All posts by Online Presence Builders

Online Habits You Should Break

Even if you consider yourself pretty internet-savvy, you might not be as careful as you could be.  So much of our lives happens online now that it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself and your data.  Here are some of the most common bad online habits and some tips on how to break them. 

  1. Using the Same Password Across Multiple Sites

This may be the most common bad online habit anywhere.  When nearly every site requires a login and password, it’s tough to remember separate credentials for everything.  This is what password managers were invented for.  Using these apps, you only have to remember one password and they do the rest for you.  If you don’t use a password manager, make sure to change all your passwords on all your sites three or four times a year.  Remember that your email and social media accounts are the most vulnerable to breaches, so make sure you always use a separate password for critical things like financial sites or medical accounts that might include your personal data.   

  1. Oversharing on Social Media

We’re so plugged in these days, it can be tempting to document every aspect of our lives.  But oversharing can leave you vulnerable.  If your profile is public, anyone can see all the pictures of you and your family, potentially learning sensitive details like where you live or work, or where your kids go to school.  Everyone loves posting vacation shots, but while they show your friends and family what a great time you’re having, they also show thieves that you’re not home.  Think twice about what you post and make sure your privacy settings are set at the right level for you.  Make use of the option to post things only to specific sets of friends or followers, so only your intended audience gets your message. 

  1. Autofill

Autofill is one of those conveniences that has made us a little too complacent.  Yes, it makes filling in forms faster and easier, but it also leaves your personal information vulnerable.  When your browser remembers everything from your name and address to your passwords and credit card numbers, anyone else who gets their hands on your computer immediately has access to all of that, too.  Just think, if your laptop or tablet were stolen, you could be at risk of having your identity stolen and your bank account drained, all for the sake of saving yourself a little effort.  Taking the time to type things in yourself is infinitely better than having to fight your way out of identity theft.

We offer affordable, reliable, high speed Internet service in your area!  Contact us today to see what we can do for you!

Stay Safe Shopping Online This Holiday Season

It seems like the holiday season has hit early this year, with many retailers running “don’t wait for Black Friday” campaigns.  With all those bargains to be had, it’s important to remember a few safety tips for holiday shopping online.

Stick to Reputable Sites

Make sure you know the site you’re ordering from.  If it looks too good to be true, or if an item is unbelievably cheap, it’s probably fake and you’re likely to receive sub-standard goods, if you receive anything at all.  Save yourself the stress by double checking the site’s address when you choose your products and then again before you check out.

Stay Away from Public WiFi

Lots of people shop from their phones or tablets these days, but public, unprotected wifi networks leave your data and financial information vulnerable to anyone else on that network.  If you shop over wifi, make sure you’re on a secure network.  Using a consumer VPN adds another layer of protection.

Look For The Lock

Only give your payment information to a secure site.  You can tell a site is secure by looking for the padlock icon next to the site’s address in the address bar.  That lock icon and “https” in front of the site name mean that your financial data is processed through encryption to keep it safe from bad actors.  

Monitor Your Accounts

Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements starting now and keep it up through the end of January.  Most credit cards will not hold you liable for any fraudulent activity, but if someone gets access to your bank account, they can drain it quickly.  So, if you see anything suspicious, report it to your bank or financial institution immediately!

Keep these tips in mind and stay safe online this holiday season!

We offer affordable, reliable, high speed internet service in your neighborhood!  To learn more, contact us today and see what we can do for you!

Securing Your Home Network

Home WiFi is now about as common as cable television once was, and even more necessary.  Now that so many devices – phones, tablets, laptops, etc. – operate wirelessly and so much of our lives takes place online, a secure home network is the bare minimum required for protecting your information.

When you set up a new router or modem/router combo, you’ll find a sticker on the back with default passwords on it.  One is the admin password, which you have to enter in order to configure the device.  The other is the default WiFi password, and if your router offers a second or “guest” network, it may show a second default password for that.

The first thing you should change is the network name.  Usually, default settings use the brand of router or the name of your ISP, which can help potential attackers identify your network.  Change this to something unique that you will recognize as your home network.

Most importantly, you MUST change the WiFi password.  Default passwords may be used across an entire model of router, so if you leave it, anyone could attach to your WiFi network.  It’s not worth the risk to you and your data to not change this password.

