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.

What happened to SMB Nation?

What happened to SMB Nation?

Recently a friend of SMB Nation asked what’s going on at SMB Nation? The question created an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past few years. And it offered insights that we need to be louder in trumpeting our accomplishments (forgive the pun). 

  • Workshops. We host a workshop every two (2) weeks on average annually. That’s a lot of motion to roll-out approximately 26 events in 12-months. It keeps us busy. Our events average 100-attendees. The topics, typically presented by Grant Thompson are technical first, moneymakers second. Our customers have a high bar about learning something they don’t know (and how can I make money from it). I’ve yet to see Grant stumped so I think we’ve reached that goal. In the second part of the year, you can look for a “Tour de Cloud” workshop tour highlighting Azure and security topics. Anyone up for analytics? Lemme know.
  • Webinars. We host 30+ webinars per year. Backing out holiday weeks and fishing season, it’s a once-a-week cadence. We work closely with our community sponsors to provide insightful content and not just speeds and feeds. It’s a tough conversation to have but we’ll keep pushing for your best interests.
  • Content. I personally write 100+ blogs per year. It’s harder than it looks. Try it sometime.
    Newsletter. We publish 48-editions of the newsletter every year. ‘Nough said.

Here is a Throw Back Thursday (TBT) pic of me in high school. I’m with Charles Wohlforth and we were entrepreneurs. We would both go by Dean Whitter (stock brokerage) and invest in options before school. I imported digital watches into Alaska. Charles had other business endeavors including writing articles.

Culture

The times are changing and so are we. We honor the geeks in our workshop and webinars. But increasingly in our digital avenues we are telling a different story about either starting up (something new) or starting over (reinventing yourself). It’s one of those times in our industry. A recent article in the New York Times had the former AT&T chairman commenting that his landline business disappeared in three years – PUFF! Few would deny time are changing. Some critics have commented that SMB Nation has lost its way. We’d prefer to say we’re headed in a new direction. Change is necessarily disturbing. But we take comfort in these comments this week from Jeff Bezos at the Code conference.
"As a public figure, the best defense to speech you don’t like is to develop a thick skin. You can’t stop it. If you’re doing anything interesting in the world, you’re going to have critics. If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting."
- Jeff Bezos

So here’s hoping you’ll pivot with us and lead the parade. See you on the other side!

PS - Here is a partial list of the workshops we delivered over the past few years. I'm not listing closed events (where we acted as a event manager) or our annual Geek Picnic, etc. :) 

2016 Office 365 and Windows 10 Roadshow for MSPs/CSPs/Resellers (1H2016:http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/cities/)

  1. Redmond
  2. NY
  3. Atlanta
  4. Chicago
  5. Washington DC
  6. Charlotte
  7. LA
  8. SF
  9. Phoenix
  10. PLUS Additional Nine (9) Cities in 2h2016!

Office 365 Resellers/MSP Tour 2015: http://o365tour.smbnation.com/cities/

  1. Bellevue
  2. Silicon Valley
  3. LA
  4. NY
  5. Chicago
  6. Dallas
  7. Washington DC
  8. Charlotte

2015 Windows 10 launch events for resellers/MSPs  (5 events):

  1. New York City, New York – June 2nd 2015
  2. Los Angeles, California – June 9th 2015
  3. Redmond, Washington – June 16th 2015
  4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida – June 23rd 2015
  5. Austin TX – June 25th 2015

2014 Worldwide Modern Tour  (24-cities in 23-countries: http://moderntour.smbnation.com/cities/ )

  1. Auckland, New Zealand 3/27/2014
  1. Bangalore, India 6/10/2014
  2. Cape Town, South Africa 5/22/2014
  3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates 5/8/2014
  4. Dublin, Ireland 4/23/2014
  5. Hong Kong, China 3/21/2014
  6. Istanbul, Turkey 5/13/2014
  7. Johannesburg, South Africa 5/20/2014
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 3/17/2014
  9. Madrid, Spain 5/6/2014
  10. Manila, Philippines 3/19/2014
  11. Mexico City, Mexico 4/1/2014
  12. Milan, Italy 6/13/2014
  13. Mississauga, ON, Canada 6/4/2014
  14. Montréal, QC, Canada 6/6/2014
  15. Moscow, Russia 5/22/2014
  16. Prague, Czech Republic 5/21/2014
  17. Reading, United Kingdom 4/1/2014
  18. Sao Paulo, Brazil 3/20/2014
  19. Singapore, Singapore 3/14/2014
  20. Stockholm, Sweden 5/27/2014
  21. Sydney, Australia 3/25/2014
  22. Taipei, Taiwan 4/29/2014
  23. Warsaw, Poland 6/4/2014

2013 Windows XP EOL “Million Mile" Tour (44-workshops in 22 cities)

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What’s The Half Life Of A Unicorn?

Story by Simon Crosby - 

“Cybercorns” are companies that have surpassed the magical $1 billion valuation. Several of these extraordinary ventures are Okta, Sophos, Tanium, Palantir, FireEye, Splunk, Zscaler, Lookout, CloudFlare, Illumio and AVAST.

