Is The Culture of your Company Healthy? Part 1

Strategy and finances are not the only facets of a successful company, but they tend to be what companies focus on. It may not seem apparent, but company culture plays a very important role too. It can affect your branding, marketing, and day-to-day operations, and how the public views your company. For instance when we think of brands like Apple, Google, and Starbucks, not only do their logos and products come to mind, but a slew of positive qualities: warmth, efficiency, fun, excellence, etc. These attributes are thanks in part to each company’s positive business culture.

Why Culture is so Important

A healthy office culture encourages creative thinking. When employees like the place they work and feel like they’re part of the team it can make them challenge themselves in innovative ways. In a workplace in which people feel invisible or stifled they’ll often do the minimum amount required. It is part of human nature to want to feel appreciated and important. An organization is made of its people so whatever attitude prevails will show up in your brand and the merchandise and service you provide. Ultimately, taking care of the culture of your workplace is everyone’s responsibility from the CEO to HR.

Below are just a few of the benefits of fostering a healthy culture.

Focus – When people are focused on the same goal, that goal is much more easily attained. Companies that have a healthy culture, have employees that care about the collective goal and genuinely strive to reach it. Unhealthy cultures can result in cynicism because individuals do not feel connected to the goal. Their goal is to merely make it through the day.
Cohesion – Healthy culture can lead to strong communication in good and bad times. In a place where there is unhealthy culture people may often resent being told what to do because they don’t feel their thoughts are heard or appreciated. When a problem arises they may avoid pointing it out because they fear backlash.
Motivation – A determined workforce gets things done. That might seem obvious, but companies that don’t pay attention to the health of their culture could be suffering when it comes to efficiency. Being motivated to work hard is a trait that ought to be present in every individual in the company if the culture is healthy.
Measuring the Cultural Health of Your Company

Cultural health ought to be assessed regularly. So how do you evaluate the cultural health of a company? First, look at how people are supervised, are they just given a job with no input or do they have some control over their work? Are monotonous tasks distributed so everyone has the opportunity to be challenged? While a few people may never be happy, if you find the overwhelming consensus to be poor it may be time to look at making a few modifications to how the business is run to improve the culture and the overall health of the company. Visit again soon to learn some tips on creating a positive work environment.

Online Invoicing Made Simple

Chances are you started your business because you love what you do. You opened your doors because you have a strong product that you believe in. You probably did not start a business because your paperwork abilities were unparalleled. Paperwork is an essential and necessary evil for any business owner and accurate invoicing cannot be ignored. We all need cash flow to keep our businesses adrift, so employing a good invoicing system can help us keep cash in the bank and our clients happy!

Invoicing help online

Using a web-based invoicing service is a viable option for business owners who want a quicker, more reliable way, and often-automatic ways to invoice their clients. You can find a large number of available online options to choose from that can take that tedious task of paperwork off your plate. Below we’ll examine just 3 of the possibilities out there:

A free but powerful invoicing service

Sometimes the word “free” is synonymous with “not very good.” Thankfully, that is not the case with the free system, BillingBoss. Ideal for most small businesses that need to automatically invoice customers on a monthly basis and occasional once-off invoicing, BillingBoss packs a huge punch without cost!

A power tool

Next let’s look at AcceptPay. Developed and run by American Express, AcceptPay is a very impressive service that connects with QuickBooks, allows online payments, and has a wider array of invoicing options. At the fairly low monthly price of $30, this is a great choice for those companies that desire a more robust service.

Invoicing for the tech-savvy

If you are tech-savvy and understand how to use open source software, BambooInvoice is a wonderful option. This free service is extremely customizable and lives on your in-house servers rather than in the cloud. This makes it simple for you to make the program fit your company’s exact needs.

We haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. These three services are only a drop in the very full bucket of available online invoicing services. Many are free or exceptionally inexpensive, but can greatly boost your workflow and ease the pain of that aggravating stack of paperwork.

Microsoft introduces real-time threat feed

It looks as if Microsoft is ready to do its part to discourage cyber crimes. Microsoft plans to offer real-time feeds that partners can use to examine possible cyber threats and take the appropriate steps to boost their defenses against these attacks.

Microsoft has already had success in taking down botnets. By doing this, the company collects plenty of useful data about the threats these botnets pose. The procedure works like this: Microsoft essentially swallows the botnets. This, consequently, sends botnet-infected hosts to addresses which are under Microsoft’s control. This captures the contaminated hosts and takes them offline.

