Infographic created by: Cyber Policy
When many people think about protesting, they automatically conjure up images of the 1960s; and for good reason. It was a time a social upheaval that included the civil right movement, women’s movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, LGBT movement, student movement and environmental movement.
Almost six decades later, we are seeing many of the same issues being debated. But with that change in time comes new ways of protesting. Social media, for example, has given a soap box to anyone who wants it, and cyber activism (sometimes referred to as ‘slacktivism’) has made it easier to share the messaging, sign petitions and garner global attention.
While these techniques are readily employed by law-abiding members of society, there is another form of protest that seems to walk the line between the ethical and the criminal, known as ‘hacktivism.’
What is Hacktivism?
Hacktivism is a portmanteau of hacking and activism and utilizes many of the same online attacks as low-level cybercriminals. Still, it would be foolish to take the threat of hacktivism lightly as it has had real effects on the private and public sector. Here are just a few examples:
- In 1996, hackers vandalized the United States Department of Justice’s homepage in protest of the Communications Decency Act. This resulted in a title change to “Department of Injustice” and adult images posted across the site.
- In 2009, the hacker collective Anonymous aided Iranian protestors in the circumvention of news and internet censorship after the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
- In 2010, members of Anonymous crashed several websites and services for refusing to process donations for controversial leaker Julian Assange. PayPal claimed the hackers cost the business £3.5 million in damages.
- In 2011, Google worked with SayNow and Twitter to provide an alternate way to post tweets during the government sanctioned internet blackout in Egypt. After this intervention, Arab Spring protestors could post social media messages via voicemail thanks to Speak to Tweet.
As you can tell, hacktivism can cause some real problems for the private and public sector. To mitigate these threats, many organizations invest in a cybersecurity policy to insulate themselves against the costly damages of an attack.
Is Hacktivism Ever Justified?
But that’s not what hacktivists do. Virtual vigilantes have also spied on criminals, leaked corporate secrets, vandalized social media pages, redirected URLs and taken their protests into the real world.
Each of these tasks are surprisingly easy. For example, a group of hackers may want to stymie traffic to a website by flooding it with fake web requests until the service crashes for a period. Hacktivists sometime refer to this as a ‘virtual sit-in’ while most IT professionals call it a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
Downloadable tools, tutorials and ‘hackers for hire’ are regularly traded on dark web for activists and crooks alike. And this is where things get interesting. Is a DDoS attack really any different than a union protest outside a supermarket?
Proponents argue that a DDoS attack does nothing to harm a network infrastructure and can be a useful form of protest if limited to a specific time. Opponents say that a DDoS attack is nothing like a sit-in because the traffic sent to a site is not an assembled of angry citizens, but rather a phony army of malware infected computers; also known as a botnet.
The same cloud of uncertainty hangs over social spoofing, pirated media distribution and website tampering. Even if it’s used for a righteous cause, something about it isn’t quite kosher.
On the other hand, it seems unfair to include quasi-criminal hacking under the same umbrella term as those who use their digital expertise to protect free speech, human rights and freedom of information using legitimate technologies. For example, a virtual private network can overcome location-based censorship.
In the end, this subject will likely be debated for years to come, especially as new technologies enter the market. Protesting won’t disappear, but it is sure to evolve in unexpected ways.
Whenever you ask successful entrepreneurs about the secrets to their success, you’re likely to hear them use words like “passion,” “perseverance,” and “commitment.” There’s no doubt that these are all important traits for running a successful business, but as anyone who has struggled to get their enterprise off the ground, it’s not always enough to be passionate about your work and to keep trying and going after opportunities.
The fact is, a great deal of entrepreneurial success comes down to individual personality traits and habits. You can have all the enthusiasm in the world, but if you don’t have the knowledge required to compete in today’s marketplace, you’re going to flounder. If you are a jerk, no one will want to do business with you, and so on and so forth. With that in mind, as you prepare to launch into the world of entrepreneurship, it’s useful to practice these five important habits.
