Nail in the Coffin of Coachella Valley Internet Provider DISC
On Friday I received a phone call from the owners of DISC wireless to see if I was interested in buying their assets and customer lists. The conversation was going quite well and I really wanted to ask them how they took a business that was probably billing in the Millions per year and drove it into the ground so quickly. Why did they not get outside support or even try to sell the business when they knew that they were heading towards BK?
They have offered us the opportunity to buy Trango hardware for $100 that costs us new about $375 but we need to go to each of their customers and deinstall it from the rooftop 🙂 These guys are hilarious, considering that it would take about an hour to coordinate with the customer to get onto the roof to remove the equipment and then deinstall it.
DISC Internet services are dead and their customers have migrated onto a different solution and are now in new contracts. The only people who don’t seem to recognize that their customers have left and that there is no tangible assets are the folks at DISC, I wish them well.
Google Spam Filtering with Postini
Dare I say that they have done it again? Has google rewritten the rules for spam filtering for business? Googles press release as of today has some interesting announcements about how they plan to simplify the business of email security and message discovery. Does this mean that my article about spam filtering that was written a week ago completely invalid at this point? Will Spam be cured by the big brains over at Google?
Not exactly What it means is that companies like St. Bernard software, MXLogic and CudaMail will be getting a shake up.
What Google has done is dramatically improved the price point, scalability and reliability of the Software as a Service (SAS) model for email filtering. The way that this works is a company continues to host their own email servers, or they have an ISP that hosts it for them and they send their mail to be sanitized from Spam and Viruses before the content even makes it to the ISP. Think of it like a “super receptionist” that opens each and every piece of mail that is addressed to your office and determines that it is valid before sending it on up to the intended recipients. The problem is her trash can gets filled every day, five…ten…fifteen times each day and it clutters up the office. She does her work extremely well, but the trash lands up in your trash can.
Now imagine that this “super receptionist” is sitting at the post office and she is sifting your mail and determining what should be put onto the truck and delivered to your office. Her job is to sort mail AND to keep your trash (spam folder) almost completely empty. Sometimes she makes a mistake and some spam gets delivered to you, and you open it because you are so used to 99.99% of your mail being valid OR sometimes she misclassifies something important as SPAM and you never get to see it…
Either way filtering your mail at the post office also referred to as the CLOUD is the most efficient way to handle your spam. They update the software and keep all the antivirus rules up to date without the need for an annual software plan from your antivirus vendor.
A little Google propaganda but it is true.
Scanning for Spam in the cloud is my personal choice as a best of breed service, but it does not negate the need for network based antivirus solutions. Its great for SPAM, not always the best solution to protect against viruses and trojans.
Unless you need customized rules for your spam filtering, outbound smtp filtering or specific attachment blocking – go with the basic service.
You can see all of the options at the Google Apps information portal.
My bottom line suggestion: This is the best of breed solution right now. If you don’t have spam protection, sign up and get it. IF you have spam services already SWITCH.
Touching Your Customers
I am sitting here reading the February 4th edition of the San Diego Union Tribune (yes, I research and write my own newsletters, I don’t outsource this to India; Yet!) and there is an interesting article about businesses that remember your birthday and get in contact with you to help celebrate your day.
The article is about a person who gets a phone call on their birthday and it’s from the car dealer that he make a purchase at two years ago. His wife has a birthday a few days before and she gets gift certificates from the stores that she goes to. The article is really not well written but the implication is clear. Touching the customer at significant and memorable moments can have long lasting effects. A message during the holidays or on a birthday is memorable studies show that your customer requires multiple touches during the year for you to keep their attention. This is why large companies have loyalty programs, but most smaller businesses don’t have the budgets to support these plans.
Here is my quick guide to creating a program that touches your clients to increase sales and customer loyalty. I am NOT a proponent for traditional loyalty programs but I do want you to touch your customers and grow your bottom line. If you are interested in a traditional loyalty program with cards take a look at Valutec these programs take a while to get up and running, but can be effective.
12 Touches Per Year
My recommendation is to touch your clients no less than twelve times per year, this can be with postcards, letters or the easy route with e-mail messages. I suggest that you mix things up, I touch my customers at least 42 times per year via email and four times per year with a “personal letter”; and once per quarter via postcards and customer satisfaction surveys. For an amazing postcard company I use Modern Postcard. You can mail 500 Sumo sized postcards for about $500. These really make a huge impact.
