How to Cater to The Next Breed of Shoppers with Artificial Intelligence

Developments in the field of artificial intelligence are incredible, almost as if they are from a different world. Investors spend millions in the development of AI. The most active technology is used in the field of Internet search, helping to shape the Google search engine and handle voice assistant requests.

AI becomes more perfect with each passing day. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that this technology is increasingly being used for online retailers. The most innovative of these companies are already experimenting with the use of artificial intelligence. However, many online retailers are ignoring AI which will prove detrimental to their business for years. At this stage the main issue is how new technology is changing the retail trade network.

Changing the shopping industry

Let’s understand the benefits AI can bring for those whose business is in e-commerce. Artificial intelligence promises to bring us a higher quality shopping experience. Not many industries can boast of such a competitive capacity, as the scope of e-commerce. This technology expands the e-commerce limits and their capabilities. Artificial Intelligence shows how amazing it is in areas like marketing, health and finance, and more recently, in e-commerce.

After analyzing the AI ​​perspective, here are 3 main ways it will impact e-commerce in the coming years.

1. Visual search

Buyers can bid farewell to impulse control. Software platform, managing online stores create visual search capabilities allow users to upload images and find similar / complementary products.

2. Offline and online worlds become one

The visual search capabilities provide the connection between online and offline modes. Retailers are changing the way consumers interact and brands, retail will have a lot of information about customers, improving customer service and increasing sales. Users will be able to use artificial intelligence to gather the information posted on the web site (product overview, reviews, etc.).

3. Personalization

The personalization of e-commerce is nothing new. Thanks to new technologies in AI, personalization tools have become available for brands of all sizes. Many online stores are using collaborative filtering to provide advice to clients. Such filters are limited however, because they collect data from only one channel. Whether it is an online store, an ordinary store or a mobile app, AI brings the user experience across all these channels.

Thus we get an interactive shopping experience, based on recommendations and cognitive data. Your e-commerce site needs to be designed with all this in mind. Companies like SDI are there to help improve your website to bring in more customers.

The role of future technologies in retail trade

1. The spread of the Internet of things

In the next few years, Consumers will live in a closely interconnected, high-speed world where the Internet becomes an everyday reality. By 2020, the number of connections of machine-to-machine (M2M) – the transmission of information without human intervention – will increase to 660 million and will continue to grow. Various devices that monitor the level of demand and other factors, will become commonplace and will improve the efficiency of the shops. M2M technologies in a smart home strategy will be used to monitor the status of devices and automatic replenishment.

Despite the fact that the Internet has the potential to turn into a payment system, this does not mean that this potential will be realized. This can prevent buyers fear of losing control over their payments and the feeling of prejudice by limiting choice.

2. Handheld devices

These devices are able to collect and transmit data. They will help the seller to collect detailed information about the buyer: the daily route, the current location, health and others. These data vendors can use this to improve the product and marketing channel optimization.

3. Augmented reality

Augmented reality technology will become a driver for online and offline commerce. Augmented reality blurs the boundaries between the virtual and the real world, as opposed to virtual reality, which plunges into the virtual world.

This technology help vendors to solve the problem of online customer who purchase clothing, and significantly reduces the return of purchases. Offline stores will use the technology to design showrooms.

Preparing for the Future: Recommendations

1. Develop flexibility and constant training

Vendors need to quickly identify changing trends and adapt to them. Get to know new technologies and the use of partnership opportunities. Education should not be based on an analysis of past experience, this is not enough. It is necessary to study and test promising new concepts to attract and interact with customers and partners.

2. Rethink segmentation

Traditional methods of segmentation no longer fit the “digital” buyer. Consumers will increasingly move between segments, and the border between them will blur. The buyer is aware of the benefits of personalized products and services, and does not want to consume more mass products. Approaches to segmentation will become more complex and creative, based on the context, as the old tricks “one model for all” does not work anymore.

