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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Tiffany Wissner (WENTZEL) Microsoft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence: The Essential Codependency

Falon Fatemi , Women@Forbe

AI

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

amazon logo

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Brutha – Can You Spare a Sport Jacket?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair enough.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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