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.

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…. http://ideas.atera.com/?sort=popular” 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.

Finally
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 Decisio

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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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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