Making Sense Of Mortgages: How To Evaluate Your Loan Offer

Making Sense Of Mortgages: How To Evaluate Your Loan Offer

Buying a home is an exciting undertaking, but it can also be immensely overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time going through the process. In particular, applying for – and interpreting – a mortgage can be intimidating, not least of all because it can feel like a referendum on your financial success. You hand over information on your savings, investments, earnings and assets, and then the banks offer up a decision. But how do you know if it’s a good offer?

If you’re trying to make sense of the home loan you’ve been offered, there are a number of factors you’ll want to look at. By honing in on these 3 elements, you can get a sense of whether this offer will put you on the path to successful home ownership, or drive you into debt.

Loan Total

When you receive your mortgage offer, two numbers carry the most importance – the loan total and the interest rate, the first of which is fairly easy to make sense of. You’ll need a loan that covers at least the cost of the property less your down payment. If you’re purchasing a home in a competitive area, this may be a substantial loan all on its own. On the other hand, if you’re purchasing a fixer upper in a less expensive part of town, you might not need as large of a base loan, but you might want to tack on some extra funds for repairs.

Reading The Rate

After the total loan, the other important number on your mortgage is the interest rate. Recently, the market has been flooded with ultra-low interest rate loans in response to the global financial crisis. This is, at least in theory, good news for borrowers since it could minimize how much they pay in interest over the long-term. The only applies if that low-rate is attached to a fixed-rate loan, though. Otherwise, you could end up with a different loan rate down the line.

Comparison Strategies

The mortgage total and interest rate are both critical to deciding whether a particular mortgage offer is right for you, but they aren’t the only factors. To get a better sense of your loan options, you may want to apply for a mortgage online where you can more easily compare different loans side-by-side. This kind of comparison is critical because, though you can easily compare the total loan amount and interest rate without any special tools, it can be harder to capture details like monthly or annual fees across multiple documents. Online comparison sites distill this information, which can help you make sense of all the details.

When considering a mortgage, the initial numbers are critical. You want a loan with favorable terms so that, for example, if interest rates hit an upward trend for a few years, you aren’t stuck with a terrible loan that you wish you could refinance. Though refinancing your mortgage may be an option down the line, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where refinancing feels like your only option. Refinancing should be an upgrade, not a financial survival tactic – and when you know how to evaluate your mortgage from the start, it will be.

What U.S. states charge the most and least sales tax?

What U.S. states charge the most and least sales tax?

Sales tax is tax that is paid to a governing body, for the sales of certain goods and services. It is collected by a retailer when the final sale in the supply chain happens, with only the end consumers paying the tax most of the time (businesses get resale certificates for any in-between stages).

Sales tax makes everything anyone buys a little more expensive, and it’s not just state sales taxes you need to keep in mind when looking at which states have the most or least. Some counties and cities also charge sales tax, which needs to be added on to find the overall amount. Some states have cut out sales tax entirely.

Lowest sales tax states

There are 5 states that do not have any statewide sales taxes, being:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

While these states don’t charge any state sales tax, Alaska does allow localities to charge local sales taxes, but the average state rate is still relatively low – at 1.76%. 

Rounding up the top 11 states with the lowest tax rates, all under 5%, are:

  • Colorado
  • Wyoming 
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • New York

Colorado has a 2.9% state tax, while all the rest are joint at 4% state sales tax.

States with the highest sales tax

In some cases, these rates get so high that shoppers will go out of their way and drive across state lines in order to shop somewhere with lower sales tax rates:

  • California: 7.25%
  • Indiana: 7%
  • Mississippi: 7%
  • Rhode Island: 7%
  • Tennessee: 7%
  • Minnesota: 6.875%
  • Nevada: 6.85%

What items get taxed?

Most states exempt essential household items, such as food, clothing and prescription items, from being taxed, to be fair to all citizens. But, many states have taxes for certain purchases such as tobacco, alcohol, beverages and gasoline. Taxes on tobacco and alcohol, as well as gambling, are often referred to as sin taxes. New Hampshire charges a hefty amount on tobacco products – a pack of 20 cigarettes equates to an extra $1.78, and a pack of 25 cigarettes is an extra $2.23. Wyoming is great for sin taxes, though – with the lowest beer tax in the whole of the U.S., at half a cent per litre.

