Common Values and Complementary Strengths
The Basis for Effective Professional Collaborations
Website design firms are not exempt from Murphy’s law. It seems the minute you hit the road for that much-needed vacation, clients decide it’s the perfect time to need updates, new websites, or worse yet, emergency support! Instead of enjoying the R&R you planned on, you are stuck in a hotel business center or coffee shop on your phone or laptop trying to keep your business afloat. Such is life for the independent designer – until now.
Larry Zevon’s story is a little bit different. Zevon Media, a Rhode Island-based design firm, has earned a solid reputation for designing websites that deliver aesthetic beauty while maintaining functionality for both the site owner and the user alike. He started off by designing and hosting his clients’ websites. But as the business grew, it became too much for him to give enough attention to his design clients and maintain his work-life balance. Rather than calling it quits, a resourceful Zevon found a partner.
When looking for someone to host his clients, Zevon needed personalized support and secure hosting options. Enter CourseVector. Through strategic partnership, the companies have been able to leverage the strengths of the other to produce better quality WordPress websites and results for clients. The pairing of Zevon’s talents for building and designing websites with CourseVector’s knowledge and experience in hosting and security wasn’t a mere marriage of convenience, but rather a union of equals wherein each enterprise complements and enhances the efficiencies of the other.
More about Zevon Media
The combination of Larry’s design sensibility with his comprehensive knowledge of WordPress has allowed his company to consistently produce good-looking, functional websites designed for seamless performance between mobile platforms and traditional browsers. Since its founding in 2006, a steady flow of referrals from satisfied clients and positive word-of-mouth press has yielded consistent growth for Zevon Media, providing Larry with clients throughout the United States and Europe.
Like Zevon Media, CourseVector has emphasized industry knowledge, transparency, reliability, and customer care as core values integral to the mission of its business. Their partnership allows Zevon Media to focus on website design and development; CourseVector’s strength and experience in hosting and security has made it a natural counterpoint and obvious collaborator with Zevon. Larry points out that “teaming with CourseVector to handle the backend requirements of my clients’ websites has freed me to focus on what I do best: website design and development.”
Having a trustworthy, competent, and likeminded partner in CourseVector to manage website essentials such as hosting, maintenance, updates, backups, and security has proven indispensable for both Zevon and his clients. Their partnership has also afforded him the time to volunteer as coach for a local youth sports team. This type of partnership would benefit the freelance web designer, graphic designer, and small design shop alike.
Website Design Partnerships
Tailored To Your Needs
Connecting with partners that put clients first with competence and professionalism is no small request. However, the success of the ZevonMedia/CourseVector partnership illustrates the possibilities. Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied clients is cited as a top source for the companies’ collaborative success. CourseVector is proud to partner with like-minded businesses to offer technical expertise and secure hosting platforms to individuals and design firms across all industries.
Contact CourseVector today for information more on services and pricing.
This Site May Be Hacked
“This Site May Be Hacked” are words no webmaster or SEO manager wants to hear. As if a breach to an enterprise’s website (and the financial cost and public relations fallout associated with it) is not bad enough, a website hacked with malware or spam can cause an entity’s organic search engine rankings to take a nosedive. As one of the objectives of an effective SEO plan is to obtain and then maintain a presence on the first page of a web search query, compromised websites that feature viral links to a hacker’s site, or hacks that result in the quarantining of a website, can have a devastating effect on an enterprise’s SEO.
To understand how hacking can damage an enterprise’s SEO efforts, it is helpful to first understand what a website hack is, and how it most commonly occurs. Simply put, unauthorized hacking is defined as obtaining access to a website or computer network without the permission of its owner. Illegal hacks are typically initiated for the purpose of accessing protected information, or for using a legitimate website as a conduit to redirect users to a hacker’s website. The two primary tools used by hackers to compromise a website are malware and spam.
Malicious software, or malware, is designed to damage, disable, or otherwise grant an unauthorized user access to a computer, system, or network. Malware is most often used to covertly siphon sensitive information, resulting in a data breach. The ramifications of a malware hack on an enterprise’s website can be serious and far reaching.
Illegal hackers are computer programmers or engineers who use their knowledge of software and operating systems for nefarious purposes rather than for good. These hackers dissect computer programs to identify vulnerabilities within existing software, and then create a new program (malware) with the sole purpose of exploiting those weaknesses. A hacker will distribute this malicious software across the internet, where it will automatically search the web for sites using the vulnerable software. If a site is running the targeted software, the site is attacked by the malware, which discreetly embeds itself into the operating code, giving the hacker access to the system. With control of the system, the hacker has the potential to harvest sensitive data critical to an enterprise’s operations, or to begin spamming from website.
