What we Learned from the Lightform LF2 Projection Mapping Device

What is Lightform?

Lightform is a projection mapping device. It allows the user to scan a three dimensional surface and create a map of that surface to project custom designs on. This is the same technology that Disney World uses to create a magical show where Mickey and friends sing and dance on the side of Cinderella’s castle. 

For many years, if you wanted to create custom animations on a 3D surface, you had to put the entire program together in Adobe After Effects or a similar editing software. This process was not user friendly as it required graphic design skills and took a lot of time. Lightform appeals to artists and business owners alike as a simpler way to create a beautiful, custom 3 dimensional design. 

Our company discovered Lightform through our CEO, Brian Anderson. Lightform created a great series of Facebook ads that immediately caught his interest. Anderson said, “I’ve always been obsessed with light. I’m attracted to things that use different forms of light. So [when] I saw this used at an EDM concert where they lit up a skyscraper to match the beat and on Facebook using augmented reality to create shifting blocks,” he knew he had to try it. 

What Can You Do with Lightform?

What could you do with your new Lightform? The possibilities are endless. For personal use, Brian Anderson envisions the product being used for creating elaborate Christmas and Halloween displays projected onto the side of your house. For commercial spaces, “You can have objects that shimmer or increase product placement like glasses with a beach scene that comes to life in the lenses or a fish tank on the wall.” 

We plan to use our Lightform to create a few exciting new projects. For his first task using the Lightform, Anderson plans to create a light-up display of a scene from the movie Tron. If you’ve seen the film, you can probably already picture the glowing motorbikes lit up with the Lightform’s animation. Then, our CEO plans to tackle bringing a skeleton logo for the band The Grateful Dead to life on his wife’s skateboard. 

After we’ve perfected our techniques with these personal projects, we aim to use Lightform as a digital billboard on the side of our office. We plan to showcase the websites we’ve built with animations scrolling through them and to light the building up to attract new customers.

Do We Recommend the Product?

While Lightform is much easier to use than elaborate animation software, Anderson cautions that it still requires some basic knowledge of graphic design, wifi networks, and Bluetooth pairing. “Importing external video and hiding layers were very easy and the initial setup was pretty straightforward. It was hard once the device was paired to pair it with a second device.” 

Anderson also noted that since the technology is still so new, some of the editing tools were fairly basic. “Using the pen tool works best, but as with any art tool, it takes some practice.” 

We advise that if you’re interested in purchasing one of the Lightform projection devices but you have no prior experience in graphic design or you don’t work much with wireless networks that you seek help from an expert. There are not yet many videos explaining how to set up the product yet, so it would be best to talk to someone who’s been through the process before. 

We wanted to try Lightform because of the overall benefit that trying new technology can have on your business. When asked if he believes that it is important for businesses (whether or not they’re in the technology) to try new technology, our CEO, Brian Anderson gave a resounding yes saying, “Businesses that are  innovative are typically more productive, have a better office culture, drive more revenue, and are typically more successful.” 


Key Takeaways:

Our Lightform LF2 projection mapping device has inspired us to continue to be curious about the technology around us. We look forward to perfecting our skills with the Lightform LF2 to create a digital billboard on the side of the building. The LF2 has also given us the opportunity to work on our skills with graphic design and network pairing and to bring an artistic tool to our workplace. Beyond the practical applications and opportunities for professional growth that the Lightform has brought us, we’ve already enjoyed getting to start more conversations with our coworkers about this technology and the other technology that inspires us. Based on this experience, we recommend that you engage with this product and with the conversation- around new technology in your workplace!

Our Review of the Top Video Conferencing Tools for Remote Work

Like many other businesses, ADVYON has been figuring out how to adjust our normal operations to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. For our team, it was crucial to continue to keep in touch during the week, so we decided to schedule weekly video calls every Friday. However, as we tried different video conferencing tools, we discovered that not all video conferences are created equal. Here are our official reviews of the tools we tried in April and May: Zoom,Slack, Jitsi_Meet, and Teamviewer.

Zoom: Zoom has taken the remote workforce by storm during  the COVID-19 crisis. Zoom now has around 300 million users, which is an increase from just 10 million users last December. According to Zoom’s website, Zoom boasts usability, access from any device, and meeting security.

Pros: We agree that Zoom is very user friendly. Our employees were able to join the meeting from computers or cell phones. One person must host the meeting and send a code or link to other participants. 

Zoom’s website states that the site also has HD audio and video. We found that both audio and video were reliable if the participant has a steady internet connection. Like all web-based platforms, Zoom may experience video lag or issues connecting to your computer’s audio, but these interruptions were minimal.

We were also able to reliably use built in tools like chat, file sharing, and screen share. Zoom meetings can also be recorded and saved to listen to or watch later. The recordings can be stopped or started anytime during the meeting, can be saved in an mp4 format and can be transcribed using Zoom’s built-in audio transcribing tool.

Cons: Hosting was our only difficulty with Zoom. The basic version of Zoom allows meetings 40 minutes long up to 100 participants. We needed to change hosts during the meeting and got disconnected a few times because the free meeting time had run out.

