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Mobile Payments Gaining Momentum in B2B

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 15, 2017 11:36:11 AM

b2b mobile paymentsElectronic payment methods aren’t just for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies anymore. Today, more and more business-to-business (B2B) organizations are learning that old cash, check, and 30-day invoice methods are simply outdated, unsafe, and inefficient. Mobile payments are proving the easier, more cost-effective way to pay bills and settle debts—even between businesses.

Eliminate the time gap.

While invoicing and a standard 30-day payment timeframe may have worked 30 years ago for many B2B relationships, most of us don't have time for all that these days. While invoices are still necessary for record keeping purposes, they can be sent via email. Once the invoice is received, the process doesn’t have to slow down to a snail’s pace and devolve into non-electronic methods. While many B2B transactions have traditionally revolved around paper checks, there are a variety of new options available today for all types of businesses.

Mobile payments, for instance, allow for immediate payments, even through electronic check methods, instead of a lengthy and drawn out payment process through paper invoices and paper checks—all of which are expensive and require preparation. Through a mobile payment processor, however, you can pay bills through credit or debit card, through electronic check, or via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) immediately—even for B2B transactions—without hassle and without a pending invoice hanging in the area.

Clear and easy record keeping.

One of the most amazing aspects of electronic transactions is the paper trail. Mobile payments are always tracked by a payment system, many of which allow for easy integration of these records into reports and other important systems within your business. Keeping a thorough record of financials has never been easier or cheaper.

Safer transaction processing.

While B2C businesses have been fairly mobile for a while now, B2B companies have lagged behind. One source reported that the reason behind this lack in technologically savvy payment options was due to “supplier resistance”, as well as a lack of confidence in the security of mobile payments. Reportedly, only 10 percent of professionals surveyed in a study conducted in conjunction with the National Association of Payment Card Professionals (NAPCP) indicated that they were “likely” or “very likely” to utilize mobile payments for their B2B transactions.

While concerns about security are warranted considering the high numbers of breaches and fraud that many businesses have faced in the last few years, the fact is that traditional check payment methods are actually in some ways less secure than mobile payments or other electronic payment methods. According to a Canvas Marketing article, check fraud is one of the most common forms of fraud on the market. This assertion is confirmed in an article by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP). Essentially, money is hard to secure no matter what form it comes in.

Make payments easier for your customers.

Regardless of safety concerns and the NAPCP survey results, there is evidence to suggest that mobile payments are catching on with many B2B businesses faster than many believe. According to one 2015 AFP report, roughly 80 percent of B2B companies are switching to electronic payment methods, including mobile payments—and really, despite a few nay sayers, this should come as no surprise.

The fact is that mobile payments are just easier for the customers and for the company. Once the upfront cost portion is handled, an effective software and hardware system for electronic payments can simplify billing and accounts receivables (A/R) processes considerably. Even better, it saves both companies money, since paper checks and manpower to process them will no longer be required. With mobile payments, a few clicks is all it takes and everyone has what they need.

Certainly, no system is without its flaws, but mobile payments are here to stay for both B2C and B2B industries. Don’t miss out on an easier, quicker way to manage your revenue stream and simplify your business’s financial future.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: B2B Mobile Payments

How did SMBs Handle Data Breaches in 2016?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 8, 2017 9:41:28 AM

SMB data breaches.jpgCybersecurity is a major concern for businesses across the U.S., and big businesses are not the only organizations being targeted for cyber attacks. In fact, a large percentage of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have faced business data breaches, often resulting in six-figure payouts to repair the damage.

A recent research study, released June 2016, conducted by the Ponemon Institute surveyed 598 individuals who were employed at companies consisting of between 100 and 1,000 employees. Their findings were both shocking and not entirely unexpected.

  • 55 percent of the businesses surveyed had experienced cyber attacks in the past 12 months.
  • 50 percent experienced data breaches resulting in compromised employee and customer data within the last 12 months.
  • The businesses that experienced these incidents spent an average of $897,582 as a result of damage or theft of IT assets.
  • Disruption of normal operations cost these businesses an additional $955,429.

Later in the study, surveyed personnel indicated that two of the greatest issues with maintaining cybersecurity and neutralizing threats were insufficient personnel and insufficient budget. This lack of investment in terms of personnel and funds for sufficient technology could be the result of two factors: either 1) small businesses simply don’t have the resources to expend or 2) they’re not prioritizing cybersecurity high enough.

