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How To Ensure That Your Website Nagivation Will Bring Visitors Back To Your Site

You would think that easy navigation would be a part of website design 101 for any program, curricula or book that teaches the art and craft of designing a web site. Of course, you would also think that by the now the National League would have learned that the single most boring thing to watch in American sports is a pitcher flailing away at a fastball. Making your website easy for visitors to navigate may well be the single most important element that is most often overlooked by website designer. Think of how many websites you have visited that looked like it contained incredibly useful information, but that you navigated away from because you simply could not figure out how to get to the information you wanted.

Style over substance is the key application to media today. From the films of Quentin Tarantino (whose style I absolutely love, by the way) to the lineup of reality TV shows, substance not only takes a back seat, but can often be seen in the rearview mirror running hopelessly after the car that has taken off. When it comes to website navigation there is just one important word to remember: utility. And there is one important phrase to remember: utility over style. Website navigation is not about fancy hovering links or photos that change from one image to another. Website navigation is about telling visitors how to get from Point A to Point B. Simple as that.

If you opened a 500 self-contained encyclopedia, you would expect to find simple table of contents that tells you on which page you can find information about the history of silent movies and on which page you can find information about the history of teak wood as outdoor furniture. What would happen if you were to open that book and find the equivalent of the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that contained all the information that the table of contents would offer, but in such a way that you can’t even begin to figure out? You’d probably put that encyclopedia back on the store shelf and look for another encyclopedia. And even if that second offering contained less useful information but was organized in a way where finding the information you wanted was much easier, you’d probably choose to purchase the second alternative.

A website is really just a book. Yes, it can contain movies and sound and interactive experiences, but as far as organization goes, there is almost no difference between a website and a book. You need to offer visitors a recognizable alternative to a table of contents. This does not mean that you can’t offer some options. Web novices and others enjoy website navigation that is nothing more than a list of essential links to guiding their way around your site. More experienced users might enjoy the creativity of a floating their cursor over an image and discovering it is actually a secret passageway to specific information. By giving visitors several different options of navigating their way through your web site, you ensure the potential of making those of different levels of expertise stick around.

It is also important to remember that not every visitor to your website arrives on the front page. A website is different from a book in that you want to make the table of contents available on each and every page. Doing this inside a book is a practical impossibility, but not so much when it comes to websites. Each page should let the visitor know exactly where they are while also providing a reference point to where they want to go.

Another key point is making your website navigation consistent throughout. While you may worry about boring visitors to the point where each section of your page has a different design, you should worry more about confusing visitors. Repetition is far less sinful than losing your website visitor so don’t be afraid of conformity. When a web surfer knows exactly where on the page they need to go to get to your home page, to get back to a previous page, to go to page of links associated with the topic at hand and so on, they culture an environment of comfort. You want your website guests to be comfortable enough that they come back often because you offer what similar sites don’t: utter ease of use.

Conformity is also a good idea when it comes to using navigational conventions. That means offering visitors things like a Contact page, About page, E-mail link, search boxes, FAQ and the like. You should also protect yourself against the vagaries of your own boredom. It can become almost an obsessive disorder to constantly tinker with your web site. Choose a design style and leave it alone. Choose a color scheme and leave it alone. Choose a navigational style and LEAVE IT ALONE.

How To Blend Images Into Your Banner Or Logo With Photoshop

If you’re a small business or startup, getting your logo designed and ready for publication will require some creativity. A great place to start is to browse art photography books, catalogs and magazines for ideas, and having a sense of the color palette you want will help you pull it all together. Photoshop is a great program for designing and creating your company logo, banner, or signature; you can start by using stock images and scenes as ‘pieces’ for a background on your signature. Here are the steps involved in creating your design with Photoshop:

Step 1: Set up your Photoshop canvas and background color

You’ll want to start by choosing a central stock image–a photo, picture, or even clipart that will be the focus of your layout-and choose a color palette that works with it. Fill out the background with a color that matches, and apply the spatter filter to the image. You can do this by selecting ‘brush strokes’ from the filter menu, and then selecting the spattering tool. Set the spatter layer to difference, and change the opacity to 90%. It’s a good idea to use the eraser and remove any additional space you don’t need.

Step 2: Insert the stock image onto the Photoshop rendering

Erase as much of the background you can around the stock image after placing it in the chosen location. This creates your image rendering.

