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How business email services can help your company grow

Whether you have an office, a storefront, a restaurant or an online-only business, chances are good that you use email. In fact, according to The Radicati Group, by the end of 2019, we, as a global society, were expected to send 246 billion emails per day – of which 52% (or roughly 128.8 billion) are expected to be business email. In a field that crowded, it’s important that your messaging not only be targeted, accurate and on brand, but that the email client you use allows you to put your best foot forward – presenting a professional, trustworthy image.

When you use a dedicated email service with a branded domain, you lend authority and credence to your message, making your email recipients more likely to open your email. In addition, dedicated email solutions offer the level of control and protection you need to prevent security hacks and theft.

The good news is that dedicated email services are often affordable and offer a number of benefits that can make a difference to your company – and your clients. Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits of putting budget behind your email service.

  1. Your brand image. With email addresses that end in @yourdomainname, you’ll immediately tell your customers and clients who you are and what you represent – creating a trustworthy image from the moment your message is received. And because of this, you may even get a boost in business. After all, according to com, “consumers are 9x more likely to do business with a company that uses a true [branded] business email address than companies that do not.”
  2. No messaging limits. Some of the more popular free email services limit the number of recipients you can add on your email and the number of emails you can send. This not only makes sending bulk messages a challenge, but it could pose an issue if you have multiple people responding to customers via a single email address, like [email protected]. Meanwhile, paid services don’t tend to set such limits, so you can send and receive as many email messages in a day as you’d like, which will make communicating with customers and vendors easier as you expand your business.
  3. Protection for files and data. Recently a company that offers free and low-cost email services to individual and small businesses suffered a “catastrophic destruction” at the hands of an as-yet unknown intruder who trashed all of the company’s primary and backup data in the United States, according to Krebs on Security. The breach was so vast that “the firm’s founder says he now fears 18 years’ worth of customer email may be gone forever.” And while breaches at this level aren’t typical, hacking does happen. Which is one reason that using a secure business email service with state-of-the-art encryption technology and the power to communicate through a Transport Layer Security-enabled network is important.
  4. Department- or group-specific email aliases. By giving you the option to create email aliases, like [email protected] or [email protected], you can communicate with more people at once and give your customers the ability to message entire teams of people, making it easier for them to get the answers and assistance they need faster.
  5. Streamlined collaboration and document sharing. Not only do email services allow you to securely share documents, files, and data with your team and your clients, but some even give you additional tools so you can collaborate on files at the office and on the go – using any device. That way, you can switch from your laptop to your phone without skipping a beat.
  6. Integration into other software or tools. Many of today’s business email hosting providers have developed their tools in a way that allows them to seamlessly integrate with the apps and software you rely on. By doing so, they make it easier to do more in less time. Premium email services provide easy integration across your devices and seamless access to updates and upgrades as they become available.
  7. Additional tech support for your system. If your dedicated email service goes down, or a feature you’ve always counted on suddenly stops working, you’ll often get guaranteed uptimes and 24/7 support from experts who will be there if something goes awry.
  8. Just as your company’s services will need to scale as your client base grows, you’ll also need a business email solution that can scale to meet your needs. Some free email providers allow you to register multiple email addresses (2 to 500, depending on the provider), but with millions of users worldwide, getting the name you want will likely be a challenge. In addition, although all email systems do offer some level of security, many of the more robust tools are either unavailable or come with a hefty fee, which can make your “free” email services quite costly. However, with a system that allows you to add email addresses in the names you need, get robust, up-to-date security, and add new tools, etc., virtually on the fly, you can get a service that can grow with you – and won’t force you to change systems in the midst of growth.
  9. Easier transitions. When you sign up for a business email account with most free services, what they have is what you get. That may be fine as you start your business, but as you grow in size and in scope, you may need a more robust server, more storage or more tools and security. However, because many free services are highly limited, you may not have the ability to upgrade, period. However, most fee-based email hosting providers do have the ability to adjust to meet your needs as your business grows and changes – and can even help you seamlessly transition to a flexible cloud-based system when you’re ready.
  10. More features. Most free email services offer a single service, or a handful of tools – some of which you’ll use, some of which you won’t. But with a business email solution created and maintained by a paid provider, you’ll get a wider range of tools, like integrated calendars, instant messaging, file storage and sharing and more. Plus, you’ll also have the option to add on tools for a nominal fee, rather than having to invest in tools individually.