Considering the payouts listed above, the former seems to be a moot point, as the cost to deal with the aftermath of a breach will likely be higher than simply preparing for a breach in the first place. The data from 2016 brings up a valid question- What steps should SMBs take to prevent business data breaches and secure against cyber attacks in 2017?

The first steps to improving your cybersecurity begin with understanding the threat. A Business New Daily article listed the following as threats as some of the most common in 2016, though this is not a comprehensive list of attack methods.

  • Phishing - An email-based attack, often most effective when the email identically matches those that might come from a trusted source. These can steal login credentials, credit card information, and other sensitive data from your computer or network. This is one of the most common types of attacks, according to the Ponemon Institute study.
  • Malware - A general term for malicious software. These programs can be introduced to the computer or system any number of ways and can infiltrate to steal data or cause system damage.
  • Password Attack - One of three types of attacks targeting your user password and access credentials. Cyber criminals may use one of the following methods: 1) guess until successful, known as a brute-force attack, 2) utilize a program run through dictionary words until successful, known as a dictionary attack, or 3) use a keylogging program to register the user’s keystrokes prior to attempting to gain entry.
  • Inside Attack - When a malicious insider intentionally misuses his or her access credentials to get control of company or customer data. This is one of the hardest attacks to protect against and, according to the Ponemon Institute study, occurred in 5 percent of the surveyed businesses.

There are several other varieties of software-based, web-based, and insider attacks that could occur to your system, including ransomware and other evolving methods. Keeping apprised of the potential threats is a big part of being prepared to protect against business data breaches.

The following are some of the best methods used in 2016 for keeping systems secure and will hopefully continue to work for a long time to come. Keep in mind, however, that cyber criminals are always adjusting their attacks, making constant vigilance a necessity.

  • Implement and enforce strong password policies. The Ponemon Institute study found that if the business had a password policy, 65 percent did not enforce it. Effective, strictly enforced password policies, including two-step authentication, where possible, and limited permissions for each employee, are important layers in cybersecurity defenses.
  • Keep dedicated personnel on staff to monitor for threats. One of the major conclusions drawn by the Ponemon Institute study was that current technologies are often insufficient to detect or prevent infiltration from certain cyber attacks. For this reason, it is vital to keep IT security personnel on staff who are constantly scanning and checking your system for breaches, otherwise, the criminals could continue siphoning information from your system indefinitely.
  • Utilize computer and network protections. Modern cybersecurity systems should include: web application firewalls, SIEM, endpoint management, and network traffic intelligence. At minimum, your IT department should have at least anti-malware and client firewalls in place for protection.
  • Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt—and back it all up. One of the highest and best forms of protection for your information is encryption. You should also back up your data to prevent ransomware from becoming an issue, since it can lock down your data and prevent your access. Encryption, on the other hand, is extremely effective for preventing any compromising and costly effects from business data breaches. Since the data will be encrypted and impossible to decode without the right program or key, the information is essentially useless and you will likely not have to worry about as many attacks against your data in the future.

While these methods, when implemented, proved somewhat effective in 2016, a new year brings new challenges. Most importantly, businesses need to take the threat of a breach or cyber attack seriously. One infiltration can have devastating consequences on the future of your business.

As businesses continue to struggle with data breach protection, products like Safe-T are helping manage encryption and tokenization, streamlining the process of compliance while reducing expenses associated with the security effort. Contact Us Today to learn more about Safe-T, a range of easy to implement tools to keep your transactions secure and your business running smoothly.

Plan ahead, be vigilant, and don’t be hesitant to invest in protection protocols, so you can avoid becoming another statistic or cautionary tale for other business owners to learn from.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Blue Coat Photos @ Flickr CC.

Tags: credit card theft, cybersecurity, SMB Data Breaches

Why Business Services Companies Should Be Collecting Payments Online

Posted by Ashley Choate on Feb 1, 2017 10:40:50 AM

B2B Online Payments.jpegOnline payments have grown steadily in popularity, going from a transaction method that inspired suspicion to an accepted process that many use regularly. In the last few years, especially, mobile and online payments are practically expected by many retail consumers, who are used to being able to simply click a button to make their purchases.

With online payment methods being so rampant across most industries, why have so many business services companies, or B2B companies, held back?

In general, B2B companies are very focused on providing the best services they can for their customers and generally contract for more than one-time transactions. For this reason, payment methods, which typically involve invoices for record-keeping purposes, have not been a major focus for upgrades and advancements.

