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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.
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5 Most Popular Small Business Cloud-Based Services

As a small business owner, you understand through your first-hand challenges how difficult it is to accomplish specific goals because of a limited budget. Other challenges may stem from a lack of expertise in a specific and vital area. Specifically, building and IT infrastructure present challenges that small business owners in previous years and decades were stymied by. However, modern solutions to these challenges are available to today's small business owners through cloud-based services. Understanding the primary cloud-based solutions available to your small business may help you to make smarter decisions going forward.

1. Intuit QuickBooks Online
Intuit QuickBooks has been available to small business owners for years, and this accounting solution  Cloud Computingmakes it easier for you to manage your books, project your financial status into the future, create invoices and more. This online application has incredible depth, and it is flexible enough to be useful for almost any small business environment. If you are challenged by financial management or if you feel that financial management is taking up too much of your valuable time each week, this may be a solution to take a closer look at.

2. Zapier
If you are looking for a collaboration tool, Zapier is an excellent solution to consider. Zapier makes it easy for you to connect the apps that you use most frequently together for seamless efforts. Workflows can be automated in many ways, and you may be able to save an exceptional amount of time and energy because of the collaborative benefits that this tool provides. It is functional with a wide range of popular business apps. You can learn more about the apps that it can connect for you to determine if it may improve your current work processes.

3. MailChimp
Email marketing is an effective, direct way to communicate with your customers, but it also is stressful and time-consuming. MailChimp takes the time and stress out of planning, executing and even analyzing email marketing campaigns. Through its impressive features, small businesses can level the playing field with larger companies that have a more substantial marketing budget and more in-house assistance. You simply use the platform to build a campaign and to customize your message. There are even pre-built automation features that make it fast and easy to execute your campaigns.

4. Microsoft Power BI
Managing business intelligence tasks is a common challenge for many small business owners, and Microsoft Power BI strives to address those challenges head on. This is a user-friendly platform that is available to you for free. It enables you to organize and analyze data in a drag and drop environment. You can do everything from enhance analytics to print reports and more. The dashboard helps you to keep your analytics organized, and the dashboards can be perfectly customized to meet your specific needs. You can create attractive reports through this program as well, and the reports can easily be distributed to your entire team for viewing on any type of Internet-based device. The program is interactive with Microsoft Office 365 products.

5. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Viruses and malware are legitimate and substantial concerns for small business owners. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is an affordable solution to this problem. This is a regularly updated program that works with Microsoft platforms. It has remote capabilities so that you can initiate a scan from your smartphone. Because of its affordable price and its convenient features, it is ideal for a smaller business that does not need to purchase many licenses to make the solution cost-effective. This program also makes it easy to secure your online experience and to properly manage passwords. The company has been in business for more than 15 years, and it serves millions of customers. It prides itself on its ability to quickly identify threats and to update its products accordingly to protect its customers.

With limited operating capital, it makes sense to feel as though your business is placed at a disadvantage in the marketplace. However, you can see that there are many applications and programs available that can help smaller companies stand on equal footing with their much larger and more well-established competitors. Analyze these applications today to determine if they could benefit your operations in a substantial way.

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Open Source Turns 20 Years Old: How This Term Came Into Existence?

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When Netscape released the source code for its Netscape Communicator web browser 20 years ago, a discussion was sparked in the developer community. A new term was being sought that could appropriately explain this stuff. A related term, “free software,” existed but its seeming focus on price confused the newcomers.

For the first time, on February 3rd, 1998 in Palo Alto, the term Open Source was coined by Christine Peterson, who was executive director at Foresight Institute.

Christine Peterson has recently shared her unpublished account of how she came up with the term and how she proposed it. “Oldtimers must then launch into an explanation, usually given as follows: “We mean free as in freedom, not free as in beer.”,” she writes in her account.

As per Peterson, after Eric Raymond’s meeting with Netscape, he took Foresight’s help to strategize and refine their message. During that meeting itself on Feb 3rd, Peterson, who believed the need for a clearer term to describe such code, came up with the term Open Source Software.

Later that week, in another meeting on February 5, 1998, with the help of Todd Anderson, she was able to gather some kind of consensus around the open source name. “These were some key leaders in the community, and they liked the new name, or at least didn’t object.”

The Open Source Initiative was formed in following days. People like Tim O’Reilly, Bruce Perens, and others played a pivotal role in popularising the term. Perens also adapted his Free Software Guidelines for Debian GNU/Linux to serve as Open Source Definition (OSD).

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For IT in 2018, Think Change and Change Again

By James M Connolly

Even with the ongoing new developments in core technologies, IT organizations are facing dramatic changes in how they work in 2018 as they embrace new business concepts and strategies.
We just might be at a point where IT professionals -- from the overworked help desk staffer up to the CIO in the fancy office -- long for the good old days. You remember those days, when technology, that "T" in IT, ruled the day.

That was when the to-do list was filled with tasks such as configuring hardware, testing compatibility of software packages, upgrading databases, responding to "stupid user" complaints, and fighting to keep hackers out of a system. Even the move to the cloud often was a bits and bytes and connections challenge. Today, a whole new layer of IT complexity has landed on top of all those pure tech issues.

That layer is a sometimes bewildering mashup of raw data, analytics, innovation, customer relations, and business strategy. How those elements -- once largely in the purview of only a few specialists or the most senior IT executives -- have been woven into the day-to-day lives of most IT pros was illustrated in a 12-part series of feature articles posted on InformationWeek.com over the past two months. Our writers looked at the state of a dozen technology and management concepts and explored the new world of IT for practitioners and the business as a whole.

 

information technology connections

Image: Shutterstock
Take the example of the IoT, which John Edwards examined in The Internet of Things: Still Lots for You to Learn.

One could look at IoT and conclude that it's really just a network, feeding lots of data into a database. Granted, it includes Internet-enabled sensors, but IT knows how to connect things to the Internet, and it certainly knows databases. Oh, but IoT is so much more, with so much more to know.

The IoT network is useless unless IT understands the business and the challenges that business leaders and operations people face. Consider what the optimum operating temperatures are for refrigerators in 1,000 restaurant outlets, and at what temperature the food starts to go bad. When an IoT-connected fridge has issues, and the temperature hits a level where an alert is issued, who gets notified? What does that service rep need to know about past temperature trends? What type of repair or preventative maintenance has to kick in at what point? What do the other sensors in a fridge tell food quality managers about when food stocks need to be rotated out or replenished? All of that data plays into corporate decisions on everything from which refrigerator supplier to use to how inventory control factors into corporate margins.

The fact that the IoT is about analytics as much as it is about networking raises another question. What is the role of IT in an analytics initiative? Writer Lisa Morgan explored that as part of her feature Beware Analytics' Mid-Life Crisis.

Citing the ever-popular business shift to software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications procured by business units rather than IT, Lisa wrote: "Organizations serious about competing on insights need to think holistically about how they're approaching analytics and the role of IT. Disenfranchising IT from analytics may prove to be short-sighted. For example, a proof of concept may not scale well or the data required to answer a question might not be available."

In other words, the next phase of "Shadow IT" shapes up as "Shadow Analytics," which can only mean a huge problem with data siloes, some sitting in marketing, others in operations, and still more back in the IT group.

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SMB Digital Transformation: Why, When, Where and How?

Digital Transformation

 

SMB Group’s 2017 U.S. Small and Medium Business Digital Transformation Study reveals that today’s small and medium businesses (SMBs) have tuned into the digital revolution. As noted in Pulse Check: SMBs and Digital Transformation, roughly three-quarters of SMB (including small (1-99 employee), medium (100-999 employee) and upper midmarket (1,000-2,500 employee) businesses) decision-makers agree/strongly agree that digital technology is impacting their businesses and industries.

So, why, when, where and how will SMBs place their digital bets?

Why: Drivers for Digital Transformation
The top reasons that SMBs are investing in digital technology are to attract new customers, improve employee productivity and streamline operations (Figure 1). However, the top-ranking driver varies fairly dramatically based on company size as follows:

  • Small business: attract new customers
  • Medium business: keep up with competitive pressures
  • Upper midmarket: improve employee productivity

Figure 1: Top Drivers to Invest in Digital Technology

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When: Most SMBs Are in the Planning Phase


Survey results indicate that 48% of SMBs are currently planning to engage in activities that will help them adapt and transform their businesses for a digital future. Meanwhile, 36% are already implementing activities to support digital transformation, and 16% have no plans underway.

Phase of digital transformation correlates strongly with company size (Figure 2). Upper mid-market and medium businesses are 2.6 and 1.9 times more likely, respectively, to say they’re currently engaged than small businesses. In addition, younger companies–those that have been in business less than 5 years–are twice as likely to be currently involved in activities to support digital transformation.

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Now Anyone Can Use Google’s Powerful AI Chips Called Cloud TPU

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Google introduced their home-baked machine learning chips at last year’s I/O. Known as Tenor Processing Units, TPUs for short, these chips were later known to be around 15 to 30 times faster than traditional CPUs and GPUs.

TPUs are designed to accelerate machine learning processing on Google Cloud Platform and reduce the time required to train and run TensorFlow-based AI models. Google is already using TPUs in their data centers.

Now, as a part of a limited beta program, Google has made the second generation of chips available for public use under the name Cloud TPU. But using the same doesn’t come cheap. It is up for trial for anyone who can spend $6.5 per Cloud TPU per hour. For a start, Google is providing a variety of open source reference ML models for Cloud TPU ranging across image classification, object detection, etc.

Each TPU board packs four custom ASICs, floating-point performance of up to 180TFlops, and 64GB memory. Google says multiple TPU boards can be combined over a dedicated network to form supercomputers which the company calls TPU Pods. During tests, Google used a TPU Pod (with 64 TPUs) to train the ResNet-50 model in less than 30 minutes, down from 23 hours when using a single TPU.

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GDPR: Who Needs To Know And What They Need To Do

GDPR

Christine Ashton

It’s beyond debate that data is one of a company’s most valuable resources. The total revenue from online advertising in 2014, for example, reached US $49.5 billion, the majority of which is based on users’ personal and demographic information to show more relevant messages. The direction of travel since then has only been in one direction.

The European Union’s new law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), focuses on controlling the use of individual persons’ private information and ensuring that it can be protected. If your company violates the regulation, you could face penalties of as much as 4% of your annual global revenue or €20 million, depending on the details and severity of the violation.

To avoid incurring substantial fines, businesses need to plan well in advance on how to deal with the requirements of GDPR. Although the details may vary from one organization to the next, the roles and perspectives listed below are some of the most important for your company to take into account.

CEO and board of directors
These people will mainly be interested in GDPR’s impact on their business processes. This means performing a top-to-bottom review of the relevant personal data that you handle.

CEOs and the board of directors may also want to understand the cost-effectiveness of their data strategy. Are you collecting and access more personal data than necessary? If so, check into reducing this amount. Continuing to accumulate silos of unused and potentially toxic data increases the need for encryption, and therefore will require more investment.

 

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Why Analytics Are So Important For Businesses In 2018

Analytics

Mario Farag

Last year, most of the world swooned over new technological evolutions such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and automation. Even though these technologies are proving to be catalysts for growth, many small business leaders have decided to concentrate most of their investments on data analytics.

In fact, according to IDC’s infobrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation,” 47% of surveyed entrepreneurial companies adopted business analytics or business intelligence software for data analytics in 2017. While IDC’s finding is encouraging, most small businesses also recognized in 2017 that they are only scratching the surface of what they need from analytics to compete effectively.

Ray Boggs, vice president of small and medium business research at IDC, recently commented in an IDC Analyst Connection that this reality can be attributed to the misunderstood value of analytics. “The benefits of advanced business intelligence can come not just from better [or] faster answers to current business questions, but from an appreciation of what the most important questions are that aren’t yet being asked,” he shared. “As small and midsize firms grow, there is a risk of extending business practices and processes without a critical review of what is essential.”

But this news is so 2017. It’s time to kick into high gear a brand-new mentality around analytics for 2018.

Why embracing predictability reveals the full potential of data analytics
Small business leaders have often felt left behind by the growing acceptance of analytics, fearing that their workforce, customer base, or operations were too small to justify the cost. Although this view is shortsighted, it’s entirely understandable. Budgets are usually so tight that it’s difficult to take money from one department to pay for a new solution when ROI is not 100% predictable.

While most things in life are anything but predictable, the cost of implementing and maintaining technology, especially business intelligence analytics in the cloud, is. Here are three reasons why.ks back to the primary network?

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Top Three Reasons Why HTTPS Should Be Enabled on Your Website

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By Paul Simons

Spamming, hacking and the breach of cyber security are an unfortunate reality of the digital world. According to some reports, almost one in three internet users in the United States are a victim of cyber crimes in one way or another. The cyber security attackers are launching more and more harmful malware every day and are evolving their techniques to strike more devices than ever before.

The situation is even more alarming for small businesses and ecommerce stores. Some statistics indicate that almost 64% of online companies have experienced web-based attacks and millions of customers have been affected. This means that online retailers must take necessary safety measures to secure their websites and ensure that customer’s sensitive information is duly protected.

The Battle Against Hackers
The moment you create a website, it is at the risk of being hacked. As an online retailer, there is nothing more threatening than the damage done by hackers. Once they manage to penetrate, they can destroy all the records, steal information, and most importantly, they just ruin your customer reputation.

There is a lot you can do to secure your ecommerce website. The first and the foremost measures are to make sure that your passwords are secure, admin pages are hidden, and HTTPS is enabled on the website. Furthermore, you can use parameterized queries and CSP, limit file uploads and install further security plugins.

HTTPS – The Ultimate Warrior
HTTPS is the ultimate missile in your arsenal. What it does is that it encrypts the information traveling between a browser and a web server. This means that the communication between the browser and the website is protected from “man-in-the-middle” AKA hacker’s attacks. HTTPS typically deploys one or two secure protocols to encrypt communications, so the customer’s credit card information and logins remain secure from the perverts.

There are many instances when users need to share credentials like signing up for an account, placing an order, or submitting reviews and testimonials. They need to ensure the website is secure and trustworthy. The presence of SSL certificate symbolizes that the website is secure enough to share personal details. But, still they need privacy while placing orders or submitting details.

The eCommerce websites that are powered by stand alone platforms like Magento or PrestaShop are made secure by default, whereas for improving user experience, merchants can integrate extensions and add-ons. Magento Testimonials extension is one of the reliable tools that create an autonomous environment for the end users to submit testimonials without fearing for data theft, whereas, the installation of SSL certificate is like the final nail in the coffin in gaining the consumer trust to share personal details.

Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
For someone who is new to web development or internet business might find it hard to figure out the difference between the two. HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-based protocol designed for distributed, collaborative and hypermedia information systems. Whereas, HTTPS connections include an SSL certificate and the computer agree on a “code” that will transfer between them. They scramble the messages using that particular “code” so that no one in between can read them. This means that HTTPS connection is far more secure than HTTP connection.

Some Extra Benefits of Using HTTPS
Earlier, HTTPS was primarily used by the websites that involved the use of sensitive information or payment gateways. However, due to the increased security concerns and the severity of cyber security breach, HTTPS is now a must-have feature for all websites.

Apart from security, I have discussed further reasons why HTTPS must be enabled on your website.

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The Network “Hack” that Wasn’t To Be

Sometimes the idea looks great on paper but doesn’t really work out when you try to configure it. And often, the only way to be sure is to break out the good old scientific method and try. So I tried. And it didn’t work, so I’m putting here in case you get a similar wild idea in near future.

The goal was to start with a primary VNET in Azure for some VMs. This network was going to act as a collection point for data coming in from a number of remote physical sites all over the world. In addition, some machines on the primary network would need to send configuration data to the remote sites. Ultimately, we were looking at a classic hub and spoke network design, with an Azure VNET in the center.

basicnework1

There are several ways you can do this using Azure networking, VNET peering between Azure VNETs, Site-to-Site (S2S) VPNs, and even ExpressRoute. ExpressRoute was off the table for this proof of concept, and since the remote sites were not Azure VNETs, that left Site-to-Site VPN.

The features you have available to you for Site-to-Site VPN depend on the type of gateway devices you use on each end for routing purposes. For multi-site connections, route-based (aka dynamic) routing is required. However, the remote sites were connected to the internet using Cisco ASA devices. The Cisco ASA is a very popular Firewall/VPN that’s been around since about 2005, but it only uses policy-based (aka static) routing.

So while we could easily use a static route to connect our primary site to any SINGLE remote network using the S2S VPN, we couldn’t connect to them all a simultaneously. And since we couldn’t call this a “hack” without trying to get around that very specific limitation, we tried to figure out a way to mask the static route requirement from the primary network. So how about VNET Peering?

VNET Peering became generally available in Azure in late 2016. Prior to its debut, the ability to connect any network (VNET or physical) required the use of the VPN gateways. With peering, Azure VNETs in the same region can be connected using the Azure backbone network. While there are limits to the number of peers a single network can have (default is 10, max limit is 50) you can create a pretty complex mesh of networks in different resource groups as long as they are in the same region.

So our theory to test was…. What if we created a series of “proxy” VNETS to connect to the ASA devices using static routing but then used the VNET Peering feature to connect all those networks back to the primary network?

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How to Build Employee Engagement in Your Small or Medium Business

ToniBowers 72x80Toni BowersToni Bowers

SMB Tech 

 

 

Companies of all sizes often have difficulty understanding the importance of developing trust and engaging employees in their organizations. CEOs will sign off on a serverless API because someone has shown them that it can save cloud computing costs, but the value of employee engagement, employee collaboration and trust often goes uncalculated.

That is not to say that companies don’t see problems that result from the lack of employee engagement and collaboration. A survey by Forbes and Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends revealed that 76 percent of survey respondents (2,500 organizations in 90 countries) believe that they have a significant retention and engagement problem. Ninety percent of these leaders think an engagement strategy will have an impact on business success, but barely 25 percent of them have such a strategy.

How Employee Engagement Can Affect Your Bottom Line
There is a direct and tangible added business benefit to organizations that invest in their employees. In fact, Gallup (via Dale Carnegie) claims that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent.

On the flip side, there is a measurable cost to having unengaged employees: higher turnover (estimates show employee turnover equals about 150 percent of an employee’s salary), lower productivity while on the job, and increased employee absence. American businesses lose approximately $500+ billion per year because of disengaged workers, according to Gallup1 and Office Vibe.

How to Build Employee Engagement
Trust is a necessary ingredient of both engagement and innovation. If the people in your company are innovating, producing sustainable results, and building exceptional work relationships, they are also building trust in each other, and your company, in the process.

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Keeping Up with the Releases

There are a lot of great things to say about the faster release cycles we see with software these days. Bugs are fixed and features become available to us sooner, security issues are resolved quicker too. In a lot of cases, our operating systems and software packages are smart enough to check themselves and let us know updates are available or automatically install themselves.

I work between two different machines regularly and depending on my schedule sometimes favor one software updatemachine over the other for several weeks at a time. For better or for worse (mostly for the better), Windows 10 takes care of itself for me, as does Visual Studio Code and Docker for Windows. This means I often find myself sitting down at the “other” machine and once again waiting for those updates to install. While sometimes I admit to rolling my eyes in frustration every time I get an update alert, I do appreciate that I don’t have to think about those updates otherwise.

But for software that doesn’t automatically update, I will sometimes find myself wondering why demo notes I’ve drafted on one machine suddenly aren’t working when I try them on the other machine or worse, blaming documentation for being incorrect when the commands don’t work as instructed.

When it comes to documentation freshness vs software freshness… Let’s not go there today. I generally always start with docs.microsoft.com when I’m looking for information about Azure and other Microsoft products. While nothing is above being error free and sometimes out of date, more often than not my problems exist between my keyboard and monitor – in the form of some piece of software needing an update.

The top two things on my machines that I have to manually update regularly are:

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New SMB Channel DevOps extends Slack/Autotask

 

Wise minds are always innovating. That’s exactly what’s occurred with long-time SMB Nation member Grace Schroeder (remember the Idea2 CRM?) with her new company Slingr.

Schroder and team have launched a supporting actor application in a category I just made up called SMB channel partner ecosystem extenders. Essentially Slingr found a gap that needed to be filled. In particular this blog concerns Slingr’s integration of Slack to the Autotask professional services automation (PSA) solution.

I spoke with Slingr executive Thomas Beck at a recent cloud computing event in the Seattle area to learn  slingr thoms beckmore. “Essentially Slingr is a low code, high productivity application platform as a service combined with an integration platform as a service capability. Our value proposition is that you can build and integrate apps much more efficiently than starting app development/integration from scratch.” Beck shared. “We’re so efficient that , on average, you save about 80 percent of time on labor and resources when building from a platform basis versus the alternative of building from scratch.”

 

With Thomas Beck (right) from Slingr.

Autotask Integrations with Slack

I asked about Slingr’s new Autotask/Slack integration solution. “We build a lot of apps and integrations for our customers. Sometimes we have ideas or requests from customers like ‘Hey – we wish this was something that did this’ and one of those requests came from a friend in the MSP community who shared a lot of MSPs are using Slack and Autotask.” Beck said. “The basic request was could you make Slack and Autotask work together. We determined it was a broad enough market profile and that exactly what we’ve done: integrate Slack and Autotask.”

Okay. I asked how would I use the Slack/Autotask integration in the day in the life as an MSP? “Think of it this way. If you use Slack, you tend to start living in it; Slack becomes your windows to the world. You stop wanting to get out of Slack and you don’t want to swivel chair to another app to get something done because that’s inefficient and loses productivity.” Beck shared. With the Sling bot for Autotask/Slingr integration, you can do 90% of what you need to do in Autotask by staying inside Slack. All within ten commands. You can open, assign/reassign, check and fetch tickets, etc. all with in Slack.

Get the App and Costs
Download from the Sling.io app store.
Free ten (10) day trail
Costs are $9.99 per user per month

Roadmap
I asked if the Datto acquisition of Autotask has impacted the integration. “No – nothing has been broken.” Beck said. “Everything is still full operational. Based on the success with the Autotask/Slack integration, we expect that we’ll expand into the other PSAs such as ConnectWise. Everything is driven by customer feedback.”

Finally, I asked how MSPs can work with Slingr? “We do have a partner program for MSPs that want to work with clients. Take an two or even ten applications and you can partner with Slingr to build integrations. We can work with the MSPs and clients to be an enabler on digital transformation. All in the cloud; partially in the cloud, etc." Beck stated.

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Machine Learning is Animal Learning

I’ve had this blog written in my mind for months. I’ve just been trying to find the words to articulate my vision of animal behavior as the best way to explain “machine learning.” So what motivated me to type this out? I read an article in the New York Times this week here about artificial intelligence (AI) and how animals are helping with machine learning.

My study was based on the SMB Nation mascot,

Astro, an English Springer Spaniel who hunts. Hunts food that is. But his hunting to spring birds on Bainbridge Island is for pleasure only (and its instinctual). He has quickly learned via nurture and from over 15,000 years of canine domestication (nature) that its far easier to beg for food from humans. Astro uses a charm offensive much like an infant to get what he wants - food - from humans. Loosely translated to machine learning, think of it this way. Animals are very good at detecting what works and doesn’t work. Begging works.

Old Dog, New Tricks
Animals such as dogs are creatures of habit. Normally they repeat routines such as awaiting kids at 4pm when the yellow school astromachinelearningbus pulls up to unload. And Astro isn’t getting any younger, so I embarked on a mission to teach an old dog new tricks! The task was to teach Astro to go through the doggy door to the home office. It was harder than I thought as the see-through plastic flap appeared to be a barrier to entry. So, like AI, I modified the approach to find a tactic that worked. With food being a primary canine motivator, I’d place a dog treat inside my office and Astro could see through the plastic shield and nudge his nose to open the “doggy door” to enter. The downside was that Astro would only open the doggy door if there was a dog treat on the other side because that’s exactly what I trained him to do.

So back to the basic axiom of machine learning and AI: modify and try again.

I removed the actual see-through doggy door under the auspicious that I’d first get him to go through the cutout hole unimpeded then I could reintroduce the true doggy door. See Figure 1 below as evidence that this worked. Now Astro comes in-and-out of my office at will. And this is the current state of my animal learning experiment. The downside to the current state – with the doggy door removed is that my office is colder and yesterday a song bird flew into the office. Had to shoo the bird out with a fly swatter. All good.

Parallels
Machine Learning/AI and animal learning are analogous. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself at home. Feedback always welcome.

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February is Channel Education Month!

 

Just a short note to invite you to join me in a complimentary 5-session online conference during February 2018. I'm supporting my good friends Peter Jensen, Marie Wiese, Jim Hamilton (Yay!), Julian Lee and Marc Gordon. Discover more about this complimentary conference here. I consider this a startup/start over topic as we should all be educating, transforming and reinventing ourselves – continuously!

Here is the back story. This online conference is based on the Office 365 CSP/MSP community. sherweb accelerate

Topics are both technical and business - so something for everyone. In fact, it's entirely reasonable that you might only attend a couple lectures that are of interest to you (e.g. security). or perhaps you are interested in all five lectures. Make no mistake - the lectures are "pure content" and made possible with the generous financial support of Sherweb, an Office 365 CSP.

Want to see if this is the right fit? You can watch a short Accelerate conference video here.

What’s interesting about this particular online conference offering is that it’s outcomes-based. You will receive a participation certificate at the end of the five lectures. How cool is that?

Again - you can sign-up for the complimentary conference here. I’ll see you there (and thanks for supporting the SMB MSP community).

Here is a lecture summary to review!

SESSION 3: MARKET INTELLIGENCE SESSION: TRENDS IN IT SECURITY
PRESENTED BY: JIM HAMILTON DURATION : 30 MINUTES
1 PM EST


As technology becomes a critical component for digital organizations, security becomes an even higher priority. Most companies know that security is important, but they aren’t sure which steps to take as they change their IT approach. This market intelligence session, based on CompTIA’s latest research, lets you know which new technologies, new processes and end-user education you should be looking out for.
Key takeaway: The three key areas that every business should focus on.

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Top 5 open source tools for MySQL administrators

Look to these excellent tools to improve CLI and web admin, SQL queries, schema migration, and replication and recovery in your MySQL environment

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                     ThinkStock

For database administrators (DBAs), keeping databases running at peak performance can be a little like spinning plates: It takes agility, concentration, quick reactions, a cool head, and an occasional call out from a helpful onlooker. Databases are central to the successful operation of almost every application. As DBAs are responsible for an organization’s data, finding dependable tools that help them to streamline the database management process and ease day-to-day maintenance tasks is essential. DBAs need good tools to keep their systems spinning smoothly.

So what are the tried and trusted tools for MySQL administrators? Here I share my top five open source tools for MySQL administrators and discuss their value in the support of day-to-day MySQL administration tasks. For each of them, I’ve provided a link to the GitHub repository and listed the number of GitHub stars at the time of writing.

Mycli

The Mycli project provides MySQL command line auto-completion and syntax highlighting. It is one of the most popular MySQL tools for administrators.

Security restrictions such as jump hosts and two-factor authentication leave many MySQL DBAs with command-line only access to their systems. In such circumstances, beloved GUI tools such as MySQL Workbench, Monyog, and others are not an option.

At the command line, much of the time is spent in a light-on-black terminal world. So one of the best things about Mycli is the richness of its syntax highlighting. This allows you, for example, to visually separate functions and operators from query strings in WHERE clauses. For a short, single-line query this may not be such a big deal, but it becomes a game changer when you work with queries that perform JOIN operations over more than a couple of tables. Am I doing the JOIN using indexed columns? Am I filtering using leading wildcards in my WHERE clauses? Mycli supports multi-line queries and syntax highlighting, which means you can home in on the sections that matter most when reviewing or optimizing queries. You can choose from a number of syntax highlighting color schemes or create your own.

