Month: December 2020

These Tips Will Help You Cut Your Car Insurance Costs By A Lot!
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These Tips Will Help You Cut Your Car Insurance Costs By A Lot!

We currently live in a society where expenses are constantly growing. Of course, there are several reasons why this is happening but we won’t get much into that issue for now. Consequently, greater expenses for your everyday needs means greater expenses to other areas of life as well. Let us take for example car expenses and insurance rates. Cars are getting more and more expensive each month but also so does insurance rates. Luckily, we have just the news for you! We are going to take a look at some tips that are going to help you save some money.

To begin with, the easiest way to save money is by insuring multiple vehicles. For example, try to look for a bulk rate for all of your family cars. You might get the offer you are looking for and of course, this is one way to save some money on the insurance costs. Another way to do so is to be a careful driver. We cannot stress how important is for someone to take good care of himself and the car that they are driving. There are two benefits from it; the first one is that you are safe and the second one you will get lower insurance cost.

Taking a defensive driving course is yet another smart way to save some money. Always ask your insurance companies about some additional discount. However, make sure to check for the discount before you actually go for the course, as you never know if they are actually going to give you any. Of course, conducting a good market search can be useful as well. Ask one company about the insurance costs but do not just stop there. You will have a better idea if you ask several of these companies!

Further on, try to cut down on your average mileage by using mass transport. Insurance companies make you pay more if you commute to work for three hours every day rather than someone who does not commute. Another factor is the place where you live. Different states have different rates but it is highly unlikely that you are going to move to a different state only because of this. Improving your credit rating, however, can prove to be crucial in saving some money on car insurance costs.

Insurance companies see you credit ratings and try to get a general idea of how “responsible” a person is. If your score is fairly low, they basically see you as a person who does not know how to manage with everyday challenges and tasks. You might also get discounts for anti-theft devices. Finally, it all comes down to having a good conversation with your agent. Try to be polite and try to form a good relationship and get on well with them. Couple of polite words can make the difference between getting a better rate and eventually, saving some money on car insurance! Now you know what is the right way to do it!

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Why is Google important for your business marketing strategy?

With the Yellow Pages no longer being printed, we can all acknowledge the power of the internet. In the last century, we have seen a major shift towards digital information. But, not to be worried, if you can leverage the internet in your favor, it can be very beneficial to you and your small business! The internet makes your business easier to find and with resources such as Google My Business (GMB), you can attract the ideal customer – who you may not have been able to reach before the digital era!

Google My Business is a free tool created for small businesses to develop their online presence and attract the audience they truly want. Whether you are a law firm, yoga studio, or nail salon, Google wants to help your small business succeed by providing you with a GMB page. 

What is a Google My Business Page?

Your GMB page is what appears in local search and map results in Google. It gives the user accurate information about your business such as: hours, address, business category, and reviews. 

If Google recognizes that the user is searching for a local business or service, organic results will pop up with a map and a few local businesses at the top! These come before the pages and pages of websites below it. Meaning your website isn’t always going to be your first impression– It can be your GMB page. For many local businesses, searchers decide to become customers without ever visiting your business’s website!

What is the importance of having your own business listing?

Okay, so you understand what a GMB page is, but why should you spend so much time creating and optimizing it? We’ll go into some reasons here.

Helps your website rank better 

Ideally, you want to show up as one of the top three businesses in the results page. By starting and optimizing your business listing, you are building a ranking in the top three. 

Your business listing also shows up on a mobile device and Google Maps. With convenience being a big factor in 2020, many consumers use Google Maps to find a local business. Therefore, you have another way to showcase your business and bring in a new customer!

Engage with your audience

Your listing gives you a concrete way to connect with your audience. Within your business page, you can respond to reviews and answer questions. Additionally, by utilizing the posts section of your GMB page, you can give your customers insight into who you are and what you do.

Because all the information a customer needs is right in front of them– your listing gives them the option to connect with you. They can book an appointment or give you a call with one simple click. There is also a helpful feature called “Questions and Answers” which allows customers to ask you their own questions. After a question is asked, you will receive a notification to prompt you to answer!

Strengthen your local SEO 

Perform local SEO tactics, like integrating relevant keywords, to generate high-quality traffic and conversions. Google has an algorithm that crawls and ranks your business in search results– keywords help Google understand what you’re about

Reviews increase appeal 

Google also makes it easier for your customers to write reviews, by providing you with a URL you can share. The URL directs customers to leave reviews for your business in a quick and easy way. You can share this link on your website or emails. It is a good idea to share the link after a customer has just had a recent experience with your business, that way too much time hasn’t passed. Overall, Google wants your small business to succeed and start building reviews– that’s why they make it easy for you!

