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IoT Possibilities in 2017

Internet of Things (IoT) is already impacting working and living environments with exciting trends. It has come a long way and 2017 looks promising for tweaked and heightened possibilities. Technology continues to make mass production cheaper, almost every electronic device is built to be wi-fi ready and IoT close to half of the world’s population now have access to the internet, compared to just 20% in 2007. As broadband internet becomes cheaper to connect and use, it is only fair to expect a tsunami of IoT from 2017. The concept of IoT is to connect every powered device to the internet; once it can be turned on and off, why not hook it up to the internet?

Imagine your alarm waking you up at 6:30 am and sending an instruction to your water heater to warm your bath water, and your coffee maker to start brewing. Imagine if your car could communicate parts which are due to be changed to a supplier and automatically schedule a date for replacement after interacting with your calendar to know when you will have the time. What about the possibility to have your printer place an order online for new supplies of paper and cartridges … the possibilities are endless. The kitchen is one area in the house where IoT can be optimize for efficiency to reduce waste and power consumption and this year will see a lot of focus accordingly.

Last year provided the opportunity for companies to build devices ready to take advantage of the IoT concept. CES 2016 showcased most of those devices; as the big companies and the known brands were flexing muscles, startups were also showcasing what the big companies were overlooking. Now there is internet and its penetration is unstoppable; let everything that can be connected be connected now! Apple and Google launched home products last year to connect lights, locks, thermostats and other home devices to the internet to enable them to be seamlessly controlled even away from home.

With the seamless connection of everyday useful items to the internet comes the concern on security and hacking. Last year, IoT took a nervous hit when reports suggested that Dyn, a cloud based internet performance management company which provides services to companies like Twitter and Netflix, was attacked. It was believed by experts that the attack was caused by Mirai bot, which scouted the internet for IoT devices with default usernames and passwords, using them for the attack. This partly prompted the release of the security framework of Industrial Internet Consortium. Hackers will not backdown on their malicious activities, but security will also be continually heightened. Nevertheless, a major security breach is probably just a click away.

IoT will not be limited to homes, offices and cars this year. Cities will also work effortlessly to have transportation, traffic, waste and energy management all coordinated with IoT. Q4 last year saw a lot of work to bring artificial intelligence to mobile. IoT will tap into those possibilities as well. Strategic alliances and collaborations will also be made by small and medium scale organizations to produce low cost items to increase patronage of IoT ready devices. This will ultimately set the right tone for a much bigger wave next year.

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Mobile Apps – Your Blue Ocean Recurring Revenue Opportunity

Part 1 – Charting the Waters

Recurring revenue is the life-blood for IT consultants and managed service providers these days. The challenge for us is to find new products and services that can be added to staples like network management and Office 365, which areRecurring Revenue logo the low-hanging fruit that we have already adopted. The conundrum we face is that new solutions typically require a significant commitment of time and money in order to learn how to implement, manage and sell them while generating an acceptable return on that investment as quickly as possible. As a result, inaction and procrastination hold us back when we should be proactively expanding our solution stacks.

One area that has not been fully explored is mobility. Although we may deploy mobile devices – tablets, notebooks and phones – for our clients, it is easy to construe the devices to be solutions when they are merely tools. The power of mobility actually resides in the ability to connect people to the information that they want and need wherever and whenever they need it. Studies by comScore have shown that nearly two-thirds of all digital media access is now done through mobile devices. Furthermore, the bulk of that access occurs through smartphone mobile apps.

Given the prominent role that smartphones play in connecting people to information, it follows that many of our clients have businesses that can benefit by making it possible for their customers to connect with them via their mobile devices. This opens the doors for us to enter the mobile app market on behalf of our clients, but few if any of us are able to become app developers.

In Part 2 of this series, we will take a look at the things that have been holding us back from adopting a mobile app practice and what can be done to overcome them.

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What is Amazon Web Service? Features explained

Over the years when digital world has taken revolution, Cloud Computing has grown tremendously as a service. Today it is described as one remote service to store, process and manage information. Cloud Computing is management of vast set of information infrastructures. It is management of information tools, systems and architectures.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been a recognized Cloud service provider since 2007. It operates from 16 different host destinations providing exclusive Cloud service to global clients. It features On-demand Cloud, Elastic Cloud Computing, Simple Storage, Internet of things and much more in comprehensive Cloud Computing.

What is AWS and what are its salient features is matter of our discussion. We will elaborate on AWS basics to make Cloud users a slight more aware about AWS.

Cloud Computing

Simple Storage and AWS

Simple storage (S3) through AWS means a highly flexible and always available web storage service. It is a round the clock service to store major sets of information in optimum time. Using S3 gives good flexibility in accessing data to any assigned URL. S3 provides effective access control with resourceful data protection. Robust backup and expiration times are further notable features of S3. It is simple and indeed very convenient to use.

Elastic Cloud Computing and AWS

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a scalable technology that provides cloud computing to multiple virtual computers. Every virtual machine is assigned with an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) containing tools, infrastructure and any web service that is rented to machine’s user. For EC2 provision Amazon applies ‘Pay as you Go’ price model which means on-Demand computing service. EC2 caters and manages virtual machines that are provisioned independently and with frequent modifications. Instead of buying a conventional server during changing or unpredictable workload, EC2 is most preferred.


Internet of things (IoT) and AWS

Amazon IoT platform offers diverse and adaptive cloud computing, adapted by virtual user to connect their devices with cloud applications. Controlled interaction between devices is possible through AWS platform. IoT at AWS means organized exchange of messages between billions of devices at one time. Fast and effective exchange of trillions of messages is made possible through AWS IoT.

What have we Built

AWS IoT integrates with other devices for managing larger groups of data. It integrates with devices to build and organize IT infrastructures. For building web applications. AWS IoT effectively integrates with Amazon Dynamo, Amazon Machine Learning, S3 and Kinesis.

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Harrybbb’s Recommended Reading for 1Q2017

I wanted to share a few recommended readings for you to consider with the start of 2017. Why? Because it’s essential you are always in life learner mode as a technology professional. You want your medical doctor to read the latest journals, right?Books to read

I’ve scoured the Office 365 community for content that can add value to your professional journey. Here are my findings.


Just the other day, I posted a provocative statement on my personal Facebook page. I asked everyone to take an oath that “I will not work for free in 2017” as a response to some of my own experiences and that of others last year. Loosely translated, it means I’ll only do things that make money in my professional realm. Someone I respect even extended that thinking to include his sentiment that he’ll only commit to a day long workshop if it will help him make money. Fair enough.

So the “HOW TO PROFIT FROM SELLING OFFICE 365” book that I’m recommend hits the nail on the head. This thoughtfully written guide hits a major issue in our MSP community head-on: how to make money with Office 365. There is a lot of context to this observation. Some SMB Nation members are still smarting from the perceived lost profits now that the server-side, Big Iron era has passed. And while its unlikely we’ll “make servers great again” in 2017, it’s time to navigate the “new-new” of profiting from Office 365. Specifically this recommended guide will let you discover how to package, market and sell your Office 365 offers. Granted I see this as a foundational part of the cloud money maker pathway but it’s a not the entire answer. That said, don’t be a monkey and follow the money by downloading the guide HERE.


I’ve been involved in more conversations lately about returns to specialization and riches in niches as a 2017 strategy for MSPs. We’re basically talking verticalization and it doesn’t have to be a geography or economic sector. Instead it can be a specific skill area. Such is the case with this white paper concerning email records compliance.

This whitepaper offers organizations planning a migration to the Cloud a 'considerations roadmap' for migrating their legacy email records. It also provides guidance on the critical aspects of sustaining the integrity and value of your legacy email records as they are migrated to Microsoft Office 365.

Key insights include:

10 things to consider as you migrate legacy email records to Office 365
Moving journals into the new Office 365 model
How Microsoft replaces the journal in Office 365
Enhanced eDiscovery in Office 365

Additionally this paper is positioned as an advisory piece for all key stakeholders that should be involved in a migration project. That is, not just the IT team, but also the legal department, records managers, business leaders and advocates acting on behalf of users.

If the shoe fits, download this whitepaper HERE.

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Analysis: How Seattle became “Cloud City”

 Seattle is a great investment! Why? Because this city consistently reinvents itself. Follow the dots: timber to gold to aerospace to tech to cloud. I’ve enjoyed living here nearly 30 years and confirm that every time I land after a trip, realizing I’m home!
So what is Seattle’s secret sauce in becoming Cloud City? I’d offer competition. Both AWS and Azure were invented here. Hell even competitors like Google are now moving north to drink the water. I have a question for you before we discuss
the Seattle Time’s analysis.  Would you like a fall collaborative, Azure Nation, where we meet in Seattle for a multi-day event and discover what Azure is and is not. Would you like to see a shoot-out between Azure and AWS? Please join the conversation on our Facebook page so I can crowd source your interest level.
The Seattle Time’s article is an overview of the cloud computing sector and the customers (such as Boeing) that use cloud services. One takeaway is that Jeff Bzos, CEO of Amazon, proclaims “We got a seven-year runway. That’s almost unheard of. For years, we were kind of left alone.” True that but I’d offer he shouldn’t give up his day job as Microsoft is roaring back big time. And you know how Microsoft likes to start late and dominate even later.
Read the article here
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Start-over: Technology Innovation in 435 Congressional Districts

Before the end of the year, Karl Palachuk and I intend to do our quarterly analyst briefing webinar that typically enjoys a receptive audience. On deck on the agenda for our to-be-announced 4Q Analyst Report webinar is a non-partisan review of the election. We’ll stick to the facts and discuss how it results impact MSPs. Trust us!
I want to leak one topic right here, right now. At a high-level it concerns each part of America having the ability to innovate technology. For example, my hometown Anchorage Alaska could be an Arctic engineering powerhouse (it’s the same altitude as Finland which is very technologically oriented).
This amazing study here was published by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and written by John Wu, Adams Nager and Jospeh Chuzhin. It’s pitch is simple: “Contrary to perceptions, America’s innovation-driven, high-tech economy is not concentrated around hubs like Silicon Valley; it is widely diffused—and every state and congressional district has a stake in its success.”
For years, policy discussions about America’s innovation-driven, high-tech economy have focused on just a few iconic places, such as the Route 128 tech corridor around Boston, Massachusetts; Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and, of course, California’s white-hot Silicon Valley. This has always been too myopic a view of how innovation is distributed across the country, because many other metropolitan areas and regions—from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Philadelphia—are innovative hot spots, too, and many more areas are developing tech capabilities. An unfortunate result of this myopia has been that policy debates about how to bolster the country’s innovative capacity have often been seen as the province of only the few members of Congress who represent districts or states that are recognizably tech-heavy, while many members from other districts focus on other issues. This needs to change, not only because the premise is incorrect, but also because the country’s competitive position in the global economy hinges on developing a broad-based, bipartisan, bicameral understanding and support for federal policies to spur innovation and growth.
A defining trend of the last decade is the degree to which technology—information technology, in particular—has become a critical driver of productivity and competitiveness for the whole economy, not just the tech sector itself. This is abundantly clear throughout the United States, as revealed in both traditional economic data, such as high-tech export activity, and in newer metrics, such as broadband deployment. Indeed, all districts have some kind of technology and innovation-driven activity occurring locally, either because long-established industries such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and professional services are rapidly evolving into tech-enabled industries, or because new developments such as cloud computing and ubiquitous access to broadband Internet service allow innovators to create new, IT-enabled enterprises in any small town or rural area they may choose, not just in Silicon Valley or Boston.
Bottom Line
This is a great study. You’ll need to get your smarts on to read the 56+ pages but, trust me, it’s worth it! Download here. 
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Startup: Network Engineer

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


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

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

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

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

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December is Migration Month!

Looking for a year-ender what will give you an edge on annual earnings? Consider migrations in December. There are a couple of important reasons for this.

Use it or lose it. There is a reality with your mid-sized companies on a calendar fiscal year that they need to spend baby spend in December or lose the mula. This is especially true in your government accounts but they tend to be on a non-calendar fiscal year. You get the point – call your fav “M” client today and secure the funds to complete any migrations to Office 365.

Downtime is migration time. When I was a day-to-day consultant, I likened the traditional December holiday season to a quiet time where I could actually get some real work done. From December 15 – early January was also an IT consultants dream to perform technology surgery at client sites. Heed the call to migrate your customers between Thanksgiving and New Years. Happy customer; happy life.

So what are your next steps. Download the “Enterprise PST Migration to Microsoft Office 365“ informative white paper here.


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Cyber Monday Startup

It goes without saying that Cyber Monday, November 28, 2016, has grown dramatically from its modest start 12-years ago. It’s a media mainstay and you are encouraged to track it’s performance on sites like ChannelAdvisor. But that’s not why I’m here with this blog. Rather I want to impart insights into a startup with a twist launching on Cyber Monday. The Portland, OR startup is called Truece and it has a new twist on an old problem. (See below for a special offer for SMB Nation members - editor)

Cyber Monday









The issue is the divorce and how it plays out. Why share this story? Two reasons. First is that the SMB Nation membership is 95% male in the 45-year old age range. Statistics show that many divorces occur in this age range. And while I’m not suggesting you should run out and get divorced, it’s likely you know someone who is getting divorced and could benefit from the use of Truece (more on that in a moment). The second is that this is a technology startup and as you know – we have used 2016 to profile and embrace startups as the new-new for you to consider as we pivot our technology practices.

Truece is an application that facilitates communication between parents. It’s a way to record conversations and avoid the confusion of “he said, she said” during the heat of battle. Think of it as a way to reduce the impact on kids.

The Cyber Monday launch of Truece can be framed up this way. With the donated time and energy of 20 dedicated professionals, Truece has built a product and laid the groundwork for a company that will truly make a difference. It’s made great progress, but is asking for your help. Whether you’re a parent in a custody situation where Truece could help, or if you know someone who could use some extra support…please sign up as a Truece ambassador. Word of mouth is the best method, and we know you know people.

What do you get for signing up? You’ll be the first to hear about product updates and discounts, and most importantly when Truece will be available for download. If all goes well, Truece should be ready to onboard its first customers in early 2017. Sign-up here.

PS - Special Offer for SMB Nation! Truece has created an exclusive offer that is a 75% discount here.


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Helped Needed - Small Business Server (SBS) Licensing

Hey Harry,    

We are an old but always evolving  IT provider...who has been involved with SBS since the NT 3.5 beta I’m pretty sure I know the product..     We need you to drop some (not even that old) knowledge on our friends in Redmond ! J I’m betting I’m not the only old reseller getting hit with this silly scenario.

Many of our small business clients are finally (after being under the radar for 30 years) being subjected to a friendly, Microsoft License Verification Process.     This doesn’t really scare us too much...because we’ve always required compliance from our clients...

however, the Microsoft folks working with us on this process seem entirely baffled by the SBS 2011 licensing model!?   They are saying our client has a short fall....they say the SBS 2011 Std product came with 5 Device CALS, so we are short User CALS..

Here’s one example: (we never use device CALS by the way)

Client has 12 people, we have them buy SBS2011 Std (with 5) , and 7 more user CALS = 12 ...right?

Product Description                                          Product Number  Version and Copies

WinSBCALSte 2011 SNGL OLP NL   UsrCAL           6UA-03863 (7-copies)

WinSBSvrStd 2011 SNGL OLP NL  5Clt                  T72-02925 (1 copy)

Nope, Microsoft license verification guy says that’s 5 device CALS and 7 they are short 5. MS Open sales, blank look. MS Open Lic department’s answer? “MS SBS 2011 was only available in retail, and therefore improperly skewed by techdata/cdw on this agreement” Wha? Is the corporate memory loss?

Can you help a crusty old IT guy?


Jim Denison

Seattle Micro Inc.












To help Jim - please post up to the SMB Nation Facebook page here!

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Webinars: Do Clients Really Need SaaS Application Backup to Keep Their Data Safe?

SMB Nation Webinar Thursday, December 8th, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PST

Presented by: Harry Brelsford CEO at SMB Nation, and Martin Merrell Senior Sales Engineer at Storagecraft

There are 7 ways you can respond to the question, “Do my clients really need SaaS application backup?” All of which have become famous last words:

  • Since my data is already in the cloud, it is already backed up and safe
  • We have good, highly trained admins and users and very efficient systems
  • If we need something, we just put in a request to the application vendor
  • No one would ever want to hijack my data, we are too small to be a target
  • Our people are careful and would only throw away incorrect or outdated files
  • We comply with all necessary government or agency policies and regulations
  • We can get what we need, when we need it, and in the original format

In this webinar, you will learn exactly why these phrases are famous last words when it comes to keeping SaaS data safe and readily accessible after a disaster, but more importantly, you’ll learn the easy steps you can take to avoid their disastrous consequences.

349 X 115 MOD REG RND2

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Mary McCoy


By Mary McCoy, Content Marketing Manager of Continuum Managed Services



By now, most MSPs recognize that offering backup is table stakes. Your clients can receive this service from any number of your competitors. In order to stand out and increase monthly recurring revenue (MRR), focus on the disaster recovery (DR) aspect of backup and disaster recovery (BDR). Offer your clients DR testing!
To fully capitalize on the advantages of DR testing, keep the following four best practices in mind when adding this service to your IT portfolio. 

1. Test Everything
Technology alone won't save businesses paralyzed by an IT emergency. DR testing should also engage on the business level, considering continuity of operations and processes along with the validation of actual data availability. How robust is your client's DR plan? Being properly prepared can be as simple as knowing who to call and having an up-to-date contact list. Your DR plan should also avoid ambiguity and set expectations when it comes to designating team and individual roles and responsibilities. Do both you and your clients know what to hold each other accountable for or who to reach out to when something goes wrong?
Pro tip: Your DR plans are not one-size-fits-all, which means your testing should vary across your client base. Each business you serve has different needs. Many organizations have specific compliance and regulatory statutes that they're required to adhere to. You may back up and store some clients' data at a physical location offsite and others' in the cloud. No two clients are alike. When DR testing, processes and procedures should be optimized for each individual client.

2. Test Regularly
How often should you be conducting disaster recovery tests? There is no hard and fast rule, and it really depends on the client in question. That being said, you should run annual DR tests, at the very least. Your clients' disaster readiness depends on every employee's understanding of the current DR plan, which they can ultimately only achieve after familiarization with the DR testing process. And when factoring in employee turnover, testing every year helps acclimate any new hires to the proper procedures and protocol, thereby helping you fine-tune your clients' disaster response. Considering that a company's DR strategy is only as strong as its least prepared employee, you'd think more would advocate frequent DR testing to mitigate risk. According to the 2016 Disaster Recovery as a Service Attitude and Adoption Report, however, 22 percent of respondents test their DR plans less than once a year or in many cases, never test at all. Help them avoid this liability and package regular DR tests into your overall BDR offering.
Sure, testing backups every year should be the standard, but even this may be too conservative in certain circumstances. Let's examine a scenario in which you may want to test more frequently. Perhaps you serve a bank or any other financial services business bound by PCI DSS compliance. To comply with regulatory standards, you may need to test this client's DR plan every three months to ensure your BDR solution meets the necessary requirements. In contrast, a barber shop's DR plan may only need to be tested two to three times per year. Again, when formulating DR plans, always make sure you optimize procedures and processes at the client level.

3. Document Outcomes
Strong DR documentation starts with a client's disaster recovery plan, which should outline everything anyone would need to know in the event of an emergency. This includes contact information, a detailed outline of the steps and procedures that individuals need to follow in order to activate a disaster recovery, expected time frames for recovering data and more.
Only when your response policy is put to the test, can you adequately assess the effectiveness of a DR plan. Maybe certain directions are unclear and create friction across teams. Document any and all outcomes during and after testing. What worked? What didn’t? Where were the failure points? Why did those failures occur? How do you address these in your client's plan? Were any employees or team leads unavailable? In the event that you can't reach these people in the future, who are their backups? Little details like this can mean everything when the clock is ticking and your clients' business continuity is at stake. To help ensure a more seamless DR response, record all results that may be used to improve your clients’ disaster readiness. Then, conduct a post-mortem with all involved, to review lessons learned and areas for improvement.

4. Update DR Plans
Finally, update your clients' DR plans as necessary. This testing is all for naught if you don't do anything with the data you record. It's not enough to simply remember what to do next time around. Recall the conversation around client employee churn. If your client onboards a new hire after your DR test, this employee will only have the existing DR documentation to follow. Rather than repeat the same mistakes in your next round of DR testing, correct now to save your clients later. And remember, disaster readiness is ongoing. Continue to frequently revisit and strengthen your DR plans so that testing runs smoother going forward.

Deliver robust backup data protection services to your clients. Learn how to provide effective business continuity as a service. Download our BDR eBook here!

Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is a Content Marketing Manager at Continuum, where she's worked for over two years. Mary primarily manages the MSP Blog and has consulted with hundreds of partners, lending website, blog and social media support. Before that, she graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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10 Discovery Questions to Ask When Selling BDR

Ben Austin, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed Services


Are you looking to capture additional monthly recurring revenue (MRR) by selling your backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution to more clients? If so, you have to understand the overall sales process and particularly, the Discovery phase, which is meant to help you identify the best Ben Austincandidates for your BDR solution.

To identify those small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with the highest probability of adopting your solution, begin by getting to know them. Uncover their needs by asking the following 10 questions.

Gather Preliminary Information

This first set of questions helps you establish a baseline regarding data management needs. Before you can begin qualifying, you need to know what kind of IT environment you're working with. Are there any constraints? What's the SMB's attitude toward BDR solutions, and do they have a history of backing up data?
1. What type of customer records are you storing?
Examples: sales receipts/billing, contact information, private/confidential records

2. How are you currently storing that data?
Examples: physical copies, local laptop/desktop, local server, off-site storage

3. What regulations do you need to comply with?

4. What additional, non-customer related data are you storing on your machines?
Examples: proprietary information/documentation, marketing materials, primary research, competitive data, vendor contracts

Gauge Their Disaster Readiness

At this point in the sales conversation, you should begin asking questions to qualify the prospect. Getting the right answers is all about asking the right questions. What are the right answers? The ones that indicate whether or not the prospect is the right fit for your IT services. You want to weed out any unhealthy candidates that may stall your sales cycle or be "noisy," unprofitable clients down the line. To do this, evaluate their level of disaster preparedness by asking questions that identify whether the prospect needs a business continuity solution. Often, these questions are ones prospects haven't even thought to ask and trigger that "aha!" moment you're looking for in order to close them into clients later.

5. What problems have you faced in the past related to data loss or corruption?
Asking this question gives you historical context that can help you judge a prospect's disaster readiness. It introduces any problems you may be walking into if you sign the client, and helps you later cater your sales pitch or presentation toward real-life scenarios that the prospect can relate to.