The other killer feature of Mycli is smart completion. This allows to you pick out table and column names from a context sensitive list by entering just their first few characters. No more abandoning your current input to run SHOW CREATE TABLE because you forgot the name of the column you want in your WHERE clause!

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D&H DISTRIBUTING OFFERS SMB “MESH” WIFI SOLUTIONS FOR THE MODERN WORKPLACE

Cutting-edge WiFi Distribution Solutions Accommodate Consistent Bandwidth Performance for More Seamless, Flexible, and Collaborative Wireless Small Business Environments —

HARRISBURG, PA – January 22, 2018 – D&H Distributing, a major provider of SMB and consumer technologies to the North American high-tech channel, wants its SMB resellers to take advantage of powerful “mesh” computing solutions. These offerings are making their way from the enterprise to Meshsmall office environments in the form of affordable, easy-to-install and manage solutions.
“Mesh” computing technologies feature a series of access points, or hubs, that distribute and balance a company’s WiFi signal throughout a facility. The systems reduce connectivity “dead spots” so an SMB network can perform more seamlessly, accommodating the roster of wireless and IP-based devices associated with an increasingly more sophisticated small business workplace—even across multiple floors of a single building.
Many regional offices have been forced to locate equipment and workstations within a certain proximity of their WiFi routers to ensure consistent connectivity. Yet today’s modern workplace involves workers who depend on a plethora of wireless devices, ranging from Bluetooth headsets, to tablets and smart phones, to portable speakerphones and high-performance notebook computers. In addition, bandwidth-heavy amenities such as IP surveillance systems or cloud-based storage and printing services create additional demands on bandwidth.
The same office environments often feature open floor plans and ad-hoc conference areas that can be set up on-the-fly, to encourage collaboration between personnel. SMB mesh computing solutions support this trend, allowing workers to take advantage of the collaborative communication these new open-office environments were designed to inspire.

For example, D&H carries the HPE OfficeConnect OC20 802.11ac, which can cluster up to eight access points. It’s a sophisticated yet cost-effective wireless solution that’s easy to set up and administer without significant technical expertise, allowing SMB companies to deploy robust and flexible WiFi of their own accord. The system is installed via a no-cost, straightforward mobile application that can be deployed in minutes, either via cell phone using an Android or iOS app, or through a cloud-based portal. Both the app and the web-based portal also facilitate easy remote network monitoring for the reseller.
The HPE OfficeConnect OC20 allows the business owner to conduct Internet filtering, regulating what sites employees may access and/or restricting adult content. And the solution’s simple remote management capability allows resellers to offer monitoring and troubleshooting via a managed services contract, creating incremental revenue opportunities, and allowing VARs to transition into a basic, hosted services offering.
In addition, D&H offers the popular Cisco Meraki family of wireless access solutions, which incorporates cloud-managed mesh networking into its powerful wireless access points. The Meraki products extend WiFi coverage to hard-to-wire areas and supports resilient, high-performance routing across facilities. These access points “self-configure” to automatically establish a high-performance, robust, and resilient network, without manual intervention or provisioning from the reseller.
The Meraki solutions offer a cloud-based controller interface that can be managed from anyplace with Internet access, and similarly offers an Android or iOS app for administration. This makes the solutions easily accessible, as well being a powerful and versatile mesh networking option.
D&H offers services to support customers in selecting the most appropriate solution for their business models, including assessment services; pre-sales support; and specialized training sessions including live trade show sessions, streaming webcasts, and on-demand presentations. Plus, resellers can take advantage of brandable brochure templates from D&H’s Partner Services Marketing library, including a dedicated piece on the Cisco Meraki products. VARs can use these materials to communicate the benefits of these high-performance WiFi solutions.
“Bandwidth requirements continue to grow as the contemporary SMB workplace incorporates more connected devices and platforms, and as we transition toward the delivery of digital services in almost every facet of business, from email exchange to storage to cloud-based printing and collaboration,” began Peter DiMarco, vice president of VAR sales at D&H. “Manufacturers such as HPE-Aruba and Cisco are now delivering robust, reliable, and cost-effective WLAN WiFi distribution to the small business community. Mesh computing is becoming a necessity in these work environments, to accommodate the increasingly mobile and digital paradigm we all enjoy. In the process, it’s creating ongoing opportunities for VARs and MSPs.”

About D&H Distributing
D&H Distributing believes the most important element of doing business is developing relationships for mutual success. The company continues to build upon its 100-year-old culture by providing its manufacturers, co-owners, and partners with the utmost customer care, consultative guidance, and multi-market expertise. As one of North America’s leading technology distributors, it delivers a wealth of enablement resources and hands-on support services that empower resellers in the IT channel.
The company engages with solution providers, integrators, and VARs to meet current business challenges, as well as forecast their evolving, real-world needs and prospects for lucrative growth opportunities. D&H maintains a special focus on independent VARs expanding their competencies in areas such as hosted and cloud services, the modern mobile workplace, comprehensive SMB server networks, and cross-market expertise across the small business, education, healthcare, and government verticals, to name a few. The company's value proposition includes professional marketing resources, a new transactional service model, dedicated Solutions Specialists, and a highly-lauded webcast training venue; plus reseller engagement events such as technology trade shows, roundtable opportunities, training “track” sessions, and hands-on "lab" sessions.
The distributor is headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, in the US and in Brampton, Ontario, in Canada. Additional warehouses are located in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Fresno, CA; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. Call D&H toll-free at (800) 340-1001, via www.dandh.com, or follow the distributor’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, https://www.facebook.com/DandHDistributing/ and @dandh.

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IoT security needs a white knight

Jon Gold By Jon Gold
Senior Writer, Network World

wireless network internet of things iot thinkstock 853701554 100739367 large

 

Thanks to the Mirai botnet attacks, few people in the world of tech need a reminder that IoT devices remain a serious threat to enterprise networks. Still, more than a year after the botnet made headlines worldwide, IoT security remains mostly an idea, rather than a reality.

Such is the scope of the problem that Frost and Sullivan IoT research director Dilip Sarangan argues for governmental intervention. Sarangan says that, because the responsibility for IoT security is diffused across device manufacturers, network providers, software developers and many others, it’s difficult for the industry to make progress on all-encompassing standards.
“The only entity that has the ability to actually dictate what the minimum threshold is, unfortunately, is the U.S. government,” he said.

The difficulty in creating overarching standards mostly has to do with the fact that any given IoT implementation has a large number of moving parts, each of which may be administered by different organizations, or even by third parties. For example, a set of medical devices provided by company A connecting to a network provided by company B, running an application, originally written by company C and residing in company D’s cloud.

“Everyone talks about it like they’re going to provide end-to-end security, and there’s actually no way to do that,” said Sarangan. “You have no control over a lot of parts of an IoT solution.”

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Epson Wins Two 2017 Best in Biz North America Awards

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Jan 16, 2018 – Epson, a leading provider of innovative business solutions, today announced it received two awards in the seventh annual Best in Biz North America Awards, the only independent business awards program judged each year by prominent editors and reporters from top-tier publications in North America. The Epson WorkForce® Enterprise WF-C20590 A3 multifunction printer (MFP) was awarded silver in the “Best New Product of the Year – SMB” category. The WorkForce DS-780N was also awarded bronze in the “Small or Medium Business Product of the Year” category.

Each year, Best in Biz Awards’ entrants span the spectrum, from some of the most innovative local start-ups to the most recognizable global brands. The seventh annual program was particularly hotly contested, with more than 650 entries from an impressive array of Epson Biz America Awards public and private companies of all sizes and from a variety of industries and geographic regions in the U.S. and Canada. Best in Biz Awards 2017 honors were presented in 65 categories, including Company of the Year, Fastest-Growing Company, Most Innovative Company, Best Place to Work, Support Department, Executive of the Year, Most Innovative Product, Best New Product, App, Event and Website of the Year.

“Epson emphasizes the importance of understanding the evolving business market and delivering products that can make our customers more efficient and profitable,” said Larry Trevarthen, director of Business Imaging, Epson America, Inc. “We are honored to be chosen by Best in Biz North America Awards for two solutions across multiple business categories, which underscores our continued commitment to delivering solutions that meet the industry and our customer’s needs.”

About the Epson 2017 Best in Biz North America Awards Winners

  • WorkForce Enterprise WF-C20590: Powered by innovative PrecisionCore Line Head Technology, the WF-C20590 is Epson’s first high-speed multifunction color line head printer delivering brilliant-quality output. With breakthrough speeds up to 100 ISO pages per minute3, this powerful A3 MFP offers business productivity and versatility for large workgroups and departments within SMB and corporate environments.
  • Workforce DS-780N: Designed for greater efficiency in heavy-use environments, the Epson DS-780N delivers high-quality scans with speeds of up to 45 ppm/90 ipm1 plus a 100-page ADF. With a programmable touchscreen, ease-of-use and document management while delivering fast scan speeds, the DS-780N offers enhanced connectivity for versatile scanning.

Since 2011, winners of Best in Biz Awards have been determined based on scoring from independent judging panels composed of prominent editors and reporters from some of the most respected newspapers, TV outlets, and business, consumer, technology and trade publications in North America. Best in Biz Awards’ uniqueness stems, in part, from this distinct composition of its judging panels, allowing it to best leverage the judges’ unparalleled expertise, experience and objectivity to determine award winners. The 2017 judging panel included: Accounting Today, AdWeek, Associated Press, Atlanta Tribune, Business News Daily, Consumer Affairs, Entrepreneur, eWeek, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Healthcare Innovation News, Inc., Investment Advisor Magazine, Laptop, MediaPost, Pittsburgh Business Times, Security Products Magazine, Wired, WLRN and Yahoo Tech.

For a full list of gold, silver and bronze winners in Best in Biz Awards 2017, visit: http://www.bestinbizawards.com/2017-winners.

About Best in Biz Awards
Since 2011, Best in Biz Awards, Inc. has made its mark as the only independent business awards program judged each year by a who’s who of prominent reporters and editors from top-tier publications from North America and around the world. Best in Biz Awards honors are conferred in two separate programs: North America and International, and in 65 categories, including company, team, executive, product, and PR and media. For more information, visit: http://www.bestinbizawards.com.

About Epson
Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to connecting people, things and information with its original efficient, compact and precision technologies. With a lineup that ranges from inkjet printers and digital printing systems to 3LCD projectors, smart glasses, sensing systems and industrial robots, the company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics.

Led by the Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, the Epson Group comprises more than 80,000 employees in 86 companies around the world, and is proud of its contributions to the communities in which it operates and its ongoing efforts to reduce environmental impacts.

Epson America, Inc., based in Long Beach, Calif., is Epson’s regional headquarters for the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. To learn more about Epson, please visit: epson.com. You may also connect with Epson America on Facebook (facebook.com/Epson), Twitter (twitter.com/EpsonAmerica), YouTube (youtube.com/EpsonAmerica), and Instagram (instagram.com/EpsonAmerica).

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10 Best SEO Audit Tools for Websites & Blogs

seo audit tools

 

SEO Audit Tools make it easy to perform an SEO Audit of Websites & Blogs automatically. Otherwise, doing an SEO Audit can be very time consuming and involve tons of complicated manual checks. Luckily, there are plenty of good website audit tools available online. Here’s a list of Top 10 SEO Audit Tools that you can use for your websites & blogs.


10 Best SEO Audit Tool for Website SEO Audit

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all SEO Auditing Tool for Websites. You need to try out each of these good SEO Audit tools to see if they fit your requirements, before picking a website auditing tool to improve your search engine results.


1. SE Ranking Website Audit

SE Ranking is an amazing SEO Audit Software for web developers, content writers & web designer. It identifies all Website Errors in minutes and provides a list of tasks to improve website SEO performance. It performs SEO Audit of your website based on more than 70 parameters such as On-Page SEO, Meta Tags, Content, Domain Checks, Image checks, Link Analysis, Usability, Mobile SEO Optimization and Website Technologies.

Here’s an SEO Audit Report Sample

seranking website audit

It generates a detailed and free SEO Audit Report that provides a website audit checklist of Errors, and Tips to improve SEO performance of your website & blog. After completing the SEO Audit Analysis, you can even export the Audit Report as a PDF or email it.

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The Evergreen Dream – Security in 2018

It’s that time of year when pundits are preaching what’s hot and what’s not in the new calendar year. As a fancy pants analyst sitting at his desk on Bainbridge Island typing, I resemble that. Today I want to focus on security. Recently I checked off the box on IoT here.

Security Supply Chain
For five years, I sat on the program advisory committee for

ITT Technical Institute (a for profit college that ultimately was shuttered for student lending ITT tech instituteirregularities but that’s for another blog and way past my tenure LOL). Despite what you read with a simple “ITT” search, I can tell you this – they were spot on with a focus on technology-based security. In their information systems curriculum, it was brilliant. At the time, there was only one academic major: security. The system had over one hundred campuses, typically in office parks and near major employers like Boeing. By my estimate, it was training 10,000+ technology professionals annually. They all used the same curriculum (books, syllabus, etc.) and were literally on the same page. That is, if you attended ITT in Everett Washington near Boeing and your job transferred you to Long Beach, CA; you would start on the same page (e.g. Page 56) that you were on the prior week in Everett. Hope that makes sense but it was a solid way to teach security across a large student population.

More importantly, this example of ITT and security underscores the importance of filling the supply chain with talent. This is both an opportunity (especially for a young person in college looking for the next great thing) and clients and firms seeking training talent. Does that make sense?
If you kill the supply chain, you kill the industry.

Can’t Swing a Dead Cat
Looking over the other annual forecasts in the SMB channel plus the line card for 2018 conferences, I see no shortage of security conversations. Ours is an industry of excesses and pendulum swings so it’s not a surprise that security is one of the most mentioned/trending topics. That’s typically a warning sign (my first “overexposure” to trends in this industry was the introduction of switches a lifetime ago). However, security is different. It’s an evergreen and just keeps getting greener.

One to Watch
Security is a huge topic with lots of niches and areas of expertise. So let’s take a small bite to chew on. In 2018, I’m encouraging you to keep an eye on a nimble and spunky ISV called NinjaRMM. It’s core business is measurement. But as the old song goes, that which we can measure, we can manage. And that’s both the beauty and simplicity of the ninjaRMM single pane of glass management console. One of its IP assets concerns its acquired knowledge in the security field; and I’d offer it’s roadmap investments in the security space in 2018.

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Where Will Amazon HQ2 Land?

This is your invitation to play in our Amazon HQ2 guessing game. Please vote and we'll publish the results shortly. As you know, Amazon is searching for a second locaiton for a second HQ to be built out over the next decade. It reportedly host up to 50,000 workers. It's an interesting strategy to have a split management team. I suspect it's to create internal competition and allow the cream to rise to the top. Not sure it's the SMB Nation way but each to their own.

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She’s BACK!

 

With new CEO Scott Wagner assuming office January 1st at GoDaddy, one of the first “differences” is Danica Patrick’s return back to power with a couple twists. GoDaddy will sponsor her historic racing finale with primary sponsorships in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. The two marquee auto races, being dubbed the “Danica Double,”

mark an end to what is considered the most successful career of any woman in racing history – and the beginning of Danica’s next chapter as an entrepreneur and business owner.

Side Hustle to Full Hustle

In addition to the high-profile race sponsorships, GoDaddy is supporting Danica’s life-after-racing by powering the online presence for her business endeavors related to health, apparel and wine – all of which are enriched with her brand and GoDaddy’s savvy in helping people turn their business dreams into reality.

“This is definitely the way I want to finish my racing career – at these two iconic races, backed by my iconic, long-time sponsor,” said Patrick. “GoDaddy was there for me when my career was just really starting so it’s exciting to be getting back in the GoDaddy ‘green’ for my final two races. Our brands have always been powerful together, and I think it’s awesome to have them at my side when I go ‘all in’ with my businesses after racing.”

godaddydriver

Danica has been referred to as “the most recognizable female athlete on the planet,” and “the woman who changed NASCAR forever.” She’s the only woman to have led laps at both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, a feat achieved by only 13 other drivers in the history of the sport.

Danica’s history with GoDaddy dates back more than a decade. GoDaddy signed her in 2006, just after she launched her career and two years before she made history as the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008. Then, in 2010, GoDaddy ushered Danica into NASCAR as her primary sponsor before she made history as the first woman to win the pole position at the Daytona 500 in 2013.

“You could say, ‘we’re getting the band back together,” said Chief Marketing Officer Barb Rechterman. “It makes sense in that our goals are so well-aligned – she’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the Internet and turn their ‘side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers. We love it.”

Danica has already forged into new career territory, having authored a fitness book, entitled Pretty Intense, released earlier this month, and launched her Warrior clothing line. She also owns a California vineyard, Somnium, which is Latin for the word “dream.”

“Having business ideas outside of your primary career can be overwhelming. It takes guts to go after a side hustle full time,” Patrick said. “Helping you get your ideas out of your head and making them a reality is what GoDaddy is all about – getting online with a domain name and website tells the world you are open for business and ready to go.”

Danica is one of TIME’s Most Influential People, and in what is shaping up to be the ‘Year of the Woman,’ Danica is sure to soak in the spotlight for her final NASCAR event, the Daytona 500, one month from today, February 18. She’s planning to unveil her special Daytona 500 GoDaddy car next month.

Danica’s final race is the Indianapolis 500, where she made history as the first woman to lead the most laps, 19, in her 2005 rookie season. “I don’t think I could have written a better ending to my racing career – driving my last laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway … although winning it with GoDaddy would obviously be the icing on the cake,” said Patrick. She has driven some of her best open-wheel races at the Brickyard, including earning a podium spot in 2009 with a third-place finish.

Danica transcends racing, in large part because of her ability to compete in a male-dominated sport. Danica did more than drive for GoDaddy. Over the years, she has appeared in 13 GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials, earning her the distinction as the celebrity in the most “big game” ads ever.

“We have always believed in Danica – and how she is inspired to set big goals, even in the face of adversity. We invite everyone to join us in watching how this next chapter unfolds out on the track, and then stay tuned for how she reinvents herself post-racing,” said Rechterman.

My only question? Will we see a racy GoDaddy Super Bowl ad this year?

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WatchGuard Technologies Acquires Percipient Networks and Adds Security at the DNS Layer to Company's SMB Security Platform

Acquisition supports the company's long-standing vision of making enterprise-grade security accessible to every organization through simplification of packaging, pricing, and product usability.

SEATTLE - January 16, 2018 - WatchGuard(r) Technologies, a leader in advanced network security solutions, today announced that it has acquired Percipient Networks, a developer of simple, affordable, automated security solutions for small and midsize organizations. Percipient Networks' Watchguardflagship product, Strongarm, stops phishing and malware attacks by offering an easy-to-deploy, security-focused Domain Name System (DNS) service. Integrated into WatchGuard's security platform, Strongarm will further improve the security efficacy of existing malware protection techniques, increase the value of the company's popular Total Security Suite (TSS) advanced services bundle, and become a key element in the evolution of WatchGuard's cloud security offering.

In 2016, 76 percent of organizations reported falling victim to phishing1. Company size and vertical industry played no role in likelihood of an attack, making it critical for companies to have protections in place against phishing, happy clickers, and other web-based threats. The Strongarm service monitors outbound DNS requests and blocks traffic to websites based on a list of known malicious domains. Furthermore, by monitoring requests at the domain level, Strongarm's filtering capabilities extend to all ports and protocols. Integrating Strongarm into WatchGuard's comprehensive unified security platform, will provide customers with the strongest possible protection from the widest variety of threats.

"In a world of increasing and constantly changing security threats, there is no silver bullet when it comes to protection. Many organizations don't have the resources to research and deploy a long list of security point-solutions. As such, it is WatchGuard's mission to continually evolve our unified security platform to provide the best combination of security services in a simple package, making enterprise-grade security accessible to all. The addition of security at the DNS layer is just another example of execution of our mission," said Prakash Panjwani, CEO of WatchGuard. "Based on years of research and development, the Percipient Networks team has developed a simple, enterprise-grade solution. We are excited to add the Strongarm solution to our platform and to welcome the teams behind developing and launching it to WatchGuard's ecosystem of rapidly growing partners, customers, and employees."

In addition to blocking traffic to dangerous sites, the Strongarm platform was architected to facilitate maximum user and IT admin education. Rather than just blocking traffic to potentially malicious sites, the service redirects users to a 'blackhole' where additional information about the attack is collected, and the user is presented with educational materials aimed at preventing future attacks. Percipient Networks also employs a threat analysis team who engages with the IT managers and managed service providers (MSPs) to provide additional insights into attacks and how to prevent them in the future. WatchGuard will continue investment in both areas.

"Phishing is one of the most common methods used to gain a first point of entry into an organization. It is one of the most effective tactics because it targets people. As such, organizations must employ a two-pronged approach to combat phishing - malware prevention services and employee education," said Todd O'Boyle, co-founder and CTO at Percipient Networks. "By protecting users and using blocked attacks as an opportunity to educate we significantly reduce the odds of that employee making the same mistake a second time. We are delighted to continue development of the product and our threat research team under WatchGuard's leadership."

WatchGuard partners and customers will be able to gain early access to the new DNS filtering service later this month when the product is released into Beta. The new service will be generally available as part of the company's all-in-one security package, Total Security Suite, shortly thereafter in an upcoming release of Fireware. All active Total Security Suite customers will gain immediate access to the new feature at no additional charge with the simple check of a box.

"We are extremely proud of what we have built with the Strongarm platform and this partnership with WatchGuard will put our award-winning technology and education tools into the hands of tens of thousands of organizations around the world almost immediately via WatchGuard's extensive VAR and MSP community," continued O'Boyle. "We are also excited to extend WatchGuard's approach to total security to our customer base, expanding their protection to cover more threats, and to our partner community, who will gain immediate access to the award-winning WatchGuardONE program and full product portfolio."

About WatchGuard Technologies, Inc.
WatchGuard(r) Technologies, Inc. is a global leader in network security, providing best-in-class Unified Threat Management, Next Generation Firewall, secure Wi-Fi, and network intelligence products and services to more than 80,000 customers worldwide. The company's mission is to make enterprise-grade security accessible to companies of all types and sizes through simplicity, making WatchGuard an ideal solution for Distributed Enterprises and SMBs. WatchGuard is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, with offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. To learn more, visit WatchGuard.com.

For additional information, promotions and updates, follow WatchGuard on Twitter, @WatchGuard on Facebook, or on the LinkedIn Company page. Also, visit our InfoSec blog, Secplicity, for real-time information about the latest threats and how to cope with them at www.secplicity.org.

 

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How to protect your PC against the Intel chip flaw

Here are the steps to take to keep your Windows laptop or PC safe from Meltdown and Spectre.

by Matt Elliott

Intel

A major security flaw has been discovered in many modern processors that could allow hackers to access data -- passwords, encryption keys and other information you want kept private -- stored in the protected kernel memory of your computer, phone or tablet. Known by the names Spectre and Meltdown, the flaws affect chips from Intel and Arm. Intel's rival AMD believes its chips are safe, saying in a statement, "Due to differences in AMD's architecture, we believe there is a near zero risk to AMD processors at this time."

Click here for a broad overview of the fixes currently available for a variety of devices. Considering the vast number of users with Intel-based Windows PCs and laptops, here's a deeper dive on what you need to do to protect yourself.

Install the emergency Windows patch

Microsoft has released a rare, out-of-band emergency patch for Windows 10 users. It should pop up and ask you to restart your machine so it can be installed, but if you have yet to receive such a notification, then head to Settings > Update & security see if there are updates waiting on the Windows Update page. If you are running Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), the patch you need is labeled Security Update for Windows (KB4056892).

For older versions of Windows 10, here are the patch numbers:

  • Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update): KB4056891
  • Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update): KB4056890
  • Windows 10 version 1511 (November Update): KB4056888
  • Windows 10 version 1507 (Initial Release): KB4056893

Manual install route

If you have yet to receive the patch via Windows Update, you can manually install it by going to this Windows Update Catalog page. Odds are you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, so you'll want to install the file for x64-based systems. For Fall Creators Update, for example, it's the bottom-most option labeled "2018-01 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1709 for x64-based Systems (KB4056892)."

How can I be sure I'm protected?

To check to see if you have installed the necessary patch, go to Settings > Update & security and click View installed update history. Under Quality Updates, look to see that Security Update for Windows (KB4056892) was successfully installed. You can also check by going to Settings > System > About and scrolling down to the Windows specifications section. After installing the KB4056892 patch, the OS Build will read 16299.125.

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Microsoft is shutting down its free upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 January 16

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 has moved out of mainstream support, meaning that users are essentially running a dead OS. But there's still one more way to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.

By Mark Hachman

Senior Editor, PCWorld

windows 10 assistive technology loophole 100746775 large

 

If you’re still running Windows 8.1, be advised that Microsoft shut down mainstream support a week ago. But there’s still a last-ditch upgrade path to Windows 10: Microsoft’s assistive technology loophole, which closes January 16.

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 8.1 on January 9, five years after the operating system’s debut. Essentially, it’s dead, and for the average consumer, Windows 8.1 will remain forever unchanged, with no new features or bug fixes. Instead, Microsoft has migrated the OS to “extended support,” which will provide security updates for another five years, until 2023.

In Microsoft’s world view, consumers should have already migrated to Windows 10, a modern OS with big fixes, patches, and period updates. And while the company gave users a one-year window to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, NetMarketshare shows about 7 percent of users have refused to upgrade, or simply forgot to do it by the July, 2016 deadline.

Well, know this today: You have one last opportunity to upgrade (unless Microsoft once again extends the deadline).

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What’s new in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017

The Version 15.6 beta provides a raft of C++ improvements, as well as enhancements for developer productivity and diagnostics

 

By Paul Krill

Editor at Large, InfoWorld | January 12, 2018

 

MS Visual Studios

                         ThinkStock

The second beta of the Version 15.6 update to Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017 IDE is now available.


[ Review: Visual Studio 2017 is the best ever. | Cut to the key news and issues in cutting-edge enterprise technology with the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

Visual Studio 2017 15.6 beta’s features


Microsoft on January 10 released a second beta of Visual Studio 2017 15.6. Its features include:

  • Improved solution load performance, focused on scenarios where a project already has been opened.
  • The design time build cache has been optimized, with project data loading now done in parallel. Visual Studio thus can use the disk and CPU with greater efficiency. Microsoft has found that large C# and Visual Basic solutions will “warm-load” twice as fast as before.
  • For productivity, the beta lets developers navigate to decompiled sources.
  • For diagnostics, the CPU usage tool now displays logical call stacks for asynchronous code when used during post-mortem profiling with the Alt-Z Performance profiler. Asynchronous code running on behalf of a parent function or task appears as a child in Call Tree and Caller/Callee views. This view makes it easier to navigate asynchronous code and understand performance.
  • For Azure cloud development, continuous delivery can be configured for solutions with ASP.Net Core projects.
  • The Test Explorer capability, for running tests, has added a hierarchy to organize tests by project, namespace, and class.
  • Test Explorer has changed real-time test discovery so it is now on by default, rather than require a flag be set.

