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Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

Research has revealed that over half of all users end up opening fraudulent emails and often even fall for them. Phishing is done with the aim of gathering personal information about you, generally related to your finances. The most common reason for the large number of people falling for fraudulent emails is that the phishing attempts are often so well-disguised that they escape the eyes of a busy email reader. Here are a few tips that help you identify whether that email really came from your bank or is another attempt at defrauding you…

1. They are asking for personal information – Remember, no bank or financial institution asks you to share your key personal information via email, or even phone. So, if you get an email where they ask for your ATM PIN or your e-banking password, something’s amiss.

2. The links seem to be fake – Phishing emails always contain links that you are asked to click on. You should verify if the links are genuine. Here are a few things to look for when doing that:

  • Spelling – Check for the misspellings in the URL. For example, if your bank’s web address is www.bankofamerica.com, a phishing scheme email could misspell it as www.bankofamarica.com or www.bankofamerica-verification.com
  • Disguised URLs – Sometimes, URLs can be disguised…meaning, while they look genuine, they ultimately redirect you to some fraudulent site. You can recognize the actual URL upon a mouseover, or by right clicking on the URL, and selecting the ‘copy hyperlink’ option and pasting the hyperlink on a notepad file. But, NEVER ever, paste the hyperlink directly into your web browser.
  • URLs with ‘@’ signs – If you find a URL that has an ‘@’ sign, steer clear of it even if it seems genuine. Browsers ignore URL information that precedes @ sign. That means, the URL www.bankofamerica.com@mysite.net will take you to mysite.net and not to any Bank of America page.

3. Other tell-tale signs – Apart from identifying fake URLs, there are other tell-tale signs that help you identify fraudulent emails. Some of these include:

  • Emails where the main message is in the form of an image, which, upon opening, takes you to the malicious URL.
  • Another sign is an attachment. Never open attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses that can harm your computer and network.
  • The message seems to urge you to do something immediately. Scammers often induce a sense of urgency in their emails and threaten you with consequences if you don’t respond. For example, threat of bank account closure if you don’t verify your ATM PIN or e-banking password.

Finally, get a good anti virus/email protection program installed. It can help you by automatically directing spam and junk mail into spam folders and deactivating malicious attachments.

Downtime Costs SMBs a Lot More Than They Actually Realize….

Many SMB owners think IT downtime only costs them a few productive hours, but there’s a lot more at stake when your systems go down. Customer satisfaction and loss of brand integrity are just two of the key losses apart from the more evident costs such as lost productivity and a temporary dip in sales.

Here’s a few other ways downtime can hurt your business:

1. Customer Loss - Today’s buyer lacks patience; They are used to getting everything at the click of a mouse, at the tap of a finger. Suppose they are looking for the kind of products/services that you offer and your site doesn’t load or is unavailable—even if temporarily– you are likely to lose them to a competitor—permanently.

2. Damage to Brand Reputation - Customers are now using Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogs to vent their bad brand experiences. Imagine an irate customer who doesn’t know if their card was charged on your site, or not, due to a server error. If it’s your bad day, they could probably be using Facebook or Twitter to share their bad experience, and it could be viewed by hundreds of people, causing irreparable harm to your brand image.

3. Loss of Productivity - When your systems don’t work, this can have a direct impact on your employees’ productivity. Consider a research firm of 200 employees where they primarily rely on internet connectivity to access the knowledge base. If the server hosting the knowledge base is down, there’s a total loss of at least 1600 work hours for one day.

4. Overtime, Repair and Recovery, Compensatory costs - In the above case, imagine the overtime wages the business would have to incur if they were to make up for the work loss they faced owing to downtime. In addition, there’s always the cost of repair—the money the business would have to shell out to fix the issue that caused the downtime and get the server up and running again.

In some cases, businesses would have to incur additional costs to make customers happy. These could include giving away the product for free or at a discount, or using priority shipping to make up for a delayed order.

