6 Important Considerations in Developing a Data Security Plan

Individuals are taught to diligently protect their personal information–to never share passwords, to never give out credit card information over the phone, to guard their social security numbers like prized possessions. But is their personal information really secure?


Almost daily, there are news reports of  Company X and Company Y suffering from data breaches, putting consumers’ personal information at risk of falling into the wrong hands. It’s scary for the consumer whose personal information is compromised; it’s scary for the business owners who are trying to instill confidence and security in their brands and companies. In this digital age where computers are used to conduct the majority of business transactions, it’s imperative that all companies develop data security plans to not only deal with breaches, but to also prevent them.


In developing a data security plan, there are 6 important considerations:


1. Safety First

Because of the climate of distrust surrounding so many companies today, consumers and clients are searching for businesses with secure websites. Consumers want to know that the safety of their personal information comes first. If your small business or larger company has a data security plan and security features in place, your clients will feel that their personal information is safe in your hands.


Become aware of the security features available for you to include on your website. Adding some essential elements of data security will help encourage trust in your site and increase web traffic as well. With these features in place, develop a data security plan to stay on top of any issues that might still arise, and let your customers know that their cyber safety is important to you by providing information on the policies that are in place.


2. Know Where Data is Stored

All businesses should be aware of where their data is stored. Smaller companies may store their data on a couple of business computers, possibly backing up information onto external hard drives or onto smaller cloud services; larger companies often network their computers and maintain large databases in house, in data storage facilities, in the cloud through cloud storage companies, or any combination of these places. If business owners maintain their own data storage locations or personal business computers, it is fairly simple to know where the data is stored. If the information is uploaded to a cloud server, it gets a little trickier to stay fully informed on the actual physical location of data. Knowing where the data is stored is vital in determining the best plan for securing it.


3. Know Who has Access to Confidential Information

How many people can access confidential information–all employees or only certain departments or department heads? For those who do have access to customer accounts, how much information is actually visible to the employee? And when someone leaves the company or is fired, are any special security measures taken to protect customer accounts?


Contemplate these questions when developing data security plans, and develop plans and policies that address providing the best customer service with the least amount of access to personal customer information. The fewer individuals with access the better!


4. Think Preventative

Data security plans should also address preventative measures such as monitoring unusual network activity and transmissions to unknown hosts, changing passwords frequently, physically securing rooms containing sensitive data, and installing–and keeping updated–anti-virus software and firewalls.


When data security plans include preventative measures, there is less chance of being blindsided by an attack.


5. Prepare for More Than Data Breaches

Not all data losses are incurred by hackers with malicious intents; therefore, data

security plans need to address more than data breaches. Other data losses occur through not backing up data consistently, blackouts at storage facilities, human error, and natural disasters. Your data security plan needs to consider the possibility that these types of losses can occur. Develop a disaster recovery plan with data backup policies to include in your security plan. When followed consistently, strong backup policies will help eliminate these unnecessary threats to secure data.


6. Test your Security

When developing data security plans, it is extremely important to set processes in place to test the security of the data levels at regular intervals. Some companies hire professional security testers or hackers to determine if their security plans are effective; some companies train their own employees in security procedures and teach them how to look internally for signs of breaches or weaknesses. Whatever the preferred method to assess security, consistency and regular testing is key.


Now that you’ve considered cyber safety measures for your websites, the location of your company’s data, the individuals who have access to that confidential information, preventative measures you can put in place, how to prepare for data losses not due to breaches, and how to test your security once it’s in place, you’re ready to draft your data security plan.

Improve Your Data Security With These Simple Solutions

We are living in the period of innovative methods whereby every operation in various organizations is done through technology. Although technology has enhanced efficiency, reduced cost, and improved accuracy in the performance of multiple activities, it is prone to cyber-attacks, whereby people who have ulterior motives access and alter your data. This may lead you into complex situations such as loss of valuable information that may cripple the operations of the company. The following are some of the simple solutions that you can use to improve your data security.


