Tips for Safe Online Practices

Tips for Safe Online Practices

It’s the season for happy holidays, yet hackers are always out there raining on the seasonal parade. To this end, we’re sharing vitally important information shared with us by our longtime collaborator, Al Steed of Advanced Computer Solutions.

            Al notes that Citrix users received an email, coming from Citrix Share File, requesting a password reset. Please know – this is a legitimate email. Aiming to be proactive, Citrix intended to minimize risks and their email notification was far from the norm. But as we know, these are not “normal” times. Protecting one’s business and giving the best service to customers is always a priority, no matter what time of year. 

            If using Spotify, be aware that a phishing email is being spread, trying to hijack login credentials. This phishing email uses a fake hyperlink. The consequent page appears identical to the legitimate one. Use caution when at any site asking for confirmation of log in credentials. You just can’t be too careful these days.

            Al also informed us that the Strategic Security Survey performed by Dark Readings states most organizations are not prepared for negligent users. These will be the main sources of date breaches, even if the person is unknowing. A negligent user is defined as those who click on anything and everything and forget to take the utmost caution on the internet.

            How to prevent negligent users, insidious hackers and harmful phishing emails? Educate your employees. KnowB4 Security Training can help greatly in this area as it teaches methods to safely surf the net and use email.

            Keep it happy for your business this holiday!

Antrim County Attractions

In our gorgeous region of northern Michigan, there are many options to make it a day to remember. From sightseeing, nature walks, small towns and art galleries to eateries and brew pubs, consider yourself lucky to have such a variety of great choices!

            In Antrim County alone, you’re sure to find many things to match your interests.

A lovely 20-minute drive north from Traverse City on US 31 brings you to the picturesque town of Elk Rapids, located on Grand Traverse Bay. Prior to entering the city center, you’ll see Twisted Fish Gallery and Sculpture Garden on the left. A true destination, plan some time to visit the moose and wander their flowering gardens and outdoor sculpture. The gallery is full original fine art, everything from jewelry, glass, pottery and metal works to representational and abstract art by local and nationally recognized artists. This is the perfect place to take care of gift-giving needs and to pick up something special for yourself.

            A short ride from Twisted Fish Gallery takes you to scenic downtown Elk Rapids, where one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants await. Bring comfortable shoes and a beach bag– you can walk along the river and falls in town to Veteran’s Memorial Park. Shoot hoops or relax and watch the kids play – this park also includes an expansive, sandy beach.
            The town’s Walk of Art Sculpture Park, part of 15-acre Day Park on South Bay Shore Dr., is not to be missed. You’ll find an easy hike through woods and dunes while experiencing 30 pieces of outdoor art.

            Foodies should check out Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen or the lakeside Riverwalk Grill and Taproom, both on nearby Ames St. in Elk Rapids.

            Venturing north of Elk Rapids you’ll begin driving along Torch Lake with its clear, crystalline waters. Pull over for views, photos and a dip.

            If you’re looking to sample some of the area’s craft beer offerings, you can’t pick a better place than Short’s in Bellaire. Located on N. Bridge St. in downtown, plan on a sampling flight to find your favorite of the many creatively-named, delicious beers. Like it sweet? Don’t miss Soft Parade or Strawberry Short’s Cake, while IPA lovers will enjoy Huma Lupa Licious with its five hop varieties. A varied menu and sodas for the kids make Short’s a family-friendly place where you can buy a six-pack to go!

            After all the activity, take some time to unwind – nature lovers will enjoy Grass River Natural Area, a nearly 1,500-acre nature preserve along the Grass River in the heart of Antrim County. There are seven miles of maintained trails and a 1.5 mile boardwalk to get you into the heart of this gem. It’s open year round, dawn to dusk.

            Finally, be sure to relax and enjoy it all. No matter what season you visit, the views are stunning, the people friendly and the memories are just around the corner, waiting to be made.


Sailing Into Fall

It occurred to me while night sailing recently that as summer glides into fall, we change our perspective to focus on the immediate needs that arrive with the new season.