Website spamming occurs when a hacker inserts hypertext on a webpage that, when selected by a site user, links to the hacker’s desired destination. Embedding spammy links on highly trafficked websites to redirect users to a hacker’s site increases the hacker’s search engine rankings, without having to do the honest, expensive, and time-consuming work of marketing and brand-building. Essentially, website spammers are the bad guys who use the good guy’s hard-earned SEO rankings and positive reputation to shortcut the system as a way to increase the perceived value of their own site, while diminishing the ranking value of the guy who has played fair.
Consequences of a hacked website
At the end of the day, whether a website has been hijacked by malware, spam, or a combination of both, the results are never good. If a malware infection targets data base files containing the personal or financial information of the enterprise or its clients, the resulting security breach can be devastating. Spammers that leech traffic and customers from a legitimate website can exact a high cost on an entity’s search rankings, which in turn means fewer organic visitors to a site, potentially reducing revenue for an enterprise.
Google and other major search engines construct algorithms to automatically recognize sites infected with malware. While this proactive approach to identifying viral websites is great for the search engine user, the result for an unwitting entity whose site has been hacked is that the search engine will quarantine a website that the algorithm deems as compromised. Quarantined websites come with a warning to search engine users to avoid clicking-through to the blacklisted site, as it contains content from a known malware distributor. As a result of the malware infection warnings, blacklisted websites are estimated to see a drop in traffic on the order of 95%.
Malware infections can not only be time consuming to repair, but can also prove very costly to an enterprise, in ways both tangible and intangible. Each day that a website is quarantined or offline in order to trace and remove malware, translates to another day of losses for the enterprise with respect to customers, revenue, and the public’s trust. Further delays can occur after malware and spammy links have been cleaned from a site. Search engines must verify that a website is no longer compromised before rescinding its quarantine status, a process which can take up to a couple of weeks depending on the size and complexity of the website in question.
Prevention is the best medicine
Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And while the quotable Mr. Franklin never knew of websites, hackers, malware, or spam, his idiom on the importance of being proactive can certainly be applied to the digital age. So, what is the formula for preventing a website hack from occurring in the first place?
UPDATES + BACKUPS + MONITORING = SECURITY
Running outdated software is consistently the number one reason that website hacks occur. Hackers focus on creating malware that will hit the greatest possible number of targets. Further, hackers are keenly aware that human nature is such that installing software updates tends to be a low priority for most people. If a hacker writes malware or spam code for a popular software to exploit a fault that an update is designed to fix, a hacker will gain access to countless computers, due simply to the statistically high number of users that fail to install updates in a timely manner.
Consider the example of WordPress. WordPress is an open-source software that is widely used for building websites. Its popularity is attributable to its stability, reliability, and ease of use. WordPress aggressively tests its software for vulnerabilities, and regularly releases updates to repair for shortcomings. But because WordPress is open-source, these faults become public knowledge when updates are released. Playing to the human propensity to procrastinate, hackers will then design attacks that target the core software loopholes that the updates are designed to repair. When an enterprise that is running WordPress is lax in installing updates, they are as good as hacked.
Not unlike installing software updates, creating backups on a regular basis is another mundane but important task that is too often overlooked. In the same way that is it important to backup one’s local, desktop files, creating a periodic backup of a website is of equal urgency. For websites using WordPress, backups are made easy with plugins that work with major cloud-based storage services. Key to having a clean, securely stored copy of a website is to ensure that backups are regular, automatic, stored off-site (not on the same server as the operating version of the website), and redundant (multiple copies maintained simultaneously).
While the importance of installing updates and running regularly scheduled backups for a website cannot be understated, it remains essential to supplement updates and backups with real-time monitoring of website activity. Investing in a reputable and reliable monitoring service that will watch website traffic, recognize questionable activity, and proactively repair issues before they become real problems represents resources well spent.
At times, it can seem as if hackers have the upper hand in the never ending struggle to protect and maintain the integrity of one’s website. Having a knowledgeable IT team to skillfully manage your enterprise’s website is the essential component for both protecting your website, as well as utilizing it as the tool that it is to maximize the exposure of your entity, increase the value of your brand, and grow your enterprise.
CourseVector is a web design, SEO, and hosting company that addresses all the pieces of the web marketing puzzle. With an experienced staff that has been designing, creating, and fixing websites since 1989, CourseVector brings a wealth of internet knowledge and experience to bear on the operation of a successful website. CourseVector takes the time to get to know you, your entity, and your enterprise’s needs and goals, and then works within your budget to create, implement, and service your website, balancing the requirements of security with the goals of effective SEO.