Step 3: Fill the Photoshop canvas to create dimension

Choose a color 2-3 shades darker then the original color and fill the entire canvas area with your selection. The trick to making this look as natural and even as posble is to fill a layer with color, erase, then repeat with different shades to create different dimensions.

Step 4: Add depth to the image

Create a new layer then select ‘apply image’ from the Image menu. Add another spatter filter and set this to 75%. You’ll be ‘smudging’ the stock image with the new image and can get pretty close to the outline of your stock photo as you do this. This will create some depth and blend your stock photo in with the background colors. Use the erase tool as needed, and start adding black to new layers and blend with the spatter brush.

Step 5: Create a lighting effect around your stock image

This will help provide a strong visual attractiveness to your image, and is easiest with a medium rounded brush around your rendering. Use complementary colors to your logo and set the layer to overlay . Lower the opacity to about 65% to provide some contrast.

Step 6: Import your logo

If your logo is already in image format, place it within your Photoshop canvas. Use the splatter brushing with the soft light technique to blend it better. Use the blur tool from the filter menu to create an even stronger blending effect (1-2px should work well).

Step 7: Add more images

You may want to apply another stock image or photo to the banner, and all you need to do for this is add another layer and set the opacity to 85%. Choose a fill level of 35% and start brushing; this will help make everything else much darker and add some depth. Whenever you make a new layer, make use of the smudge tool with a brush and set the layer to Soft Light; the opacity should be set to about 50% for this one

Step 8: Create emphasis for your main image.

Move the layer you just created around your main photo render to create a more blended effect. You can add more focus to specific areas of the image by using a large gray or off-white brush and setting the blend to ‘linear dodge’

Step 9: Add a border

Add a border by changing the lighting settings, or simply painting one in. Do some final touchups to the main image as needed.

Congratulations, you’ve just created your first stylish banner in Photoshop!

Gran Turismo the Behemoth in Racing

Gran Turismo 5 is, in my opinion, the best racing game to date. I have been a fan of the GT series since Gran Turismo 2. While there are some games in the GT series that were not my favorites (cough, cough, A-Spec). This 5th game seems to get the mix just right. With online multiplayer and a familiar base to the game its hard to go wrong.

Of course the core of the game is the buying of cars. Not only do you get awarded with cars for the normal winning of series style races, but there are multiple sources for your car purchases.

Instead of going shopping for cars only at the dealers, you now need to have a look around. There is a used dealership with a great rotation of cars, as well as an online car dealership, all offering older and more unique cars than those in the general dealership. Many of times you can find a car that not only meets your needs in the used dealers, but you can find one that beats out the stock dealer cars. The used car dealer or online dealer offer the older cars as well. Those older cars from the past generations of Gran Turismo, this is what makes the used dealers so powerful. No where else can you find some of the throw back cars that just simply tore up tracks.

The crown jewel to the GT series is one that is rather unseen. The physics engine in game is one that makes even the small changes such as tire tread and composition a large factor in the cars control. The sheer customization of parts, enhancements and power tweaks blows the mind. By modifying your transmission, and other parts, you can tune your car for a high top end for those straight races, or tune it down for cornering on those really pesky curvaceous tracks. The one part of the physics engine that has always been lacking in the Gran Turismo series is the damage of the cars. I’m not sure if it is simply because the physics engine is already pushed to its limit or what, but the inclusion of damage to cars when you hit walls or other cars is the one single thing that would make the whole racing experience more real. As it stands if you have a fast enough car and track the path of the computer racers there is a common tactic in taking corners and giving you a boost that, with decent driving, usually can never be lost. When approaching a curve if you only brake about 50%, and with good timing, t-bone the lead car or even the 2nd car it slows you to a turnable speed, pushes the t-boned car off track and stalls almost all of the cars behind the targeted car. While this is a risky move and one that can land you yourself in a wall, because of timing, or even the general physics of the following cars, the high risk, high return makes it at least a powerful play on a track where a driver’s skill just is not up to snuff. Having car damage would halt this behavior, making players focus on the actual skill of driving rather than slipping by on dirty tricks. With the high end physics that the GT series boasts having these kind of dynamics different on all the cars or at least different on the types of cars based on weight and body, I think would be trivial.

