As this year is shaped with worldwide self-isolation, the tendency is to move activities online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are seeking reliable means to protect their devices from malware for work and broaden their reach of new content for leisure. Here is how to use a DNS server to increase security and work around geofences.
The conventional way to achieve geofencing is to use a VPN that offers security and privacy protection.
On the one hand, you can use a VPN to achieve privacy and allow users to override geo-restrictions, on the other.
However, there is another option that works well for individual and small-scale consumers: DNS-based solutions, such as Smart DNS and DNS Firewall. They offer more targeted solutions for the problems we face in our daily activities at a lower price. This distinguishes them from comprehensive enterprise tools that protect extensive business networks.
What is DNS?
Generally speaking, the Domain Name System, or DNS, is the way that domain names are located and translated into IP addresses. You can compare DNS to a phone book where every domain name is mapped to a specified IP address.
When we surf the Internet, we use domain names, like google.com or facebook.com. However, Web browsers use Internet Protocol (IP) addresses like 220.127.116.11 to access the website. What DNS does is matching these addresses. When you type an URL in a Web browser, it sends a request to a dedicated DNS server that returns a corresponding IP address. The web browser can then use it to access the website. Without such a system, we’d have to memorize all IP addresses.
At the same time, DNS is much more than just a directory. You also can use it to bypass geoblocking and enhance security while surfing the web. But does this mean that DNS could replace a VPN connection?
Smart DNS and geoblocking
Probably, every Internet user has encountered a geoblocking problem. You want to watch a new episode of your favorite series on Netflix or click on a video on Youtube. But suddenly, all you can see is the error saying that the video is unavailable in your region. Such limiting access to a particular region is called “geoblocking,” and it is widely used by video-streaming sites, like BBC’s iPlayer, Netflix and ABC iView.
The underlying principle is quite simple: each device connected to the Internet has a unique IP address. IP addresses are allocated in blocks to internet service providers (ISPs) who in turn, allocate them to customers. This scheme makes IP addresses traceable to a geographic location. Thus, companies can limit access only to IP addresses from a particular region.
The way to trick geoblocking is to change your IP address — or make it so the website in question wouldn’t be able to detect it properly — so that its location would seem eligible. Smart DNS is a technology that directs a user to a proxy server to mask the IP address. Because of that, you can gain access to geo-restricted content.
How it works
DNS address assigned by your internet service provider contains info about your geo-location. Smart DNS replaces it with the address of a new Smart DNS server. A Smart DNS provider uses proxy servers in the region eligible to view the requested content. The Smart DNS server can be located anywhere in the world.
When you are connected to this server, your traffic is routed through it. Smart DNS intercepts your connection requests to the server you want to access, and carefully replaces any data in those requests that can leak your geo-location.
Modern apps run smoothly on any platform and device with an internet connection, from routers to smart TVs and video game consoles. These modern apps have a truly global network of servers unblocking the most popular video streaming platforms, including American Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now.
Smart DNS vs. VPN
At first glance, it seems that the features of SmartDNS and VPN are quite similar. Like a VPN, Smart DNS tools hide your real location. However, in contrast to a VPN, they do not change the IP address of your device. They only mask their original IP address. With a VPN, you connect to a secure local server in another country directly. You use that server’s internet connection – and its IP address – as your own to stream certain content.
Another crucial difference from a VPN is that a Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic. Without data encryption, the connection between your device and the webserver is much faster than through a VPN tunnel that masks and encrypts all traffic. Hence, the biggest advantage of SmartDNS over a VPN is the speed, as it allows streaming from popular channels in 4K Ultra HD without any lags or delays, limited only by your network speed.
For a user who is looking for a fast and straightforward way to bypass geo-restrictions without the necessity to dig into the device configuration, a Smart DNS is the best option. Since it doesn’t require any installation, it is wrapped in an intuitive and easy-to-use DNS Proxy app. The DNS proxy app shares the same DNS IP address across multiple devices; it becomes an optimal solution if you simply want to get access to a new series at your leisure time.