If nothing more you should send emails to your customers once a month. Update them with what is going on in your business, or what is going on in your industry. Remember to ask permission and to make it easy to unsubscribe.
Use the Web
Communicate with your customers with a blog, it is a simple way to get your message out to your readers. Just think, your first email to your clients can be the announcement that you have a new blog. Take a look at my friend Drew Burks of Dream Design Realty, I helped him to setup his blog a few weeks ago. He is taking charge of his message to communicate with his clients; His business has changed in the last few years, but he is taking steps to maximize the value of his exiting customer base and attract new clients.
One you have started touching your customers, spice it up with a satisfaction survey. I like using icontact.com or SurveyMonkey.
Pick up the Phone
Ok, so your not very good with computers or you are not interested in spending a few hundred bucks to have a blog or newsletter setup for you. Do the easiest and most effective way to reach out and touch your clients. Pick up a phone and call. See how they react to your personal attention. Most people would love to hear from you. My suggestion is to keep it up, one phone call a year is not frequent enough to make a measurable difference. Use a process to track when you call your customers, think about software like Goldmine, Act or Salesforce.com.
Take Action Today
If you are struggling to think of ways to effectively touch your customers. I have a package that includes a blog for your company, a newsletter template and marketing ideas that are customized for your company. I guarantee that you will be running in a few days for just $379. I have a Masters Degree in Marketing and have dozens of clients that can attest to the results of being proactive with your marketing.
If you are not ready to reach out and touch your clients I can appreciate your fear. When you are ready, you can give me a call. I would like to add you to my birthday list. Last month I sent out Starbucks cards! Email me your details.
8 Top Things You Need to Know about 2008 Server
For those of you who have been long time subscribers to TechTalk you know that I am not a fan of Microsoft Windows Vista. In fact I think it is the one piece of Microsoft software that actually hinders business productivity. I have clients who switch almost every week from Vista back to XP, because of performance issues. More than a year after its release it is still not production ready. No wonder so many people are switching to the Mac. With that said, not everything that comes out of Redmond lately hurts productivity.
I have been working with Windows 2008 Server for about two months now in its pre-release format and I have to tell you, that they have got it right. Sure there are bound to be bugs, but it will be well worth the upgrade. If you want to skip this email and get on with your day, feel free knowing that my recommendation will be to upgrade to 08 in 08. I just want you to wait until the second quarter.
Faster File Sharing
The SMB (Server Message Block) protocol has been upgraded to version 2. The previous version that is still in use today was developed 15 years ago and had some serious shortcomings. SMB 2.0 will more than double the speed of your file transfers. The big problem is that the only desktop operating system that runs SMB 2.0 is Windows Vista at this time. I expect that this will trickle down eventually into other operating systems, but who knows. For those of you who are running Vista, the speed increase will be immediately noticeable.
I have already written about Server Virtualization but now Microsoft has made it part of the operating system. No more third party tools required to experience the benefits of virtual servers. There are third party tools that will help to round out their offering, but they will be more cost effective than the VMWare alternative. Having virtualization built into the heart of the operating system will increase its stability and really help this technology thrive. If you are going to use virtualization, make sure that you remember it requires a 64Bit CPU, my suggestion would be the Intel VT or the AMD Pacifica.
Its always nice to see your name in print. Today I found this article about me in Sys-Con.com. The Virtualization Journal is one of the top industry publications for server virtualization.
It is always nice to be syndicated and mentioned in an International Media.
Server Virtualization, What Your Outsourced IT Company May Not Be Telling You
I am not going to get into the nuts and bolts of operating system virtualization but I am going to give you enough information to follow along. Software virtualization is the ability to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer. The basic premise is that for most of the day your server is basically idle and the CPU and memory are not tasked with processes all day long, the server has excess capacity and virtualization allows you to maximize your investment by installing another full version of an operating system on your hardware at the same time.
The reuse of surplus computer time can help to minimize the majority of hardware acquisition and maintenance costs and reduces your total cost of ownership and it can result in significant savings for any company.
How does this help me?
Here is the typical scenario; a company has a server that was purchased in 2002, it runs perfectly but there are concerns about its age and the cost to maintain an out of warranty system. The IT people are getting feedback from all the users that the system is slow and that you need more disk space, but overall everything is working just fine.
