10 Tips Small Businesses Can Use to Avoid Viruses, Spam and Spyware

Viruses, spam, spyware and other malware cost small businesses billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, stolen identities and IT support costs.

What small businesses need to understand is that these gremlins are easy to avoid when common sense and some simple precautions are applied. And ‘avoid’ is the key word; your strategy should be to stay as far away from these things in the first place so that you don’t have to experience the lost time and cost associated with cleaning up the mess they leave.

So how can a small business avoid viruses, spam, and spyware?

The following is a list of 10 best practices for small businesses:
1. Use antivirus software that is automatically updated on all machines
2. Use a hosted spam filtering service that filters the spam before it ever makes it to your local network
3. Make sure employees know that you have a policy that work computers are only to be used for work purposes.
4. Don’t give your business email address to a non-business source
5. Don’t forward jokes, chain mail, etc. to other employees
6. Never open an attachment from an unknown source
7. Never open an attachment with an unknown file extension
8. Don’t download free toolbars, shopping assistants, weather bug, etc. on your work computer
9. Never give your information or download information from an unknown site
10. Never update banking or other sensitive personal information using a link sent to you via email – always navigate directly to the site and log in there.

As you can see, most of these tips don’t require you to buy anything or use any special technology. Viruses, spam and spyware prey on human nature – curiosity, laziness, etc. – to get past technology-based defences, so you must educate yourself and your employees to know what to avoid.

One last tip: if you do feel like you have a virus or something else attacking your computer, unplug it from your network immediately. The last thing you want to do is give it to everyone else in your office – that’s when things get really expensive.

Helpful Hints For Choosing A Business Bank Account

When someone decides that they want to open their own business, choosing the right bank may get lost in the shuffle of things they need to do. However, choosing a business bank account is an important decision for any business owner and they should be aware that they have choices. Making the right one is essential if a business wants to start out on the road to success.

The thing that many business owners fail to recognize is that they truly do need to do some research in order to find the right account for their needs. In many cases, they simply open an account with the bank that they use for their personal finances. This may seem like a good idea since they are already comfortable with the bank, but a bank with excellent personal accounts may not necessarily have the best business accounts.

Someone who is on the road to opening the doors of their own establishment may want to stick to another small business for their needs, but banking is not the place for this show of solidarity. In matters of money, it is important to go with trusted and familiar names, or online banks affiliated with familiar names. If a less familiar option seems too appealing to pass up, be sure to speak with other clients who can provide glowing reviews of the service.

The best way to go when choosing a financial institution is with the ones that has a specialized sector for handling small businesses. It is important that the bank understands the difference in needs between a small business and a large one. In addition to more specialized service, clients can enjoy a much simpler set up process than the one they would go through to register a large company.

Before signing on with any particular institution, it is important to read all of the fine print and make sure that all possible fees are clearly understood. When several transactions are made in a month, the fees can begin to add up and have an adverse effect on a brand new business. Many banks offer their newer accounts a period free of fees, so keep an eye out for those opportunities to save money.

Anyone who owns their own company realizes that they cannot get all of their work done within typical banking hours. This is why it is essential that the bank offers online service for clients to access their accounts at any time. With this important feature, people are free to do business when it conveniences them, not when it conveniences their bank.

When someone decides that they want to start a business, they may think of many things before they consider the hunt for a business bank account. It may seem simple, but it is actually an incredibly important decision for a new entrepreneur to make. A wise person will explore everything available to them before settling on a decision. Making the right choice in this matter will give any business the strongest possible start.

Leadership Tips – Small Business Requires Faster Decisions

Introduction

This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage.

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations. The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time. I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented. As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker.

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story. It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers.

My First Small Business

I opened a small personal services business. It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop. It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me.

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily. We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up. There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay. I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door.

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little. Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual. The people were not as upbeat as they had been. When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job. I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment.

Want to know what was really going on? My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors:

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means

The Damages

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem. The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back.

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager. There were only two problems:

  1. I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  2. There was collateral damage. I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager.

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager. An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.
This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

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