CourseVector can design a website from scratch or convert a non-WordPress website into one that uses the WordPress Content Management System. CourseVector hosting services focus on proactive website management and security, providing essential and timely software, and security updates and backups that are supplemented with 24/7 monitoring.
If your enterprise is struggling with how to maximize its online presence, CourseVector has an impressive SEO track record. Rather than pursuing a quick-fix path that falls short of producing effective SEO results, CourseVector focuses on long-term web marketing strategies that return real SEO improvements that are maintained over time.
Whether your enterprise has a website or needs one, if your website has been hacked or your finding it hard to keep pace with site security demands, or if you are new to SEO or have an SEO program that is not returning results, CourseVector is ready to help. Contact CourseVector for a complimentary SEO Marketing Analysis, and see the difference a website that is designed, hosted, and optimized by CourseVector can make for your enterprise.
Camp Hill, PA, January 12, 2016 CourseVector announced today that Cory Boyd graduated from Yoast’s SEO training program. This accomplishment affords him the ability to better serve CourseVector’s SEO clients with his up-to-date knowledge of on-page optimization, search engine requirements, backlinks, and more! His accomplishment is the perfect compliment to the SEO team’s collective marketing, sales, and design experience.
Yoast is a leader in SEO plugins for WordPress. In addition to plugins, they offer expert advice and training via their blog, ebooks, and training programs.
CourseVector LLC is a full-service web development company, offering hosting, web design, and SEO. The CourseVector team boasts nearly 30 years of experience with hosting, web design, and IT. The company offers customized SEO services for prices almost any business can afford. Contact one of our SEO specialists today for a free marketing analysis.
Starting a WordPress web design business can be easy and very profitable. Here are 6 things anyone interested in becoming a WordPress web design reseller will need to consider to help make their business a success.
After a name is chosen, a corporation is formed, and the details of accounting are decided upon, the real work of running a web design business with WordPress begins. It is not as simple as designing websites and throwing them up on the internet. There is much more to running a successful web design business.
Priority #1 – Hosting
Hosting is a very important consideration, not only from a financial standpoint but from a reliability standpoint as well.
Providing hosting to clients can produce additional income, but for those just getting started, buying and managing servers can be very expensive. CourseVector’s price for hosting is so low that a web design firm could resell at twice the amount, and still be less expensive than a lot of other hosting services, including discount providers. With their recommended Managed WordPress Hosting option, our resellers and your clients get peace of mind with backups and updates, to minimize vulnerabilities. View CourseVector’s status and uptime histories straight from the support website.
A good managed WordPress hosting plan should provide plugins and security, including but not limited to:
- Hardened Logon (htaccess)
- Optimized robots.txt
- Redirect Plugin
- Email Anti-Phishing Plugin
- Table Plugin (if needed)
- Security Plugins
- Server Caching
- History Log Plugin
- Caching Plugin
- Revisions Plugin
- Periodic security reviews by professionals
Priority #2 – Backup
Some hosting companies offer backup services. However, these backups are not guaranteed. It is the business owner’s responsibility to perform backups, and if you lose a client’s data, blaming it on your (or their) website’s host is only going to make you look untrustworthy. There are several good backup plugins for WordPress, each with its own benefits. WPBeginner discusses the pros and cons of each of the top seven recommended backup plugins, and use Git and BitBucket to back up the entire code staging environment.
Priority #3 – Security
After thinking about backups, one should consider security. Some common security issues CourseVector has seen include:
Payment Gateways – There are several ways to handle payment gateways that lift the liability off of the website owner. PayPal is a safe way to accept payment. It is also very easy to use.
Sending PII via email – Very few email servers are secure. It is never a good idea to send personal identification information using email. This includes sending PII through contact forms on the “Contact Us” page of a website. An alternative is using program that encrypts the data, like this secure messaging system.
https versus http – Google might give a slight edge to https domains where SEO is concerned. However, for many businesses, http works just fine.
Logins and Passwords – While the server on which your website is hosted should have multiple levels of security, the user should also think about their username(s) and password(s). Many people still use “password” as their password, which makes it very easy for a hacker gain access to a website. Likewise, the “admin” username that is very popular is no longer a great choice. Use something meaningful to you that is longer than 6 characters and contains uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
Outdated WordPress core, plugins and themes – A large majority of hacks enter a WordPress site due to lack of maintenance. Websites must have periodic security reviews to remain secure.