Local state sales taxes

Thirty eight states allow local counties and cities to impose their own additional sales taxes. While California does have the overall highest states sales tax rate, the combined state and local sales tax rates for Tennessee reaches 9.53% in some areas: the highest combined rate in the country, which is why it’s so important to look at sales tax rates overall, and not just state sales tax, although those do give you a good idea of which states have lower and higher sales taxes. Not far behind are the following, as of 2020:

  • Arkansas: 9.47%
  • Louisiana: 9.52%
  • Alabama: 9.22%
  • Washington: 9.21%
  • New York 8.875%

Don’t base decisions solely on sales taxes

Many people only look at certain taxes when considering where they would like to relocate to, or live in retirement. If you’re looking at state and local sales taxes, while it is true that they can take a bit out of your income, often the states with lower sales tax rates have other ways of taking money from individuals. States with lower sales tax can have very high income tax rates, and this is the case with Oregon. On the other hand, Tennessee has the highest state sales tax but no wage income tax, so it depends on you personally.

TRUiC has a useful sales tax calculator to help you work out taxes. Visit this site for more.

What can happen if you don’t have an EIN?

What can happen if you don’t have an EIN?

What is an EIN?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned to businesses by the IRS. It is used to identify taxpayers who need to file tax returns. Though the primary reason for getting an EIN for many people is for tax purposes, it can help you to do so much else. For your business, an EIN is just as important as having an SSN for yourself. 

To learn more on ‘what is an EIN’ and how to get one, visit TRUiC’s site; they have a range of useful information.

Do I need an EIN?

For some businesses, an EIN is a tax requirement. If you don’t get it, you are endangering your business and could face hefty fines, which could even end up impacting your personal life. If you fall into any of these categories, you’ll need to get an EIN:

  • You have employees
  • You’re a corporation/LLC taxed as a corporation
  • You’re a multi-member LLC
  • You bought or inherited your business
  • You have a Keogh plan
  • You need to file for bankruptcy

Even if you don’t meet any of the above descriptions, there are good reasons to get one anyway. In fact, you could face many disadvantages from not getting an EIN. And the good thing about getting an EIN is that it’s completely free anyway.

Tax penalties

If you don’t get an EIN and you’re required to, as mentioned above, you could face tax penalties. It’s a good idea to do your research beforehand, and not wait until the last few days – the IRS can take up to five weeks to give you an EIN. 

Furthermore, if you don’t have an  EIN, for certain types of tax deductions, such as home office deductions for businesses, your chances of an IRS audit decrease if you have an EIN. 

Identity theft

If you don’t have an EIN, you will be more susceptible to identity theft. An EIN separates your personal finances from your business finances. If you have an EIN, you won’t need to provide your own SSN to clients or vendors – instead you can give them your EIN. This means your SSN stays more private, lowering chances of a thief stealing it and getting access to your possessions. The problem of stolen SSNs affects millions of people every year in the U.S.

Loss of potential customers and business

For many small businesses the loss of even one potential customer can make a huge difference to a business. Having that customer could even be the difference between whether or not the business goes under. 

You might be thinking, how does having an EIN affect this? Well, having an EIN gives your business a sense of credibility, and signifies that you have a serious business going on – not just some side gig. Sometimes having just an SSN can even make business owners seem as though they are not really official, and can quit at any time. Having an EIN tells customers, as well as yourself, that you are doing serious business – more than just a hobby, especially if you’re a sole proprietor doing something like freelance writing. 

Piercing the corporate veil

A corporate veil is a legal concept that metaphorically symbolises the distinction between the company you have, as a separate legal entity, and the shareholders who own shares in the company. If you have a business in which the business is a separate legal entity – for instance an LLC or a corporation, not having an EIN could mean you end up piercing the corporate veil. This means that the shareholders, rather than the company, are liable for anything the company does. So, your limited liability instantly vanishes. Having an EIN is a great way to prevent this. This means you can open a business bank account and also build up business credit and take out business loans. The key word here is business – even filing business taxes is easier when all spending is in one place. If both finances are in one place, you can easily confuse the two and lose limited liability.

