The Road Ahead: Reopening

It doesn’t matter whether you are chomping at the bit to reopen or wish the government would keep things shut down until it is deemed safe, people are getting anxious. Even those wanting to stay in are getting cabin fever.

It is spring. The weather is getting nicer. People ARE going out. And every day more people are wanting to go out.

And that means that more and more businesses will be opening. How are you preparing, both personally and professionally for getting to what many are calling the new normal?

It is prudent, none of us wants people to die, it is just that some of us see the risks differently, to be prepared for the new normal. I’m not a fan of masks – the science, where it exists suggests that anything less than an N95 mask is more for show than for actual protection. But there ARE steps you can take to minimize the risk as you venture out:

  1. Wash your hands frequently. (I can’t believe that has to be mentioned but, as it turns out, washing your hands protects you from bad germs.)
  2. When you’ve been near or in contact with others, avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands.
  3. Wash your hands frequently (see a trend here?) and when soap is not available, use hand sanitizer.
  4. Be extra sensitive to the senior population. Most of the deaths are in this population – protect your Mom and Dad – or grandparents, or whomever you have in your life that is older.

And for your business there are also several steps you should take to prepare to reopen:

  1. Move your communications, data, and email into the cloud. This will help for any work-from-home people you have as well as distributing your touch points – you don’t have to have multiple sets of hands touching your inhouse server if you don’t have an inhouse server.
  2. Update your policies – whether you interface with the public or just have staff that you want to provide a safe environment for, update your policies – in writing and make sure your staff and employees all understand them.
  3. Celebrate Your Uniqueness – Take the updated policy from step two and consider what is different from your old normal. Highlight the differences. Consider if there are steps you are taking that might be different or better than the competition.
  4. Tell the World – Now that you have a clear policy and understand what sets you apart, tell the world! One of the first things people are looking for right now, is what is your COVID-19 policy – are you open and what steps are you taking so tell the world. Post it on your website. Link to your post in your social media, update your profiles in social media and in search engines.
  5. Turn a negative into a positive. What  do we think about the current pandemic? It sucks. But instead of dwelling on the negative aspects, look at the positives. First of all, listen to your self-talk. If it is negative, shout it down. You got this. We can make it through. And we can get back to prosperity, where we were just a few short months ago.

Before you know it, we will be looking back on the beginning of 2020 as an aberration. But, much like the oxygen masks on planes, we have to first take care of ourselves before we can help others. So take care of yourself. And of your business.

And if EduCyber can be of any assistance, give us a call at 303-268-2245.

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Privacy vs. Business Intelligence

Here are some things any web site can find out about the visitor:

Data points I can know about you:

Privacy on the Internet

  • Your IP address
  • Your physical location
  • Your computer name
  • Your operating system
  • Your browser
  • Your screen size
  • Your device (if mobile)
  • Potentially your phone number (if mobile)
  • How you got to my site (from search? From social? Referral? Typing the address directly in?)

Data points Google can tell me about you

  • What language you speak (or surf in)
  • Your location
  • Your interests
  • Your education level
  • Your age
  • Your gender

There are a number of things you can to protect yourself and to better control what information you share and with whom it gets shared.

The first and most obvious thing is to set privacy for social media sites. You should also set security on your mobile device(s) so that no one can access it if they find it. One of the biggest things you can do to protect your privacy is turn off all the convenient features on your mobile device like location awareness. You do lose the convenience but you do gain a degree of privacy – though keep in mind that as long as your cell phone is on, you are trackable.

Consumer reports has a list of 66 things you can do to protect your privacy. Try several of these to begin protecting your privacy.

One of the conundrums we face is who to let in to our “circle” and who to keep out. When I got my new phone with fingerprint unlocking technology, I was excited. But my son pointed out that Google now has my fingerprint.

As a business / web site owner, it is important to recognize that your visitors all want and expect some level of privacy. But we all want to understand the details of WHO is visiting the site, WHY they are there and WHAT they want to accomplish. Google, with its Analtyics tool, hides demographic and other data from you if there is so little of it that you could begin to identify actual people. Their idea if to give you broad information to understand the demographic groups that come to your site. But wow, wouldn’t it be cool to know that right now, Jim Adams, aged 39, with a wife, Naomi and two children in 1st and 3rd grade just clicked on a link in your web site – oh and by the way his phone number is ***. That info sounds great to business owners until they realize they don’t want the sites they visit to know that information about them.

