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Archive for March, 2011

Your data IS Your Business: Dynamic data

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

In my previous post on data protection, we discussed the three types of Small Business data:

  1. Dynamic data
  2. Active data
  3. Archive data

There are different methods required to best protect the different types of data your Small Business depends on. Note that I said “protect“, and not “backup” you data. Backing up your data is the most important part of protecting it. But steps must be taken before and after backup to make sure the process actually provides protection, and not just repeated activity.

Before backing up your data, you must determine two things: 1) which data will you backup? and 2) how frequently will you backup that data? The answers vary depending on which of type of data we’re considering.

After backup, the most important questions are: 1) how long will you keep that backup? and 2) how many different versions of this backup do you want, and why? These questions, no doubt, are answered differently, based upon the type of data being considered.

Dynamic data, being the most important, comes first – it’s what your Small Business is working on right now. Today’s email correspondence, the document that will become an email attachment as soon as it’s completed. Even your web browser bookmarks have a greater business impact than you might realize. It’s “Dynamic”, after all: you must have the current version of whatever document, diagram, link or bookmark you depend upon for your Small Business to compete and function effectively.

The fact that is often overlooked by Small Businesses is that dynamic data not only has to be backed up, but backed up dynamically. Last night’s version of a file you’ve been working on for hours is no help if your computer’s disk dies, or you corrupt or overwrite the file. Scheduled nightly backups are fine for protecting active data, but to protect your dynamic data, you need more frequent backups.

The problem with this suggestion is that you are simply not going to perform  six, eight, ten or more backups a day… you’re too busy running your business, and the backup process is too complex and involved to justify the distraction and disruption. Fortunately, this issue has been confronted by the huge mega-corporations’ IT departments, given a name – Continuous Data Protection – and more importantly, they’ve given us a solution.

What you need is a program that will backup your dynamic data either at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the day, or as the data actually changes. Or one that does both, like IBM Tivoli CDP for files. Now, while I do prefer to recommend Open Source software when it provides the best solutions for your Small Buiness, sometimes, the best solution is a commercial product.

With IBM Tivoli CDP for files, you can:

  1. back up all your dynamic data, both on a schedule and whenever it changes.
  2. backup to as many as three different locations, for extra protection.
  3. start protecting your data instead of spending hours learning how to setup the program.

It has a simple, web-based interface, making it easy to add files and folders to its intelligent set of defaults, identify which data is being backed up, how much space is available in your backup locations and, most importantly, to retrieve the proper version of any backed up file when you need it most — usually, in the middle of a tense situation, when you don’t have the time to struggle with a complicated retrieval process.

Most importantly, it’s affordable – only $44 per machine. Set up properly, you can save all of your important data to a folder shared between several PCs, then protect that one folder with IBM Tivoli CDP. And then just work,  knowing that your most important data has the best protection you can provide.

Next post, I’ll cover the four “before and after questions” raised at the beginning of this post, and show you how a product like Tivoli CDP can be used to answer them. Until then, be well.


Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO,  guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for March, 2011

Ramblings of a Self-Diagnosed Insomniac

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

As a freshman business major at the University of Maryland, I am proud to say that I now have over a semesters’ worth of college experience under my belt. Unfortunately, that also means that I have a semesters’ worth of late nights: long hours in the study lounge, more coffee than I’d like to admit, and of course, that inevitable moment when your school’s website goes down an hour before the assignment is due. Of course.

Oh, the joys of being a college student in the 21st century! My friends and I love to “reminisce” about the days when assignments were due in class instead of online, at midnight. As a college student, don’t I have the right to pull a couple all-nighters?

We often hear that our society is so rapidly changing because of the technology that enables us to research, communicate, and collaborate so efficiently. However, does the Internet really benefit my schoolwork? Most of the time I would say definitely, but sometimes I wonder…especially if you consider the way that sites like Facebook and StumbleUpon fuel my procrastination.

It is for this very reason that I’m excited to be on board with KikScore, which is a company that hopes to revolutionize the way that people interact with the net.  Is it possible to harness the power of technology “good” and not “evil?” Well, of course…I just can’t wait to learn how.

Hi, my name is Jacelyn.  I’m new here and it’s very nice to meet you.