While the soundtrack is a good one, I find it lacking in music that really gets me n a race mood. Thankfully there is now the ability to use music straight off of your PS3. It may simply be my nostalgia but Gran Turismo 2 had the best stock soundtrack. I will admit that there is a ton of music in GT5, problem is that a good deal of it is classical or “menu Music”.

If you are a fan of the Gran Turismo series make sure to pick this one up. If you just happen to be a fan of racing games or you want to try one, start here. It will not disappoint. Strong racing, focused on tracks and cars. No police chasing you, no stunt cameras, no fictional jumps or car tricks. Pure racing that the GT series does and does well. No need to change that.

Gaming Forum Signature in Photoshop

If you’re a gamer, you know how much ungodly amounts of time is spent in developing a single character. It’s only right that you’d want to show your character off in your favorite gaming forum, and it’s only fair that your gaming signature should look unique. We’ve all seen the same sig over and over, and want something different, right?
This is a pretty easy gaming forum signature created purely in Photoshop, but it does take several steps to make. Take your time with it – we won’t be using any pre-defined styles, so each step is laid out and fully customizable by you. You’ll need a copy of Photoshop version 7 or higher (or a copy of another graphics editor like GIMP that can handle layers); this tutorial is written using CS3 Extended, so some of the tools discussed might be located in different places if you’re using another version, but they’re all there..

Let’s jump right in.

Gaming Forum Sig

1. New Canvas 

Before you create a canvas (File, New), make sure to check the rules of the forum you visit and see if anything has been stated about signature size. Some forums really don’t care what size your signature is, as long as you host it yourself. Other forums want a specifically sized signature with no deviations up or down. Starting out with the right size canvas will save you a ton of time and frustration.

In my case, I can use any size I want (yay for kind forum admins!) so I’ll be creating a canvas that’s sized 400×150 in RGB mode with a white background.

2. Background Image 

Everything in this signature is going to work off the “interface” look of the background image. So let’s create that first. Make a new layer (Layer, New, Layer) and then select your polygonal lasso tool. Then, set your foreground color to #e8e8e8 and your background color to #d1d1d1.

Now, use your polygonal lasso tool to draw a shape like the one in Illustration 01. It should nearly fill your canvas, but not completely (you need room for the little “extras” we’re going to make). Fill the selection with your foreground color.

Next, we’re going to make this look more like metal. Go into your layer styles (Layer, Styles) and choose “Stroke”. Set the color to #5a5a5a and the size to 1 pixel. Then, locate the “Gradient Overlay” tab in the layer styles window. Click it, and set the gradient to your foreground/background color, the style to reflected, and the scale to 105. Finally, click the “Inner Glow” tab. In here, set the color to white and the size to 3 pixels. Click OK.

The last step in creating our background image is to create a few “dividers” that define where the elements of our signature will end up. Set your foreground color to #5a5a5a and add in the dividers as shown in Illustration 01 (use your single row and single column marquee tools to create them). Then, duplicate all your lines, move them 1 pixel down or to the right (use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move 1 pixel at a time) and go back to your layer styles, applying a white color overlay to each of the duplicated lines.

3. Gel Bar 

This is a really quick step, but ends up making the whole thing look so much nicer. First, create a new layer that’s behind everything except your white background. Then, make a rectangle that stretches along behind and below the interface, as shown in Illustration 02. I’ve also clipped off a corner of the bar using my polygonal lasso tool just because I liked it better that way.

Now, you’ll need to decide what color you want your bar to be. A bright color is best – bright blue, bright red, hot pink, etc. Then, set your foreground color to a light version of that, and your background color to a darker version of it. If you have the shot of your character that you want to use all ready to go, try choosing colors already present in that shot.

Next, go into your layer styles and place a Gradient Overlay. Change the gradient to your foreground/background colors, but leave all the other settings alone. Then, click on the Inner Shadow tab. Set the size to about 21 pixels and leave the rest of the settings untouched. Finally, go into the “Satin” tab and set the color to white. Click OK.

Your gaming signature should now look, more or less, like mine in Illustration 02.

4. Last Touches 

All that’s left is to type your text and add a shot of your gaming character to the signature. If your forum has a background that isn’t white, you might want to consider changing the background of your signature to match it – it just looks better. Other than that, save it for the web and you’re set to go! Just make sure that you save a copy of your sig as a .psd so that you can make changes easily any time that you need to.

