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.

Start-Over: I’m Not Worthy!

This past week, ChannelPro issued it’s 2016 20/20 Visionaries. It’s a time-tested formula bordering on gamification where awardees can add yet another logo to their website. Every industry does this and I appreciate ChannelPro’s on-going effort to highlight the leaders in the SMB channel. In particular, I appreciate its efforts to highlight the new members with an art callout and by featuring the newbies with a photo in print.

cp2020

In the past, I’ve observed this type of list in both the SMB segment and other industries and pondered what the criteria is for selection. To ChannelPro’s credit, it appears to be a relatively unbiased and independent selection of leaders, not a vendorfest. However I think all of these industry lists suffer from not applying the four-way Rotary ethical test as there are individuals listed who have engaged in situational ethics on the way up. I used to naively think it was unique to our beloved SBS/SMB community but then I got involved in the VC-backed start-up community and it’s even worse LOL!

I can appreciate that these lists are a challenge to compile in that you inevitably leave some great people off the list. And I like how it has divided itself to be 20-visionaries and 20-do’ers. I think the Do-er list (aka “Channel Pros”) is spot on.

So how does this relate to start-over? First this is not a list of newly arrived “start-ups” but rather long-term established players (as it should be). And as I delve deeper into this list, I know about 75% of these 20/20 on a personal level (in fact I know too much about ten of them LOL). But I’d offer nearly each and every one of the 20/20 have had to start-over or reinvent themselves. For example, Jay McBain has gone from a corporate suit box pusher to an entrepreneurial analytical start-up nerd all while siring a couple off-spring along the way. Susan Bradley has remained relevant morphing from the SBS Diva to something of the Security Diva.

When I look at these lists, I always like to ask who’s not on the list. At first blush I didn’t see Vlad, Robin Russ or some of the IAMCP leaders (Steve Hall is one of them who made it). What these exclusions suggest is that (a) it’s hard to make a short list and (b) it’s a bigger community out there than we appreciate. More on the fact size matters in a future missive.

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Start-up: Seattle’s Young Start-up Culture

Start-up: Seattle’s Young Start-up Culture

There has been a very interesting conversation in the Brelsford house lately about start-ups. Dad (that’s me) is involved in a Big Data start-up in addition to owning SMB Nation (run day-to-day by the amazing Jenny).

My wife is old school cul-de-sac suburban Chicago-style and is on a life journey of acknowledgement and acceptance of entrepreneurship. In a future life, may she come back as a small business start-up owner. My youngest son, Harry Jr., more closely fits the demographic and intent of a recent Seattle Times article titled “Young entrepreneurs dive in to start their own businesses, despite the high failure rate” published Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The point is this. In both our dining room and the article, there is a legitimate conversation to funding a young person to create a start-up and get life experience in addition to (or instead of) paying for college. My position is that I think a young person should look at start-up alternatives that INCLUDE education. For example, what about a Gap Year where my son might work in a start-up? Or how about getting the first two years of basic college courses online (from an accredited source of course) while working in or directing a start-up by day. A decade hence, I think Harry Jr. would be richer for the experience. But I am firm that getting a bachelors and masters is a mandatory requirement on my shift. Education is both a tool and a ticket. Period.

Anyways, enough editorializing. The Seattle Times article is a must read and can be found here.

 

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How To Live Your Life in Fear – An MSP Guide

Just lately I’ve had interchanges with business people, family and even MSPs where I was somehow more attuned to “fear factor” language then I’m accustomed to. I’ve even asked people I know and respect why some people are “fearful?”  I think my sensitivity relates to my new “Start-Up” mindset. Each to their own.


So, tongue in cheek, this missive is intended to scare the snitz of you. I’m assuming you have an opening for more fright in your fear bucket. I’m here to fill you up.


What I’m speaking towards is a white paper I recently read titled “Hidden Dangers Lurking in E-Commerce – Reducing Fraud with the Right SSL Certificate. Given I have a Facebook-like high need for attention, I immediately thought I could ruffle some feathers by making you exasperated with my exaggerations. Here we go!


When you download this whitepaper HERE, you can expect to discover the following conversation.


Shopping online has now become almost second nature to most of us, but where did it all start, and what enabled it to grow to the levels that we see today? Reportedly1 it was back in 1994, with the first known web purchase being a pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese from Pizza Hut. When that first pizza was ordered – and, a year later, when online retail giant Amazon sold its first book (Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’2), it ushered in a torrent of activity. Two decades later, global e-commerce sales for 2013 have been calculated at upwards of $1.2 trillion3. What facilitated this tectonic shift in our shopping habits? Trust.

Trust in who we were shopping with, and trust that the purchase information we provided would be secured. Because as ever, where there is money there will always be criminals - eager to take advantage of the burgeoning opportunity. But if trust is the grease that lubricated the online marketplace, what is the technical basis for that trust? The answer is in part solved with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and more specifically, digital certificates - a reliable technology which has worked well for decades, and can continue to do so. But for this to happen, it has to be deployed responsibly. Put simply, not all certificates are created equal – and today, some ingenious criminals have found a way to corrupt the very system that was designed to stop them. As a result we need to make sure that certificates are matched to their uses and that when people send their personal and financial information across the internet they can have confidence that the recipient is not a criminal.

In fact, research from Norton estimates the global price tag of consumer cybercrime now topping some US$113 billion annually 4 which is enough to host the 2012 London Olympics nearly 10 times over. The cost per cybercrime victim has shot up to USD$298: a 50% increase over 2012. In terms of the number of victims of such attacks, that’s 378 million per year – averaging 1 million plus per day.

What is a Digital Certificate and what is SSL?

In order to transact business online, consumers and businesses needed a way of exchanging credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information securely. SSL is the technology that protects much of the Internet and in essence it enables e-commerce. It “lights up” the padlock symbol in the browser to tell the consumer they are safe to send their credit card information to a vendor in a

download

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Did You Know: National Small Business Week

Did You Know: National Small Business Week

This past week was a nationwide celebration called Cinco de Mayo. It was also National Small Business Week supported by the Small Business Administration (SBA). It’s an annual opportunity to reflect back on our roots as small business owners ourselves. And we’re serving small businesses as MSPs. I liken it to maturity matching in finance. Small businesses serving small businesses. That math works for a few reasons that I want to share with you as part of my reflections on National Small Business Week.

When I see enterprises salivate at the small business opportunity, I often see these enterprises misfire when executing on sales and services. Why? Because enterprises don’t speak the language of small business. They don’t “get it” from a cultural perspective. Two simple examples make my point. First, there is the tendency for enterprise folks to engage in display fighting where they have to be the smartest person in the room during a meeting. That tends to lead to this. The small business customer asks what time it is. The enterprise salesperson overwhelms them with a lecture on how to build a watch. Another example concerns overreaching. Enterprises inherently engage in a strategy of incrementalism. If you can sell your widget for $1.05, try to stick it to them (the customer) and get $1.06 LOL. What I’ve seen with the small business culture is a sense of Kankei no baransu. It means to keep your relationships in balance. The idea is that we’re all in the together, live in the same community and understand these are long-term relationships. Enterprises can take there NSA mentality back to the big leagues where it belongs.

Back to National Small Business Week. Microsoft itself was a “sponsor” of several outreach touches including a small business contest, a gaggle of Washington DC events and Melanie Gass was in the thick of it all. Readers will recall Melanie was one of our speakers on the Office 365 roadshow in 2015.

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Start-Over: Beat the Back Office Blues

Start-Over: Beat the Back Office Blues

As part of our ongoing dialog about reinventing yourself, I present for your scrutiny the concept of making the last mile of your operations more efficient. So much emphasize is now placed on pre-acquisition lead generation that we’ve lost sight of improving the bottom line by improving your back office. It’s understandable. We ask a lot of MSPs to be skilled in three areas: finder, minder and grinder.

You’ll recall from my classic SMB Consulting Best Practices (2003) that finder is “get the business.” Minder is “manage the business.” And grinder is “do the work.” The idea is to pick two out of three. You can’t do three out of three as these are radically different skills. More often than not, I see MSPs fancy themselves finders and grinders. Way down the list is minder. But fear not. 

There are means and methods to improve the minder role in your MSP practice. You can consider Accounting.com to outsource your overall accounting function. But you probably don’t need that. A more targeted approach would be a invoicing management service called ConnectBooster. Based out of Fargo, ND (original home of Great Plains accounting software), an intrepid group of MSP entrepreneurs have been at market for a few years with the ConnectBooster billing solution. I recently spoke with the ConnectBooster team and learned that it’s reason for being historically has been to integrate into PSAs such as, you guessed it, ConnectWise. But in my briefing, it was made clear that other PSAs are also supported. ConnectBooster is essentially adding the billing function so you can collect the money. But it’s not providing a collection service (e.g. collection agency). Rather its helping you invoice faster and sooner. Fast money is good money. 
Bottom line on this back office discussion is this. Many MSPs are “starting over” in the era of cloud. Lower administrative costs and improving operations is central to your success.

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Son – It’s Not Plastics. It’s Security

By: Harry Brelsford


An oft-quoted classic movie scene from “The Graduate” (1967) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Graduate] concerns a successful businessman giving career advice to 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) to go into plastics as a career choice. Fast forward the movie nearly 50-years and the prudent career choice is cloud security. It’s an evergreen that will bring you, the MSP/CSP/partner, great riches and professional satisfaction. Few would disagree in the magnitude of this opportunity.


A study by Symantec, the “Website Security Threat Report” is your key to transforming yourself into a component cloud security professional. As part of our SMB Nation mantra about “starting over,” the introduction of this report is very timely for all of us. Some of us remember watching “The Graduate” and the impact it had on the dialog of the late 1960s and 1970s. So this is a welcome geek reboot.


The paper, which you can download HERE, focuses much of its energy on the Heartbleed bug, which shook the foundation of Internet security. The authors have, quite frankly, selected a reference point we can all relate to as the incident happened within the last two years. But the paper is much more than a Heartbleed news recap. The point is that cyber criminals are busy making their own opportunities for exploitation, theft and disruption. Symantec contends and I concur that cyber criminals have become more professional, sophisticated and aggressive in their tactics to the detriment of businesses and individuals alike.


To manage your expectations as your both read and use this security paper to enhance your skills, understand that is it organized into two major areas:

  • Web Threats. High profile vulnerabilities (Heartbleed, ShellShock and Poodle) are reviewed to level set. Then vital solutions such as SSL and TSL certificates are discussed.
  • eCrime and Malware. This is truly an interesting part of the paper. Prices paid by underground entities for stolen identities, malware and e-crime services are holding steady due to high-levels of demand. Ransomware is getting nastier and increasing in volumes. The paper reports it has grown over 45X since 2013.


To continue this journey and to make yourself both security aware and security competent, download the paper HERE.

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2016 US SMB IT spend growth rate to remain flat at US$188B

Techaisle forecasts that US SMB IT spend growth rate could very well remain flat at US$188 billion in 2016 as compared to 2015. However, the US midmarket spending growth will likely increase by 6% whereas the small business spending will fall by 2 percent in 2016 from 2015. In early 2015, Techaisle had forecast US SMB IT spending to be US$180B by end of 2015 – based on most recent Techaisle SMB surveys the actual spending for 2015 came in at US$188B. Techaisle survey data shows some very interesting patterns for planned SMB 2016 IT budgets across different employee size businesses. Small businesses show progressive fall in IT budgets until they reach a certain size whereas midmarket businesses show budget increases until they reach a certain size.

2016 us smb it technology spend resized

To download graphic click here

Although 52% of small businesses say that technology helps drive the direction of their business, the very small businesses (less than 50 employees) have lowered their IT budgets for 2016 varying from -2% to -6% depending upon size of business. This is primarily because of less spending on end-point devices and IT services. Especially within the micro-businesses, spending on mobility is likely to fall by as much as 10%. Survey data shows that IT spending by small businesses is shifting to cloud, managed services, analytics and even IoT as indicated by planned budget increases in each of these technology categories. Only the 1-4 employee size businesses are planning to keep their 2016 cloud budget same as in 2015 as these businesses are reaching a theoretical limit of paid cloud usage.

Small business IT spending is effected by restrained growth in 1-49 employee sieze category businesses. The 50-249 employee size segment is expected to have the IT spend growth rate in 2016 and should be the sweet spot for most IT suppliers.

Technology purchase is not an easy decision for SMBs, where most use their existing budgets and in many cases they have to deal with ad hoc purchases due to changing business conditions. In such a scenario, role of financing is becoming increasingly critical to technology acquisition decisions for 59% of midmarket firms, twice that of small businesses. With an explosive move to cloud, 35% of midmarket businesses indicate that they are moving to OPEX-based agreements. Small businesses are leaning towards leased-based purchases for infrastructure solutions.

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Potential Office 365 customers crying out for channel help

Antony Savvas (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Office 365 Cloud Email

Two thirds want a VAR or service provider to help them shows Barracuda research

Research from Barracuda Networks highlights the opportunity for the UK channel to help businesses adopt Microsoft Office 365.

While the proportion of businesses surveyed planning to migrate to Office 365 is “promising”, said Barracuda, some potential end users cite issues such as security as major inhibitors to adoption.

“Education and value-add services will therefore play a key role in the success of channel programmes around Office 365,” said the security and data management vendor.

Microsoft OfficeThe survey found that just under half of the respondents plan to migrate to Office 365, and a quarter of those will do so in the next 12 months.

And two thirds plan to consult a VAR or service provider to help manage adoption, migration and on-going operation. One third of those not planning to migrate cited security worries as the main reason for this.

Commenting on the research, Henry Doyle, director at Altinet, the IT security and storage VAR, said: “As the popularity of Office 365 grows, it is really encouraging to see that companies recognise the value-add that service providers can deliver in the planning, roll-out and ongoing implementation of these services.

 

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Cloud marketplaces: Can channel partners make money?

 

by Lynn Haber
Senior Writer

cloudcomputing article 005
Channel partners can take advantage of many cloud marketplace options as part of their go-to-market strategies. Here's what you need to know to get started.

As the cloud and software as a service become more mainstream and businesses become more interested in cloud technologies, curiosity about cloud marketplaces -- think of an online storefront -- isn't far behind. That's why channel firms need to learn about cloud marketplaces and how to go about doing business in a cloud marketplace.


There are a dozen or so active cloud marketplaces -- some are independent, such as app directory companies GetApp and Capterra, both acquired by Gartner in 2015, while others are vendor-specific such as Salesforce AppExchange, IBM Cloud Marketplace, Oracle Cloud Marketplace and Dell Cloud Marketplace, among others. IT distributors, such as Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data Corp., for example, also boast their own cloud marketplaces that offer cloud apps from dozens of vendors.

There are two key things that partners need to know about cloud marketplaces: They come in a variety of flavors and they offer partner firms a mechanism to sell a broader portfolio of services.

Thinking about a cloud marketplace as an online storefront, it may consist of aisles of cloud services that span the cloud spectrum: SaaS, infrastructure as a service and perhaps, platform as a service. So, for example, walk down the SaaS aisle and you might see a section of productivity apps, another section with unified communication apps and another with CRM apps. Also, in this storefront are cloud services offerings that are relevant to consuming those products, i.e., professional services, migration services, tier 1 and tier 2 support or bolt-on services such as change management, among others.

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What is driving SMB converged infrastructure adoption

By: Anurag Agrawal

For all the talk of a world predicated on software-defined resources, there is still need for capable, reliable, scalable physical infrastructure to support these software layers and the features and applications that sit atop them. The rise in virtualization has been driving an accompanying demand for converged infrastructure: products that combine processing, storage and networking into a robust and scalable unit that can support and respond to the options inherent in virtualization.

While the migration from separate server, storage and networking products to converged infrastructure is still in its early stages, the Techaisle SMB & midmarket converged infrastructure survey and corresponding Techaisle SMB & midmarket virtualization adoption trends survey shows that it is beginning to gain traction, especially within more sophisticated accounts. Data shows that 10% of small businesses and 27% of midmarket businesses (weighted data) are planning to adopt converged infrastructure. Current midmarket adoption rates for converged infrastructure are below findings for VDI but differences readily become apparent when analyzing the data from the lens of Techaisle’s segmentation by IT sophistication. Converged infrastructure adoption rises steadily with increased buyer sophistication in both the small and midmarket segments. As the market matures, we expect to see accelerated adoption of converged infrastructure across the SMB market.

What is driving converged infrastructure adoption?

While there are technical advantages that make converged infrastructure products more effective virtualization hosts than traditional servers, Techaisle’s research shows that SMB buyers adopt converged infrastructure for one or more of five primary reasons:

  1. to benefit from converged infrastructure’s integrated design and efficiency,
  2. to tap into its ability to enable centralization/management of resources,
  3. to capitalize on performance/time-to-benefit advantages,
  4. to improve IT agility and its ability to meet business needs, and
  5. in response to core requirements for cost savings and improved security.

Drilling down into the data Techaisle finds that core requirements inform many converged infrastructure strategies, and the benefits and efficiency of integrated solutions are also frequently cited as a driver of converged infrastructure adoption.

Two of the top six answers provided in response to the question on converged infrastructure adoption drivers concerned time to benefit; centralization and management issues. And although agility/the ability to meet business needs is the key reason for adopting cloud (including private clouds that are based on converged infrastructure), this is not currently a primary driver of converged infrastructure adoption.

To enhance the scope of comparisons Techaisle also studied data from a parallel question regarding converged infrastructure adoption that was posed to channel respondents in Techaisle’s SMB channel trends survey. This list provides yet another perspective, reflecting the situations in which the channel is drawn into converged infrastructure decisions. Big Data – which requires a relatively wide range of competencies – is the project type that will most commonly require the channel to deploy converged infrastructure systems, and SharePoint projects, which also demand a broad skill set, are the third most common project cited as a converged infrastructure adoption driver. The channel, like its buy-side SMB customers, also recognizes that data center consolidation, virtualization applications and data migration can drive demand for converged infrastructure.

Converged infrastructure selection criteria and implementation challenges

In many ways, the key market issue surrounding converged infrastructure isn’t vendor-vs.-vendor competition, but rather, the ability of converged infrastructure as a system class to gain share quickly vs. traditional server products, while not being obviated by the cloud before attaining mass market penetration. However, suppliers are competing for share in this growth category, and understanding what buyers are looking for – and what they struggle with when they adopt converged infrastructure – is important to positioning a brand as a credible solution.

The data shows that for the most part, small and midmarket firms have similar ideas concerning important attributes of a converged infrastructure supplier. Both view vendor brand/reputation, measurable system attributes (storage, memory, processing power and network bandwidth) and service/support as key issues. Midmarket firms also emphasize implementation speed as a key criterion, and are somewhat more likely (than small businesses) to focus on the ability of the new system to integrate with existing infrastructure assets.

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Straight From High School to a Career

By: Katherine S. Newman and Hella Winston

StraightfromHSCANDIDATES from both parties have been talking a lot about the loss of American jobs, declining wages and the skyrocketing cost of college.

But missing from the debate is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of “middle skill” jobs in the United States that are — or soon will be — going unfilled because of a dearth of qualified workers. Employers complain that electricians, pipe fitters, advanced manufacturing machinists, brick masons and radiology technicians are scarce. More than 600,000 jobs remain open in the manufacturing sector alone. These are jobs that provide a middle-class wage without a traditional four-year college degree.

American high schools once offered top-notch vocational and apprenticeship training, preparing young people for jobs like these. But over the last 70 years, our commitment to such education has waxed and waned, reflecting the country’s ambivalence about the role of school in preparing young people for employment and the value of blue-collar work itself. Progressives have argued that technical education tracks low-income and minority youths toward second-class citizenship; hence they often advocate “college for all.”

Over the past decade or so, however, there has been a move among educators and policy makers to reinvigorate vocational education, now rebranded as career and technical education. Some schools have been extraordinarily effective; others are struggling. If we are to offer young Americans options that are readily available to their counterparts in countries like Germany, we need to figure out what makes for success.

Pickens County Career and Technology Center in Liberty, S.C., is an example of a school that works. In the machine technology shop, students program computers to make plastic molds. In a commercial kitchen, aspiring chefs prepare multicourse meals. The school also offers training in health sciences, mechatronics, masonry, electrical work, carpentry, mechanical design and more. Many students spend half their day at their regular high school and half at the career center. According to the director, Ken Hitchcock, many come from low-income families in which neither parent has a college degree.

The center has an informal partnership with a group of local industry leaders, known as Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County. They help the guidance counselors understand exactly what each business needs, in order to better advise their students. Local companies like Cornell Dubilier and BMW have also helped the school by donating scrap steel, or old robots that they have phased out.

Mr. Hitchcock says that about 60 percent of graduates go on to local technical colleges, while 15 percent head off to four-year colleges, mostly in the health sciences. The rest get jobs, aided by the industry certificates they have earned.

The situation for students attending Automotive High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is less encouraging. Until the 1980s, Automotive, a child of the New Deal, shone as a training ground for thousands of young people who would go on to become technicians in the auto industry.

But funding was cut in the 1990s, and the school was forced to jettison some of its shop classes and focus instead on preparation for Regents exams. It also did away with its entrance examination. With these changes came increasing numbers of students who had little interest in cars.

These troubles have led to a precipitous decline in enrollment, particularly among stronger students. Several industry supporters — some of which had donated funds and even vehicles in the past — walked away as well.

And yet dedicated teachers at Automotive are still keen on helping the students they have acquire the skills and industry certifications they need to get jobs. Teachers told us that graduates consistently find employment as mechanics for city fleets or in private auto repair shops.

Vocational programs face structural obstacles when the industries they train for hit a downturn, as automobile manufacturing did. But even those that are training for profitable industries have to contend with inadequate budgets that translate into obsolete equipment, insufficient support for teacher training in new technologies and inconsistent connections to industry, which render them less able to stay current with the skills in demand.

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Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

For those of you looking to start-over with Office 365, there is good news. Two independent Microsoft consultants from opposite ends of the planet came together to write the most comprehensive end user guide on Skype for Business.

Robert Crane and Greg Plum collaborated on the document, which morphed into over 200 pages of screen shots and step-by-step commentary, aimed at the segment of the market who needed it the most… the end user! They have announced the release of Getting Started with Skype for Business Online.

Robert is the principal of CIAOPS, located in Australia. He is a recognized author, speaker, and Office 365 expert. Greg is the principal of PlumUC, a unified communications practice in Newark, DE, with a focus on collaboration services and voice options for Skype for Business.

Robert and Greg first met in 2014 at Harry’s first O365 Nation Conference at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Fast-forward 12 months and add the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business, creating the impetus for this project.

‘We are excited to offer a complete recipe for success for Skype for Business, one of the industry’s hottest communication services,” explains Greg Plum. “Robert is a tenured author, who provided the guidance needed for my freshman writing endeavor.”

Greg and Robert have already enjoyed some early success with book sales. In addition to direct sales, Velis4, a Pennsylvania-based UC company providing PSTN voice-enablement of Office 365 and Skype for Business, gives a hardcopy of Getting Started for Skype for Business Online to every new Skype for Business customer.

Get your own copy of Getting Started with Skype for Business:

Hardcopy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-crane-and-greg-plum/getting-started-with-skype-for-business-online/paperback/product-22612348.html
PDF: http://www.e-junkie.com/ciaops/product/509275.php
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Started-Skype-Business-Online-ebook/dp/B01C29M2DO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456151735&sr=1-1

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2016 Salary Survey Results – Part II: F/T, Salaried, Six Figures

2016 Salary Survey Results – Part II: F/T, Salaried, Six Figures

As our 2016 salary survey journey continues, we are getting closer to what matters most: money. Last time, in Part I, we established you are well-experienced, educated and the owner. All highly desirable demographic characteristics. Let’s go a layer deeper.

Employment
You are full-time in your company. In fact, you’re likely working overtime! Very few were part-timers. With that said, you’re a W-2 employee in the US (this was nearly 60% of your income) followed by additional income in the form of owner draws and dividends (30%). Makes sense for anyone who has run a small business.

Compensation
Looking more specifically at compensation, the most common response was salary with bonus (39%). Very few of you were working for an hourly wage. And only one respondent had a commission-only position. Your actual compensation clusters in the range of $91,000 to $150,000 USD. Impressive. The exact average (mean) compensation was, wait for it, was $91,000 to $100,000 which is consistent with prior years of survey. The most frequent response (mode) was exactly tied in the range of two categories: $91,000 to $100,000 and $101,000 to $125,000. All of this supports our long-running narrative that “our people make $100,000 USD per year.”

Company Revenue
Vendors and sponsors, in an eternal quest to turn geeks into resellers, are always seeking out the “big guys” at the expense of not showing love to the little guy. Our survey results offer both. The most popular response (mode) for company revenue was $1-million to $3-million, a full 29% above the next category. The average (mean) response was $251,000 to $300,000. Why is this? That’s because we have a double bell curve. We have a cluster of responses in the $51,000 to $200,000 company revenue range that is dragging down the overall average. I’d offer this is the one-person shop. But the cluster between $500,000 and $10,000,000 ($10M) represents50% of the responses (OK actually 49.99%). Something for everyone.

So what’s it all mean. A “B” grade that you’re hanging in there during changing times, transforming compensation models and shifting technology paradigms. Staying even is the new win. Congratulations.

Next week we will look into forward looking statements. Join us right here in the SMB Sunday paper!