            When the moon shines on the bay, we can only see the few things that are illuminated- a swatch of water and a faintly lit, shadowy shoreline. There is a similarity in transitioning to fall, in that we now need to focus on the necessary routines that must and do occur each autumn. Getting kids back to school and starting up their sports and other activities are major events. There is often a rededication to work as well, prioritizing tasks and projects that may have been postponed due to vacations and the active summer months.

            The brief and often over-scheduled summer now settles down, and many fun distractions go away. No more parades, weekend festivals or days at the beach. There may be a slight sadness or disappointment as summer slowly becomes fall. And yet, who doesn’t love being cozy in sweaters, enjoying seasonal treats like warm cider and watching the colors change?

            There is a comfort to routine- we know what we need to be doing and when. Though some may find that limiting, to others it’s a relief and freedom of its own kind. Knowing what we have to do allows for scheduling in things we want to do. This is no longer a summer free-for-all, with an abundance of choices that we often feel rushed to include. Summer feels like a short season, and when we know the weather will change, each day the sun shines is the day we need to pack in as much as possible. Right? But it tends to be a headlong rush, leaving us breathless and a bit exhausted.

            Then there’s fall…cuddling up with a good book on nights that begin earlier, turning up the heat or lighting a fire, and planning for the seasonal events of Halloween and Thanksgiving.

We get the kids back to set bedtimes, put dinner on the table at a regular hour, and resume following a favorite sitcom. There’s a lot to be said for catching our breath, and recalling great summer memories while pulling fall’s shawl in close.

            The only catch about routines is not letting them define us, and making sure to keep spontaneity alive. Shake up your routine by taking a new class­ – maybe cooking or wine tasting. How about a workshop or training you’ve been meaning to do to improve work performance or get up to speed with social media, for example? And if you didn’t get a chance to pay a visit to one of the many lakeshore towns, autumn is the perfect time to seek out fall color with a little day trip. Another great nighttime activity to embrace the seasonal shift: mousing for big brown trout on the Manistee or Pere Marquette rivers.

            Just because we’ve embraced the inevitable change of season, remember to make time for something special, like a little night sailing!

Embracing Brief and Breathless Summer

It seems that suddenly, a busy summer has descended upon us. It’s a season we long for when winter is wearing white (and wearing on our nerves), and the heat of summer days are hoped for in the blustery and mercurial spring season. So alas- summer is here!

            Despite being full of potential activities, from parades and outdoor concerts, to enjoying beaches and parks, have you ever stopped to do…nothing at all?

            In doing nothing, we can tune our senses to what exists around us in the moment. Sit on your deck, patio or in the yard and revel in the joyous colors of garden flowers and plants. Relax on a beach with your eyes closed and hear…seagulls, the laughter of children, waves breaking on the shore. Feel the breeze and savor the warmth of sun on your skin. In tuning some senses out, others come to the forefront.

            When was the last time you sat outside and simply looked around at the sights? Be transported, even for a few moments, by the sight of the breeze ruffling a tree’s leaves or the calls of circling birds.

            Doing nothing isn’t actually a counterproductive idea, it’s a life-affirming one. A deep breath can lead to a release of stress and the endless thoughts of what we “need” to do. I recently joined a friend for a session of sunrise yoga on the beach. It was a beautiful morning with not even a chill in the air due to these hot summer days. Arriving at the beach, we first enjoyed our coffee and the moment was ideal for taking in the silvery calm of the bay and gazing at the slowly coloring sky. Looking up, not a cloud was in sight, just a fresh morning blue. A family of Canada geese strolled by, with several downy-feathered babies flapping their little wings. The sweet sight of nature’s young flexing their wings brought forth amused smiles.

            Though not a regular practitioner of yoga, the prolonged stretching, holding of poses and deep breaths lend themselves to the practice of being in the moment. Calming the mind and mood can start the day off in a positive direction, centered and ready to face the activities and challenges a day can bring. My sunrise yoga experience had me focusing on: the feeling of muscles stretching; the giggles of the brave girls who took a morning dip in the water, and the coolness of the sand as I buried my feet in it. These experiences were brief in duration, yet enduring – a grounding simplicity that puts the focus on your physical body and the environment surrounding you.