6. What percentage of your standard business operations would be impacted if your records/data were temporarily unavailable or deleted?
Asking hypothetical questions like this is a useful MSP sales tactic! By asking this question, you should hope to have your prospect recognize the value of their data. At the same time, the answer they provide can help you judge whether the SMB has a need you can fill and is therefore worth pursuing.

7. How long could you keep your business running without access to your data?
Again, the benefit here is twofold. You get the qualifying answer in discovering if the SMB will benefit from your solution. And at the same time, you gain an opportunity to explain the typical, severe repercussions of prolonged downtime after a disaster.

8. What is your current plan for protecting the integrity and security of your data?
Like the previous sales discovery question, this one helps you position your value proposition as your clients' virtual CIO (vCIO). More often than not, the SMBs you talk to won't have any kind of business continuity plan or disaster response procedure in place. They don't have the time or in-house expertise to compile and manage such a framework. This is where you can really shine as their advisor. If the prospect has no business continuity plan, you can explain the reasons for developing one, walking them through the initial steps of creating and testing it. If the prospect has already implemented a disaster recovery (DR) plan, listen as they provide the details. Don't discount prospects that claim they already have a DR plan. They may be mistaken, it may not be in use or it may require significant improvement that you can provide as their vCIO.

9. What are your top priorities as far as data backup and disaster recovery is concerned?
This is a general catch-all to help you understand a prospect’s general mindset about the value of BDR and what they think you can provide. It's also a more direct question that can help you determine whether a prospect has benefited from having a BDR solution in the past. Perhaps in expressing their priorities, the prospect expresses dissatisfaction with a competitive service. This not only gives you a leg up, but helps you tailor your proposal and eventual onboarding process to best serve the SMB.
Steer The Conversation Back Toward Purchase Intent

The best way to do this is to first ask the prospect what their previous purchases were and what the return was. Notice the subtle difference between asking "Are you interested in buying from me?" and this last, better question:
10. What investments have you made in hardware/storage over the last four to five years?
If the prospect has made recent investments in hardware or physical storage, this should signal to you that they likely understand the value of data integrity/security and are willing to make investments (such as cloud storage) to ensure that their data is safe. If they have not made recent investments in this area, the SMB likely needs your BDR services. Now, while this is also a favorable outcome, understand that they may need more convincing to see the overall value of your business continuity services. As a result, your sales cycle may be extended.

When selling BDR, you have to get to know the prospect and their business needs first. Modern, client-centric sales involves talking with, NOT talking at, SMBs. The ten discovery questions shared in this post should help you start that dialogue, pinpoint worthwhile, high-close prospects and move them further along through the MSP sales journey. Once you know who to target your sales presentation and proposal to, you'll have all of the necessary information to personalize your offering to their individual needs.

Are you looking to boost your BDR sales efforts? Continuum's new Business Continuity Sales Success Kit provides ample resources that can be completely customized to best suit your business, as well as actionable, informative and educational content—such as scripts, talk tracks and more—to train new sales team members about the unique benefits and sales propositions inherent to backup and disaster recovery platforms. While it may be used with any BDR sales, this kit is designed to be used seamlessly with Continuity247™, Continuum’s fully-managed backup and disaster recovery platform. Download the Business Continuity Sales Success Kit here!

The preceding blog post was originally published on Continuum’s MSP Blog.

Ben Austin is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Continuum’s backup and disaster recovery products. He has experience in high-velocity content marketing and demand generation. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Emerson College and has spent his career researching and writing about the B2B tech industry.

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The Evolving Distributor: How the Cloud Service Explosion Affects the Distribution Model

By Pete Engler

There is no denying the emerging prevalence of cloud services within the technology industry. No Peter Engler Digiumlonger are we solely relying on premises-based technologies to keep our day-to-day business activities going, but are, instead, deploying cloud technologies and accessing them from remote locations. While it seems that everyone is jumping on the new cloud services trend, it leaves many people wondering how it is affecting the traditional business channels, specifically its impact on distributors.

If we take a look at the full picture of the distribution landscape, we can see a change in the channel that began taking place even before the introduction of cloud technology. Distributors were originally simple warehouses that served as a means for getting the product from a vendor to a reseller, but, over time, this model has been changing. These so-called limited service distributors have become less prevalent and we have seen a shift towards value-added distribution as the new vogue model.

Value-added distributors are more than just large warehouses filled with products waiting to be shipped; they provide credit for resellers, carry a range of products for partners to add to their portfolios, and even offer training for those technologies. Distributors have become more of a trusted advisor for resellers than simply a quick stop in the channel, which is helping them to retain relevance in the dawning of the Cloud Age.

As a trusted advisor, distributors serve as a gateway between vendors and resellers. They are often the first to research and analyze new technologies and vendors to determine what they should offer to their reseller partners. Resellers depend on distributors’ findings to decide what solutions to add to their product portfolios. This relationship places an incredible amount of power into the hands of distributors because they have the ability to make or break a vendor and their solution. This is especially important right now because cloud technology is exploding. According to the Synergy Research Group, the worldwide cloud computing market grew 28 percent to $110 billion in 2015, and everyone is trying to get their slice of the profit pie. Cloud vendors are popping up everywhere and if resellers alone are trying to decide which vendors’ solutions are pursuable, the process may become overwhelming. Therefore, they place their trust in distributors to vet new cloud technologies and vendors to ensure they are offering clients the best solutions for their specific business needs.  

Additionally, cloud technology presents distributors with the opportunity to expand their role in the channel by offering aggregated cloud services. Oftentimes, deploying a cloud solution requires ongoing services from multiple vendors, and customers prefer to work with a reseller who can offer them a complete solution. According to research conducted by the Global Technology Distribution Council, resellers are reluctant to offer aggregated services independently due to the vast financial responsibility and the uncertainty of taking on a general contractor type role. However, distributors are in an excellent position to perform such duties with their close relationships to vendors and their financial business models, making them the ideal candidate for bundling services and selling them through the channel in one complete package.

While many people fear the emergence of cloud technologies will eventually dry up the distribution channel, research actually proves the opposite to be true. The path distributors have been following has led to their natural evolution into a more value-added role. And their ability to serve as a general contractor for cloud deployments has created for them a resiliency that will not only allow them to survive, but to flourish in the coming Cloud Age.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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Announcing SMB Nation M&A Services!

Operating in stealth mode the past few months, we’re ready to come out of the closet. Yes – we are now offering advisory services to MSPs and resellers trying to adjust their business portfolios to start over in a Tim Carlsenthighly disrupted technology market. To date we’ve had four (4) beta clients as we discovered and refined our services offering. And we’re ready to assist you too!

Our offering is very simple. This year we are dedicated to telling the start-up and start over story in the IT community because, quite frankly, cloud changed everything. Just yesterday I once again found myself repeating in a conversation that Windows Small Business Server (SBS) is gone. So whatcha’ gonna do? Call Ghost Busters? Rather call our own Tim Carlsen at 206-890-0015 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who serves as our M&A specialist. He brings a career from the financial services sector and has worked in numerous start-ups. He’s a matchmaker bringing together buy-side and sell-side parties to consummate transactions. Whether it’s a merger of equals or a true acquisition between MSPs and resellers, Tim’s your man. We have a starter package for a relatively low fee with a back-end kicker when the deal closes.

Doing nothing is no longer an option. If you start your business model pivot now in 4Q, it’s likely you’ll go into 2017 looking forward to the future

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Reinventing StorageCraft with Analytics

So it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks! StorageCraft, its balance sheet in great shape after an investment round, is starting to make acquisitions. The idea is simple. Reinvent itself by buying missing portfolio elements instead of relying solely on internal innovation. It’s a way to move “fast fast” as Ross Perot liked to say.

Last week StorageCraft announced it was acquiring the analytical intellectual property (IP) of Gillware Online Backup, a Madison, WI-based vendor. I spoke with StorageCraft executives and this acquisition has the effect of leapfrogging StorageCraft into the hottest part of IT right now – analytics.

The basic story is fairly pedestrian: using Gillware IP and applying analysis, the StorageCraft product will morph into helping you determine which data to prioritize in a backup scenario. It’s changing the model of incurring costs associated with inefficient backups.

“For far too long, the storage industry has promoted a one-dimensional approach of simply adding more capacity,” said Matt Medeiros, Chairman and CEO of StorageCraft. “Organizations are finally realizing that this model is obsolete since a significant portion of their costs is wasted backing up and storing irrelevant data.”

“Gillware and StorageCraft have been strong partners for years,” said Wes Gill, Founder and President of Gillware Data Recovery. “Through this partnership, we have successfully provided a combined suite of data analytics and access products, ensuring immediate recovery. Our team of data experts is excited to join the StorageCraft family and expand StorageCraft’s platform of products.”

“I’m really excited about the Gillware talent pool - world class technologists in data access and analytics,” said StorageCraft Chief Technology Officer Scott Barnes. “Gillware’s predictive capabilities enable our solution to determine which data is mission-critical: What do I need now? Not all data is equal.”

Effective immediately, existing Gillware and StorageCraft partners will have full access to the products via the Gillware portal. All products will be available globally via StorageCraft’s partner portal in November.

“Gillware will help fuel our expansion plans,” said Marvin Blough, Vice President of Worldwide Sales. “This one move adds thousands of customers in North America alone who are already familiar with the benefits of the combined Gillware-StorageCraft solution.”

Forward looking statements
StorageCraft’s acquisition of Gillware Online Backup is the latest in a series of moves that is rapidly enhancing the company’s suite of intelligent data protection solutions, increasing its global presence and strengthening its research and development team. In my conversation, it was noted that this is only the start of some early acquisitions and delving into the Big Data analytics area. For example, StorageCraft is accumulating heaps of information with its operations. This analytics engine could easily be enhanced to incorporate predictive elements like mean failure time for storage devices, etc. That would allow the MSP to proactively purchase replacement parts and keep clients fat and happy.

I’ll be monitoring StorageCraft’s efforts over the next months.

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Start-ups Fueled by Young-ins!

There is no age discrimination in the entrepreneurship community. It’s a line of reasoning that cuts both ways. You can be a 50+ year old white collar tech exec who is “yes sir-ed” through the back door in the tech community StevenAldrichbecause of ageism but still have credibility as a start-up entrepreneur. Likewise, you can be a millennial in the new gig economy who embraces start-ups. It’s a big tent and there is room for all.

Recently GoDaddy released an extensive study on how millennials are fueling entrepreneurial growth.

The end of the story is that young people don’t know what they don’t know and that is an asset in taking the start-up plunge. Contrast that with my friend, a sales rep at a Big Pharma company, who is 55YO and risk adverse. Combine that innocence with a “gig economy” view and you have what GoDaddy calls a new entrepreneurial era where 1-in-3 millennial professionals intend to pursue their own ventures in the next ten years. And that plays very well into GoDaddy’s SOHO and SMB focus of delivering light weight IT solutions such as web pages, domain registration and Office 365 subscriptions.

I spoke with GoDaddy’s Chief Product Office Steven Aldrich, pictured, recently about is new study and here is what I learned.

Fueled by technology that has made entrepreneurship easier than ever, a strong desire for autonomy, and start-up role models such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the two book-end generations of global workers – Millennials and Baby Boomers – are driving a huge spike in the number of professionals looking to create their own business or be self-employed, according to a new global survey commissioned by GoDaddy.

The research found that 36 percent of people plan to either start a small business or be self-employed within the next 10 years. This is especially true of Millennials, with 50 percent saying they plan to be entrepreneurial during the same time period. In fact, 24 percent of Millennials started their current business while they were still in school. That makes them six times more likely to pursue entrepreneurship as a career than their Baby Boomer counterparts were in the 1960s and 1970s.

“We’re entering a Golden Age for entrepreneurs across the world. The combination of accessible technology, cultural acceptance of startups, and the desire for more flexibility in our lives, is causing people to pursue their true career passions at a rate never seen before in history,” said GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving. “The sheer volume of emerging entrepreneurs speaks to a fundamental shift in our society toward ownership and controlling one’s fate.”

Conducted by Morar Consulting and Vrge Analytics, the research surveyed 7,291 professionals, including 2,707 current small business owners or self-employed individuals, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Technology Eliminates Jobs, Creates Growth
Workers say technology empowers. 81 percent of those surveyed said that technology made starting a business easier, and more than half (56 percent) prefer the “do it yourself” model for handling their tech needs. 58 percent said websites and social media are the most attractive channels to customers. As more people have become comfortable with new technology (cloud, social media, mobile) this decade, they are applying it to their entrepreneur ambitions.

Respondents are also aware that technology can put pressure on their jobs, leading to a potential reduction of hours and layoffs. The loss of jobs is a contributing factor leading many workers to take the small business plunge: 18 percent of small business owners said they started their venture after losing their job. 30 percent of respondents said the introduction of new technologies over the last 3-5 years has negatively reduced their work hours.

Avoiding the Corporate 9-to-5
The survey found that autonomy is the #1 driver to become an entrepreneur. People want the ability to work when they want, where they want, and how they want. Flexibility (41 percent) trumped money (17 percent) and not worrying about corporate layoffs (17 percent) by a wide margin.

Overall, the global research painted a picture of our oldest and youngest generations of workers looking to seize the initiative and control their destiny:
· 36 percent of professionals plan to either start a small business or be self-employed over the next 10 years. Including those who plan to moonlight with full-time jobs, that number jumps to an eye-opening 45 percent.
· Millennials are taking the plunge and starting new ventures at a pace never seen before, with 50 percent indicating they intend to start a new business or become self-employed in the coming decade. In the United States alone, that means 37.7 million new entrepreneurs in the workforce.
· Baby Boomers aren’t planning to stop working in their Golden Years — 21 percent plan to start their own venture within the next 10 years. In the United States, that equates to more than 15.7 million new entrepreneurs.
· 13 percent of Millennials said they were laid off because of new technologies. 36 percent of Millennials said the introduction of new technologies reduced their work hours.
· 7 percent of Baby Boomers said they were laid off because of new technologies. 25 percent of Baby Boomers said the introduction of new technologies reduced their work hours.
· Many would-be entrepreneurs in the United States point to their parents (39 percent) and Mark Zuckerberg (27 percent). But Zuckerberg (40 percent) clearly tops parents (30%) among Millennials. Just over one percent looked up to socialite Kim Kardashian’s method of building a brand.
· Entrepreneurs demonstrate a no-fear attitude. 59 percent of entrepreneurs would try again if their current venture failed. They say grit and determination (76 percent) are more important than having a great idea (53 percent).
· Presidential candidates take note: In the U.S., 60 percent want government to do more to promote small business and entrepreneurs vs. 24 percent who say government should stay out of business all together

The global survey of 7,291 respondents was conducted from August 11-August 21, 2016 in eleven countries.

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Get Social: Chocolate-covered Bacon

Old school SMB Nation fans remember our love and affection for BACON! Who can forget our “Save Your Bacon” campaign back in the day promoting StorageCraft? (Remember the bacon bit muffins at SMB Nation Spring?) So

when I attended Simply Measured’s LIFT – Social conference in Seattle last week, I was instantly at home when liftsocialChocolate-covered bacon was on the afternoon snack cart.

But this isn’t a foodie review, rather it’s a look at social media analytics. The context is this. If you are reading this blog and seeking to “start-up” a technology business with legs, I’d offer the world of social media and the use of analytics in this Market 2.0 era demands your consideration.

LIFT Social is an ongoing annual conference sponsored by Simply Measured, an analytics ISV in the social media space. Basically it is in the business of providing tools to measure the impact of social media campaigns businesses might execute. For example, Trek was there talking about the use of the analytical tools to measure success in building the Trek bicycle brand using numerous social media tactics such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

First a few takeaways from the conference and then a few observations.

Engagement is not revenue. Towards the end of the conference, I don’t know if I heard a dirty little secret in the social media space or if the speakers were being completely transparent. Loosely translated, the number of likes (Facebook), friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter) and connections (LinkedIn) doesn’t mean jack snitz when it comes to revenue. I’ve always suspected this. Social media is good for brand building but it’s not transactional by its nature. I’ve seen this in several ways. First is our beloved Karl Palachuk of MSP books fame in the SMB space. Karl has worked very hard to build his brand and hit the 5,000 friend limit for a Facebook personal page. And his brand building has resulted in overall success for his book sales. However, if engagement had a direct correlation to revenue, he’d be a billionaire and I’d be shining his shoes. Another example is how I’ll nudge people to attend our weekly webinar. When I post into an Office 365 LinkedIn group with over 90,000 members about a relevant webinar coming up soon, I’ll pull anywhere from zero to a couple new attendees. Several speakers at LIFT Social shared similar disappointments. Such is the state of the Social Media union.

Attribution. Having spent time in the Big Data predictive analytics space, there is always the issue of attribution when working with leads (affiliates and aggregators). Basically the issues surrounding getting credit for driving traffic. Who drove the click? What timeframe does the attribution apply (immediate or forever)? And so on. Simply Measured announced what it claims to be the first attribution measurement tool for social media campaigns. I’ll be meeting with the Simply Measured executive team in a couple weeks to dig deeper into this.
Spying. One speaker named Skylar delivered an impressive speech on competitive intelligence gathering using the Simply Measured tools. It amounted to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Best speech for me.

Sources. The C-level executive at Hubspot demonstrated sources of customer traffic and Google ad words was way low on the scale (below 10%) with sources like Instagram and YouTube fairing much higher. That was an eye opener. I confirmed this later with my 18YO son when he affirmed a media buy to target millennials would be best on Instagram, not Facebook.
Young at Heart. Finally, in the start-up mentality, I found the demographic at LIFT Social to be dramatically different than SMB Nation. Women attendees outnumbered men 2:1 whereas SMB Nation events are 95% male. The average age was significantly lower than our late 40s SMB Nation member. That’s OK as it made me feel young at heart LOL.

I end with a question? Why do these social media millennials end every sentence an octave higher (riser) with the word PERFECT? Not everything is PERFFECT in social media analytics but it’s getting closer to the precise measurements we can gather today with email and adwords campaigns.

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Channel Check-In: Atera’s YTD Report Card

Everyone loves a success story. So hang on fast as Atera, a seasoned start-up, is making fast moves in the SMB channel. You’ll recall we extensively covered it’s “Hello 2016” launch at the start of the year. There is ample evidence suggesting nine out of ten start-ups fail (of course) but I’m more interested in learning what makes the ten percent successful like this Forbes article did. Needless to say I count Atera in this top ten percent. So what’s it’s secret to success as an all-in-one SMB RMM/PSA/Remote Access ISV?

First – the word is out. Atera has enjoyed outsized publicity and coverage because of its market timing to provide a right-sized all-in-one RMM Software, PSA and Remote access SaaS solution for the SMB channel partner. “Our target market are the smaller VARs and MSPs.” Gil Pekelman, Atera CEO, shared during a far reaching interview. aterasept“Our pricing model of $89 per technician is both a fraction of the cost of an existing RMM player (not to mention PSA) and the fact that it is not Agent based pricing makes it totally disruptive.” As a privately-held company, Atera doesn’t release financial information but I can attest that its growth rate is significantly ahead of plan, having reviewed some internal information.

Second – Continuous Innovation. “We launched The Benchmark: This is an industry first – utilizing big data analysis we provide our users with Data (KPI’s) that can guide them if its business is on the right track. For example, we just released within our new billing module a comparison between the contracts the MSP has with his customer and the industry median hourly price.” Pekelman added. In a future contribution about Atera’s SMB channel journey, I will dig much deeper into the analytics topic.


Third – Community Feedback. A day doesn’t pass where I’m not promoting the authenticity of the SMB Nation community based on our geek roots dating back to the beginning of time (the release of the Small Business Server product in the late 1990s). Money and time haven’t changed us as we remain a bona fide grass roots community still committed to changing the world. Here’s the good news. Atera thinks like us too! Pekelman proudly “peacocked” his open feedback approach. “It’s an open/transparent/Internet model – You know what we have, what you will pay and what we are working one….” Loosely translated, Pekelman is saying that Atera’s innovation is based on community feedback.

This transparent community paradigm has allowed Atera to gleam insights into its VAR/MSP customers. “For the small guy what did we do? We changed his life.” Pekelman declared. “He can now afford an all-in-one MSP Software platform (or save a lot of money on the system he has). The system is so easy and automated that he can actually use it without hiring PSA/RMM implementation consultants. He has a unique Offering – Unlimited Agents vs. all those MSPs that are stilling using an agent based product. We are giving him a compass to run his business and guide him to a healthy one.”

Finally – design. I can attest to the simplicity of the Atera solution. I reviewed that aspect earlier this year .

Over the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track Atera’s success. It’s one to watch.

PS – If you downloaded and used Atera in a trial several months ago, DO IT AGAIN! It’s rate of innovation is amazing so the version you worked with a few months ago is different today!

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Fast Forward into Fall: NetConnect

 Since NetConnect splashed on the US MSP scene in 2Q, I’m monitoring the chatter and am finding that MSPs, while sincerely intrigued, still have more questions about this “Workspace as a Service” (WaaS) solution

designed to implement at SMB customer sites. The purpose of this blog is to dig deep and steep to offer additional WaaS insights. First things first. Take a moment to review prior NetConnect missives here and here.

Once NetConnect is installed and configured, customers are able to access your environment from any device you like; in practical terms, this means you can access that netconnectold, legacy application from the latest iPad!

In fact, customers who use behind-the-times business critical programs get a new lease of life by mobilizing with NetConnect – if the application vendor can’t provide a solution to fit with the modern way of working, NetConnect can step up to the plate. For staff, who need to work offsite and are struggling with the headache of setting up VPN connections or fixing an RDP shortcut that’s inexplicitly stopped working, can now access straigt from their browser-even better, you can do this on a Mac or PC.

This is important. As an added bonus, the unique approach to printing allows user to print to any locally accessible printer with no configuration, driver installs or setup. The company doesn’t have to worry about threats to their network, as no device ever connects to the environment; NetConnect acts like a clear pane of glass.

I can offer that best of all it integrates with Active Directory, meaning there’s not additional accounts to be setup, no additional point of management to be considered for day-to-day tasks and users get single sign on to their applications or desktop - simple. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Next steps
Northbridge Secure runs an active partner program to support NetConnect partners at every possible turn.

  • There’s a certification process for both sales and technical staff as well as access to NFR licence for internal use and demonstration.
  • Northbridge support partners with setting up in-house demo environments, proof of concepts or adding applications to their own public demo to support your sales cycle.
  • Partners are given access to everything they require to independently identify, scope, quote & install.