Priority #4 – WordPress Themes & Plugins
Choosing the right theme framework can speed up your development time considerably. Deciding which theme framework is best depends largely on your experience and coding knowledge. WPBeginner recommends Headway for beginners, because it is very easy to use with drag and drop functionality. However, designers who know and use at least some coding, are more apt to use the Genesis framework StudioPress, which comes with a one-time fee of about $60.00, and unlimited support and future updates.
Although themes and theme frameworks are different, just a word to the wise: don’t get trapped into using the same theme or skin for everyone’s website just because you are familiar with its functions. Using a similar type of theme for everyones website because it looks good is not always wise; functionality is far more important depending on their site’s purpose. You won’t want a portfolio filled with out of the box websites with themes that all look the same.
Additionally, start building a library of plugins that you will use regularly. There are thousands of plugins and many provide the same functionality, so having a library of plugins that you know the functionality of quite well will prevent overuse of plugins that provide the same service.
Whichever WordPress theme framework you decide to use, CourseVector will provide it free of charge with your two year hosting contract with us.
Priority #5 – People
Don’t try to do everything yourself. At first, it may be necessary to do most of the work required by yourself, but eventually, (particularly if you’re good at what you do), you’ll have too much to do and too little time to do it. Surround yourself with good people that can take your instruction and do what is required, with little or no supervision. That doesn’t mean you will have to hire a large staff. Finding good freelance help can be just as valuable, and in most cases, a lot less expensive than paying several people by the hour, only to have them standing around when there is little to do.
Freelance artists, writers, programmers, and graphic design personnel are available through several different mediums online, such as Guru, Elance, and oDesk. However, make sure to hire someone you trust with the most important parts of your website. CourseVector has artists, writers, and programmers on staff available to help our resellers with all aspects of their website.
Priority #6 – Contacts, Email, & Repeat Customers
Once someone finds their way to your website, you have just a few seconds to either convince them to hire you, or get their email address, because chances are they will not find their way back to your website before they hire someone else. Be sure to include some way to give them the opportunity to register on your site so you can follow up with emails and special offers that might just convince them to become a customer. Using MailChimp or Aweber are two alternatives to consider. You can also try a free trial and read WPBeginner’s article “Why You Should Start Building Your Email List Right Away.”
Repeat customers only become repeat customers if you give them exactly what you promised, and provide outstanding service and support. Some web designers believe that once they’ve designed the website for someone, their job is complete, but it’s only the beginning. Whether you provide hosting for them or not, maintaining contact with people you have provided a service for will give them the opportunity to become a repeat customer, or refer you to a friend. Many online businesses now utilize more than one website, and if they were treated well by a web designer, why wouldn’t they use that same designer again?
A solid partner can help you build your WordPress web design business
CourseVector has been providing website design and hosting to the internet community and resellers since the late 1990’s, gathering tools and a library of tutorials for our resellers’ use. Let us be your complete source for reselling. With our staff in your corner, you can rest assured that your clients will be taken care of with pride and professionalism, while still making a good margin. CourseVector offers our resellers:
- Customer support when you are unavailable.
- Access to high level technicians, programmers and designers to supplement their services.
- As much or as little support as is required, from a reseller who just wants to sell services and not be bothered with anything else, to a reseller that wants hosting and a solid team to help if something goes wrong.
As a CourseVector reseller, or “partner”, you will have access to those tools as well as customer support you can count on, not only for you, but your clients should the need arise. We will custom fit our reseller services to any needs. Read the testimonials of current clients and resellers; send us a message; or call Mike, Gabe, or Jen at (717) 516-6955 to find out how we can help you become successful with your WordPress Web design business.
Referrer Spam can undermine analytics accuracy.
Without a robust SEO program in place, are your search engine rankings being degraded?
Both concepts are important considerations for any company that is using the internet and a website to expand the reach and exposure of its business. But, if the concepts of Referrer Spam and SEO are new to you, you may be wondering what it is, am I affected, and (if so), how do I fix it?
A comparison from the natural world, that mirrors the insidious function of Referrer Spam, is that of the relationship between a parasite and its host. This connection exists when one organism (a parasite) sustains its existence from another organism (a host), often without the permission or knowledge of the host. At minimum, the parasite will irritate its host; at worst, it will seriously damage the health of the host, even to the point of death. In the cyber realm, Referrer Spam is the parasite, and a website is the unwitting host.
Simply, Referrer Spam is spam that uses a counterfeit referrer URL to make numerous requests of an established website in order to drive web traffic to a spammer’s site. This is a negative for any business, as a steady stream of fraudulent referral links can skew the accuracy of a company’s website traffic data reports, or analytics. Bad data can ultimately affect a company’s bottom line, as it can cause misguided financial and human resource decisions. Even more nefarious is that undetected Referrer Spam can seek out the weaknesses of a website, making it more vulnerable to attack.
