In this ten-part series, we are going to introduce you to the ten basic things (five paid, and five free) that you will need to run an online business. This will be the first of many series of articles that will form your course for beginning marketers.
Despite all the offers you are bound to receive in this business that promise to be the next new answer to making money online, the truth is, you need very little to be successful. The real secret is to know and understand how to use the software that is already available on your computer or available for free on the web.
Unfortunately, there are a few things that 999.9% of us are not going to create for oursleves and we can’t get for free, so we do have to pay for a minimal number of items. The five main things you will have to pay for are (1) anti-virus and malware protection, (2) back-up protection for your saved data (and I don’t mean an external hard-drive), (3) domain registration, (4) hosting, and (5) your own business email (which comes free automatically with a hosting account, but this content was so large it needs a post of its own later on in this series). (The last three are optional, depending on what kind of business you are running, but EVERY computer should have the first two!)
Then you have your free software, for (6) office production, (7) marketing, (8) web production, (9) graphics, and (10) analytics and testing. And all of these should be studied and used in the order given.
In the process of putting this series together, I have gotten behind on making regular postings. Rather than hit you all at once with the entire series, I will be adding one post per day for the next ten days to the blog during this series, and then I will come back and add links to the posts once they are all online. Once I get caught up again, I will try to post every week or thereabouts, so let’s get started…
VIRUS AND MALWARE PROTECTION SOFTWARE, Part One
Before you do anything else, and whether you have a brand new computer just out of the box, or have already owned one for awhile, the first thing you should do is make sure you have GOOD security software on it. If you lose everything on your hard drive, you won’t have a business! There are other ways to lose your data besides computer crashes, theft and accidents, and that is through malware, hackers, and viruses, some of which may be intentional, some not. So preventing that from happening is the very first task for any computer user, whether he has a business or not.
First let’s examine what each of the threats are. A virus is actually a flaw written into the computer code, usually intentionally, as most programmers have software that detects when there is a fault in the program, so that they can correct it before it is published. Most viruses that “get loose” are intentionally put out there for whatever sick reasoning is behind the programmer’s thoughts. Some are designed to be destructive, like erasing your hard drive, while others are designed to gather data, or allow access to sections of the computer that they shouldn’t have access to. The latter also fall into the “Trojan Horse” category, as they sneak in sometimes long before the actual event takes place. Many have built-in timers to control when they are activated, and could be on your machine for many months before they cause a problem.
A firewall is designed to prevent hackers from getting access to anything on your computer, but again, only the programmers who operate illegally will know how to get around that. Like the old saying about locks, they only keep out the honest people, and prevent accidental entry. Those who want in, and have the knowledge to gain entry can do it. The saving grace is that all computer actions can be tracked, and sooner or later, the culprit will be caught. Some don’t care.
Malware can be anything from Trojan Horses, to cookies that are designed to send information to another computer, to spyware designed to allow others to read what’s going on with your computer. Certain operations of your computer depend on cookies, and are a normal part of the operation of your computer, but many times, they can be intrusive and should be stopped. If you stop all of them, you lose the major part of the functionality of your computer, such as its ability to remember web sites already visited, and passwords. That’s where having the proper security software can sort things out that the average person wouldn’t understand.
This is where we have recently added another program to our arsenal, and that is System Mechanic (dot com). It provides a desktop dashboard with various lights ranging from green to yellow, to amber, to red, depending on the seriousness of the threat. By clicking anywhere on the icon, it activates the full dashboard in a pop-up window, where you can control what actions to take in great detail. It has fixed many problems that have shown up and kept our computers running in top shape for several years.
As far as anti-virus and malware protection, we have used McAfee Internet Suite (now called "Total Protection") for several years now, and have never had a problem with a virus, or malware. Still no program is ever 100% reliable. We also run the free version of Malware Bytes, and have occasionally caught some Trojans that slipped through. But be careful, as some security programs interfere with each other. We have since realized that McAfee has packages for multiple computers, and after a chat with them, discovered we could get the McAfee Total Protection package for all of our computers for less than we were paying separately. It is very similar to what we had before, and protects incoming information as well as outgoing.
No program can say that it is 100% foolproof, as the bad guys are always trying to find ways to get around the security, and the software companies have to work just as fast to squelch their efforts. That’s why there are so many updates that have to be done…sometimes daily to keep up with it. On rare occasion, they don’t find the “cure” fast enough, but they try their best, and that’s all anyone can expect. Think of it as any other virus… they can’t produce a cure until they know what it is. And then once they see how it acts, they sometimes have to experiment before a cure is found that doesn’t hurt anything else. Once a virus is found, they may know what to do immediately, or it could take several hours to several days.
