30/11/14 - 7 ways to avoid business Cybercrime
09/10/14 - Seven winning strategies for online retailers
29/07/14 - Six point cloud checklist for business
24/06/14 - Cloud and business productivity benefits
28/05/14 - Delivering business online mobile services
28/04/14 - Developing a business online mobile strategy
27/03/14 - Open source Big Data tools for business
26/02/14 - Preparing your business for big data
16/01/14 - Why is big data important to my business?
News, updates, business and technology articles presented in this section are in accordance with Astute's disclosure and disclaimer policies.
7 ways to avoid business Cybercrime
One of the significant findings in the Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report is that the use of stolen and/or misused employee credentials (username and passwords) is the number one way for criminals to steal (and sell business) and customer information; this is also known as Cybercrime.
To protect your business from cybercrime Astute offers the following 7 tips:
- Screen all contacts. If you get a call from someone representing your bank or IT provider challenge the person to establish their credentials (e.g. ring them back). Never give passwords or account details over the phone.
- Check the business and staff information on that is put on social networks. Disclosing where you're taking your vacation or turning on the tracker enables identity theft.
- Check link URLs, email from addresses and files from unknown origins; If you are unsure or the authenticity of the request then don't respond.
- Secure your computers, laptops and smart devices by:
- Using a firewall in your network to block connections to unknown or bogus sites and to keep out some types of viruses and hackers.
- Installing and updating anti-virus/malware software on every device used in the business (i.e. computer to tablet to phone).
- Keep software, operating systems and applications updated as the updates often include security fixes and enhancements.
- Securing all your business WiFi networks by ensuring devices can only connect to network using a password.
- Enforcing strong password policies and unique passwords for each staff member accessing your IT systems and accounts. Enforce locking and passwords / pin numbers on all your mobile devices and tablets.
- Use secure websites.There are simple ways to ensure that a website is secure. Make sure the URL begins with https (i.e is encrypted). Use Google search to research the organisation behind the site or to see if others have had questionable experiences with the site.
- Back up your files. This is to avoid Ransomware; a malware that places restrictions on a computer that can be only lifted only when payment is made to the hacker.
- Limit access to core business systems (e.g. finance, banking, social media accounts etc) to only trusted employees. Also make sure everyone who has access to software has an account - do not let people share account names or passwords.
- Document, inform and train employees about the proper and secure use of business computer resources, password management and user access (E.g. Do not open email attachments that look suspicious before first verifying the contents with the sender.)
Seven winning strategies for online retailers
In Australia $AUD15.7 billion was spent on online retail in the 12 months to August 2014; in New Zealand $NZD 868 million was spent on online in the 12 months ending March 2013 (up by 5% on the previous 12 month period).
To be competitive, businesses must offer products and services in the online channel; complementing the existing bricks an mortar business model (i.e. migrating to bricks and clicks business model).
In this months article Astute presents seven strategies businesses can apply to support a successful transition to the bricks and clicks business model. These strategies are:
- Provide a great customer online experience. Make it easy for the customer to use and find your products and services. Remember 74% of users search for a product not a retailer.
- Be where your customers are. If your customers are talking about your brands and your products on Facebook and Twitter, you should be listening and contributing to those conversations.
- Listen to your customer. Ask for, accept and use feedback to review and improve your products and services. Be prepared to deal pro-actively and fairty with unhappy customers.
- Offer memorable customer service. You must develop a reputation for care of your customers. In fact your organization should regularly review and evaluate your customers experiences in order to see where to improve on your services.
- Make it easy for customers to locate products and services. The faster a customer can find their desired product the more likely it is that the user will purchase.
- Review and rate the products. When searching for products customers highly regard ratings and reviews from others who have previously purchased and dealt with the business. Encourage customers to rate your products and services.
- Make it easy for customers to buy. Customers won't wade through faulty or bulky pages, broken links or haphazard navigation. Make it easy to get to the checkout page. Streamline all site paths and continually check that every link on your site works.
Astute's business, information and technology consultancy service is designed to support businesses moving to the "bricks and clicks" model. Please contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation offer to accesss our business, information and technology consultancy services.
Six point cloud checklist for business
Last month we discussed the productivity benefits the cloud offers to businesses; this month we have compiled a six point checklist for businesses to use to inform the decision to store business and customer data in the cloud. Our checklist:
- Know what information you will be sending to the cloud and (if necessary) how to protect it. As an example avoid, where possible, storing personal banking and credit card details on the cloud; if you have to store banking and credit card details then make sure they are encrypted and protected to minimise the impact if the information is compromised.
- Research the cloud service provider. Use internet searches on the cloud provider you're thinking of using - along with words like "breach" and "privacy".
