Major tech companies push for legislative reform of NSA’s accessibility laws

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With the continued expansion of internet prevalence in our everyday lives, it’s becoming harder each day to escape the ever-watching eyes of “Big Brother”. “Big Brother” is an idiomatic term that refers to government surveillance powers that oversee our actions on an everyday basis, the most relevant example in this instance being the NSA.

The NSA has recently experienced a significant amount of backlash from major tech companies because of its invasive and disturbing policies for mass data collection. A year after agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of private documents, executives from nine major tech companies (AOL, Dropbox, Google, Apple, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook) sent a letter to the Senate demanding a reform of internet privacy and security laws.

Specifically, Microsoft sounded off about the changes in legislation that they would like to see, in reference to cyber-spying and data hacking. One of their main gripes was towards the security of cloud-based services, and the lack of certainty behind the protection of their documents and information. Microsoft claims that the government has “intercepted data traveling across the internet”, and “hacked links between company data centres” (www.thegaurdian.com).

Microsoft has a strong call to action, with five specific desires:

  1. Recognize that U.S. search warrants do not have jurisdiction outside of the U.S.
  2. End bulk-collection of data (phone records, email records)
  3. Commit to the ending of large scale data centre hacking
  4. Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which makes its rulings in private.
  5. Improve transparency in terms of exactly what rights the government has to information and records.

It’s no secret that the government watches over us and keeps an eye out for suspicious activity. Many people understand and accept that it is for the greater good, but a great many (me included) believe that it is a serious breach of our Constitutional rights. With the constant increase in web/cloud based technology that businesses use for records, it’s a scary thought knowing that your business’s private information is always at the fingertips of the government; with little to no control over what the government can do or take from us, how much power do the people really have? Is the internet just another way for the government to control us? How do you think the government’s aggressive interference with private information will affect businesses in the future? Reply and let us know!

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Unified Development Ordinance

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CoCard can be found in the beautiful community of Decatur, Georgia. Although our grassroots community is one of the most economically sound, and intriguing in the metropolitan Atlanta area, it still requires many improvements.

Many members of the community are either aware of, or actively involved in a community uplift project entitled the ‘Unified Development Ordinance’,.  For those who aren’t, ‘UDO’ is a collaborative citizen effort initiated due to the rapid economic and residential development of Decatur. This project has been put in place to help combat a plethora of conflicting regulations that have been in place long before community uplift began.

Read more about the Unified Development Ordinance here.

A majority of the UDO consists of cleaning and tightening Decatur’s library of existing development regulations, forming a unified document for practice.  A small portion consists of community gatherings and informational meetings, organized with the intention to reach a consensus on  regulations that are particularly hard to agree on.

These meetings discuss various issues in the community that play large roles in lifestyle, including: zoning categories for different residential demographics, sustainability for the environment and resources, storm water protocol for residents, and community character.

CoCard is an active member in the community of Decatur, and we offer our full support to all efforts looking to improve the quality of living for residents. CoCard  also provides electronic payment processing services for businesses located in Decatur and across the US, and we   believe that the well-being of the community is   a constant call to action for us. Whether you’re a business owner in Decatur looking to improve the community, or simply an entrepreneur looking for a secure electronic payment and fraud prevention service, CoCard is definitely the service for you!

Read more about CoCard here.

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How to Have Your Best Business Vacation Ever

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A recent survey done by American Express OPEN shows that small business owners are more comfortable taking summer vacations this year than any other year during the recession.

According to the survey, a reported 60% of respondents (small business owners) are planning a week-long vacation for this summer. This is a tremendous leap from last year’s record low 49%, and the highest percentage since 2006. The Small Business Monitor is crediting this increase to a rise in economic confidence on behalf of business owners, as well as in general optimism for sales.

Because so many small business owners are going on vacation this summer, it may be hard to keep the balance in the workplace. Here are a few tips to help you keep your business on track, so you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

Stop waiting for the perfect trip

For many business owners, the only reason they don’t actually take a vacation is because they don’t believe any options are convenient. Constantly looking for the perfect week in Paris, or that extended stay in Hawaii, business owners can miss simple opportunities to just get away. It doesn’t have to be fancy or extravagant, just somewhere that‘s unfamiliar and keeps your mind away from your office. A trip to the mountains can provide you solitude that promotes both productivity and relaxation. Wherever you decide to go, just go somewhere.

