Blog

December 12th, 2014

productivity_Dec12_BWhen first introduced, email was viewed simply as an electronic version of memos and business letters, and were usually formatted thus. Over time, email has become much more informal, leading to a more natural form of communication. While this is great, there can be times when emails come across as unstructured and unclear, leading to frustration and even a loss of productivity. PAR is an effective way you can avoid this though.

Better email structure for small businesses

In order for your emails to be clearer and to get the overall message across easily, you might want to implement a PAR structure. This three part framework has been used by many business owners and managers to improve overall communications, and consists of:

Problem

At the very top of the email, below the salutation, provide a brief yet clear overview of the problem which is the subject of the email or the reason you are making contact. When writing this overview don't assume anything, including shared knowledge or agreements, unless you have discussed these with all recipients beforehand. The key here is that you are looking to be able to summarize the main issue.

If you need more than two paragraphs, then you should probably create a longer form report that is attached in the email. The reason for this is because the vast majority of people will simply scan an email, and if it's too long, they will usually skip it, or possibly miss key points. If it is easy to scan and read, then there is a greater chance all parties will be on the same page.

Beyond this, if you are struggling to come up with a short explanation or can't clearly summarize the problem in writing, then email may not be the best medium to be using. Opt instead for a meeting or phone call to discuss the issue more fully.

Action

After stating what the problem is, clearly mark any proposed actions or recommendations using a relevant heading, then specifically lay them out in an easy to read format. You want to be as specific as possible here, ensuring that all parties understand what you want to happen and the actions they will need to take as a result.

For example, if you use vague language, such as: "I need this by the end of the month", people may only carry out what you are asking for on the very last day of the month. Instead, you might be better to give a specific delivery date, and possibly a set time, so that any deadlines are clearly defined. Bulleted and numbered lists can really help here, as long as they are clear and understandable and don't muddle the issue.

Results

Finally, identify the expected results based on the actions you want the recipients to take. This helps ensure that every recipient knows what they should be striving for, as well as serving as an indicator of whether the problem has been specifically solved or not.

If the results aren't met, you have a good opportunity to look back at the process and see if there is any room for improvement, or try to pinpoint exactly why something went wrong or didn't happen as you planned. This in turn, if leveraged correctly, can help improve overall productivity.

Looking to learn more about increasing productivity in your office? Contact us today to see how our systems can benefit your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
December 11th, 2014

BusinessValue_Dec11_BThe end of the year can be a stressful time for all. Businesses are busy preparing to finish the year and are usually tied up planning for the year ahead. This often means looking for new, yet affordable, business systems that can make tasks and business operations easier. To help, here are five free or affordable business systems that could be a real help to your business.

  1. Canva If you are a business owner, chances are that you aren't the world's best graphic designer, unless you run a graphics company of course! In order to design graphics, icons, flyers, and even posters you need specific graphics software. This can be expensive and the software is not going to be easy to use for design novices. You may even need an in-house graphic designer. This is where Canva comes in.

Canva is an online app that allows users to quickly and easily create professional looking graphics using drag and drop functionality and a wealth of free, or affordable, stock images. In other words, you can create designs in a short amount of time.

The service itself is free, but some images do need to be purchased.

  1. FreshBooks Most business owners are not certified accountants either, and even if you understand the basics of accounting and tracking of finances, the money side of your business is often a full time or at least a specialized job. If not handled correctly, this could spell disaster for your business. One solution is cloud-based FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is accounting software that allows you to invoice clients, track payments, accept payments, track expenses, and access financial reports at the click of a button. Beyond this, you can connect FreshBooks with your payroll services to ensure that your employees are paid on time.

The platform offers a free plan that allows you to track and manage one client, while paid subscriptions start at USD 19.95 a month.

  1. Hootsuite Many businesses have a presence on more than one social media network. While this is a great way to reach out to the highest number of customers, it can be a chore to manage and maintain a presence on all of these networks all of the time. Hootsuite is specifically aimed at this task.

Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to manage your social media accounts from one platform. Using Hootsuite you can schedule posts, set up streams, establish keyword tracking, and track engagement. It really is a one-stop-shop for all of your social media platforms.

Hootsuite offers a free subscription which allows you to manage three social media profiles, while a business subscription starts at USD 8.99 and allows you to track up to 50 profiles and gives you access to more advanced analytics and features.

  1. Podio Managing projects and ensuring that all employees are aware of what they should be doing, and what others are doing, can be one of the toughest tasks for any business owner. Sure, spreadsheets and communication work to a point, but there is always room for error and of course improvement, which is what Podio provides.

Podio is a project management app that allows you to easily manage projects, tasks, deadlines, and even files. Using an intuitive dashboard that all users have access to, employees and managers can easily see who is doing what, as well as what needs to be done and what has already been done.

Podio is free with limited features for five users and costs USD 9 per user, per month for the full subscription plan.

  1. CoSchedule If you have a blog, either on WordPress or hosted by WordPress, sharing the articles you post on your social media profiles is a great way to increase content reach and interaction. However, it can be time consuming to actually create posts on each different platform, unless you use CoSchedule.

With CoSchedule you can write your social media posts for a blog article and schedule them to be posted once the article goes live. Think of it as automating the sharing of your blog articles. This will save you time, while making it easier to manage your content, largely because the calendar included in CoSchedule is easy to work with and gives you a good view of your content.

CoSchedule is USD 10 per month, per blog.

If you are looking for more affordable ways to improve your business operations, contact us today to see what boost we can offer you at a price you can afford in 2015.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 10th, 2014

iPhone_Dec08_BThe iPhone has become an essential tool for small to medium business owners. While there are a ton of useful features and apps that make business and communication easier, there needs to come a time when we simply take a break from all the calls and notifications. That's where the Do Not Disturb feature comes in, which runs on all iOS 8 devices.

What is Do Not Disturb?

Do Not Disturb is a handy iOS 8 feature that when enabled, silences all notifications, calls, and alerts that you usually get coming through when the device is locked. You can either turn it on and off manually, or schedule a time for when it is to be activated. If your device is unlocked, e.g., you are using it, notifications will usually still trigger.

Turning Do Not Disturb on

To turn this feature on simply:
  1. Slide up from any screen on the device to open the Control Center.
  2. Tap on the crescent moon icon at the top of the Control Center.
This will turn on the Do Not Disturb feature. You should see a crescent moon icon appear in the menu bar at the top of your device's screen indicating the feature is activated. To turn it off, open the Control Center and tap the crescent moon icon again so that it disappears from your screen.

Setting a Do Not Disturb schedule

If you would like to schedule a time where your device automatically puts itself into Do Not Disturb mode, simply:
  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on Do Not Disturb.
  3. Slide the radio beside Scheduled to On (green).
  4. Set a time to enable this feature.
As with the manual triggering of this feature, you will see a crescent moon icon in the top menu bar of your device when it is active.

Changing feature settings

If you tap on Settings and then select Do Not Disturb you will also be able to tinker with the settings related to this feature. The options you will see include:
  • Manual - Allows this feature to be manually enacted via the Control Center.
  • Scheduled - Schedule a time when this feature will be automatically enacted.
  • Allow Calls From - Pick which contacts to allow calls and notifications from so that these sound even when Do Not Disturb is active.
  • Repeated Calls - Set whether multiple calls in a short amount of time will ring when the feature is active. If enabled, two calls from the same person in less than three minutes will cause the device to ring.
If you would like to learn more about using the iPhone for business, please contact us today to see what difference we can bring to your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
December 3rd, 2014

iPad_Dec2_BThis year, as in recent years, one of the hottest gifts for the holiday season is the iPad. If you receive a brand new iPad for the first time then that is truly an awesome present, but you may already have one. If you do, then you may not be able to install apps on your new device at first because your iTunes account already has other devices linked to it. This means you will need to deauthorize a device before you authorize your new one, and here's how you can do that.