The preview also offers new capabilities for C++ developers:

  • For C++ standards conformance, the preview implements more of the C++ 17 standard library, including APIs such as stable_sort and partition.
  • Missing include files are automatically discovered for C++ Open Folder if under the workspace root.
  • Debug options are now available for embedded ARM GCC development.
  • Five new checks have been added to enforce rules around integer overflow and additional rules for C++ guidelines
  • CMake projects are now automatically listed in Test Explorer.

Features introduced in the December 8, 2017, initial beta include:

  • The CPU Usage tool shows source-line highlighting based on consumption of specific lines of code.
  • Using Intellisense capabilities for Python code no longer requires a completion database.
  • The Team Explorer collaboration tool improves Git tags functionality, with the Tags tile available for viewing all tags in a repo. Developers also can delete and push tags and build a new branch from tags.
  • Access to the App Authentication Extension, for configuring a device to use protected settings when working with the Azure cloud, has been moved into the main setup.
  • Real-time test discovery, used for projects using the Roslyn compiler to find tests and populate the Test Explorer, is on by default. It had been available via a flag in the Version 15.5 release.
  • For Azure cloud development, Visual Studio supports configuring continuous delivery to Azure for Team Foundation Version Control, Git SSH remotes, and web apps for containers.
  • The WCF Web Service Reference connected service provider now supports an existing service reference, simplifying the process of regenerating client proxy code for an updated web service.

Where to download the Visual Studio 15.6 beta
You can download the Version 15.6 beta at the Visual Studio website.

Now available: Visual Studio 2017 15.5 features

Visual Studio 2017 15.5 was released on December 4, featuring faster load times for C# and Visual Basic.

Visual Studio 2017 15.5’s compiler and standard library gained the following new support for the C++ 17 standard:
• The compiler supports about 75 percent of C++ 17 features, including structured bindings, constexpr lambdas, inline variables, and float expressions.
• C++ code generation has been improved.
• New C++ Core Guidelines checks should ensure the quality of C++ code.
• Support for the Google Test Framework assists with writing Google Test C++ unit tests
• The Linux C++ workload supports cross-compilation for ARM microcontrollers.

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Connected Devices, Remote Security: Data Encryption and Security in the Cloud

By Pete Johnson


Security” used to mean worrying about HTTPS certificates on your websites. The notion of a “device” was a browser and all you really had to do was to guarantee that traffic between it and your web servers was encrypted.

Then the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon caused system administrators to worry about things like isolating WiFi traffic for visitors and providing VPN tunneling software of iOS and Android, so that employees could access corporate assets in the palms of their hands. “Device” then meant “smartphone.”

But now, “device” means something different. Manufacturing equipment, plane engines and even parking meters all qualify. Devices seem to outnumber people, reminding us why we need IPv6. But this new notion of “device” also requires a very different security model unless you want to fall victim to a hacker because you forgot to secure every thermostat in your building.

Building Multiple Security Levels on top of HTTPS
Different vendors address this more complex security model in different ways, but generally speaking, it has three components to it: Authorization Engine, Handshake Certificates and HTTPS.

HTTPS is still the underlying technology for encrypting traffic, but unlike the old days of web surfing (when we used to argue about the length of the keys), modern device traffic puts two layers on top of that base encryption. First, there is a set of certificate handshakes that makes sure that some cloud entity should be talking to the device in question. On top of that is typically a cloud-driven authorization engine that can confirm or deny specific instructions to the device.

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10 Best Google Analytics Tools for Your Business

google analytics tools 1

Google Analytics Tools make it a lot easier to use Google Analytics as well as extend its functionality in many ways. Here are 10 Best Free Google Analytics Tools to help you get more things done with Google Analytics in a lot less time. In fact, some of these tools & add-ons can be used with Google Tag Manager (GTM) as well. All of these tools are free browser add-ons that you can simply download & install with a click.


1. Tag Assistant

Tag Assistant is a great google analytics tool that enables you to verify if you’ve properly added google analytics tracking code to your website or blog, and troubleshoot in case of problems. In fact, you can also use it to verify Google Tag Manager Installation as well as Google Adwords Conversion Tracking. Tag Assistant is a Chrome extension that you can easily download & install from Chrome store.

google analytics tools

Bonus Read : 8 Google Analytics Metrics Every Business Must Track Regularly


2. Google Analytics Debug

Google Analytics Debug is a Chrome extension that allows you to debug Google Analytics right from within your browser. It basically inserts a piece of code when you load a page containing Google Analytics Tracking Code in your browser. This allows you to see useful information, warnings and errors messages about Google Analytics installation and performance, in your browser console. It also provides in-depth information about each tracking beacon/variable that your website sends to Google Analytics.

Bonus Read: How to Get Google Analytics Individual Qualification


3. Page Analytics by Google

Page Analytics is a wonderful Google Analytics Tool that allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages, including what they click & didn’t click. You can use these insights to optimize your web page layout, and increase conversion. When you load a page for which you have Google Analytics Access, it basically uses the Google Analytics Report data for it to generate page insights. You can even use the Google Analytics date comparison and segmentation tools right from within the extension.

Bonus Read : 10 Best Google Analytics Reports for Your Business

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Startups Seek Tech Solution to Net Neutrality Repeal

From VPNs to mesh networks, efforts to find an alternative route to internet access are gaining ground in Silicon Valley

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Daniela Perdomo, goTenna’s founder, holding the $90 antenna, with engineer Raphael Abrams. PHOTO: RYAN BOBROWSKI

By Douglas MacMillan

Daniela Perdomo is concerned about the power of U.S. telecom giants that stand to gain from the repeal of “net neutrality” rules. Her company offers a way around them: A $90 antenna that lets users send messages without cellular service or Wi-Fi.

Ms. Perdomo is among the entrepreneurs whose vision for an alternative route to internet access is finding takers in Silicon Valley, where tech types were rattled by a recent government decision to overturn rules that required big internet providers to treat all traffic equally.

“Society requires connectivity to function and to advance but we are leaving telecommunications in the hands of a few large corporations,” Ms. Perdomo said. “The lack of a choice is a problem.”

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VerticalWatch: Health Care IT 2.0 for MSPs

 

Hang on fast for a fat opportunity you might have overlooked. It concerns a new approach to health care and pain relief with just a bit of pleasure sprinkled in. I’m discussing the medical and recreational cannabis industries. I discovered this opportunity via research over the course of 2016/2017 in the Seattle area.

High School Jokes Aside…
Once you get the White Elephant out of the room (high school and college jokes), you’ll quakily discover that the cannabis wallpaper 420 9 industry is deadly serious. In my research, it resembles the local pharmacy dispensary business. You have similar legal compliance and supply chain issues.

And most view cannabis as a cure for ailments. Ergo I’m leading with the health care paradigm, not the black market drug dealing nonsense that has often defined cannabis.

 

Facts

  • 5-states (including California) recreational legal plus Washington D.C.
  • 22-states medical legal
  •  California is recreational legal as of January 1, 2018.
  • Massachusetts will become recreational legal in July, 2018

Risks
If you, the entrepreneurial MSP, considers yourself a risk taker, the cannabis vertical is for you! Right now the future is not an assured outcome. At the Federal-level, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under Federal law. Furthermore the Trump administration under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Cole Memo issued by the Obama administration as of early 2018. You can learn more about the Cole memo here but essentially it states that the Federal government was to stand down on active enforcement at the Federal-level of laws prohibiting cannabis. That effectively allowed the states above to legalize the sales and distribution of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. By undoing the Cole Memo, there are legitimate concerns that Federal enforcement against cannabis will happen.

Another industry risk is banking. Currently cannabis-related industry players can’t participate in the banking system at the federal level. There are a couple loopholes such as state chartered credit unions but it’s clearly a business model impediment to not have a full service banking relationship.

MSP Opportunity
Some SMB Nation community members are ideologically opposed to cannabis use and have little interest in this industry. Others are following the money. Say what you must but the cash rich cannabis industry is an ideal vertical market if you like interesting technology work and want to get paid (well). I’ll be defining the MSP opportunity over the next couple of months but the purpose of this blog was a HEADS UP!

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IoT for Real: Sensors

I’ve really struggled to see the Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity for MSPs. While IoT was/is a topic de jour at nearly every MSP-related conference currently, it’s still a pie in a blue sky concept. So what’s the reality of IoT as I write this in early 2018? I’d offer industrial applications that are, to be brutally honest, far afield from the traditional MSP world.

I have two data points to back up my research.

Both involve relationships I have from the Microsoft days. First, there is an employee

who recently returned to Microsoft from other endeavors and spent a year researching IoT in the Azure product group. We had lunch discussing the old Response Point product inside Microsoft Research but more importantly, his view of IoT. Basically the Azure product team is going to view IoT as CONSUMPTION! The trillions of data bits gathered from industrial cafeterias (rea coffee makers needing a maintenance visit) and trucks crossing the country will fill up Azure storage containers. At the end of the day, the Azure business model is timesharing and consumption so the more the merrier.

iot home

 

The other IoT encounter concerns Stijn Henrikse. We worked together inside Microsoft SMS&P during the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) era. Recently he landed at Fluke Corporation as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of its Fluke Digital Systems group. MSPs will fondly recall Fluke as the gold standard for network measurement instruments. We met for coffee over the holiday break and he offered the most practical insights into IoT that I’ve received to date. It concerns industrial applications here and now. Think HVAC systems inside buildings. Then think of a medical campus with a large number of building having different and varied systems. I’d offer Fluke early success in IoT in this realm are akin to the adage “…that which we measure we can manage.”

So how can I relate this to the world of MSPs. There is an emerging answer: NinjaRMM. This spunky ISV has gained traction in the SMB Nation community with its solid RMM product and, equally important, its community participation. In working with NinjaRMM during 2017, I discovered its development roadmap was already pointing towards incorporating IoTisms into its portfolio. Of course the timing isn’t announced but I can tell you this. It’s the underlying commitment to product research and development from NinjaRMM that will make IoT reality for MSPs. How do I define reality? The answer is that it must cashflow (hey – payroll is due on the 1st and 15th mate).

Here is an interesting article we recently curated on the SMB Nation site “The Top 8 IoT Trends for 2018” that you might enjoy.

I’d love to hear how you, the SMB Nation member, is working with IoT. You know how to reach me. Thanks!

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Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following for it is at the front of your mind. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by Brandchoosing and registering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Logo
Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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The Top 8 IoT Trends For 2018

Daniel Newman , CONTRIBUTOR
Exploring all things Digital Transformation

 

Amazon Echo

An Amazon Echo sits on a table in New York.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

An IHS survey estimates that there are 20 billion connected devicesglobally as of this year. Will 2018 be “The Year of IoT”? Not exactly, but the future looks promising and 2018 will show a promising trajectory.

Despite the huge gains in connectivity, the truth is 2018 will be more of a steady (rather than explosive) growth period for the IoT, full of fits and spasms, and everything that goes along with them. It will see lots of investment—lots of growth—and widespread adoption in a few major industries. But it will also see some growing pains—“fragmentation frustration,” potential data breaches, and security issues galore.

IOT Survey

A recent study shows about 2/3 of companies are currently utilizing IoT

 

 

So, will 2018 be an exciting year? Yes—ish. The truth is, we’re right smack in the midst of a revolution—no matter how imperfect it may initially seem. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is. The following are the top eight trends we’ll see in the coming year.

1. The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is jumping aboard, hoping to harness the power of the IoT to connect with customers, grow their brands, and improve the customer journey in deeply personal ways. But industries like healthcare and supply are not far behind. They’re using the technology to connect with patients via wearable devices, and track products from factory to floor. In many ways, the full potential of the IoT is still being realized; we’ll likely see more of that in 2018.

2. It Will Also Become More Fragmented: Just as the IoT continues to grow, it will also become increasingly fragmented. As we’ve seen with the growth of as-a-Service (aaS) programs and cloud solutions, that fragmentation will create some hurdles for many companies, as they deal with compatibility issues throughout their industries. Though companies like Qualcomm are leading the push for IoT device standards and certifications, in many ways, the genie has already left the bottle. It’s now a matter of wrangling her back into place if we want to put those standards in place.

3. Which Leads to Greater Security Concerns: I’ve said it before, but fragmentation leads to system compromise. Almost every time. The more complex, the more network security challenges. Indeed, securing all these connected devices in an environment with minimal regulation will be difficult. Finding a solution to keep data safe will be a main goal in the coming year.

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Four Key HR Trends To Watch In 2018

Chee Tung Leong , CONTRIBUTOR

HR

Shutterstock

You may have already noticed it.

Subtle changes in your office space allowing you to concentrate more. Your boss being that little bit more concerned about your professional growth. Maybe it's also gotten just that bit easier to get your application for time off approved.

2017 has seen people analytics arrive "with a vengeance": this year, 69% of companies studied have been actively taking steps to improve the way they look at people data, compared to only 10-15% before.

If managers are able to effectively analyze and predict staff needs accurately, making the office environment more productive, improving career development, and implementing human resource processes should become much easier.

 The increasing adoption of human resources (HR) software has helped streamline the data analytics process and expedite “social connections” by providing management with the speed to act on these real-time and actionable insights.

With this as a strong foundation for progress, 2018 promises to have some radical changes to the HR landscape.

1. Shift from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience
With the growing influence of millennials and the increasing transparency catalyzed by the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience. 2018 will finally be a year where leaders start to focus on developing the “Employee Experience”, an ecosystem that integrates three core dimensions: engagement, culture and performance management.

This new focus will drive leaders to examine their employee journey map and optimize it much as customer experience teams do for customer journeys. It will be an exciting time where HR will continuously experiment with technology in the market such as pulse feedback tools, employee wellness apps, modern communication and productivity tools that will help facilitate the understanding and development of the employee experience.

2. Race to Digitalize HR
An important corollary to improving the employee experience through analyzing employee data is the digitalization of the workplace itself. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tools like GetLinks or Arya have disrupted recruitment practices, effectively lowering costs and obtaining candidates with the better fit.

Josh Bersin shares his perspective, “just as many digital disruptors have toppled businesses in travel, retail, and other industries, we should essentially ‘topple’ our HR thinking with the adoption of digital solutions,” he says. “HR organizations now have to learn how to ‘be digital,’ not just ‘buy digital products.'”

In this vein, Singapore-based OCBC Bank recently developed an in-house mobile app, HR In Your Pocket, giving employees a holistic HR resource center for submission of leave and claims, tracking medical and lifestyle benefits, and internal job postings. It also features an in-app chatbot to address questions employees might have about HR.

As this rolls out, such practices are getting high visibility in many other companies. In Asia, where HR practices in some countries are still relatively nascent, there is a significant opportunity for ‘leapfrogging’ - skipping legacy technologies and processes altogether and progressing directly towards a more digital HR that would rival developments in more advanced countries.

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Beat the Street?

It was all explained to me a decade ago by well-known SBSer and SMB Nation member Bob Hood from Chicago, IL. Loosely translated he indicated many a wise person has gone to their grave trying to “beat the street” in investor parlance. Yet it seems that Harrisburg, PA-based D&H Distributing has done exactly that according to its most recent quarterly report. Because D&H Distributing in privately held, it doesn’t file standard reports like a 10K statement so it’s a bit difficult to confirm its growth; it doesn’t report revenues or earnings. But taken at face value, here is what I know about D&H’s success in beating the street.

Top Growth Categories at D&H, September to November 2017 (year-over-year):
Digital Signage 51%
Connected Home 42%
Server Products 36%
Network Security 26%
Workstations 19%
Wireless/networking 17%
Notebooks/desktop 14%
Printers 13%

Server-side
Gartner reports that server shipments grew 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2017 after declining 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017. IDG reported similar numbers. If you look closely above, D&H is reporting that Server Products are up 36%, clearly a case of beating the street. But hailing from Seattle and the home of Microsoft Servers, forgive me for being a bit skeptical. I dug a bit deeper.

First there are two different measurements. Gartner and IDC are measuring server shipments. D&H is measuring the category of server products. So the growth rates don’t align (not apples to apples). D&H offered the following as sources of server-side growth.

1. Server refreshes – Small businesses tend to lag behind in upgrading technology. There are a number of five to ten year-old servers out in the small business channel running Windows Server 2008/2008 R2, and we are seeing a bit of a refresh cycle for that market.

2. Component and accessory add-ons – Many competitors and peers in the channel focus on selling a lot of inexpensive servers. D&H focuses on selling servers built to last. We sell more memory and hard drives per system than our competitors, on average. We sell upgraded RAID solutions on average far above the channel. We sell remote management modules, encryption modules, premium RAID keys, and other advanced technologies, even on servers for small businesses. All of these items are sold based on the value proposition of each one. The greater market tends to selectively overlook this strategy.

3. More sophisticated server solutions – D&H actively recommends high-availability solutions for our clients, typically two or three servers and an iSCSI or FC SAN. Most of the channel reserves this kind of solution for the mid-market and up, but there are a lot of small businesses who rely heavily on their data and systems being available. Those are the customers we cater to.

4. Focus on new technology – when Intel brings out a new family of technology, we drive that message in the market not only through our Intel customers, but through our HPE and Lenovo DCG customer bases, also. We find that we traditionally get a head-start on selling the latest and greatest by educating our customers on the value proposition and business advantages of moving to a newer technology platform, which tends to bring some server upgrades onto the calendar for D&H and its customers.

Any way you slice it, it’s both bold and impressive that D&H can beat the street. It’s niche focus on small business has resulted in extraordinary returns from expertise.

dandh100

 

Forward looking
D&H is headed towards it’s 100-anniversary and it expects to add a 5% increase in its customer base over the next 18-months. “The distributor foresees significant opportunities for resellers who are looking to expand, as the industry faces a potential SMB back-office refresh cycle, spurred by the latest end-of-service dates for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 solutions.” What it’s referring to is the end of mainstream support on January 9, 2018. You read it here first!

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Infographic: 2018 IT budgets are up slightly; spending focus is on security, hardware, and cloud

In a recent Tech Pro Research survey, 39 percent of respondents said their 2018 budget would increase between 1-10 percent over 2017. This infographic has more information about how that money will be spent.

By Amy Talbott

In July and August, ZDNet's sister site, Tech Pro Research, surveyed tech workers about the IT budget for the 2018 fiscal or calendar year within their organization. Over half said that in terms of funding, their organization would dedicate more to IT.

However, another interesting trend emerged from this survey with regard to organizational IT spending. In this year's survey, 48 percent of respondents said they felt executive management at their organization valued IT funding as much as other departmental budgets. Last year, 65 percent of respondents said the IT budget was given equal importance within their organization. The portion of respondents who felt that their organization values the IT budget less than other departmental budgets was up to 36 percent this year, from 21 percent in last year's survey.

Within IT departments, a premium is being placed on security spending. Fifty-three percent of respondents said security will be a top priority in the 2018 budget. This isn't terribly surprising after high-profile events in 2017 like the WannaCry, or WannaCrypt, attacks and the Equifax consumer data breach. Respondents listed hardware purchases, cloud services, and software purchases as other high priorities for IT funds.

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Image: Erik Underwood/TechRepublic

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Snapchat introduces a redesigned app that separates your friends from brands

All mixed up

By Casey Newton    @CaseyNewton

snapchat

Snap today introduced a redesign of its flagship app intended to promote more intimate sharing among friend groups while pushing professionally produced content into a separate feed. The redesigned Snapchat includes a new dynamic friends page that incorporates both chat messages and ephemeral stories, and pushes items from your close friends to the top of the feed for the first time. It will begin appearing later this week for a small test group, and is expected to roll out more broadly in coming weeks.

The move comes at a time when Snap is under mounting pressure to grow its stagnant user base. The core idea in the new Snapchat is to put your friends on one side of the app, and brands on the other. In the center is Snap camera, which will remain the app’s home screen. (It produces 3.5 billion snaps a day, the company says.) The left side of the app is now for sharing and discussing, while the right side is for searching and consuming.

The idea is not completely new. The left side of the app has always been for chats with friends, and the right side has always been for brands. But before now, stories — the ephemeral, public photo and video posts that disappear after 24 hours — have been housed in their own tab to the right of the camera screen. The stories tab blended content from friends and brands, to sometimes confusing effect.

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Windows 7 update guide: How 'security-only' and 'monthly rollups' differ

Microsoft in 2016 changed the way it rolls out updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, leaving many IT admins and users confused. Here's how to sort out what the company is doing.

By Gregg Keizer

Senior Reporter, Computerworld

 

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It's been more than a year since Microsoft ended the decades-old practice of letting customers

choose which patches they apply, and instead instituted a cumulative update maintenance model for Windows 7 and its shadow-of-a-sibling, Window 8.1.

And yet some users still don't grasp the new scheme.

"There are plenty of people who don't know which kind of update they should use," Chris Geottl, product manager with client security and management vendor Ivanti, said in a recent interview. "'Which one should I do? What non-security features are included in the monthly rollup? There's still some confusion."

No wonder there.

Microsoft asked for a lot last year. It asked enterprise IT administrators to upend ingrained patching practices. It asked them to make radical changes to how they maintain Windows 7 deep into its lifecycle, when there were just three years and change remaining before retirement, a phase most admins probably thought they'd be coasting as they prepped for Windows 10. It asked customers to absorb new terminology. And it changed the rules more than once after the new process debuted.

In return, users had questions - ans still do. The top query may seem among the simplest - what's the difference between the two types of Windows 7 updates now offered - but as Computerworld found out, appearances are deceiving.

What's in the security-only update? Just as the name implies, this update includes only security-related fixes, the kind that Microsoft has issued for 14 years on the second Tuesday of each month (aka "Patch Tuesday").

Just as important, though, is that the security-only update contains this month's fixes, and nothing more. (Again, that characteristic is what has defined Windows patches for years.)

What's in the monthly rollup? The Windows 7 and 8.1 monthly rollups include not only this month's security patches, but also all past security and non-security fixes, going back to at least October 2016, and possibly further. In other words, a monthly rollup is a superset of the month's security-only.

Side note: "Rollup" is a term Microsoft has used for ages to label catch-up updates, those that bring a program or operating system up to current status by bundling all past fixes. (Usually from a specific point in time, say, the last major release, which in the past were called "service packs" and abbreviated to "SP" as in "SP1" to designate the first such collection.)

Microsoft has touted rollups as a customer convenience, because they allow a long-out-of-date PC to be made current with just one download and install, rather than being forced to retrieve scores, maybe hundreds, of individual updates. That's exactly how the company described what it dubbed the "Windows 7 SP1 convenience rollup" it issued in May 2016.

"Install this one update, and then you only need new updates released after April 2016," Microsoft said at the time of the convenience rollup, which preceded and presaged the monthly rollups announced three months later.

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5 Ways To Market your Prototype

After spending so much time and energy creating an amazing prototype that you are excited about, you may be eager to take it to market and to start generating a profit from it. As simple as this sounds, it actually is more complicated than you might think. After all, the prototype should be carefully analyzed and tested before it is mass produced. Furthermore, you have to understand market requirements, competing products and even how your customers may actually use the product. The prototype is only the first step in the full production process. However, you may be able to start marketing your prototype quickly through several different strategies.

Create a Prototype First
Before you start marketing the prototype, ensure that the prototype is the best version possible. It should be very detailed and prototypemade of high-quality elements. At one time, creating a quality prototype was cost-prohibitive for inventors and smaller companies. However, 3D printing is now easily accessible and affordable. Prototypes made from this type of technology may even the playing field and potentially increase the number of great inventions that are brought to market. With your prototype in hand, you can market it in these ways.

1. The Teaser
A teaser is a website that is specifically designed to promote your prototype. Your website should use Google Adwords and SEO strategies to bring visitors to it. Once on the teaser website, visitors can see the prototype in detail. They can also learn about its features and uses. However, avoid stating all features and benefits. This website should be akin to a movie trailer. You want to entice visitors to contact you for more information so that you can customize your sales pitch specifically to them.

2. The Funds
To effectively market your product on a wider scale, you generally need to have access to a substantial amount of capital. You can fund this endeavor through your own personal funds if you have access to that amount of capital, or you can raise money from friends and family members. Your teaser website may be useful in this situation. You can also raise funds through venture capitalists, angel investors, silent partners and others.

3. Offer Early Purchase
Your product may not currently be available for sale, but that does not mean that you cannot accept orders for it. A pre-order is a great way for you to raise the revenue needed to bring the product fully to market. It also can show your potential investors that there is a strong market for the product. However, if you do accept pre-orders, try to deliver a product that is as close to the prototype as possible. You do not want your first few customers to be unhappy with the product they received because it is different than what was promised to them.

4. The Tryout Period
Another idea is to offer a free trial of your product. Some customers who are interested in your product and who may be uncertain about buying something seemingly new or untested may be eager to try a product without strings attached. This is also a great way to get feedback that is necessary to further refine your product. A smart idea is to offer these initial customers a discount to encourage them to make a purchase after the trial period ends.

5. The Power of Social Networks
There are many free or cost-effective ways to promote your product online. For example, social networks like Facebook and Instagram are free for you to use, and you can spread the word about your product to your followers. They can share the information with others. This potentially lets you expand your reach to a significantly larger group of people than you otherwise would have access to on your own.

Important: Ideas and Patent Protection
If you have a truly great idea, there is always a chance that someone else will mimic or outright copy your idea. In order to protect your rights, you need to have a patent on your product. You may seek legal assistance with this process if you are not familiar with it, or you can contact the U.S. patent office yourself to begin the process.

You could try to bring your product to market immediately on your own, but there are ways to promote your prototype that may be more effective and affordable. These alternatives may give you time to work the kinks out and to further refine the product before it is mass produced. Explore these various concepts to identify the most effective strategies for your unique prototype.

Author’s Bio:
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. You can reach her on Twitter.

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Guide to Improving Your Business Capabilities

The way that you run your business will have evolved over time. From the early days when there may just be you working for your business, to the current day when you may have a number of employees, your business processes will have changed withBusiness Capabilities the increase and possible variation of workload; but are you working effectively? One way to boost your company’s bottom line is to review your working practices, procedures and environment, and take action on your findings.

Staff
With business growth comes the need to recruit staff who can help you accomplish your business goals, but you may not have considered that the working practices that they bring onboard could be harming the effectiveness and productivity of your business. You need to fully understand how your employees perform their duties to make changes that will benefit the business. It could be something as simple as moving the printer nearer the reception desk, or slightly more complex changes that require an examination of the company’s culture. One example of when the company’s culture needs to be addressed is if colleagues have too many meetings that fail to achieve the action points detailed in the agenda. The culture of your organisation needs to work with your objectives in mind, and not against them.

IT Infrastructure
Office workers are often frustrated by the technology that is in place in the office. While your IT infrastructure may have been adequate when you initially started your business, you are required to update your technology periodically. A slow computer that takes too long to load is a sign that you need to address your IT issues by upgrading the memory on the computers.

Seek out specific software solutions that can help your employees fulfil their roles. There is software available that can help HR, accounting and even warehouse management. You will lose time while you implement the new systems, but most will be compatible with your current infrastructure and will boost productivity with time-saving technologies.

The Office
As previously mentioned, simple changes to the layout of an office can significantly boost productivity. You need to ensure that the environment that you provide for your employees is conducive to optimal output. The impact of the aesthetics of the work environment on workers’ wellbeing is well documented, but have you taken advantage of this research? Workstations that are placed in natural light, office plants, artwork on the walls and a fresh coat of paint have been found to reduce fatigue, headaches and stress. As well as your staff’s mental wellbeing, you must also cater for their physical health: choose ergonomically designed office equipment. By taking care of the people that help you run your business, they will reciprocate and take care of you.