1. Keep Learning
The world of business is changing all the time. New technologies, new trends, and an ever-shifting economic landscape require entrepreneurs to remain on their toes. A willingness to learn, ask questions, and remain open to new ideas and possibilities will help you accomplish that goal, as well as keep your business fresh and running efficiently. Investing in continuing education for yourself as well as your employees can help maintain everyone’s motivation and productivity, as well as help ensure a steady stream of creative ideas. Remember that some of the most successful people in the world have achieved their goals in large part because of their willingness to learn – and their acceptance of the fact that they don’t know everything.
2. Be Nice
“It’s not personal, it’s business.” How many times have you heard that expression as an excuse for someone’s rude behavior? Or been advised to give someone a pass on their nastiness simply because they are exceptionally good at what they do?
Everyone has bad days, but overall, you should cultivate a reputation for being considerate, kind, and empathetic. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a pushover, but you can be direct, firm, and confident without being mean or rude. Being “the best” at something isn’t a free pass to treat people poorly, either. In other words, you want people to work with you and your company because of you, not in spite of you, so just be nice. The world could use a bit more of that these days.
3. Focus on Service
A recent survey of consumer behavior revealed that nearly half of all consumers will pay more for something if they receive good service. They want to feel heard, get the answers they need quickly, and feel like the company really cares about them and their business. Therefore, if you want to differentiate yourself and your company from the competition, focus on delivering the best customer service possible. When hiring staff, look for those individuals who have a customer service mindset and will be as committed to your customers and clients as you are. There may be times when you question whether all the work is worth it, but as your loyal customer base grows, you’ll see the payoff of your hard work.
4. Have a Plan
Nearly every successful entrepreneur lists planning as one of the most important habits for business growth. You need to plan in terms of the big picture – what is your vision for your business, your major goals, and how do you plan to get there? – and on a smaller scale, i.e., what am I going to do today? Having a plan helps eliminate distractions and more efficiently evaluate opportunities along the way; by evaluating ideas, tasks, and opportunities in terms of your overall goals, you can better manage your time and maintain focus on those things that are most important to your business’s growth.
5. Stay Positive
Finally, stay positive. Maintaining a positive attitude will help you overcome setbacks, without becoming discouraged. Envision yourself successful, and refuse to acknowledge failure as an option. Staying positive requires maintaining faith in yourself and your ability to reach your goals. If you can do that, then there’s no stopping you.
So many factors come together to create a thriving business, that’s it’s virtually impossible to narrow it down to a single winning recipe for everyone. However, if you maintain these five habits, your chances increase
Schools that offer classroom instruction need access to the latest technology and one of the ways to help ensure that all students have updated computers is to make use of computer rentals. With this option, students will have access to the best technology, at less cost to the school. Both students and the staff benefit from having such options available.
Custom Configurations Matter
Many schools and training institutes have custom software needs that might be difficult to meet under their existing budgets. Rental options put access to updated desktop computer systems within easier reach, so that everyone can get the features they need. Students pursuing certain vocational studies, such as drafting, web design or programming and app development, will need to access certain types of software suites to complete their studies. When the schools have the software they need on their computers, this eases the burden on the students who can take their training at one convenient location.
Access to Electronic Textbooks
Textbooks in ebook format make things far easier for educators to keep their books up to date. Purchasing textbooks has always been a major expense for schools of all types, especially considering that new editions of books and changes to state or local standards can require the purchase of new books. Some schools may have to offset the cost of buying new books and training materials by raising tuition costs. When schools have computers that can access these updated textbooks, the schools can teach their students more efficiently.
Better Options for Testing
Computerized testing helps make exams much easier for students, but it is essential for the computers used in testing to be as up-to-date as possible especially fo industry certifications. During peak times, it’s ideal for schools to have enough computers that are up-to-date to serve their students’ needs. Having enough computers in a supervised setting also makes it easier for faculty to ensure academic integrity.
Sometimes students will need to complete a special project of some type that requires additional computers. These might be large-scale group assignments or other projects that may require more machines than the computer lab has in use at any given time. When a project of this nature is in progress, students need to be able to use computers that offer every participant the same tools. Renting computers with fully customized software suites helps make the process easier for everyone involved in the project.
Important Things for Training Staff to Consider
One of the most important decisions will be whether the computers use a Mac or Windows environment, with both operating systems widely in use in the vocational or educational field. The desktop computers that are available for rental purposes span a variety of manufacturers and styles, giving students a major advantage regardless of their course of study. A major advantage that comes with popular rental options is delivery and setup, both of which save everyone a lot of extra time.