Users should also be aware of security issues. Due to Zoom’s rapid rise, the platform was unprepared for security risks. Toward the end of March, users started to report unwelcome visitors to their Zoom meetings. Security was an especially big risk for school children and minors as well as healthcare or government organizations who need to keep information secure.

Following these Zoom hackings, several new security measures were added. Zoom encourages adding pre-meeting security like waiting rooms, passwords, and joining by domain. Zoom also has security features during the meeting such as shutting off screen share for participants, locking the meeting, or removing participants. Read more about Zoom’s privacy and security measures here.

 

Slack: ADVYON uses Slack everyday to chat and send files. It’s an online communication hub where team members can communicate over direct messages and channels. Slack also has a built-in calling feature in which team members can call using voice, video, or screen sharing.

Pros: The video during our Slack call was the clearest of all the video conference tools we used, however video is not available on the app for either iPhones or Androids. This makes the video calling feature less accessible than Zoom.

Since Slack is built to prioritize chat, file sharing and chat services are seamless from Slack calls. Slack also allows for recording calls. These can be saved on or off the platform. Finally, Slack can also be used reliably for screen-sharing.

Cons: Free usage of Slack’s platform only allows for one-on-one voice or video calls. According to Slack’s Help Center the paid plans allow for calls up to 15 participants only. Slack seems to be more focused on building out their chat features rather than expanding video calls.

We were able to use Slack for a group call, however, we had issues with the audio during our call. Our microphones lagged and overlapped when trying to talk. We had to turn off all microphones and only allow one person to talk at any given time. Slack notes that if you are using a third-party app within Slack to make the call, Slack may not be granted access to your microphone when you switch between the two apps. 

We find that Slack is very useful for calls between two people, but when making a group call, Slack was not reliable. We prefer the chat features for which Slack has been prioritized.

 

Jitsi_Meet: Jitsi_Meet is a third party app which we installed with Slack for video calls. Jitsi boasts being a free, open-source video app which does not require an account. Jitsi prides itself on being developer friendly, so it can be customized to your company’s needs. 

Pros: Jitsi_Meet is completely free. It can host over 100 guests without requiring any accounts or payments. It allows for real-time and private chats. Jitsi is equipped with HD audio for impressive sound quality. It is also safe because conversations are encrypted by default.

Cons: Jitsi is not available for iPhone or Android, so it is not 100% accessible. It must be installed on your computer in order to work. It is limited for presentation as well. Capterra reports that Jitsi_Meet does not allow for screen sharing or recording. Jitsi also does not have any training available so it may be difficult to install.

Jitsi_Meet is a good solution for a tech-friendly workspace. It is not as user friendly as Zoom or Slack, but if it’s important to create a long-time customizable solution for your workplace that is secure and safe for your users, it may be the right choice.

 

Teamviewer: Teamviewer is a trusted software for remote desktop access. Teamviewer has created a video-conferencing software that is available across a variety of different platforms and operating systems.

Pros: Teamviewer is very secure. The host of the meeting needed to set up our new team members with a link to activate a Teamviewer account within the company. This ensures that there will be no uninvited guests in any Teamviewer meeting. It is the most secure option we tried.

Teamviewer allows for easy screen-sharing and recording, since this is how the software is optimized. It also allows for straight-foward file-sharing and cooperation across operating systems. 

Cons: Teamviewer requires a download of the app to use the video conference tool. There is no mobile app available, so you must create an account and download the app on your computer. This requires a few minutes of setup ahead before you can join the meeting, making it a complicated process to participate in the meeting. Teamviewer states that only 10-25 participants may join a video conference call.

The meeting began with participants automatically seeing the host’s screen. While this caused no long term-repercussions to our meeting, it did take a few minutes to figure out how to do a normal video call with no screen sharing or remote access enabled. If your team’s priority is security for a small group, Teamviewer is a great choice. It may not be user friendly to new team members or to the meeting’s host, however.


Overall, we were impressed with the number of video conferencing tools available to help aid in our adjustment to working from home. We enjoyed experiencing the user-friendly interface provided by Zoom, easy one-on-one calls in Slack, the free customization of Jitsi_Meet, and the security of Teamviewer. By only reviewing a few video conferencing tools, we found that an impressive amount of tools are available to help businesses reach different goals and we will use many of them even after we go back to the office.


Google and Facebook Resources for Your Small Business During COVID-19

Many small businesses are facing uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continually changing health and economic factors have made normal business functions difficult for everyone. Thankfully, many companies are offering free resources to ease the financial and technological worries small businesses are now facing. Facebook and Google are two of the companies offering grants to businesses to help offset unexpected costs.Let’s take a look at what they have to offer and how you can best access these grants.

Google’s Grants for Your Business and Community:

First, let’s review Google’s grants, credits, and financial support. The CEO of Google announced in March that the company will provide more than $800 million to support small business and crisis response. Google will release funds to support their employees, provide medical supplies, and assist schools and businesses. 

Google Grants at a Glance:

Google plans to provide aid that will benefit your community:

In addition, Google is providing grants specific to small and medium sized businesses.