Each has attained an enviable position as a valued solution to an important set of customer security pains. The entrepreneurs who built these companies (many of which are privately held) and the investors that backed them deserve their success. But in a world where technology is changing rapidly, and in which attackers are agile and focused, which of these unicorns will survive? What is the half–life, perhaps measured by stock value, of a cybercorn?

The most profound trends in the IT landscape are, of course, the rapid adoption of cloud services and growing mobility of the workforce. All too soon, application back-end micro-services will automatically and reliably scale as needed in the cloud, accessed by users over the public Internet.

Cybercorns that have bet on a long-lived traditional IT infrastructure are already in trouble. If the user is working in Starbucks, what value is a network security product that attempts to protect an indefensible network perimeter? If your organization is adopting Office 365, when a user opens a potentially threatening attachment, it runs in a virtual machine, in Azure.

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Breaking News: I Love Work! Read This True Confession...

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

Where to begin. Early on, I was the “business kid” in grade school through high school. That continues to today with my continued pursuit for work that marries business and technology. And of how it’s changed from my first Apple II+ with a Hayes 14.4k modem connecting from my college apartment to a centralized VAX computer. Or has it really changed? In this blog, I’ll explore Work 3.0. and point you to some amazing resources.

Full CircleHarry at Work

Above I’m both dating and telling on myself as I’m alluding to time sharing. Imagine the idea of having the heavy lifting occurring in a data center and you could work from anywhere with a thin client? Your applications were hosted and your data was safe. That was timesharing where I started my career in computing. With the emergence of the PC and client/server computing, certainly those days were gone forever. The “local” in Local Area Network (LAN) loosely translates in GeekSpeak to “within these four walls”, and that was the development paradigm of our beloved Small Business Server. It created a generation of commuters who believed in server gods and gurus at work. You thought nothing of driving to work.

But then a back to the future phenomenon emerged at the start of the Great Recessions when the Internet was validated as a secure tool (thanks Salesforce) and IT was used to save money with mobility. Just yesterday I was using a thin client (Google Chrome on a USB stick) working with Salesforce online with my mobile phone held to my left ear, while I listened to a conference call via a headset hooked up to a VoIP desk phone. And all the while working from my home office (I’ve upgraded from my college apartment!).
What does this before-and-after storytelling mean? I’m telling the exact same story. Timesharing is cloud computing. Period.

You’ll Feel Like You Are Talking to Yourself (You Are!)

I’ve thought a lot recently about the nature of modern work. How has technology changed the way we work? Over the years I’ve written blogs about office sharing schemes like Regus locations (remember my week in Istanbul in the Spring of 2014?) to online labor markets (remember our use of WorkMarket in the late 2013/early 2014 timeframe with Windows XP migrations?) to our giving up our office space when our commercial lease expired (see my February 2015 blog). But I had never crystalized my thoughts about modern work into a single missive. And that frustrated me.

Fortunately, I bumped into an amazing report titled “WORK 3.0 – The Next Generation Model for Smarter Business.” I felt like I was talking to myself. Over a dozen pages, remote offices, portfolio careers, and the human cloud revolution are explored. I’ve posted the report HERE so you can download it, read it and motivate on it. Let me know what you think?

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The Evolution of The Way We Work

Story by Mitel -

Changes in the interplay between technology, location, culture and business are transforming where, when and how we work.

Workers are taking control of their work / life balance with traditional ‘nine to five’ commuting patterns changing. Employees are also seeking more control over the communications devices and applications they use.Big Mitel

There is also an interesting sub-trend involving the development of portfolio based careers.

These trends are confirmed by evidence from SMB Group about the changing use of business communication technologies with 92% of SMBs using at least one cloud solution, 60% saying that mobile solutions are critical and 86% using mobile applications.

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group said “As a company we are moving towards keeping and managing everything in the cloud…Whatever we need, whenever we need it, accessible from whichever device is most suitable and available at the time.”

Small and medium sized business today face the challenge of providing workers with flexibility while at the same time maximizing their productivity, controlling costs and ensuring that teams retain good interaction.

Stephen Tanner, Founder of OfficePOD Ltd commented “An organization cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair in a spare room. Employers have a duty to provide staff with the tools they need to work effectively and productively; this should include a suitable working environment, wherever that happens to be.”

To explore these issues further the team at global business communications vendor Mitel asked business users, leaders in innovation, architects, psychologists and human resource experts for their perspectives in four key areas:

• How technology trends are setting the agenda
• Next generation workplaces
• The impact of a global market
• Cultural changes and the impact on work.

To discover more insights download the full guide at http://www.mitel.com/knowledge-hub

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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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An Agile Approach to Business Intelligence, Big Data

Story by Angela Guess

Robert Bates recently wrote for IT Pro Portalag, “In order to implement ‘open data’ practices across a business and improve data flow that can result in better and faster analysis a cultural change needs to take place as well as a technological one. The most important change that needs to be instilled is transitioning the whole business, not just the data insights team, to adopt an agile approach to ways of working. Originating from software development, the principles that make up an agile working methodology can benefit all business areas.”

