Is Open Source Software Really Safe

Is Open Source Software Really Safe?

We live in an open, share-crazy world where we expect a lot of the things we do on our computers for free. Can you imagine life without your email program, your browser window, or even Google? We put them all to good use hundreds of times per day.

The concept of open source is relatively simple. It refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and modification from its original design free of charge. Open source is almost always created as a collaborative effort in which programmers come together to continually build and modify the code to make it better. Everyone has access to it; everyone can use it; everyone can modify it.

Don’t think it matters to the way you do business? Do you use the Firefox browser? Do you use Thunderbird for your email program? Do you use WordPress for your website or blog? Do you use the productivity suite OpenOffice?

Then you use open source software. And that doesn’t even account for all the snippets of code that find their way into fully developed, proprietary software.

If it’s already a part of your life, how safe is it? Is your business at risk by using open source, or is it a benefit to have these programs in place?

Open source doesn’t always equal free

To be considered open source means the source code needs to be freely available. It does not mean the application itself must be free. There are actually a lot of companies that make money from open source projects. When companies choose to build around open source, the price tends to be attached to things like support or added features. They may offer a free, community version, with stripped down, bare bones features, while charging for improved quality and performance features.

Open source may or may not come with support

Not all open source projects have a corporate friendly 24/7 support line to access or call, but that doesn’t mean availability to help might not exist. In some cases you can find forums, mailing lists, freelancers, or even developers who created the program accessible for questions and help as you need it.

Open source means you have full access to the code

An open source program is fully accessible to all that choose to use it. It doesn’t mean only a programmer will know how to edit, read and use it. In fact, many users access and use a program long term without the need or desire to get into the coding to modify or rebuild. Yes, it gives you access. But with many programs, when they function and provide the user friendly platform you need to accomplish your tasks, you simply won’t need to get to the coding to make modifications and make it more usable.

You don’t have to be an expert to use open source

Open source has evolved in the same manner as many programs we currently use every day. Remember using DOS to boot up your system? Things have gotten considerably easier since those days. Using most open source software is similar in nature. Open source has evolved to give the average computer user access and knowledge to use what tools they need to accomplish what they need to get done. And as computers continue to get easier to operate, the ease of use of the open source programs gets easier as well.

Most open source software is as reliable as its proprietary counterpart

Open source software is everywhere. Start with, search the Linux software utility, or do a simple Google search to find websites offering open source software from around the world. Because of the nature of the way it is created and the way it is distributed, it is considered a safe option to help you create and perform whatever function you choose to do.

Bottom line: security is not dependent on whether something is free or paid, public or private, closed or open source. It depends more on its architecture, its delivery process, and ultimately its quality review.

If you are considering migration from closed to open source software, there are easy ways to make the transition seamlessly and worry free. Give me a call if you have any questions.

What Is Data Encryption And Why Do You Need It?

What Is Data Encryption And Why Do You Need It?

Remember the last time you flew to another city for business; hectic, right? You waited in line to go through security, and once you reached the scanning equipment, the emptying process began. All electronic equipment must be pulled out of your bag. Shoes off. Belt off. Remove all liquids. The process went on and on.

You walked through and if you were lucky, you weren’t pulled aside for a second check.

Then the repacking and redressing process began.

What if your laptop wasn’t on the other side? What would you do? What would you lose?

We never think much about security … until we need it. All of a sudden, it’s all you can think of.

What about the files sitting on your desktop that have sensitive data in them? What about your emails? Is your tax information easily found in your document file? What about the spreadsheet with passwords from every system you access?

Dread can quickly fill you with despair.

That’s where encryption comes into play, and why it’s an important aspect of any business security system. Encryption is simply the process of changing information and making it unreadable by anyone except those that possess the “key” to change it back to its original, readable format.

Not every file on your computer is candidate for encryption. There are two easy questions that can help you determine which files to encrypt:

If this file were in paper format, would I shred it before throwing it away?

If this information were leaked and posted online for the world to see, could there be serious consequences or could someone do something malicious with it?

Start with any kind of information that can uniquely be identified with you. Because thieves can quickly begin using personal information to steal your identity, anything that provides links to your personal data should be blocked:

  • Full name, including maiden name, mother’s maiden name, alias, etc
  • Social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, bank accounts, credit card numbers
  • Address information
  • Personal characteristics, including photographs, fingerprints, handwriting, voice signature
  • Any other linking information, such as date of birth, place of birth, weight, activities, employment information, medical information, education information and financial information

Then extend it to all business data that is sensitive and confidential by nature:

  • Any personal employee information, including employment records, reviews, etc
  • Any data that identifies customer information, from names and addresses, to credit card information
  • If you work in banking, finance, or health care, for instance, you’ll also be subjected to regulatory standards for protecting customer information
  • Any trade secrets or intellectual property, such as research, product releases, patents, legal documents, financial reports, special projects, etc.

