How any small business can protect themselves against cyber attacks

There has been plenty in the news of late regarding cyber attacks on big corporate organisations. The most publicised of this has to be the NHS. This particular cyber attack showed that no matter how big an organisation that you are, there is always a chance that you will fall victim to an attack at some point.

This has led to small businesses to become concerned that they are not best protecting not only their business but the data on their customers that they may hold. So, with this in mind, we had a sit down with VectorCloud who are one of Scotland’s leading IT Support companies and put together some of the top approaches that a small business should take when it comes to protecting themselves against a cyber attack.

Choose your password wisely

One of the simplest ways to protect your small business comes in the form of your password. You would be surprised to learn just how many people choose a simple password that is easy to hack. Not only this, but lots of small businesses that have multiple sign in requirements will also use the same, simple, password across all of their log-ins.

If you are concerned that your password is easy to hack, then you really should change it. When it comes to passwords, one rule that you should always adhere to is that you never use a word that is related to you. Choose a word that is entirely random and then use numbers, symbols and uppercase letters throughout that word. This will ensure that your password is difficult to crack.

Lastly, once you have set your password, it is key that you never share it with anyone.

Watch what you open

A common way that hackers will use to breach the security of your system is to send malware via emails that are sent to you directly. They will often contain links or files that once clicked on or opened will quickly corrupt your computer, even spreading throughout a network at times.

The answer to this is to make sure that you are careful with the things that you open, particularly from any sources that you do not know. Whilst the hackers will put time into creating these phishing emails and making sure that they look realistic enough to coax you into opening them. However, there are often little tell-tale signs that all isn’t as it seems. Look out for these and make sure that you pay attention to them.

Always be updated

It can be a pain to have to update your operating systems on a regular basis. However, these systems updates are not only designed to improve the functionality and performance of the system, but also will install the latest in security developments, which are perfect for protecting your business.

Be certified

It has become so commonplace that nowadays we barely recognise that a website has been SSL Certificated. These certifications are a fantastic way to ensure that the data is protected as well as the identity and location of your business.

They are incredibly easy to install onto your server and they will create a chain and a lock that helps to enable secure connections between your web browser and other web browsers. Once you install SSL Certification onto your website the website will change from HTTP to HTTPs and there will also be a padlock shown on the website to reflect how it is now secure to use.

Always consider remote workers

We live in a world now where it has become more and more common for employees to work from home. Whilst this is great for a work/life balance and also improves factors such as employee satisfaction and morale, it isn’t as great for security. It can be hard to manage and maintain the security for staff as they are not within your premises.

Rather than removing this functionality for your staff, it makes more sense to use remote desktop software that is secure and reputable. Software like this should include permanent encryption, something that is used by a large number of online banks, which ensures that they remain protected and secure.

Encourage your staff to be aware how to stay protected

Do you have staff that work with your systems, are they able to access data and private information during their working day? If they do, then it is important that you encourage them to know how to stay protected.

Education is one of the first steps, which means that it pays to share with them how important it is to use secure and complex passwords when setting up their logins for any business system. Also, they should be aware how it is important that they do not open or click on any suspicious files or links that they are sent whilst they are at work.

Writing up an I.T policy and asking your staff members to sign it, is one way that you can encourage them to follow these rules and ensure that your business is protected from any attacks that could occur due to your staff not being aware of how to best protect themselves and the company.


As you can see, protecting yourself against a cyber attack doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes it is simple a case of changing a few passwords, or ensuring that your operating systems and software is entirely up to date.

Why not try some of these out for yourself? You may be surprised, by not only how easy it can be, but how secure that you can feel when it comes to your business and the data that you hold. After all, if it can happen to the NHS, then there is still a good chance that it can happen to you and that is the last thing that you are going to want when you are trying to run your own business.

What Makes Employees Happy? Our Top Tips

If you want your employees to work hard, you need to keep them happy.  After all, the well-known and true saying is that a happy workforce, is a productive and industrious workforce.  It is generally felt that the people who have greater job satisfaction are usually the most productive and engaged. 

If you are looking for ways to keep your employees happy to garner the best efforts and results from them, you have come to the right place.  In the following post you will find our top tips for ensuring that your staff are happy, valued, motivated and capable of helping your company be as successful as it can be.

Offer Bonuses And Incentives

Our first tip is really a no-brainer and something that all employers, regardless of industry, should implement in their company in some way or another.  Bonuses, incentives and other rewards give your employees something to aspire to, beyond just meeting the sales targets or company goals.  By establishing an bonus and incentive scheme, you are showing them that you are willing to put the money where your mouth is, if they achieve something great on your behalf.  It will also give them a confidence and motivate them to take greater pride in their work. 