Previously this information had not been shared, but now this data can be given to the government and private organizations, CERTs, & ISPs. Whilst the number of attacks will likely not decrease thanks to this real-time feed, the impact of a feed like this will be amazing. The degree of damage from a cyber attack will likely be greatly lessened because IT security professionals will be able to more rapidly respond to a threat.

Another great result a real-time threat feed could have is an improvement in overall information sharing between IT security companies. For too long IT companies have been unwilling to share threat information for the fear that it might fuel more attacks. Most experts say this an unsupported fear. The cyber criminal “community” has already been sharing and gaining knowledge from each other. It is only logical therefore that IT security professional share as much information as possible to fight the seemingly endless barrage of new cyber threats.

Let’s hope that security professionals soon understand that sharing information is more useful than secrecy. And let’s hope that Microsoft’s move is a first step in this change of attitude.

How Secure is the Cloud? Part 2

The cloud can be a great thing for small business owners struggling through tough economic times. Instead of purchasing expensive enterprise software, business owners can save their dollars by accessing powerful computing programs in the cloud, from high-end word processors and project-management tools to spreadsheets and Photoshop alternatives. But, the cloud isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to security issues. Entrepreneurs need to be conscious that their documents, presentations, and marketing materials can be damaged when they are stored in the cloud.

Password issues

The most significant security issue that company owners face with regards to cloud computing happens to also be the biggest security issue that users also face with regards to computing: passwords which are either too easy to guess or shared too freely.

You must always carefully select passwords to your projects stored in the cloud. The more complex your passwords are the more difficult they are to guess. A good way to achieve this is to use a combination of numbers and letters in your passwords. Also, you shouldn’t share these passwords with many people.

Hacker alert

Hackers, malware, and spyware remain serious issues for cloud environments, just like they are issues that business owners face when logging onto their personal computers each day. The thing that makes this especially scary is that individual business owners have little control over how secure cloud services are. The big names — companies like Microsoft and Google — must supply their own security for the information that business owners store in the cloud.

Common sense protection

Protecting yourself from theft in the cloud can be as simple as applying some common sense practices.

First, consider the kind of information you would be storing in the cloud. Anything that is extremely sensitive might not be the best to store in the cloud. It could be safer to back up this data on a personal system and find a more secure way to store it.

Secondly, before giving every employee free access to cloud-stored data, think carefully about which employees actually needs access to that information. People are often careful about protecting their laptops and desktop computers from prying eyes; this attitude should be applied to the cloud as well.

Cloud Security: Whose Responsibility Is It? Part 1

The advantages of storing information in the cloud are numerous. Backing up important data, freeing up space on your servers, and having your information easily available to your employees are only a few. If you’ve been considering this route, you probably have many questions about the security of the cloud. If your company deals with sensitive information that belongs to your customers you may need to stay compliant with HIPAA, PCI or Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

Do cloud storage solutions adhere to these regulations? Are they required to? If they haven’t spelled it out in their privacy policies, it is safest to assume they are not compliant. We will explore this more below.

Compliance

Cloud security has grown to be an important issue lately, as more and more companies turn to online storage solutions, trying to find greater simplicity, scalability and affordability. However the price in both money and reputation for improper handling of customer data can be quite high indeed. If your organization needs to comply to key regulations associated with patient privacy (HIPAA), credit card security (PCI) or the finance-sector strictures of Sarbanes-Oxley, it can be difficult to find out if a service complies with these important restrictions.

Who is responsible

Cloud security is paramount when handling your sensitive data, but whose responsibility is it? Should you assume that if it is not spelled out in the privacy policy, that a service provider doesn’t follow these regulations? While this is clearly the safest option, it may leave you unable to use cloud computing at all. Many services do not provide detailed information in their privacy rules, possibly to lessen their liability. The hope is that over time cloud storage and sharing will become better self-regulated and companies will elect to reveal their individual practices to the businesses they serve. While such self-regulation is not required currently, many businesses think it is their duty to display clear warnings, explaining what they don’t provide or guarantee.

Ultimately, as there is no current law that states that companies must divulge how tight their security is, the responsibility is in your hands. You have to weigh the pros and cons of cloud storage to determine if it’s right for your business.

Phishing Scams: Tips On How to Save Yourself From Becoming Prey

One of the top cyber crimes, and the most lucrative, are phishing scams. Large corporations such as Sony have been compromised and reports of these types of cyber crimes are being reported at a high rate. Phishing scams are just as dangerous to small business owners as they are to large corporations.

