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Guest Posts Blogs

Guest blogs highlight the expertise of our industry peers and business partners. These in-depth pieces prepare your business for success with a professional perspective on telecommunications topics.

5 WordPress Security Tips for Your Business’s Website

WordPress Site Update Dialogue -- Follow These Five WordPress Security Tips to Protect Your BusinessToday’s guest post was written by HostingPill, a reviewer of website hosting options for individuals and businesses.

Taking precautions to protect your WordPress website can help ensure you are protecting your business’s website from cybercrime activities. Today, we’ll share five WordPress security tips that are easy to follow yet effective in keeping you safe.

Reports conducted by WP WhiteSecurity show that 73.2% of WordPress installations are vulnerable to exploitations. With a little preparation, you can keep your site outside the bad end of that statistic.

WordPress is one of the major players in website hosting and building, but this doesn’t make it invincible to these kinds of threats. Take a few minutes today to check your website, make a few simple and practical updates, and keep it safe and secured.

1. Update Your WordPress Site, Themes, and Plugins

It’s important to update your WordPress website, themes, and plugins regularly. The changes you receive as part of updates may seem insignificant at first, but small changes can provide you with more than a couple of user-facing feature changes; they may be mandatory for your site’s security.

A lot of small website owners opt to skip updating their websites. They assume that hackers will avoid their websites as they consider themselves of lower value. When in reality, hackers tend to check on smaller sites. They have weaker security measures, making them susceptible to exploitation.

Understandably, some users may find themselves struggling to find the theme appropriate for them, and one that’s regularly updated. There are popular WordPress themes you can try; many are also free so you can easily find one that fits you well. Free versions of plugins can also be of excellent quality and have security updates applied to them regularly that you should take advantage of.

WordPress Plugin Update Menu

2. Always Update and Make Strong Passwords

In making passwords, it is tempting for most of us to create short ones. It is easy to remember and effortless to input. However, short passwords are considered weak passwords. Hackers can access your website by trying multiple combinations and guesses.

Research done by securityboulevard.com shows that 65% of internet users reuse their passwords. Despite the fact, all of us knew the risk associated with reusing a password. Another issue with weak passwords is users make passwords based on their pet’s name, birthdays, or any significant detail about themselves. It is advised to prevent using passwords made out of personal details.

To create a strong password, you can use an online password generator. It can be burdensome because it is composed of random numbers and letters. But, there are also apps and online services available that can keep your password safe. It is better to have a confusing password than being hacked for a password like “123456.”

3. Opt to Limit User’s Access to Your Site

Security can be created from the inside and the outside. When you have fewer users with access to your site, you create fewer opportunities for security breaches from both angles.

Hackers need only look for the easiest method of attack to gain entry to your site. With respect to multiple users, they may find that one of your logins has a simple password attached to it. By taking advantage of easy entry, they can inject malware, and attempt to access your sensitive information.

Furthermore, you may have created separate logins for staff members and contractors you work with. You should limit their permissions on your site as much as possible to start. Then if you stop working with any of these individuals, it will be necessary to remove their usernames and passwords. You don’t want them sitting around as a possible entry point for bad actors.

You can additionally make sure to limit login attempts to your site by using a plugin. Be sure to keep it updated! A plugin like this will let you set a maximum number of login attempts and, when that number has been exceeded, can automatically block the person at that IP address from accessing the login page for a certain time. This is an excellent way to prevent brute-force attempts at logins to your site.

4. Use HTTPS on Your Site

A lot of site owners are not aware of the difference between HTTPS from HTTP. The hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) was created without specific protections in mind; it doesn’t have robust security measures in place to guard sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, while a person is browsing your website.

This WordPress security tip largely applies to the safety of your users. If you complete financial transactions on your site or you handle sensitive user data (including any type of on-site login process), you will want to use hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS). Using HTTPS on your site will offer protections for your users on both public and private networks so individuals are protected from wherever they browse your site.