Image Credit: Aspire-edu
Entrepreneurship is an enticing gig: You get autonomy, power, prestige, excitement, and, if you are lucky, excessive wealth. However, being an entrepreneur isn’t just planting the seeds of business and watching them sprout into a money tree. The world is filled with wannabe entrepreneurs just like you, which means you must do everything right to find success.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t do everything right. Still, you will probably survive a few blunders – unless they are any of the following devastating mistakes that will end your entrepreneurial career before it truly begins.
1. Wasting Time
Any entrepreneur will tell you that you need real-world experience before you can successfully run a business. However, that shouldn’t give you a reason to procrastinate on your dreams. While you might take a couple years between undergrad and graduate school to gain familiarity with your industry of choice, you should be careful to avoid putting off your entrepreneurial plans for too long.
The business world moves fast, and sooner or later someone else with the same idea and more speed will beat you to success. Before time runs out, you should acquire an online MBA, no GMAT required, so you can gain the skills you need for your business as soon as possible.
2. Assuming All Responsibilities
You desperately want everything in your business to be perfect, and that means you must know how to delegate. Too many entrepreneurs are unwilling to relinquish any control; some will refuse to hire new employees to take over, while others will try to meddle in projects they’ve already given to their teams. The conclusion is always the same: Work doesn’t get done – or it gets done sloppily – and the business crashes.
Even if you want to, you simply can’t handle all the responsibilities of a new business on your own. You aren’t experienced enough in many complex processes, like financial management or marketing, to maintain complete control in perpetuity. You must give your less important tasks to employees who are more proficient at them. Then, you can devote your attentions to more influential undertakings, like growth and change.
3. Forgetting About Passion
Human resources, corporate wellness, economic consulting – according to Forbes, these industries are ripe for startups, but if they don’t ignite in you an entrepreneurial passion, you should probably stay away. If the product or concept behind your business is less than exhilarating, you will never be able to commit enough of yourself to it to find success. Entrepreneurship is unbelievably hard, but it is fulfilling and worthwhile when you care about the outcome. Therefore, instead of chasing the money, you should chase the high of doing something interesting.
4. Being Inflexible
Like any good entrepreneur, you developed a business plan before embarking on your entrepreneurial dreams. While a business plan is an indispensable tool for beginning your business journey – necessary for challenges like acquiring funding and hiring talent ― that plan should never be written in stone. You will incur obstacles that you didn’t expect, such as technological innovation, changes to consumer taste, and unforeseen competition in the market. The road to success is never bump-free.
You must be willing and able to adapt your plan and vision. In fact, you should try to anticipate market changes that will impact your business. Continuing to test your products, pursue new options, and chase new audiences will help you stay ahead of the curve.
5. Expecting Success
It is okay to imagine being a titan of industry, but if your fantasies ever solidify into expectations, you are in trouble. A generous proportion of startups fail; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about half make it five years, and a third survive to 10. It is good to be confident in your skills, knowledge, and plans, but you should consistently remind yourself that you are one bad decision away from being on the losing side of those stats.
Being realistic will help you budget effectively, expand carefully, and respond appropriately to opportunities and obstacles alike. Realism will keep you upbeat when you are in the red for your first two years, and it will keep you grounded when cash starts rolling in.
All entrepreneurs fail. However, some of those entrepreneurs learn from their failures and go on to become famous successes. The mistakes listed above are sure to discourage any budding entrepreneur beyond hope. Thus, as you begin you career in entrepreneurship, you must learn from others’ failures first.
There are many details that go into the success of an online business. You need more than just a great product and flashy logo. By using multiple resources at your disposal, online businesses can grow almost exponentially overnight. Consider these aspects to your business as the Internet offers opportunities across the world.
Simplify Your Website
Building a successful online business starts with simplifying your website. Regardless of the industry, the site shouldn’t be confusing or frustrating to work with as you click around each page. Simplify the appearance by only using two to three colors, a mixture of text and images and intuitive page organization. When visitors hop onto the site, they want to complete their transaction as quickly as possible. Make their journey a rapid yet productive trip to the checkout page. They’ll be interested to see your other products when they can quickly pick and choose their necessary items.