Recognizing a Successful Real Estate Agent

Recognizing a Successful Real Estate Agent

Finding the right person to list your home or help you on a search to buy a new one can be daunting. There are dozens of real estate agents in any community, and since your decision to buy and sell can be lifechanging, you definitely need to pick the right agent for the job. Here are some hallmark identifiers of a successful real estate agent.

Local Experience and Knowledge

If someone is new to town, they aren’t going to know all about the school districts or where the closest communities are to transportation hubs. You don’t want a beginner helping you find your dream home. A local agent will experience may grab your attention through real estate prospecting postcards. This local form of advertising may be worth a second look.

Strong Organizational Skills

When you speak to an agent, you want to know that they are truly listening to what you say. They could drag you around from house to house, but if none of these homes have the details or designs that you are looking for, it is nothing more than a waste of time. A successful real estate agent will note the wants and needs of the client when looking at properties, sorting them into priorities and affordability.

Reliable Connections

When you fall in love with a home, you want to know that your agent is going to get the job done. Whether it be the negotiations with the listing agent or arranging for signing at a title company, your agent should have reliable connections and a strong reputation in the field among his or her peers. Agents that can work well with others get the job done faster and with less headache.

Don’t launch your dreams of a perfect home to a real estate agent without checking them out beforehand. You want a partner in the process, not a stressor.

Effective Marketing In A Remote, COVID-19 World

Effective Marketing In A Remote, COVID-19 World

The start of 2020 not only brought a new decade, but it also brought a new mysterious pneumonia-like virus outbreak known as the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). With the number of cases continuously increasing daily, the World Health Organization declared the novel COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Millions of people worldwide have been affected in one way or another by this outbreak. With over 4.2 million+ confirmed cases around the globe, it’s apparent that the outbreak is moving quickly and spreading rapidly. 

Some countries are currently experiencing a rapid rise in new cases. Meanwhile, in others, the rate of growth has slowed after leaders have instituted nationwide lockdowns, leading to a battered world economy. As a result, many businesses around the world were forced to change their working conditions and some even had to shut down. However, that doesn’t mean things will be like this forever and it doesn’t mean your marketing and creative engine has to grind to a hault.  By engaging a company to help with your work on an outsourced basis, you save financially while consistently moving your marketing engine forward.  Flocksy is the premier outsource creative, content and marketing platform, that engages only professional creatives. With this service, you can not only create a game plan, and utilize various marketing strategies, but also support your business while it is in a transition of any kind.  Re-opening takes planning, time, effort, and the proper deployment of both inbound and outbound marketing.  By utilizing a custom service on a retainer-basis, you can engineer your growth, remain consistent with your customers, and reap the rewards from your hard work. 

The main goals of a successful re-opening digital marketing strategy should be to build consumer confidence through clear communications that set and manage expectations related to your business operations. Best customer communications practices include:

  • Use multiple communication channels to ensure your message is widely received and reinforced.
  • Create and share a FAQ document to address the most common questions regarding your health and safety practices and other important changes to your daily operations.
  • Be prepared to listen and respond to customer comments and inquiries quickly.

Develop a reopening digital marketing strategy that addresses each of your online channels such as your website, your social media, online advertising, and your Google My Business profile(s).

Step 1: Optimize Your Google My Business Profile

Over 5 billion search queries are performed daily on Google search. Google specifically built its Google My Business platform to help local businesses attract customers. A properly optimized Google My Business profile is proven to help achieve a top Google search rankings and directly attract customers. Therefore, optimizing and maintaining your Google My Business profile should be pivotal part of your re-opening strategy.

Step 2: Update Your Website in Key Places

After seeing your Google My Business page and your recent Google Posts, your customers should have the confidence that your website has the same information to match. On your website, you can offer expanded content pinpointing specific operational shifts your customers may expect.

For critical operational updates or promotional offers, consider adding copy where it’s most likely to be seen. Review heatmap or clickmap data to determine what sections of your website maximize exposure of your message. Consider adding a pop-up message to capture attention and eliminate confusion. It may mean the difference between more revenue or less.