Two Grants for Your Small Business: 

We think that these grants will be the most useful to your small business to recover from financial setbacks and plan for the future. 

  • Grants to NGOs and financial institutions to help provide access capital to small businesses. 
    • These grants can be used to provide for individuals and communities that have been neglected by other financial institutions.
    • Google is also providing $15 million for nonprofit businesses.
  • $340 million in Google Ads credits
    • Google is offering ad credits to allow small and medium sized businesses to offset the cost of keeping in touch with customers during the pandemic. 

How to Use Google Ad Credits:

Are you wondering how if your small business is eligible for the ad credits offered? We’ve done that research for you! In order to be eligible for these ad credits, you must meet the following:

  • Be a small or medium-sized business
  • Have had active ad campaigns ten out of 12 months in 2019
  • Have had active ad campaigns in January and/or February of 2020
  • Adhere to Googles’ advertising policies

If you meet all of the above, you can expect to see the credit applied to your Google Ads account starting in late May. 

Get Help Managing Google Ads:

To read more about the credits for which you qualify and how to use them, you can read Google’s support article at https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9803410.

If you qualify for ad credits, ADVYON Business Technologies can also help with your new campaign. Our certified experts are able to assist you in running campaigns. If your business does not qualify for the grant, ADVYON has access to credit vouchers and can help you make a strategy that will benefit your business even in these challenging times. 

Facebook’s Grant for Your Small Business:

Next, let’s review the Facebook grant we think is most useful for your small business.Facebook is offering a Small Business Grant Program of $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time. To be eligible for the grant, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a for-profit company
  • Have between 2 and 50 employees
  • Have been in business for over a year
  • Have experienced challenges from COVID-19
  • Be in or near a location where Facebook operates

How to Access Facebook’s Grant:

To see if you are in an eligible location for this grant, follow these steps:

Step 2:

Scroll down to the 3rd section “Who’s Eligible?”

Step 3:

Click the button “See Available Locations”

Step 4:

If you are located in an eligible area, you can proceed from there to the application process through Ureeka.

Local Areas Not Eligible for Grant and Where to Find Other Help:

The only companies with headquarters in our Tri-State area of South Carolina, North Carolina, or Georgia that are eligible for this grant are companies in Fulton County in Atlanta, Georgia. However, if you are not in an eligible area, you may be eligible for other benefits and ad credits for Facebook. 

ADVYON is a South Carolina business and we want to help our neighbors succeed in any way we can. If you are not eligible for the Facebook grant or are struggling with any other marketing decisions during the COVID-19 crisis and want to make sure you come out on top when this is all over, reach out and let ADVYON Marketing help. Call us at (843) 324-5824 or email us at marketing@advyon.com.

Brand Standards: What Are They, and Do I Really Need Them?

As a business owner, how many times have you heard the term “brand standards”, or been told they are an important part of your marketing efforts? Is it just another term to you, jargon which goes in one ear and out the other? Why does it matter?

We’ll tell you exactly why brand standards are important and what you need to be looking for in a company when developing brand standards. 

“I already have a logo, isn’t that enough? Do I really need brand standards?”

We see so many people who have a logo and think, “OK, I have a brand, I’m all done!”. However, just having a logo is not enough. Sure, you can put it on anything, but it doesn’t necessarily represent your business in a clear, recognizable way. 

Think about the well-known, established brands you can recognize instantly — Nike, Starbucks, etc. Those brands have a distinctive look and feel you recognize, and it’s because of more than simply seeing their logo. They have a marketing style, ads crafted to perfectly reflect the company and brand you recognize and know. You could walk into a Starbucks, and even if there wasn’t a logo on anything anywhere, you would know you were in a Starbucks.

Take this ingenious ad, for example:

Well known, globally recognized brands take a while to establish. Doritos didn’t get started overnight. It starts with one thing: brand standards. Brand standards are the glue holding your brand identity together. It helps create a cohesive, recognizable public identity for your business which acts as more than just your logo applied to something.

The overall point of brand standards is for people to know you, your business, who you are, what you provide. For instance, when you see a Nike swoosh and you think about good shoes, it’s not because their logo, the swoosh, is literally equivalent to shoes. It’s because Nike has carefully developed their brand identity more than their logo. They’ve spent years creating a clear, consistent brand message with a guideline of exactly how they should be visually represented. And it all starts with brand standards.  

Brand standards enable you to develop more recognition, so people can start remembering your business and unique brand. If it’s consistent, the more people see it, the more they remember it. There are a lot of different businesses out there and brand standards are a crucial way for you to stand out. It makes your company look more professional, more established, and provides you with the ability to compete against all the other businesses providing similar services.  

“What should be included in brand standards?”

