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.

U.S. regulator urges registration of cryptocurrency exchanges

US security


FILE PHOTO: The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington, DC, U.S., June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday that many online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies should be registered with the regulator and subject to additional rules, in a further sign regulators are cracking down on the digital currency sector.

In a statement, the SEC said these “potentially unlawful” platforms may be giving investors an unearned sense of safety by labeling themselves as “exchanges.” The regulator said these platforms need to register with the SEC as a regulated national securities exchange or an alternate trading system, or ATS.

The new statement marks the latest effort by the SEC to apply federal securities laws to the rapidly growing cryptocurrency sector. SEC Chief Jay Clayton has repeatedly expressed concern about cryptocurrencies and “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs, and has urged investors to exercise caution.

“The SEC staff has concerns that many online trading platforms appear to investors as SEC-registered and regulated marketplaces when they are not,” the agency said on Wednesday.

Bitcoin, the best known cryptocurrency, fell 11.9 percent to a 1-1/2 week low of $9,450 on Wednesday on the news, before rebounding slightly to $9,760, according to prices on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

Other digital currencies also fell sharply, with Ethereum and Ripple losing 9 percent and 8 percent, according to CoinMarketCap.

Clayton has said in the past that he generally considers ICOs to be securities offerings subject to certain regulatory requirements.

On Wednesday, the SEC went further by suggesting the majority of secondary market trading in those digital tokens was also subject to its jurisdiction.

The regulator said any platform providing trading of digital assets that behave like securities and which operate like exchanges must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange, or seek an exemption such as ATS registration.

There are dozens of platforms offering trading in cryptocurrencies, but Reuters could only identify two ATS registrations for trading cryptocurrencies, according to SEC data.

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Rethinking Customer Support with Office 365 and TouchPoint Agent

by Jon Arnold

As businesses shift to the cloud, the combination of Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business (SfB) Online provides a powerful solution for workplace communications. The tight integration between these provides a rich set of both productivity applications and communications capabilities that can seamlessly be managed in the cloud. Not only does this make IT’s job easier, but there’s really no need to look elsewhere for third party UC platforms that may or may work well with your Microsoft environment.

For most businesses – especially SMBs – this would be enough to make a business case for going to the cloud with Microsoft. Jon Arnold headshot 002While this value proposition stands well on its own, it can be even stronger if you think just a bit more broadly. As you know, Microsoft has many partnerships to enhance their offerings, but one in particular is worth noting for taking O365 and SfB to another level.

In terms of supporting their customers, most SMBs have either limited or no contact center capabilities. The cost of entry is high, operational needs are complex, and IT must balance this with other priorities. That said, declining customer satisfaction ratings present a challenge to all businesses, and in today’s hyper-competitive market, reversing this trend is becoming a strategic priority for management.

While IT will be hard-pressed to get the resources needed to add or upgrade their legacy contact center, the cloud presents viable options that can bypass these obstacles. More specifically, for Microsoft users, TouchPoint Agent from Enghouse Interactive can make a good solution even better. Rather than focus on the attributes of a specific vendor, my focus here is to show how SMBs can get more value from Microsoft by rethinking their approach to customer support.

The first thing to recognize is that SMBs don’t always require a full-fledged contact center operation. Aside from the hefty financial requirements, these operations will generally require a purpose-built contact center platform, which then needs integration with your Microsoft environment.

A more practical approach is to set up a modest contact center that’s manageable today, but can be scaled up as needs dictate. Or, you could just have a simple help desk run within a department – even this level of effort can go a long way to improving customer service.

With that end result in mind, TouchPoint Agent is the kind of add-on that extends the value of your Microsoft investment beyond the workplace to include customer support. All within one platform, and all hosted in the cloud. In essence, TouchPoint Agent provides the advanced call management features needed in today’s contact center, such as intelligent call routing, call recording, CRM-driven screen pops, and rich presence for real-time management of call flows and agent support.

For many SMBs, these capabilities will be a major improvement, and represents a solution for improving customer service in ways that IT can support, and that management will understand. Being cloud-based, this approach doesn’t require any new infrastructure, and can be both deployed and scaled on the spot. On the technology side, what TouchPoint Agents brings is native Microsoft integration – especially between O365 and the phone system - making it easy to extend O365 and SfB from the workplace to the contact center.

With most contact center interactions being telephony-based, this is a great way to maximize the utility of SfB Online, and provide your customers with better-than-ever service. That’s a pretty strong return for enhancing your Microsoft environment with a single add-on, and it starts from rethinking customer support after tying all these elements together.

Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent analyst providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel with a focus on the business-level impact of disruptive communications technologies. Core areas of expertise include unified communications, cloud services, collaboration, Internet of Things, future of work, contact centers, customer experience, video, VoIP, and social media.

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3 Things Are Holding Back Your Analytics, and Technology Isn’t One of Them

 by Todd Clark and Dan Wiesenfeld

M and M

During the past decade, business analytics platforms have evolved from supporting IT and finance functions to enabling business users across the enterprise. But many firms find themselves struggling to take advantage of its promise. We’ve found three main obstacles to realizing analytics’ full value, and all of them are related to people, not technology: the organization’s structure, culture, and approach to problem solving.


Structurally, analytics departments can range between two opposite but equally challenging extremes. On the one hand are data science groups that are too independent of the business. These tend to produce impressive and complex models that prove few actionable insights.

Consider the experience of one retail financial services firm. There, the analytics function was comprised of employees who used specialized software packages exclusively and specified complicated functional forms whenever possible. At the same time, the group eschewed traditional business norms such as checking in with clients, presenting results graphically, explaining analytic results in the context of the business, and connecting complex findings to conventional wisdom. The result was an isolated department that business partners viewed as unresponsive, unreliable, and not to be trusted with critical initiatives.

On the other hand, analysts who are too deeply embedded in business functions tend to be biased toward the status quo or leadership’s thinking. At a leading rental car agency, for instance, we watched fleet team analysts present intelligence purportedly showing that the fleet should skew toward newer cars. Lower maintenance costs more than compensated for the higher depreciation costs, they said. This aligned with the fleet vice president’s preference for a younger fleet.

But it turned out that the analysts had selected a biased sample of older cars with higher-than-average maintenance costs among cars of the same age. An analysis of an unbiased sample (or the entire population) would have yielded a different result. (Of course there might have been other motivations to keep a younger fleet—customer satisfaction and brand perception, to name two—but cost reduction was not one of them.)


Culturally, organizations that are too data-driven (yes, they exist) will blindly follow the implications of flawed models even if they defy common sense or run counter to business goals. That’s what happened at a financial services firm where management was mulling a change to its commission structure. They wanted to switch the basis of its salesforce compensation from raw results to performance relative to the potential of each salesperson’s market.

In response, analysts developed an admirable data envelopment model. The model simultaneously compared sales of different types of products with local demographic and financial statistics to come up with a single efficiency measure for each salesperson relative to their peers. Indeed, this seemed to have made compensation more equitable. But it reduced the compensation of salespeople who were less efficient but ultimately more valuable—causing them to defect to competitors.

Alternatively, organizations that rely too heavily on gut instinct resist adjusting their assumptions even when the data clearly indicates that those assumptions are wrong. The aforementioned rental car agency, for example, was extremely reluctant to change course even after discovering that the data didn’t support their cost reduction claims.

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Harry’s New Side Hustle in Analytics

Pre-recession, my basic mo·dus op·e·ran·di (MO) was to take fun seriously in business. I’ve emerged battle-tested over the past decade and have adopted a tougher stance on life: Lead…or follow…or get out of the way. I still try to have fun where I can find it but the economy isn’t as fun as a decade ago and neither am I!

First, before you proceed, I’d ask you to peruse my LinkedIn profile HERE so you  bigdatacan get the foundation to understand the context I’m about to present. Hopefully you’ll note that I’m committed to education both formal and semi-formal (that would be my technology-related certifications). Second, my goal is to lead by example and have your follow along and join the parade. Third, as I’ve opined many times over the past few years. Small Business Server is GONE and it’s time to reinvent ourselves. You’ve done it before; you can do it again.

Side Hustle
It’s all Karl Palachuck’s fault. About 20-months ago at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (2016), it announced a “degree” in Data Science. Karl signed up to participate in this and I openly questioned whether it could be called a “degree” as Microsoft is not an accredited University. Fast forward the movie and the program has been rebranded a professional certificate (which is appropriate) and the title is Microsoft Professional Program. There are three majors: Data Science, Big Data and DevOps. Note that these are “earned” certificates; not honorary. These are the real deal.

I’m pursuing the Big Data certificate for a few reasons. It’s how I’m wired (I’m not a developer and flunked out of C++ years ago). I was a SQL Server MCSE in the late ‘90s to support my employer (Clark Nuber) and its vaunted Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics accounting consultant practice (once Great Plains Dynamics abandoned Btrieve on the NetWare platform, it adopted SQL Server as the engine on a Windows NT Server network). The Big Data certificate is a natural extension of my background in this area. Finally, many readers know I recently exited a Seattle-based Big Data startup in Predictive Analytics and I want to go all in and double down in this area as the New Harry!

