SMB Nation Blog

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

How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote

by Erica Dhawan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

February 27, 2018

 

Remote Team

Remote communication isn’t always easy. Do you recognize yourself in any of these examples?

At 10 p.m., a corporate lawyer gets a text from a colleague and wonders (not for the first time) if there’s a protocol about work-related texts after a certain hour.

After a long and liquid client dinner, an advertising executive opens an email from his boss reminding him to submit his expenses on time. Annoyed by this micromanagement, he immediately responds with his uncensored thoughts.

On the weekly team conference call, a remote team member is confused about whether her colleague is really on mute when she delays a response to a question or if shes just not paying attention and is using this as an excuse.

When it’s possible to be set off by a phone’s mute button, it’s safe to say that we’re living in challenging times. The digital era has ushered in a revolution in communication that’s equivalent to the one surrounding the invention of the printing press. It’s changing how we speak — often in bullet points. And it’s affecting what we hear, as the jumble of information coming at us can lead to frequent misunderstandings and confusion.

People who work on remote teams face these challenges consistently. According to recent estimates from Gallup and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22% of Americans work from home, while nearly 50% are involved with remote or virtual team work. This continuing shift calls for a new range of behaviors and skills.

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Top Takeaways - Ingram Cloud Summit

Talk about a working vacation, I have returned well-rested and intellectually nourished from the just completed Ingram Cloud Summit held at an iconic, old-school Florida hotel (Boca Resort). In my earlier blog, I spoke toward CloudBlue, a new platform announced by Ingram Micro and Microsoft. 
But there were other nuggets at this event.

Here is my take.
1. SkyKick $40m Raise. Wow – that was a surprise. As I was monitoring Seattle-based GeekWire, a story broke that migration and backup ISV SkyKick closed on a $40-million investor round. It brings its

Skykick

Lauren Wood (SkyKick) with a partner.

2. Women in Technology. I attended a pre-conference afternoon panel about Women in Technology. As I like to do, I asked one question. While most of the women leaders on stage were from the corporate world, there was one like-minded SMB entrepreneur (Dao Jensen, Kaizen Tech Partners) who spoke towards feeling challenged as a woman geek in high school. I asked her about the findings in a popular book “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know” (Shipman and Kay) wherein as young people transition from tweens to teens, men become overconfident and women have a drop in confidence. Dao and the other panelists affirmed that inflection point in life and offered sage advice, experience, etc. Bottom line. A recognition that we all need to work on inspiring confidence in women.

 

womenintechnology

 

3. IAMCP Expanding. I’m a fan of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) monthly lunch meeting in Seattle that I attend regularly plus its annual presence at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference. I wasn’t used to seeing IAMCP at a conference like Ingram Cloud Summit. It appeared to be happy hunting to recruit new IAMCP members as the Ingram Cloud Summit catered to larger partners.

4. Microsoft IoT. The coolest thing on the tradeshow floor was the Microsoft IoT SUV. IoT was the overarching theme for the Ingram Cloud Summit (hey – every conference has to have a theme). The IoT SUV was here, now and pragmatic. I felt a lot of the IoT conversations were still too far off in the future to impact today’s cash flow. But we’re getting closer. 

iotSUV

 

 

The IoT SUV was very popular! 

5. Hallway 101. Long-time readers know that I prefer to work the hallways all-day every day at conferences versus attending lectures to meet people (I wasn’t a well-behaved student due to ADHD). The good news is that there are folks just like me walking ‘da halls and open to networking. Shout outs to Jeff Ponts (DataTel) and George Mellor (KloudReadiness) for sincere business development conversations.

jeffponts
 Jeff Ponts from DataTel

george

George Mellor from KloudReadiness

Really enjoyed this event and I will repeat. Join me.

 

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Why Microsoft gave Windows 10 (version 1803) a different name

Rather than recycling 'seasonal' names for OS upgrades, the company changed things up this time around.

 

Microsoft Windows 10

 

Microsoft will start distributing the next Windows 10 feature upgrade, "Windows 10 April 2018 Update," today - a few weeks later then it had been expected to arrive.

The release date barely squeaked under the wire Microsoft set for itself with its labeling of the upgrade, although the company has never expressed concern when actual release dates have conflicted with each update's alternate - and numeric - title, the one formatted as yymm. That conflict continued with the April 2018 upgrade. Its 1803 moniker envisioned a March, not a last-day-of-April, debut.

 

Microsoft will start distributing the next Windows 10 feature upgrade, "Windows 10 April 2018 Update," today - a few weeks later then it had been expected to arrive.

The release date barely squeaked under the wire Microsoft set for itself with its labeling of the upgrade, although the company has never expressed concern when actual release dates have conflicted with each update's alternate - and numeric - title, the one formatted as yymm. That conflict continued with the April 2018 upgrade. Its 1803 moniker envisioned a March, not a last-day-of-April, debut.

But the new name puts a spotlight on more than just that long-standing contradiction. Here are the most likely reasons Microsoft changed Windows 10's nicknaming.