First, understand what authorizing your device is

When people and Apple experts talk about "authorizing your device", what they really mean is linking it with iTunes and the account you use for this on your computer. Once you do this, you can download already-purchased media and apps onto a new device without having to pay for the content again.

The way iTunes works is that there is usually a limit on how many devices you can download apps and media onto at the same time. Any purchases can be installed on 10 devices or five computers via iTunes at the same time. If, for example, you have an existing iPad for which you have already purchased apps via iTunes, and you receive a new device, you will need to authorize the existing iPad before you are able to download apps onto this new one.

If you have more than 10 devices or five computers authorized and want to add another, you will need to first deauthorize one device. Similarly, if you are giving an iPad away, it is a good idea to make sure it is deauthorized before you give it away or the new user may have access to your iTunes account.

Second, how do you deauthorize an existing device?

This process is actually fairly easy, but you will need to do it from the PC or Mac you use to sync your iPad with iTunes. To do this:
  1. Launch iTunes on a computer that it is installed on and log into the account you use to purchase apps for your devices.
  2. Click on your name. This is located at the top-right of the window. If you see Sign In, click that and log into the account you use on your iPad.
  3. Select Account info from the drop-down menu.
  4. Enter the password for your account.
  5. Scroll down and click on Manage Devices which is under iTunes in the Cloud.
  6. Click Remove beside the device you would like to deauthorize.
  7. Press Done.
When you do this, the apps you've paid for should either be deleted automatically from the device, or become inaccessible the next time the device syncs with iCloud (which is responsible for linking devices in iTunes).

How do you authorize your new device?

If you receive a new device this holiday season, authorizing it is as simple as logging into your Apple account using the username and password you have used in the past to purchase apps and media.

Once this is done, go into the App Store on your new device, log in, if you haven't already done so, and tap on Purchased. You should be taken to a list of all apps and media that you have purchased and which are still available on the App Store. Tapping on any of the apps and then hitting Download will install the selected app on your new device. If you are above the limit of devices on your account, you will see an error message telling you there are too many devices with the app installed. You will then need to deauthorize an older device before proceeding.

If you would like to learn more about your new iPad, or how Apple products can be used in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
December 3rd, 2014

Security_Dec01_BWhile there are many different types of malware out there, the good news is that with many threats we know where they come from and their purpose. Recently, news broke of a new form of malware called Regin that is causing quite a stir in the security community, largely because it's tough to deal with and not much is actually known about it. This has naturally caused some security concerns for businesses, but what threat does this malware really pose for companies?

What exactly is Regin?

What is most interesting about Regin is that a number of security experts seem to not really fully understand it. They know that it exists, they know it is complex, and they know it is one of the most advanced pieces of malware ever created. But, they don't know what exactly it does, or where it comes from.

What we do know is that Internet security firm Symantec is credited with first bringing Regin to public attention, and that it has been around since at least 2008. So far, the company has said it is similar to the Stuxnet virus that was supposedly developed in (or by) the US and used to attack and subvert the Iranian nuclear program.

Regin is known to infect Windows-based computers and at its core is a backdoor trojan style of infection. From detected infections it is looks like the purpose of the malware is not to steal information but to gather intelligence and facilitate other types of attacks.

What makes this malware so powerful and disturbing is that it is much more advanced than other infections. Using various encryption methods it can hide itself extremely well, making it difficult to detect. It can also communicate with the hacker who deployed it in a number of different ways, thus making it a challenge to block or stop. As a result, it is far from easy to actually figure out what exactly this malware is doing and why.

Who has been infected?

According to various security experts we have been able to compile a list of companies and organizations that have been targeted to date. These include:
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Government institutions
  • Financial companies
  • Research companies
  • Individuals and companies involved in crypto-graphical and mathematical research
At the time of this article, no known attacks have been carried out against companies in the US, Canada, or the UK. The main countries targeted so far have been Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with a smaller number of infections in Malaysia, Indonesia, Ireland, and Iran. A total of 10-15 countries have been targeted since the malware was first discovered in 2008.