Finally, if you have specific and developing information about your business, whether this is health and safety-related or new reopening guidelines, an important digital marketing strategy tip is to create a separate page or section on your website and direct visitors to it.

This can be accomplished through a pop-up, a link on your main navigation, or a link or banner from critical pages. This grabs customers’ interest and makes sure they know all the details when it comes to your reopening. If the information is health and safety-related, this gives you the chance to make your customers feel comfortable about returning to your business as you reopen.

Step 3: Update Your Social Profiles

Today, customers expect a business’ social media to be the most accurate and up-to-date resource for operational changes. Your social media profiles may very well be the “front door” for customers online because each channel serves content in a chronological timeline. The date of your most recent update shows your level of activity to keep customers informed through your reopening.

To implement a strong digital marketing strategy, first, audit your social profiles – make sure you know what profiles represent your business online. Consider:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp

Not only is it important to be prepared, but it’s also important to learn how to adapt and make changes where necessary. As a business owner, you need to be able to respond and adjust your strategy accordingly. Flocksy can help you update your digital marketing materials quickly and affordably. They offer web development, graphic design, copywriting and video production.

Normalcy is not going to happen overnight. In fact, “normal” for you moving forward may look very different from what it looked like before the coronavirus pandemic. Your journey back to the volume of customers you had before may take time, but all your business can do is keep learning, growing, and evolving as new information becomes available. It’s important to continuously research, learn, and adapt so that your business can be the best it can be.

5 Tips to Travel Safely

5 Tips to Travel Safely

Traveling is one of the most enjoyable things you can do by yourself, with friends, or with your family. You create memories, see new places, and experience activities that you can’t at home. However, it can be dangerous at times. 

For tourists, the most common crimes experienced are theft by pickpocketing, scams or being overcharged, credit card fraud, and physical assault. To avoid these issues, use our tips on ways to travel safely. 

https://unsplash.com/photos/mSESwdMZr-A

Be Mindful What You Post 

Going on vacation is a once a year event for most of us. It’s natural to want to post all your amazing photos on your social media, but you could be putting yourself at risk. 

One online blog article explains that you’re vulnerable to getting your home broken into and robbed when you do this. It might be a better idea to save your pictures and post them when you return. 

Whether or not you post before you leave for vacation, make sure your house is secure. Leaving one light on while you’re away is an excellent way to make potential burglars think there’s someone home. 

Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself 

We’re all guilty of buying new clothes before we travel. You pack your bags with your favorite pieces and things you might not normally wear. 

However, when you go out dressed to impress, it makes you a target for theft. If you have children and they bring their most up to date devices with them, this can also draw attention. 

It’s better to dress more casually and leave anything you’d be seriously upset about losing at home. 

https://unsplash.com/photos/qyAka7W5uMY

Don’t Trust Public Wifi

Restaurants or stores use free wifi signs to get you to come in. Although this is convenient when traveling, it can be a hotspot for an identity thief to attack.  

When you log in on public wifi, hackers can access your phone and can see your banking app, including your account information and your social security number. Any other important work or personal information that’s on the device can be stolen too. 

Trust Your Feelings 

Intuition can save you from bad situations when traveling. Whenever you go somewhere, and you don’t like the vibe, you need to leave immediately. There’s a reason why you feel this way, and you should trust it. 

Try to stay in places that are well lit, and with other people around. Never go somewhere alone with someone you just met because you never know their intentions. Be mindful of how much alcohol you’re drinking because it can impair your judgment. 

https://unsplash.com/photos/TrhLCn1abMU

Invest in Travel Insurance 

Even if you’re only going away for a week, travel insurance can come to save the day when something terrible happens. Depending on the plan you buy, you’ll be covered if something happens with your flights, you’re robbed, you have to go to the hospital, or your bags are lost at the airport. 

It’s normal to go on a trip and never have to use your travel insurance. However, it’s better to be protected than have something go wrong and have to sort it all out on your own. 

The Bottom Line 

Traveling is one of the best things in life, but you need to remember to stay safe. You want to come home with memorable stories that you can continue telling for the years, not nightmares that will haunt you. 

Use our tips to travel safely, and you’ll be all set for your next big trip. 

