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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.

Microsoft Buys Forerunner Software Tech to Boost Power BI Reporting

By: Pedro Hernandez | April 03, 2018


PowerBI 2The acquisition of Forerunner's Mobilizer and Report Viewer will help Microsoft improve Power BI's reporting capabilities for mobile and web apps.

Looking to grow its Power BI business intelligence and data analytics ecosystem, Microsoft went shopping close to home for its latest buy.

Microsoft has acquired enterprise report rendering technologies from fellow Redmond, Wash., technology firm Forerunner Software for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on April 2. Specifically, the software giant has snapped up Forerunner Mobilizer and Report Viewer.

Forerunner Mobilizer enables organizations to turn business insights from Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) into reports that can be viewed on a variety of mobile devices. Forerunner Report Viewer can be used to embed reports derived SSRS into web applications.

The acquisition effectively spells the end of Mobilizer and Report Viewer as commercial products, although Forerunner pledged to provide support to current customers through Oct. 20, 2020. Meanwhile, Microsoft has some big plans for the software.

"This technology includes, among other things, client-side rendering of Reporting Services (*.rdl) reports, responsive UI widgets for viewing reports, and a JavaScript SDK for integrating reports into other apps—a testament to what our partners can achieve building on our open platform," wrote Christopher Finlan, senior program manager for Power BI at Microsoft, in an April 2 blog post.

Forerunner's technology will also help pave the way for SSRS reports in the Power BI service, using client-side rendering capabilities to help deliver the experience, added Finlan. Power BI is Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) offering, using the company's public massive public cloud infrastructure to crunch the numbers and generate interactive data visualizations, dashboards and reports.


The deal will also help Microsoft squeeze SSRS reports into smartphones and other mobile devices. Finlan expects the Power BI mobile apps to provide a snappier, more responsive user interface while users await report parameter values and navigate within reports.

Finally, Forerunner's rendering technology will offer developers more options.

The ReportView rendering control from Microsoft is based on ASP.NET Web Forms, explained Finlan. After completing its integration work, his team hopes to deliver a client-side, JavaScript solution that can be integrated "into any modern app," Finlan said.

Microsoft's mission to popularize BI in the workplace goes beyond the typical mobile devices that today's business professionals tote around.

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Microsoft shows IT how to get bigger bang from Windows Analytics

New documentation, still in draft form, details how companies can craft specialized reports and custom alerts from Windows Analytics' data and integrate the data with other info.

By Gregg Keizer

Senior Reporter, Computerworld | Apr 10, 2018 9:19 AM PT

 big data analytics analysis thinkstock 673266772 100749739 large

Microsoft has published preliminary documentation that enterprise IT can use to customize reports generated by the free Windows Analytics service.

The documentation, emblazoned with "Draft," spelled out how internal staff - or Microsoft partners in the business of producing custom solutions - can craft specialized reports and build custom alerts from Windows Analytics' data, and integrate its data with other information for more in-depth analysis.

Windows Analytics is the umbrella label for three separate services - Upgrade Readiness, Update Compliance and Device Heath - which each pull from the telemetry Microsoft collects from Windows PCs. Windows Analytics is a benefit of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education licensing, and so is available only to customers running those editions.

The services offer insights for devices powered by an Enterprise or Education SKU (stock-selling unit), such as Windows 10 Education or Windows 7 Enterprise.

Of the trio, only Upgrade Readiness harvests data from Windows editions other than Windows 10. As its name implies, that service identifies the Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs most likely to successfully migrate to Windows 10. Upgrade Readiness also pinpoints Windows 10 systems that have the best shot at moving to the next feature upgrade, like this year's 1803 or 1809.

The remaining two services, Update Compliance and Device Health, report the update deployment status of Windows 10 PCs, and monitor and report on some of the most common problems on an organization's devices, respectively.

While IT administrators can generate reports from the Windows Analytics dashboard, the advanced functionality can be accessed using the now-documented APIs (application programming interfaces) and called with the ready-to-use examples (or PowerBI templates). Or the examples and templates can be rigged to do custom jobs.

"There is also an underlying data platform that can be used by IT admins, partners and ISVs [independent software vendors] to extend the built-in functionality and unlock additional value," the documentation says.