When it comes to your business, you don’t want to waste a single dollar. If you’re paying someone to develop brand standards for you, make sure the following elements are included:

  • Clearly defined logo usage, lockup, spacing, and colors
  • Specified colors & fonts
    • Make sure the colors and fonts are outlined for use in all instances. For example, for colors, you want to be sure to have CMYK, Pantone, Hex, and RBG versions. For fonts, make sure weights and styles are specified as well as close alternatives for digital vs print. 
  • Style guidelines for photography & graphics
  • An overall standards for how your brand’s message should be represented

Brand standards are a set of guidelines which set the parameters for usage of creative elements like your logo, colors, and fonts so your brand is represented in a recognizable way, even in completely different contexts. There are many other things which can go into brand standards, but as a basic starting point, all brand standards should at least include the above elements. 

Once you’ve developed brand standards, it also makes it easier when creating and designing anything new for your business – whether it’s a website or an ad. Having brand standards gives graphic designers a clear direction on how to create what is best for you and your brand. 

Having a brand already developed makes creating new ideas more efficient and effective – since the base is already outlined, the creator can focus on enhancing rather than creating anew. Brand standards help to reign in the creative possibilities and focus the artist’s vision.  

“When is the right time to be thinking about developing brand standards?”  

It’s best practice to develop brand standards right from the start. Of course, having brand standards from the start doesn’t always happen, but it’s difficult to build something out of nothing. 

Ultimately, brand standards are especially important for growth. Whether you are just starting out or your company is growing, brand standards are crucial for developing your business and presenting it to new people. 

Even if you already have brand standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are set in stone and will never change. As your company grows, your brand standards will develop based on the industry, trends, and your target market. Take for example once more large brands like Nike and Starbucks. You can see over the years how they have changed and grown – it’s still their brand, but it’s developed and evolved over the decades. 

How do you know if it’s time to revisit your brand standards?

If you’re working with a new designer and they have new ideas. If they try something you haven’t tried before or didn’t fit with your brand standards but is really good, maybe it’s time to consider adjusting. Or, if your company has grown into a different target market. 

For example, we have a client we have worked with for years. He started as a handy-man Mr. Fix-It and had a brand that reflected that. From there we wanted a more professional appearance to start handling larger projects like home renovations and remodels. Over time, his business has grown and developed; when he began his business, he was serving residential clients and handling smaller-scale projects. 

Eventually, his business evolved and he decided he was in a spot where he wanted to pursue larger-scale commercial projects. He realized he would need to modify his brand and message again to attract his new target market, so helped take everything to the next level. We created new a new logo and brand standards, capable of relating and appealing to his current business as well as attracting the new perspective market of commercial construction.

Is your company growing? Do you want to start developing a clear consistent marketing message? Do you need to create brand standards? Contact us today and we can help you get started. 

Contact Us Today!

IT and Computer Network Hurricane Preparation List

IT and Computer network preparations for a Hurricane, high wind or water event.

When facing a storm like a hurricane, preparation is key to weathering a stressful storm.  We’ve compiled a list below of best practices to protect your network from wind, water, and the worst!

For all of our Total Care support clients, we physically check and double-check onsite and offsite backups and making sure everything is working well as a part of our storm preparations. We will ensure your networks are safe if anything were to befall them.

On your final day of departure, either to go home or to evacuate for the storm, don’t forget to properly prepare your business, too! Follow the procedure below to secure your network.

1.  Turn off your computers & servers.

2.  Turn off your battery backups.

3.  Make sure your server, computers, and battery backups are off of the ground if you are in a single-story unit.  The Lithium in the batteries of a UPS are flammable and they are potentially explosive when exposed to air and especially to water.

4.  Take your external backup plugged into your server home with you.  Keep it in a safe location.

5.  Cover your computers, servers and IT components with plastic.

6.  If you have VoIP phones, take the main reception phone with you and plug it into your internet wherever you have evacuated to.  If you do not, forward your phones to your cell phone or download your provider’s cell phone app and login with your provider username and password.

7.  Before you leave, make sure to take pictures of everything. Take pictures of all the computers, the inside of your business, the outside.

Things to note:

  • Remote access will not work when your computers, internet, or server is offline. Take the files you need with you.
  • When you restart the network upon your return, start the network equipment first, next your server, then the rest of the computers so they connect to the server properly.
  • If you travel, make sure your mobile devices are secured.  Storms are a great time to have iPads, iPhones, laptops stolen out of cars!

How to forward your Landline Phones:

  • Dial *72.
  • Dial the phone number (including area code) where you want your calls to be forwarded to (e.g., *72-908-123-4567).
  • Press the Call button and wait for confirmation. You should hear a confirmation tone or message.
  • End your call.

How to forward for Nextiva customers:

Nextiva Partner Support:  (800) 659-0208 – Please note only the account owner can call and should have a PIN ready.

You can also download an app to your mobile phone with a username and password for your login.
iPhone:  https://www.nextiva.com/support/articles/nextiva-app-iphone-setup.html
Android:  https://www.nextiva.com/support/articles/nextiva-app-android-setup.html

How to forward for Jive customers:

Jive Support: 877-548-3003

You can also download an app to your mobile phone with a username and password for your login.

iPhone & Android:  https://jive.com/products/applications/mobile/

Check with your business insurance before you leave.

