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.

On the Road Again – Lenovo Tech Wheels Tour

One of the jewels at the recently completed Lenovo Summit (Orlando, April 2017), hardly hidden, was the Lenovo Tech Wheels truck. It represents the initial on-the-road outreach by Lenovo to tell it’s story to the people, one truck stop at a time.

Starting this Spring, Lenovo’s Tech Wheels truck will visit partner sites, stores and events in the Southeast US LenovoTechTruckTour region (Lenovo is based in North Carolina).

If this sounds like a redo from yester year, you are partially correct. SMB Nation readers will fondly recall the Microsoft Across America tour trucks and buses before the Great Recession. Here’s the good news. The Lenovo Tech Wheels tour is bringing that excitement back. Thank you.

The Tech Wheels truck that I toured (pictured) was a first class GEEK CAVE. Here is an example of how it works. The idea is that this vehicle will pull up to the office building where you have your MSP consulting and reseller practice. The trailer then spreads its wings to create a demonstration lab showing Lenovo wares. To me the secret sauce was the presentation, just like how an upscale restaurant presents gourmet food. It’s all in the presentation and Lenovo’s Tech Wheels scores high marks here.

So what’s it all mean? The Lenovo fiscal year just started April 1st. This is a pilot program with one truck running in the current fiscal year. If successful, I would offer you can anticipate seeing additional Lenovo Tech Wheels trucks in the next fiscal year. And once it hits critical mass, it’s essentially recreated the Microsoft Across America tour – updated by about ten years. Think of this as an “event in a truck” because the desired motion an MSP would take is that customers would be invited to walk through the Lenovo Tech Wheels truck and be dazed and amazed.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this initiative as I have a personal interest in its success.

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Check-in: IBM (You Gotta Read This!)

Last quarter I reported from the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership (PWL) Conference 2017 in Las Vegas. Now I want to check-in again on IBM’s efforts to transform and improve its channel partner program.

In the Box

Think of a box having four-sides. That is how IBM essentially communicated the PartnerWorld paradigm to its Business Partners at PWL. I’ll tackle each side here but Figure #1 shows you where I’m headed.

IBM Partnerworld

Figure #1: IBM Box

Global Markets. Don’t forget that in many ways (IMHO), IBM is stronger globally than domestically in the US. It’s a trusted brand when I’ve travelled to LATAM, EMEA and APAC. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. IBM’s claiming to continue to strengthen its globalization approach with dedicated segment leadership, stakeholder collaboration, strong business unit alignment and optimized buyer group focus. For what it is worth, a significant portion of the attendees at PWL were from overseas. Another factoid was IBM’s admission and assertion that it has a 1% market share with plenty of room to grow. I’d concur.

One Channel. Represents IBM’s primary route to market in commercial. The channel vision conversation with especially strong with the seismic shifts occurring in buyer behavior driven by cloud, digital, data and cognitive. The client journeys dictate seamless engagement across digital, direct and business partners. My point is this. Granted IBM tends to work more with larger partners (and ISVs like Bluebee, a genome startup I spoke with) and doesn’t have as meaningful connection with SMB partners and MSPs (more on this in a moment), the facts surround the customer behavior trends are the same!

In the context of channel, a shout out to IBM for the introduction of new competencies in cloud, Watson and security.

Marketing. I found this area to be very interesting and will spend a few extra minutes on this topic. IBM’s marketing strategy is very simple and reflected in Figure #2 below. Marketing is focused on three industries (Manufacturing, Retail, Banking), three professions (CIO/IT, CISO, Marketing) and four IT Products/Services (Analytics, Cloud, Systems and Security). If you get anything out of this blog, let it be this. Approximately 80% of the client base is seed accounts. Translation is that this is the green field for SMB MSPs who want to attach to IBM’s motion. You read it here first.

IBM Image 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure #2: Worth a few hundred words, this one-pager succinctly summarizes the IBM PartnerWorld marketing strategy.

In the context of marketing, this is where I want to highlight two things. The first was my conversation with IBM Cloud CMO Quincy Allen (Figure #3). Basically, we landed on the conclusion that marketing is analytics. And who better to lead that charge than IBM with its huge head start with Watson.

