Filter: Blog

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.

cool website

The Coolest Websites On The Internet That You Should Bookmark Right Now

Among the millions of websites on the Internet, there are some hidden gems that you may not even know existed. Right from the bizarre to the beautiful, you really can find all kinds of sites on the Internet. We have done some digging for you and compiled a list of the best sites around. There are some entertainment sites, some time-wasters but there are also many substantive sites with beneficial information. Kick back, relax, and enjoy these obscure but interesting nuggets on the Web!

1. Newsmap.jp

Can’t start your day without the news? Newsmap.jp is an extremely convenient way to quickly access the latest trending news headlines of the world in different categories (business, world, sports, or technology) on a single page. You can turn off a particular category from appearing if you are not interested or even focus on country-specific news.

2. Thought Economics

Read interviews with the world\’s leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and the people shaping our future. This digital journal also features opinion editorials on issues pertaining to business, economics, medicine, arts, politics, science and more.

3. khanacademy.org

With a mission of World class education for anyone, anywhere, this learning resource is free and not-for-profit. You get expert created learning content on any subject and at any level. You can learn anything.

4. Mint (USA & Canada)

Want to be smart with your money? Visit Mint, which is the preferred destination on the web for personal finance management, with automatic spending tracker and budgeting tool.

5. Zomato

This tool is a great resource for finding local restaurants and shops in your area. With reviews from fellow foodies, Zomato helps you discover hidden gems and even lets you order food online.

6. BleepingComputer.com

If your computer has been infected with a virus or malware, look no further than BleepingComputer.com, which has a huge resource of security news and really handy virus, ransomware, adware and malware removal guides.

7. The Genuine Haiku Generator

Most peculiar site, amusing

constructs random haikus

Mind=blown

8. Archive.org

Archine.org offers universal access to its digital library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. It is home to the Wayback Machine, which makes it possible for anyone to look up different versions of web pages going back all the way to 1996.

9. SilphRoad

Have you developed a fascination for eggs, candy and stardust suddenly? You may be one of the millions of Pokemon Go enthusiasts. The Silph Road brings the latest research, news, latest trends, and tools for Pokemon Go players around the world.

10. Udacity

Udacity is the pioneer in online education. It offers advanced learning courses designed to directly equip the skills needed to land real jobs at companies you want.

11. Greatist.com

Health is wealth. But unfortunately too often our busy lives take over and we take our health for granted. But now you have Greatist to fall back on. It is a health and fitness blog designed to help you set goals that you can actually achieve on your own terms. It has everything from meal prep advice to happiness guides.

12. Popurls

Finding it hard to keep up with popular social site content, news headlines and video hits? Popurls is the original aggregator that presents all the web\’s headlines in a simple categorized single page.

13. Cracked

The Cracked Daily Hit List is a sure cure for boredom. You can spend hours on this good old American humor site browsing through hundreds of informative and interesting articles and videos.

14. Vumble

Do you want to know what the world is watching right now? Discover the best videos every day on Vumble as voted by users.

15. Forvo

Still going on about tomato, tomahto? Here is the definitive pronunciation dictionary. Get to know how to pronounce ANY word.

16. Project Alexandria

Want help finding your next favorite book? Project Alexandria is a great tool for book lovers. You can enter the Book title or your favorite author name to get a graph showing five recommendations based on similar books.

17. Akinator

This is a web version of the 20 questions game, where you think of a fictional or real personality and Akinator gets to figure it out. It uses Artificial Intelligence to guess correctly almost every time. Have a go at trying to beat Akinator. In fact, it’s so popular that Google offers it as a game on it’s personal assistant, Google Home.

18. Pixel Thoughts

When you feel stressed out, stop at Pixel Thoughts and meditate for 60 seconds. Enter a thought that is bothering you into a star and watch it get smaller till it vanishes. This mindfulness website can clear your mind in a minute.

19. My Script Font

If you are fond of scripts and handwritten scripts, then check out My Script Font. Besides being able to download great web fonts and desktop fonts, you can also easily create a font out of your own handwriting. Download the PDF or PNG provided on the website, write in your own handwriting and upload it back for a TTF/OTF of your own handwriting.

20. Addicted 2 Success

If you want to start winning and turn your life around, then go to Addicted 2 Success for some positive addiction. This thoughtful personal development and self improvement site features articles designed to inspire people.