Web Browser Address Bar With VirtualPBX HTTPS URL

Although HTTPS costs a few bucks more than an HTTP, it offers additional services that HTTP lacks. It uses TLS to encrypt HTTP requests and responses that result in secured communication over a computer network. You can check with your hosting service providers as to their HTTPS offers. There are a lot of awesome hosting service providers for WordPress to choose from.

5. Protect With Firewall and Malware Protection

Though not all of our WordPress security tips should come from the use of plugins, we can deny their abilities to make tasks easier. Plugins that offer a firewall or malware protection can offer a great way to make sure the content on your site is clean. A plugin like MalCare that offers both a firewall and malware scanning can reduce the number of apps you need to rely on for these purposes.

This type of plugin, no matter which brand you choose, can detect malware and clean it for you. You will receive an alert about any issues with the content on your site, and you can choose how to handle them — including whether or not to delete them.

Firewall protection can assist in mitigating potential hack attempts. By filtering visitors by their IP addresses. A blacklist can restrict users with IPs from specific regions, or which are associated with poor usage, and keep them from accessing your site in any way. Together, preemptive blocking of users and secondary scanning of files can go a long way toward keeping your site safe.

Try These WordPress Security Tips Today

We hope that these WordPress security tips will make it easier for you to protect your website. It isn’t always an easy task to keep your site secure, but with an application of the fundamentals and a reliance on good plugins, you can get well on your way.

You don’t need to accomplish all of the tips provided here in one sitting. Take your time to make sure everything is done properly and is accessible to your liking. Try a few similar plugins; research a handful of HTTPS certificate providers; initiate a workflow for user management that fits your business practices. We hope you will stay safe and can continue maintaining a polished website for years to come.

This Is the Future of Remote Work In 2021

Person Working on Laptop - The Future of Remote Work Will Include More Managers and Employees Working From HomeToday’s guest post was provided by Lucas Campbell, a digital marketing manager with experience in that position from traditional and remote office locations.

The world has witnessed a historic shift in the past year because of the nature and scope of the job market thanks to the COVID 19 pandemic. The future of remote work has revealed itself in a short span of time, in a difficult situation for many.

Before the novel coronavirus took center stage many companies used to offer work from home (WFH) as a sort of perk for their employees. However, what was considered a fringe benefit is now the norm for many, if not most business organizations. It is widely considered that within the next few years almost 70 percent of the global workforce will end up working from home or other remote locations.

Many people consider 2020 as a tipping point for remote work where it has become seen as a normal and expected part of the workforce. That year was most certainly not the last we’ve seen of remote work, as the trend has picked up the pace.

Remote Work is Rapidly Becoming Permanent

The percentage of employees working from home has leveled off at about 33% from a high near 70% during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many industry pundits believed that once the pandemic recedes into memory, people will go back to work in their respective offices. However, if current trends are anything to go by, that opinion may not turn out to be true; reality may even prove the opposite, with some predicting continued increases in remote work due to its assocation with increased productivity.

While a few people have gone back to their onsite jobs, either due to necessity or preference, many people are working from home because they enjoy that style of work. It has proven effective for both management and employees across industries.

Productivity levels have not decreased as many analysts had predicted. On the contrary, there is no need to rent out office space, nor is there any need to commute to and from work. As a matter of fact, as per a Gartner CFO survey, almost 75 percent of companies plan on working with the remote work model, even if the pandemic eases anytime in the foreseeable future. Many big companies are leading this change. Both Twitter and Facebook have allowed their staff to continue to work from home indefinitely.

VirtualPBX Remote Work Customer Testimonial

No Need for Extra Office Space

As we see the future of remote work come into focus, the need for massive office complexes may become a thing of the past. One by one, large and small companies will go fully remote, so office space will shift from centralized complexes to many smaller offices in homes or in temporary spaces such as coffee shops and co-working spaces. This decreased demand for office space may allow businesses to cut back on material costs — such as renting floor space and supplying computers and office supplies for workers — which could increase their revenue. We may see that revenue then be used for marketing, industry research, and product development.