Strong passwords are more important than ever, even on your home network.  Almost all devices will remember your password or connect automatically, so don’t be afraid to create a really solid password.

Wondering how to create a strong password?  It’s a pretty simple formula.  You’ll need a minimum of 8 to 12 characters, including:

  • Capital letters
  • Lower case letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters (!, @, #, $, *, etc.)

This isn’t as complicated as it sounds.  One of the easiest ways to create strong passwords is to start with a phrase you’ll remember and then substitute other characters.  For example:

  • M3mb3rs0nly!
  • 0urF@m1lyN3tw*rk
  • N0tF0rY0u2!

You can also use a random password generator to create a solid password for your network.  And if you have a second WiFi network, don’t use the same password for both.

Every time you access the internet, your data and information are vulnerable.  The more secure your home network is, the safer you and your data will be.

We offer reliable, affordable internet service in your neighborhood!  Contact us today to learn what we can offer you!

Internet vs WiFi

Do you use the words “internet” and “WiFi” interchangeably?  Lots of people do, but they’re not the same thing.  WiFi allows your devices to connect to a network, and that network then connects to the internet.  Read on to learn more about how the two work together.

The term “WiFi” refers to the wireless signal that gets broadcast from your router to your laptop, tablet, phone, or other device.  This wireless radio signal takes the place of ethernet cables that you would otherwise need to connect your router and devices together to create your home or office network.  As long as your device can pick up that radio signal, and there’s an internet connection on the other side of it, your device can go through your router to connect to the internet.  However, that radio signal will still be there even if there is no internet connection on the other end.  So your device may have a great WiFi connection, meaning it’s connected to your router, and still not connect to the internet.

Your internet connection comes from your ISP, provided through a cable or a radio.  That connection usually comes into one place in your home, where it connects to your modem and/or router.  Most modems now have wireless routers built in to provide WiFi, but some connections require a separate router for wireless access.  Your modem translates information from the internet and relays it back to your device, and vice versa.

All your internet activity – browsing websites, sharing on social media, streaming music or videos, or anything else you do online – is about moving information from one computer to another.  Every time you click on a link or type in a URL, your computer sends a request to the server that houses that website.  The server pulls up the site and sends the information back to your computer so you see the site you were looking for.  Each way, the information gets filtered through your modem, allowing your computer or other device to communicate with other computers on the internet.

If your device has a strong WiFi connection but can’t access the internet, the problem is more likely to be in your internet connection.  If you’re not getting any WiFi signal, your internet connection might still be fine, but your router may have a problem.

If you’re looking for reliable, affordable internet service, we can help!  Contact us today to learn what we offer in your neighborhood.

5 Reasons to Use a Password Manager

With more and more of our lives happening online, and every new site requiring a password, it’s more tempting than ever to just use the same password across all your accounts.  But we all know that’s a bad idea.  We’ve been told repeatedly by experts and learned the hard way that using different passwords is absolutely necessary to keep your data secure.  So we have a new problem: how to keep all our passwords straight.  For that, many people turn to password managers.  Here are five reasons you should, too.

  1. No more “I forgot my password” clicks

With a password manager, you only have to remember the master password.  All your other passwords are stored in your account, so once you log in there, you have the rest of them at your fingertips.  You’ll never have to wait for that “forgot password” email again!

  •  You can use stronger passwords

The strongest passwords are long strings of random characters, which are nearly impossible to remember.  Using a password manager, you can use extremely strong randomly generated passwords, so your accounts will be even more secure.

  • They work across devices

Some of us have accounts we only ever access on our phones or tablets, and those accounts need protection, too.  Most password managers can be easily installed on a mobile device, so you can access all your accounts on all your devices without a hitch.

  • They make changing passwords a breeze

Some sites require you to change your password at regular intervals, whether it’s once a year, every six months, or every quarter.  Other sites upgrade their security features and require a one-time password change.  And, of course, if you find your account is part of a data breach, you’ll want to change your password immediately!  With a password manager, you can set up regular password changes or change a password with just a couple of clicks.

  • They’re not just for passwords

Think about all the security questions, memberships, and other easily-forgettable information you have associated with your accounts.  Password managers can take care of those, too, as well as medical information and lots of other data you need access to.

