We are pleased to announce that OPMA has formed an Executive Summit Committee assigned with the responsibility for the development, the content, and the execution of the association’s bi annual conferences.
We are always busy here at Blizzard, whether we are working on your website, hosting a local Blizzard University workshop or developing partnerships with leading industry organizations. All in an effort to provide our clients the highest quality services and return on ROI.
Today, November 7, 2017, Outside Magazine named Blizzard Internet Marketing as one of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work in 2017. 2017 was Blizzard Internet’s first year in applying for this very special recognition by Outside Magazine, so as you can imagine we are extremely excited and very honored to have been selected.
Each year, Outside Magazine recognizes the top 100 companies in the United States that value productivity in combination with an active, eco-conscious lifestyle. This balance between work and life has been at the cornerstone of Blizzard’s success over the years and a tribute to Blizzard Internet’s owner, Susan Blizzard, who has built Blizzard into the very successful company it is today.
This recognition is also a great tribute to all employees and to all our amazing clients. Blizzard’s work balance helps each employee excel and bring the passion, expertise, and desire to do the best work for each of our clients.
For Blizzard, we are also equally honored to have so many amazing clients who recognize our ability to make a positive difference for their companies. So, from all us at Blizzard, here is a shout out to our clients and a huge “Thank You” to all those companies who have partnered with us over the last 20+ years.
Check out the full list of Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work 2017.
So, perhaps you’ve heard of Glad to Have You, the guest app that was developed by an individual property manager and is now owned by HomeAway. This cool tool can be extremely valuable to property managers for its ability to reduce the overload of customer service calls and/or emails before and during a guest’s stay. But what else can it be used for? Although it takes a considerable amount of time to set up, it becomes a treasure trove of that great local information guests yearn for.
Blizzard can leverage all of your local recommendations data you enter in the app and broadcast that content on your website, potentially adding hundreds of pages without having to do any additional work, and giving your website a huge SEO boost! Find out more about the Blizzard exclusive Glad to Have You Local Recommendations Plugin available only to Blizzard Design clients.
Squeeze the value out of your Glad to Have you Reviews too! Blizzard can pull the GTHY reviews directly from the app as well. The photographs within the App provide an extra layer of validity to each review. Pretty neat huh? Find out about adding Glad to Have You reviews to your website. Call us today to learn more!
Here’s some more tools available with the Blizzard Reservation Engine:
• Calendar Tracking and Reporting
• Custom Groups
• Last Minute Bidding
• Map Points of Interest
• Property Banners
• Recently Viewed
While most Americans spent their time online Thursday arguing over dress color, or watching Llamas on the Lam, the FCC pulled the trigger on new net neutrality rules, designed to maintain equality among all content providers on the Internet.
As expected, the vote fell along party lines. Immediately, the big internet service providers (ISPs) and many government officials condemned the new rules, threatening both legal and legislative challenges, some before the vote was even taken.
At least for now, by a narrow 3-2 vote, all of our websites will continue to be treated equally by services providers; our content will not be slowed down or sped up according to any sort of tiered delivery. Furthermore, ISPs will now be classified as public utilities, much like phone companies, and will be subject to regulations to ensure that all consumers have equal access to their services.
Although not receiving as much attention as net neutrality, the FCC also ruled to lift bans and restrictions which inhibit local municipalities from building their own broadband networks, previously allowing only private cable companies to provide internet access. This ruling gives consumers a choice of service providers for their internet, something many Americans do not currently have.
This victory is historic for net neutrality activists, content providers and tech influencers, whose sustained and vocal protest was actually heard over arguably one of the most powerful and wealthy lobbying interests in America today. Said Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, in celebrating the FCC’s decision, “It goes a lot further than net neutrality. Title II regulation means oversight of bad behavior.”
Critics of the ruling were quick to point out the FCC has a habit of being over regulatory, which could hurt innovation and ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers. Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted immediately after the ruling, “This is a matter for Congress to carefully consider and correct.”