3. The limits of personalization

By 2026, it is clear that personalization, despite the benefits, has limitations. Production and marketing of the “individual” production is costly. Therefore, for most products fit model mass personalization, which is already implemented in the clothing and automotive industry. This model will allow brands to offer personalized products to a wide range of people at the right price.

There will be people who do not want to purchase highly personalized products. They understand that they have to pay for the personalization of personal data, in which safety is not assured.

4. Invest in understanding how to satisfy your buyer

Sales promotion channels are fully interconnected, so it is impossible to calculate individual channel profitability. Understanding the way the buyer makes their purchases in this situation is crucial for understanding the role of each channel and the required investment.

5. Create a brand

After 10 years, the buyer will expect the same high level of service from all vendors. How, then, do you stand out from the competition?

Building a brand is much more than just advertising. The brand should be associated with the level of service provided. It must be distinctive, have a strong emotional bond, and a trusting relationship with the customer. Most retailers do not have their own brand, in contrast to the manufacturers whose goods are sold.

Are you interested in learning how you can improve your e-commerce site? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click here to contact us!

Productivity and the Importance of Sleep

As a tech blog written by App builders, writing a post about how important it is to sleep seems out of character. And, on the surface, it is. But as members of the Tech Industry, we are on the front lines of Uber productive people attempting to forego sleep as much as possible. Hearing programmers and designers brag about how little they are sleeping is pretty much an everyday occurrence around our office.

We live busy lives and, even with more than 200 developers and designers on staff, we are constantly working. The desire to turn every waking second into a productive one naturally grows into attempting to turn every moment into a waking one. After all, sleep essentially amounts to a whole third of your life, gone. Empty, non-productive time. Right?

The impetus behind this desire to be productive every second of every day comes from several sources, from the constant influx of information to the need to working on the go. The cause isn’t really important though, because the result is that less than ⅓ of the adults in the US get the necessary 7 hours of sleep, and 60 to 85% of adolescents don’t sleep the 8.5 hours they need.

But let’s return to our earlier straw man: are people who skip the recommended amount of sleep more productive than those who don’t. Well, as you may have guessed, no. More and more research is pointing to the fact that even if you are working every second you don’t sleep, productivity decreases when you aren’t receiving enough rest.

In recent years, there has been a plethora of research on this matter. Most notably, Arianna Huffington released a book on this very matter a few years ago. Ms. Huffington represents the stereotypical overachiever; the ones who would rather skip a full 7 hours in favor of more time spent behind the desk. She slept very little for years upon years, believing that she just did more when she only slept a few hours at a time.

That is, until she crashed. Quite literally. After multiple 18 hour workdays, her body simply gave out and she lost consciousness – and broke her cheekbone in the fall. So she wrote a book about the importance of sleep and the “Sleep Deprivation Crisis.” The book was a commercial success, but today sleep deprivation is still rampant in the tech world.

In recent years, there has also been a serious amount of biological research on sleep and its effects on the body and mind. These studies have demonstrated clearly that not only does productivity not improve when you don’t sleep, you actually become less productive over the long run (as compared to those who sleep the proper amount). And, not surprisingly, this is the least of concerns to the sleep deprived.

In the short term, massive sleep deprivation may cause death faster than starvation. Research has proven that lack of sleep leads to higher rates of inflammation. This may not seem crucial to your health, but chronic inflammation is known to cause certain cancers, lead to long-term chronic illness, increase risk of heart disease, and even cause Type 2 Diabetes.

Honestly though, the scariest part of Sleep Deprivation is its effect on mental health. For those in the tech business, a healthy alert brain is how we stay successful – hence the desire to push oneself to a constant alertness. However, when you force yourself to remain awake for unnaturally long periods of time, you force your brain into a hyper-alert state (aka fight-or-flight).

The influx of adrenaline provided by this is very helpful – if used on occasion. When you deprive yourself of sleep, though, the constant alertness causes severe damage to your brain. As it turns out, recent research quite clearly shows that during sleep, your brain is actually quite active.