Other than the 20 cool websites we have shortlisted, there are other more well-known trendy sites such as Reddit, Laughing Squid, Quora, Snapzu, BoredPanda, etc. you can visit just for fun or even as sources of resource.

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.

common hacks

Fight Back Against Common Hacks

Hackers are a growing concern for businesses, bloggers, website owners and web hosting companies. With recent reports of high profile hackings and the staggering number of compromised customer information, cybersecurity is at the forefront of everyones attention, from large scale enterprises to small businesses and even web hosts. Websites are powerful tools for the growth of your organization but hackers can access security vulnerabilities in them to expose your company and visitors to viruses or malware and commit other criminal actions such as stealing vital company information or sensitive customer data.

Everyone on the web must be careful but business owners have the added responsibility of keeping customer data safe and secure. Your website may be more vulnerable, if it functions as part of a shared hosting platform so be sure to ask your hosting company about their security measures. Though your website may be managed by the hosting service for the most part, you still should actively safeguard your site from the most common nasty hacks. In this article, we share with you what you can do to foil hackers and maintain the highest level of security at all times.

Most Common Hacks

  • Here are just a few of them more common hacks that you should be aware of:
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks from malicious code in an app that pass the script onto unsuspecting end-users
  • DDOS attacks that flood the server with legitimate requests to disrupt a server\xe2\x80\x99s functionalities
  • Brute force WordPress attacks that use code vulnerabilities or plugin weaknesses to change permissions or inject malicious code
  • Clickjacking where visitors are tricked into clicking on an invisible layer to trigger malicious code strings
  • DNS cache poisoning to divert traffic from legitimate servers to fake sites
  • Social engineering cyber attacks that trick users into performing certain actions to do harm
  • Symlinking where hackers use security loopholes in a site to gain root access to the entire server to potentially take down all websites on the server

Simple Measures to Keep Your Site Secure

With so many different attack vectors, what measures can you take to protect your assets and your reputation from being compromised? Here are 5 things to do today to protect from common hacks.

1. Keep Platforms, Applications and Scripts Up-to-date

The best way to protect your website is to ensure that any platform or scripts you have installed are always up-to-date. Regardless of the applications or software being used on the website, always subscribe to security releases and updates related to your application. Do not depend on auto-install scripts for updates, especially when a new CMS update comes out. Making sure you always have the newest versions of your platform (Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal) and scripts installed can help to protect your website from known security vulnerabilities. It can thwart hackers from taking advantage of older out-of-date software. It is also easy for hackers to gain access to your site if they know what version you are using, so where possible make it difficult for browsers to identify the CMS you are using and disguise script extensions. You can install extensions to automatically remove this information from files on your website which helps prevent common hacks.

2. Use High Level Encryption

It is absolutely essential to make sure that any information being sent over a network is always encrypted. You may be familiar with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) if you have uploaded files to your hosting account. If you are using an FTP client, switch to SFTP, which is more secure. SFTP refers to Secure File Transfer Protocol as it gives an additional layer of protection. There are malware and viruses designed to exploit weaknesses in FTP programs to intercept your website files and even modify them. SFTP blocks this vulnerability. Protect your computer from viruses, spyware and malware by installing a reputable antivirus program that can monitor and track intruders on your machine. If your business engages in online transactions, then you should use secure encryption (https instead of http), and make sure that your webmail service has an SSL-enabled port and SSL encryption.

3. Install Security Plugins

Besides making sure that your platform and scripts are updated regularly, look into installing security plugins to actively prevent hacking attempts and enhance the security of your site. For example, if you are using WordPress, you can install free plugins like iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security to foil hackers. Look for similar security tools that are available for websites built on other content management systems to plug the weaknesses inherent in each platform that can threaten your website.

Alternatively you can look at advanced security solutions like SecureLive to close security loopholes, monitor for vulnerabilities, detect malwares and actively scan for viruses. It can seamlessly integrate into a variety of platforms including: Joomla security, WordPress security, Drupal security, and E107 security. Lunarpages can provide this proven managed security system for your website or server for an amazing low price of just $9.95 per month per domain.

4. Lock Down Files and Directories, and Check User Permissions

All websites comprise of a series of files and folders containing all of the scripts and data needed for it to work and these are stored on your web hosting account. All of these files and folders are assigned a set of permissions to control who can read, write, and execute them depending on the user or the group to which they belong. There are many private areas on a site that should not be accessible to the public so permissions for read-only files should be set appropriately. It is vital to regularly audit and review those permissions to prevent common hacks.