At the same time, you cannot use a Smart DNS to ensure security and privacy protection. If these are at stake, it’s worthwhile to sacrifice the speed of connection and choose a suitable VPN protocol.
Enhanced Protection with DNS Firewall
At first sight, it might seem that when it comes to online security, encryption, and online freedom, the winner is always the VPN. However, a VPN can only ensure your privacy. It won’t shield you from malicious websites. To stay protected against possible attacks, users need a DNS firewall, a network security solution that intercepts DNS resolution for known-malicious websites.
How it works
According to the Cisco 2020 Security report, 91% of malware uses DNS services to build cyber-attacks, which makes DNS-based malware one of the most common cyber threats. To answer the threat, a DNS Firewall was designed. This solution selectively intercepts DNS resolution for known-malicious Internet locations, such as domain names, IP addresses, and name servers. The interception can entail rewriting a DNS response to direct a web browser to a “walled garden.” Another option is to make the malicious network assets invisible and unreachable by the device.
As a result, the DNS Firewall works as a cloud barrier between a device and the internet traffic from malicious servers.
The same applies to phishing websites aimed at stealing the user’s confidential data that are increasingly popular during email-based attacks, ransomware, and botnet command and control sites. A DNS Firewall effectively detects and blocks all phishing links keeping the user safe online. Besides, with its quite intuitive interface, even less tech-savvy users can blacklist websites by specific categories (like gaming, gambling, or adult sites).
In certain solutions, users can block sites with pop-up windows or undesirable content by category or by a specific domain.
DNS Firewall vs. VPN
While these technologies share much in common, they do not overlap. A VPN masks the user’s identity, and the DNS Firewall blocks external threats. There is a way to ensure safe web surfing that combines online anonymity, VPN encryption and effective shielding from cyber-attacks. You can use a combination of VPN and DNS technologies as a bundle or as standalone projects.
Similar but complementary, the two technologies can bring cybersecurity to a new level. While a VPN is essential to protect your internet privacy as it provides an encrypted connection between your device and the Internet, DNS-based tools perform a range of complementary tasks, such as unblocking geo-restricted content, like a SmartDNS, or protecting you and your children from unwanted content and phishing attacks, like a DNS Firewall.
An Analogy of Types of Mobile Apps and Which is Best Suited for Your Business – ReadWrite
Apps or applications have become a part of our daily lives over the past decade. Applications are programs or software that run (usually) on smart devices and have a specific purpose.
The term “app” has become so popular that Microsoft decided to stop using the word “program” from Windows 10.
A good example of an app or app name would be a shopping app — such as Amazon. You could access it through your laptop browser and also through the dedicated app. It is the same for the New York Times, Accuweather, and at least a million more names. However, not all smart device apps have a browser-based counterpart.
If you own a business and have decided to go digital, you would want to launch an app sooner or later.
At the stage of conceptualizing, you would run across three types of mobile apps – Native, Hybrid, and Web.
This blog aims at demystifying the terms and making you acquainted with the pros and cons of each type of mobile apps.
Native, Hybrid, and Web – Three Classes of Apps
Native Mobile Apps
Native apps are designed to work with a particular operating system. The world of mobile computing is largely divided into two OS platforms Android and iOS.
A Native app designed for one of these would not work on another. Not only would it not work, but it also cannot even be installed.
If the Native app is designed for Android, it will use Java, and for iOS would use Swift and Objective C. Windows phones used C#, but that is an outdated OS.
Most of the apps that you use are Native apps. They have been built using the platform SDK (software development kit).
Native SDK is, without a doubt, the best platform for app development until now. The SDK provides necessary direction to a coder with tools, libraries, sample code, parameters, and self-use guides.
For example, Google gives the Android Studio a very capable IDE with a code editor, compiler, and debugging tools packaged into a single-window system.
Advantages of Native Apps
- Since they are designed using platform IDE, they work faster and seamlessly. This causes fewer app crashes.
- A Native app can use the hardware, compass, GPS circuitry, GPU in a more productive manner.
- A large part of the app framework is preloaded. Only the current data is fetched from the net. This also allows the app to work offline if it does not need fresh data. You can continue to listen to the currently loaded page of a meditation app such as Headspace even if you are in a subway tunnel.