Luckily, there are many systems available to help you make the encryption process easy. Use your Disk Utility program on Mac, or choose an open source system like VeraCrypt, 7Zip, or GnuPG, all of which offer strong features for all systems. Make sure not only the files on your laptop are safe, but also anywhere else the file may be found, such as your backup files or the email you used to send the file to a teammate.


5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

5 Ways To Improve Your Delegation Skills

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’ll just do it myself, it’s easier that way.”

We all have tasks that come across our desks that seem like they are fairly easy to do, and will only take a few minutes of our time. Why bother delegating it to an employee? Yet the harsh reality of it is the more you keep these tasks to yourself, the more they add up into a time-consuming and wasteful day.

As a manager, if you take on every role and wear every hat within the business, you’ll limit how much that business can grow. The only way a business can grow to its full potential is if you learn to effectively delegate the smaller tasks that others can do.

Delegation is a learned trait. And with just a little practice and foresight, you can quickly learn which tasks are better assigned to people on your team.

Start by learning to let go. Do you see yourself as a micromanager? Have you routinely fallen into the “do it yourself” trap? That’s okay, recognizing it is the first step in letting go. Micromanagement is a waste of your efforts and will eventually demotivate the team members around you. If you recognize yourself in this statement, the first step is to learn to let go. Delegate a little. As they do a good job, release more to them. If you really see them struggle, it’s time to find an alternative. Are they really the right person for the job? Is someone else on the team better situated for the task?

What to delegate, and what not. What should you delegate? In reality, as much as you can. If you are a manager, your tasks should be limited to:

  • Developing key strategy
  • Building relationships
  • Working on only the important tasks that make a difference to either of these processes

All else should be delegated to someone else. Never delegate work simply because you don’t enjoy it, or keep the best tasks for yourself. This can be demoralizing and leave your staff feeling like they aren’t a part of the team.

Delegate based on strengths. This is where relationship building and teamwork comes into play. You should never delegate simply to get something off of your desk. Instead, learn the strengths of everyone around you, and assign tasks based on where their strengths lie. One person’s chore is another person’s passion. And by playing towards strengths, you will create a happier team overall.

Spend your time teaching. A big part of your job should be building relationships. And part of that process is training them to be better team players for the job. If you spend the time teaching skills the first time, they will better positioned the next time the task comes around. Invest both time and resources in helping coworkers stretch their skill sets and build up their judgement muscles. The more they learn to do on their own, the better assets they become for the team.

Always offer feedback. Poor delegation comes from not giving a person the right tools for the job. If you don’t communicate true expectations, and don’t offer the right tools that will allow them to complete the job satisfactorily, it’s setting both sides up for failure. Likewise, if you don’t offer feedback throughout the process, and give thorough credit where it is due, a team member won’t feel valued. Don’t slip into the mistake of giving negative feedback only. Positive feedback helps your team grow and gives the motivation they need to continue doing a good job.

What You Should Know About Upgrading To Windows 10

What You Should Know About Upgrading To Windows 10

Are you running a PC office environment? Mark July 29th on your calendar as a day for a big change. That’s the day Microsoft releases Windows 10, and there a number of things you should know about making the switch.

If you have a licensed version of Windows 7 or 8.1 home or pro, you will be able to upgrade to the same version of Windows 10 for free through Windows Update for all of your devices. Some hardware and software requirements apply, and the feature availability may vary depending on the device you are using.

Microsoft is offering this upgrade as a complete product, fully supported without a trial period or subscription. If you currently have a licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 home or pro, you can upgrade for free. Downloads will begin on July 29th; at roughly 3GB of data, make sure you have a good connection before you attempt the download.

If you are running Enterprise, edition costs will vary depending on your licensing level.

How will Windows 10 change what you do?

To start, there are a few things Windows 10 will no longer offer.

Windows Media Center is gone. If you use it for the DVD feature, Windows 10 comes with a DVD player. But if you use the Media Center for other features, be aware that it will disappear and you will have to replace it with another product.

Vendor apps may not be compatible with Windows 10, so you should consult specific programs before your make the switch to avoid complications in the way you run your business every day.

Desktop gadgets from Windows 7 will no longer exist.

Now on to what Windows 10 will have.

The changes you will find with Windows 10 will be substantial. Microsoft is no longer making Windows 10 an operating system just for 32 and 64 bit PCs. It will also run on the ARM platform for tablets and smartphones as well. Its strength will come from the number of people using a Windows platform, and by allowing companies to develop universal apps and apply it within their own product development (similar to Android).