Recognise, Commend And Reward When Employees Are Progressing Well

While many employers tend to congratulate, commend and reward in a big way, the members of staff who are always doing very well at their job and achieving the biggest and best targets and results.  Although this is a really good thing, it is often done at the expense of the people who are reliable, stable and consistent with what they achieve for the company, even if they are not the ‘high earners’. 

By taking the time to appreciate these kinds of employees impact on your company, you are raising morale and people will enjoy working for you because of it.  Paying close attention to the achievements of those who have had to overcome obstacles to improve the standard of the work, is also crucial.  You don’t even have to do much more than a sincere thank you, for your staff to feel that their efforts are worth something.

Establish a Fun and Friendly Workplace And Avoid Being Too Strict

Work should never be seen as a playground by your employees, and it is imperative that they know they are there to work as hard as they can for you and achieve specific goals and targets.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t enjoy working for you though.  If your company hires office staff, encourage conversation between your workforce.  Not only are great ideas shared through back and forth communication, you are also establishing a work culture where colleagues can become friends and who will share the responsibility of progressing your company in the direction you want it to go.

Provide Comfortable, Clean And Hygienic Working Conditions For Employees

It is crucial that if you want to keep your employees happy, that you create a comfortable, clean and hygienic environment for them.  This includes aspects of the workplace such as sufficient ventilation and lighting, break areas that allow your staff to relax a little without feeling crammed into a tight little kitchen or lounge area, comfortable seating at all desks and work stations, and a regularly scheduled cleaning and maintenance. 

Equipment cleaning is essential, because if your staff are using equipment that is clean and in good working order, they are less likely to become frustrated and unhappy.

Arrange For Team Building Activities Such As Social Gatherings and Day/Weekend Trips

One of the easiest ways to keep your employees happy, is probably the most obvious.  Reward them for their hard work by taking them out of the confines of their office, work station or desk and into the outside world.  Whether it is organising a work sports event, a trip to the local bowling alley or for a 3 course slap up meal at a nice restaurant; as long as it is something they will enjoy and allows them to let their hair down, it is bound to make them feel happy and enjoy working for your company.  It doesn’t even have to involve a lot of money, as it is more the thought behind it and the chance to unwind away from the office that will keep them happy.

By enjoying a break from work, they will be even more motivated and diligent when they return to the office and have those goals and targets to meet.

Make Open Communication A Key Policy For Your Company

You’d be amazed at the number of amazing ideas that there could be right under your nose.  By making open communication a key policy and encouraging your staff to share any ideas they have; or to at least make it clear that you will always listen and take under consideration anything they suggest, you will make them feel valued and in turn happier.  On the other hand, if you are known as an arrogant boss who doesn’t listen to staff’s suggestions, feedback or comments; your staff will likely be very happy and in turn, lack motivation.

As you can see from our top tips, creating a positive working environment that keeps your workforce happy and therefore motivated, does not require a lot of money or effort.  A lot of great planning and forethought and common sense.

Put yourself in their shoes or remember back when you used to work for someone else.  What would you like if you were in their position and how would you like to be treated?  By looking at your staff this way and considering their thoughts and feelings, you will be able to establish a work environment that encourages people to be happy, that makes workers feel special and not as if they are just another faceless drone.

The advantage is that if your employees are happy they will be less likely to look elsewhere for a better offer. 

The pros and cons of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Are you patient?

You probably think you are, at least more patient than expecting information at your fingertips within seconds – but even if you think you have the patience of a saint – you’re probably wrong.

Dozens of studies into webpage load times show we’re actually extremely impatient – and in reality, most of us will abandon a site if the page we’re heading for takes more than 4 seconds to load.

So what’s the answer?

Well, Google and Twitter think it’s AMP – or, to give it’s full name, Accelerated Mobile Pages. An open source plug-in project that’s designed to create mobile pages that load ultra-quickly.

What could possibly be the downside of that? Well, a cruise ship doesn’t move as quickly as a speedboat – and if you ever wanted it to, you’d need to strip a lot of stuff out. The same is true of AMP. Along with a few members of the Think Zap team, who are some of Scotland’s leading web design talents. We’ll have a look at what it is – and the pros and cons of implementing accelerated mobile pages across your site.

What exactly is AMP?