Plan for your return

Although you’re leaving your office for a period of time, you’re probably still thinking about everything that’s still left to be done in your absence. Instead of beating yourself up about what needs to get done, make a list of everything you want to accomplish on your return, and leave it at that. Make a few quick edits or additions to the list when an idea hits you, but other than that, make the list and leave it alone.

Sleep in

This can be a very hard concept to grasp when you actually have the time to do it. A lot of us get so caught up in the daily grind of waking up early and going to bed late, when we actually have the time to rest, it almost feels wrong. Catch up on all the sleep you’ve missed in recent weeks, and make it a point to do EVERYTHING on your own time. You spend every waking moment living on a schedule, how about you just take the day on as it comes?

Check in when YOU feel like it

Many small business owners tend to forget that the purpose of a vacation is to actually get away from work. Often times, owners will get sucked into making sure things are still on track while they’re away from the office. A true vacation means unplugging completely from work and only providing contact for emergency situations. Obviously, it’s not recommended that you abandon your staff in entirety, so putting a little time aside each day to check emails and voice messages is a good strategy. Maybe thirty minutes here or there, just don’t let staying in the loop dictate your vacation.

Bring your family

Working with your own business can have you so consumed in your office culture that you lose touch with the whole reason you’re even there; make sure to include your close friends and family on your vacation to restore balance to your life. Catch up with friends, see how your kid is feeling, give your significant other a day of attention. Don’t lose the queen trying to protect the castle.

Give your employees the reins, see who steps up

In any business, there are employees beneath the managers who have high potential to lead in the future. When you take your leave, make sure you let these people know the responsibilities and expectations you have set for them. They should be the ones that you know can keep your business moving seamlessly in your absence. Who works the fastest? Who gets the most done each day? Who understands your vision? These are important questions to ask, and the answers that you get will ultimately decide who is next in line to run your business.

Enjoy the moment

This may sound like a cut-and-dry statement, but always take time to actually appreciate your vacation. Stop and look, try some food you’ve never had before, take a lot of pictures; do everything in your power to make the trip as memorable as possible. Often times, moments of inspiration and epiphanies hit us when we are at the peak of positive thought. You may become inspired with an ingenious business idea while enjoying your time off, and who knows, it could make all the difference for your next quarter.

Get excited!

Although planning a vacation somewhere can be stressful for a multitude of reasons, that’s still not a good enough reason to dread the process. Sure, packing, booking, and the actual traveling process can be a tax, but once all of that is out of the way, you feel great! Often times, just anticipating a new adventure can be enough to get you through a tough day you’re having. Use the potential for a great, memorable experience to motivate you through your last few days of work. Having something to look forward to boosts your morale, happiness, and promotes positive thought.

 

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Meet Your Clients’ Top 10 Demands

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American Express’s Open Forum recently published an article highlighting the top 10 items your customers will expect from you this year. Given the ever-evolving world of commerce, tips like these can be helpful when you’re trying to stay ahead of the curve in terms of meeting the expectations of your valued clientele. Take a look at this list, then share your feedback with us on Facebook and on Twitter @cocardatl.

Customers Want:

1. Personalized customer service. This goes beyond a warm welcome at your brick-and-mortar storefront. Today, customers expect a virtual hello anytime they browse your website. Meet this expectation by investing in a strong Web infrastructure and customer-relationship management system that includes email marketing, like Pegasus.

2. Ability to track orders and research history. Customers want to know the status of their orders as well as their purchase and viewing history, and want the option to be reminded of it via social media. To meet this demand, invest in a process that gives your customers access to info similar  to what you share with your employees.

3. Respond quickly to tweets and Facebook messages. Customers expect to hear back in around an hour after connecting with companies on social media. Meet this demand by employing a team large enough to stay on top of social media requests.

