conducted with Bitcoins is recorded in the blockchain ledger, and it is confirmed with each transaction. So effectively this permanent database that coexists in multiple locations can be seen and tracked by anyone on the network, making it highly transparent.

The technology is based on public-key cryptography and encryption meaning that the communication is secure from third parties. Consumers can complete online transactions without having to provide any personal information to merchants for verification or storage. Only a transaction record is created. So cryptocurrency transactions are considered pseudonymous and not anonymous.

Blockchain Is The Future

In fact, the decentralized blockchain technology is being seen as a massive disruptor in numerous sectors from telecommunications, healthcare, legal, cloud computing and more. The blockchain technology looks to remove any waste in the system with smart contracts and smart products.

A blockchain ledger system will revolutionize archaic financial instruments, escrow accounts, digital wallets, stocks, bonds and the securities market. It is also likely to result in a rise in Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings from service providers, because an autonomous decentralized storage system would reduce costs dramatically and improve client-side encryption. Blockchain doesn’t just provide anonymity-assurance; it also ensures permanence of the data which makes it invaluable for the attribution of assets, maintenance of data records, date-stamping and geo-stamping events, and so on.

The digital currency market is making steady progress. There are new blockchain-type platforms emerging and even governments & financial institutions are now taking cryptocurrencies seriously and making huge investments in blockchain technologies.

Business Intelligence

Empowering Your Organization With Business Intelligence

In the age of information technology, the ability to use data and information in real time can dictate how organizations successfully work, communicate and collaborate. Today the amount of information being generated every second is massive. No matter your business’ industry or size, everyone has access to quick information. However, the real power behind making rational business decisions does not lie in the petabytes of data and information itself but rather in making sense of the big data. This is where business intelligence tools can give you a competitive advantage.

What is Business Intelligence?

Currently the big buzzword in the business landscape is business intelligence but what exactly does it mean?  In short, Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the technology infrastructure, applications, architectures and processes for the collection, integration, analysis, reporting, presentation and delivery of business information for better decision making. The main components of Business Intelligence systems are data-driven Decision Support Systems, Executive Information System, Customer Relationship Management System, Geographic Information System, Management Information System and Online Analytical Processing and Multidimensional Analysis. They are all based on data warehouse technology, where the data is cleaned, integrated and analyzed before being presented in the form of easy to understand information that helps improve business processes.

Importance Of Business Intelligence For Your Organization

Big data consists of a huge haystack of hidden needles of information that you need to make sense of to make smart business decisions, but unfortunately these are not readily apparent. Looking for a needle in a haystack, especially without a plan, can be overwhelming and most of us will never find it. Similarly you may have a huge spreadsheet with tons of transactional data but how do you make sense of all those numbers?  Business intelligence software allows you to gain meaningful actionable insights for growing revenue, increasing profitability, and improving operating efficiency of the business. Business intelligence in combination with analytical processing and reporting is changing how organizations function. After all, business decisions based on hard data are entirely more reliable than decisions based on instinct or assumptions. It is the timely, accurate analysis and data-driven conclusions that should provide actionable insight into business processes. Data-driven businesses make decisions five times faster than their competitors and are twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries.

Categories Of Business Intelligence Analytics Tools

Most business people only have a very broad understanding of the term ‘business intelligence’, which includes a variety of different business intelligence tools to improve the decision making processes and tactical strategic management. There are two broad categories of business analytics tools that support different business intelligence styles and capabilities:

  • Guided analytics and reporting: It includes the traditional business intelligence styles that have been used for decades by a few decision-making managers to perform recurring analyses of specific data using predefined data sets and metrics. End users can select, filter, compare, visualize and analyze data for the purpose of guided analysis and reporting. IT is generally responsible for managing the underlying data and business intelligence applications used here.

The common business intelligence tools in this category are reports, executive dashboards, scorecards, integrated spreadsheets, query and reporting tools, corporate performance management and business intelligence search. For example, with a guided analytics package, such as QlikView, you can typically set up prepared business applications featuring dashboards, charts and calculations that can be updated through user clicks and selections. But the business user will not be able to draw their own data visualizations or add their own data sources, without the help of a developer.

  • Self-service business intelligence: Self-service is currently the proverbial Holy Grail of business intelligence because users can access any data they want, when they want it, how they want it, without having to rely on other technical resources or IT. (SSBI) solutions are generally flexible and easy-to-use so that end-users can analyze data, make good business decisions, plan and predict on their own. However, there is some IT involvement needed for data access and tool governance based on the security and needs of the business users to avoid losing control over data. Moreover, the data sources need to be consumable by the business tool, which may involve working with IT to get a proper explanation of the data schema needed for analysis.