Basically, your brain uses this time to restore itself to a healthy homeostasis, restoring levels of hormones and enzymes to healthy levels. Additionally, the brain uses sleep to essentially clean itself, removing anything that could cause harm to healthy cells. On an emotional level, it also appears that during sleep memories made during the day are stripped of some of their “umph.”

This allows people to rethink memories, reorganizing our perceptions of the past day. In other words, deep sleep (and ONLY during deep sleep) is what allows us to remember things more clearly, to pull more cogent lessons from past events, and protects us from emotionally traumatic events.

When people undergo extreme sleep deprivation, none of this happens. So not only does this lead to emotions that are much rawer and harder to process, but to poorer mental health overall. Additionally, plenty of research has shown that people who continually suffer from sleep deprivation suffer from significantly higher rates of degenerative neurological conditions (including Alzheimers and Sleep Deprivation) as you get older.

The negative effects aren’t only long term though. More recent research indicates that sleep deprivation may lead to higher rates of PTSD in the general population. When the brain doesn’t get the chance to file and neutralize emotions, it lives in a never ending state of emotional trauma. Which, obviously, is an underlying cause of PTSD.

Fortunately for all of us over productive techies (and non techies!), the remedy is simple: Sleep. 7 hours of quality sleep, allowing you to reach REM stage so your brain can really get to work. So, from all of us here at SDI to all of you overachievers out there, please, for the love of yourself, go take a nap!

Got too much coding to get a proper amount of sleep? Hire a dedicated programmer from SDI to help out! Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

The Power of Engagement and Social Influencers

Back in the 90s, there was a documentary about an industry famous marketing group, often called the Merchants of Cool. These guys were laying the groundwork for modern marketing practices, using a mixed method approach that meant to identify Key Influencers, or Gatekeepers.

What made the Merchants of Cool so successful was that they borrowed methods from outside the marketer’s wheelhouse. Due to the anthropological background of most of this group, they realized something that other marketers hadn’t: that in every society there are a few people whose influence in a culture is beyond that of the normal person.

These people have the ability to influence others in their culture. A gatekeeper is someone who can provide access to a larger market. A Key Influencer is someone whose opinions, style choices, and preferences sway others in their community. The two are not mutually exclusive and are in fact more likely to be one and the same.

So the Merchants of Cool came in and identified these Key Influencers. The result? Perhaps unsurprisingly to the modern eye, they were quite successful. Their practices led to a revolution in marketing, one that was only furthered by the rise of Digital Marketing. Digital marketing especially relies on Social Influencers (i.e. key influencers) in order to further market reach and potential.

More importantly, the rise of Social Media has massively improved the overall reach of Influencers. They now have a much wider pool of people they can influence and can have a much more targeted influential ability. Plus, not only do Social Influencers sway the opinions of their followers, but they can even help improve engagement with brand and service. In other words, it behooves the modern businessperson to identify, court, and eventually work with Social Influencers.

There is plenty of research conducted in the last 30 years or so to back this up:

    Marketing & Sales Analysts McKinsey & Co found that word of mouth is possibly the single biggest deciding factor in purchase decisions (driving anywhere between 20 and 50% of all product decisions;

    A negative message from an Influencer can result in as much as 20% reduction of market share;

    Almost 90% of consumers see online reviews as a massively impactful resource they consult prior to buying something;

    Twitter reports that quite nearly 50% of consumers consult one Social Media Marketer at least before making a purchase;

    About 33% of consumers trust ads. This is opposed to a stunning 90% of consumers who trust the product advice proffered by influencers and peers.