            Let it fall away ­– any worrying, any re-plays of recent events or mental shuffling through the to-dos of the day ahead– even for a brief moment. It’s those moments that can then propel us to get through our work and errands, until the next time we can sit on the beach, feel the warm summer breeze on our skin and do…nothing.

            Nothing that is, but be in the moment.

Life in Bloom

          It’s finally here – spring! We waited through a winter full of varied weather, thinking it wasn’t too bad. Then came the late season, heavy snowstorms of April. Yet today, we look out upon a shimmering bay and see more sailboats each day, anchored and ready for summer sailing. Spring flowers are triumphant and glowing and cherry orchards are ready to pop out their fluffy blossoms. These gifts of nature in springtime are our rewards for living through the cold winter months.

            Great things are worth waiting for, and worth working towards. What are your challenges and aspirations? Spring is a perfect time for reevaluation and making plans for change. A change in lifestyle perhaps. Time for more biking and hiking – the weather is no excuse now! Time to throw off winter’s cozy yet anti-social coat and reach out to friends and family. Make plans for an outdoor gathering, bonfire or meet up for trivia night.

            With your business or other entrepreneurial venture, what new actions and ideas will motivate you to give your clients the best, or push your own endeavor to new levels? Now’s a great time to plan a business open house, meet the community and offer a package deal or discount for new clients. A creative, promotional ad would help support local media, whether it’s in a local paper or on the radio, as well as raise awareness of your business. Get your name out there and reinvigorate your passion for the work you do. Take a workshop or read a book in your field of expertise or interest. Or maybe it’s time to pursue a passion you’ve been putting off. Coaching a sport, pursuing art or photography, or volunteering for a cause close to your heart are all ways to jump start your life this spring.

            Whatever it may be, remember: there’s no time like the present, and time itself is a present. Happy Spring!

Freshening up for Spring

With the recent dusting of new snow, it may not feel like spring is close, yet a glance at the calendar confirms it. March trods forward through the last of winter in a steady and sure approach to spring and April showers. The inevitability of spring’s approach inspires a fresh look at everything from exercise routines and home décor to summer plans. Why not use spring as an opportunity to bring a fresh approach to your business marketing as well?


There are a few easy ways to evaluate and freshen up your business outlook. Start with your website. Your home page should convey a sense of who you are as a business. Does it? Re-read your messaging to be sure it is concise, effective and inspiring. Look at the fonts and colors. These are easy changes you can make to liven up the look of your website. Add new client work and testimonials to keep your site dynamic.


Take a look at your business logo; is it a reflection of your business personality? Minor tweaks to it by a skilled graphic designer can modernize the look and convey a “new and improved” feel.

Social Media

Do you have a social media presence? You should in this fast-paced, modern world. Remember to post regularly to remind people of your business presence. Frequency is key, with three times a week an ideal number. Keep your posts varied and interesting. They don’t all have to be business-related posts. Add a mix of links to interesting articles, photography or inspiring quotes – anything goes! Take advantage of Facebook’s scheduling feature and set up posts for a week or two. Instagram is fun if you enjoy photography, and if that is a service your business offers, it serves as your online portfolio.


Add blogs regularly to your website, and link to it through a Facebook post. Try not to be intimidated by the idea of blogging – they can be short and sweet. There are many sites online that offer ideas for blog topics. Simple observations, a funny interaction at the grocery store or commentary on a challenge presented by a client that had a positive outcome are all good ideas for a blog.

For a more literal approach to embracing spring’s newness, how about choosing a bold color and painting your home or business’s entryway or front door? Even a simple bouquet of fresh flowers each week can invigorate the feel of your home or business and keep the freshness of spring at hand. As winter diminishes and spring approaches, it’s time to reflect, renew and rejoice!

Look closely this spring for inspiration and ideas to freshen up your business approach.