  • Call your business insurance provider and confirm your policy and your coverage before you go. Check to see what your coverage is for hurricanes. Ask what is covered on your policy and check the coverage amounts – if your business has grown in the past year, you may need to increase the coverage amounts. Make sure that everything you want to be covered is on your policy.
  • If you have any important documents, it’s a good idea to put them in a safe or take them with you.
  • Before you leave, make sure to take pictures of everything. Take pictures of all the computers, the inside of your business, the outside – you want to be sure to be able to document everything for insurance purposes.

Above all, be safe! If you have any questions, we will be available for calls. Please dial (843) 324-5824 for questions.

What Is the Best CMS for My Business?

What is the best CMS for your business? There are a lot of options out there, and if you’re not familiar with content management systems already, it’s enough to make your head spin. 

We asked our lead developer which CMS he thinks is best, particularly for small to medium-sized businesses and small to medium-sized websites. Here’s what he said. 

The Best CMS for Your Business

The best CMS out there, free or paid, is WordPress. There’s a reason why it’s so popular and why millions of websites are powered by WordPress. The popularity of WordPress is not just indicative of its quality, but it also feeds into and supports its continued quality and innovation. Below are some of the reasons why WordPress continues to stand out as the best CMS in 2019. 

It’s Open-Source 

laptop with html editor openWordPress is one of the largest open-source projects in the world, and it’s still growing. There are many different developers involved, bringing different strengths and experiences to offer some of the best, most up-to-date and advanced plugins out there. People are regularly contributing to new plugins and updates and there is always something new. 

Being open-source means WordPress is the best-developed CMS out there today. No other CMS is even close—Joomla came close for a while, but the market favored WordPress, giving it the competitive advantage to continue to excel. 

The CMS’s continued popularity combined with its open-source nature means that it naturally draws the best of the best. If a developer wants to gain recognition for the extension they create, they’re going to go to WordPress first, and if it’s successful, it’s likely that the extension will stay there.  

It’s a CMS That Is Easy to Use

Of all the content management systems out there, WordPress is the easiest CMS for developers and non-developers alike. Everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses can use (and do use) WordPress for their content management needs. 

You don’t need to know CSS, HTML, PHP, or any kind of advanced computing language to update content in WordPress. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to work with a WordPress site. Features and plugins like WPBakery Page Builder make it easy to make great-looking layouts and designs. WordPress’ ease of use makes it a great choice for those who might not be as familiar with the technical side of things. 

It’s a Very Customizable CMS

settings feature of wordpressWordPress is very easy to customize. You can develop advanced features that you wouldn’t be able to develop with a CMS like Joomla or Drupal. In part, the ease of customization arises from WPBakery Page Builder.  

WPBakery Page Builder is better than any other page builder out there. You can develop any kind of layout quickly and easily with WPBakery Page Builder and its very intuitive. It’s a great enhancement to WordPress and greatly enhances its content management capability.

Since WordPress has such a wide array of plugins available, if something is not working exactly the way you want it to, you can be sure that there is another plugin available that will. 

The flexibility afforded by WordPress is also useful in terms of thinking about the future of your website. You can easily add or change features and the layout of your website, so it’s easy for your website to evolve with your business. 

If you go with a CMS like Joomla to develop a custom feature, a developer will have to spend much more time on it, meaning it will likely be more expensive. So WordPress can also save time and money for everyone involved with the website. 

Wide Range of Integrations

Another factor making WordPress the best CMS: it has a wide range of integrations available. From social media and email platforms to G Suite, you can expect WordPress to be able to integrate with just about any platform or tool you need.   

Best Front-End Design

You’ll have access to all the best graphic design features through WordPress, and WPBakery Page Builder makes it easy to work with advanced features (parallax effects, complex sliders, carousels, video or map embedding, accordions, tabs, countdowns, info circles, custom banners, anything you can think of). 

WP Bakery Pagebuilder is kind of like Wix but better. You can easily get everything done with it, and there are several widgets you can use for upgrades. The WPBakery Page Builder plugin itself is not free, but there are 4.3+ million active installations of it, which indicates how good it is—people are willing to invest in it. 

With WordPress you can easily, at a lower cost, develop a very advanced, modern-looking layout with special features, graphics, or animations. You don’t get that from many open-source content management systems. 

If you are searching for the best CMS that will give you a great looking site, go with WordPress. You can develop the best website for your client with WordPress. You can’t do it as well with a CMS like Joomla or Drupal. 

Built-in Blog Capability

block letters with "blog" spelled outWordPress was developed for blogging. It was only until later that it became used for the other purposes it’s used for today. So, WordPress has all the features associated with a blog; tags, featured images, search function, excerpts, categories, sliders or masonry grids, archive features, anything you’d need for a blog you can easily have. 

There are also plugins that can enable enhanced blog-type features, like the ability to have the latest or featured blog posts in a carousel, slider, or masonry grid. It makes it easy to have interactive content on your website. 

It’s An SEO-Friendly CMS

As a CMS, WordPress has the widest variety of resources available, including the best plugins for SEO, which have a range of functions from 404 monitoring to suggestions for content optimization when you are adding new content to the website. WordPress’ overall ease of use makes it easier to optimize your website in the ways that you need to for SEO. 