The need for change is often prompted when you recognise that your business is not performing as well as you know it can. There are many reasons for a reduction in performance, but by taking time to understand the workings of your business intimately, you will be able to identify solutions to the issues raised.

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Top 2018 Employee Engagement Learning Trends

The New Year is right around the corner, and most employees are thinking about one of three career-related decisions. It is time to search for a new job, stay with my company or go back to school to improve their education.

A complicated reality to accept for most business owners is retaining top talent to save the expense of hiring new employees. Have no fear. We researched the latest employee engagement trends for you to use at your company in 2018.

1. Flexible Workplace Options
Think about the convenience you will add to non-customer facing employees lives such as accountants or telephone customer service reps with work beat the odds 01from home option. It can be a once per week or month program that can be beneficial to single mothers, students, or employees with disabilities. According to Forbes, a recent study by CTrip stated: “remote workers ended up making 13.5 percent more calls than their comparable office workers, which is the equivalent of almost a full extra day’s worth of work in a given week.” Employees working from home feel valued by their employer. The pressure of meeting a quota motivates them to work harder.

2. Healthcare Tailored to Employee Needs
Imagine what your employees will think if you introduce healthcare benefits that will suit their lifestyle. You can lower healthcare costs for employees that exhibit financial hardship. An example of a successful launch is Schneider Electric that noticed a decrease in healthcare claims after implementing an employee program where workers can select personal options that will meet their healthcare benefit needs.

3. Performance Management Technology
The day of paper surveys handed out to employees is a thing of the past. In 2018, companies will use online feedback platforms such as 360-degree feedback to discover their thoughts on improving products and the appearance of your shop. The feedback they offer to your competitors and how to improve the customer service experience will help companies succeed. It might appear to be an expense you would prefer not to spend, but employees speak with customers every day. They are the ears and eyes of your business.

Another trend in technology will be online invoicing platforms that help employees focus on important work versus entering mundane spreadsheets that consume their time.

4. Mobile Fosters Employee Engagement
The workforce attracts employees of all ages. The age of technology through smartphones will change the way employers communicate with their team. Most people prefer to receive information from text because emails can accidentally be deleted or end up in junk mail. Human resources departments will connect with employees with the following strategies:

  • Onboarding documents sent via SMS versus email
  • Friendly reminder of upcoming training or workplace events
  •  Connect with employees on payroll inquiries versus phone calls, emails

5. Time Off Programs
The popularity in Silicon Valley with some start-ups is granting unlimited vacation to help ease stress most people experience with heavy workloads. A few examples include a full day paid off for your birthday, half work days on Friday’s or a day off on the weekend if your state football team has a game. You can be creative or send a poll to employees to find out if 1 Personal Day per year will help with studying for exams, taking their child to the dentist or a day to relieve stress. If you notice your team is burnt out, it will negatively impact your bottom line.

A productive employee is one that will spend a few hours after their shift ends to do a good job cleaning up inventory.. It means an employee that will go the extra mile to put a smile on disgruntled customers face. The more productive employees are, the result can be increasing your profit.

 

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Bitcoin hits $15,000

Will anything stop this rocket to the Moon?

By James Vincent @jjvincent

 

bitcoin

llustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Bitcoin’s value crossed the $15,000 threshold for the first time today, marking another milestone in its dizzying ascent. In recent months, the cryptocurrency has undergone a staggering increase in value; surging from roughly $3,500 in mid-September to its current price. And at the start of the year, a single Bitcoin was worth less than $800.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, and most analysts are united only in their uncertainty over the cryptocurrency’s future. Bitcoin long ago stopped being useful for actually buying things (partly because of its rocketing value and partly because of achingly-slow transaction times), so the questions facing speculators are: is this a bubble? And if so, when will it burst?

bitcoin USD Price

 

Bitcoin’s price earlier today when it crossed the $15,000 threshold. Not long after it fell, back to $14,800. Image: Coindesk

Some traders figure we’re getting close, and are preparing to short Bitcoin; that is, make bets that its value will decrease in the future. “[It’s] one of the greatest shorting opportunities ever,” cryptocurrency Lou Kerner told Bloomberg earlier this week. “You have a lot of zealotry, and a lot of people, including me, who think it’s the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of mankind. You have a lot of people who think it’s a bubble and a Ponzi scheme. It turns out both of them can’t be right.”

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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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WeWork is buying Meetup

WeWork

 

WeWork has agreed to buy Meetup for an undisclosed amount, the coworking company announced. It’s a natural fit between WeWork, valued at $20 billion, and Meetup, a community platform with 35 million members that has hosted more than 300,000 “IRL” events (in real life), Mashable notes. WeWork has continued to rapidly expand its empire — including purchasing Lord & Taylor’s flagship New York store, opening a private kindergarten, and leading a $32 million investment in a women’s coworking space. Meetup will stay a standalone company for now, but will go on a hiring spree, per Wired.

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4 Reasons Small Businesses Fail at Local SEO

Local SEO is the wave of the future. People are glued to their mobile devices 24/7 and are looking for services near them more than ever. Those who are still stuck in the pre-mobile-first era are bound to be left behind unless they ramp up their local SEO efforts. Unfortunately, many small business owners have absolutely no clue how local SEO works and end up making mistakes that can set them back. Find some examples below:

Incorrect or Outdated Information

One of the most important things with local SEO is the consistency of your contact information. If your SEO Failinformation is all over the place and is inconsistent across platforms, your rankings will be affected. Make sure that you double check every outlet where your address is listed, whether it is a business directory, Facebook page and, of course, your Google My Business address.

Not Having a Google My Business Page

For those of us who are familiar with local SEO, we may take our Google My Business page for granted, but there are still a surprisingly high number of businesses who don’t have one setup. Whether it’s by ignorance, or simply because they don’t see the benefits of it, many business owners still are absent from Google’s business directory.

Others wrongfully believe that the information generated by local searches comes from their website. However, all listings in local results come from Google My Business page information. So, if you don’t have one, you have no chance to rank locally. You should create one immediately; it only takes a few minutes to complete. Just make sure that you don’t skip the verification at the end as it will be used to authenticate your address. 

No going the Extra Mile to get Reviews

Reviews are another crucial aspect of local search rankings. Sites at the top not only have more reviews on average, but also good reviews. If you have bad reviews, you’ll have no choice but to address recurring problems and commit to quality. Don’t be afraid to interact with negative posters and don’t make the mistake of coming off as defensive. Sincerely show that you’re listening to your customer's concerns and are ready to make some changes.

If you don’t have enough reviews, you’ll have to be more proactive in getting reviews from your clients. One of the great ways to get reviews is to add it as part of your packaging. For instance, if you’re in the restaurant business, something as simple as a message that prompts your visitors to review your restaurant on Google could make the world of difference.

Conclusion

Local SEO should play a central role in any marketing strategy. It’s one of the most effective marketing methods out there and is completely organic, allowing you to reap the benefits over time.

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ClearCenter Acquires Minebox IT Services GmbH

Clearcenter

 

ClearCenter to integrate Minebox blockchain-based decentralized technology with ClearOS open source Security, Cloud, Server, Network and Gateway IT management offerings

MADRID, Spain, OREM, Utah and VIENNA, Austria - (Nov. 30, 2017) - ClearCenter today announced that it has acquired Minebox IT Services GmbH in a move to round out ClearCenter’s Hybrid IT Linux-based IT management operating system, ClearOS. Minebox is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, and today’s announcement was made at the HPE Discover 2017 show in Madrid, Spain. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Both Minebox and ClearCenter have existing partnerships with HPE and each have optimized their solutions for HPE’s new Gen10 line of ProLiant servers.

"The escalation of general interest in the blockchain has produced a spike in security concerns around protecting blockchains and associated technologies," said Michael Proper, ClearCenter Founder and CEO. "By integrating Minebox with ClearOS and ClearCenter’s Gateway.Management security layer, we will provide the most secure method to manage decentralized hybrid on-premises and cloud-based storage.”

Minebox is based on an open source decentralized cloud backend. It stores files locally like Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems do, but also keeps encrypted pieces of each file on multiple nodes around the world. This eliminates any single point of failure, ensures redundancy and offers the highest possible uptime. With Minebox, users hold the encryption keys and own their data. No outside entity can access or control a user’s files.

"ClearCenter is a perfect fit together with Minebox's employees and customers," said Vlado Petrushev, CEO and COO or Minebox. "By joining forces with ClearCenter, we will be able to support a larger audience, expand into new markets and build new products to serve data storage needs for the coming decades."

ClearCenter's ClearOS is a next-generation open source server operating system that includes critical gateway, network and cloud security features. It delivers a powerful Hybrid IT management solution with an elegant user interface that is completely web-based. A key service within ClearOS is the Gateway.Management security layer. ClearCenter plans for a tight integration with Gateway.Management and Minebox technology to aid in protection from ransomware, viruses, malware and IoT-targeting threats.

Gateway.Management uses full egress control and Machine Learning-based whitelisting. These features allow customers to protect networks, machines and users without expensive hardware, subscriptions, or labor costs.

"The one layer of security that consistently mitigates modern threats, even during zero-day periods, is egress control," said David Redekop, ClearCenter Security Architect and Gateway.Management creator. "From an endpoint device, this Zero-trust Model means that all outbound access is denied unless approved."

About ClearCenter
ClearCenter creates simple, secure and affordable products for managing Hybrid IT. ClearCenter's ClearOS is a Linux-based open source operating system for managing Cloud, Server, Network and Gateway layers. It is designed for homes, small-to-medium size businesses and distributed environments. ClearOS has more than 430,000 deployments serving more than 10.4 million users. It is available in multiple languages and being used in 154 countries around the globe today. Visit http://www.clearcenter.com for more information.

About Minebox IT Solutions GmbH
Minebox is building data storage, archiving and backup solutions using NAS computers, blockchain technology, peer to peer networks, public-key cryptography and open source, decentralized data storage systems. Visit http://minebox.io for more information.

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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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3 Mistakes People Make with Their Company Blog

While there are as many mistakes to make with your blog as there are bloggers out there, company blogs face a unique set of challenges. If you’re too technical, you lose your audience, while if you are too personal makes you compete with every other generic blogger. Here are three mistakes people make with their company blog.


“Press Releases Go Here, Too”
Posting press releases on the company blog is a mistake for several reasons. First, it gets hit with a duplicate content penalty. Second, no one wants toBlog Mistakes read a blog that consists of generic press releases. Third, you should have marketing channels to distribute press releases better suited to that type of content than posting it on your blog.


“I Posted Six Months Ago”
More than half of all blogs are started and essentially finished because they haven’t seen a new post in six months or more. No one will follow you on social media or follow your blog if you don’t post regularly. This is why many people who run out of ideas tap into guest bloggers, though you need to ensure that the content they post fits your intended brand image and doesn’t leak information you consider confidential. That said, you could let someone in another department share a story of life behind the scenes, do interviews with key personnel and essentially drum up content from other work groups to keep the content flowing.

Don’t forget the opportunity recycling old content creates, such as posting an old interview and then adding a follow-up section on what the person is doing now. Throwback Thursday and Wayback Wednesday are opportunities to post old advertisements and then talk about when you discontinued that product or service and the benefits of the later generation offerings available now.

“Oh, This Generic Post Is Good Enough”
Generic content fails for several reasons. First, it is boring. Second, it won’t stand out in a search for any key term. Third, no one is going to see any reason to share it, and you will lose high-quality backlinks to your site. Instead, look for tailored blog posts focused on a key search phrase or question. It is actually to your benefit to have different blog posts for each product model since you can post a different blog post each day. It is better to post several half-page blogs, each with a unique focus, rather than try to craft one long blog that addresses multiple topics.

If you don’t know what topics would work well for your audience, you can always work with a firm like Click Intelligence to identify the key search terms your customers are using but don’t find enough good content on, then create search engine optimized blog posts for those search terms. However, trying to optimize the blog for search engines too hard risks having it penalized as spam: that’s why it’s important to ask the experts.

Conclusion
Making simple mistakes like not blogging often enough or going too heavy on the marketing on the company blog loses your audience while insufficient hard information costs you your credibility. Try to stand out as much as you can - don't be afraid to rely on internal resources to diversify your blog posts and keep your content fresh.

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The 20 Most Searched-for Business Types (Infographic)

The graphic also contains a breakdown of the most popular business type by state.

By: Emily Conklin

Ever use Google to search for your latest business idea? You're not the only one.

Most of these aspiring entrepreneurs inquired about clothing lines, restaurants and food trucks, according to an analysis by machinery seller Bid on Equipment.

The most predictably successful small businesses fall into two categories: trade skills that keep other businesses running and specialized services for personalized care. Bookkeeping, website design and computer services make up roughly 40 percent of all small businesses, indicating a broad market where many can succeed. Specialized services such as dentistry, real estate and legal services make up the majority of the top small businesses, as they can be managed at scale and have the advantage of securing a niche.

Wherever your dreams may take you, entrepreneurship requires passion, commitment and the ability to balance both the glamorous and menial tasks of being the boss. For more insights into the most searched about business types as well as the most profitable, check out BOE’s infographic below.

1507142265 small business dreams

 

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What Did You Do For Small Business Saturday? Harry and Jenny's Report

Think of it as Harry and Jenny’s Day Off – ala Ferris Bueller – we painted the town red on Small Business Saturday (November 25, 2017). First for proper context, read about Small Business Saturday here and here (we’ll wait for your return).

Welcome back! This adventure is presented chronologically so you can follow our footprints. All on November 25th – Small Business Saturday. And I was joined by Jennifer Hallmark, president of SMB Nation.

8:00AM: Harry checks his mail at the local “The UPS Store” that is locally owned and operated (Figure 1). Then it’s off for coffee to wait for stores to open!

Fig1 sbs

Figure 1: Checking the SMB Nation mailbox.

9:00AM: Harry purchases a JBL Charge3 Bluetooth Speaker to extend his mission of living life out loud! This is from the local Verizon store in the same center and is considered a “shop local” purchase as it impacts local employees (even though Verizon itself is an enterprise). The local cost was $149.95 plus tax (it could have been purchased for $124.95 online but the decision was made to purchase locally).

10:00AM: Harry uses the new JBL Charge3 as a boom box on his winter bike to play holiday music while out for a ride (Figure 2).

Fig2 SBS

 

Figure 2: Getting our music groove on!

1:00PM: Jonsing for pizza, Harry snags a slice at “That’s a Some a Pizza” (Figure 3) that is a locally owned small business on Bainbridge Island.

Fig3 SBS

Figure 3: Gotta eat!

1:30PM: Harry and Jenny meetup at the Town and Country grocery store in downtown Winslow (on Winslow Way aka “Main Street) to conspire for Small Business Saturday fun and hijinks. Jenny films the Small Business Saturday welcome vid you can watch by clicking Figure 4).

Fig4 SBS

Figure 4: Preaching at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce office.

2:00PM: Harry and Jenny cake walk (march) down Winslow Way to Eagle Harbor Books, a local independent bookstore that embraced Small Business Saturday formally with a Facebook event. As you can see in the video below, it worked as the store was busy! Watch it here (Figure 5).

 

Fig5 SBS

 

Figure 5: This small business actively embraced Small Business Saturday!

5:00PM: Jenny is long gone to spend time with her family and Harry is snuggled in for the Apple Cup – the NCAA football rivalry between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars on “rival Saturday” and enjoy a locally brewed beer (no pics due to editorial standards LOL).

Learnings

Both myself and Jenny are already conspiring about Small Business Saturday 2018. We discovered that Small Business Saturday still has relatively low awareness and local mindshare on Main Street. And there are now competing/complimentary last Saturday in November designations. In the video interview above (Figure 5) at Eagle Harbor Books, two authors divulge it’s also the 5th annual Indies First Day. According to the Portland Mercury in Oregon “Indies First Day celebrates independent booksellers, which in a world where we’re all under the control of Amazon Prime, are more critical than ever.”

Then there was long-time community advocate Jeff Shuey who highlighted a similar movement called “Shop Local” that has different branding but a similar message as Small Business Saturday. My research indicates this alternative movement has grass roots tied to *not* using your American Express card on November 25th (American Express is a founding partner of Small Business Saturday).

Finally one interesting variation on Small Business Saturday 2017 concerns Etsy-sponsored pop-up stores. Catch the CNBC coverage here. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/etsy-sellers-prep-for-small-business-saturday-2017.html

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BizDev 101: Living Life OUT LOUD!

Over a year ago, longtime SMB Nation member and SBSer Kimberly (“The Brain”) West complimented me for living life out loud. Recently I touched base with “The Brain” and she told me “LOUDER” so ergo this blog!

In reality, it’s all about business development all day, every day for me. While
naysayers might snide this reeks of narcissism, I disagree by asserting I’m just an extrovert with childhood attention deficit disorder (A.D.D) trying to provide for my family, make my mark and have fun along the way. So forgive me if my best business development practices appear to be bragging and boasting. That’s not my intent and I’m driven to give back more than I take in the long run.

Everything Helps Everything!
With that confession out there, let’s talk business development tactics. I attend, on average, one event gathering per week ranging from well-known technology conferences, technology trade association monthly mixers, monthly user group meetings and IAMCP lunches. I never met a workshop I didn’t like (and as an added bonus, many of these events have free food and beverages – which helps the subsistence budget). In Figure 1, I met Lawyer Milloy (former Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriot NFL pro football player – Super Bowl Champion!) at the FootBOTathon coder camp in Seattle at the CenturyLink field events center.

gameon2

Figure 1: A recent coder camp hosted by Microsoft and GameOn where developer attendees built “bots” in team exercises.

And as you can see in Figure 2, I’m not opposed to a post-5pm Happy Hour to talk good business.

happyhour

Figure 2: Talkin’ business with Jonathan Spouse from DecisiveData where he is an engagement manager. He made the long trek to Bainbridge Island from Redmond.

I also write at least two blogs a week, make a daily social post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. If you are my friend (even frenemy), I’m gonna wish you Happy Birthday on Facebook and often comment affirmatively on your posts.

I am committed to reaching out to *at least* one new (potential) client per day via a telephone call, email and LinkedIn message. My aforementioned all day, every day motion of business development includes multiple extensive daily existing client touches. I host a weekly webinar and give one to two speeches per month as seen in Figure 3. End to end I execute over over 500 separate business development motions annually (divide that into 365-days to see how you have to do at least one thing per day in this new, transformative business world to make it).

 

phillIAMCP

Figure 3: Presenting “MSP Analytics” remotely to the Philadelphia chapter of the IAMCP technology partner group.

So how does everything help everything in business development? It just works if you work it. Consistently. I can tell you that, by analogy, your odds of winning Lotto are greatly enhanced if you buy a Lotto ticket! Seriously, I try to lead by example so hopefully my self-promotion is a form of encouragement for you to get out, market and increase your sales. I’m right there in the trenches with you.

I’ve seen the opposite in some well-intentioned firms in my orbit. Putting themselves out there just isn’t in their DNA. Some are shy and perhaps introverted. But I’ve found many firms that want to do tomorrow what they did yesterday. Good luck with that.

PS – My A.D.D is my secret weapon allowing for multitasking. Read more about that here in "The A.D.D. Entrepruener" by Matt Curry.

 

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Support SMB Nation - Cyber Monday and Beyond!

Folks are always asking “Harry – how can I support SMB Nation?” Well we have the answer that combines passion, professionalism and proactivity!

On Cyber Monday - watch our broadcast on LiveShopCast at 4pm Pacific (November 27) as we give it our all for community and offer you the ability to purchase cycling feed bags. Sign up HERE!

You can also view a couple recent LiveShopCast broadcasts by clicking below (cycling jacket left and water bottle right). A former SMB Nation employee is invloved in this startup - so please support her by clicking through. Better yet - sign-up for the 14-day trail byThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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So we have three (3) products for sale - right here right now! Read on...

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As you know, the staff at SMB Nation are passionate and avid bikers (road and mountain). Folks who attended the infamous SMB Nation 2005 fall conference received a yellow cycling jacket, the likes of which are still seen today in numerous MSP events!

Fast forward to today and you can buy SMB Nation goods and help support a great professional community.

Finally, you can proactively help the environment. For example, did you notice when you travel that airports have a water bottle fill-up fountain next to the water fountains? Yep – and the digital signage even tells you how many one time use plastic water bottles have been saved by using your own water bottle. So start that good behavior with your own SMB Nation water bottle.

Starting at $8.00 plus $2.00 for shipping (US only)

Click HERE to buy.

 

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UPDATES!

You can now purcahse the SMB Nation Cycling Jacket ($80 plus shipping) and the SMB Nation Cycling Feed Bag ($15 plus shipping). Just click on the images below to start your transaction!

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A Business Name vs. a Trademark: Do You Know the Difference?

By: Nellie Akalp

IKEA

 

As an entrepreneur, you understand the importance of protecting your business name. Think of the sales you might lose if another company opened up using your same name. If you’re building a brand, investing in advertising and hoping customers can find you, you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly protected your business name so no one else can use it.

But what exactly is the best way to do that?

Oftentimes, new business owners are confused about the difference between registering their business name with the state and filing for a trademark. Here, we’ll break down the differences so you can determine which approach is right for your business.

1. Registering a business name with the state
When you apply to be a corporation or an LLC, the secretary of state’s office is going to check to make sure that your proposed business name isn’t already in use by another company in your state.

Every state has its own laws about just how different a name must be from other business names. For example, some states will allow “Mandi’s Florist” when there’s already a “Mandy’s Flowers” registered. Other states will reject it and consider “Mandi’s Florist” deceptively similar.

Once your LLC or corporation application is approved, your name is protected in the state: No other business will be able to form an LLC or corporation with the same name in that state. However, there’s nothing to stop a business that operates as a sole proprietorship or partnership from using your name in the state. It just won’t be able to register as an LLC or corporation with that name.

addition, registering your name with the state has no impact on what happens in the other 49 states. If you incorporated your business in New York, another business can use your same name in New Jersey or Connecticut. And, it can even incorporate or form an LLC in other states with with the same name..

Depending on your business type and model, brand protection at the state level might be sufficient. For example, if you are opening a local restaurant or other establishment, you might not mind if another business uses your name in a completely different state. There’s little chance that a customer will confuse the two.

However, if you plan on expanding nationwide, selling your products/services across the country, or are just concerned that a partnership might use your name, then you should protect your name on a federal level with a trademark.

2. Filing for federal trademark protection
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design (or a combination of any of these) that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from competitors'. Trademarks can be granted on distinctive names, logos and slogans.

Trademarks are granted at the federal level by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The owner of a trademark has exclusive rights to the trademark and can prevent anyone else from using it. And these rights are protected at the state and federal levels.

When applying for a trademark, expect to pay $275 per class (a little more if you have an expert prepare the paperwork for you). Processing time can take upwards of six to 12 months with the USPTO. The process is more expensive and involved than registering a business name, but it provides you with exclusive rights in all 50 states. And, unlike copyrights or patents, trademarks have an unlimited lifespan so long as you comply with the renewal requirements.

 

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The 15 Most Profitable Small-Business Industries in 2016

Profitable Small Buseiness

 

by: Carolyn Sun

This article originally published March 4, 2016.

Being talented with numbers can really pay off if you’re looking to start a profitable business.

Accounting and tax services takes the top spot on the list of the most profitable type of small business with a generous 18.4 percent net profit margin followed by real-estate services (15.2 percent), law firms (14.5 percent) and doctor’s offices (13 percent) reports Sageworks, a financial data service that analyzed the net profit margin of more than 16,000 small businesses (that earned less than $10 million) between September 2014 and August 2015. Companies like Due.com are helpful for tracking time and invoicing.

What makes these industries profitable? For one, they’re driven by human capital.

“Service industries,” says Sageworks analyst Jenna Weaver, “are very common to find on the most profitable small-business list. This is generally due to lower overhead and startup costs. A lot of these industries you can start from your house.”

While profit isn’t the only matter for an entrepreneur to consider -- other factors to consider are whether the business matches his or her skills, what sort of licensing or training is required and how the business would fare during a recession -- it’s an important place to start.

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Overcoming the Challenges of Starting a Business

Every entrepreneur faces challenges which need to be dealt with persistently and regularly, though few would disagree such difficulties are more prevalent than when you are starting your business.

Sage collaborated with business owners and entrepreneurial support groups to Start up Challenge 1understand the common trials new leaders face, offering guidance to give you the best opportunity when starting your enterprise.

Marketing & Costing

Every new business marketing strategy should begin by examining its competition. If they are successful, find out where they are advertising and how. Use their same marketing techniques to give your own business a jump-start.

Once customers are visiting your store or website, if they are not making purchases, don’t adjust your prices. If you think they are fair, others will, too.

Instead, it is likely they aren’t convinced by your business. Ensure your website is modern-looking and using high-quality images, advertise your most high-end clients by publishing testimonies or getting permission to feature their logos, and offer incentives, like discounted prices.

Customer Contact Information

Most websites feature pop-ups which invite users to sign up to the business’ e-mail campaign so they can stay updated, though it may surprise you that the most effective place for this link is actually on the About page; Blog Tyrant noticed it’s the same customers that are interested in learning about your business that want to know more later, too.

This process can be a little trickier for brick-and-mortar stores, but instead of just asking purchasers to leave their contact information at the till, you can increase the number of sign-ups and purchasers in one go by placing your sign-up forms throughout the store alongside purchase incentives.

Admin

As much as every entrepreneur wants to focus on generating income, every business has to deal with administration. Fortunately, the digital age is making this easier than ever.

From hiring an online virtual assistant who can help you from anywhere in the world, to utilising smart applications, which can do anything from managing your business’ finances to enabling small teams to collaborate and share files, cloud-technology is reducing the time business owners need to dedicate themselves to repetitive and mundane tasks.

Relevant Technology

From AI applications and social media trends, to building responsive websites, technology is changing quickly. Even after following all the best-practice guidance available, one new piece of technology can be enough to cast your enterprise into obscurity.

Thus, it is essential to try and stay on top of the latest trends and innovations which might be relevant to your business strategies. Task your employees with each tracking a key technological area and meet for monthly updates. Alternatively, listen to business-technology podcasts in your free time or hire a virtual assistant to provide you with reports.

Of course, these are only the most common challenges business leaders confront when starting a venture, but the underlying lessons can apply to the majority of issues. Use your competitors’ strategies to break into their customer base, entice customers with attractive displays and incentives, and stay up-to-date on relevant technology that can improve customer experience and make your job easier.

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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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Look Back: Partner to Partner Motion

Reflecting back on the recent Continuum Navigate conference (October 2017, Las Vegas), what has stuck with me is how community is still alive. As Mark Twain famously said “…reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I offer two use cases to demonstrate how partners are speaking to partners: one was a speaker and another was an interview.

Josh Weiss (president and founder, L.A. Creative Tech). Weiss delivered “Strategic Thinking: vCIO and Consulting Services for Growth” to a handsome audience where he emphasized the opportunity to enhance MSP offerings by providing strategic consulting and holistic solutions that can scale productivity for clients. In short, Weiss spoke towards thinking outside the server box. It’s a popular speaker’s paradigm as the stark reality of being a “percentage of recurring revenue” sales agent for Microsoft’s Office 365 solution has quickly proven to be an unsustainable business model.

“We’re at a time where business strategy and technology strategy have converged.” Weiss started. “There really is a need to understand how technology is inseparable from business strategy. A former General Electric CEO said at a recent technology conference, ‘IT Pros need to stop being so passive…the role of technology is THE most important function inside a company’ and I believe it.”