Program Referrals

You’d be amazed concerning the support I have received when I have made mention of my latest education side hustle. After a brief mention in one of the recent MSP Tech Talk lectures (you can sign up HERE for Spring quarter where one of the lectures is a deeper dive on marketing analytics), I received several inquiries about the program and the sign-up link. Ditto a catch-up coffee last Friday with Brandon from Bainbridge Technology and his wife (she has a data analyst background). Finally, there was my friend who works for a State of California’s I-Bank (Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank) and is seeking to take his career to the next level with his passion concerning alternative energy such as solar power (yes – Big Data plays nicely in science to).

Just ‘Da Facts
I know. I know. Get to the fricking point Harry!

In the Microsoft Professional Program Big Data certification HERE – there are ten required courses that take 12-30 hours each to complete. The education outcome is to train you in eight new skills. Each course runs for three months and starts at the beginning of a quarter. January—March, April—June, July—September, and October —December. The capstone runs for four weeks at the beginning of each quarter: January, April, July, October. Accordingly, I have budgeted two years to complete this journey. Not only do I want to acquire new skills along the way but I want to demonstrate forward professional progress. Again, I implore you to join me right here right now.

Last missive. This is essentially free for Microsoft Partners. I consider this to be in the neighborhood of a several thousand-dollar subsidy compared to what you might pay for other programs. You can pay $99 USD to receive a completion certificate suitable for framing – something I’ll treat myself to upon successful completion.

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Dana Epp's New Main Hustle!


This is a "Where is he now? Dana Epp’s new startup!" startup piece. Read on.

Few SMB Nation event speakers captivated like Dana Epp at our Fall Conferences. In SMB Nation 2009, Epp spoke in a packed, long narrow room at the now demolished Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. He performed live hacking before a mesmerized audience (long before Kevin Mitnick started his current road show). Fast forward

the movie and Dana enjoyed well-deserved success directing his last security focused startup (Scorpion Software) to an ultimate full acquisition by Kaseya, danaeppan investor-backed RMM ISV.

Disappearing Act
With all due respect, post-acquisition Epp and SMB Nation lost touch. As is often the case, the acquirer asks or requires the acquired party to join the parent company for a period of time to assist in the logistics such as brand transition. That’s exactly what Epp did – joining Kaseya as one of their principal architects. A year later Dana was promoted to CTO and asked to redefine software engineering at Kaseya. With Epp’s focus on his day job, we missed our occasional conversations.

New Startup: Wildrook
Recently my LinkedIn notification made mention of Dana’s professional update. I double-clicked down and discovered that Dana had exited Kaseya and was out in the wild again, starting Wildrook in his hometown of Vancouver BC. I spoke at length with Epp to get the scoop. Epp’s tenure at Kaseya arrived at a completion milestone once he integrated Scorpion Software into its operations and he helped fundamentally transform the CTO role. The call of the wild to get back into the startup scene resulted in the formation of Wildrook ( The core solution, called AuditWolf, is the cloud threat protection platform to protect your cloud resources in Azure. The topic of a whole ‘nother future blog post, AuditWolf takes advantage of Microsoft’s Cloud Management APIs to start aggregating data related to configuration changes, host setup and activity and user interactions with resources in Azure ,all without impacting live services. It then applies Dana’s expertise and experience in Azure security (he’s been a Microsoft Security MVP for 14 years now) to make sure your data and deployments are properly secured. “We allow you to gain operational intelligence and insight into the security of your data and deployments hosted in the cloud.” Epp shared.

When asked “why” he was building his new startup, Epp responded by saying “it is far too easy for IT professionals to screw up security in Azure. I see it every day. With the proliferation of public cloud computing outpacing cybersecurity defenses, and the concepts or IT administration blurring with DevOps to drive “Infrastructure as Code (IaC), a single click or command in the Azure Portal can cause a security violation if you don’t know the impact of that decision. And you won’t even know you did it... until it’s too late. That’s a real pain point. We can solve it.”

“At the highest level, we help you get the big picture with a contextual view of your Azure environment, and constantly monitor for change. Our report card paradigm and grading system allows you to see how we rank your cloud risks and helps to prioritize remediation efforts.” Epp said. “Then AuditWolf helps you remediate your risk by by generating the commands to run in Azure to fix the security violation(s), educating your administrators responsible for managing the cloud infrastructure while helping them fix it.”

Hear from Epp
Epp will led a security lecture in our MSP Tech Talk – Spring Quarter in late June. You can click HERE to sign-up for this complimentary speech. And there you have it. Epp is alive and kicking across the border in Canada. Yes – he’s back, helping to keep us secure!

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