This type of priority shift is already happening as, one after another, businesses have started selling their massive office blocks. Companies are also concentrating on the hybrid model where some staff members will report for duty, while others will continue to work from home. Vital machinery will remain operational while retail work will be conducted from remote locations via Zoom meetings, Google Docs, and other work-sharing applications.

It is likely that most in-person meetings will end up being reserved for brainstorming sessions and other work. These might include team-building exercises or even the introduction of new projects. In the long run, the whole of the office might be redesigned to create a more inclusive work atmosphere that would be ideal for collaborative work. It will mean an end to stuffy cubicles, tiny workstations, and the like.

Digital Tools for Remote Working

From Trello to Google Teams, more and more tools have been developed for remote working applications. In fact, the wired internet generation and the arrival of very fast online connectivity have meant that just about anyone equipped with the relevant device can get the job done, easily enough.

These tools make it easy to work from anywhere. Without them, it is likely that the Coronavirus pandemic would have played out much differently with respect to its effect on the global workforce. Working remotely 10 to 15 years ago would have been more difficult for many workers, so we may have seen a more sudden shift from lockdown procedures into a more “normal” state of work where everyone had to return to their offices.

High-speed internet and the availability of collaboration tools lets employees connect with one another through voice calls, video chat, and texting while expecting that they can send large files quickly and edit collaborative documents which are saved on redundant servers, so no information is ever lost. These modern miracles were considered the stuff of science fiction barely a few decades back. Now they all contribute to a remote working experience.

VirtualPBX Zapier Integration Examples

The Future of Remote Work

Remote working is not a one-off experience due to the pandemic. The future of remote work is a reflection of the present. It is here to stay and will continue to persist through the coming years.

If we are lucky, remote work tools will also continue to grow to offer management and employees more freedoms in their jobs. What we have seen during the Coronavirus pandemic is a merging of demand for remote work and the tools that make it possible. Hopefully the future will hold more methods of collaboration so workplace can remain efficient and enjoyable even during the most difficult of challenges.

5 Tips for Remote Workers in 2021

Remote Worker Using LaptopToday’s guest post was written by TechWarn, a digital safety advocate and news site.

COVID-19 may be slowing down, but there are still plenty of people working from home. If you’re new to remote working or if you’ve been struggling with working from home, here are a few tips to make the experience easier.

1. Use a VPN for Public Networks

Working remotely doesn’t mean being stuck at home.

Sometimes, you want to go out and experience a change of scenery while typing up your latest article. However, doing so may include using a public network. The problem with this is that public networks are infamous for their lack of security.

If you end up using a public network, think about using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Downloading a VPN on your device will keep your device encrypted, meaning cybercriminals will have a rough time stealing your data.

2. Keep a To-Do List

It’s easy to get lost in your work when working from home. After all, it’s a massive change. If you need help staying organized, it’s recommended you keep a to-do list with you.

A to-do list gives you a clear overview of your day, preventing you from getting lost or overwhelmed.

Online tools like Airtable can be great for entire departments to organize their tasks as individuals and join group assignments with due dates, descriptions, and file attachments.

Airtable To-Do List Screenshot

3. Clear Out Your Own Personal Space

To keep a clear mind, you must have a clear space. Many businesses are moving to a remote working basis, and if you expect to be working from home for a while (more than a day), you’ll want to clear out space in your home dedicated only to work.

Keeping a clean, work-dedicated space helps prevent you from being distracted and keeps your mind clear after the workday is over.

4. Organize Workload With Slack and Trello

Tools like VirtualPBX Video Conferencing help teams maintain communication during periods of separation, but what about managing workloads? Managing projects and assignments? For that, teams can use Slack or Trello, or even both!

Slack acts as a messaging board for teams, while Trello helps assign projects and apply deadlines. These two tools are key to teams who want to be efficient as possible.