1. Limit Access

One of the primary solutions to data security is filtering the person who has access to the information on the website. You can implement a web application firewall that will prevent individuals with ulterior motives from accessing your computer through the internet so that they cannot hack the system and start using the information on the website as the actual website administrators. Not only does WAF protect the site against viruses and other worms that could hurt the operations of the website. This device can be placed in the form of hardware or software within the system.


2. Identify Sensitive Data

The other important aspect that you need to understand is that not all the data in your organization is critical. As such, you will be required to realize your most important data which holds the operations of the organization. Therefore, you will be required to develop one of the most critical security features for your information. Another necessary strategy that you can adopt in your company is having a different server for the most critical information that is used in making critical decisions in your company. This does not mean that you will leave the other information vulnerable, but the most vital information should be more secure than other data in the entity.


3. Strong Passwords

Passwords are the security codes that an individual uses to access various sites or company accounts. Only the persons with authority are required to have company passwords so that they can enhance or control the number of people obtaining critical information. Passwords are easily hacked by cyber security criminals who have software and tools that override the security passwords developed by the organization. The company will be required to create strong passwords that are not easily overrun by software tools that are presently being used by hackers to access various accounts that hold critical information.


4. Data Backup and Continuous Update

Several organizations have only one system that helps the organizations to operate on daily activities. They find themselves in dangerous situations when the information and other systems in the company are interfered with. Organizations should find it necessary to have data backup systems so that they can have something to reboot their systems when the systems are attacked by cybercriminals. Besides having a data backup system, it is crucial for companies to have a method of updating their information so that they can detect changing aspects in their operations.


5. Use a Reliable Host

Company websites are hosted by various organizations which provide and support domain. Different organizations provide web hosting and domains around the world. However, not all these organizations are reliable. You will be required to procure a web hosting company that is reliable and that which provides security features to the company websites. It is important to avoid web hosting organizations that have questionable credentials because they will expose the entity to web hackers hence compromising the data of the company.


6. Have Several Authentication Layers

Having several authentication layers for your website is an important process in instituting the necessary security for your data. It is commonly known that people can easily override your password. Having an authentication layer that instructs any logins to have a verification code sent to their mobiles in the form of short message service will further enhance the security of the system. This means that even if a person gets the password, he will be required to have the code that has otherwise been sent to your mobile.

What Will The Next Generation of New Homes Look Like?

Technology is advancing at a staggering rate, and that has many people wondering what homes are going to look like in the next few years. Wireless devices and intuitive electronics can now be found in most homes, but that technology is only the tip of the iceberg. Here is a closer look at some of the technology that is going to be added to the next generation of homes.


Smart Home Technology

It should come as no surprise to anyone that smart home technology is now extremely prevalent. This industry is expected to be worth $53 billion by 2022, and that number is only going to continue growing. Within the next few years, an automated home will be fully controlled through voice commands and apps. Smart devices such as Alexa and Google Home may be built directly into the structure of a home. With nothing more than a few voice commands, residents will be able to turn on music, set their lights, order food, check the weather, and send messages to friends.


Wireless Security Systems

Residential security is another industry that is undergoing major changes. Wireless cameras and lights are available today, but additional security technology is on the horizon. With the prevalence of smartphones and wearable devices, you will soon be able to track exactly who is inside your home at all times. Comprehensive security systems will alert parents when their children get home late and send notifications when doors are accidentally left unlocked. Those systems are also going to be linked to other home automation devices such as wireless thermostats and lights.


Cutting-Edge Appliances

“Smart” appliances can already be found in countless homes, and many new features are going to be released over the next few decades. Mobile apps will allow you to control those appliances, set alerts, and order new parts with nothing more than a few taps of the screen. Options such as smart refrigerators and washing machines are automatically going to track your daily habits and order products as they are needed. Even with all of these amazing features, many new smart appliances use less energy than their older counterparts.