In the most-simple terms, AMP is like ‘HTML lite’ – that’s to say, a stripped-down version of ordinary HTML – creating pages that load virtually instantly. It’s underpinned by three main components:


A standard HTML that works by encompassing a variety of web components.

  • AMP JavaScript

Designed to manage all resource loading

  • AMP Caching

Designed to serve and validate AMP page

Mobile traffic now represents the majority of traffic that will hit your site – and AMP seemingly caters for these users perfectly, delivering just the most important content. Interestingly, it appears the AMP project was a direct response to the Facebook Instant and Apple News – although AMP is open source, removing the ties to any one platform.

So now let’s have a look at what industry experts are picking out as the pros and cons of AMP.

Pro – Search visibility

Over the last year or so, AMP results are popping up more and more in mobile search carousels – the Google specific content display in mobile browsers.

This is a double ‘pro’ when you look at the increasing evidence that Google seems keen to rank AMP content in ordinary search listings too. Page speed has grown in importance since mid-2016 – so AMP looks like it can only ever be an SEO benefit moving forward.

Con – AMP advertising is a bit of an unknown

AMP’s lightweight HTML framework pulls the plug on various advertising methods – popups in particular.

For people creating a revenue with any of these advertising methods – AMP might not look like the best option – although clearly this has to be weighed up against the positives; promising a question that’s going to be difficult to anticipate an answer to.

Some companies say they’re generating the same revenue from their AMP content as they were prior to implementation – so the question is, are you ready to take a leap of faith?

Pro – Improved CTRs

The click through rates that are being attributed to AMP stories seem extremely impressive – and going strong with 1 year+ results under their statistical belt.

Major sites are reporting 25%-30% increase in click-throughs from mobile search results – and adverts within AMP content are seeing a 65%+ increase in click throughs – something that’s not going to harm anyone’s conversion rates!

Con – Implementation

There seems to be some fairly universal groans from developers relating to the implementation of AMP – owing largely to it’s fairly restrictive framework.

The feeling is this – AMP isn’t the tool for you unless your site is already close to the top of the performance game anyway, especially true since there are a decent number of standard HTML gains that can be bagged more quickly and simply.

Get fast, then get AMP.

Pro – Greater traffic and revisits

We’ve already covered the fact that Google is placing AMP results higher in search listings and more prominently in carousel – but what’s more difficult to quantify is the impression that AMP content is having on users.

The stripped back feel of AMP stories makes it slightly more difficult to stand out from the crowd – although when a site does, you can expect traffic to keep coming back, no doubt impressed by the layout and speedy delivery time.

Depending on the case-studies you read, you can witness companies seeing increases of somewhere between 23% and 44% in new monthly visitors – with around 73% increase in monthly visitors returning shortly thereafter.

The message? Readers are voting with their feet – and they like AMP.

Pro – You get a Google content delivery network

A big factor in the delivery speed of AMP content relates to the fact that Google caches the content – and as a result, you can modify your URL so that the content is dished up directly from the cache.

This is a bonus if you’re paying for a content delivery network elsewhere and you can be certain that’s Google’s is always going to be up there with the best.

Con – Somewhat limited functionality

In its first incarnation there were serious HTML gaps in what was possible on an accelerated mobile page – with a notable exception being around forms. Now, that’s developing slightly and there are tools that can be integrated to enable some basic patches over the holes – but we’re a long way from complex product pages.

It’s not just visitor page interaction that’s lacking either – if you’re keen on in depth metrics from your page, you’re going to want to make sure AMP fits the bill before you invest too much time or effort making it happen.

Pro – An increasing number of implementation tools

Now, it’s clear the implementation niggles that developers have been having with the AMP plug in is something that’s occurring across the board – evident because new tools are being developed to make the process somewhat easier.

From testing tools to WordPress plugins – there are new resources being developed all the time to support your move to AMP.

What it all boils down to…

Ultimately, AMP is a choice – is the increased page delivery speed going to bolster your conversions by an amount that warrants venturing into new territory? And importantly, are you doing enough to bolster page speed already – without the big chunk of work that’s going to come when you try to take advantage of AMP?

At this stage, AMP isn’t a foregone conclusion for your site – instead, it’s a big bunch of questions that you need to ask to find your way forward…

10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant

When it comes to hiring an SEO consultant for your business, you need to ensure you find the right one for your needs.

Making the right choice when you are bringing one of these professionals onboard can make all the difference. However, how can you determine whether you are considering the right SEO consultant if you have never used them before?