Business intelligence tools used to perform ad hoc analysis of data belong in this category. The self-service BI tools allow users to add data and define new metrics when performing their analysis, either for a one-time-only analysis or the formulation of a recurring analysis that can be shared or published.  The business users of self-service tools are thus both information consumers and analytics producer. This people-centric approach to self-service BI improves the speed and efficiency of daily business operations.

There are other advanced analytics tools that data scientists use for data intake, integration and cleansing to build predictive and prescriptive analytical models, such as predictive analytics, statistical modeling, data mining and big data analytics software.

Business Intelligence At Your Fingertips

With access to an unprecedented amount of data everywhere across a business, the role of business intelligence is now more important than ever in democratizing the data analysis process. Businesses that fail to adopt the right business intelligence approach are missing out on a huge opportunity to enhance their organization. Business intelligence tools can help your business better understand customer behavior, forecast trends, anticipate objectives, avoid bottlenecks, improve social collaboration, and give decision makers the power of strategic planning.

reputation management

Cost of Online Reputation Management

Do you know what people are saying about you online?  Traditional marketing has always known the value of word of mouth marketing.  Today the internet, well, more specifically search engines, has made knowing what people are saying about you even more important than traditional word of mouth marketing.  Why?  Because 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  So, if your reputation isn’t managed well it could be very costly.  And, did you know that what people say about you online impacts your search results?  Let’s learn some more.

Case in Point

A few years ago, American Airlines had a costly run in with a guitar.  In fact, it cost the airline $180 million and a 10% loss in their stock prices.  When a passenger witnessed the airline mishandling his guitar, which resulted in the instrument being seriously damaged, and the airline refused to pay for the damages, the passenger — musician David Caroll — wrote a song, United Breaks Guitars. The YouTube video was a huge hit with more than 15 million views and the major contributor to the airlines dip in stock prices.

Granted, this one incident didn’t bring American Airlines to destruction, but it is a good example of how, when a company has a bad reputation, business is simply more difficult to conduct, the cost of doing business increases and it’s far more difficult to retain customers and employees, shareholders, and other important stakeholders, than it is in good times.

How to Fix a Bad Online Reputation

Arguably, protecting an organization’s reputation is the most important yet difficult task facing senior management teams and boards of directors today.  First, it’s important to point out that reputation management is a game best played using offense.  When you’re on the defense, when you’re trying to fix a negative online sentiment it’s an uphill battle that takes a lot more work than had you started your vigilance early and when things were calm and clean.  However, if you find your business in a toxic situation, here are some things you can do to keep your reputation on track:

  • Monitor! This is first and foremost. If you don’t know whether or not you have a negative reputation, how can you fix it?  There are a lot of tools as well as agencies such as LocalDirective that offer services to help you monitor your online reputation.  But just like protecting your online identity, monitoring isn’t enough.
  • You need to respond to what is out there and be proactive in acquiring positive reviews, testimonials, and stories from happy customers.
  • Finally, never become complacent. The moment you think you’re safe something will happen.  What I mean is that just because there isn’t negative chatter around your business doesn’t mean that you don’t need a reputation management program.  Be proactive in building your brand as a strong company to do business with.

You know, Benjamin Franklin once said “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it”.  No other words have ringed so true as this statement.  Especially in today’s digital, share-everything world.

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Managing your online reputation isn’t just for businesses with a toxic situation.  Your online reputation also plays into other things such as your search results.   I am sure you’ve seen the stars that show up next to a company in Google search results, but did you ever wonder how or why the stars were there?  Most SEO strategists find a strong correlation between reviews and organic search result rankings, particularly in Google. It is widely believed in the industry that the importance of reviews as they relate to search result rankings will only increase over time. Therefore, being able to display your stars will show Google that your customers trust you, that they are happy with what you provide, and that you’re a credible solution.  Here are some things we know about reviews and how they impact local SEO:

  • It’s generally believed that 10 reviews left at Google provides a little bit of a ranking boost
  • Google may be trying to incorporate review sentiment into its ranking algorithms so it would be who of you to get ahead of that and start managing your sentiment today so that when this does happen you’re not playing catch up.
  • On-page SEO remains the top factor that Google considers when ranking local business, but studies show that reviews are rapidly growing in importance.
  • Finally, Google knows a fake review when it sees one and can penalize you for such tactics. In order to rank and to rank with stars, be sure that your reviews legitimate.

