SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Six apps and trackers to find your lost gadgets

 

app trackers

© Depositphotos So that's where you left it ...

Finding yourself out and about without your smartphone can make you feel naked. We rely on these devices so much that losing them creates a huge problem, preventing you from messaging friends for aid or mapping your way back home.

Losing any similarly essential device, like your laptop, creates an equally huge headache. To rediscover these lost gadgets, we've collected tech that finds your tech. These six apps and trackers can plot your devices on a map, force them to make audible sounds, and perform other tricks to help you reunite.

For Apple: Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac
Apple wants you to keep its devices safe, and to that end, it built a phone and tablet tracker into iOS and a laptop finder into macOS. Enable the feature on all your Apple hardware, and you'll be able to see the current location of any device on a map.

To set it up on an iPhone or iPad, open Settings and tap your Apple ID at the top. Then pick your device and select Find My iPhone (or Find My iPad) to switch on the feature. On a computer, open System Preferences and click iCloud. Then tick the Find My Mac box. During this process, Apple may prompt you to sign in with your Apple ID credentials, so make sure you have your password close to hand.

Once you've enabled the tracker, you can forget about it until you need it. If you do lose a device, grab your remaining machine(s) and open the appropriate app: Find My iPhone on a phone, Find My iPad on a tablet, or the iCloud web app in any browser window. Sign in, click the All Devices menu, and pick a device to see its location on a map. Within this app, you can also select a device and prompt it to make a sound, lock itself, or erase all its data.

The lock option is particularly useful because you can make the lost device display a custom message. For example, if you lose your iPhone, make the gadget share a message requesting its safe return and providing an email address where finders can contact you. And to prevent those finders from snooping further, locking the screen will protect your data.

For Android: Find My Device
Like Apple, Google has included a device-locating tool, called Find My Device, on Android. To enable it, open Settings and tap Security & location. Turn the feature on to start tracking your phone or tablet. Then install the Find My Device app on a backup phone or tablet.

To see where your gadget is, you have a few options. Open the app on your backup device, visit the Find My Device web portal, or just sign into your Google account and then type "where's my device?" into the search engine. As with the Apple service, you can make the lost machine play a sound (even when it's in silent mode), lock the device while its screen displays a message, or completely erase your information. Check out a map to view its last known location, battery level, and even the name of the Wi-Fi network it's currently connected to. Based on this information, you can decide whether it's gone forever or still can be retrieved.

Unfortunately, Google doesn't offer similar protections for Chromebooks — at least for the time being. So if you lose one of these Chrome OS-powered laptops, you won't be able to find it through Google. However, keep reading to learn about a third-party app that may be able to do the job.

For Samsung: Find My Mobile
Samsung owners can use the aforementioned Google tracker or Samsung's built-in Find My Mobile tool, which works very similarly. To access it, first set up a password-protected Samsung account.

Next, enable the tracker by opening Settings, tapping Lock screen and security, and choosing Find My Mobile. On this menu, make sure to toggle the Remote controls switch to On so that you can operate your phone or tablet from another device.

If your gadget goes missing, head to the Find My Mobile website and sign in with your Samsung credentials. Here, you can check out the last known location of your phone or tablet on a map. Like with the other tracker apps, you can ring your device even if it's in quiet mode, lock it so nobody else will be able to access it, and wipe it remotely if you don't think you're going to get it back.

From the same website, you can perform other useful tasks, such as unlocking a device whose PIN you've forgotten and backing up data. Just pick the relevant option from the list on the right-hand side of the site.

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5 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Will Doom Your Business

Success for modern small businesses depends on the effective use of digital marketing channels. Unfortunately, many companies have failed, despite their effort to engage their online audience.

To help your company gain the most from online opportunities, learn about the following five digital marketing mistakes and use the tips that follow to help you avoid them.

1. Lack of Planning

Before you do any marketing, you should thoroughly understand your business and its mission. Afterward, you can plan your digital marketing strategy in a way that is consistent with the other parts of your operation.

By spending time understanding your goals, you can stay focused and avoid wasting resources on unnecessary and counterproductive activities. So, before moving forward take some basic steps:

  • Identify and understand your operational environment. This includes your customers, competitors, industry, and logistics.

  • Write down what you want to accomplish via digital marketing.
  • Break down your objectives so you know what you need to do with each of your marketing channels.