- Native apps have a more natural navigation flow. This is because developers are using the same libraries in different apps. Most apps have the same layout. Developers tend not to spring a surprise in this department because if a user is uncomfortable, they will uninstall the app.
- They are able to provide better visual output and maintain aspect ratio. There are no misplaced icons or sudden changes in font size.
Disadvantages of Native Apps
- Effectively the same app has to be designed twice, once for each OS. Each following version also needs two sets of coders for simultaneous release. This is more expensive, especially for a small business.
- Native apps require visiting the official app store, finding an app through search or ratings, and downloading it. Thereafter one has to sign up and log in. This makes installation a lengthy process of 10-30 minutes, depending on network speed.
- The app development process is, to a large extent, controlled by the OS since the SDK and IDE are proprietary.
Mobile Web apps are not full-fledged applications. They are not completely installed on the OS. Rather they use a mobile browser (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and others) for several functionalities.
On the whole, a mobile app looks very similar to a Native app. It mimics a simplified menu compared to the full-fledged website that runs on a laptop and uses very few system resources.
They have grown in popularity as HTML5 has made Flash redundant. Flash was not made for mobile OS except very ancient versions such as Symbian used by Nokia back at the turn of the century.
To make it look and feel like a Native app, browser navigation is not visible, and both vertical and horizontal scrolling is enabled.
Web app development has now evolved into PWA or Progressive Web Applications. Twitter and Pinterest are the most well-known examples of Progressive Web App development.
Advantages of Web-based Apps
- They cost far less. This is the principal advantage. This is because they are being designed for browser-based usage and do not need the huge amount of coding that Native apps require. There is no need to develop a separate version for each OS.
- PWAs do not need a frequent update. This is because the update features can be added to the backend, and the browser would fetch the new version.
- PWA is SEO sensitive. Any clicks made in the app count towards user engagement. Since SEO is what makes or breaks a digital business, it is an important contribution indeed.
- PWAs are increasingly app store independent. They can be found via a simple search or even social media. Being free of the app store ecosystem gives a business owner greater independence in running subscription-based services.
- They are light on resources. PWA apps use less RAM and are popular in regions where budget smartphones are used. They also save battery. Most PWA apps can run on very little data.
- Due to the use of HTML, an app owner has greater access to manpower. There are plenty of HTML coders, but few are experienced in Swift.
Disadvantages of Web-based Apps
- They do not have an appealing look. A PWA cannot access the contact list or camera. The overall UI lacks sophistication. Unless the brand has huge name recognition, a PWA cannot be successful.
- PWA is unable to use critical features such as hardware acceleration. This makes the app quite basic, and at most, it can fetch information and display the same. But often, an app is required to do much more, render complex graphics, and even perform extensive calculations (such as video games). PWAs remain rudimentary till now.
These have tried to tap into the advantages of both Native and Web-based apps. They rely on a browser, but the app comes with browser access baked into its code.
Hybrid apps such as Uber are usually single-page app and look remarkably like their website counterparts.
Advantages of Hybrid Apps
- The reason Hybrid app development has become popular is the reduced cost of development. There is only one set of code to be written.
- At the same time, unlike a PWA, a hybrid app allows greater access to system functions such as a camera and microphone.
- Hybrid apps do not use the native SDK but allow reasonably high-level emulation.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Apps
- Hybrid apps use an embedded browser known as webview. The webview variant of the browser is not as efficient as the original browser. This affects app performance. The UI is most often bland and unexciting.
- In theory, the same Hybrid app works on both Android and iOS, but in reality, the differences between the OS and the way they allow browsers to run shows through. To make the app smooth on both these platforms require an investment that is comparable to Native apps.
How to Select?
This would depend on a number of parameters – cost, purpose, time to market, manpower availability, and necessary scalability.
If you are running a small business, it makes sense to go for a PWA app. Your upfront costs are less, and you could get an initial response of the market to your idea and find what needs to be fixed. Thus a PWA can be used as a prototype for full-fledged Native app development.
