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.

Cable Giant Comcast delivers Wi-Fi service for SMBs

It’s no secret that providing wireless internet connections is a big deal for consumer businesses. Starbucks has made a lot of money selling overpriced coffee to students, businesspeople and wannabe-J.K. Rowlings because they can get free Wi-Fi by walking through the door.

But simply offering a hotspot connection is not actually as simple as buying an 802.11N router at Best Buy and plugging it in. There are several factors to consider and those factors have left an opportunity for the likes of Cisco Meraki and GoBig to create specialized devices and services that help businesses like restaurants, hotels, boutiques, spas, salons and even golf courses offer secure, reliable and useful WI-FI services to customers.

Today Comcast announced it is getting into the game too, launching a new offering for its Internet customers – the Business Wireless Gateway that not only delivers Internet connectivity, but does so with the added security of a dual band service that keeps critical back office operations separated from the riff raff.

“Today’s ‘main street’ small businesses want to offer Wi-Fi to their customers to get them in the store and keep them coming back, but concerns can arise from over security and how challenging it will be to set up and maintain a Wi-Fi network,” said Matt Davis, director of Consumer and Small Business Telecom Services at IDC in a Comcast statement.

“The Business Wireless Gateway from Comcast Business gives SMBs a single box solution to quickly set up both public and private Wi-Fi, with public access being managed and maintained over the Comcast network. This can alleviate security concerns because customers are not accessing the same Wi-Fi network that your employees are.”

John GuillaumeAccording to John Guillaume, vice president of Product Development, Comcast Business, the new service is targeted at SMBs with as few as three and as many as 100 users, “but anyone buying our high speed Internet product is eligible.”

The technology is also scalable with WiFi extenders going on sale later this month to expand the physical coverage area making campus service possible.

Regarding costs, Guillaume said, “The Business Wireless Gateway and Business WiFi are value added services that are included with our most popular Internet speeds – from 16 Mbps to 150Mbps – for no additional cost. We have an existing $9.95 equipment fee for Internet and voice customers and the device is included in that.”

So the cost for the basic level of plan, including Comcast Internet with 16 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed for up to three people, is $69.95 per month plus the equipment rental. The new offering will be sold through all of Comcast’s direct and indirect channels, so distributors like Synnex (one of Comcast’s largest channel partners) will be offering it.

This move isn’t a shocking one for Comcast. Like other cable and telecom providers such as Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T, the company has been targeting the SMB segment of the U.S. business communications market – which some analysts value at $20 to $30 billion – for expansion. The company will deploy SIP trunking capabilities by the end of the year, significantly enhancing its VoIP offerings for the larger end of the SMB market (Comcast Business has traditionally focused on small businesses) and potentially to larger enterprises in the future.

Moreover, Comcast Business recently softened the ground by sponsored research by market analyst firm Bredin Research that indicated small businesses got significant ROI , including better customer satisfaction levels and higher sales, from offering free WiFi than they did from other common patron-oriented conveniences.

Key findings:

  • WiFi is equally or more effective at making patrons feel welcome than other amenities such as magazines (94 percent), community bulletin boards (91 percent), candy (90 percent) or water (86 percent).
  • Nearly eight in 10 businesses offering WiFi (79 percent) say it helps keep customers happy while they wait. Sixty-five percent report it has encouraged repeat business, and 55 percent say it has brought in new customers.
  • More than half (55 percent) of businesses providing Wi-Fi believe it has resulted in higher sales per customer visit.

“Many different types of customers – coffee shops, law firms, real estate offices, gyms, libraries and more – want to attract and retain visitors to their location and give employees the tools they need to be more productive. Wi-Fi can be critical on both fronts, and this device can help make that easy to manage,” said Guillaume, in a statement. 

comcast business logo

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GoDaddy expands SMB services footprint with Dwolla alliance

GDLogo-1BGoDaddy is continuing to expand its service footprint for SMBs. Over the past several months the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company has been rebranding itself and aggressively branching out from its foundation in domains and online presence to add more and more services for SMBs. Today the company unveiled a partnership with Dwolla – a low-cost online payments network – that will help SMBs simplify the invoicing process, replacing the entire invoice/cheque/deposit process with an electronic transaction.

The new service, which is available today, offers GoDaddy’s 12 million small business customers an alternative to paper checks or more costly options like PayPal, says Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy Senior VP of Applications.

Paper cheques are still the most prevalent form of payment for SMBs, says Aldrich, adding that cheques introduce a variety of inefficiencies and issues to the process of getting paid that are “less than ideal.” To start with they take time, introducing long cash flow lags. Then they cost money in a number of ways – from the cost of the cheques themselves to processing fees that can run to more than $7.00 per transaction to the money you have to pay your accountant/billing department to manually deal with each transaction.

aldrichsteven-304Credit cards or alternative online options like PayPal aren’t much better. Credit companies usually take a three percent cut of the invoice, which will be about $33 on the average invoice of $1100. By Comparison, Dwolla charges a flat 25 cents on all transactions over $10.

In the past SMBs could use Dwolla, but it was often necessary for the payee to register for a Dwolla account, making the service cumbersome for thousands of small services businesses like plumbers and IT consultants. Dwolla overcame this last year with e-cheque technology that enabled guests to make one-time or multiple payments to Dwolla users from an existing bank account – the technology underlying the GoDaddy offering. The problem was that the Dwolla user needed to do some coding up front to make it work. GoDaddy has simplified the process and done that coding for them.

“This is not just about traditional ecommerce providers,” said Aldrich. “It’s about anyone that gets paid by check today. We’ve found that SMB owners are doing more with the Web and more with their phones. It’s all types of transactions, whether it’s over the web, or I came to your house to fix your roof. Now all you need is an email address and you can send them your invoice.

“With the Dwolla option, you save the SMB hundreds of dollars. It’s also easy, fast and safer for people to move to electronic invoicing and electronic payments.”

This is part of a massive strategic evolution for GoDaddy. In January the company unveiled a new brand identity with a new Super Bowl ad featuring Danica Patrick focussed more on customer identity than titillation and announced a relationship with Microsoft to make Office 365 available to its SMB customers. The company is also moving beyond its traditional strength in the digital business world.

Out of an estimated 28 million SMBs in the US, 23 million of them have five or fewer employees. “That is the customer we are targeting,” says Aldrich. “Those types of firms want that very easy to use service. They are not accountants or web developers so they need an affordable service and they want it to just work.”

To this end GoDaddy no offers a suite of services that deliver four key areas. In addition to its traditional strength in domains and online presence services, the company has been building out its marketing services and business support offerings – including the Dwolla e-cheque services, Office 365 and online bookkeeping.

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Community Corner: North Carolina User Group Forming

At symbolWe received news from Handy Andy Goodman that fellow SMB IT Pro, Dexter Southerland, is planning to start a new User Group in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area of North Carolina.

As of today, Dexter’s plan is for the group to be named: The Triad NC IT Pros for SMB & The Cloud User Group, and it will be composed of SMB IT Professionals who are looking to meet monthly for technical training and conversation. The group title is currently under consideration, however.

Here’s what Dexter needs from interested IT Pros:

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Symantec 2013 Global SMB IT Confidence Index Now Available

SymantecEarlier this week, Symantec released the results of their 2013 Global SMB IT Confidence Index. This report is based on the responses from 2452 SMB organizations (1-20 employees) from 20 countries, all of whom were asked 17 questions which were condensed to form an overall confidence rating. Respondents were all responsible for their organization’s IT. The report found three tiers of SMB in terms of business success, top, middle and bottom, which correlated directly to their confidence score.

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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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