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Figure 1: Weiss speaking at the recent Continuum Navigate conference in Las Vegas.

Weiss went on to deliver three main points in his speech supporting the above opening.

  • Create and sell productized vCIO services that will add value to your current portfolio. Take away real service wireframe overviews you can start delivering straight away.
  • Think strategically in order to provide creative solutions and tools that give you a competitive edge. Weiss shared an example of a cost of downtime ROI calculator (several SMB MSP ISVs offer this) where you can show a business is losing something like $10,000/hour when the IT infrastructure is “down.” One caveat – I challenged Weiss about the downtime calculator with respect to recapturing the downtime. That is, if Firm A is down for an hour, can said hour of productivity be recaptured over the course of a year (say 2000+ business hours). It spurred a good audience conversation and one expert shared that, regardless of the ROI downtime calculator is that “we’re talking” as in talking business matters with the client.
  • Most important - talk business instead of tech; one of the essential requirements to shift from technician to consultant.

One highlight was how Weiss involved the audience. I drew the short straw and was summoned to the stage (as a small business owner) to participate in a quick exercise with Raj Goel of Brainlink International (acting as the MSP) who asked me “Harry – what things would you like to do less of and would make you happier?” I offered that less time focused on operations and more time focused on business development. Goel asked what is business development to me. The answer is easy: attending conferences, social events at night, and external business meetings. Goel suggested that I needed to read “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss. Not only have I read the book, tolerating a large Ferriss ego between the pages, but I’ve used his methodology in running SMB Nation to free up my time to make outside portfolio investments beyond the SMB MSP tech space, but that’s for another day entirely.

James Harris (President at Xlingshot). Leading by example, Continuum suggested I speak 1:1 with one of its partners. He’s focused on verticals such as not-for-profits. We had a non-agenda, open dialog with no scripted talking points. Harris emphasized his use of Continuum has allowed him to have a high utilization rate. “Use the tool; not babysit the tool” Harris said. a first-time attendee running a 15+ year old MSP practice, Harris shared that he’s used the RMM solutions from Continuum for just over three years.

Community involvement. Harris participates in the MSP community via HTG and ASCII. “I see a lot of benefit from it.” Digging deeper, I discovered Harris is a big participant in the former Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) program with speaking engagements at the Colorado CPA society, etc. Harris has enthusiastically attended the Denver Tech Expo that is promoted by Platte River Networks (another Denver MSP) and it’s go getter David DeCamillis. In other industries those two might consider themselves competitors (which I guess they technically are) but the SMB MSP community still has cooperative mojo and thus my blog theme of partner to partner.

Bottom-line: I concluded that Harris has grown his thriving practice with a commitment to ethics (a lost art). “At Xlingshot, we believe in fair and honest business practices.” Harris concluded.

PS - I have another SolarWinds missive HERE where I interview SMB friend and now SolarWindws executive Greg Lissy!

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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All Hands on Deck! Small Business Saturday Nov. 25th

It’s the bestest holiday most folks in our SMB MSP space have never heard of. You’d be amazed how, over the years, we’ve carried the Small Business Saturday flag – an event held right after “Black Friday” (the over-the-top retail shopping day), but the MSP mindshare is lacking. You can review our past coverage here and here.

History
Over ten years ago, American Express created Small Business Saturday to promote “Buy Local” and “Shop Small” as well as increase the use of American Express card transactions (of course). I’ve argued this special day, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, should be placed in a not-for-profit in order to grow the participation base and offer increased legitimacy. Great idea with props to American Express but, again, I think it should be an “open” holiday. I love the concept but hate the fact so many SMB MSPs (a) haven’t heard of it and (b) don’t participate is shocking. So here is my plan to change that right here, right now. This unofficial holiday is supported in the US and UK.

Small Business Saturday Signup Procedure
It’s been said the odds of winning the lottery are dramatically improved if you buy a Lotto ticket. Same with Small Business Saturday – you gotta sign-up to play in this reindeer game. This is business development folks!
Here is the participation procedure:

 

  1. Sign up here.
  2. Click Get Involved in the upper right.
  3.  Make the decision with respect to how you want to participate

a. Small Business Owners. Select this if you’d like to have your SMB MSP entity fully participate in Small Business Saturday. This makes sense for anyone in our SMB Nation crowd. For example, if you have a retail store front at street-level and want to proudly display your participation via the extensive display collateral (more on that in a moment), this is the option for you. But perhaps you are in snazzy office space that doesn’t have street-level exposure. You can still select this option and, I’d offer, hold an open house with bagels and coffee for your SMB clients on Saturday morning before they go out to shop local. I’ve selected this option for SMB Nation (More on that at the end of the blog). 

b. Neighborhood Champions. This “cheerleader” role is another option for SMB MSPs. Signup with this option and then go to one of your small business clients and consider a pop-up with Small Business Saturday branding/information. It’s your way of giving back to the community that has given so much to you (file this away in living theology). 

c. Shoppers. Well this option is for EVERYONE. We can all shop local on Small Business Saturday. Hint: a pint of dark stout at your local pub counts!

4. Assuming you selected Small Business Owners, select the Create Materials button on the next page.

5. On the We need just a few details page, answer fields related to your business name, what customers love, type of marketing materials (Social media, Online, Physical location), whether you want some materials in Spanish and whether your business accepts American Express cards. Click Continue. See Figure 1 below.

 

fig1 sbs setup2

Figure 1: You must provide basic information to create the marketing Bill of Materials (BOM).

6. On the Okay where can we send your materials page, you will provide information to complete the following fields: First Name, Last Name, Email, Confirm Email and Zip Code (Optional). Agree and select the Terms of Participation checkbox and click Download.

7. A *zip file titled “CustomMaterials” will be download. Read on to discover how to use this good stuff!

The Good Stuff!
I’m impressed how the download resulted in marketing collateral for the following uses:

  1.  Social Networks: Banner ads of different sizes promoting your participation in Small Business Saturday. In Figure 2, observe art customized for your business.
  2.  Store: Posters (one shown in Figure 3), “Save the Date” cards, an offer sheet, etc. for in-store use.
  3.  Website: Several art graphics are provided for your website and email. Observe the banner in Figure 4.

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Figure 2: Digital art customized for you for use in your social networks.

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Figure 3: Full-size poster for a window display.

Fig4

Figure 4: Customized web banner.

Keep It Simple!
Now that we got our geek on with the above procedures, it’s time to remember a few simple Small Business Saturday points as shared by Melanie Gass, host of the popular Expand with Tech podcast. Recently she held a show dedicated to Small Business Saturday HERE that is required listening. When I spoke with Melanie, she offered these important points:

  1. It's free!
  2. You need to take AMEX cards to list your website in the Small Business Saturday directory
  3. The Small Business Saturday marketing materials are free and offered in 2 flavors...plain and tailored with your business Info as you outlined
  4. Neighborhood champions “status” are available for MSPs to hop onto, and even donate a raffle prize for visibility!
  5.  If MSPs have a newsletter, there is the opportunity to socialize Small Business Saturday, evangelize it!

Next Steps

If you aren’t sold yet on your participation in Small Business Saturday, there isn’t much more I can do. However, keep your eye on my Facebook page on Small Business Saturday as I’ll be loudly leading the parade include using the Facebook Live broadcast feature. And guess what? Jenny Hallmark and a surprise guest will be joining me on Main Street (Winslow Way) on Bainbridge Island. Join us!

PS – Humor ahead. Small Business Saturday is called “SBS” (#TrueThat) which of course was the acronym for Small Business Server.

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Database leader FairCom releases c-treeACE V11.5

FairCom’s latest release includes new search, resync and schema-change functions

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- (Nov. 8, 2017) – One of the most trusted names in the database management Faircomindustry, FairCom Corporation, today announced the release of the latest version of its flagship multimodel database software. c-treeACE V11.5 boasts enhancements that allow users to enjoy increased performance, dynamic schema management, full-text search, enhanced replication, robust interface support and greater data integrity for SQL, NoSQL and a combination of both database models.

FairCom is a pioneer in the database software industry dating back to 1979. That tradition of innovation continues today with c-treeACE by FairCom: A one-of-its-kind multimodel database solution that can operate on a wide-range of platforms. c-treeACE features unique No+SQL technology that facilitates high-performance NoSQL and industry-standard SQL access within the same application, over the same single instance of your data. Due to its speed and reliability, more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100 have trusted the c-tree family of database solutions for database needs.

“In today’s demanding and fast-paced business environment, a fast, efficient database technology is not a luxury, it is a necessity. c-treeACE enables companies to have a database that meets their unique business challenges,” said Alysha Brown, FairCom’s chief operating office. “c-treeACE V11.5 provides new capabilities to organizations that make their databases more powerful, giving them peace of mind knowing that their valuable data is being processed quickly and reliably.”

c-treeACE 11.5 enhancements include:

  • Full-Text Search: A tokenized index of a table’s text fields allows users to efficiently and quickly find records containing specific words and phrases.
  • Hot Alter Table: A capability that allows users to perform schema changes on-the-fly so multi-hour file conversions can be accomplished in seconds.
  • Replication Extensions: User-defined functions that allow extended replication management via custom callback functions - data aggregation, conflict resolution and “on-the-fly" data manipulation such as extract, transform and load (ETL) functionality.
  • Replication ReSync: A feature that allows users to resynchronize a target “replica file” based on the current “source file” with minimal impact on the runtime.

c-treeACE performance has been enhanced right out of the box. In addition to selected feature-level enhancements, numerous functions have been enhanced for developers to use to further gain performance within their applications without the need to manually change the system.

According to FairCom Vice President of Engineering Services Randal Hoff, c-treeACE V11.5’s benefits go beyond the speed, reliability and performance that the company has been known for since its founding. “We understand that choosing and implementing a new database is a process that should not be taken lightly. Because a database is a long-term investment, c-treeACE V11.5 is designed and built to evolve with our customers as their business needs and technologies change,” said Hoff. “FairCom offers engineer-to-engineer support from the same developers who built the product, not an entry-level employee.”
Detailed product information about c-treeACE V11.5 is available at FairCom.com or by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-234-8180.

 

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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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How to avoid costly open-enrollment mistakes

How to avoid costly open enrollment mistakes

© AP Screen shot of the home page of HealthCare,gov.

Open enrollment is always tempting to ignore. When those weighty health insurance booklets arrive demanding that you make important elections right before the holidays, millions of Americans set them aside and either decide to look later -- or never. Whether that's because they're happy with their employer-sponsored health plan and don't intend to change it or simply because they neglect the choices until it's too late, experts say ignoring open enrollment is becoming increasingly costly.

More than half of employees find that bad choices cost them about $750 per year -- roughly $62 per month. And those who keep the same plan as the previous year aren't exempt. That's because a lot could change under the hood of your health plan from year to year, said Matthew Owensby, senior vice president of supplemental insurance provider Aflac.

"People think that they've gone to the same doctor and had the same plan for years, so they don't even bother to check if that doctor is still in their network," he said. "They just don't realize that the plans themselves can change."

In fact, roughly two-thirds of the consumers who went to a doctor or hospital that was out of their health care network -- a gaffe that leaves you essentially uncovered or underinsured -- had no idea they were doing it, said Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer at UnitedHealth (UNH).

Plans also can change co-payments, prescription drug coverage and other easily overlooked details that could also leave you with unexpected costs, she said. Taking a few minutes to review your plan now could help you sidestep these unexpected costs and potentially lower your future health care bills. Better yet, it doesn't necessarily have to be time-consuming. Madsen suggests that employees focus on just a handful of key items:

Changes: Look at whether your plan has changed providers, deductibles or co-payments. Most plans will provide a summary of these changes. Besides reading through those changes and evaluating how they might affect you, make sure that all of your doctors remain "in network."

And while you're considering changes, think of your own. Are you sicker or healthier than you were last year? Did you develop an illness, go on any sort of regular prescription? Did you have a child, or do you plan to in the next year? Big changes in your life suggest a more careful review of what's covered.

Costs: What did you spend on health care last year, and do you expect it to be roughly the same this year? If so, compare the options your employer provides side-by-side to see if an alternative plan could result in lower overall premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Look, too, at whether your plan offers mail-order pharmacy options, which can help people who have chronic ailments get their medications at a discount.

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New report reveals the biggest trends for small businesses in 2018

Small business owners are already thinking ahead to 2018, with a recent survey suggesting they are excited to bring new ideas to fruition but challenged to stay on top of advancing technology. In fact, 90 percent of small business owners plan to hire one to two new employees in the upcoming year, just one of the many ways in which small businesses are poised to evolve and expand, according to the results of a new nationwide survey released by Microsoft Store.*

Nearly half of business owners surveyed identified their top challenge as staying ahead of rapid Microsoft Store Small Business Infographicchanges in technology in 2018. Additionally, 23 percent emphasized that budget constraints were top of mind in maintaining and growing their endeavors. For the newer small business, budget was their top challenge, which is expected for businesses in operation less than a year.

St. Louis-based radiologist Dr. Jennifer Nicholas, a Microsoft Store customer, partners with radiologists in Haiti to facilitate trainings using Microsoft 365. She says, “The program we are using in Haiti relies on technology that is easy to use, so the radiology residents can access their curriculum, participate in lectures, and complete exams. The project is funded by grant money, so I try to make the most of every dollar without sacrificing the use of the latest technology.”

Despite the challenge to keep pace with digital innovation that companies face today, survey respondents cited the many benefits of being a small business owner including work life balance. Eighty percent of respondents say they currently maintain enough freedom and flexibility to support their work-life balance. Respondents maintain a high level of mobility, working off-site and in multiple locations instead of at a fixed venue. The younger the business (less than one year old), the more likely it is to have employees who work primarily from mobile devices. As companies grow, mobile use gives way to other devices and digital options for how work gets done.

In navigating the demands of both budget and technological readiness, over 30 percent of small business respondents said they are likely to turn to familiar sources (a family or close friend) for technology guidance or help with their computers, email or software. With 26% of respondents stating they have a formal relationship with a support or service establishment, small businesses said comfortable, human interaction was key in how they sought help.

“I worked with Microsoft Store Business Sales Specialist Jo Otey to discover how a tablet like Surface Pro, and tools like Skype for Business, Forms and Translator would provide me with a way to seamlessly facilitate the radiology curriculum remotely,” says Dr. Nicholas. “Joining me in Haiti, he was instrumental in helping the radiologists set up their professional email addresses, and gain access to Microsoft 365 Business, which helped me execute my vision.”

Expansion into digitally run businesses also requires some safeguards, though not all small businesses feel equipped to take the necessary steps to protect themselves alone. In fact, nearly one quarter of small businesses say they have yet to take any measures to introduce digital safeguards and protect their sensitive data. For those who do want to address the security of their data, 70 percent suggested they would prefer to pay for support in matters of cybersecurity, rather than do it themselves. For those actively addressing the security of their data and devices, 30 percent are using encryption software, and nearly 40 percent are ensuring their employees are using anti-virus software.

As small business owners plan for both the exciting upcoming moments and potential challenges of 2018, Microsoft Store is there with technology in hand and true small business solutions in mind. Resources in every Microsoft Store like business sales specialists, who know the changing needs of small business owners and are armed with the latest research like this survey, are critical in making decisions about which solution is right for individual businesses. Ongoing, free opportunities like workshops, Office Hours and networking events give business owners continuing education about the changing technology landscape and the chance to meet other, likeminded, small business owners.

Microsoft Store can also provide information on the latest technology solutions for small businesses, like Microsoft 365 Business, which includes Office 365 productivity and collaboration tools for empowering your employees, as well as device management and security tools to safeguard company information across Windows 10 PCs, mobile devices, and apps. From a single console, small business owners can implement and manage security policies to ensure PCs are up to date and secure, preventing security vulnerabilities that cyberthieves often exploit.

Visit your local Microsoft Store to meet with a business sales specialist, experience Microsoft 365 and other technology solutions, and discover free resources like Office Hours that will help you to achieve more.

Here’s to a great 2018 for you and your business.

* SurveyMonkey. “Small Business Insights.” Survey. 11-15 Oct. 2017.
Based on a sample of 1,300 self-identified small business owners with a range of 1 to 200 employees in the United States.

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After quietly infecting a million devices, Reaper botnet set to be worse than Mirai

Reaper is on track to become one of the largest botnets recorded in recent years — and yet nobody seems to know what it will do or when. But researchers say the damage could be bigger than last year's cyberattack.

By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day | October 24, 2017 -- 12:46 GMT (05:46 PDT) |

botnet

 

A little over a month ago, a sizable botnet of infected Internet of Things devices began appearing on the radar of security researchers.

Now, just weeks later, it's on track to become one of the largest botnets recorded in recent years.

The botnet, dubbed "Reaper" by researchers at Netlab 360, is said to have ensnared almost two million internet-connected webcams, security cameras, and digital video recorders (DVRs) in the past month, says Check Point, which also published research, putting its growth at a far faster pace than Mirai.

It was Mirai that caused a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack last October, knocking popular websites off the internet for millions of users. The collective bandwidth from the huge number of "zombie devices" that were infected and enslaved was directed at Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, which overloaded the company's systems and prevented millions from accessing popular websites.

Mirai was "beautifully simple," said Ken Munro, a consultant at UK-based security firm Pen Test Partners. The malware would scan the internet and infect connected devices with default usernames and passwords, which either weren't or couldn't be changed by the owner.

Reaper, however, "is what Mirai could easily have been," said Munro. It takes a slightly different, more advanced approach by quietly targeting and exploiting known vulnerabilities in devices and injecting its malicious code, effectively hijacking the device for whenever the botnet controller is ready to issue their commands. Each time a device is infected, the device spreads the malware to other vulnerable devices -- like a worm.

Mirai aggressively ran each device against a list of known usernames and passwords, but Reaper is "not very aggressive," said Netlab.

By targeting a known vulnerability, the botnet can swiftly take control of a device without raising any alarms.

"One of the reasons Mirai didn't achieve its full potential is that the compromise didn't persist beyond a reboot," said Munro. "Hence, multiple botnet herders were competing for control of the compromised DVRs that comprised it, so the huge botnet it could have been was never built," he said.

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D&H DISTRIBUTING TEACHES VARS TO EQUIP THE “CLASSROOM OF THE FUTURE” WITH BREAKTHROUGH VR/AR SOLUTIONS & SERVICES

— Cutting-Edge VR Systems, “Google Expeditions,” Plus D&H’s Trainings & White Glove Services Open Unique Opportunities for VARs to Profit While Enhancing STEM/STEAM Curricula —

HARRISBURG, PA – October 30, 2017 – D&H Distributing, a major provider of SMB and consumer technologies to the North American high-tech channel, is invigorating its linecard for the education vertical with virtual and augmented reality solutions that will usher-in “The Classroom of the Future.” dandhD&H is training its resellers via streaming webcast sessions and VAR engagement events, and through its K-12-dedicated “White Glove” services program which includes amenities such as laser-based product tagging, pre-assembly, configuration, and device management. Efforts include acclimating VARs to a “curriculum-based sales strategy,” which aligns with spring as opposed to the typical fall IT purchasing season, to accommodate the budgeting process for this marketplace. Such will give K-12 decision-makers the necessary lead time to allocate funds to these breathtakingly immersive solutions.

In addition to training, D&H is offering preconfigured “Virtual Reality Kits,” or customizable product bundles around the Google Expeditions platform, including VR headsets, routers, cases, tablets, smartphones, monitors, and more. The cutting-edge “Google Expeditions” app allows teachers to immerse students in lessons via stunning, 360-degree photographic environments utilizing a headset/smartphone/tablet combination. For example, students can virtually walk through a factory on the other side of the country, trek the surface of Mars, or immerse themselves in a dinosaur-inhabited, prehistoric landscape.

Other products include the HP’s Sprout Pro by G2, an interactive, all-in-one computer that incorporates extraordinarily detailed 3D scanning. Scans can be used with a 3D printer, allowing students to create, color, and manipulate items such as artwork, shop class projects, or engineering designs on-screen, then physically produce those items as dimensional, real-world prototypes.

“The implications of VR technology in the classroom is remarkable, introducing a new era of immersive, 3D teaching techniques that until now have been mostly seen in science fiction,” said Peter DiMarco, vice president of VAR sales at D&H Distributing. “We’re educating our VARs, not only with product knowledge, but also by helping them navigate the potentially complicated K-12 space. Armed with this information, pre-configured VR product bundles, and competitive pricing, our resellers can be among the first to introduce these virtual teaching techniques to classrooms, profiting from the emerging trend.”

D&H’s latest Solutions Lab webcast, “VAR Curriculum: Tech for the Future of Teaching,” outlines both the HP Sprout Pro G2 all-in-one and the Google Expeditions-compatible solutions, helping VARs to familiarize themselves with these offerings. It also covers D&H’s “White Glove Services” support program for K-12 VARs, which includes amenities such as laser-based product tagging, pre-assembly, configuration, and device management. The session is available for streaming on-demand at dandh.com/solutionslab.

In addition, D&H has developed a “K-12 Advisory Group” of resellers in the this vertical, who meet during D&H’s trade events to engage with D&H management and discuss trends and challenges in the field. The group’s feedback has helped to shape the direction of D&H’s K-12 offerings.

Promoting STEM/STEAM via Virtual Technology
Demand for items such as 3-D-capable computers, scanners and 3-D printers, plus 360-degree, VR/AR learning platforms is growing in K-12 settings, as educational institutions seek new ways to engage students via cutting-edge, technologically-enhanced environments. Such high-tech solutions have typically been applied toward STEM fields, e.g., science, technology, engineering, and math.

This initiative has expanded to include art and design, since educators are finding that students learn better and comprehend concrete concepts such as math and scientific principles more readily when artistic disciplines such as design and graphics are incorporated into that learning process. It has led to the evolving acronym “STEAM,” incorporating “Arts” into the formerly “left-brain” initiative.

A Wide VR/AR Ecosystem of Products
A plethora of products are being leveraged to support these virtual and augmented reality teaching techniques, including the following (some models forthcoming):

  • Chromebooks and Chrome management platforms
  • PCs from HP and ASUS
  • Virtual reality headsets and systems by Samsung, HTC, VIVE, Lenovo, Ematic, and Xtreme Technologies
  • Tablets and digital pens from Wacom and ASUS
  • Classroom-appropriate routers from TRENDnet
  • 3D printers from MakerBot, ROBO 3D, and XYZprinting
  • Drones and robotic toys from Mota, Zooppa, Xtreme Technologies, UBTECH, and Sphero
  • Build-your-own-computer coding kits for children from Piper
  • Accessories including trunk cases, mats, chargers and more from Pelican, Siig, and Startech.com.

On the software side, Google apps such as Daydream (which includes tools that manipulate objects within the virtual scene), the Tango 3D simulator, and the WorldSense tracking technology deliver similar virtual experiences. And the forthcoming Google Expeditions AR promises to project a 3D image into a live space such as a classroom, wherein students can walk around the projected image and view it from all sides with compatible hardware.

“We’re dedicated to helping resellers seize this opportunity, teaching them to communicate how these solutions fit into a district’s curriculum and enhance experiences through immersive technology,” DiMarco added. “Virtual reality makes this an exciting time to be a solution provider—in addition to a student or an educator.”

VARs can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information on D&H’s Virtual Reality Kits, or visit the distributor’s K-12 Opportunity page at dandh.com/K12. The VAR Curriculum Solutions Lab presentation is available for streaming on-demand at dandh.com/solutionslab.

About D&H Distributing
D&H Distributing believes the most important element of doing business is developing relationships for mutual success. The company continues to build upon its 99-year-old culture by providing its manufacturers, co-owners, and partners with the utmost customer care, consultative guidance, and multi-market expertise. As one of North America’s leading technology distributors, it delivers a wealth of enablement resources and hands-on support services that empower resellers in the IT channel.
The company engages with solution providers, integrators, and VARs to meet current business challenges, as well as forecast their evolving, real-world needs and prospects for lucrative growth opportunities. D&H maintains a special focus on independent VARs expanding their competencies in areas such as hosted and cloud services, the modern mobile workplace, comprehensive SMB server networks, and cross-market expertise across the small business, education, healthcare, and government verticals, to name a few. The company's value proposition includes professional marketing resources, a new transactional service model, dedicated Solutions Specialists, and a highly-lauded webcast training venue; plus reseller engagement events such as technology trade shows, roundtable opportunities, training “track” sessions, and hands-on "lab" sessions.
The distributor is headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, in the US and in Brampton, Ontario, in Canada. Additional warehouses are located in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Fresno, CA; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. Call D&H toll-free at (800) 340-1001, via www.dandh.com, or follow the distributor’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, https://www.facebook.com/DandHDistributing/ and @dandh.

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Roadmap for Skype for Business capabilities coming to Microsoft Teams now available

By: Tiffany Wissner (WENTZEL) Microsoft

Last month at Microsoft Ignite we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications, which includes Microsoft Teams becoming the primary client for communication and collaboration in Office 365. Today we are sharing more detail on our planned roadmap for adding Microsoft Skype for Business capabilities to Teams, so you can plan your onboarding.

Messaging – Teams offers rich instant messaging capabilities today, with persistent chat, as well as private 1:1 and group chat. We expect to deliver RoadMapadditional messaging capabilities in Teams by the end of Q2-2018. Features will include screen sharing during chat and federation between companies.

Meetings – Teams offers collaborative meetings capabilities today, including screen sharing, meeting chats captured in the channel after the meeting, and the preview of audio conferencing. We expect to deliver additional meeting capabilities in Microsoft Teams by the end of Q2-2018. These features include meeting room support with Skype Room Systems, and cloud video interoperability capabilities that allow third party meeting room devices to connect to Teams meetings.

Calling – Today, Teams offers many calling capabilities. Later this quarter, we plan to ship voicemail for Teams. By the end of Q2-2018, we will enable you to use your existing telco voice line to activate calling services in Office 365.

Beyond bringing existing Skype for Business core capabilities to Teams, we are excited about new intelligent communications coming to Teams. As shown at the Ignite Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business General Session, customers will be able to record a meeting and store it in Teams, have transcription added, and be able to search the meeting for key terms. These features will begin rolling out at the end of Q2-2018.

As part of our vision for intelligent communications, we are also taking the opportunity to simplify the naming of our premium communication offerings. PSTN Conferencing will now be known as “Audio Conferencing;” Cloud PBX will now be known as “Phone System;” and PSTN Calling will now be known as “Calling Plan.” We want these names to be more intuitive to both IT and end users as we further integrate communications with collaboration.

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Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence: The Essential Codependency

Falon Fatemi , Women@Forbe

AI

Imagine the following scenario. It’s Monday morning. You wake up to an alarm. It’s been set automatically and synchronized to your work schedule for the day. As you partake in your hygiene regimen, your key nutritional KPIs (such as hydration, body mass, and hemoglobin levels) are calibrated for you. You strap yourself into your car but there’s no need to steer. It “knows” where you need to go. And, on account of the technology embedded in the roads, real-time travel information, and the like, the roads are clear of congestion. Everything is connected and is programmed to operate at peak efficiency. Upon arriving at work, all the mundane prospecting and outreach activities have been performed for you. You are poised to focus on decision making and relationship building and can spend more time on your sales and marketing strategy.

The hurdle of turning the above scenario into a reality seemed unsurmountable a handful of years ago. But, thanks to the emergence of Artificial Intelligence, it’s an imminent reality. While we tend to associate AI with fictional movies - with Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Minority Report, and the like - the concepts and gadgets introduced are quickly becoming the ‘new normal’. We’ve already started to leverage AI to automate mundane tasks, including home delivery (e.g., Instacart), navigation (e.g., Google Maps), transportation (e.g, Uber), digital music selection (e.g., Spotify), and more.