Google My Business reviews are also important because it will boost your SEO and rank you higher in Google search results. Google’s algorithm will pull keywords from your reviews (and replies) to give searchers what they are looking for. Not only that, but the more positive reviews you have, the more likely a potential customer will click on your business which continues to work in your favor.

Does this all seem too complicated? 
There are many digital marketing agencies and companies that are willing to help your business grow and achieve the results you are looking for! Whether it’s criminal lawyer marketing or real estate marketing, there is someone who can help! Bottom line, don’t feel too overwhelmed and hire someone to help.

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How to brand yourself on social media? A talk

Reflecting your personal values and professional skills by representing your brand on social media is a viable option these days. This is because your audience spends most of their time on social media.

Statista Research revealed that around 50 percent of the world’s population uses social media sites regularly. This means there are around 3 billion social media users worldwide. Similarly, another survey conducted by the Global Web Index revealed that 54 percent of social users use social media to research products.

Apart from this, social media is now considered to be one of the most useful tools for building your brand identity. It is professionally being used by all the marketers across the globe.

However, branding your business on social media is not a piece of cake as there are numerous other competing brands on social media, thus making it difficult to keep your brand up to date.

Wondering how to go about it? Don’t worry, we have your back! We have curated some useful social media marketing tips for helping you brand your business perfectly on social media:

Tip #1 Keep your social media profiles updated

First of all, select a platform, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter based on your social media goals. Then, update them with the most current and authentic information regarding your business, including contact information, location, and website, etc.

For instance, the example below shows how this coffee shop has used its bio space effectively for introducing its branded hashtag. This enables its followers to quickly locate its accounts, thus increasing reach.

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Also, it is best to deactivate any old business accounts to avoid any confusion. Moreover, the links in your social media profiles should be updated so that they help promote your latest work, and ensure quality traffic.

Still unsure how to optimize your social media profiles for branding yourself? Below are some simple yet amazing social media optimization tips:

  • Social media branding requires consistency therefore, the information in your profile should be consistent and relevant.
  • One of the best practices is to add Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons, like Contact Us, Book Now, or Shop Now, on your social media profiles. For instance, if you wish to increase your blog’s subscribers, you can choose ‘Sign Up’ as your CTA.
  • You can make your social media profiles discoverable in search engine results by using the right SEO keywords in the descriptions.
  • If your goal is to attract business customers, Linkedin should be your go-to social media site. It’s easy to find and filter potential customers and find the right decision-makers. All you need to do is make sure your profile stands out.

Show your audience your best content by pinning it to the top of your social media profiles, and don’t forget to add a powerful CTA to your pinned post for inviting leads. For example, the image below shows how pinned tweets result in improved audience engagement in terms of clicks and retweets.  

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Tip #2 Identify your area of expertise and share content accordingly

Once you’ve updated your social media profiles, the next step is to identify your area of expertise. You can simply do so by providing details regarding your area of interests, and sharing related content. This allows you to become the thought leader in your area, thereby enhancing brand credibility.

You can also find your area of expertise by going through your old content. Which is the most reviewed content? What is it that your audience likes the most? When you have the answers to these questions, you know that it is your area of expertise. That’s how you can define your specialty. Provide your audience with more unique and engaging content relating to your expertise. Amaze them with new and different posts, and try to engage them with your words.

Tip #3 Stay active and post content regularly

It is no surprise that because of the shift from tradition to digital means of marketing, almost every small business is present on social media for achieving business growth. Considering the clutter and the ever-increasing competition, to be in the front row, you need to be active.

You should create worthy posts according to your brand, and share them with your audience. This is because frequent communication is the best way to grasp your audience. You can also engage them through discussions or live videos. Besides this, respond to their queries positively as this will help in maintaining a good relationship with your intended audience.

Furthermore, when you’re out of content, simply just announce giveaways to make your audience more reactive. Don’t overshare, as it might be annoying for your viewers.

To be considered more by people, try using trending hashtags on Twitter. You can also repost the things you’ve been tagged on as it makes your audience happy, and keeps them updated.  

Tip #4 Leverage the power of visuals

A study conducted by Forrester revealed that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Besides this, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster relative to textual content.

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This explains why sometimes it’s better to speak up with just an image. We all know that a picture says a “thousand words”. So, if you want to brand your business successfully, you should incorporate attractive visuals in your content.

However, it is best to choose or design such images that grab your audience’s attention. To inspire them, create images depicting your product’s benefits. People share the images more than the content, as noticed these days, so the images should be perfect enough to inspire your audience.

Tip #5 Join related social media groups

We all know that a new brand needs an audience. And the best way to gather an audience is to join certain social media groups that are similar to your brand. You will find half of your audience over there. Besides this, you can also share your content in those social media groups for better reach and branding.