Based on my 15 years of experience with these types of migrations here are your costs. New Server for a typical 25 user company, with Windows 2003 Small Business Server, Tape Drive and 150GB of RAID 5 storage with tape backup software will run you about $6500.
Small Business Scenario
In scenario A: Company buys a new server and migrates the users, settings and configuration from the existing server to the new server. Most of the basic migration steps can be done without disrupting the users, the accounts are synchronized, the shared folders are created for the data migration, the Exchange Server and SQL server are installed and patched and the migration begins. (This is after the 2 weeks of planning and trial migrations, and the inevitable reinstall because something was just not right) The heavy lifting is done after hours or on a weekend if you have internal IT staff and the process will take anywhere from 8 to 32 hours depending on how your network is configured and how the users access the server. One the migration has been completed the testing begins. Can the users access their mailboxes, are the shared folders there, are the protected folders still safe, does the database work, a huge flurry of tests and you are finally satisfied that the migration has worked.
You then shut down the old server and the company is now running on the new server with new hardware, more disk space and perhaps even the latest version of the operating system. The IT guys love it, the users are finding that things are not EXACTLY like they expected them, especially the printers and email but for the most part SUCCESS. It may take a few days to iron out all the kinks, a huge milestone for your IT staff and not one person will say thank you!
Skyriver Communications Emergency Response to Fire Storm 2007
As you all know I work at Skyriver Communications as their VP. of Engineering. Skyriver is a very progressive company that is led by Saeed Khorami. Part of our corporate directive is to provide support and relief in any way that we can and during the fire storm of 2007, we were able to provide support not only the the victims and volunteers but also the the President of the United States on his trip to San Diego.
For the people directly impacted by the Fires Skyriver set up free WiFi Hotspots at disaster sites including the Del Mar Fair. We are covering the stable areas for all of the horse and pet owners and a majority of the sleeping areas by the main grand stands. And for the President of the United States we provided emergency Internet communications to the press corps when he was in San Diego.
Due to the nature of the Skyriver service we can rapidly respond to emergencies, events and critical bandwidth needs within hours. Our comprehensive coverage area leave very few areas unserviced.
Fire Storm 2007 has been called the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans on 29th August 2005. One of the most vital services is communications. Emergency services need to be able to contact each other and just as importantly families need to be able to contact each other.
During a disaster, concern and worry about family members as well as the state of the family home runs high, and without access to up to date information panic can occur. Skyriver Communications experienced no network down time or outages during the raging fires and we provided our customers with continued connectivity. Because of our reliable network we were able to respond to the communications crisis by sending volunteers out to install much needed equipment to enable free wireless internet connectivity to the evacuees. Skyriver Communications donated free broadband wireless internet access to 2 locations at the Del Mar race track.
The Del Mar race track was one of the only shelters that allowed animals inside the buildings as well as providing fully equipped stables for horses, goats, pigs and more. Along with the animals, the owners were also gathered around the stables and although needs for food, shelter and support were provided, communication needs were left unattended. In fact the only communication devices were cell phones and due to the fires, lines were jammed and service was sporadic. Skyriver’s emergency response to this need was to donate and install two access points and repeat the signal down. We were able to provide free service in each of the two areas of about 1000 feet each.
The second location Skyriver donated service two within the Del Mar race track was the Plaza Mexico, the central gathering location for evacuees. Skyriver’s high capacity services penetrated the building insuring people could use the service from the comfort of indoors and away from toxic ash falling from the sky.
To finish up our disaster response, Skyriver Communications provided the press contingent to the President of the United with on demand WiFi Hotspot and high speed Internet coverage on the Miramar Airbase. The Presidential coordinator contacted our office at 3pm on Wednesday evening for a 9am visit. We were able to coordinate our back office team and deploy a 3Mbps link by 5:30pm that same day. Our typical installation has a 3-day turn around but for critical emergencies we can respond within a few hours.
The Skyriver offices are located in Poway and many team members were evacuated from their homes and our hearts and thoughts go out to them and everyone affected in these difficult times.
Reverse 911 for Cell Phone San Diego CA
The reverse 911 Emergency Notification system does not call cell phones or VOIP phones. Here is the link to the Office of Homeland Security for Reverse 911 listing. This service is currently for City of San Diego residences and businesses.
San Diego is on fire, there are eight wild fires that have been burning with zero percent containment for more than twelve hours. I am writing this on my laptop with a Bluetooth connection to the internet from a downtown evacuation site. This was a mandatory evacuation that covered our office and my house.
