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Jul
22
Education Ecommerce: Knowing platforms and their limits: Part 1
Posted by Matt Kinne on 22 July 2016 01:44 PM

Ecommerce options

Starting up an ecommerce store is a huge endeavor. It takes a lot of thought, just like opening up a storefront. There a multitude of things to take into account when you are opening a brick and mortar store: size of the building, location, is there room to grow, etc. Opening up an ecommerce store is no different. When choosing a platform to build your online store, you need to thoroughly analyze all options because you don’t want to be handcuffed down the road when things need to change.

There are many ecommerce platforms on the web and fortunately or unfortunately, they are all unique with different features. Because of these different features, you must choose wisely when picking a platform so your website can grow with your business.

Here at Evolve Systems, our two most prominent ecommerce platforms that we use are bigCommerce and X-Cart with the latter being replaced eventually by OpenCart. We also have plenty of experience with Ecwid and Shopify.

How many products will you be selling?

When picking a platform, one of the first questions you want to ask yourself is how many products are you going to sell and how much volume. There is no need for a full-scale ecommerce site if you’re only going to be selling a handful of items every month. The best option for you would most likely be Ecwid. On the other hand, if you do have a large volume, you want your customer’s experience to be as smooth as possible and probably don’t want to skimp on the basics. That means picking from bigCommerce, OpenCart, Shopify, or another platform.

We have gone and made a table to briefly show the difference between the four platforms. If you would like more information, please go to their respective sites via the links below.

 

Platform

Pros

Cons

Price per month

OpenCart

  • Open source - free

  • Product ratings and reviews
  • Highly customizable
  • Unlimited products
  • Not as easy to customize as the alternatives

  • Web page caching is not provided
  • Free - $0

Ecwid

  • Free with 10 or less products

  • Easy to use, plug and play on Facebook, WordPress, Drupal, etc.

  • Add to any website

  • No transaction fees

  • The more you pay, more support you receive (?is this a con?)

  • (fewer features, no coupons??)

  • Free - $0
  • Venture - $15
  • Business - $35
  • Unlimited - $99

bigCommerce

  • No transaction fees

  • Unlimited Products
  • 24/7 support
  • Product rating and reviews
  • Plans are associated with sales volume

  • Theme editor isn't as user-friendly as Shopify
  • Standard - $29.95
  • Plus - $79.95
  • Pro - $199.95
  • Enterprise - Call for pricing

Shopify

  • Unlimited products

  • 24/7 support

  • Free SSL certificate (all plans)

  • Unlimited products

  • Unlimited file storage
 
  • Transaction fee on third party payment gateways

  • Limited customization
 
  • Basic Shopify - $29
  • Shopify  - $79
  • Advanced Shopify $299

Now that we have gone over the very basics of a few ecommerce solutions, it gives you an idea of which direction you need to be headed in. The nice thing about the platforms is they are all available for a free trial of some sort so there is no need to commit to a platform right away. Shopify and bigCommerce offer 14 and 15 day trials respectively. Ecwid and OpenCart both can be used for free, no need to worry about a trial.

Next week we will go more in-depth into what functionality each platform offers and how the differ between each other. Our goal is to help you narrow down which ecommerce solution you will choose in the future.

 


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Jul
12
Education: CMS - Adding additional security to WordPress
Posted by Matt Kinne on 12 July 2016 11:37 AM

WordPress is one of the most used content management systems in the world by a large margin. According to Marketing Land, WordPress is on 25% of the world's websites as of November 2015. To compare, the next closest content management systems which are Joomla and Drupal, are just over 2% of the market share. Since WordPress is so popular and well-known, that means it's the perfect target for hackers. So now you're probably thinking, how can I add additional security to my WordPress site to keep the chances of hacking low? Don't worry, we're here to help.

There is no such thing as too much security

The internet is always changing, that means security needs to change along with it. That means that keeping your plugins up-to-date is very important. Updates aren't always just to add new features, most of the time they are to fix security vulnerabilities. There are a few plugins that we always install on our sites to provide the maximum amount of security.

Wordfence Security

Wordfence Security is an excellent avenue to take when it comes to bolstering the security of your website. Not only does it provide real-time scanning, but it also acts as a firewall. If you jump into the premium version, which we highly recommend, it includes the ability to block traffic from certain countries, check if your site's IP is generating spam, real-time threat defense feed and more.