The solution to halt parasitic Referrer Spam for a website is to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A two-part SEO Evaluation by CourseVector uncovers and halts current fake URL requests impacting a website, and implements a system to prevent future malicious referrals. Secondly, CourseVector SEO considers the origins of traffic to a website, and then creates a client-specific strategy to optimize a website’s visibility and search engine rankings.
A Free SEO Marketing Report from CourseVector is not only the ideal starting point to determine if your website’s analytics are being skewed by undetected Referrer Spam, but is also the first step to repair and prepare your site for better SEO.
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Many employees do not realize how their careless, seemingly harmless actions can compromise the integrity of their employer’s data network and their own home network, as well.
By now, everyone is aware that opening email attachments from an unknown source is dangerous, yet there are many activities that most would consider harmless, which could spell trouble for the employer’s network. Most employees do not know or have forgotten security policies and protocol. Therefore, the first tip should be to take out the company’s network policy materials and read or reread those now, and then come back and finish reading these tips.
These tips should give employees the ammunition needed to defend against possible compromises.
Tip #1 – Avoid the Spam Folder
A good personal policy would be never access the spam folder at work. Setting up a strong contact list will help avoid the possibility of an item going to the spam folder. Normally, items are in the spam folder because the sender is not on your contact list, but that is not the only reason. Another reason for spam folder placement is that the computer identified the email as a security risk.
Therefore, if you must look into the spam folder for an item, only view the subject line and if you identify an item you believe should not be in the spam folder, contact technical support to retrieve the item and ensure it is safe.
Tip #2 – Never Open an Email Attachment without Scanning it First
Emails are the biggest threat to your company’s network. Hackers are constantly looking for ways to intrude on business systems and leave malware to gather information, either personal or profitable. The most common method to deliver malware is through a delivery system everyone uses every day, email.
By using social networks, hackers are able to gather information on their targets and create an email account very similar to friends or relatives. This is particularly fruitful when using it to deliver malware to people while they are working; while they are busy, they do not pay as much attention to the sender’s address. A good way to avoid this deceit is to make a habit of sending a new email, not replying, and ask the friend if they sent an email before opening that attachment.
However, there is no guarantee that your friend or client’s attachment is clean either. The best method is to scan every email attachment before opening.
Tip #3 – Never bypass a Company Firewall
Internet surfing at work can be frustrating, even when it pertains to work, certain domain and site filters will not allow access. However, violating the company’s internet or acceptable use policy by circumventing the company firewall is not the answer. Wait until after work or utilize a personal tablet or laptop with a wireless internet provider that is separate from the employer’s network, and then you can utilize that site while on break.
Tip #4 – A Possible ticking bomb, the Flash Drive or USB Stick
Although very convenient, a flash drive or any portable drive can be a potential disaster. Once a flash drive becomes infected, every machine it is plugged into has the potential to become infected as well. Scanning for viruses and malware before and after every use will help avoid spreading infections. Even if you delete a file from a portable device, if you lose that device, the deleted file can be recovered by the new owner with Pandora or another recovery tool and you may have just compromised confidential information. The safest approach is not using portable devices for work.
Tip #5 – Social Media is meant for Socializing, NOT work
There is really only one thing to say about this, and that is do not put anything on social media that you would not want your fellow workers or boss to see. Social media is not private.
Tip #6 – Never link a Mobile Device to a Company Computer
Many do not realize that even just charging their mobile on a company computer puts the network at risk. The cable used to charge the device is also capable of transmitting and receiving data, viruses, and malware. The computer will recognize the mobile device as a storage medium, which it is, and confidential files could be unintentionally saved to your smart phone or tablet, just do not do it.
Bring a cable that plugs into a power outlet to charge mobile devices. This may seem like a lot of hassle, but imagine if a malware or virus is traced back to you because you used a cable to charge your phone and a malware was uploaded to the system through that cable. How much hassle would that be?
Another problem area is using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to act as an unfiltered internet connection on a company computer. This is known as tethering and is certainly a violation of the company information assurance and security policy. Restrict its use to personal devices.
Never send emails to a company account while using Wi-Fi, unless it is a secured home Wi-Fi. Hackers setup in Starbucks and other places that use Wi-Fi, create a false account, such as Starbucks, and wait for someone to login to gather login information.