Over 300,000 complaints were filed in 2010 to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI. These complaints were from small businesses and individuals wronged by online phishing scams and a variety of other Internet related crimes.

To give you a better comprehension as to why your small business is of great appeal to a cyber criminal, let’s take a look at what phishing is exactly.

What is phishing?

Phishing is the act of attempting to get personal information such as usernames, passwords, credit card and banking information. This is easily done by building fake websites, logos and email addresses and phone numbers. The victim is compelled in some way to reveal private information such as social security numbers and or other information that can be used to steal their identity. In the case of a small business, the phishing scam may be used to attain customer credit card numbers.

Examples of small business phishing scams

There are many models of small business phishing scams. For example, phony emails have been sent to thousands of smaller businesses that are highly authentic looking from the IRS and even including the IRS logo. These emails explain that they must fill out tax forms or W-4 forms and return these forms by fax. Many business owners trust this information was sent by the IRS and fear that they will be audited if they do not do what the email said was requested of them.

At the official website, IRS.gov, the IRS states that it will not initiate contact through email. So, never click on a link claiming to be from them!

Your company email can be a target

Company emails are easy access for thieves. They can target an particular person by sending him or her an email that looks authentic, however when they open it, it can release a virus or malware infecting the entire network. The thieves will then have access to employee’s private information and company data.

Phone phishing

Phone phishing refers to fraudulent phone calls where thieves posture as banks and request the victim to “verify” account numbers over the phone in order to steal private information.

How to protect your business against phishing

The Anti-Phishing Work Group offers great advice on how to keep your small business from becoming a victim of phishing. Here are several of their tips:

Make sure your employees are aware of what phishing scams are, and are cautious when reading and responding to suspicious emails. Always err on the side of caution. Instead of clicking a link, open another browser window and go to the official website.
Never give out company financial information such as bank routing numbers to an inquiry made via email. Your bank does not need you to confirm your account information…they already have that. An email like that even if it has your bank’s logo is a fake. Make it a habit to check your accounts regularly for suspicious charges and withdrawals.
Make sure every computer used has up-to-date virus and malware protection. Schedule regular full system scans. Never download “anti-virus” software from an unknown entity. It’s better to stick with trusted brands.
It is nearly impossible for law enforcement to stop phishing, so the best method of defense is the education of your employees for identifying, dealing with, and staying up to date with phishing scam trends.

Innovative Designs at The Tokyo Motor Show

The Tokyo Motor Show showcased many of the most interesting concept cars of 2011. Many companies had efficiency in mind with their eco-friendly models while others pushed their ideas to the limits of creativity. Here we will explore a few of the more intriguing and eccentric designs of 2011.

Volkswagen

For those who think rock and roll isn’t noise pollution, Volkswagen gives you their newest Beetle. Joining up with Fender, this car’s sound system is sure to please. With a 400W 10-channel amplifier, a subwoofer, and two sets of tweeters, everyone in the car will feel like they’re at a live performance.

Honda

This eco-friendly design is Honda’s “micro commuter” car. This tiny electric car is only 98.4 inches long, 49.2 wide, and 56.3 tall and looks like something from a video game. To add to its arcade feel, it’s controlled with two joysticks. While its top speed is just 37 mph and can only carry three people its tiny size is great for the city commuter.

Daihatsu

While this design from Daihatsu resembles a bus, it is not; it’s the FC Sho Case. FC standing for fuel cell. Daihatsu’s revolutionary design contains no rare earth metals, which makes it more economical to produce then other fuel cells. The LCD screen on the outside plays relaxing wave patterns, but when getting into the car passengers must step over these to get in making it difficult for elderly people or individuals with injuries.

Toyota and Yamaha

We see increasingly more scooters on the road nowadays as people search for easy and fuel-efficient methods for getting around town. Toyota and Yamaha partnered up to take this a step further with an electric tricycle called the EC-Miu. It has Wi-Fi capabilities and can be recharged at charging stations used by other electric vehicles.

This year’s concepts at the Tokyo Motor Show were very green focused. Each year the designs revealed at the show seem to get more inventive. I can’t wait to see what they bring us next year.

Will Digital Currency Make Your Dollar Bills Irrelevant?