Microsoft would have exhausted seasonal names

After last year's "Fall Creators Update," for the October feature upgrade, Microsoft would have run out of seasons this month unless it was willing to upend, if not its twice-annual cadence, then the times during the year when it would issue a refresh. (There was a time when virtually everyone, including Computerworld, assumed the latest would be branded as "Spring Creators Update," a single-word upgrade on April 2017's "Creators Update.")

The protesting howls would have matched stadium concert levels.

As some noted, the naming is also northern hemisphere-centric, because south of the equator, "spring" comes in September and "fall" in March.

So, absent a decision to add Roman numerals to the nameplates - "Spring Creators Update II" or "Fall Creators Update IV" - and risk mimicking Hollywood's creative bankruptcy, Microsoft faced a forced name change.

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Leveraging the Power of AI to Stop Email Scammers

Staff members are on the frontline when it comes to cyberattacks against their employers. They’re increasingly seen by hackers as a weak link in the cybersecurity chain. That’s why most threats today come via email, aimed squarely at tricking the recipient into downloading malware, divulging log-ins or making wire transfers to the attacker. Trend Micro predicts cumulative losses from Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks alone will hit $9 billion this year.

As attacks get smarter, so must we. That’s why Trend Micro is SMB Nation WhatsYourX Banners 220x150introducing two innovative new offerings to help in the fight against email scammers. One is a new AI-powered feature designed to improve BEC detection while the other will help IT teams train their employees to spot phishing attacks. It’s one more step towards taking the fight to the bad guys.

The email threat

There’s no doubt that email is the primary threat vector for attackers targeting organizations today. The Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ blocked more than 66 billion threats in 2017, over 85 percent of which were emails containing malicious content.

BEC is an increasingly favored tactic as the rewards can be huge. It’s hard for many organizations to spot because attacks typically don’t contain any malware; they rely mainly on social engineering of the carefully selected recipient. That recipient, usually in the finance department, is sent an email impersonating the CEO, CFO, or other executive requesting that they urgently make a wire transfer or reply with sensitive data. With average losses topping $130,000 per incident, it’s no surprise that we saw an increase in attempted BEC attacks on our customers of 106 percent between 1H and 2H 2017.

This is not to underplay the impact phishing continues to have on organizations around the globe. By targeting employees, attackers can spread malware and covertly infiltrate networks to steal sensitive data and IP. Results from the Black Hat Attendee Survey last year illustrate the impact this trend is having on organizations.

  • IT Leaders cited phishing as their #1 security concern
  • Phishing was identified as the most time-consuming threat
  • The weakest link in IT security was cited as end users being tricked by phishing attacks
  • 19 percent rated phishing as the most serious cyber threat to emerge within the past year, second only to ransomware

Taking action

The potential financial and reputational damage of such attacks is obvious. In the face of these rising threat levels we must hit back — and we have, with two new free tools.

Writing Style DNA includes new AI-powered technology that learns how executives write so that it can spot impersonation attempts, and sends a warning to the implied sender, recipient and the IT department. It sounds straightforward but requires serious computing power and smart AI algorithms to achieve. For each user, a personal model is created using 7,000 features of writing characteristics to train the system — things like punctuation and sentence length. We convert emails to meta data before analyzing, to protect customer’s privacy and meet compliance requirements.

Focusing on the writing style in the body of the email complements existing techniques that analyze behavior and intention. Some of these current techniques can fail if, for example, the attacker uses compromised accounts at legitimate domains to hide the true origin of the email. It’s one more tool to help IT teams push back the rising tide of email threats, and it will be made available at no extra cost as part of Cloud App Security (CAS) for Office 365 and ScanMail for Microsoft Exchange (SMEX),

First line of defense

Technology is a vital layer of defense to keep email threats at bay. But what about your employees, who are often thought of as the ‘weakest link?’

We can help here, too. A new free SaaS-based phishing simulation service can help IT teams train employees to spot attempted attacks before they have a chance to impact the organization. Phish Insight is all about enhancing awareness of your staff. All it takes is one administrator, four steps and five minutes to run a real-world exercise designed to mimic what employees might see at their desks.

With the detailed reporting results, displayed in a handy graphical interface, IT teams can then tailor their education programs to make lasting behavioral changes.

Phish Insight is now available free of charge to all organizations of all sizes around the world. The service has been available for a year in Asia and has generated huge interest as organizations leverage it to turn their weakest link into a formidable first line of defense. As email threats continue to rise, we’d encourage you to take a look.

To stop phishing and social engineering attacks it is critical to make both your people and your technology smarter. Phish Insight trains your people to better spot phishing attacks and Writing Style DNA confirms the authorship of an email to prevent CEO fraud and other types of BEC attacks.

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All Together Now: CloudBlue

At this week’s Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit conference for partners, MSPs and resellers, a new line of business called CloudBlue was announced and released into the wild whacky world of cloud computing. My take is CloudBlue basically aggregates a lot of existing Ingram Micro cloud assets under one umbrella. It is considered a new division within Ingram Micro and Microsoft is a significant strategic partner in this solution. Microsoft declined to specify if it was a financial investor.