It might be time for that to change.

Companies that provide business services based on contracts or emergency calls might be surprised at how much their customers would appreciate an online bill or invoice pay option. Considering that more than 224 million people in the U.S. shopped online in 2016, spending a total of $68 billion in the first quarter of 2016 alone, it’s obvious that American consumers enjoy making online purchases. Undoubtedly, some of those individuals were business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s a safe bet that they would love the same convenience in their business services transactions as they enjoy with their consumer purchases.

The need for B2B business technology expansion isn’t limited to the business services sector either. For B2B suppliers and logistics firms, a new trend called “click-and-collect,” is gaining momentum and popularity. With this quick online payment method, the customer can simply log into the company’s website and click to purchase. The items can then be picked up by the customer for store use.

While there are logistics and supply challenges specific to the click-and-collect method, the use of online payments to increase accessibility, convenience, and speed for the customer is just what every B2B business needs for the following reasons:

Online payments save money—for you and your customer. Traditional payment methods, like cash, check, or money order, all cost money in their own right. The paper they’re printed on costs money. The act of processing them costs money. You even have to pay to send the payment to the company via mail or a cash courier service. Why go to all this hassle only to slowly lose money in the process? And it is costly, for both you and your client. With an online payment option, your customers can easily manage invoices, set up payments as needed, and conveniently cover their bills to you, without all the extra paper and manpower for processing.

Making payments online is both more convenient and easier to track.

Even better, online payments are amazing for record keeping. You and your customers can keep track of past payments and payment totals fairly easily, which comes in very handy if conflict arises over costs paid or unpaid. Of course, every online payment system will be different, but most have the same basic functions. Any system would make paying bills more convenient for your customers, and easier for you to process.

An online payment system is the “greener” option.

Finally, the most important detail about ditching paper checks and installing an online payment system is the environment. Using less paper creates less waste and uses fewer environmental resources for a process than can be replaced by a more efficient method. While there may be some political battles going on right now concerning the environment, adopting more green practices into your business is still a good selling point for your business--and a cost effective one. Best of all, it’s a very easy step to take, as online payment systems are incredibly easy to acquire and implement.

Finally, It’s Just More Secure.
Ever lost a check? With online payments businesses don’t have to worry about checks being lost in the mail, or making tedious trips to the bank. With the incredible advances in online payment security and multiple levels of authentication (address verification, security codes etc..) – having clients pay online is just a more secure option, period. 

Regardless of the business services or products your company offers, setting up a system for online payments is a wise practice. The easier you make it for your clients to pay their invoices or make quick purchases from your inventory, the more your clients will be able to pay their bills quickly and with the satisfaction of a convenient payment experience.

There’s a reason B2C companies have adopted online payments. Now, it’s time for B2B to catch up.

Looking to provide your customers with an Online Payment Option? Contact NTC Texas today to hear about our afforadbale, easy to use options!

 

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC

Tags: B2B Online Payments

Developing a Sound Strategy for B2B Cash Flow

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jan 25, 2017 9:48:17 AM

B2B Cash FlowManaging your cash flow is fundamental in business. But when your product or service is delivered to other businesses, known as B2B commerce, things can get a little complicated.

On the surface, B2B transactions are not so different from B2C, or business to consumer, transactions. A good or service is provided in exchange for payment. The biggest differences are present in the way your business will interact with the other business to attract new customers, deliver on your goods and services, and get paid.

Marketing for B2B requires a different tone and a certain mutually acknowledged respect. The standards will simply be higher, which will also impact service or product delivery. But the biggest difference is in billing and cash flow management.

In general, a B2B transaction is between two business savvy organizations, both of which are looking to get the best deal possible on the work. Consumers just aren’t as cutthroat about shopping around or the end results as a business will be. As such, your organization will have to act accordingly to make sure you get paid consistently and on time.

Below are some effective policies for managing your B2B cash flow, to protect yourself and to provide professional services for your clients.

Put everything in writing.

As nearly every source will tell you: when you start a business relationship, always get the details in writing. Expectations, dates, and payment terms should all be thoroughly detailed and agreed upon by both parties. There are several sample contracts available online that you can base your agreement on. If your company is larger and responsible for more valuable services or products, hiring a lawyer may be advisable to make sure you have sorted all the important details, caveats, and information.

Get a deposit.