App development is complex, and you would need to perform a SWOT analysis to find which app type offers you the best bang for your buck.
Will Startup Culture Get Stronger or Weaker From Here? – ReadWrite
For the past couple of decades, the United States and countries around the world have felt something akin to startup fever. Millions of young and inexperienced entrepreneurs are excited at the prospect of starting an innovative new business of their own. Millions of savvy and new investors are eager to cash in on the next Google or Apple. And culturally, we’re all fascinated to hear stories about underdogs that become tech unicorns and innovative geniuses who come up with world-changing ideas.
This startup culture has led to ingenious developments, widespread economic growth, and accessible new technologies for millions of other businesses. But what are the future prospects of this trend? Will startup culture grow even stronger from here? Or are we in a bubble that’s about to burst?
Factors for Startup Culture
Let’s start by looking at the factors responsible for the development of this hot startup culture.
- Explosive potential. One of the obvious points of interest here is the potential for explosive growth that each startup offers. Today’s tech giants, which have become household names worth billions, or even a trillion dollars, started in a garage with just a handful of people. Investors are thrilled at the idea of buying shares of a tech startup for $5,000 and turning that into $500,000 in less than a decade. This doesn’t happen often, but it happens enough that people are hungry to find promising young startups and watch them grow.
- Underdog stories. We all love underdog stories, and many startups embody this idea. An entrepreneur with a cool idea and a few thousand dollars changes the world with their creative new app and ends up becoming a multi-millionaire. It’s a great story, and one we’ve seen unfold many times over. It makes us more likely to support people trying to achieve this dream and makes us think about trying to achieve it for ourselves.
- Accessibility. It’s hard to argue that it’s “easy” to launch a tech startup, but it’s certainly a more accessible opportunity for entrepreneurs than they’ve had in the past. This is especially true now that remote work is becoming more popular, and tech companies don’t have to invest much money into real estate or infrastructure. Anyone with a promising idea has the potential to create a startup all of their own – and even if they don’t, they can fantasize about the possibilities. This draws us further into the admiration of startups and entrepreneurs.
- Novel technologies. Our culture loves novel technologies and it’s easy to see why. When a fancy new app allows you to save an hour a day on manual tasks, or when you can share memes with your friends in some completely innovative way, it improves your quality of life. On a less sexy level, new technologies also improve workplace efficiency, helping countless entrepreneurs in other industries create more jobs and increase productivity. We love to see new businesses bring these technologies to light.
- Freedom and flexibility. Startups are representative of freedom in some ways. These companies spring forth from the imaginations of people who want to change the world – and often want to create their own work cultures and environments. Most people highly value flexibility and autonomy, and startups embody this.
- Challenging the status quo. We can also see startups as challenging the status quo. New startups often introduce agility into stagnant industries, forcing long-established juggernauts to change or become obsolete. This novelty breathes new life into the market and helps us see things in a new light.
Is There Any Pushback?
So are there any factors working against the propagation of startup culture?
The answer is a resounding “yes.”
- Anti-monopolistic and anti-capitalistic sentiments. We’re beginning to distrust tech companies and be more skeptical of entrepreneurs. In recent years, there’s been some degree of backlash against powerful companies, wealthy individuals, and industries dominated by a handful of superstars – even if those superstars created the entire industry from scratch. Anti-monopolistic and anti-capitalistic sentiments put a damper on the thrill of tech startups for many.
- CEO distrust. We’re also seeing a wave of distrust surrounding major tech corporations – and by extension, nimble tech startups. Platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have been susceptible to misinformation from fake news and nefarious sources. Many social media users are increasingly concerned with privacy. And millions of consumers look at new “free” platforms with skepticism, knowing that nothing is truly free. This hasn’t deterred any new startups from emerging yet, but if this trend accelerates, it could create a more hostile environment.
- Economic valuation issues. Investors are excited about new tech startups, but they might be a little too excited. Over the past decade, we’ve seen crazy new heights in the stock prices of promising tech companies. Price to earning (PE) ratios have skyrocketed, and many investors fear the forthcoming consequences of a practical economic bubble.