Tip #7 – Unauthorized Installs of Software
That accounting or project management software you use at home would come in handy at work and make life so much easier. Before you load that on the work computer however, check the company end-user policy or take it to the Information Technology (IT) crew and let them get approval to load it on your workstation. It may be a little extra work; yet taking those extra precautions is worth the effort to prevent trouble down the road.
Tip #8 – Do not Download while at Work
Even though the internet service at work is much faster than your home service and the download is legal and paid for by you, many of the music and movie exchange services are crawling with malware. Simply accessing one of these sites put your employer’s network at risk. Many innovative hackers are using a hover method to intrude on the network and download malware without arousing the suspicion of the user, simply hovering over an advertisement or image can initiate a download. The best choice is to avoid using company equipment to do personal tasks on company time.
Each employee must ensure the “intellectual property” or trade secrets of the organization are protected from the competition. That includes all the information stored in the company database or server, as well as on the workstation assigned to them. Information assurance and security policies are written to protect those assets. Knowing and applying those policies, as well as utilizing the aforementioned tips will go a long way toward assisting employees live up to that responsibility.
At CourseVector, we realize that not all employees are conscious of security restrictions. That is why our technicians go the extra mile to ensure web application firewalls are monitored and periodic backups are completed. Contact CourseVector for more security tips, help solving in-office security issues, or assistance with security policies.
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Many small to medium size business owners believe that because WordPress is a free CMS they should be able to get their website designed, developed, and loaded with quality content for free.
While WordPress is a free content management system (CMS), it takes time to plan, design, and develop an actual website.
What the small business owner believes is a fully planned website and what the developer/designer knows is a well-planned website differs significantly. Many business owners could get those opposing views a great deal closer by asking and researching the answer to these questions:
- What is the goal or purpose of the site? Is it to entertain or to sell a product or service?
- How will my website convert a searcher into a subscriber or customer?
- Who is the target audience? Many erroneously believe everyone is their target, yet they are selling pet products. How many non-pet owners will be interested in their site?
- Who will be the natural customer? Knowing this will make it easier for the copywriter to write persuasive text for the site.
- How will I get people to my website?
Frequent Mistakes that cause Frustration and Financial Failure
Inexperience – Countless small business owners decide to hire an inexperienced developer to save money. Although, some have talent and can create a worthy website, most miss the important elements of development, including security and acceptable Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Likewise, some of these same owners, in an attempt to curb costs, hire freelance writers who may not have good communication skills in the base language of the target audience, they have no real concept of grammar and spelling.
Pre-made Themes – Using cookie-cutter themes, once again, boils down to budget. A business owner with a limited budget decides on an inexpensive theme. These themes are often inferior and can lead to excess maintenance costs throughout the life of the site.
Affordable Hosting – Free Hosting may seem to work fine for a while until the website is hacked because security is not a priority for the host. Back-ups are not provided to help manage ongoing costs. Also, load times are critical to SEO and free or cheap hosting is usually very slow.
No SEO – Most nonprofessionals do not realize how much content is required for each page. Without quality content and relevant images, all structured for SEO, the site will never stack up to the competition. Too many still believe that search engine optimization is stacking their content with a keyword, ignoring Google’s agorithms, which require synonyms, focus words, and surrounding text that supports the keyword. In addition to SEO is the need for website optimization, which includes backlinks, internal and external links, image optimization, URL structure, redirects, XML sitemaps, and much more.
Small to medium size business owners should consider hiring a developer or website development/designer that delivers all aspects of website development and is in the business for the long haul to assist the owner build their website as they build their business, in stages. Where do you find such a service that provides website development, graphic design, hosting, and all elements of SEO at a price that fits any budget? Where do you find a company that will stand behind you as they help you grow? Look no further than CourseVector for a firm you can trust.
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A staggering number of companies were victims of data breaches this past year. In fact, forty-three percent of all organizations reported some type of data breach. How many were breached and did not know?
In a heightened threat landscape, such as that which companies are currently experiencing, mitigating a threat is nearly impossible. However, training personnel to engage security measures in every aspect of conducting business is a necessary step in the reduction of the threat. In the chain of information security it is usually the human and not the system that is the “weak link.”
What are those threats?
There are many threats to organizational computers and the networks those systems are attached to and the majority of those threats need some form of human interaction to activate. What are the goals of these attacks? The principle purpose is to gain entrance and gather as much information as possible by exploiting known human weaknesses.
“Phishing,” which is a method that uses fraudulent emails or what looks like a legitimate website address to cause a human to accept the interaction and gather data and information for malicious or illegal uses is the main avenue of approach used in cyber intrusions. Everyone has been the target of a phishing email at one time or another. The question is did the user recognize it as a threat or phishing attempt?