One of the great advantages NetConnect has over a product like Citrix is the unparalleled access partners have to the sales and technical teams; Northbridge are in that sweet spot of being big enough to produce consistent, stable innovation and yet small and agile enough

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The Basics of Influencing the Technology Buying Decision

By Pete Engler

With today’s emphasis on “modern” marketing, we’re told we need to understand who and where our prospective clients are so that we can help guide the decision-making process. Is it really possible to Peter Engler Digiuminfluence your customer’s buying decision? Who are your customers, and where do you find them? As a technology reseller, you’ve likely tried to answer all of these questions in an effort to increase sales. Here are some basic considerations for reaching and influencing your buyers.

When researching this topic, it quickly becomes clear that the vast majority of information about “who” the technology buyers are require that you classify buyers by their age, or generation: Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennial. This is probably not surprising given that we tend to believe buying habits vary greatly between the youngest (Millennials) to the oldest (Baby Boomers). If segmenting your customers solely by the generation into which they were born, then the next set of information you want to understand is which group makes the majority of purchasing decisions; are the decision-makers spread evenly throughout those groups; and how can these buyers be influenced? The next dilemma is how to reach the decision makers. Where and how to find buyers has changed, in large part due to the digital age. Buyers are now reached through social media, internet ads, product review sites, product reviews on vendor sites and others. These avenues have also contributed to making purchasing decisions easier and sometimes much quicker, because information is now at the buyer’s fingertips. But are these sources of information influencing like we believe? The only real way to answer that question is to talk to your customers; but research tends to confirm that technology buyers are heavily influenced by the online content they consume from third parties, peers and vendors (or brands).

Knowing how your customer base gets their information is vital in marketing to them. Using recent studies and blogs posted by the Arketi Group, MarketingSherpa and Techaisle, the findings show all tech buyers, regardless of age, use essentially the same methods for obtaining information to make purchasing decisions. The methods most likely used are traditional, such as product demos, vendor meetings, white papers, colleagues and referrals from industry peers. While the methods may be traditional, the delivery of all this content is vastly different thanks to the internet and social media. These are most likely the avenues where the information is found so vendors and VARs need to maintain strong online marketing efforts.

Another twist with marketing comes through word of mouth. While online peer review is an influential source of persuasive information, you cannot discount offline word of mouth referrals. As a reseller, your reputation in the local market is key as decision makers network and compare notes on VARs, vendors and solutions. In speaking directly with resellers, many still maintain a steady and growing business via word of mouth alone. Others say they rely on the founder, or sales and marketing teams, to figure out who the decision makers are in each target account and use traditional sales techniques to persuade them to purchase. When it comes to word-of-mouth influencing tech buyers, this is one area where you may see a generational difference. Unlike Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, Millennials have not been in the workforce as long and may not have the same network of peers and offline research avenues established as an older generation worker may have. So they may rely more on their colleagues for information.

When it comes time to locating and making contact with the business that is ready to buy, it may be tricky to identify the person who has ultimate decision-making authority. This is sometimes closely held information. Within any organization, especially across the SMB space, the individual who has the authority to buy and how they are influenced can vary quite a bit. The purchasing power may depend on the structure of the organization. For example, when it comes to IT-related technology, the IT manager may have the authority. Given the size of the SMB, the final decision could be left to the CEO, based on the input from the various department managers. Or if large enough a CIO spends as they see fit to support an organization within their budget. In some instances the decision maker may not know technically or functionally which is the best product or service the organization needs. Instead, a subject matter expert will outline the pros and cons with a few solutions making the final cut. Then pricing undoubtedly becomes the defining piece to win the sale.

The safe bet is if you are selling a specific product or service and don’t know who has the final say, find the owner of the corresponding department and they will either make or heavily influence the decision. There are many ways to find this stakeholder, from traditional, “old school” methods of calling the business, to more modern approaches such as using social media. LinkedIn, for example, can provide a complete employee directory, so to speak, and contact is made relatively easily through that social media site. In the end, even in the digital age the methods for reaching and passing information to prospects is a blend of the traditional and ‘modern’ marketing and sales approach.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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Affordable Dial-In Conferencing Solutions as Simple as One Click

Conference calls make doing business easier. Unfortunately, traditional conference call services can be cost-prohibitive and difficult to use for many SMBs. That’s why AppRiver recently rolled out dial-in conferencing as a part of its Office 365 service.

Customers using the service can host conference calls for audiences small or large on their computers, cell phones or landlines – often for about half the cost of other appriver septemberpremium services, and managed right from familiar tools like the Outlook desktop and Web clients. For AppRiver’s resellers, it’s a convenient way to incorporate another critical business function into their practices, saving their customers money and growing their topline revenue at the same time.

AppRiver offers several Office 365 and hosted Exchange plans designed to match the needs of businesses of all sizes. Now, customers can add unlimited dial-in conferencing to Skype for Business at a budget price, just for the users who need it. For most organizations, this price point could mean a dramatic cost savings compared to standalone services currently on the market.

Dial-in Conferencing adds valuable new capabilities to Skype for Business service plans, which already include secure instant messaging, screen, file, and application sharing capabilities for meeting organizers and attendees. For attendees who need or prefer a benchmark dial-in audio connection, the new PSTN conferencing option is the ideal solution.

AppRiver is a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), and helped Microsoft develop the Indirect model that powers the growth of the CSP program today. As a result, AppRiver’s channel sales advisors, support team and billing staff have years of experience helping partners price, sell, bill and support Office 365 for their customers. This experience can be invaluable for resellers who are new to Office 365 or who can’t or choose not to participate in the CSP program on their own.

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G.E. Starts Over as Software Company

Many SMB Nation members have seen the recent G.E. television advertisement where a younger geek tells parents and friends he is joining old school G.E. as a developer. Needless to say, the geek’s career aspirations are met with disdain in this deadpan spot. But gethere is truth to humor. Recently the New York Times article “G.E., the 124-Year-Old Software Start-up” states the obvious that G.E. has to reinvent itself to survive and thrive.

The net-net of the article, which you should read, is about G.E. capitalizing on the Internet of Things (IoT) with software controls.

I applaud G.E. for hitting it head-on. For the past year, I’ve preached that the old school server-side SMB Nation ‘puter guys have got to reinvent or retire. And I’m starting to run out of words LOL. I’ve sliced and diced this conversation and enjoyed the interchanges with SMB Nation readers and event attendees along the way. In fact, join our dialog on our Facebook page here.


Tips for pulling a “G.E.” reskilling maneuver?
Consider teaming with our training partner, SQLSoft3, to re-up your hard core skill sets. Right now it’s offering exam vouchers below cost and it has an upcoming Azure course you can attend online.

Finally, to bring this conversation full circle, be sure to check-out the G.E. job board for giggles.  Here you can see what skills are in demand. And point your kids to the same site for a stir to see their reaction.

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Remembering 9-11

    With all due respect and honor, it’s time to remember September 11, 2001 which was 15-years ago today. Everyone has a memory and we welcome your stories on our Facebook page.

    Briefly, today is my birthday and it is the same day my father was born. In part, that’s why we shared the

same name (my father passed away about 13-years ago). So this date will forever be ingrained in our collective psyche because of the “9-11” tragedy. On that day, my own story is this. I was up early and making final preparations to fly from Seattle to Boston.  newyorker620

SMB Nation was representing Gateway Computers at an ITEC tradeshow the following day. I was “in the booth” lecturing on Small Business Server in mini-sessions on a three-month tour. For whatever reason, I had turned on the morning news and saw the early coverage moments after the first jetliner had hit the World Trade Center. I witnessed the second jet on live TV hitting the second tower.

After those moments, my memory is somewhat of a blur. Of course I did not fly to Boston that day on the Gateway Computers tour. I remember the TV channels only having news or going dark for several days. Like everyone, I had a range of feelings and emotions in the months that followed and I had heightened awareness of my surroundings as I was traveling by air frequently that Fall.

What’s your story? I’d love for you to share your memory as a sign of respect for the fallen. Thank you.

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Microsoft is extending its Office Insider Fast Ring test program

Microsoft is adding a Fast Ring option to its Office Insider test program for Windows desktops, Windows 10 Mobile, iOS and Android.

mary jo foley thumb2By Mary Jo Foley




Microsoft has an Office Insider testing program that shares a number of similarities with its Windows Insider program, but one difference broaderofficeinsiderbetween the two has been scope.

The Office Insider program, which Microsoft launched in November 2015, didn't initially support different test rings. The one rather odd exception was the Office Insider for Mac program, which did include both Fast and Slow ring options, since June 2016. (Microsoft added Office for Mac users to its Insider test program in January 2016.)

Today, August 30, Microsoft disclosed it would be adding a Fast Ring option to its Office Insider program for users on other platforms, beyond Mac OS.




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With the arrival of cloud computing and a reduction in the use of paper documents worldwide, the act of printing is becoming increasingly rare in the modern office. Selling a used printer, buying a new one or recycling a used printer for cash are all possible options thanks to PowerSource Online.

Powersorce September








Our B2B online platform allows members to buy, sell or recycle their used IT and Telecom equipment, including printers, laptops, servers, phones and other products they no longer need. PowerSource Online brings together thousands of buyers who are seeking new, used and refurbished IT and telecom parts and equipment on a regular basis. By becoming a member, you will be able to advertise your excess equipment, parts or unique services to qualified dealers, resellers and service providers, growing your customer base and increasing your sales prospects. The items you want to sell will be automatically advertised via email to hundreds of members that are constantly seeking to buy used IT equipment and spare parts.

 PowerSource allows users to search for a specific part number, model number, product manufacturer or keyword by typing it in the PowerSource database search bar. In the search results, buyers can immediately see if a product is available from our suppliers. By clicking on the part number or description, a buyer can see the complete product details and supplier information, providing the opportunity for a quick sale.

 PowerSource Online also offers its members the ability to trade used electronics equipment, including printers, laptops and more, for cash by selecting the product they would like to trade. Our database instantly shows the trade-in value, and generates a shipping label that can be used to ship the item directly to the buyer.

 Take advantage of our web-based selling platform to efficiently source or dispose of your hard-to-find, excess, discontinued, obsolete and end-of-life computer parts, printers, systems and more. 

 Take the time to enjoy a Free Tour, and see how PowerSource Online can increase your profits.

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Start-up Secret: Mining LinkedIn

If you are starting up a new technology-based entrepreneurial endeavor, you need to heed the wisdom of many before you. It’s about who you know. I can attest to that my relationships have yield more return on investment that my intellectual capabilities. Ultimately I made more money as a “rainmaker” than a hard core geek (although you need both as a technical professional – don’t get me wrong).

One of the secrets to my success is applying analytics to my data. In this case, the secret I want to share concerns mining your

LinkedIn connections. Before I share the special link that will give you a bona fide business boost, please indulge in some context.

Be aggressive in making connections. Early in the life of LinkedIn, there was a strong cultural norm that you should not over connect with people you don’t really know. And to some extent, the LinkedIn connection procedure still forces you to demonstrate some type of alleged relationship with the recipient. But there are now one-day workshops and countless YouTube videos advising you on how to build your list of LinkedIn connections as fast and large as possible to engage in business development.











When you connect with someone, you can message them, endorse and recommend them. But did you know if you click on the little Contact Info icon below the individual’s picture, you can often see a telephone number and an email address. The email address is very interesting because it is usually a “back email” address such as Gmail or Hotmail. It’s often not their corporate email address. When people set-up their LinkedIn account, they frequently use a personal email address so that the authentication and identity credentials travel with the individual (e.g. if they change jobs) and not with the “company.” The little secret here is that you can email these people at a little-used back email address and get their undivided attention. Make sense?

If gets better. When you follow the connection download procedure below, you can easily aggregate all of your connections with email addresses on a single spreadsheet (CSV) format. In my case, that’s 3,297 connections I’ve legitimately built up over several years. When I have access to all of that connection information in one Microsoft Excel 2016 worksheet, the world if my oyster. I can slice, dice, sort and pivot this important data to make it rain dollars!

So you’ve waited long enough – here is the link.

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Back to School - Karl's Books!

With Fall arriving quickly, it’s time to sharpen the saw as a life learner. In the spirit of “back to school,” Karl Palachuk has just released a four (4) volume “Managed Services Operations Manual” audio book set.

This is important to know for several reasons, the least of which is many of you are trying to “start over” in the new-new world of cloud.

Firstly, many SMB Nation fans have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) whether you want to admit it or not. How do I know this?

Because you are a high tech entrepreneur running your own MSP consulting reseller practice. And having ADHD is actually a success factor (even your secret weapon) despite what the Catholic nuns told you in grammar school. What I’ve personally found and studies now confirm is audio books are a way for ADHD afflicted people to “read books” and absorb the content. (Success secret: You can also have other documents read aloud in Windows 10 with the [Windows] [Enter] keystroke sequence to launch Narrator).














Buy Karl's Books! Keep your eyes open for a future webcast featuring Karl (Superman) and me (Batman) as we debate learning methods between ADHD and non-ADHD entrepreneurs. For example, I’m huge on using Slack and OneNote as a way to put everything back together again in my mind. Karl promotes the single screen experience and avoiding email pop-ups. We intend to host debate this before the end of 2016.

Second, I can honestly say, if I were starting-over, I’d start with Karl’s operations books. Why? Because for many years I resisted bing operationally oriented and then I finally hired Jenny Hallmark to run things. The point is that I learned to honor the importance of operations the hard way. And while I’m streetwise today about this matter, I’d be a better entrepreneur if I had the likes of Karl’s knowledge nuggets earlier in my career. This is something you can attend to right here, right now.

Third, Karl is a long-time friend of the SMB Nation family and has offered a 10 percent savings coupon for you. Here is how you enjoy the savings. Read the blog about what the Managed Services Operations Manual offering is and decide if this is right for you. Then when you purchase, enter the code smbnation2016 for the additional 15 percent savings.

Think of it this way. The entire Karl bundle is cheaper than one (1) undergraduate textbook in Aerospace Engineering. Trust me.

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The Benefits of Working with a BDR Provider That Owns Its Backup Technology

Headshot Ben AustinBen Austin, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed Services

Managed services providers (MSPs) are trusted advisors to their clients. By acting as virtual CIO (VCIO), safeguarding the health of IT environments and maximizing the ROI of their clients’ IT budgets, MSPs are responsible for increasing the business efficiency and profitability of the organizations they serve. This relationship is often started with the implied trust of a customer that their MSP will deliver as promised in the sales cycle. Then, as time rolls by, that trust becomes more tangible based on the actual experience with their MSP.

As this trust grows so does the responsibility of the MSP. One area that MSPs ultimately have significant influence over is the handling and protection of one of their client’s greatest business assets: their data. This trust is at its apex in the delivery of completely reliable and modern backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions.

For your end-clients, BDR solutions are similar to umpires in a baseball game. If you never find yourself talking about them then everything is probably going smoothly. It’s when data loss or excessive downtime occurs that clients lose faith in the credibility of your business continuity offering.

With so much at stake, it’s vital that MSPs minimize any concerns with their business continuity offering by investing in the right BDR platform. So how do you know which solution is right for you? One easily identifiable and often overlooked approach is to work with an IT management platform provider that owns its BDR technology and handles service delivery of the product from top to bottom. Let’s examine a few of the reasons why this particular service is one that MSPs want to be as close to the source as possible.

  1. The MSP can influence product changes – When a managed services provider works with a business partner that has complete ownership over its BDR technology, the MSP can request additional features and functionality that will make them more productive and strengthen their overall offering. If the BDR solution used by an MSP is several touches away from them, they likely won’t have much influence in changes that improve the BDR software’s performance. The MSP could even miss out on the chance to test new product developments before they are implemented. While some might think it risky to be the first to try something new in a product offering, it can actually serve as a competitive advantage. Working directly with the owner of the BDR technology is a great opportunity to bring something to end users before anyone else, thus possibly providing a first-mover advantage.
  2.  MSPs can have an elevated level of trust in their BDR partner – Having that level of involvement in influencing product roadmap and other important aspects of a BDR offering can create a real trust between the MSP and their provider. MSPs strive to earn the trust of their clients. Part of that comes from having trust in the technology partners and vendors that sit behind them as they go to market. Having some skin in the game with regard to impacting product development is a great opportunity for an MSP to deliver BDR solutions to their clients with the utmost confidence.Having some input in the product roadmap and maintaining business interests that align with those of your BDR partner certainly signal a relationship that’s built to last, but what directly impacts your business’ bottom line? How can working with a BDR provider that owns all of its backup technology help grow margins?
  3. Independent platform pricing protects the MSP’s margins– With no middle man markup, the MSP avoids price ceilings that can result when subject to third-party technology. In purchasing a BDR platform subscription from an independent provider, they can protect their margins by increasing gross profitability. Profit is inversely related to cost. The higher the expenditure, the lower your bottom line. Instead of having to pay extra for support once removed, work with a BDR partner that owns its solution, thereby allowing you to cut costs. By the same token, to further increase profitability, look for BDR software and service delivery that helps you maintain financial stability by maximizing revenue.
  4.  Having support closer to the end client raises customer satisfaction – Typically, the closer support is to the end-client, the more efficient the response and issue resolution. In the instance where a BDR platform provider owns and develops its entire BDR solution, any support calls that are taken are handled right then and there. Additionally, expect support staff to manage issues and answer questions in a timelier manner. These technicians will likely be more knowledgeable of the BDR product (and therefore understand its intricacies) if the solution is owned in-house. Increased familiarity with the backup technology and all its ins and outs ensures a higher degree of service delivery because the MSP (and end client, by extension) doesn’t have to wait for a third-party vendor to deduce why the BDR software may be acting in a certain way. The less turnaround time to fulfill a client request, the better the client experience overall.

These latter two points help MSPs create loyal fans, increase client retention and capture more upsell and cross-sell revenue, without incurring the costs of losing business. As a result, independent BDR platforms enable MSPs that are offering business continuity services to be more profitable.

Become a Major BDR Player with Continuity247™

Fully-managed BDR platform, Continuity247, is owned and operated entirely by Continuum, allowing the company to deliver the peace of mind provided by each of the four points outlined above. Continuum is committed to ensuring its partners receive unparalleled support and regularly make refinements and improvements based on partner feedback. With this shared ownership, trust is at the core of its business model. You can always count on Continuum to have your back. Nowhere is this more evident than with the level of BDR service that partners receive from its world-class Network Operations Center (NOC).

For example, with Continuity247™, Continuum’s team of 700 NOC technicians provides partners 24x7x365 backup support. In addition to absorbing time-consuming, labor-intensive responsibilities like testing and monitoring backups so MSPs don’t have to, support staff is intimately familiar with the BDR technology, understands its DNA and is able to more quickly troubleshoot its behavior. To strengthen technical support for Continuity247, Continuum also combines deep product education with regular internal training to reinforce the BDR service delivery on partners’ behalves. Continuum is the final line of support, which means the company can answer any product-related inquiries internally, rather than having to rely on a third-party to respond. Finally, Continuity247 was built with partners’ profit margins in mind. Since they’re not constrained to the pricing of a third-party vendor, partners can yield a higher profit by selling their business continuity services at a much higher rate than what they purchased them for.

Whether you’re thinking about switching providers or just getting into the BDR market for the first time, you have to vet what you are actually getting in a BDR solution vs. just simply the shopping price.

Do you know if your current BDR provider owns all of their backup technology? If not, you may want to start asking questions regarding their BDR offering to ensure you are getting the most value for your spend. Only after examining solutions under this lens can you accurately compare BDR platforms and make an informed purchasing decision.

Ben Austin is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Continuum’s backup and disaster recovery products. He has experience in high-velocity content marketing and demand generation. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Emerson College and has spent his career researching and writing about the B2B tech industry.

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StorageCraft releases VirtualBoot for vSphere

New technology allows rapid boot of backup images directly on VMware ESXi hosts

            DRAPER, Utah, -- Aug. 30, 2016 -- Global backup and disaster recovery leader, StorageCraft® Technology Corp., announced the release of StorageCraft VirtualBoot™ for vSphere, a new technology that makes the recovery of data and systems exponentially Storagecraft logofaster and more efficient. This unique technology gives StorageCraft ShadowProtect SPX users the ability to rapidly virtualize backup images as guest virtual machines (VMs) directly on VMware ESXi hosts without the use of an intermediary appliance or secondary conversion process.

VirtualBoot for vSphere is used in conjunction with StorageCraft ShadowProtect SPX backup and disaster recovery software and is included with every SPX license. VirtualBoot for vSphere was developed in joint collaboration and participation with VMware through their vSphere APIs for I/O Filtering (VAIO) Program and is now certified as VMware Ready.

VirtualBoot for vSphere uniquely enables users to:

  • Instantly virtualize SPX or ShadowProtect backup images as guest VMs directly on the ESXi hypervisor
  • Permanently migrate physical systems or VMs from a different hypervisor platform to ESXi with minimal downtime
  • Easily test changes to production systems offline
  • Leverage existing VMware investments to maximize ROI

            “If a business is experiencing IT downtime, it is imperative that it get access to its valuable data and mission-critical systems as quickly as possible. StorageCraft VirtualBoot for vSphere is a great business continuity tool because it removes time-consuming steps and frees up resources during the all-important recovery process,” said Scott Barnes, StorageCraft’s Chief Technology Officer. “StorageCraft VirtualBoot for vSphere is another example of how StorageCraft is enabling its partners to reliably protect their clients’ data and systems while being as efficient as possible.”

More information about StorageCraft VirtualBoot for vSphere is available at Managed service providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) can learn how to become members of the award-winning StorageCraft Partner Network at

Throughout the years, StorageCraft Recovery Solution components have been recognized by analysts, leading IT publications, and most importantly, IT professionals for their speed and reliability. Among recent accolades, StorageCraft won the ASCII Cup Vendor of the Year award, the Redmond Channel Partner Editor’s Choice Award for Best Storage Software and a fourth-consecutive PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award.

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SQLSoft3 is selling 30 Microsoft Exam Vouchers at $20 under cost

I was speaking to my friends at SQLSoft3 and they have 30 extra Microsoft Exam Vouchers that they are selling at $20 under their cost. When the 30 are gone, that's it.... so if you are a Microsoft Partner or an IT Pro or Developer who is interested in certification, you won't find Microsoft official certification exams any cheaper. Microsoft has a certification exam quota and SQLSoft3 needs to sell 30 more of them this year; so their loss is your gain!


Here is how it works:

Purchase one or more standard Microsoft Certification Exam Vouchers - Use the coupon code of "QUOTA" at checkout and you can purchase your exam voucher for $20 below cost of the usual $165 price (after "QUOTA" discount - $145) or the Plus version with a Practice Test for $190 after the "QUOTA" discount. Buy now and you still have 12 months to register for the exam.               


There is also a Microsoft Exam Voucher Promo that gets you more, but is only good until August 31. Purchase one or more Microsoft's Booster Pack Promo 1-2-3 options and use the promo code "QUOTA" to get $20 off. Microsoft's Booster Pack promotion includes an exam voucher and practice test and/or 4 exam retakes. Note: The Microsoft Booster Pack promotion ends in five days on August 31, so this promo will be gone after that.