Quincy Allen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure #3: Facetime with IBM Cloud CMO Quincy Allen discussing marketing analytics and how to get business value.

Digital Sales/Business Group. The basic story here is marketing workflow. The concept is a content-based strategy of digital hubs that allow the partner to market from top of funnel to mid-funnel and finally conversion. It has to do with relevant content showing up in search such as “AI for marketing” leading to a related article to engage the customer and convert to a trial version of the offering. To be honest, I’d be surprised if IBM didn’t offer this stuff to its partners.

A shout out to the Cognitive Sales Advisor. It’s a Watson-based tool to unify partner support.
The Magician

Jamie Mendez, Director at PartnerWorld, is the magician behind the scenes. And I got to meet her! She keyed in on PartnerWorld (which is the partner program, website and engagement model including events) with a “adding value” mantra. “Few partners only do one thing when you look at our partner program model.” Mendez said. “We want partners to build something, sell something and deploy something.” For that reason, I noticed the PWL conference had a lot more developers that you would see at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (now called “Inspire”).

I chatted about her breadth partner play because my perception has been that IBM doesn’t have an SMB play. They do it in a difference form. First IBM defines an “enterprise” as 50-employees or higher. Second – it partners with distributors for its breadth play including Ingram, TechData, Avnet and Arrow.
Final Thoughts

Gotta hand it to IBM for hanging in there long-term. Year-after-year I attend the PWL conference and they are investing in the partner channel. I think IBM is finally on to something with its focus on Watson and IoT. And it was the first time I had heard of PartnerWorld trying to engage audiences at scale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Important Advances in Development That Have Led to The Success of Major Apps

During the last seven years, developers have designed state-of-the-art apps that can create a custom interface for each client, connect to many types of products, generate real-time statistics, examine factors that may affect health, sense a user's movements and automate day-Appsto-day tasks. Moreover, the popularity of applications has been tremendously augmented by wearable devices, such as Google Glass, watches that can connect to Wi-Fi and fitness trackers.

3. Linking Apps to Other Products

According to one analysis, more than 122 million users have downloaded applications that can control various compatible products, and by January 2020, customers will be able to digitally connect apps to more than 26 billion items worldwide. Currently, users may link the software programs to remote cameras, automobiles, computers, certain electrical outlets, equipment that is related to various sports, unmanned aerial vehicles and some LEDs. Additionally, numerous apps can be connected to medical devices, which may monitor a person's heart rate, examine a diabetic patient's blood sugar and send notifications to physicians.

2. Software Programs That Can Evaluate Workouts and Routes That Many Runners Prefer

In 2014, several businesses released cutting-edge apps that determine the distance of each run, examine the number of steps that a person takes, analyze a workout intensity, predict the effects of inclined paths, provide audible feedback and locate nearby trails. The programs can also provide long-term plans for athletes and evaluate the risk of certain injuries.

Some apps offer analytics that are related to cycling, yoga and training sessions that feature weights. Once the applications log each workout information, users may rapidly send the detailed reports to friends, request tips and save maps that show previous routes, and the apps could automatically add information to a dashboard that allows customers to compare similar workouts.

1. The Advantages of Application Performance Management

While providing real-time statistics, some application performance management toolspplication performance management tools will indicate the number of people who utilize an app during specific time periods, the daily revenue that advertisements produce and the percentage of customers who use particular tools. The programs will examine bugs that decrease the speed of the app's processes, actions that could cause the software to freeze and the quantity of data that the application receives. The software can also analyze the performance of servers that are linked to related websites.

Certain programs allow developers to sort data and lists of processes that an app completed. Furthermore, some tools may provide interactive charts that indicate the historical prevalence of specific events and compare metrics that are related to multiple apps, and some applications will predict the activities of users, revenue that each app might generate and the number of customers who will likely use certain features every day.