Is this a big deal for my company?

Just because your company is operating in a country that hasn't been affected thus far, doesn't mean that you aren't at risk of being attacked by this malware in the future. If you operate in any of the industries or sectors listed above, you could still be at risk, especially if you do business with clients in infected regions.

For now, however, it appears that Regin is only infecting larger government bodies and large companies outside of North America and much of Europe, so the chances of you being infected are relatively low. Although as with any threat, this can change at any moment.

What we recommend is that you ensure your antivirus and antimalware solutions are kept up to date and always switched on. You can rest assured that eventually experts will learn more and block this malware from infecting systems. Beyond this, working with an IT partner, like us, who can ensure that your valuable data and systems are secure, is also be a good idea. The same goes with watching what you download and any emails you open. If you don't know or trust the source, don't download any program, open an attachment, or read an email connected to it.

Looking to learn more about the security of your systems? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 3rd, 2014

BI_Dec2_BBusiness intelligence, and more specifically the metrics that support it, is among one of the most important processes a company can integrate. While it can be tough to get started, many companies find success to begin with by tracking overall sales metrics. There are a ton of sales metrics you can employ that can give you a better overall picture of your business, and here are five of the most common.

The sales pipeline

This metric is often employed by businesses to show current sales opportunities and estimate the number of sales or revenue the sales team will bring in over a set period of time, usually a couple of months. When employed correctly, team members are better able to track and remain in control of their sales. Managers can also be assured that targets are more accurately set and reached.

When companies set up their sales pipeline metrics they often set out to measure:

  1. Average time deals remain in the pipeline.
  2. Average percentage of converted leads.
  3. Average worth of every deal.
  4. The number of potential deals in the pipeline.

Overall sales revenue

This metric is often seen to be the most important sales-related metric to implement, largely because it provides managers and owners with a good overview of the health of their company and overall performance. In short, sales revenue allows you to accurately view the profitability of your business, even if your profits aren't presently growing.

Beyond giving a useful whole-business overview, this metric can also uncover exactly how much each sale influences or contributes to the bottom line. This can be calculated by using the standard profit-ratio equation - net income over sales revenue.

Accuracy of forecasts

Any sales manager knows that forecasts are just that, predictions. But, because so much of sales is based on informed speculation it is important to track the overall accuracy of any future forecasts. By doing so, you can uncover gaps in processes and reveal any forecasting tools that need to be improved.

From here, you can track improvements and tweak forecasts to ensure that they become as accurate as possible. After all, if you can show that you are meeting your goals, or are close to meeting them, you can make more reliable decisions and be assured that your company is doing as well as it appears to be.

Win rate

The win rate, also known as the closure rate, is the rate that shows how many opportunities are being translated into closed sales. Because this rate looks at the number of sales, you want it to be as high as possible, especially when you look at the time your sales team puts into closing sales.

While a high rate is preferable, low win rates are also useful largely because they can highlight areas where improvement is needed. For example, if your team has constantly low win rates across the board, then it could signify that there is a need for more training on closing sales, or that sales staff may not be knowledgeable enough about the products or services being offered. A fluctuating rate could show increased industry competitiveness and highlight when a sales push could be beneficial.

Loss rate

The loss rate can be just as important as the win rate, largely because it focuses on how many potential customers did not purchase products and/or services from you. It can really highlight problematic areas in the early sales process. For example, by tracking the loss rate you may be able to see that response time is low, causing potential customers to walk away.

Essentially, when measured correctly, you can use loss rate to improve the overall sales process and hopefully bump up your overall win rate. You can also compare the two rates to really see how big of a gap there is and give your team a solid goal to try and find ways to reduce this gap.

If you are looking for solutions that allow you to track and measure your sales and any other data you generate, contact us today to learn how we can help turn your data into valuable, viable business information to lead your company to better success.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 25th, 2014

OSX_Nov24_BAs with previous releases of new versions of OS X, Apple has also introduced a number of updates of their other apps too, including Safari. The browser of choice for many Mac users, Safari has a number of features, including keyboard shortcuts, that make it quick and easy to use. If you use Safari, here are seven keyboard shortcuts you may not know.