If you don’t already know, SQLSoft3 is the home of reality-priced IT Professional, Developer, and Security training for Azure, SQL Server, Identity Management, Windows 10, Windows Server, Sharepoint, System Center, Visual Studio, Exchange, Skype and more. SQLSoft3 offers the lowest prices for Microsoft MOC On-Demand training in the known Universe and continues to deliver live IT Instructor-led training to individuals as well as custom training events for national and global companies. Over the past 20+ years, they have trained over 50,000+ IT Professionals and Developers.

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Should MSPs Unionize?

Earlier this month, the Seattle Times ran a thoughtful article about a long journey for Microsoft contractors to unionize. The short story is these “perma-temps” where seeking benefits and stability afforded permanent Microsoft employees. Please read here before proceeding further so you have the proper context about what I plan to say.

Many words have been written over the past two years about the changing nature of the relationship between partners and vendors. My own take is that partners pride themselves as technology and business advisors providing value as consultants to clients. That’s what gets us up in the morning. No doubt about it.

But in a quantitative-based “Marketing 2.0” world of measurable metrics, the SMB vendors have become not nice people, viewing us as “resellers” who have no other passion than to sell licenses. Their Jim Crow language about “partnering” and their degrading actions are repulsive and highly offensive to our culture. And they don’t care. It’s all about the monthly pipeline report. Unknowingly they are increasingly biting the hand that feeds them.
This sets up the dynamic for considering some type of organization. When relationships are out of balance, there will be a reaction. Just ask the US Republican party in this Fall’s elections. Given over 80% of the SMB Nation tribe self-identifies themselves as MSPs, I’d offer this is a segment you shouldn’t ignore.

percentage MSPs

Years ago, under the late Jim Locke, the fledging SMB Technology Network (SMBTN) messaged aspects of organizing as a collective to bargain both against and fairly with the vendors. It was one of its pillars if not mission statement. While its intentions were noble, it didn’t execute broadly to truly organize MSPs to cut better deals with vendors and receive better treatment.

So in the spirit of late August crowd sourcing, use the comment section to tell me what you think. Should MSPs lead a revolution?

PS - this topic is just in time for Labor day next week LOL!

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Dan the Man: What Cloud Partner Program is Best?!

Long-time SMB Nation member Daniel Williams (Xpedeus) from Tampa, FL asked a very relevant question this past week. I wanted to crowd source the answer.

Dan asked: What MS “certs” or MS programs can our Xpedeus consultants gain for becoming “MS Cloud” consultants and transitioning Xpedeus to become an MS Cloud consultancy? In the old SBS days it was easy, just become Small Business Specialist. What is the equivalent in the cloud? It seems MS has so many programs for becoming a “cloud guy” I am not sure which applies best to Xpedeus customer base of 5-250 knowledge-worker companies.


Harry here. I’d offer the short answer is that Dan jump into the Microsoft Cloud Services Provider (CSP) program with both feet. There are a few resources for Dan to learn more. One is Microsoft itself. The other concerns third-party Office 365 ecosystem partners such as AppRiver, long-time supporter of SMB Nation.

But most importantly, I want to hear from YOU the reader in answering Dan’s important question. Please leave a comment on this blog which I’ll approve and also use in a follow-up contribution next week. Thanks in advance.

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LinkedIn's Competitive Threat to MSPs

You knew it was coming. It arrived in my Inbox as a forwarded email from SMB Nation community member David Gerhart from Bend, OR. David is an IT consultant and he received a “lead” from LinkedIn’s new ProFinder service (which I consdier a start-up).

LinkedIn has always had the underutilized asset of millions of details on millions of people. It’s discovering ways that it can now offer a plethora of new professional services including training (see my blog how LinkedIn’s Lynda competes with Microsoft Learning Partners here) And rest assured I’ve kept an eagle-eye on LinkedIn for years including having attended its world launch Cocktail Mixer Party in Seattle in November 2014.

LinkedIn ProFinder challenges MSPs in a couple of fronts. First – there are spot buyers of IT services in the SMB space who don’t want or understand the value of a long-term contract. Second - there are existing MSPs customers who will re-evaluate their needs as they understand what LinkedIn ProFinder is. They might possibly bump into it in a different realm, perhaps trying to out Angie on Angie’s List for some minor repairs.


And this is a threat to labor markets like OnForce as LinkedIn, using Big Data, just has deeper analytics and richer resources to draw on. It’s also neutralized an overthought idea that “I should monetize my huge LinkedIn group into a labor market and connect group members with customers needing services.” I’ve heard that idea several times from entrepreneurs who believed that they had invented this idea of labor markets (remember the “Windows 7 was my idea” TV commercials?). As a side note, we performed a few “stress tests” against several LinkedIn groups over the last year to test the “strength” of the list membership and we were roundly disappointed. First - LinkedIn changed the look/feel and even modified the algorithms of the groups, causing interest levels to fade quickly. Second – LinkedIn groups like “Microsoft Office 365” (with 85,623 members) don’t convert to actions such as signing up for a webinar. It all looks good on paper but the data doesn’t lie. Enter LinkedIn ProFinder with its natural competitive advantage.

Here is how LinkedIn ProFinder works for the customer:
1. Tell us what you need.
2. Get free proposals from up to five professionals eager to help.
3. Hire with confidence. You select the right pro but if you need help, there is a ProFinder concierge team that helps the customer with every step. This is perhaps the most disturbing feature. LinkedIn is devoting real-time resources in the bid-sell process. That’s something of an antithesis maneuver that online labor markets can’t match and ultimately affect MSPs.

There are over 13 service categories ranging from Accounting to IT Services to Real Estate.
Turning the argument around, there is an opportunity to sign-up as a service provider for LinkedIn ProFinder. I liken it to gap filler work akin to being a part-time Uber driver. The sign-up process results in the following motions:
1. Get leads in your Inbox.
2. Respond on your terms.
3. Get hired.

When I signed up, the services radio button only allowed me to select one service category, so I selected IT Services. Then a selection box menu allowed me to make several selections including IT Consulting and Computer Networking. Next I had to put in my phone number. At this point, a must read is the LinkedIn ProFinder – Terms and Conditions, which amongst other things limits its liability (not surprisingly).

Back to David Gerhart. The lead information I received is the basis for my blog today but the shoe didn’t fit for me. It was for an engagement in Portland, OR.
In a forthcoming blog, I’ll detail how Amazon will ultimately be a competitor to MSPs using its Big Data analytics. Standby.

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MSP Strategy Suggestion!

We are delighted by the strong reception we’ve enjoyed introducing the merger and acquisition conversation into the SMB Nation audience this past couple of months. Seems like the stars are aligned with key demographics represented in our recent 2016 Salary Survey. You are a mature audience and very quickly life is happening before your very eyes. So your needs are changing from Geek to Grandparent (okay – that’s a bit of a stretch but there is truth to humor). You proudly are approaching 20-years in the IT profession.

And you are consciously re-evaluating your life and business strategy. 


At our 16th annual SMB Nation picnic this past week, M&A was a conversation amongst the MSPs!

This past week, our MSP M&A "Sell-side" (Part 2) webinar offered the following nuggets:

• Discover how to value your business
• Preparing for due diligence
• Creating the big notebook
• Approaching potential buyers
• Retaining experts (and avoiding business brokers)
• Managing expectation about the negotiating phase
• Separating heart from mind
• And much more…

Note you can watch the webinar replay here and scroll down to the Replay Webinar link for MSP M&A "Sell-side" (Part 2). More importantly, you can sign-up for this week’s “Free Consulting Hour: MSP M&A” where we will answer your specific questions here. No slide deck. No presentation. You’ll love it.

So exactly who are “we” and what are we doing? Tim Carlsen has hopped on board at SMB Nation to assist with us helping you in the M&A area. Tim’s investment and VC background is detailed here.

Tim Carlsent

Between our respective skills, we now offer an M&A advisory service to MSPs in the SMB community. We’re already assisting four clients and can only accommodate five more in 2016. Reach out to Tim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.

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Email Archieving Best Practices!

Email archiving has been a best practice for many years across all industries, but particularly in heavily regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, energy,
life sciences, government and several others. Organizations have invested significantly in legacy WP Important Considerationarchiving platforms, many of which no longer adequately serve their needs in terms of performance, scale, compliance or feature sets.

Consequently, organizations must find a way to migrate their archived content to new platforms, either on-premises or in the cloud. The latter has become particularly important as a
driver for migration of archived content, since a growing proportion of organizations are moving to cloud-based email platforms, most notably Microsoft Office 365.

However, archive migration is not a simple task: in fact, it’s rather complex and requires considerable forethought and planning in order to migrate data reliably while also maintaining the integrity and preserving the full chain-of-custody for migrated data. Further complicating any migration effort is the need to maintain access to archived content for end users and other stakeholders, all while migrating data within a reasonable timeframe and with as little impact as possible on normal business operations.

Migrating from Exchange journal archives or other single instance archive formats to Office 365 – one of the most common types of archive migrations occurring today –
necessitates a paradigm shift because Office 365 does not use the single instance format used for the journal archive in Exchange. While a migration to Office 365 can be performed reliably and in a way that maintains chain-of-custody, it requires a unique approach that will minimize the impact on network bandwidth and that will permit an organization to retain its existing investments in eDiscovery and other
tools. (It is important to note that journal archive migration is different than migration of user archives, a distinction we discuss in this paper)

Download this white paper to learn; key reasons to consider a migration, critical issues to think about during planning & implementation, and the importance of maintaining compliance..


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Trending - Trend Micro's Office 365 play

Back in the early Windows Small Business Server (SBS) days, Trend Micro made a significant commitment to developing solutions and branding around SBS. In no small part it contributed to the multi-fold growth Trend Micro has experienced over the past 15-years. I certainly appreciate its community commitment because year-in and year-out, community members could depend on Trend Micro to suit up and show up.

Now it feels like déjà vu. Trend Micro is going big in the Office 365 community this year. It starts with strategic direction at the top management level. Seeing the momentum of Office 365 growth at 70% year-over-year in Microsoft FY2016  it’s easy to see why Trend Micro is placing bets on this community.

Here is what you can expect from Trend Micro’s Office 365 push moving forward.  

Community involvement. Trend Micro is again appearing more and more at numerous community events. These include our own Tour de Cloud events starting in mid-September.

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). A couple of years ago as Office 365 was building momentum, Trend Micro was the only major security ISV at the 2014 WPC and I wrote about it here. The context was reintroducing Trend Micro to the community because with the demise of SBS and the early stages of Office 365 growth, there was a perception we’d lost touch with Trend Micro, even if briefly.

Long-term Commitment. When Intel acquired McAfee it essentially rebuffed community outreach efforts to engage in sincere and mindful ways with the working men and women of SMB Nation, focusing on the Big Boys and Distis. Fast forward the movie and McAfee is gone, a victim of Intel arrogance. That misstep underscores that Trend Micro is doing right by the SMB Nation tribe right here right now.

Bottom line: Learn more about Advanced Threat Protection for Office 365 and File Sharing here.


TrendMicro Ransomware

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M&A: BoomTime acquires attachedapps

Many readers know that we’ve helped tell the attachedapps story at SMB Nation for the past 2+ years. It’s a start-up that has “layered” on top of Office 365 with a -baby CRM- solution similar to Business Contact Manager (BCM) in the early 2000s. This past week, BoomTime announced the acquisition of attachedapps to integrate it into its Marketing-as-a-Service (MaaS) play. I consider this a case of attachedapps starting over with a new life.

I have used attachedapps in a Big Data venture I’m involved in and I can honestly say I know the product intimately. Its paradigm was -shared contacts- for the GoDaddy-sized S of SMB. I’ve used it for its simplicity in a start-up where Salesforce or Dynamics would be overkill. Somethings I like (the reporting) and some things I don’t (hard to customize). Overall I think it’s a good move that attachedapps was acquired by BoomTime. To me, strategically, it’s a case of a solution that has now found a home.

However, in the spirt of being independent and transparency, the attachedapps acquisition does raise concerns. It is not taking on new customers for now. The roadmap with respect to BoomTime integration is not published. Do existing attachedapps customers need the increased functionality of BoomTime? All valid questions.

attachedapps bootime

With respect to my continued use of attachedapps, I can tell you this. I’m in discovery mode with respect to what alternatives exist to migrate to. So far my research has led to Slingr from Idea2 and the amazing Grace Schroeder whom many SMB Nation community members know well. It’s a fully customized CRM-like solution that is layered on top of Slack. I’ll do a deep dive in a future blog on Slingr as it deserves standalone treatment. But I can tell you this. As I look at the possibilities, Slingr feels like I’d be leap frogging over traditional CRM solutions that have a legacy feel. It’s just frickin cool. Think of it this way. In the early days of Small Business Server (SBS), one of my worldwide tours took me to El Salvador. There were few landlines, and primarily mobile phones. Why? Because after the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War the country rebuilt and leaped frogged right up to mobility. Great in earthquakes and the rebels can’t cut the landlines is how it was explained to me.

BONUS: Attend our MSP M&A (Part 2: Sell-Side) webinar this Thursday at Noon Pacific (GMT-8), August 18, 2016. Sign-up HERE.

Analyst Discolure: I hold stock options and am in investor in attachedapps.


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Harrybbb featured in New Book

It’s become fashionable for authors to crowdsource their books and I’m proud to have contributed to the newly released “Tips to Protect Your Business from Cybercrime” effort by Anita Campbell, the CEO of Small Business Trends.

First – you can download the eBook complimentary from this site andyou’ll find my dark-side contribution on page 31 where I speak about the lurking dangers of social engineering, which is both a security and technical topic. Catch my references to the central figure, Frank Abagnale, Jr. best known for his life story in the movie “Catch Me If You Can!” I saw Frank speak in the early 1990s in Seattle before he became famous and he’s not without controversy. Here is a former con artist profiting off his prior misdeeds. But it is a very important topic nonetheless.

Second – I consider this book a -Start Over- topic at SMB Nation. As we continue our 2016 editorial themes of either start-up or starting over, I see this book as your -cookbook- to reinvent yourself as a technology security sleuth. Its ben said a good consultant doesn’t know everything about an area, she just knows where to get the information. This book fills that void many of us have in security as we pivot to profitability as partners.

hb security tip book

Third – crowdsourced books such as this are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a cheap trick for authors to outsource the heavy lifting and for contributors to get a low friction love tap. I have even seen such books where they print a unique cover for each contributor implying that each contributor wrote the entire book. This is really peeved Vlad Masek at Own Web Now in his Vladville blog where he really goes after self-published MSPs. However, crowdsourced books have an upside. In the case of Campbell’s effort herein, it provides diversity and richer content. More importantly, she has engaged many people I’ve never heard of so I feel like she has broken way beyond the “same old, same old” SMB partner crowd.

Download here.

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Start-up: International Coworking Day!


This past week on Tuesday, it was International Coworking Day. This was a worldwide celebration for the coworking movement where entrepreneurs, artists and others “rent” a desk or office inside a cooperative workspace. I attended the BBQ at OfficeXpats
a coworking space on Bainbridge Island. It ended up being a diet cheat day as I ate two cheeseburgers, had chips, deserts and a beverage (sorry!). Hat’s off to OfficeXpats owners Leslie Schneider and Jason Omens (pictured) for engaging the community with a party.

I have tracked this “culture” for several years and have observations. And while this blog is about start-ups, I have an Office 365 hook below.



Culture. In general, there are three types of coworkers/members based on my research.

Start-ups. First and foremost are the start-ups seeking a physical beachhead in the world of business. These are typically capital-starved entrepreneurs who benefit from the flexible leases ranging from a desk to cubicle to small office. Their tenancy is typically short-term as they either make it or not. If not, they move along down the road. If they make it, the entrepreneurs will often move into permanent larger space. When I’ve walked into different coworking spaces, I’m always surprised at the tenant turnover. For example, at The Hub in downtown Seattle, I spoke with some young entrepreneurs who were trying to create “Uber Movers” where you’d hire a mover for just a few hours, not the full daylong commitment. Fast forward and the “Uber Movers” were gone next visit.

Not for profit. My sister Ginna Brelsford runs a not-for-profit called Sahar and is a tenant in The Hub. She fits the profile of many coworkers seeking a place to work, have interns sit at those long millennial tables, etc. Sahar currently serves 15,000 girls annually in 12 schools in Balkh Province, Northern Afghanistan. They provide access to education for girls through computer centers, innovative and sustainable building designs, training female teachers and piloting a program to prevent early marriage. It dedicated a new school for 3,500 girls in 2011 and are managing the collaborative partnership between philanthropy, architecture and international development. The reason I share this is that donors often require the not-for-profit entity be run from a real office, not a dining room table.

Social Cliques. Defined as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them….” I’d say this element is present and accounted for in the coworker movement. There are storytellers, writers, artists, poets, retired execs and even PR people who are really into this movement stuff. I get that but I’m personally not that into it. It’s akin to the hard core “channel clique” in the SMB channel amongst a handful of vendors and compliant partners in our world. Think of it this way. By analogy, there are coworking tenants who are really seeking the B&B experience about getting to really know you versus the anonymity of a hotel room while traveling. Does that make sense?


In 2009, I wrote an article in our SMB PC magazine on Regus, the worldwide executive suite provider, shaking up the need for new office buildings and being an almost counter-cyclical play in the Great Recession. It has a day lounge that I compared to an airline lounge (in fact Regus briefly got into the airline lounge business at one point). To this day, I’m a gold member. That means I can use the business lounge at any of 3,000 locations worldwide (I’ve done so in Istanbul Turkey, Sydney Australia, London GB and countless US locations including the handful of Seattle-sites). I’ve viewed the business lounges as getting me away from the sticky customer tables at Starbucks to get some real work done. Wouldn’t leave home without my Regus gold card.

My friend and colleague Dave Waldrop rented a couple offices inside the Redmond Regus when he directed the start-up attachedapps (see my blog on attachedapps being acquired). Dave needed a more traditional arrangement (read more conservative) as he was raising capital from investors for this venture. I get that. My experience has been that Regus is not an “untraditional” coworking movement space (several coworking organizations advertise against Regus offering a hipper and cooler alternative; Level office ad: “Hipper Office, Lower Cost - Better-Looking Designs & Amenities‎”).

Office 365

Now the geek stuff. Back in the Small Business Server (SBS) days, I implemented more than one solution for offices that had sub-tenants and the use of the SBS resources was a benefit that could be shared. I remember touring some early executive suites (including one launched by former Microsoft exec Tony Audino) where IT local area network resources where shared (and billed for). Today that’s all changed. With my Office 365 account and laptop in hand, I work wherever I am. So when I visit a Regus Business lounge, I take advantage of the high-speed WiFi connection and rock on. Worked in Istanbul Turkey (the Regus was in a “Trump Tower”) because my fleabag hotel had no internet connectivity. I literally camped out at Regus for a week!

Next year, mark your calendar for August 9th to participate in International Coworking Day and learn more about this community. The shoe might just fit.

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MSP M&A “Sell-side” (Part 2)

SMB Nation Webinar Thursday, August 18th, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PST

Presented by: Harry Brelsford CEO at SMB Nation, and Tim Carlsen

In late May, we delivered Part I of our MSP webinar series that you can watch here.   Register below to join us for Part II tense focus on the sell-side of MSP mergers and acquisitions. It’s all about positioning the exit to insure you maximize your potential and profit. You have worked very hard to build a real business and it’s essential you attend this community webinar to:

  • Discover how to value your business
  • Preparing for due diligence
  • Creating the big notebook
  • Approaching potential buyers
  • Retaining experts (and avoiding business brokers)
  • Managing expectation about the negotiating phase
  • Separating heart from mind
  • And much more…

Bottom line: this isn’t a webinar where we’ll tell you something you already know…you will learn new strategies and tactics.


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Pokémon GO and Office 365

pokemon go logo

Greg Plum 8/8/2016

"How is Office 365 like Pokémon GO?" I ask my tween daughter as we are discussing the nearest Poke-stop.  Of course she looked at me with the same expression that I often get when I interrupt her world with a "dad question".  The look that says "Why are you talking to me?  I'm busy."  You know the look.  Or, you will one day.  

Finally, she graces me with a half-hearted response, "What do you mean? They are nothing alike!"  At this, I am actually encouraged because this response indicates that she does know what Office 365 is.

So, now I ask you, "how IS Office 365 like Pokémon GO?"  In a word:  relevance.

Let’s Take a Look Back

Pokémon was wildly popular in the mid-90s, making Nintendo an even more familiar name in households worldwide. That movement was fueled by a series of video games and the ever presence of Pokémon cards. I am sure millennials remember this quite well. Then, with the advent of more realistic graphics in video games with names like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto (or "GTA" to those who were among the legions of fans), Pokémon seemed to have passed it's peak, although always maintaining a healthy fan base.  

Pikachu Today…

Enter Pokémon GO on July 6, 2016.  According to SurveyMonkey, "Within three days of its release, Pokémon GO attracted more users than [decade-old] Twitter and rose to the top of the App Store revenue charts, earning millions of dollars a day for its publisher, Niantic." For now, anyway, Pokémon is an integral part of our everyday vernacular.  It has been given new life… all courtesy of Pokémon GO.  Not only is it the most played mobile game in US history, crushing "Candy Crush", it's use is closing in on Google Maps and SnapChat! Pokémon is, once again, relevant. To say the least…

Your Father’s Microsoft

But, what does all of this Pokémon talk have to do with Office 365?  Plenty.

Think back just a few years…  When someone asked which technology companies were hot, you would have likely said Facebook, Google, Apple and maybe even AirBnB and Uber. But, Microsoft?  Hardly.  Most of these companies that we all admired were "born in the cloud", that is, according to Techopedia, companies that offer "a specific type of cloud service that does not involve legacy systems, but was designed only for cloud delivery."  Microsoft was legacy, old, stodgy, not worthy of admiration, and maybe even thought of as a necessary evil.


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Webinar: Ransomware!

Join Harry Brelsford and Patrick Thomas for this content-rich 60-minute webinar focused on the RANSOMWARE!

The ransomware body count is rising. In the first 3 months of 2016 over 209 million dollars was paid out by SMB companies. That’s a 30% increase Year over Year. And e-mail continues to be the main culprit. We want to make sure you are equipped with the latest information, technology, and resources to prevent cyber-criminals from kidnapping your customer’s most important asset, their data. We’ll review our best-in-class SMB solutions and the top 3 conversations you must have with your customers.

 Thu, Aug 11, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PDT



Trend Micro Ransomware

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(From our friends at SQLSoft3 - Editor)

Several folks who are interested in Azure training have asked us when we will have our next Azure class scheduled.

 We have a live instructor-led Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (20533) class which will run on August 22.

