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.

Support SMB Nation - Cyber Monday and Beyond!

Folks are always asking “Harry – how can I support SMB Nation?” Well we have the answer that combines passion, professionalism and proactivity!

On Cyber Monday - watch our broadcast on LiveShopCast at 4pm Pacific (November 27) as we give it our all for community and offer you the ability to purchase cycling feed bags. Sign up HERE!

You can also view a couple recent LiveShopCast broadcasts by clicking below (cycling jacket left and water bottle right). A former SMB Nation employee is invloved in this startup - so please support her by clicking through. Better yet - sign-up for the 14-day trail byThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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So we have three (3) products for sale - right here right now! Read on...

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As you know, the staff at SMB Nation are passionate and avid bikers (road and mountain). Folks who attended the infamous SMB Nation 2005 fall conference received a yellow cycling jacket, the likes of which are still seen today in numerous MSP events!

Fast forward to today and you can buy SMB Nation goods and help support a great professional community.

Finally, you can proactively help the environment. For example, did you notice when you travel that airports have a water bottle fill-up fountain next to the water fountains? Yep – and the digital signage even tells you how many one time use plastic water bottles have been saved by using your own water bottle. So start that good behavior with your own SMB Nation water bottle.

Starting at $8.00 plus $2.00 for shipping (US only)

Click HERE to buy.

 

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UPDATES!

You can now purcahse the SMB Nation Cycling Jacket ($80 plus shipping) and the SMB Nation Cycling Feed Bag ($15 plus shipping). Just click on the images below to start your transaction!

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A Business Name vs. a Trademark: Do You Know the Difference?

By: Nellie Akalp

IKEA

 

As an entrepreneur, you understand the importance of protecting your business name. Think of the sales you might lose if another company opened up using your same name. If you’re building a brand, investing in advertising and hoping customers can find you, you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly protected your business name so no one else can use it.

But what exactly is the best way to do that?

Oftentimes, new business owners are confused about the difference between registering their business name with the state and filing for a trademark. Here, we’ll break down the differences so you can determine which approach is right for your business.

1. Registering a business name with the state
When you apply to be a corporation or an LLC, the secretary of state’s office is going to check to make sure that your proposed business name isn’t already in use by another company in your state.

Every state has its own laws about just how different a name must be from other business names. For example, some states will allow “Mandi’s Florist” when there’s already a “Mandy’s Flowers” registered. Other states will reject it and consider “Mandi’s Florist” deceptively similar.

Once your LLC or corporation application is approved, your name is protected in the state: No other business will be able to form an LLC or corporation with the same name in that state. However, there’s nothing to stop a business that operates as a sole proprietorship or partnership from using your name in the state. It just won’t be able to register as an LLC or corporation with that name.

addition, registering your name with the state has no impact on what happens in the other 49 states. If you incorporated your business in New York, another business can use your same name in New Jersey or Connecticut. And, it can even incorporate or form an LLC in other states with with the same name..

Depending on your business type and model, brand protection at the state level might be sufficient. For example, if you are opening a local restaurant or other establishment, you might not mind if another business uses your name in a completely different state. There’s little chance that a customer will confuse the two.

However, if you plan on expanding nationwide, selling your products/services across the country, or are just concerned that a partnership might use your name, then you should protect your name on a federal level with a trademark.

2. Filing for federal trademark protection
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design (or a combination of any of these) that identifies the source of a product or service and distinguishes it from competitors'. Trademarks can be granted on distinctive names, logos and slogans.

Trademarks are granted at the federal level by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The owner of a trademark has exclusive rights to the trademark and can prevent anyone else from using it. And these rights are protected at the state and federal levels.

When applying for a trademark, expect to pay $275 per class (a little more if you have an expert prepare the paperwork for you). Processing time can take upwards of six to 12 months with the USPTO. The process is more expensive and involved than registering a business name, but it provides you with exclusive rights in all 50 states. And, unlike copyrights or patents, trademarks have an unlimited lifespan so long as you comply with the renewal requirements.

