All posts by Online Presence Builders

Time to consider a VPN

As we spend even more time at home and connecting online, we need to be even more aware of our privacy and security.  Now, more than ever, is the time to consider getting the protection of a VPN service. 

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  A private network, like your home WiFi network, is usually password protected so that only those with credentials can access the devices on that network.  A public network, on the other hand, is open to everyone.  The larger Internet, including big sites like Google, Pinterest, YouTube, Etsy, and smaller sites like blogs and local businesses, is one big public network that everyone can access.  Your ISP gives you a public address as a doorway between your network and the larger Internet.

A VPN gives you the security of a private network while you’re using the public Internet, by creating its own encryption.  This means that any data that goes through a VPN is secure, just like every site you see with “https” at the beginning of its address.  Using a VPN is the best way to get privacy on the Internet.  It will keep your personal information, banking details, passwords, and other data safe from hackers and thieves, even over their prime hunting grounds – public WiFi connections.   

Every year, there are more consumer VPN services to choose from, at all price points from free to several hundred dollars a year.  With varying feature sets, there’s sure to be one or several that suit your needs.  But remember that using a VPN doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful.  A VPN can’t protect you if you click on a sketchy email or enter your information somewhere you shouldn’t.  So stay vigilant and remember that a VPN is just an extra layer of protection.

As we spend even more time at home and connecting online, we need to be even more aware of our privacy and security.  Now, more than ever, is the time to consider getting the protection of a VPN service. 

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  A private network, like your home WiFi network, is usually password protected so that only those with credentials can access the devices on that network.  A public network, on the other hand, is open to everyone.  The larger Internet, including big sites like Google, Pinterest, YouTube, Etsy, and smaller sites like blogs and local businesses, is one big public network that everyone can access.  Your ISP gives you a public address as a doorway between your network and the larger Internet.

A VPN gives you the security of a private network while you’re using the public Internet, by creating its own encryption.  This means that any data that goes through a VPN is secure, just like every site you see with “https” at the beginning of its address.  Using a VPN is the best way to get privacy on the Internet.  It will keep your personal information, banking details, passwords, and other data safe from hackers and thieves, even over their prime hunting grounds – public WiFi connections.   

Every year, there are more consumer VPN services to choose from, at all price points from free to several hundred dollars a year.  With varying feature sets, there’s sure to be one or several that suit your needs.  But remember that using a VPN doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful.  A VPN can’t protect you if you click on a sketchy email or enter your information somewhere you shouldn’t.  So stay vigilant and remember that a VPN is just an extra layer of protection.

We offer reliable, affordable high-speed internet service in your neighborhood!  To learn about our plans and what we can offer you, contact us today!

Optimized Streaming for Work, School, and Play

Suddenly, in the spring of 2020, our entire lives went online.  Work, school, and entertainment all had to be done from home, mostly in the form of streaming media.  We’ve all made adjustments to this, but you may have found that your internet connection isn’t up to the workload.  Here are a few tips to get the best streaming experience for your whole household.

Speed matters for video quality, so check your connection’s available bandwidth.  Zoom’s group video calling requires 1 Mbps for “high quality video”, 1.5 Mbps for 720p HD, and 2.5-3.0 Mbps for sending and receiving 1080p HD video, plus another 60-80 kbps for your audio.  Steaming services like Netflix, YouTube, SlingTV, and Hulu call for bandwidth anywhere between 2.5-3.0 Mbps for SD video up to as high as 15 or even 25 Mbps for Ultra HD. 

Adjusting your playback settings can limit how much bandwidth a streaming service can use, so someone watching a movie in the next room can’t knock you off your video conference.  Netflix allows these settings to be set individually on each profile under a given account.  For SlingTV, playback settings have to be set on each device by going to Settings, and then Connection. 

And a couple more tips:

The more people using your connection, the less bandwidth each person has. If your Internet connection is 25 Mbps and 2 people are streaming on separate devices, both streams are getting about 12.5 Mbps and so on.  Keep this in mind if you’re having trouble in your Zoom meetings while your kids are in online classes or streaming their favorite shows.

Remember that HD is not always necessary.  Do your co-workers, classmates, boss, or teachers need to see your face in high definition?  Probably not.  And if you don’t have an HD tv, there’s no point to streaming the highest quality video.  Turning off HD will save you bandwidth and data and make your streaming experience smoother.

Suddenly, in the spring of 2020, our entire lives went online.  Work, school, and entertainment all had to be done from home, mostly in the form of streaming media.  We’ve all made adjustments to this, but you may have found that your internet connection isn’t up to the workload.  Here are a few tips to get the best streaming experience for your whole household.

Speed matters for video quality, so check your connection’s available bandwidth.  Zoom’s group video calling requires 1 Mbps for “high quality video”, 1.5 Mbps for 720p HD, and 2.5-3.0 Mbps for sending and receiving 1080p HD video, plus another 60-80 kbps for your audio.  Steaming services like Netflix, YouTube, SlingTV, and Hulu call for bandwidth anywhere between 2.5-3.0 Mbps for SD video up to as high as 15 or even 25 Mbps for Ultra HD. 