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Archive for March, 2011

Ever Wonder Why Small Businesses Need Internet Merchant Accounts? – This Post is For You!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

What is an internet merchant account? It’s an account that allows you to have customers enter their credit card information directly on your website.  This means that customers don’t have to call, mail or fax their orders in.  When customer’s credit cards are accepted through an internet merchant accounts, they are immediately processed. An internet merchant account is only used for online transactions. If you have a regular merchant account, you will need to get an internet merchant account if you want to do online transactions. An internet merchant account provider such as North American Bancard is a one option to look into when searching for a provider.

Why do you need an internet merchant account if you already have a merchant account? Internet merchant account rules and regulations differ from merchant accounts.  You cannot process internet orders through a merchant account; you need an internet merchant account for this.  Since the merchant almost never sees the customer’s card, there are more stringent rules and regulations to protect against fraud for internet merchant accounts. To get started with an internet merchant account, it’s best to get one from a merchant account provider such as North American Bancard.  Why should you get an internet merchant account from a merchant account provider? The providers know the rules and regulations and can help you navigate the system.

How much does it cost? An internet merchant account costs the same as a mail/telephone order account.

What if you are using electronic checks? If you want to accept electronic check orders, you will need a separate internet merchant account called an electronic check internet merchant account. You will still need a regular merchant account.

Why is it beneficial to get an internet merchant account? If you do most of your business online, it is beneficial because it is a safe and easy way of allowing your customers to pay online. Internet merchant accounts are especially beneficial for small business who do most of their transactions online. Do you sell jewelry online? Then you might want to think of getting an internet merchant account. Using an internet merchant account means that the process of paying for a product or service will be faster than phone/fax/mail orders, which means happy customers!  Also if you have an internet merchant account, your business seems more reputable because your customers will know that their transactions are safer.

If you are using or have used an internet merchant account, what is your experience with it?

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Archive for March, 2011

Your Data IS Your Business

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Even if your firm or organization doesn’t “do computers” by trade, computers are probably more important than you realize to your Small Business.

A lot of key information that was once kept in metal filing cabinets and on cardboard Rolodex cards is now more easily and accurately stored on computers.  Large amounts of information – data, in geek-speak – are stored primarily – if not exclusively – on your Small Business computers. E-mails. Electronic documents of all kinds: contracts, proposals, invoices, resumes, receipts. Contact information for clients, vendors, and other business associates.

To avoid finding yourself and/or your Small Business exposed to the sudden loss of critical, irreplaceable data, you’ve got to determine what is important data, and make certain you protect it. A blog can’t identify all of your critical data for you, but it can help you discover what the three main categories of business data are, and get an idea of the best methods for protecting each.

  1. Dynamic data
  2. Active data
  3. Archive data

In short, there’s the information you’re working on right now (Dynamic data), the information you consume and create in the course of working (Active data), and finally the information your store for reference and compliance purposes (Archive data).

Dynamic data is stuff like: your email Inbox; the draft of a proposal to a potential client; digital photographs newly transferred from your camera or cell phone for business purposes. This data may be so new, it isn’t in it’s finished state. Should you lose it, you’ll most likely be unable to reproduce or precisely recreate it.

Active data is more stable, but no less important. It’s information like your central contact list – with all the important names, addresses, emails and phone numbers (you do have one, yes?); templates for the often used documents that are particular to your Small Business or tradecraft; your QuickBooks company file(s), financial spreadsheets, bank account information; access information for the essential online accounts – URLs, login IDs and passwords. Digital scans of physical items and documents.

Archive data is the information you may no longer actively use or consult, but still need to have readily availableTax and other financial informationOld emails, completed To-do list and calendar information. Old contract agreements. Former employee data.

None of this information (except the QuickBooks files, of course) are specific to any program. Or any particular computer platform – WindowsMac or Linux – for that matter. ALL of this and more make up the vitalmission-critical data most Small Business don’t even realize they depend upon. Until it’s damaged, or it disappears.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how to protect your Small Business from exposure to such risks by learning how to identify the data in each category, and adopt simple methods to protect against loss or damage.

See you soon.

Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, premiering his guest blog for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for March, 2011

5 Reasons that Startups & SmallBiz Must Engage Their Customers

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

For some reason, recently I have talked to a number of people that have said the same thing to me.  They basically say that their startup, small business and even enterprise company is too busy to actually engage their customers.  Or they say that engaging and talking to your customers just is not a priority.  My response boils down to this:  Are you for real? Really, your business does not have time to talk to our customers or you think talking to customers isn’t really scalable so lets just not do it? That is garbage.