Automation services like Zapier can also bring web platforms like Slack to life. They can listen for information relevant to your company, such as an inbound SMS message, and relay those events to individual and group channels to keep workers updated.

VirtualPBX SMS to Google Docs Zapier Screenshot

5. Stay Focused Using Forest

An issue many remote workers face is distractions. It’s easier to get distracted at home versus the office since many more distractions exist: your pets, your children, your loud neighbors, etc.

Fortunately, there are apps designed to keep you focused — Forest being a favorite of many remote workers. Forest tracks the time you spend focused on your work. The longer you’re focused, the more trees grow in the app.

It sounds childish, but it does work, as it acts as a reward system. Plus, each tree you grow grants you virtual coins. Spend those, and the company behind Forest grows a tree in your name! Not only do you get to focus, but you also get to help the environment.

Remote Workers Don’t Have to Stress

Working from home can be a stressful experience without the proper use of workplace tools. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making it a productive experience.

Take a look today at VirtualPBX Business Phone Plans that have a number of options for remote workers, including call routing through an Auto Attendant, Business SMS for text messaging co-workers and clients, and Video Conferencing that supports hundreds of callers in a single meeting.

5 Productivity Hacks For Remote Teams

Toddler Typing on Home Laptop - 5 Productivity Hacks For Remote TeamsToday’s guest post was submitted by Stevie Nicks at Just Another Magazine, an online magazine that covers lifestyle topics.

As of December 2020, many of us are now nine months into working remotely.

Despite this, only a few of us have really mastered the art. Sure we enjoy the extra half hour in bed, we’ve had time to conquer the coffee machine and we can finally make those healthy lunches we craved after five supermarket sandwiches in a row, but the question still remains — are we as productive?

It’s hard to be productive in a global pandemic, and pushing yourself beyond your means is absolutely not the answer. However, whether this is going to continue well into 2021, or your business is considering remote working as a permanent option, it’s important to find ways to make you and your team remain as productive as possible.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of five productivity hacks perfect for remote teams.

Managing Your Time Properly

“Time is money” might sound like a cliche, but in 2020 more and more companies are finding time is their only saleable commodity.

That’s why time management is so important, especially in an environment where it’s easy to get distracted.

You might not like your office and its beige walls, but at least it doesn’t have all your home comforts, a stocked kitchen and roommates/a partner just waiting to distract you from your work.

Being more cautious of your time is an essential component of working from home. That’s why so many businesses have switched to time tracking tools. Without managers to monitor productivity it is difficult to know how much time is being put into projects. Tools such as HourStack and RescueTime have become essential, giving companies genuine, real-time data that helps them highlight which tasks are holding up their staff and wasting precious time.

Efforts to tackle this issue also need to come from within.

Lesson one: take proper breaks. Give your eyes a rest from the screen and your back the chance to realign from your desk chair. Short, frequent breaks (not on your phone!) help you recharge and produce better work.

Lesson two: ensure you aren’t working overtime. Many people have reported they feel pressure to check emails and work later as they’re already at home. Ignore that feeling!

Good time management is about being sensible and working within your personal limits much more than it is about pushing yourself to make every second count.

VirtualPBX Softphone on Desktop and Mobile

Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Outside of the workers themselves, digital tools have been the true MVPs of 2020.

Think where we’d be if we couldn’t chat over Zoom or track website performance with Google Analytics. It doesn’t bear thinking about really!

We’ve already touched on time tracking tools, but there are so many other tools you should invest in to really hack your productivity when working remotely. The best thing about digital tools is they don’t just help out the individual, but your whole team.

A great project management tool is a must. A central hub that collects all your projects into one ensures everyone is aware of what needs doing and when. They make it easier for everyone in the business (and freelancers) to understand what’s required of them and helps managers to notice potential problems before they become too big to control. A great project management tool doesn’t just streamline existing work but prepares you for future assignments.

Communication tools are equally important. Zoom and its contemporaries are an obvious choice but think about how your business is going to answer the phone while everyone is out of the office. Ensuring the right people can be patched through doesn’t just save time, it helps win new business.