Brute Force Login Protection

This plugin can be very helpful to stopping hackers from getting into your WordPress site. One way hackers find there way in is running a program on your login fields, randomly guessing usernames and passwords. So with Brute Force Login Protection, you can limit the amount of login attempts a user can make. Once they have used all of their login attempts, that IP address will be blacklisted.

Make a longer, more complex password

This one is by far the easiest and one of the most secure things you can do. We see a ton of WordPress sites that have basic passwords such as ChangeMe!, password123, admin123, and so on. Those definitely aren't secure and can almost be guessed without the help of a program. We use a website called Password Generator and use 16 character passwords. 

To give you an example, a password that is 8 characters long, only using lowercase alphabetical characters, has 208,827,064,576 options. That's over 200 billion different passwords! Now, if you were to add capitalization to the letters, that’s 53,459,728,531,456 options. If you were to add numbers and even special characters, you have yourself a very strong password. Increasing the length will only increase the amount of different passwords. Just don't make it abcdEF!#, that's still relatively simple. 

Not using comments? Disable them site-wide!

An easy way for hackers to use your site as a spam center is to comment and provide their links. This not only is not good for your site in the customer's eyes, but Google is not a fan of this. We use a lightweight plugin called Disable Comments. It is very easy to disable comments site-wide.

Math Captcha

To go along with having a stronger password and brute force protection, to make it really difficult on perspective hackers, we add a math captcha. Whenever someone goes to log into your site, they will have to complete the math captcha before they are able to sign in, even if they have the right username and password. 

Now, all of these plugins and methods do not guarantee that your site will not be hacked, but they will definitely help out and lower the chances. If you have any questions about WordPress security, or security in general, check out our official blog or feel free to contact us!

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Jul
5
Not receiving email from our Help Desk? Check your spam folder!
Posted by Matt Kinne on 05 July 2016 03:55 PM

The Evolve Systems Help Desk is one of our most important tools; it gives our customers an easy way to communicate with us and get information in real-time. Sometimes though, an email provider will get in the way and send our responses to your spam folder. Unfortunately, it seems quite common for some, and for others, not so much. 

How do I whitelist an email? 

The easiest and fastest thing we can do as "whitelist" our Help Desk email. A whitelist essentially is a list of approved emails. Similiar to that of a blacklist, which is a list of unapproved emails, ones you wouldn't want to receive mail from. We'll run through how to whitelist our email on the top 3 email providers, Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. If you have a provider that isn't listed, feel free to contact us.

Gmail

  1. Navigate to your spam folder.
  2. Find the email or emails you wish to mark as "not spam" and check the box to the left of the email subject.
  3. Once the selected email or emails are chosen, click more at the top of the page and select "Not spam".
  4. Add [email protected] to your contacts

If you are still having trouble receiving emails after you completed these steps, you can setup a filter for a certain address which will force Google to whitelist the email.

  1. Click on the settings icon on the top right of the screen. This will bring up a drop down, select "Settings".
  2. In the top middle of the page, click on "Filters and Blocked Addresses".
  3. In the bottom middle of the page, click on "Create a new filter".
  4. Paste [email protected] in the "From" field and click on "Create filter with this search" in the bottom right corner.
  5. Check the box next to "Never send it to Spam" and then click "Create filter".

Outlook

  1. Click on the settings icon in the top right corner, then "More mail settings".
  2. Select "Safe and blocked senders" and then "Safe senders".
  3. Add the domain @evolvehelpdesk.com to the list of "Safe senders"
  4. Return to "Safe and blocked senders" and then click "Safe mailing lists"
  5. Add [email protected] to the "Safe mailing list".

Yahoo

  1. Hover over "Settings" icon and click on "Settings".
  2. Click "Filters" followed by "Add".
  3. Create a name for the filter, such as "Evolve Help Desk".
  4. Enter the domain evolvehelpdesk.com in the "Sender" field.
  5. Select "Inbox" as the folder for the mail.
  6. Save your settings.

Your emails from our Help Desk should now appear in your inbox like normal. If you still have issues, please feel free to contact us.

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Jun
27
How Broken Links Affect SEO and What To Do About It
Posted by Matt Kinne on 27 June 2016 10:22 AM

A website is much like a car; it requires routine maintenance to keep it up and running without issues. If you forgo that maintenance, it could end up costing you more time and money. One area of routine maintenance that we strongly recommend is checking for broken links. It is something we do monthly and we’ll explain why.

What is a broken link?

To start things off, there are two types of links: internal and external. Internal links stay on your website; for example, a link on your About Us page that links to your Contact Us page. External links are links that go to a destination outside of your website; for example to Google, Facebook, or Twitter.