Although you may be tempted by a fee-free business email solution, it’s worth considering what’s to come – and whether that solution will project a professional image, grow with you, protect your files and data, and allow you to access the tools you need to succeed.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Challo pushes enterprise collaboration across company walls

One of the big weaknesses of many enterprise collaboration solutions is that they aren’t always good at letting employees work with external parties. That’s a problem one of the latest entrants to the space tries to solve.

Collaboration without walls 

Like many such solutions, Challo is a feature-rich cloud-based enterprise-class collaboration tool.

What’s interesting is that this has been built to deliver all the collaboration tools you’d expect, along with externally facing tools and enterprise-class security.

In other words, it makes it easier for teams across multiple organizations to collaborate together. It also respects security policies across all parties.

The basic features are what you’d expect from any collaboration tool. Team messaging, voice and video meetings, content sharing and management and application integration.

It supports Slack and Microsoft Teams and has an automated Virtual Assistant which can do things like sharing event dates or relevant documents with meeting participants.

What happens in meeting room

Challo’s use of virtual online and persistent workspaces is what makes it so useful. These virtual rooms let all parties share data and provide access to the relevant tools, which is good, but the persistence means project details and shared resources are available for the duration of the project.

This solves that problem in which documents, screen grabs and other shared data subsequently gets stored on insecure devices or shared via insecure means.

Challo uses security and compliance technologies designed to support seamless multi-company collaboration. Administrators can set granular policies that let some parties receive but not send data or limiting messaging facilities, for example.

Built-in security and compliance

“Every interaction with the company data is controlled by a fine-grained security model that allows administrators and users to ensure that only the smallest needed set of data is ever provided and that the data is only provided in a manner appropriate to enterprise policy,” explained Kevin Glass, Cafe X CTO (developer of Challo).

This focus on security compliance makes it useful solution for highly regulated industries, such as legal, financial and accountancy, for example.

In layman’s terms, this makes it easy for an enterprise to prove what users could and could not access, which matters in highly regulated environments. At the same time, people involved in a meeting get useful tools such as the ability to capture and record sessions, transcripts and so on.

[Also read: 6 great apps for the iOS mobile enterprise]

The solution also handles permissioning behind the scenes, so a collaborator can share an item and the system itself will assign access privileges to whoever else is there – and will respect any existing company security policy as it does.

Collaboration where you are

Today’s enterprise culture is based on multiple platforms. Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads all work together to get things done.

Wearable devices are also seeing use, and Challo will implement support for Apple Watch (and CarPlay) in future, the company said. They are also developing Webinar support using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming technologies.

Future evolutions may include beacon-based presence indicators, said Glass: “iBeacon has a lot of potential for enterprise meeting rooms: Being able to walk in and have your iPhone app transfer the meeting,” he said.

Enterprise collaboration is a crowded market with plenty of solutions to choose between, but Challo appears uniquely built to facilitate different companies using these technologies to work together and is probably a sign of new layers of application-based interoperability to come.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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How bad can text security be? One company just showed us.

There is nothing more quintessentially mobile than text messages, the most commonly used communication method today. That’s why it was very unsettling that a security research house found — and the vendor at issue essentially confirmed — that a massive number of text messages were stored in plaintext, with no security at all. In short, the texts from what the security research firm estimated were “hundreds of millions of people” were open to any thief or stalker who wanted to look.

