Tip of the Week: 5 Ways to Be Better Than Your Competition

b2ap3_thumbnail_win_against_your_competition_400.jpgEvery business has competition at some level. It’s tempting to ignore your competition (it may even be hard to speak their name), but there’s great value that comes with watching them closely; namely, you can learn from what they do in order to improve upon your own product or service.

By paying close attention to your competition, you can learn from both their successes and their failures. In fact, at the end of the day, what you learn from your competitors might be indirectly responsible for the next big thing from your own company. It’s all about paying attention to what they’re doing so that you can do it better.

Take Note of Their Competitive Advantage
As good as your business is, your competition is likely doing at least one thing better than you. Of course, if you’re better than they are at everything you do, then this whole article is moot and you don’t have to even acknowledge their existence. Realistically, there’s at least something that they’re doing better than you. What is it? How are they going about it? Take notes on what they’re doing that’s better, learn from it, and then up the ante by doing it even better.

How Do They Approach Marketing?
Everybody knows how crucial marketing is to the success of a business. Learning about how your competition markets will give you incredible insight for your own marketing campaigns. Who is your competition targeting? How are they utilizing social media? What features do they have on their website? Do they have a mailing list that you can sign up for? By its nature, marketing is a hit-or-miss venture; therefore, you can improve the probability of hitting a home run with your next marketing initiative by learning from your competition’s marketing successes.

What’s Their Budget Look Like?
Both you and your competition have a finite amount of resources to work with. Therefore, how a business budgets their resources tells a lot about how they run their company. In addition to general budget information, you can learn a lot by discovering who your competition’s vendors are and what they charge. By looking at cost factors like these, you may even learn why your competition is able to charge less than you for the same products and services.

How Do They Onboard and Train Their Staff?
The caliber of employees that a business hires greatly determines its success. If your competition is drawing more talented personnel than you are, then you’re going to feel it in several competitive arenas. Where is your competition drawing their staff from? They might be advertising openings in different places than you are. What are they paying their people? It can also be helpful if you can learn about your competition’s training process for new hires. They may be teaching their staff tricks of the trade that you’ve not even considered.

Image is Everything
You’ve worked hard to portray your company in a certain way, but what about your competition? How does your market view your competition? What are they known for? When people think about both their company and your company, what are the differences that stand out? Doing this kind of market research will be very revealing and may even show you areas where your own image is lacking. One way that you can do this is with a compare-and-contrast chart. Additionally, you can interview your competition’s satisfied customers in order to discover what makes them loyal to their brand.

At the end of the day, you can get your best ideas by looking at what your competition is up to. Just keep in mind that they’re probably watching you too.

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3 Benefits That a Managed Help Desk Solution Brings to the SMB

b2ap3_thumbnail_managed_it_services_400.jpgAs a business owner, you know that technology is a necessary, albeit unpredictable, investment. Your organization thrives off of it operating as expected, yet suffers when it doesn’t function properly. This is the primary reason why the idea of help desk support was first introduced. It’s an effective medium through which your employees can receive tech support when it’s needed most.

While some businesses have an internal help desk team, this team usually consists of the same professionals that make up their IT staff. Because of this, basic troubleshooting can be put on the back burner due to more pressing matters taking priority. When an employee’s technology doesn’t operate as expected, it can lead to lost productivity; plus, restricted access to necessary applications and mission-critical data can be a hassle nobody wants to deal with. In fact, it can be maddening.

Nothing is more frustrating than a problem that’s not resolved within a reasonable amount of time. This is why Total Networks offers managed help desk services for businesses that find themselves in these situations. Here are three of the best benefits you’ll attain through our managed help desk service.

Remote Technology Assistance, When You Need It
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Technology can start acting strangely when you least expect it to; like, say, on a business trip. If you’re out and about, you might not have the ability to ask your internal staff for assistance. Therefore, remote options are your only choice. If anything, this is good, since most problems related to IT can be diagnosed and resolved remotely. This means that you aren’t paying for an on-site visit from our techs, and you’re getting immediate assistance. How’s that for efficiency?

No Matter the Circumstance, We’ve Got Your Back
When you need tech support, it can often be after-hours when the hotlines aren’t available. This can complicate things when you absolutely need assistance.

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For those times when you simply can’t wait for help to arrive, Total Networks is available to keep your technology up to speed and competitive. This keeps your IT staff free from basic troubleshooting tasks, and gives them the ability to integrate new solutions and projects into your infrastructure.

Expenses You Can Budget For
Standard tech support through a hotline is pretty predictable. Since they charge by the hour, more intricate problems can quickly rack up a surprise bill that might not be budgeted for. Worse, the problem isn’t guaranteed to be fixed. These tech support hotlines are often of the break-fix variety. This means that they benefit from your technology breaking, and then helping you fix it. In this sense, they have no interest in indefinitely resolving an issue, and everything is all about how much profit they can squeeze out of your business.

Total Networks is nothing like this. Since we charge a fixed fee for our managed help desk solution, it would be wasteful to not resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We operate based off of the mutual benefits both your team and ours receive. You save money and time when the issue is resolved properly the first time. If you’re benefiting from our services, then so are we.

For more information on how to get set up with a managed help desk solution from Total Networks, give us a call at (602)412-5025.

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Tip of the Week: How to Pick a Secure PIN

b2ap3_thumbnail_pin_tips_400.jpgHow much thought have you put into selecting your debit card PIN? If you’ve not put any thought into your PIN, then it’s likely the case that you’ve picked a number that’s easy to remember or even one that’s associated with something personal. Fact: Taking time to pick random and hard-to-remember numbers greatly improves PIN security.