Internal links are a lot easier to fix, since they are on your website only and you can control them. When it comes to external links, you are at the mercy of who you are linking to. If a web page you are linking to removes a page completely or changes the URL without setting up a 301 redirect, you will run into a broken link.

Broken links are:

  • A link on a web page that no longer works

  • A bad URL (mistyped) or

  • The destination page was removed and now shows a 404 error

Broken Link Illustration

This is just a normal part of having a website. So the question you’re probably thinking is how does broken links affect my SEO and how can I fix it?

Do broken links really affect SEO and how important is it to fix?

Well unfortunately there isn’t a measure of how much it truly affects your SEO, but the more broken links you have the worse your site will be ranked. When Google’s bots crawl your website, the bots determine the usability by checking a number of factors, including broken links among other things. Broken links without proper redirects result in a poor usability score, which drags down your SEO. If Google’s crawlers come across a broken link, it could halt the crawling process, meaning that page might not be indexed, so it won’t be found on search engines.

How do I find my broken links?

This task may sound difficult at first, but there are plenty of third-party tools to cut-down on your effort. If you are on WordPress, we recommend the Broken Link checker plug-in by Vladimir Prelovac. It is very effective and runs real-time checks for broken links, no need for running your own scan. If you aren’t on WordPress, a good site to use is www.brokenlinkcheck.com. It is a free online tool that will locate broken links on your site and point you to exactly where they are.

I found my broken links, how do I fix them?

URL Redirect

We will start off with external links first. These ones are totally out of your control as a website owner, so there are a couple different approaches you can take. You can either remove the link completely, or try to find the new location of the page you had previously linked.

Internal links are much easier because they are completely under your control. Once you have found your broken links, change the link to new URL. Once the new URL is entered, Google might still find the old link. This is where 301 redirects come in. A 301 redirect tells web browsers and search engines that a web page or site has been permanently redirected to a new location.

There are many ways to enact a 301 redirect, so we’ll cover the easy way first. If you are on a WordPress site, the easiest way to go about it is to install the plug-in called Simple 301 Redirects by Scott Nelle. If you are on a different web platform, there is a website called Rapid Tables which has a 301 redirect code generator. It can generate a 301 redirect for PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, HTML, JavaScript, and the .htaccess file.

Be cautious of adding 301 redirects, especially if you are editing your .htaccess file. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us, we’d love to help.

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Apr
7
What is Ransomware?
Posted by Don Raleigh III on 07 April 2016 10:51 AM

Credit Card Theft, Ransomware, and Phishing Scams.

shutterstock_223094779

 

Many of us have been reading about what is going on in the credit card industry. From people using skimmers on gas station terminals to steal credit card information, to people sending you emails with odd attachments. Here is the article that the FBI relesaed, "Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them." Here are some examples of what these emails could look like. 

Mobile-Svpeng-Trojan-Gains-Device-Blocking-Capability-446403-2

If you notice, it has links that you can click on. This is called Social Engineering. It is not hacking, it is not coding, all it is is you giving the attackers your personal information. When you click on the buttons, and choose to accept the attacks its like stealing candy from a baby. If something seems off, or you're not sure what something is; dont do it. Once these attackers have your information they will go after your bank accounts, your credit lines, your identity, your families information as well as your clients identity. 

The team at Evolve Systems has seen everything from an email coming through stating that the user is required to appear in court the following for court duty and to view the case in a zip file, to emails saying that the FBI is investigating you and you needed to fill out information in a zip file. If you ever receive an email from the "government" that asks you to preform a task online, it is more than likely a malicious attack. Never open a .zip file unless you are completely positive you know what it contains. Sometimes, even personal contacts emails can be hacked, and will send you virus'. Here is a list of possible phishing scams that Indiana Univesrity has published. 

If you can take anything away from this, is that you need to back up your computers, not for if it happens, but for when it happens. "By backing up your operating system and all its contents to an air-gapped external hard drive every single day, you completely mitigate the risk of ransomware by circumventing the tool it uses to get you to pay up in the first place.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and contact me on LinkedIn and I would be more than happy to help direct you to how you can upload and secure your computer in the cloud, get you connected to those that can help when you think your computer is being attacked, and answer any questions on how you can protect yourself from credit card skimmers. 

Thank you!

-Don Raleigh III

Evolve Systems

 

Sources: 

https://kb.iu.edu/d/arsf 

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/january/ransomware-on-the-rise

http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-is-ransomware-and-should-you-be-worried-about-it/

Youtube

 


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