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.

Exclusive! MSP MasterClass by Microsoft, CompTIA & SherWeb!

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Starting March 15, cloud solution provider SherWeb will be holding a series of exclusive online workshops with industry experts from the Microsoft Partner Network and CompTIA. These state-of-the-art sessions are free and designed to give MSPs all the tools they need to be successful reselling cloud services. You’ll also receive a certificate for taking part in these workshops.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

    Reduce risk when transitioning your business to the cloud
    Build winning packaged cloud service offers
    Adjust to the cloud customer’s new buying behavior
    Close deals quickly and cost-effectively

Places are filling up fast!

 

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A quick look at the agenda:

March 15, 1 p.m.         

Session 1: Sales – The Cloud Financial Impact (Where the Money Really Is), by Dana Willmer, Principal at CloudSpeed

March 21, 1 p.m.         

Session 2: Sales – The Criticality of Packaged Offers, by Dana Willmer, Principal at CloudSpeed

March 23, 1 p.m.         

Session 3: Marketing is the New Sales – Building Your Marketing Muscle, by Sharka Chobot, Chief Transformation Officer at Neural Impact

March 28, 1 p.m.         

Session 4: Accelerating the Cloud Buying Process – Adjusting to Buyer 2.0, by Mark Stuyt, Chief Engagement Officer at Neural Impact

March 30, 1 p.m.         

Session 5: Trends in Managed Services, by Ian Khan, Technology Futurist
   

 

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Startup: Network Engineer

Granted many of the SMB Nation readers are experienced IT Pros. But one layer below, many MSPs have a rising star. Typically a “newbie,” this individual is being eyed for bigger things. Which gets me to my point. Chip Reaves of Bigger Brains and I teamed up with Emily Wilson a just over a year ago to create the Networking Essentials: CompTIA Network Plus Exam Prep course. I proudly consider this the 20th publication I’ve been an author or co-author of (full list here).

chipreaves

It is my belief that this courseware is suited for the “newbie” mentioned above. However, even hot shots can benefit from revisiting the fundamentals of networking. Think of it this way. One of my annual New Year’s Resolutions is to re-read a book (albeit I might speed read it). And I always remember something I forgot and learn something new.

So here is the offer. Chip recently engaged with new distribution channels for this courseware. With high honor, I share with you that “Networking Essentials: CompTIA Network Plus Exam Prep” course can now be purchased at Udemy for a significant discount (68% discount. Consider purchasing this to support Chip’s efforts and perhaps give it away as a gift. Maybe be a Secret Santa!

So what is the courseware all about?
Description: Network Essentials is designed to give an experienced Level 1 tech a good foundation in networking technologies, both for real world benefits and to pass the newest CompTIA Network Plus certification (Exam N10-006).
Lecture: 63 modules
Length: 12.5 hours
And it even includes a certificate of completion.

Purchase HERE. Your support is greatly appreciated! (Thank you!)

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Raise Your IT Services Bar, Adopt CompTIA’s New Channel Standards

By Miles Jobgen, Director, Education at CompTIA  Miles Jobgen CompTIA Trustmark 200x200


No one likes to be average, or worse, subpar. Especially when it comes to running an IT services business. Unfortunately, even those who work 20-hour days and invest their life savings can find themselves falling behind if they don’t have the right plans and systems in place. While IT professionals typically excel at making complex technologies work for their client, many admit they struggle managing their own businesses. It’s simply not a strong part of their skills sets. They have to work much harder in order to master (or at least get batter at) that part of their operations and most are willing to take those steps but may not know how to start. Many times, they just need a little help.

That’s where CompTIA comes in. Our members, subject experts and employees have been actively creating and compiling industry best practices for many years. We’ve drafted scores of training materials and educational resources to address the needs of IT providers, from fundamental ‘how-to’ guides on building a new practice to advanced financial management workshops. Thanks to the generosity and expertise of our members, this information is readily available at little-to-no cost to you and updated frequently.