Regardless of application, the real power of AI lies in its “contextual awareness,” namely its ability to sense and respond to current context. The potential of AI is especially exciting in the context of sales and marketing. AI is already helping sales and marketers automate mundane and tedious tasks and streamline day-to-day activities. AI technologies, such as Node, are so advanced that they can pinpoint the most lucrative entry points into potential customers and can even recommend conversation openers. The sky is the limit in terms of the breadth of questions that it can answer. How do I get access to the right buyers at target companies? What is my ideal customer persona? How do I optimize my sales and marketing team performance? Leveraging AI, machine learning, and natural language processing, Node empowers sales and marketers by allowing them to personalize marketing strategies to suit the tastes of individual clients.

Yet despite the enormous promise of AI, the reality is such that sales and marketing interactions are deeply personal. While many believe that AI has the potential to render human intelligence obsolete, this is far from the truth. Quite the opposite, AI advancements will only underscore the importance of human intelligence. By liberating sales and marketing teams from tedious work (such as manual CRM entry or scouring social media sites to find introductions into accounts), AI allows them to focus on what really matters - developing strong relations with customers. Applying AI to sales and marketing processes fosters more human interaction, not less.

It’s inevitable that the winners of tomorrow will need to use AI technology to improve sales and marketing efforts. But, at the end of the day, they will still need to know how to relate to and interact with other human beings. The most effective teams will learn how to leverage the best of both AI and human intelligence to build a revenue strategy that will improve client engagement, increase conversion, and drive positive ROI.

 

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Amazon Launches ‘Business Prime’ to Bring Quick Delivery to Work

amazon logo

 

By Spencer Soper
October 24, 2017, 9:54 AM PDT

Amazon.com Inc. launched a Prime membership service for businesses, looking to replicate in the workplace the quick delivery of online orders that made it a go-to shopping destination for households.

Business Prime Shipping, available in the U.S. and Germany, offers free two-day delivery to companies paying $499 to $10,999 a year depending on their size, Amazon said. The subscription program is looking to win business from office supply stores such as Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc.

Business-to-business transactions have been slower to shift online than retail, but could be a bigger revenue opportunity in the long term, said Andy Hoar, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. He estimates the U.S. market will reach $1.2 trillion by 2021, up from $889 billion this year.

 

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Brutha – Can You Spare a Sport Jacket?

As many of you know, I attended the Continuum Navigate conference in Las Vegas the week of the shooting tragedy. Compliments to Michael George, Continuum CEO, for delivering a successful conference in the midst of madness. In fact he shared heartfelt words with the audience to acknowledge the tragedy.

On the backside of the gathering I caught up with George for a long-overdue 1:1 conversation. We michael george loans harry sprort jacketfocused on three areas: Partner Composition, Security and a roadmap component (lead generation) moving forward. We also talked about other conferences in the industry, where Continuum fits in and as a bonus, George shared that he believes there are 25,000 IT service provider firms in the US right now (people are always asking how big the segment is).

Figure 1: There is a reason George loaned me his sport jacket at the Continuum Navigate conference. He validated my observation that his well-heeled attendees have elevated up to the sport jacket level.

George in many ways mimics that Covey “Seven Habits” paradigm (his keynote speech was the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective IT Providers”) so in that spirit, I’ll begin with the end in mind and work backwards.

Partner Composition
“The bottom line is that our partners are the most successfully in the business.” George stated. “It’s advantageous to get to scale.” Okay but what does that mean?

“Our approach is about taking our existing partners and making them more like commercial enterprises. For example, taking the two man shops and help them grow into large businesses. This occurs by leveraging the concept of a global economy and "outsource" some of the back office functions to the likes of Continuum.” George said. “That is, pivot from being the tinker/one that wants to touch every knob/turn every dial into becoming a more commercial enterprise…we've got guys that have really learned to build and scale real companies.”

Fair enough.

“We’re different in that we view partner composition by revenue, not size. With respect to size, we have a super large partner at Continuum Navigate (Sharp) down to the one- and two-man shops. The difference is, if you go to any other conferences…a four person firm will be lucky to have $1M revenue. But when you ask what are your revenues are, as a measure of scale, it gets real interesting at Continuum Navigate. We have a partner in Cambridge with four FTEs, they bill $4.5M per year. We feel it’s not the number of partners we have but the composition of the partners…we pride ourselves on having the most successful partners…most profitable, growing the fastest, and figuring out that they need to invest in salespeople…when our Continuum partners get acquired…they get a premium…say 3x (higher revenue and two or three would be salespeople)...investors don't pay a premium for technical people…a five person firm today would have 3+ salespeople, etc.” George shared openly with his East Coast accent.

When I offered that SMB Nation has people who like what they do coming from the SBS era, George asserted that lifestyle businesses are great when it’s your lifestyle. “But we have people that are really trying to scale and unless they get big, it’s going to become harder and hard to compete…but when you do everything yourself, you are not benefiting from a global economy and Continuum’s back office solutions.”

Security and ‘da Roadmap
Not surpassingly my time with George was running short when we got to the other topics. So the net-net is this.

  • George believes security is the new-new. I concur. Never ending and only getting worse. “This new frontier only means more opportunities for Continuum MSPs.
  • The 2018 roadmap will include lead generation for Continuum partners.

So I end on this. Next year in late September the Continuum Navigate conference will be back in Boston, a city I’m overdue to visit. I’ll bring a sports jacket to both elevate my game and fit in with the top dogs.

 

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JEALOUS – Spiceworks IT Report for 2018 Forecasts

First of all, just to be clear, I’m very jealous of Spiceworks. Always have been; always will be. They have successfully scaled an enthusiastic and engaged community of IT Pros over the past 10+ years to dwarf anything in the SMB MSP channel. It’s an interesting company history here.

Full disclosure. I recently attended
the well-regarded SpiceWorld conference in Austin Texas (Spiceworks HQ town) and beyond enjoyed myself. This conference has a couple dimensions and at its core is focused on its technology tools used by IT Pros (SpiceHeads) followed by an unusually strong party culture. Folks were wearing costumes making this the “ComicCon of IT” (a term coined by the The Register – a UK-based publication). In the spirit of Yelping – I will repeat and you should do this at least once. Mark your calendars for October 2018.

Now the good stuff. The 2018 State of IT report was released at SpiceWorld 2017. The logical question is this: what’s in it for me, the SMB Nation MSP? The interactive chart below shows one view for small business (customers) in North America in the context of Managed services budget breakout for 2018.

spiceworks msp chart

Figure 1: Look closely and join me in being surprised that Managed Hosting is a category leader. Seriously?

Other MSP insights (we’ll get to the other stuff later) include:

“The smallest of the small are the biggest procrastinators.” Shared Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks and someone I consider to be a friend over the years. This was in reference to small business customers that an SMB Nation MSP would serve. I concur.

Peter Tsai at SpiceWorld 2017

Figure 2: Hanging with Peter Tsai at SpiceWorld 2017 in Austin, TX (October 2017)

Tsai found that there are three drivers for an MSP to be engaged by a small business. It’s something we already inherently know at SMB Nation but the validation from Spiceworks was worth the price of admission alone (these are listed in order of study findings):

  1. Price. Extreme price sensitivity in SMB.
  2. Existing relationships\
  3. Trust

I expressed my exasperation to Tsai that I wish these findings were exactly reversed with TRUST being number one and he understood but this is what his research found.

Tsai concluded the MSP conversation with the insights that “MSP constraints for the small service provider are lack of budget, lack of time and lack of knowledge. The smaller MSP can’t be expected to know everything about every single technology.”

Other Stuff
In all fairness, the report covered many more topics. Highlights include:

  • IT budgets are expected to stabilize in 2018, and in many cases grow, as many businesses are feeling optimistic about the state of the economy. As a result, many organizations plan to increase their IT staff in 2018 to help manage new hardware, software, and services.
  • 44% of companies expect their IT budgets to increase in 2018, and they expect a 19% increase, on average; 43% expect budgets to remain flat and only 11% of companies expect IT budgets to decrease.
  • 45% of companies plan to hire more IT staff in 2018.
    • Adoption of emerging technology in the workplace is on the rise. As budgets stabilize, many organizations are also planning to increase their adoption of emerging tech like IoT, VR, and AI.
  • Currently, 29% of organizations have adopted IoT while 18% have adopted VR and 13% have adopted AI technology. In the next 12 months, adoption of emerging technologies is expected to increase significantly to 48%, 32%, and 30% for IoT, VR, and AI, respectively.
  • Budgets for cloud-based services are on the rise, and nearly tied with software spend. In fact, among hardware, software, cloud services, and managed services, the highest percentage of businesses (55%) reported an increase in cloud budgets.
  • In 2018, 31% of IT budgets have been allocated for hardware, 26% for software, 21% for hosted/cloud-based services, and 15% for managed IT services.
  • In terms of what’s driving more companies to the cloud, the results show 42% are moving to the cloud to provide access to data anywhere, while 38% are looking to enhance their disaster recovery capabilities and 37% want to enable better flexibility and scalability.
  • Despite the rebound in IT budgets, few companies are budgeting for GDPR. 57% of IT departments still haven’t allocated budget for GDPR, or are unclear if GDPR budget exists.
  • Companies in North America are even less prepared. 69% of NA companies haven’t allocated budget for GDPR, or are unclear if it exists, compared to 44% in Europe.
  • Many companies say they’re not preparing for GDPR because it’s not a priority at their organization or because the steps to comply with GDPR are not clear. Additionally, many US companies assume GDPR doesn’t apply to them, but many still aren’t informed on GDPR’s larger impact on businesses worldwide.

 

 

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New Podcast Series: Tell It Like It Is!

Exciting news to slip into Q4! We have launched a new conversational and business casual podcast series to use yet another vehicle to deliver community content payloads! So these are the first two and you can download/listen from the links below. It’s that simple. Let us know what you think (feedback, concerns, etc.) and you can anticipate more podcasts in 2018!

 

podcast cover

These first two podcasts capture of spirit of MSPs making it in a cloud world. We discover the secret sauce to add to your MSP recipe. Toss in a bit of sage startup and start over advice and you go some valuable quick hitters. Hint: listen while doing your gym rat workouts and get a double-dip: good fitness for the body and brain.

Podcast: Derek Sardo
Podcast: Pat Beemer

 

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7 New Technologies You Should Adopt in Your Business

By: Annabelle Short

Whether it is the newest smartphone release or the latest gaming system, as consumers, we are always on the lookout for the latest technology.

As an avid Apple user, I can remember several years in a row where I have stayed up all night on that one fateful night in September when Apple made their big announcement and release.

Of course, I wanted to be one of the first to get my hands on whatever new phone they were coming out with this year.

Well, as business owners, we should be as eager and adaptive to new technology.Technology

New technology is exciting, but as a business owner especially, it can also be daunting…

You, of course, will be presented with a few financial responsibilities and you might also endure a few hiccups along the way with integrating a new technology into your business.

But, in the long run, these new technologies are designed to improve your systems, your strategies, your customer experience – and, your business as a whole.

And, if you don’t do your best to stay ahead, you might find yourself playing a very dangerous game of catch-up later on down the road.

So, rather than shying away from new technology – embrace it:

Get more info on how to maintain the health of your new database or new technology, utilize all aspects of your new system, and how to easily integrate it into what systems you already have running.

And, once you are ready to jump on board with the new technologies of today, here are a few you should consider:

1. Remote employees.

From freelance writers to schedulers and personal assistants – more and more people are choosing to work remotely and in just about every aspect of a business, you could imagine.

Thanks to remote employees, you can still have access to some of the best job applicants while reducing overhead and keeping your employees happy.

2. Digital forms of payment.

Have you ever forgotten your wallet and did not realize it until you were at the checkout?

That is the worst feeling in the world. Of course, the embarrassment of admitting your negligence, but, then, you have added an additional trip to the errand you were running.

But, digital payment can help avoid this issue – thanks to tools such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

Accepting digital payment not only offers an added ease to your customer’s experience but it also offers a speedy checkout process and one that is more streamlined.

3. Information security.

In the wake of the major Equifax breach of security, more and more businesses are considering how at risk their customer’s information might be…

In fact, each year, approximately 15 million people are victims of identity theft.

4. Live chat customer service.

One of the most convenient things for a consumer is the ability to online chat. Even if they are not in a place where they can communicate via phone, they can still get help from a live person.

There are several live chat customer service companies that will completely take care of this for you for a small fee.

Live chat customer service will help maintain the most important aspect of success for your business – the satisfaction of your customers.

5. Appointment scheduling software.

Scheduling appointments are time-consuming – so much so, you might even hire an employee to do just that for their job duties. But, adding appointment scheduling software to your line up of business technology can help streamline the process and cut back on expenses.

In addition, it can also make it easier and more convenient for your customers thanks to features such as automatic text reminders and confirmation abilities.

6. Cloud computing.

Whether you are checking the balance of your company bank account or managing your social media accounts, you are using cloud computing. The information is simply being computed through the Internet.

And, cloud computing can offer your business numerous benefits such as flexibility, mobility, reduced costs, automation, and much more.

Technology

When it comes to the success of your business, it is all about having a clear visibility of your customer’s journey – from their very first inquiry to the final sale.

And, you should also have a clear understanding of everything that happens in between.

A CRM is a set of tools and processes that can be used to manage, track, and analyze data of the relationships and interactions your business has with current and potential customers.

Then, this data can be used to improve the process and/or convince the customer to make that final sale.

So, in the overall aspect, a CRM can help improve the conversion rate of your customers.

Of course, new technology can be a bit of an upfront investment…

But, if it improves your bottom line, what are you losing? Nothing – it is just that, you are not losing anything. Rather, you are gaining several things.

Changing technology is a part of life and it is a major part of businesses as well.

So, as a business owner, you should constantly be on the lookout for the “next big thing” and how your business can benefit from it.

Remember, it is all about staying one step ahead of your competitor.

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Is Your Company Prepared Against Cyber-Attacks?

Cyber-attacks are so common, in this day and age, that it’s never a question of whether or not your company will get hacked—it is a question of when. Hackers have been around for years, working their way through your security walls and passwords and gaining access to all kinds of delicate information, including names, social security numbers, finances, and more. 

Even those companies that have the best-of-the-best protection will likely experience at least one cyber-attack per year. Based on cyber-attack statistics, the year 2016 recorded an increased number of attacks when compared to 2015 and 2014, with some of the most active months of the year for attacks occurring in June, July, and August. 

It seems that hackers have gotten increasingly fluent in the language of sabotage, with their ambitions rising in the last year. Banks have experienced multi-million dollar heists, companies have been blackmailed with stolen information, and even the electoral process was disrupted with leaks of valuable information. 

Preparing for Cyber-Attacks 

If you’re worried about the protection of your company, and you want to learn more about what you can do to avoid or lessen the blow, the following information may be able to assist you. Consider all of this information carefully to increase your chances of avoiding hacker chaos in your company. 

Common Types Attacks 

The following are some of the most common attack methods used by hackers: 

Phishing Attacks 

Many hackers take the time to design emails and websites that look almost identical to the regular sites and pages we visit. While there will always be some small details that throw up a red flag, there are a lot of internet users who overlook these differences and can be caught in a hacker’s trap. 

These phishing attacks often come in the form of an e-mail from a business or company you often visit or purchase from, so it makes it more likely that you’ll trust the e-mail and open it. These attacks aim to gather personal information from you, either claiming that you’ve won something or there’s a problem with your account. While many anti-spam websites have worked hard to block these hackers, many people are still tricked into offering their information, which is quickly gathered and taken advantage of. 

To avoid this problem, it’s ideal to have account passwords that require more than one method of authentication, including a phone call or text to your personal phone. A simple login and password are much too easy to get through, so try to incorporate a second method for all of your accounts. This is true for all of your technology in the office—even securing your smart printers will be necessary to ensure there are no breaches. 

Malware

 

Malware is one of the most common forms of cyber-attacks, which tricks an end-user into running some kind of Trojan horse program from a website that they commonly visit and trust. Instead of the regular coding being sent to the user, malware is sent in its place wreaking havoc on your operating system.  

The hacked website will commonly send along a pop-up or message that lets the user know they can’t access their trusted website unless they download some sort of new file or program. They’ll likely be told to turn off any security features to let the file download and, once the download starts, it will begin to take its time running through your system and gathering personal information. 

To avoid this problem, it’s best to make sure that all employees in your company are well educated about this common problem and what they should look out for. Cyber security classes should be mandatory for all employees on a yearly basis, as hackers’ tactics are ever-evolving. All passwords should be changed regularly – monthly should suffice. Documents that are saved with confidential information should be password protected. 

Insufficient Patching 

Many companies know that their programs are being hacked or that their systems are unprotected, and yet many companies overlook the chance to “patch” these holes and, instead, allow them to remain exposed. 

According to a security and breaching report in 2016, 40% of businesses admitted to applying less than 80% of their patches successfully. While this kind of problem is easily one of the most common ways for hackers to exploit companies, there are still those businesses out there who aren’t patching completely like they should be. 

This problem can be fixed by ensuring that every program is patched perfectly or by, at least, making sure that the most exploited programs are fully patched. 

Website Security Tips 

Consider some of these tips to help improve your business’s online security: 

Stay Educated

Follow the news and keep yourself informed about possible hacker issues or problems to look out for. By staying in the know, you can keep yourself and your employees informed about what to watch for, what to avoid, and what to report. This is the simplest way to ensure that your company avoids cyber-attacks. 

Update Software

If your security programs are out of date, make sure that you are notified and that you update those programs as soon as possible. Putting this task on the back burner only exposes you to potential hacks, and cyber-attackers will likely find you much quicker than you think. Even if it costs extra for the upgrade, this is always a better investment than chancing exploitation.

Password Protect Files

Uploading files is one of the easiest ways for hackers to make their way into your websites. To avoid this, make sure that files are always password protected when they contain vulnerable information. This is extremely important when it comes to sending documents outside of the organization or are uploaded to an external server. 

Conclusion 

You’ve worked hard to build your company, so having someone you don’t even know hack and pull it apart with the click of a button is not something you want to experience. Consider all of the information provided to find out whether your company has the potential to be exposed, and what you can do to stop or avoid the destruction of a hacker. 

The best thing you can do for your business is to make security a top priority. Take care of updates, check for new potential issues, educate your employees, and invest in your protection. All of the extra work will be worth it, in the end, to protect your valuable information. 

 

 

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Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before

Suze Orman
Oct 22, 2017

One of the most popular segments on my CNBC show was "How Am I Doing?" Viewers would call in and tell me everything about their finances and wait for me to judge whether their retirement plan made the grade. Typically the central question was if they could retire in their early 60s.

Let's just say I gave out a lot more D's and F's than A's.

If I resurrected "How Am I Doing?" today, I'd be handing out plenty of failing grades to anyone who thinks they will be able to retire before they turn 171022 suze guide to retirement 270.Yes, you heard me right: 70 is the new retirement age—not a month or year before.

Don't "Oh, Suze" me just yet. Please hear me out.

Look, I totally get that if you are reading MONEY you're probably a diligent saver. But it's always dangerous to assume you're better off than you really are. You likely have plenty saved up to breeze through 15 years or so of retirement. But, people, if you stop working in your 60s, your retirement stash might need to support you for 30 years, not 15.I want to be very clear: I am not talking about a small outlier subset of people who stand to live an unusually long life. Healthy people in their 60s today have about a 50% chance of living into their 90s. Can you honestly tell me you're 100% sure you will not run out of money if you start spending down your retirement funds in your 60s and end up living into your 90s?

 

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Why good business branding is important

Whatever the product or service you offer, or even the market in which you operate, having a strong and consistent brand is essential. In fact, your brand goes a long way beyond just using a logo or graphics. When thinking about your brand, consider the entire ‘package’ or experience that you offer your customers: your company website, social channels, customer service and even your merchandise. Your brand is the way in which your customer perceives and interacts with your business. It’s important to remember that a good brand doesn’t just happen overnight, you will need to implement an in-depth branding strategy.

Recognition

Consider larger brands such as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s for a minute. What does their brand offer that your brand is lacking? These organizations have their branding on track; it is clear and consistent across the business, and their customers know exactly what they are going to experience every time they drink a coke or buy a burger. Using an effective brand strategy helps you stay focused on your business vision and mission. If your brand is strong and correctly positioned in line with business needs, it’s return on investment can be invaluable. Are you doing enough to get your brand recognized? If not, then now is the ideal time to make some serious changes.

Getting ahead of the competition

The world of business is a competitive one. New product launches, shifting trends and difficult consumers can all have an effect on your business revenue. However, if you want to ensure that you remain ahead of your competition – no matter where you operate – then consistent branding is essential. Check that your brand and logo, if you have one, is up to date and used consistently across your social media channels and corporate website, if you have one. If you are struggling with running effective campaigns and promotions, sites such as eventige.com can help you reposition your brand to be the best in the business. So even if you think your market position is fairly strong, there’s no reason to stop now – building an even stronger brand is sure to yield even better results.

Emotional attachment

If people live, love and enjoy your brand on a daily basis, then your branding is achieving its ultimate aim: generating an emotional attachment with your customers. Your brand should present your business or product on a much more personal level. So, if you are alienating your customers, rather than generating new leads, you need to take some time out to see how and why your brand is letting you down. If your brand isn’t engaging with you on an emotional level, then it certainly won’t be with your customer base.

Remember that good branding is built on a strong idea that separates your organization from its competitors, and it allows your customers to identify you in the marketplace. Your brand helps to deliver and achieve your business objectives, and has the power to turn consumers of your product or service into brand ambassadors.

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Expectations For Smartphone Technology in Near Future

It’s been quite a while since the smartphones, whether the android smartphones or Apple, have not been producing anything special. Looks like in the past few years the only thing changing in the new smartphones is the general look of a phone, and the companies produce a better camera with every successive phone.

So, how will the smartphone future technologies be subject to change or what should we be expecting out of them?

Well, considering the smartphone market in the world of today, it seems like perhaps the Samsung smartphoneamongst all android smartphones might be able to produce something new by the year 2018. Here are some expectations we have from the upcoming smartphones in the following year.

New ways of unlocking:

Keeping under consideration the Samsung Note 8, it unlocks through a finger scanner and an eye scanner at the same time. Although several customers have complained about the finger scanner being at a silly place or the eye scanner hardly working, we hope that in the upcoming Samsung android smartphones, these problems will be fixed and the accuracy of the phones will increase.
Facial scanning sounded almost impossible to us, until this September, when Apple announced that their upcoming iPhone X will be unlocked through facial recognition for higher privacy rate. We hope android phones will introduce this technology as well.

Better displays:

The Note 8 has a display unlike any other though, as it uses an OLED display which can be made thinner, brighter and lighter with a better color accuracy and better contrast than the previous display being used, the LED. The iPhone X also uses the OLED display, leaving the LED behind.
The phones that will be launched in the coming year will probably try to catch up as soon as they can, and will definitely get the OLED display as a distinct feature of their own as well!

Better Battery life:

Better battery life can be expected from the upcoming android smartphones of the year 2018. Have you heard? The iPhone X second edition to be released next September, will be the size of an iPhone 7, however, it is believed that it will have a battery life which will run for as long as 2 days on full charge!

Go completely wireless:

We’re expecting that we will be able to charge our phones wirelessly soon. Wireless charging technology is already available and in use, however we still need a charger (charging pod/dock) and phone needs to be "put to charging". Imagine that simply by walking into a room with such "power router" you would start charging your smartphone. Breaking and losing our wires, or having our plugs get fused is just tiring now. And while we’re at it, we also expect to see wireless ear pods in the smartphone future technologies.

Holograms:

It is hoped that the new phones will have holographic displays. You can have a 3-D display in front of you, so that you can experience and look at from all different positions physically. Holograms today sound like "Star Wars" technology, but they might be closer in future than we believe.

It is believed that perhaps the smartphones have now reached their peaks and new technologies can no longer be introduced. However, these small improvements and changings would introduce a new era to the smartphone technology.

 

Written by: Jeffrey Ulrich, CEO, Chinavasion Wholesale Ltd., tech and cool gadgets enthusiast, creator of the Chinese e-commerce shop in 2004, Shenzhen, China.
For more info visit: www.chinavasion.com 

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The 6 Largest Cyber-Attacks to Date

Whether we know it or not, cyber-attacks are occurring all over the world on a daily basis. In this day and age, it is a necessity for most companies to have an online presence, and this often means being exposed to the ugly world of talented hackers. 

One of the most increasingly common forms of cyber-attacks today is referred to as “ransomware,” which forces businesses to pay hackers a certain amount before they will re-release access to the business’s site. According to ransomware statistics, attacks of this kind rose by 50% in the year 2016, which prompted many companies to immediately update and upgrade their systems to avoid further exploitation. There are various steps to avoid a ransomware attack, but it’s not the only attack that your company should be wary of. 

With so many computer-savvy individuals out there in the world, even young adults have the power to break past firewalls and passwords to retrieve information. It doesn’t matter what they’re dealing with—whether it’s Yahoo or the independently-owned jewelry store down the street—everyone is at risk of cyber-attacks. 

Not only do you need to be diligent with your company computers, but it’s also important that you take into account the other pieces of equipment in the office that rely on wireless capabilities, Bluetooth, and other systems that require accounts and passwords for access. Items such as wireless faxes and printers also hold valuable information in their systems, so, even if employees are simply re-filling the ink jet cartridges, there should be security systems in place. 

The following are 6 of the largest cyber-attacks to date. 

1. MafiaBoy

As was mentioned, a hacker isn’t always going to be an adult with years of experience with computers. In this cyber-attack, a 15-year old male who referred to himself as ‘MafiaBoy’ had the prowess to release a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) on a variety of large corporations, including Amazon, Yahoo, and eBay. 

The damage that he caused with the attack cost close to $1 billion, and he was later apprehended. Since he was a juvenile, he was sentenced to open custody, and, ten years later, he published a book that described the impressive event. 

2. The Melissa Virus 

For some hackers, there is never an intent to harm. Unfortunately, some viruses get away from the creator and end up causing huge problems regardless. In 1999, a man named David Smith created the Melissa virus, which worked to infect documents in Microsoft Word and automatically disguise itself as an attached document via email. 

Once opened, the attachment would mail itself out to the first 50 names in the end-user’s Outlook address book, thereby unknowingly spreading like wildfire. Even though Smith claimed that he never meant for the virus to cause harm, it still ended up costing $80 million in damages, and he went to prison for 20 months. 

3.  The Entire Internet Attacked

In 2002, the Internet fell to its knees at the hands of unknown hackers. The attack had it out for very specific victims, which included every single one of the 13 domain name system’s root servers. It was a DDoS-style attack, which was active for approximately one hour. 

While one hour doesn’t seem like a very long time, it was more so the scale of the hack that had alarms sounding all over the United States. Federal authorities categorized the attack as one of the most complex hacks in history, with almost all servers struggling for almost an entire hour before the hold was released. Had the attack lasted any longer, it’s fair to assume that the entire Internet would have been at a standstill and billions of dollars lost. 

4.  Gonzales Hack 

In 2009, it wasn’t a few large companies that were victimized by a hacker but, instead, over 250 financial institutions and all of their clientele. The hacker was known as ‘Gonzales,’ and he was responsible for hacking and stealing millions of credit card and debit card numbers from all across the United States. 