Finally, you need to consider the creative and specific tools that keep the heart of your business going. Is social media the lifeblood of what you do? Get tools that make scheduling posts one bulk task. The variety of digital tools available is vast. Don’t just hoover up all the leading tools on the market and weigh yourself down with subscriptions. Find what works for your team and what they do. P.S: Free trials are your friend.

Simpletivity Youtube Channel Screenshot

Dedicate Time to Learning and Training

A remote lifestyle doesn’t need to be an endless grind of work work work.

Smart businesses know one of the keys to true productivity is giving teams the opportunity to gain new skills through training and improve their industry knowledge. They might not be able to attend conferences or discuss ideas with their colleagues, but there are plenty of ways employees can grow and develop in their role from the comfort of their home.

There are, of course, plenty of virtual conferences happening every day around the world. As keynote speakers and thought leaders become more comfortable with video chat and organizations look to recoup lost incomes, events have become commonplace on everything from digital marketing to how to work with charities. These are great sources of knowledge and networking opportunities for remote teams.

Alternatively, teams can access the bountiful collection of online courses, blogs and videos available from a number of providers across the web. Larger course collections such as Lynda are a brilliant place for companies looking to develop specific skills such as Photoshop editing, while industry blogs (or vlogs like Simpletivity) provide little nuggets of knowledge from leading professionals that can be digested in your own time.

You don’t even need to convince your team to commit to hours and hours of formal lessons to get something out of remote training. A productivity podcast might be the best ways for them to absorb key skills and a productive mindset by osmosis. Consider encouraging teams to listen to a productivity podcast like Get Yourself Optimized to broaden their perception of what productivity means in a real-world environment.

Training isn’t just an opportunity to improve your team’s capabilities, but a way for them to recharge and break up their day. They’ll appreciate the investment in them as a business asset and the time they can spend away from demanding projects.

Outline a Clear Workflow

This is where having the right project management tool really pays off.

A clear workflow can be the difference between a project that gets done in time and one that weighs down the business well beyond the deadline.

Before you can start to re-think your workflow you need to take a step back and analyze where it is now. How are people working? Are people’s roles well defined? Could this team benefit from an additional member? Once you have answers to these questions, you can start to hack your workflow.

Organize efficiently and ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. This can be assigned through the use of a digital tool or by frequent meetings. While spending all day in a Zoom call might sound unproductive, it can be a useful session for employees less sure of their next step. Optimized communication (think comments on tasks) is essential to a great workflow.

To future-proof for better workflow on other projects, you should ensure you are documenting every step of your process. Keep records of every checklist, minutes of every meeting and notes on every task to help further streamline what you do. There is no catch-all answer, you have to build on feedback and obvious roadblocks unique to your processes.

Set Achievable Goals and Objectives

It can feel like a cheap psychology lesson, but there is huge value in setting clear goals for your team. An achievable objective gives teams something to work towards.

Working from home (especially in these circumstances) can be disparaging and lonely. A light at the end of the productivity tunnel can make all those days working from a bedroom desk seem worth it. Even if they’re not personal goals or objectives, completing them can give the whole company a little boost.

It even helps with training. If team members can see value in the training they are doing and how it relates to their position (and the possibility of a promotion) it can be easier to get them to buy into it. Objectives take something hypothetical and transform it into a tangible endpoint everyone can celebrate.

By laying out clear objectives you’re ensuring the body of the business is working in tandem. If one part of that body breaks down because it isn’t sure of its purpose, it can have a significant impact on the whole process.

When you’re sitting at home for the third month in a row missing your colleagues it can be hard to push yourself to engage with a project 100%. Being productive isn’t easy, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for not working to our best every day. But these tips will help ensure everyone on your team is getting as close as possible as frequently as possible, and improving every day.

Password Strength: Debunking Common Password Misconceptions

Login Screen - Password Strength and MisconceptionsToday’s guest post was written by TechWarn, a digital safety advocate and news site.