The company involved, an Austin-based business called TrueDialog, would likely be unknown to almost all of those users. TrueDialog is a marketing firm offering SMS products and services to other companies — a lot of companies. That will make it hard for consumers to even know if their texts were victimized. Text message users were able to text back, giving the impression of having two-way conversations with businesses.

The security research firm, VPNMentor, has posted a copy of its report, which delves into extensive details about the TrueDialog database it found.  

“The TrueDialog database is hosted by Microsoft Azure and runs on the Oracle Marketing Cloud in the USA. When we last looked at the database it included 604 GB of data. This included nearly 1 billion entries of highly sensitive data,” the report noted.

“Millions of email addresses, usernames, cleartext passwords, and base64 encoded passwords (which are easy to decrypt) were easily accessible within the database. …

“We also found in the database logs of internal system errors as well as many http requests and responses, which means that whoever found it could see the site’s traffic. This could [have] by itself exposed vulnerabilities. …

“The account credentials were not only left unprotected but in cleartext as well. This means that anyone who accessed the database would be able to log in to the company account, change the password, and do an incredible amount of damage. …

“It would be easy for a corporate spy to read confidential messages that were sent by a rival company. That data could include marketing campaigns, roll out dates for a new product, new product designs or specs and much more. 

“This leak also exposed records regarding sales leads for potential customers of TrueDialog users. Users are buying leads from external parties and if these leads came to leak, they could lose a lot of money.”

When VPNMentor contacted TrueDialog, the vendor never responded but, somehow, the problematic database was taken offline. So we looked to TrueDialog’s site for some insights into how this could have happened. No such answers were found, but there was an interesting section where TrueDialog — with a masterful display of chutzpah — touted its powerful security mechanisms.

Under a header called “Enhanced Security,” a marketing page on the site says: “Another benefit of native SMS integration is enhanced security and better control over data access. Built for large organizations, enterprise-grade SMS texting features make system administration easier. Because they use the same security protocols as other Microsoft applications, data security breaches or containment issues are minimized.

“Most importantly, data never resides on questionable 3rd-party servers.

“On-premise MS Dynamics installations utilize local data processing and storage servers while cloud-based setups reside on Microsoft’s trusted, ultra-secure network.

“Administrators rest easy knowing critical data is protected and always available.”

Really? Their customers can rest easy knowing that their critical data is left exposed to the world? Maybe they meant “rest easy” as a euphemism for wanting to kill themselves?

There are three issues here: One, we have companies hiring companies to handle some of their texts, without insisting on seeing enterprise-level security behind it. Two, consumers are using this service that is ostensibly from Company X. They have a certain amount of trust in Company X, and that is why they are using the texting option. And yet Company X is not taking charge. And three, why does the U.S. not have penalties for such a massive dereliction of security duties?

Some of this is quite frustrating. Consider a consumer or student who does not trust the brand’s reputation, so that consumer/student asks to opt out. In this situation, even the act of trying to opt out caught more people in this horrid situation.

The very nature of texting is not especially safe, but is encrypting the stored data and adding some passwords so much to ask?

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Security lessons from a Mac-only fintech company

Apple remains a highly secure choice for enterprise professionals, but security threats remain and the environment requires sophisticated endpoint management tools, confirmed Build America Mutual (BAM) CTO, David McIntyre.

The Mac only bank

BAM is one of the leading U.S. municipal bond insurers and has insured over $65 billion since launch in 2012. It also has the rare distinction of being a fintech firm that is completely based on Macs.

It has been an Apple-based enterprise since the start.

“The founders all use Macs at home,” McIntyre explained. “We said, let’s try to build a financial firm that uses Macs.”

When the company launched, it also found most of its potential employees used Macs, so it made even more sense to standardize round Apple’s platforms.

“We thought it would be easier and would let a small team support the employees.”

McIntyre was speaking at the recent Jamf JNUC event to talk about the recently announced Jamf Protect endpoint security solution, as noted here and here.