For a smaller business, it can be intimidating to ask for a deposit on your services. In fact, it can be terrifying. However, a deposit is actually a common and well-accepted B2B practice that will add professionalism to your business dealings. It will cement the agreement from both sides and ensure that your organization is properly compensated for your time.

Invoice promptly and often.

The invoice is one of the most important parts of a B2B relationship, so make sure you’re on top of it from start to finish. You should send out invoices promptly, on the date of service if possible, and set clear deadlines and expectations for payment. If payments are not prompt, have an action plan in place to collect on those funds. As with a B2C situation, you are perfectly within your right to protect your cash flow by requesting funds you are owed.

Assign a dedicated accounts manager.

Managing cash flow in any situation is easiest when there is a dedicated manager set up to take care of accounts payable and receivable. No matter the size of your business, someone needs to be dedicated to this task, so you can make sure it gets accomplished. Even more, your accounts manager or business manager can build a relationship with your clients, which is extremely important in B2B. While collecting is within your rights, the mood and tenor of collection is very different from a B2C relationship.

Don’t be afraid to set deadlines, send reminders, and follow up.

If your agreement is not being adhered to by the other party, don’t be afraid to set clear deadlines, revisit expectations, and follow up on fulfillment. If the payment still doesn’t come through, terminate service immediately. Money isn’t everything, but it’s definitely the lifeblood of your business, and another company’s inability or refusal to meet the terms of the agreement is legitimate grounds for ending services or no longer providing products. This should have been clearly stated in your agreement from the beginning, so it shouldn’t be unexpected.

In the end, businesses thrive or die on cash flow, even B2B businesses—and who better to understand that fact than another business. If your cash flow hasn’t been what you expected or if you’re just getting started, us the tips above to help you get your money management situation on track quickly and efficiently. Cash flow doesn’t have to be a problem, as long as you make it a priority in your day-to-day operations.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: B2B Cash Flow Strategies

Economic Forecasts for 2017: How They Compare

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jan 18, 2017 12:04:55 PM

2017 economy.jpgLooking forward to the coming year, many economists seem confident that the U.S. economy is on fairly stable footing. Current projections for 2017 are generally positive, with sources citing GDP growth at between 2.1 percent and 3.1 percent.

While both numbers are within the desired range for healthy growth, some sources report that the growth rate of 4 percent intended by the pending Trump administration could result in “the irrational exuberance that creates booms and busts.” It is unclear at this time what steps the coming administration will take to encourage the higher growth rate or how effective they will be over time.

Currently, however, the numbers are showing a healthy balance in the 2017 economic projections:

  • The unemployment rate is below 5 percent and is expected to remain there
  • The inflation rate is expected to be 1.9 percent in 2017 and 2.0 percent in 2018, up from the 1.5 percent in 2016. These numbers may have been affected by low oil prices and both are below the Fed’s 2.0 percent target inflation rate.
  • Housing and non-residential construction have both shown increases and 2017 economic projections show those numbers continuing to slowly grow
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures from 2012 estimated a roughly 5.6 million job increase in healthcare and a 3.8 million job increase in professional and business services. Overall, job increases are expected in 88 percent of all occupations.

Not all the projections are positive, however. All sources agree that the oil industry is expected to be a sore spot in the future, though not necessarily in 2017. Crude oil is expected to stay around $50/barrel in the first 6 months of 2017, but will likely increase to over $70/barrel by 2020. These expected increases in oil prices will ultimately impact every part of the American economy, from transportation and food production to household wages and consumer spending.

With any luck, new technological developments, including cleaner energy sources, will become lucrative and result in new jobs and great changes for the overall structure of the market, offsetting the future impact of oil prices and crude oil scarcity. The chances of that occurring with in the next four years, however, are unlikely.

Of course, not all sources agree on future projections and their ultimate outcome for the state of the economy. The 2017 economic projections are generally accepted as favorable for the time being, but Forbes reported a general settling of the market, while the balance anticipates another recession in about 3 years. Unfortunately, market trends often show highs and lows ending with crashes, some larger than others, after the cycle has run its course, so the latter source seems to have historical precedent on their side, unfortunately.

Regardless of long-term projections, which are decidedly unpredictable, since so many factors can influence the economy over time, the short-term 2017 economic projections are actually very positive. All sources agree that 2017 is a good time for playing smart in the market, watching trends and not panicking over fluctuations.

A new administration and changing priorities can sway the market in many ways over the course of a year, but overall projections show that consumers are mostly positive and businesses have largely bounced back from 2008-2009 lows. As long as patterns hold as they are, 2017 should be a good year for businesses and consumers.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Automotive Social @ Flickr CC.