PS – Want to make more? Attend our Office 365/Windows 10 Roadshow! Phoenix is May 10th following by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Learn more at 2016roadshow.smbnation.com.

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For Indian Start-Ups, Tenacity Beats High Tech

By ANITA RAGHAVAN
 
TenacityBeatsHighTech

 

BANGALORE, India — On a hot afternoon in a two-story house here, as dogs barked and auto-rickshaws sputtered outside, a venture capitalist grilled three entrepreneurs.

Their start-up, DriveU, provides on-demand drivers for people with cars, differing from Uber or Olacabs, an Indian variant, which offer on-demand taxi services. The three parried questions about the business in a cramped conference room with doors and shutters painted in DriveU’s company colors — shamrock green.

“What will it take for someone to come in and replicate this?” asked Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, a partner for Unitus Seed, a venture capital fund started out of Seattle that invests in Indian companies. “Couldn’t the Ola guys come in and do this?”

“Essentially they could,” said Ashok Shastry, 25, a co-founder of DriveU, who with his long shorts and spiky hair looked as if he would be more at home in Palo Alto, Calif., than Bangalore. “But it would be taking away from their focus.” The models for Uber and Ola, he said, are built on the premise that customers do not use their own cars.

The venture capitalist persisted. If Uber and Ola were to enter the market, “What would your response be?” he asked.

Amulmeet Chadha, another founder of DriveU, said, “It’s about being a cockroach and surviving.”

That kind of tenacity is what attracted Mr. Ramamoorthy to the DriveU team. And it illustrates that until now the Indian start-up market has been more about great execution than cutting-edge technology.
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“In Silicon Valley, the general investment thesis for a technology investor tends to be around how strong a company’s underlying technology is and how defensible it will be over time,” Will Poole, Unitus Seed’s co-founder, explained later. “Very rarely does a venture capital investor invest in an operating business that does not have an intellectual property moat.”

In emerging markets like India, however, “you can build very large and profitable businesses on an operating basis without having a fundamental or long-term technological advantage because you are building in greenfield areas with little or no competition,” he said.

Last year was a heady one for venture investing in India; investments rose 61 percent, to $1.9 billion, from $1.2 billion in 2014, according to Venture Intelligence, a Chennai-based company that tracks Indian venture activity. About $95 million of the total represented investments and co-investments in the social impact space by traditional V.C.s and specialist firms like Unitus Seed.

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Steps to manage IT for starting and growing your business

Ashley Leonard 300

By: Ashley Leonard


You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So why put all your investment capital in one part of your business? IT resources can eat a large chunk of your startup or investors’ capital, taking funding away from more crucial aspects of a new business. While having the right IT solutions for your business is important, you may not need an extensive IT setup immediately. This is especially true now that the cloud is a safe, efficient and cost effective option.

You can make your business or investors’ capital go much further if you are slightly conservative. To start, purchase IT assets and utilize the cloud instead of buying physical or on premise resources. Avoid overinvesting in IT resources you may not need immediately and invest your capital in other ways. Those who are first starting a business can use these tips to effectively manage IT with realistic resources:

Count on the cloud: Why is everything moving to the cloud? Because it’s cost effective and efficient — two things every startup or small business is looking for. With the cloud, there is nothing to manage, no infrastructure cost and no large capital needed for hardware. Little maintenance is required and you don’t have to pay consultants to install and update applications. The cloud is more secure and flexible so you can move from one vendor to another as you grow.

Strengthen your core: Determine the core infrastructure functions your business needs. From there, decide how many workstations and how much storage space you need to run your business. You’ll find that almost all core functions a business needs, like Microsoft Office 365, can be found and managed from the cloud and configured to meet your requirements now and in the future.

Save with a suite: Today, more businesses large and small are choosing cloud-based programs over on-premise versions to handle not only IT functions, but financial business as well. For your accounting and sales tracking needs, consider using a suite of programs. Keep track of your accounting with programs like QuickBooks Online and NetSuite, which can be used online through the cloud. Record and report sales stats and mange CRM (customer relationship management) with solutions like Sales Force conveniently through the cloud.

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Webroot and Greater Intell Partner to Deliver Simple, Scalable, and Automated Next-Generation Endpoint Protection for Kaseya VSA

webrootWebroot SecureAnywhere® Business Endpoint Protection Integrated with Kaseya VSA Drives MSP Adoption and Scalable Enterprise Security Management


BROOMFIELD, Colo., April 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Webroot, the market leader in next-generation endpoint security and cloud-based collective threat intelligence, today announced a strategic partnership with Greater Intell, the leading provider of software products and professional services for IT management platforms. Webroot SecureAnywhere® Business Endpoint Protection and Kaseya VSA platform are now engineered together to enable enterprises and managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver next-generation endpoint security in a single, unified solution that provides powerful protection and is easy to deploy and manage.

"We're very pleased to be partnering with Greater Intell to offer the Kaseya community more value from their existing investment," said Charlie Tomeo, vice president of channel and technical sales at Webroot. "Kaseya's industry-leading remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform has fostered a loyal and rapidly-growing following within the enterprise and MSP ecosystems. These customers recognize that endpoint security is challenging today and that they need next generation defenses to protect their users and their company data from cyberattacks. With Webroot's proven next-generation endpoint protection, both internal security teams and external managed services organizations will be able to offer better protection and performance, and also increase operating margins by significantly reducing the complexities and inefficiencies associated with managing a traditional security solution."   

The integration of Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection with Kaseya VSA was developed in collaboration with Greater Intelll, a leading-edge mobile applications, systems management software, and cloud systems developer. The combination integrates the comprehensive, cloud-driven protection features of Webroot into the Kaseya VSA platform.

The cloud-based Webroot management console requires no on-premise servers, and endpoints can be managed and remediated remotely from any location. The fast, lightweight Webroot agent can be installed remotely on a managed endpoint in less than a minute, virtually eliminating impact on end user productivity, and significantly shortening the time normally required to deploy a new security solution from weeks to minutes. Webroot also features unique journaling and rollback remediation capabilities, saving customers time and money by greatly reducing the need to reimage infected machines.

In support of the integration, Greater Intell created a customized plug-in currently available as a single executable. The plug-in takes just minutes to install and configure.

"Webroot was a clear choice," said Corey Mandell, founder and CTO of Greater Intell. "We did a thorough cybersecurity review within the MSP community, and Webroot was the obvious winner. Many MSPs told us that Webroot integration with Kaseya was a top priority for them. We expect strong growth and are pleased to be partnering with market leaders like Webroot."

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Millions of people are still running Windows XP

By: John Zorabedian    

It’s been two years since Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, the popular operating system that’s been around since 2001 and which many people just don’t seem willing to let goWindowsXP

Microsoft did about all it could to drag XP-ers into the present with pop-up warnings urging them that they need to upgrade, and a free migration tool to help people transfer their files and settings to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

It’s not merely that Microsoft wants to get everybody onto the latest version of Windows, although it has certainly gone to great lengths recently to get people to upgrade to Windows 10, whether they want to or not.

But as we at Naked Security repeatedly warned XP users, the end of support means “zero-days forever,” because those vulnerabilities will never be patched – and XP computers are sitting ducks for cybercriminals to attack.

And yet there are still millions of XP computers connecting to the internet, where all manner of malware is waiting to pounce.

Windows XP was still running on 10.9% of all desktops as of March 2016, according to stats compiled by Net Applications.

To put that in perspective, according to Net Applications’ figures, Windows XP is still the third-most popular desktop OS, trailing only Windows 7 (51.9%) and Windows 10 (14.2%).

And there are more PCs running XP than Windows 8.1 (9.6%), and all versions of Mac OS X combined (7.8%).

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Here are the secrets to a successful midlife career change

By: Elizabeth O'Brien
Retirement reporter

Steven Clark isn’t usually impulsive, so it wasn’t easy for him to wake up one morning and decide it would be his last day as a software engineer after 20 years.

But the stress had been mounting for years as Clark, like many successful midcareer professionals, had ended up on a management track, dealing with office politics he didn’t care for. So he quit.

“I walked away cold,” recalled Clark, now 54, of that day in 2010. “That was totally out of character.”

Clark, who now runs a financial advisory practice in Coconut Creek, Fla., made a change many dream of, ditching the cubicle to become his own boss. And experts say that for those tempted to follow him, the timing is right: Whether you want to change industries or start a business, a tightening job market — the current unemployment rate is 5.0% overall, and 3.6% for those between ages 45 to 54 — offers opportunity, they say.

“The opportunity to craft and create has never been better,” said Maggie Mistal, a life and career coach in New York City.

MW EJ149 midlif 20160331154403 NS

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. The margin of error is slimmer for workers in their 40s and 50s, who may need to continue building retirement accounts, writing tuition checks and supporting aging parents. Because of these obligations, many midlife workers can ill afford to take big pay cuts, part-time work or internships.

“You’re at a point in life where your wages matter,” said John Challenger, CEO of job outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

MarketWatch spoke with several midlife career changers to see how they did it. Their professional backgrounds and family circumstances varied, but they all took careful, expert-approved steps that eased and guided their transitions.

Each went into business for him or herself, rather than join an established firm. This path is by no means the only one available to midlife career changers, experts say, but it does remove one obstacle to a midcareer move: having to compete for a first job in a new industry with younger workers who can afford to work for less.

Make (and pad) a financial cushion

Clark’s decision to quit was impulsive, but he made it knowing he had a substantial savings cushion. By midcareer, Clark had a six-digit savings account, which turned into seed money he used in the coming years to pay for living expenses and the coursework he needed to prepare for the certified financial planner exam he took in 2013.

Clark’s wife worked while he studied, but she made much less than the $150,000 that he was making when he quit. The couple pared expenses, slashing the amount they spent on dinners out, cutting their cable bill to basic service and canceling their home security plan. “I was home pretty much all the time anyway,” Clark said.

 

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Recipes for Office 365 Business Solutions

Our cookbook of Office 365-based applications will point you toward a new, richer way to profit from sales of Microsoft’s online productivity suite.

By Rich Freeman cookbookinside

There are many things for channel pros to love about Microsoft’s Office 365 communication and collaboration platform. The single-digit commissions Microsoft pays resellers of that offering after a subscription’s first year aren’t among them.

“That is not a business model that’s sustainable if you’re a small company,” observes Jerod Powell, CEO of Infinit Consulting Inc., a managed and cloud services provider headquartered in San Jose, Calif. “You need to have some value-add.”

For Powell and other Microsoft partners, that means developing business solutions on top of Office 365. The product’s constituent applications—especially Microsoft SharePoint—make solid foundations for everything from workflow and knowledge management systems to predictive analytics solutions and beyond. “If you can think it, you can probably build it in there,” Powell says, adding that doing so increases not only an Office 365 sale’s bottom-line impact but a solution provider’s “stickiness” with its customers as well.

Wondering where to begin? Here are high-level recipes for five Office 365 solutions that should stimulate your thinking.

Recipe 1: Financial Reporting Solution
Most accounting solutions come with built-in reporting tools. Most financial professionals find them sorely lacking.

That was certainly true at one of Infinit’s clients, anyway. “It was taking the comptroller two weeks to generate a lot of the 10-K-, 10-Q-type stuff,” Powell recalls. That frustration ultimately inspired Powell and his team to create an Office 365-based reporting solution that pulls data out of an accounting or ERP system, stores it in SharePoint, and provides intuitive, graphical access to it on PCs, tablets, and smartphones via Microsoft’s Power BI business analytics application.

Creating such a system isn’t for the faint of heart though, Powell warns. Building one for that first buyer took over six months and $200,000 worth of development time. “It can get complicated fast,” Powell says. Using that initial version of the system as a template for future installations, however, Infinit can now roll out new deployments in as little as a day.

Ingredients
•An Office 365 subscription that includes SharePoint Online
•A Microsoft Azure subscription
•Microsoft Power BI
•An accounting or ERP solution, preferably cloud-based, with open APIs

Preparation Summary
1.Assess the client’s reporting needs. Each buyer will require different reports formatted in different ways. Many will have regulatory compliance requirements to consider too.
2.Implement and customize the solution.
3.Integrate the solution with the client’s accounting or ERP system. Some clients may wish to link the solution to a payroll or time and expense management application as well.

Additional Serving Suggestions

INFINIT typically bundles its financial reporting solution with a package of associated managed services that provides 24/7 support, mobile device management, and more for a single, per-user monthly fee.

Recipe 2: Office 365 Help Desk

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Microsoft Remains A Growth Story With A Strong Future

Written By: Michael Blair

Summary

  • Microsoft has shown strong share performance over the past few years.
  • The company has a visionary CEO with the right strategy for the longer term.
  • Its cloud and subscription software foundation are growing in scale and earnings power.
  • Microsoft is not giving up on devices.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has the right CEO and the right strategy, in my opinion. The company has been a mainstay of technology portfolios throughout the 3 years I have followed it, returning an average of 25.5% annually.

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Source: TipRanks

That has produced a good result for me, with gains on MSFT calls totaling over $400,000 (partial list of trades below from my accounting records).

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Tech workers are increasingly looking to leave Silicon Valley

Written by:  Ashley Rodriguez

A growing number of engineers and tech workers from the San Francisco Bay Area are looking to leave Silicon Valley for burgeoning tech hubs such as Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, according to a job-search site’s data.  Silicon Valley

Indeed.com found that the share of searches from within the Bay Area for tech jobs outside of it is on the rise. As of Feb. 1, 35% of tech job searches on Indeed.com from the region were for jobs elsewhere, data from the company shows. That share, which is based on 30-day averages and adjusted for seasonal factors, was up about 30% year-over-year.

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Raise Your IT Services Bar, Adopt CompTIA’s New Channel Standards

By Miles Jobgen, Director, Education at CompTIA  Miles Jobgen CompTIA Trustmark 200x200


No one likes to be average, or worse, subpar. Especially when it comes to running an IT services business. Unfortunately, even those who work 20-hour days and invest their life savings can find themselves falling behind if they don’t have the right plans and systems in place. While IT professionals typically excel at making complex technologies work for their client, many admit they struggle managing their own businesses. It’s simply not a strong part of their skills sets. They have to work much harder in order to master (or at least get batter at) that part of their operations and most are willing to take those steps but may not know how to start. Many times, they just need a little help.

That’s where CompTIA comes in. Our members, subject experts and employees have been actively creating and compiling industry best practices for many years. We’ve drafted scores of training materials and educational resources to address the needs of IT providers, from fundamental ‘how-to’ guides on building a new practice to advanced financial management workshops. Thanks to the generosity and expertise of our members, this information is readily available at little-to-no cost to you and updated frequently.

Through certification, channel education and its advocacy efforts, CompTIA has supported and encouraged the growth and improvement of Solution Providers for decades. And now, at the request of our Board of Directors, thought leaders and other industry professionals, the association is taking its commitment one step further.

CompTIA Channel Standards represent the culmination of all our activities and efforts. This collection of guides, resources and business practices for IT companies is designed to improve the quality and consistency of the IT channel and its service delivery methods. CompTIA Channel Standards identify expert opinions on the fundamentals of IT operations and provide the tools required to embrace and enact those specific practices. And this will not be a “one-and-done” proposition. Our goal is to not only develop these usable resources for the IT industry, but to update them regularly to keep pace with the changing needs of providers and their clients.

Step 1: the IT Solution Provider
Channel Standards will let CompTIA take a more “open book” approach to connecting members and other providers with all that information. The format was designed to enable any and all to review and implement these peer-developed best practices into their own businesses. The end goal is to promote the behaviors tech companies can adopt to ensure greater success. They prosper, their customers receive even better solutions and support, and our industry advances. That’s a win-win-win.
 
How does it work? First of all, all our collective knowledge will be organized into a framework that everyone can easily follow, starting with the IT Solution Provider Channel Standards just rolled out at our CompTIA Annual Member Meeting. These are the core best practices of a successful technology services business, from lead generation and customer relations to delivery and operations (not to mention management and strategy recommendations).
The real question many are probably asking right now is “how will the CompTIA Channel Standards help me?” The answer, for most, is three-fold: 

  1.  Self-evaluation of the business. A companion Workbook is part of the program, allowing providers to have those crucial internal conversations that drive improvement. It will help them to identify areas of strength and those that need upgrades, with specific recommendations that, if implemented properly, should produce positive effects.
  2.  Engage with education and resources available. CompTIA’s Insights and Tools and Education resources can be tied to each of the Channel Standards. Many of these materials and tools are free of charge, but our Premier Members have open access to use and leverage the entire portfolio.
  3. Demonstrate Compliance. This final point applies to the upcoming Cybersecurity Channel Standard and the existing Security Trustmark+, which includes an independent assessment of adherence based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. By shifting our focus to the preparation and application of security best practices, regulatory compliance is more sensible and achievable than ever.

As I mentioned. CompTIA’s IT Solution Provider Channel Standards are foundational. Over the next few months, we’ll roll out several others that help VARs and MSPs enhance their business specializations. Those “concentrations” include:

  • Managed Services 
  •  Managed Print Provider
  • Advanced Digital Solutions
  • Cybersecurity

One goal of the CompTIA Channel Standards is to ensure those in our segment of the IT industry have a clear path to the future. With the lightening-fast technology innovations and shifting needs of the business community, solution providers simply have to get better at what they do…or at some point, they won’t be doing it anymore. Channel Standards will give them a roadmap to improvement and logically connect them to the most relevant resources to get them there.


The Channel Standard and accompanying Workbook are free to download, so there is no risk and loads of potential benefit. You may find your business is in need of a little attention behind the scenes, or maybe learn you’re a step ahead of your peers. Either way, that knowledge can be leveraged for planning, service delivery, differential marketing, sales, and helping your clients achieve their goals.


The gauntlet has been thrown. Will the channel rise to the occasion? Success is there for the taking…  

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2016 SMB Salary Survey Results: Educated and Educated!

2016 SMB Salary Survey Results: Educated and Educated!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The 2016 SMB Salary Survey is now complete. I’m excited to share results over the next few weeks. Let’s get started.

Education
As we always knew – we’re educated. The facts are this. 
• SMB 2016 four-year degree attainment: 44%
• US Average: 32%
The difference is 31.58 percent or nearly one-third. This isn’t a huge surprise as we’re in a technical professional field where education isn’t only a tool but the road to greater professional competence and success.

Age
Oh my! The majority of the respondents were 51-58 in age with no one between 18-25. Houston we have a problem! Close behind was the 43-50 age group. Interestingly I’m seeing young people engage in other areas of technology such as coding, a byproduct of Coder DoJo and Hour of Code in our schools. The median age in the US labor force is roughly 42 years old. By the way, our older demographic suggests there will be a wave of consolidations in the near future. More on that in a future column.

Job Title
Here is the best news of all in my opinion. Over 80 percent (actually 81.49%) of us are business owners, a highly desirable group for several reasons. First, you have much more experience and business acumen than you likely acknowledge. You’re not some corporate Dilbert in a cubicle repeats the same tasks daily. You’re much closer to a wild catter solving new problems daily. You’re something of a risk taker, forgoing the gold watch after 30-years of corporate service. Right on! We are real people living in the real world! You can count yourself as someone who has started, own and operated a business – experience you can’t buy.

IT Experience
This is good and bad news and goes right to the heart of start-over challenges. The good news is that you are certainly competent in your profession (16+ years in IT). The bad news, in my humble opinion, is you might be stuck in your ways. My evidence is both quantitative and qualitative: survey results and conversations. My concern is that you are likely riding the server-side down to the bottom and not tapping your business acumen to perhaps provide Marketing 2.0 consulting services (CRM list AttachedApps; marketing automation systems like Marketo). Experience is a double edged sword. You don’t want too little; you don’t want too much. Like porridge, you want it just right. You read it here first!

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Mr. Smith Rides the Rockies!

Mr. Smith Rides the Rockies!

A day doesn’t pass wherein some community member shares news on a more personal level. And it’s my honor and privilege to parrot out the highlights. In this case, it’s a successful mid-sized MSP (Initial.aec) from the Denver-area, Jack Smith, reporting he’s formed a team to raise charity funds in the coveted Ride The Rockies tour this summer. Smith’s feel good story is also a chance to herald in cycling season. While I’m a daily bike commuter to my start-up, Jack takes cycling in our community to a whole ‘nother level. He was on the post SMB Nation Fall conference ride in 2014 where we rode the 35-mile Chilly Hilly in the rain!

BTW – I’ve placed Jack’s story in the Start Over column. That’s because he’s always up to something new both personally and professionally. In the MSP-side, he has embraced Office 365 to fortify his thriving Autodesk practice.

“Below is what I have sent out previously for the ride and have gotten a great response thus far.” Smith said. “As a fellow cyclist, I was excited to let you know that I will be beating myself up on my vacation grinding up a few very big hills! I plan on tweeting from the road so make sure you are following me to witness my pain and successes!” Smith’s appetizing appeal is below. Please support Smith and his team as you are able.

Hi Everyone-
We are coming up on 4 weeks since I sent out the email below asking you to help me make the climb for kids. I am happy to say that thanks to the generosity of a few great people, we are currently at $2,025.00! This is fantastic, and I want to say thanks to those of you that have donated. We have been in training mode since I first sent this out and with the recent weather, it has forced us indoors onto the bicycle trainers and cycling videos in order to get our saddle time in. Way more fun outdoors, but good for us nonetheless. We have our first official meeting with Ride the Rockies on the 5th to learn more about what we have gotten ourselves into, and I can’t wait as I have quite a few questions. Questions like, will there be oxygen provided above 10,000’? Will they provide replacement muscles and certain body parts along the route? And the most important one, will someone wake me up from my exhaustion induced coma like sleep every morning? These are but a few and I am pretty sure that the answer to these questions will be a hard NO. Doesn’t hurt to ask!

Enough about me, let’s talk about you and how you can help us make the climb for kids. We are currently at 1/3 of our goal of $6,000.00. I am excited that we have come this far, but I would really love to see us hit at least $4,000.00 if not $6,000. I would encourage you to re-visit this link to check up on us and make a donation if possible. Again, I want to express my gratitude to everyone that contributes and to everyone that offers moral support as well. It will make the climb easier knowing that we have some great people supporting our efforts and the efforts of two great charities. I have included below the context of my original email for your reference.

Please click on the link below to visit our fundraising site:
https://www.crowdrise.com/teambonksclimbforkids2016


Thanks again and look for an update in a few more weeks!


March 5, 2016:
As many of you know, I have shaved my head a few times to raise money for St. Baldrick’s. With your help, we were very successful in our efforts and as a bonus, I ended up with a permanent hair style! It feels good to know that every time I rub my bald head, that it was for a good cause. Maybe that’s why I keep it shaved, hmm.

Anyway, most of you may also know that I love to cycle, especially in the mountains. This year I have decided to bring these two passions together. I have organized a team of three to participate in this year’s Ride the Rockies event (http://www.ridetherockies.com/) as team “bonk”. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is used when you have completely exhausted your energy during a physical activity and you stop cold. This name was selected as an inside joke between me and my cousin, who ironically enough, is on the team. This is something we WILL NOT be doing during the ride.

I have selected two charities to benefit from our efforts this year. St. Baldrick’s (http://www.stbaldricks.org/) and Special Olympics of Colorado (http://www.specialolympicsco.org/). I encourage you to visit their websites and read up on the fantastic things they are doing in the world.

The three of us on the team are not asking for sponsorship, we are asking for a donation and your moral support as we tackle the mountains and our own limitations. As you will read on our fundraising website, all three of us have been blessed with healthy children. My own daughters have always motivated me to try to help others that are not as fortunate and this is but one way to do this.

As I glide down and grind up the mountains, I will be thinking about all the kids that rely on these organizations, all of their struggles and successes and how they continue to grow and succeed. I will also be thinking of my own two girls and how blessed I am and how your donations and support will inspire me to push to the top of every mountain pass and to reflect on the opportunity I have been given to help others.

Please click on the link below to visit our fundraising site:
https://www.crowdrise.com/teambonksclimbforkids2016

I appreciate anything you can give albeit money or moral support.

Jack R. Smith
Principal
initial.aec
[Connect] http://www.linkedin.com/in/jacksmithaec
[Follow] http://twitter.com/initialaec

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IDC finally gives up Windows Phone, predicts ever falling sales

idc2016

The IDC has always been somewhat optimistic about the future of Windows Phone, but after repeatedly missing predictions by a wide margin the IDC has finally given up on the OS.

The analyst company predicted in December last year that Microsoft would sell 31.3 million Windows Phones in 2015, and 43.6 million by 2019.  Unfortunately Microsoft missed even this modest target, hitting only 27.3 million sales in 2015.

As recently as May 2015 IDC still predicted Microsoft would sell more than 100 million Windows Phones by 2019, but now the company has revised its predictions downwards sharply to what is seen above.

 

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Ingram Micro to Buy Small Cloud Application Provider

by Michael Novinson

Ingram Micro said Monday that it has made another acquisition -- its sixth in six months -- buying Ensim, a firm focused on automating, orchestrating and provisioning business applications in the cloud.

The Irvine, Calif.-based distributor said its purchase of San Jose, Calif.-based Ensim will complement its existing cloud products and solutions.  ingram micro

"We expect to leverage the financial strength, brand recognition and global infrastructure of Ingram Micro to further speed the growth of our business," David Wippich, Ensim's CEO, said in a statement. "Our customers and employees will benefit from this union."

