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Tips for Setting up a Small Business Network

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Every network requires the foundations of routers and switches – the essential pieces of equipment. Although they look pretty similar, they actually have different functions in the very network. Small business (SMB) owners often confuse the two, and fall at the first hurdle. Well, do not make the same mistake and remember that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. That being said, you should strive to make informed decisions, pick hardware which supports your specific business needs, and stay on the safe side.

The state of interconnectedness

Switches connect different devices like computers, printers, network-attached storage (NAS) and servers that are on the same network, and possess an Ethernet cable port. They basically make the communication and sharing of information possible. On the other hand, routers are used to tie networks together. In fact, these devices connect computers (networks) to the internet, and allow them to share one internet connection.  A router also acts as a dispatcher, choosing the way your information travels, repelling cyber-attacks and assigning priority orders.

Note that, apart from switches and routers, there is some additional infrastructure at play here, such as electrical outlets and wires. However, if you go for switches with inline power, for example, you can avoid this altogether and place wireless access points (WAPS) wherever there is a network wall jack. Furthermore, bear in mind that the hardware you purchase today may become outdated in just a few years. Hence, it pays off to design the network with this redundancy in mind, and stay flexible to future changes.

Moving parts

In any event, for flawless communication, it is advisable to invest in business-grade switches and routers. Consumer and home networking products do not cut it, especially not when business starts growing. You do not want to outgrow them before they become obsolete, do you? Many business owners add Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIPs), video surveillance, integrated messaging and other features. It also goes without saying that you must choose the best data cabling for copper or fiber connectivity and Ethernet networks.

Now, many entrepreneurs opt for switches and routers that are easy to install and manage. For obvious reasons, functionality and simplicity are two guiding principles.  A bulk of small organizations is not eager to pay dearly for IT technicians.  Therefore, one has to comprehend the difference between unmanaged and managed switches. The former is a more likely choice for an SMB, as it works out of the box, providing only the basic configuration features.

As for the managed switches, they give users more control when it comes to modifying how the internet gets consumed. They demand a higher level of technical aptitude, and usually have a proprietary graphical user interface (GUI) for programming and monitoring. In both cases, however, the scalability of the device can be determined by simply looking at the number of ports they have and identifying the number of devices you need to connect.

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Lay the network groundwork

There is no going around the fact that you must grasp the basics of networking hardware. Your goal is to tie the devices together with switches, and utilize routers to connect the computers to the internet.  The aforementioned tips and practices are a good starting point to build a network capable of meeting the needs of a growing company. Remember that the choice of products depends on how you plan to use the network, features you want, your tech capacities and at last, tolerance for risk.

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Business

Here is Why You Should Use Web Content Filtering

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In today’s hyperconnected era, the internet has become critical for your business performance. It allows your staff members to seek information, collaborate, and share files in real-time. There are also many web-based platforms that can simplify almost any aspect of your business operations, from bookkeeping to project management.

However, do your employees always use the internet the way they should?

To take a break from their complex daily activities, even your most diligent employees will surf the web, share videos, and quickly scan their social media accounts.

Even though taking a selfie and posting it on Instagram or responding to a friend request on Facebook takes only a few seconds, stats say that these activities may harm the overall workplace performance and cause greater costs. According to Office Team, employees spend 5 hours weekly on non-work activities, which may lead to a worrying loss of $15.5 billion in lost productivity.

One of the most effective solutions to this problem is web content filtering.

Web Content Filtering Defined

When you’re filtering online content, you’re using a piece of software to identify and exclude any forms of inappropriate or dangerous content for your company. These tools recognize character strings that, if matched, indicate that the content is not appropriate for your organization. These could be suspicious files, spammy website content, pornographic content, and even social networks.

Now, let’s see what the benefits of web content filtering are for your business.

Tightened Network Security

The number of cyberattacks is growing. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that this trend will die down in the next few years. Namely, today’s online hacks have evolved, which makes them harder to predict and recognize.

Above all, most of them target small businesses. Research says that more than 70% of companies that are hacked are SMBs. The reason for that is simple – small businesses still don’t understand the importance of cybersecurity and are not equipped to fight sophisticated online threats.