There are generally two purposes for a phishing attempt. One is to gain information directly and the other is to introduce malware into the system. Some malware deploys into the system immediately, but the more dangerous type is those that users will not even realize is there.
The Three Main Types of Phishing are:
- Smishing – uses an SMS text to get a response, either by phone or link
- Spearphishing – the perpetrator usually already has a good amount of information on the target group and uses that information to gain information on others in the group
- Whaling – uses the information gathered by spear phishing to get information regarding the original target, usually an executive
The most appropriate way to counter phishing attacks is through personnel training. Educated employees are the first line of defense against cyber-attacks such as phishing. Inform staff members and everyone that uses the network how to identify cues and triggers used in these types of attacks. Additionally, everyone should have a direct line to security and get them involved as soon as possible. The sooner a threat is identified and quarantined, the less damage it can do to the system.
How to Work Safely from Remote Locations
The internet has made the world our workplace. Coffee shops and small diners make it easy to take our work there while we enjoy a coffee or meal. Nevertheless, WIFI is about as insecure as it gets. It is too easy to mirror a WIFI modem to look exactly like the real one and gain information. Additionally, it is too easy to let down your guard in these places. For most of us, we utilize the same coffee shop or local diner frequently and we know everyone there, from the server to the cook, and even the janitor.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Always check the name of the connection on the WIFI, is it Starbucks or Starbuks. It may be a subtle difference that is easy to accept as the real thing.
- Sit with your back to the wall and the monitor facing the wall as well.
- Never leave a laptop, tablet, or phone on the table while using the restroom. Even though the surroundings feel secure because it is familiar, it only takes a second for a laptop to disappear.
- Avoid contacting the network server with an email using a WIFI link, save it to send from home. This may seem inconvenient, but so is a cyber-intrusion on the company network.
- It is particularly important to keep all security systems up to date, firewalls up, and AV & anti-malware running.
How to Safely Use Instant Messenger & Email
In this contemporary world, platforms and apps that allow instant messenger and emails have given users a great deal of accessibility to reach out almost effortlessly and communicate globally in just seconds. However, the benefit remains only when used appropriately. Interactions online must be as confidential as a closed-door chat with a subordinate. Once it is written down and published it is no longer private, it is a matter of record. Additionally, if written in ink, it is permanent. When you send an email or instant message IM, it is for all intents and purposes, written in ink. Even though you might delete it, it is still in someone’s server, somewhere.
Due to that permanent nature, never send private information on IM or email. It might seem as though it is safe, but attacks are happening every day. Never send numbers pertaining to credit cards, banks accounts, or social security, and username and passwords in an email or IM. Take the time; make a call. Leaving that kind of information in an email account could be financially disastrous. Hackers are very sophisticated and regularly access emails sitting on servers.
Keep these protocols in mind for drafting an email:
- Never include any type of harassment, threat, or improper conversation in an email or IM. In addition, avoid contentious conversations such as religion, politics, or sex. Those topics are too offensive and often are taken as harassment.
- Do not forward any emails that contain any of the above. It is like repeating a rumor; it is just in bad taste.
- Never send or forward a mass email. Sending an email with multiple addresses is the same as giving someone another individual’s email address without asking them permission to do so. If you must send an email to multiple addresses, utilize the bcc option, so the only address visible is their own.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineers are those people making a living by taking advantage of the social behavior of others, learning their vulnerabilities and exploiting those to meet their agenda. They are the pizza or sandwich person that is just walking around the office. Or, the person you held the door open for because they were right behind you, even though an access card is needed to get in, yet you did not check if they had one. He is John from IT who calls for your login to fix that bug that everyone has been complaining about since yesterday.
Asking the tough questions will help reduce the human vulnerabilities. Why does someone from IT need my login? Why was the pizza person hovering over that unoccupied desk? Sir, do you have an access card?
How to Use Training to Reduce Human Vulnerabilities
A strong security policy coupled with cyber-security training will provide awareness of the threat and awareness is a valuable weapon in the fight against cyber-attacks.
The three tenants of a good training program are:
- Security Language: It starts with asking the tough questions and built-on by utilizing a common vocabulary of knowledge to create an atmosphere of intolerance of bad habits that allow access to the vulnerable system where valuable information is stored.
- Legal Compliance: Many organizations must comply with security standards, such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard, or the Health Information Privacy Administration Act (HIPAA) particularly those that handle sensitive information. Security must be as much of an integral part of operations in all organizations as it is to those. Protection of information must be a priority made part of the routine, yet can never be routine.