There are dozens of people around me who packed their cars earlier this morning with their most prized personal items, documents, family and pets. It seems that most people have been able to get out. I am very thankful that the City of San Diego responded as quickly as it did.
While I am sitting here, I am getting calls from clients who are panicked about their servers, data and corporate information. Most of them are out of the direct path of the fires but the concern is universal when it comes to disaster planning.
The disaster recovery plan for our office kicked into effect at about 6:30 this morning. We went through this about three years ago so we were up to date and current on our plan. Our employees knew what to do. But don’t assume that everyone in your office knows what to do in a disaster. For our office we had a conference call at 7 a.m, and we contacted each employee by 7:30 to confirm their status. Our critical business records are in secure fireproof storage and our servers are backed up remotely, so we are 100% covered off site for any system disasters.
We use BackupRight.com Our servers are backed up each night and we could be up in about four hours even if the office burned to the ground.
Okay – So you didn’t have time to follow the guidelines that I have been sending to you all year and now here you are in Q4 of 2007 and you need some MAJOR web traffic. Sales are a little lower than you expected, or you have a new product that everyone should know about; But the lead generation from your website is not converting well and you need more business FAST.
Pay Today – Get Visitors Today
I am not planning on teaching you how to run a Pay-Per-Click campaign, so freshen up on some of the topics that I have already written about at Google pay per action and web analytics to make sure that you understand what you are doing and how to measure it. Google has a great PPC guide that will help you with getting started.
Drive them to your message
I am however planning on teaching you about a Search Engine Optimization technique called landing pages or in marketing lingo lead capture pages. This is the page that appears when your potential customer clicks on your advertisement or PPC result link. These optimized pages are specifically designed for a call to action, information and converting lookers into buyers. Wikipedia states that there are two types of landing pages “Reference and Transactional.” A reference landing page presents information that would be relevant to the visitor. This could be informational or instructional, but it does not convert visitors.
Focus on the goal
Right now, this is not our goal; our goal is to persuade a visitor to complete a transaction, such as filling out a form or buying the product. This is the stated goal of the transactional landing page. The purpose of the page is conversions and actions. To get people excited about the message and to generate actions and sales. The quality of the page is determined by the conversion ratios of how many people see your page vs. how many visitors complete the desired action.
You may be asking why send visitors to a landing page vs. to my home page? The quick answer is when tied to a keyword appropriate pay-per-click campaign you will be delivering exactly what your prospect is looking for without them having to search your site. You would be amazed at how effective a smart landing page can be in converting even first time views of your site.
What makes a great landing page?
An effective landing page will have a call to action, a description about your product or service and a specific desired result for the page. Remember completing an action is the goal here! So make sure that there is a form to get more information, a link to the e-commerce shopping cart or a “call us right now” action on the page. Without this you are losing the traction of your marketing dollars.
Lead the eyes of the viewers with color, bold fonts and graphics – keep them interested in your message.
Above the Fold – Keep all critical details and call to actions above the fold. The imaginary line on your screen before scrolling down.
Keep Focused – Landing pages are about ONE thing. One product, One Service and One Call to action.
No Clicks – Remove the navigation bar so that they either have to complete the action or go to another page. Don’t let them click navigation and leave your landing page. Once their gone… their gone.
I know of a number of companies that have landing pages within their site structure – www.companyABC.com/special_offer.html and I also know of successful companies that have set up alternate domains to specifically sell their products with landing pages. This would look like www.companyABCpromotion.com , whichever way to do it, remember that landing pages provide the details that you promised in your PPC advertising, and an action. Read the Google Landing Page Guidelines for more information about landing pages.
Let me know if you need any help with landing page creation or some information about PPC management. I know a number of great designers who have been able to create some amazingly high converting pages.
Lifelock Promo Codes
I scoured google to find a list of Lifelock Discount Codes with their corresponding values.
Here is a short list for the Lifelock Coupon Codes:
A few months back I wrote about Blogging for your business, what is known as CEO blogging. This is where the internal voice of the company, the day to day successes and the behind the scenes talk happen in an interactive forum. The blog is usually connected to the main website at an address like http://www.companyname.com/blog or even http://blog.companyname.com. It is connected so that the views know that there is some real authority to the conversation and that the viewer has access to a person that can really hear what they have to say. I don’t believe that the CEO should be the one to blog unless you have a media department to support them. Just because they are the head of the organization, does not make them the best person on the team to blog. Publishing a blog may be may be foreign and untested technology; Once you press publish, it’s out there for the world to see.