Password managers can help make your online life easier.  We can make it easier for you to get online!  Contact us today to learn about our reliable, affordable high-speed internet service.

REACH4 Emergency Preparations and Response

As Tropical Storm Barry bears down on Louisiana, we want to inform you about our network preparedness, service disruption issues, and repair response concerns should we incur heavy damages or outages. We will do our best to keep you updated on outages as they occur via Facebook or phone message on our tech support line (337-783-3436 Option 1).

Network Preparedness:

  • Backup Generators: Our two main towers in Crowley and Duson have backup generators to provide power as long as needed.
  • Battery Backup: All other towers have battery backup that will last anywhere from 18 -30 hours depending on the amount of equipment at the tower.
  • Replacement Equipment: We have backup replacement equipment for all towers should damages occur but not enough to replace ALL equipment in a worst-case scenario.

Service Disruption Issues:

  • Extended Power Outages: If power outages occur at our towers for extended periods of time, the battery system will run out and internet service will not be restored until power has been restored.
  • Antenna Alignment: Due to high sustained winds, it is possible that radio dish antennas on our tower and on your house may shift and go out of alignment. If that happens, internet service will not be restored until the antenna has been realigned. You may want to note the direction your internet antenna is facing prior to the storm so if it is shifted, you can report that to us.
  • Slower Than Normal Internet Service: Internet usage WILL BE at capacity during the storm because everyone will be home inside waiting out the storm using their devices. It will be more than PEAK times ALL DAY!
  • Lightning Damage: There is a high probability that equipment on our towers will be damaged.

Repair Response Concerns:

  • Our number one priority is to make sure ALL towers are repaired and working properly before restoring service at residences.
  • Tower repair response times will depend on favorable weather and the availability of tower crews. We won’t be the only business affected.
  • Once towers have been repaired, restoring service at your house will depend on accessibility due to possible flooding in the area.
  • Repair times will be longer than normal based on the number of customers affected. There is also a chance we may be short-handed for at time as REACH4 employees maybe flooded in, dealing with power outages themselves, or repairing their own homes.

What Are All These Cookie Notices?

Over the last year, you’ve probably noticed that more and more websites are suddenly covered with pop-ups or banners talking about cookies and consent.  These notices are annoying and delay your access to your intended website, which is the opposite of the internet’s goal of being user-friendly.  So why does every site suddenly have these warnings?

First, let’s clear up some terminology.  A cookie is a bit of information that a website stores on your computer, allowing the site to recognize your computer when you visit it again.  This makes your internet experience much smoother and more convenient by keeping you logged into certain sites or remembering your settings and preferences.  In general, cookies don’t contain any personal information like your name or email address, but some can include records of your activity on the website, which can be used for targeted advertising. 

In the European Union, they decided that was a problem.  Under the EU’s internet privacy legislation known as GDPR, everyone has the right to control their data and how it’s used.  Where cookies are concerned, that means that every website must state that they use cookies and why.  Some of these policies offer a checkbox to opt out of using cookies on that site, but most state that your use of the site constitutes consent, much like terms and conditions. 

Websites have no borders, so even though this is an EU law, it effectively applies to the entire internet.  When an EU citizen visits a website based in the U.S., the same GDPR rules apply.  That’s why just about any website you go to these days follows the same protocol.  For now, it’s the best solution we have to maintain everyone’s privacy and right to control their own data.

Our affordable, reliable, high-speed internet service is available in your neighborhood!  Contact us today to learn what we can offer you.      