- Behavioral Change by Design: Times are changing and behavior must change with the times. Holding the door for someone is still a good deed, but the better deed for everyone is to verify his or her right to access. There are three components to behavior change:
- Ability to change, knowing what needs to change
- Motivation to change, wanting to make the change
- Performing the change, putting knowledge, ability, and motivation together to perform the change.
Awareness of the human vulnerabilities to security while conducting business in a cyber-friendly environment is crucial to protect systems from attacks and intrusions used to gain private or sensitive information. Installing security hardware and software is never going to be enough. Just as using an access card to gain entry does no good when someone holds the door open for an intruder. Changing the mind-set of staff members and all employees is imperative to reducing vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks.
The Senior Partner of CourseVector, Mike Vandling, has considerable background in Information Technology, IT security, and has instilled that philosophy across the company. In his duties at Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), he sets up and enforces IT compliance and security. CourseVector is a company you can depend on to provide trusted servers and hosting at a very reasonable price. Once again, the security of those servers is only beneficial when used appropriately. Security begins with the user. If you have any questions or would like further information pertaining to cyber-security training contact Mike.
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It’s no secret that networking works.
Setting up partnerships with like-minded businesses is a means of sustaining growth, while assisting other entrepreneurs to do the same.
Setting up partnerships with like-minded businesses is a means of sustaining growth, while assisting other entrepreneurs to do the same.
Mike Vandling, Senior Partner of CourseVector, LLC, and Junior Partner Gabriel Mariani, have utilized this type of business attitude for the last twenty years. One of those partnerships is with Jeremy Cantilina, owner of EMC2, LLC.
CourseVector is a web design/development company that provides hosting, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services, and graphic design at reasonable prices. Located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, they have been doing business worldwide since 1989.
This is a family business and as Vandling is fond of saying, “We are in this for the long-haul, with a mission to stand behind our services and our customers. Even when that means taking a loss to ensure the customer’s expectations are met and their vision is realized. At CourseVector customer satisfaction is our main goal, not an afterthought.”
This culture of customer service is what leads to meaningful and long-lasting partnerships with companies such as EMC2, a tech company in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
EMC2: Providing Smart Technology Solutions for Small Businesses and Schools
EMC2 provides technology solutions to schools and small businesses. Their technicians provide a variety of services in the Tri-state area:
- Custom-build computers to the client’s specifications
- Provide computer repair
- Install, optimize, and troubleshoot networks
- Provide on-site training and technical support to its clientele
Jeremy Cantilina, a Civil Engineer and Microsoft Certified Professional, offered us an interview to better understand what they do.
Question: Could you give me a short synopsis of your relationship with CourseVector?
Cantilina: “I have worked with Mike over the last 18 years or so to supply web hosting and e-mail solutions for my clients. In later years, I worked with CourseVector for Website design and SEO. It has always been a pleasure to work with Mike and his team. They are very knowledgeable and professional. Service has been top notch; hence, I have never had the need to seek these services elsewhere.”
Question: What is the average size of your on-site group training and what would you say is the maximum you could handle?
Cantilina: “99 percent of my training is done 1 to 1; but, if I do a classroom setting, I prefer no more than 10.”
Question: What are the specifications most in demand for customized computers?
Cantilina: “The reason we custom build is to meet the needs of the customer to balance cost with performance, to be sure they pay for only what they need and not be overwhelmed with a lot of advertising from third parties. In general, most people are looking for reliability and the assurance of dedicated support over anything else. The specifications would vary depending on the use of the machine.”
Question: Given the popularity of tablets these days, which would you recommend a laptop or tablet for the small business owner who travels frequently and wants to carry just one device?
Cantilina: “In this example, we would sit down with the customer and review all of the things they would like to accomplish, and then develop a system in which to do that for the best possible price. Working with the customers’ needs and abilities is key to providing a solution that is both effective and efficient. You are not going to sell a snow blower to a person in Texas even if it happens to be the best one on the market. The customer needs to be able to use the technology effectively rather than just have it. This is where we differ from the large manufacturers. We listen and are more concerned about the customer meeting their goals than making the sale. This is the same value that CourseVector holds, which is why I have worked with them for so many years.”
By forging partnerships with small IT companies, CourseVector allows companies such as EMC2 to offer their clients much more than they could alone.
How to get the Help You Need
As we mentioned before, Pinterest can be a very powerful SEO tool. Tailoring your website images and Pinterest pages to suit the needs of your users will give you an edge over your competitors. Here are some things to keep in mind as you encourage your users to pin!