Energy Saving Devices

In the average home, around 48 percent of the energy use goes toward heating and cooling. Over the course of a year, heating and cooling a home can easily cost residents thousands of dollars. High-efficiency HVAC systems cut down on those costs dramatically, and the technology is still improving. Options such as wireless thermostats and remote monitoring devices allow homeowners to operate their HVAC systems from anywhere in the world. Instead of leaving the heater or AC running all day, the system will automatically turn on just before they get home. Many new homes are also going to have comprehensive energy monitoring systems. Homeowners will know exactly which devices are using the most energy.


Design Trends

Home automation devices and high-efficiency appliances won’t be the only changes made to the next generation of homes. Those who are on the market to buy a new home will be able to choose layouts and design features that promote comfort and tranquility. Options such as soundproof walls and soft LEDs are going to change the form and function of future homes. We now know that the layout of a home can also impact productivity. Open floor plans, soft corners, and natural lighting will continue to be very popular.


With the technology that we have today, it isn’t tough to guess what homes are going to be like in the near future. Homeowners can expect intuitive and efficient features that will save them money and make everyday tasks much easier.

Improving Your Office Productivity

You only really have so many hours to spend each day that you want to make sure each hour is spent doing something productive. Any business can benefit from a more productive workplace. It expedites task completion, generates more revenue over time, and lets you scale your organization faster. Luckily, being more productive in the office isn’t rocket science, yet it does require you to be more consistent and deliberate about how you manage your energy, manpower, and time. Here are seven ways to boost workplace productivity:


Improving Your Process

Business processes eat up a lot of your resources. Thus, it makes sense to try and refine your existing processes to minimize costs and speed up turnaround time. Start by looking at your current processes, such as manufacturing, marketing, sales, and accounting. Determine how many steps, people, and hours it takes to accomplish each task in each process, and see whether or not you can cut back on the resources spent accomplishing these tasks. Introduce an integration solutions platform to have everything in one accessible centralized location.


Encourage Breaks

Encouraging your employees to take regular breaks may seem counterintuitive to what you want to accomplish, but taking breaks can actually reset your mind into a calmer and more focused state. Research shows that taking short scheduled breaks during long stretches of work can help maintain consistent performance. Meanwhile, working for long stretches at a time without any breaks can lead to steadily increasing stress and tension that prevents you from concentrating on the task at hand.


Monitor and Limit Time For Each Task

Each task should be assessed for the number of hours you spend doing it. For instance, if you spend more time of your work day doing menial tasks that are neither urgent or important, then you are certainly not performing at your most productive. Studies show that only about 18 percent of people are able to precisely estimate time versus effort spent. Fortunately, tools, such as Rescue Time, can help you be more productive by tracking precisely how much time you spend on day-to-day tasks, such as emailing clientele, processing financial transactions, or cleaning your codebase.


Minimize Meetings

Meetings play an important role in making sure that a business and all of its interdependent areas are running on the same speed and track. Sadly, most businesses overdo it when it comes to scheduling meetings. As a result, it becomes a time-sucking event that employees dread of. Simply say no to meetings and just disseminate information and updates through email blasts. Only hold meetings if it’s an emergency and only require employees who need to be there to attend.


Ditch Multitasking

When it was first popularized, multitasking was a sought after skill that everyone was trying to hone. Unfortunately, after countless of studies, it’s been proven ineffective when it comes to boosting productivity. Instead, stick with the traditional approach and finish each task before moving onto the next one.


Remove Background Noise

Cars honking their horns, lights being excessively bright, and temperatures being uncomfortably hot/cold can cut your workforce productivity. Foster an environment that is comfortable and conducive for work by organizing a cubicle or desk layout that caters to heavy foot traffic, changing curtains and wall paint to more suitable tones, and soundproofing the office to drown out the noise from outside. That being said, you’ll want to outfit your workplace with amenities, such as a well-stocked breakroom and a games room.