- Understand your responsibilities and risks. Your business is responsible for the security and privacy of your employee and customer information stored and accessed in the cloud. Review and consider the information being placed on the cloud; take time to understand the risks and legal implications to your business if the information is stolen or compromised. There is a wealth of online material you can use to understand legal and privacy risks including:
- Australian Government Cloud Computing - http://www.digitalbusiness.gov.au/security-and-legal/protecting-your-customers - Protecting your customers
- Australian Government Cloud Computing - http://www.digitalbusiness.gov.au/security-and-legal/legal-tips - Legal Tips
- NZ Government Cloud computing checklist for small business - https://privacy.org.nz/news-and-publications/guidance-notes/using-the-cloud/cloud-computing-checklist-for-small-business
- Security. Make sure the information is protected both while it travels and when it's at the provider's end. Encrypting your data is the easiest and most reliable way of doing this. If it's encrypted, it's unlikely to get misused, or to cause harm if it gets hacked or lost. So encrypting the information takes a bit of pressure off you
- Understand how your customers and business data is protected in the cloud by asking the following questions of the provider:
- Does the cloud provider comply with your countries privacy laws?
- Are they regularly and independently audited? If so will they share the audit results with you?
- Under what circumstances would the cloud provider access my data or disclose information to a third party?
- Will I be notified if my data has been lost, breached or its security compromised?
- What arrangements are in place to secure my data
- In what format can I get a copy of my data at the end of our agreement?
- Will I be notified about service outages? If yes, how will I be notified?
- What service-level agreement does the cloud provider offer?
- How can I contact the cloud provider if an issue arises?
- What are their customer support hours?
- Train your staff to understand policies and procedures are required to maintain the privacy and security of your business and customers data in the cloud. I.e:
- Access to customer data should be restricted to a minimum number of trusted people (or administrators) in the organisation.
- Administrator access to the cloud system must requires a account name, password and a code (additional factor) sent to the administrators mobile phone amd used to login.
- Customer data should never be provided over the phone or by email until the identity of the caller and their right to represent the customer has been established.
The cloud delivers business productivity
In 2013 Gartner forecasted that public cloud services revenue grew 18.5 percent to a total of US$131 billion dollars.
Reports and surveys of businesses that are using cloud services and features are now reporting the following productivity and profitability benefits:
- Business owners using cloud computing were 59% more likely to see a revenue rise.[Ref 1]
- Businesses that use cloud computing were 106% more likely to see a revenue rise in the past year.[Ref 2]
- 59% of companies using the cloud are more likely to see productivity benefits.[Ref 3]
- Businesses using the cloud will be 40% more flexible and able to quickly react to market changes.[Ref 3]
- Employees using cloud based technology with remote access are 13% more productive.[Ref 3]
- 94% of businesses reported that they saw an improvement in security after switching to cloud computing.[Ref 4]
- 75% of business reported improvements in network availability when using the cloud.[Ref 4]
- 91% of business reported that their cloud providers were making it easier for them to meet government compliance requirements such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and FISMA etc.[Ref 4]
The surveys also noted why businesses were not adopting the cloud, some of the reasons included:
- A lack of understanding of cloud technologies.
- A lack of skills required to access and use cloud technology.
- Concerns over the security in the cloud. A recent Microsoft survey has shown that many of these fears may be unfounded, especially concerning security and network reliability.
Astute's business, information and technology consultancy service is designed to ensure our customers both understand (the cloud) and leverage the productivity and profitability gains offered by the cloud.
Please contact Astute or take advantage of our free and no-obligation quotation offer to determine how the cloud will increase your business's productivity and profitability.
- MYOB March 2013 Business Monitor Report
- Survey of 1005 SMEs, from sole traders to mid-sized companies, across major industry sectors.
- TrackVIA cloud computing productivity statistics
- SmartData Collective cloud computing trends and latest statistics
Delivering business online mobile services
In this months article we discuss how to leverage the business online mobile strategy to deliver online mobile services.
When developing your business mobile services Astute recommends:
- Review and understand the trends and activities in the online mobile space; especially the type of applications that are deployed to mobile.
- Research, locate and partner with businesses and suppliers that can help you plan and deliver your mobile online services.
- Create an integrated and flexible approach that will support your business as it grows and changes.
- Identify and define the benefits, risks and impacts of the mobile channel to the operations of the business as well as your employees.
- Identify a clear role for online mobile for your customers, your business and your employees. Use this to inform and drive your investment in mobile.
- Set and use criteria that define the customer experience with online mobile service. Creating mobile content and services is not as simple as taking existing business online content and services and "miniaturising" them for mobile.
- Set and use criteria for the selection and application of native or browser based mobile applications to deliver the online service.
- Native applications are those that are packaged to run on the operating system of the device and utilise the features of the device to deliver the service (e.g. Games, navigation etc).
- Browser based application utilise the mobile devices browser capabilities to deliver the online service. Astute's ARIUL is an example of a browser based online mobile application that you are currently using to view this article.