Well, the key is to make sure you ask the right questions, as this will provide you with valuable information that can help you to make an informed decision.

Poor SEO can have a serious negative impact on your business, which is why you have to make sure you find the right consultant. With the right professional working with you, you’ll be able to look forward to great results when it comes to your SEO strategy and implementation.

The ten key questions you need to ask

In order to find the right SEO consultant for your needs and your business, you need to make sure you are asking the right questions. So we recently had a sit down with Tobias Gilbert who offers SEO services in Miami and asked him what are the top questions you should always ask when looking to hire an SEO consultant!

Some of the key ones that you need to ask are:

  1. How much do you charge? You need to find out how much the SEO consultant charges so that you can ensure the pricing fits in with your budget. Some consultants will charge an hourly rate while others may charge per project. Finding out about the cost and fee structure will make it easier for you to determine the suitability of the consultant based on budget. However, you need to make sure that you do not sacrifice on quality in order to get the cheapest prices, as this will end up costing you more in the long run.
  1. What services will be delivered as part of the strategy? Ask the SEO consultant what types of services will be provided as part of the service, as this will enable you to determine whether all of your needs will be addressed. You also need to find out about the quantities of each of the services that the SEO consultant will be providing to help you with your SEO strategy.
  1. How do you plan to improve my rankings? You need a detailed description of exactly how the SEO consultant plans to improve your search engine rankings. The consultant should provide a thorough explanation of the strategies that will be used in order to boost your rankings. You should also ask for a realistic idea with regards to how long it is likely to take to achieve the SEO goals that are put into place.
  1. Are you familiar with the most up to date webmaster guidelines for search engines? The last thing you want to do is end up on the wrong side of the major search engines. With this in mind, you need to make sure that the SEO consultant you are considering is well versed with the most up to date webmaster guidelines and adheres to them strictly. If these guidelines are not followed, the impact on your rankings and business could be very damaging. You can also check out there blog or website to see what information they are sharing within the community. This is a great example of how a blog can be used successfully for SEO.
  1. Are you able to guarantee that my website will rank number one on major search engines? This is something of a red herring when it comes to questions you need to ask an SEO consultant before you hire. If the answer to this is yes, then you should simply walk away. No consultant worth his or her salt will ever make a guarantee such as this because it is not possible to guarantee a number one position. You should, therefore, see this as a red flag if the consultant claims to be able to guarantee this outcome.
  1. How do you track how successful your SEO campaigns are? You need to find out more about how the SEO consultant measures the success of the SEO campaigns. It is important for you to be able to monitor the level of traffic that is being sent to your site and determine where the traffic is coming from. Your consultant should be able to use analytical tools in order to track website traffic, ranking improvements, keywords being used by internet users, and other important details. You also need to ensure that the consultant will regularly share this information with you.
  1. What sorts of communication methods will you use and how often will we be in contact? It is essential that you find an SEO consultant with excellent communication skills, as you need to be kept in the loop with everything that is going on with your website. Ask the consultant what types of communication methods are commonly used and how often the two of you will communicate. Of course, you can’t expect to be in communication 24/7 but holding regular catch-up meetings via Skype or on the phone could prove invaluable.
  1. Do you have the details of past or current clients? Another thing to ask is whether the SEO consultant has a list of past and current clients that can be shared with you. A reputable consultant should be able to share a brief list of clients with you so that you can then get in touch to see whether they saw any improvement as a result of using the SEO consultant. While testimonials are all well and good, the ones that are put up on the site are the glowing ones so they don’t really give you a true picture.
  1. What happens if I need to terminate the contract early? If the SEO consultant needs you to sign up for a certain minimum period of time, you need to determine what happens in the event that you have to terminate early. While you may not be planning to do this, there are numerous issues that could arise and force you into having to end the contract prematurely. Knowing where you stand beforehand will ensure that you are prepared.
  1. How long have you been working in the SEO consultancy field? If you want greater peace of mind when it comes to hiring an SEO consultant, it is best to find one with plenty of experience. This means that they will have a solid background in the industry and expertise that can be used when dealing with your SEO campaign.

Enjoy greater success with the right consultant

Asking these questions will boost the chances of you finding the right SEO consultant for your campaign and your business. This, in turn, means that you will be able to look forward to far greater success levels when it comes to your website and your business.

The Impact Of Tech On Your Business

Technology has far become the way of the world we live in now. You can barely walk down a high street without someone with their face glued to their phone. It is ever changing. And it is important to keep your small business up to date with these changes. I get it. Having a small business, you are going to be run off your feet. However, investing some of your crucial time into what technology has to offer can go a long way. Even if you are not technologically savvy, small changes can pay off in the long run, and do your business wonders.