    Additionally, 40% of people on Twitter made a purchase based on the Tweet of an influencer they follow;

But like any business proposition, you want to get the most bang for your buck; there are many different types of Social Influencers, from people who don’t realize their potential to people whose own confidence in their potential is not warranted. The best bet is to hire a digital marketing team with established connections, but there are some other things to look for when picking a Social Influencer:

Vet your Influencer. Keep in mind that these people will essentially be representing your brand so you want to make sure they aren’t going to give you a bad name. If it turns out that they have some nasty skeletons in the closet (imagined or real), it could not only tank your campaign but forever tarnish your brand image. This was recently exemplified by the controversy swirling around YouTube star and major Social Media Influencer, PewDiePie.

Analyze social media profiles of potential influencers: their posts, their blogs/writings, as well as their style choices (if in a style-oriented business). Make sure that the Influencer matches the tone you want your business to have. You want to make sure that they are influencing people who would actually be interested in the service you provide.

Analyze the size of a potential Influencers audience (i.e. followers); this doesn’t mean only approaching influencers with a massive audience. While a larger audience is always attractive, you also need to consider how engaged that audience is. A potential influencer may have 10 million followers, but if only one of person bothers to stay engaged, you’re paying for a whole lot of Butkus. In fact, most research seems to point out that the best Social Media Influencers for a business tend to be mid-level Bloggers. These Influencers (often called “Power Middle Influencers”) often have more of an impact that professional influencers. In fact, these mid-level influencers have an engagement rate 16 times that of Influencers with larger audiences.

Of course, there’s no need to do this on your own. High-quality Digital Marketing companies like SDI will not only identify the Influencers who are the key to your market but also help identify KPIs that you can use to track the success of your campaign, More than that, we help with marketing campaigns on all levels.

Using similar anthropological and marketing tactics, we help perfect marketing campaigns through tried and true methods:

    Targeted messaging that attracts Influencers AND markets;

    Market research that enables us to understand how your market thinks;

    Using language used by your target market, improving your credibility in the sector;

    Identifying potential events frequented by your target market – and creating strategies to get attention at these events.

More than that, we are insiders. SDI has helped hundreds of clients grow their brand through just these tactics. We know what works, we know how to speak to people, and we know how to take your business to the next level. Creating a digital marketing campaign is a complex dance with many steps – and SDI knows them all.

Ready to get started with your own marketing campaign and Social Influencers? Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

How to Build a Hack-Proof Website

We all know how valuable a website is to the success of a modern business. But when a website isn’t secure, it becomes a massive risk. And when a website gets hacked, it becomes a massive expense, possibly destroying a business.

So then the question becomes: how do I create a website that can’t be hacked? The gospel truth is that an entirely unhackable website is not possible, simply because hackers (like web security) are constantly evolving. This isn’t to say that it’s hopeless or pointless, merely to point out that having a secure website means keeping on top of your software.

Think about: banks from 100 years ago were often held up as being exceptionally secure (for obvious reasons). However, any bank that hasn’t updated in the last century is about as well protected as a sieve is watertight. So this brings us to our first step to creating a website that can’t be hacked:

Step 1: Keep Up to Date

You need to keep your website, software and/or CMS as up to date as possible. It seems like a no brainer, but this is by far one of the most common problems for hacked websites. As stated earlier, hackers are constantly evolving – so you need to as well. Again, this seems like a big ‘duh’ but there’s a reason most programmers will state this as the number one best way to keep your business secure.

If you’re using off-the-shelf software, you have to keep an eye on what updates were released, and you have to make sure your systems is updated immediately. If your business is operating on a custom built website platform, ask your development partner about an Annual Maintenance Contract, or some sort of deal for updating to the latest and greatest when it’s needed.

But keeping up to date means that you need keep yourself updated; this means you need to find a good source to keep abreast of any changes in the world of web security. This is true whether or not you have a custom built website; however, with a website that doesn’t receive automatic updates, it is absolutely vital that you yourself ensure the security of your business. Even just giving your developer a quick call to see if updates are needed can prevent massive financial loss.