WordPress also has SEO-friendly templates. These are templates that make it easy for you to include relevant keywords, have optimized images, feature well-organized code, have quick loading time, and more. 

Security

Internet security will forever be an evolving, ever-present issue. There is never not going to be a security risk when you are working with the Internet. That being said, WordPress’ popularity ironically ensures that it will remain reasonably secure. It’s impossible to predict every possible security threat, so the best way to defend against security threats then becomes a combination of knowledge and experience.

Since so many websites use WordPress, its a target for hackers. WordPress has been around for a while, since 2003. Over time, it’s had the opportunity to experience and fix any kind of issue you could think of. Additionally, since it is so widely used, it’s not a large problem for the company to properly invest in the necessary security measures. 

The most important thing to keep up with when it comes to security and WordPress are updates. If you don’t update regularly, you can have security issues. Just make sure the company or developer you work with is thorough, updates WordPress regularly, and uses secure plugins, and you should be just fine.   

Is WordPress the Right CMS for My Business?

WordPress is an excellent CMS for small to medium-sized businesses. If you’re only looking to present your content in the best way possible and ensure that it looks good, WordPress can be a good option for a large business. 

However, if you need a portal or eCommerce functionality, you may want to look into other options. Our developer recommends Magento as the best CMS for eCommerce needs. If you need something custom app developed that is not content-related, it may be best to develop that as a custom PHP application. 

In these cases, it’s possible to use both WordPress and another CMS for the functionality that suits you best. 

ADVYON develops, hosts, secures, backups, recovers, and fixes WordPress sites. We can also fix or recover sites that have been hacked or damaged in most cases. 

Do you have more questions about the best CMS for your business? Feel free to contact us today with any questions you might have. We’re happy to help!

How to Break Into the IT Industry: A No-Nonsense Template

woman standing in front of server with laptop

A question frequently asked is, “How can I break into the IT industry?” Variations include,  “can I break into the IT industry without a degree”, or “how can I get into the IT field without experience?”  

Contrary to popular belief, it is not education that breaks you into the IT industry. Or rather, it is not just education, nor is education the most important factor, but it can be the tipping factor in a case where two people possess the same skills. 

Education

Let’s take an unfiltered view of the true nature of higher education institutions in the IT industry.  In today’s world, our education is having a hard time keeping up with the rate of change within the field. 

Most colleges are teaching students on outdated equipment and software. Some are still stuck on hardware or operating systems not even supported by the makers of the hardware and software because the teaching materials for teachers and students are not created as fast as the changes and updates.

More often than not, we see college applicants learning the bare minimum basics of IT and preparing students on how to set up equipment with “best practices” laid out by the software creators.  Rarely do the curriculums include troubleshooting common problems and issues. Rarer still are the teachings of how variables such as limited budgets, mixed equipment, differences in opinions, etc. can affect your day to day work.  

Where education does help are the certification courses you go through to gain your degree.  Always take the certification tests associated with your course load. Most college graduates I meet do not follow through on the opportunity of taking the certifications right after their classes. 

man inspecting wired connectionsCompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, and other industry-related certifications are highly coveted. Local colleges will typically pair up with a technical firm close by and train you to work for them. They require a certain skill set to fill particular jobs.  If your goal is to work in a public company or a government facility, they will require a certain level of degree with certifications. However, be prepared once you get the job to go through extensive training to align you with the job you are assigned. 

In the private sector, it is not uncommon for someone with experience, certifications and no degree to get a job over the “higher qualified” person with a degree and no certifications or experience. Ideally, you should have a degree, certifications, and experience.  People who have all three command top dollar as someone who possesses all three is very rare.

Soft Skills in the Real World

As a hiring manager, there are several key things I look for in a prospective employee. Features that set people apart are ability, aptitude, attitude, what you can do, an understanding of why you do it, and above all, demonstrated passion

An ideal candidate will typically look like the following;  Be highly motivated, trustworthy, well-spoken, creative, and have a passion for technology.  They would have a good understanding of the basics and be able to demonstrate creativity and curiosity when troubleshooting problems.  Fast learning and good memory are always helpful along with the ability to follow processes, best practices, and great note-taking.  

Notice something not mentioned above: a degree.  You see, the thing which sets people apart is not their degree—degrees are becoming increasingly more common, and simply having basic knowledge does not automatically qualify you. Daily we encounter new problems never seen before, but with solid fundamentals, a good troubleshooting process, and a little creativity, you can fix pretty much anything.   

Demonstrated Passion and What You Can Do

stack of books next to a computerWhat is demonstrated passion? What does a passion for technology look like? Lots of people we meet say technology is their passion, or they love computers, etc.  So, how do you, lover of computers and technology, differentiate a hobby from a passion?

Are you always fixing other people’s stuff? Do you tinker in your own free time? Have you volunteered for organizations to maintain their IT just for fun? Do you enjoy the extra time you take to do these things and actively seek them out? Employment is not the only way to gain experience. If you have passion, you find a way. You’ll volunteer to help people. You’ll do it in your free time. You’ll take classes on the side. If you do these things, you might have the bug and a career in technology is for you!  If these things sound like too much work, you may have a hobby.  