But I am a huge proponent for each company having a public web persona and a blog personality that gets regular updates from within the organization. It humanizes you.
And gives you virtually unrestricted access to your audience. Take a look at the Whole Foods Blog, in which the CEO discusses how some regulatory issues about their business have required him to keep quite for now. Go back a few months to see how prolific he was in communicating with the public.
Some quick business blogging tips: Provide content – Don’t simply repost what other are saying, be the site that provides real content and real unique information. This information may be on your business, your industry or some other area in which you are specifically qualified to write about. Keep it simple – Keep the blog site simple, there is no need to experiment with the latest and greatest in blogging software. Do your readers really have to see what the weather is in their home town? They can look outside for this, what they came here for is some insight that they cant get anywhere else.
Define what your prospective readers are looking for and stay on topic. Remember the goal is to educate and inform not necessarily to sell products. Web users are savvy, don’t try to trick them. Integration – As mentioned before, keep the blog tied to your primary business site. It add creditability and makes it a whole lot easier for people to create a brand loyalty to you and your company.
Post 2-3 times a week on industry specific topics or issues related to your business. You need to build some initial momentum, once your traffic and feedback increase you will figure out just how often you need to blog in order to stay relevant to your customers. Promote Promote Promote – The power of blogging is the active feedback from your customers. Put your blog and your website out there, blogging is not just a lead generation tool but it is really the way to build brand awareness and customer loyalty.
Don’t worry about the traffic to your site. It will be very low for a while, but by staying relevant to your customers and on topic the people who are interested will find you.
By enabling the comments on your blog you are creating an open forum for people to discuss, praise or criticize your company. Make sure that you require an email address for people that post, but you will take some bruises along the way. Its not all glamorous.
What does it take to start?
Also blogging should be FREE, there may be a few dollars spent on a template or some intital setup with your ISP but the barrier to entry is minimal. I would say that your budget to blogging should be less than $250 and it should take no more than a week to go from the “I’m going to do this stage” all the way through to the email to your customer telling them to “see my new blog”.
I challenge each and every one of you to have a personal or business blog set up by the end of the year. It’s not that tough! Let me know if you need any help.
iPhone unlocking – Who has the upper hand?
Everyone either owns one, has played with one or wants one, the Apple iPhone is the biggest consumer product on the shelves today. The blend of technology and art that delivers one of the most perfect portable computers ever released. Both Apple and ATT have benefited from its strong sales and passionate adoption but there is another side to this story.
Like all strong consumer products there will be copies and look a-likes but as most of us in the iPod generation know, any MP3 player is not an iPod. The iPhone copies will have the same fate. The market anticipates competition and this is why Apple partnered with ATT to distribute the phone in its retail stores and this is why they gave ATT the exclusive USA network rights to the phone.
Apple creates the phone, ATT provides the service with a minimum of a two year commitment at about $45 per month. With ATT as the exclusive network provider Apple is able to take a piece of the monthly service as part of the deal. For every phone sold, ATT bills about $1200 for the service and Apple sells a phone for about $500. Seems like a both win deal. The market place has passionate consumers, and passionate consumers like to consume. But if it were that simple I would not be writing about it!
There is an underground movement that has gained critical velocity in the last few weeks, this is the drive to “unlock” the iPhone from its service provider and allow it to be used on ANY network. Yep, you heard me. Hack the phone to run on any providers GSM based network, this means that Sprint, Vodaphone, T-Mobile and prepaid users on other networks can all have the sexy iPhone without the two year contract with ATT. They can use their existing cell phone service with a brand new phone.
If you want to understand a little more about iPhone unlocking you can check these movies:
Or this one from one of the largest and most popular technology blog sites out there
Why should I care?
What difference does it make to me if ATT looses their exclusivity on the phone and the iPhone can work anywhere? Honestly there is no reason for you to care. I don’t really care about this little hack but the reason that you should care is because of how vendor relationships can fail.