1. Scroll up and down a screen

While you can use your mouse to scroll, if you are on a laptop or need to quickly scan down one screen, you can press the spacebar. This will move the page down one screen (based on your current screen size). You can move up one screen by pressing Shift + Spacebar.

2. Open a page in a new tab

If you are looking at a page with a link that you would like to click and open, but you would like to also keep the existing page open, you can do so by simply pressing Command + clicking on the link. When you do this, the link will open in a new tab. You can also use this shortcut with bookmarks, and if you are entering a URL, hit Command + Return to open the URL in a new tab.

3. Open and close tabs

If you would like to quickly open a new tab in the same Safari window, press Command + T and it should open to the right of the tab you are currently looking at. If you would like to close the tab you are looking at, press Command + W. Should you accidently close the wrong tab, hitting Command + Z will reopen the closed tab, as long as you have not entered any information in say an address field or form.

4. Cycle between open tabs

Because of the tabbed nature of Safari, there is a good chance that you have one window open with multiple tabs. While you can simply click on the tab you want to switch to, you can also use Control + tab to switch to the tab to the right of the currently open one. Pressing Shift + Control + tab will switch to the tab to the left of the currently open one.

5. See a list of recent pages by Web address

When working in Safari, you can press and hold on the back arrow to view a list of recent pages you have visited. The problem with this is that sometimes you see just the page name, so if you have looked at a site with a long name, or the same pages, it can be tough to pick the right one to go back to.

Instead, press Option + the back arrow to bring up the list of recently viewed pages and their URL or Web address. This only works for the tab you are currently looking at.

6. Go to your homepage

If you would like to quickly go back to your homepage, press Command + Home key. This should automatically load the page you have set as your homepage.

7. Add page as a bookmark and open pages from your Favorites Bar

You can add the page you are currently looking at to your bookmark list by hitting Command + D. To open pages from your Favorites bar (shown below the URL bar) hit Command + 1-9. For example, if you hit Command + 3, you will open the third site on the bar (counting from the left). If you can't see the Favorites Bar, press View and select Show Favorites Bar.

If you would like to learn more about Safari, and other Apple apps, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
November 25th, 2014

BCP_Nov24_BRegardless of your business's location and industry, there is always a chance that you may experience a disaster at any time. Be it man-made, or natural, any disaster, if not properly prepared for, could spell trouble for your company. That's why a Disaster Recovery Plan is essential. To help ensure that your plans can see you through the worst, here are five tips based on lessons learnt from businesses that have battled disaster.

1. Have a full copy of your data backed up outside of your operating region

Almost every company, regardless of size, has backup measures in place. These backups can be either physical or digital, and are supposed to be carried out on a regular basis. If a disaster strikes, having access to your data can help ensure that you can recover your systems and resume operations in the minimal amount of time.

While backups are great, if you keep your backups in the same area as your main systems, or even if your offsite backups are in the same region, there is a chance that a large disaster, like a flood, or power outage, could also affect these backups too. One of the best solutions is to keep a current backup offsite, and outside of your operating region, with most experts recommending at least 150 miles (250 km) away from your main business area.

How do you achieve this? The best option is to use cloud-backup. Many providers host their backup service at a number of different data centers in various locations, so that should a disaster strike both your business and a nearby data center, your data is still safe at other centers.

2. Realistically test your plan

It can be tempting to simply develop a plan and then test it in a closed environment once or twice a year, make some changes where necessary and then sit back and hope it works. In truth, for any plan to really be effective it needs to be tested in a realistic environment. If this is not carried out then there is a possibility that the plan could fail when activated.

Because disasters come in almost any form and size, you are going to want to first identify as many potential problems as possible. From here, test your recovery plans based on these scenarios and see how effective they are. Be sure to also involve your colleagues and employees, as they too will need to know what to do when disaster strikes and what their role in the recovery of data is.