So I say stop right there.  Stop spending all your time on powerpoints, writing long blog posts that no one reads, trying to figure out ways to increase prices on your customers,  writing requirements for products your customers don’t want or chasing yet other pointless task.  As entrepreneur Mark Cuban said earlier this week:  YOUR CUSTOMERS OWN YOU Without your customers your business is WORTHLESS.  Why do so many people fail to understand that basic concept?

So here are 5 reasons (and a bonus one!) why your startup or small business needs make it a priority to talk to your customers as often as possible:

1. Stop being nameless and faceless to your customers. Your customers have lots of options. They use lots of products in their daily life.  So many of these products are from companies that customers think of as people in a far away skyscraper in New York or office park in the suburbs next to Red Lobster and Taco Bell.  So be different.  Put a name to a face for your business to your customers.  When a customer uses your product they can identify with a real person instead of some random brand name.  Human nature dictates that we all crave connections and if you can make that personal connection with a customer that will immediately distinguishes your business from all the noise that is out there.

2. Start creating deeper customer relationships out of the value you provide to your customers – Your customers have decided to do business with you.  They have taken the step to pick YOU!  So what should you do?  Close the loop and show them how much it means that your customer picked your business from everyone out there.  Then build on that value you are creating for your customer in their daily life and add some deeper bonds to that relationship by seeing (or listening) first hand how customers use your product, what are their other pain points for their own business.  Actually showing that you care about your customers will go a long way because no one else really does take the steps to show that they care.  Be different by showing that you give a hoot! It is that simple.

3. Get real feedback from your customers you can act on – Building on #2, take the opportunity to use your engagement with your customers to get tangible feedback about your product, the market, your competitors and your overall customer makeup.  There is no better market research then actually talking to customers and hearing first hand what they are saying.  I know people say it takes time to do this – to get the feedback and then to act on it.  My suggestion, start small.  One interaction a day, maybe two.  The snowball effect of the feedback will help your business because you will get to see your business and product directly through the eyes of your customers!  That is just invaluable. Here is an earlier post of ours on tools to help your business get feedback.

4. Gain credibility, loyalty and capital with customers – So you are getting feedback, showing that you care and are not nameless and faceless anymore.  What does this do in the totality for your customers?  Your business starts to create brand capital by building up credibility with your customers. This begins to set yourself apart from the crowd.  That credibility with your customer then begins to be translated into a hugely valuable asset and that is customer loyalty.  The reason why – because the customer sees that you are different than the others – you actually are paying attention to them. Back to high school and what happens when the cute guy/girl is paying attention to you – you notice!  So your customers begin to notice and start to conclude your business is different than the others because you care about your customers.  Sad, but that is a rare trait these days.

5. Time devoted to these relationships will help you in tough times & customers will not be so easy to turn their back on you – This all leads up to a major punchline.  And it is this basic.  Inevitably a customer will have a negative experience with your business.  With no customer engagement, no credibility, no loyalty that has been built by your engagement efforts, you will lose that customer during that bad experience.  On the other hand, if you have taken the time to engage your customers, that customer who is having a negative experience is much more likely to give you another chance.  Also if they complain to the community, the crowd of customers that you have also engaged can step in and have your back.  None of this happens without making customer engagement a central priority and following through.

6. (Bonus) Arming your customers with reasons to talk about your businesses – This is a no brainer.  The more you engage your customers and follow up with “wow” moments – the more opportunities you give them to be your best salesperson.  More stories mean more opportunities for your customers to spread the word about your business.  What better way for you to get you more business through your brand evangelists that tell the stories of you wowing your customers.

So lets bring it back to the main argument you hear against doing all of this. Bottom line: Too few resources is a lame excuse for not engaging your customers!  Try it by starting small. Everyone on your team needs to begin every morning engaging 1-2 customers and then build from there. Send a customer a short email or catch them on Twitter.  Even a one person startup can even do this form of limited engagement.  Still dont think this is worth your time? Zappos was founded on this customer engagement philosophy and I think it worked out pretty well for them.  And oh by the way, Zappos started with this philosophy from the very earliest days when their founders responded to every customer’s email!

We would love to hear your stories of customer engagement.  Feel free to leave them in the comments section.

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Archive for March, 2011

Two Worlds Clashed and Delivered this Awesome Margarita Machine

Friday, March 18th, 2011

In one of the classic Seinfeld episodes, George Costanza doesn’t want his girlfriend to become chummy with his friends…as his worlds would collide and all would be lost.  Well, recently during some shopping tasks the online and offline shopping worlds have collided and I couldn’t be more excited. 