An Overview of Third-Party Logistics with Freight Hub Group

An Overview of Third-Party Logistics with Freight Hub Group

The use of third-party logistics has become an increasingly important part of the global economy as the world becomes more connected through the use of the internet. This has become especially relevant with the modern explosion in online shopping, which relies on a well-connected network of shipment and storage logistics in order to move goods from manufacturers to customers. To gain a better understanding of this important field, we turned to information from Freight Hub Group, a leader in third-party logistics. Look to the below information to better understand how goods make their way along a typical supply chain.

Order fulfillment

One important part of many supply chains is order fulfillment. Since many goods are housed at warehouses operated by third-party logistics companies, these companies are often involved in the process of delivering goods to customers. Otherwise said, it is not typical for a representative from a company that sells a product to visit a third-party warehouse whenever a customer order is placed. Instead, it is often expected that the warehouse operator will receive the order and handle the process of retrieving the item from storage and passing it along the supply chain to the customer.

This process relies on robust communication between a third-party logistics company and its clients. For instance, when a relationship is first established between these companies, a client will often fill out documentation detailing how goods should be handled and the process that will be used for delivering goods to clients. That way, when an order is placed, there is already an established system for how such an event will be carried out. As such, a warehouse operator can simply follow the pre-established guidelines and work to make a delivery that will be in line with the quality standards expected by both the client and the customer making the order.

Role of technology

Of course, the above process is helped greatly by technological development in the modern era. These types of customer fulfillments are commonly handled automatically thanks to such pieces of technology, which often involve the use of web platforms that are directly accessible by clients. These platforms allow clients to easily set up their preferences for fulfillment processes and make changes when necessary. They also help clients track a myriad of important statistics related to their orders, such as warehouse supply levels, transportation locations, and delivery details.

One of the reasons that Freight Hub Group has been able to excel in its field is its early recognition of the importance of technology in the third-party logistics industry and the need for implementation of such platforms into their business operations. The company’s innovative system, TruckHub, offers its customers direct control over numerous stages of the supply chain. This includes a focus on both communication and automation to ensure orders are handled seamlessly. The goal of the platform is to provide clients with an “Uber-like experience” that provides flexibility and inspires trust that storage and shipping logistics will be handled as expected.

Shipping details

As touched upon above, storage is merely the first part of the fulfillment process. After an order is placed by a customer, and a specific good is retrieved from a warehouse, the next phase of the journey is centered around transporting that good to the customer. This is typically handled through less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping options. LTL shipping is often utilized in last-mile shipping because it is a cost-effective way to ensure goods are delivered in a timely and efficient manner. Since warehouses are often strategically located in a variety of locations to enable short delivery distance at the end of a supply chain, this shipment method can typically be utilized directly from a warehouse.

LTL shipping stands in contrast to full truckload (FTL) shipping, which is often utilized when a collection of goods is large enough to completely fill a truck bed or other shipping container. It can also be used when a client wants to ship goods by themselves, even though they do not completely fill a shipment method, such as in a case where special considerations must be undertaken during transportation. While FTL is an oft-used shipment method for delivering goods to a warehouse or across long distances, LTL is typically the favored method when a fulfillment process is seeking to deliver goods from a warehouse to a customer.

Company background

The information provided in this piece stems from the extensive background of experience provided by Freight Hub Group as it serves customers from its location in South Florida. The company was founded by CEO Luis Lopez after his own early experience in the third-party logistics industry taught him there was an opportunity for improvement. By utilizing an approach with a strong focus on technology, he’s been able to advance the quality of typical offerings, such as the transportation of hazardous materials. This has helped clients achieve a level of agility and flexibility in their planning that was previously difficult to find.

At present, the company is known for the quality of its offerings through its four main subdivisions, known as Dray Hub, FTL Hub, LTL Hub, and WHSE Hub. With its location near both the Port of Miami and Port Everglades, the company is able to offer these services in a customizable fashion that takes into account its clients’ needs for drayage, storage, and transportation options that work on their own terms. This collection of resources has helped set the company apart as a leader in the field of third-party logistics and a reputable source of related information.