Through certification, channel education and its advocacy efforts, CompTIA has supported and encouraged the growth and improvement of Solution Providers for decades. And now, at the request of our Board of Directors, thought leaders and other industry professionals, the association is taking its commitment one step further.

CompTIA Channel Standards represent the culmination of all our activities and efforts. This collection of guides, resources and business practices for IT companies is designed to improve the quality and consistency of the IT channel and its service delivery methods. CompTIA Channel Standards identify expert opinions on the fundamentals of IT operations and provide the tools required to embrace and enact those specific practices. And this will not be a “one-and-done” proposition. Our goal is to not only develop these usable resources for the IT industry, but to update them regularly to keep pace with the changing needs of providers and their clients.

Step 1: the IT Solution Provider
Channel Standards will let CompTIA take a more “open book” approach to connecting members and other providers with all that information. The format was designed to enable any and all to review and implement these peer-developed best practices into their own businesses. The end goal is to promote the behaviors tech companies can adopt to ensure greater success. They prosper, their customers receive even better solutions and support, and our industry advances. That’s a win-win-win.
 
How does it work? First of all, all our collective knowledge will be organized into a framework that everyone can easily follow, starting with the IT Solution Provider Channel Standards just rolled out at our CompTIA Annual Member Meeting. These are the core best practices of a successful technology services business, from lead generation and customer relations to delivery and operations (not to mention management and strategy recommendations).
The real question many are probably asking right now is “how will the CompTIA Channel Standards help me?” The answer, for most, is three-fold: 

  1.  Self-evaluation of the business. A companion Workbook is part of the program, allowing providers to have those crucial internal conversations that drive improvement. It will help them to identify areas of strength and those that need upgrades, with specific recommendations that, if implemented properly, should produce positive effects.
  2.  Engage with education and resources available. CompTIA’s Insights and Tools and Education resources can be tied to each of the Channel Standards. Many of these materials and tools are free of charge, but our Premier Members have open access to use and leverage the entire portfolio.
  3. Demonstrate Compliance. This final point applies to the upcoming Cybersecurity Channel Standard and the existing Security Trustmark+, which includes an independent assessment of adherence based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. By shifting our focus to the preparation and application of security best practices, regulatory compliance is more sensible and achievable than ever.

As I mentioned. CompTIA’s IT Solution Provider Channel Standards are foundational. Over the next few months, we’ll roll out several others that help VARs and MSPs enhance their business specializations. Those “concentrations” include:

  • Managed Services 
  •  Managed Print Provider
  • Advanced Digital Solutions
  • Cybersecurity

One goal of the CompTIA Channel Standards is to ensure those in our segment of the IT industry have a clear path to the future. With the lightening-fast technology innovations and shifting needs of the business community, solution providers simply have to get better at what they do…or at some point, they won’t be doing it anymore. Channel Standards will give them a roadmap to improvement and logically connect them to the most relevant resources to get them there.


The Channel Standard and accompanying Workbook are free to download, so there is no risk and loads of potential benefit. You may find your business is in need of a little attention behind the scenes, or maybe learn you’re a step ahead of your peers. Either way, that knowledge can be leveraged for planning, service delivery, differential marketing, sales, and helping your clients achieve their goals.


The gauntlet has been thrown. Will the channel rise to the occasion? Success is there for the taking…  

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Harryb’s 20th Book? (Sorta) on CompTIA Network+ Exam

Harryb’s 20th Book? (Sorta) on CompTIA Network+ Exam

With great pleasure, I’m pleased to announce the latest offering from Chip Reaves at Bigger Brains. It was an honor to team with Reaves and Wilson on this effort to produce a “Video Book”( off-the-shelf eLearning content) on the CompTIA Network+ Exam. The new course includes 62 video training modules and over 9 hours of total content. "We wanted to not only cover the exam objectives for people who want to get Network+ certified, but also use real-world examples of how IT consultants and technicians can use these skills in practical situations," said Reaves. The new course is available from top IT service firms who subscribe to Bigger Brains' "BiggerMSP" training portal program at BiggerMSP.com. It's also available individually through OpenSesame.com and other online training marketplaces.