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Storage Guardian Announces New ConnectWise Manage Integration

PSA collaboration focuses on self-healing tickets, efficient billing and easy deployment

Toronto (PRWEB) March 07, 2017

Storage Guardian announced today that its data storage and recovery solutions can now be accessed directly from ConnectWise Manage professional services Storage Guardianautomation (PSA) software. The new integration automatically resolves outdated open-file alert tickets, simplifies the deployment of Storage Guardian services, and increases the efficiency and accuracy of billing.

“The goal of our latest integration was to give managed service providers (MSPs) the ability to easily manage, monitor and protect their customers’ critical data directly from ConnectWise Manage,” said Omry Farajun, President, Storage Guardian. “Backup and disaster recovery (BDR) is a critical part of ensuring business continuity. Our new integration provides MSPs with the ability to provide this service to their customers in a straightforward, uncomplicated way.”

One unique feature of the Storage Guardian offering is the self-healing ticket. Farajun said most BDR software solutions, including Storage Guardian’s, automatically create an alert ticket for any file that happens to be open when a backup takes place. The self-healing ticket process in the new integration goes one step further and automatically resolves that alert ticket when the previously opened file is found closed during a subsequent backup.

“The number one request we hear from MSPs was to find a way to drastically reduce the number of non-necessary alert tickets in their systems,” he said. “We listened closely and found a way to meet this need with our new self-healing ticket functionality. Open file alerts that do not require a technician’s attention are automatically resolved and closed, eliminating unnecessary tickets that clog an MSP’s help desk and divert attention away from more critical issues.”

Additional benefits that are part of the new ConnectWise Manage integration include:

    Easy deployment and management: Storage Guardian software can be deployed by MSPs onto their customers’ networks directly from ConnectWise Manage. The one-time install process requires no hardware, and the single-pane approach allows MSPs to easily select the company designated for the install and gives users direct access to a wealth of additional capabilities, including a new set of reports that are available in a clean, easy-to-understand dashboard look.
    Billing enhancements: An electronic interchange of data eliminates the need for manual entry of billing information, saving time and increasing accuracy. The new integration also includes flat-rate pricing based on total capacity rather than on agents.

Gavin Gamber, Vice President of Channel Sales & Alliances for ConnectWise, said Storage Guardian integrations are a welcome addition to the ConnectWise Invent partnership program. “Integrated, third-party solutions, such as those from Storage Guardian, add functionality and efficiencies to our suite of business management solutions. The work that Storage Guardian has done first with ConnectWise Automate, formerly LabTech, and now with ConnectWise Manage is vital to our partners’ success,” he said.

To learn more about Storage Guardian’s flexible data protection service and how an MSP can market and resell data protection services to its customers, visit the Storage Guardian website and register for a free trial.

About Storage Guardian

For more than a decade, Storage Guardian has been giving small- and medium-sized businesses and their customers the ability to quickly recover from any data loss disaster. Our robust set of enterprise-grade offerings include a secure cloud destination for disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS); affordable, feature-rich, automated backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions; and robust analytics to help calculate recovery time. Storage Guardian solutions protect your business data in the cloud, on-premises, or via a hybrid configuration, and always comply with the highest regulatory requirements, including Sarbanes-Oxley and FIPS 140-2. Safeguard data – no matter where it resides – before a natural disaster, hardware failure or malicious software attack stops your business in its tracks. For more information, visit the Storage Guardian website.

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PartnerPower: 3CX Review

I started on the 3CX telephone system journey with my customer hat on. I believed I could do it all. So, I jumped right in without, you guessed it, reading the manual (RTM).

I quickly discovered that this was my first telephony rodeo in a while and I needed help after I tripped up on a security 3CXcertificate implementation. Help isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean the 3CX is overcomplicated. Just the opposite as I discovered 3CX is very powerful and I needed the help of a certified 3CX partner.3CX

I reached out to my favorite telecom expert, Allen Miller, a well-known 3CX consultant based in Cincinnati, OH (Allen Miller Computer Consulting; www.MillerManor.net). Full disclosure: Allen and I worked together nearly a decade ago on a now discontinued Microsoft small business phone system. I credit Allen with introducing me to the world of VoIP. Needless to say, I trust him when it comes to everything telephony.