- Funding accessibility. Venture capitalists and angel investors are more than willing to stake their money on new startups – but not just any startup. Over time, investor funds have been concentrated more heavily into only the most encouraging ideas. This is a logical and understandable move, but it’s made it harder to enter into the space.
- Employment issues. Solid leadership can make any work environment tolerable, but many employees are reluctant to work for a young tech startup. Startups typically offer low pay (due to limited funding), while maintaining a very demanding work culture, and being relatively unstable. This makes it hard for new startups to create new jobs and attract new employees.
- Failure rates. We tend to glamorize the most successful startups that have arisen in the tech industry, but the failures are much less visible. The truth is, the majority of startups fail within just a few years of being started. Many of those entrepreneurs go on to start other businesses, eventually finding success, but the high rate of failure may eventually become more visible – and develop into a turnoff that weakens the influence of startup culture.
- Other types of businesses. Startup entrepreneurship is economically powerful, but it’s not the only way to pursue business management or entrepreneurship. There are plenty of other available routes, including buying an existing business, flipping businesses, starting a franchise and other options. We work with dozens of marketing business owners who simply white label our link building services, reselling them to their own business owner clients. It’s a hands-off approach with a great ROI for those with existing connections.
The Case for Stronger Startup Culture
So is it possible that startup culture could continue growing stronger in the coming years?
Most of the factors leading to the development and growth of startup culture are still here – and are in no danger of weakening anytime soon. New technologies are still exciting to the masses, investors are still thrilled at the idea of making money, and there’s no shortage of great ideas still to come. Ballooning stock prices tell us there’s no startup fatigue setting in, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made startup entrepreneurship more attractive (due to remote work opportunities and limited potential for other types of businesses).
The Case for Weaker Startup Culture
That said, we could be in store for a reversal of momentum. Anti-monopolistic, anti-capitalistic, and privacy-conscious voices are seemingly growing stronger, pushing for stricter regulations and the dismantling of economic structures that currently support tech startups. If the entrepreneurial landscape becomes more hostile to up-and-coming young business owners, we may see lower rates of new business creation. Still, it would likely take many years, if not decades, for our collective fascination with startups to fade away.
No matter how you look at it, the strong startup culture in the United States seems poised to stay. There are threats that stand in the way of its utter domination, and there’s always the possibility of a mini-economic crash fueled by overinflated stock prices, but the fundamental factors that support our love of startups remain strong. It’s going to remain a good time to start a tech business at least for the foreseeable future.
How an Intranet Will Consolidate Multiple Disparate Software Applications – ReadWrite
The average employee uses between 10 and 20 individual software applications throughout the course of their day. This makes sense considering modern businesses run on software. However, using too many individual applications stifles productivity by wasting time, which subsequently wastes payroll dollars. For instance, employees use separate applications for the following tasks:
- Time tracking
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Email marketing
- Shopping carts
- Direct messaging with team members
- Video conferencing
- Document storage
- Client communication
- Knowledge base
- People directory
- Document collaboration
- Scheduled appointments
- And more
When teams are required to use all of these applications separately, productivity suffers. Using applications that combine multiple features will strengthen productivity, especially for remote teams.
Increase productivity by using fewer applications
Using fewer applications will increase productivity, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop using the features you need. The ideal solution is to find software applications that provide multiple functions. For example, many popular CRM software applications provide email marketing, sales process management, a shopping cart system, and more.
Similarly, there are company intranet solutions that combine communications needs. One of those solutions is Happeo. Happeo is an internal collaboration platform that allows teams to work productively in a secure environment. The platform combines many functions like document storage, a knowledge base, a people directory, announcements, and document collaboration.
Many useful features not native to Happeo can be plugged into the network using integrations. For example, Happeo integrates with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), which gives teams access to Google Workspace features from within the intranet, eliminating the time required to switch between applications to perform tasks.
If you haven’t implemented a company intranet like Happeo, you’re missing out on a massive increase in team productivity.
How does an intranet increase team productivity?
An intranet increases team productivity by improving communication and engagement, maintaining mobility for your remote workers, and supporting better collaboration. In other words, an intranet mitigates the challenges that halt productivity, especially for remote workers.