As soon as you have a plan, you can start promoting your brand.

2. Irrelevant Content

Companies that lose their focus face all-but-certain doom. Avoid that mistake by sticking with your marketing plan. As part of that focus, make sure that everything you either publish or post has relevance to your business.

Both poorly defining your market and creating low-quality content can contribute to a loss of focus. You can avoid these problems by first understanding your audience and then send the right messages.

As part of your effort, remember that relevance has much to do with channel selection and timing. Even the most valuable content will fall flat if you fail to get it to the right people when they most need it.

3. Focusing on Social Media Alone

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter attract millions of daily users. For this reason, many companies make the mistake of focusing on social media and ignoring their website.

Without a website, your prospects and customers have no way to expand their knowledge of your brand and products. So, after reading your social media posts, people have nowhere else to go.

Rather than using social networks to replace your website, use them to funnel qualified traffic to your website. That way, people who want to learn more about your brand can click links that lead to your website.

4. Missing Out On Automation

Many growing companies fail to capitalize on their opportunities because the needs of customers exceed their support capabilities. Businesses in this predicament are doomed unless they embrace automation. Many never do.

When you use technology to perform repetitive tasks and distribute information, you expand the capabilities of your staff. As a result, you can control expenses while improving service. In other words, automation is a win-win option, so never ignore it.

In addition to reducing the number of manual actions required in your daily operation, automation can improve accuracy. After all, every time either you or your team manually enters data, you can make a mistake. Meanwhile, automated tools can without error repeatedly enter the same data all day, every day.

5. No Genuine Email Personalization

Email is a powerful weapon in your digital marketing arsenal, so make sure you use it properly. However, successful email marketing involves much more than sending out promotional notices.

Personalization can make a big difference with your email campaigns by tailoring your messages to individual recipients and audience segments. For starters, you should use an email tool that can insert first names into the text and mention the last products that recipients have bought.

In the end, email personalization gives you a chance to make your customer relationship data work for you. As you include more data points in your messages, you can expect to see more conversions. Additionally, every message you send should include new content.

Final Thoughts

Many companies before you have met their doom because of the above five marketing mistakes. Act now to plan your digital strategy and follow that action with relevant content and an effective website.

Furthermore, by using automation, you can boost your ability to support customers and create personalized email messages. Ultimately, these tips can lead to operational stability and long-term growth.

Author bio: Ashley Wilson is a freelance writer interested in business, marketing, and tech topics. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. Connect with Ashley via Twitter.

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Cloud Computing Security: How the Cloud keeps your Data Secure

It's your critical business data, secure It.

The most important part of a computer isn't the processor or RAM, it's the data.

Pictures, email, documents, records, files, passwords, it's all data. Keeping it safe is paramount in today's world.

For data security, it's hard to beat the cloud.

What Is The Cloud?

In simple terms, the cloud consists of computer servers maintained by an entity or cloud security 1company with an Internet connection in a secure location. With massive and multiple hard drives, they store and provide access to data.

For anyone with an Internet connection (via home Internet or cellular service), there is access to that data. For example, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Most people don't like keeping their own "things" in someone else's location. Data is no different. Who wants someone else holding their data? But there are advantages to using a cloud server for data, especially essential data.

Professional Management of Your Data

For those not in the field of IT, it's doubtful that we employ best practices for data safekeeping. Most of the data on our computers is stored in files without encryption and in directories easily located. Access to our computers is access to just about everything about us, including bank accounts, online accounts, friends, and relatives. It makes sense to put precious data in the hands of companies dedicated explicitly to securing it.

Constant, Secure Backup Off Premises

Most people don't think about data backup, but that doesn't make it any less important. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods do happen, and after a disaster has occurred is the wrong time to think about disaster recovery of your valuable data.

Cloud-stored data is not just "out there;" it's securely stored and backed up consistently.

Redundancy Means Reliability

Cloud storage is more than a single server. Most individuals, and even small businesses, store data in one location. Not the cloud.

A cloud service using best practices stores redundant data in at least two locations so that even if one location is inaccessible for some reason, your data is still safe.

Failure is Not an Option -- It's Inevitable

According to a 2013 article showing some extensive testing, 1 in 5 hard drives will fail within three years, and 1 out of 2 will fail within five years.