Apart from this, joining social media groups keeps you updated with the ongoing tastes and trends in the industry, thus allowing you to brand yourself in a better way.

Tip #6 Collaborate with influencers

According to a recent study, there are more than 500,000 active influencers operating on Instagram, and out of them, almost 81 percent of influencers have followers up to 15,000 to 100,000 users. The reason behind this is that people tend to follow their favorite influencers’ recommendations, and buy products accordingly.

All in all, the bad news is that getting a relevant influencer onboard can be a tricky feat. Many businesses have reported that they face trouble in finding the right influencer for promoting their businesses. The Global Comms Report: Challenges and Trends (2018) revealed that only 39 percent of influencers in the US are able to find the right influencers for their businesses.

Source

Therefore, if you are looking for the most relevant influencer for your business, you should look for someone who has an audience that is similar to your audience on social media. This will make your audience trust the influencer of your choice.

Tip #7 Represent your business professionally

If you are a wise marketer, then you’d know that the secret to successful branding is representing your business professionally. This is because it enhances brand credibility, and makes your audience believe in your brand messages.

And the first thing that you need for a professional look and feel is an inspiring logo design. This is because your corporate logo serves as the centerpiece of your branding, and represents your business on social media. Unsure how to go about it?  

You can simply consider hiring a professional and known logo design company, like the logo design valley, that can create a classy and timeless logo design for your business. However, it is important to communicate your requirements effectively to the designer to avoid any kind of rework.

The Final Words

All said and done, it is important to note that social media branding requires consistency. Your branding should be consistent in order to attract your target audience. So, if you’re looking to successfully brand your business on social media, you should follow the above-mentioned tips, and get a professional logo design as it aids in brand recognition.

Author Bio

Erica Silva

Erica Silva is a blogger who loves to discover and explore the world around her. She writes on everything from marketing to technology. She enjoys sharing her discoveries and experiences with readers and believes her blogs can make the world a better place.

Find her on Twitter: @ericadsilva1

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6 Ways To Improve Your Remote Team’s Productivity

Has your team been less productive this year? Let’s be honest—this year has been something of a ride. From COVID to wildfires to endless political upheaval and social unrest, it’s a wonder anyone can focus on anything. COVID closed businesses and sent people home, and we’re still dealing with it almost a year after it first came about. I think it’s safe to say that none of us thought we’d end up here! 

Still, ensuring your team remains productive doesn’t have to be rocket science. In this short guide, we’ll go over the six best ways to improve your remote team’s productivity. These tips are universal, so they can apply to both remote and in-person teams alike. 

Let’s dive in! 

1. Better Communication 

The cornerstone of any successful relationship is good communication between both parties. If you’re not communicating feelings, expectations, and directions clearly, there’s going to be a misunderstanding somewhere. When misunderstandings occur, we tend to point the finger and look for someone to blame, when in reality, it probably came down to a simple miscommunication. 

How can you improve communication in your team? First and foremost, you need to set clear expectations. The clearer you are with expectations, the more on point the team will be. If you’re the team leader, the responsibility to set those expectations clearly and concisely falls on you. The tools you use to communicate also play a huge role in setting expectations. 

Remember that a large percentage of communication is actually body language. So, a text/email/phone call isn’t always the best way to communicate your expectations. A video web conference or video chat can often be more impactful and concise and seeing a friendly face certainly helps lessen the stress of the day. 

2. Leadership 

Of course, a good team also needs a good leader to act as the glue that holds everything together. Many people think that being a good leader means maintaining strict control of your team, but if you look at history, that hasn’t exactly worked out for some. A dictatorial approach will more than likely leave your team feeling resentful rather than cooperative. 

So, what is the best approach to leadership? According to AICPA.org, the four pillars of good leadership are: 

Integrity: Integrity is being honest with yourself and others and upholding that honest behavior even when others aren’t looking. You can be honest face-to-face and dishonest when no one is looking; which means you lack integrity. Practice what you preach, and lead by example with a strong moral and ethical code. 

Accountability: Accountability is something that everyone on the team needs, but especially the leader. You need to own up to successes and failures, and hold others accountable as well.  

Learning: A good leader should always learn new skills and methods to better themselves. 

Sharing: What’s learning if you’re not sharing it with the team? When you learn new skills, methods, or approaches to problems, be sure to share that knowledge to improve your team’s overall skillset. 

3. Reduce Distractions 

Distractions are the death of productivity, and working from home certainly comes with its fair share of distraction. Even at the office, distractions can derail productivity and erode your team’s focus. How can you avoid distractions? It’s simple; don’t host meetings where they’ll be distracted. 