The most significant impact comes from the reduction of applications used throughout the day. For instance, when a team member has to switch from one application to another, it could take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on where the application is located and what steps are required to log in. If multi-factor authentication is required, it could take up to five minutes.
A few minutes here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal, but those minutes add up quickly. If a team member uses ten separate applications that take one minute to switch between, and they use each application twice per day, that’s twenty minutes wasted just switching between applications. That adds up to 3.33 hours per pay period per employee. For a team of 15 employees, that’s 50 hours per pay period wasted.
What are the benefits of increased productivity?
Aside from the obvious increase in ROI, productive teams offer many benefits to their company, company clients, end users, and other team members.
Productive teams make their companies look good
Productive teams get results that get companies noticed. Companies that build a positive, in-demand reputation based on their high-quality work are seen as leaders in their industry.
In the corporate world, many companies are on strict client deadlines that aren’t always realistic, but productive teams get pretty close to the goal. On the other hand, unproductive teams won’t be anywhere near the goal when the deadline hits, and they usually have to do plenty of apologizing to their clients. This drastically reduces the client’s potential to recommend that company to their colleagues and friends.
Productive teams create and manage expectations realistically. They can estimate the time it will take to complete a project, including accounting for inevitable breakdowns. This means they’ll have an easier time meeting client expectations because a productive team will set those expectations correctly from the start.
Productive teams make end users happy
Productive teams tend to produce better quality work, which makes end users happy. For example, end users don’t want to start using a new software application only to find a bunch of bugs that should have been taken care of prior to release.
Part of what makes a team productive is a lack of unnecessary back-and-forth to solve problems. Productivity stems from efficiency, and efficient teams handle issues as they arise to full completion.
When a team completes a project designed to be used by end users beyond the client, there’s no room for sloppy mistakes. The client will be held accountable by their end users for anything that goes wrong even though it’s not the client’s fault.
Only a productive team can produce a project that will make end users happy.
Productive teams create happy clients
Productive teams get their work completed on time and in full to deliver stellar projects to clients. When clients are impressed with high level work that gets delivered on time, they’re happy.
Happy clients matter because they are likely to order more work and refer your products and services to others.
An intranet will reduce your operating costs
How many different software applications are you paying a monthly fee to use? Considering most popular software applications are subscription-based, you’re likely using at least five—and that’s a conservative estimate. If access to each software application costs $20 to $100 per month, that’s $100 to $500 per month (or more if you use more apps) that you may not need to spend.
Using an intranet can help you combine many of the software fees you’re paying unnecessarily to separate entities. Your teams will need time to adapt to new software, but once they get going, they’ll find it easier to use an intranet for everything.
Don’t let the subscription model drain your software budget
Every company wants the best software for their teams, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive software on the market. You may not even need some of the features offered by some software applications.
The subscription software market is big. Digitalist Magazine projected that by 2022, 53% of all software sales will come from subscriptions. For most companies, there’s no way around buying subscription software. While an intranet will combine many disparate software applications for you, it won’t replace every subscription software you need. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your current applications to see if you have overlap with your intranet and if not, start looking for a cheaper option.
Don’t drain your budget by thinking you need to buy a subscription to every popular application on the market. There are other options, even some that don’t require a monthly fee. It’s hard to find, but there are software developers who sell their applications for a one-time fee.
However, when it comes to getting a cloud-based company intranet, you’ll probably need to pay a monthly subscription fee. Although, you’ll be saving money by condensing the number of applications you use, so it’s worth every penny.
Company intranets are the future of productivity
Corporations have been using intranets for decades to provide teams with information, files, training materials, and ways to communicate. Until recent years, intranets were largely hosted on-premises on the same server that ran the company network.
Although many companies still utilize on-premises servers to manage private, secure networks, cloud-based intranets are the future. The enterprise collaboration market is expected to grow from $31 billion (2019) to $48.1 billion by 2024.
If you haven’t implemented an intranet for your teams, it’s time. Businesses are rapidly moving to a remote team structure, and an intranet is the best way to keep remote teams connected and productive.