CompTIA Network Exam

Speaking for myself – I see the release of the CompTIA Network+ Exam eLearning course as a tool to start-up if you are interested in becoming a IT Pro or MSP. For old timers, it’s a chance to be the life learner and revisit the principles that made you successful. I’ve been known to reread past technical books annually to refresh my brain matter. It makes for a bigger brian LOL!

For more information visit www.GetBiggerBrains.com.

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CompTIA Reveals 12 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., Jan. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Anticipating strong customer demand for the next waves of digital business technologies, information technology (IT) industry executives view the year ahead with a general sense of optimism, according to the IT Industry Outlook 2016 released today by CompTIA, the industry's nonprofit trade association.
        
Maintaining its momentum, CompTIA's IT Industry Business Confidence Index recorded an uptick of 1.2 points heading into the first quarter of the year. While a range of economic concerns have affected the Index, the rating component covering the IT industry continues to perform well.  Comptialogo
        
"The Index indicates industry executives see far more positives than negatives," said Tim Herbert, senior vice president, research and market intelligence, CompTIA.
        
For 2016, CompTIA's consensus industry forecast projects growth of 4.7 percent for the U.S. market. Industry executives believe this will be a function of incremental growth in the staple categories of hardware, software, services, and telecom, supplemented with new revenue streams from emerging categories.
        
"Businesses of all sizes increasingly recognize the need to remake their workflows and customer engagement practices with an eye towards digital transformation," said Herbert. "If investments in these technologies accelerate, and the economy holds steady, growth could lean towards the upside of the forecast."
        
In its IT Industry Outlook 2016 CompTIA identifies 12 trends that are expected to further make their mark on the IT industry, IT channel, IT workforce, and broader economy in the year ahead.

 

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State of the Channel 2015: Cloud Turns from ‘Threat’ to ‘Opportunity’

5th Annual State of the Channel Research Banner Ad 220x150

By: Carolyn April, Senior Director of Industry Analysis at CompTIA  -

The tech industry, like most others, has its fair share of pundits. Some predict gloom and doom if the stock market has a single down day or jump on every vendor or provider setback as if it were a long-standing trend. Then there are the channel optimists, who emphasize the positive points around industry news and put a rosier spin on any negative concerns. A commonly accepted business practice is to listen to both camps for their views and reasoning before developing your own conclusions, especially when your investments and reputation depend on the decisions you make with that information.

Overall, most IT professionals remain optimistic about the future of our industry, even in the face of tremendous change and new business challenges. In fact, six out of ten channel firms have a positive outlook on what the future holds for the channel in general, according to CompTIA’s 5th Annual State of the Channel research project. Five years ago, many VARs, solution providers and other industry professionals were concerned about their long-term business prospects with cloud computing gaining traction. The turnaround in the channel’s outlook is quite significant.    

Cloud computing is now cited as the chief reason to be optimistic about the channel’s future since, among other things, it opens doors to new opportunities. Whether or not there is reason to be this hopeful remains to be seen. But, according to our most recent study, channel companies are seeing the cloud as less of a threat. They are discovering that cloud isn’t a single business model; it gives them the chance to plug in at various points. They can sell SaaS, integrate cloud with on-premises solutions, broker and aggregate cloud options, develop applications and offer complementary managed services and other support options.