Often I will hear people saying they don’t have experience in the IT industry. If you’re looking to get into a technical position, you better have some experience—if you’re passionate about something, you find a way to do it, even if it’s not your job. If you want to break into the technology field, you have to show how you demonstrate your passion.  However, no matter how much education, experience, or training you’ve had in the past, what you are doing now matters.  

It is likely you have much more experience than you realize.  I always recommend people contact a professional resume writer who asks you questions and pushes to give you the best resume to showcase what you can do and are doing, not just what you have learned.  Also, a good resume writer will add keywords for your field you may not be aware of. For example, if you want to work for the government agency or a government contractor, it is likely a computer program will look at your resume first and search for keywords or terms which match their desired job qualifications.

Understanding the ‘Why’ in IT 

Why do you want to work in IT?  Are you mesmerized by the code? Are you in love with the intricate design of the motherboard you see?  Do you wax lyrical on the technicalities and complexities you’ve recently come to understand? There is a truth most technical people do not understand.  IT serves one purpose… to connect people to something or someone.

Whatever intrigues you about technology, never forget the human element and impact of your work and how it affects the end user.  Why does fixing the printer matter? Who benefits from the routing setup on your new Cisco device? Go the distance when answering technical questions on how your work affects the end user. Keep in mind ALL IT jobs are service-based jobs designed to have purpose to others. Hiring managers will get a feeling of “They really get it!” when you answer their questions fully and include the end user result.

The Full Monty

Companies are looking for intelligent people with competence, aptitude, a positive attitude, the ability to speak without sounding like a robot, passion, compassion, and a genuine desire to help.  Show what you can do, demonstrate your passion for your new career, show how your passion connects people and matters to others. If you can demonstrate the principles here, you will make a believer of your next hiring manager and enjoy a great new career in the IT industry!

New GMail Phishing Attack, Very tricky, What to look for to spot it

An insidious new Gmail phishing attack is tricking even the most careful of users

Jacob Siegal
BGR News 

A new phishing technique is fooling internet users into giving hackers access to their Gmail accounts. According to WordPress security plugin creator Wordfence, the way that the attack works is that hackers send emails to the contacts of compromised accounts containing a seemingly innocuous attachment. When the user clicks the attachment, a new tab opens in the browser that looks nearly identical to the Google sign-in page. If the user inputs their log-in information, it goes straight to the attacker.

On Hacker News, a commenter describes an incident that occurred at his school last year in which several employees and students were tricked into handing over their account information to attackers after receiving compromised emails and opening the attachments, thus perpetuating the cycle:

“It’s the most sophisticated attack I’ve seen. The attackers log in to your account immediately once they get the credentials, and they use one of your actual attachments, along with one of your actual subject lines, and send it to people in your contact list.

For example, they went into one student’s account, pulled an attachment with an athletic team practice schedule, generated the screenshot, and then paired that with a subject line that was tangentially related, and emailed it to the other members of the athletic team.”

While the idea of having your Gmail account serve as a host for the chain of hacks to continue is frightening enough, the hackers will also have the ability to download and read through all of your private emails, as well as gain access to other information connected to your Google account (or whichever service is hacked).

Here’s what you need to look out for in your address bar to avoid this attack:

gmail-phishing-attack
gmail-phishing-attack

As you can see, not only is the beginning of the string odd, but there is a script hidden behind a long wall of whitespace. You won’t be able to see the script in your address bar without tapping on it and scrolling to the right, but there are several other signs to watch out for that are even more obvious.

For example, here’s what my address bar looks like when I navigate to Gmail in Chrome:

secure-gmail-address-bar
secure-gmail-address-bar

See the green text and the “Secure” label in front of the address? That indicates that I’ve reached a safe, secure website, as opposed to the black text up above. Not every site is going to be certifiably secure like that, but if you are visiting a Google log-in page specifically and don’t see it, alarms should go off in your head. Google might fix this eventually, but for now, just pay attention and look for green text.

Furthermore, if you don’t have two-factor authentication on your Google account (or any other account which contains sensitive information), treat this as a wake up call and set it up immediately.

Windows 8 Security: What’s New

Windows 8 is a major OS overhaul, but some of the most important additions might be the ones you can’t see. Here’s a look at Windows 8’s new security tools and features.

By Eric GeierPCWorld    May 17, 2012 9:00 pm

start_screen-11361732When Windows 8 comes out later this year, the new Start screen and Metro-style apps will likely be the first changes you’ll notice, but those aren’t the only things that are new. Microsoft is also making some serious security enhancements to help keep your system safer and to improve Windows’ ability to combat viruses and malware. It just may be the biggest improvement to Windows security yet.

Antivirus Comes Preinstalled

For the first time in the history of Windows, you’ll enjoy protection from viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, rootkits, and other malware from the very first day you turn on your Windows PC–without spending a cent. Windows 8 comes with an updated version of Windows Defender that includes traditional antivirus functions in addition to the spyware protection and other security features that it has offered since Windows Vista. Windows Defender now provides similar protection–and a similar look and feel–to that of the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program, which Microsoft has offered to users as an optional download since 2009.

windows_defender-11361745The updated Windows Defender resembles Microsoft Security Essentials.