Do Our Pets Feel The Stress Of The Holidays?

Special occasions and holidays tend to be extremely stressful for all of us . . . and, believe it or not, can affect our pets as well. During the holidays there are so many new things such as candles, plants, decorations, wreaths, presents, people, food, noise, music and more. All the hustle and bustle stresses us out tremendously and our pets have a way of sensing our stress, which puts a strain on them as well.

Our pets have to endure a constant stream of company throughout the season. Many pets love all this joy and adoration while others feel more anxious, such as cats and shy dogs. Their eating habits could change. They may feel too nervous to eat their regular meals or with all the special foods available for the holidays, may be apt to find and/or sneak treats they should not have. Guests in the home might give them treats and with the extra foods their system is not used to, the pets could get sick with vomit and diarrhea.

We spend much time preparing for the holidays, shopping, cooking and decorating without much time spent for our pets. The lack of exercise suddenly puts a strain on your dog and his normal activity level. Your pets are also not used to all the strange objects going up in your home, the décor, tree, wreath, plants, candles and more unfamiliar accessories, deserving of his/her curiosity . . . things that can be hazardous to our pets, without proper planning.

Situations of constant stress and emotions trying to get everything done can reflect on the pet as well. Speaking from experience, we seem to “flair up” verbally when things are just not working out right and even though not directed at our pets, it does affect them and their feelings.

If only holidays did not have to be so traumatic for us as well as our pets. We can make a conscientious effort to get things running more smoothly. The best thing you can do for your pets is to keep as close to the regular routine as possible. Keep the usual feeding times and amounts, be careful of any unwarranted treats, inform guests not to give anything to your pets for health reasons, maintain the usual exercise pattern you have always done and keep life as normal as possible.

During a house full of guests, allow a retreat space and/or room for your pet to escape to in search of peace and quiet. Even though your pets may love all the special attention from the crowd in your home, they also appreciate some solitude as well.

Above all, be knowledgeable about the dangers lurking during the holiday season and keep things out of reach. Holidays should be happy and enjoyable for all and sometimes takes a little effort on all concerned to make it the best for the whole family.

Basic Tips For Good Website Design

Your website is the virtual equivalent of your business or store. It is where potential customers come to see if they are going to do business with you. The design of your website can either help make them comfortable with you or it can drive them away to your competition. There are a few very simple and important methods to designing your website so your potential customers will feel confident to do their business with you.

1] The first impression a new visitor has of your site is critical. Do not make the mistake of filling this essential initial view with a fancy but uninformative gateway page. It should not be a further door that has to be opened. Simply your business name and a further link to click in order to get to the information about your business is more likely to have them look elsewhere instead. Make sure the visitor’s first visit offers them an idea of what you are about.

2] Regardless of whether your site is basically an affiliate portal or not, avoid excessive use of banner ads. Most users easily ignore these billboards along the Information Highway. They give a sense that you have nothing of real substance to offer them but the same thing a thousand other sites might have. It is best to offer real information, either a product review or an article about the products or services you offer. You can then couple this useful information with a banner if it is appropriate for leading to the place where they would purchase the item.

3] Make sure you have an easy to navigate format for your website. The ability to quickly find just what they are looking for will add to your potential sales. Avoid heavy flash-oriented menus. Not only can they detract from the quick discovery of your website contents, they will slow down the load-time for your site and provide an opportunity for the visitor to just move on to something less bulky and time-consuming.

4] Provide a way for the visitor to know where they are at within the body of your website. This can be done through clearly marked color-coding on the page or a header notice proclaiming the area of current interest. By putting up some sort of “You Are Here” sign, the visitor can more quickly know they can browse this particular section for what they are seeking. Make sure they do not have to wander around all over your site looking for their interest.

5] However tempting is can be to add an audio advertisement to your site, such practices tend to be more of an annoyance than a sales aid. The majority of people surfing for information will either be running silent for preference or playing a style of music that appeals to them. A sales pitch overriding their preferred music will automatically leave them with a negative idea of your site. The new user will be more likely to click the “Back” button than reach to turn down their speakers. If you must have audio, make sure there is a highly visible way for the sound to be muted or turned down.