I could bore you with a story about how we saved some money on a recent home renovation purchase, but let’s get down to the brass tacks – thanks to the colliding worlds, I scored a very nice Jimmy Buffet Margaretville Fiji Series margarita machine. 

This baby does it all, margaritas, daiquiris, pina coladas and smoothies (who the hell cares about smoothies, but it is a feature, so I thought I’d mention it).  I’ve been coveting this beverage maker for a while – but it’s been a bit price prohibitive.  Something like $350 for a fancy blender that shaves ices didn’t seem like a prudent use of savings.

Then the world collision occurred…thanks to the ole’ iPad.  My wife was at a retail store and saw the gleaming beauty on the shelf…but with the same outrageous price.  However, she found it the store’s online store for $199.  Suddenly, margaritas at the dojomike household were flowing.

Let’s go over a few rules with this device:

  1.  Measure the amount of alcohol:  When you’re at home making margaritas, it’s easy to wing it.  Ok, that’s fine with the first pitcher.  But pitcher number two, your ability to wing it becomes clouded.
  2. Adding fruit improves the taste, but the alcohol level remains the same.
  3. The theory of the “ice will water down the alcohol” doesn’t work.

Now go out there let your worlds collide.  And while you’re out there, can you pick me up some lime juice?

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Archive for March, 2011

Internet Explorer 9 “Do Not Track” Security Feature…Will it Really Work?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I was reading this article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday when I realized that Microsoft released their new version of their uber popular Internet Explorer web browser which included the highly touted “Do Not Track” feature. The new feature is news-worthy for a few reasons in my opinion.  First of all, Internet Explorer is now the first major browser to include this type of feature in a major release of their we browser although Mozilla’s Firefox browser is said to include a similar feature in an upcoming release.

I think that this new “do not track” feature is also an interesting advancement because of how quickly Microsoft developed and included this functionality in a major release of their web browser.  This type of new feature only started making news a few months ago when a number of consumer privacy advocates started complaining about how so many websites, like Facebook and others, are now collecting personal information about people and their web browsing habits when they visit their websites.  Microsoft and Mozilla took these requests so seriously that they decided to include this feature in their next browser releases only a quarter later.  In my opinion these web browser companies decided to include this feature so quickly because they knew it was relatively easy to implement (in the way they have) and they also knew that this new feature would make big news and would therefore help market their new releases.

Finally, I think this new web browser feature is of note because of the way it has been implemented technically may not be very effective at doing exactly what it is meant for.  Basically, now when a person using Internet Explorer 9 browses to a web page that is trying to collect information about the person or their computer or their web browsing history it sends a series of “header” records to the requesting website indicating that the person requests that the information not be shared with anyone else or used for marketing purposes.  The only problem here is that there are no set standards around these “header” records and no major websites or eCommerce associations have acknowledged that they will accept or abide by these requests to not share the user’s data.  Inevitably, what will happen here is that Microsoft will start pointing the figure at the eCommerce sites that do not recognize these header records until they cave in and recognize them because Internet Explorer is the most used web browser in the world and nobody wants to fine themselves on the wrong side of this argument because their sites will be bad mouthed in the press and seen as non-consumer friendly.

In conclusion, I think this is definitely a step in the right direction by Microsoft but I am not sure that this is really the best or most effective way to go about it.  I guess if this is just the first step in the direction of better security for shopper’s personal information on the web then it is probably worth it and will probably get us where we want to go. 

What do you think about this new feature that Microsoft started offering yesterday in their new Internet Explorer 9?

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Archive for March, 2011

The Day in Pictures & Tweets at the 2011 SmallBizSummit

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

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Archive for March, 2011

What our Business Blog is Learning from Charlie Sheen

Friday, March 11th, 2011

We’re a small group at KikScore and I’ll be the first to say that writing a blog post at the end of the day sometimes isn’t the first thing on my mind.  But every week we put out new content and (Raj) works the Tweet machine thingy every day.  We research topics, think of fun entries and find funny photos to associate with our content.