One of the most frequent types of cyber threats is phishing attacks. The hacker’s goal is to deceive a user to steal their valuable data. This form of online breaches involves a myriad of tactics that are carried out through emails, social networks, IM platforms, etc. Some well-versed cybercriminals even build fake sites that look trustworthy and then ask users to provide their sensitive data.

Unsurprisingly, employees’ negligence is the greatest cybersecurity risk. Most of them will click on spammy ads, odd links, and download files from unreliable resources without thinking about the consequences of these activities.

This is where web filter solutions help. Namely, they provide services like information control, URL filters, traffic control, proxy control, behavior analyses, and online bandwidth management to prevent infected files from reaching your employees’ inboxes. And, even if an employee receives a malicious file or link, web filters will instantly block their access to such content.

Greater Workplace Productivity

Social networks are often being referred to as workplace productivity killers.

Still, is banning them a good option? Probably not.

First, this may hurt employee satisfaction and indicate that you don’t trust them enough.

Second, social networks are important for building brand awareness. When reposted on your company’s profile, your employees’ behind-the-scenes photos and videos may help you humanize your brand.

However, web content filtering lets you set stricter rules on what kind of content should be accessed at work. You don’t have to block social networks, but you can always filter out not-suitable-for-work (NSFW) websites, such as online shopping platforms, as well as gambling, torrent, gaming, or entertainment sites.

Maintaining Brand Reputation

Your employees’ lack of knowledge may not only hurt your network’s security, but also ruin the reputation your company has been building for years. Just remember that U.S. Airways’ social media manager accidentally published an X-rated photo on the company’s Twitter account. Even though they reacted fast by deleting the photo and apologizing, they still received lots of negative press.

Therefore, web content filtering may be one of the most effective ways to maintain a spotless brand reputation in the digital world packed with spam. URL filtering and real-time monitoring of online activities will reduce the disasters caused by employees misusing the internet, such as publishing offensive content, illegal file downloads, or publishing inappropriate content on your corporate accounts.

Conclusions

The power of web content filtering goes far beyond improving cybersecurity. This is one of the most effective ways to limit your employees’ access to non-work sites and, in this way, increase their productivity and prevent them from sharing any inappropriate content.

Sure, to get the most out of this strategy, don’t forget to educate your employees. They need to know how their use of the internet impacts the overall image of the organization. Most importantly, they should be aware of the major cyber threats and know what to do if they come across them.

 

Hope this helps!

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Business

5 Tips to Improve Customer Experience

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One of the biggest challenges that a lot of Australian enterprises are struggling with is the question of how to improve your overall customer experience without changing too much of their current business model. The reason why this is so important is due to the fact that a customer experience tends to be the number one reason why people return to your business and there’s an estimate that it’s five times cheaper to retain a customer than gain a new one. In order to make all of this work to your benefit, here are five tips to improve your overall customer experience.

1.      Simple navigation

From the moment people enter your website, they need to be able to discern what is what and where they should go next. Some people make a mistake of presenting website visitors with too many clickable elements and information early on, in fear that they won’t be able to see all that their website has to offer. The problem is that this only makes it harder for people to make up their minds. One study shows that the more option you present a person with, the less likely they are to actually make a choice. With that in mind, make sure to let them explore your domain one step at a time.

2.      Listen to customer feedback

The next thing that you should consider when you decide to improve customer experience is asking people what they want. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask, seeing as how people might already be actively complaining about what your business lacks. So, check out some reviews and social media comments with your brand mentions in order to see what people want. Other than this, polls and surveys can also be a great source of information and you should never neglect this vast potential. This way you can get the answers on questions that you find relevant, thus gaining actionable information instead of raw data.

3.      Look for professional help

In the past, entrepreneurs, especially those running digital businesses had to face all of these ordeals on their own. Nowadays, on the other hand, both locally and globally, it’s quite easy to find affordable professional help. For instance, as an entrepreneur behind an NSW-based enterprise, you can just look up management consulting firms from Sydney and schedule a meeting. Due to the fact that these agencies specialize in improving your company’s interaction with its customers, the improvement to the customer experience is both immediate and easily noticeable.