For now, we all get to keep our websites in the fast lane on the information super-highway. But keep an eye on those highway alert signs, as this is just one battle in what could end up being a very long war for control of the Internet.
At the end of this month, Washington will be making huge news, affecting every small business.
On February 4th, Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, announced what some found to be a stunning policy reversal on open internet. Wheeler let it be known that the FCC will be basing its soon to be announced net neutrality rules for Internet service providers (ISPs) on Title II of the Communication Act, reclassifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as utilities, like power companies and telecommunication providers. These newly proposed regulations would apply to both wired and wireless ISPs. Small businesses and their websites will be directly impacted if the FCC decides to end net neutrality.
Net neutrality means that all websites on the internet are treated equally. If net neutrality were to end, some websites would be able to be delivered at faster speeds, leaving those of us who cannot pay more for additional speed in the dust. It’s also likely that the cost of paid advertising or even posting on social websites will increase, as the Facebooks and Twitters will pass down the higher fees they are paying to us. In the simplest terms, ending net neutrality will make it more expensive for everyone to be found on the Internet. This is paid prioritization.
How did we get here?
The issue of net neutrality isn’t new. There have been grumblings on both sides of the issue since 2002 when the FCC classified cable modem service as an “information service,” and not a common carrier. Escaping the common carrier classification has protected ISPs from most FCC regulation, particularly in the area of paid prioritization. The belief was that unencumbered growth and investment would give Internet consumers a better product with more competitive pricing. In 2007, wireless broadband access was classified in the same way.
The common carrier rules in Title II are from 1934. They were originally meant to oversee industries that transported goods to the public, such as rail and freight companies as well as public utilities. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 extended the original Title II provisions to telecommunication companies. In 1996, the 20 million Americans who visited the Internet mostly used Netscape, via dial up, to spend the bulk of their 30 minutes a month reading their AOL mail. These folks are now but a tiny fraction of the 245 million Americans who hate the 3 seconds it takes to get on Google and who spend an average of nearly 30 hours a month online, some of them reading their AOL mail (there are still over 2 million people who subscribe to AOL. Wha’?!)
ISPs have been operating under the “Open Internet” rules since 2010, rules meant to stop ISPs from forcing content providers to pay to play on their networks. Verizon filed a lawsuit to block these rules. In January of 2014, a federal appeals court ruling found in favor of Verizon’s argument against being treated as an old timey telephone network, but this ruling also cleared a huge path for the FCC to write new rules regarding the Internet. President Obama also came out in favor of maintaining an open Internet.
What does this mean to ME?
If this change happens, it means that you are likely to start paying for things on the internet that you now receive for free, because the cost of doing business on the internet has increased for those businesses. It also means that if you have a website for your business, it could decrease traffic to your website.
Visualize the Internet as a two-lane highway, with a slow lane and a fast lane. The fast lane is a toll lane.
Those with lots of change in their cup holders,content providers like Netflix and Facebook, may pay to have their content streamed faster. Those with a couple of fuzzy pennies and a cough drop in their glove box, sites like Cats that Look Like Hitler and Bees Bees Bees , or YOU with your small business and small business website are going to have to stay in the slow lane or come up with a LOT more extra change.
Who is deciding this Neutrality Thing?
This case for and against net neutrality has made for some strange bedfellows. On the pro-neutrality side, you’ll find Twitter and Google, teaming up with the Parents Television Council and the hacker group Anonymous. You’ll also find the 4 million Americans who crashed the FCC’s website during the public comment period, due in no small part to John Oliver (MUST WATCH, especially if you have a thing for dingoes!) On the let’s get rid of net neutrality side, the big ISPs (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast,) join hands with civil rights groups such as the NAACP and the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. They can also find at least one FCC Commissioner in their corner, Ajit Pai (former Verizon lawyer) who just came out against regulations on Feb 10th. In the truest definition of neutral, tech-giant Apple has publically neither come out for or against open internet.
The FCC is voting on February 26th. One thing is certain; the issue of net neutrality isn’t going to go away and those of us without Washington lobbyists need to pay attention now or we will literally be paying a lot more to be found along the high speed information highway.