On the flip side, the cloud also has its skeptics. A subset of our study respondents remain pessimistic and about future of the channel and cite cloud a one reason. This is especially true of those channel firms that sell primarily to very small end customers. Why? Among these small-sized clients, cloud solutions offer a no-brainer alternative to on-premises hardware and software solutions (where many VARs still prosper). Likewise, one third of channel firms indicated that a wider availability of purchasing options and customer self-sufficiency were sources of concern for the channel’s future. This may be behind many of the smallest channel companies rethinking their customer value proposition. For example, 26% of firms with less than 10 employees currently list pure consulting services as their main source of revenue. If their end customers decide to convert to an all cloud model, these small VARs have to create support service offerings to help guide their clients’ decisions. Those opportunities seem to make the most sense. 

While cloud has the promise to simplify things for some customers, others continue to struggle with the growing complexity of IT. That’s great news for channel companies. The third platform technologies (mobility, cloud, big data, and social media) perplex many small businesses today, so IT firms that can help design, implement and support these solutions are truly relevant.

Companies with those capabilities should be optimistic. Of course, there are other reasons why the study respondents had a positive outlook on the channel’s future, including:

• Wider variety and use of technology by all types of customers and end users

• Increasingly complex solution and service options

• Larger demand for vertical industry expertise

These are market realities that provide channel companies with a reason to be optimistic and a number of roles to fill. The opportunities are theirs for the taking if they take the appropriate steps. With solid recruitment efforts and effective training programs, it will make it easier for channel firms to focus their efforts on emerging and more sophisticated technologies.

VARs and MSPs should also be making continual improvements in the business practices. A makeover of sales and marketing strategies can help bring in new customers from different verticals. Back office automation can help reduce billing and cash flow issues, and other tools can improve customer service and support operations. Channel firms that embrace an “as-a-service” way of life typically have a more optimistic outlook.

There’s plenty to be positive about in the IT industry right now. Based on all the information we compiled during the latest State of the Channel survey, a majority of firms are definitely more optimistic than they were five years ago. The real question right now seems to be “will that positive outlook continue?” Time will tell.  

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Enterprise Mobility research from Gartner and CompTIA highlights opportunities, challenges for MSPs

Comptia logoIf you were wondering why Microsoft felt a need to “remind” everyone that they are a player in the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) market last week, you didn’t have to wait long. A couple of key EMM studies were released this week including interesting new research from CompTIA, which highlights potential business opportunities for solutions providers, and Gartner Group’s EMM Magic Quadrant.

The MQ provides a snapshot of the EMM vendor landscape, grading each vendor by completeness of vision and ability to execute and then labeling them – Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players – based on their capabilities. Fourteen vendors get some love from Gartner, from leaders MobileIron and IBM to niche players Tangoe and Landesk. Microsoft isn’t mentioned, despite making several EMM moves late in 2013 (The company has stated that it is confident it will be included next year).

Gartner defines EMM as the following:

“Enterprise mobility management (EMM) suites consist of policy and configuration management tools and a management overlay for applications and content intended for mobile devices based on smartphone OSs. They are an evolution from previous generation MDM products that lacked application and content management. IT organizations and service providers use EMM suites to deliver IT support to mobile end users and to maintain security policies.”

Gartner logoAccording to Gartner, an EMM suite provides hardware inventory, application inventory, OS configuration management, mobile app deployment, mobile app configuration and policy management, remote view and control for troubleshooting, execute remote actions and mobile content management.

The vendors:

Leaders: AirWatch, MobileIron, Citrix, Good Technology and IBM.

Challengers: SAP.

Visionaries: SOTI, Symantec and Sophos.

Niche Players: Blackberry, Tangoe, LANDesk, Absolute Software and Globo.

Gartner expects the EMM to continue evolving and thus posing challenges for vendors and service providers. “As enterprises' use of mobility becomes increasingly complex, their requirements to protect data and support users will become more complex as well.”

Meanwhile CompTIA’s Third Annual Trends in Enterprise Mobility found that while many organizations are pushing aggressively ahead with mobility programs, many are facing significant challenges – challenges that could mean major opportunities for service providers.

Key findings:

Among companies that provide mobile devices, 76 percent provide smartphones and 61 percent provide tablets, implying that many workers are operating in a threedevice environment.