Follow me on this, who stands to benefit from this? Apple or ATT. Initially this partnership was balanced, it was a good marriage with both sides supplying an exclusive piece. A real both win deal. Now Apple stands to make the greatest gains from this little software hack. Sure they will fix it with a code update, but the cat and mouse game has begun and the vendor / supplier relationship is forever tarnished. In the future another Telecom provider will be less eager to enter into an exclusivity deal with a vendor for a hot product. But remember Apple still wins by selling more phones.
Still, how does this apply to ME?
Most of you on this list are business owners or in upper management. Consider this: What perceived exclusivity do you have in your vendor relationships?
What rules are currently being respected that if broken could really damage your relationship with your customers or even your entire business process. Let me explain by example.
Crossing the line
This is where this all started from, I have a client that is in the “drop shipping and fulfillment” of Internet orders business. The specifics are not important but needless to say he has invested hundreds of thousands in his company and he makes a handsome living. His website displays products, his customers purchase the products and he blind drop ships from his vendor to the direct end user. Business was great until he received a catalog in the mail and email to his inbox from a new widget selling company that was selling the same products directly to consumers.
Farming the customer database
He discovered that the distributor was going retail. They had decided to deal directly with the end user and they had a database of thousands of customers that they were reaching out to, customers that they had shipped to on behalf of their clients. This
situation is still working itself out, but you can see just how quickly a partnership can turn sour.
In hindsight he could have saved himself the nightmare of having his customer database stolen if he had used a fulfillment house to mail the packages to his customers (Yes, he could have also used an honest distributor).
Look at your relationships
Are there vendor relationships that you have right now that could jeopardize your business if they fail? Now what can you do if anything to mitigate these risks? Where can you change the balance of your relationships? Sometimes just exposing a blind spot is enough to change the balance. Don’t find yourself in a one sided relationship with your suppliers or customers, when there is a shift in control, its time to look at your options.
Calea Interview for Itmanagement.com
I was interviewed this week for an article in ITManagement.com about CALEA compliance.
Way back in 1994, agents at the FBI were getting nervous. They saw emerging digital and wireless communications technologies as one more reason to worry — and one more way for hardcore criminals to evade capture. That year, Congress passed CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) to ensure that the FBI and other law- enforcement agencies would be able to conduct electronic surveillance — essentially, legal wiretapping — on devices beyond landline telephones. From fax machines, pagers and mobile phones, CALEA now extends also to broadband Internet communications and VoIP services.
Last year, the U.S. government required that all “telecommunications carriers??? — which the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) defines as common carriers, facilities-based broadband Internet-access providers and interconnected VoIP service providers — be compliant with CALEA by May 14, 2007. That means that a carrier’s equipment, facilities and services must be capable of allowing law enforcement to perform electronic surveillance, which is also referred to as lawful intercept. Simply put: You get a subpoena, and you must be able to immediately execute a tap on the network and transmit the data to the law-enforcement agency that served the warrant. The tricky part is this: The government has put the onus on the telecommunications industry to determine CALEA standards and solutions.
“For a long time, CALEA seemed catered to VoIP and VoIP networks. It didn’t seem to apply to us, a broadband provider,” explained Brad Slavin, vice president of engineering at Skyriver Communications Inc., an ISP near San Diego with 3,500 business subscribers. “There’s no governing body — you may not even know that this is a prerequisite.” The ISP received clarifications on the mandate in February, and Slavin spent the 90 days before the deadline pushing to become compliant.
Last week I wrote about a scam that could sucker you out of 50 bucks but this week I am going to talk about the greatest possible scam out there, Identity Theft. 457-55-5462 You may recognize this number as the Social security number of the Lifelock CEO Todd Davis. They are the innovative identity theft protection site that is ROCKING THE INDUSTRY. Their shtick is that they are so confident in their service that they are willing to publish the CEO’s SSN.
What’s the process? This is how it works, Lifelock ask the credit bureaus to set fraud alerts on your behalf. This is done through their automated systems and the alerts are set within an hour. These fraud alerts last for about 90 days, and then they proactively go in and update the system at about the 80th day and reset the process again.
I have been using the Equifax protection service for years and once I knew that there was an alternative out here that is not just a reporting engine but is actually proactive about my identity protection I just had to give it a try. Let me give you an example, if someone is down at Sears and is applying for credit with your social security number, one will block prior to approval and the other would notify you that a new account has been established.