Utilize a Third-Party Call Center
Call center services are perfect entities to partner with because they’re merely used as a background filter. Look like a huge company when you only have a handful of people at your office. These service centers field calls, online inquiries and perform transactions as your website thrives in the marketplace. You won’t miss any questions or comments on the site because the live operators perform this service for the company. Sign up for various services, such as transaction inquiries, so that you can concentrate on building other aspects of the business.
Strategize With Social-Media Accounts
Social media is the perfect place for building an online business. Post useful information about your industry, and link back to the website. Add links to your website pages so that customers can explore the posts too. Social media gives you a chance to connect with more people on a daily basis. Sharing, adding followers and other account perks can spread your business’s name across the industry. If a customer responds to your social-media posts, answer as quickly as possible. Your response time and tone directly impact the business as it grows through these personalized connections.
Ship With the Customers’ Needs in Mind
Keep shipping as simple as possible by using flat rates on your products. Guessing on shipment prices will only frustrate customers. Consider free shipping if the customers purchase a certain amount of products in bulk. You’ll make a profit while pleasing the customer with a free-shipping perk. Pay attention to the shipping quality of the packing materials too. You want the items to show up at the customers’ doors without any damages. Strong boxes and eco-friendly packing materials are smart ways to please customers as they enjoy their chosen products.
Always use a professional manner when you’re working with vendors and customers. By being courteous and strong, you gain respect within a given industry. Losing your temper or lashing out will only cost you business ties in the future. A solid, online business still relies on personal courtesies and favors that last for many years.
When you own a business, there will inevitably come a time when you need to access credit. Whether it’s because you need to invest in new equipment or you want to expand, being able to borrow money can mean the difference between reaching your goals or struggling to get by.
While there are several additional options for getting the necessary funds for your business, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about your business credit history and score.
In fact, protecting and improving your business’ credit report should be a top priority. Even if you are just operating a small enterprise out of a spare bedroom, the way you manage credit is still important. In fact, even just an average score can cost your business thousands of dollars over time. To ensure you not only qualify for loans and credit when you need them – and that you get the best possible rates – consider these strategies.
1. Establish Your Business Officially
By incorporating your business as an LLC or C-Corp, and then setting up all accounts in that name, is smart business for several reasons. Establishing yourself as an “official” business entity via an LLC gives you more flexibility with your taxes (although not necessarily tax breaks) and does limit your own liability should the business be sued or go bankrupt.
In terms of getting credit, establishing your business as an LLC or C-Corp allows the business to stand on its own (meaning that your personal credit history is not considered when you apply for a loan) and tells lenders that you are a “serious” business.
It seems like a small thing, but lenders want to know that you are a real business. Therefore, establishing your enterprise as a legal business entity with its own tax ID number – as well as creating a professional image with a descriptive and thorough website – presents an image of credibility and stability.
2. Pay Your Bills
It seems simple, but paying your bills on time, every time, is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. In fact, paying bills early is even more beneficial, as it indicates that you don’t carry balances and have good money management skills – not to mention it can save your business money in excess fees and interest.
That being said, if you rely on customers to pay invoices to maintain cash flow, paying your bills can be challenging. If cash flow is an issue, consider using alternative forms of financing such as factoring receivables to ensure that your bills are paid on time and in full. You don’t need a long credit history to qualify for factoring, and the upfront cash can help maintain your company’s good standing with the credit bureaus.
3. Manage Accounts Well
Paying on time is an important factor in your credit score, but it’s not the only factor. Credit utilization is also important. Ideally, you should aim to use less than 30 percent of your available credit. The more credit you use – and the higher your balances – the lower your credit score.
Again, factoring your invoices can help reduce utilization and keep your score high. It’s also helpful to keep all your accounts open, even if you don’t use them. Closing accounts that you don’t use reduces the overall amount of available credit, and subsequently increases your overall utilization. Instead, keep accounts open – and consider using them occasionally and paying off balances immediately – to boost your score.
4. Be Diligent About Monitoring Your Report
Studies show that an inordinate number of credit reports – nearly 80 percent – contain errors, with almost a quarter of all errors severe enough to render you ineligible for credit entirely.