Over the course of a few working sessions, Allen and I configured 3CX for a test network at my company, SMB Nation. In the first session, we completed the server-side installation starting with the security certificate matter through the naming conventions and administrator authentication. We did this on a small Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop unit. And therein was one of the first magical 3CX experiences. This big-league phone system can run on tiny computers. Literally. Loosely translated, I’m saying the 3CX, which can scale well through mid-sized companies, has low overhead and hardware requirements. I was officially impressed!

Also, undertaken in the first session was configuring the external firewall. We configured the SMTP email connection to the email server capabilities as well.

At the end of the first session, I realized I “didn’t know what I didn’t know” about the 3CX system and its robust strengths are indeed its asset. I could see where I was of wise mind to secure the services of a subject matter expert (SME) like Allen. I recommend this as your very first step in working with 3CX!

In the second session with Allen, we set up the client side with desk phones. I offered to re-flash a few old Cisco phones from yesteryear for this stage. Allen overruled me. He was very strict in his beliefs to not only use approved phones on the 3CX support phones list but to use a specific few brands he had successfully worked with.

Allen shared that “Some suggestions – I am partial to Yealink phones. The one I use is the T48G which has a lot of soft buttons that you can use for speed dials which I like. I think you have a T46G which is nice with fewer buttons. They also announced a new line in the last couple weeks called T4S series. I believe these have blue tooth and Wi-Fi if those matter to you.” Yealink it was and a shout out of appreciation to 888VOIP.com (888VOIP also hosts 3CX Training events which are very useful for partners to get help toward their 3CX Certifications. Visit http://www.888voip.com/events/ for providing our test bed. This intercompany cooperation from all aforementioned parties is a credit to 3CX for having built a reputation where stakeholder and suppliers work together and want to cooperate. I’ve worked with other vendors where such a community didn’t exist.

By the end of the second session, we had successfully configured the desktop phones including assigning extensions, basic call rules, identities, etc. At this point, we had the server-side and the client side ready to go.
In the next and final session, we secured dial tone. Allen had arranged for carrier services to make the phone real and ready to roam in the wild using a SIP Trunk Allen provided from vendor/partner Vitelity.com. Again, deferring to my consultant, he quickly configured the proverbial last mile to give me dial tone. I then ran both traditional and secret tests. First, I called myself from my mobile phone to confirm the 3CX system was operational. Then I answered a Craigslist ad for boating merchandise where I normally wouldn’t want someone to know my real phone number. I asked them to call the phone number I had been assigned and the phone rang as expected without problem or concern. The call fidelity over my broadband connection was excellent.

Mission accomplished. A bona fide 3CX system was up and running real time and big time. I’ve had the test bed up for over a month. No drama. And, again, I want to reiterate, hire a 3CX partner as your first step. Don’t be like Harry as that was my second step. LOL.

Customer Evidence
Not content to simply share my own experience, I wanted to seek out 3CX customer evidence to balance my opinions. I didn’t have to look far. Since the first of the year, I’ve been working with a well-respected Seattle-area vendor in the technology ecosystem. It’s stock in trade is a number of global call centers. You know it takes telephony seriously. It depends on 3CX which is a testament right there. In this scenario, I’ve been using 3CX via the native softphone application. This is the basic CSG Services configuration for 3CX: softphones, not desk phones, for each of its 100+ employees in its call centers. While not my preference (I still prefer a desk phone), I grew increasingly fond of 3CX once I hooked up my Sennheiser professional headset, freeing me from a four foot USB headset cable and allowing to walkabout and pace on calls within Bluetooth range.

My experience on the 3CX customer side is this. It’s battle tested in the technology call centers. It has passed the test. By the way, it’s running 3CX on an Azure instance (that’s a whole future blog).

Goodness of Fit in an O365 World

Finally, I thought about how 3CX, a real phone system, fits into the Office 365 community. To me the answer is very simple. Microsoft is not a telecom at its core but a software company. I think you must strongly consider 3CX as your telephony solution when you are running Office 365. ‘Nough said.

Next Steps
Click HERE to learn more about 3CX.

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