Encourage employees to participate in online meetings by turning their cameras on. Hosting a video call is the best way to hold everyone accountable. If you’re at the office, try to keep the work area(s) free of distracting things like TVs and restrict internet access. 

4. Project Management Software 

Project and team management software can help you get projects back on track and hold everyone on the team accountable for their part in the project. There are tons of programs out there, but even something as simple as Google’s GSuite (Google Workspace) can help. With GSuite, you get the tools to host meetings, collaborate on documents, and store/share files across multiple Google accounts. 

This can help your team become more organized and better at passing along projects and fulfilling their part in them. Keeping everyone accountable is half the battle, but in order to hold themselves accountable, they need the right tools for the job. 

5. Goals 

A team with no goals is a team that doesn’t get anywhere. Setting goals not only helps hold everyone accountable, but it also gives both individual team members and the groups as a whole something to reach for. Maybe you’re setting attendance goals, or maybe you want everyone to complete a certain training module by the end of the month. Whatever the case may be, you need goals to keep your team motivated and productive. 

6. Rewards 

Rewarding the team for a job well done can help bring them together and improve their respect for you as a leader. It doesn’t matter how old you get, everyone likes to hear that they’ve done a good job. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should sugarcoat mistakes to make them sound better, but you certainly should reward when goals are met, the quality of work is above average, or when the team has worked really hard to meet a deadline/goal. 

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6 API Design Flaws You Should Absolutely Avoid

When you’re involved in API design, much of the hard work you’ve done to bring the API to life is invisible to the end user. Many of the APIs that ordinary consumers are happy with take mere seconds to fulfill their requests. However, getting to that point is neither as easy nor as quick for developers. There’s a lot of coding, mocking, maintenance work, and documentation to be done before the API is anywhere close to hitting the market. But one thing makes all the difference in helping developers clear all these steps in a timely and efficient manner: great API design.   

As with many other software and hardware products, thoughtful design matters when it comes to APIs. It ensures smooth implementation and usage experiences, and it also sets a precedent for better work in the future. In contrast, flawed design can obstruct developers’ initial workflow, cause expensive delays, and leave something to be desired in terms of end user satisfaction. Sadly, many API developers commit the same design mistakes over and over again before they find out what they can do better. By then, they’ll have wasted time, resources, and momentum that’s hard for them to get back.  

If you want to get the process right as soon as possible, avoid these six common design flaws. By doing so, you’ll make the most out of the development cycle and realize the full potential of your API.   

Being Inconsistent About Design Tools and Design Environments 

Consistency is one of the most important values in the API design process. But oftentimes, coding work can become very inconsistent because it isn’t executed according to a set standard. One of the best things you can do to avoid sloppy and inconsistent design work is to standardize your tools, environment, and workflow. Doing this will make it easier for you to replicate the same quality of work across different tasks.  

It’s never too late to standardize your toolset and environment for the better. Try the Stoplight API design tools on Stoplight’s visual editor to achieve better consistency, as well as momentum, on your API design.  

Not Following Common API Naming Conventions 

You have a lot of freedom in terms of how you design your API. But in terms of approaches to take, especially for REST APIs, it’s good to stick to industry practices that are widely accepted. It ensures that you and your fellow API designers are speaking the same language when you’re deciding how to build the API. One example is the naming conventions for REST API URLs. The norm is to use plural concrete nouns, not abstract nouns or verbs. After all, URLs are supposed to direct to resources that are objects, not actions.  

In short, avoid the design flaw of going against commonly accepted notions for API design. If you stick to the formula, coding work will be much less confusing on your part as well as those of fellow developers.  

Being Redundant and Not Following Standard Practices When Designing Parameters 

Another area of API design that sees quite a number of mistakes is the formatting of parameters. Too often, developers write code in a format that doesn’t serve a clear purpose. Other times, they may write parameters in one way for one line and then type it a completely different way in the next.  

As a developer, you can avoid mistakes like these by being more careful about every line of code. The format you use should make sense, be consistent across fields, and not be a pain for your fellow developers to crack. If you trim unnecessary or redundant parameters in the body portion of each response and request, then your API design will read much more smoothly for it.  

Mixing Up HTTP Methods 

REST API design in particular anchors itself on the proper usage of HTTP request methods. The most well-known of these are GET, PUT, POST, PATCH, and DELETE. Whenever any of these methods are involved, they have to facilitate the kind of action that they’re commonly expected to.  

To illustrate simply, GET should only be used for requests for retrieving data, while DELETE should only be used for removing the resource. HTTP request methods should never be mixed up, and should always be consistent in their usage throughout the API code. Rookie developers benefit best from reviewing the purpose of each HTTP request method. But even advanced-level developers should spend a little extra time making sure that each usage of request method aligns with its rightful purpose.   