Adjusting your playback settings can limit how much bandwidth a streaming service can use, so someone watching a movie in the next room can’t knock you off your video conference.  Netflix allows these settings to be set individually on each profile under a given account.  For SlingTV, playback settings have to be set on each device by going to Settings, and then Connection. 

And a couple more tips:

The more people using your connection, the less bandwidth each person has. If your Internet connection is 25 Mbps and 2 people are streaming on separate devices, both streams are getting about 12.5 Mbps and so on.  Keep this in mind if you’re having trouble in your Zoom meetings while your kids are in online classes or streaming their favorite shows.

Remember that HD is not always necessary.  Do your co-workers, classmates, boss, or teachers need to see your face in high definition?  Probably not.  And if you don’t have an HD tv, there’s no point to streaming the highest quality video.  Turning off HD will save you bandwidth and data and make your streaming experience smoother.

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

Get the Most Wi-Fi Out of Your Router

Everyone wants to have the fastest internet service possible.  With a typical home using a few phones, a couple of computers, a tablet or two, and often a TV streaming device as well, it’s crucial to make the most of your home Wi-Fi network.  Naturally, the first step is getting a high quality router that can handle all the traffic your family will push through it.  But after that, there are other steps you can take to optimize your home Wi-Fi.

First, choose the best location for your router.  You want to put your router at roughly the center of your home, so as to spread the signal as far as possible to every room.  Next, when you configure your router, make sure that you use a secure password so that no unknown traffic can slow down your connection.  If you’re comfortable with customizing your configuration, you might want to enable “Quality of Service” (QoS) to help prioritize traffic.

Where you can, make use of the Ethernet ports on your router.  Any hardwired connection, like a printer or a desktop computer, will take some of the load off your Wi-Fi, leaving more wireless bandwidth for your other devices.  And don’t forget to reboot your router every so often to keep it running at its best.  Just like you reboot your devices now and then to keep them running well, unplug or power off your router occasionally, especially if your connection seems sluggish.

We now offer affordable high-speed Internet service with unlimited data!  See if you’re covered and contact us today to find the package that’s right for you! 

Best Practices for Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are the best way to keep your information safe online.  But what exactly does it mean to have a “strong password”?  A strong password is one that is not easily guessed or hacked, which takes more work than you might think.  Here are some best practices for keeping your passwords strong.

Longer passwords are stronger.  Some security professionals recommend using 16 characters if possible, but that can get hard to remember.  Generally, using 8-12 characters that contain a mix of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters is pretty strong.  Remember that each character you add to your password makes it a full order of magnitude harder to crack – that’s a great reason to add one more number or letter!

Don’t use dictionary words.  Many password-cracking tools are set up to run through lists of common words, so using a random password generator is better.  And remember that “password” doesn’t mean you have to use a single word! A good way to get length and complexity in your passwords is by using a three or four-word phrase.  You can add numbers and special characters into that and have a password that’s easily remembered but near impossible to guess.

Although it might seem a good idea, don’t base your passwords on names of family members or birthdates.  These are fairly innocuous bits of information that anyone might pick up, and that would give them a way into your accounts. 

Lastly, avoid clusters of numbers or special characters.  A grouping of four numbers suggests a year; six numbers together imply a birthday.  Anywhere numbers or symbols are grouped together makes it easier for your password to be hacked.

We offer reliable high-speed internet service in your neighborhood and our fiber coverage is always expanding!  Contact us today to learn what we can offer at your home or business.

Declutter Your Online Life

With the new year upon us, many people are looking to declutter their homes and lives.  While you’re clearing out your cabinets and donating old clothes, you might take some time to declutter your online life as well.

Take a look at your inbox.  There are probably quite a few emails you receive every week that you delete automatically.  Maybe you signed up for a mailing list in exchange for a discount on an order, or you thought you’d be really into that newsletter of crochet patterns, but over time you just forgot about them.  Why not take a few minutes to go through those and unsubscribe?  Thanks to GDPR laws from the EU, almost all online mailing lists now offer a one-click unsubscribe process, so it’s not a hassle.

Check out your online service subscriptions as well.  How many streaming services do you actually use?  Are there any you could cut?  Are you paying for the premium version of an app or service when the free version would suit you just as well?  Taking inventory of your subscriptions can save you some money after the expensive holiday season.

The new year is also a great time to go over all your privacy settings.  Check all your social media profiles to make sure your posts are visible to the people you want and not to anyone you wouldn’t want to see them.  Google has recently made it possible for you to control your data privacy with several settings that you can access through your Gmail or Google account.  Take the time to go through all of these settings, because there’s more of your data out there than you may think.

Enjoy your streamlined online life in the new year!

We offer affordable high-speed internet service in your area.  Contact us today to find out if you’re covered by our new unlimited data plans!

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.