More than 70 percent of all companies, regardless of BYOD stance, have made some level of investment in mobile devices and technologies.

There has been no significant progress in building formal mobility policies over the past year. Just 30 percent of companies have such a policy in place.

Security is one of the top challenges for companies, including the ability to centrally monitor and control security; and poor security implementation by end users.

Essentially, managing mobility – from procurement to management – is a major challenge for many organizations. CompTIA found that small companies are hampered by serious resources constraints, medium-sized firms have more resources but have to balance the needs of IT with the needs of users department and large firms have to deal with a high degree of complexity, with a large number of employees using a significant variety of devices. Alleviating these pain points could mean significant revenues for solution providers.

“Mobile devices get used heavily in employees’ personal lives, but there are enterprise aspects such as encryption, proper security settings and enterprise apps that require further and ongoing education,” said Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA in a statement.

The Third Annual Trends in Enterprise Mobility study is based on an online survey of 400 business and IT executives in the United State who are directly involved in setting or executing mobility policies and processes within their organization. The survey was conducted in March 2014. More data from the study is available at http://www.slideshare.net/comptia/slideshare-charts-2014-mobility-study.

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CompTIA Study: Big Data Promises Businesses to Evaluate Data Needs

Comptia logoCompTIA’s second annual Big Data Insights and Opportunities study confirms growing familiarity with the concepts surrounding big data, which has sparked greater levels of interest across the C-suite. A full 78 percent of organizations say they feel more positive about big data as a business initiative this year compared to a year ago.

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Tech Industry Convenes this week for CompTIA ChannelCon

340392879On its third and final day of its annual industry event, CompTIA’s ChannelCon (formerly Breakaway) featured meetings of several CompTIA member communities and advisory councils. These groups of industry thought leaders help shape the association’s initiatives, programs, education and research.

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SaaSMAX Launches its SaaS Marketplace Today at ChannelCon

email logo smallThis week in Orlando, CompTIA is hosted its annual industry event (formerly known as Breakaway) renamed ChannelCon. Of course, as with every industry event, especially in the IT world, there are always going to be announcements and new product launches and this week’s event is no exception.

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CompTIA IT Industry Business Confidence Index Holds Steady for Q3

CompTIA yesterday released its IT Industry Business Confidence Index, which has held steady in Q3, coming in at 57.9 on a 100-point scale compared to a 58.0 reading in Q2. The Index is a measurement of technology business sentiment produced for the past five years by CompTIA, the leading non-profit association for the IT industry.

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SMB Nation Lands ChannelPro's Silver Award for Best IT Community

ChannelPro-SMB announced this morning the winners of its 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards of which SMB Nation, for the second year in a row, is a winner. Our company once again took away the Silver prize for Best IT Community. Industry organization CompTIA took home the Gold with the ASCII Group coming in third with a Bronze Award.

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CompTIA Study: Vendor, Channel Partner Conflict is on the Upswing

Challenging economic times, new technologies and new methods for selling IT solutions have contributed to an increase in conflicts between vendors and their channel partners, according to a new study released today by CompTIA.

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CompTIA Survey: Tech Link to Biz Success is Gaining Muscle

comptia logoThe role of IT in setting strategic priorities and achieving business success is growing for companies around the world, according to new research released today by CompTIA. According to the trade organization’s research, more than three-quarters of businesses say technology is important or very important to their success; the majority plan solid increases in IT spending this year; and four in 10 have expectations of hiring new IT staff in 2013.

CompTIA’s International Technology Adoption & Workforce Issues study is the result of a survey of more than 1,250 business and IT executives in countries around the world, some with mature economies and others, maturing.

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CompTIA Reveals Q2 2013 IT Confidence Survey Results

comptia logoThis morning, CompTIA released the results of their IT Industry Business Confidence Index for Q2 2013. The company reported that for the third consecutive quarter, the average attitude of IT organizations has grown more positive.