You now have the foundations to start delivering and using online mobile services for your business.
Astute offer design, development, delivery and support for business online mobile services. For more information contact Astute for a free and no-obligation quotation.
Developing a business online mobile strategy
There are a variety of reports and reasons for a business to offer online mobile services to its customers.
As an example the eConsultancy User Experience Survey reported that 62% of companies that designed a web site specifically for mobile services reported an increase in sales.
The first step to delivering online mobile services is to develop a business online mobile strategy.
It is used to define the online experience, features and services available to customers, business partners and employees of the business when using mobile and smart phones, tablets and other devices with or without touch controls. It is developed by asking (and answering) questions of the business that are designed to extract the need and function of mobile online services.
Questions asked and answered in a business mobile strategy include:
- What online services will the business offer its customers via the mobile channel?
- What are the features and functions of the online mobile services?
- Can the features and functions be delivered in one online mobile service or are multiple online mobile services required?
- What is the minimum amount of information customers need to access to (and to provide) to use the services?
- What changes in technique or approaches does the business need to deliver the service?
- How will the mobile channel integrate and operate with all the existing business online channels?
- Do customers need to logon (authenticate) to use the online mobile service? What logon approach or service is used?
- How will mobile channel impact and change business operations (including employee contributions to the delivery and support for the service)?
- How will customers access and use mobile online services?
- How will employees access and use mobile online services?
- Are customers required to connect to the internet to use the services?
- Where is the data used to support and deliver mobile services stored, backed-up and how is it recovered in the event of fault or disaster?
- Do you want customers to download and install an application or use the smart browsers to access the mobile service?
- How will the business fund development and on-going support of the mobile online services?
- How does the business define and measure the success of the mobile services?
Astute has extensive experience developing online mobile strategies for businesses. Our free and no-obligation quotation can be used to develop a online mobile strategy for your business.
Open source Big Data tools for business
In our previous article we described how to prepare your business for Big Data. This month we introduce open source tools business used to deliver the benefits of Big Data to provide real time insights into business and customer trends and performance.
Software frameworks. These provide a universal and re-usable platform to support the processing of large data sets using simplified programming models. Open source frameworks include:
- Apache Hadoop - a framework, developed in the Java programming language, for running applications on one (node) or many computational resources (clusters). With Hadoop the application is divided into many small fragments of work (batches), each of which may be executed or re-executed on any node in the cluster.
- Apache Storm - a platform for running applications across clusters of nodes. Storm supports a number of programming languages and processes Big Data in real time whereas Hadoop processes in computational groups known as batches.
Databases. These are organised collections of the "source" Big Data that will be used to generate the insights into business and customer trends and performance. Open source databases include:
Data warehouses - are used to store and process the current and historical data used for the customer trends and business performance reporting. Open source data warehouses include:
Business Intelligence. - technologies and processes used to transform raw data (in the data warehouse) into meaningful and useful information for business reporting.
- Jaspersoft Big Data Analytics - used to extract insights quickly from Big Data sources.
- Spagobi Big Data Analytics - 100% open source, complete and flexible BI suite
Search - tools used to locate specific items of patterns of information in Big Data.
If you need advice or help setting up Big Data solutions for you business contact Astute for a free and no-obligation quotation.
Preparing your business for big data
In our previous article we described how Big Data provides information that can be used by the business to manage and grow the business. To prepare for Big Data in your business:
- Identify every location, channel or place in your business where you collect data. Examples include the cash register, accounting system, web site, email etc.
- For each location ensure the data can be extracted, collected and stored digitally (i.e. in a spreadsheet, file or database).
- Ensure the data is secured (access is restricted to specific users or protected by a password) and is copied and stored in another location.
- Ask questions like "what decisions could we make if we had all the information we need?" then find the data needed to support the decision.
- Locate and procure a Big Data product that uses the data to display (dashboard) and report on business performance.
- Use the detail provided in the dashboards and reports to solve problems and identify opportunities in the daily operations of the business.
Contact Astute for a free and no-obligation quotation to develop a data management strategy, a data model or procuring Big Data products for your business.
Why is big data important to my business?
All businesses collect data either from the cash register, accounting system, customer and web site interactions, customer feedback, email etc.
Big Data refers to the vast amounts of customer information now available to businesses, gathered not only from social media, digital applications and other online use, but also more traditional sources such as transaction histories, customer feedback and surveys.
The analysis and presentation of Big Data generates information that will help grow the business (through better customer insight) and reduce business risk (by monitoring trends and conditions).
Business currently use spreadsheets and databases to store all sorts of business metrics.
The Big Data difference is that the information is processed, analysed and presented on an hourly or daily cycle and, used in conjunction with analytical tools, can create real time snapshots of business performance (e.g. dashboards).
Big Data with analytic tools (such as business dashboards) provide a real time overview of a businesses performance; providing business owners with information that can be used to grow the business.
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