The key feature to Windows 10 is the redesigned user interface. If you didn’t upgrade to Window 8, the upgrade won’t change significantly. You will still have a Start menu, and key functions are all accessed through the Taskbar. If you did upgrade to Windows 8, the Charms are gone so there will be a slight transition as you find your way around. Instead of Charms, you will have an Action Center in which you can control your connectivity features. You can control your connections and settings from here, including the ability to connect with various media tools, and be able to schedule quiet hours where you won’t be disturbed by popups and notifications.

A new addition you’ll love is the Task View. Microsoft has experimented with different ways of switching between open apps and windows in previous editions, but may have gotten it right with 10. When you go to Task View, it takes you to an app overview where you can use your mouse to see all open apps and click on the one you want. It also has multiple desktops, that allows you to enable different desktops with a click of a mouse. This feature has been available on the Mac for years, so if you’ve desired the same ability on your PC, this will be a feature you’ll soon grow to love.

Windows 10 will also offer a tablet mode, making it easy to switch from PC to tablet with their 2 in 1 PCs with detachable keyboards. Tablet mode is automatic; detach the keyboard and the desktop enables for touch. The Start menu becomes the Start screen, and you’re ready to take your applications on the go.

Windows 10 is going to be a big improvement, whether you are currently using 8 or are still on version 7. If you have any questions about how to integrate it into your office environment, just ask.

How To Improve Your Business Relationships

How To Improve Your Business Relationships

In today’s fast paced world, speed is our number one concern. We want magic to happen with a quick text, a simple tweet, or a series of posts we have autoscheduled throughout the week. We rely on technology so much that in many cases we forget the one thing that can build our success more than anything … our relationships.

If you’re still climbing the ladder of success, if you still want to bring in new clients to build your business, stop worrying about what you’ll say in your next Facebook post until you put a plan into place to strengthen and maintain solid relationships.

Start with a system

Relationships take work. And unfortunately most businesses lose massive amounts of potential sales because they don’t build a solid system that benefits their customers. What are the touch points where you connect with people that come into contact with your business? Do you have a process in place to reach out at every point? Spend some time planning out the perfect way to connect with people throughout the process. For instance, a brand new prospect who found you online may be a perfect candidate for a free white paper, followed by a series of emails to back up your message. A client who is finished with the sales process may benefit from a monthly newsletter to learn more about other services you offer. If you create a plan first, you can easily determine the best places to connect, and work at making each connection a meaningful experience for the people that choose to do business with you.

Make people feel special

When the world moves as quickly as it does, it’s hard not to feel like a number with some of the people you do business with. But that “take a number, wait in line, and hurry up with your request because of the long line” attitude will never win points with a customer. We may put up with this process when it’s time to renew our drivers licenses, but it’s the last thing we want when we choose to do business with more personalized services. How do you go out of your way to show you care? Listening can be the first step in building great relationships. People often feel rushed; connecting with someone who truly hears what they have to say can be a welcome relief. But take it a step further. How can you build up customer service to build a stronger bond between the two of you? A thank you note, a special gift, even a surprise phone call can go a long way in showing you care. Don’t stop with the obvious; stretch outside of the box and do extraordinary things that will leave your customers loving everything about you.

Put the focus on them

It’s easy to fill a potential customers head with all the things you do. And the longer you’ve been in business, the more stories you’ll have to share about all that you can do. Remember, potential customers don’t care about others; they care about their own needs and how you can help them. Yes, stories can go a long way in helping people see what you can do. But once you connect on a more personal level, make it all about them. Familiarize yourself with who they are. Spend time with their products or services and get to know what makes them tick. The more you learn about them, the more you can listen and offer advice that will truly help them improve what they do. Don’t be afraid to add value to their lives before they lay down the credit card for the first time; proving your worth before the transaction will make you that much more valuable to do business with.

Don’t forget to love everyone

Unfortunately even the best businesses will occasionally have a customer that is less than thrilled with the service. With every effort you’ve made to build a strong and healthy relationship, something just isn’t right. They are unhappy. That’s okay, it happens to every business once in a while. But don’t ignore the situation and assume it will go away. While you can part ways and realize your business isn’t for everyone, do everything you can to make the experience as good as it can possibly get. By spending a little extra time correcting a wrong, you may turn an unhappy customer back into a neutral one that won’t leave negative reviews or spread bad press about what you do.

The more care you put into your relationship building process, the more your customers will come to value what you have to offer. The message you create will shine through in your marketing, your sales process … and the way you post to your Facebook account. Building solid relationships is a full time process. But if you’re in business for the long term, it’s the most important part of doing business.