Step 2: Web Application Firewalls (WAF)

A WAF isn’t in the news as much as something like a Man-in-the-Middle or a Phishing attack, but is possible one of the best security tools for the price point. A WAF, widely available as an extension or plugin all over the web and most have a pretty fair price based on a subscription model (it’s well worth it!).

A WAF sits between the wide world of the internet and your website. It intercepts and reads ALL data that is transmitted to your website, thoroughly vetting everything that comes near your website. By analyzing the data to such a degree, a WAF essentially stops all hackers dead in their tracks – plus it stops other forms of malware (like spam). Additionally, almost all WAFs are on the cloud, which means improved security and easy updating/maintenance.

Step 3: Security Applications

Other web apps (beyond a WAF) for improved security are out there and many are free. Just as a quick note, we don’t recommend solely relying on free tools. While these are generally pretty decent, a WAF is far more secure and reliable. That being said, there are some great tools out there to help prevent common hacking tools, such as an SQL Injection or an XSS attack.

Some tools come loaded with a CMS Platform (like a Magento or Joomla) that can help you analyze your website for weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to use this – both before launch and as an ongoing security measure. Not using a platform? No problem – just drop us a line and we can take a look at your website for any security issues.

Step 4: Limit Internal Access

Another very common way to get hacked is by not being careful about admin or user access to website. This can be easily rectified in a variety of ways:

♦ Enforce strict password control for both admins and users. This means making sure that passwords are strong (there are tools to help people know just how strong their password is) and consider two step verification when a user or admin accesses your site from a new device. Also, admin passwords need to be changed frequently (every 90 days is ideal for the average company);

Also, all passwords should be immediately encrypted and stored with some sort of hashing tool – reach out to our expert developers to learn more.

♦ Usernames can also represent a security weakness: never use your actual name or other identifying information. And please, please never let people use the same thing for a username and password. That’s the kinda thing an idiot would have on his luggage!

♦ You have to tightly control logins as well. Make sure you set a limit on how many attempts can be made within a certain time frame. In fact, if your business holds exceptionally sensitive information, you may want to consider locking the account until further proof of identity can be provided (not just for a limited time).

♦ Password resets are a common trick used hackers, so must be approached with caution. For businesses that need standard security, using a password reset link (sent via email) is generally best practices. Never, never send either a password or any login information. Most people have an email account that will be substantially less secure than your website and this can be used to gain access to your website.

Whether you are looking to build the Fort Knox of websites, or you need to beef up the security on your extant website, SDI can help! Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!

The Best Apps to Use in 2017

The best Android and IOS apps to have in 2017

Note: These apps were selected based on 2016 performance and their top notch quality services being rendered to their users. They are still the best apps in IOS and android platform..

The two technology heavyweight companies in the world; Apple and Google who published their famous list of the best apps last year for mobile phones and tablets. The New Year is presented as a blank canvas that needs to be filled and a good option to do so is in New Year’s resolutions.

There is something for all tastes and colors. If you have one in mind but it’s not on our list it could be because they no longer interest us, or because there are so many apps it’s impossible to list them all. Hopefully some of these Android and iOS apps we list will help you in life or just provide you with some entertainment.

IOS Apps

Prisma

According to the company, Prisma was the best edition application of the year in 2016, surpassing a million users. In just a few days, it has managed to become incredibly popular and entered into the list of top downloads all over the world. Today, “Prisma” is estimated at tens of millions of dollars. The app allows you to edit images or videos with filters that replicate classic painting styles, turning the photos into fun art canvases. There is a little bit more to how this app operates. You take a picture or video and then choose a filter. Prisma sends the image to the server, where it handles the artificial neural network and then returns a very artistic image or video. You can publish the picture or video on social media accounts.

MSQRD

Msqrd was purchased by Facebook in March 2016. The app allows users to change their faces or real – time appearance. This app was number two on Apple’s list. This app is based on 3D face tracking technology developed by its creators, and works on both iOS and Android. Using this app is extremely easy. Once the application is open, select photo or video mode When touching the screen, you can change the exposure level. Then you have to choose the video effect. Clip length is usually up to 30 seconds and can be shared on social networks.

