EduNotes Blog

Is Your Password Secure?

Do you have a secure password? As technology advances, so does the definition of what is secure. Not too long ago, a six character password with a number or special character was considered to be pretty secure. Now that has gone up to at least eight (try signing up for a Microsoft Passport and you’ll see what I mean).

Then there are the experts that say you should change your password at least every 90 days. In the corporate world the IT department can enforce (or at least make a reasonable attempt at enforcing) tough password policies. If we tried to do that with our small business clients, we’d likely find ourselves with fewer clients. Too many hats. Too much to do. I don’t need the hassles of trying to think of another password. Besides which, such enforcement usually leads to employees writing the password and leaving it close by. Such as taped to the monitor. Or the clever ones who put it on a piece of tape on the back of their keyboards.

So what is a person to do? Recently several experts in security have begun recommending long passwords that are also easy to remember. Why not have a sentence? “My name is Brian DeLaet ” would be long but is also easy for others to guess. “My nam3 is BriaN DeLaeT” is also pretty easy to remember but is pretty difficult for someone to guess. That password is 23 characters long. It combines numbers, spaces and case changes. A hacker using brute force (such as a powerful computer that can try every combination of 23 characters) would soon give up and look for someone with a shorter password. I’m no mathematician but I know that a 23 character (or space) long password where each character can be one of over 70 different choices (numbers from 0-9, letters from a-z and A-Z, and special characters such as spaces or punctuation) makes for pretty astronomical odds.

So as you consider your password policy for your network, consider making the passwords very long with a few deviations from a regular sentence.


Building Web Sites that Work

Imagine building a house without a blueprint. Or a bridge without an architect and a good engineer. Every project needs a plan.

And so it is with web sites. If you don’t have a plan, if you haven’t architected or designed your site before you build it, you might find it falling over the first time it gets tested. Or worse yet, you put your site up “because everyone’s doing it” but you haven’t given a thought to what it should do or what you want to happen. Then you get frustrated because you’re not getting any business from your site.

To make sure that you build a web site that works for your business, plan for it:

  1. What is the purpose of your web site?
    Do you want to do ecommerce? Do you want to get more people to call you? Do you want them to email you? Do you want to lower costs? Increase revenue? Streamline processes?
    All of these are valid purposes for a web site
  2. Once you understand the purpose, determine the layers.
    How big does the site need to be to accomplish your purpose? A small business planning to add new customers might have two layers, a home page that links to the second layer of pages such as Sign up now!, Get a map to our store here and learn more about us here.
    A larger site might be required if the goal is to streamline an in-house process: Home page links to visitor’s pages and to a login page for in-house use. The in-house login page links to the next level where data can be input or received. As many layers as needed can be created.
  3. Now the architect can start talking to the engineer to determine what kind of materials are needed to build the kind of structure you’ve described. Do you need a database? Should you use Flash to demonstrate something? How should the navigation work? There are a whole host of questions to answer in this phase.
  4. Once those questions are answered you are ready to design the look and feel of the site.
    What color schemes will be effective? Do you have a logo? What are the consistent elements you’ll have on each page? What elements should be different on each page? Put all of these elements together and you’re ready for the next step.
  5. Now you’re finally ready to design each page.
    The question you should ask yourself on EACH and EVERY page is: What do I want someone to do when they get to this page? Should they call? Should they make a purchase? Do they need to fill in a form? Without a call to action or a solution to a problem, perhaps that page shouldn’t exist on your site.

By following these steps you can be on your way to creating a powerful web site that works for you.


Microsoft and Google Go Head To Head

Last week I attended a seminar introducing the next version of the Microsoft Operating System. Called Vista, this operating system has some cool features. My Mac-friends will tell us that Bill Gates is still “innovating” in Steve Job’s footsteps though as many of the WOW features look similar to OSX running on Apple computers.
But a lot of the time saving features were very impressive. As I watched the demonstration of how easy the search would work, I had a nagging feeling I’d seen something similar before. And then it hit me – Google desktop search does (or tries to do) the same thing. Many of the new features I saw were obviously driven by competition whether from the Mac crowd or the Google crowd. As Windows Vista gears up for release late this year and early next, keep an eye on Google and Microsoft to see how this rivalry will play out.

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SEO – Search Engine Optimization

Someone asked me how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) works. I wish I had a handy answer but there isn’t one. It’s a constantly moving target, trying to get your web site to attain and maintain a high ranking in the search engines for your key words. But there are a few quick rules you can use:

  1. Determine the key words you want to be ranked for
  2. Actually use those words and phrases in your site
  3. Use meaningful hyperlinks – instead of “Click Here for your files” where Click Here is linked, try “Get your Important Files” where Important Files is linked.
  4. Check your web site statistics to see if your site is being indexed by the search engines (you’ll see visits by spiders like Googlebot or MSNBot or Inktomi Slurp. As strange or disgusting as these names might sound, they are good news because they mean your site is being indexed by the search engines.
  5. If you don’t see these spiders in your web logs, you’ll need to visit each engine and add your site to the mix.

Confused by terms like spiders and web blogs? It’s not quite a jungle out there but call EduCyber at 720-275-4646 to learn more.