A Review Of The Energy Metal Dance Pad

As a hardcore Dance Dance Revolution fan, I thought it was time to get away from slipping around on my various plastic pads and dish out some money for a metal one. I looked high and low on the web for a good quality pad. My criteria: a heavy pad that would stick to carpet or wood floors, and recessed buttons for an arcade feel.

Before buying this pad, I read around about some of the major brands including the Cobalt Flux pad and the RedOctane Afterburner. Both had great reviews! They were top quality and had recessed buttons just like I was looking for, but The Cobalt Flux pad was built with an extra plate separating the buttons that many people had reported stubbing their toes on. Since I play barefoot, I ruled it out immediately. The RedOctane After Burner, on the other hand looked sleek, but was not compatible with XBOX 360.

One problem with the plastic pads that come with the Dance Dance Revolution games is that most, if not all of them are for one gaming system. I live in a house with two DDR fans and around 5 gaming systems. You can only guess how many pads we have laying around! The Energy Metal Dance Pad comes with one of two control boxes. The one I bought is for PSX,PS2, XBOX, and PC/Mac via USB. The other, which is around $20, is for PS3, XBOX 360, and Wii/Game Cube. Having this option allowed me to get rid of all my many plastic pads that were junking up my cabinet drawers. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders!

Something else that constantly worries a college student is their budget. The listing price of the Energy pad on www.dancedancerevolution.com was $360 if you didn’t order the balance bar or any games with it. This is acceptable for a good quality pad and was of equal or lesser value than other top brands, but I suggest, if you are looking to buy a metal pad, to check ebay. Mine was under $200 brand new.

I have been dancing on this pad for a few months now and never have I missed a step due to faulty wiring. If there is one negative thing I would say about the pad, it would be about the arrows. The plastic arrow buttons bow up in the middle just the slightest bit. I noticed it right away because I was comparing it to the arcade machines. This factor has never been an issue while playing and I don’t even notice it now. It is just one of the differences between the arcade and home versions.

Now for the good part. The construction of this pad makes it ideal for the barefoot dancer. Of the nine panels, there are four arrow buttons, an “A” and “B” button, and three solid panels (middle and two back corners) to stand on. There are also no extra plates or screws to stub your toes on. The recessed arrows make the pad feel like you are playing on the arcade Dance Dance machine, and the weight of the pad holds the whole thing in place while you dance. This, of course, means acing those expert or maniac level songs with ease!

A Fun Fashion Website: Polyvore.com

Warning! If you have even the slightest interest in women’s fashion, this website may be addictive.

There is a website that may change the way you shop for clothes. Polyvore.com, is a website which allows you to create your own outfits online…and much, much more.

First, I’ll describe the outfit creation feature. Once you log on, you are given the option of creating a “set” from a multitude of tops, dresses, shoes, pants, coats, handbags…everything you would need. Let’s say you’re in a mood to put together an outfit for your high school reuinion…and you want to wear a dress. You peruse the dress section, find the perfect one from hundreds of choices and drag it to a virtual clipboard on the other side of the screen. Then you move on to the “shoes” tab, find the perfect match for your dress and drag that item to your clipboard. Continue until you have the bag, accessories and jewelry to finish your outfit. Then, if you’re feeling particularly creative, you can even choose a background to display your creation against.

By itself, this option is enough for hours of fun. Unlike “real” shopping, I’m not limited by money, or the time it takes to travel from one store to another. And even better, my inner fashion stylist is not hindered by the extra ten pounds I’m carrying or the thought that the color I’ve selected isn’t flattering. In this virtual world, I can be as creative as I want to be, and I can create outfits for a life completely different from my own: sailing in the Mediterrenean, hiking in the Rockies, or going to the latest celebrity hot spot.

However, there’s more. After you have completed your “set”, you can buy it! Just click on each item, and the website, price and item description appear. You can even get details about an item just by highlighting it.

Other things you can do with your set include exporting it to Facebook, or sending it to your friends.

Looking for inspiration? Polyvore’s Explore option shows you what other users have been up to. You can peruse the Most Recent or Most Popular categories, and can even see which shoes are getting a lot of attention.

Finally, Polyvore allows users to create groups of like minded fashion divas. You can join, or create your own, and share your sets with the other members. Groups can be divided into interests (“high heels”, “think pink”) philosophy (“we are trendsetters”) or function (“sets we wear to school”).