This course teaches information technology (IT) Professionals how to provision and manage services in Microsoft Azure (Azure). Students will learn how to implement infrastructure components such as virtual networks, virtual machines, web and mobile apps, and storage in Azure. Students also will learn how to plan for and manage Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), and configure Azure AD integration with the on-premises Active Directory domains.
 SQLSoft Azure


Learn more and sign-up for the online Azure training here.

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WaaS Explored - Selfie Stick! !

Folks are getting excited about the Workstation as a Service pradigm in the Summer of 2016. So to capitalize on that BIG MO, I've gotten out the selfie stick to make the following vid:




Watch the vid here!

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3Q2016 MSP Report

Last week we enjoyed our largest audience of the year on the weekly webinar for good reason: it was the 3Q2016 MSP Report with industry updates and forward looking statements. I was joined by respected blogger and analyst karl and harryKarl Palachuk as we talked about yesterday, today and tomorrow. Here are some select findings (to capture the entire conversation – please replay the webinar here).

Big Data
Even in the SMB sector, you can have the larger conversation about Big Data. My own thoughts including using this as a “gateway drug” to get embedded into other departments at your clients. For example, technology decisions are increasingly being made in the Marketing department (where the money is as Willie Sutton said about bank robbing Many of us have a SQL Server background and know Excel well. Those two cool tools translate very well to Big Data analytics and visualization so you are well on your way to going from “Computer Guy” to “Data Nerd” and making a few bucks along the way.

Karl’s take on Big Data was different. He contends that the RMM tools are collecting snitz loads of operational data the is predictive for MSPs. You can forecast maintenance based on mean failure rates and the like to proactively serve your clients. Huge value adds.

Finally, our friend Anurag at TechAisle, our research partner, is blogging up a storm on the Big Data opportunity for MSPs from a business model vantage point. You need all three opinions (myself, Karl, Anurag) as you explore this potential new line of work.

Part of the report was to share our more of our annual survey results. I covered off on education, income, economic attitude and our demographic. Karl really keyed in on how our majority of our community is skewed to the “mature” side to put it mildly. We’re landing in the 45+ age range folks. And as Karl articulated, we’re not getting younger nor is the partner community. We’re not attracting youngins’ to an IT Pro/MSP lifestyle. Karl has literally started a populist uprising proclaiming that ageism has to end and we need new blood and new communities. You can listen to Karl on this topic by replaying the webinar here).

Other topics in the webinar report include

  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Gossip
  • Industry Earnings
  • 2nd Half Trends
  • And a Veeam moment
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Annual Picnic!

 It’s that time of year again – the annual picnic for SMB Nation peeps.

This year is our 16th annual summer picnic (and if only the walls could talk – the stories we’ve accumulated over the years). It’s all about enjoying a lazy afternoon on the south-end of Bainbridge Island. We’ll yak about tech picnic 2013 groupand business – just as usual. And because we’re not getting any younger, it’s an picnic 2013 groupexcuse to see each other again. And with our editorial themes this year of start-up and/or start over, this is your chance to network with like-minded professionals.

The facts are simple. Each year SMB Nation teams with the West Sound Technology Association (WSTA) and the Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) user group for a picnic. Each year about 50-people attend, many making the trek from Seattle via ferry (Hint: Leave office after lunch and in ferry line for 3pm ferry advised).

  • Date: August 18, 2016
  • Time: 4PM – 8PM
  • Location: Harry’s House on Bainbridge Island!

You can learn more and sign-up here: . The WSTA will provide the food and we’ll provide light drinks such as beer and wine (but bring your favorite beverage nonetheless LOL).


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Learn how to > Master Your Archive Migration and Move to Microsoft Office 365

What: A Microsoft Office 365 Migration Best Practice Breakfast Seminar
When: Weds 31st August, 08:30 to 11:00
Where: Microsoft Office, Johannesburg

If you’re thinking about a move to Microsoft Office 365, and want to ensure the fastest and most efficient migration – then this best practice seminar is for you. Event Header 220 x 150 for SMB

Hear from Microsoft about the key benefits of moving to the Cloud, as they are joined by TransVault, the leader in archive migration solutions and Soarsoft, a migration services expert, for a morning event at Microsoft South Africa.

Enjoy a complimentary breakfast while the gurus take you through the ways you can prepare for the challenges of moving enterprise email and data into Microsoft’s Cloud.

Aimed at messaging professionals, by attending this event you will learn:
• How to securely and accurately move legacy email records into Office 365 for a one-stop-shop regulatory experience
• Get an introduction: To the Cloud. From the Cloud. Leverage Microsoft Azure for a completely 'in Cloud' migration
• See how others have made their move and embraced the Microsoft Cloud



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Are you looking to buy or sell new, used or refurbished IT and telecom parts and equipment including computers, laptops, printers, VoIP phones, central office systems, PBX/Key systems or network infrastructure? Whether you are a supplier, reseller, service provider, corporate buyer or PSO20151209 banner 220X150self-maintainer, you can benefit from the PowerSource professional community. PowerSource Online helps our members increase sales, build industry relationships and save time and resources with our best-in-class selling and sourcing tools.

Computer parts suppliers and resellers gain a competitive advantage by easily posting their in-stock inventory of new, used and refurbished IT and telecoms parts to reach thousands of buyers. PowerSource members can view and respond directly to buying requests for computers, telecom equipment, IT infrastructure and more.

Corporate buyers have the ability to search over 3,000,000 lines of inventory in real-time from hundreds of the most reputable suppliers in the secondary market industry. Our members are able to get the best possible prices on inventory items by sending multiple Requests for Quotes, and receiving answers quickly. In addition to being able to search for up to 100 parts at one time, buyers can also customize their search criteria to include only preferred vendors and trading regions for more efficient sourcing.

By using PowerSource Online, IT, computer and telecom buyers and sellers have access to unparalleled opportunities to expand their customer base and increase their average margins. Since 1997, PowerSource has helped thousands of computer parts and telecom equipment buyers and sellers efficiently source or dispose of all types of computer parts and equipment, generating substantial cost savings for buyers and improving sales for sellers and service providers.

Take the time to experience PowerSource Online by enjoying a free triall. This way, you can experience for yourself how our B2B exchange helps businesses connect with thousands of buyers and sellers of computer, printer, networking and telecom equipment.

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Expectations of Higher Partner Program Levels

By Pete Engler

Participating in a partner program with a technology vendor opens the door to an important relationship that can be mutually beneficial, particularly when the program is geared for maximum loyalty and sales potential. Most channel programs offer different partner levels to best match a reseller’s interest and capability. Going for the gold, or that highest partner level offered, may seem like the best answer, but it’s important to fully understand both the expectations and the benefits of the higher partner level before making a commitment.

When considering a vendor’s strength as a strategic partner for your business, you want to evaluate several Partner Programfactors, such as their product and technical support reputation; whether the company provides sales and marketing support; financial incentives for selling products and services; and having a thorough and supported distribution channel. Once you have decided to partner with a vendor the relationship is dependent on your commitment level within their partner program. Lower levels typically provide fewer incentives and discounts than higher levels. Deciding to move up to a higher partner level may mean access to more benefits and vendor support, but it also requires that you make a significantly higher monthly or yearly sales commitment.

What can you expect from a higher partner program level? The answer isn’t always the same with every vendor but there are some benefits that are common with most channel programs. The first and possibly the most coveted is more margin. Vendors typically give their higher program level partners more discount due to the higher volume of products sold. Accessing more discount certainly has a positive effect on your profit and competitiveness against other vendors. In turn, that extra margin may also help you continue performing at an increased level of sales which is required to remain at the higher partner level.

Top-tier partners are usually further assisted in the sales process via access to dedicated sales support from the vendor. Top partners routinely will be assisted by an account manager or sales team with sales calls, demos or other sales related support. Leads can also be provided and are typically funneled to top producing partners. Vendor leads are often qualified prior to being distributed, which may translate into a shorter sales cycle for the partner to win the deal.

A vendor’s marketing support is another critical component of partner support. Top-tier programs typically offer dedicated marketing or co-marketing activities in their higher partner levels. Marketing development funds (MDF) may also be available for partners to offset customer acquisition costs. MDF funds may be used toward participation in activities such as trade shows, communications campaigns (email or snail mail), in-person events (lunch and learns, road shows), and many other end-user marketing activities.

Premier technical support is another vendor asset that is often reserved for the highest tier partners. While support exists for all paying customers, if a top producing partner needs an issue worked immediately, vendors can provide these top partners with immediate help. It likely goes without saying that escalated support access is a distinct advantage for the partner if they can resolve their customers’ issues quickly.

For any vendor, feedback from the customer base is essential to maintaining a quality product and service. Partner advisory boards are filled with the top producing partners who provide market and customer insight that is extremely valuable. These partners are often the first to hear about products being developed and the first to be able to test before the products go to market. Advisory council participation allows a partner to shape the product direction in the best way to maximize sales and market leadership.

When reselling products and services, it is always important to choose your vendor carefully. The perks that companies provide top producing partners are invaluable to giving an edge in the marketplace. Using one vendor for each technology solution offered to customers may help in bringing the sales up to a level that will earn a place in the top tiers of vendor partner programs. This loyalty and increased sales volumes will help against competitors in the marketplace and help make closing sales easier.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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3Q2016 MSP Report

Thu, Aug 4, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PDT

Join Harry Brelsford and Karl Palachuk for this content-rich 60-minute analyst webinar focused on the mid-year “State of the Union” for MSPs, partners, consultants and resellers. Discover what business approaches were trending in the first six months. What numerous surveys are tracking and how you can leverage the finding to make more money. A focus on what industry vendors are doing and how partner programs are changing dramatically in 2016. And of course the normal gossip of who’s in and who’s out. Looking forward, Harry and Karl issue predictions for the second six months of 2016 and offer up a set of best practices. Ample time for audience Q&A.


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Ransomware Security Options for SMB Companies

SMB Nation Webinar Thursday, August 11th, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PST

Presented by: Harry Brelsford CEO at SMB Nation, and Patrick Thompson

The ransomware body count is rising. In the first 3 months of 2016 over 209 million dollars was paid out by SMB companies. That’s a 30% increase Year over Year. And e-mail continues to be the main culprit. We want to make sure you are equipped with the latest information, technology, and resources to prevent cyber-criminals from kidnapping your customer’s most important asset, their data. We’ll review our best-in-class SMB solutions and the top 3 conversations you must have with your customers.

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

Many consider this one of the best weekends of the year. A Monday holiday makes for extended merriment. I noticed commerce transactions and business activity starting to slow this past Thursday, as if one foot out the door.

Original Brexit

When we hosted our weekly webinar this past Thursday with TransVault, the speaker was Steve Dagless from London so there was the inevitable Brexit references. As part our Mastering the Migration series (you can watch the reply here), we talked about the UK in the first few moments and realized that America had undertaken the original Brexit exactly 240-years ago on July 4, 1776. Sometimes, like with many holidays, it’s easy to forget what it’s all about. In this case, it’s impendence from the England.

USA Start-up

Another twist to reflecting on the July 4th is this. America was a start-up! True that as we started with virtually nothing and have gone on to be one of the great powers in world history. A unicorn before it’s time! The result? An imperfect system of government that has created a wildly successful start-up environment for businesses with notable shout outs to Apple, Microsoft, Uber, Tesla and the list goes on and on.

Canada Day

Realizing not all our readers hale from the “states,” I wanted to also recognize our friends to the north in Canada. It celebrated it’s Canada Day a couple of days ago, July 1st. That holiday is a reverse Brexit. It’s that day an enactment combined Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single empire indeed called Canada.

There you have it! Have a GREAT JULY 4th and we’ll see you back here next week for your SMB Sunday Paper. 

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Enable enterprise mobility simply, securely & affordably with NetConnect


NetConnect is an enterprise mobility solution that enables allowing users to connect to their office Workspace from anywhere in the world using any Device of their Choice. NetConnect extends the traditional office work experience to any mobile device, so that users can perform their duties anywhere in the world, with the peace-of-mind to access their Workspace securely on any device.

See how it works

NetConnect comes standard with a host of security features, ensuring corporate data never leaves the office & is never stored on personal devices. Addressing a variety of applications, NetConnect offers a secure solution to BYOD, Mobility, Teleworking and many others, all catered for on the one platform.

Specifically designed with SME's in mind, NetConnect integrates directly into any existing environment, be it on-premise or cloud. And as NetConnect runs alongside existing infrastructure, you can deploy and test NetConnect with business environments with no upfront commitment or alterations to their existing

WaaS by Netconnect

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Microsoft Angst

Microsoft Angst

Some weeks it feels like it’s always something. With the end of the Microsoft fiscal year upon us, there are, at least for SMB Nation, renewal deadlines upon us. For example we have to renew our Office 365 E3 partner plan as part of the Action Pack membership level. Understood.

But what I didn’t understand was how my pivot from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to the hosted version would trigger a one-month payment penalty. Let me explain.

During the life of SMB Nation, we’ve gone from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 1.2 to NetSuite to Salesforce and back to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (v7.x) and now to Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premises hosted. Why? In the first couple of conversions, life happened. But the most recent Microsoft Dynamics CRM pivot from online to hosted on-prem was driven by a few factors.

Hidden costs. There is a dirty little secret to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online: storage costs. After you exceed 5GB of storage (not hard with email tracking), you have to buy additional 1GB increments at $10/month (or $120 per year). Not only does it add up but it’s typically of CRM and ERP vendors (as you can ascertain, we know ‘em all above) cost creep. And it pisses me off. The pivot to on-prem instance gives me 25GB storage right from the start. Thank you!

Partner-2-Partner power. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t falling in love with “Her,” the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online edition. As a point of reference, if you missed the subtle joke, I’m trying to create an analogy to the popular 2013 movie “Her”  starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and directed by Spike Jonze. So we hired one of our own, well-known Microsoft partner Grant Thompson (MG Technology Group). Essentially I’d rather give my money to a SMB Nation member and friend of the family then Redmond to host my CRM. I’m not necessarily saving money but I receive a hellva lot of value adds from having a real partner attached to my Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance. For example, Grant (who has a heart of gold) implicitly provides free wisdom as a natural trainer. He is working with Jenny at SMB Nation to create an event registration form that flows right into our CMR instance instead of us using a commercial event management program at $5 per registration and creating a split database.

Many readers will recognize Grant as he is our long-time expert trainer on the Office 365 roadshow. As an aside, there is a chance for YOU to talk to Grant about what you’d like to see in the next nine (9) workshop cities here.  

So why am I angry at Microsoft? 
For the first part of this tale, I’ll take ownership. We migrated around Memorial Day weekend in late May 2016 and ran both CRMs in parallel for a few weeks (just in case we had to rollback). Apparently, with the end of the Microsoft fiscal year and some renewal deadlines that impact SMB Nation, our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service “automatically renewed” on June 23, 2016. My bad as I wasn’t attentive to the fact we had auto-renew turned on. I discovered this on the June 25th and promptly terminated my service. I was greeted with a one-month service charge as a termination fee as seen in the pic (actually the pic shows the same condition for my termination of the Office 365 E1 SKU, but it’s the same point). Really? Seriously Microsoft? Shame on you! I felt I’d been oracled in my orifice by MSFT when this Article 50-like clause was invoked on my Brexit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.


When I’m back in the saddle early this week, I intend to look into this with Microsoft starting with some internal connections. I want my termination fee back!

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Survey - What's your Brexit?

Survey - What's your Brexit?

I’m not going to define the EU or the UK “Brexit” as this trending topic is handled much better in other forums such as Real Clear Politics. Rather I want to use the Brexit concept as a teaching moment for our SMB Nation community.

Personal Story
As you know, so goes SMB tech, so goes SMB Nation. I underestimated the impact of the Windows Small Business Server end-of-life (EOL) announcement at this exact time three years ago (actually early July 2013). While we were already pivoting to other business models such as Office 365 Nation, the MSP exodus from the Microsoft Partner SBS community was stunning. It was nothing short of a niche collapse.

So my “BrelsfordExit” (get it) has been to look at other tech opportunities above and beyond Microsoft’s solutions including Big Data, Predictive Analytics and online sales tax calculation solutions. Tongue-in-cheek, I mocked the “Brexit” story earlier this week as I’ve traveled home to Alaska for a long weekend (that be my summer vacation) and recounted how Alaska was in fact its own sovereign territory at one point. Given the fierce independent mentality up here, it would NOT be hard to start a right-of-center secessionist movement. 

Your Story
Now let’s get serious. You are confronted with a plethora of transitional opportunities in the SMB tech space. For working in tech, you are surprisingly conservative and resist change. That’s likely the stubborn small business owner in you. But change has indeed arrived and on-prem servers aren’t what they used to be. So I’m interested in what’s your Brexit from SBS going to be? Has your Brexit already occurred?

Please complete our Brexit “Reinvention” Survey! If you could be so kind to answer just a few questions on this topic, we can better serve you sooner rather than later. Take the survey here

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Ransomware attacks and demands have cost individual companies tens of thousands of dollars just in recent months.  And the money isn’t the only loss, data breaches in tandem have surged in numbers as well.  There are too many risks and debilitating results possible today to ignore the newsfeeds.  Layered security is mandatory and solutions zeroing in on specific malware threats, like ransomware, are being sought by those responsible for protecting networks, companies, and their monetary and intelligent assets.  Big money is at stake and remediation after an attack and breach of data is futile.

WinPatrol Enterprise reports that they have introduced the first true centrally managed anti-ransomware specific solution to the channel market.  Based on recent exposures and threats, ransomware ranks as one of the top security headline headaches for service providers and resellers. 

Are your current solutions covering all the bases?    

Powered by its own Artificial Intelligence engine, the WinPatrol engine is so effective that it blocks ransomware it’s never encountered, ransomware never even seen in a lab. 

WinPatrol Enterprise provides much more than simple Anti-Ransom for Business.

Features include:

1.     Software Inventory – Know every program being run in your organization

2.     Block any software you don’t want running on your network.

3.     Anti-Ransom Protection utilizing its artificial intelligence engine.

4.     SafeZone, a local safe repository where the end user can save files

5.     Network Lockdown – Protects your network drives.

6.     Registry Protection.

7.     Zero Day Threat and Exploit protection. Its artificial intelligence engine excels at detecting the unknown.

The days of needing to obtain a sample first are over. Ransomware is evolving too quickly, those who don’t adapt with speed and artificial intelligence won’t survive.

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Start-Up Pitch-Off Event Review

Start-Up Pitch-Off Event Review

I never met a press pass I didn’t like. Such an award is a glitterati pass not open to all. I’ve done the US Open (last year at this time at Chambers Bay in the Seattle-area), an IoT conference, countless Microsoft Worldwide partner conferences (WCP) and many other events. So I jumped at opportunity to attend the TechCrunch (TC) Seattle Meetup and Pitch-Off this past week. I wasn’t disappointed and I will repeat. I was impressed that TC could attract over 300+ attendees to this event (that’s hard – let me tell ya). Further I was impressed how extroverted everyone was. Folks walking up and striking up a start-up chat. For just an evening, Seattle lost its shy Scandinavian culture.

Let’s get specific. One intrepid entrepreneur, Bill Herling, introduced himself to the SMB Nation team at the event (myself and Tim Carlson). He is the founder and CEO of Dial which is a new video storytelling platform and a way to create and share interactive advertisements. Turns out Herling lives near our Bainbridge Island location and we intend to get together soon to discuss good business. First conversations will be about raising capital for his endeavor. In the pic, Herling is center and Tim Carlsen is left. What I liked about Herling’s moxie is that he attended as an “attendee” and was not one of the selected pitch-off start-ups who made a 60-sec “pitch” before the entire audience. Rather Herling engaged in “Hallway 101” working it ‘til it hurt. My kinda guy!

Finally, a comment on the format. After an arrivals period, the pitch-off competition commenced. Then the winners were announced. For the record – here are the start-ups that played in the pitch-off reindeer game:

The TC Meetup and Pitch-Off is a traveling roadshow. For example, it recently visited Austin as well. Next up is Tel Aviv and Berlin. 

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Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

The headline says it all, Or does it? 

With Facebook accolades flowing today, June 19th, praising Fathers, it is a moment to reflect. The SMB Nation demographic is over 90% male and anecdotal evidence clearly suggests the majority are indeed fathers. We don’t survey on the later and we stopped surveying on the former years ago as it became an obvious statistic. 

A couple thoughts. Celebrate what you’ve been able to do, setting an example as an MSP, consultant, resellers and partner. Your kids are watching and its rewarding to see them move forward with your “table talk” in working in, running and in most cases, owning a small business. 

And a moment of applause for a SMB Nation family member. My niece Dr. Christa Brelsford has just given birth to her second son making husband Ethan a father twice over. Many readers will recall my nice niece as a well-known Haiti eaarthquake survivor (watch the NBC Today Show here) and the gold medalist in rock climbing (bouldering) at the World Championships in Spain, 2014. I can honestly say that Christa’s the classic case of starting over after adversity. Makes the demise of Small Business Server in 2013 look manageable, eh?

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Defining Workspace as a Service (WaaS)

Defining Workspace as a Service (WaaS)

Last Thursday we hosted a well-attended webinar, Wazzup with WaaS?!?!?, that exposed a glaring lack of understanding of this space in the SMB Nation community. That’s okay as it signals a greenfield of opportunity for SMB Nation partners and MSPs to take advantage of. As you know, we’d rather be early than late in technology. WaaS is exactly this and then some.

There was a lot of context drawn out that compared WaaS to VDI, Desktop as a Service (DaaS), Citrix sessions, RDP and even GoToMyPC. Much of this dialog was fueled by audience questions (in fact, we went overtime with the questions). There were conversations about security (of course), geography, and “where” the WaaS resources live (depends on client need).

Deeper Understanding
So let me bring a bit of order to this conversation. According to Webopedia, “Workspace-as-a-Service, or WaaS, is a form of desktop virtualization that provides access to business applications and data from anywhere at any time.” Techopedia has a slightly different definition as “The term "workspace as a service" (WaaS) in IT refers to services that provide end users with a virtual workspace, which is a model of the kinds of resources end users would have at their desk within a physical office environment.” It further goes on to provide additional context as “Workspace as a service is part of a greater category of services often called "software as a service" (SaaS), where vendors deliver services through the Web, instead of sending client software on digital storage media.”

The research firm MarketsandMarkets calculated that the WaaS market will exceed $9.41B by 2019. Notably it’s observations are “… a major force driving this market is the increasing adoption of BYOD in various organizations. The low costs and easy management have led Workspace as a Service solutions and services to the increasing adoption by enterprises and small and medium businesses (SMBs) around the world. The demand for working from anywhere, anytime, using own mobile devices by employees is increasing rapidly.”

Next Steps
First – watch the WaaZ webinar replay by selecting it from our SMB Nation webinar page. It’s an amazing 60-minute investment of time that you will leave richer than when you arrived.