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the next 30 days, were not disclosed. Ingram Micro and Ensim did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ensim enables partners to manage and monetize a range of solutions from infrastructure and hosted business applications to cloud and -as-a-Service offerings, according to the company's website. Ensim has more than 5 million seats deployed worldwide and is used by more than 20,000 organizations and government agencies through telecom partners, cloud hosting companies, VARs and MSPs, according to the company.

Ensim has been active over the past year, adding 60 new features such as ticketing, business analytics and reporting, and advanced billing configurator. Ensim also added automation service connections with Office 365, Microsoft Azure, Box, IBM SoftLayer, Skype for Business and Intel Security.

Ensim was founded in 1998 and employs 51 to 200 people, according to the company's LinkedIn page. The company is privately held.

David DeCamillis of Platte River Networks said he's seen more VARs and managed service providers selling cloud applications, with Ingram Micro continually looking to add more cloud applications and vendors to satisfy increased demand. DeCamillis praised Ingram Micro for investing lots of money into cloud and making it one of the distributor's fastest-growing business practices.

"This acquisition fits right in to what I've seen from Ingram Micro," said DeCamillis, vice president of sales and marketing at the Denver-based Ingram Micro partner. "It seems like a no-brainer."

Ensim enables VARs to save money and simplify their users' IT by automating management of the entire end-user life cycle, while MSPs can benefit from Ensim's self-service ordering and management capabilities for enterprise users, according to the company's website.

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YOU’RE INVITED TO THE CHANNELPRO SMB FORUM LIVE EVENTS!

Give us one day and we'll send you home with all the expert sales, marketing, product, and operations advice you need to grow your revenue and boost your bottom line. The perfect event for integrators and managed service professionals looking to grow their business. Take our one-minute Managed Services Survey and then get the free invite to our live event! ChannelPro SMBNation 220x150 SurveyAd

Who should attend the ChannelPro live events:

I.T. Resellers, MSPs, solution providers, and consultants looking for concrete, practical advice on building a healthier bottom line.

Event Locations:

Anaheim May 4th; D.C. September 15th; Boston November 3rd

What you'll get of it:

The ChannelPro 2016 ‘Channel Fitness Tour’ features an all-star cast of top industry experts, a unique interactive format that puts you in direct conversation with them, and a fast-paced, information-packed agenda covering topics you care about:

  •  Pump Up Your Managed Service Revenues: Learn about revenue-boosting services you should be offering but probably aren't from a panel of your peers. 
  •  Bottom-Line Finance Strengthening Exercises: Discover the critical metrics experienced managers use to keep their business strong and growing.
  • Cloud Sales and Marketing Fitness Secrets: Let our panel of sales and marketing specialists show you how to build a high-volume, high-velocity cloud sales pipeline. 
  •  Business Process Optimization Lightning Round!: Get proven, actionable suggestions for hiring employees, tracking time, setting prices, and more. 
  •  GEAR AND CASH GIVEAWAYS: Lots of chances to win big with gear and cash giveaways throughout the day!

 There's More!

Attendees also receive numerous session-related resources, including white papers, analysis tools, and worksheets that add value to their experience. We'll even take care of parking, meals, and more so you can focus on what really matters: Building a stronger, more profitable business.

How to pre-register for free as a VIP>>

Take our one-minute Managed Services Survey and then get the free invite to our live event!  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SMBNation-ChPro_2016_ITmarket_research

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Microsoft Partner Taps Power BI for SMB Market and Beyond

By: Barb Levisay, Owner, Marketing for Partners

Microsoft's Power BI Partner Showcase is a testament to the success of partners helping their clients, from enterprises to SMBs, realize the potential of data through analytics and visualization. For most SMB partners, however, experience and resource challenges put building a Power BI practice beyond their reach.  powerbi

But one of the showcase partners, RoseBud Technologies, has set its sights on taking Power BI to the SMB market -- and helping other partners do the same.

While RoseBud, a 10-person IT service provider based in Atlanta, may seem an unlikely Power BI advocate, it has deep roots in data. "A large part of the success of any partner is a result of the background their people bring to the equation," said Joe Treanor, president of RoseBud. "I spent time in banking when metrics and analytics were becoming the drivers in the industry. It gave me an understanding of the importance of making data useful."

Beginning with the self-service analytics released with Excel 2010, Treanor was intrigued with the practical application for RoseBud clients, predominantly small and midsize businesses. In 2013, RoseBud was an early adopter of Power BI, seeing the opportunity to support business intelligence (BI) without big infrastructure investment. 

Since that time, Treanor has seen a reluctance in partners to pursue the BI opportunity. "SMB partners face two major hurdles," Treanor explained. "The first is the experiential comfort with managing and directing business intelligence work. The second is where to find the people who can speak to clients and deliver the services." 

To solve the second challenge, RoseBud has established a relationship with Kennesaw State University's Coles College of Business. The college has a strong program that focuses on the practical business applications of quantitative analytics. KSU also offers a master's degree in applied statistics and more recently launched a Ph.D. program in Analytics and data science.

"Kennesaw is very much aligned with what we are doing," Treanor said. "They are training people who are comfortable holding a conversation about business and data analysis. They are developing data scientists for business, not just academia."

Just like most partners who are searching for their value-add in a cloud world, Treanor sees BI as a specialty that RoseBud can build on for the future. "It's a changing game. There is only so much business you can do with migrations," Treanor said. "We looked at what we could do with analytics. Microsoft is making very sophisticated enterprise-level capabilities available to the smallest businesses through subscriptions and tools. So we are helping our customers take advantage of Power BI, and we think it is just the beginning of a very big wave."

With Microsoft's heavy promotion of Power BI, RoseBud is seeing more proactive interest from customers. "There is more awareness through Office 365 and the infrastructure barriers are gone," Treanor said. "Many of the clients we talk to, even small business owners, understand the value of predictive and prescriptive analytics. They are looking beyond reporting to solving specific business challenges by using data."

Additional potential -- helping other partners who don't have the experience or resources to offer Power BI on their own -- is also developing for RoseBud. "A single partner can't be a generalist anymore," said Greg Treanor, vice president of RoseBud. "We're applying our experience and resources, becoming a go-to partner for Power BI. Partners can focus on their niche, work with us for Power BI and offer even more value to customers. They don't have to build the practice for themselves."

 

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Microsoft Office 365 most-used Web business app, report says

Okta, a San Francisco company that helps businesses manage employee logins to devices connected to the Internet, comes out with its rankings for most used Web-based business apps.

By Matt Day

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite remains the most used Web-based business application, according to a report from Okta, a San Francisco startup.Office365

Okta builds software that allows companies to manage employees’ logins to multiple Internet-accessed services. That give Okta a set of data representing how companies — or at least those that have embraced cloud-computing services — use software.

Microsoft’s Office 365 became the most-used app among Okta customers in the middle of last year, and held onto that title at the end of 2015.  

Salesforce.com was second, followed by cloud-storage company Box and Google Apps. Amazon Web Services rounded out the top five, rising from eighth place a year ago. Concur, the Bellevue expense-reporting company sold in 2014 to German software giant SAP, was sixth.

The report comes a day before the kickoff of Microsoft’s annual Build developer show in San Francisco. The company is expected to tout the value of its cloud-computing network, as well as Office and Windows, as building blocks for developers.

Microsoft is among the companies trying to realign its existing software business to the cloud, where it has run into fierce competition from Web natives like Salesforce and Google.

Okta’s report highlighted the state of competition in the market for email and productivity apps.

Office held a near monopoly in the realm of out-of-the-box workplace-productivity software, but Google and others have challenged it in Web-based tools.

Microsoft, according to Okta’s data, maintains a strong grip on companies in the financial, biotech, construction, health-care, and information-technology sectors.

Google’s strongest showings are among Internet companies, marketing and advertising, education and software.

 

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SELL YOUR COMPUTER PARTS WITH THE BEST IN THE IT AND TELECOM BUSINESS

Members of the PowerSource online community enjoy unparalleled opportunities to buy and sell all kinds of new, used or refurbished IT and telecom parts, including computer parts and related equipment. Our B2B network connects sellers with thousands of buyers worldwide, allowing suppliers and resellers of computer components to greatly expand their sales prospects and develop industry contacts from a single online platform.  PSO20151209 banner 220X150

PowerSource Online’s advanced selling and sourcing tools give our members a leg up on the competition by allowing them to advertise up to 30 “Seeking to Sell” postings per day. Members can view and respond directly to requests to buy computer parts, telecom equipment and more. Another advantage of PowerSource is the ability for members to customize who sees their inventory. As well, PowerSource members are able to access government contract opportunities in their region that require the purchase or sale of computer parts and telecom equipment.

PowerSource Online members are experienced dealers, resellers, brokers, distributors and service providers within the IT and Telecom industries. These companies and individuals regularly buy service and sell used computer parts, laptop parts, printers and printer parts, VoIP phones and associated equipment, as well as PBX/Key systems and other Telecom and IT equipment as part of their day-to-day business.

Corporate and government end users also use the Public section of PowerSource Online to buy and sell computer, telephony and IT parts and systems. These end users consist of SMBs, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies, as well as schools, hospitals, hotels and other businesses that need to buy or sell equipment during a period of growth or transition.

By using our global market place, buyers and sellers can source or dispose of hard-to-find, excess, discontinued, obsolete and end-of-life computer parts and systems.

Increased sales, greater market reach and the opportunity to build new relationships within the industry are just some of the reasons to become a PowerSource Online member.

If your company has not used the service before, simply fill out our Free Trial form to enjoy a free trial of PowerSource. A PowerSource Online Account Manager will contact you within one business day to set up your full trial access and give you a demo of the business tools and features that PowerSource Online can offer your company.

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Ken and Keith Redo with Channel EQ

Ken and Keith Redo with Channel EQ

It’s been too long since I caught up with Ken Thoreson and Keith Lubner. We’ve teamed in numerous initiatives over the years. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of their latest entrepreneurial endeavor, Channel EQ. Essentially Ken and Keith are pivoting a lifetime of sales, business and technology content into an Adaptive Partnering curriculum for channel organizations (vendors, distributors, etc.). It’s a smart move in a transformative time.

Let me put vendor enablement training in context. I speak with a lot of non-partisan, independent SMB channel thought leaders each month. This past week I had a confidential conversation with one well-known figure who offered that the population of resellers is declining even faster than predicted. Meanwhile the number of vendors is growing dramatically. All of this suggests that vendors need to be more efficient and effective in connecting with a contacting population. In other industries, you’d use predictive lead scoring to focus on the top converters. In the SMB channel, Channel EQ seeks to align, leverage, and optimize the four elements most critical to channel performance: Channel Partner (external), Channel Manager (internal), Sales, Service and Support (internal) and Customer (external).

So how do they do it? It’s a behavioral-based approach that focuses on the interpersonal skills of channel personnel. Without naming names, it’s long overdue as many channel leaders aren’t exactly known as nice people. It all comes down to people do business with people they like. Channel EQ hits it head-on.

The learning platform is delivered under the brand name Channel University with the tagline “Peak Channel Performance. Fast.” The delivery vehicles include:
• Self-directed online video-based modules and tutorials
• A mobile app for anywhere, anytime learning
• Live Virtual Classroom training programs facilitated by certified instructors
• Interactive and experiential classroom training programs

Concerns? Channel EQ, while having a unique approach, enters a crowded market with many players ranging from ChannelEyes to CompTIA. And don’t forget to add business coaches who burned out the MSP community and are now kissing vendor’s asses. I’ll keep you posted on how Ken and Keith do.

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Becoming an IT cloud pro: What you need to know

In the final part of his three part series on the changing role of IT in the era of cloud computing, Paul Robichaux explains what it takes to build a career in this new era. Read part one and part two.

With this framework in mind, we can turn our attention to figuring out how to climb the ladder. How can Alice turn her experience as an IT pro into the needed skills to become a cloud pro?  cloud career advice it0

There are a few obvious answers. The way I typically think of Office 365 is that it doesn’t reduce the amount of work companies have to do to manage it compared to on-premises environments, but it rebalances that work across different skills and disciplines. What does Alice need to know to climb the cloud services skill ladder?

The first relevant area is one of pure technical skills. Knowing how to operate, manage, maintain, and troubleshoot a hybrid Office 365 environment is at the top of the list. Anyone with Exchange, SharePoint, Skype, or Active Directory admin experience is well positioned to learn the other skills needed to manage the complete stack (especially because some of the nastier parts, such as enterprise voice routing for Skype or proper server sizing and scaling for SharePoint, go away). Alice and her fellow specialists can gain this knowledge through hands-on experimentation and learning, or through formal or informal training provided by Microsoft, user groups, books, webinars, etc. Developing these skills gives specialists in one technology a good start on becoming synthesists and thus becoming more valuable and harder to replace.

Being comfortable with PowerShell is a huge requirement for cloud pro status. Azure and Office 365 offer web-based consoles for many management tasks, but those consoles focus on the most commonly performed tasks, and they are painfully inefficient for bulk tasks (such as gathering all your user accounts and enabling a newly introduced service feature such as Office 365 Planner). At an absolute minimum, cloud pros need to be comfortable connecting to both on-premises and cloud-based workloads and issuing commands in an interactive shell, but I’d recommend working to gain the ability to write and debug scripts (including learning to read others’ scripts and understand what they do). For people with prior development experience, PowerShell is fairly easy to learn; for those without, hands-on experimentation is the best way to gain understanding.

What about virtualization? That’s a more subtle answer. Office 365 doesn’t use it, but much of the work you might want to do with Azure involves using virtual machines running in Azure’s IaaS environment. In fact, one key skill that’s in high demand is the ability to move on-premises workloads (whether running on VMs or physical machines) to the Azure cloud. A cloud pro who knows how to effectively deploy, manage, back up, and secure Azure VMs will find tons of market opportunities, especially if that knowledge is coupled with specialist or synthesis knowledge of other applications.

The other major area of cloud pro skill development is that of design and architecture skills—an area where many traditional IT pros have been able to skate by with limited effort. Understanding the concepts that underlie cloud computing (including the notion of elastic computing and the ways that network traffic enters and leaves the Microsoft and Amazon cloud networks) is the obvious starting place, but you’ll also need to have a good understanding of cloud security (including knowing what your responsibilities are for securing cloud-based data or services you maintain), the cost model of your preferred cloud provider, and how to effectively work through the cloud vendor’s support system when problems arise. It is always a good idea to bolster your interpersonal and “soft” skills too—part of what separates a master from the other levels in the pyramid is the ability to clearly (and persuasively) communicate information to people in all levels inside an organization.

With all this in mind, how do you actually climb the ladder? Microsoft and Amazon both offer certifications for their respective cloud services, so Alice could follow the traditional route of studying for and passing certification exams as a way of both gaining knowledge and signaling that knowledge to her current and future employers. One of the best things about this approach is that it’s inexpensive, and may even be free—AWS and Azure both offer free service tiers, and Alice needs nothing more than a web browser (and maybe a Powershell-capable Windows machine for Azure if she wants to be fancy) to work with these services.  Second, any specialist in one product starts out with a great base of knowledge that can be applied to other products and technologies—if Alice is already an experienced Exchange administrator, that almost certainly means that she can learn enough about Active Directory, AD FS, Skype for Business, or other workloads that are likely to remain on-premises at Contoso. Third, keep in mind that in many respects, the cloud is still a great unknown inside many organizations. Starting or joining a pilot to move on-premises services to the cloud is a superb way to gain skills that are immediately relevant to your current job.

A word of warning though: for better or worse, you are ultimately responsible for developing the needed skills. Don’t count on your employer to provide them for you. This is nothing new, of course; a large slice of the current IT pro workforce is there because they took the initiative to learn skills that would allow them to change careers or advance more rapidly, and the cloud doesn’t change that.

 

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The Value of Partner Advisory Councils

By Pete Engler

It’s a fairly common practice for technology vendors to maintain partner advisory councils. Yet, there are varying opinions - and questions - as to the value these councils provide. Who benefits the most? Is it worth everyone's time and energy to participate? Partner advisory councils are usually made up of a vendor’s select partners and designed as a means to collect insight and feedback on everything relating to products, markets and customers. With the right process in place, partner advisory councils can benefit everyone from the vendor to the end-user customer.

The overarching goal of the group is to help improve all aspects of the product and the selling process for both the vendor and its partners. Typically, it’s the top tier of resellers, or the highest revenue generating partners, who are tapped for a council position. The meetings can range from a recurring conference call several times a year to semi-annual or annual in-person events.

Without such councils, love them or hate them, vendors may steer off course over time to the point where channel frustration and neglect becomes prevalent. When vendors and resellers aren’t engaged and synced with their market and customers, the customers eventually spend their money with someone else.

In reality, partner advisory councils hold significant value for vendors on many levels. Feedback from partners, who are on the front lines of customer interaction, is essential in driving both product and sales activities. If a vendor is out of sync, based on customer needs, losses could mount quickly. Resellers are uniquely tuned into the market and can help a vendor realize a new trend or validate what they are already experiencing while selling into that market. Partners have intimate knowledge on the pain points of varying industries and business types of all sizes. Another extremely valuable aspect is potentially gathering crucial information regarding competitive products and sales methods, which could help a vendor pivot and correct a potentially negative path.

For resellers, advisory councils can have significant benefits - even outside that of strengthening their relationship with a key vendor. One such benefit is receiving advanced information on products and services that a vendor has on its roadmap. Such information could lead to an advantage on how to sell, and possibly open up the opportunity for the reseller to beta test new features or services. With this advanced knowledge a reseller could be more prepared to sell than competitors who have the normal notification window of product releases. In addition, when a reseller participates in an advisory council it serves as validation that the reseller is indeed considered a trusted partner.

Most of all, advisory councils are good for the customer. It starts with the vendor hearing and acknowledging the problems that an end customer needs to solve, as relayed through partner advisory councils. Once the vendor understands that the partner feedback is consistent with its internal market research, then the resulting outcome is likely the improvement of products and services - which is what the customer ultimately wants. Customers are one of the best resources to help a vendor improve their solutions and the selling process, so why not lean heavily on the partners that are speaking to them on a daily basis.

If you are a partner interested in serving on an advisory council with a vendor, there are various ways to get involved. Start by reaching out to your channel account manager (or other vendor point of contact) and ask for guidelines on qualifying and participating on an advisory council, and make known your interest to participate. You may also be able to find guidelines for being nominated to serve on the vendor’s partner portal. Even if you’re not currently eligible, or you’re not ready for the full commitment of serving on the council, reach out to other resellers serving on the advisory council and ask them for the best way to communicate ideas and customer feedback to the council so that your voice is being heard.

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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4 Things To Do In Your First Year Working At A Startup

 

Be prepared to take out the trash with a smile.

I have bad news for anyone looking to get into the startup game for the first time: not everybody can make it. Still, the only way to find out if it's for you is to try. And that takes hard work, dedication, and at least a little strategic foresight.Startup

More than working at a traditional organization, the level of success you reach at a startup is mainly up to you. Whether you're joining a startup after a career at a big company or taking your first job at one, here's what you need to do during your first year in order to succeed.

1. Start Small And Prove Your Chops  

Your earliest experience working at a startup might not be a full-time affair at first. There might not be any open positions at startups you like that exactly fit your skill set, so look for any way you can contribute. Offer to work part-time or on a freelance basis. A certain startup might not have the budget to hire a full-time social media manager, for instance, but if that's your passion, you could still offer to help build the company’s presence on different platforms on nights and weekends, and show how valuable you'd be down the line. The first employee my cofounder and I hired at our own startup was an intern who did just that. Six months later, he was running all of our marketing campaigns.

When you prove you want to be part of the team and can add real value, a space for you will develop organically. But you have to get in on the ground floor and show what you've got.

2. Check Your Entitlement At The Door  

Startups may have an entrepreneurial mystique about them, but you can’t go into this world asking what’s in it for you. A new startup doesn’t owe you anything.

It’s part of the typical startup culture to put the company's needs first—before individual careers and personal ambitions. In fact, in a 2015 survey by the Startup Institute, entrepreneurial leaders listed the top qualities they look for in employees, and willingness to put the company before oneself was one of the most desired traits.

That means working as a team of equals where no task is below anyone’s pay grade. At my startup, The Bouqs Company, one example is trash duty: All of us, from the CEO down to the newest intern, take turns taking out the trash. Another is customer service: Every single employee, from the COO to the CMO to creatives to coders, pitches in on customer service during our busiest holidays. Eighty-four percent of respondents in a 2014 study by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com said the top attribute they look for in employees is a positive attitude.

No matter how impressive your resume, you need to be willing to do what it takes to make the startup—not you—successful, all without complaining. That definitely isn't always easy. But as the company succeeds, so will you.

3. Get it Done  

Startups are often cash-strapped and need to get the biggest bang for their buck. That means you need to prove you have something extra to bring to the table. And that something is almost always worth way more than what they actually pay you.

So think of it as a career investment that will pay off later on, and start by being great at your immediate job. In that first year, take on every task that's thrown at you, do it well, and then ask for another. As you get the hang of that, look for ways to add value, no matter how small, beyond your core role. Organize an event, set up the company’s social media page, bake a tray of mac and cheese for coworkers during that late-night sprint. Any skill or knowledge you bring to the table means one less employee the startup needs to find.

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It’s Not Too Late For IT Training: A Start-up Guide to Programs

 

“A year from now you’ll wish you started today” – Karen Lamb, author

It is amazing that just 5 short years ago I never thought I would have a career in IT as a Recruiter for companies in Telecom, Software as a Service, Healthcare and Banking. Prior to “falling into” my current position I’ll admit, I didn’t think about IT as a viable option for me. But now having seen the stability, the pay and the longevity IT positions offer firsthand, I have become a “personal crusader” urging my friends and family out if their professional rut and into trainings for all ages.  Computer

Below are a few programs I have come across that can bridge the gap between your current professional experience and a career in IT. Please feel free to add ones that you’ve found:

Year Up Bay Area – also has programs nationwide

Year Up Bay Area is a one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults, ages 18-24, with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships. Since opening our doors in 2008, we have helped over 500 young adults cross the Opportunity Divide in the San Francisco Bay Area. 88% of our graduates are employed (earning competitive wages) or are attending college within four months of completing the program.

Through Year Up, students are succeeding in the workplace with partners like Dropbox, Facebook, Linkedin and Microsoft.

Classes begin in March and September. Applications are considered on a rolling basis until the class is filled. We encourage you to apply early as space is limited. http://www.yearup.org/about-us/our-locations/bay-area/ 

The Stride Center

The Stride Center prepares students for professional, well-rounded careers in the Information Technology field. Coming from all around the Bay Area, students learn new skills allowing them to achieve their goals of finding well paying, vibrant new careers. The Stride Center’s career training program surrounds participants with a comprehensive array of resources and an award winning curriculum, ensuring that graduates can compete and thrive in their new career.

Offers Certifications: CopmTIA A+ , Network +, Security +, Server +, MCSA Windows 7, MCTS, CCNA .

http://www.stridecenter.org/

GENERAL ASSEMB.LY

General Assembly (GA) is a global educational company on a mission to empower a global community to pursue work they love. Focusing on the most relevant and in-demand skills across data, design, business and technology, GA is confronting a skills gap through best-in-class instruction and providing access to opportunities.

GA works with students online and in person across 15 campuses in 4 continents. GA also works with companies as partners in course development and graduate placement as well as helps companies stay competitive in today's digital landscape.  Offers Full-time Immersive Classes and Part-Time Courses in Web Development, User Experience Design, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, etc. Tuition is listed at $4,000 with scholarships and finance options available.

https://generalassemb.ly/

Udemy

Udemy.com is a platform or marketplace for online learning. Unlike academic MOOC programs driven by traditional collegiate coursework, Udemy provides a platform for experts of any kind to create courses which can be offered to the public, either at no charge or for a tuition fee. No Udemy courses are currently credentialed for college credit; students take courses largely as a means of improving job-related skills.

 https://www.udemy.com/

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GoDaddy launches AWS-style servers and apps to build, test and scale cloud services

GoDaddy, the web hosting and domain registration company that went public last year, is adding new cloud services to grow the revenues it makes from the 14 million small businesses that make up the majority of its customer base. Today it’s taking the wraps off Cloud Servers and Cloud Applications — Amazon-style features that will let companies build, test and scale cloud solutions on GoDaddy’s infrastructure. Mountians

Jeff King, SVP and GM of Hosting and Security, says GoDaddy is entering the market aiming not at high-end app makers but smaller businesses that are making the move to cloud services. Pricing is built around a “pay as you go” model, and it starts at $5/month the 20GB option (working out to $0.01/hour), for 512MB of memory, 1 core processor, 20MB SSD disk and 1TB of transfer, through to the 80GB option, which is capped at $80/month (or $0.12/hour) for 8GB of memory, 4 core processor, 80GB SSD disk and 8TB of transfers.

It’s important to note that while these features are “Amazon-style”, GoDaddy believes it’s filling a niche that AWS is not actually serving that well right now: smaller businesses that need cloud services that complement a wider business that may not be in the cloud.

“It’s a long way to get to that,” King said of the scale and audience that AWS largely addresses. “We’re really about enabling small business to get started and grow. You have a long way to go on GoDaddy’s before you consider bringing your business into a dedicated data center.”