Mishandling of API Errors 

No API is free from experiencing errors. In fact, the more complex the API product is, the more capable you have to be at handling errors. Thus, error messages are an important part of the API design process. Unfortunately, it’s rather common for developers to obfuscate the true nature of the error in their messages. When that happens, users are left in the dark about what went wrong in their request and why.  

When writing your own error messages, it would help to detail what type of error occurred and what the user can do to fix it. To be safe, defer to HTTP protocols for different types of errors instead of going by an arbitrary error classification and error message system.   

Not Keeping Track of Versions 

The last on this list pertains to API versions. Though the API may have undergone a facelift at one point or another, some developers neglect to include this in their design. As a consequence, users may struggle to know which version of the API they’re using and which features are either compatible or no longer compatible.  

The solution to this flaw is simple: always implement versioning on your APIs. Include version numbers on your URLs or use custom headers for each version as needed. Properly versioning your API’s resources will give your users clarity on how advanced or upgraded its features are. It will also save you and your fellow developers a lot of grief about segregating past resources and present ones.  

Conclusion 

In practice, an API with these design flaws may still actually work. But how well do you think it will work? How easy will it be to troubleshoot or to fix? How prepared will you and your team be to scale up the API when the time comes?  

Practical, thoughtful, and consistent design will sustain an API long after its creation. Aim not only to complete the API, but to launch a product that’s representative of the best design work you can offer to your users. 

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5 Emerging Trends That May Shape the Future of Digital Insurance

Many of the world’s most important industries have made the shift towards digitization, and the modern insurance industry is no exception. The most promising insurance companies know that bolstering their current tech stack is the key not only to survival but also growth. But simply acquiring a new type of technology, such as a cloud-based insurance management system, doesn’t guarantee immediate success. Those who work in the insurance sector must also be aware of how that technology’s being used—and how to leverage it to stay competitive.  

What are the most important trends to watch out for now that the insurance industry is quickly going digital? Here are five considerations that you should make, as well as a treatise on how these could affect your insurance company: 

Heightened Popularity of Digitization for Insurance Businesses 

The first trend to be aware of is that digitization is fast becoming the norm in the industry. In general, more insurance businesses than ever before have made the move to digitize their operations. They have good reasons for upgrading to digital insurance platforms, namely the following: 

  • Cloud-based platforms can fulfill essential tasks like pricing, risk assessment, and analytics with twice the efficiency of a legacy system that’s reliant on manual processes.  
     
  • It’s also possible to use these platforms for complex and time-consuming steps in the insurance processes, such as triaging claims according to urgency.  
  • Upgrading to better insurance technology can also enhance an insurance business’s customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. 

Many of your peers in the industry are thinking about pooling more of their efforts and their resources into a digital transformation. It’s either that, or they have already done so. That means that the onus is on your company to adapt and become even more responsive to the clients enrolled in your insurance programs. 

Expansion of Insurance Programs to New Geographical Territories 

Aggressive international expansion is another trend you should watch out for. The most competitive global insurance companies have started branching out across borders and tapping new markets away from their home regions. Since their home markets may be flat, these companies have made use of digital technology to start expanding and building international awareness of their brands.  

For sure, insurance companies that are willing to expand have many challenges ahead of them. They will need to put in the time to study their new markets, as well as the regulations that govern the industry there. But the payoff is significant: in the long run, they’ll earn the lucrative opportunity to sell their insurance products to a fresh customer base. Who’s to say that you won’t be in that position someday? Perhaps you can consider international expansion a future goal for your own company.  

Even Simpler and Faster Insurance Processes 

The speed and efficiency of the digital era have made one thing more apparent—that customers prefer things to be simple and straightforward. The same applies to enrolling in insurance programs and going through the motions of their insurance processes. Long, complicated, and difficult processes cause customer fatigue and decrease their overall satisfaction with their carrier. In contrast, streamlined knowledge and service delivery improve customer satisfaction and drive higher customer retention rates.  

This means that overly complex “catch-all” insurance programs—once the cornerstone of legacy insurance systems—are on their way out. Simplified products and processes are in, and they will likely be for a long time. That’s why insurance businesses who have gone the digital route should use the upgrade in their tech stack to streamline their existing programs. Keep this in mind when you’ve deployed a new digital insurance platform of your own.  

Unbundled Insurance Programs 

Speaking of catch-all insurance programs, a greater number of insurance companies have stopped relying on them. Your peers may now be offering risk-based products that are smaller and more manageable for their customers’ life stages. These unbundled policies prove appealing to the emerging millennial market, many of whom are getting insurance for the first time. The “unbundled” approach allows them to slowly but surely get used to the processes and services of their carriers.  

Unbundled products are also easy to implement and monitor for compliance using a digitized system. So if you’re wondering what new approaches to take using your new digital insurance technology, decoupling your policies is one of them.  