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Oops…My Bad! 5 Blogs We Missed Last Week

Here we go again! As I do each week, I am really enjoying bringing our readers a quick round-up of the blog coverage I didn’t manage to get to during the week prior. We have been pretty busy around here at SMB Nation in gearing up for our SMB 150 Awards Gala Dinner, and our Spring Conference, which will be held May 3-5, 2013, at the Microsoft Redmond Campus. For more information, and to register, go to: http://spring.smbnation.com/.

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Channel Partners and CompTIA Release Third Annual IT/Telecom Study Findings

Study cover Photo credit: Channel Partners OnlineYesterday, CompTIA and Channel Partners Online announced the results of the third annual Partnering Trends between Telecom and IT Channels study. The main finding of the study was that partnerships between IT and Telecom companies are not only growing in number, but in importance and formality.

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Dan Shapero Testifies Before House Committee to Discuss the Effect of Cyber-Attacks on SMBs

Dan ShaperoYesterday, CompTIA announced that one of their members, Dan Shapero, founder of ClikCloud, went before a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee to discuss two national policy issues that are creating undue stress on the SMB IT field.

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CompTIA Adds E-learning Options to Channel Training Curriculum

CompTIA said that it will add new e-learning options to its comprehensive education and training programs for the IT channel. CompTIA Executive Certificate programs in cloud computing, mobile technologies and IT security will be available in e-learning modules beginning April 1. Additional courses will be added in the coming months.

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CompTIA’s ChannelCon Set to Educate, Inform and Entertain

Earlier this week, we reported that CompTIA’s annual Breakaway conference will now be known as CompTIA ChannelCon--the new name and identity of the trade association’s annual event. Scheduled to occur July 29-31 at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida, ChannelCon, according to Kelly Ricker, CompTIA’s senior vice president, events and education, is a result of an evolutionary change in our industry. “This is not a new event,” she stated. “We are certain that our loyalists will continue to feel comfortable and receive the same benefits” (as they did when the event was known as Breakaway).

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CompTIA’s Rebrands Annual Breakaway Event as ChannelCon

CompTIA announced today that its annual Breakaway event is undergoing a new name and identity change. The industry trade association says that the conference, which will now be known as ChannelCon, will build upon the current Breakaway legacy with additional education, training and networking opportunities.  The inaugural CompTIA ChannelCon is scheduled for July 29-31 at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

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CompTIA Announces New Community

comptia logoCompTIA yesterday announced a new forum for the discussion of the opportunities and challenges of mobile technology.  The CompTIA Mobility Community will have its first major meeting March 12-13 in Chicago, IL during the Annual Member Meeting.

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CompTIA Survey: Demand for IT Continues, but Execs Remain Cautious for 2013

Strong customer demand for innovative technology solutions such as cloud computing, big data and mobility are countered by concerns about economic uncertainties, pricing pressures and substitution effects in the IT Industry Outlook 2013 released this week by CompTIA.

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Oops…My Bad! 5 Blogs We Missed Last Week

Here we go again! As I do each week, I am really enjoying bringing our readers a quick round-up of the blog coverage I didn’t manage to get to during the week prior.

A reminder that voting has been extended to Feb. 22 for the 3rd Annual SMB Nation 150 Awards; go to www.SMB150.com, to vote for all of your industry favorites…

Also note that this year’s Spring Conference will be held May 3-5, 2013, at the Microsoft Redmond Campus. For more information, and to register, go to: http://spring.smbnation.com/.

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GuestBlog: The Top 5 Solution Provider Opportunities for 2013

By Brian Sherman, Founder, Tech Success Communications

The following blog post previously appeared on CompTIA’s TechVoice Blog. Click here for more information.

While many may not have switched their calendars yet, 2013 is officially here. Before all the New Year’s resolutions have either been forgotten or broken, make sure to take time to review what went well in 2012 and what needs to change to make the next year more successful. What challenges and opportunities do you foresee?

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