It’s not coming out of the blue for GoDaddy. The company has been building up its holdings in cloud services for a while now, most recently acquiring the public cloud customer division of Apptix for $22.5 million. And last year, it launched GoDaddy Pro — a portal that also gives customers the option of using GoDaddy for various SaaS activities like WordPress hosting, running virtual private services — and now added to that cloud servers and apps.

GoDaddy’s move to launch cloud servers and apps comes at an interesting time of increased competition among Amazon and other providers.

On a high level, Amazon’s AWS business has largely dominated the market for companies that are building and deploying apps in the cloud, nabbing some of the world’s biggest online companies as customers. More recently, there have been some high-profile movements, such as Dropbox taking more control of some of its own services; Spotify teaming with Google, and Apple reportedly also diversifying the third parties it works with in the cloud.

By many estimates, changes like these are unlikely to have a lasting impact on AWS’s bottom line, but they underscore the competitiveness in the market and how a business intent on winning more business in this area can find windows of opportunity.

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Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Over the next couple blogs, I’ll review AttachedApps, a contact management system for small businesses (and I’d assert Start-Ups in particular). I’m qualified to have this conversation with you. I use AttachedApps. And I use it in a start-up. Let me use this blog for the proper context and later I’ll rock the speeds and feeds.

There is a popular philosophy about being a lean start-up.

Just as the name implies, you keep it simple stupid. I’m currently involved in a Big Data start-up in Seattle in addition to my ownership role at SMB Nation. I’ve learn a lot over the past year about what a real investor-backed start-up looks like. It’s been like earning a second MBA. One decision relevant to this conversation with to use AttachedApps as our “baby CRM” system. I can now say that I’ve used nearly every major CRM solution including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 (“Dynamics CRM”) and NetSuite. I still use a couple programs daily supporting the Big Data clients we have.

But internally, the decision was made to roll with AttachedApps from day one. Why? Simplicity! Essentially instead of being consumed with the complexity of Saleforce et al, the prevailing sentiment was to just get stuff done. I get it. When I work with the big boys (Salesforce, Dynamics CRM), you find yourself spending more time just trying to figure out how to do something. You know it can be done, you’re just not sure how to do it. Then there is the notion that most people use a fraction of the power in the big boy CRM packages. With AttachedApps, using it daily, I can honest say I’m using the majority of the horsepower that comes standard! 
Bottom line: Rethink the technology you deploy in a start-up. Complexity is overkill. Consider simplicity like AttachedApps.

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Don’t Miss: 2016 Salary Survey Closes March 31st

Don’t Miss: 2016 Salary Survey Closes March 31st

Hey there, Hi there, Ho there!

We need your support! In order to have a representative data set of the state of SMB compensation and activities, we need more participation. Think of this as Karma Dollars! You contribute your information (confidentially) and you benefit from seeing more rich results (literally). Think of it as crowd sourcing meets the sharing economy.

With respect to viewing this survey from a start-up perspective, I have a story to share. Earlier this month I met a young man at the Channel Partners conference in Las Vegas. He had recently completed college and was all bright eyed and bushy tailed. He sincerely wanted to know what line of work to go into with respect to information technology (IT). He was looking at traditional networking as an MSP. He was looking at telecom as a consultant/sales agent (that is still the predominant audience at Channel Partners). This salary survey can truly benefit our start-up kid! Why? Because he can decide if these professional career paths work for him. The world is his oyster and he can compare our MSP/CSP world to opportunities in Big Data (that conference was upstairs at LeadsCon), online commerce, mobility and even Internet of Things (IoT). That’s that start-up hook to the salary survey.

Discover more and participate in the 2016 Salary Survey here

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Don’t Miss It! HPE March MicroServer Sale

During the month of March 2016, the HPE ProLiant MicroServer (HPE SKU#783959-S01) is on sale at a 19% discount. HPE’s ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 is a super small and quiet “front office” server. This small server has companion stackable options – a switch called the HPE PS1810 (HPE SKU# JL066A) an 8 Port switch, and the HPE PS110 Wireless 802.11n VPN WW Router (HPE SKU# J9833A).  What’s HP20140317757revmore – for HPE Partners who use Engage and Grow www.hpeengageandgrow.com ; you’ll find award points available that you can’t ignore.

The award winning “little” server1 has a big personality for the home and small business. HPE SKU#783959-S01 is an affordable server that’s loaded with four 1 TB drives and the Intel Xeon E3-1220v2 processor.  This unique SKU also comes loaded with 8GB (1x8GB DDR3 Unbuffered UDIMM) and can be upgraded to 16 GB.  For remote management this server comes Standard with HPE iLO Management Engine.  When pairing it with the HPE Networking “lego” stackable options, HPE iLO consolidates the view of servers and switches in the network so workloads can be prioritized.

The HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 is available with tool-less access to hard drives, memory, and PCI slots for simple installation or upgrade.  And it has two up-front USB ports allow for easy deployment.  It’s quiet and easy to deploy. The server has been certified for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (SP2) and 2012 R2 and tested for Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2.

Use cases for this server have been for small businesses with up to 10 users. Home users have utilized this server for media and entertainment hosting.  Several mid-sized companies have deployed this server as a simple Proof of Concept box.  This server has been deployed around the world over 500,0002 times, so feel confident in your choice!   

Learn More by contacting your distributor or by contacting D&H at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or visit these websites: www.dandh.com/hpe  or www.hpe.com/servers/microserver

Footnotes:

1.  http://www.absolutelywindows.com/blog/2014/2/10/the-smallbizwindows-servers-of-the-year-2014-hp-proliant-ser.html

2. HPE Worldwide Sales of the MicroServer and MicroServer Gen8, HPE internal sales.

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Start-Over: Rethinking Where You Work

Start-Over: Rethinking Where You Work

One year ago, SMB Nation reached the end of a five year commercial lease for office space. And it felt great. Still does. Why? Because in the mid-2000s, when SMB Nation grew out of the garage and dramatically increased its head count, the original office space we leased made sense from a prestige, ego and functional point of view. Much of our computing was still client-server based with Small Business Server 2003 (the gold standard in my opinion). Fast forward the move and two office moves later, letting our lease expire and having everyone work from home starting March 2015 felt like a natural act. We were “starting over” with respect to how we worked. And folks loved it: no commute, no make-up and more time to complete work that matters. We didn’t experience the loneliness highihglighted in the following New York Times article “Telecommuting Can Make the Office a Lonely Place, a Study Says” which start out: Ever since telecommuting became a viable option for a broad spectrum of workers, some companies have offered it as a tempting perk. Why not make workers happier by allowing them to spend more time with their families, avoid long commutes and exert more control over their schedules?

Read more here

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Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Harry here and be forewarned. I’m about to go intellectual on you. This is an interesting New York Times article about how entrepreneurial communities do and do no develop in non First World countries. Hint: It has to do with savings and capital.

Laura Doering was at a rest stop in Panama about five years ago, waiting for her bus to refuel, when she saw six vendors clustered together selling almost exactly the same snacks. She wondered: Why doesn’t anyone sell something different?

Read on here 

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Analysis: Geek Guide to Day Lights Savings Time!

Analysis: Geek Guide to Day Lights Savings Time!

My good friends over at GeekWire published a timely piece on setting your clocks forward on March 13, 2016. Always a goog evergreen story, this article highlights the good and bad. And cheers that it doesn’t mention the farming myth about day light savings.

Spring forward in stages
Spring = forward. It’s a simple algorithm, but this weekend’s switch to daylight saving time can get complicated. The bottom line is that timepieces have to be pushed forward an hour in most (but not all) of North America. Traditionally, clocks skip ahead an hour, from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. local time Sunday. Smartphones, computers and other connected devices should pick up the beat automatically. Old-school analog devices as well as standalone electronics such as microwave ovens will have to be set by hand, typically at bedtime on Saturday night.

daylight
But maybe there should be another way to think about all this, particularly because of 21st-century social trends.
Read on here.  

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True That: HPE and March Madness!

True That: HPE and March Madness!

Lately a lot of people are asking me about the new Hewlett Packard(s). For the purposes of the SMB Nation community, we live in the world of HPE. I liken it to HP is STARTING OVER as HPE!

And it’s making a splash with its March Madness “Hello World” special offer. We’re glad to help as HP (now HPE) is a long-time friend of the family. It was there at the first SMB Nation conference in 2003 and beyond. The pic attached to this blog is from the video series “In The Trenches” produced by HP promoting SBS 2000 and its mobility features (watch it HERE). 

 Harrybbb in early HP SBS video

So with great pleasure – I’d like to invite you to join us the Thursday, March 17th at 12:00pm Noon Pacific (GMT-7). Sign up here

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Harryb’s 20th Book? (Sorta) on CompTIA Network+ Exam

Harryb’s 20th Book? (Sorta) on CompTIA Network+ Exam

With great pleasure, I’m pleased to announce the latest offering from Chip Reaves at Bigger Brains. It was an honor to team with Reaves and Wilson on this effort to produce a “Video Book”( off-the-shelf eLearning content) on the CompTIA Network+ Exam. The new course includes 62 video training modules and over 9 hours of total content. "We wanted to not only cover the exam objectives for people who want to get Network+ certified, but also use real-world examples of how IT consultants and technicians can use these skills in practical situations," said Reaves. The new course is available from top IT service firms who subscribe to Bigger Brains' "BiggerMSP" training portal program at BiggerMSP.com. It's also available individually through OpenSesame.com and other online training marketplaces.

CompTIA Network Exam

Speaking for myself – I see the release of the CompTIA Network+ Exam eLearning course as a tool to start-up if you are interested in becoming a IT Pro or MSP. For old timers, it’s a chance to be the life learner and revisit the principles that made you successful. I’ve been known to reread past technical books annually to refresh my brain matter. It makes for a bigger brian LOL!

For more information visit www.GetBiggerBrains.com.

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O365/Win10 Roadshow: NYC Applause, ATL and CHI This Week!

O365/Win10 Roadshow: NYC Applause, ATL and CHI This Week!

Like the primary elections, the Office 365 / Windows 10 workshops are coming fast and furious in March. Last week over 110+attendees enjoyed and applauded Grant Thompson’s amazing independent outside-looking-in view of Office 365 and Windows 10.

“Thank you for putting on the 2016 Road Show. I especially want to thank Grant Thompson for his presentations, both the formal topics and side discussions answered many questions I had about Windows 10 deployments, Azure AD, Office 365 implementation and the CSP program. The AppRiver and Webroot presentations were enlightening also. It was a very worthwhile day.”

Doug Steinschneider, DCS Group, Fairfield, CT

new york feb29 roadshow

“Harry, I went to this event with Marc Harrison It was one of the best events I"ve attended in a while. Within 90 minutes - I gained enough value to make the trip worth my time…the vendors / speakers were top notch. Thanks.” Joe

Please join us this week in Atlanta and Chicago – followed by Washington DC and Carolette! The workshops are complimentary and all geek, all the time. Discover more here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/

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Start-up: Spring Break Man Cave!

Start-up: Spring Break Man Cave!

Many conversations with longtime SMB Nation folks lead to side jobs. With the changing of business models and personal interests, I’m seeking you guys engage in weekend warrior businesses to supplement your MSP practices. You have the MSP who remotely supports Boston-based clients from his profitable ski lodge in Mount Snow, New York (been there). You have Ken in Phoenix selling red BBQ gloves (used these). A couple on Bainbridge Island with a gourmet popcorn business (yummy). And now you have Greg Hansen with his Central Coast Oregon-area man cave! Known as the Siletz River Cabin, this getaway is a must do for SBSers looking to catch their breathe, recharge and reboot. What better place to plot your start over strategy then the babbling brook sounds overheard while fishing?

cabin2

 

The reason I share this story is too fold.

First – don’t hesitate to put a toe in the water in starting a side business. Maybe you are an expert bicycle mechanic just waiting to serve neighbors. Heck perhaps you’re keen to multi-level-marketing schemes. However you slice it, diversifying your business portfolio is prudent to migrate all the risks as we pivot to cloud!

Second – it’s time to lock down your vacation plans. Some of us have wanderlust and want to do something new. I’d offer some time at Hansen’s man cave is time well spent.

In Hansen’s own words:
“Experience a relaxing and fun weekend (or week day) of Steelhead or Salmon fishing in the Siletz River...while staying at Siletz Valley Lodge (reserved only for small retreats, team building, and strategic planning sessions) or Siletz River Cabin …by the way, river conditions are good according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Transportation available anywhere from point A to point B by Siletz River Shuttle Service.”
Learn more here, and tell ‘em Harry sent ya!

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Over 500,000 Customers Served – Get to know the HPE ProLiant MicroServer

If you aren’t familiar with HPE’s ProLiant MicroServer Gen8, it is a super small and unique cube shaped server or Ultra Micro Tower.  Over 500,000 customers1 have adopted this server worldwide for their small business needs.  The server according to Absolutely Windows2 states this is “one serious one-to-ten-user small office/branch office device”. The MicroServer is great for your Point of Sale system, work collaboration, and with 4x1TB hard drives you’ll have plenty of storage!

During the month of March, the HPE SKU#783959-S01 is on sale at a 19% discount.  What’s more – for HPE Partners who use HPE Engage and Grow; you’ll find award points available that you can’t ignore.  Contact your distributor to order HPE SKU#783959-S01. 

Here are the Key Features for HPE SKU#783959-S01 MicroserverTabletRev

  • Processor - Intel® Xeon® E3-1220Lv2
  • Memory - 8GB (1x8GB DDR3 Unbuffered UDIMM)
  • Hard Drive - Included: 4 x 1TB Entry-Level LFF SATA
  • Internal Storage - 4 LFF NHP SATA HDD cage; includes 4 LFF hard drive carriers
  • Power Supply - 150W Non-Hot Plug, Non-Redundant Power
  • Supply Management - Standard: HPE iLO Management Engine

Additional Options

  • 647909-B21  - 8GB (1x8GB DDR3 Unbuffered UDIMM)
  • 652241-B21 - HP 9.5mm SATA DVD-RW JackBlack Optical Drive
  • 722320-B21 - HP MicroServer Gen8 Front Bezel Faceplate Kit
  • J2P86A  - HP T1000 G4 Uninterruptible Power System
  • 701586-A21 - Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Edition
  • B7B69B - HP RDX+ 1TB System
  • U2EF9E - HPE 3 year Foundation Care Next business day with CDMR MicroServer Service

Compatible Stackable Networking

  • JL066A - HP PS110 Wireless 802.11n VPN WW Router.
  • J9833A - HP PS1810-8G Switch. An 8-port switch

Learn More by contacting your distributor or by contacting D&H at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or visit these websites: www.dandh.com/hpe or www.hpe.com/servers/microserver

Footnotes:

1.  HPE Worldwide Sales of the MicroServer and MicroServer Gen8, HPE internal sales.

2.  http://www.absolutelywindows.com/blog/2014/2/10/the-smallbizwindows-servers-of-the-year-2014-hp-proliant-ser.html

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Speeds and Feeds: Atera PSA / RMM Product Review

Many readers enjoy the “Fastest two minutes in sports” as a regular segment on SportsCenter at ESPN. Some of you enjoy the weekly highlights at halftime on Monday Night Football. So fasten your seat belts. In the ten minute video that accompanies this blog, you will discover the most important features of Atera, a spunky start-up that aims to make a splash in the SMB partner community.

Atera’s main asset is that it is based on per technician pricing. This contrasts with the legacy PSA and RMM providers who typically charge on a per device basis. This effectively and dramatically lowers MSPs costs – a critical “thing” as our community pivots from big iron to born-in-the-cloud. Atera’s other value proposition is that it is very good at being an efficient solution that provides the functionality you want and need. It’ll never be confused with bloatware!

In the review, you’ll see that I start with the core functionality of the Atera product. There is a very important reason for this. The set-up process is fairly traditional and would have significantly extended the time of the video. In a YouTube world, less is more.

You can anticipate the following nuggets in this review:

  • Dashboard review
  • Tickets
  • Alerts
  • Devices
  • Customers
  • Plus much more!

Bottom line: View the video and then sign-up for the 30-day Atera trial here

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Super Monday – Roadshow in NYC Feb 29th and BEYOND!

This is the all of those starting up – attending our roadshow workshops is a great first step!

Until I sat down to write this update on our Office 365/ Windows 10 Roadshow, I hadn’t truly thought about us behaving similarly to a political campaign in the Spring primary season, but there are some parallels. We launched last Tuesday in our own state (favorite son) in Redmond. The capable audience enjoyed the expert content delivery from our own Grant Thompson was not only well-received but the launch feedback has allowed us to update the curriculum. That’s a common training function – improve the content for each city moving forward.

redmondpizza

Attendees enjoying PIZZA UP at our Redmond workshop - February 23rd! 

Another parallel is that we’re road warriors on a roadshow. We’re going from state-to-state over the next few months. The full schedule is here. There is still time to sign-up for New York as it’s Monday, February 28, 2016. So click over and sign-up for the following future dates:


• New York City, February 29th
• Atlanta, March 9th
• Chicago, March 11th
• Washington DC, April 12th
• Charlotte, April 14th
• Phoenix, May 10th 
• Los Angles, May 31st
• San Francisco, June 2nd

So we focus on the technical aspects of Office 365 and Windows 10 in our roadshow workshops. Perhaps the most popular speech was the Office 365 Security speech. Timely, spot on and ready for consumption. 
Join us – the event is complimentary. Discover more and sign up here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/

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What’s the real value behind Unified Communications?

I’m continually impressed by the good work coming out of Mitel with respect to community conversations. I think everyone agrees there’s no home for speeds and feeds BS content at SMB Nation. Rather – you want unique insights into matters that interest you. You want the community sponsors to be respectful; they want to be top of mind when you are ready to move forward. I think Mitel’s recent outreach to the SMB Nation community meets this high bar.

 mitel

Mitel has embarked on a journey to act as your guide by the side when it comes to your communications strategy. In particular, Mitel’s new communications landscape white paper that you can (and should) download here (“Making Smart Communications Decisions – an SMB Buyers Guide”) present the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) concept. Essentially ITC refers to the view that technology is an enabler. We used to call it data + voice but Mitel’s ICT concept is about the premise that today’s IP-based phone systems are gateways to this new world focused on applications.

Other topics in the white paper are:

  • Small business IT staff are more and more becoming cloud and applications managers. The assertion is that ICT staff are becoming more strategic and less break-fix.
  • Spending growth for a mobile world. Budgets are facilitating smartphones and applications to deliver a flexible work experience to employees who are becoming more mobile and geographically distributed.
  • Re-imagining work. The new workspace requires a new communications approach. I previously covered this conversation in my late December 2015 blog titled “I Love Work” that you can read here
  • Premium on protection. It goes without saying but you need to say it: security is important!
    Incremental, integrated solutions approach. This not only relates to cloud solutions but OPEX vs CAPEX financing.
  • Reshaping the customer experience. This is my favorite part of the Mitel white paper. There is a strong marketing conversation currently underway that with search, customers are doing much of their own research before ever speaking to a salesperson. So true. I’ve seen another report that nearly 70% of the decision has been made before customers speak to you. Google calls it the zero moment of truth. True that!

So you’ll have the read the rest of the report to get the good stuff. Highly recommended!

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Office 365 Security Blues – Roadshow Content Added

When having conversations with long-time SMB Nation peeps, those steeped in Small Business Server (SBS), the mere mention of Office 365 brings a response focused on security concerns. We got the message and received the memo. So based on popular (and I’d add populist) demand, we’ve added a security lecture to our popular Office 365 and Windows 10 roadshow.

 349 X 115 MOD REG RND2

So building a wall to keep the bad guys out isn’t completely realistic (although a firewall is LOL), our expert speaker Grant Thompson does touch on important Office 365 Officesecuritysecurity topics (listed below) that you might not have considered. In fact, I’ll go so far as to assert we are offering content that includes something for everyone and more importantly, something YOU DO NOT KNOW! In fact, if you honestly knew everything in this lecture, we’ll refund your workshop fee. That would be very easy as the workshop is complimentary LOL!

Office 365 security topics:

  • Encrypted Data at Rest and in Transit 
  •  Automated operations and Just-In-Time Access
  • Everything is designed to Fail
  • Customer LockBox
  • Data Loss Prevention 
  •  Information protection using RMS
  •  RMS OneDrive for Business Sync 
  •  Sync block for non-domain PCS
  •  Enteprise Mobility and Security Suite: Discussion and Demo! 
  •  Four Layer End-to-End Security 
  •  Compliance – CJIS standards 
  •  Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics
  • Hybrid Identity
  • Common Identity and Access Problem 
  •  Manage your external identities 
  •  Windows Azure Active Directory Premium
  • Device and Application Protection via Intune

We take our responsibility as a independent ombudsman seriously representing you. Therefore, we hope we’ve earned your trust and more importantly your desire to attend one of our workshops traveling the US this spring.

You can learn more here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/.

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Work in evolving and so should your business communications

The world of work is being transformed with the smart phone generation bringing applications into the work place and with employees increasingly working more flexibly.

Employees increasingly expect employers to support a healthy work / life balance and to allow them more control over the Work is Evolvingcommunications devices and applications they use.

The research organisation SMB Group say that today 92% of SMBs use at least one cloud solution with 86% using mobile applications.

Stephen Tanner, Founder of OfficePOD Ltd commented “An organization cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair in a room. Employers have a duty to provide staff with the tools they need to work effectively and productively, wherever that happens to be.”

All businesses face the challenge of providing workers with flexibility while at the same time ensuring that productivity is maintained, costs are controlled and teams can collaborate effectively.

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group said “As a company we are moving towards keeping and managing everything in the cloud…Whatever we need, whenever we need it, accessible from whichever device is most suitable and available at the time.

We’ve converted an unused part of our headquarters into a flexible workspace for local businesses and entrepreneurs, where instead of long-term leases we offer far more flexible facilities, and that goes for everything from individual offices to collaborative spaces. People pay a monthly subscription and can drop in and use our facilities by the hour.”

To discover more about these trends global business communications company Mitel asked users, leaders in innovation, architects, psychologists and H.R. experts for their perspectives.

In a wide-ranging guide key issues covered include:

• How technology trends are setting the agenda • Next generation workplaces • The impact of a global market • Cultural changes and the impact on work.

To discover more insights download the full guide.

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Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else

 

att split master1050

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” said Randall Stephenson, the chief and chairman of AT&T. He is reinventing the company for a cloud-heavy future.  Credit Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times    

DALLAS — Thirty-four years ago, Kevin Stephenson got his younger brother, Randall, a job with the telephone company.

Kevin, then 23, and Randall, 22, had tried selling cattle feed with their father near their home in Moore, Okla., but that didn’t pan out. Kevin was hired to do accounting at a local Southwestern Bell office. Randall, who was in college, needed a bit more help. “He had trouble getting hired,” Kevin said. “I talked to someone I knew in personnel.”

The brothers had different tastes. Kevin liked to be outside, and now, at 57 years old, he works in Norman, Okla., fixing the decades-old copper lines that still connect to landline telephones in most homes as well as to modern Internet conduits like high-speed fiber optics. Randall liked numbers and stayed indoors, rising through the management ranks.

Southwestern Bell became SBC Communications and took on the old AT&T name through an acquisition in 2005. By 2007, Randall was running the place.

Today, Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and chief executive, is trying to reinvent the company so it can compete more deftly. Not that long ago it had to fight for business with other phone companies and cellular carriers. Then the Internet and cloud computing came along, and AT&T found itself in a tussle with a whole bunch of companies.

AT&T’s competitors are not just Verizon and Sprint, but also tech giants like Amazon and Google. For the company to survive in this environment, Mr. Stephenson needs to retrain its 280,000 employees so they can improve their coding skills, or learn them, and make quick business decisions based on a fire hose of data coming into the company.

In an ambitious corporate education program that started about two years ago, he is offering to pay for classes (at least some of them) to help employees modernize their skills. But there’s a catch: They have to take these classes on their own time and sometimes pay for them with their own money.

To Mr. Stephenson, it should be an easy choice for most workers: Learn new skills or find your career choices are very limited.

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” he said in a recent interview at AT&T’s Dallas headquarters. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning, he added, “will obsolete themselves with the technology.”

Kevin? He admires his younger brother, but he is among the many AT&T lifers who are not that keen to participate in this reinvention of old Ma Bell. “I’m riding the copper train all the way down,” he said.

He talks about the changes with obvious affection for both his brother and his longtime employer. In interviews, many veteran AT&T employees around the country showed a surprising amount of emotion toward a company that has been broken up, rebuilt and reinvented several times.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is particularly eager to rebuild and reinvent themselves for a new AT&T. Even if it means, as Randall put it, obsolescence.

Companies’ reinventing themselves to compete with more nimble competitors is hardly a new story. Many have tried, and a handful have even succeeded. Mr. Stephenson wants AT&T to be among those few.

In the last three years, he has spent more than $20 billion annually, primarily on building the digital business. DirecTV was acquired in a $63 billion deal last year, and several billion more was spent to buy wireless businesses in Mexico and the United States. Even for a company with $147 billion in 2015 revenue and over $400 billion in assets built up over more than a century, it’s a lot.

By 2020, Mr. Stephenson hopes AT&T will be well into its transformation into a computing company that manages all sorts of digital things: phones, satellite television and huge volumes of data, all sorted through software managed in the cloud.

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Grant Thompson’s 60-mins of Windows 10 Radio Show FAME!