Second – get to know Northbridge Secure. This established Australian-based ISV is entering the US market as I write these words with its NetConnect WaaS solution for the SMB market. Discover more here. 

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Cap Table

Cap Table

A few quick hitters around the SMB partner community I thought you might enjoy. I liken this to start-up news as you too can start-up the next great thing!

BitTitan $15m raise
If you’ve meet the infamous Geeman, founder and CEO of BitTitan, it’s unlikely you’ll forget him soon. Long on enthusiasm, love him or hate him, you gotta respect him. He has grown a successful business over the past nine years organically from his basement. Very hard to do, let me tell ya. So it’s no surprise that he’d ultimately prepare for a Series A round perhaps in preparation for an ultimate exit. That’s entrepreneur 101 for you. This past week, Geeman took the money. He raised $15-million from TVC Capitol in what’s it largest single investment ever. Moving forward, look for BitTitan to invest in sales and marketing, product enhancements and expanding into more geographies. Standard stuff. We’ll keep an eye on BitTitan as it puts these funds to work, perhaps raises more capital and likely pursues an exit strategy.

SolarWinds, who broke into our community a few years ago with the n-Able acquisition, has done it again. It’s snapped up LogicNow in a move underscoring RMM consolidation. It’s a natural move in a mature market. But it results in less customer choice and a diverse community sponsor ecosystem. Such is life.

The eFolder acquisition of Replibit is comes two years after its purchase of CloudFinder and three years after its purchase of Anchor. What’s interesting is that eFolder, noticeably absent from the major SMB partner event circuit in the first half of 2016, is making bets on strategic growth. With Replibit, eFolder is publically setting its sights on taking on Datto. There is some “there there” with the approach as I’ve had numerous confidential calls with Datto partners expressing dismay at new treatment that isn’t as generous, warm and loving as in the early days before Datto’s $100m cap raise earlier this year.

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2016 Salary Survey Results – Part III: Forward Looking Statements

2016 Salary Survey Results – Part III: Forward Looking Statements

Time to look forward to the future in the SMB partner community. You will recall that we have presented two prior installments on our annual salary survey in past issues (Educated and Income) I’d encourage you to refill your coffee (or your beer), review those prior installments before proceeding further. I’ll wait here.

Welcome back! 

If anything, entrepreneurs are optimistic. I use that label because, in our past installments (read above), you are the founder and owner of your partner practice (MSP, CSP, consulting practice, reseller), etc. But even I was surprised how positive you are right here, right now. When asked if you expected positive compensation growth in 2016, 62% of you replied affirmative. The positive growth categories ranged from +1% to +50%. The greatest positive response grouping was 1% to +10% growth. The “break-even” crowd came in at 27.27%. The “Nabobs of Negativity” forecasting income contraction only amounted to 10.92%. While I’m no Nate Silver who is arguably the world’s best statistician, I can predict positive growth with a 90%+ confidence level in 2016. You can take that to the bank. Hell go out and buy a new car!

Your overall economic sentiment strongly correlated to the income assessment above. An even greater majority (62.44%) weighed in as Moderately Optimistic/Optimistic). The break-even crowd was 23.64% and the pessimist totaled 14.55%. To be clear, economic sentiment is more of an emotional measure.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy! 

Studies show that over 70% of “employees” are unhappy at work (Gallup). But “we” in the SMB partner community are exactly the opposite. A whopping 89% of you enjoy your job as a partner, MSP, CSP, VAR, reseller, consultant…whatever the heck you call yourself! I’ve always said that to outside observers. You guys love what you do first and foremost. And as I alluded to in my roadshow article here, you entered this business as a technical professional and you still like to geek out at workshops. Only 11% of you don’t like your work. We know who you are (yes – we’re watching you!).

In my next installment of the annual salary survey, we’ll dig a bit deeper into company and customer size and discover if size really matters.

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1h2016 Roadshow Wrap-up; 2h2016 Coming Soon!

1h2016 Roadshow Wrap-up; 2h2016 Coming Soon!

Whew! That was a long haul. We’ve just completed nine (9) cities in the first six months of 2016 for our Office 365/Windows 10 roadshow across the US. Jenny and Grant did the heavy lifting (THANK YOU!) and the technical content was universally adored. We’d offer that, in the immediate SMB partner community, we are the MOST TECHNICAL workshops in market!

We hosted more one-day workshops in 1h2016 than our two nearest friendly SMB communities combined (ASCII = 4, ChannelPro = 2). Add competitor SMB TechFest (2) and we still win the workshop delegate math LOL! A look back at where we’ve been this first part of the year is: Redmond, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC, Charlotte, LA, SF, Phoenix). Our approval rating consistently exceeds 90% (“awesome” shout out to Grant who is rarely stumped; “Jenny is the best”). Our content morphed over the six months to add Office 365 Security and Azure while diminishing Windows 10 (yes – we listen to your feedback). And our sponsors consistently commented that we are attracting a new crowd, not just the same old tired old guys. I’d also offer its not the same old “High School clique” where all too familiar friends can finish each other’s sentences. We cultivate new faces from new walks of life where new friendship bonds are being forged. Everyone loves a first date!

Your Input Needed
So onward and upward for another nine (9) cities in 2h2016. We want your input on where to go and what content to deliver. Please complete the survey here.

Finally - attending our workshops is a fantastic wayt to start over and reinvent yourself! 

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Bloodiest tech industry layoffs of 2016 so far

IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and VMware are among those that have been cutting their workforces

By: Bob Brown, Network Wolrd

The number of non-farm jobs added in the United States in recent months has inched up, and the unemployment rate has held steady at 5 percent, but that's not to say the computer and networking industry hasn't suffered its share of layoffs in 2016 to date.

Here's a rundown of some of the more notable layoffs, workforce reductions, resizings or whatever companies want to call them.

[ For more stories about IT jobs, check out "To new beginnings: Techies take a chance." | Have a tech story to share? If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque -- and keep you Anonymous. Send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. | Follow InfoWorld's Off the Record on Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter. ]


The company is axing another 1,850 staff from its smartphone hardware business, with most of those being  affected at the old Nokia business in Finland. Though 500 others will be let go globally.

Microsoft's 2013 buyout of Nokia's mobile phone business hasn't panned out, with Microsoft's market share stagnating as Android and Apple phones continue to gobble up market share. Microsoft has sold off its feature phone business and is sticking to enterprise-only technology, where it feels it can differentiate itself.


Speaking of Nokia... the telecom network equipment maker was said in April to be cCutting thousands of jobs globally following its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The cuts are part of a plan by the vendor to slash operational costs by $1 billion over the next couple of years

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Check out our new look!


Check out our new look!

A few weeks ago we announced we were rolling out Bigger Brains v3 to our MSP / IT Service Pro resellers.  The update is mostly in place now (there are a couple of small issues the team is still fixing), and next week we'll host a webinar to show off the new features AND how you can use Bigger Brains to boost your MSP/CSP/IT Service Pro business.  

What's New?

  • New Discussion Forums for Resellers (Look for the "Discussion Forum" tab in your reseller portal).  Great for sharing ideas on how to best use Bigger Brains within your IT business.
  • New Course Discussion Forums (Inside the Classroom, inside each course).  Great for your users to ask questions and get answers from our teachers as well as their fellow students.
  • New Terms & Conditions.  Not something we'd usually brag about but check out section 2 - it explicitly prevents our sales team from working directly with your clients, plus guarantees you a commission even if you add a client who was already using Bigger Brains!
  • Modern portal interface.  Updated and hopefully easier to navigate - still a few changes coming.  Plus updated course graphics and classroom icon.

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Young entrepreneurs dive in to start their own businesses, despite the high failure rate

By: Rachel Lerman

Risk-takers don’t want to miss out on what could be the opportunity of a lifetime.



EVERY DAY DURING the spring of 2011, Matt Oppenheimer sat in his pajamas at the dining-room table of his aunt’s house in London, making call after call to pitch his new plan for a company. “It’s a terrible idea,” the voices on the other end of the phone told him, again and again.

Reetu Gupta spent months helping her daughter apply to The Overlake School, a private school in Redmond the 10-year-old desperately wanted to attend. Gupta paid the $2,000 deposit after her daughter was accepted. Then she dropped the whole idea so she could start her own company.

During work quarrels at L’Oreal Paris, Karissa Bodnar’s team would often calm themselves by joking, “You know, we’re not curing cancer.” After Bodnar’s best friend died at 24 from a sarcoma, Bodnar quit L’Oreal and started a makeup company to benefit women with cancer.

Gupta quit her high-ranking job at Honeywell, stopped contributing to her two daughters’ college funds and launched an education startup. Oppenheimer stepped down as head of mobile banking at Barclays Kenya and, ignoring the doubters, founded Remitly, a financial remittance company, though a slightly different one than he first pitched.

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Security vs SaaS: The SMB Dilemma

Posted by: Jonathan White

As the SMB marketplace evolves and becomes more competitive, businesses are looking for ways to reduce costs, improve worker productivity, and create new, sustainable business models that not  SecurityvsSaasonly protect their existing customer base from being encroached on by competitors but also drive net-new customer recruitment. These market dynamics are forcing businesses to consider cloud based solutions as the answer. Are SaaS solutions the right answer for your business?

Probably, but here are some things you need to consider:

  •  Do your homework. This sounds like a duh. However, many partners I have spoken to over the last year have jumped head-first into SaaS without fully evaluating the model. Here are some questions you need to answer.
  • Who are your customers? Are they cloud-adverse?
  • What is your current cost structure
  • What are your competitors doing
  • Is your IT team at capacity workload?


The security industry is also incredibly dynamic as well.  With the proliferation of BYOD, workers are forcing companies to adopt mobile-friendly platforms that provide access to important and sensitive data from anywhere, at any time. Mistakenly, some SMB businesses are opting to go with the embedded security within SaaS solutions to help reduce costs. Thus, the SMB Dilemma: trying to implement SaaS solutions while reducing security costs. This could be a no-no. Adoption of SaaS services shouldn’t be followed by a decrease in the budget for information security technology and services. IDC’s recent Cyber Threat Survey of more than 300 security practitioners found that despite the adoption of SaaS-based services that have embedded security capabilities, 53 percent of those surveyed said their budget for security increased by 25 percent or more. Not having additional security is like Luke Skywalker without the Force. It leaves you vulnerable to Darth Vader and the Dark Side.

Ransomware, phishing, and other cyber-attacks continue to evolve. The threat ecosystem is comprised of criminals with global networks successfully able to prey on companies with unsophisticated security solutions. In addition, your workforce also could be a source for data breaches. File sharing accounts have become vulnerable to account hijacking. Depending on your threat detection capabilities and your corporate policies, it could take weeks before the threat is discovered. And by then its too late. Poof. Gone in an instance.

So in conclusion, you have decided to move forward with a SaaS solution (you have done your homework above, and it’s the right decision). Your next question should be how do I not suffer from the SMB dilemma?

  •  Stay apprised. Once you decide on a security solution, make sure you stay updated on the latest cyber threats and determine what your solution covers and what it doesn’t.
  • ABB: Always Be Backing Up and build a recovery plan.
  • Security Guidelines: if you have remote workers and/or allow BYOD, make sure your employees understand and fully adhere to your corporate guidelines.


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Virtualization is Still a Relevant Solution for Your Customers

By Pete Engler

In the technology world, solutions and deployment methods change rapidly. One of the current technology trends centers on hosted or cloud-based solutions, which is gaining traction at a rapid pace. Most vendors releasing cloud-based solutions see this new segment of their business growing faster than traditional offerings; these hosted solutions are also proving to be excellent paths to cloudsolutiongrowth and competitiveness. Even so, there are legacy solutions that remain relevant and serve very specific needs within an organization. Virtualization is one of those ‘legacy’ solutions that continues to play a strategic part of a reseller’s or VAR’s portfolio.

Virtualized environments were considered a mainstream solution for nearly two decades when VMWare burst onto the scene in the late 1990’s. Offering a software platform to consolidate applications on the same hardware allowed businesses to reduce the need for datacenter servers, saving expenses and energy costs over an extended period of time. Virtualization is not limited to the size of the business and is used by small to medium-size businesses (SMBs), as well as enterprises.

There are many benefits for the reseller/VAR in offering virtualized solutions. These include:

  •  Cost savings for the business. Virtualizing business applications on a reduced number of servers saves hardware and administrative costs. Businesses need to be efficient and saving cost anywhere over a long period of time adds to the bottom line.
  • Energy savings. Reducing the hardware footprint in any size organization will reduce energy savings, making the business more efficient and profitable. There is also the benefit that saving energy can help the environment, which today can be a factor in a customer’s decision to do business with providers of products and services.
  • Backup/disaster recovery. Virtualized environments offer excellent disaster recovery options. If one virtual machine has hardware or software issues, or dies completely, the system can automatically compensate by spinning up the application on another “slice” of a different virtualized machine. Critical environments, which most all businesses have, can rely on this feature for constant uptime of services.
  • Cloud offerings to end customers. There are options for the reseller/VAR to become a cloud vendor to their end customers. Building a datacenter using virtualized product offerings, for example a business phone system, allows resellers/VARs to offer cloud-based solutions. This consolidates the hardware that needs to be managed in a central datacenter and allows streamlined management of the solution to each end customer.

Even with all of the new technology solutions available to organizations today, virtualization is a technology that remains important to a variety of businesses. And, it is a solution easily fulfilled by you, as a technology reseller/VAR. With a wide variety of deployment methods, whether at the customer location or by creating a hosted service for the customer, these options will round out your product portfolio as a reseller.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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Start-up Nuggets June 5th

Start-up Nuggets June 5th

So two start-up nuggets for those amongst us looking to breakout. The first is a shout out to a PBS series and the second is a must-read from CNN. 

PBS Start Up Docuseries
Worth a look. This is a travelingc how featuring start-ups across the land. From Maine to Washington State, the two leads highlight the secret sauce used by successful start-up entrepreneurs. My take is this. Ivest an hour a week to learn more. Start here.

In this episode, The crew of “Start Up” is in town this week, interviewing Susie Lee, CEO of the dating app Siren; Eduoardo Jordan, of the acclaimed restaurant Salare; and Nikki Closser, a social-worker-turned-photographer.

CNN Fareed Zakaria is Sad: Millennial Entrepreneurs
Click into this peek at an interesting report that shows a dramatic decline in new business formation over the past two decades. For example – people aged 25-to-30 used to have start-up rates of 35%. Today that is down to 14%. Disturbing. Watch! 

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What happened to SMB Nation?

What happened to SMB Nation?

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

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

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


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

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

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

2016 Office 365 and Windows 10 Roadshow for MSPs/CSPs/Resellers (1H2016:

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

Office 365 Resellers/MSP Tour 2015:

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

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

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

2014 Worldwide Modern Tour  (24-cities in 23-countries: )

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

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

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Start-up Nuggets

Start-up Nuggets

With a holiday weekend here in the US, I find that there is a unique opportunity for our readers to slow down and reflect. So I wanted to share a couple of interesting start-up nuggets I bumped into this past week.

Long-time SMB Nation citizen Chip Reaves is always up to something! This Tuesday (May 31) at 3pm Eastern, he’s showing off his new look at this popular Bigger Brains site. Chip shared “A few weeks ago we announced we were rolling out Bigger Brains v3 to our MSP / IT Service Pro resellers. The update is mostly in place now (there are a couple of small issues the team is still fixing), and next week we'll host a webinar to show off the new features AND how you can use Bigger Brains to boost your MSP/CSP/IT Service Pro business.”

Sign-up here

Another nugget concerns StorageCraft. Earlier this week it announced a summer kick-off special. It has reduced prices on its premium backup and disaster recovery software between now and June 30th. StorageCraft is an early and long-time supporter of SMB Nation going back to the early days when StorageCraft itself was a start-up. Learn more here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Start Over Strategy: Vitamin R!

Start Over Strategy: Vitamin R!

As our journey towards enhanced partner profitability continues, I want to make a turn at the intersection of professional life. I’d like you to reflect on creating a new niche focused on ransomware (ergo the Vitamin R reference).

First – what is a niche? It’s a focused subset of a market. And that old saying is “there are riches in niches” still holds true.

However, being a nicher myself, I would offer that you don’t want to spend more than half of your time in a single niche. A niche doesn’t imply you do one thing 100% of the time. Got it?

Second – let’s talk ransomware. For the purposes of this audience, I don’t need to provide a thesis on “ransomware” and what it is. The oracle of all truth, Wikipedia, share the following insights: “Ransomware is a type of malware that can be covertly installed on a computer without knowledge or intention of the user that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. Some forms of ransomware systematically encrypt files on the system's hard drive, which become difficult or impossible to decrypt without paying the ransom for the encryption key, while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying. Ransomware typically propagates as a Trojan, whose payload is disguised as a seemingly legitimate file; thus, ransomware is an access-denial type of attack that prevents legitimate users from accessing files.

While initially popular in Russia, the use of ransomware scams has grown internationally;in June 2013, security software vendor McAfee released data showing that it had collected over 250,000 unique samples of ransomware in the first quarter of 2013, more than double the number it had obtained in the first quarter of 2012. Wide-ranging attacks involving encryption-based ransomware began to increase through Trojans such as CryptoLocker, which had procured an estimated US$3 million before it was taken down by authorities, and CryptoWall, which was estimated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to have accrued over $18m by June 2015.”

Bottom line: Users are held hostage and have to pay the ransomware terrorist to become whole again, often using untraceable currency such as Bitcoin. In conducting my research, I bumped into a cool start-up focused on ransomware. WinPatrol is a group of industry veterans responding to the ransomware threat with its security solution. It has recently come to market. I’m going to track this company over the summer to see how it fares. One asset already in its corner is Beth Hanneken from Sunbelt Software fame.

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Support SMB Nation!

Support SMB Nation!

It’s our annual giving campaign and we want to take a moment to thank you for your support. Supporting SMB Nation over the past 15+ years has allowed us to act as your independent ombudsman in the small and medium-business technology arena. We’re all in this together!

Please support us as you are able. Your generous support helps us to tackle the tough stories with bona fide authenticity. If you value our voice, click on the donate button below. A suggested amount is $25.


Need an example of the no-cost advocacy that your support allows? Look at our free-of-charge workshops over the past three years! We produce more events than any other SMB community. And our commitmnt to real pure knowlege-based academic content is very strong, as you know. 

  • 2016 Office 365 and Windows 10 Roadshow for MSPs/CSPs/Resellers (1H2016:

    1. Redmond
    2. NY
    3. Atlanta
    4. Chicago
    5. Washington DC
    6. Charlotte
    7. LA
    8. SF
    9. Phoenix
    10. PLUS Additional Nine (9) Cities in 2h2016!
  • 2015 Windows 10 launch events for resellers/MSPs  (5 events):

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

  • 2014 Worldwide Modern Tour  (24-cities in 23-countries: )

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

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

Thank you for supporting the SMB Nation family in 2016! And thank you for your trust! 


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Start-Over: I’m Not Worthy!

This past week, ChannelPro issued it’s 2016 20/20 Visionaries. It’s a time-tested formula bordering on gamification where awardees can add yet another logo to their website. Every industry does this and I appreciate ChannelPro’s on-going effort to highlight the leaders in the SMB channel. In particular, I appreciate its efforts to highlight the new members with an art callout and by featuring the newbies with a photo in print.


In the past, I’ve observed this type of list in both the SMB segment and other industries and pondered what the criteria is for selection. To ChannelPro’s credit, it appears to be a relatively unbiased and independent selection of leaders, not a vendorfest. However I think all of these industry lists suffer from not applying the four-way Rotary ethical test as there are individuals listed who have engaged in situational ethics on the way up. I used to naively think it was unique to our beloved SBS/SMB community but then I got involved in the VC-backed start-up community and it’s even worse LOL!

I can appreciate that these lists are a challenge to compile in that you inevitably leave some great people off the list. And I like how it has divided itself to be 20-visionaries and 20-do’ers. I think the Do-er list (aka “Channel Pros”) is spot on.

So how does this relate to start-over? First this is not a list of newly arrived “start-ups” but rather long-term established players (as it should be). And as I delve deeper into this list, I know about 75% of these 20/20 on a personal level (in fact I know too much about ten of them LOL). But I’d offer nearly each and every one of the 20/20 have had to start-over or reinvent themselves. For example, Jay McBain has gone from a corporate suit box pusher to an entrepreneurial analytical start-up nerd all while siring a couple off-spring along the way. Susan Bradley has remained relevant morphing from the SBS Diva to something of the Security Diva.

When I look at these lists, I always like to ask who’s not on the list. At first blush I didn’t see Vlad, Robin Russ or some of the IAMCP leaders (Steve Hall is one of them who made it). What these exclusions suggest is that (a) it’s hard to make a short list and (b) it’s a bigger community out there than we appreciate. More on the fact size matters in a future missive.

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Start-up: Seattle’s Young Start-up Culture

Start-up: Seattle’s Young Start-up Culture

There has been a very interesting conversation in the Brelsford house lately about start-ups. Dad (that’s me) is involved in a Big Data start-up in addition to owning SMB Nation (run day-to-day by the amazing Jenny).

My wife is old school cul-de-sac suburban Chicago-style and is on a life journey of acknowledgement and acceptance of entrepreneurship. In a future life, may she come back as a small business start-up owner. My youngest son, Harry Jr., more closely fits the demographic and intent of a recent Seattle Times article titled “Young entrepreneurs dive in to start their own businesses, despite the high failure rate” published Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The point is this. In both our dining room and the article, there is a legitimate conversation to funding a young person to create a start-up and get life experience in addition to (or instead of) paying for college. My position is that I think a young person should look at start-up alternatives that INCLUDE education. For example, what about a Gap Year where my son might work in a start-up? Or how about getting the first two years of basic college courses online (from an accredited source of course) while working in or directing a start-up by day. A decade hence, I think Harry Jr. would be richer for the experience. But I am firm that getting a bachelors and masters is a mandatory requirement on my shift. Education is both a tool and a ticket. Period.

Anyways, enough editorializing. The Seattle Times article is a must read and can be found here.


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How To Live Your Life in Fear – An MSP Guide

Just lately I’ve had interchanges with business people, family and even MSPs where I was somehow more attuned to “fear factor” language then I’m accustomed to. I’ve even asked people I know and respect why some people are “fearful?”  I think my sensitivity relates to my new “Start-Up” mindset. Each to their own.

So, tongue in cheek, this missive is intended to scare the snitz of you. I’m assuming you have an opening for more fright in your fear bucket. I’m here to fill you up.

What I’m speaking towards is a white paper I recently read titled “Hidden Dangers Lurking in E-Commerce – Reducing Fraud with the Right SSL Certificate. Given I have a Facebook-like high need for attention, I immediately thought I could ruffle some feathers by making you exasperated with my exaggerations. Here we go!