Because security products are produced by independent companies at their own direction, not all will catch all of the same problems. I have seen cases where one program will miss something and another program will catch it, but then the two programs would not run compatibly on the same machine! This is why you shouldn’t try to “over-compensate” by using more than one security product at the same time without checking out their forums to see if they play well with other programs. If they aren’t compatible, they can cause other unwanted problems, just like mixing the wrong drugs in your own body.
There are many other products on the market, and some may prefer a different brand, such as Norton or AVG. Which one “really” works the best is debatable by the average user and only provable by statistics which can also change from one day to the next. The main thing is that you use “something”, and the free ones that I have seen, just don’t do the complete job for running a business. Think about it... if they aren't selling anything from which to generate income to pay for competent people to update the programs... then how do know they are up to date?
Most of these companies offer a free version of their software just to get you to try it, and then they keep hitting you with pop-up reminders to buy the full package. So in other words, you don’t have everything you need with the free version! That’s why it’s free! If it was worth anything they would be charging you for it!
And if you try to use one free service for one type of protection, and another for something else, they may not always be compatible with each other. Trying to play guessing games is just plain unprofessional, and while you are experimenting, your computer is at risk! That’s NOT the way to run a business! You need a complete system from one company that takes care of it all, or at least, as much as humanly possible.
Chances are that if you bought a new computer, it may have had an anti-virus program already on it. Some are free forever, and some are introductory versions that are only free for a limited time, and they continually pester you to upgrade. The way many new companies get their products in the market, is to talk the computer companies and service shops to introduce them on new and refurbished computers. Search the program files on any new computer, and you will see all kinds of stuff in there, from games to audio and video programs, many of which you have never heard of and will never use.
I’m not in favor of being someone’s Guinea pig or having my computer cluttered up with things I didn’t order. I prefer to choose what programs I want. If they are any kind of reputable company at all, they should be able to afford to do proper marketing, and attract customers to them… not force their products on unwitting victims through other products. But whatever you decide, do the research. Read the reviews. and then choose wisely. If you don’t know what a program does, do a Google search on it and do the research to find out before you end up uninstalling or deleting something that you need!
Any software company is only as good as the employees who work there, and it is my own belief that the larger the company, the better employees they can attract… not only in what they pay them in wages and benefits, but in the level of education and skill they have. The larger companies can also provide better tools for them to work with, and provide better services and support to their customers, so I prefer to stick to those larger, well-known companies. Security is too important for anything less.
So now you hopefully understand why it’s important to protect your computer, whether you run a business or not. Even for home use, it’s very important.
We do most of our transactions online now, from paying bills, to having things shipped to our door to save travel expenses. In over fifteen years of conducting business online, we have never had a problem with viruses, information being hacked, payment systems or anything else. I believe that is largely due to the fact that we are properly protected from unseen things, and have learned how to avoid the things that we CAN see, like being able to recognize email scams, “phishing” attempts and other things, and by reporting such attempts to the proper authorities to get the scammers shut down ASAP. Simply ignoring them won't make them go away! They need to be arrested and stopped!
And it isn’t just email that pulls malware into your computer. You can click on the wrong web site and it will download all kinds of crap to your computer. This is why it is also important to have a security suite that monitors web sites before you even click on them, to tell you whether they are safe or not. McAfee Site Adviser (part of Total Protection) does that.
In the world of internet marketing, you will be doing much research… sometimes to find training, to search for new products, to download software, and many other things, any of which can insert a cookie, a malware program or even a virus into your machine.
Your business depends upon a properly running computer! If it goes down, so does your productivity and your income!
By now, (or as soon as you are able) you should have your computer protected properly before you attempt anything else. These are things that you cannot create for yourself, and are a necessary expense of owning and operating a computer. It is because of such necessary expenses as this that you should consider making those direct expenses tax deductible by using your computer for business. If not, it's money out of your pocket!
You may or may not need the next three items in this series: domain registration, hosting, and a professional email account, depending on what kind of business model you operate. If you do plan to use those, we will discuss domain registration in the next post, and then adding a hosting account to it. The next item you will need after that is a professional email address for your business, and we will discuss setting up business email addresses at your domain, as part of hosting. It seems many people have a problem with that.
As always if you have any questions, let me know. If you are having trouble with techincal or marketing issues, let me know and maybe I can walk you through an answer by email. With no particpation there can be no learning. (I said that.)