Many of you know that Grant Thompson is our rock star with respect to Windows 10 and Office 365. He’s about to launch our 9-city roadshow starting in Redmond followed by New York City and beyond. You can learn more and sign-up here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/grant on the radio


But did you know that just this last Tuesday, February 9th, Grant was the guest on the popular BizTechTalk radio show on KLAY 1180AM broadcasting in the Seattle-area? Hosted by fellow MSP and radio personality Darrel Bowman and former Microsoft executive Amy Ansel, Grant articulated a comprehensive Windows 10 customer strategy during his 60 minutes of fame.


You can listen to Grant here: http://biztechtalk.net/2016/show-archives/biztechtalk-show-harry-brelsford-grant-thompson/

More importantly, you can see Grant live at our roadshow workshops by signing-up here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/.

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Jamison West’s Start Over Strategy

Further supporting our basic contention that now is the time to start over as existing MSPs, Jamison West’s Arterian MSP practice announced this week it was acquired by Texas-based Aldridge. But there’s more to this story then a simple acquisition – its more complex. Read on. jamison west 1024

Over 21-years, Jamison has built up a successful Seattle technology services company starting organically and then shifting to strategic acquisitions over the past eight years. Jamison is no different than most of us having experienced ups and downs on the journey but seemingly landing right side up at the end of the day. 

When I met with Jamison at his Lower Queen Anne offices just north of downtown Seattle (think Space Needle neighborhood), he shared some context to the secular press release (http://news.yahoo.com/aldridge-bursts-pacific-northwest-pair-110100449.html?soc_src=copy) that positions Aldridge bursting on to the Pacific Northwest scene. His story is really about starting over with a fresh balance sheet and his attention focused on building a nimble and agile Cloud Services Provider (CSP) practice.

The facts are that Aldridge wholly acquired Arterian out right: •Aldridge is consolidating the operations of Arterian and PacketDrivers, retaining most personnel and launching the Seattle office of Aldridge. •Aldridge has appointed PacketDrivers Founder Scott Hamlin to the position of Vice President and General Manager to lead the Seattle operation. • Aldridge has retained the Arterian brand and has established a subsidiary devoted to Microsoft's CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program. •Aldridge appointed Arterian Founder Jamison West as President of the newly-formed subsidiary.

West shared that an MSP practice and a CSP practice are two different lines of work. I concur. West will now solely focus on further building the CSP practice while Aldridge sticks to the knitting running the MSP practice. West is widely regarded as a Microsoft insider who essentially enjoys a leg up in his quest to both define and master the CSP business model.

So West’s start over via acquisition is a fresh start, allowing him to develop a different revenue and cost model not saddled with legacy assets and big iron payroll. Aldridge enjoys an operational advantage as it simply plugs more technicians into an existing large MSP practice.

Back to the behavioral aspects of the acquisition. West has arrived at the same conclusion that changing times call loud and clear for a start over strategy. Doing the same (aka doing nothing) was unacceptable. And anyone who know West knows he doesn’t sit still for long.

We’ll continue to monitor West’s start over with periodic updates with his success and challenges so you can leverage his learning experiences.

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Jamison West’s Start Over Strategy

Further supporting our basic contention that now is the time to start over as existing MSPs, Jamison West’s Arterian MSP practice announced this week it was acquired by Texas-based Aldridge. But there’s more to this story then a simple acquisition – its more complex. Read on. jamison west 1024

Over 21-years, Jamison has built up a successful Seattle technology services company starting organically and then shifting to strategic acquisitions over the past eight years. Jamison is no different than most of us having experienced ups and downs on the journey but seemingly landing right side up at the end of the day. 

When I met with Jamison at his Lower Queen Anne offices just north of downtown Seattle (think Space Needle neighborhood), he shared some context to the secular press release (http://news.yahoo.com/aldridge-bursts-pacific-northwest-pair-110100449.html?soc_src=copy) that positions Aldridge bursting on to the Pacific Northwest scene. His story is really about starting over with a fresh balance sheet and his attention focused on building a nimble and agile Cloud Services Provider (CSP) practice.

The facts are that Aldridge wholly acquired Arterian out right: •Aldridge is consolidating the operations of Arterian and PacketDrivers, retaining most personnel and launching the Seattle office of Aldridge. •Aldridge has appointed PacketDrivers Founder Scott Hamlin to the position of Vice President and General Manager to lead the Seattle operation. • Aldridge has retained the Arterian brand and has established a subsidiary devoted to Microsoft's CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) program. •Aldridge appointed Arterian Founder Jamison West as President of the newly-formed subsidiary.

West shared that an MSP practice and a CSP practice are two different lines of work. I concur. West will now solely focus on further building the CSP practice while Aldridge sticks to the knitting running the MSP practice. West is widely regarded as a Microsoft insider who essentially enjoys a leg up in his quest to both define and master the CSP business model.

So West’s start over via acquisition is a fresh start, allowing him to develop a different revenue and cost model not saddled with legacy assets and big iron payroll. Aldridge enjoys an operational advantage as it simply plugs more technicians into an existing large MSP practice.

Back to the behavioral aspects of the acquisition. West has arrived at the same conclusion that changing times call loud and clear for a start over strategy. Doing the same (aka doing nothing) was unacceptable. And anyone who know West knows he doesn’t sit still for long.

We’ll continue to monitor West’s start over with periodic updates with his success and challenges so you can leverage his learning experiences.

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Marketers Looking To Measure Customer Experience Based On Business Outcomes, Not Campaign Metrics

CMOCouncil

 

SAN JOSE, Calif., Feb. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Clicks, views, posts, shares and visits have taken a back seat to acquisition, retention and revenue growth as core measures of customer experience and engagement success, reports the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.
  
According to a new study conducted with Microsoft Corp., marketers are de-prioritizing digital campaign metrics in favor of business-focused measurements that more directly tie customer experience to financial performance and business outcomes.
  
Some 40 percent of marketers surveyed believe that because of these new business measures, they are able to better prove the impact of customer experience investments.
  
The new strategic brief entitled, "Making Personalization Possible," also reveals that while 49 percent of marketers are hopefully optimistic about creating lasting relationships with customers through personalized engagements and campaigns, more than one in four are totally confident that personalization is the path to customer gratification and retention.
  
Key findings of the study include:
•Thirty-seven (37) percent of marketers believe that personalization success will hinge on the ability to deliver experiences that are powered by a single view of the customer.
•Thirty-six (36) percent of marketers admit they are currently only able to personalize engagements in select channels but are struggling to properly align the data needed to personalize across the entire relationship in a consistent and meaningful manner.
•Twenty-one (21) percent are able to deliver highly relevant, one-to-one experiences to their customers, both online and offline.
  
"Marketers are moving away from defining customer experience success through moments in time like clicks or views," said Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the CMO Council. "Those have become critical tools for real-time campaign success. But to measure customer experience success and the overall impact of marketing on the business, marketers are turning to financial KPIs: revenue, costs, conversions and impact on the bottom line."
  
As leading executives continue to make personalization possible, they are actively seeking out tools and solutions that will amplify the customer's voice and turn that data into real, actionable intelligence. Among the top strategies for accelerating value in 2016, marketers will look to bolster analytics and lifecycle management strategies and platforms (65 percent), along with implementing personalization platforms (65 percent), engaging in comprehensive journey mapping (56 percent), and getting smarter about predictive analytics (52 percent).
  
"Marketing leaders are increasingly focused on personalization," said Gretchen O'Hara, General Manager of Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft. "In today's data-driven marketplace, personalization is imperative. As innovations like predictive analytics and machine learning technologies become more accessible and easier to manage, they have become an essential part of every marketer's toolbox, driving an organization's competitive edge."
  
The 11-page strategic brief is Read More and includes a summary of key findings, along with insights into the performance of best-practice leading respondents who are already well versed in personalization and engagement. The study includes input from 179 senior marketers, with 34 percent hailing from organizations with $1 billion (USD) in revenue or more, 48 percent from primarily B2B organizations, and 34 percent from hybrid (B2B2C) businesses. Visit www.cmocouncil.org/r/making-personalization-possible to download your copy today.

 

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SMB Salary Survey for 2016 is OPEN!

 

Wonder how you measure up? Here is your chance to both provide community data and then discover the results in a future blog. Think of it as training data for a BIG DATA experiment in SMB. You can participate confidentially and contribute to the data set. The more participants we have, the greater the value of the data. Again, we’ll happily share the results with you.

Thank you in advance and participate in the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/salary2016

We appreciate the generous support of Atera (www.atera.com) in underwriting this community survey.

salary survey artowrk

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BUY & SELL COMPUTERS, IT & TELECOM PARTS & EQUIPMENT WITH POWERSOURCE ONLINE

Are you looking to buy or sell new, used or refurbished IT and telecom parts and equipment including computers, laptops, printers, VoIP phones, central office systems, PBX/Key systems or network infrastructure?  Whether you are a supplier, reseller, service  PSO20151209 banner 220X150provider, corporate buyer or self-maintainer, you can benefit from the PowerSource professional community. PowerSource Online helps our members increase sales, build industry relationships and save time and resources with our best-in-class selling and sourcing tools.

Computer parts suppliers and resellers gain a competitive advantage by easily posting their in-stock inventory of new, used and refurbished IT and telecoms parts to reach thousands of buyers. PowerSource members can view and respond directly to buying requests for computers, telecom equipment, IT infrastructure and more. 

Corporate buyers have the ability to search over 3,000,000 lines of inventory in real-time from hundreds of the most reputable suppliers in the secondary market industry. Our members are able to get the best possible prices on inventory items by sending multiple Requests for Quotes, and receiving answers quickly. In addition to being able to search for up to 100 parts at one time, buyers can also customize their search criteria to include only preferred vendors and trading regions for more efficient sourcing.

By using PowerSource Online, IT, computer and telecom buyers and sellers have access to unparalleled opportunities to expand their customer base and increase their average margins.  Since 1997, PowerSource has helped thousands of computer parts and telecom equipment buyers and sellers efficiently source or dispose of all types of computer parts and equipment, generating substantial cost savings for buyers and improving sales for sellers and service providers.

Take the time to experience PowerSource Online by enjoying a free trial. This way, you can experience for yourself how our B2B exchange helps businesses connect with thousands of buyers and sellers of computer, printer, networking and telecom equipment.

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YOU’RE INVITED TO THE CHANNELPRO SMB FORUM LIVE EVENTS!

Give us one day and we'll send you home with all the expert sales, marketing, product, and operations advice you need to grow your revenue and boost your bottom line. The perfect event for integrators and managed service professionals looking to grow their business.

Who should attend: I.T. Resellers, MSPs, solution providers, and consultants looking for concrete, practical advice on building a healthier bottom line.

Event Locations: Dallas March 2nd; Anaheim May 4th; D.C. September 15th; Boston November 3rd

What you'll get of it: The ChannelPro 2016 ‘Channel Fitness Tour’ features an all-star cast of top industry experts, a unique interactive format that puts you in direct conversation with them, and a fast-paced, information-packed agenda covering topics you care about: • Pump Up Your Managed Service Revenues: Learn about revenue-boosting services you should be offering but probably aren't from a panel of your peers. • Bottom-Line Finance Strengthening Exercises: Discover the critical metrics experienced managers use to keep their business strong and growing. • Cloud Sales and Marketing Fitness Secrets: Let our panel of sales and marketing specialists show you how to build a high-volume, high-velocity cloud sales pipeline. • Business Process Optimization Lightning Round!: Get proven, actionable suggestions for hiring employees, tracking time, setting prices, and more. • GEAR AND CASH GIVEAWAYS: Lots of chances to win big with gear and cash giveaways throughout the day!

 There's More! Attendees also receive numerous session-related resources, including white papers, analysis tools, and worksheets that add value to their experience. We'll even take care of parking, meals, and more so you can focus on what really matters: Building a stronger, more profitable business.

How to pre-register for free as a VIP>>  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ChPro_Forums-2016_Pre-Reg

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What’s the real value behind Unified Communications?

 

Whatever communications and collaboration systems you already have in place; if you can get them working in harmony, you stand to reap tangible bottom line benefits as well as providing users with a far richer and more intuitive user experience.     Value of UC

That’s the promise of Unified Communications (UC); to combine and enhance communications capabilities via a single platform.

Unified Communications simply describes what business has always needed – communications and collaboration working in harmony to achieve benefits for ROI and the user experience.

Yet if you asked 10 IT Directors for their definition of UC, you’d probably get 10 different answers so let’s simplify it to “An easy way to work together via voice, video, online collaboration and mobile devices”.

Defining the ‘what’ is one thing but why would businesses need Unified Communications?

Here are the five most popular reasons cited by organisations that have deployed and use UC technologies.

Productivity

Enabling better ways for people to get more done together.

Continuity

Ensuring the business is always available to do business.

Mobility

Supporting a connected workforce demanding 24/7 access from anywhere, using any kind of mobile device.

Integration

Leveraging, rather than stranding, existing and potential IT investments.

Future Proofing

Being ready for uncertain future challenges.

To discover more download our guide to Unified Communications which explores the five most popular reasons for committing to a UC future and shares real-life feedback from businesses about the value of UC.

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Microsoft’s cloud-computing efforts are paying off as it gains on Amazon

Microsoft

 

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella says, “the enterprise cloud opportunity is massive.”

By: Therese Poletti

Microsoft Corp.’s fiscal second quarter showed that its cloud-computing efforts are paying off with major revenue growth and improved profit margins, offsetting declines in its PC businesses.


Investors cheered Microsoft’s MSFT, -0.23%  results in after-hours trading, with shares rising 3.4%, while shares of Seattle neighbor Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +0.31%   plunged amid disappointment with holiday season profits . The two companies are proving to be fierce rivals in the arena of public cloud, where Microsoft is gaining momentum with its Azure product line, which saw a 140% year-over-year jump in revenue in constant currency.

microsoft gaining on amazon in cloud 2016 01 28

The software giant did not break out revenue of Azure in particular, only giving the growth rate. Azure is partnered with other cloud-focused products in Microsoft’s “intelligent cloud” business, which reported $6.3 billion in total revenue, up 11% in constant currency.


“The enterprise cloud opportunity is massive, larger than any market we have ever participated in,” Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella told analysts.

Amazon and its fast-growing Amazon Web Services business is a formidable opponent in cloud computing, though. AWS reported $2.4 billion in sales for AWS on Thursday, with $687 million in operating income, for a revenue growth rate just shy of 70% — about half of Azure’s reported rise, though Amazon’s number did not use constant currency.

While Azure is growing faster than AWS, it is likely still far behind in terms of overall size. Ahead of Microsoft’s earnings, Raymond James analyst Michael Turits estimated that Microsoft’s Azure business would hit $501 million in revenue in the December quarter.

“It looks like they are slowly but surely gaining share, that’s the key,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said.

Microsoft also fared well with its Office 365 cloud product, a major part of the “intelligent cloud” sector, which saw revenue growth of nearly 70% in constant currency.

 

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CompTIA Reveals 12 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., Jan. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Anticipating strong customer demand for the next waves of digital business technologies, information technology (IT) industry executives view the year ahead with a general sense of optimism, according to the IT Industry Outlook 2016 released today by CompTIA, the industry's nonprofit trade association.
        
Maintaining its momentum, CompTIA's IT Industry Business Confidence Index recorded an uptick of 1.2 points heading into the first quarter of the year. While a range of economic concerns have affected the Index, the rating component covering the IT industry continues to perform well.  Comptialogo
        
"The Index indicates industry executives see far more positives than negatives," said Tim Herbert, senior vice president, research and market intelligence, CompTIA.
        
For 2016, CompTIA's consensus industry forecast projects growth of 4.7 percent for the U.S. market. Industry executives believe this will be a function of incremental growth in the staple categories of hardware, software, services, and telecom, supplemented with new revenue streams from emerging categories.
        
"Businesses of all sizes increasingly recognize the need to remake their workflows and customer engagement practices with an eye towards digital transformation," said Herbert. "If investments in these technologies accelerate, and the economy holds steady, growth could lean towards the upside of the forecast."
        
In its IT Industry Outlook 2016 CompTIA identifies 12 trends that are expected to further make their mark on the IT industry, IT channel, IT workforce, and broader economy in the year ahead.

 

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Harry Mention: On SMB MSP & Cloud Channel Challenges

Who Dat? Below is a reprint of a blog., based on our SMB Nation State of the Union 2016 Webinar (January 2016) with Anurag from TechAisle. Enjoy the read!

On 7th January, Harry Brelsford, Founder, SMBNation had a Q&A webinar with Techaisle on the challenges of SMB-focused MSPs and cloud channel partners. Given below are his questions and Techaisle’s responses.

Harry: Referring to this blog SMB IT Channel has reached an inflection point can you better define “inflection point?” does that mean a tipping point before collapse or a pivot?

Anurag: It is a pivot not a collapse – “one stop solution shop” is dying as each of cloud, mobility, managed services and CI/virtualization gets too complex for generalists to manage. The IT channel is changing, permanently and in ways that are entirely different from what we have seen in the past. In the same way that “cloud” refers to a very wide range of very different IT models and deployments, “the channel” is becoming a generic phrase 

Click HERE to read the rest of the article!

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Dazed and Amazed: Atera’s Disruptive PSA and RMM Pricing Model

Once in a great while, disruptive financial models are created. Take derivate trading in the financial markets and how that led to high speed trading an amazing disruption. Atera is out to do the same by essentially offering a futures contract where you lock in your PSA/RMM pricing based on the number of technicians you employ, not the number of device. It’s a brilliant strategy and makes sense with the commoditization of IT at SMB customer sites.

Why the "paying per device" model is killing the growth of your MSP business

If you avoid Atera’s attractive pricing offer, you do so at your own peril. That’s because you subjective you and your family’s financial welfare to the diminishing returns of IT management. Allow me to assert my argument.

  1. Penalized for growing – when you grow, your traditional PSA and RMM supplier grows on your expense, since new customer will require you to spend more money on monitoring of new servers & workstations. Loosely translated, there is no upside financial leverage. Your RMM and PSA costs are essentially variable costs and that makes it tough to increase profitability margins.
  2. Makes you uncompetitive – you need to charge your customer for every PC, laptop and server added. Remember I made mention of the oft accepted theory of IT commoditization? In such a marketplace, it’s essential you control if not lower your costs. A market that is being commoditized doesn’t support a cost-plus inflationary strategy. You can’t pass on your costs easily and thus you become uncompetitive to more efficient operators.
  3. Hurting your customer growth & relationship – when your customer grows (and needs more PC, laptops and servers), you have to charge more, and the customer most likely will not care about the fact that this money isn't going to your pocket at all. It’s going to fat cat PSA ISV owners and RMM executive’s wallets!

Atera to the rescue: per technician pricing

So I’ve saved the best for last. Atera is asserting an optimistic investment approach that reduces risk and increase profitability with maybe a bit of fun thrown in. Atera’s PSA and RMM solution has three pillars.

  1. Predictably – you know how much you pay each month. That’s your hedge strategy facilitated by buying Atera’s solution set. By analogy, think of it this way. Each and every day, corn farmers in Iowa sell futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. Big Ag (large agriculture companies and distributors) buy those futures as part of a financial strategy to lock in its corn commodity prices. Right or wrong, Big Ag knows what it’s be paying.
  2. Competiveness – You can charge less and provide better service because all devices will be monitored. Smart idea in a cloud world and facilitated by Atera, a born-in-the-cloud ISV.
  3. Relationship with customer- you avoid the tension of the whole “I need to charge you more for your growth” conversation. Whereas in the financial community, I’d offer personal friendships are minimized because “they” are not nice people. It’s just the opposite in SMB. MSPs are often personal friends with customers. So expectation management is paramount to a long-term relationship!
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Breaking News – 2016 Readership Results!

Thank you for participating in our 2016 Readership Survey – it’s good for us and good for you. Here are the results:

Nearly 2/3 of you defined yourself as MSPs at 62.84%. The remaining responses included break-fix, consultant, system integrator, business consultant and ISV.

Technical content areas you are interested in, in order of strength, are: Office 365, Windows 10, and Windows Server. As you can see in the figure, AWS, Azure and Skype are less popular topics for you.

Not surprisingly, with respect to segments, you want coverage on the small and medium business (SMB) area. You are not interested in government and education. Enterprise, home and consumer were all tied for a distant second.

In terms of general areas, you were very interested in more coverage of SECURITY! Second was legacy technologies and third was cloud. Losers included Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) with both topics tied for last.

Your interests in “styles” was won by the “How To…Business” category followed by a tie with “How To…Technical” and stories on products and services. The notion of “Best of” contests finished a distant last.

When it came to social topics, you want more coverage on Start-ups, Shutdowns and Start-overs. The good news is that we’re closely listening to you and intend to make these area(s) pillars of our coverage in 2016! Tied for second was industry hiring and firings and gossip (lawsuits, etc.). Last place goes to political coverage. I thought political coverage might be a bit higher with the 2016 election year in the US.

Finally, a couple of standout comments included desire for an improvement in our newsletter being displayed on mobile devices, Hybrid Exchange/O365 articles and more technical content. There was also a shout-out to SharePoint. One person shared that “I expect this to provide content related to my work and revenue streams.”

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Navigating your way through business communications decisions

Choosing the right business communications solutions is no longer simply a case of choosing which type of system and brand you want.

The mind-boggling array of options available today means that the importance of making the correct choice has never been more critical. 

Communication behaviour is also changing. Today’s users are moving from formal meetings, booking resources and geographic limitations towards real-time collaboration, using diverse communication methods and devices, and regardless of location.

Outside of your employees the customers of SMBs are also changing how they interact and driving an excellent customer experience has become a business critical differentiator.

“When consumers hear about a product today, their first reaction is ‘Let me search online for it.’ And so they go on a journey of discovery: about a product, a service, an issue, an opportunity. Today you are not behind your competition. You are not behind the technology. You are behind your consumer.” Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, VivaKi

This transformation can be seen in seven key trends:

Technology is now an enabler

The rise of communications protocols such as SIP and options such as cloud is opening up a new world of applications and solutions. Today’s IP phone systems are gateways to this new world.

SMB IT staff are increasingly cloud and applications managers

The role of ICT staff is evolving to become more pro-active and strategic with a reduced emphasis on support and break/fix.

Spending growth for a mobile world

IT and telecoms budgets are increasingly focussed around the smartphone, applications and on delivering a more flexible work experience.

Re-imagining work

A new approach is required to an increasingly mobile world of work from remote working to businesses without offices. 

Premium on protection

Many business are re-focussing on protection in areas from network security and remote working to applications and business continuity plans.

Incremental, integrated solutions approach

Without the resources to buy and install everything at once many SMBs are adopting an incremental purchasing strategy and a phased approach to implementing applications and communications.

Reshaping the customer experience

The way customers buy products and services is transitioning towards online. All businesses need to consider how this new form of customer engagement will impact on the technology they need.   

Mitel has produced a free Buyers Guide to explore these issues further and to help you to navigate the business communications market.

  •  What are the key trends influencing business communications today? 
  •  What questions should you ask? 
  •  What features, phones and tools does your business really need? 
  •  Is cloud or traditional communications the right choice?
  • A glossary to demystify telecoms terms

Download The Guide

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Turn Office 365 into a Power Tool

Story by Jennifer Hallmark, President, SMB Nation - 

Small business customers don’t fully appreciate all of the new features in Office 365 that can revolutionize their ability to work smarter and faster – and I am not speaking about the obvious “move your office to the cloud” advantages either.

365Let me state that this assertion relates to both Office 365 for Business and the Office suite of programs, since they are melding together both functionally and in the way Microsoft is marketing them.

The “move your office to the cloud” advantages are by now well known: work from anywhere, better security, scalable licensing, and automatic upgrades. But beyond those advantages lie some real game changers for small businesses that are often email-centric and don’t naturally gravitate to newer online services. Office 365 for business paired with the Office suite are enabling some massive workflow changes that users can get excited about, namely:

• Allowing deep integration with cloud-based software capabilities that take over where Outlook, Excel and Word leave off;
• Through new “add-ins” allowing new capabilities to be accessed directly from the MSFT program currently in use through a cloud-enabled window.
• Connecting Azure Active Directory and Office 365 to web-based software from vendors and from the company’s own Azure subscription.

These less-often mentioned elements are driving a revolution. Enterprises are utilizing them to host and implement their large customized ERP programs to reduce user training, increase compliance and drive productivity. Small companies can leverage these features (through Independent Software Vendors) for the same reasons, but they actually have more to gain than enterprises. Using these features in concert with the right software vendor, many small businesses can now successfully adopt new software that in the past might have been considered inaccessible to them in the past, for reasons of complexity or due to the fact that they want to stay in the Office environment. To learn more about how attachedapps can turn your subscription to Office 365 into a power tool, visit: www.attachedapps.com/lp/power-tool/

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On SMB MSP & Cloud Channel Challenges

By Anurag Agrawal

On 7th January, Harry Brelsford, Founder, SMBNation had a Q&A webinar with Techaisle on the challenges of SMB-focused MSPs and cloud channel partners. Given below are his questions and Techaisle’s responses.

Harry: Referring to this blog SMB IT Channel has reached an inflection point can you better define “inflection point?” does that mean a tipping point before collapse or a pivot?