Carefully monitor your credit report by requesting copies annually, and subscribing to a credit monitoring service that will alert you to any changes. Correcting inaccurate information is the fastest way to improve a score, so if your report contains errors, fix them immediately.
5. Run a Tight Ship
The best way to keep your business afloat – and avoid credit problems – is to run a tight ship. When lenders look at your application for a loan, your credit report is only part of the story. If you operate a lean business and avoid overspending by using your resources wisely, lenders are not only more likely to view you as less of a risk, but you’ll also need to borrow less and use less credit.
Maintaining good credit is an important part of running a healthy business. It might take time, but with diligence and good decisions, you can have a great score and access to the money you need, when you need it.
There’s little doubt you’ve seen a QR code, and maybe even used one before on some piece of advertising, whether for a local plumber or a giant retailer. Short for ‘Quick Response,’ QR codes are being used by businesses big and small, and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
This article is going to go over what a QR code is and how you can use one to the benefit of your ecommerce page.
What is a QR Code?
A QR code is a 2D image made up of lines, dots and other designs that can be read by smartphones and other devices. You use your camera to scan them and then will be linked directly to a targeted website, a phone number or text.
They originally caught on in Southeast Asia and Japan, where they were initially designed to be an elaborate version of the barcode. However, they are able to contain much more information than barcodes, storing up to just over 7,000 numbers as opposed to the barcodes capacity of 30.
Why Should I Care?
As we move further into the future, we are depending more on our devices and less on traditional methods. According to Pew Research Center, 68 percent of adults have a smartphone, which is up from 35 percent in 2011. That is a sharp increase that is going to continue trending as more and more services become available online-only.
There is also a ton of unlocked marketing potential inside QR codes. When you see them, they are kind of a mystery — where will one take you? Most likely it’ll take you to a page with some coupons and some ad copy, but there is a lot of untapped possibility there.
How Do I Make a QR Code?
Thankfully, you don’t actually have to design a code yourself to have one for your ecommerce store. There are a number of places online that will create one for you:
You can usually have them made in different sizes or use alternate formats, like HTML code, TIFF files, PNG, SVG and EPS.
Where Should I Put Them Now That I Have One?
They are best utilized in print media or a similar format. Somewhere analogue that will pull the user into the digital place—like your ecommerce page. For example, you could put one on a clothes tag and it will link to a group of people modelling that outfit (which is only available through your ecommerce store).
All ecommerce website builders will have a function for you to upload pictures or videos that the QR code will be able to direct them towards.
If you are currently employing a print advertising strategy, try throwing a QR code on to the advertisement and have it link to some coupons or other deals related to your service.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to think of them as ‘fancy barcodes’ since they haven’t quite caught on everywhere yet. Like all fresh ideas in the world, they need some pioneering, time and creativity to make sure they have a successful deployment at your organization.
If used effectively, a well-coordinated QR campaign can help raise awareness of your brand and build traffic to your ecommerce store. To get you started or optimize your existing QR code campaign, here are 8 tips for using QR codes in marketing.
Image Credit: Bert Kimura
Startup owners have a big responsibility because they are forced to make decisions that will impact their new business. Making the wrong decisions during the development of the startup could ruin the new company before it ever has a chance to get underway.
Probably one the biggest decisions that a startup owner will need to make concerns the web designer that will be hired to create the startup’s website. Hiring the wrong person for this critical assignment will basically eliminate any chance the startup has of being successful. Here are some of the primary reasons why a web designer is so vital to a startup’s long-term success.
1. Your web designer will be responsible for the first impression that your site provides about your business.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is true in many aspects of life. It is definitely the case when you are talking about new online businesses that have not established their brands yet. You need to impress people who are visiting your site for the first time. You will not do this if your site looks like it was designed 15 years ago.
You will also not impress people if your site looks like many of the other competing sites. The look and feel of your site will go a long way to helping you establish your brand. This is why you need to hire a web designer with the creativity to design a site for your startup that stands out from the crowd. This is why you should take a close look at the previous work of all web designers you are thinking about hiring. This will allow you to see how creative they can be.
2. A web designer will help address problems quickly if they should arise.
You are bound to have a few technical problems with your site every now and then. Most startups encounter this sort of situation as the site gets closer to launching. The pressure is not that great to fix these issues quickly before the launch.