We use passwords every day. In fact, the average Internet user has 90 online accounts which likely means they’re using nearly a hundred passwords as well. But even though passwords are the main security measure in the digital world, most people know very little about password strength and how to maximize their protection. Even more surprising, a lot of people hold completely false misconceptions about passwords.

Let’s dive in and debunk some of the most common ones.

Misconception 1: Password Protection Is Enough

Passwords might be the most common way to secure your accounts, but they’re by no means foolproof. Password cracking software is widely available on the dark web, allowing even amateur hackers to break through security. No matter your password strength, you can also fall victim to phishing or other social engineering attacks in which hackers trick you to voluntarily reveal your credentials.

Let’s face it: on their own, passwords never offer a sufficient level of protection for your sensitive data.

It’s a good idea to add two-factor authentication for extra protection. Two-factor authentication is a combination of something you know (password) and something you have (ex. your phone). Even if the hacker cracks your password, they will still need the other half of the key to get into your account. Most of the time, this should be sufficient to keep them away.

Note that not all two-factor authentication methods are equally secure. There is a consensus among cybersecurity experts that SMS messages are the weakest second authentication step. Through social engineering, the attacker can redirect the victim’s texts to his own SIM card and intercept the messages. That’s why the recommended method is either using an authenticator app on your phone (ex. Google Authenticator) or a physical security key.

Misconception 2: Passwords Should Be Memorable

At face value, this password misconception makes perfect sense. You’re not supposed to write passwords down so, of course, they must be memorable enough to simply remember them. Right?

Not quite. No matter how memorable your passwords are, it’s still not possible to remember dozens of them (as I mentioned before, you likely have around 90 accounts to secure).

The best way to handle your passwords is to get a password manager. A password manager is a program that securely stores all your login credentials and other sensitive information. It’s also an incredibly handy tool for teams as you can organize your passwords and give other team members access.

If you have a password manager, there’s no need to remember any passwords except your master key to access the manager. That password should definitely be memorable, but none of the others need to be.

Misconception 3: Passwords Can’t Contain Dictionary Words

There’s an ongoing debate among cybersecurity experts about this one. Some claim that passwords consisting of a random string of letters, digits, and characters are the most secure. Others argue that a cluster of dictionary words, such as “correcthorsebatterystaple” can be just as strong while being a lot easier to remember.

So which one is it?

Let’s conduct an experiment. Using a password security tool, I checked a four-word passphrase “raviolijakartacrabhamlet” against a random 20-character password generated by my password manager “0zut07IcAT8D65n28Ys4”. The result for the former was 7 quadrillion years, while the latter would take 558 quadrillion years to crack. When I shortened my random password to 15 characters, however, the time to crack it decreased to 609 million years.

Password Entropy Graph

This discrepancy depends on the entropy (or complexity) of the password, which includes length and character sets as factors. If you’re willing to work with extremely long, 20-character passwords then, indeed, those are more secure than passphrases. The shorter ones, however, seem to lose when compared to random word clusters.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter too much anyway because we’re talking millions of years to crack the password. It’s worth pointing out, though, that as the technology develops, the time to crack complex passwords will decrease. What might take millions of years today, might take just weeks in a few years and maybe mere seconds a decade from now.

Misconception 4: Some Characters Are Disallowed

Passwords can, in fact, include any characters. Emojis can also be part of your password and the password manager company Myki has even released an emoji-only password generator.

However, some people learned the hard way why emojis in passwords are not a good idea when they tried logging in with a keyboard that doesn’t support emojis. With little evidence as to whether emoji passwords are more secure or easier to remember, it’s probably better to steer away from them for now.

Your VirtualPBX Account

VirtualPBX emphasizes data security in all aspects of its phone system. Its users play a strong role in the security of their own accounts, so it’s suggested that strong passwords be used for all admins and users on its phone plans. For assistance with creating new passwords or to inquire about account security, reach out in a live chat.