They also order your credit reports from all three major agencies mailed directly to you once a year. If you are interested in a 30 Day trial and a whopping $21 discount, enter in promo code AMI when you enroll. I have been using the service for about 90 days and I have received my Fraud Alter paperwork from Trans Union and Equifax, so I know that they have done what they have promised. I anticipate getting another set of letters within the next 60 days to confirm that my fraud alert has been renewed. I LOVE THIS SERVICE. Yes, I know that I could do it myself but for less than $10 a month, I would prefer to have someone follow up on this for me so that I can focus on writing interesting newsletters and not writing to get my identity back!
Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in America
More than 27 million identities have been stolen
More than 15 million identities will be stolen this year
You are 25 times more likely to have your identity stolen than to have your car broken into.
You are 40 times more like to have your identity stolen than your home broken into.
It takes consumers an average of 177 hours and two years to restore their identities after it has been stolen.
One of my favorite features of the services is the removal from pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists and they keep updating these requests as they expire. Discarded mail or stolen mail is one of the most common ways that thieves hijack identities.
The Guarantee If your Identity is misused while you are our client, we’ll spend up to $1,000,000 to make it right. I have been a client for a while, and I have yet to receive that dredged phone call that someone is trying to open up an account with my name, but I have done my due diligence and I feel comfortable that I am really protected.
If you don’t think this is a problem, take a look at these news articles just from August.
Stay informed, because once you are it is easy to get protected.
Doman Registration Scams
I have been connected to the Internet for a very long time and I am always the super skeptic about any online offer and I always have my guard up for Internet scams but this one nearly got me. I was perhaps 10 seconds away from clicking submit before I chose to do some checking. It would have cost me about fifty dollars in actual damages but it a lesson that needs to be shared.
Here is the content of the email:
It is time to renew your domain name www.topsiterank.com
You may renew your domain automatically with Domain Renewal. Click on the link in this e-mail to renew the domain for another year. You should renew your domain as soon as possible in order for it to continue to be registered in your name.
As soon as we have received your payment, you will receive a confirmation that your domain has been renewed.
It was a clean, simple email with an easy to follow link. The landing page looked great, it had the domain name and the renewal cost right up front I can see how people fall for this.
What is the implication?
Honestly this scam just costs you money and there is a slim possibility that they steal your credit card information and use it to buy a 60 inch plasma. If they do what they promise, this is pretty much a victimless crime. You just overpay for a service. They don’t modify your information with your registrar; they just pay your bill.
For those of you who have not had to deal with paying for your .com name or renewing it once it has expired. You typically get a notification from your Registrar or your ISP to tell you that your domain is about to expire. You go online in the same way that I did and you pay for it…Pretty easy. The problem is that you don’t need the account number or verification to pay for a domain. So if you use this service, they charge you the $79.00 and pay out the $12-20 to renew your domain. They take a healthy markup for sending spam. No harm no foul, you get your registration paid and they act like the middleman handling the transaction.
So what was made me stop?
In this case it was experience, everything looked right but something did not feel right. I did not remember seeing this screen in years past and it was a little “too” easy. So I went online to the “whois” database to check who I registered the domain with.
You can see the results here.
To check your own domain information go to http://www.who.is/. Make sure that your information is up to date and accurate. Is the fax number right? Is it pointing to your new physical address and is the name of the person on the record still working for your company? Get this information up to date ASAP, if you need some free help taking care of this let me know, I would be glad to help. Rather be safe than sorry. I had a client that her IT person switched the domain registration out from under her and then just started his own separate business selling the same product using her good name. We were able to get the domain back in a few short days but not without the expense of having to get notarized letters and certified documents of Incorporate.
Wild Wild West
The Internet really is the wild west and there are robbers ready to take advantage of you at every corner. The lesson is that if you are in doubt or have been sent an unsolicited notification from a vendor that you don’t recognize – even if the service seems valid. Ask someone who can help you before you spend the money or even lose your domain name. Next week I am going to write about protecting yourself from identity theft.
4 Hour Work Week – 4HWW – San Diego
Hot on the heels of my last post I have just started a 4 Hour Work Week group at meetup.com. I know that some of you on my list are not in the San Diego area but if you in the area and you are interested in creating a life of possibility or looking to transform your business and life by utilizing the “secrets of the New Rich” take the first step and register for the meetup.
If you are not in San Diego, search meetup.com for a 4 Hour Work Week Group near you or start one of your very own!
There are already 4 members signed up, as of this morning and I only started the group at 11pm last night!