Email Trackers and How to Block Them

If you’ve ever signed up for an email newsletter or added your email address to a website’s mailing list, your emails from that sender are probably being tracked. Mailing services like MailChimp and Postmark automatically gather some information from the emails they send, such as whether the message was opened, if any links were clicked, and sometimes even what device was used or what time zone it was in.
Many websites use this information to keep their email lists up to date. When they see that someone hasn’t opened any emails from their site in a few months, they remove that email address from their mailing list. Marketing departments and sales teams may also use email tracking software to see when a prospective client has read their emails so that they can send a follow-up email soon after to encourage the sale.
Email tracking software works by including a small bit of code, often in a single-pixel image, in the body of the message. There may also be code included in the clickable links within the email. That code relays all that information back to the sender so that they know who has been interacting with their emails or ignoring them.
If you’d prefer not to let your email-viewing habits get out, don’t worry! There are ways to block these email trackers. The easiest way is to go into your account settings and set your account to ask before displaying images or external content. This will block any hidden images that contain tracking code, but you can still allow images for the emails you choose on a case-by-case basis. Another way to block email tracking software is to use a browser extension, such as Ugly Email. Ugly Email is an extension for Firefox and Chrome which blocks many of the most common trackers. It marks tracked emails with an eyeball icon next to the subject line in your inbox to warn you, but it also blocks the tracking software when you open the message, so your privacy is protected.
Email trackers have been around almost as long as email newsletters, and most senders don’t use them maliciously. Trying to avoid all tracked emails is probably impossible, but you have every right to protect your privacy with all the tools available to you.
Affordable high-speed Internet service is available in your neighborhood! Contact us today to learn about the plans we can offer you.

Optimize Your Streaming Experience

Streaming video has become the primary online activity for many people.  Whether you’ve cut the cord on your cable or you just really love Netflix and cute cat videos, odds are that you stream a lot of video over your Internet connection.  How can you make sure you’re getting the best streaming experience possible?

Check your speed

Make sure you have enough speed for the service you’re using.  Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for SD, 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD.  SlingTV requires the same numbers for mobile devices, single stream to a computer or tv, and multiple devices, respectively.  YouTube’s minimums are 2.5 Mbps for 720p, 4 Mbps for 1080p, and 15 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD.  Hulu has the lowest bandwidth requirements at 1.5 Mbps for SD, 3 Mbps for 720p, 6 Mbps for 1080p, and 13 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD.

Check your settings

Adjust your playback settings to match your bandwidth speed and limit your data usage.  In a Netflix account, these settings can be set for each profile separately under My Profile.  For SlingTV, playback settings have to be set on each device by going to Settings, and then Connection.  YouTube playback can be changed on mobile devices to limit mobile data under Settings.  Hulu has not released any information about changing playback settings.

Use common sense

Remember a few things:

  1. Your stream can only be as good as your hardware. If you don’t have an HD TV, you won’t get any benefit from streaming in HD, so don’t bother using all that bandwidth and data.
  2. Using multiple devices at once changes your available bandwidth speed. If your Internet connection is 25 Mbps and 2 people are streaming on separate devices, both streams are getting about 12.5 Mbps.
  3. If your Internet connection has a data limit, even a high one, it pays to keep track of it. Most ISP’s that use data limits offer alerts by email or text at certain milestones like 50%, 75%, or 90%.

 

For affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service in your neighborhood, contact us today!

Optimize Your Home Network

We have more devices than ever and all those devices need an Internet connection.  How can you make the most of your bandwidth and home network?  Read on for a few helpful tips.

Router Placement

The best place for a router is in a central part of your home, so it can cover the most area with good strong signal.  The farther away you are, the weaker your signal will be, so try not to put your router at one end of the house.  If you have a large home, a repeater can increase the range of your router’s signal.  Also, remember that rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, which have a lot of metal pipes and insulation in the walls, can cause more signal degradation than other rooms.

Check Your Speed Wisely

It’s always a good idea to know what kind of bandwidth speed you’re getting.  To get the most accurate results, it’s best to use a third-party testing site like speedtest.net or speakeasy.net.  Make sure that no other devices are using your connection, including smart tv’s or streaming devices, and use an ethernet connection if possible.  A wireless device might show different results depending on what frequency it uses, so you might see one result on your laptop and another on your phone.

Add or Reset a Password

Just to make sure that you don’t have any freeloaders on your wireless network, it’s a good idea to keep it locked by a password and change that password periodically.  This isn’t something you have to do often, just a couple of times a year in case someone in the house gave out the password to a few friends too many.

Replace Hardware

If your router is more than about five years old and causing connection issues, it might be time to consider replacing it.  Upgrading to a newer router can give you more security as well as more wireless frequencies to choose from which can then give you better speeds on some wireless devices.

We can provide reliable, high-speed Internet access in your neighborhood.  Contact us today to learn what we can do for you!