Though the need for adequate storage, transportation, and fulfillment services has become more pronounced with the increased popularity of online shopping, many individuals and organizations still have gaps in their understanding of the field. The above overview, created with information from Freight Hub Group, can help to fill in those gaps and provide a more complete understanding of how a product can move from a manufacturer to its final destination. Utilize this information, along with other resources on the subject, to help improve the quality of your business plan and your ability to deliver goods to customers.

Outsourced Marketing Support Means Professional Work On Demand

Outsourced Marketing Support Means Professional Work On Demand

Flocksy is a professionally managed flat rate creative services and content platform focused on long-term relationships with clients, designers, and partners. Flocksy utilizes only U.S.-based project managers who understand the needs of both clients and on demand teams. Their team is fully vetted and tested, ensuring their clients get top notch results for the projects they desire. Flocksy was founded in 2016 by Sam, George, and Charles Ryan as the first platform of its kind to offer the breadth of services and consistency of teams.

Flocksy’s proprietary platform engages teams, both internally and externally, through their user-friendly platform. Their platform is cost-effective for businesses of all sizes and locations. The monthly cost is at $349, $420, or $995 price points and Flocksy offers video editing and creation, copywriting, design, website development and voiceover services.

The company works with businesses of all sizes that need marketing materials created and agencies. They help their customers with all their marketing projects for a fraction of the price they would pay an inhouse team. Their service replaces the typical full-time designer, video editor, developer or writer and more. 

Flocksy integrates chat functionality and a full dashboard, both of which are focused on consistent, best work practices for every project. Their platform vets and selects only the best creatives from around the world, ensuring work is done correctly and on time. Flocksy was designed so clients get a whole team they are working with and not one person that they may or may not connect with.

Businesses sign up and can create unlimited design, video, development and writing projects. Flocksy then forms a fully vetted team around the customer’s account based on the projects they run, their style, and more. The team then works on all their projects and makes sure to keep their brand and style consistent. Their professional-grade work is work we use ourselves. 

Flocksy has proprietary software that vets creatives who want to join. Once they submit the application and go through an onboarding process, they have a team of experts review the applications that make it through the onboarding process. The experts choose who is finally accepted based on a number of criteria. Once creatives are accepted onto the platform, they start joining teams and work directly with the clients. 

The teams get projects done in 12 hours on average. Since there is always someone available on the team to work on the projects, there are few delays and most projects are done correctly and consistently the first time around. This allows businesses to scale and start as many projects as they need without any bottlenecks. 

Flocksy has consistently beat client expectations for quality of work and work turnaround times from our first day in business. Typically, the Flocksy team is one you build as a consistent, complete outsource team, focused on your core business needs. Flocksy was designed to work with small to mid-sized businesses the way they do business best. And their retainer-based monthly service fee includes all work, licensing, and more.

Clients can do as many projects as they can complete in a given month.  In order to better focus on client work, projects can be located into our dashboard and are completed one at a time.  When you sign off on a project, the next one begins. The dashboard includes recent activity in a client’s account, the team, the client’s active projects and stats on their activity. 

The proprietary portal is very user-friendly. Clients can easily sign up and create projects within minutes. They can easily provide feedback by commenting and tagging designs within a project. Once the client is happy with a project, they can simply close it out and the team starts on the next project in the queue. 

Accounts are each assigned a dedicated Project Manager. The Project Manager is USA based and oversees the client’s team and account. If the client has any questions, issues with the team, concerns about a project or more, they can simply reach out to their Project Manager for a fast response (usually in under an hour). 

With the My Team page clients can see everyone on their team and remove team members they don’t like. The dashboard allows the client to quickly see what is happening in their account.  And the Pending Projects area, allows clients to create unlimited projects and have them queued up. The team works through them as fast as possible. Flocksy enables you to keep your team for the long haul or change them around whenever you want to.  Flocksy’s professional creatives and active team members serve as outsourced members of YOUR team.

3 Ways That Web Design Relies on Creativity

3 Ways That Web Design Relies on Creativity

When you put together a website for your company or organization, you probably think that the process involves lots of computer coding and other technological skills. While knowing how to code is crucial to designing a professional website, the process also involves the following creative skills.