All of this has lead to a steadily growing readership and followers.  We’ve found integration partners and new customers.  Heck, the blog has been called out by the New York Times.  But let’s be honest.  Charlie Sheen got 1 million followers in 25 hours, and over 74,000 people want to be his intern.  Charlie Sheen is killing us in the use of Social Media.  His torpedoes of truth have hit our hull and unless we change course, we’ll sink.  We surrender, Charlie.  We’re now learning from your lead:

1.  Blog Drunk or Otherwise Be Wildly Entertaining:  I haven’t missed a single blog steam of Charlie’s.  Is it because I’m mad at CBS or the producers of Two and a Half Men?  No.  I hate all CBS comedies and that stupid show in particular.  Look, it’s a nerd and his fat son living with a swinging bachelor.  Hee-larious.  No.  The reason I watch is because I love seeing how irrational Charlie acts.  It’s a new car wreck each night. 

2.  Stick to a Theme:  Mr. Sheen is not waxing poetic about politics or international relations.  He has a very narrow focus…”Charlie Sheen” [read in strangely intense voice].  He owns that topic and lives in every nuance.  Just like the blog Calculated Risk owns Macro Economics, Charlie owns the effects of massive amounts of money and drugs on a coddled, half-wit celebrity.

3.  Less is more:  If Charlie sent constant updates about what was on his iPod right now, I would stop following him on Twitter.  No.  Charlie gives a random “Du-uh” and something odd about “Trolls” and “Warlocks” (by his usage I’m assuming Trolls are bad and Warlocks are good) and the readers eat it up. 

4.  It Doesn’t Hurt to Seem Completely Unstable:  Not a lot of analysis here.  Just stating the obvious.

 So look for KikScore to do some wildly erratic things in upcoming posts and then bask in a wave of undeserved or logical attention.  We’re counting on you, America.

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Archive for March, 2011

Know how many security threats there are for 2011?

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Guess what, there’s five big ones. We knew that were plenty of threats last year and we probably expected the number of threats to grow. They have. Here are the top five for this year.

Mobile Apps:

Did you know that 85% of adults in the US own a mobile phone? ( I thought that this figure seemed a bit low…) [Turns out that 90% have access to a cellphone, but only 85% actually own one. ] Anyone hear the about the Trojan Droid Dream? No? Well what it did was gain root  access to sensitive information such as a device’s ID, model number etc… This meant that the software could take control of the devices and download things that you didn’t want on your computer. Luckily, Google remotely deleted the Trojan from user’s phones before it could do any damage.

However, malware isn’t just on official app stores. Outbreaks come from repackaged apps and alternative app stores.  Due to the increase in malware in smartphones, soon you might have to have two phones: one for work and one for personal use.  So how do you protect yourself? First, be careful about what apps you install. Do some research before you install an app. Does it have a reputation? What kind of reputation does it have? Etc…

Don’t forget to read the app’s list of permissions before you download. Does it make sense for this app to have access? See if you can uncheck unwanted permissions. Does that game really need access to your camera? (If you’re an Android user, Google makes it mandatory for the list of permissions to be there. If there’s antivirus apps for your smartphone, you might want to think about getting one.

Social Networks:

You’ve all heard about Social Network scams right? Good, then I don’t have to go into very much detail. One large thing to keep in  mind is that  using  your  Facebook account  information , criminals can actually go  and  burglarize your house .  So, don’t  click  on any  suspicious  links, be wary of claims you know to be untrue and again , read exactly what the app is asking permission for.

Antivirus Software :

Since more users have become  aware  of the need for antivirus software , these  scams have been  on the rise. The scam looks like a legitimate  piece of software  and  convinces the user that the computer  has on infection. Once the user pays for the software, the program has access to the users computer  and credit  card information .  NOT GOOD  What ca you do to protect yourself? First  make  sure  you are running a current security  program that is updated frequently and never download security  software  from a popup add.

PDFs:

Apparently PDF’s are one of the  potentially most dangerous file formats available. Why? It’s easy to conceal malicious content in the file.   PC World give you a link to the study…but, since it’s in a PDF format, I didn’t read it. 😀  So, be careful where you get your PDF”s from.  (My university uses PDF’s often, but I’m pretty sure that they’re not infected.) Remember to run and keep  your antivirus programs updated. Also, make sure to keep your PDF reader updated. Many of the updates have important fixes.

War Games or in other words, state sponsored malware attacks, industrial espionage, etc…

For the ordinary person they may not be a threat, but if you own manage security for a business you should be paying attention.  Hacking groups have attacked sites in Egypt and Libya in support of recent protests. The group has also leaked emails from a security researcher attempting to identify their members.  How do you protect your company from all this? First, monitor the network traffic and conduct regular reviews of employee data access privileges.

All of these threats may seem scary(they do to me), but they can be mitigated by being vigilant, keeping things updated and just using common sense.

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