5. Possible Lawsuits - Businesses could also be at the receiving end of lawsuits. For example, a downtime that has an impact on production, delivery or finances of the customer could invite litigation.

6. Marketing Efforts Rendered Useless - Consider a pay-per-click advertisement that shows up for the right keywords on Google, or an extensive e-mail campaign that your business engages in. However, when the prospect clicks on the link, all they see is an error message – Isn’t that a waste of your marketing budget?

The bottom line—one natural disaster, one technical snag or just one power outage has the power to put you out of business – both virtually and in reality. It’s probably time to think about how you can mitigate the threat of a possible downtime and whether your MSP can act as an effective and efficient ally in this battle for you.

How ‘Mobile’ Is Your SMB?

Did you know that by 2014 there will be more mobile web surfers than stationary ones? That means more prospects are accessing your business website more through their smart phones, tablets or other mobile devices than with a laptop or PC. If you thought you had time to make the switch closer to 2014, you may want to reconsider in light of new research. A recent study revealed that around 40% of prospects move on to a competitor if they have a poor mobile experience. How prepared is your business for this change? Well, if you are just starting out, the following checklist will help…

1. Make sure your mobile site is different from your regular website - While you must stick to your branding standards, your mobile website should be simpler than your web version. The reason being is that complicated designs that load well and look good on computers are often distorted when accessed through a mobile device. Plus, mobile surfers don’t really have the time to sift through a lot of content. Bottom line: your website’s mobile friendly version should be short, simple and sweet…offering your viewers the most important and basic sections of your website.

2. Option to access the actual website - That said, do provide your viewers with the option to access your regular website through their mobile device, as some viewers will prefer to stick with what is familiar.

3. Sitemap - Whether it’s your actual website or the mobile version, make sure you have a sitemap in place. A sitemap just makes it easier for your viewers to navigate through the site.

4. Get rid of flash - Most mobile devices don’t support flash. Keep this in mind when optimizing your website for the mobile surfer. Simple images that load fast are your best bet.

5. Testing - Make sure you test your mobile website thoroughly on different operating systems, browsers and devices. What looks good on one device might be totally distorted on another.

You could also develop a mobile application instead of a website, but most SMBs find that option too expensive and complicated. So, for now, put the 5 tips mentioned above into use and get your mobile-friendly website into action…

5 Tips for SMBs to Improve Search Engine Rankings…

In an age where most business happens online, not showing up in Google search results can really hurt you. While there’s no real shortcut to showing up consistently on web searches, there are a few quick fixes to get your site to show up on your potential customer’s search results…

1. HTML tags - Important HTML tags include the title tag, meta description and meta keywords. Make sure each page of your website has appropriate HTML tags. The title tag of each page should be unique and relevant to that particular page.

2. Alternative text images - Ensure that most of the images on your website have alternative text tags. Alt tags are basically descriptions for images. By adding relevant alternative tags to images, you are allowing search engines to recognize them, which will improve the likelihood of your page showing up in search results.

3. File hierarchy - How simple is your HTML file hierarchy? Check to see if your website’s pages are logically situated and avoid too many unnecessary folders. For example: ‘NFL=>Teams=>PittsburghSteelers’ is a better folder structure than ‘NFL=>Teams=>NFCEast=>PittsburghSteelers’, because here ‘NFCEast’ is redundant and only serves to push the Steelers page deeper down the order. This complexity makes your site less likely to show up on search results for people searching for Steelers websites.

4. Sitemap - A sitemap acts as a navigational guide for your visitors as well as search engines. Does your website have one? If not, then it’s time to put up a site map on your website.

5. Content quality - Read your website content to determine its quality. Is your content written for search engines or actual visitors? Is it stuffed with keywords? Does it truly add value to your audience, or is simply there to fill up the page? Answer these questions and make sure it has value for your audience. Value for your audience translates to better search engine rankings.

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Updated August 2016 - Matt Dubois