PlayKids

Playkids is the most downloaded app in 25 countries. It is the number one app in over 25 countries, allowing children to enjoy educational content through more than 300 cartoons and games. Little ones can dance, sing and learn the letters of the alphabet or develop their intellect through games and puzzles. In addition, it has hundreds of television programs.

Kinedu

It is a platform for parents that provides stimulation advice for babies from ages 0 to 2. The app aims to become a university that teaches parents to become the main promoters of their baby’s development. The app provides all kinds of activities to promote development for babies. There are more than 1,000 daily activities that will help in this endeavor. The app provides ideas of fun and age-based daily activities to do with the new born. Each activity is directed to a key development area, helping the baby achieve good development.

Zen

This app allows the user to reduce stress by playing fun games. Developed by a team of neuroscientists and mobile developers, Personal Zen trains the user’s mind to reduce stress and anxiety. In addition to that it also provides guided meditations through advice and sounds of nature. This is a fun ‘app’ that helps maintain physical health as well as train the mind. In a nutshell this app: reduces stress, trains the mind, and maintains physical health.

Android Apps

Face Changer

It is known as “Moviefone” and allows the user to choose from all kinds of fun effects to use on various pictures. This app is somewhat similar to MSQRD which was mentioned above. This app allows users to spend their time having fun using filters and stickers to decorate their photographs. Its success lies in its simplicity.

Lumyer

The second Android ‘app’ is Lumyer, a photo retouching application that allows you to edit selfies and videos by adding more than 100 video effects to the app in high resolution. This is a really great app to use to make a user feel like a real photo editor and make their pictures look better than ever.

Castbox

This is an app that brings together a broad catalog of podcasts and videos from around the world. The topics range from general information to sports news, music, and interviews. It’s a great way to find, sort, and store all the podcasts you really want.

Emoji Keyboard Pro

For lovers of ‘caritas’ and other drawings in text messages, this ‘app’ brings together all the emojis available on iOS and Android. It’s hard not to get addicted to using emoji’s. This app brings all the emoji’s together, giving you a wide range of choices like never before.

MSQRD

Finally, Google’s fifth place coincides with the second most popular iOS app: MSQRD, also called Masquerade. The app offers users a catalog of faces and filters to add to any photo. In it, you only have to select the photo mode, choose the face that you like and finally share it on your social networks. It’s easy and very fun to use.

How to build your own mobile app in 2017

If you have an idea for a mobile app, there is no doubt that it will work, and even generate income, provided that your mobile app will be extremely useful to the user. This may be the optimization of daily tasks or decision-user issues. It is not essential to know how to program in order to create your very own app.

The unstoppable expansion of smartphones has generated an unprecedented opportunity map for the mobile app market. To compete in this emerging market is not an easy task and requires knowledge of programming. There are different tools available to create mobile apps for different online ready to use platforms on the market without prior programming knowledge.

Ready made platforms may not always yield the results you are looking for so you need a company like SDI to help build and guide you through the process. You can contact the team at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 or email us at team@sdi.la.

Top 7 Apps and Software For Tax Season

It’s here folks: that dreaded time of year, when taxes come due and the IRS comes knocking. Just a month ago it was New Year’s and we were all happily celebrating the end of 2016. Then the next day the Tax Preparation commercials came rolling in to remind us that April 15th is right around the corner.

So we thought we’d take a look at some apps and software that can help get the best deal from their taxes. Most of these will focus on personal taxes, but we will take a look at how they can help SMBs and Self-employed individuals file taxes. And, as always, you can always reach out to our expert Developers and build your own Tax preparation app!