Wider Availability of Personalized Insurance Products 

The last trend that you should be aware of pertains to the delivery of personalized insurance products. Nowadays, the spotlight is on individual customers, and the custom factor has become a key business strategy in digital insurance.   

There’s now a greater variety of personalized offerings in insurance carriers’ catalogs. Moreover, products are priced at ideal ranges for different customer life stages, and would-be customers receive targeted messaging through channels like email marketing.  

Today’s digital insurance technology has helped realize a higher level of personalization, which companies should use to their advantage. You can use your platform to cater to the profiles of your individual clients, especially younger workforce constituents who are savvy with technology. By adding more personal touches to your current lineup of insurance products, you can make your company stand out and stay relevant in the industry.  

Final Words: Your Place in the Future of the Insurance Industry 

By now, it may be clear that an insurance digital transformation is underway for many. That kind of change may be good for your own core insurance system as well. Investing in a digital insurance platform may help you respond to your clients’ needs much better than before. That is what will cement your place as the insurance provider of choice amidst steep competition from your peers.   

For both trends and long-lasting indicators of success in the insurance industry, the goal is to stay at least one step ahead. Here’s to staying on top of your new technology and making an impact in digital insurance! 

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Types of Tech Every Business Needs

Every business needs tech to succeed today. Whether it’s something as simple as a phone system or incredibly advanced, businesses just can’t afford to be without it. Here’s a quick look at a few types that every business – large and small – needs.

Data Management

Data is increasingly seen as a sort of corporate asset that can be utilized to make business decisions that are more informed, to improve on marketing campaigns, and to reduce costs while optimizing business operations. Master data management is done with an additional goal of increasing profits and revenue. However, if your business lacks the correct data management, it can be left with data silos that are incompatible, data sets that aren’t consistent, and issues with data quality that might hinder your ability to run analytics and business intelligence apps, or even lead to findings that are incorrect.

Tools for Website Implementation/Enhancement

Even if you’ve no presence on the web at the moment, you don’t need to unnecessarily worry. There are entire galleries available with free options that you can choose from for both content management and websites. These can quickly assist you with catching up. There are untold numbers of small businesses that either currently use these options or plan to use them in the near future.

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Many business owners will tell you that CRM solutions are uber important even if they don’t use them themselves. The issue many have with them is that even when it comes to interacting with their clients, these are invaluable, a lot of business owners may not be able to find one they like. That being said, if you’re in the market to build out your tech stack, a CRM tool is well worth the investment.

HR Tech

For years, we had to deal with HR departments and nothing else. Now, there’s HR software that can handle most of the work of an actual HR department. If you want to include this type of software in the way your small business is run, look for solutions that offer functions for administrative things like attendance and benefits. You might also want to look for a strategic option or two such as tracking employee development for the long term.

Mobile Apps

Did you know that there are still quite a few businesses that don’t use or plan to use mobile business apps? It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Most of the time when it comes to the arrows in your quiver, these are an absolute must! At the same time, though, you shouldn’t overdo it with them. For all the apps people have on their phones, most of us tend to use only a few on a daily basis.

Cloud Computing

Many small business owners are of the opinion that cloud computing makes their company more agile and scalable, and a lot of those would also say that it’s a component that’s incredibly crucial to the success of the business. If your budget is strained and your data filing system is too, cloud computing might be exactly what’s needed in order to release a bit of that pressure.

Finally, when it comes to tech that all businesses need in one form or another, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention payment methods. After all, if you can’t take payments, how will you keep the business running? It also stands to reason that if you have customers who enjoy doing their shopping online, they’ll more than likely also want to pay for those purchases online. Look at things like PayPal, Microsoft Pay, and more in this arena.

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How To Prevent DDoS Attack: Tips to Keep Your Website Safe

The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks has become one of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats for all businesses. The DDoS attack is no longer a threat exclusive for huge enterprises and services like Playstation Network or Amazon Web Service, but now medium-sized and even small companies are increasingly popular as DDoS targets

The DDoS attacks are especially dangerous since once they are started, it’s very difficult to stop them, so effective prevention is much preferred. On the other hand, the DDoS attack can cause significant damage not only in financial losses but often long-term and even permanent damage to the business’s reputation. 

For these reasons, knowing how to stop and prevent DDoS attacks is now very important for any businesses who have a website

What Is DDoS Attack?

Understanding DoS Attack

To understand DDoS attacks, we have to first discuss DoS, or Denial of Service, where DDoS can be thought of as an advanced, modified form of a DoS attack. 

Denial of Service is a type of cyber attack in which the attacker aims to slow down a computer, system, or network or even rendering it unavailable to its intended users. 