Keep Them Happy

Happiness is now an important metric in keeping employee retention rates high. In fact, tech giants, like Google and Amazon, invest millions of dollars each year to keep their employees happy, from food trucks dispensing free food in campus to spas and fitness centers with the latest equipment.


Boosting workplace productivity can help push your business to the next level. Use the seven tips above as a starting point.

Health Food Replacements You Will Love

No matter how much time you spend exercising, you won’t be able to achieve your fitness goals unless you stick to a nutritious diet. Many people believe that healthy foods are always bland or boring, but that isn’t true. With a little bit of research and some experimentation, you will be able to create amazing dishes that are both healthy and tasty. Here is a look at a few healthy alternatives to your favorite snacks, dishes, and meals.


Food Additive Superfoods

Before starting a new diet, you might first want to consider supplementing. High-quality supplements and food additives will help you avoid major nutritional deficiencies. Even if your diet seems relatively healthy, you can easily develop a deficiency if you aren’t careful. Some of these additives can also improve the flavors and textures of bland foods. Options such as carrageenan and stevia will allow you to make healthy versions of your favorite desserts and snacks. Stocking your cabinets with those products is going to reduce your risk of binging on unhealthy treats.


Steer Clear of Fries

Carbohydrates are absolutely vital to your health, but most people eat more of this macronutrient than they need to. Some of the most popular and effective diets limit carbs or focus on complex carbohydrates that provide long-term energy. If white or yellow potatoes are a staple in your household, then you might want to consider switching over to sweet potatoes. Also called yams, sweet potatoes are extremely nutrient-dense. This root vegetable is filled with dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and dozens of other nutrients.


Watch Your Intake of Grains

In addition to having quite a few carbs, most grain products also contain sugar. The breads and pastas that you eat every day could contain dozens of grams of processed sugar. Before purchasing a grain product, you should first read the label to make sure that there are absolutely no sweeteners or other unusual additives. Some of the healthiest breads and pastas are made from sprouted whole grains. You should also consider cutting white rice out of your diet. Even though white rice is a staple for billions of people, it contains very few nutrients. Quinoa is a much healthier option, and it can be cooked in a variety of different ways.


Healthy Alternatives to Deli Meats

Long-term studies are now showing us that regularly eating deli meats can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Many international health organizations have classified deli meats such as salami and hot dogs as carcinogens. Even though those meats are filled with protein, they also contain a wide variety of other unhealthy additives. When purchasing deli meats, you should stick to products that have been roasted instead of cured. You can also roast and slice your own meats at home if you want to avoid unnecessary preservatives.


Sweet Treats Without the Processed Sugar

Sticking to a diet might seem impossible if you have a sweet tooth, but you should be able to find some healthy treats that you actually enjoy as long as you are willing to experiment. Fruits can easily be frozen and thrown into a blender to create sweet and savory smoothies. You might also want to try making your own ice cream with blended avocados and bananas. Avocados contain fats that emulsify very well, and that will give your ice cream a silken texture. With a base of blended bananas and avocados, you can then add berries or citrus fruits to alter the flavor profile. Even though fruits are much healthier than processed treats, it is important to remember that they still contain quite a bit of sugar.


Starting a new diet can be daunting, but eating healthy will change your life forever. In addition to losing weight, you are also going to have more energy and better mental clarity throughout the day.

How Much Water Should You REALLY Drink?

Eight glasses a day keeps dehydration away? Nope. For one thing, that’s not how the saying goes. For another, eight glasses of eight ounces of water a day is not simply not enough water to stay hydrated.


The average adult human body is made up of anywhere from 50 to 65% water. And H2O keeps your body busy. It maintains and regulates your body temperature, keeps your cells, joints and spinal cord moist and functional, transfers waste through your digestive system, aids in healthy blood, and even helps your brain work.