Microsoft and Ingram Micro will co-sell the CloudBlue commerce platform to new service providers joining Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, and the CloudBlue platform will operate on Microsoft Azure.At this week’s Ingram Micro’s Cloud Summit conference for partners, MSPs and resellers, a new line of business called CloudBlue was announced and released into the wild whacky world of cloud computing. My take is CloudBlue basically aggregates a lot of existing Ingram Micro cloud assets under one umbrella. It is considered a new division within Ingram Micro and Microsoft is a significant strategic partner in this solution. Microsoft declined to specify if it was a financial investor. Microsoft and Ingram Micro will co-sell the CloudBlue commerce platform to new service providers joining Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, and the CloudBlue platform will operate on Microsoft Azure.

Almost two and a half years ago, Ingram Micro acquired Odin (the successor brand to Parallels). While I’ve covered that in the past, Odin brought a line of work to Ingram allowing ISVs, Distis and entrepreneurs to create a cloud marketplace with provisioning, billing and support. In many ways I thought that interesting in that I liked Odin as an independent solution that could serve other distributors such as D&H Distributing plus its really strong research arm that published excellent primary research. Over the past couple of years, I felt we had “lost” both the independent platform and research with the Odin acquisition; CloudBlue now clarifies what “happened” to Odin and brings the platform back to the center of attention. 

In an interview with Richard Dufty, Executive Vice President of Ingram Cloud, he stated that CloudBlue brings together a rich set of assets in the Ingram Micro family in a multi-year development effort.CloudBlue has the following components: 

Marketplace

Service Catalog

Subscription Management

Billing and Invoicing

Provisioning

Reporting/BI

Channel Enablement

Platform

You can see in Figure 1 showing a significant resource commitment in terms of money, time and labor. You can also get a sense of the CloudBlue scale, scope and geography. 

CloudBlue Fig1

Figure 1: CloudBlue facts. 

The CloudBlue commerce platform enables service providers of any size and a wide variety of business models to automate, aggregate and monetize their own cloud and digital services as well as those from third-parties. CloudBlue also enables ISVs to take their offerings to market almost instantly across the entire multi-service provider ecosystem with the company’s industry-leading cloud commerce and anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform. Loosely translated, an SMB Nation MSP could be a cloud market place/cloud distributor. Reflecting Odin’s roots, CloudBlue launches with significant telecom support: Sprint, Centurylink, Cogeco, Telefonica, O2, Telenor, Telekom Austria, AmericaMovil, Cobweb, GTI, Copaco, PCM and Telstra.

Self-Service Platform?

In another private meeting with Ingram Micro executives, it was noted that CloudBlue will endeavor to offer a customer-facing self-service portal. I called BS as it has been my (admittedly biased) experience that technology self-service is an oxymoron (customers are lazy IMHO). But the upside for CloudBlue is that I believe partners and MSPs will be in continued market demand; this stuff doesn’t just happen on its own. Self-service is over-rated.

Developers are the New Rock Stars

An inherent assumption concerning CloudBlue is the focus on intellectual property and DevOps. This is less of an infrastructure play and more of a app bolt-on play. It’s a natural progression as they aren’t making servers like they used to buddy boy. It creates a challenge for us Big Iron server-side guys as we’ll need to continue our own transformative journey to recreate and reinvent ourselves. Look at Figure 2 and observe the CloudBlue architecture and design. This is showing the internals with an emphasis on API-based connectivity. 

fig2 cloudblue

Figure 2: Get Your Geek On!

The Ingram CTO who presented the CloudBlue architecture emphasized ease-of-use in API creation and integration but I’ve had my fingertips burned in software development projects so I’ll withhold judgement until I learn more about CloudBlue. At the core of the CloudBlue ecosystem, is its proprietary API technology, APS, which customers can use to immediately connect to CloudBlue’s network of vendor solutions, enabling them to offer these vendor solutions in conjunction with their own core services quickly and easily. CloudBlue provides a single entry point to an ecosystem of the world’s most innovative ISVs, including more than 200 pre-integrated solutions from Microsoft, Dropbox, DocuSign, IBM, Cisco, Symantec and many more.

BTW – you can revisit a past blog on Slingr’s “Platform as a Service” play that provides additional context on API integrations and the bolt-on concept here.  

Scale Sales Quickly

A woman who most recently was a CMO inside a Big Data organization once told me what her takeaway was from her graduate school experience (MBA): learning how to scale. Agreed as MBAs are typically oriented towards enterprises and not entrepreneurs. Adopting the same MBA-like mindset, I’d concur with Ingram Micro’s assertion that CloudBlue’s raison d'être is rapid sales scalability (CloudReferral; CloudMarketplace; CloudPremium). It’s “graduate school” for the merchant and reseller class. You can see BlueClouds scalability intentions in Figure 3. 

CloudBlue Fig3

 

Figure 3: Visualizing worldwide scalability via CloudBlue.

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