Getting connected and finding your passion and your muse is a step towards living a life you love. I hope to see you there.
4 Hour Work Week – 4HWW – Meetup
Last week I hosted the first ever San Diego 4 Hour Work Week Meetup and it was FANTASTIC. There were seven of us at the first event and I have scheduled the next one for the 12th of September.
In this meetup we are going to be going through a process of Muse creation so that we can start the creative juices flowing. I will be posting a list of resources that people have used and their experience with each outsourcing company.
What was it about the last email that got so many people’s attention? Was it the prospect that there is someone out there who is willing to do the dirty work or is it that they may just be able to do it more cost effectively than your own employees? I have never seen such divided responses to an article that I have written, there no less than sixteen comments in my inbox within the first week. One comment was “I cringe when I read posts like yours. While you have made some good suggestions, you also imply that Vas are not trustworthy and are fly-by-night operations.”No doubt about it, Virtual Assistants and Outsourcing is a passionate topic and the act of outsourcing means different things to different people.
Why Did I Write About Outsourcing?
Every article must have a motivation and mine was just to show that there are alternatives, out-of-the-box ways of thinking that may not be compatible with you. My belief is that there is more to life than an 8-5 job and doing work for works sake. If I can gain greater efficiency by working with offshore employees, and it brings me closer to my real goal, then I am going for it. In the last few weeks I found out what motivates me and where I am going to be channeling my creative and business energy. It’s all going into 4 Hour Work Week.
Not a Book Review
The book is an easy read and it is catching on like crazy; but I am not writing this as a book review, but rather as a testament to find the goal of what I love and to fullfill it with the power of technology and outsourcing! I have always been involved in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) businesses, the type of business where you sell your product or service once and if you keep your customer satisfaction high! you can count on them being there next week, next month and next year. But the thing that I was missing was the goal of what do do with that type of freedom. The book helps to put it into perspective. If you choose to read one of the best reviews of this book, please check out David Seah’s review at http://davidseah.com/archives/2007/04/18/a-review-of-tim-ferriss-the-4-hour-work-week
Outsource Your Business Processes
If you are ready to outsource, try these easy ones; do you have a website for your product or service? Wish you could have it and staffed with 24/7 friendly helpful staff who are ready and willing to answer your customer questions? But, most people have the same set of questions – how much does it cost, what color does it come in, what is your return policy or just what does it do?
The answer is outsource it, you don’t have to worry about the potential language barrier, just think of it as online chat for business! Create some canned responses, and they can interact on your behalf to solve problems. Empower them to solve problems, not just delay resolution. We did it, and we have taken it a step further, we outsource phone calls to the Philippines 24 hours a day. Call 1-888-475-9822 and give it a try, let me know how long it takes to have the phone answered. I bet it doesn’t even take less than 45 seconds to get a live person, day or night.
Another easy one to outsource is the updating of your website or having your VA create a list of prospective customers on the Internet and prequalify them with an introductory email. It is a powerful way to start thinking about outsourcing your business processes.
For a place to start outsourcing try https://www.getfriday.com/. I have utilized the services of
http://www.ybrant.com for back office projects. They are amazing!, speak to Vijay at (650)-838-0245. For the contact details of extraordinary technical off-site call center, Email me and I will put you in touch with Tony.
The 4HWW Way
The impact that I have felt just in the last few weeks is that I am creating balance between the effort expended and the quality of life that I plan to lead, when you think about it, this is really the most critical part of being alive. Work for work’s sake is not the answer, but getting more done and more efficiently though outsourcing and automation is a big part of the puzzle.
The results by volume approach which requires you to be putting in more hours to get more done is totally unsustainable. You can’t keep doing more and more time in at the office and expecting that your life is going to get better. Focus only on those tasks which contribute directly to the bottom line or benefit or other measurable goal.
I don’t just want to work less than I work right now; I want to work smarter, in a way that my time at the office is just as valuable as my vacation time.
What Did I learn?
Automate your income and don’t defer your dreams. Have a goal in mind for what you want to do with your life.
I am starting the San Diego 4-Hour Work Week get together, there are already eight members signed up. One is a Real Estate Broker who has sent a huge number of tasks to a VA; another is an Insurance Agent who is looking for a product to sell online – he is thinking e-book on how to shop for the best rates.
What is your passion? What is your dream? Let me know if you would like more information on the 4HWW get together. We would be thrilled to have you there!