 

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The 15 Most Profitable Small-Business Industries in 2016

Profitable Small Buseiness

 

by: Carolyn Sun

This article originally published March 4, 2016.

Being talented with numbers can really pay off if you’re looking to start a profitable business.

Accounting and tax services takes the top spot on the list of the most profitable type of small business with a generous 18.4 percent net profit margin followed by real-estate services (15.2 percent), law firms (14.5 percent) and doctor’s offices (13 percent) reports Sageworks, a financial data service that analyzed the net profit margin of more than 16,000 small businesses (that earned less than $10 million) between September 2014 and August 2015. Companies like Due.com are helpful for tracking time and invoicing.

What makes these industries profitable? For one, they’re driven by human capital.

“Service industries,” says Sageworks analyst Jenna Weaver, “are very common to find on the most profitable small-business list. This is generally due to lower overhead and startup costs. A lot of these industries you can start from your house.”

While profit isn’t the only matter for an entrepreneur to consider -- other factors to consider are whether the business matches his or her skills, what sort of licensing or training is required and how the business would fare during a recession -- it’s an important place to start.

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Overcoming the Challenges of Starting a Business

Every entrepreneur faces challenges which need to be dealt with persistently and regularly, though few would disagree such difficulties are more prevalent than when you are starting your business.

Sage collaborated with business owners and entrepreneurial support groups to Start up Challenge 1understand the common trials new leaders face, offering guidance to give you the best opportunity when starting your enterprise.

Marketing & Costing

Every new business marketing strategy should begin by examining its competition. If they are successful, find out where they are advertising and how. Use their same marketing techniques to give your own business a jump-start.

Once customers are visiting your store or website, if they are not making purchases, don’t adjust your prices. If you think they are fair, others will, too.

Instead, it is likely they aren’t convinced by your business. Ensure your website is modern-looking and using high-quality images, advertise your most high-end clients by publishing testimonies or getting permission to feature their logos, and offer incentives, like discounted prices.

Customer Contact Information

Most websites feature pop-ups which invite users to sign up to the business’ e-mail campaign so they can stay updated, though it may surprise you that the most effective place for this link is actually on the About page; Blog Tyrant noticed it’s the same customers that are interested in learning about your business that want to know more later, too.

This process can be a little trickier for brick-and-mortar stores, but instead of just asking purchasers to leave their contact information at the till, you can increase the number of sign-ups and purchasers in one go by placing your sign-up forms throughout the store alongside purchase incentives.

Admin

As much as every entrepreneur wants to focus on generating income, every business has to deal with administration. Fortunately, the digital age is making this easier than ever.

From hiring an online virtual assistant who can help you from anywhere in the world, to utilising smart applications, which can do anything from managing your business’ finances to enabling small teams to collaborate and share files, cloud-technology is reducing the time business owners need to dedicate themselves to repetitive and mundane tasks.

Relevant Technology

From AI applications and social media trends, to building responsive websites, technology is changing quickly. Even after following all the best-practice guidance available, one new piece of technology can be enough to cast your enterprise into obscurity.

Thus, it is essential to try and stay on top of the latest trends and innovations which might be relevant to your business strategies. Task your employees with each tracking a key technological area and meet for monthly updates. Alternatively, listen to business-technology podcasts in your free time or hire a virtual assistant to provide you with reports.

Of course, these are only the most common challenges business leaders confront when starting a venture, but the underlying lessons can apply to the majority of issues. Use your competitors’ strategies to break into their customer base, entice customers with attractive displays and incentives, and stay up-to-date on relevant technology that can improve customer experience and make your job easier.

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Cloud Computing Security: How the Cloud keeps your Data Secure

It's your critical business data, secure It.

The most important part of a computer isn't the processor or RAM, it's the data.

Pictures, email, documents, records, files, passwords, it's all data. Keeping it safe is paramount in today's world.

For data security, it's hard to beat the cloud.

What Is The Cloud?