Tags: 2017 Economic Predictions, 2017 U.S. Economy

7 Tips for Naming Your New Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jan 11, 2017 8:47:34 AM

naming your new business.pngWhen starting a business, the first steps are always the hardest. Determining your product or service, securing a storefront or online merchant system, and working out reliable processes for keeping your business afloat are all big decisions. While it may not seem to carry quite the same weight as some other considerations, naming your business is also a key step in the startup process—one that could have a big impact on your long-term success.

Like most decisions when starting a business, your business name is a tool that requires due consideration. With the right name, you can effectively attract attention from potential clients and stand out within your industry. Below are seven essential tips for selecting the perfect name for your business.

  • It’s ok to sacrifice a little “professionalism” to stand out. No matter what industry you’re involved with, every business owner wants to be taken seriously. That being said, in today’s market, fortune favors the bold. It’s perfectly fine to be professional, but naming your business in a way that comes across as generic or unoriginal could hold you back over the long term.
  • Use wordplay, but avoid puns. Naming your business should be fun, since the process of a starting a business, in general, rarely is. Use creative phrasing, play with themes that are effective for your business, and step outside of the box, but shy back from verbal puns. Generally, puns usually fall flat and that’s not the impression you really want to make.
  • Consider how your name will look. In today’s market, graphics are everything. Your name should tie into your social media and logo, with visuals given a large amount of consideration. If the name sounds good, but looks strange on paper, go back to the drawing board and keep trying.
  • Avoid names that are too similar to anyone else in your industry—or any other, if possible. For obvious reasons, copying names is just a bad idea all around, but another big pitfall to avoid is a business name that is even similar to others. Do your research when starting a business before you settle on a name, so you won’t be disappointed if its too close to others or already taken.
  • Check for URL’s and pick a name that fits with an available domain. Because most of the world operates online, your business name also needs to be web-ready. Before finalizing your plans for naming your business, make sure you’ve settled on a name that can be translated into a URL easily—one that is available. While there are thousands of business online already, plenty of options are still available. Just check before you make definite plans.
  • Don’t neglect social media. Nothing is finished until your business is set up on social media. In the same vein as the URL search, make sure you’ve double and triple-checked that there are no pre-existing social media conflicts for your preferred business name.
  • Make it legitimate. Once you’ve sorted through everything, researched the competition, and really honed in on your industry potential—and selected a name, of course—it’s time to make it official. Lock your name in by registering a “Doing Business As” name or tradename. This information should be logged with your state. You’ll also want to apply for trademark protection, which is especially valuable for protecting your brand, image, logo, and other aspects that are unique to your business.

Starting a business can be a challenging and arduous process, but it can also be fun. Selecting your business name is just the beginning. Once you’ve given your business a real identity, your potential is limited only by your imagination.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

 

Tags: new business resources, naming a new business

Protecting Your Business From a Data Breach in 2017

Posted by Ashley Choate on Jan 4, 2017 9:33:52 AM

business data breach.jpgData breaches in 2016 were at an all-time high, sparking many businesses to develop legitimate concern about the coming year. For that reason, business security is a big priority, particularly for any organization that stores card information and for businesses aligned with the healthcare field.

According to an Identity Theft Resource Center report from December 2016, general businesses experienced the most overall breaches, but healthcare organizations saw the most amount of data actually compromised. Of the 980 breaches that occurred in 2016, 44% of the breaches occurred in businesses, while only 16% of the exposed records came from that industry. In the same timeframe, 36% of breaches occurred in healthcare, while almost 44% of compromised records originated from the industry.

But breaches have occurred across multiple industries, some of which exposed highly private and significant information. According to Identity Force, organizations to suffer breaches in 2016 included the U.S. Department of Justice, UC Berkeley, SnapChat, LinkedIn, Wendy’s, and even the Philippine Commission on Elections.

Needless to say, we all have good reason to be concerned, which begs the question: how do we protect ourselves?

For individuals, the steps are simpler.

  • Don’t store credit card information.
  • Don’t use any swipe card options.
  • Complicate your passwords.
  • Back-up data regularly and store it in a secure location.
  • Don’t click links in unfamiliar emails.

There are more, but the general gist is: be suspicious and avoid predictability.

For business security, the process is decidedly more complicated. Below are some important steps for any business owner to protect from data breaches in the coming year.