When you download this whitepaper HERE, you can expect to discover the following conversation.

Shopping online has now become almost second nature to most of us, but where did it all start, and what enabled it to grow to the levels that we see today? Reportedly1 it was back in 1994, with the first known web purchase being a pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese from Pizza Hut. When that first pizza was ordered – and, a year later, when online retail giant Amazon sold its first book (Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’2), it ushered in a torrent of activity. Two decades later, global e-commerce sales for 2013 have been calculated at upwards of $1.2 trillion3. What facilitated this tectonic shift in our shopping habits? Trust.

Trust in who we were shopping with, and trust that the purchase information we provided would be secured. Because as ever, where there is money there will always be criminals - eager to take advantage of the burgeoning opportunity. But if trust is the grease that lubricated the online marketplace, what is the technical basis for that trust? The answer is in part solved with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and more specifically, digital certificates - a reliable technology which has worked well for decades, and can continue to do so. But for this to happen, it has to be deployed responsibly. Put simply, not all certificates are created equal – and today, some ingenious criminals have found a way to corrupt the very system that was designed to stop them. As a result we need to make sure that certificates are matched to their uses and that when people send their personal and financial information across the internet they can have confidence that the recipient is not a criminal.

In fact, research from Norton estimates the global price tag of consumer cybercrime now topping some US$113 billion annually 4 which is enough to host the 2012 London Olympics nearly 10 times over. The cost per cybercrime victim has shot up to USD$298: a 50% increase over 2012. In terms of the number of victims of such attacks, that’s 378 million per year – averaging 1 million plus per day.

What is a Digital Certificate and what is SSL?

In order to transact business online, consumers and businesses needed a way of exchanging credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information securely. SSL is the technology that protects much of the Internet and in essence it enables e-commerce. It “lights up” the padlock symbol in the browser to tell the consumer they are safe to send their credit card information to a vendor in a


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Did You Know: National Small Business Week

Did You Know: National Small Business Week

This past week was a nationwide celebration called Cinco de Mayo. It was also National Small Business Week supported by the Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s an annual opportunity to reflect back on our roots as small business owners ourselves. And we’re serving small businesses as MSPs. I liken it to maturity matching in finance. Small businesses serving small businesses. That math works for a few reasons that I want to share with you as part of my reflections on National Small Business Week.

When I see enterprises salivate at the small business opportunity, I often see these enterprises misfire when executing on sales and services. Why? Because enterprises don’t speak the language of small business. They don’t “get it” from a cultural perspective. Two simple examples make my point. First, there is the tendency for enterprise folks to engage in display fighting where they have to be the smartest person in the room during a meeting. That tends to lead to this. The small business customer asks what time it is. The enterprise salesperson overwhelms them with a lecture on how to build a watch. Another example concerns overreaching. Enterprises inherently engage in a strategy of incrementalism. If you can sell your widget for $1.05, try to stick it to them (the customer) and get $1.06 LOL. What I’ve seen with the small business culture is a sense of Kankei no baransu. It means to keep your relationships in balance. The idea is that we’re all in the together, live in the same community and understand these are long-term relationships. Enterprises can take there NSA mentality back to the big leagues where it belongs.

Back to National Small Business Week. Microsoft itself was a “sponsor” of several outreach touches including a small business contest, a gaggle of Washington DC events and Melanie Gass was in the thick of it all. Readers will recall Melanie was one of our speakers on the Office 365 roadshow in 2015.

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Start-Over: Beat the Back Office Blues

Start-Over: Beat the Back Office Blues

As part of our ongoing dialog about reinventing yourself, I present for your scrutiny the concept of making the last mile of your operations more efficient. So much emphasize is now placed on pre-acquisition lead generation that we’ve lost sight of improving the bottom line by improving your back office. It’s understandable. We ask a lot of MSPs to be skilled in three areas: finder, minder and grinder.

You’ll recall from my classic SMB Consulting Best Practices (2003) that finder is “get the business.” Minder is “manage the business.” And grinder is “do the work.” The idea is to pick two out of three. You can’t do three out of three as these are radically different skills. More often than not, I see MSPs fancy themselves finders and grinders. Way down the list is minder. But fear not. 

There are means and methods to improve the minder role in your MSP practice. You can consider to outsource your overall accounting function. But you probably don’t need that. A more targeted approach would be a invoicing management service called ConnectBooster. Based out of Fargo, ND (original home of Great Plains accounting software), an intrepid group of MSP entrepreneurs have been at market for a few years with the ConnectBooster billing solution. I recently spoke with the ConnectBooster team and learned that it’s reason for being historically has been to integrate into PSAs such as, you guessed it, ConnectWise. But in my briefing, it was made clear that other PSAs are also supported. ConnectBooster is essentially adding the billing function so you can collect the money. But it’s not providing a collection service (e.g. collection agency). Rather its helping you invoice faster and sooner. Fast money is good money. 
Bottom line on this back office discussion is this. Many MSPs are “starting over” in the era of cloud. Lower administrative costs and improving operations is central to your success.

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Son – It’s Not Plastics. It’s Security

By: Harry Brelsford

An oft-quoted classic movie scene from “The Graduate” (1967) [] concerns a successful businessman giving career advice to 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) to go into plastics as a career choice. Fast forward the movie nearly 50-years and the prudent career choice is cloud security. It’s an evergreen that will bring you, the MSP/CSP/partner, great riches and professional satisfaction. Few would disagree in the magnitude of this opportunity.

A study by Symantec, the “Website Security Threat Report” is your key to transforming yourself into a component cloud security professional. As part of our SMB Nation mantra about “starting over,” the introduction of this report is very timely for all of us. Some of us remember watching “The Graduate” and the impact it had on the dialog of the late 1960s and 1970s. So this is a welcome geek reboot.

The paper, which you can download HERE, focuses much of its energy on the Heartbleed bug, which shook the foundation of Internet security. The authors have, quite frankly, selected a reference point we can all relate to as the incident happened within the last two years. But the paper is much more than a Heartbleed news recap. The point is that cyber criminals are busy making their own opportunities for exploitation, theft and disruption. Symantec contends and I concur that cyber criminals have become more professional, sophisticated and aggressive in their tactics to the detriment of businesses and individuals alike.

To manage your expectations as your both read and use this security paper to enhance your skills, understand that is it organized into two major areas:

  • Web Threats. High profile vulnerabilities (Heartbleed, ShellShock and Poodle) are reviewed to level set. Then vital solutions such as SSL and TSL certificates are discussed.
  • eCrime and Malware. This is truly an interesting part of the paper. Prices paid by underground entities for stolen identities, malware and e-crime services are holding steady due to high-levels of demand. Ransomware is getting nastier and increasing in volumes. The paper reports it has grown over 45X since 2013.

To continue this journey and to make yourself both security aware and security competent, download the paper HERE.

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2016 US SMB IT spend growth rate to remain flat at US$188B

Techaisle forecasts that US SMB IT spend growth rate could very well remain flat at US$188 billion in 2016 as compared to 2015. However, the US midmarket spending growth will likely increase by 6% whereas the small business spending will fall by 2 percent in 2016 from 2015. In early 2015, Techaisle had forecast US SMB IT spending to be US$180B by end of 2015 – based on most recent Techaisle SMB surveys the actual spending for 2015 came in at US$188B. Techaisle survey data shows some very interesting patterns for planned SMB 2016 IT budgets across different employee size businesses. Small businesses show progressive fall in IT budgets until they reach a certain size whereas midmarket businesses show budget increases until they reach a certain size.

2016 us smb it technology spend resized

To download graphic click here

Although 52% of small businesses say that technology helps drive the direction of their business, the very small businesses (less than 50 employees) have lowered their IT budgets for 2016 varying from -2% to -6% depending upon size of business. This is primarily because of less spending on end-point devices and IT services. Especially within the micro-businesses, spending on mobility is likely to fall by as much as 10%. Survey data shows that IT spending by small businesses is shifting to cloud, managed services, analytics and even IoT as indicated by planned budget increases in each of these technology categories. Only the 1-4 employee size businesses are planning to keep their 2016 cloud budget same as in 2015 as these businesses are reaching a theoretical limit of paid cloud usage.

Small business IT spending is effected by restrained growth in 1-49 employee sieze category businesses. The 50-249 employee size segment is expected to have the IT spend growth rate in 2016 and should be the sweet spot for most IT suppliers.

Technology purchase is not an easy decision for SMBs, where most use their existing budgets and in many cases they have to deal with ad hoc purchases due to changing business conditions. In such a scenario, role of financing is becoming increasingly critical to technology acquisition decisions for 59% of midmarket firms, twice that of small businesses. With an explosive move to cloud, 35% of midmarket businesses indicate that they are moving to OPEX-based agreements. Small businesses are leaning towards leased-based purchases for infrastructure solutions.

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Potential Office 365 customers crying out for channel help

Antony Savvas (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Office 365 Cloud Email

Two thirds want a VAR or service provider to help them shows Barracuda research

Research from Barracuda Networks highlights the opportunity for the UK channel to help businesses adopt Microsoft Office 365.

While the proportion of businesses surveyed planning to migrate to Office 365 is “promising”, said Barracuda, some potential end users cite issues such as security as major inhibitors to adoption.

“Education and value-add services will therefore play a key role in the success of channel programmes around Office 365,” said the security and data management vendor.

Microsoft OfficeThe survey found that just under half of the respondents plan to migrate to Office 365, and a quarter of those will do so in the next 12 months.

And two thirds plan to consult a VAR or service provider to help manage adoption, migration and on-going operation. One third of those not planning to migrate cited security worries as the main reason for this.

Commenting on the research, Henry Doyle, director at Altinet, the IT security and storage VAR, said: “As the popularity of Office 365 grows, it is really encouraging to see that companies recognise the value-add that service providers can deliver in the planning, roll-out and ongoing implementation of these services.


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Cloud marketplaces: Can channel partners make money?


by Lynn Haber
Senior Writer

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Channel partners can take advantage of many cloud marketplace options as part of their go-to-market strategies. Here's what you need to know to get started.

As the cloud and software as a service become more mainstream and businesses become more interested in cloud technologies, curiosity about cloud marketplaces -- think of an online storefront -- isn't far behind. That's why channel firms need to learn about cloud marketplaces and how to go about doing business in a cloud marketplace.

There are a dozen or so active cloud marketplaces -- some are independent, such as app directory companies GetApp and Capterra, both acquired by Gartner in 2015, while others are vendor-specific such as Salesforce AppExchange, IBM Cloud Marketplace, Oracle Cloud Marketplace and Dell Cloud Marketplace, among others. IT distributors, such as Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data Corp., for example, also boast their own cloud marketplaces that offer cloud apps from dozens of vendors.

There are two key things that partners need to know about cloud marketplaces: They come in a variety of flavors and they offer partner firms a mechanism to sell a broader portfolio of services.

Thinking about a cloud marketplace as an online storefront, it may consist of aisles of cloud services that span the cloud spectrum: SaaS, infrastructure as a service and perhaps, platform as a service. So, for example, walk down the SaaS aisle and you might see a section of productivity apps, another section with unified communication apps and another with CRM apps. Also, in this storefront are cloud services offerings that are relevant to consuming those products, i.e., professional services, migration services, tier 1 and tier 2 support or bolt-on services such as change management, among others.

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What is driving SMB converged infrastructure adoption

By: Anurag Agrawal

For all the talk of a world predicated on software-defined resources, there is still need for capable, reliable, scalable physical infrastructure to support these software layers and the features and applications that sit atop them. The rise in virtualization has been driving an accompanying demand for converged infrastructure: products that combine processing, storage and networking into a robust and scalable unit that can support and respond to the options inherent in virtualization.

While the migration from separate server, storage and networking products to converged infrastructure is still in its early stages, the Techaisle SMB & midmarket converged infrastructure survey and corresponding Techaisle SMB & midmarket virtualization adoption trends survey shows that it is beginning to gain traction, especially within more sophisticated accounts. Data shows that 10% of small businesses and 27% of midmarket businesses (weighted data) are planning to adopt converged infrastructure. Current midmarket adoption rates for converged infrastructure are below findings for VDI but differences readily become apparent when analyzing the data from the lens of Techaisle’s segmentation by IT sophistication. Converged infrastructure adoption rises steadily with increased buyer sophistication in both the small and midmarket segments. As the market matures, we expect to see accelerated adoption of converged infrastructure across the SMB market.

What is driving converged infrastructure adoption?

While there are technical advantages that make converged infrastructure products more effective virtualization hosts than traditional servers, Techaisle’s research shows that SMB buyers adopt converged infrastructure for one or more of five primary reasons:

  1. to benefit from converged infrastructure’s integrated design and efficiency,
  2. to tap into its ability to enable centralization/management of resources,
  3. to capitalize on performance/time-to-benefit advantages,
  4. to improve IT agility and its ability to meet business needs, and
  5. in response to core requirements for cost savings and improved security.

Drilling down into the data Techaisle finds that core requirements inform many converged infrastructure strategies, and the benefits and efficiency of integrated solutions are also frequently cited as a driver of converged infrastructure adoption.

Two of the top six answers provided in response to the question on converged infrastructure adoption drivers concerned time to benefit; centralization and management issues. And although agility/the ability to meet business needs is the key reason for adopting cloud (including private clouds that are based on converged infrastructure), this is not currently a primary driver of converged infrastructure adoption.

To enhance the scope of comparisons Techaisle also studied data from a parallel question regarding converged infrastructure adoption that was posed to channel respondents in Techaisle’s SMB channel trends survey. This list provides yet another perspective, reflecting the situations in which the channel is drawn into converged infrastructure decisions. Big Data – which requires a relatively wide range of competencies – is the project type that will most commonly require the channel to deploy converged infrastructure systems, and SharePoint projects, which also demand a broad skill set, are the third most common project cited as a converged infrastructure adoption driver. The channel, like its buy-side SMB customers, also recognizes that data center consolidation, virtualization applications and data migration can drive demand for converged infrastructure.

Converged infrastructure selection criteria and implementation challenges

In many ways, the key market issue surrounding converged infrastructure isn’t vendor-vs.-vendor competition, but rather, the ability of converged infrastructure as a system class to gain share quickly vs. traditional server products, while not being obviated by the cloud before attaining mass market penetration. However, suppliers are competing for share in this growth category, and understanding what buyers are looking for – and what they struggle with when they adopt converged infrastructure – is important to positioning a brand as a credible solution.

The data shows that for the most part, small and midmarket firms have similar ideas concerning important attributes of a converged infrastructure supplier. Both view vendor brand/reputation, measurable system attributes (storage, memory, processing power and network bandwidth) and service/support as key issues. Midmarket firms also emphasize implementation speed as a key criterion, and are somewhat more likely (than small businesses) to focus on the ability of the new system to integrate with existing infrastructure assets.

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Straight From High School to a Career

By: Katherine S. Newman and Hella Winston

StraightfromHSCANDIDATES from both parties have been talking a lot about the loss of American jobs, declining wages and the skyrocketing cost of college.

But missing from the debate is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of “middle skill” jobs in the United States that are — or soon will be — going unfilled because of a dearth of qualified workers. Employers complain that electricians, pipe fitters, advanced manufacturing machinists, brick masons and radiology technicians are scarce. More than 600,000 jobs remain open in the manufacturing sector alone. These are jobs that provide a middle-class wage without a traditional four-year college degree.

American high schools once offered top-notch vocational and apprenticeship training, preparing young people for jobs like these. But over the last 70 years, our commitment to such education has waxed and waned, reflecting the country’s ambivalence about the role of school in preparing young people for employment and the value of blue-collar work itself. Progressives have argued that technical education tracks low-income and minority youths toward second-class citizenship; hence they often advocate “college for all.”

Over the past decade or so, however, there has been a move among educators and policy makers to reinvigorate vocational education, now rebranded as career and technical education. Some schools have been extraordinarily effective; others are struggling. If we are to offer young Americans options that are readily available to their counterparts in countries like Germany, we need to figure out what makes for success.

Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty, S.C., is an example of a school that works. In the machine technology shop, students program computers to make plastic molds. In a commercial kitchen, aspiring chefs prepare multicourse meals. The school also offers training in health sciences, mechatronics, masonry, electrical work, carpentry, mechanical design and more. Many students spend half their day at their regular high school and half at the career center. According to the director, Ken Hitchcock, many come from low-income families in which neither parent has a college degree.

The center has an informal partnership with a group of local industry leaders, known as Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County. They help the guidance counselors understand exactly what each business needs, in order to better advise their students. Local companies like Cornell Dubilier and BMW have also helped the school by donating scrap steel, or old robots that they have phased out.

Mr. Hitchcock says that about 60 percent of graduates go on to local technical colleges, while 15 percent head off to four-year colleges, mostly in the health sciences. The rest get jobs, aided by the industry certificates they have earned.

The situation for students attending Automotive High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is less encouraging. Until the 1980s, Automotive, a child of the New Deal, shone as a training ground for thousands of young people who would go on to become technicians in the auto industry.

But funding was cut in the 1990s, and the school was forced to jettison some of its shop classes and focus instead on preparation for Regents exams. It also did away with its entrance examination. With these changes came increasing numbers of students who had little interest in cars.

These troubles have led to a precipitous decline in enrollment, particularly among stronger students. Several industry supporters — some of which had donated funds and even vehicles in the past — walked away as well.

And yet dedicated teachers at Automotive are still keen on helping the students they have acquire the skills and industry certifications they need to get jobs. Teachers told us that graduates consistently find employment as mechanics for city fleets or in private auto repair shops.

Vocational programs face structural obstacles when the industries they train for hit a downturn, as automobile manufacturing did. But even those that are training for profitable industries have to contend with inadequate budgets that translate into obsolete equipment, insufficient support for teacher training in new technologies and inconsistent connections to industry, which render them less able to stay current with the skills in demand.

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Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

For those of you looking to start-over with Office 365, there is good news. Two independent Microsoft consultants from opposite ends of the planet came together to write the most comprehensive end user guide on Skype for Business.

Robert Crane and Greg Plum collaborated on the document, which morphed into over 200 pages of screen shots and step-by-step commentary, aimed at the segment of the market who needed it the most… the end user! They have announced the release of Getting Started with Skype for Business Online.

Robert is the principal of CIAOPS, located in Australia. He is a recognized author, speaker, and Office 365 expert. Greg is the principal of PlumUC, a unified communications practice in Newark, DE, with a focus on collaboration services and voice options for Skype for Business.

Robert and Greg first met in 2014 at Harry’s first O365 Nation Conference at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Fast-forward 12 months and add the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business, creating the impetus for this project.

‘We are excited to offer a complete recipe for success for Skype for Business, one of the industry’s hottest communication services,” explains Greg Plum. “Robert is a tenured author, who provided the guidance needed for my freshman writing endeavor.”

Greg and Robert have already enjoyed some early success with book sales. In addition to direct sales, Velis4, a Pennsylvania-based UC company providing PSTN voice-enablement of Office 365 and Skype for Business, gives a hardcopy of Getting Started for Skype for Business Online to every new Skype for Business customer.

Get your own copy of Getting Started with Skype for Business:


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For Indian Start-Ups, Tenacity Beats High Tech



BANGALORE, India — On a hot afternoon in a two-story house here, as dogs barked and auto-rickshaws sputtered outside, a venture capitalist grilled three entrepreneurs.

Their start-up, DriveU, provides on-demand drivers for people with cars, differing from Uber or Olacabs, an Indian variant, which offer on-demand taxi services. The three parried questions about the business in a cramped conference room with doors and shutters painted in DriveU’s company colors — shamrock green.

“What will it take for someone to come in and replicate this?” asked Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, a partner for Unitus Seed, a venture capital fund started out of Seattle that invests in Indian companies. “Couldn’t the Ola guys come in and do this?”

“Essentially they could,” said Ashok Shastry, 25, a co-founder of DriveU, who with his long shorts and spiky hair looked as if he would be more at home in Palo Alto, Calif., than Bangalore. “But it would be taking away from their focus.” The models for Uber and Ola, he said, are built on the premise that customers do not use their own cars.

The venture capitalist persisted. If Uber and Ola were to enter the market, “What would your response be?” he asked.

Amulmeet Chadha, another founder of DriveU, said, “It’s about being a cockroach and surviving.”

That kind of tenacity is what attracted Mr. Ramamoorthy to the DriveU team. And it illustrates that until now the Indian start-up market has been more about great execution than cutting-edge technology.
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“In Silicon Valley, the general investment thesis for a technology investor tends to be around how strong a company’s underlying technology is and how defensible it will be over time,” Will Poole, Unitus Seed’s co-founder, explained later. “Very rarely does a venture capital investor invest in an operating business that does not have an intellectual property moat.”

In emerging markets like India, however, “you can build very large and profitable businesses on an operating basis without having a fundamental or long-term technological advantage because you are building in greenfield areas with little or no competition,” he said.

Last year was a heady one for venture investing in India; investments rose 61 percent, to $1.9 billion, from $1.2 billion in 2014, according to Venture Intelligence, a Chennai-based company that tracks Indian venture activity. About $95 million of the total represented investments and co-investments in the social impact space by traditional V.C.s and specialist firms like Unitus Seed.

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Steps to manage IT for starting and growing your business

Ashley Leonard 300

By: Ashley Leonard

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So why put all your investment capital in one part of your business? IT resources can eat a large chunk of your startup or investors’ capital, taking funding away from more crucial aspects of a new business. While having the right IT solutions for your business is important, you may not need an extensive IT setup immediately. This is especially true now that the cloud is a safe, efficient and cost effective option.

You can make your business or investors’ capital go much further if you are slightly conservative. To start, purchase IT assets and utilize the cloud instead of buying physical or on premise resources. Avoid overinvesting in IT resources you may not need immediately and invest your capital in other ways. Those who are first starting a business can use these tips to effectively manage IT with realistic resources:

Count on the cloud: Why is everything moving to the cloud? Because it’s cost effective and efficient — two things every startup or small business is looking for. With the cloud, there is nothing to manage, no infrastructure cost and no large capital needed for hardware. Little maintenance is required and you don’t have to pay consultants to install and update applications. The cloud is more secure and flexible so you can move from one vendor to another as you grow.

Strengthen your core: Determine the core infrastructure functions your business needs. From there, decide how many workstations and how much storage space you need to run your business. You’ll find that almost all core functions a business needs, like Microsoft Office 365, can be found and managed from the cloud and configured to meet your requirements now and in the future.

Save with a suite: Today, more businesses large and small are choosing cloud-based programs over on-premise versions to handle not only IT functions, but financial business as well. For your accounting and sales tracking needs, consider using a suite of programs. Keep track of your accounting with programs like QuickBooks Online and NetSuite, which can be used online through the cloud. Record and report sales stats and mange CRM (customer relationship management) with solutions like Sales Force conveniently through the cloud.