5. Hosting Company

Your choice of website hosting company is an all-important factor in securing your website. All website hosting companies are not created equal as not everyone will offer the same level of security. You must make sure that your host is dedicated to preserving your assets and has the expertise and staff to monitor website activity and prevent hackers before they can access your website and files by using scanners and other advanced security protection. Check to make sure SFTP, SSL certification and adequate server maintenance is available to you through your web host and that they are always on top of upgrades and patches.

The Bottom Line

Not having proper security measures in place for your site can have a devastating effect on your business, especially if it results in loss of income or identity theft. So make sure to use all these different strategies to keep your site healthy and safe in the long term. And for any security issues regarding your website that you are not comfortable correcting on your own, consider enlisting the help of your web host or check out their forum.

cms showdown

WordPress vs Joomla! vs Drupal: Which CMS Is Best For Your Business?

Choosing a Content Management System (CMS) and a reputable web host are two critical decisions that can influence your experience with creating, publishing and managing your website. Most new websites today are powered by easy to use content management systems. And there are a number of renowned CMSs available with extensive customization features that allow you to make changes to a website, without working on a single line of code. And they all have active communities and fanbases rooting for their chosen platform. WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal are the three most popular open source platforms used to build custom, feature-filled sites, manage publishing workflows and also to generate web content. These CMSs share similarities such as they are all built for use on a web server setup using Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Each offers plenty of customizations, ability to add functions or edit designs and strong security features but they also have different philosophies that shape their ease-of-use for non-technical users. Because they are all good options, choosing the right CMS for your website can prove to be difficult. Therefore besides the reputation it is also better to focus on how well the platform aligns with the objectives, resources and technical expertise of the team members managing the site. We are here to help you pick the best fit for your unique situation by comparing all three platforms on various factors. Keep reading to make up your own mind on which one reigns supreme!

User-Friendliness In Configuring And Managing A Website

All three CMSs are easy to install and since most users install using a script rather than manually, there is no big difference. When it comes to managing a website, one needs to consider ease-of-use in day-to-day site management and administration across all user roles and levels of the system.

WordPress

WordPress is immensely popular among users and developers alike. The WordPress philosophy is to build an intuitive and easy-to-use CMS that its users regardless of their technical knowledge\xe2\x80\x94can use to publish on the web. WordPress is simple to use from the start, especially for anyone familiar with word processing tools such as Microsoft Word.

Joomla!

The best feature in Joomla! from the perspective of ease of use is its consideration of user levels -traditional website visitor access, front-end editors, back-end managers and administrators. The front-end area with defined user roles makes it easy for newbies and lower-level users to manage content.

Drupal

The out-of-the-box interface in Drupal is fully functional but it is not user-friendly for non-technical users. Users should be comfortable with PHP, HTML, CSS, and other web languages to operate in Drupal. For that reason, Drupal has the steepest learning curve and is designed to be customized at all levels.

Ease-of-Use in Creating and Publishing Content

WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal are all capable of supporting publishing workflows for non-technical users, such as inputting or creating content, updating it on an ongoing basis, formatting, and displaying it to users. For non-technical users wanting to create a new site using a pre-built theme, WordPress may be the best option, even Joomla! would work just as well but Drupal may not be the right pick for you. Since creating and publishing content is the bulk of the work you will do in a CMS let\xe2\x80\x99s look at each platform in a little more detail.

Drupal

There are several default content types right out of the box in Drupal: Besides basic pages used for static pages, articles (similar to WordPress posts) and book page, which is a collaborative type of content that many users contribute to, are offered. There are also forum topics on which comments and reply threads can be added and polls offering a question with a set of possible responses for community members to vote on. You can also create new content types with different section headings, functions, features, multimedia elements, and capabilities. Drupal is an excellent choice for developers building a complex site with tons of content and numerous users because of its flexibility and ability to easily create and define own content types.

Joomla!

Joomla! allows users to create and store content as articles, which are then attached to a menu to be displayed on the site. It is also possible to place content in different positions and areas because of the way Joomla! uses modules. Joomla! may not have the most intuitive setup, especially for users without experience in any other CMS, but it is still worth spending a few hours learning it as it is an incredibly powerful system. With its innate structure and ability to create once, publish everywhere, content can be used in multiple ways throughout the website. For example, a blog post can be repurposed as a page, an event, and an article simultaneously.