Know the Enemy

One important step is to know the threat you’re facing. As a business owner, you need to be hyper vigilant about trends in breaches, types of malware, vulnerable software, etc. One of the biggest threats in 2016 that is predicted to carry over into the New Year is ransomware. This malware gets into your computer and essentially holds your data hostage until you make a payment to the cyber hijacker. They will then give you a code to access your device again.

Other specific forms of malware are being developed all the time. Trojans are an old method, but still true, though most are smart enough not to click on links contained in suspicious emails. Still, it happens. You have to be aware of the type of bug you’re facing to be able to effective prevent it from harming your system or accessing your data.

Protect Your Business

Once you’ve come to understand the threats you face, protecting your business from data breaches starts with preventing access. The standards of good business security apply here:

  • Establish a strong firewall
  • Keep an IT professional on-staff to constantly monitor for infiltration
  • Encrypt where possible
  • Maintain PCI Compliance
  • Be suspicious of open source applications

For some industries, these basics are the first place to focus time and money. Small businesses and certain industries especially have been known to invest less time and money in business security in the past, but the technology and the resourcefulness of cybercriminals is only growing worse. Make sure you’re not the easy target or a doorway for a larger prize. Both can be costly.

The next step is to use your knowledge of specific threats against your attackers. For ransomware, the best solution is to keep constant backups that are regularly updated, particularly for precious information you cannot lose. Data that is not hooked up to an internet outlet is much less vulnerable than data on any device connected to a computer. Get into the habit of backing up information and you won’t have to pay to access your files, as you can restore and start fresh.

For threats like basic malware, train your staff to effectively recognize and avoid certain threats. Use your firewall to prevent access to harmful sites and restrict your employees to only those sites you know are not going to be harmful. If your staff is aware and your internal systems primed for the possibility of data breaches, you can better prevent infiltration.

Finally, one big aspect for 2017 is mobile access and infiltration. According to a Lookout and Ponemon Institute report, 67 percent of the organizations involved in their survey reported that data breaches could be traced back to access by their employees via a mobile device. Because of how popular mobile devices have become, businesses in every industry will need to step up their mobile access security, which may include new software and more training.

Business security technology will be vital in 2017 for any business owner who wants to avoid looking like an easy mark for cybercriminals. By investing in your security software and hardware solutions, you can remove your vulnerabilities and convince the criminals to look elsewhere for a less savvy target.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: data security, data breaches, business security

What to Do If Your Business Receives a Form 1099-K

Posted by Ashley Choate on Dec 22, 2016 9:54:49 AM

form 1099k.jpgNo better way to get your mind off the holidays than to look ahead to tax season. This could be a good (or bad) distraction, depending on how well prepared you are to face Uncle Sam in April. If you are operating a business, accepting credit card payments and receive a Form 1099-K from your merchant service provider come January, you may want to keep reading.

Since the inception of the The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, businesses have been required to report year-end, gross amounts of their merchants’ credit card, debit card, gift card, and e-commerce transactions to the IRS by filing the 1099-K form, an information return. This can be particularly challenging for merchants unequipped with software to help them identify what portion of their sales, in fact, was paid by credit card. Some payment processors have developed handy Settlement Reconciliation Services (SRS) to help ease this burden, but more on that later.

Here are some helpful Q&A’s, put together by the IRS, to answer questions typically asked by merchants regarding the Form 1099-K:

I received Form 1099-K. How do I report it on my tax return?
Separate reporting of these transactions is not required. However, you should follow the return instructions on the form you are completing to report your gross receipts or sales. You should report items that qualify as a trade or business expense on the appropriate line item of Schedules C, E and F.

What information must be reported on the Form 1099-K?
The gross amount of reportable payment transactions for the calendar year and its corresponding months are required to be reported for each payee. The reporting of both annual and monthly amounts is necessary to resolve differences between information returns and tax returns of fiscal year filers. The name, address and taxpayer identification number of each participating payee must also be included on the form.

When are Forms 1099-K due?
Information reporting for payment card and third party network transactions is due to the IRS on the last day of February of the year following the transactions. If filing electronically, it is due the first day of April of the year following the transactions.

Is there a de minimis exception for Forms 1099-K by third party settlement organizations?  
There is a “de minimis” exception from reporting for a third party settlement organization with respect to third party network transactions. If payments to a participating payee exceed $20,000 and exceed 200 transactions within the calendar year they must file for that participating payee.