The DoS attack is performed by interrupting the system’s normal functionality, and the most basic method is to overwhelm a targeted system with requests above its processing limit, so the system can’t process normal traffic. This will result in denial-of-service to additional users. 

The attack is called a DoS attack if it only utilizes a single computer to launch the attack. If it uses more than one computer, then it is a DDoS attack where the attack is ‘distributed’ between different devices, hence the name. 

The DDoS Attack

A DDoS attack amplifies the effect of a DoS attack by using multiple compromised computers (which can be in the thousands) as the source of the attack traffic. These compromised computers are called ‘botnets’, and nowadays they can consist not only of laptops and PCs but also IoT devices and wearables (i.e. your Fitbits and Apple Watches).

A DDoS attack first requires the perpetrator to gain control of the online devices, typically by infecting them with malware and turning them into a zombie machine (the botnet). Once a botnet has been established, the hacker can then remote control the device, so when a URL or IP address is targeted, each botnet will respond by sending requests to the target, resulting in an overwhelming amount of requests happening at the same time.

A DDoS attack can be very difficult to mitigate since the attack is coming from real computers that are impossible to distinguish from legitimate users, and this is why it’s very dangerous. 

Different Types of DDoS Attacks

There are different forms of DDoS attacks targeting different components of the network connection. 

An easier way to explain this is to divide the DDoS attack types based on the OSI model, which describes the different components of an internet connection when we are accessing a website. There are 7 layers of the OSI model: 

  1. Layer 1 (Physical layer): the lowest layer, responsible for the actual physical connection between devices.
  2. Layer 2 (Datalink layer): responsible for linking data between physical nodes, the main function is to define the format of data.
  3. Layer 3 (Network layer): transmission of data between two different networks, responsible for deciding which physical path on the network the data will take. 
  4. Layer 4 (Transport layer): transmits data with TCP, UDP, and other transmission protocols. Distributes services from the network layer to the application layer. 
  5. Layer 5 (Session layer): responsible for establishing a connection and maintaining it. Controls the sessions and ports. 
  6. Layer 6 (Presentation layer): responsible for data encryption and ensuring the data is presented in a usable format
  7. Layer 7 (Application layer): the highest layer involving human-computer interaction, the web application can access the network services

Layers 1 and 2 are mostly local, so DDoS attacks in layers 1 and 2 are virtually non-existent since the distribution of the attack would be very limited. Layers 5 and 6 mainly handle the validation of data coming from layers 3 and 4. So, there are three main categories of DDoS attacks: protocol attacks (targeting layer 3 and 4), volumetric attacks (targeting layer 3 and 4), and layer 7 (L7) attacks.

L7 (Application Layer) Attacks

Currently the most sophisticated and advanced form of DDoS attack. Layer 7 is where the web pages are actually generated on the server, and the attack exploits it by attempting to overwhelm the web server by requesting a flood of traffic (mainly HTTP traffic). 

An example of layer 7 DDoS attacks is sending thousands of requests for a certain page per second until the server is overwhelmed. Another common practice (that is much harder to defend against) is calling an API over and over again. 

Protocol Attacks

Data transmitted and received over a network is divided into packets, and layer 3’s main objective is to address these packets to the right destinations via protocols. Layer 4, on the other hand, would open the necessary connections as commanded by layer 3, ensure reliable data delivery, and indicate which service on the target device should use the sent data. 

In layer 3, the most important protocol is IP (Internet Protocol), while layer 4 involves transport protocols including TCP and UDP. 

Protocol attacks would utilize vulnerabilities in these layer 3 and layer 4 to render the network inaccessible by users. There are various ways attackers can attack these vulnerabilities in protocols. 

SYN Flood attack, for example, exploits the vulnerabilities in the  TCP handshake by sending a large number of TCP SYN packets using spoofed IP addresses. The network will then respond to each of these connection requests and waits for the next step in the TCP handshake (which never occurs), exhausting the network’s resources.  

Another common protocol attack is the ICMP Ping of Death, where the attacker sends a ping request that is larger than the maximum size allowed by the protocol. So, when the network tries to reassemble the packet, the packet size exceeds the maximum size and crashes the network. 

Volumetric Attacks

As the name suggests, in a volumetric attack the objective is to saturate the bandwidth of the target website/network. Large amounts of data are sent to a target to create massive traffic, overwhelming the network.

Ping flood DDOS attacks, for example, is when the attacker sends thousands or even millions of pings to the server using botnets. Smurf DDoS is another type of volumetric attack where the attacker sends out ping requests to thousands of websites while spoofing the IP address in the request to the responses go to the target network instead of the attacker.  Modern devices are typically not vulnerable to this smurf ICMP-based attack.