WordPress

WordPress offers three default content types:

Post- For some websites, WordPress is used for its blogging capabilities alone. Blog posts are easy to create and publish with a time and date stamp and they are automatically added to your RSS feed. Posts can be assigned categories and tags, for easy archival and sorting.

Pages-Website pages are easy to build and add to the menu. The system has a drag-and-drop editor for easy management of the menu structure.

Media– This type of content is primarily for storing and organizing images, videos, or other files. WordPress media uploader enables drag and drop uploading, file size limits, automatic image resizing, editing and a visual gallery for management. It also has a built-in photo gallery tool.

WordPress also uses widgets to store other content that wouldn’t be considered pages or posts. They are generally regulated to a sidebar or footer, though some WordPress themes provide a lot of flexibility in creative use of widgets. WordPress is restrictive in its ability to re-use existing content differently. However, WordPress does allow “custom post types,” for creating your own unique content type, such as videos, whitepaper, case studies, and more, similar to Joomla! or Drupal. It is easier to review and create content on WordPress because it keeps content types separate.

Security

There is a myriad of threats to your website from cross site scripting, zero-days breaches, brute force attempts, and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks to software vulnerabilities. Each of the three main CMSs have different security features. Let’s take a look at them.

WordPress

Hackers are more likely to try and find vulnerabilities in the WordPress system because of its popularity and reach. There are over 75 million WordPress sites on the web, in comparison to about 3 million Joomla! sites and less than a million Drupal sites. You need to modify WordPress core files to enable Secure Socket Layer connection or Two-Factor Authentication on its dashboard. Most advanced security features are entirely dependent on plugins. The most commonly used plugins are often subject to hacks and malware, as they are considered less secure and have less oversight. But if site owners are vigilant about which plugins they install, and update regularly then a WordPress site is no less secure than any other CMS. WordPress Core is still extremely secure. WordPress has a robust reporting process and vulnerabilities are fixed and patched quickly once theyre discovered.

Joomla!

Out-of-the-box, Joomla! comes with a feature to force connections over SSL and another option for enforcing 2FA[MK1] . It offers its unique set of security extensions, and developers working on Joomla! also maintain a list of extensions with known vulnerabilities. Joomla! has a dedicated Joomla Security Strike Team (JSST) who are quick to patch any vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered. Joomla has very few documented vulnerabilities and most are not knowingly exploited.

Drupal

Drupal commands the smallest marketshare but it is most popular with enterprise users who are more technically savvy and therefore Drupal enjoys a reputation of being the most secure CMS of the group. Drupal modules are usually targeted less but the lack of an automatic update makes it difficult to spread the word about the vulnerability to compromised users.

Truthfully there is not much difference between WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla! as far as security is concerned. The greatest security risk for any site is the users and administrators of the site. So if these content management systems are managed responsibly and monitored properly by someone with the required technical knowledge, most security breaches can be prevented. This is a major reason why website owners should opt for managed website hosting, instead of traditional web hosting.

Upgradability

WordPress allows easy updates for both minor and major upgrades to plugin, theme, and custom functions though it may be better to test things out on a staging site first to prevent any incompatibilities later. WordPress also enables automatic updates for minor version changes so that the latest security patches are installed without having to update manually.

Joomla! updates work just as easily as WordPress for minor versions. Even upgrading between major versions usually works just as well but it can occasionally require manual intervention.

Minor version upgrades on Drupal are a simple affair but upgrading between major versions requires a more involved effort than for Joomla! and WordPress. For someone without a lot of experience on CMSs, you are better off hiring a professional to perform major upgrades or rather choosing WordPress/Joomla! with an easier upgrade path.

For The Win

So which CMS would best suit your site?

All three Content Management Systems are usable and powerful. Depending on your unique situation.

Generally speaking WordPress is more suitable for blogs, simple business websites, news sites, marketing sites, small eCommerce stores, and any site managed by new users.

Joomla! offers a mid-ground between the other two platforms with flexibility for complex content publishing sites, social media networks, eCommerce stores, and more.

If your site is set to grow significantly and requires extensive features and unlimited customization possibilities, go for the most complex CMS, Drupal. This platform is capable of supporting the largest enterprise sites, community sites, and large online stores.

These are other factors like intangibles, integrations or transferability that may determine your choice of CMS. But no matter which one you choose, just keep upgrading. Call us to talk with one of our experts about which content management (CMS) may be best suited for your site.

 

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.