Because Windows Analytics' data is stored in Azure Log Analytics, using the API requires knowledge of the underlying Analytics data schema, and knowing how to retrieve that data from Azure Log Analytics, Microsoft said.

Customers who do create custom reports or alerts, or merge Windows Analytics' data with their own, will have to redo that work down the road, Microsoft noted. "Disclaimer: This [data] schema is subject to change as breaking changes will be introduced in the next year, so any queries you create will need to be forward ported at that time," the documentation said.

 

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75 Items You May Be Able to Deduct from Your Taxes

tax tips

 

- VIP Contributor
Author, Attorney and CPA
 

Life is expensive, from business expenses to personal expenses to paying Uncle Sam on April 15. Wherever you go, it may seem like your wallet is open. One way to save money each year is to find legitimate tax write-offs that intersect both personal and business expenses.

As a certified public accountant, everywhere I go, even when I'm at dinner with friends, I constantly am asked the question: "So, what can I write off my taxes?"

Surprisingly, there isn't some master list included in the Internal Revenue Code or provided by the Internal Revenue Service. There is simply the tax principle set forth in Code Section 62 that states a valid write-off is any expense incurred in the production of income. Each deduction then has its own rules.

A good CPA should be teaching their clients to think above the line -- that is, your Adjusted Gross Income line. Your AGI is the number in the bottom right-hand corner on the front page of your tax return. Any tax return. And what I mean by thinking above this line is constantly trying to think of any and all personal expenses that may have a business purpose. With a small-business venture in your life and on your tax return, you may be able to convert some personal expenses to business expenses, as long as you have the proper business purpose for that expense.

Seasoned business owners become proficient over the years at keeping good records and realizing when expenses have a legitimate business purpose. For some, this thought process becomes so ingrained that it becomes almost impossible to buy something without first considering a tax purpose for that item or service.

Consult this list of 75 possible tax deductions for business owners. It's just a start and not every one of these items is always a legitimate deduction. For example, you may be able to deduct entertainment expenses, but only when entertaining a client, customer or employee, while also meeting particular IRS rules. Some deductions may only cover a percentage of your expenses, like the aforementioned dinner with clients (usually 50 percent) or the home-office deduction, which is based on the square footage of your office. When documenting, go beyond collecting receipts. If you hire your teenager as an employee, document his or her duties and hours. On parking and toll receipts, write your destination and business reason for the road trip.

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Silicon Valley Exhales: Dropbox Shares Jump More Than 40% In High-Demand IPO

Alex Konrad, FORBES STAFF

Covering venture capital, software and startups

DropBox

Dropbox made everyone wait. But its shares are now trading on the public markets after one of the most hotly-anticipated public offerings for a technology company in months.

Two hours after CEO Drew Houston and cofounder Arash Ferdowsi rang the opening bell at Nasdaq and after long minutes of the company’s executives milling around Nasdaq’s MarketSite center in Times Square in New York, Dropbox finally opened for trading at 11:35 ET as Houston grabbed a glass of champagne for a longer-than anticipated toast.

Shares of Dropbox were trading at $30.90, up 47% percent from the company’s list price of $21, as of 12 pm ET, a major boost even in what has been one of Wall Street's most troubled recent weeks for stocks.

A collaboration software company known for its file-sharing tools, Dropbox was founded by Houston and Ferdowsi in 2007 and quickly became one of Silicon Valley’s more closely watched startup companies. It reached a multi-billion-dollar valuation in 2011 and a $10 billion valuation in 2014, and reported revenue of $1.1 billion for 2017, up 31% from the year before. At its opening price of $29, Dropbox’s market capitalization would be about $11 billion.

“The market and investors responded really well to our message,” chief operating officer Dennis Woodside said in an interview. “What’s interesting to them is, we built this enduring business that combines the best of consumer tech in its virality and ability to scale—with hundreds of millions of people using it around the world—with the predictability of a subscription business.”

That positioning of Dropbox as a “consumerized enterprise” company, or a subscription software company that users bring home with them after work, has helped the company become one of the most scrutinized in Silicon Valley. In its regulatory S-1 filing for the IPO process, Dropbox had disclosed it had more than 500 million registered users, the majority of whom use the product for free: 11 million users pay for the service, according to Dropbox’s filing, paying an average of $9.33 per month.

