The Answer to “What Are Cookies?”

Cookies are tasty baked goods.  Cookies are also an internet term. Since we know what the desserts are…what exactly ARE cookies on my computer?

To be simple, “cookies” are tiny files that websites you visit place on your computer.  The file holds info that allows your browser to give you a personalized web experience.

For example: EarthLink.net.  When you first visit, you see a page where you can choose to view “residential” or “business” information (see graphic below).  Once you chose “residential” information, you are brought to a page showing only residential services.

When you make this selection, EarthLink gives your computer a “cookie” so it remembers that you’re interested in residential info.  Because of the cookie, the next time you visit EarthLink.net, you’ll be taken straight to this page instead of the initial one showing the choices (see second graphic, below).

You can control these files (set your browser to accept them or deny them, and you can easily delete them…if you want to see EarthLink.net’s “Residential or Business info?” page again, for example…), but we recommend accepting them, since they are created to give you a more seamless internet experience.

 

Don’t Be Mistaken for Spam

Once a company gets its online presence (designs their site, has a web hosting plan, etc) chances are they are going to want to communicate with customers through email.

If a customer emails you with a question, the risk of your reply being considered spam is practically nonexistent.  But if you send out emails (either advertisements, helpful info, or updates), there are some steps you need to take to make sure your customers (and potential customers) don’t think of your message as spam:

1) Email From a Recognizable Address

If customers visit “www.YourCompanySiteABC.com” to buy your products, your email addresses should all be “@YourCompanySiteABC.com”.  If they’re not, many customers might not trust the emails.  If you need help getting domain email, EarthLink has you covered!

1b) Use a “White Listed” Service

If you’re going to be sending out mass emails, make sure you use a service that has a good repuatation,  (If you send out too many, your URL can be “black listed” for sending spam, just based on volume)  Constant Contact is an example of such a service.

2) Never Ask for Personal Information

Never ask a customer to reply to an email with personal information.  Have them log into your site to submit (if you have that functionality), or call you directly.

3) Only Link to Your Website

Only send people, through email links, to places on your website they have seen before.  If you try to send them somewhere else, be prepared to get a low response OR calls wondering what you’re doing.

4) Check, and Double Check, Your Spelling/Grammar

Spelling mistakes are often a sign of spam, so avoid this by double checking your text.

5) Keep it Short

The more to-the-point your email is, the more people will read it.  If you include long passages of “convincing language,” your email may come across as desperate (which is how many scammers come across).

6) Don’t Email Often

Even legitimate companies can spam (over-communicate and flood inboxes.  We recommend once to three times a month at maximum.

4 Simple Ways to Spot Spam!

Email helps us keep in touch with friends, communicate quickly with coworkers, and receive messaging from businesses we interact with (like banks, service providers, and even coupon services!).  We share our email address with people and companies we trust, and as a result, our instinct is to trust every message that hits our inbox.

But the sad reality is that, much like our physical mailing addresses, entities we do not provide our info to can send things to us…and these emails can sometimes be malicious.  These emails are called “phishing,” “scam” or simply “spam” emails, and should be reported (“mark as spam” in your email inbox, deleted/ignored, and/or reported directly to your email provider…NEVER respond).

Here are 4 simple ways to spot a scam email:

1) There are misspellings.  Unless the email is from a friend (and there are no links to click on), this message is probably a hastily-put-together spam email.

2) The email asks for personal info.  No reputable company will EVER ask you to reply to an email with personal information.  They will refer you to their legitimate website.

3) There are links in the email that aren’t what they promise to be.  If you get an email from a bank, and the link sends you to a website that LOOKS like your bank, but the URL (the web address in the navigation bar…for example, “www.google.com” is the URL for google”) is not ACTUALLY for your bank, the email is 100% spam.  Do not enter your personal info.

TIP: To be SURE, even if you do receive legitimate emails from your bank (or any entity you log into), don’t click the email links.  Instead, visit the website on your own to make sure you’re always visiting the right website.

4) There is an attachment.  Do not open attachments that aren’t (a) from people on your contact list who have told you an attachment was coming, and (b) attachments containing info that YOU requested from a business.

TIP: Make sure the customer service person sending you the attachment has an email address “example@thewebsiteyouexpect.com”

Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Plan for Success with your New Year's ResolutionsFirst, Happy New Year!

We hope you had a great celebration to ring in 2012 and we look forward to blogging with you throughout the year.

New Year’s Resolutions may be simple to make but they are frustratingly hard to keep. Whether your goal is to lose some weight, stop smoking, control your anger, create a new job resume, or learn a new skill, these common, general tips can help you increase the odds of success.

1. Be specific – know exactly what you want to do or not do
2. Be realistic – set achievable goals so you don’t give up in frustration
3. Be flexible – don’t set all-or-nothing rules that don’t give you any wiggle room
4. Make one change at a time – trying to change too many things at once can mean all fail
5. Make a plan – make sure you map out how to reach your goals
6. Set expectations – expect problems and slow progress so you’re ready for it
7. Stay positive – frame failures as temporary setbacks or challenges and keep going
8. Be active every day – try to do one thing each day to contribute to your goals
9. Get support – tell family or friends to get social support

Here are some additional tips to help you keep your resolutions from Lifehacker.com,
the Mayo Clinic, GoodHousekeeping.com, and Forbes.com. The federal government’s USA.gov also has a good collection of online resources to help you with the most popular resolutions.

If you didn’t make a resolution yet, don’t fret. I’ll give you permission to read these tips and start now. And if you still don’t feel like changing anything, you’re not alone. Here’s an article about people who are defiantly holding onto their vices, resisting change.

And here’s one more link: just in case your goal was to upgrade to a faster high-speed Internet connection.

Good luck with all your goals in 2012!