Where can I call if I have a question on the Form 1099-K?
Payors who have questions about the Form 1099-K itself, may call the IRS at 1-866-455-7438. Payees who have questions about the information on a Form 1099-K they have received should contact the filer, whose name appears in the upper left corner on the form.  

Although the IRS does provide businesses with valuable resources and information to help them understand the components of Form 1099-K, businesses should also be able to look to their payment processing partner for additional support in managing this process.

For example, NTC Texas currently provides its clients with access to the MerchantConnect SRS tool, giving them a quick and easy view of their credit, debit, and gift card transaction activity that was settled and reported to the IRS.

Merchants are able to access information related to Settlement Reconciliation, including:

  • Tax ID Number (TIN) Validation: ensures that Elavon has the correct TIN and legal business name on file to avoid IRS-mandated backup withholding. If the information does not match, you will be directed to submit a Form W-9 online.
  • Processing Volume: access to monthly transaction activity reports including chargebacks, credits, returns, and other related expenses.
  • Clear and Simple Reporting: reports are easy to understand and roll-up monthly, quarterly, and annually for up to 4 years.
  • Electronic 1099K: merchants can sign up to receive their Form 1099K electronically to avoid postal delays or delivery and security issues.

With proper research and the right payment processing partner, businesses should be able to easily segment their electronic payment activity and protect themselves from any conflict with the IRS. For more information on Form 1099-K see the full General FAQs on Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pexels at Google CC.

Tags: Form 1099-K, Tax season 2017

Business Tech Trends for 2017

Posted by Courtney Lewis on Dec 15, 2016 9:15:42 AM

business tech trends 2017.pngTech trends in 2016 kept everyone on their toes, but business tech 2017 promises some real enhancements to currently established tech favorites. In fact, many tools that seemed monumental only a few short years ago have lost some of their luster. They’re in need of a good polishing up with new levels of functionality—and companies like Apple are going to lead the charge, along with a thousand brilliant startups across the country. What this means for you: Fun is on the horizon.

Apple is one of the most well-known companies in the world—and you can continue to expect great things from them in the next few years. According to Time Magazine, iPhone sales have leveled out, making only $54 million this year versus the $70 million they made in the same quarter last year. Even so, Apple is a strong company, and they’re in it for the long haul. Currently, Apple is sinking somewhere around $10 billion into the development of new tech.

No doubt, the return on that investment will not disappoint, which means means new, cooler toys for tech savvy men and women the world over. Of course, research and development (R&D) does take time and can spin off into any number of directions. Until we see exactly what 2017 has in store, below is a list of the more predictable tech trends you can expect and anticipate within the coming year:

  • Anything you want at the touch of a button. Basically, by the end of 2017, you’ll be able to get nearly anything you want on demand, most via phone apps to make the process even easier.
  • Big data with a human element. While marketers have made fantastic use of the numbers-only big data that has been instrumental in the market within the last couple of years, business tech 2017 will see a trend towards humanizing that information with more qualitative, anecdotal data collection than ever before.
  • Smarter, better machines. Both machine learning and automation are listed as major trends for business tech 2017. Machine learning speaks to the ability of a computer to utilize data to make recommendations by reviewing trends and responding with predictions and further details. It’s a stepping stone on the path to artificial intelligence (AI). Automation is just as valuable, allowing machines to take on a variety of tasks and complete them automatically. Ultimately, 2017 will see advanced technology making our jobs faster and easier.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Pokemon Go was the phenomena that captured everyone’s fascination for most of early 2016, with over 100 million downloads. The game was based on an AR platform that used reality as a base and augmented the experience with graphic elements. We also saw a huge uptick in VR platforms and options, many of which are possible with just your smart phone and a headset. Look for even more of these tools in the coming year.
  • Smart home tech and interconnected technology. While the technology has been around for years, further development of apps and programs that allow for smart home interconnected tech hasn’t come to fruition yet. It’s a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, with too few companies collaborating on major projects. For business tech 2017, however, changes will likely arise and new advances will be forthcoming on the smart home front for the new year.
  • Talking systems. First it was Siri, then came Cortana and Alexa. There will likely be more of these talking, interactive systems in the future. Without a doubt, these pre-programmed personalities provide easy, quick, and—sometimes—fun access to information. Are they just step away from full AI? Well, maybe a few steps, but no doubt the development is underway.

While there’s no guarantee that any or all of these trends will take root within the coming year, most have already begun to sprout. They could die out quickly—to be replaced with something far cooler—or they could entrench themselves and dig in deep. Regardless of the outcome, 2017 promises to be a fascinating year for technology development. 