A key difference between Dropbox and many other software companies: the product mostly sells itself. Dropbox reported sales and marketing spend of $314 million in 2017, less than it spent on research and development. Box, an enterprise collaboration company most typically invoked as a foil to Dropbox, reported sales and marketing of $303 million for its fiscal year ending in January, on revenue of $506 million.

While Dropbox says its relatively low cost of customer acquisition helped separate it from other software companies for investors, Woodside credits the decision about three years ago to build product for business use cases as arguably the most important in its path to public company. Dropbox’s business popularity had been a surprise to Houston and Ferdowsi, the COO says.

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Zanni: World Backup Day, GDPR, Race Cars!

I’m a guy and of course delay going to the dentist and so on. Over morning coffee, today March 31, 2018, I realized I can’t avoid it any longer. Today is World Backup Day! Darn it,  I’m making a couple special backups just to honor the holiday.

I spoke with John Zanni, well-known in the SMB partner channel for his work as a Microsoft general manager back in the day plus his tenure at Parallels. Today he is the president of Acronis, a leading backup solution ISV. Later in this blog I’ll do a “where is John Zanni now?” commentary. 

World Backup Day

"This is of course an international event, not an Acronis event. It is to remind people that many attacks happen on April 1st as it’s April Fool’s Day. You want to make sure you are fully-protected on March 31st.” Zanni shared. “The important part is that backup isn’t good enough anymore. You need to have ‘secure backup’ which means making sure your system is up-to-date. You need have the latest anti-virus, anti-spam solution and you have a strong anti-ransomware solution. The good news is that all of our of products come with Acronis active protection that is AI-based anti-ransomware.”

But wait! There is even more good news. Even if you don’t have the Acronis backup solution, you can get just the active protection piece for free from the Acronis website. 

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John Zanni, president of Acronis

Earlier this month, Acronis completed a consumer survey regarding data protection, polling the general internet population in seven different countries, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, Spain, France and Japan. Additional results include:

Nearly 39 percent of the respondents have four or more devices in their household, meaning more end points and data to protect

Over 29 percent of the respondents experienced data loss

A prediction on the future of secure backups? Zanni offered that the quantity of data being generated by the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) segment will require a focus on secure backups. “The trick is how do you have IoT data backed up locally, in transit and at rest in the cloud so it can be analyzed.” Zanni offered. “An example of extensive amounts of IoT data relates to our race car sponsorship with Williams Martini Racing.” 

I’d add that it’s this back-office function that makes data visualization tools rock. 

GDPR

For those living in a cave and don’t know, there is a European Union data privacy protection regulation coming in late May 2018 called the “General Data Protection Regulation” (GDPR) that will impact MSPs.  “It’s coming fast but it’s not as complex as you think; but it’s important you understand the GDPR requirements. We have a webcast that tries to bring GDPR to the masses.” Zanni said. “With a good backup system, you are already 80-to-90 percent of the way there towards GDPR compliance. But the responsibility of “process” rests with the MSP and the client. Acronis cannot help there. That said, we are adding some features in May to cover some of the secure data backup storage GDPR scenarios that we can impact.”

Zanni extolled that “by no means should anyone ignore GDPR; the government(s) will be going after violators such as businesses who are not GDPR compliant. Individuals clearly understand that they have a right to control their data and will insist on the GDPR-type protection.” More on GDPR over the next several weeks – I promise. 

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ZANNI?!?!?

So here is the net-net on Zanni and Acronis. 

Moved to Europe (Acronis HQ in Switzerland from Boston.

Zanni is overseeing the 15th anniversary of Acronis.

Acronis – has now moved its full product stack to the hybrid cloud architecture, folly scalable to run in your data center and/or our cloud. 

MSPs adore the multi-tier, multi-tenant Acronis approach, according to Zanni.

Growth – core business (on premises sold through distribution); is growing at low double digits.MSP business is growing over 100% year over year with 5,000 transacting partners and heading to 12k+ by 2020.

MSPs like the model we have both in terms ease of onboarding/getting started and as well as the commercial terms (which are very simple – mostly per gigabyte per month).

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