If you are struggling to determine how much data to collect, how to interpret it, or how to organize the data, give us a call. We’d be glad to help. Reach Brian at 303-268-2245 ext. 4

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Managed Web Hosting

EduCyber offers something called managed web hosting but we have a unique way of handling it. Whereas other firms offering this service automate, automate, automate; we take the time to look at your site. We log in and make sure that your plugins are up-to-date.

We update plugins and core files to make sure your site is secure and has the latest features available. That alone is a huge comfort for our clients. We recently acquired a new hosting client who has a WordPress site and was scared to update the plugins in case something broke. We did the updates for him and verified that everything was working. We even discovered several plugins that weren’t being used. By uninstalling them we sped up the site and made it more efficient.

We provide several layers of security. Our web servers have a firewall that stops most of those with nefarious intent. For our WordPress customers we use a special plugin that stops hackers who try to get to the backend by guessing passwords for common user names like “admin”. With these and other tools not one of our sites has been hacked in years. We continue to follow and implement best practices when it comes to security to keep our customers sites up and secure.

We implement analytics. The tool of choice for several years has been Google Analytics. We make sure each site has analytics installed and functions. Then we even go through site performance every six months to help you understand what is happening on your site so you can make informed decisions about changes or proposed changes to your site.

We actively look for ways to help your site perform better. Since page speed is one of the things search engines look for, we make sure you are aware of what needs to be done to improve the speed or we will even go in and do it for you.

Since our tag line is “We partner with our customers to engage their visitors and convert them into clients” we work to make that partnering bit real. We want you to succeed. We do more than want though. We take concrete steps for you to help your site and your business be better with our managed web hosting service.

If you are already an EduCyber managed web hosting customer, who should you tell about us? If you are not yet a customer, give us a call today at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the process started.

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What is a Near Me Search and Why Should I Care?

You have all seen it. It is an integral part of search these days. You are out and about. You decide to look for a good place for lunch. Searching for “restaurants” works but if you want to be clear with your search, you can say “restaurants near me” and up comes the list. This is “near me” search and you need this for your listing.

While this makes a lot of sense for local sensitive places like restaurants, coffee shops or (my favorite) brew pubs, it is important for businesses all across the spectrum.

A mantra we often hear in business is “Shop Local” because by supporting local businesses we support local jobs. I know several people who will not go for coffee at Starbucks and will not have lunch at whatever the convenient big chain is. Instead they go out of their way to find the local coffee shop and independently owned restaurant to do business at.

In the same way people go out of their way to select the independent hair stylist, the local plumber, the local cpa and yes a local (or at least domestic) web design firm.

Still not convinced it matters to you? Let’s dig in a bit deeper. From 2014 to 2015 the traffic from “near me” searches doubled. At the same time, Google’s organic listings are LESS likely to have the magic 10 on the first page or results, opting instead for, on average, 8.5 listings. So being ranked 9 or 10 in the “organic” listings can bump you from the first page but being near where someone searches for you can pull your site or business up.

How do you optimize your local business listing for near me searches? Here is a high level overview of what you need to do:

  • Claim your business if you haven’t already: www.google.com/business for Google or www.bingplaces.com for Bing (we recommend avoiding the Yext and YP type services that will do this for you – you’ll pay a lot for an ongoing service that usually just needs done once)
  • Make sure your address is IDENTICAL everywhere – on Google and Bing, on your web site, on any other sites or groups that might list you. This leaves no room for ambiguity as to whether it is the same business or same address. No ambiguity is a very good thing when it comes to search.
  • Complete the business profile as much as you can. Put in your hours. Put in all of the information that is asked for, including photos. Make the images be real photos of you and your office and your team.
  • Encourage happy customers to give reviews for you. If you Google your business, you should see it on the right. From there your customer can click on Write a Review and tell the world how happy they are with you.
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Custom Point of Sale Software

Is your retail business growing? Are you trying to better manage your inventory? Looking for a seamless way to integrate your processes to save time and money in managing your business?  R.I.S.E. might be the right custom Point of Sale software for you.

Retail: Handles all your needs at the point of sale – checkout, discounts, gift cards, overrides and more

Inventory: From purchasing to receiving to low stock notifications, the inventory component will help you manage your business more intelligently.

Sales: Track all your sales, getting the on time, real-time reporting you need to stay on top of your business.  Follow the order from quote to purchase order to sale and a lot more.

Ecommerce: End the agony of having a P.O.S. that doesn’t tie into your online presence. By integrating directly into your website, the ecommerce and POS both look to the same data in real time.

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Custom Development? What Does That Mean?