Water has some pretty miraculous properties. Here are just five reasons to drink more:


  1. Water helps prevent cancer. Daily hydration decreases your risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and may even help decrease breast cancer.


  1. Water aids weight loss. You know how sometimes you believe you are hungry, but really, you are just thirsty? If you stay hydrated, you are more likely to also stay full and keep to your weight loss diet. The best part is that water is 0 calories, so you can drink as much as you want and not pack on the pounds.


  1. Water prevents and even alleviates headaches. Did you know that one of the most common causes of headaches is dehydration? Next time your head hurts, drink a tall glass of water and see how you feel.


  1. Water makes your skin shine. Regular hydration will help your skin build new cells, improving its color and texture.


  1. Water can improve your mood. Believe it or not, the research says that hydration can directly affect your mood. Feeling cranky? Drink some water. You may feel better.


A good way to measure the liquids you should drink is by your weight. You can use this handy-dandy hydration calculator chart.


You can also try this automatic hydration calculator from Guard Your Health that determines how many ounces to drink not only according to weight, but activity level and climate.


If you are planning to go hiking or be outside all day, Camelbak offers a free online trip hydration calculator, which includes factors like age, height weight, sweat level and activity levels.


Do you really have to drink that much water or can you drink other liquids too? It’s true that your body can break down other liquids into H2O to use for bodily processes. Keep in mind, however, that the more sugar, caffeine or alcohol a liquid contains, the more likely it is to cancel out the effects of the H2O. Drinks like soda, energy drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol will actually dehydrate your body even while seeming to hydrate it. If you want to include other liquids in your hydration country milk, seltzer water, low-sugar juices and herbal tea.


Need some help keeping track of how much you drink? Download a hydration tracking app! If you have an iPhone, search for Waterlogged, iHydrate, My Water Balance, or Plant Nanny. If you have an Android, search for Hydro Coach, Gulp or Hydro Diary. Both Android and iPhone users will benefit from checking out Aqualert or Daily Water. All these apps have excellent ratings and most of them are free.


How To Have Affordable Family Fun

Getting a Used Vehicle

Summer time offers an individual a plethora of options when it comes to fun activities. People love to go and explore the great outdoors during these warmer months. Several families might make the decision to buy vehicles for their summer plans. These vehicles can be quite expensive depending on what each family has in mind. A camper vehicle can be as expensive as a home, and other sports vehicles can also have a hefty price tag. Savvy families realize that they do not have to spend a fortune on their summer vehicle. A used Jeep Compass is a fabulous summer vehicle. This is a vehicle that can take a family on their great adventure, and its ease and comfort really allows a family to sit back and enjoy the ride.


Saving Big With Food

Food can be a huge expense for families. In the summer months, families like to go out and eat with friends. This can cause a huge expense, and there are other great options. Buying bulk is a great idea when it comes to summer fun. There are stores like Sam’s or Costco that allows a family to purchase bulk items at a inexpensive rate. In this way, a family does not have to miss out on things like ice cream and popsicles. They can get the kids the treats that they want without the price tags. The second good things about these bulk stores is that they are fun for the family. They usually have tons of samples on the weekend, and even the prepared food is cheap. These are places that have great air conditioning, and all of thee family can enjoy their time at these places. Another great way to save with food is by using coupons. Coupons are a awesome way to stalk up on food and get great deals on summer eats.


Summer Savings With the Kids

Summer can be a fun time for kids. They are out of school, and they are ready to run, jump, and play. There are families that think that they have to spend big dollars on their kids in order for them to have a good time, but that is not the case. Kids are a lot more simple than we make them out to be. Kids want to be with their family and with their peers. It does not take much to make them happy. The best way to save money with kids is by taking them out to free events. A local park is a great place to start when it comes to free fun with kids. Kids can spend hours at the park. All that they want to do is be outside. Kids also love activities like riding bikes or skating. These activities can be done outside, and they are also good exercise for the entire family. There are plenty of fun public events that go on in the summer as well. There are community fairs and shows that a family can attend. At these events, there is usually food that is expensive, so a savvy family does well to bring their own yummy food so that they do not have to worry about expensive treats.