H&R Block vs TurboTax

Both of these are by the big name players in the field of Tax Preparation. Both deserve to be counted on this list of Top 7. Both are quite similar in features and in price (TurboTax is slightly more expensive for both personal taxes and business taxes). Both free versions offer free filing for the basic level of tax forms (1040EZ and 1040A), though H&R Block allows you to do a standard 1040 with itemized deductions.

So which is the winner? When it comes to price, H&R Block is cheaper for all tiers and the deluxe version requires no price increase for those who are self-employed. In terms of the UI and UX, they tend to be identical, though TurboTax is slightly easier. TurboTax also offers some extra features for usability, but not enough to make it stand apart.

What it really comes down to is simple. If you get stuck, do you want to be able to talk to someone in person, or are you okay with online support? Both offer pretty significant online help, but only H&R Block has thousands of physical locations across the states. So it all comes down to whether or not you want to have that face-to-face support.

At the end of the day, our verdict is that if you are filing for personal taxes, or are self-employed with a moderate income, H&R Block is probably a better fit (though there’s a hair’s difference – mostly just the cost). But if you own a SMB or make a large amount of money from self-employment, you should consider TurboTax.

ItsDeductible Donation vs MyBlock

Don’t worry folks, we’re still here with H&R Block and TurboTax. But each have other mobile apps that fall under their umbrella (outside of just the standard app). TurboTax’s ItsDeductible Donation Tracker for iOS is great businesses and other enterprises that offer significant charitable donations throughout the year. Of course, it’s only useful to those who do make large charitable donations. And it’s only on iOS – kind of a deal breaker since Android users represent over 70% of the market.

MyBlock, on the other hand is available on both platforms and is a much more robust tax app aide. It’s quite comprehensive, allowing users to estimate their refund as well as letting them upload documents and receipts in a few easy steps. You can even compare your new tax returns to previous years’. Plus it lets users set up an appointment at a nearby location.

H&R Block also has another Tax Preparation app that is even more comprehensive and feature heavy. It’s even great for more complex tax situations (like the aforementioned self-employment) So, in our estimation, H&R Block is the clear winner when it comes to mobile app support.

Expensify

This app is perfect for those who are self employed or who are small time contractors. It helps record all of the deductions SMBs have, tracks work mileage (a deductible expense) and allows you to create expense reports from Credit cards – which can be setup to occur automatically. Finally, it also allows you to create eReceipts that are already approved by the IRS.

Ask a CPA

While this won’t file your taxes for you, it does allow users to ask a whole array of tax-related questions from CPAs that are actually local to the user. This is an undeniably useful tool, especially for business owners. Filing taxes for a business is obviously much more complicated than personal taxes – and the risk of messing up is much greater.

TaxSlayer Go

Maybe you just have an exceptionally simple tax return. If you count yourself among this lucky bunch, TaxSlayer Go is the takeaway app from this list. The app is free plus, unlike others on this list, state AND federal filing is free. So a great option for those with single moderate incomes without a lot of deductions, or other tax issues (like owning property).

Your Tax App Developers

Maybe none of these apps solve the problem you have. Maybe you aren’t the only one facing that problem. Sounds like an entrepreneurial opportunity to us! Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 (or click to contact us) to start building your own app for taxes.

Data Privacy Day: 3 Ways to Protect Your Business with Better Internet Security

A few days ago my neighbor, knowing that my company is a top web, app, and software development company, came to me with a story. My neighbor was going on a trip to Hawaii and decided to use Airbnb to find a place. So my neighbor went to the site – noticed that it was listed to not wire money to any client before you are at the place – and found a great place right on the beach.

The first flag was raised when a money transfer to the owner (located in Italy – the second flag raised) was requested. My neighbor, remembering the warning on the main website and being of sound mind, decided to call Airbnb. So my neighbor called the number on the site, was connected to a technician and was told that a wire transfer was okay – but only in certain circumstance. Mainly this meant getting a confirmation number, which my neighbor had.