However, all glitches and other technical problems need to be sorted out as quickly as possible after your site is officially online. The public will not put up with a site that doesn’t work properly for very long. This is why the web designer you hire will need to act quickly and solve any problems without delay. Another important task that startup owners have to do is buy a domain name.
3. Your web designer will help you to make immediate changes when you request them.
You most likely have a specific vision of how you want your startup site to look and function. Your web designer’s job is to turn your vision into a reality. This means that he needs to follow your instructions to the letter. You might change your mind about something that your web designer has already started to work on. He will need to be able to change gears quickly.
Image Credit: jdxyw http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdxyw/4843094694
Whether you are currently working your way up as an employee, are in a management position, or work for yourself in some shape or form, it is necessary to keep on building your knowledge about your industry and developing new skills as a business person.
While there are a number of things you can do to help with this, it’s worth considering enrolling in a relevant degree, such as the best online MBA you can find, to really help you stand out from others in your field and to tick off all the career goals you want to over the coming years. If you’re ready to enhance your knowledge and skills today, read on for four key reasons to study an MBA.
1. Relationship Building
For many people, one of the top benefits of completing an MBA is the opportunity that comes from studying a course with like-minded people. When you enroll in an MBA you are sure to network and build relationships with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. Some of these individuals may very well turn out to be friends for life, and if not, will at least become great contacts for the future.
Over the course of your career, it is always very beneficial to have a variety of people you know who can be “in your corner” when you need them. The other graduates you connect with during your career might end up becoming your clients, referrers, sounding boards, investors, or even business partners as the years go on. You can turn to them for advice, consolation, ideas, testimonials, and more as required.
Another plus when it comes to networking and relationship building is that most online MBA degrees are populated by people who come from all over the globe, not just your local area. As a result, studying this type of program means that you get access to individuals from other cultures, who can help you learn about different business practices and international points of view. This can become a really handy advantage over the years, particularly if your career involves dealing with international markets at any stage.
2. Generate More Interest
Another great reason to complete an MBA is that doing so can typically increase your job prospects. By having this degree listed on your CV you will tend to stand out from other candidates for a role, particularly when you’re looking to move into leadership positions. Most employers like to see MBA qualifications on resumes because they know that graduates usually have more business acumen, knowledge, skills, and contacts than those who haven’t completed such a higher degree.
Having an MBA qualification can also give you more security throughout your career. If things are tight within a company or just generally within your industry, you will find that your degree can stand you in good stead when it comes to keeping your job, over unqualified co-workers. After all, companies often feel that business school graduates can bring more to an organization and their role, due to their broader business knowledge; ability to problem solve, adapt, innovate, handle complex situations, and be flexible; and training in spotting inefficiencies and opportunities.
If you end up running your own business, having an MBA behind you can also help to generate more interest in yourself personally and in your venture. The qualification can help to increase your profile and make you more desirable to banks and investors, journalists, and potential employees. Having the piece of paper helps you to be seen as more experienced, knowledgeable, connected, and “solid.”
3. Learn Beneficial Skills
Of course, you don’t want to forget the many beneficial practical skills that you can take away from an MBA degree either. Upon completing this type of program you will likely find yourself in possession of fantastic communication skills (after working on group projects, individual presentations, work placements and the like during your studies), and strong time-management skills, particularly if you worked full-time while also completing your studies.
From an MBA degree you will typically also find that you hone your leadership, negotiation, and management skills. When working in teams to complete projects during your course, you will often have to wrangle a group of strong personalities to get everyone working in the same direction.
In addition, you are sure to come away from your studies with other handy, transferable skills, such as a proficiency in computer programs, and abilities in critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
4. Examine the Bigger Picture
Lastly, many graduates of an MBA program finish their degree with a much better understanding of the bigger business picture. Taking some time away from your usual job to complete an MBA will give you a chance to look at the global economy and to examine how the trading markets work around the world.
You will be able to see how things happening on one side of the globe can affect the other, on both a micro and macro level, and get a clearer picture on how your own business or job fits into things. Having this broader understanding and clarity will assist you throughout your career, particularly if you work up to a top leadership position or end up running your own firm.