To do so, Gonzales hacked payment card companies, including the convenience store 7-11, to retain card information. While Gonzales did plead guilty to at least three separate cases, he still managed to pull off one of the biggest fraud cases in U.S. history. 

5.  July 2009 Attacks 

Named after the specific date when the hacks occurred, this well-known cyber-attack affected both South Korea and the United States. The hack took over in three different waves of attacks, and it had the ability to affect more than 10,000 computers in the two countries. 

The targeted end-users included government institutions, including the White House, the Pentagon, and the South Korean National Assembly. It was never revealed who was behind the attacks, and allegations were made against the North Korean telecommunications ministry to no avail. 

6.  Estonia Cyber Attacks 

In 2007, Estonia experienced cyber-attacks at an unprecedented scale that had the power to cripple the Northern European country. The attacks focused on putting large institutions at a standstill, including the Parliament of Estonia, banks, media outlets, and ministries. 

It has been said that the attacks were a response to the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn and of the war graves in the capital city. While there were many fingers being pointed, at first, there was no concrete evidence to put the blame on anyone in particular. Investments in cyber security were immediately increased, and a Tallinn manual was released that outlined international laws surrounding cyber warfare. 

Conclusion 

Companies all over the world are exposed to cyber-attacks on a daily basis, so it’s important to protect yourself and your employees as diligently as possible. Some of the largest cyber-attacks have been created on a whim, so it’s no surprise that many companies are exposed to attacks even by young adults who are new to the game. 

Avoid cyber-attacks by keeping yourself and your employees updated on new hacker tactics, and make sure to always keep your security updated. These types of practices might be time-consuming or costly, but they will always be worth it, to avoid the disaster of cyber-attacks like the ones mentioned.

 

 

 

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Armstrong
With so many computer-savvy individuals out there in the world, even young adults have the power to break past firewalls and passw... Read More
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5 Tips on Tightening Your Office Security

Office security and safety is a very important component of running a business. Not only do you want to ensure that you are safe, but you always want to be sure that your employees and valuable information are safe as well. Employees who feel safe in their place of work are generally better workers, and longer-lasting employees as well. For the benefit of the entire business, investing in security in all departments is vital. 

There are a number of practices you can implement within your company that can help to decrease the likelihood of security breaches. If you’re looking to increase the level of security in your building, consider the following tips on tightening your office security. 

1. Create a Plan 

Just like any other disaster or event, there needs to be a plan in place in case of a security breach within your company. This plan should be written out in your policies and procedures manual once it has been passed by your legal counsel. 

This plan should cover all sides of a security breach, including what employees should do, where they should go, how to react, etc. Make sure the plan is closely detailed concerning the actual layout of your offices so that employees are fully aware of where to go and what to expect. 

Once you’ve got a plan in place, go over the plan with each employee individually. This is especially important if you have a lot of turnaround with employees. Everyone should know the drill and be comfortable practicing it a few times a year. 

2. Have a Sign-In System 

If there are a lot of people coming in and out of your offices, your chances of a breach may increase if you’re not careful. This is especially true if your employees are hosting meetings with outside individuals and companies who will need access to your facilities.

To tighten the security of your office, implement a sign-in system that tracks who is coming and going and when. People who work for you full-time should have badges for easy entry, while those who aren’t full-time workers should require a name and proof of meeting to be allowed access into the building. 

A bright, visible badge or keychain should be worn by visitors at all times to ensure that your employees recognize them as an outside worker. This will make it easier for you to track who came onto the premises and who they were in contact with while inside. 

3. Install Security Systems 

 

This is one of the best ways to combat security breaches in your office, and it’s likely to deter many people from considering breaking and entering. While these kinds of systems may cost a pretty penny in the beginning, the investment is worth it. Consider researching some of the best security systems for offices and speak with a professional about the kinds of designs that would work for your office. 

Not only is having security a great way of keeping unwanted visitors out, but it also has the added bonus of keeping an eye on employees inside. Indoor security can help you keep an eye out for valuable items like quality office equipment and tools, and it can also help you get to the bottom of any problems that occur between co-workers. 

While you’re looking at installing security on the inside of your office, be sure to take care of the outside of your building as well. Stairways, doors, alleyways, and parking lots surrounding your building should be protected, and employees should know that they’re safe should they ever work late hours or experience a car break-in. Investing in outdoor security and adequate lighting will help to increase the safety of your workers. 

4. Implement Online Security 

Once you’ve covered safety procedures in your office space, you’ll want to consider your online property as well. There were some unprecedented online breaches in 2016, including hacks to large companies, including Target, Verizon, LinkedIn, Wendy’s, Snapchat, and Yahoo. 

To protect valuable information and accounts within your company, being diligent and investing in protection is a must. Investing in an online security system is one of the first things you should do to keep valuable information safe, and it is important to keep these systems updated to ensure they can perform at their best. 

It will also be important to keep employees up to date on the current scams to watch out for and to keep them educated about what to look for and avoid when they’re working online. Phishing emails are becoming more common, and hackers are quickly perfecting other company’s branding and voice – making it easy to fall for their tricks. The best way to avoid mistakes and phishing scams is to regularly educate your employees on security, update all passwords on at least a monthly basis, and always try to improve existing security.   

If you ever do experience any security breaches, take the time to make sure you get all of the necessary patching and recovery taken care of. Patching will ensure that there are no points of access into your database, so it’s important to take care of these issues right away. Hackers do not need a lot of time to find holes in open programs, so, the higher this is on your priority list, the better. 

5. Secure Physical Information

While online documents and e-mails are the chosen route for communication and information, these days, you’ll still want to ensure that physical copies of information are properly secured. To keep track of your important documents, make sure that you have a secure safe for things like passwords, checks, printed documents, and other vital information. 

Lock away any paperwork that needs to be shredded, until it can be properly disposed of, and be sure to store away and lock printers and computers that are not being used. Employees should never be able to take home office equipment, and all general passwords should be changed on a regular basis. 

Conclusion 

When it comes to the security of everyone and everything in your company, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Investing in the security of your company can prove invaluable on the off chance that someone decides to try to steal your information or bring harm to anyone in your building. 

Consider the tips suggested above to ensure that your office is a safe and secure place for everyone and everything within it. 

 

 

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A professional would say that the office security systems are essential for all businesses. The main office security measures mean... Read More
Tuesday, 26 June 2018 06:14
Kaylie
我已經看到了很多可以幫助您提高辦公室安全性的技巧。 您可以在好的情況下查看它們 好,您將知道執行此操作的新方法是什麼。 如果你問我,它是可靠的。... Read More
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Guide to Build and Grow Your MSP Business in the Cloud

 

Did you know? The cloud presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform and scale your MSP business while saving costs for your customers, and it is easier to do than  you think.

Why haven’t you embraced the cloud yet?

The cloud is complex, and understandably provokes hesitation for anyone not well versed in cloud infrastructure and architecture, or computer engineering.  For some, it may even represent a deterrent to growth.  It is not.  It is a prime opportunity to grow your MSP business.

With a few clicks, you can grow your profit with cloud solutions. Offer existing clients a better, cheaper IT solution that can be bundled with additional services to grow your margin.  Expand your customer base and geographic footprint with cloud-based offerings and no need to maintain on-premises hardware. Leave behind a project-based mentality for a stable, predictable monthly recurring revenue subscription model. And a stronger, more valuable MSP business.

All of this is possible to you today.

Deliver cloud solutions without being a cloud expert. You don’t have to hire cloud experts, you don’t even have to invest a lot to retrain yourself or existing staff. In fact, automation in the cloud frees up resources from mundane management and maintenance tasks to instead allow a greater focus on customer growth and support.

Complex workloads and solutions like remote desktop and application delivery in the cloud can be achieved with just a few clicks. Sophisticated, enterprise-level security and compliance solutions are available to you. The cloud makes things easier.  It is time to embrace it.

This e-book overviews the benefits of the public cloud for you and your customers.  And outlines key considerations and options in planning your move to the cloud. Download here.

 

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laetitia MOREAU
C’est un très joli article, super agréable à lire et très intéressant .
Friday, 13 October 2017 21:00
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You finished a couple fine focuses there. I did an inquiry on the subject and discovered almost all persons will oblige with your ... Read More
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Why Entrepreneurs Need To Embrace A Spirit Of Continual Reinvention

Chris Myers, CONTRIBUTOR

I write about my journey as a first-time CEO and startup founder

Entrepreneurship, and life in general for that matter, is a never-ending cycle of creation and destruction. Ideas, beliefs, and behaviors ebb and markus spiske 104913flow evolving to influence our lives in different and often unexpected ways.

Central to this truth is the concept of reinvention. I think that many times, entrepreneurs feel like the act of personal reinvention is tantamount to admitting failure. They’re not wrong.

Failure is an integral part of my life, both personally and professionally. To claim otherwise would be disingenuous. However, I’ve found that failure, while often painful, provides the catalyst for change.

My overarching goal is to acknowledge my mistakes, failures, and shortcomings while working towards becoming a better person and leader.

As Hemingway once said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.”

However, this radical commitment to self-improvement often easier said than done. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along my journey.

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Twitter’s Apple Watch app has disappeared

by Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa)

apple watch event0309

The big Twitter news currently may be the expansion of tweets to support 280 characters instead of just 140, but a number of Twitter users recently spotted another notable change, as well: the Twitter Apple Watch app has disappeared. The app’s iTunes App Store page no longer notes compatibility with the Apple Watch, and users who have updated to the latest versions of iOS and watchOS note the Twitter Watch app is no longer available on their smartwatch.

Specifically, with the rollout of the Twitter for iOS (version 7.8) iOS app, the Apple Watch app was removed, we understand.

Twitter would not be the first major tech company to stop supporting the Apple Watch via a native app. Several major app makers, including Google, have abandoned Apple’s smartwatch platform in recent months. For example, Google pulled support for Google Maps on the Apple Watch earlier this year, and retailers including Amazon and eBay did the same.

The challenge for these watch apps in some cases has to do with the fact that a smartwatch is not necessarily the ideal platform for traditional mobile app use – like shopping, for example. But with Google, it was likely also too difficult to compete with the better-integrated Apple Maps app that’s designed to work with Apple’s wearable.

But those removals went largely unnoticed, which indicated that perhaps these apps weren’t as heavily used as the companies had hoped when the Apple Watch app store first launched.

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Office Depot Takes First Step in Strategic Transformation to Become Business Services Platform with Acquisition of CompuCom

Adding Market-Leading Provider of World-Class IT Services with Approximately $1.1 Billion in Sales to Create a Powerful Omnichannel Tech Services Platform

Combines CompuCom’s Broad Set of Managed Technology Services with Access to Office Depot’s Extensive Customer Base and Last-Mile Advantage to Generate Substantial Growth Opportunities

Expects Over $40 Million in Estimated Annual Cost Synergies within Two Years; Acquisition to be Accretive in Year One

Attractive Free Cash Flow and Significant Financial Flexibility to Implement Office Depot’s New Strategy to Grow Recurring Business Services Revenue

Office Max

Corporate/Financial News, Products and Services News
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 4:35 pm EDT
BOCA RATON, Fla.

NASDAQ:
ODP
US6762201068

BOCA RATON, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Office Depot, Inc. ("Office Depot” or the “company”) (NASDAQ:ODP) today announced it is pivoting the company from a traditional office products retailer to a broader business services and technology products platform. As the first step in this new strategic direction, the company has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire CompuCom Systems, Inc. (“CompuCom”), a market-leading provider of award-winning IT services, products and solutions that enable the digital workplace for enterprise, small and midsize businesses. The company also provided a preliminary estimate of third-quarter financial results and a lowered outlook for Office Depot’s stand-alone business for 2017.

“Technology is the office supply of the future,” said Gerry Smith, chief executive officer of Office Depot. “Today marks a significant milestone as we move to provide a unique business services platform for our current and future customers. Acquiring CompuCom is the first step in this new strategic direction. The combination of CompuCom’s enterprise IT services with our millions of customers and approximately 1,400 distribution points gives us the credibility and scale to build a sustainable platform and stand apart from the competition. The company will create value for shareholders from a diversified revenue base with a clear opportunity to grow higher value services and business-to-business revenues.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Office Depot will acquire CompuCom from Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. ("THL"), a premier private equity firm, for a total consideration of approximately $1 billion, which includes the repayment of CompuCom debt and issuance of new Office Depot shares. Following the transaction, THL will hold an equity position in Office Depot of approximately 8% of total shares outstanding.

Founded in 1987, CompuCom provides highly-rated managed IT services to businesses with over 5.1 million unique end users. CompuCom’s team of approximately 6,000 licensed technicians is the largest employee field technician workforce in North America, providing remote and onsite technology support. CompuCom procures, installs and manages the lifecycle of hardware and software for businesses, and offers IT support services including remote help desk, data centers and on-site IT professionals. CompuCom was positioned in the Leaders quadrant of Gartner's® most recently released Magic Quadrant® for Managed Workplace Services, North America. CompuCom has established long-term relationships with hundreds of blue chip customers, including six of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies, and many small- and medium-sized businesses, including local franchises of national brands.

Compelling Market Opportunity

The combination represents a unique opportunity to bring world-class IT support services to all of Office Depot’s customers, particularly underserved small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

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The Challenges of Internationalising a Startup

Working on creating a successful startup is challenging at the best of times. However, once you’ve set up your website, your business model, your products and your services, there’s still the biggest problem to face. Expansion.

Today, we’ll explore some of the most common challenges that startups like yours face when trying to boom into the global market and how you can overcome them.

Not Starting Early

One of the biggest mistakes that start-up companies make when trying to secure their position on the global Mapnetwork is leaving it too late. Every decision you make needs to consider the fact that you’re planning to globalize in the future.

Even down to a basic level of choosing the name of your brand. You may have come up with a really awesome name for your startup but have you considered how well received it will be in other countries. In some cases, it might even be offensive, in which case you’ll need to adapt and move forward.

Overcoming the Language Barrier

Let’s face it, not everybody in the world speaks English. Or at least fluently enough for them to understand your website. To overcome the language barrier, you’re going to need to think about translating your pages in the near future. If you want your startup to definitely be a global entity, you’ll need to start thinking of this early on in your development.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply copy and paste your content into Google Translate. Although this will do the basics, it won’t be able to translate full sentences and thousands of words accurately. Instead, you’ll need to use a professional translator who’s fluent in the languages. Fortunately, there are several sites that can carry out this process on your behalf such as UK top writers and Best Australian writers. Simply find which one best suits you.

Ensuring Expansion is Right for You

Sometimes, startup companies will move to the international markets simply because they don’t have enough business in their domestic market. However, this is not always the best decision, and the chances are that you aren’t’ receiving business in your domestic market because of your business model.

However, this can be a critical error and will possibly result in your breaking your business due to huge expenditures that won’t pay off. Unless you’re originally planning to operate in another country, always try to conquer your domestic market first before expanding.

Consider Your Communication Methods

Whether you’re operating an online service or selling your products to the world, you’ll need to pay attention to how you’re communicating with your customers and the methods you’re using. For example, you may be using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, but are these the primary source of communication in certain countries?

Lean Dole, a marketing expert at Viawriting, explains, “You’ll need to explore other options. You could invest in multiple, dedicated email addresses. You may need to think about dedicated country phone support lines. You may even need to consider what prefix you’re going to use on your domain name, such as France (.fr), Spain (.es) etc.”

Increasing Global Credibility

Not only will you need to adapt and customize your content for your online users, but you’ll also want to adapt and personalise your user-generated content. For example, customer reviews and feedback are vital aspects that will contribute to your success. So, you may be highlighting reviews from your own country, but what about promoting the views of others?

Another thing you’ll want to think about is adapting this content to suit the country that you’re promoting in. Every country is different and will have its own mindset, its own culture and its own ideas. It is better to outsource such work to professionals like Academadvisor or Write my essay. You will need to address these if you want your startup business to succeed.

Don’t Risk Poor Customer Experience


Let’s imagine you’re based in the US, and you’ve got an increasing number of customers in China, none of which speak English. Then, let’s say there was a problem with your product or service. Maybe the parcel wasn’t delivered, or your product was faulty. The individual then attempts to contact your company, you answer the phone, but neither of you understands each other.

This is going to seriously harm the reputation, credibility and trustworthiness of your business and it may be extremely difficult to claw back these brownie points. Before you launch your service into another country, it’s vital that you set up the right customer support teams that can handle any queries or complaints.

Not Playing the Long Game

Moving into the international markets is a long game, and many startups will be extremely eager to make the biggest impression that they can, causing them to overlook this consideration.
Instead of trying to steal your competition’s market share in one huge strike, it’s much more effective, and budget-friendly, to chip away at it slowly and gain ground and traction.

Brenda Berg is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs. She believes that constant learning is the only way to success. You can visit her personal blog at Letsgoandlearn.com

 

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Microsoft is releasing Office 2019 next year

 
 
Microsoft Office 2019
 

Microsoft is announcing its next major release of Office today at Ignite in Orlando, with a planned release for next year. Office 2019 (arriving in the second half of 2018) will include the usual Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook client apps, alongside server versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business. Microsoft is planning to release preview copies of Office 2019 in the middle of 2018, and the software is primarily designed for organizations that aren’t using the cloud Office 365 versions.

Office 2019 will include better IT capabilities for businesses that aren’t using Office 365, and new ink features like pressure sensitivity, tilt effects, and ink replay. Excel will also include new formulas and charts for data analysis, and PowerPoint will pick up the morph and zoom animation features that Office 365 customers are currently taking advantage of.

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The Need for Speed

GoDaddy published the results of a study looking at page load speeds across four website builders: GoDaddy’s GoCentral, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace.

Fast page load speed is crucial for business owners when it comes to capturing online sales. A recent study shows that websites taking longer than three seconds to load could potentially lose nearly half of the site’s visitors. Additionally, up to 79% of customers who are dissatisfied with a website's performance say they're less likely to buy from the same site again.

GoDaddy’s test of the top four website builders showed that GoCentral’s websites loaded faster than the three other builders, and more than 3x faster than the slowest competitor.

 

Need for Speed

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Smartsheet – Not Your Parent’s Project Management System

I have a dog in this fight. In graduate school my MBA concentration was in project management from a construction industry vantage point (fortunately my skills easily transferred to IT and the rest is history). So when Smartsheet announced its first ever user conference, I marked it as a must do. It was time well spent and, yes, I’ll yelp that I will repeat. Heck 1,000 attendees can’t be wrong (note this was an IT Pro audience with 55% self-selecting as super users).

Smartsheet

Fig 1: Hangin’ with Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader at the September 2017 conference.

What is Smartsheet?

Historically I’ve framed up Smartsheet as online project management on steroids. Growing from a residential house (in Bellevue, WA) in 2005, Smartsheet currently has over 400-employees heading to 800+ within the next 12-months. Today Smartsheet is all about positioning itself as a SaaS application for collaboration and work management using an intuitive spreadsheet-like interface. As the name would imply, the product is a series of “smartsheets” based on the underlying project management paradigm to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents and manage other work. The underlying mission pillars for company transparency, practicality, effectiveness and accountability has resulted in an “…ethos that brought people together in the old yellow house to help companies achieve more...uplifting how we work.” According the CEO Mark Mader in his inaugural keynote address. “We love surveys. We found that you spend 11-hours per week on repetitive tasks and routines. We grossly underestimated how changing the way we work would be disruptive…the web…how expectations had changed, etc.” Loosely translated, Mader is saying, Smartsheet is trying to change work culture. I’d offer it’s trying to do it in far less than one generation (for context, read this interesting article on how a reformed Poland took a 20-year generation to change its culture. http://www.modernsurvey.com/blog/20-years-for-cultural-change) “When Smartsheet was established, we sought to establish a new language for work.” Mader said.

Ease of Use

Clearly the Smartsheet asset is its ease of use. “Smartsheet is about self-help and not taxing IT to work with a SaaS-based collaborative solution.” Mader added.

Will a Robot Take My Job?

Mader’s mission is automation. He hit the Robot fear factor head-on in his keynote. “People are receptive to automation - enables you without coding, to execute, etc. We believe the automation released today will take you to the next level.” Mader is referring to the “Smartsheet Report: Automation in the Workplace 2017” which is survey results released at the conference. Two nuggets are:

65% of workers use some type of automation in their day-to-day work.

78% say automation will allow them to spend more time on the interesting and rewarding aspects of their job.

Bottom line

While the conference as customer facing with IT pros (e.g. Alaska Airlines employee), I can appreciate that spot opportunities for MSPs and partners exist. That’s my next blog!

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My Moto Summer Fling

With the Fall Equinox upon us, I can now share my summer research findings concerning mobility.

This is truly a case of starting over. This summer, I tested the Android-based Moto Z Play2 as part of my journey post-Windows Phone (Nokia 1020). The decision was very simple. Increasingly the apps I want and need were not on the Windows Phone platform. And I’ve been there; done that
with the Apple iPhone (I had the iPhone 3G in 2008). As leading Microsoft partner and IAMCP executive Jeff Shuey said “…time to get appy” when briefed on my intentions. I gave my test unit and the mods a stress test by attending the recent Microsoft Inspire conference (conference in Washington D.C. in July 2017- this conference was formerly known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference “WPC”).

Intel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 1: I’m with a Lenovo rep discussing the Hasselblad True Zoom mod at Microsoft Inspire.

My NEEDS!
Years ago I listed my basic needs in a mobile phone in a blog at SMB Nation. Basically beyond the whiz-bang apps, it amounted to phone service, testing, photos and sound plus battery life. Those are still my core needs and the Moto Z Play2 really excels here. Why?” Because these featured are enhanced via the mods you can attach (and I’ve now tested).

Sound. The JBL-based sound mod, that snaps on to the back of the phone, is really a super cool conference phone feature in my opinion. While at Inspire, I placed several calls on speaker and had multi-person calls (including a few people standing next to me in a busy and loud tradeshow hall. Everyone was impressed. Finally a phone that was a real speaker phone. Bonus was when I stream Xfinity content while traveling (watching CNN), I have world class external audio.

Power. The most useful mod was clearly the Moto Turbopower Pack, a battery recharger (I use it daily). Like anyone, I fiddle with my mobile phone all day every day. I typically hit the later afternoon low energy zone. Viola – I attach the Turbopower Pack (often on my commute home) and return to full power quickly. This is important because the nature of my evening commutes has me away from power.

It should be noted that each of the mods I used came with their own power supply (e.g. up to ten hours power for the speakers or projector). However, these Mod built-in batteries only ran the actual function (e.g. sound, projector) but did not have a reverse current flow to charge the actual phone. Only the Turbopower Pack had that ability. I wish the engineering would support both the device power (speakers, projector) and recharge the phone. Why? Because it’s unlikely I’m going to run my projector for ten hours.

Projector. I used this mod the least but I do feel it’s essential as a mobile businessman. I’ve used it for pleasure, to stream a short high school graduation spoof vid for my son’s big day at the celebration dinner. I’ve used it for business to show web sites, such as a predictive analytics firm, when I was having a business discussion. And I’ve used it to show PowerPoint presentations on the fly (I showed this off at a recent tradeshow where I had a booth). Bonus is that the Moto Insta-Share Projector is available complimentary (as I write this) with the purchase of Moto Z phone (offers may vary). But for free, it’s one hellva must have.

Camera. Truth be told, I only used the internal camera (front and rear) regularly. As a blogger/analyst, the built-in camera(s) are sufficient for my digital media needs. I quickly tested the Hasselblad True Zoom camera in the Lenovo booth at Microsoft Inspire (see Fig 1 above). So it’s hard for me to remember a verdict on the Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod. I was able to zoom into the audience as seen in Fig2 (non-zoom) and Fig 3 (zoom) and clearly see the results. The non-zoom pic was about the same quality as the built-in camera, but I’m a shutterbug and I understand the value of the Hasselblad True Zoom camera for more specialized needs (such as print magazines). This mod has the effect of allowing me to leave my Nikon D5000 SLR at home when I travel for business (the Nikon would still be part of my luggage when I travel to Alaska for scenic photography).

Kindly note one matter concerning the camera function. If you have your phone brightness turned down (to save power), it results in dark pics. For some reason, the auto adjusting/lighting feature just doesn’t work well. Once I restored the phone’s brightness to a sufficient level, my pics got brighter if that makes sense. Learn from Harry on this one.

Jabra Faraway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 2: Broad non-zoom shot using the Hasselblad True Zoom mod.

Jabra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 3: Same shot. Approximately 10x zoom shot using the Hasselblad True Zoom mod.

Android. I’m learning as I go with Android. So far so good with respect to the UI. But there are a few nuances. For example, the Microsoft Office 365 mobile version for Android is not as robust as the Windows Phone version (go figure). The Outlook application, while supporting my multiple business calendars, doesn’t have a proper pop-up notification when an appointment is approaching. Ergo I have missed a few appointments over the summer and have ad to modify my work habits to set alarms with the Clock app. (I’ve tried other calendaring apps such as Business Calendar Version 2.23 but found these apps struggle with supporting multiple business calendars – your reader suggestions are welcome).

My favorite summertime application? Strava. My God – you can accurately record your bicycle rides! It uses the internal GPS capability. See Fig 4.

Chilly Hilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 4: Big Data meets cycling with Strava – my summer bking as part of my Moto Z Play2 mobile app test bed!

A shout out to the FM Radio app (native Motorola Mobility app version 02.02.0146). I can listen to real over-the-air radio when I’m on the ferry/bus or evening travelling in new cities (e.g. Austin, TX) and want to absorb some local sound. Interestingly the FM radio capability is new in the Moto Z Play2 edition; it did not exist in the original Moto Z Play and I was spoiled from this capability with the Windows Phone and my commute time radio listening habit. Bonus: the use of the FM Radio does not consume data or voice minutes on your mobile phone plan (I use AT&T). It behaves like an FM transistor radio (kids won’t get that).

AT&T. As I mentioned, AT&T is my carrier. But the native Moto Z Play2 support is for Verizon. Ergo I used an unlocked phone version to support AT&T. I always worry about having the unlocked version because I don’t feel you get the same performance or patch cadence. But during my summer romance with the Moto Z Play2, I have no quarrels.

Summary

I the start of this blog, I shared I know my needs as a mobile traveler, businessman and media/press analyst blogger: pics, sound, basic phone service, long power, basic apps and hero apps. The Moto Z Play2 meets my needs completely and receives the coveted “Astro” award (Astro is the mascot of SMB Nation). Bravo Moto!

ASTRO APPROVED WWW SMBNATION COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 5: Moto Z Play2 wins an Astro!

PS – one suggestion. I would be nice to stack mods. For example, If I could have both the projector and the sound mods usable at the same time, my streaming entertainment content would sound divine (instead of the projector defaulting to the internal speaker on the actual phone). Today it’s one mod at a time baby.

PPS – shout out to my friend Jerry Essenpreis, IT Manager at the Bremerton Housing Authority, for encouraging me to you the finger print logon security. After a brief training session capturing my thumb print, it worked splendidly and no need to tap in a PN code.

 

 

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Apple replaces Bing with Google as search engine for Siri and Spotlight

siri what can i help you with e1459781539685

Siri screenshot. (Apple Image)

Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac.


TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools.

For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing.

Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine.

In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that “we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible.”

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Fall Security Survey - Please Participate!

Not on is it back-to-school but it’s Fall with everyone madly back to work. Would you be able to spare a few moments to assist us in assess your security-related attitudes and preferences? Your contribution to this crowded sourced survey helps keep our community alive and thriving!