Highlights from the last few months in cyber-chaos
- April, 2014 – The “Heartbleed Bug” strikes, affecting as many as 500,000 websites.
- November, 2014 – Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by person/persons unknown; leads to a complete and total meltdown in Hollywood, forcing people in the “biz” to actually pick up a phone and talk to their cubicle mate and for the rest of us to stream a bro-stick comedy over Christmas that we all probably would have been better off waiting for on Netflix.
- December, 2014 – North Korea’s Internet service undergoes a “DDOS attack” (distributed denial of-service) by person/persons unknown.
- January, 2015 – US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked by Islamic State sympathizers
- Retailers such as Target, Neimann Marcus, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, PF Changs, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A – ALL HACKED!!
A recent study found that 13.1 million U.S. adults are victims of fraud, with a total somewhere in the $18 billion range of fraudulent activity accounted for annually. Earlier this month, President Obama proposed legislation that would encourage companies and government agencies to share information about security threats and vulnerabilities with each other.
Remember when you got that email from your bank, your social media website, your email server to change your password in the wake of Heartbleed. Did you actually do it? A Pew research study last year found that only 61% of those who knew about Heartbleed changed their passwords.
Just how lazy are we?
A survey from 2012 by Research Now for CSID on password habits among American consumers found:
- 61% of us reuse passwords across multiple websites.
- 54% of us have 5 or fewer passwords for all of our internet usage.
- 44% of us change our passwords once a year or less.
- 89% of us feel secure with our current passwords and security habits.
- 21% of us have had at least one online account compromised.
Splashdata’s annual list of most commonly used passwords found that “password” had been supplanted by the surely uncrackable“ 123456” as the most popular password of 2013.
So what kind of passwords should we be using?
The latest and greatest recommendations from cyber experts, including Blizzard’s own Hosting Manager, Tish Lockard, agree on the following guidelines for creating strong passwords:
- A strong password should contain AT THE VERY LEAST 8 characters, combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols; there should be no inclusion of words found in the dictionary or the names of your friends and family.
- Never use easy to discover dates like birthdays or anniversaries; you’d be surprised what is clearly visible on our personal and business social media pages these days.
- You should have a unique password for all of your important accounts.
- You should change your passwords every 90 days and not reuse them for different sites.
There are password generating sites that will create strong passwords for you. Tish says, “Can’t think of a good password? There are tools out there, such strongpasswordgenerator.com that will cook up a good one for you. You can even decide the length of your password and what type of characters to use. I use this Every. Single. Day.” Hear that? Every single day! I am listening Tish! Some others generators are random.org and freepasswordgenerator.com.
How the B!33P am I supposed to remember that gobbledygook?
How are you supposed to remember these nonsensical passwords? I know I have been loath to use passwords like those described above because there is no way I am ever going to remember them. Most security experts recommend the use of a password manager such as Dashlane.com, LastPass.com or 1Password.com which have apps that can go with you from your computer, phone and tablet. YES, you will have to have a password for these heavily encrypted secure sites, but if you can’t remember ONE goofy password, well, maybe this World Wide Web thing just isn’t your bag.
DO NOT store your passwords in a public cloud, in a Google doc, in emails that can be hacked, on your phone’s notepad app or maybe not even in that little spiral Hello Kitty notebook that you carry around with you everywhere unless you have really bad handwriting.
According to Tish, “If everyone could make these criteria a priority and truly commit to changing their passwords regularly, there would be a lot less chaos in the world. Well, ok, chaos caused by hackers, anyway.” If we listen to Tish, at least we all can do a little something about this cyber chaos. The hacker free-chaos, Tish and I will endeavor to deal with that another time.
Whatever method you decide upon to have truly secure passwords, remain ever vigilant as you cruise along the world-wide-web. There are hackers around every bend and it’s up to you to keep an eye on your online accounts. And don’t forget that old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say in an email about someone, maybe just jot it down in your Hello Kitty notebook.