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Webroot and Greater Intell Partner to Deliver Simple, Scalable, and Automated Next-Generation Endpoint Protection for Kaseya VSA

webrootWebroot SecureAnywhere® Business Endpoint Protection Integrated with Kaseya VSA Drives MSP Adoption and Scalable Enterprise Security Management

BROOMFIELD, Colo., April 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Webroot, the market leader in next-generation endpoint security and cloud-based collective threat intelligence, today announced a strategic partnership with Greater Intell, the leading provider of software products and professional services for IT management platforms. Webroot SecureAnywhere® Business Endpoint Protection and Kaseya VSA platform are now engineered together to enable enterprises and managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver next-generation endpoint security in a single, unified solution that provides powerful protection and is easy to deploy and manage.

"We're very pleased to be partnering with Greater Intell to offer the Kaseya community more value from their existing investment," said Charlie Tomeo, vice president of channel and technical sales at Webroot. "Kaseya's industry-leading remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform has fostered a loyal and rapidly-growing following within the enterprise and MSP ecosystems. These customers recognize that endpoint security is challenging today and that they need next generation defenses to protect their users and their company data from cyberattacks. With Webroot's proven next-generation endpoint protection, both internal security teams and external managed services organizations will be able to offer better protection and performance, and also increase operating margins by significantly reducing the complexities and inefficiencies associated with managing a traditional security solution."   

The integration of Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection with Kaseya VSA was developed in collaboration with Greater Intelll, a leading-edge mobile applications, systems management software, and cloud systems developer. The combination integrates the comprehensive, cloud-driven protection features of Webroot into the Kaseya VSA platform.

The cloud-based Webroot management console requires no on-premise servers, and endpoints can be managed and remediated remotely from any location. The fast, lightweight Webroot agent can be installed remotely on a managed endpoint in less than a minute, virtually eliminating impact on end user productivity, and significantly shortening the time normally required to deploy a new security solution from weeks to minutes. Webroot also features unique journaling and rollback remediation capabilities, saving customers time and money by greatly reducing the need to reimage infected machines.

In support of the integration, Greater Intell created a customized plug-in currently available as a single executable. The plug-in takes just minutes to install and configure.

"Webroot was a clear choice," said Corey Mandell, founder and CTO of Greater Intell. "We did a thorough cybersecurity review within the MSP community, and Webroot was the obvious winner. Many MSPs told us that Webroot integration with Kaseya was a top priority for them. We expect strong growth and are pleased to be partnering with market leaders like Webroot."

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Millions of people are still running Windows XP

By: John Zorabedian    

It’s been two years since Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, the popular operating system that’s been around since 2001 and which many people just don’t seem willing to let goWindowsXP

Microsoft did about all it could to drag XP-ers into the present with pop-up warnings urging them that they need to upgrade, and a free migration tool to help people transfer their files and settings to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

It’s not merely that Microsoft wants to get everybody onto the latest version of Windows, although it has certainly gone to great lengths recently to get people to upgrade to Windows 10, whether they want to or not.

But as we at Naked Security repeatedly warned XP users, the end of support means “zero-days forever,” because those vulnerabilities will never be patched – and XP computers are sitting ducks for cybercriminals to attack.

And yet there are still millions of XP computers connecting to the internet, where all manner of malware is waiting to pounce.

Windows XP was still running on 10.9% of all desktops as of March 2016, according to stats compiled by Net Applications.

To put that in perspective, according to Net Applications’ figures, Windows XP is still the third-most popular desktop OS, trailing only Windows 7 (51.9%) and Windows 10 (14.2%).

And there are more PCs running XP than Windows 8.1 (9.6%), and all versions of Mac OS X combined (7.8%).

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Here are the secrets to a successful midlife career change

By: Elizabeth O'Brien
Retirement reporter

Steven Clark isn’t usually impulsive, so it wasn’t easy for him to wake up one morning and decide it would be his last day as a software engineer after 20 years.

But the stress had been mounting for years as Clark, like many successful midcareer professionals, had ended up on a management track, dealing with office politics he didn’t care for. So he quit.

“I walked away cold,” recalled Clark, now 54, of that day in 2010. “That was totally out of character.”

Clark, who now runs a financial advisory practice in Coconut Creek, Fla., made a change many dream of, ditching the cubicle to become his own boss. And experts say that for those tempted to follow him, the timing is right: Whether you want to change industries or start a business, a tightening job market — the current unemployment rate is 5.0% overall, and 3.6% for those between ages 45 to 54 — offers opportunity, they say.

“The opportunity to craft and create has never been better,” said Maggie Mistal, a life and career coach in New York City.

MW EJ149 midlif 20160331154403 NS

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. The margin of error is slimmer for workers in their 40s and 50s, who may need to continue building retirement accounts, writing tuition checks and supporting aging parents. Because of these obligations, many midlife workers can ill afford to take big pay cuts, part-time work or internships.

“You’re at a point in life where your wages matter,” said John Challenger, CEO of job outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

MarketWatch spoke with several midlife career changers to see how they did it. Their professional backgrounds and family circumstances varied, but they all took careful, expert-approved steps that eased and guided their transitions.

Each went into business for him or herself, rather than join an established firm. This path is by no means the only one available to midlife career changers, experts say, but it does remove one obstacle to a midcareer move: having to compete for a first job in a new industry with younger workers who can afford to work for less.

Make (and pad) a financial cushion

Clark’s decision to quit was impulsive, but he made it knowing he had a substantial savings cushion. By midcareer, Clark had a six-digit savings account, which turned into seed money he used in the coming years to pay for living expenses and the coursework he needed to prepare for the certified financial planner exam he took in 2013.

Clark’s wife worked while he studied, but she made much less than the $150,000 that he was making when he quit. The couple pared expenses, slashing the amount they spent on dinners out, cutting their cable bill to basic service and canceling their home security plan. “I was home pretty much all the time anyway,” Clark said.


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Recipes for Office 365 Business Solutions

Our cookbook of Office 365-based applications will point you toward a new, richer way to profit from sales of Microsoft’s online productivity suite.

By Rich Freeman cookbookinside

There are many things for channel pros to love about Microsoft’s Office 365 communication and collaboration platform. The single-digit commissions Microsoft pays resellers of that offering after a subscription’s first year aren’t among them.

“That is not a business model that’s sustainable if you’re a small company,” observes Jerod Powell, CEO of Infinit Consulting Inc., a managed and cloud services provider headquartered in San Jose, Calif. “You need to have some value-add.”

For Powell and other Microsoft partners, that means developing business solutions on top of Office 365. The product’s constituent applications—especially Microsoft SharePoint—make solid foundations for everything from workflow and knowledge management systems to predictive analytics solutions and beyond. “If you can think it, you can probably build it in there,” Powell says, adding that doing so increases not only an Office 365 sale’s bottom-line impact but a solution provider’s “stickiness” with its customers as well.

Wondering where to begin? Here are high-level recipes for five Office 365 solutions that should stimulate your thinking.

Recipe 1: Financial Reporting Solution
Most accounting solutions come with built-in reporting tools. Most financial professionals find them sorely lacking.

That was certainly true at one of Infinit’s clients, anyway. “It was taking the comptroller two weeks to generate a lot of the 10-K-, 10-Q-type stuff,” Powell recalls. That frustration ultimately inspired Powell and his team to create an Office 365-based reporting solution that pulls data out of an accounting or ERP system, stores it in SharePoint, and provides intuitive, graphical access to it on PCs, tablets, and smartphones via Microsoft’s Power BI business analytics application.

Creating such a system isn’t for the faint of heart though, Powell warns. Building one for that first buyer took over six months and $200,000 worth of development time. “It can get complicated fast,” Powell says. Using that initial version of the system as a template for future installations, however, Infinit can now roll out new deployments in as little as a day.

•An Office 365 subscription that includes SharePoint Online
•A Microsoft Azure subscription
•Microsoft Power BI
•An accounting or ERP solution, preferably cloud-based, with open APIs

Preparation Summary
1.Assess the client’s reporting needs. Each buyer will require different reports formatted in different ways. Many will have regulatory compliance requirements to consider too.
2.Implement and customize the solution.
3.Integrate the solution with the client’s accounting or ERP system. Some clients may wish to link the solution to a payroll or time and expense management application as well.

Additional Serving Suggestions

INFINIT typically bundles its financial reporting solution with a package of associated managed services that provides 24/7 support, mobile device management, and more for a single, per-user monthly fee.

Recipe 2: Office 365 Help Desk

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Microsoft Remains A Growth Story With A Strong Future

Written By: Michael Blair


  • Microsoft has shown strong share performance over the past few years.
  • The company has a visionary CEO with the right strategy for the longer term.
  • Its cloud and subscription software foundation are growing in scale and earnings power.
  • Microsoft is not giving up on devices.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has the right CEO and the right strategy, in my opinion. The company has been a mainstay of technology portfolios throughout the 3 years I have followed it, returning an average of 25.5% annually.

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Source: TipRanks

That has produced a good result for me, with gains on MSFT calls totaling over $400,000 (partial list of trades below from my accounting records).

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Tech workers are increasingly looking to leave Silicon Valley

Written by:  Ashley Rodriguez

A growing number of engineers and tech workers from the San Francisco Bay Area are looking to leave Silicon Valley for burgeoning tech hubs such as Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, according to a job-search site’s data.  Silicon Valley found that the share of searches from within the Bay Area for tech jobs outside of it is on the rise. As of Feb. 1, 35% of tech job searches on from the region were for jobs elsewhere, data from the company shows. That share, which is based on 30-day averages and adjusted for seasonal factors, was up about 30% year-over-year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 SMB Salary Survey Results: Educated and Educated!

2016 SMB Salary Survey Results: Educated and Educated!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The 2016 SMB Salary Survey is now complete. I’m excited to share results over the next few weeks. Let’s get started.

As we always knew – we’re educated. The facts are this. 
• SMB 2016 four-year degree attainment: 44%
• US Average: 32%
The difference is 31.58 percent or nearly one-third. This isn’t a huge surprise as we’re in a technical professional field where education isn’t only a tool but the road to greater professional competence and success.

Oh my! The majority of the respondents were 51-58 in age with no one between 18-25. Houston we have a problem! Close behind was the 43-50 age group. Interestingly I’m seeing young people engage in other areas of technology such as coding, a byproduct of Coder DoJo and Hour of Code in our schools. The median age in the US labor force is roughly 42 years old. By the way, our older demographic suggests there will be a wave of consolidations in the near future. More on that in a future column.

Job Title
Here is the best news of all in my opinion. Over 80 percent (actually 81.49%) of us are business owners, a highly desirable group for several reasons. First, you have much more experience and business acumen than you likely acknowledge. You’re not some corporate Dilbert in a cubicle repeats the same tasks daily. You’re much closer to a wild catter solving new problems daily. You’re something of a risk taker, forgoing the gold watch after 30-years of corporate service. Right on! We are real people living in the real world! You can count yourself as someone who has started, own and operated a business – experience you can’t buy.

IT Experience
This is good and bad news and goes right to the heart of start-over challenges. The good news is that you are certainly competent in your profession (16+ years in IT). The bad news, in my humble opinion, is you might be stuck in your ways. My evidence is both quantitative and qualitative: survey results and conversations. My concern is that you are likely riding the server-side down to the bottom and not tapping your business acumen to perhaps provide Marketing 2.0 consulting services (CRM list AttachedApps; marketing automation systems like Marketo). Experience is a double edged sword. You don’t want too little; you don’t want too much. Like porridge, you want it just right. You read it here first!

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Mr. Smith Rides the Rockies!

Mr. Smith Rides the Rockies!

A day doesn’t pass wherein some community member shares news on a more personal level. And it’s my honor and privilege to parrot out the highlights. In this case, it’s a successful mid-sized MSP (Initial.aec) from the Denver-area, Jack Smith, reporting he’s formed a team to raise charity funds in the coveted Ride The Rockies tour this summer. Smith’s feel good story is also a chance to herald in cycling season. While I’m a daily bike commuter to my start-up, Jack takes cycling in our community to a whole ‘nother level. He was on the post SMB Nation Fall conference ride in 2014 where we rode the 35-mile Chilly Hilly in the rain!

BTW – I’ve placed Jack’s story in the Start Over column. That’s because he’s always up to something new both personally and professionally. In the MSP-side, he has embraced Office 365 to fortify his thriving Autodesk practice.

“Below is what I have sent out previously for the ride and have gotten a great response thus far.” Smith said. “As a fellow cyclist, I was excited to let you know that I will be beating myself up on my vacation grinding up a few very big hills! I plan on tweeting from the road so make sure you are following me to witness my pain and successes!” Smith’s appetizing appeal is below. Please support Smith and his team as you are able.

Hi Everyone-
We are coming up on 4 weeks since I sent out the email below asking you to help me make the climb for kids. I am happy to say that thanks to the generosity of a few great people, we are currently at $2,025.00! This is fantastic, and I want to say thanks to those of you that have donated. We have been in training mode since I first sent this out and with the recent weather, it has forced us indoors onto the bicycle trainers and cycling videos in order to get our saddle time in. Way more fun outdoors, but good for us nonetheless. We have our first official meeting with Ride the Rockies on the 5th to learn more about what we have gotten ourselves into, and I can’t wait as I have quite a few questions. Questions like, will there be oxygen provided above 10,000’? Will they provide replacement muscles and certain body parts along the route? And the most important one, will someone wake me up from my exhaustion induced coma like sleep every morning? These are but a few and I am pretty sure that the answer to these questions will be a hard NO. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

Enough about me, let’s talk about you and how you can help us make the climb for kids. We are currently at 1/3 of our goal of $6,000.00. I am excited that we have come this far, but I would really love to see us hit at least $4,000.00 if not $6,000. I would encourage you to re-visit this link to check up on us and make a donation if possible. Again, I want to express my gratitude to everyone that contributes and to everyone that offers moral support as well. It will make the climb easier knowing that we have some great people supporting our efforts and the efforts of two great charities. I have included below the context of my original email for your reference.

Please click on the link below to visit our fundraising site:

Thanks again and look for an update in a few more weeks!

March 5, 2016:
As many of you know, I have shaved my head a few times to raise money for St. Baldrick’s. With your help, we were very successful in our efforts and as a bonus, I ended up with a permanent hair style! It feels good to know that every time I rub my bald head, that it was for a good cause. Maybe that’s why I keep it shaved, hmm.

Anyway, most of you may also know that I love to cycle, especially in the mountains. This year I have decided to bring these two passions together. I have organized a team of three to participate in this year’s Ride the Rockies event ( as team “bonk”. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is used when you have completely exhausted your energy during a physical activity and you stop cold. This name was selected as an inside joke between me and my cousin, who ironically enough, is on the team. This is something we WILL NOT be doing during the ride.

I have selected two charities to benefit from our efforts this year. St. Baldrick’s ( and Special Olympics of Colorado ( I encourage you to visit their websites and read up on the fantastic things they are doing in the world.

The three of us on the team are not asking for sponsorship, we are asking for a donation and your moral support as we tackle the mountains and our own limitations. As you will read on our fundraising website, all three of us have been blessed with healthy children. My own daughters have always motivated me to try to help others that are not as fortunate and this is but one way to do this.

As I glide down and grind up the mountains, I will be thinking about all the kids that rely on these organizations, all of their struggles and successes and how they continue to grow and succeed. I will also be thinking of my own two girls and how blessed I am and how your donations and support will inspire me to push to the top of every mountain pass and to reflect on the opportunity I have been given to help others.

Please click on the link below to visit our fundraising site:

I appreciate anything you can give albeit money or moral support.

Jack R. Smith

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IDC finally gives up Windows Phone, predicts ever falling sales


The IDC has always been somewhat optimistic about the future of Windows Phone, but after repeatedly missing predictions by a wide margin the IDC has finally given up on the OS.

The analyst company predicted in December last year that Microsoft would sell 31.3 million Windows Phones in 2015, and 43.6 million by 2019.  Unfortunately Microsoft missed even this modest target, hitting only 27.3 million sales in 2015.

As recently as May 2015 IDC still predicted Microsoft would sell more than 100 million Windows Phones by 2019, but now the company has revised its predictions downwards sharply to what is seen above.


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Ingram Micro to Buy Small Cloud Application Provider

by Michael Novinson

Ingram Micro said Monday that it has made another acquisition -- its sixth in six months -- buying Ensim, a firm focused on automating, orchestrating and provisioning business applications in the cloud.

The Irvine, Calif.-based distributor said its purchase of San Jose, Calif.-based Ensim will complement its existing cloud products and solutions.  ingram micro

"We expect to leverage the financial strength, brand recognition and global infrastructure of Ingram Micro to further speed the growth of our business," David Wippich, Ensim's CEO, said in a statement. "Our customers and employees will benefit from this union."

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the next 30 days, were not disclosed. Ingram Micro and Ensim did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ensim enables partners to manage and monetize a range of solutions from infrastructure and hosted business applications to cloud and -as-a-Service offerings, according to the company's website. Ensim has more than 5 million seats deployed worldwide and is used by more than 20,000 organizations and government agencies through telecom partners, cloud hosting companies, VARs and MSPs, according to the company.

Ensim has been active over the past year, adding 60 new features such as ticketing, business analytics and reporting, and advanced billing configurator. Ensim also added automation service connections with Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Box, IBM SoftLayer, Skype for Business and Intel Security.

Ensim was founded in 1998 and employs 51 to 200 people, according to the company's LinkedIn page. The company is privately held.

David DeCamillis of Platte River Networks said he's seen more VARs and managed service providers selling cloud applications, with Ingram Micro continually looking to add more cloud applications and vendors to satisfy increased demand. DeCamillis praised Ingram Micro for investing lots of money into cloud and making it one of the distributor's fastest-growing business practices.

"This acquisition fits right in to what I've seen from Ingram Micro," said DeCamillis, vice president of sales and marketing at the Denver-based Ingram Micro partner. "It seems like a no-brainer."

Ensim enables VARs to save money and simplify their users' IT by automating management of the entire end-user life cycle, while MSPs can benefit from Ensim's self-service ordering and management capabilities for enterprise users, according to the company's website.

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Give us one day and we'll send you home with all the expert sales, marketing, product, and operations advice you need to grow your revenue and boost your bottom line. The perfect event for integrators and managed service professionals looking to grow their business. Take our one-minute Managed Services Survey and then get the free invite to our live event! ChannelPro SMBNation 220x150 SurveyAd

Who should attend the ChannelPro live events:

I.T. Resellers, MSPs, solution providers, and consultants looking for concrete, practical advice on building a healthier bottom line.

Event Locations:

Anaheim May 4th; D.C. September 15th; Boston November 3rd

What you'll get of it:

The ChannelPro 2016 ‘Channel Fitness Tour’ features an all-star cast of top industry experts, a unique interactive format that puts you in direct conversation with them, and a fast-paced, information-packed agenda covering topics you care about:

  •  Pump Up Your Managed Service Revenues: Learn about revenue-boosting services you should be offering but probably aren't from a panel of your peers. 
  •  Bottom-Line Finance Strengthening Exercises: Discover the critical metrics experienced managers use to keep their business strong and growing.
  • Cloud Sales and Marketing Fitness Secrets: Let our panel of sales and marketing specialists show you how to build a high-volume, high-velocity cloud sales pipeline. 
  •  Business Process Optimization Lightning Round!: Get proven, actionable suggestions for hiring employees, tracking time, setting prices, and more. 
  •  GEAR AND CASH GIVEAWAYS: Lots of chances to win big with gear and cash giveaways throughout the day!

 There's More!

Attendees also receive numerous session-related resources, including white papers, analysis tools, and worksheets that add value to their experience. We'll even take care of parking, meals, and more so you can focus on what really matters: Building a stronger, more profitable business.

How to pre-register for free as a VIP>>

Take our one-minute Managed Services Survey and then get the free invite to our live event!

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Microsoft Partner Taps Power BI for SMB Market and Beyond

By: Barb Levisay, Owner, Marketing for Partners

Microsoft's Power BI Partner Showcase is a testament to the success of partners helping their clients, from enterprises to SMBs, realize the potential of data through analytics and visualization. For most SMB partners, however, experience and resource challenges put building a Power BI practice beyond their reach.  powerbi

But one of the showcase partners, RoseBud Technologies, has set its sights on taking Power BI to the SMB market -- and helping other partners do the same.

While RoseBud, a 10-person IT service provider based in Atlanta, may seem an unlikely Power BI advocate, it has deep roots in data. "A large part of the success of any partner is a result of the background their people bring to the equation," said Joe Treanor, president of RoseBud. "I spent time in banking when metrics and analytics were becoming the drivers in the industry. It gave me an understanding of the importance of making data useful."

Beginning with the self-service analytics released with Excel 2010, Treanor was intrigued with the practical application for RoseBud clients, predominantly small and midsize businesses. In 2013, RoseBud was an early adopter of Power BI, seeing the opportunity to support business intelligence (BI) without big infrastructure investment. 

Since that time, Treanor has seen a reluctance in partners to pursue the BI opportunity. "SMB partners face two major hurdles," Treanor explained. "The first is the experiential comfort with managing and directing business intelligence work. The second is where to find the people who can speak to clients and deliver the services." 

To solve the second challenge, RoseBud has established a relationship with Kennesaw State University's Coles College of Business. The college has a strong program that focuses on the practical business applications of quantitative analytics. KSU also offers a master's degree in applied statistics and more recently launched a Ph.D. program in Analytics and data science.

"Kennesaw is very much aligned with what we are doing," Treanor said. "They are training people who are comfortable holding a conversation about business and data analysis. They are developing data scientists for business, not just academia."

Just like most partners who are searching for their value-add in a cloud world, Treanor sees BI as a specialty that RoseBud can build on for the future. "It's a changing game. There is only so much business you can do with migrations," Treanor said. "We looked at what we could do with analytics. Microsoft is making very sophisticated enterprise-level capabilities available to the smallest businesses through subscriptions and tools. So we are helping our customers take advantage of Power BI, and we think it is just the beginning of a very big wave."

With Microsoft's heavy promotion of Power BI, RoseBud is seeing more proactive interest from customers. "There is more awareness through Office 365 and the infrastructure barriers are gone," Treanor said. "Many of the clients we talk to, even small business owners, understand the value of predictive and prescriptive analytics. They are looking beyond reporting to solving specific business challenges by using data."

Additional potential -- helping other partners who don't have the experience or resources to offer Power BI on their own -- is also developing for RoseBud. "A single partner can't be a generalist anymore," said Greg Treanor, vice president of RoseBud. "We're applying our experience and resources, becoming a go-to partner for Power BI. Partners can focus on their niche, work with us for Power BI and offer even more value to customers. They don't have to build the practice for themselves."


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