I often tell folks that EduCyber does custom web development. They nod their heads but I can tell they walk away wondering what exactly that means.

So let me give you an example of a project we just finished:

Denver Tux, a local tuxedo rental company had a software package that managed all its rentals and sales but the vendor was looking to get out the business and the software was no longer meeting their needs or being updated regularly.

Working very closely with the owner, we created a web-based system that lets Denver Tux manage all the complexities of tuxedo rentals. While the system is essentially a Point of Sale (POS) system dealing with rentals is far more complex. Once an order leaves the system – and remember an order can be very complex with pants, shoes, shirt, jacket, tie, cuffs, vest and more – that same order has to be able to be checked back into the system. Larger items like pants, vests and coats, are all tagged so it is important to know not that “a black vest” was returned but that the same vest that was rented to Groomsman A has just been returned.

We created the processes to manage all that and to also create all the reports desired. From a financial perspective, you can view daily sales, monthly sales and other customizable reports. You can also pull up and see who in wedding party hasn’t come in to be measured yet, or which tuxes haven’t been returned afterward.

I could go on, explaining how we’ve created solutions to handle tax, rentals and retail sales, employee clock in and clock out and much more. But suffice to say that if you need custom web development – or even custom development that might not be on the web – we can get you the solution that meets your specific needs.

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What I Learned from a 75 Year Old

Yesterday I met a man who walks five miles a day. He does this every day and has walked 14,000 miles. If you do the math, he’s been at it for close to eight years. He is 75 years old. By the time he’s 80 he plans to have walked a distance equal to circumventing the globe.

What did I learn from this discussion?

  1. The importance of consistency. It has been extremely cold here lately. He didn’t let that stop him (though he did walk inside). Every day. For close to eight years. Five miles. What have you done every day for the last eight years besides get out of bed?
    I’ll bet that after doing that every day, if he skips a day now, he feels it in a bad way. One of the things I see in Internet marketing and in business in general is a lack of consistency.  People commit to updating their site every week and do it religiously for two weeks. And then get sidetracked. Business development people commit to holding five outside meetings every week. And they do it really well for a month. But not, apparently, long enough for it to become a habit. Yet this older gentleman sticks to his routine and now it is a habit for him. A healthy habit that will help him age like a fine wine instead of a ripe banana.
  2. The importance of variety. I asked him what route he takes on his walks and he said it depends on the day, on the weather, on how he’s feeling and on whatever the day brings. Doing the same thing exactly the same every time, unless you work on an assembly line, gets stale rather quickly which then leads to a lack of follow through. By mixing things up though, you get a fresh perspective on life and on the task before you. Trying a new path to walk down, even if it is parallel to your normal path, can open your eyes to new possibilities.
  3. The importance of goal setting. At 75 years old many of us would suggest he slow down. Take life easy. Get a recliner. He could very well have said “I’m 75 and I just walked 14,000 miles, I’m taking a rest.” But instead he has a five year goal. And he’s already contemplating what to set after that. As the year winds down many of us are setting goals for the year ahead. But what about three years from now? Five? Ten? And yet here’s someone that is 75 and has a five year goal! Talk about inspirational!

What do these learnings mean to me personally?

  1. I am responsible for growing my company. That won’t happen if I’m not out talking to people, meeting new people, and revisiting existing connections and customers. But with a clear plan – instead of five miles a day I’m working on four meetings a week – I can set a consistency to what I do that helps my company grow in a healthy manner.
  2. Meeting with different kinds of people. We work with and target some distinct niches, such as tourism-based non-profits. By meeting with people that serve on boards, people from companies that serve non-profits and staff from the non-profits, I get clearer perspectives on what the needs and challenges of these organizations are which in turn makes us more valuable of a partner / vendor to these organizations.
  3. Setting goals is easy. “I want to earn $1,000,000 a year”. There. I set it. But setting realistic goals based on past performance and current conditions is perhaps a better path. And setting goals not based on revenue are very important. There is so much more to life than money. Whatever the goal that is set, it is important to not only set it but then to track progress towards the goal. If you say you want 30 new customers next year but at the end of the first quarter you only have three, you need to either change your goal or change what you’re doing to work towards that goal.

So whether you’re 75 or 25 (or somewhere in between), remember to be consistent in what you do, add variety as able and always set (and measure) goals.