4.      Be consistent

The next thing you need to understand is the concept of nostalgia and the fact that people tend to be emotionally entangled with familiarity. In order to exploit this phenomenon to your own advantage, you need to learn how to become more consistent. For this to work, your brand needs to have its own identity and even if you decide to change a thing or two in order to stay in touch with the time, this change shouldn’t be too drastic. People don’t usually react positively to change, especially if it’s drastic or sudden. For your content marketing, make sure that you have the same people behind it all the time.

5.      Don’t be too pushy

There’s a saying that if you love something, you should let it go. The same principle applies in the business world, as well. You see, by being too aggressive with your post-sale follow up you’ll scare people away. People are always interested in what they need and rarely in what others need from them. The fact that you want them to come back means nothing to them, however, if you make a good first impression, once they need you, they’ll be sure to come back.

Conclusion

As you can see, each of the above-listed tips is fairly easy to implement and it doesn’t require you to deviate too far from the path that you’re already on. In other words, you gain quite a bit without having to make unnecessary sacrifices or compromises. This is a clear win-win scenario and a great boost for your business model.

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Universal Guide to Starting Your First Enterprise

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Regardless of how happy you are with your current employment, at one point in the future, you may decide to start your own business. There are so many benefits of this kind of a career move, ranging from the fact that you’ll be your own boss, all the way to the fact that your income will drastically increase, once your business grows out of its proportions. The best thing about this is the fact that never before was there a better climate to start a small business or a startup. In fact, as many as 97 percent of startups employ less than 20 people, which means that by starting modest, you’ll quickly be able to catch up with them in size. Here are five guides to help you get there in no time.

1.      Put your thoughts on paper

One of the most important things that you need to understand is that no matter how great an idea sounds in your head until you put it to paper, you won’t know what you’re dealing with. Writing a real business plan is one of the most effective methods of verifying your business idea. Second, if you decide to look for investors, later on, they’ll insist on seeing your business plan (possibly even checking out a prototype). Either way, it’s something that can come as incredibly handy.

2.      Decide how you will fund your business

The next thing that you need to understand is various options that you have available when funding your business. The majority of entrepreneurs use their personal savings or loans to start a business, which leaves them with full ownership of the enterprise in question. About 38 percent of these startups and small businesses are financed from funds borrowed from friends and family members. Other options that you have available are venture capital or angel investors, yet, attracting these investors is not an easy task. Finally, in some fields, it’s possible to go for crowdfunding as a fundraising method.

3.      Determine a business structure

Depending on the origin of your initial capital, you might need to opt for a more complex ownership structure than you’ve initially intended. Still, even if you don’t plan to run as a partnership, it’s crucial that you determine a business structure of your enterprise as soon as possible. If you’re a sole owner, running as a sole proprietorship may seem like an obvious choice. Nonetheless, this is a scenario that can be quite risky, due to the fact that, if things go wrong, you risk even your other personal assets. Therefore, it’s advised to go for an LLC (limited liability company) for the sake of safety.

4.      Take your first steps as an enterprise

Once you’re done with the groundwork, you need to take steps that will legally make you into a business. First, you need to register a company which will require you to submit necessary paperwork or go via an online platform, which is a lot simpler. Second, you need to get a tax ID number. Once this is done, you can start establishing both your online and offline presence. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get to the point where your business is making a profit.

5.      Don’t rush in

The last thing you need to understand when it comes to running your first enterprise is that you can’t afford to be reckless. First of all, no matter how good your idea may sound, there are so many ways a startup can fail and, even if you’re careful, some of these things might happen to you. Therefore, take it easy, don’t invest more money than you can afford to lose and start by taking calculated risks in order to learn the industry. Most importantly, if your enterprise doesn’t require too much time, it might be wise to keep your day job for a while.

Conclusion

In order for this guide to be universal, we had to focus on those issues that aren’t industry-specific. Acquisition of specific tools, experts and getting your hands on all permits and certificates is something that you can worry about later on.

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