We are curious
about your emphasis on security as an MSP practice and vendor preferences.

It’s all very simple. Complete the survey HERE.

Security Survey

 

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

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Microsoft connects LinkedIn and Office 365 via profile cards, starting to capitalize on $26B deal

BY NAT LEVY on September 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

 

Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. (Microsoft Photo)


More than a year after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the technology giant is rolling out some of the first integrations with the business social network.

At its Ignite conference in Orlando this morning, Microsoft plans to announce that Office 365 will include a new “profile card” that can display LinkedIn information. For example, interviewers using Outlook would be able to easily access LinkedIn profiles of job seekers. This integration, the first between Office 365 and LinkedIn since the acquisition, is designed to make it easier for people to search for others inside their organizations.

Here’s how it works, according to the company: “Users who have access to this feature can access LinkedIn profile information by hovering over a person’s name and navigating to the ‘LinkedIn’ tab on the new profile card. Microsoft service administrators continue to have control over organizational privacy and connected features in their tenant. We respect end-user privacy and will honor your LinkedIn privacy and profile visibility settings.”

Microsoft is also connecting LinkedIn with its Dynamics sales and recruiting technology. LinkedIn InMails and messages will soon be able to be sent directly from Dynamics 365 for Sales, for example, and customers will be able to quickly integrate LinkedIn profile photos and other content to enrich lead data.

Microsoft completed its high-profile purchase of LinkedIn last year. At that time, Microsoft detailed a few of the integrations it was pursuing at the time, providing a roadmap for the work between Microsoft and LinkedIn.

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Why Asking for Advice is the Best Thing for Your Business and Yourself

BY: Annabelle Short

Do you remember as a teenager, your mom or dad would give you some advice on a relationship or maybe on how to do your homework?

You would respectfully ignore it because…

What do mom and dad know, right?

But, looking back, there were probably several times where you wished you had only taken their advice.Help

It is easy to display the same sense of pride when it comes to your business –

Your business is like your child. You developed the idea and have put time, effort, and money into ensuring its success. So, obviously, you are adamant that you – and only you – could possibly know what is best for it.

But, consider this:

Think of your absolute favorite article of clothing.

Maybe it is your favorite team’s t-shirt or that pair of jeans that fit just right…

Now, when you go to wash that article of clothing, the first thing you do is check the clothing label for washing instructions.

Can you dry it?

Will it shrink?

Does it have to be washed on cold only?

So, why should you not search for professional advice the same way for your business?

You can avoid obvious mistakes.

There are plenty of obvious mistakes that are not so obvious to you at the time-being…

You haven’t made them yet, so how would you know to avoid them?

But, there are plenty of other business owners who have and who would be more than happy to share their story, give you their insight, and allow you to learn from their mistake.

Some of these mistakes might be overwhelmingly embarrassing or just plain costly – but either way, if you could avoid them up front, why not?

It will energize you.

Running a small business can get lonely.

You can easily find yourself consumed with the many hats that you wear as a business owner. However, by getting involved with other business owners or finding a mentor, you can listen to how they approach their businesses…

Not only will connecting with others give you insight into how others do things but it could foster new ideas you have never considered and help your stress, leading you to realize you are not alone.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This is a saying my parents have told be a million times over…

You don’t know what you don’t know.

And, it is as simple as that.

You might be missing out on the most cost-effective solution for your business that you have been actively searching for.

And, you know what?

It could be right there waiting to smack you in the face if you would just ask for help.

You and your business will prosper.

Ultimately, asking for help will only make you a better person and your business a better business.

You will learn new things that you can apply both to your personal life and to your business practices, you will meet new people who can introduce you to their audiences and help further your business, and you will have someone to call on when the road gets tough.

Final Thoughts

Being a business owner can be hard enough:

Many hats to wear and new challenges to face each day.

Why try to do it alone?

You are only being stubborn not asking for help and continuously missing out on opportunities that you might not even know are available.

Do yourself and your business a favor – swallow your pride and ask for help. When you and your business begin to prosper, you won’t regret it.

 

Annabelle Short is a writer and a seamstress of more than 5 years. She loves making crafts with her two children, Leo (age 9) and Michelle (age 11). Annabelle likes to write about business, crafting and sewing, and parenting. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles and writes for Wunderlabel. You can visit her blog to learn more about her and her handmade creations.

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Knowledge is Power: Small Business and Five Cyber Security Myths

By: Steven Bearak, CEO of IdentityForce

Building an effective cyber security strategy is critical for all small business owners. When running a lean operation, it’s common for a small business to do more with less. IT resources can be scarce, even for those small to mid-sized Cyber Securitycompanies that are in the high-tech and IT fields. In fact, when 600 IT leaders from small and mid-size businesses were surveyed for a 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, only 14 percent of the companies indicated that they were highly effective at mitigating cyber risks, vulnerabilities, and attacks.

The first step to protect your small business is to really understand perceived myths versus the truth around cyber security protection. So, let’s get started:

Myth #1 - A Strong Password Keeps Everything Secure
Strong passwords are important, but they won’t fully protect you. Consider using a password with two-factor authentication, and make sure that your team never leaves passwords lying around the office or their homes. Instead, encourage them to use a password manager.

Myth #2 – I’m Prepared! I have an Antivirus Program
Many businesses, including small business owners, believe that an antivirus program will keep their data safe and secure. While it helps, there’s a lot more to cyber security than installing a simple piece of software. And, more people than ever before are also using smartphones and tablets on unsecured networks without installing the proper antivirus software on those devices.

Myth #3 - A Good Firewall Will Keep the Bad Guys Out
In the same way that antivirus software won’t fully protect your business from a cybercriminal, firewalls won’t either. Gaps remain even if you are using both firewall and antivirus software. In today’s work environment where Bring your own Device (BYOD) and telecommuting are prevalent, many of the risks come from a lack of communicating and enforcing best practices with your employees. Other solutions such as identity theft protection can further protect your employees’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Myth #4 – Cyber Attacks Don’t Happen to Small Companies
Cyber threats are very real and becoming more prevalent. This can also include ransomware – or malicious software – that threatens to publish the data on your device, or lock down your device, unless a ransom is paid. Your business can be a target 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, according to a 2017 IT Risk Report by Netwrix, 73 percent of small businesses don’t have a dedicated function to handle information security, therefore making them an appealing and easy target to cyber criminals.

Myth #5 – I Don’t Know Any Cybercriminals, Therefore I’m Safe!
Even if it accidental, many cybercrimes can be traced back to internal events. This can be an unintentional phishing email sent by a vendor or partner, or in the case of ransomware, the attack can happen when your employees visit malicious or compromised websites. Often spam in the form of email attachments forwarded among colleagues can leave your business vulnerable.

Protecting your small or mid-sized business starts with knowledge. Always keep security in mind, research and install security software on your computers and devices, and conduct ongoing training with your employees. And, it’s not a one and done effort; you must refresh your practices every few months or at least twice a year to ensure you are keeping up with the latest cyber threats and attack methods.

Steven Bearak is the CEO of IdentityForce, a company commercialized from nearly four decades of in-depth experience around personal identity and security services and products. IdentityForce is a leading provider of proactive identity, privacy, and credit protection for individuals, businesses, and government agencies. In May 2017, IdentityForce introduced a secure mobile app to help members stay protected anywhere, anytime. For more information, visit www.identityforce.com

 

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Tips to Create an Office Space That Increases Staff Retention

People take a great deal of pride in their work, and they want their efforts to be as meaningful to employers and society at large as they are to them, on a personal level. But having more authority, more responsibilities, and a friendlier boss doesn't cut it these days. You'll find out soon enough that there's only so much you can do, as an executive, to keep employees running on all cylinders and happy on the job, before you turn to office interior design.

But what could a designer do to address staff retention problems? Typically, it should start with an in-depth analysis of how employees work, what they need throughout the day to carry out tasks effectively and what they Office Spacerequire to take a break and come back to work feeling refreshed. This knowledge should be a major source of information to help turn your business premises into the ideal workplace environment and commission the right office fit for your company. The idea is that a more employee-centric design would not only draw prospective candidates to your company, but also help existing employees focus and feel at ease at the office. As any designer would tell you, optimizing design and managing noise levels more efficiently fosters creativity and innovation. Here's how:

1. Take a Page from the University's Book
Switching from college desk to corporate office is a slow and sometimes painful transition. Working on the go is something graduates continue to yearn for even as their office looks nothing like the campus. It's entirely achievable with an office that focuses on flexible and movable furniture created for remote and spontaneous work.

2. Go from Unisex to Universal
It used to be that an inclusive work environment meant one where men and women worked together in harmony. Today, it's about catering to people of all abilities and ages. In other words, your office interior design needs to make work accessible to everyone, using specific types of furniture that is the right weight and placed at just the right height or distance. To round it off, you need to back up this approach with the latest technology and the right kind of general office attitude toward diversity.

3. Listen to What 'Mother Nature' Has to Say
Green never goes out of style. If there's one thing a plant will never be, it's 'outdated'. So, swap expensive end-to-end, turn-key designs for low-maintenance plants and trees that can turn your décor into something truly inspirational.

4. Light Up with Excitement
It goes without saying that people need fresh air and daylight aplenty to give it their best on the job. Don't let seasonal affective disorder or bad mood hold them down. If your windows aren't large enough, resort to glass, mirrors and other shiny and reflective surfaces to make the most of the light ingress.

5. Look Outside the Cage
Considering all aspects of office, check one last thing before you give the designer the go-ahead. Is it pet-friendly? Studies suggest one in two people worldwide have at least one pet, and it's not unusual to have a pet awareness day at the office every now and then. Some companies even go out of their way to have their own workplace pet. If that sounds like something you'd like to have for your employees, then it could be time to start making the office feel at home to more than one species.

6. Be Smart with Art
Is the photo frame on your desk the one and only accent piece at the office? You need only say the word, and your office interior design will be brimming with character. Opt for youthful colour schemes and don't be afraid of unusual contemporary combinations, such as mint and copper, blush and gold, soft Greek blue and silver, etc.

Author Bio:

Reno is the founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a leading office interior design and office fit-out Company in London, specializing in retail designs, graphic productions, signage systems, office refurbishment, event branding, office space planning and much more. He specializes in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

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How to Nurture an Email and Facebook Lead into a Sale

As more and more businesses adopt inbound marketing as a way to get more leads, the significance of choosing the most effective lead nurturing strategy becomes paramount. Typically, a large share of leads disappears after the first interaction with a business, so getting more quality ones and turning them into sales is something that you just need to master.

If you haven’t been able to turn your subscribers, followers, and fans into active sales, you need to change your approach to nurturing them. Are you interested in knowing how to accomplish this in the right way?

If you are, keep reading.

Today, we are going to talk about email and Facebook leads. Why? Because these two sources contain the most users, therefore they are used by the vast majority of businesses.

Let’s start with Facebook.

How to Nurture Facebook Leads

When it comes to social media, you should think about it as the initial step of your sales cycle. Your ultimate objective is to move leads to a landing page on your website. However, there is a complex task of getting them there.

These tips will help you to make this task easier:

Engage leads with Helpful and Shareable Content

Facebook is a powerful platform for lead generation that has one significant advantage: it gives brands a human face. The interaction with the customers, however, should follow some guidelines. For example, Facebook is not a tool for spamming your followers. People are using it for fun and communication, not sales pitches.

The marketers understand that. According to 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends study completed by Content Marketing Institute, creating more engaging and useful content remained the highest priority in 2016. This situation is not likely to change anytime soon.

Top Priority B2C

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Therefore, all content you share with the leads on Facebook should be useful and shareable. The more shares and likes it receives, the better your reputation is.

Dos:

  • How to articles
  • Articles relevant to professionals from your industry
  • Engaging news

Don’ts:

  • Sales pitches
  • Posts with clear messages to “click here,” “buy from us,” and “share this.”

Optimize the Path to Conversion

Let’s come up and be honest here: many of us are fairly lazy customers. We don’t look for something really hard unless we urgently need it. So, if we have to figure out how to purchase a product or a service, we just might close that site and look for another one where purchasing is easy.

The takeaway here is that you to need to ensure that it’s super easy for leads to make purchases from you. Analyze the page of your business on Facebook:

  • How does a customer make a purchase?
  • Do they have to click on tabs, then click some more on your website, and then figure out how to contact you for the inquiry?

If you feel that your purchasing process is a bit complex, simplify it until it’ super easy.

How to Nurture Leads with Emails

If you’re using email marketing to increase your profits, consider these tips:

Think about the Experiences and Needs of your Leads

After a lead has signed up on your website using an email, you need to treat it as the beginning of the sales cycle. However, the most important role that defines your future marketing effort is the experience of that lead. Here are some examples of emails just for that:

  • Welcome Series – welcome the lead and thank them for joining! See an awesome example from Holland & Barrett below:

HB 1

  • Upsell Offers – emails that let the leads know about the sales and discounts and create a sense of urgency. Another great example from Holland & Barrett:

HB2

  • Educational Content – by sending relevant and helpful articles about the products you sell, you are building rapport with the leads. For example, you can describe product use ideas, benefits of specific products and other actionable information. Holland & Barrett excel at that as well:

HB3

Emails like these can drive major conversions and ensure that customers receive only highly personalized messages at the best possible moment.

Tools for Nurturing Leads using Facebook and Emails

  • MailChimp – an email automation tool that allows to enhance the process of engaging leads via emails sent on an automated basis.
  • Buffer – a social media tool that automatically posts the content at a time at frequency specified by the user.
  • Assignmenthelper.com.au – this tool is useful for creating marketing texts for Facebook campaigns, targeted emails, and more.
  •  Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule – verify whether the headlines in your content are appealing and get tips on improving them. 

Final Thoughts


To succeed, be critical of your lead nurturing campaigns because they are your tool for getting more sales. Don’t forget to measure the results you’re getting because it is the only way to determine where leads are in the sales process.

Hope these tips will be helpful for increasing your profits and getting more quality leads. Follow them closely and continue to build your success sale by sale!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, business consultant. She helps people to turn their dreams into the profitable business. Now she is writing for marketing and business resources. Also Lucy has her own blog ProWritingPartner where you can check her last publications

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How to Reduce Your Business Energy Costs

Owning and running a business is an epic feat.

by: Trevor McDonald

As a business owner you have a task at hand every day: producing an agenda of the day’s workload, assigning projects that will be managed by trusted colleagues, sending quick-fire responses to an endless stream of emails, Reduce Energypromoting your next marketing tactic, and frankly, so much more. Consequently, it is almost impossible to remember every single responsibility, which can cause you to occasionally overlook some major details - such as making sure that the business energy costs are not unexpectedly skyrocketing.

When was the last time you thought about your energy business costs? This money enables you to run a business in the first place, thrive in a productive and comfortable space, and operate technology. Hence, it is imperative to prioritize strategizing methods of reducing business costs and creating an energy-efficient environment in your workplace.

Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of your business and make careful note of these pivotal ways to reduce your energy costs.

1. Implement the use of “green” technology

Businesses are rapidly upgrading their old office equipment into greener and environmentally-friendly alternatives. That’s due to two main reasons: one, is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy and recycles it, thus reducing excess energy consumption and saves money; the second is to shrink their business’ carbon footprint on the earth and prevent any additional harm to it.

2. Prevent colleagues from changing the thermostat temperature

Everyone is prone to the discomfort of weather. In an office, it’s easy to get up and change the temperature of the thermostat and get back to work by thriving in a “perfectly” conditioned space. But minutes later, someone else stands up and shifts the number just a smidgen so that the air feels “just right” to them instead - and unfortunately, the cycle continues with another person right afterward. Did you know that adjusting the thermostat uses more energy than simply allowing it to function and change naturally? The solution: lock up the thermostat and limit the number of individuals allowed to set temperatures, or set it on an automatic setting that adjusts to the seasons and weather accordingly.

3. Maximize the use of natural light

Being stuck inside a building with artificial lights all day gets tiring and uncomfortable. If you are in the process of redesigning your building, look to build large windows and diminish the use of light bulbs as much as possible. Studies show that employees who work in a naturally-lit space are shown to be more productive and happy in the workplace. Also, you can expect employees to come to work lively and awake almost every morning since the constant exposure to natural light helps them sleep better at night.

4. Go digital when distributing or sharing information

Filtering through stacks of paper in a drawer of endless files not only wastes time, but is overwhelming and obsolete. Use a cloud system to store data, engage customers and employees with media outlets, and distribute information. By using a cloud system, you are able to hone in all the business plans, goals, and collaborations into one digital space which keeps you consistently organized.

5. Invest in energy-saving appliances

While energy-saving appliances are expensive, investing in them will serve you more benefit than harm with chronic use, such as gradually decreasing your expenses on bills and reducing the business’ impact on the environment.
Energy-saving appliances also perform better than normal appliances, cultivate a “cleaner and greener” atmosphere, and inspire your employees to take their part in saving energy both in the office and at home. The prime appliances to invest in first are computer monitors because they never stop running throughout the workday. Other examples of energy-efficient appliances to consider are printers, microwaves, and refrigerators.

6. Properly seal areas that allow air to escape from the building

In the summer, one of the leading causes of business energy bill spikes is the increased use of air-conditioning. You must check to see that air emitted from the air-conditioner does not escape the building due to an unknown draft. Not to say you should aggressively barricade the building or put it on lockdown when the AC is in use. Rather, you can set aside time to check problem areas that release air, such as windows and the space underneath doors, seal them accordingly, refrain from opening windows all-together when the AC is on, and ensure that the air is circulating in its designated area.

7. Switch out current light bulbs into either CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs

CFL and LED light bulbs are incredibly energy-efficient: they last longer than normal incandescent light bulbs and rarely need to be replaced. Additionally, CFL and LED are easy on the eyes, and not as invasive or hazardous as incandescent light bulbs.

Paying for unwanted finances is always a hassle. Therefore, make sure you are equally prioritizing the use of energy within the workspace alongside the dedication to optimizing productivity within the office and finding new ways to market the brand. Now that you’re equipped with vital ways to keep business energy bills at an all-time low, you can invest more time into expanding your business and propelling it forward to greater heights.

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KnowBe4 Releases Email Exposure Check Pro to Help Organizations Identify At-Risk Users

KnowBe4 Releases Email Exposure Check Pro to Help Organizations Identify At-Risk Users
Revamped tool identifies at-risk users through deep web searches and hundreds of breach databases for no-charge.
Tampa Bay, FL – September 6, 2017KnowBe4, provider of the most popular security awareness training and simulated-phishing platform, today announced the release of the new version of its Email Exposure Check (EEC). knowbe4The new version is called the EEC Pro, has powerful additional features and is still provided at no cost.
While employees give out their corporate email for various reasons, IT is hard-pressed to keep track and manage the risk. EEC Pro helps IT by identifying an organization’s at-risk users by crawling social media information and scouring hundreds of breach databases to identify risk associated with user emails and identities. The more at-risk email addresses a company has, the bigger its attack surface, and the higher its risk.
EEC Pro only requires filling out a form, and works in two stages. The first stage performs deep web searches to find publicly available organization data provided on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. This allows the EEC Pro to show what organizational structure an attacker would be able to easily pull together and use to craft targeted attacks.
The second stage of EEC Pro utilizes the Have I Been Pwned data breach service to find users that have had their account information released in any of several hundred breaches. These users are particularly at-risk because an attacker knows more about them, potentially including their actual passwords. As the final step, EEC Pro provides a detailed summary report to the IT team, including an overview of the data found, a summary of organizational risk levels, and a link to a web report that contains a full list of all users found, the breaches the users were found in, and an overview of the data included in the breach. This allows IT managers to ensure exposed emails or exposed passwords are modified.
“Since 91% of data breaches start with a successful phishing attack, an organization must act reasonably or do what is necessary or appropriate to protect its data and take steps to identify weaknesses that expose their employees,” said Stu Sjouwerman, Founder and CEO of KnowBe4. “Employees are the last line of defense within an organization. We want to make it as easy as possible for IT professionals to reduce their attack surface and strengthen their weakest links.You need to create a ‘Human Firewall’”
Exposed emails and passwords can lead to recent data breaches such as those experienced by security companiesMandiant and Enigma where compromised passwords were not changed.
More information about EEC Pro is available here.
 
 
 
About KnowBe4
KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s most popular integrated new school security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, is used by more than 12,500 organizations worldwide. Founded by data and IT security expert Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 helps organizations address the human element of security by raising awareness of ransomware, CEO Fraud and other social engineering tactics through a new school approach to security awareness training. Kevin Mitnick, internationally recognized computer security expert and KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer, helped design KnowBe4’s trainings based on his well-documented social engineering tactics. Thousands of organizations trust KnowBe4 to mobilize their end-users as the last line of corporate IT defense.
Number 231 on the 2017 Inc 500 list, #50 on 2016 Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 and #6 in Cybersecurity Ventures Cybersecurity 500. KnowBe4 is based in Tampa Bay, Florida. For more information, visit www.knowbe4.com and follow Stu on Twitter at @StuAllard.
 
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What Are Advantages & Disadvantages of an Open-Plan Office Space?

by Shari Parsons Miller

An open-plan office space layout has pros and cons both for a firm’s personnel and its bottom line. In an open-plan work environment, there are no distinct rooms or fully enclosed spaces. Instead, workstations are positioned together -- sometimes separated by short screens or panels -- within one exposed floor plan. The openness may improve communication and collaboration among your workers, but it also may reduce concentration and productivity.

Staff Advantages
A lack of walls or other physical barriers in open-plan office spaces makes it easier for employees to interact with each other on a regular basis. The constant intermingling not only generates a sense of camaraderie among personnel, it also enhances the flow of information and teamwork. Colleagues can turn to each other for advice or assistance without having to knock on doors or schedule a formal meeting. Interactions in an open-plan office space generally are more frequent and informal than in closed environments where everyone has a separate office space.

Business Advantages
The increased collaboration resulting from an open-plan work space can lead to business innovation and advancement. At the same time, an open-plan layout can benefit the business economically by reducing costs tied to construction, utilities and office equipment. For example, fewer walls mean less time and materials required to create the office space. Having a single work space also may reduce heating/cooling and electricity expenses thanks to improved flow of air and light. Businesses can save on equipment investment as well, since communal spaces promote shared use of resources, such as printers, copiers and staplers. An open-plan space also provides greater flexibility to accommodate evolving personnel needs.

Staff Disadvantages
On the downside, the high level of everyday interaction that takes place in an undivided work space may lead to noise and distractions that make it difficult for employees to focus on their work and conduct business. Lack of privacy is another potential problem with open-plan office spaces, where computer screens are easily visible by those walking by and telephone conversations are likely to be overheard. Open-plan layouts also facilitate the spread of disease, so if a colleague comes to work with a cold, it can affect the health of the entire staff.

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101 Small Business Marketing Ideas

By Alyssa Gregory
Updated July 31, 2017


TatOne universal small business goal is to sell the business's products and services. This is usually best accomplished by positioning the business in front of the target audience, and offering something that solves a problem or that they can't refuse or find elsewhere.

To this end, one of the smartest things a small business owner can do for his or her business is to take the time to develop a small business marketing plan that will set them apart from the competition.

A marketing plan clearly outlines how you will reach your ideal customers by effectively implementing your marketing strategy.

There are thousands of ways you can promote your small business. With the right mix of activities, you can identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business. Here is a list of 101 small business marketing ideas to get you thinking about all of the different ways you can promote your business.

Marketing Planning
1. Update or create a marketing plan for your business.
2. Revisit or start your market research.
3. Conduct a focus group.
4. Write a unique selling proposition (USP).
5. Refine your target audience and niche.
6. Expand your product and service offerings.

Marketing Materials
7. Update your business cards.
8. Make your business card stand out from the rest.
9. Create or update your brochure.
10. Create a digital version of your brochure for your website.

11. Explore a website redesign.
12. Get creative with promotional products and give them away at the next networking event you attend.

In-Person Networking

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The Complete Guide To Human Resources For Small Business

by Rob Wormley in People Management

Human resources is probably one of the more complicated aspects of running a small business. The complexities of working with people don’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. Yet HR is incredibly important; employee salaries and benefits make up a huge chunk of your operating expenses.

Your employees are one of your greatest assets. You must protect and manage that asset.

This blog post will teach you everything you need to know about human resources.

What Is Human Resource Management?

Human Resource Management (HRM) deals with your employees, whether in regards to recruitment, management, or other forms of direction and assistance. HR will often be in charge of (among other things):

  • Hiring
  • Performance management and reviews
  • Employee development, motivation, and training
  • Safety and wellness
  • Benefits
  • Communication between employees and/or management

HR carries a big responsibility. They have a huge effect on the culture and environment in your workplace, setting the tone for how employees communicate, settle disputes, and work with each other. Some small businesses prefer to outsource a large component of human resources, but there is no getting around human resources completely.

Human Resources: The Three Basics
HR is rife with laws and regulations, which is part of why small businesses often put off dealing with it. Generally, for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, there are three basic things you must implement to cover the bases, according to HR expert Jack Hayhow.

1. Employee Files
You must keep three specific files for each employee in your business. These files are:

  • I-9 File: This form is used by the U.S. Government to identify and verify that your employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Keep all of your employee I-9 files together, in one file, instead of under individual employee names.
  • Employee General File: This is a file you create for your own benefit. It contains any documentation associated with that employee that you’ve collected during their time with you. This includes resumes, reviews, disciplinary action, training verification, evaluations, W-4 forms, payroll details, and so on. You’ll use this file often.
  • Employee Medical File: These files will contain notes from doctors, disability information, and any medical information that you have on an employee. Because you are dealing with medical information, you must protect and secure these files from others. That is why these are separate from general files. Be sure to keep them in a locked and secure place.

2. Employee Handbook

Having an employee handbook is a must. Your handbook serves two important purposes: letting your employees know what you expect of them, and protecting your business in case there is a dispute.

An employee handbook can be as simple or as complex as you want, but there are some general approaches, depending upon the nature of your business, that you need to consider. According to the Small Business Administration, your handbook might include:

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7 Steps to Start Your First Content-Marketing Campaign

You've heard about all the amazing benefits of content marketing. You want to jump in. But . . . how? Here's how.

Content Marketing

 

Jayson DeMers

Founder and CEO, AudienceBloom

By now, you've heard about all the amazing benefits of content marketing. You know that with the right strategy, you can earn more traffic, build a better reputation and see compound growth in both areas over time without greatly increasing your budget.

In fact, content marketing is truly one of the most cost-efficient marketing strategies around, but its rewards are proportional to the quality of your strategy and execution. That's why more experienced writers and marketing agencies charge more, and why long-running strategies perform better.

So, what if you have no experience with content marketing at all? It would seem that someone totally unfamiliar with this strategy stands no chance of success at all. But, at the same time, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

The truth is, you can enter the content-marketing game with no experience. You might not live up to your full potential right off the bat, but if you follow the approach described below, you'll be publishing with the best of them in no time. Here's how:

1. Get a briefer.

Your first job is to get a briefer on what content marketing involves. Yes, as you're reading this, you probably have a grasp of the basic concept, but you need to dig deeper into the details. Familiarize yourself with the beginning, middle and end of a piece of content's life, how you're going to measure your results and your ROI and the process you'll use to build your empire.

Also, get a high-level perspective on the strategy before you start mastering those details -- you'll be glad you did. If you need help getting started, I presented a webinar about a year ago on this subjectt, which will teach you the basics of content marketing and how those basics relate to search engines.

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