Anurag: It is a pivot not a collapse – “one stop solution shop” is dying as each of cloud, mobility, managed services and CI/virtualization gets too complex for generalists to manage. The IT channel is changing, permanently and in ways that are entirely different from what we have seen in the past. In the same way that “cloud” refers to a very wide range of very different IT models and deployments, “the channel” is becoming a generic phrase that describes a set of business approaches that is increasingly specialized and fragmented. The areas that I just mentioned – cloud, mobility, managed services, virtualization - today, there is substantial overlap across these categories – but it is our belief that over time, success in any one of these areas will require discrete focus and investment, reducing opportunity for equal success in/focus on other competencies.

Harry: I like how you provide historical context – the comment you made regarding a market defined by the adoption of a particular type of technology (e.g. small Business Server (SBS)) is a point well taken by this crowd. But I’m not sure I’m seeing a cult-like community emerge around any particular cloud product (e.g. Office 365). Would you agree?

Anurag: Talking from a channel POV, agreed. If there is a cult growing, it is around Hybrid IT; possible that Cloud Broker business model will get to this level as well. SMB organizations will accept the notion that their focus on cloud needs to evolve into a focus on hybrid IT, as firms realize that their platforms and management scope must encompass on and off-premise systems. Truth of the matter is that Office365 also disintermediates the channel. There is no stopping an organization from going directly to Microsoft and purchasing and installing Office 365 as opposed to using SBS from a channel partner in the past. It is a classic cloud vs. on-premise conundrum. The ecosystem should evolve but it will evolve around integration of data and applications.

Harry: Along those lines, I just had a conversation that I’m not seeing the same ecosystem building up around a cloud product or service. For example, we’d like to take credit that SBS really helped build Trend Micro and today it’s a $1b company. But I’m not seeing these add-ons in the same way with Office 365. The only thing I can point to are a few SharePoint snap-ins and a few tools (migrations, etc.). Do you agree or disagree?

Anurag: Mostly agree. There is a lot of potential around Salesforce, but a lot of cloud software suppliers sell direct, using online trials rather than channel members to educate customers about offerings. This does not mean that there will be no aggregation opportunity in the future, but the cloud broker model is still pretty immature, and the traditional channel has several barriers to surmount before they can adopt this kind of role with respect to cloud.

Harry: You put a lot of emphasis on mobility. While I think mobility is a game changer and you have kids walking around with cranked over necks on city streets, I guess I’ surprised. Please defend your lead-off statement about mobility, sir!

Anurag: Seen on the web recently – “Software is eating the world, and mobility is eating software; therefore, mobility is eating the world.” Everywhere, and especially outside the US, the mobile device is the key to information access and use. Today, the workspace is not defined by windows and walls and common area couches. For millions of SMB employees, the “workspace” is not a physical location – it is a virtual space defined by access from multiple screens which are used from multiple locations. Techaisle data shows that more than one-third of SMB employees today spend at least 20% of their work time away from a central office, and that 80% use mobile devices to access corporate information. If the “office” is defined by devices, so too is “workplace” defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices (and their users) are located. SMBs are investing in mobility because it contributes to both cost savings and increased market reach, with “improved productivity” and related answers connected to establishing “better ways of working” viewed as the greatest benefit of mobility within SMBs. Techaisle’s data shows that small and midsized businesses have different challenges in supporting the mobile workforce: while both cite TCO as their most significant challenge, small businesses struggle with the “on ramps” to mobility (such as finding appropriate suppliers and solutions), while midmarket firms report that they are more concerned with security/data protection and mobile management. Empowering the SMB mobile workforce becomes a huge opportunity for MSPs.

Harry: Let’s go throw the four points of overlap in your first blog installment. For the benefit of the listeners, could you expand on your four bullet points?

Anurag: In our research, Techaisle has divided the SMB channel into four technology-focused groups:
•Mobility, which includes the channel members who are looking to regain relevance in the client market by providing management solutions that address the sprawl of applications (and as a result, complexity and GRC exposure).
•Managed services, which hones in on firms that are successfully pursuing a services-led, recurring revenue-based business model.
Cloud, which represents – at least in our view – the mainstream opportunity of the future, and which will ultimately divide further into segments clustered around delivery models, customer sets and/or technology specialties.
•Virtualization and converged infrastructure, which represents the evolution of the traditional channel focused on sales of back-office technology.

Today, there is a great deal of overlap between the four groups, but we have hit an inflection point, and the (more or less) common starting point is launching multiple distinct paths. At present, though, this diffusion of channel interests and capabilities is the source of a great deal of complexity within the channel, and as a result, within the vendor and buyer ranks as well. All three of the core supply chain communities – buyers, vendors and the channel – need to understand what is required for success so that the channel can make the investments needed to support emerging requirements, vendors can commit to the investments and partners needed to drive success, and buyers can identify the suppliers able to deliver business benefit from advanced technology acquisition

Harry: Is managed services still a valid business model in a cloud service world?

Anurag: Good question! Yes. Think about “cloud service” as “hybrid IT that requires integration between on-prem and cloud-based resources,” and the opportunity for third party management is clear. Also, while developers love the AWS credit-card-and-go approach, business users – and SMBs especially – need more support. MSPs are hardly the only source of managed services: more than 60% of VARs, SPs and SIs sell managed services today, and there has been an increase in managed services activity in all of these channels and Channels generally are gaining comfort with managed services delivery. Same time, the variety and depth of managed services will make it difficult for non-specialists to keep pace with MSP specialists. And SMB Buyer preference for a single source of managed services will have an impact on managed services market and channel development. To put it in context, SMBs are more dependent on technology than ever before. Since 2010, IT staffing has dropped in microbusinesses, and increased in small and midmarket firms. Accordingly, managed services acts as a substitute for IT staff in firms with 1-19 employees, and as a means of augmenting IT management in larger SMBs. SMBs are struggling with IT complexity, and turning to managed services providers for support.

Harry: I want to drill down a layer on the end of your first blog’s conclusion: “Many vendors will struggle with simply understanding this fundamental change in the market, and more will fail to understand the focus and investment required to grow with partners through this transitional period.” I’ve seen three RMM companies reorganize in the past few months. The old GFI marketing team in the UK was let go. AVG had a significant layoff of the old LevelPlatform group and Kaseya just had a shake up letting developers go but hiring a lot of account reps. That’s my evidence. What is your viewpoint?

Anurag: This is not just an RMM problem, it is a channel enablement problem. In the cloud era, established partners need to change: management approach, management metrics, marketing approach, technical service skills, sales approach, and sales comp models. Or they can get displaced…Only yesterday I read somewhere that the HP Inc. channel chief Thomas Jensen had said that Channel partners must grow their business to be more solution-oriented, as a transactional based business may not be enough in five years' time. But at least in the article there was no mention of how this magical transition was going to happen and what is HP Inc. doing to make it happen.

Migration to advanced technologies such as cloud and analytics, which require sophisticated deployment capabilities and often new recurring-revenue-based sales models, has left the traditional channel behind. Vendors are “helping” partners to build the capabilities needed to participate in the growth segments of the IT industry, but their methods are unsurprisingly designed to align the channel with a particular product set. This has the net effect of converting resellers/integrators/consultants into sales agents – which erodes the channel’s basic position as a trusted advisor. There is not a lot of current appetite for vendor-neutral enablement, but there is a great deal of need for it.

Harry: This blog New Wave of SMB Channel conflict in building a cloud practice, I thought the whole idea with cloud was to be more agile. But you make a super tanker reference but call it an inapt comparison. Can you expand in our thinking?

Anurag: Yes, cloud provides agility for the end-customer but for channels it is like turning a super tanker. Building an effective cloud practice within a channel business is a complex undertaking. Using an old metaphor, it has been compared to “turning a supertanker.” This is an inapt comparison, and not just because the vast majority of channel businesses are far smaller than a large ocean vessel. The real problem with the comparison is that turning a supertanker refers to an exercise whose success rests on an anticipation of future change. Certainly, this is part of the problem for the channel – what is the best time to invest in ramping up cloud practice resources? – but the issue has a much greater scope. A successful cloud business practice requires new management metrics, new financial models, new sales processes (and generally, compensation models), new vendor relationships, new marketing activities, new consulting capabilities and new technical support capabilities. To use a nautical analogy, creating a cloud practice within an existing channel business is like building a second boat within your ship, sailing it off in a different direction, and maintaining alignment between the two courses in order to maximize synergies and benefits and reduce expensive discontinuities

Harry: You go on to allude that a cloud practice has to have a new approach and I agree. In my SMB Nation Fall 2015 keynote, I had a slide about firing your staff at your MSP practice. Basically I was saying $100K MCSE on the server-side are irrelevant and expensive on the cloud side. Let’s talk about that. Do we need to fire everyone and use virtual monkeys to do the work?

 

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Better Call an MSP Part 9 – Compliance as a Service: A New Revenue Opportunity

 

By Shannon Mayer, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Continuum

The ninth installment of a monthly blog series offering tips and best practices on various ways MSPs can help their SMB clients work through the most challenging daily business issues.

In the last installment of “Better Call an MSP,” I offered insight on misconceptions regarding outsourcing. Now let’s discuss a new revenue opportunity for the New Year that MSPs should be thinking about: Compliance as a Service or CaaS. If you haven’t spent much time on compliance measures with your clients, then now is as a good a time as any to consider it because there is a growing need for compliance specialists in the market. Perhaps you aren’t sure of the specifics, or you haven’t found the right time to bring it up. One way to start, regardless of your vertical focus, is to check out these tips below for more information.

1.) New Year, New Offerings. It’s January, which means it’s a new year and new quarter. What better time than now to discuss proactive approaches with your clients? Even if they haven’t been asking for new and/or additional services, now is the time to start building awareness by leveraging your “trusted advisor” skills. Make a point to set a meeting sometime in the next month or two to discuss long-term projects and needs. Your clients know, especially if they are involved in verticals such as retail, hospitality and healthcare, that there are compliance measures they must adhere to. Many do not know how to tackle the compliance issues or may not be aware of how to ensure they are up-to-date with compliance measures like PCI (Payment Card Industry) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While you don’t want to use fear tactics to scare your clients into submission, the reality is that if they do not meet compliance measures, they could inadvertently and (unknowingly) face fines and penalties that could affect their business and revenue.

2.) Getting Vertical Specific: As an MSP, I’m sure that you are familiar with terms like PCI, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley, especially if you have clients in verticals bound by these compliance standards. However, while a client might know of these regulations, it should be part of your job to ensure they are current. So why not position yourself as the thought leader and educate them on what they need to do to stay compliant and offer to help them? For instance, if your focus is on healthcare clients, you want your clients to know that OCR (Office of Civil Rights) confirmed that they will be issuing phase 2 of HIPAA compliance audits early this year. If your clients aren’t aware of this, they might end up getting audited and could face steep non-compliance fines. FYI - OCR has established a comprehensive protocol that contains the requirements to be assessed through audits, which can be found here.

Regarding PCI, if you have customers within the retail or hospitality sector, you know that this can be a tricky vertical, especially with all of the current changes regarding payment cards, such as EMV chips and mobile payments. Organizations such as the PCI Security Standards Council, and the Retail Solution Providers Association (RSPA) are focused on providing information on the various standards and regulations regarding PCI compliance measures. To stay current, start by logging on to these websites and utilizing the resources and forums that they provide. While the RSPA is member-based, you don’t need to have a membership to be part of their resource community.

3.) Prevention = New Revenue Opportunities: Aside from helping clients avoid hefty non-compliance fines, CaaS can also be a new revenue stream for you. There are huge margin potentials that can come from offering services around compliance, especially if you brand yourself as a “compliance specialist.” Aside from the initial assessments, charge for pre- and post-work projects to resolve issues uncovered during the audit. If you aren’t sure where to start, talk to your vendor partners, as some might already have established partnerships with companies that offer PCI and HIPAA network assessments. For example, Continuum works with RapidFire Tools to provide HIPAA and PCI compliance network assessment modules to MSPs. This is a good place to start, as you won’t have to “re-invent” the wheel when adding this service.

If you are going to add CaaS, I would pull this out of your “managed services bundle” or “project work” bucket, and position it on your website as a separate offering. This is better for search engine optimization (SEO) and branding purposes. End-users are online today searching for companies that offer compliance services and you want to be easily found. If these offerings are buried somewhere in your website (or not advertised specifically at all), then it’s more difficult for potential customers to find you.

Remember, the key here is not to shove another “as a service” offering down your client’s throat. It’s more about building awareness that you offer CaaS and letting them know what they need to do to stay compliant and out of legal trouble. The bottom line is that most SMBs don’t have a choice when it comes to compliance, and as an MSP, you can help them get there, while concurrently adding a new revenue stream to your business.

Shannon Mayer is Continuum's Senior Product Marketing Manager and is directly responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging as well as business intelligence. She manages the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonjmayer.

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StorageCraft’s global expansion heats up with addition of Marvin Blough as VP of worldwide sales

DRAPER, Utah – (Jan. 21, 2016) – Global backup and disaster recovery solution provider StorageCraft Technology Corp. today announced that Marvin Blough is the company’s new vice president of worldwide sales. Blough, who comes to StorageCraft from Dell SonicWALL, has more than 30 years of experience of successfully leading global direct and channel go-to-market efforts in IT security and software.

At StorageCraft, Blough’s focus as vice president of worldwide sales is on expanding the company’s global reach by establishing channel partnerships that enhance the profitability for the channel partner. Marvin is also responsible for working closely with international distributors to introduce the StorageCraft product line into new markets.

“Marvin Blough brings to StorageCraft an impressive track record of being one of the top sales executives in the IT channel,” said StorageCraft Chairman and CEO Matt Medeiros. “His addition enhances StorageCraft’s ability to strengthen our presence in existing markets, as well as accelerate our ability, to not only enter into new markets around the world, but to also quickly establish strong footholds in them.”  

Prior to joining StorageCraft, Blough served as a vice president of worldwide sales at SonicWALL for nine years. During his tenure at SonicWALL, Blough was recognized for his success with eight consecutive CRN Channel Chief awards.

“No matter which part of the world an IT professional is located, it is critical that his or her data and systems are protected. StorageCraft has award-winning products that IT professionals trust for backup and disaster recovery in more than a million systems,” Blough said. “As StorageCraft expands, we will develop new partnerships that allow IT professionals around the world to more easily access the StorageCraft Recovery Solution. Also, StorageCraft will soon announce a new partner program that enhances the ability of our existing and new partners to be as profitable as possible in protecting data and systems.” StorageCraft has sales on six continents. The company’s corporate headquarters is located in Draper and has its international headquarters in Cork, Ireland, as well as regional offices in Tokyo and Sydney. Throughout the years, StorageCraft products have been recognized by analysts, leading IT publications, and most importantly, IT professionals for their speed and reliability. In October, StorageCraft won the ASCII Cup Vendor of the Year award, which was the result of 26 cumulative award category wins at the eight regional ASCII Success Summits attended by IT professionals in 2015. Earlier this month, StorageCraft was named Best Channel Vendor in the Business Continuity and Backup and Disaster Recovery category in the annual Business Solutions magazine’s annual survey of IT service providers and MSPs.

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About StorageCraft Technology Corporation

The StorageCraft family of companies, founded in 2003, provides best-in-class backup, disaster recovery, system migration and data protection solutions for servers, desktops and laptops. StorageCraft delivers software products that reduce downtime, improve security and stability for systems and data, and lower the total cost of ownership. For more information, visit www.storagecraft.com.

StorageCraft and ShadowProtect are trademarks of StorageCraft Technology Corporation. Other company and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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Using Spreadsheets to Track Sales Opportunities

By Jennifer Hallmark, President, SMB Nation - 

A large proportion of small and medium-sized businesses use spreadsheets to track and manage their sales process instead of a dedicated software application, aka customer relationship management (or CRM) software. We’ve noted the following advantages and disadvantages of this choice:

Advantages:

1. Ease of use: Most people already know how to open a spreadsheet and make changes to it. Many old style CRM applications are complex and require significant user training, not to mention IT resources to setup and configure. Newer-style CRM applications are lighter and easier to use, taking away some of the advantage that spreadsheets had in the past.
2. No additional cost: Most employees already have access to a spreadsheet program or can access them for no cost.
3. Highly customizable: Spreadsheets can be customized as you go without a programming language.

Disadvantages:

1. Syncing: Before cloud storage was widely available, keeping spreadsheets synced between users was a major headache. That’s become much easier these days.
2. Integrations: Inside a spreadsheet, it’s not easy to have access to your contacts, your email, social media or other related applications. A properly designed CRM app can provide workflow advantages by bringing these elements together (if done with close attention to the user experience).
3. Mobile: It’s not easy to use a spreadsheet on a mobile phone screen, although using a tablet can work fine. Dedicated mobile apps for CRM are very popular and can increase the likelihood that users embrace the application.
4. Reporting: Getting the right reports and historical information from a spreadsheet can get quite complicated and difficult to manage.attached apps logo login

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer, it comes down to preferences and requirements. For more information about the app that turns Office 365 into a powerful sales tool, click here.

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Hear Ye! 2016 Annual SMB Nation Readership Survey

By Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

As the NFL playoffs continue, it’s that time of the year to conduct our annual readership survey. There is one reason, and one reason alone to engage in the conversation: Feedback is the breakfast of champions!

SurveyWe’re asking a handful of questions that will allow you to help us direct our content coverage. We want to insure we are relevant, on-target, and that you enjoy our community building efforts.

It’s all very simple. Complete the survey HERE and we’ll analyze the results over the next couple weeks. Kindly note that the survey closes January 24th so don’t delay. And thanks for keeping ‘da Nation going!
Again – complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/smbnation2016

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TA Associates to Invest $187,000,000 in StorageCraft Technology

New Chairman and CEO Joins Backup and Recovery Software Provider

BOSTON, January 13, 2016 – TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm, today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to invest $187,000,000 in StorageCraft Technology Corporation, a leading international provider of backup and recovery software, to support the growth of the company. Additional terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The investment is expected to close in late January. In connection with the investment, Matt Medeiros has joined StorageCraft as Chairman and CEO.

Primarily serving small to medium-sized businesses, StorageCraft provides backup, disaster recovery, system migration, virtualization and data protection solutions for servers, desktops and laptops on Windows and Linux platforms. The company’s integrated product suite is designed to reduce downtime, improve management and stability of systems and data, and lower the total cost of system ownership in both physical and virtual environments. StorageCraft’s software solutions are available in traditional on-premise license form through more than 8,000 value-added resellers, and on a subscription basis through approximately 3,100 managed service providers (MSPs). In addition, StorageCraft is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for a number of leading third-party backup and recovery solution providers. Founded in 2003, StorageCraft is headquartered in Draper, Utah, with a European headquarters in Cork, Ireland, and regional offices around the world.

Mr. Medeiros joins StorageCraft from Dell SonicWALL, where he served as General Manager of Security Software. Prior to Dell’s acquisition of SonicWALL, Inc. in 2012, he served as Chief Executive Officer and President of SonicWALL, a position he held since joining the company in 2003. A computer networking and software industry veteran, Mr. Medeiros’ more than 35 years of PC manufacturing, operations and materials management experience includes a number of senior executive-level positions with Apple Computer, NeXT Computer and Phillips Electronics.

“We are excited about this investment and to welcome a highly credentialed technology executive like Matt to the company,” said Jonathan W. Meeks, a Managing Director at TA Associates who will join the StorageCraft Board of Directors. “With its award-winning business continuity and disaster recovery product suite, StorageCraft has had notable success, directly and indirectly serving over 10,000 MSPs. In keeping with TA’s long-established investment approach, we will collaborate closely with Matt and his team to further grow the company.”

“StorageCraft has become a thriving international software development company because of the performance and reliability of our products,” said Matt Medeiros, Chairman and CEO, StorageCraft Technology Corporation. “This investment is further testament to StorageCraft’s achievements. We see a number of avenues to expand StorageCraft’s product offering and to grow our client base, particularly in international markets, and anticipate TA will play a central role in these efforts. We will continue to aim to build best-in-class products and programs specifically designed for channel partners.”

“The investment from TA marks an important milestone for StorageCraft,” said Curt James, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, StorageCraft Technology Corporation. “We take great pride in the company’s many accomplishments since its inception in 2003, but recognize there is still significant opportunity to expand. We view this partnership with TA Associates as the next big step in our evolution and look forward to further building our business with their support.”

Gartner valued the business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) market at $5.2 billion in 2014, and predicts it will reach $7 billion by 2019, a 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). According to MarketsandMarkets, global Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is the fastest growing component of the recovery market and is forecast to increase to $5.8 billion by 2018 from approximately $640 million in 2013, a 55% CAGR.

“Computer down-time, whether due to human error, malware, disaster or other failure, remains a huge challenge for businesses,” said Jason P. Werlin, a Managing Director at TA Associates who will also join the StorageCraft Board of Directors. “Growth in data and in virtualized environments, legal and regulatory requirements, and increased demand for information management, are among the drivers of expansion of the business continuity and disaster recovery markets. Given these industry dynamics and StorageCraft’s established market position, we expect a continuation of the company’s impressive growth.”

Goodwin Procter is providing legal counsel services to TA Associates. Holland & Hart LLP is serving as legal counsel and Boston Meridian Partners is providing advisory services to StorageCraft.   About StorageCraft Technology Corporation The StorageCraft family of companies, founded in 2003, provides best-in-class backup, disaster recovery, system migration and data protection solutions for servers, desktops and laptops. StorageCraft delivers software products that reduce downtime, improve management and stability of systems and data, and lower the total cost of ownership. For more information, visit www.storagecraft.com.

About TA Associates TA Associates is one of the largest and most experienced global growth private equity firms. The firm has invested in more than 450 companies around the world and has raised $24 billion in capital. With offices in Boston, Menlo Park, London, Mumbai and Hong Kong, TA Associates leads buyouts and minority recapitalizations of profitable growth companies in the technology, financial services, business services, healthcare and consumer industries. More information about TA Associates can be found at www.ta.com.

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The Strategic Service Provider: a new approach for channel partners

By Pete Engler

When small to medium businesses (SMBs) shop for partners to help with their technology needs, they want expertise, dependability, trust, convenience - and one-stop shopping. In the past, technology solutions utilized by SMB customers often came together by accessing a collection of multiple companies (or partners) specializing in specific areas. One partner would typically handle the data infrastructure, another the telecommunications, and another the desktops and laptops, etc. Many different IT partners were needed to support the entire technology needs of a business. Today, the different services listed above are easily consolidated and provided by fewer partners. With this consolidation of services, some channel industry experts are saying it’s time to re-evaluate how partners are classified. As a partner or reseller, that means it may be time for you to consider becoming a Strategic Service Provider (SSP).

How did we get to the idea of a SSP? The rise of value added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) started the shift toward consolidation of the IT service offerings by a single partner. Telecommunications is a prime example. Traditionally, this service was provided by a separate reseller from the data infrastructure partner. Now, most voice services are carried over the data networks utilizing VoIP; a data integrator/reseller can add this service to their portfolio and eliminate the need for a separate specialized provider.

In the ever evolving technology channel, the SSP will play a critical role delivering a new type of information technology service to SMBs. The basic premise of a SSP involves getting to know a business's current processes, problems and overall business goals before executing and implementing a solution. You may be thinking that is what the MSPs, VARs and traditional resellers of today are doing.

The main difference is the SSP provides all the IT services for a business in a cloud and services model with an in-depth understanding of the business. The solution is no longer in a silo, such as selling and integrating only a phone system. The SMB can now leverage the business process and technology expertise of the partner (or SSP) to provide a complete solution for the entire business. Such a solution can be cloud, premises or a hybrid mixture of theses components. The main advantage for a business when choosing to work with a SSP is utilizing a model of service that’s delivered at one monthly price and includes all the IT services tailored to fit the needs of that business customer. 

Many factors are driving the shift to SSPs: the ever changing technology fueling the race to the cloud, the shift to a recurring revenue model for resellers, and the customer’s desire to have a single advising partner with solid business acumen for all their IT needs. Consolidation of services and payment combined with solid business operations knowledge is an attractive model for the present and future SMB.

As an existing reseller, if you don’t already offer a complete IT package of services/solutions based on one monthly price, it might be time to consider moving to this model. It offers the customer a single resource to call when there’s an issue (a resource that fully understands that business) and the customer only has to pay one bill for all services. For resellers already implementing this model of service, it’s a matter of whether or not to go with the industry trend of calling yourself a SSP to better position your company as a strategic partner.

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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Roadshow! Geek Grad School for MSPs

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

We’re back! Time to hit the road and bring the bits to YOU! No travel, no hotel and daylong advanced Office 365 and Windows 10 technical content. Over winter and spring quarter, we’ll be back in familiar NFL cities plus add a few new destinations.chicago event hardcore

New Year’s Resolution

In 2016 it’s your chance to recommit to being a life learner. You’re in tech and every decade you have to reinvent and start over. Now is that time. So invest one day to discover that our amazing independent content will help you navigate the sheer madness with the technology shift underway.

Assured Outcomes

One thing you can count on is our independent outside view looking in. We take our role as community ombudsman very seriously. You will learn something you didn’t know and you’ll leave with actionable outcomes applicable at work the very next day. No high-level blue badges babbling mission fit and strategy folks – it’s bits and bytes.

The four extended content sessions are:

• Office 365 and Azure Active Directory
• Deliver Existing Apps from The Cloud
• Windows 10 End-to-End Deployment Part I
• Windows 10 End-to-End Deployment Part II

Learn more here: http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/

Our expert instructor is once again the popular Grant Thompson [http://2016roadshow.smbnation.com/grant-thompson/] – a geek’s geek!