Randomly, there is a 1 in 8 chance that your hard drive will fail. That means anything you store locally is more likely to be lost within five years than not. Again, after the disaster occurs is no time to start worrying about data backup.

Spyware, Viruses, and Ransomware, Oh My!

For large companies (like Equifax, Target, Home Depot, etc.), hacking is the primary threat to data. For the rest of us, malware is our most significant threat, and especially ransomware as it threatens to lock or delete our data.

There are many methods for preventing ransomware, but the only failsafe way to preventing threats to your data is to have your data beyond threat.

A data backup, away from an infected computer, means that even if your computer gets infected, your data is safe and can be recovered. Threat neutralized.

Your Own DaVinci Code

During World War II the Nazis used the "Enigma machine" to send coded messages. Cloud data storage has its enigma machine for data, encryption.

Your connection to cloud data is only sent over secure connections using, in most cases, 128-bit or 256-bit encryption. How secure is that? A secure password using 128-bit, it would take more than 1 billion years to crack, even for a government agency. Next, to the PIN or weak password on a local computer, the difference in security is immeasurable.

Make it Rain! Or Maybe Just "Cloud"y

Moving data to the cloud is often a simple process, but it comes with a lot of considerations. Among those factors is choosing the provider. However, there are many more that you need to pay attention to as well.

Choosing Data

What data do you want in the cloud? Files, folders, or maybe even an entire image of the computer (files and operating system) can be backed up. And consider space too.

Pictures, video, data, and audio files can reach gigabytes of data in a hurry. If there is a business at stake as well, all of those files need to be securely stored in the cloud. Disaster recovery for business, no matter the size, is no small matter.

Cloud Pricing

Depending on what you send to the cloud, there may be a cost associated with it.

Free services are for personal use, not large companies. Often only offer limited space (under 20GB), which may hold your most essential files, but it certainly won't hold everything. The cost will increase the more you store and if you want several versions of it.

Don't sell yourself short to save a buck. Multiple backups (for file recovery) are worth it with a data center that specializes in cloud backup solutions..

To the Cloud...and Back

Don't forget your speed. Sending 300 gigabytes of data to the cloud, and retrieving it, can take a long time. Continual updates are also something to keep in mind.

Cloud backup needs a fast, reliable connection. You never know when you're going to need what you have or are sending to the cloud, so eliminating risk must be part of your consideration.

It's About the Security of Your Data

If your data is important at all, it needs to be secure.

Computer theft, computer failures, malware, natural disasters, and other problems make local data storage a risky business.

The cloud is, by far, the more reliable and secure data storage location for what matters to you most, your data.

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Datto/Autotask Merger: Sophisticated Investors Only

In late October, fellow MSP blogger Joe Panettieri broke the story, in advance of the public announcement, that there was a merger between Datto and Autotask. I’ll briefly review the multiple transactions that made this happen. It’s surprisingly sophisticated. This almost reads like a Russian spy novel with all the players LOL. Let’s start by following the money and then I’ll offer some community comments.

2004-2014
Autotask raises at least $10M in four funding rounds (see Figure 1)

autotaskfunding

Figure 1: Autotask started taking the money in 2004.

2014
Autotask acquired for $99M by Vista Equity Partners.

2015
Datto completes a funding journey that started in 2013 and ended in 2015 raising $100M. At the time I wrote of Datto being a “unicorn” as it claimed the $100m stake resulted in a ten percent share and a market valuation of $1B.

dattofunding

Figure 2: Datto’s funding rounds.

2017
June/July: I circled back into the Datto orbit by attending the DattoCon conference in Denver in June 2017. In this blog at the time, I opine that the “E” (‘exit”) word has to enter the Datto lexicon because private equity money is not patient money and has to be put to work. I further drill down into the mind of Austin McChord, Datto CEO in a 1:1 interview HERE in early July at the Datto HQ in Norwalk.

austinandharry

Figure 3: Harry’s 1:1 with Datto CEO Austin McChord where M&A thoughts surface.

October: Here’s where things speed up. Vista Equity Partners acquires Datto. Then it merged Datto and Autotask together. In reality, this amalgamation results in a relationship hierarchy. If it were the wild world of Craigslist personal ads, this hook-up would have Datto as the “Dom” and Autotask as the “Sub.” Of course financial terms weren’t disclosed LOL.