Since Windows Defender will provide at least basic virus and malware protection, purchasing yearly antivirus subscriptions (such as from McAfee or Norton) or downloading a free antivirus package (like AVG or Avast) is optional, whereas before it was pretty much required if you wanted to stay virus-free. Of course, you may disable Windows Defender and use another antivirus utility that promises better protection and more features, but at least everyone will have basic protection by default.

Better Download Screening

When Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9, it updated the browser’s SmartScreen Filter to help detect and block unknown and potentially malicious programs that you download; the function complements IE’s website filtering, which works to block phishing and malicious sites. Starting with Windows 8, the program-monitoring portion of the SmartScreen Filter is built into Windows itself, and it will work whether you’re using IE, Firefox, Chrome, or any other browser.

In Windows 8, the first time you run a program that you downloaded from the Internet, the SmartScreen Filter checks it against a list of known safe applications, and alerts you if it’s unknown and therefore has the potential to be malware. If the alert does pop up, you could then further investigate the program (and the source where you downloaded it) before running it.

smartscreen_alert-11361729SmartScreen produces an alert if you run an unknown program.

Since Microsoft is adding the SmartScreen feature, the company is removing the previous Security Warning alerts that appeared when you first opened a downloaded program (the old alert would show the verification status of the program publisher and warn you about running programs downloaded from the Internet).

This is a welcome change, as it cuts down on the number of alerts you have to click through–with Windows 8, you’ll see an alert only when something’s amiss.

Faster, More Secure Startup

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft will begin to promote a new type of boot method, UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which improves upon and replaces the archaic BIOS boot system that most PCs have been using for decades. I won’t get into the technical details here, but UEFI offers better security, faster startup times, and a number of other benefits.

Thanks to this new boot method (and other system enhancements), your PC will start up more quickly–in as little as 8 seconds, from the time you press the power button to when Windows fully loads to the desktop. But you’re sure to appreciate the less noticeable improvements too. The Secure Boot feature of UEFI will prevent advanced malware (such as bootkits and rootkits) from causing damage, and it will stop other boot loader attacks (such as malware that loads unauthorized operating systems) as well.

Though Windows 8 will work on PCs with the old BIOS boot system, Microsoft will require new PCs that carry the Windows 8 Certification to use the UEFI boot system with the Secure Boot feature enabled by default. This Secure Boot requirement is causing some concern within the PC industry and among power users, as it could complicate the process of using Linux distributions or dual-booting multiple operating systems. However, Microsoft has promised to keep boot control in users’ hands, and the company requires system makers participating in Windows 8 Certification to offer a way for users to disable the Secure Boot feature on PCs (but not on tablets).

Two New Password Types

Windows 8 introduces two new password types that you can use when logging in to your Windows account: a four-digit PIN and a “picture password.”

For the picture password, you choose a photo or image and draw three gestures (a combination of circles, straight lines, or taps/clicks) in different places to create your “password.”

Windows 8 Security: What's New

Even if you decide to use these new password types, you still must set up a regular password. A PIN offers a faster way to log in, and a picture password gives you a more creative and fun way to do so. Sometimes you’ll have to enter the regular password, such as when you need administrative approval for changing system settings as a standard user, but you can log in to your account using the PIN, the picture, or your regular password.

Other Noteworthy Defense Measures

The enhanced Windows Defender, SmartScreen, boot system, and password protection are the most noticeable security improvements in Windows 8. But the new OS has even more system enhancements that you won’t see at all. A few core Windows components (such as the Windows kernel, ASLR, and heap) have been updated to help reduce common attacks and exploits even further.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.

Apple’s Hiring Letter

The first words you read when Apple hires you

apple_new_hire

 

Starting a new job always creates a mix of emotions. Excitement, trepidation, nervousness. Landing a job at Apple is only going to enhance any and all emotions due to the reputation and high standards the company exudes.

So how does Apple greet new hires? The words above are apparently what awaits every new employee at the company. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty inspiring, if daunting piece.

As the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have shown, working for Apple does mean developing new devices that you’d be happy to tell anyone you had a hand in creating. The same is true of some of the software and services the company develops to support that hardware. At the same time, the sentence, “That you’d sacrifice a weekend for.” suggests you’ll be spending a long time at your desk and the company expects you to give up your free time when required to achieve that “never compromise” next product launch. But obviously you’ll do it more than willingly because it’s Apple, right?

With companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all fighting for employees from the same talent pool, there’s no doubt the perks and experience of working for any of them is going to be way above average. After all, they really want you to stay if you’re good at your job and will happily provide mutliple restaurants, laundry service, stores, etc. on site to make your life (at work) easier.

But there’s always that question of work/life balance. It doesn’t matter how awesome your job is, spending time away from your desk and with your family and friends is important and likely enhances your performance at work. So take those inspirational words above on board, but also don’t forget to apply them to your life away from work, too.