Your Personal Identification Numbers are hugely important when it comes to keeping hackers out of your bank account. Essentially, a thief will need your PIN in addition to your card, which makes stealing your money twice as hard. However, a common PIN number is no match for an observant and logical hacker. To help you pick out a strong PIN, be sure to avoid these common PIN-falls.

Do Not Pick a PIN Based Off of These Easy-to-Figure-Out Numbers

  • Your Social Security Number: You might use the last four digits of your SSN for a host of other accounts, which makes it an easy choice to use as your PIN. Hackers know this, and Social Security Numbers are easy to come by for some hackers–especially if your SSN card is in your wallet… behind your debit card.
  • Your Phone Number: An even worse idea is to base your PIN off of your phone number. This is public information and can often be found with a simple Google search. You might as well not even have a PIN if you go this route.
  • A Significant Year of Your Life: Most PINs are four digits, so too is every year that you’ve been alive. Don’t make a PIN number based off of a year, especially a significant year of your life, like when you were born, graduated high school, or got married.
  • 1234: This and other logical sequences of numbers are the most commonly chosen PINs. Hackers are very much aware of this.

Try These Easy-to-Remember-Yet-Still-Secure PINs

  • A More Obscure Date in History: Instead of going with a date that you lived through, reach deeper into the annals of history, or even look to the future for a date that’s both easy to remember and secure. When was your city incorporated? What’s your best guess for the apocalypse? A hacker won’t be able to easily guess these oddball years.
  • The Current Time: Quick, what time is it right now? There’s a four digit number for you to use right there in front of you, and any PIN associated with time is more secure than the examples listed above.
  • The Month/Date of Your Favorite Holiday: While going with your favorite year is ill advised, going with the Month/Date number of your favorite holiday can be a more secure move. For example, the World Backup Day PIN would be 0331.
  • Just Mash Some Numbers on Your Keyboard: Random PINs are the most secure. Therefore, it might be in your best interest to toss out the idea of picking an easy-to-remember number and instead, just biting the bullet and memorizing some randomly-selected numbers.

By making it difficult for a hacker to successfully guess your PIN, you will save yourself a lot of hurt and loss in the event that your card is ever stolen. How did you select your PIN? Let us know in the comments (without giving too much away).

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Winter is Coming: Dyre Wolf Malware Can Leave Your Bank Account Looking Stark

b2ap3_thumbnail_phishing_attack_400.jpgWith the critically-acclaimed television series, Game of Thrones returning to viewers this spring, it seems apt to discuss a manner of hacking attack called Dyre Wolf. This particular threat is just as fierce as its name implies, and can potentially cost businesses between $500,000 to $1.5 million per attack. It takes advantage of a multi-step phishing process, and your employees should understand how to avoid attacks like these.

The vulnerability was discovered last October, but John Kuhn, a senior threat researcher for IBM, reports that Dyre is following the recent trend of moving toward more sophisticated hacking measures. According to ZDNet, this threat takes advantage of the Dyre banking trojan to infiltrate infrastructures and make off with a hefty chunk of change. They accomplish this by taking advantage of social engineering tactics designed to dupe users into revealing important information about accounts.

Unlike other Trojans that go after individual bank accounts, Dyre Wolf is designed to tackle large organizations that accrue a lot of profits. This is why it’s important to train your team to identify and manage a phishing attack without falling victim to these social engineering threats. Dyre Wolf uses a seven-step process to pull off these expensive hacks:

  • Step 1: Spear Phishing Attacks. The employee will receive a phony email that houses the Upatre malware. This malware is designed to download the Dyre Trojan.
  • Step 2: Execution. The Upatre malware installs itself on the computer when opening an infected attachment.
  • Step 3: Communication. Upatre downloads Dyre onto the infected system.
  • Step 4: Watching and Waiting. Dyre observes the browsing behavior of the infected PC, waiting for the victim to visit one of several hundred banking websites. It then displays a message claiming that there’s an issue with the account, along with a fake support phone number.
  • Step 5: The Fake Phone Call. The user calls the fake number and is greeted by a human voice, rather than an automated one. The hacker then proceeds to gather sensitive information and credentials, unbeknownst to the user.
  • Step 6: The Wire Transfer. The criminal arranges for the money transfer using the stolen credentials.
  • Step 7: DDoS. While the money is being transferred, the targeted organization will experience a distributed denial of service attack. The concept behind this is that the victim’s institution will be too busy dealing with the downtime to realize that they’ve been robbed.

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Of course, at the heart of any social engineering hack, the root of the problem comes from employees not understanding how to respond to potential threats. Social engineering thrives off of the average employee not knowing how to counter it; therefore, the best way to take the fight to this new generation of sophisticated hackers is to ingrain best practices into the minds of your workers.

To this end, IBM suggests the following procedures:

  • Make sure that employees understand security best practices, and how to report suspicious behavior.
  • Perform practice mock exercises to get a feel for how well your employees identify sketchy attachments and email messages. These would be designed to simulate real criminal behavior, and as such, should be an effective means for helping you gather information.
  • Offer advanced security training that helps employees understand why they must be on the lookout for suspicious online behavior, and what they can do about it should they encounter it.
  • Train employees on how to respond to banking threats, and make sure they know that banks will never request sensitive information that could compromise your account.

These are just a few ways to handle phishing and social engineering scams. For more information on how you can protect your business from these kind of hacks, give Total Networks a call at (602)412-5025.

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