The venues we’ll visit are:
1. San Francisco, CA (January 26, 2016)
2. Los Angeles, CA (January 28, 2016)
3. Redmond/Seattle WA (February 23, 2016)
4. New York, NY (February 29, 2016)
5. Atlanta, GA (March 9, 2016)
6. Chicago, IL (March 11, 2016)
7. Washington DC (April 12, 2016)
8. Charlotte, NC (April 14, 2016)
9. Phoenix, AZ (July 2016)

Price is Right

As always – we rely on community supporters to underwrite our academic educational outreach. It’s worked well and allows you to attend our event complimentary. We do require a $99 deposit where we will charge you if you are a “no show” (without proper cancellation) because we gotta pay the catering bills regardless. Hope that makes sense!

See you soon!

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What’s The Half Life Of A Unicorn?

Story by Simon Crosby - 

“Cybercorns” are companies that have surpassed the magical $1 billion valuation. Several of these extraordinary ventures are Okta, Sophos, Tanium, Palantir, FireEye, Splunk, Zscaler, Lookout, CloudFlare, Illumio and AVAST.

Each has attained an enviable position as a valued solution to an important set of customer security pains. The entrepreneurs who built these companies (many of which are privately held) and the investors that backed them deserve their success. But in a world where technology is changing rapidly, and in which attackers are agile and focused, which of these unicorns will survive? What is the half–life, perhaps measured by stock value, of a cybercorn?

The most profound trends in the IT landscape are, of course, the rapid adoption of cloud services and growing mobility of the workforce. All too soon, application back-end micro-services will automatically and reliably scale as needed in the cloud, accessed by users over the public Internet.

Cybercorns that have bet on a long-lived traditional IT infrastructure are already in trouble. If the user is working in Starbucks, what value is a network security product that attempts to protect an indefensible network perimeter? If your organization is adopting Office 365, when a user opens a potentially threatening attachment, it runs in a virtual machine, in Azure.

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Microsoft bizdev chief Peggy Johnson on huge acquisitions, partnering with enemies, and HoloLens

Microsoft is now building apps for competing platforms, and it feels good about it.

Peggy Johnson is Microsoft's executive vice president of business enterprise development. She sat down with Organization Insider's Matt Rosoff at IGNITION 2015, and told us about how Microsoft decides when to buy a enterprise, and its new technique of creating apps for competing platforms.

Matt Rosoff: Peggy joined Microsoft a small bit extra than a year ago ...

Peggy Johnson: A tiny more than a year ago — a year and 3 months.

Rosoff: And at the time there was a comparatively new CEO — Satya Nadella — only Microsoft's third CEO in history and I would say in the final couple of years there is been a genuine remarkable transformation in the way Microsoft treats companies that utilized to be considered competitors. I keep in mind the old days when if it wasn't invented right here, we're not going to talk about it, and Linux is cancer and Apple is the enemy. And then in the final year and a half or so, you guys have bought a bunch of small app makers for iOS and Android, which is some thing you by no means would have carried out before. You have struck a complete bunch of partnerships, you're starting to even embrace issues like Linux, so how has this happened? And what is the philosophy there? And why is Microsoft being friendlier to other platforms now than it employed to be?

Johnson: It did start off with Satya and his vision for the firm. He's truly selected to concentrate on partnerships and appear for areas of collaboration and for confident we compete with other firms, but there are so numerous areas that we can also collaborate. So you mentioned a couple of — Salesforce is one. We have a competitive product in between the two of us. But we look for locations that truly our joint clients were involved in. And we stated, "Can we integrate right here and bring additional worth and delight our joint consumers?" So we did that with Office 365 and Salesforce. And it type of opens up a lot of new value for our buyers where they can now take these two sets of data that they are gathering from these two items, put them together, and as an enterprise sort of mind that information additional.

Rosoff: I'm specifically interested in Microsoft on the iPhone. So you purchased a Acompli and a Sunrise and integrated those into Outlook for the iPhone. I basically use that instead of the built-in mail client simply because it's much better. You purchased some corporations that do Android lock screens ... and this is fairly various than Microsoft before which was normally about Windows Telephone — Windows, Windows, Windows. So, why did you guys make the choice to start out investing a lot more heavily in iOS and Android?

Johnson: We totally recognized that our buyers have a variety of devices. They are carrying all sorts of things. And we want to bring our world class apps to these devices. And that meant going cross-platform. And it was shortly just after Satya took the reins that he made that initially choice to take Office apps to iOS. And then from there, we continued to construct on that.

You mentioned a few of our current acquisitions. Acompli is just a excellent instance of a fabulous app. And we looked at that — and we kind of do a create-get-partner with anything that we view — and that one particular just created additional sense to acquire. And we brought the app in, and because then — two terrific items have happened — 1. we acquired Javier Soltero, I never know if any of you know him, he was the CEO at Acompli, he's now performing remarkable perform at Microsoft. He's now in-charge of all of Outlook and I feel his outside perspective has been beneficial for the teams. We've have really engaged the teams deeply on his view of things. But then, what that did, was it sort of set the pace for bringing in other items. Acompli brought in Sunrise. Then Wunderlist — Wunderlist is a wonderful app. We've had, I assume now over a billion lists created on Wunderlist. And so it's just continuing to tap into points that are delighting our clients and bringing them in.

Click Here To Read More

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Webinar: SMB Nation State of the Union 2016

Thu, Jan 7, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PST

Presented by:  Harry Brelsforf CEO of SMB Nation and Anurag Agrawal Heading Techaisle

Welcome to 2016.

Kick off the year properly with a moment of reflection before the crush begins. SMB channel expert Anurag Agrawal will share important insight into the exact nature of the changing channel and how you can capitalize on the disruption. Learn how partners are pivoting to profitability in an increasingly cloud world where customers are making more IT decisions. Discover how to work more closely with your vendors under the “new rules.” Will the forecasted increase in wages and a seventh year of economic recovery translate into the break-out year we’ve been waiting for? Do national elections really stall decision-making in 4Q? What are the five hot 2016 trends you can immediately capitalize on? And what investment should you make in your MSP practice today to insure success in 2016 (hint: back office operations).

Hear from Atera, the invited guest, how its newly launched MSP solution lowers costs and streamlines back office operations.

349 X 115 MOD REG RND2

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MSPs: Hello 2016!

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

It’s that time of year to reflect, strategize and recharge to hit the ground running in early 2016. This blog is about making wise choices today that result in a better tomorrow. Specifically – it’s all about operations.

Forward Looking Statements

It’s old news that the SMB channel has changed. For the purposes of this blog, you can refer to recent posts from Techaisle (HERE  and HERE ). Even the New York Times chatted about technology disruptions in 2015 HERE  (albeit a somewhat different take, but the point is well taken). In 2015, you got the memo on the need to reinvent yourself. What follows is how.

Start Over

One step at a time. With channel changes at hand, it’s a fine opportunity to return to the basics and have a solid game plan of Xs and Os. Start with your operations workflow. The easiest way to improve your productivity is to become more efficient. So, challenge yourself to look at how your business works when you turn the key at 8AM. Are you using an enterprise-wide “backbone” to run your MSP practice? Or are you using a series of duct-taped, unrelated solutions trying to run your business? Are you using existing PSA/RMM/remote management solutions either inefficiently or overpaying for (or both?). If you answered affirmatively to any of the above scenarios, consider the following. There is a third-way: Atera. This start-up is out to disrupt how MSPs operate. This is a company that ate its own dog food in creating an all-in-one MSP backbone solution that include PSA, RMM and remote functionality at up to 40% less than current entrenched SMB channel legacy solutions. And consider the following: to argue that your customers should move core business operations to the cloud, you must do the same.

Partner Evidence

Now for the heart of this conversation. How have partners started over to accommodate the new reality of being an MSP in 2016? Read on: Atera is providing a disruptive, economic all-in-one MSP management SaaS platform that includes PSA, RMM and remote management capabilities. I spoke with one Atera partner in Tampa Bay, Florida. He is Martin Margheim, owner/operator of an independent PC consultancy (KODOT), and he is one of us. He’s a computer guy with over 25-years of experience and has deep, long-term relationships with his SMB clients. Margheim is skeptical by nature, and looking at new technologies to deploy is something he regularly does. But he truly lives by the mantra “do no harm.” I was surprised how enthusiastic he is about Atera. As a smaller partner, Margheim’s journey has taken him through every Tampa Bay-area PSA and RMM solution provider who he found to be disinterested in his business and elusive when discussing per device versus per technician pricing (Atera uses per technician pricing). “They didn’t want my business and I found all of the PSA and RMM providers want to “blue sky” you by selling you more licenses than you need.” He conveyed that it felt like a case of the gold rush mentality: that the suppliers (PSA/RMM vendors) selling shovels and shoes to gold miners (MSPs) got rich in the late 1880s, and not the gold miners themselves. “I could never get a definitive answer on costs from one Florida-based RMM provider.”

Margheim wants to be a long-term MSP using the latest tools (especially remote management) to properly serve his customers. He fancies himself a single virtual IT provider (a smart pivot by the way from, by his own admission, his own self-perception of being a dinosaur). “I think Atera has a better approach. It’s per technician pricing hooked me in the first 60-days. My SMB customers just aren’t’ going to pay $60/per month/per PC for monitoring and management. Thus, the Atera MSP platform model fits a flexible, workable and affordable solution with considerable growth opportunity. I do not subscribe to a per device business model for anything IT. The changes are just too frequent and dynamic for such a model.”
Finally, Margheim boasted about his working relationship with Atera. He is constantly providing feedback and has received return communications the same day. Margheim’s love for remote management has already resulted in several improvements in Atera’s all-in-one MSP management platform. And that’s what community is all about, baby!atera rgb1 200x52 1 200x88PS

Digging Deeper

I take my role as an independent community ombudsman seriously. So I wanted to talk to another Atera partner to validate a few of the observations Margheim shared. Manny Da Silva, an existing Atera partner, offered these facts based on his experience. “Atera’s remote software is so small, it is quick to install. In literally 30 seconds, it's up and running. Whereas with the other ones we tested, some of them took 15 to 20 minutes.” Da Silva shared. “The ticketing system is great. It literally took me 10-15 minutes to set up. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) functionality and the contract functionality, awesome. And, every time a ticket gets generated, you pick the service contract that you want. So no more guessing about what to bill the clients.”

For more on Atera, Click Here.

In future blogs, I’ll share with you my review of the Atera product, and what my experience was using it personally. Have a fantastic 2016!

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Adobe’s Record Revenue Proves Successful Business Transformation Is Possible

by Ron Miller (@ron_miller)

Adobe

As we watch organizations like IBM, HP and EMC struggle to transform, Adobe is an interesting contrasting case. It went from selling boxed software to a cloud subscription model in shorter order, and judging from its financial report that came out last week, it’s done quite well making that leap.

First, let’s have a look at the numbers. Adobe reported a record $1.31 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 22 percent year over year increase. It disclosed record annual revenue of $4.8 billion. Mind you these are significant, but the big number to me is that recurring revenue from subscriptions now represents 74 percent of Adobe’s business. What’s more, just under $3 billion in revenue in 2015 came from digital media-related annual recurring revenue (ARR).

In fact, the company added $350 Million in recurring revenue in the fourth quarter alone. Adobe reports that this growth was driven by increasing enterprise adoption and the addition of 833,000 new individual and team Creative Cloud subscriptions.

All of this paints a picture of a company that has made a successful transition to a subscription model. While many companies struggle to change themselves, Adobe executed a clear plan well before its back was up against the wall.

As an organization founded way back in 1986, it wasn’t that long ago that Adobe sold boxed software. That all changed in May, 2013 when the company announced that it was launching Creative Cloud and discontinuing its centerpiece, Creative Suite boxed set. It was a shocking decision. As TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois wrote at the time:

    Most Max attendees probably expected Adobe to reveal Creative Suite 7 today. Instead, the Creative Suite name is actually going away in favor of Creative Cloud, which won’t have traditional version numbers anymore. For Adobe, of course, this also means the company is now making the move to a new business model, where the focus will be squarely on subscriptions and not on selling boxed software, licenses and upgrades anymore.

It’s fairly remarkable that the company has been able to make such a rapid transformation just 2.5 years after initially announcing the plan to go subscription, but perhaps it was that willingness to go all in that has led to its success. It’s also somewhat surprising that their customer base went along with the change and didn’t rebel, but perhaps they gained something as well, something they didn’t even know they wanted.

Taking The Bull By The Horns

Adobe did something that most companies are afraid to do. It ripped off the band-aid and decided to focus completely on a new subscription revenue model. It could have had a long period of adjustment where it decided to offer the box alongside the cloud subscription versions, but it chose to bet the ranch at a time when most of its peers were struggling with changing business approaches.

If you want a means of comparison, look at Microsoft. It’s still offering both the boxed version of Office and the cloud version, Office 365. On the enterprise software side, it’s still offering both cloud and on-prem versions of Dynamics CRM, SharePoint and many other tools.

To be fair, Adobe didn’t just jump to a new model without some good old-fashioned market testing first. It built the cloud product and tested it with customers, and what gave them the courage to make this move was the overwhelmingly positive reaction from early users, Scott Morris from Adobe told Frederic Lardinois in 2013 at the time of the decision.

    What makes him and the rest of the Adobe team believe that this will work, he told me, is that virtually everybody who has subscribed to Creative Cloud loves it. It even gets a higher rating in Adobe’s online store than Photoshop, “which is virtually unheard of,” as Morris told me.

You have to remember that Adobe sold very expensive software suites running from around $1200 all the way up to $2500. The thing is, you paid all of that money to own a fixed version of the software. By going subscription, companies and individual creative people no longer had to put out vast sums of money to get the latest features. Now they pay by the month and Adobe continually updates the product.

It works for Adobe on several levels. Instead of trying to convince its user base to shell out a huge chunk of change every two or three years (something many people wouldn’t do), it keeps its loyal customers permanently (or as permanent as any customer can be) — and it has this fixed pool of recurring revenue. What’s more, from a development perspective instead of having long, drawn-out development cycles, it now can add features on a regular basis, which is far more manageable.

As for their users, they get the latest and the greatest features delivered on a far more regular basis for a fixed cost. It’s a situation in which everyone wins. Prices vary, but individual user prices start as low as $9.99 per month, a single application runs $20 a month, while the entire creative cloud suite of tools will set you back $80 a month. A business version with managed deployment goes for $70/license for the entire suite or $30/license for an individual application.

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Don't Underestimate the Marketing Power of Your Email Signature

by Deborah Galea  |  December 15, 2015

The average worker sends out about 34 emails a day, according to the Radicati Group. Those emails are exchanged with prospects, customers, suppliers, and business partners, creating a great opportunity to educate and inform contacts by means of a small, yet useful marketing tool: the email signature.

Email signatures include the sender's contact information, job title, and company information. Besides providing useful contact information, the email signature can be used to build company brand awareness, provide company news, and encourage social media interaction.   Muscle Man

Instead of using this tool to its full potential, however, many business emails do not include an email signature at all. And when they do, the email signature is often unprofessional or incomplete.

But by ensuring that each email that your company sends out includes a professional and consistently branded email signature, you can...

1. Increase Brand Awareness

By using company fonts and colors, and adding your logo to email signatures, the recipient will become familiar with the company's brand, which will increase company awareness and recognition. Experts agree that to project a strong brand, every piece of marketing collateral and communication must include the same consistent message, be in line with your brand values, and adhere to your brand guidelines. Companies send thousands of emails per day, so email signatures should be consistent across the board and leave the recipient with the right impression of the company.

2. Promote Company News

Email signatures can be used as "free" marketing tools where announcements can be made about company news, such as a new product release, event or award, or taglines can be added to educate the recipient about the company. By using the email signature space, you can keep your target contacts up to date without being intrusive. You can also include a link to your newsletter sign-up page to remind your customers and contacts to follow your company's news. If there is a special promotion running, why not include it in your email signature?

3. Encourage Social Interaction

Including social media links in email signatures encourages contacts to connect with your company on social media.

A great way to increase website visitors and social media interaction is to include the latest company tweet or post in the email signature. Alternatively, include a call-to-action to join a Twitter competition or take a survey. Why not give your happy customers a way to express their satisfaction with your company's service? Include a line in your email signature inviting them to share their experiences: Did we provide you with excellent service today? We would greatly appreciate a like on our Facebook page!

Although businesses might realize the necessity of consistent, branded email signatures to build their company's image, the manual process of sending email signatures and updates to employees who then have to manually update their signature in their various email programs and devices such as tablets and mobile phones is very tedious. This is why an email signature management system is needed that allows companies to control email signatures from one central location, offloading employees and facilitating marketing.

Central Email Signature Management

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Yay! Section 179 Restored and MSPs Happy!

Yay! Section 179 Restored and MSPs Happy!

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation -

John Scheich, long-time SMB Nation member and Southern California MSP, is also a CPA and can lecture on the Section 179 matter. Shown here at the SMB Nation Fall Conference 2012 holding a book by Karl Palachuk!

What is a Section 179 provision and why are MSPs happy about it?

First – the technical definition defined by MarketWatch: “The Section 179 deduction allows the cost of qualifying new and used depreciable assets (including most software) to be fully written off in Year One. For assets placed in service in tax years beginning in 2015 and beyond, the new law maintains the maximum Section 179 deduction allowance at the generous figure of $500,000 (same as for the last few years). For post-2015 years, the $500,000 cap will be indexed for inflation.”

Second – What is the context? In 2013 on my nationwide tour touting the Windows XP migration opportunity, I trumpeted the Section 179 tax provision as a door opener for having clients invest in new IT assets and upgrade to Windows 7 (or maybe, just maybe, Windows 8). The generous $500,000 upfront deduction was about to be reduced to a mere $25,000. The idea was to spend in late 2013 like a drunken sailor and reduce your tax obligation dramatically before New Year’s 2014. The investment in hardware, software and your services all qualified under Section 179. Comprende?

Third – What does it mean today? Literally today as your read this on December 27th, you have several days to spend baby spend. That’s because the Congress, when it passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 in early December, retroactively applied the $500,000 upfront deduction to calendar year 2015. You are home free in 2016 under this legislation as well.

Translation: MSPs should awaken their clients over the holidays and seek spending authority to rapidly deploy hardware, software and services before midnight December 31st. Then do it all over again January 1, 2016! This is your very best short-term value proposition for your sales outreach efforts.

Fourth – Can I still buy a Hummer? Section 179 was well-known years ago for spurring sales of heavy SUVs like the Hummer as a business vehicle (wink-wink). That loophole appears to have been restricted with a $25,000 deduction limit (read here). Assuming you and your tax adviser understand all that – here is a list of heavy SUVs that would qualify: At first blush, I’d take the Ford F150 as my choice. How about you?

Finally – this is how the game is played in Washington DC. Lots of add-ons to the >$1.1T spending bill for the US Federal Government. This Section 179 reinstatement is expected to cost the Treasury nearly $200B over several years. If you’d like to get more politically active as an MSP, I can recommend two organizations: CompTIA and Microsoft Voices for Innovation.

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What’s the real value behind Unified Communications?

If you asked 10 IT Directors or Managers for their definition of UC, you’d probably get 10 different answers so let’s simplify it to “An easy way to work together via voice, video, online collaboration and mobile devices”.

That easy way to work together is really what Unified Communications should be about.

In this sense Unified Communications is simply a way to describe what business has always needed – communications and collaboration working in harmony to achieve tangible benefits for the bottom line and for the user experience.

Defining the ‘what’ of UC is good but we also need to ask why businesses need Unified Communications.

“Using Mitel’s suite of UC and collaboration solutions, we can close about 10-15 sales a day at the end of the month, and can get the money into the bank account faster.” Paul Whiting, IT Manager, Revolution Tea

Mitel works with businesses across the world and here are five of the most common reasons these customers cite for choosing UC technologies.

Productivity Enabling better ways for people to get more done together.

Continuity Ensuring the business is always available to do business.

Mobility Supporting a connected workforce demanding 24/7 access from anywhere and using any kind of mobile device.

Integration Leveraging, rather than stranding, existing and potential IT investments.

Future Proofing Being ready for future challenges and developments in technology.

This customer feedback is covered in depth in a guide which explores the most popular reasons for Unified Communications deployments and shares real-life feedback from businesses about the potential value of UC.

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Better Call a MSP Part 8 – 3 Misconceptions of Outsourcing

By Shannon Mayer, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed IT Services

The eighth installment of a monthly blog series offering tips and best practices on various ways MSPs can help their SMB clients work through the most challenging daily business issues.

In the last installment of “Better Call an MSP,” I offered tips on how to easily navigate the current flurry of M&A activity. Now let’s discuss something that too often has had a negative connotation surrounding it—outsourcing. I really think this is an area that many MSPs are overlooking, and here’s why. Below are some of the most common misconceptions about outsourcing and why you should consider this approach as you continue to grow and scale your business.

Misconception #1: Poor Customer Service: This is probably the most common stigma about outsourcing. Many might have personally experienced less-than-stellar customer service from a company that’s not even using outsourced employees, and now hold a grudge. As competition continues to increase, this is an area in which quality needs to outpace quantity. Why does bad customer service still exist? The four biggest customer complaints are long hold times, unresolved issues, multiple transfers and unsympathetic reps. So, how can an MSP implement a solid customer service level through outsourcing to avoid these complaints?

• Scale: Hiring and retaining talent is the most common struggle for MSPs. How can you grow your business when you can’t find and retain good people? Outsourcing helps by allowing you to take on additional customers without the fear of encountering some of the customer complaints mentioned in the previous paragraph. Working with a solid outsourcing vendor within the industry that understands the SMB space and the pain points of MSPs is the first step to getting an effective outsourcing plan in place. With the right vendor, your company will be staffed by reps who know and understand your managed IT services business.

• Proper Knowledge Base and Broad Skill Sets: I mentioned in a previous blog that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Outsourcing helps gain access to a wide knowledge base that allows issues to be resolved quickly and easily. Taking the time to build your own knowledge base is something that many MSPs can’t afford to do from a financial and time standpoint, especially when trying to build their customer base. For example, if a customer has an issue with a Mac operating system, and you don’t have a skilled tech, outsourcing is particularly helpful; it provides access to techs who have broad and/or specific skill sets that would be difficult to keep on staff.

• Consistent Procedures: Outsourced companies generally have written and proven procedures that all employees follow. There are clear escalation guidelines and rules on how to handle specific situations. And when these procedures are enforced and followed, your client base experiences consistent customer service. You also don’t have human resources issues like hiring, firing and training practices.

• True 24/7 Support: With outsourcing, you truly have access to constant support, which is something that can be taxing as a business owner who is trying to expand. Growing your business is one of the most important areas in which outsourcing can help, and according to Defaqto Research, “55percent of customers would pay extra to guarantee better service.”

Misconception #2: Outsourcing is Pricey: Like the stigma of poor customer service, this is also a myth. Why? Because reducing your overall IT budget is still the number one reason for considering outsourcing. Most MSPs think outsourcing is more expensive, and they miss out on valuable cost-savings opportunities. Not only does outsourcing help you save money, it also helps to keep employees happy, which undoubtedly leads to company loyalty and longevity.

Hiring an outsourcing firm also allows techs to focus on proactive projects, rather than scramble to put out IT fires. If you have techs dedicated to Level 1 tasks, have your outsourcing company take those calls and put your best techs on project work that’s more satisfying to them, all while bringing in additional revenue and new customers.

Remember that the advantages of outsourcing go beyond the actual price. Examine, too, the cost of delivery of your services. When considering cost, it’s important to look at how much you are spending on tools and use the new outsourcing opportunity to work on more revenue-generating tasks. You also want to consider not only what it costs now, but also in 6-12 months from now.

Misconception #3: Outsourcing is Difficult to Manage: Externally, outsourcing allows you to spend more time working with customers that have proactive needs, while working to recruit new ones, and deepening your relationships. Internally, outsourcing gives employees the ability to gain and develop fundamental management skills by allowing them to manage the outsourced provider, thus enhancing their value and expertise. By giving employees management responsibilities and allowing them to work on projects of their choosing, this alleviates the number one issue that MSPs deal with—hiring and retaining good employees.

Remember that it’s OK to reveal any struggles you are experiencing in managing a help desk on your own with your vendor partners. By outsourcing, you save time on items such as metrics, reporting, structure and processes. This can all be done without the outsourcing provider completely replacing your help desk—they can simply enhance it, augment it and help identify what is not working as well as areas of improvement.

Don’t allow the misconceptions of outsourcing to stand in the way of prosperous business growth as well as happier employees and customers.

Shannon Mayer is Continuum's Senior Product Marketing Manager and is directly responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging as well as business intelligence. She manages the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonjmayer.

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Breaking News: I Love Work! Read This True Confession...

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

Where to begin. Early on, I was the “business kid” in grade school through high school. That continues to today with my continued pursuit for work that marries business and technology. And of how it’s changed from my first Apple II+ with a Hayes 14.4k modem connecting from my college apartment to a centralized VAX computer. Or has it really changed? In this blog, I’ll explore Work 3.0. and point you to some amazing resources.