Bates goes on, “These principles include: Active user involvement; The empowerment for all employees to make decisions; Requirements evolve but timelines are fixed; Make small changes to test and then adapt as necessary; Focus on frequent delivery of products; Complete each feature/task before moving to the next; Adoption of Pareto’s Law (80/20) for efficiency and productivity; Test early and often; Collaborate and cooperate across all stakeholders.”

He continues, “While some of these principles may require slight amendment depending on the team or business unit that they are being applied to, using these as a base, teams can instil more efficient and productive ways of working, particularly in regards to the way they look at data, make requests for insight and apply business intelligence to projects. From a technology standpoint, in order to deliver BI that can quickly adapt to the changing needs of the business a new approach to how data is delivered is required. A new concept that is gaining traction in the business world is viewing data delivery as akin to a supply chain. Currently this is not how most data is accessed and delivered.”

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Without a Web Hosting, Web Dev or Digital Marketing play, your practice may end up in the Doghouse

GoDaddyGoDaddyMarketing and IT — they’ve never been strange bedfellows, because, well, they’ve seldom been in bed together. In most organizations, they’ve slept in different rooms, if you know what I mean.

But here’s the thing: The terms of endearment have changed. Marketing has become so technology-driven, that you at least have to flirt with it. If you haven’t considered offering web hosting, website development, and other forms of digital marketing tools to your clients, you do so at your own peril.

This came to me as I reviewed the results of a just-released survey by RedShift Research sponsored by GoDaddy. It showed that a huge amount of money is sitting on the table among a still vast number of small businesses that have yet to take even the first, most basic step to get online with a simple website.

Getting them there may open the door more opportunities. “Companies that get online are likely to use other IT services,” GoDaddy SVP Steven Aldrich told me as we discussed the significance of the just-released survey.

Or as GoDaddy put it in announcing its findings:

“While those planning to build a website are as likely to telephone a customer as they are to email them, the survey found that those already with a website were twice as likely to communicate via email as to phone. That suggests that as these very small businesses get their own online presence, their communication practices will change, perhaps as they become more digitally sophisticated and their customer base grows.”

Note: Those “other services” extend beyond email. Digital marketing is on its way to becoming the next great imperative among all businesses, even including the very small ones (five employees or less) constituting the RedStart-GoDaddy survey universe.

Digital marketing is 90 percent technology-driven. Ergo, you, dear IT pro, will be an essential and trusted advisor on on this matter.

Let’s say you have a contract customer. Yes, you’re offering email, telephony, network management and monitoring. Great. But helping your customers with a website can also lead to a daisy chain of other related services — email marketing, marketing automation, live chat, reputation management, and a host of other related platforms.

This represents a huge potential opportunity. Consider: A surprising 59 percent businesses in the RedStart-GoDaddy survey didn’t have a website. Extrapolate: That means about 118 million small businesses need someone to help them get a Website — and then grow into other services.

And heaven help them if you don’t. Their competition promises to eat them alive. Look at these two other survey results:

59 percent of those respondents who already have a website say their business grew.
83 percent of small business owners who already own a website feel they have a competitive advantage over those without one.
Don’t write off those businesses without a website as hopelessly and forever behind the times. Of those surveyed, 55 percent said they intend to create a website in the next two years.

***

One other note of interest about the GoDaddy survey: It exemplifies the extent to which the company has re-calibrated its strategy. Remember those racy Danika Patrick Super Bowl ads? Gone.

“We’re talking about GoDaddy to the customers we’ve always had,” Aldrich said. “Much of our advertising and marketing is about the day-to-day effort by small businesses to keep the lights on.

“So our creative has shifted away from the sensational to that small business struggle.”

And that to note as well because where small businesses are pained is exactly where you can most gain.

by Patrick Houston, Editor-in-Chief, SMB Nation

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Avnet CEO to Present at BAML 2015 Global Technology Conference

Avnet CEO to Present at BAML 2015 Global Technology Conference

Avnet, Inc., a distributor of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology, announced today CEO Rick Hamada is scheduled to present at the BAML 2015 Technology conference in San Francisco, Calif.Avnet Logo

Hamada will speak at 1:20 PDT June 3 at the conference, but his presentation will also be broadcast live over the Internet on Avnet’s Investor Relations page. Avnet advises those who wish to view the presentation to log on to its site before 1:05 p.m. to register for the web broadcast and download any necessary software.

Additional Avnet event information, slide presentations and recent webcasts are available here.

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Survey Reveals Top 5 SMB Concerns, Worries

Yodle logoYodle has released the results from its inaugural Small Business Sentiment Survey – a study that examines American small business owners' perspective on work-life balance, professional and personal worries, and government and institutional support.  The study also reveals the rate at which small business owners are adopting modern technology and marketing approaches.  The survey, which was conducted in June 2013 through a third party research firm, polled 306 small business owners nationwide across a large variety of industries.

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