In simple terms, the cloud consists of computer servers maintained by an entity or cloud security 1company with an Internet connection in a secure location. With massive and multiple hard drives, they store and provide access to data.

For anyone with an Internet connection (via home Internet or cellular service), there is access to that data. For example, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Most people don't like keeping their own "things" in someone else's location. Data is no different. Who wants someone else holding their data? But there are advantages to using a cloud server for data, especially essential data.

Professional Management of Your Data

For those not in the field of IT, it's doubtful that we employ best practices for data safekeeping. Most of the data on our computers is stored in files without encryption and in directories easily located. Access to our computers is access to just about everything about us, including bank accounts, online accounts, friends, and relatives. It makes sense to put precious data in the hands of companies dedicated explicitly to securing it.

Constant, Secure Backup Off Premises

Most people don't think about data backup, but that doesn't make it any less important. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods do happen, and after a disaster has occurred is the wrong time to think about disaster recovery of your valuable data.

Cloud-stored data is not just "out there;" it's securely stored and backed up consistently.

Redundancy Means Reliability

Cloud storage is more than a single server. Most individuals, and even small businesses, store data in one location. Not the cloud.

A cloud service using best practices stores redundant data in at least two locations so that even if one location is inaccessible for some reason, your data is still safe.

Failure is Not an Option -- It's Inevitable

According to a 2013 article showing some extensive testing, 1 in 5 hard drives will fail within three years, and 1 out of 2 will fail within five years.

Randomly, there is a 1 in 8 chance that your hard drive will fail. That means anything you store locally is more likely to be lost within five years than not. Again, after the disaster occurs is no time to start worrying about data backup.

Spyware, Viruses, and Ransomware, Oh My!

For large companies (like Equifax, Target, Home Depot, etc.), hacking is the primary threat to data. For the rest of us, malware is our most significant threat, and especially ransomware as it threatens to lock or delete our data.

There are many methods for preventing ransomware, but the only failsafe way to preventing threats to your data is to have your data beyond threat.

A data backup, away from an infected computer, means that even if your computer gets infected, your data is safe and can be recovered. Threat neutralized.

Your Own DaVinci Code

During World War II the Nazis used the "Enigma machine" to send coded messages. Cloud data storage has its enigma machine for data, encryption.

Your connection to cloud data is only sent over secure connections using, in most cases, 128-bit or 256-bit encryption. How secure is that? A secure password using 128-bit, it would take more than 1 billion years to crack, even for a government agency. Next, to the PIN or weak password on a local computer, the difference in security is immeasurable.

Make it Rain! Or Maybe Just "Cloud"y

Moving data to the cloud is often a simple process, but it comes with a lot of considerations. Among those factors is choosing the provider. However, there are many more that you need to pay attention to as well.

Choosing Data

What data do you want in the cloud? Files, folders, or maybe even an entire image of the computer (files and operating system) can be backed up. And consider space too.

Pictures, video, data, and audio files can reach gigabytes of data in a hurry. If there is a business at stake as well, all of those files need to be securely stored in the cloud. Disaster recovery for business, no matter the size, is no small matter.

Cloud Pricing

Depending on what you send to the cloud, there may be a cost associated with it.

Free services are for personal use, not large companies. Often only offer limited space (under 20GB), which may hold your most essential files, but it certainly won't hold everything. The cost will increase the more you store and if you want several versions of it.

Don't sell yourself short to save a buck. Multiple backups (for file recovery) are worth it with a data center that specializes in cloud backup solutions..

To the Cloud...and Back

Don't forget your speed. Sending 300 gigabytes of data to the cloud, and retrieving it, can take a long time. Continual updates are also something to keep in mind.

Cloud backup needs a fast, reliable connection. You never know when you're going to need what you have or are sending to the cloud, so eliminating risk must be part of your consideration.

It's About the Security of Your Data

If your data is important at all, it needs to be secure.

Computer theft, computer failures, malware, natural disasters, and other problems make local data storage a risky business.

The cloud is, by far, the more reliable and secure data storage location for what matters to you most, your data.

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