A good way to look at these tests is to think of them more as practice runs. As with anything, the more your practice the easier and more effective it becomes. In this case, good practice could literally save your business.

3. Update your plan as you update your systems

When you develop a recovery plan, you need to base it on the systems and technology you currently have in your business. However, these systems and devices may not be in use six months, to a year from now, or you may introduce new systems and improvements.

As soon as you make any changes, your existing recovery plan could become obsolete. Therefore, you need to ensure that when you introduce new systems or technology you are also updating the recovery plan to cover and fit with these changes.

4. Create an accessible plan

Many experts agree that having a physical plan that employees can see and access during a disaster is one of the best ways of ensuring that it is actually implemented properly. Therefore, when you develop a Disaster Recovery Plan make sure that all of your employees can access it at any time. This includes during and immediately following a disaster.

Beyond this, you need to make sure that the plan is consistent. If you update the master plan, but fail to update the copies you store in say a public cloud, or at different worksites, this will lead to confusion and even an increased recovery time or complete recovery failure. When you do update your plan, let all parties involved know that it has been updated and remind them where they can find copies of the plan.

5. Don't be the only fully-trained disaster recovery expert in your company

As a business owner or manager it can be easy to try and run everything yourself. Afterall, it is your business and you know exactly how to look after everything, right?. The problem is that if you are the only fully-trained disaster recovery person you are making yourself the weakest link in the plan.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 25th, 2014

Web_Nov25_BIn mid November of 2014, Firefox turned 10. It's hard to believe that one of the most popular browsers in the world has only just reached double digits, and it's especially difficult to imagine business life and work without it. To celebrate this milestone, Mozilla, the company that develops Firefox, has released an update with a few useful new security features.

Feature 1: DuckDuckGo is standard

While the vast majority of Internet users tend to gravitate towards Google Search whenever they need to find something, there are actually other search engines out there. One of the more popular is DuckDuckGo which bills itself as a search engine that is:
  • private
  • low on clutter
  • smarter
The reason this search engine has become so popular with users is that it does not track user data and activities like Google or Bing. Also, when you search using this engine, you get results with minimal clutter, which is preferred by some users.

With the Firefox 10 year anniversary update, DuckDuckGo is now the core search engine used by the browser when searching using the search bar beside the URL bar, at the top of the window. Of course, if you prefer Google or Bing's more advanced features and information then you can always set these engines to be used instead of DuckDuckGo. Privacy-focused users however are sure to find this change useful.

Feature 2: Firefox gets a little more forgetful

We often see being forgetful as a negative, but in the case of the new Forget feature introduced in the last update to Firefox, it's a good thing. This new feature allows users to quickly erase their search and user activity. When you update your browser, you should see a red circle with a backwards facing arrow at the top of the window. Clicking this will open the Forget menu which will allow you to:
  • Forget the last five minutes
  • Forget the last two hours
  • Forget the last 24 hours
Clicking one of the options will:
  1. Close all open tabs and windows.
  2. Delete recent cookies.
  3. Delete recent history.
  4. Open a new, blank Firefox window.
While this may not seem like the most useful of features for business users, there are some situations when this will come in handy. The first being if you are using a public computer with Firefox installed, or are connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Once you are done browsing, you can tell Firefox to forget all of your information. This in turn makes browsing a little safer.

Beyond this, you can also use it to 'forget' sensitive login information like bank accounts and systems that store private data etc. In other words, this feature makes sure that the chances of sensitive and private data being seen by other users or hackers is reduced.

If you use Firefox and would like to access the new features, all you have to do is update your browser - often just closing and restarting it should trigger the update. If you already use Firefox then you may have received the latest version and the features should be active. If you don't use Firefox and would like to utilize the latest features along with increased browsing security, you can download the browser from Mozilla's Firefox website.