Whatever the question, technology will most likely be your answer. Believe it or not, some small businesses out there still do not have websites. Perhaps they are stuck in their ways, but almost half of small businesses say they don’t need a website.

But now is the time to change that. We live in a completely different world, and it’s time for small businesses to adapt. Think about it, around 7 billion people in the world, at least 6 billion of them probably have at least one mobile device, by moving online, even if you reach just a small percentage of that, your business will benefit.

The evolution of eCommerce

Start off with an E-commerce site. This is pretty much essential if you want your business to succeed. No matter the size of your company, you could be a small local business selling online, or someone like Reid Brothers UK where they sell worldwide . If you don’t, your potential customers will go elsewhere, end of story. Having an online store can help your business grow. People now prefer buying online to save them leaving the house. Why go walk down a cold, wet high street, when you can order something from the comfort of your own home. Ecommerce sales are expected to double by 2020, so if you have not already, now is the time. If you are a unique business, take advantage of it, especially if you cannot get your product on the high street.

The Mobile Revolution

Making your website mobile friendly is just as important as having one. Whatever your business does or sells, having a responsive website is essential. This allows your usual desktop page to adapt to mobile, tablet or desktop, meaning it can adjust to a screen of any size and without losing any effect.

Not having this could lose you major points. Again, like before it could lead potential customers elsewhere. Simple as that. All is fair and well if you are at your desktop, but if your potential clients are on the go, you need to adapt to support this. Another positive is by having a responsive site you are more likely to rank higher on some search engines.

The Rise Of Social Media For Business

Social media is pretty much a given in this day and age, but it is how you use it to your advantage which matters most. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or Instagram, it is a great way to promote your business and what you have to offer. As much as it helps inform the latest news in your business, you can also use it to sell.

More than 2 million people in the world have at least one social media account, and you can reach a number of them in various ways. You can use the paid advertising services, to optimise adverts to reach a desired audience, or Facebook and Instagram have specific features which let you purchase products without having to leave the app. Facebook’s shop now button allows you to offer your products on your page, making an easy to buy functionality for customers to buy straight away.

The Power Of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is also an option. Social media has skyrocketed for businesses over the last few years. Influencers such as bloggers, YouTubers, or celebrities that appear on reality TV shows cash in by advertising products to their large followings on their channels. Sometimes they team up with a brand or company to help sell products online. As they have a larger following, they are guaranteed to reach more people, getting into areas you didn’t think was possible for your business.

The Growth Of Marketing Tools

Customers react with companies in different ways. But it is how you connect with the vast age groups. Marketing and communication will help meet the demands of your customers. Start a blog. Blogs create original content and provide value to your customers. Perhaps if you are a load securing company, a how to apply stainless steel banding blog would benefit, or if you are in retail, an insight into what the newest trends for A/W would help. Tip: writing a blog also boosts your SEO. Video marketing. Or even better, live video marketing. Whether it be an edit from a YouTube tutorial or broadcasting live from a company event, it puts your customers right there in the middle of the action, while also encouraging reaction.

Does Email Marketing Still Have a Place?

Email marketing is another option. Collecting email addresses of your current customers can fuel an audience for an email marketing campaign. Believe it or not, email marketing is one of the best ways to gain return on investment for your business. Relating to the point from above, email campaigns must be accessible from mobile as well as desktop. Most people access their emails from their phone, so it is important that they get the full effect. A benefit, also, is that you can target specific groups of customers. So if you have customers in different markets, you can tailor newsletters to suit different sectors, ensuring each email is of importance.

Its All About Customer Service!

Customer service is still important. Technology allows you to keep up with your customers. Through your website you could use the option of a live chat. This allows a member of staff to be on the receiving end for any queries potential customers may have. It solves questions quick and fast, and being live it allows the customer to get the answer in real time, gaining a quick solution.

Popular in 2017 are the AI Chat Bots. Making that change in communication, they are automated robots which learn data, content and products from your company and can chat to your customers in real time. They can provide information such as delivery enquiries or can help find products. It is set up as an automatic chat machine through messenger apps such as Facebook or text message.

Technology is forever changing, and it can definitely help move your small business forward. Although there are still concerns such as cyber security, the benefits of growth will far outweigh. Some of these ideas may not be brand new to you, but it is worth a think about if you have not already to improve your business.