The selection on Polyvore is so vast and diverse that it is a fashion education in and of itself. Major designers such as Chanel are included, as well as up and coming designers. In addition, mass retailers of all price points are included. You can design an entire outfit around the sweater from Abercrombie and Fitch you got for Christmas—it’ll be there, and you can pair it with flats from Chanel, pants from Stella McCartney and a purse from Delia’s.

Job Search Tips for 50 Year Olds

Big deal! How about searching for work at age 65? I had just retired from a long-time career, and should have been all comfy with a good pension and Social Security. So, why did I have to drag my old bones out to search for a job?Good reason. My girlchild had just started as a freshman at an expensive Ivy League university, and her combined tuition and living expenses were to be at least $35,000 per for the next four years. She was … and is … a responsible person, so she managed to get a $5,000 a year scholarship and a part-time job at a boutique food shop near the university.

However, that still required dear old dad to shell out $25,000 a year.

When I retired, and after not attending my insincere retirement ceremony, my spouse and I were on our way the next day from the cold, cold East to the hot, hot desert Southwest. We found an apartment and began looking around for work. My spouse, a medical pro, quickly found a part-time job that brought in some bucks, but not nearly enough to finance our daughter’s Ivy League needs. It was up to dear old dad to do get back into the job market.So, if you were an employer and a 65-year-old guy came in looking for work, would you hire him? Forget about all the anti-age discrimination laws. Chances would seem to be somewhere between “are you kidding” and “no way.” So, here’s what I did. My career, both in civilian and Navy years, had been in advertising, public relations and sales promotion.

When we moved West, I took a quality scrapbook of my work with me. In addition to my writing record, I also made sure to include samples of publications photography and art I had created along the way.

I went on a couple of interviews, looking primarily for freelance jobs. These visits were mildly successful, and I picked up some assignments. But for the first six months of my retirement, I averaged about $50 a week. It wasn’t nearly enough, considering I was spending too much of my time pitching for work, and traveling to and from jobs.

I decided to go for a full-time job. The first interview I managed to get was with a large city community center, and luckily for me the organization’s PR director had just been abruptly kicked out. Talk about timing and dumb luck! The job was tailor made for me, and when I flashed my portfolio samples, the center’s president said, “When can you start?”

I know I caught my future boss at just the right moment when he was desperate to get someone to take over the PR and ad work load that was piling up, but I like to take some credit for my presentation, attitude and self-confidence. To any other older person seeking a new job, my advice is to prove to the interviewer and potential boss that you still have all the skills and capabilities the job requires. In fact, you can point out that statistics show most older workers are considerably more reliable and have more solid work ethics than younger ones.

Incidentally, I worked at that job for five years, then retired again and volunteered at the community center for another five years. I didn’t have to wander out to pasture until I was 75. Not incidentally, that daughter, whose Ivy League education caused me to re-enter the work force, is now a writer-producer for one of TV’s most popular programs.


2 Biggest Reasons Why Business Owners Must Use VPN Service!!!

The majority of the large corporations are making the use of VPN service because it is protecting the connection from several data breaches. If you are running a business website, then it is your responsibility to make the use of a VPN service that will keep data safe and secure from several issues. If you want to protect the system from malware and viruses, then it would be better to use a VPN service. Nothing is better than a VPN that is creating a particular layer of security.

With the help of a VPN, you will able to keep the financial transactions, email, and browsing activity private. Therefore, a user should opt for the best VPN service that will able to offer reliable security protocols to you.  A lot of companies are providing additional security features like botnet blocking and malware protection. Here are two reasons why business owners should use a VPN.

  • Protect the data of Employees

There are so many latest Torguard coupon codes are available that is offering the discount on the VPN service. If you don’t want to compromise essential data of the employees, then you should always use a VPN service. The majority of the business owners are already searching for the scalable and flexible solutions like software VPN that is continually offering so many benefits. One will able to protect the data of the company from dangerous hackers.

  • Safe browsing

Make sure that you are configuring the VPN on the router properly because it is already offering the additional layer of security on the connection. If you want to gain the appreciation and trust of the clients, then VPN would be a reliable option for you.

Additionally, if you want to secure your business from hackers, then VPN can be reliable for you.