If you have any questions regarding Firefox and how it can be used in your organization, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
November 21st, 2014

Security_Nov17_BOver the past few years there have been a number of issues and rulings made by various courts in the US regarding the overall freedom of the Internet and how it is to be managed. By now, many of us have heard of Net Neutrality, but it may seem like an issue that won't affect small businesses. However, in mid-November, President Obama delivered his stance on the issue, thereby bringing it to the forefront of modern politics.

What is Net Neutrality?

In order to define Net Neutrality, we should first look at the main idea behind what the Internet is: a free and open medium where individuals can express and house thoughts, ideas, and more. It was founded on one principal, and one principal alone: All information and Internet traffic MUST be treated equally.

This free, open, and fair principle is what we call Net Neutrality. In practice, this idea prevents Internet providers, and even governments, from blocking legal sites with messages they disagree with, and restricting access to services and sites that don't meet their business needs.

What exactly is the issue?

At this time, major telecommunications companies providing Internet access are trying to push legislation through the US court systems that will essentially make it legal for them to throttle Internet speeds; asking other providers to pay fees in order to speed up access to sites and to even block some sites.

There are laws currently in place, set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), that prohibit providers from collecting, analyzing, and manipulating user traffic. In other words, according to the FCC, the role of the Internet providers should be to simply ensure traffic and data gets from one end of the network to the other.

Last year, it was uncovered that US telecommunications giant, and Internet Service Provider, Comcast demanded that Netflix pay them millions of dollars or they would limit the Internet speed of Comcast users trying to access the streaming service. Netflix tried to negotiate but the result was that Comcast did indeed cut user speeds. Netflix paid to avoid this from happening again. This act is an obvious breach of the main tenet of Net Neutrality: Equal access for everyone.

Combine this with the January 2014 ruling that the FCC had overstepped its bounds in regards to this topic and the increased lobbying by telecommunications giants against Net Neutrality, and you can quickly come to realize that the Internet as we know it is under threat.

How will this affect my business?

If nothing is done, there is a very high chance that you will be paying higher rates for Internet-based services (because the providers will be asking other companies to pay to guarantee speedy access which will then be passed along to you via higher rates). You may even be forced to use services you don't want to use because they offer better access speeds on your network.

Beyond this, because so many businesses rely on websites and the hosting companies that enable us to access them, there is a very real risk that these hosts may have access speeds cut. This in turn could mean that it will take more time for some users to access your website and services. Think of how you react when you can't access a website, you probably just search for another similar site which loads easily - now imagine this happening to your site. In other words, you could see a decrease in overall traffic and therefore profits.

What can I do about this?

First off, we highly recommend you visit The White House's site on Net Neutrality, and read the message that President Obama has recently posted there. To sum it up, he believes that Net Neutrality should be protected and the Internet should remain open and free. He has even laid out a plan with four rules that the FCC should enact and enforce:
  • No blocking - Internet providers are not to block access to any legal content.
  • No throttling - Internet providers cannot slow or speed up access speeds based on their preferences.
  • Increased transparency - The FCC is to be more transparent and push providers to follow the Net Neutrality rules.
  • No paid prioritization - There is to be a ban on providers insisting other companies pay to have equal access speeds.
You can bet that this plan will be met by stiff resistance both in government and by the telecommunications companies themselves. The FCC is an independent organization and it is up to them to select whether or not they want to enact President Obama's plan. One thing you can do is to publicly submit your comments to the FCC via this website. Any comments made will be seen by the FCC and are are publicly viewable. In the past, enough public pressure has been able to sway FCC decisions, so share this article and the links in it with everyone you know, asking them to take action as well.

What about other countries?

For now, the Net Neutrality battle is largely US based. The vast majority of Internet traffic starts or at least passes through the US. This means that if the telecommunications providers (many of whom own international subsidiary providers) can limit access to sites in the US it could very quickly become a world issue. Beyond this, other countries often follow laws that the US enacts, so it could only be a matter of time before we see similar bills passed in other countries.

In short, this is a major issue that could see the end of the Internet as we know it. If you would like to learn more about Net Neutrality and how you can help ensure the Internet remains free and open, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security