Analysis
The merger makes sense in the mature and contracting SMB technology sector. Cloud has squeezed out the value chain many old timey server-side Big Iron fellas remember well. Consolidation is a natural act. The hierarchy with Datto on top (McChord becomes CEO and Autotask’s Mark Cattini will exit) makes sense as I believe Autotask took the smaller SMB MSPs in the beloved SMB Nation community for granted like Clinton viewed traditional core Democratic constituencies in the 2016 presidential election a year ago. It felt like the past few years Autotask courted its big donors ignoring the working class man (this isn’t just my opinion but that of other bloggers and community members – in a recent outreach by myself to the SBS group on Facebook concerning this merger, the responses were a resounding “Meh” reflecting Autotask had lost mindshare in the SMB Nation community. )

So when I had a 1:1 with Datto CMO Peter Rawlinson last week while I was literally on Wall Street (see Figure 4) and Rawlinson was in the Datto HQ in Norwalk, CT, I zeroed on the conflation of the Datto and Autotask partner communities and what that means for our “Joe the ‘puter guys” getting a love tap in the yet to be renamed combined company.

girlandbull

Figure 4: How fitting to be on Wall Street for my chat with Rawlinson.

“Now with a combined partner base of over 13,000 SMB MSPs, we are absolutely making a commitment the smaller MSP and the SMB Nation audience persona.” Rawlinson emphasized. He went to round out the context of the merger. “This is a merger for growth, not cost cutting.” Warning: ten dollar word ahead. What Rawlinson is suggesting is that this merger is accretive which is a fancy way of saying 1+1 =3. My conversation with Rawlinson ended with a couple of unknowns: the new brand name and whether there will be an HQ1 (Norwalk, CT) and/or HQ2 (Albany, NY).

Dilutive v Accretive

My big question moving forward is whether the product overlap will effectively result in portfolio dilution and partner contraction. Other wiser minds in the SMB media have minimized the product overlap so in this sense the merger works. But what about ConnectWise partners that use Datto or Autotask partners that use a different BDR solution such as efolder? I’ll monitor the potential MSP partner churn-and-burn rate from this merger over the next year and report back. [If you’d like insights into the Datto product road map, watch my vid interview with Datto VP, Networking John Tippett here.]

Competition
Michael George (CEO, Continuum), who I’d offer lives life out loud, didn’t lack words about the Datto/Autotask merger. “Consolidation of this nature should come as no surprise to anyone in the MSP market. Standalone vendors are finding it increasingly difficult to compete as MSPs move to the few key providers that matter most to them. Today’s news should galvanize MSPs to focus on one or two key platforms, rather than trying to price-optimize with standalone independent vendors.” George said.

“Today’s merger brings together two critical categories in the channel: RMM and BDR. That’s a clear signal that a unified approach to these services is in demand from MSPs, and that’s why Continuum offers partners these solutions as the cornerstone of our platform.” George commented. “But, to stay relevant over the next three to five years, the next major play is security. We anticipate that the next market consolidation will come as MSPs look to acquire the tools and services to secure their clients amid today’s heightened threat landscape. That’s where we’re already moving with our new security offering launched this month, and we can expect that standalone vendors will begin to beef up their capabilities to meet that demand, and MSPs will take notice.” If you’d like to read my recent 1:1 interview with George, look HERE.

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US consumer spending posts largest gain since 2009

 
Consumer Spending
 
(Reuters)
 
WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer spending recorded its biggest increase in more than eight years in September, likely as households in Texas and Florida replaced flood-damaged motor vehicles, but underlying inflation remained muted.
The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, jumped 1.0 percent last month. The increase, which also included a boost from higher household spending on utilities, was the largest since August 2009.
Consumer spending increased by an unrevised 0.1 percent in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending increasing 0.8 percent in September.
The data was included in last Friday's third-quarter gross domestic product report, which showed that growth in consumer spending growth slowed to a 2.4 percent annualized rate after a robust 3.3 percent growth pace in the second quarter.
The moderation in consumption was offset by a rise in inventory investment, business spending on equipment and a drop in imports, which left the economy growing at a 3.0 percent rate in the third quarter after the April-June period's brisk 3.1 percent pace.
 
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