Take Advantage of Your Summer

The summer months go by quickly, so you and your family do well to take advantage of these short few months. There are so many great things that you and your family can do together that doesn’t cost a lot of money, so you really don’t want to miss out. Spend time with the people who you love. It does not have to be anything formal or expensive. A weekend camping trip, a nice family brunch, a fun family dinner. All these things promote family harmony and happiness. Make sure that you and your family plan your summer out right so that it is packed with quality time together because fun is made not with money, it is made with love.

Carrageenan: The Seaweed You Didn’t Know You Were Eating

If you live in the western world, it’s extremely likely that you’ve eaten boiled seaweed on a regular basis since you were a child. Carrageenan, or Irish Moss, is a seaweed found predominantly in the British Isles, is used as a thickening and texturizing ingredient in household foods like milk, candy bars and strawberry jam. Beer brewers add it to their beer during the brewing process for improved clarity in the finished beer.


Some have said that Irish Moss can cause inflammation and digestive problems, but a review of the studies and science behind carrageenan shows it is a safe, organic food additive for people of all ages and backgrounds.


How Carrageenan Is Made

Carrageenan is made by gently boiling harvested red seaweed, or Irish Moss. then filtering it before grinding it into a powder that is used as a food additive to add texture and thickness. Since 12,000 B.C., humans have been harvesting and using seaweed for food and medical purposes. The first known users of Irish Moss were in Ireland and used the seaweed to thicken broths and puddings.


The term “carrageenan” was first used in Carrigan Head, Ireland, where brewers added the seaweed extract to clarify beer. Villagers in Carrigan Head were also known to add carrageenan to milk to create a dish similar to flan.


Nowadays, Irish Moss used to make carrageenan is largely harvested in Indonesia, The Philippines and Tanzania. Over 30,000 family farms across five continents harvest a whopping 210,000 metric tons of Irish Moss every year, worth about $250 million in value.


Growing Irish Moss is also easy on mother nature as the seaweed doesn’t need fresh water, pesticides or fertilizers to thrive. No land is necessary to grow the plant and it is known to absorb greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. Seaweed farming for food additive use is expected to help provide income for families in emerging economies.


The Many Uses of Carrageenan

In a globalized economy, it can be difficult to buy or make your own food products locally. That’s where carrageenan comes in. The seaweed derivative is used to prolong the shelf life of food, so that you can enjoy your favorite dinner or treat, even if some of the ingredients are made on the other side of the world.


Carrageenan is also used in place of food additives that are high in sugar and fat, allowing for a healthier diet. The seaweed extract is also organic and meets the dietary standards for vegetarians and vegans alike. Without carrageenan, most mayonnaise and salad dressings would separate during the transportation process, which wouldn’t exactly look too pleasant on a sandwich or salad.


Carrageenan: Safe or Not

While there may be rumors about Carrageenan’s role in indigestion and the formation of stomach ulcers, the food additive is approved by the FDA and most public health organizations around the globe.


Carrageenan is so safe that the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conducted a full review of the research literature surrounding carrageenan, finding the food additive safe for use in infant formula.  Often, carrageenan is thought to be the same thing as poligeenan, which is derived from seaweed and used in medical imaging.


Poligeenan is extracted from seaweed when soaked in acid and exposed to extremely high temperatures. It is not approved as a food additive by government regulatory agencies like the FDA. It’s use is primarily to study the mouth, throat and esophagus via x-ray. The International Agency for Research for Cancer deems poligeenan possibly carcinogenic to humans.   


Acidic conditions in the human body aren’t able to turn carrageenan into poligeenan as the body reaches only 99 degrees fahrenheit. Seaweed must be soaked in an acid bath for six hours and exposed to 194 degree temperatures to be processed into poligeenan.