4. Quick delivery or shipment of a product or service. Impatience is the norm, with most customers expecting a two-day delivery time. Meet this expectation by offering (and charging a premium for) fast shipping.

5. Try and buy. Thanks to companies like Warby Parker and Rent the Runway, customers want the option to try a product before they buy it. Give your customers a no-questions asked return policy that allows them to feel confident in their purchasing decision.

6. Social transparency. Customers want to know what is going on with the companies they choose to support. Keep the communication lines open and share news with your clients/customers through social media, on a blog and/or through a regular company newsletter.

7. Proactive customer service post-sale. Make clients feel valued for their patronage by updating them on payment deadlines, maintenance details and available savings after they’ve placed their order.

8. Value. People want a good deal, but they also want a quality product. Be upfront about your pricing and offer a loyalty reward program for regular customers.

9. Information available 24/7. In a non-stop world, it’s no surprise that customers are eager to access information or to contact people at your company at all hours. Even if you don’t have the staff to support such around-the-clock intel, set up a FAQ page on your website or a pre-recorded message on you phone line that answers common customer concerns at any hour.

10. Be listened to, and be heard. Face it, sometimes the customer isn’t happy. Even if there is nothing your company can do, customers expect a venue for voicing their complaints and concerns. Give them that option by supplying a responsive phone line/section of your website for voicing complaints.

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New Bitcoin Debit Cards may make cryptocurrency a universal coinage

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The Bitcoin craze that began a few years ago is yet another one of the unforeseen curveballs that the internet has thrown at us. Although this form of electronic payment may seem futuristic and innovative—and to some parties, illegitimate—there’s no denying that it has altered the landscape of peer to peer payment forever. With financial service institution “Xapo” set to launch a Bitcoin debit card this month, it brings to question what exactly the future of this cryptocurrency and other open source payments may be.

For those who are a little less tech savvy, Bitcoin is a form of digital payment used to purchase goods, services, or merely trade among consumers. Bitcoins are earned through a process called “mining”, where users connect their computer to a server to process countless other Bitcoin transactions. These transactions go to an independent Bitcoin ledger called the “block chain”.

As users gain more Bitcoins, the processing of mining becomes increasingly difficult, and block chain rewards decrease per every block mined. There are only a finite amount of Bitcoins, and this method of accumulation is only expected to last until about 21 million Bitcoins are created. By that point, the only way to make a profit off of Bitcoins will be through payment transaction fees. This could possibly explain why finding alternative ways to use and transfer Bitcoins has become a topic of interest.

According to www.coindesk.com, the Bitcoin debit card will act the same as a regular debit card, and will be usable at any location a Mastercard can be used. Zapo analyzes the user account registered to the card, and then sells the appropriate amount of Bitcoins through the Bitcoin exchange service “Bitstamp”. The merchant will receive whatever localized currency is accepted in the area, so businesses will still receive real money, not Bitcoins.

With Bitcoin value currently fluctuating near $600 USD per coin on www.bitcoinexchangerate.org, this is a huge step forward for the use of this peculiar digital currency. Now, owners and investors will have legitimate ways to spend their Bitcoins on goods and services outside of the internet. But what affect will this new service have on the market value and liquidity of Bitcoins? Will this make Bitcoin a more legitimate form of payment? Bitcoins were highly popular, largely because their fees were so much lower than those of regular credit card processors; how will this affect the price relationship, and what affect will this debit system have on other merchant payment systems? What do you think? Let us know!

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Run a non-profit? Call CoCard!

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Did you know that CoCard counts multiple nonprofits as clients? We’ve worked with nonprofits across the country, ranging from churches to museums and everything in between. We’re even a Goodwill preferred vendor! Regardless of your mission or services, CoCard is able to help by offering affordable, secure, nonprofit merchant accounts—so you can focus your time and your resources on what’s really important: your nonprofit. Gain insight from our team on what equipment and technology best suits your needs, from dial-up terminals to electronic payment gateway, and enjoy it all at a discounted nonprofit rate! Visit our website or call us at 800.317.1819 to get all of the nitty-gritty details.

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