Consumer spending heavily relies upon digital currency and possibly someday paper money will be obsolete. It might sound fantastic but consider how often you yourself use a credit card to purchase things, go online to shop, or receive gift cards preloaded with a specific amount of money. Probably you pay your bills via online banking, pay-at-the-pump with a credit card, and even purchase movie tickets online. Once you consider the frequency of which you actually use digital currency on a day-to-day basis, we aren’t really that far off from going fully digital with our currency.

The Bitcoin revolution?

Bitcoin has been around since 2009 and is a peer-to-peer digital currency.
It can be used to purchase products and services online. The technology behind Bitcoin is considered to be impossible to hack, which assists in easing most security issues.

Of course, Bitcoin is not really a worldwide digital currency. For one thing, it is not legal tender. So most retailers, even in the online world, don’t accept it, and there’s no guarantee that Bitcoin won’t simply disappear. Entrepreneurs can create an alternative digital currency that proves more popular, and consumers could instead flock to that. This might render Bitcoin valueless.

The digital currency model

The advantages to moving away from paper-based currency are numerous. Apart from misplacing a gift card, it is difficult to lose digital currency. You don’t have to worry (as much) about not having enough funds on you to cover an expense. Digital currency is also more eco-friendly, since the need to replace damaged or outdated paper currency is removed.

Digital currency may be more secure than paper money, too. When you’re robbed as you are walking down the street, you have little possibility of recovering the money. However, if a person steals your credit card, it’s easy to cancel the card, safeguarding yourself financially. The same scenario could easily exist with your digital dollars.

Holdouts

Not everyone is sold on the concept of digital currency. A lot of people still don’t use credit cards or even have a computer. They prefer to use paper money, as it feels more real to them. We will just have to see how the world changes and if the luddites out there will change their minds.

Top Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Android Phone

One of the most useful benefits of Android smartphones is that they are highly customizable. You can customize everything from your home screen to the way you access documents and download apps. Luckily, customizing your Android smartphone is not very difficult. Follow these suggestions to design your smartphone to fit your life.

One-Touch Dialing
We all have people that we call regularly. With Android phones, you can set up one-touch dialing for those people. Simply press your finger on an open space on your screen until a menu opens. Then select the “Shortcuts” option. Chose Direct Dial and select the person you wish to set out of your contacts. Now you can call that individual by pushing one button.

Saving Time Searching the Web
You can modify your Android phone so that you spend less time searching for your favorite Web pages, too, by moving your top Internet sites right to your phone’s home screen. Do this by pressing and holding onto any site listed in your browser’s bookmarks. Soon, a list of options will pop up. Press the “Add Shortcut to Home” option, and the selected Web page will now appear on your phone’s home page.

Organizing with Folders
By creating folders on your Android phone, you can better organize everything from your contacts to your most essential work documents by grouping these things into their own folders. For instance, if you’re focusing on an important project for work, you can create a new folder that’s reserved for documents, Web addresses, and contact numbers relevant to this particular project. To make folders, press on a blank space on your phone’s screen. When your list of options pops up, press “Folders.” This will enable you to create your own folder and name it. You can then drag and drop important documents, images, and files into these folders.

How Does Touchscreen Technology Work?

Touchscreens are becoming an integral part of our lives. When we interact with a product that has a touchscreen, we expect it to complete the action we want without a second thought. It wasn’t too far in the past that the thought of a touchscreen was a dream. Yet, today we see it as a standard feature in lots of devices.

But how do touchscreens work? What’s the technology behind them? Because there are various sorts of touchscreen the answer isn’t that straightforward. Here we will explain just a few.

Resistive touchscreens

This is the most common and the most inexpensive type of touchscreen technology today. With resistive technology, screens are covered with an electrically conductive layer. Your fingertip causes the electrical current to alter when you touch the screen. The device’s controller receives the data and preforms the action you requested.

Surface wave touchscreen

Another popular form of touchscreen is the surface wave model. This type of screen relies on ultrasonic waves that pass across the touchscreen panel. When you touch the panel, you absorb a part of the wave. Again, this sends information to the device’s controller, which in turn tells the device what you want it to do.

Capacitive touchscreens

Devices that rely on capacitive touchscreens tend to have the sharpest image quality. Capacitive touchscreens are coated with a material that sends a continuous electrical current across the sensor. The good news is, the body is also a form of electrical device. Which means that when you touch the screen you absorb some of the current. The device registers this disruption, causing it to send information to its controller. The unit will then perform the action which you requested.

Luckily, we don’t have to truly comprehend the science behind touchscreen technology to enjoy it, and we don’t have to be engineers to understand that this technology isn’t going away any time soon.