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

 

Tags: business technology, 2017 business tech

Five Key Things That Define Valuable Business Partnerships

Posted by Ashley Choate on Dec 7, 2016 9:48:35 PM

business partners.jpgBuilding a strong business requires a multi-faceted approach and the ability to juggle conflicting priorities. As with most things in life, balance is the key. That concept is even more important for businesses built around a partnership or several partnerships, which add extra complications to an already difficult task. Through those collaborative relationships, however, business owners can often discover an even greater potential for success.

Business partnerships are a little like a marriage in some ways. First, you need a “getting to know each other” stage. It’s important to take a little time to get to know one another, test boundaries, and develop ideas together before taking the plunge of starting a business. While occasionally two or three people meet and spontaneously generate ideas that end in real success, that sort of thing isn’t common. Actually, that more accurately describes the dream of a partnership than the reality.

In reality, a successful and valuable business partnership typically grows out of a long-term business relationship, where both parties are familiar with the style, expectations, and modus operandi of the other. Business partnerships require constant communication, self-examination, and regular assessment of commitments and professional goals for each partner. The relationship is essentially a melding of two or more peoples’ business lives.

And like marriages, business partnerships have the most amazing potential: they can go amazingly, spectacularly wrong—or they can be gloriously right. To achieve the latter, you need to be honest with yourself from the start, and make sure both parties have certain qualities and expectations in common.

Below are five major aspects of good business partnerships, many of which can and should be applied in other ways across your business.

Share a vision. When embarking on a business venture with a partner, you obviously need to agreed on the nature of the venture and the general shape of the undertaking, but building a successful business partnership is about so much more. A shared understanding of the desired evolution for the business and for the partnership is necessary to get the most out of a collaborative venture, according to the Bridge Strategy Group. Without this vision in common, the partners may find themselves at cross-purposes, enacting decisions and investments that counteract one another.

Discuss the hard stuff. Don’t be afraid to talk about the difficult aspects of the business—and to fight it out a little, if needed. To be successful, you can’t shy away from discussing money, assets, fears, and concerns. These topics are essential, both for personal ventures and professional ones. Especially in the case of business partnerships, you need to be on the same page as one another in order to work through difficulties and plan effectively.

Build a partnership based on history and trust. Jumping into a business venture with a virtual stranger is obviously a bad idea. Similarly, trying to start a business with someone who you’ve only known as a friend, not in a business sense, could also be a mistake. Before launching into a full business undertaking, make sure that you’ve worked with your potential partner on smaller business deals and undertakings prior to a larger one. There are aspects of your partner’s style and attitude that you won’t see until you’ve interacted with them on a professional level. Take the time to feel that out and develop a sense of trust with one another before sinking money and time into a bigger project.

Be authentic and thought-provoking, but be willing to compromise. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, good business is about playing to your strengths and knowing yourself well enough to understand when to stand your ground and when to walk away. The same applies with a good business partnership. You have to pick your battles and be yourself, but also understand that you are working in cooperation with another. You chose to operate with a partner for any number of reasons, but once it’s done, the only way for that partnership to operate successfully is for both parties to be respectful of the other’s ability to contribute to the partnership and bring something valuable to the table. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground, but also pay attention to the topic. Is it really all that important to you? Speak your mind, but be prepared to bend more often than not.

Listen. Finally, the most important quality that both sides of an effective business partnership must embrace is listening to one another. This may be seem like common sense, but consider the business owners and entrepreneurs you know. They’re outspoken individuals, leaders in their respective circles and fields. They are full of ideas and thoughts—and usually, they like to talk. Most of them won’t realize that they’re not listening when they’re passionate about their topic. In the end, however, the most successful master the skill, and the best business partnerships are based around good listening skills and mutual respect.

Whether you’re considering a small business venture with a single partner or you’re developing  a larger web that combines several different entities working together, business partnerships in all spheres operate on the same basic principles listed above.

As with any business decision, think carefully about the outcomes you expect from a business partnership and work hard to communicate those desires prior to getting started. Most importantly, get everything in writing – this practice keeps all parties accountable for deals made and helps avoid potential conflicts and misunderstandings.Once you’ve found the working relationship your feel confidence in, stay focused on communication, a common vision, and creating an environment of mutual respect. The results could be well worth the time and effort. 

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Tags: Business Partnerships