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Six Reasons to be Thankful

We are thankful for:

  1. New connections. The first part of our tagline is “We PARTNER with our customers” and we are excited about all the new “partners” we have this year. EduCyber is delving further and further into innovating to help our customers get ahead and stay ahead.
  2. Strong relationships. EduCyber has a very high customer retention rate. We help our customers succeed over the long term. And they reward us by keeping their business with us. Very thankful!
  3. Our jobs. We love designing websites and developing websites. The challenge of determining a clear action step and then implementing it. Removing all the clutter and distraction so that visitors can move on to the next step. This takes great design and it takes great development.
  4. Our community. We are engaged in our business community through a wide variety of organizations but we are also engaged with our neighbors and friends through Sunday worship, Boy Scouts of America, Optimists International, and volunteering at different charities around town.
  5. Our health. There is a lot of confusion and unrest around healthcare in our nation. But we are thankful that we have our health.  Take each day as it comes – Carpe Diem!
  6. New challenges. One of the exciting things about being in the Internet Marketing realm is that what was true yesterday might not be true today. We love delighting our customers as we bring new technologies and new programming to bear to give them a site that helps them grow.

So from all of us at EduCyber to all of you – Happy Thanksgiving!

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Stay Secure with a Strong Password

Not too long ago hackers stole 32 million user passwords and exposed them on a web site. An enterprising security company, Imperva, did some analysis of all these passwords. Guess what they learned?

Your password probably isn’t strong enough. If you thought you were being clever by changing your super easy to guess password from “123456” (like 290,000 users had) to something more difficult like “123456789” you are in the same boat as the nearly 78,000 users who use that as their password. Oh, and “Password” was used by 62K users.

Some other not-so-clever passwords to avoid include:

  • 12345
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • rockyou
  • 1234567
  • abc123
  • Nicole
  • Daniel
  • babygirl
  • monkey
  • Qwerty
  • 654321

What can you do to make your password more secure but not require a Ph.D. to remember? It needed be as difficult as you think:

  1. Make sure your password is 7 or more characters in length
  2. Change an easy to remember word by turning letters into numbers, e.g., password -> pa55word
  3. Use an upper case letter in a different spot, e.g., pa55wOrd
  4. Change a letter to a special character, e.g., p@55wOrd
  5. Use one or more spaces, e.g., This is my p@55wOrd
  6. Use really long sentences that are easy to remember and type, e.g., This will always be my p@55wOrd
  7. Change your password regularly. Did you know that February 1 is National Change Your Password Day? Or if that doesn’t work for you, change it twice a year when the time changes.

For most users, following 3 or more of the tips above will keep you safe on the Internet. But any system can be hacked. Once you develop a good password, don’t tape it to your monitor or beneath your keyboard.

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Web Site Bridge

I’ve been asked a lot lately what sets us apart from the competition. While we fill a distinct niche, it is often difficult to articulate how what we do is different from others.

Does this bridge go anywhere?Today I’ll use a bridge analogy. This bridge on the right gets me where I’m going. It is very functional. One side of the bridge looks much like the other side. Many web firms can give you a web site. But most of those firms will give you a site that looks both like most of the rest of their web sites and like most of the sites that are out there on the internet.

You’ll notice also that this bridge doesn’t give you much of a view. It just goes from point a to point b. No railings or other features to help you. Notice also that you could probably get by without this bridge. Just a little hop and you’d be across that ditch and on the other side. Other folks design web sites that don’t really help you get anywhere difficult. Those sites have few or no images, and little to spark the imagination. There are no “railings” that you can hold on to and grasp new meaning. And frankly if the site didn’t exist, it probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on business anyway because it isn’t generating leads, interest or new customers.

Now consider the bridge below. This bridge practically invites you to come and stand on it. The path is wide, there’s a pleasant arch to it there are railings. We make web sites like this. First they are visually appealing. They let the visitor know they are welcome to step onboard. Next, and this is the most important part of any bridge, they actually go somewhere. The bridge in the picture crosses a babbling brook that turns into a torrent every spring. Without the bridge, you’d be stuck on your side of the river. With our sites, we help you get where you’re going – each site is designed to help your business grow. We build powerful, data-driven web sites that can streamline processes, attract and retain more customers and offer opportunities to stay connected and build on the relationship.

And just like every bridge has many of the same parts but a good bridge fits in and enhances its surroundings, that is what our websites do. Some firms ask you what template you like best. We never start with a template, instead we spend time listening to you to determine what you need. Then we bring our expertise to bear to build a custom look that not only carries your brand forward but also draws the visitor in.

So the choice, dear reader, is yours. You can choose the plain old bridge (web site) that draws no attention or you can choose a beautifully designed bridge that helps move your company forward. And that is what sets us apart.

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