Writing

The heart of every website is its content. If the writing is not original or well-written, people will not trust your information or want to buy your products. Whether you use an SEO reseller or another source, your writers need to use their creativity to develop unique content related to your industry. 

Graphic Design

While your articles must be well-written to generate an audience, they also need to be presented well. This phase of website design is similar to graphic design. Your web designer and administrator pick fonts, images and layouts that best feature your content. Part of this process is scientific, as research has shown where certain widgets should be placed and which styles are most appealing to potential customers. However, your designer still has lots of control over your site’s look.

Customer Outreach

Every website includes information on how to reach its owner. To make yours stand out, get creative with your customer outreach. Ask your web designer to add a joke or funny image to your customer service page, or generate a new message each time a visitor clicks on your chatbox. The more ways that you and your designer can think of to engage customers and show them that you care about their visit, the more likely they are to return.

Many stereotypes are associated with web design, one of which is that it requires advanced technical skills and nothing else. However, without you and your web designer’s creativity, your writing, graphic design and customer outreach cannot compete with other websites.

3 Signs That Your Southern California Business Needs a Risk Assessment Now

3 Signs That Your Southern California Business Needs a Risk Assessment Now

Small businesses, especially in big business areas like Southern California, may think that they are less likely to experience hacking or data theft because they aren’t as well known as other businesses.

However, they actually face an increased risk of a cyber attack because they generally have fewer security measures in place. 

In fact, more than half of all small businesses that suffer a data breach will go out of business within six months. A data breach can have serious long-term effects on a small business.

Your business reputation could be damaged and you could lose customers. Successful hacking can also dramatically increase expenses in damage control and decrease revenue.

Fortunately, you can protect your business by understanding the security risks you face. Here are 3 signs that your Southern California business needs a risk assessment as soon as possible:

1. You’re Working Remotely

Remote working is more popular than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are many benefits to working at home such as a better work-life balance, no more commuting, and savings on office space, it’s important to be aware of the downsides and threats to your business that remote work can bring. 

As companies increasingly turn to remote working solutions, it’s important for them to keep their employees and data safe from cyber attacks. 

Without proper procedures and security measures in place, your company may unintentionally expose sensitive information, or data may be stolen as it crosses networks and platforms. 

There are several ways to secure your business data, even while everyone is working remotely. First, consider investing in cloud solutions, which allow your employees to access company data wherever they are. 

Second, create a training course for your remote workers which teaches them about how to avoid phishing attempts, how to create secure passwords, and how to keep business data secure. 

Third, if you are working remote and connecting to your business systems onsite, at your company location, then have the proper security technologies in place that assist in mitigating your risk posture. If you are not sure, we can review and help tighten up any vulnerable areas.  

2. You Don’t Have a Managed Service Provider

There are endless ways for your data to become vulnerable to attacks, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on red flags and preventative measures in order to keep data secure. This level of protection is a full-time job that requires specialized knowledge and experience. 

Since your business may not have the resources to hire an in-house IT department, it is worthwhile to explore other trusted IT management systems such as a Managed Service Provider (MSP). 

An MSP manages all technology risks and implements preventative measures for a business. A Managed Service Provider will monitor your systems day and night so that your data is never left vulnerable.

They also make sure that your company is secure from even the most advanced  cyber threats. 

In addition, they perform regular risk assessments for your business. A risk assessment includes an analysis of your current protection methods to detect any weaknesses. 

Examining your current system helps an MSP to know where to increase security. Finding these weak points before they turn into leaks can help your business avoid a costly breach. 

3. You Don’t Have a VPN

If your business normally relies on in-house servers to secure its data, a VPN or Virtual Private Network is key. VPNs allow your employees to connect to your onsite servers securely over the Internet. 

A VPN also ensures all data traveling over the connection remains encrypted, ensuring unauthorized users are unable to view it. If you do not have VPN, your business data is at risk for potential exposure. 

With so much data being stored and sent between coworkers and customers, there are many opportunities for that information to be lost or stolen. Protecting your Southern California business with the help of a risk assessment from a trusted IT company in Ventura will help protect sensitive material from being intercepted by those with malicious intent.