 

Get Started Today

While SEO and online reputation management play nicely together, they are not the same thing and should not be used unethically to impact each other. Online reputation management avoids using black hat SEO techniques.  Black hat techniques can ultimately damage your reputation by making it difficult to maintain a positive long term presence on search engine results.

At DirectiveGroup we can help you develop an ethical online reputation while avoiding harmful tactics such as buying fake reviews. Online reputation management done well is designed to establish a long term positive online presence for a business or individual. Let us help you create engaging social media profiles, a positive review presence, and multiple points of positive, high quality content to ensure that you maintain a positive online reputation that lasts.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at DirectiveGroup, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact them today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.

Taxonomy for design & Why Use It on Your Site?

What is taxonomy? It is vital if you are in the middle of a site design or redesign, and provides a method of organization so there is no frustration when organizing it.

You want your visitors to not only find what they are looking for quickly, but you want them to linger a while and explore your site. And, if you have a lot of content, you’ll want to be able to find it easily. Your site’s success – or lack thereof – sits on the foundation of its organization.

Taxonomy: An Organizational Method

So, what is taxonomy and how can it help get you better organized?

Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure for the classification or organization of data that enables websites to be categorized according to topics and types, enabling easy information retrieval.

To me, the most beneficial aspect of taxonomy is that is reduces manual content management. It allows you to dynamically retrieve and display anything on a page based on enabled tags or structured fields within your content. Taxonomy gives you the opportunity to balance the page’s content with other relevant information.

How Does Taxonomy Work?

Logistically, the way it works is that you are making content load dynamically when a page is accessed by programming a search on any number of taxonomy tags or other fields within your content block or page.

No doubt, you’ve seen this, but haven’t recognized what was going on behind the scenes. Amazon’s site includes taxonomy-driven content publishing. Whenever you log in and go to a page of interest, notice how when you scroll down a little you’ll see a section telling you other customers who bought this bought that, too. Or, it will show you what you should buy today based on what you bought yesterday.

Another example can be found at online news services, such as Reuters. If you’ve ever signed up with one, you’ve been given the opportunity to personalize your experience by your unique interests. That way, you don’t have to waste your time scrolling through hours of news you’re not interested in. As soon as you log in, you get to see what matters to you.

Some taxonomy sites allow the visitor to interact and filter in ways I just mentioned. But, other sites don’t require user interaction at all. You can also develop a site with only a little user interaction.

 Taxonomy Considerations

If your site has proper taxonomy, you will be able to bridge across subjects, and better manage and often reuse your content – at scale. Of course, it will assist with effective navigation and will, ultimately, provide a better product and brand alignment. At the end of the day, it will improve SEO and findability, and even support social sharing.

When creating a sound taxonomy, the first few things to consider is its projected longevity and flexibility. This means thinking ahead to what your site might become – what additions might occur down the road. You’ll also want to think from the perspective of what terms your visitors might use and what structure will help support your business goals and help your content perform optimally. And, don’t forget to understand the scope of your project. Taxonomies can easily get out of hand.

To develop the scope of your taxonomy, imagine a Venn Diagram. The taxonomy lies at the intersection of your business context (or purpose), content and users – which are your target audience.

The Benefits of Structuring Your Own Taxonomy

Taxonomy can be a huge boon for your website. However, equally clear is that this is not something that can be built overnight. It requires strong input from both your multi-disciplined team and from your users. You have to thoroughly understand your target audience and have a good grasp on how they think. After all, you’re creating something that should be almost intuitive.

Taxonomy requires vision and commitment to plan and execute. Many companies don’t bother to standardize data definitions. Yes, it takes real time to properly define your data. But, the many benefits of having a taxonomy structure under your site are huge. Not only for your users but for your team. The many, many ways you can utilize such a structure are endless.

As you can understand, developing a taxonomy can be quite daunting.  GlobalDirective can assist your team to structure your data.  Because we have been placed in the 97-percentile of Google partners, we’re not just doing a few things right, we’re doing most everything right. Allow us to show you how to achieve real success.

This is a guest blog written by Michelle Keyser, Director of Social Media and Content Marketing, at GlobalDirective, a digital marketing agency, where she is a strategist and blog contributor. Contact GlobalDirective today for more information by calling 1.866.925.9524.