But, still not convinced, my neighbor decided to send an email to the tech depart and to use the Airbnb chat support on the website. Again, both the email and the tech on the chat confirmed that this was a legitimate listing. So my neighbor began to set up the wire transfer and was about to send it off when the phone rang. It was Airbnb, telling them that they had been trying to call for a while – my neighbor had been talking to someone who was not AirBnb.

In other words, they were almost scammed. This was not a simple scan. It meant getting listed on Airbnb, creating a fake, identical AirBnB website, with all of the supporting tech tools. This was a sophisticated hack and demonstrates just how woefully unprepared many of us are for this level of skillful attack. Fortunately, my neighbor ended up being fine, but they did everything right and were still almost out thousands of dollars.

The above story, while not a hack like that of the US’ Democratic National Committee (DNC), was meant to highlight the fact that hackers today use a variety of tactics. The DNC hack in and of itself (as well as that of John Podesta and his staff) shows that hackers and scammers use basic trickery (a phishing email) and actual malware.

But this is more than just a danger that your email might get hacked. Digital security may be the single biggest point of concern for businesses today. You don’t even have to be a tech company to be concerned. If you use a computer that connects to the internet – heck if you use a SmartPhone – your business’ data is at risk. More than just your company, but your own personal privacy is at risk as well.

We live in a world where we hear about a major hack constantly. The high profile hacks began with Sony a few years ago, but security has always been an issue for people and organizations. The hacks are only getting more elaborate, as the above story was meant to elucidate. But data privacy is about more than just hacks; an uncomfortable amount of data is collected on people and businesses through entirely legitimate means.

So how can you, as a business owner (and as a person with a right to privacy), better protect yourself from hackers and just everyday routine data collection? Below are some steps to outline how to improve security. No matter what steps you take protect your business, SDI can help!

But in the name of Data Privacy Day, let’s get to the good stuff.

1. Two-Step Verification and Two-Factor Authentication

a. While not the same, both Two-Step Verification and Two-factor Authentication fall under the broader security protocol known as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). For the most part, the majority of Two-Step Verification (such as Google) are also Two-Factor Authentication. This is a process that has been recommended by tech wizards for two to three years now, but most of us fail to listen. While John Podesta’s emails could have still been hacked, some form of MFA would have made it significantly more difficult. By the same token, MFA is a necessary step a business needs to take to protect itself. Ensure that your system can easily guide employees through the process of setting up MFA and make it a company policy that all employees have it enabled.

2. Differential Privacy

a. Differential Privacy was popularized by Apple (who is a leader in protecting User Privacy) about a year ago. What it basically entails is adding another layer or filter through which user data must pass. This layer obfuscates the data, further anonymizing and protecting user data. This made more news recently when Apple announced that it will be used in their AI data collecting tools (i.e. Siri).

AI thrives off data, which poses concern for those who need their data kept private. Differential Privacy still feeds AI the data it needs but does it from many anonymized sources. This security method is more directly applicable to personal users, but its growing popularity points to a market opportunity. Apps that use AI with Differential Privacy are likely to become highly sought after.

3. Cloud Security

a. One of the most hotly anticipated IPOs of 2017 is that of Silicon Valley Cloud Security company Zscaler. Cloud Security is finally turning perception around, showing the world that despite the myth, the Cloud is exceptionally secure – almost surely more secure than hardware. We don’t just mean security services delivered over the cloud; your business as a whole is more secure on the cloud than not.

The biggest threat to hardware is that anything that can be physically accessed is inherently more at risk. A report from 2012 (four whole years ago) clearly shows that while both Cloud and Hardware systems were attacked, a business that used cloud services (i.e. servers and security) were attacked at a far lower rate.

If you want to see how secure you are, or create a more secure system – or start a whole new Tech Privacy business, SDI knows what it takes. With almost 20 years of creating secure, highly encrypted code, we create digital Fort Knoxes. Give us a call at 408.802.2885/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!