Best Practices for Preventing DDoS Attacks

As we can see, DDoS attacks are possible due to the vulnerabilities in our network whether in the network, protocol, or application layer.

So, preventing DDoS attacks is about minimizing these vulnerabilities by implementing the following best practices:

  1. Monitor your traffic regularly and aim for early detection

Identifying the early warning signs is very important in preventing DDoS attacks. There are various tools we can use (a lot of them free) to monitor traffic so we can detect traffic spikes, which is important in detecting volumetric attacks. 

A dramatic increase in traffic is a major sign of a volumetric DDoS attack, so make sure to regularly check your traffic logs and/or have alerts set up when the number of requests or visitors has exceeded a specified threshold depending on your bandwidth. 

You should also consider: 

  • The time of the traffic spike. It is, for example, unrealistic to see a spike at 3 AM. 
  • The location of the traffic sources. For example, if you are not serving the Chinese market, having a sudden surge of traffic coming from China is suspicious.
  • The time of the year. Depending on your business, there might be legitimate spikes, for example, during the holiday seasons. 

However, as we’ve discussed, the volumetric attack isn’t the only type of DDoS attack that might be a threat to you. In a layer 7 attack, for example, the traffic can be as low as 1 request per second but is targeting a vulnerable endpoint in your web application. An AI-powered, behavioral-based bot protection solution like DataDome, is necessary for monitoring your traffic for potential layer 7 DDoS attacks.

  1. Increase your network bandwidth

Since DDoS attacks, especially volumetric attacks, operate at the basis of exhausting your resources, provisioning extra bandwidth can be effective to handle the unexpected traffic spikes. This won’t necessarily stop the DDoS attack altogether but may buy you some very valuable time to set up and execute your mitigation plan.

This solution might be expensive since this spare bandwidth might go unused when there’s no incoming attack, but there are hosting services offering burstable billing/burstable bandwidth plans that might provide you with some versatility. They might also offer enhanced protection against DDoS attacks with these plans, so make sure to check with your hosting provider whether they offer such options. 

  1. Redundancy in network infrastructure

Maintaining redundancy is a very important aspect of preventing damages caused by DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are becoming much larger and more sophisticated than ever, but the objective remains the same: disrupting your service.

The idea behind redundancy is that whenever a system is disrupted due to DDoS attacks, we can simply fall back on redundant systems so we can continue delivering service without interruption. Redundancy also allows us to cut off and reroute traffic when needed.

If possible, don’t rely on a single hosting/ISP service, and look for ISP redundancy. There are hosting services that offer the ability to switch between different providers in the event of a DDoS attack, allowing us to reroute traffic to prevent downtime. 

Also, don’t rely solely on your ISP in defending your site against DDoS. In the case of severe attacks that might put all of the ISP’s customers at risk, the ISP will decide on blackholing your traffic and your site will be down indefinitely. Having a dedicated DDoS mitigation solution, as discussed above, remains the best solution.

  1. Prepare your organizational response

It’s very important to prepare your operational readiness for a DDoS attack and ensure you can respond ASAP in the event of a DDoS attack. Educate your team regularly with your DDoS response plan, and train them with simulated attacks to validate your organization’s overall DDoS defense.

When a DDoS attack already happens, you won’t have time to plan your response, so having a clear mitigation plan ahead is necessary. You must prepare your team with policies and procedures on: 

  • Communications: your staff needs to know exactly what to do and whom to call in the event of a DDoS attack while aiming to disrupt daily operations as little as possible. It’s best to plan a way to relay information in the form of internal short message blasts. 
  • Identification of key personnel: it’s important to prevent panic in the event of the attack, which can delay the required mitigation response. It’s important to identify key personnel that should be notified of the attack as soon as possible. Educate your team so everyone understands their role in the DDoS mitigation process. 
  • Information-related policies: a simple approach like keeping all phone numbers and names of key personnel in a single place can be extremely important in managing valuable time. Set up policies on how personnel should share and access the required information in the event of a DDoS attack. 
  1. Maintain relationships with your key vendors

Successful DDoS mitigation would require the help of your vendors: bot management solution provider, hosting provider, ISP, and so on. Don’t wait until a DDoS attack has happened to start a relationship with their customer service reps. You can build relationships as a preventive measure and incorporate them into your DDoS mitigation plan. This might seem simple, but can be very effective in ensuring a calm, rehearsed response during the event of an attack. 

End Words

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to preventing a DDoS attack, a good DDoS mitigation service like DataDome that can protect your site from layer 7 attacks remains the most reliable solution. 

However, preparing your network infrastructure and the human element of your organization is also very important: when a DDoS attack is in place, you won’t have time to plan a response and think about what you should do. Instead, a calm, rehearsed approach is always preferred.