The challenge his company faced is that it deals with financial transactions valued at billions of dollars for huge clients – and is also based in New York which has legendarily tough cybersecurity regulations.

This means BAM must use the best security protection it can get.

The Apple security environment

The company has learned as it grows – among other lessons it has learned that the security environment for even Apple’s platforms is increasingly complicated.

“Five years ago, security was probably 10% of the jobs” of the company’s system admins, said McIntyre.

“Now probably 50-60% of their time is spent on cybersecurity,” he added.

“Not just because of cybersecurity regulations, but also because we’ve become a lot more aware of the security environment. It’s a thing that keeps me up at night.”

Despite the size of its business, BAM is a small firm with just two system admins to handle the technical needs of its one hundred employees.

Apple has a great reputation for security, and usually moves fast to address platform-based threats, but those aren’t the only exploits that exist on the platform.

Regular security and OS updates and speedy response to most identified challenges mean the platform is innately robust, but while virus checkers and firewalls can provide permiter protection, most security researchers now agree that the threat environment demands a more complete insight into device and machine security.

The Mac malware challenge

The challenge is that Mac malware does exist – and while Apple’s platform has lots of built-in protection, the biggest security vulnerability tends to be the humans using the computers and the applications they choose to install on them.

“One common way malware is distributed is by embedding it in a harmless-looking app,” Apple states on a support page.

When BAM started in business, it relied only on Apple’s security.

“We’d always relied on software updates,” said McIntyre. “I hadn’t realised the need for endpoint protection.”

He came to understand the need for tougher protection as his awareness of the big picture around Mac security grew and as the number of attempts made against Apple’s platforms continues to increase.

Chrome browser plug-ins: ‘A real Wild West’

BAM now uses Jamf’s new endpoint security solution which has already protected it against threats.

McIntryre told the JNUC audience of one of these:

“A few months ago, we had an alarm go off on Jamf Protect and at the same time our network stopped working,” he said.

“It turned out that one of our employees had downloaded the number one Chrome plug-in.”

The offending plug-in turned out to be a popular parcel tracking app that had “50,000” reviews, he said. Half of those reviews were positive, while the others described similar problems as his company faced, he said, calling it ‘malware’.

BAM was able to isolate the problem and create a new set of rules through which to manage Mac security. These rules extended to the development of a white list of approved Chrome plug-ins.

“We actually realised that Chrome browser plug-ins were a real Wild West,” he said.

Securing the human

Of course, not every Mac user has access to powerful enterprise security solutions.

But the lessons for any Mac user should be the same as they always have been in cybersecurity:

  • Never install software except from a trusted source.
  • Beware of installing browser/app plug-ins, as while the software you are using may have passed through Apple’s stringent App Store security vetting processes, any additional plug-ins/extensions supported by it may not be secure, as allegedly happened at BAM.
  • Applications such as Little Snitch and tough endpoint security protection (including use of secured routers) may help.
  • Use of VPNs can help prevent various ‘man in the middle’ attacks.

For more security tips for Mac users please read this guide (The report needs updating but still carries plenty of helpful suggestions).

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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What Company Did Google Almost Sell Out To For Less Than A Million Dollars?

Geek Trivia

What Company Did Google Almost Sell Out To For Less Than A Million Dollars?

Who Was The First To Celebrate Christmas In Space?

The Excite logo, circa 1999

Answer: Excite

In the early days of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin severely undervalued their budding organization. The search engine and information behemoth Google, with an estimated current net worth of 300 billion dollars, was once put on the bargaining table in discussions with rival search engine Excite for a paltry million dollars. Excite CEO George Bell rejected the offer and, even after the duo countered with an offer of $750,000, he still turned them down.

So what would motivate Page and Brin to even put Google on the table? They worried that tweaking and managing Google was taking too much time away from their research. Today, with Google’s market valuation in the billions of dollars, they have more than enough capital and free time to research whatever their hearts desire.

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