Full CircleHarry at Work

Above I’m both dating and telling on myself as I’m alluding to time sharing. Imagine the idea of having the heavy lifting occurring in a data center and you could work from anywhere with a thin client? Your applications were hosted and your data was safe. That was timesharing where I started my career in computing. With the emergence of the PC and client/server computing, certainly those days were gone forever. The “local” in Local Area Network (LAN) loosely translates in GeekSpeak to “within these four walls”, and that was the development paradigm of our beloved Small Business Server. It created a generation of commuters who believed in server gods and gurus at work. You thought nothing of driving to work.

But then a back to the future phenomenon emerged at the start of the Great Recessions when the Internet was validated as a secure tool (thanks Salesforce) and IT was used to save money with mobility. Just yesterday I was using a thin client (Google Chrome on a USB stick) working with Salesforce online with my mobile phone held to my left ear, while I listened to a conference call via a headset hooked up to a VoIP desk phone. And all the while working from my home office (I’ve upgraded from my college apartment!).
What does this before-and-after storytelling mean? I’m telling the exact same story. Timesharing is cloud computing. Period.

You’ll Feel Like You Are Talking to Yourself (You Are!)

I’ve thought a lot recently about the nature of modern work. How has technology changed the way we work? Over the years I’ve written blogs about office sharing schemes like Regus locations (remember my week in Istanbul in the Spring of 2014?) to online labor markets (remember our use of WorkMarket in the late 2013/early 2014 timeframe with Windows XP migrations?) to our giving up our office space when our commercial lease expired (see my February 2015 blog). But I had never crystalized my thoughts about modern work into a single missive. And that frustrated me.

Fortunately, I bumped into an amazing report titled “WORK 3.0 – The Next Generation Model for Smarter Business.” I felt like I was talking to myself. Over a dozen pages, remote offices, portfolio careers, and the human cloud revolution are explored. I’ve posted the report HERE so you can download it, read it and motivate on it. Let me know what you think?

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The evolution of the way we work

Changes in the interplay between technology, location, culture and business are transforming where, when and how we work.

Workers are taking control of their work / life balance with traditional ‘nine to five’ commuting patterns changing. Employees are also seeking more control over the communications devices and applications they use.

There is also an interesting sub-trend involving the development of portfolio based careers.

These trends are confirmed by evidence from SMB Group about the changing use of business communication technologies with 92% of SMBs using at least one cloud solution, 60% saying that mobile solutions are critical and 86% using mobile applications.

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group said “As a company we are moving towards keeping and managing everything in the cloud…Whatever we need, whenever we need it, accessible from whichever device is most suitable and available at the time.”

Small and medium sized business today face the challenge of providing workers with flexibility while at the same time maximizing their productivity, controlling costs and ensuring that teams retain good interaction.

Stephen Tanner, Founder of OfficePOD Ltd commented “An organization cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair in a spare room. Employers have a duty to provide staff with the tools they need to work effectively and productively; this should include a suitable working environment, wherever that happens to be.”

To explore these issues further the team at global business communications vendor Mitel asked business users, leaders in innovation, architects, psychologists and human resource experts for their perspectives in four key areas:

• How technology trends are setting the agenda
• Next generation workplaces
• The impact of a global market
• Cultural changes and the impact on work.

To discover more insights download the full guide.

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StorageCraft ShadowControl v3.5 now available

Recovery solution features new, powerful management capabilities for backup, recovery

             DRAPER, Utah – Dec. 17, 2015 – StorageCraft Technology Corp. today announced the release of StorageCraft® ShadowControl® v3.5, which allows IT professionals to more easily protect data and IT systems. ShadowControl is a remote monitoring and management appliance for IT environments protected by the award-winning StorageCraft ShadowProtect® or StorageCraft backup and disaster recovery solutionsbackup and disaster recovery software.

StorageCraft ShadowProtect v3.5 has numerous new features, including three time-saving remote management capabilities:

  •  Push Installation - using one of the supported discovery mechanisms, push install the latest StorageCraft ShadowProtect SPX or ShadowProtect 5 software to unprotected Windows or Linux endpoints quickly and easily, all from the ShadowControl management console.
  • CSV-Based Discovery - in addition to current hypervisor-based endpoint discovery, administrators can now provide a CSV-based discovery list of physical or virtual endpoints that can be used to monitor and manage with ShadowControl.
  • Centralized License Management - automatically activates newly-installed SPX or ShadowProtect 5 endpoints through ShadowControl by importing perpetual product keys into the license pool or by applying managed service provider (MSP) product keys generated through the MSP portal account.

“For more than a decade, IT professionals around the world have trusted StorageCraft recovery solutions to protect their systems and data. StorageCraft ShadowControl v3.5 makes backup and recovery even easier, allowing IT professionals to devote more time to other activities because they know they can depend on simplified management of their backup and disaster recovery environment,” said Brandon Nordquist, StorageCraft’s vice president of product management.

Other new ShadowControl v3.5 features and enhancements include: scheduled appliance backup support, generate certificate signing request (CSR) directly from the ShadowControl appliance, lock SPX backup jobs to prevent modification or deletion locally, enhanced IT Service Management (ITSM) notifications, and improved ShadowControl appliance update instructions. Additional information about StorageCraft ShadowControl v3.5 is available at www.storagecraft.com/shadowcontrol.

StorageCraft backup and disaster recovery solutions include the highly regarded StorageCraft ShadowProtect software line for Windows and Linux systems in physical and virtual environments. ShadowProtect is available in multiple versions so IT professionals can easily use the version that meets their needs, such as best-in-class backup, disaster recovery, system migration and data protection for servers, desktops and laptops. In addition to ShadowProtect, the company’s backup and disaster recovery solutions also include StorageCraft Granular Recovery for Exchange, StorageCraft ImageManager™ and StorageCraft Cloud Services™. 

About StorageCraft Technology Corp. The StorageCraft family of companies, founded in 2003, provides best-in-class backup, disaster recovery, system migration and data protection solutions for servers, desktops and laptops. StorageCraft delivers software products that reduce downtime, improve security and stability for systems and data, and lower the total cost of ownership. For more information, visit www.storagecraft.com.

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Using Cloud Services to Build Your Business in the New Year

By: Pete Engler

With the start of a new year quickly approaching, it is a great time for resellers to evaluate their success over the last year and consider any changes to their business strategy or portfolio of products. For 2016, that will likely mean offering cloud services for your customers, or expanding the cloud-based service offerings included in your portfolio.

Over the last few years cloud computing services have dominated the Information Technology market, becoming the cutting-edge solution for many different products and services. Now that cloud computing is a few years old and customers are beginning to see the many benefits of using cloud services, the shift toward those solutions is growing at a rapid pace. Many IT products have made or are making their transition into the cloud as a preferred option for customers over the deployment of traditional premises-based solutions. Because of the increasing availability of cloud services from trusted vendors, and the high demand for cloud-based solutions by SMB and enterprise customers, now is the time for you to consider using the cloud as a way to expand your reseller business and increase revenue in the coming year.  

According to Forbes, the cloud computing market is increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.8 percent and the trend is not likely to slow in the next several years. In addition to the market growth rate, the number of new products being introduced into a cloud infrastructure is also accelerating. International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts the number of new cloud-based solutions will triple in the next four to five years. With adoption rates of cloud services growing at such healthy levels the drive for cloud services is not going to let up anytime soon.

Cloud computing and cloud-based services have many benefits for your customers. One benefit is that cloud offers an easier path to make changes. Many cloud services have the option of month to month contracts, making it much easier to add or drop services, or change vendors. Another key benefit is not having a large upfront capital expenditure as you do when purchasing a premises-based solution. Removing this costly barrier to entry is quite appealing to smaller organizations and new businesses that may have more cash constraints. Conversely, a key pain point for businesses adopting a cloud solution is bandwidth, which can be easily remedied with the wide choices and lower cost of internet services currently on the market. 

For resellers, there are many benefits for selling cloud services. Most cloud services pay monthly recurring revenue (MRR) as long as the customer is enrolled in the service. Monthly recurring revenue that is built up over time offers revenue stability for you, instead of starting the monthly sales cycle at zero. Additionally, as resellers, you now have the option of purchasing cloud services through a simplified online process, making it much easier to buy and manage the services for your end customer. Increased competition and product options also result in better service and prices for the customer, and in faster deployment times and reduced support time. All of these benefits also work in your favor as a reseller or integrator and ultimately translates into higher margins.

The need to add cloud products and services to your portfolio of products has never been more important than now. Chances are, if you haven’t already faced a competitive situation where a cloud solution is being offered, you will soon. The start of a new year is a great time to research and select cloud-based solutions that will benefit the customers you serve, but also make you more competitive and help increase your margins.

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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MSPs: Learn Enterprise Marketing, on an SMB Budget - Webinar

By Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation -

MSPs: Learn Enterprise Marketing, on an SMB Budgetmarketing puzzlePS

Join SMB Nation and other MSP's
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 at 12:00pm

Marketing is critical for MSPs to maintain their current revenue and grow their bottom line.You’re considering ramping up your marketing efforts in 2016, but is there a realistic way for an MSP owner/operator to accomplish their marketing goals without much time or budget? Where do you start? Where should you focus? What resources are necessary? Let us guide you through the complexity of marketing in a realistic and actionable way.

Click Here To Register!

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Happy Holidays!

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO, SMB Nation - 

SMB Nation recently turned 16-years old and we wanted to wait until the holidays to share that news. We want to use this holiday season to celebrate our mutual success! And we look forward to continued success and a long life. So what better time than the moment to wish you our customers, readers, attendees and sponsors an AMAZING HOLIDAY SEASON! We appreciate your support.

Our community is a melting pot of ethnicities and we want to call out and support the following forms of celebrations:

• Christmas Day (Christian)coexist bumper sticker
• Hanukkah (Jewish)
• Kwanzaa (African American)
• Ramadan (Muslim)
• Eid al-Fitr (Muslim)
• Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
• Eid'ul-Adha (Muslim)
• Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
• St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
• Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
• Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
• Omisoka (Japanese)
• Yule (Pagan)
• Saturnalia (Pagan)

- See more at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson246.shtml#sthash.c23rSm8r.dpuf

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Windows 10 + Office 365 & Special Topics = Immediate Knowledge Power!

Thu, Nov 19, 2015 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PST

Presented by: & Harry Brelsford CEO of SMB Nation and Grant Thompson Founding Partner MG Technology Group

Join us for Part III of our three-part webinar series focused on Windows 10.

In this installment, we direct our expertise to discussing Office 365 integrations with Windows 10 plus a host of special topics that have accumulated over the first two webinars.  Windows 10

Topics include:

  • Windows 10 with Office 365 is the Azure AD Join
  • Any special reason why you are still using Office 2013 instead of Ofiice 2016? 
  • What’s the current state of OneDrive storage with Windows 10 and Office 365? 
  • Can you have both a personal and business OneDrive? 
  • What is the difference Windows Home and Windows Business SKUs? 
  • Windows Media Center was removed form Windows 10. Does Microsoft plan to make it available in any way or is there a workaround to regain that functionality? 
  • Is there a Windows 10 Certification exam available yet?
  • What about the Microsoft "snooping" in Windows 10 and other security concerns?
  • Through Virtualization - can I control two simultaneous outgoing audio streams (two disparate audio jacks/cards) 
  • And MUCH MORE…

Also remember since your customers are attending, you can register this event with Microsoft Community Connections and receive giveaway software and materials

349 X 115 MOD REG RND2

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Wiser Minds in IoT (Part II of II)

Story by Harry Brelsford, CEO. SMB Nation - 

Last week I painted the IoT picture and enjoyed fantastic feedback. This week I share insights from wiser minds about IoT that I met at the recent AllSeen (www.allseenalliance.org) conference in Seattle.

I walked away from the annual gathering impressed with the momentum of IoT and wanted to learn more. Ergo my conversation with these two gentlemen below.

Greg Whelan is the principal of the Greywale Insights (http://greywale.com/) consultancy. What immediately struck me was how he wanted to pivot the conversation. It was like having an intellectual conversation with Jeff Middleton (sbsmigrations.com) back in the old Small Business Server days when he’d proclaim “let’s turn that argument on its head.” Whelan proposed we refine service providers as “outcome providers.” That’s how he sees the role of the MSP/computer guy in an IoT world. “Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) want OUTCOMES from a provider. IoT is a whole bucket of tools and services for the outcome provider to “provide” to SMBs.

“The outcome provider will have a role in helping IoT standardization. Currently it’s a DIY market without a set of standards. For example, you can’t utter “Good Night” today and have everything in the smart house respond such as lights, heat, and security.” Whelan shared. “The main point with today’s status is silos. The DIY can buy bits and pieces at Home Depot, Best Buy et al.”harrybiot edited

Whelan’s forward looking statements continued with thoughts concerning standardization. It’ll take web companies who can scale and the outcome provider will deliver agnostic services, not just a Google House or an Apple House.

Which leads to my second conversation about scaling. I spoke with Eric Bozich (Vice President – Product and Marketing CenturyLink). CenturyLink is a sponsor of AllSeen. Bozich’s interest is to provide elements of the IoT value chain that go beyond telecom. “One thing we’re asking ourselves is how our customers are going to consume IoT. IoT will be about solving business problems and consuming services. Bozich stated. “CenturyLink will add value by proactively participating in the development of IoT solutions.”

You heard it here first.

BTW – in my resources below, you can watch a video of Whelan and Bozic. ;0)

I’ll end my two-part series with this thought. If only Radio Shack could have held on! It was IoT before there was IoT. Readers will recall the demise of Radio Shack (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RadioShack). It could have been the IoT Store!

AllSeen Resources

Service Provider Panel Video, featuring Greg & Eric
AllSeen Alliance Events List
AllSeen Alliance Membership Tiers & Companies Participating
Full list of keynote presentations, slides and photos from the AllSeen Summit 2015

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Sennheiser helps activate the potential of Unified Communications with the launch of wired headset series Culture Plus

Old Lyme, Conn., November 9, 2015 – Sennheiser, a leading provider of premium headsets and speakerphone solutions, announces the launch of its new wired deployment headset Culture Plus. The new headset series is designed to facilitate office workers’ adoption of Unified Communications (UC) solutions and help activate their full potential.

Culture Plus headset  Seinhauser

Transitioning to UC environments means changing habits and communication cultures – within the organization as well as for the individual employee. As a direct communication interface between people, headsets play a significant role when implementing UC and positive communication experiences are crucial for higher adoption rates and hence a positive Return on Investment (ROI).

Sennheiser’s new Culture Plus wired series has been specifically designed for UC environments and swift user acceptance. The new, comfortable headset combines Sennheiser’s outstanding sound quality, 'instant comfort' features and an attractive design. Certified for Skype for Business and compatible with all major UC and softphone brands, the Culture Plus series is ideally suited for enterprises and offices that are adopting a new UC work-culture.

Culture Plus features Sennheiser’s sound quality, benefiting caller and listener alike. Sennheiser Voice Clarity, which is based on wideband sound, provides a warm, more natural listening experience while the noise-cancelling microphone ensures optimum speech intelligibility by filtering out ambient noise, delivering an optimal communication experience even in the noisiest environments. In addition, sound enhancement profiles automatically adjust audio settings to optimize either the voice quality of calls or the user’s multimedia experience. Culture Plus also features Sennheiser’s advanced ActiveGard™ technology developed to safeguard users from acoustic shock and sudden sound bursts.

The new headsets’ sleek look and quality design help ensure rapid user adoption. The stylish, contemporary appearance has been crafted with the user in mind, ensuring a good look whether used at the office desk or during video calls. The flexible, lightweight headband features leatherette padding that adjusts for a personalized fit, while large, acoustic foam ear pads with soft, removable leatherette covers ensure flexibility and wearing comfort throughout the day. The bendable boom arm allows the microphone to be placed in perfect position to ensure optimal microphone performance.

A functional in-line control unit ensures calls can be managed intuitively and seamlessly with the touch of a finger. In addition, the unit controls the switchable Noise at Work limiter compliant with EU’s Noise at Work Directive¤¤. When not in use, the headset can be stored and transported in a practical carry pouch.

“Headsets are an important consideration in any UC deployment”, says Lars Riis Rasmussen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, EMEA, at Sennheiser Communications. "Culture Plus is an ideal solution for organizations that want their office workers to rapidly adopt headsets in a UC environment. It combines Sennheiser sound quality and instant wearing comfort in a communications experience that will make it easier to enjoy the benefits and activate the full potential of UC solutions.”

The addition of the Culture Plus wired series complements Sennheiser CC&O’s broad product portfolio of headset and speakerphone solutions for contact centers, office and UC environments, which capitalizes on Sennheiser’s 70 years of sound leadership, research and development.


About Sennheiser
Audio specialist Sennheiser is one of the world's leading manufacturers of headphones, microphones and wireless transmission systems. Based in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, Sennheiser operates its own production facilities in Germany, Ireland and the USA and is active in more than 50 countries. With 18 sales subsidiaries and long-established trading partners, the company supplies innovative products and cutting-edge audio solutions that are optimally tailored to its customers' needs. Sennheiser is a family owned company that was founded in 1945 and which today has 2,700 employees around the world that share a passion for audio technology. Since 2013, Sennheiser has been managed by Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, the third generation of the family to run the company. As part of the Sennheiser Group, the joint venture Sennheiser Communications A/S specializes in wireless and wired headsets and speakerphones for contact centers, offices and Unified Communications environments as well as headsets for gaming and mobile devices. In 2014, the Sennheiser Group had sales totalling €635 million. www.sennheiser.com


For more information on our professional headset solutions, please visit www.sennheiser.com/cco

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New SAP IaaS for Business One Cloud benefits small partners most

by Mark Cox • November 11, 2015

SAP announces a new infrastructure-as-a-service option for Business One Cloud which has been available in Canada since last Thursday, and in the U.S. for several weeks before that.

NEW YORK CITY – On Tuesday SAP entered the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) business around its SAP Business One Cloud solution. It provides SAP partners with more choices for deployment. Run in data centres operated by SAP, this new services offering will come with a range of complementary services like backup and restore, disaster recovery and platform maintenance. It is available now in North America, with expansion to Europe and Asia scheduled around mid-year 2016.   Luis Murguia

“Three years ago, we started a journey to make Business One a player in the cloud,” said Luis Murguia, senior vice president and general manager, SAP Business One. “Our strategy was very simple – give the Business One customer a great customer experience in a 100 per cent partner-centric model, with subscription licensing available. Then two years ago, we introduced our multi-tenanted SAP Business One Cloud Control Centre that let partners host it, and have up to 25 customers running on the same copy of Business One.”

Murguia said that this July, SAP expanded the offering again with the introduction of browser access, allowing Business One to be run on a browser.

“Still, what was missing was infrastructure,” Murguia said. “Partners typically used AWS to host. The problem is that the ones which were small businesses can’t get good pricing from AWS. So we decided to get into the infrastructure-as-a-service business, and will offer the hosting ourselves to partners, so they can offer a full cloud experience for less.”

The offering was actually made available in the U.S., several weeks ago. In Canada, it has been available only since last Thursday

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Deploying Windows 10 Webinar / Thursday Nov 12, 2015 12 PM - 1 PM PST

Presented by: Harry Brelsford CEO of SMB Nation & Grant Thompson Founding Partner of MG Technology Group

Want to learn more about Windows 10? Wondering where to find the information? Sign up here! 

Join us next Thursday for an educational webinar on Deploying Windows 10. - windows 10 logo

This webinar will take you through Windows10 deployment from an outside-looking-in independent expert viewpoint. Needless to say, there are new and updated ways to deploy Windows 10. In this session, we review new recommendations for upgrading existing devices using a simple in-place upgrade process, provisioning tools for transforming new devices into ones ready for enterprise use, as well as updates to traditional deployment tools and techniques (ADK and beyond). We also talk about application compatibility, hardware requirements, and other common deployment questions.

Bottom Line: You’ll learn about the new release cycle, Azure AD, upgrade paths and scenarios, dynamic provisioning, and more. And can you really run Windows 10 on a stick?
Be sure to invite your customers to show them how the Windows 10 solutions can help them operate more efficiently and empower them to grow their business.

Also remember since your customers are attending, you can register this event with Microsoft Community Connections and receive giveaway software and materials.

349 X 115 MOD REG RND2

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The Doyle Report: Passportal Names MSP Pioneer Dan Wensley President

Why one man’s new gig could be your next big opportunity

By: T.C. Doyle| MSPmentor

Dan Wensley joins Passportal as President. More than a “sell-to” product that MSPs can use to help run their businesses more efficiently, Passportal’s technology is an identity and password management system designed and packaged to be sold by MSPs to end customers for an affordable price.

When does someone’s new job spell opportunity for you? When that individual puts himself in a position to help grow your business. This is precisely what Dan Wensley, a familiar name in the MSP community, has done since signing on to become Passportal’s president and de facto partner strategist. Before getting to the “whys,” here are a few “whats.”  Dan Wensley

For more than a decade, Wensley has been a familiar name and face in both the MSP community and partner ecosystem at large. A founder of MSP Partners, he spent seven years as vice president of sales and marketing for Level Platforms Inc. (LPI) before it was acquired by AVG. More recently, Wensley oversaw Plan27, a lead generation company that worked closely with MSP companies. In addition to his full-time duties, Wensley worked closely with CompTIA, where he served a three-year term on the trade association’s board of directors.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

In October 2011, Wensley met and then became fast friends with Colin Knox, the CEO of Passportal. (You can see a photo of the two in an early meeting, which is making the rounds on Twitter here.) Passportal’s mission is to make secure password management for IT professionals simple. Its motto: “The End of Sticky Note Security.”

For the uninitiated, Passportal has developed a “fully managed, cloud-based software solution that automates password protection and makes storing, managing and retrieving passwords quick and easy from virtually any connected device.” That’s according to the company.

Knox, of course, could have chosen any number of go-to-market strategies to make his company successful. He could have gone direct to business customers or straight to consumers to build momentum for his brand. Instead, Knox decided to sell his technology exclusively through channel companies, MSPs primarily. “We are the only password management solution that is designed by an MSP for MSPs like yours,” the company says. “We are your channel provider that is integrated with all the tools you love including Active Directory, Connectwise, and Autotask.”

This is where Wensley comes in.

After years of helping to give the MSP market shape and definition, Wensley signed on with Passportal a year ago to help oversee its partner sales and management efforts. Wensley says he saw in an instant a nexus forming around security, RMM technology and password management innovation. Funny thing about Wensley, though: before joining Passportal, he was a self-described password slob. At one point, he says, he had as many as 32 different sticky notes stuck to his office wall with various passwords. Try as he might, he concedes he could never keep track of them. When he heard of a solution that could, he became intrigued—doubly so after learning that it was sold exclusively through the channel.

“I got involved [with the company] some time ago and have been taking it sorta slowly and methodically,” says Wensley. “After discussing where we wanted to go for the next few years, it became apparent there was a mutually good fit here.”

So here’s the “why” and “what it means” for you.

Passportal is now offering a passport management solution that is no doubt better than the one you likely offer customers, which is likely one-step better than an Excel spreadsheet and the safeguards that have been incorporated in PSA and RMM solutions but likely short of the few, comprehensive enterprise-class solutions offered from some very expensive companies.

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A Better Way to Calculate the ROI of Your Marketing Investment

By: Werner Reinartz and Rajkumar Venkatesan

Traditionally, marketers calculate the ROI of a marketing investment by measuring how much sales increased in its aftermath. This is a blunt metric: maybe the consumer had a different interaction with the brand that influenced them. Or maybe they had an intrinsic preference for the brand and would have made a purchase anyway. blog

Today the situation has changed. Marketers have access to data that allows them to track individuals’ various interactions with a brand before their purchase, and better understand what role each interaction — and individual preferences — played in the eventual sale.

This approach, called “attribution modeling,” allows companies to attribute appropriate credit to each online and offline contact and touch point in a customer’s purchase cycle, and understand its role in the revenues that ultimately result. A good attribution model should show, for example, precisely which ads or search keywords are most associated with actual purchases.

Developing an attribution model is a gradual process. You can’t get there all at once. There are four key stages in the journey:

Stage 1: Prepare your data

You can’t have any kind of attribution model without data around touch points and outcomes. Many companies collect this data but often store it in different databases and in ways that make comparison difficult. Once companies can access and analyze data around touch points and purchases, they can detect patterns and are ready to apply simple attribution models. These involve applying rules of thumb, such as “give all credit to the last point of interaction” or “give equal credit to all points of interaction with the customer before a purchase is made.”

They may sound simplistic, but even simple rules-based models can deliver immediate results. This was the case at one company we recently advised. Only after considerable efforts to get data for each touch point aligned in one repository could the company begin to figure out sensible rules of thumb to guide marketing investments. It began by simply allocating resources to each touch point as a direct function of its marginal ROI. Even this rather rough and ready approach sharply improved the company’s overall marketing ROI.

Stage 2: Experiment

As managers get more comfortable with a rules-based model they can begin to conduct experiments to fine-tune the attribution rules. Most importantly, you can start to assess the degree to which a given touch point depends on other touch points; you could, for example, test a search tool’s role in a customer’s cycle by turning display advertising on or off. This allows managers to identify clusters of touch points that might individually look less powerful but that collectively pack more punch than simply focusing on those that look individually strongest.

An insurance company we interviewed conducted several regional experiments to evaluate the synergy of television, organic search, and display advertisements. The company varied the exposure of its consumers to TV ads across the different regions they served. They found that organic visits to the website and display advertisement click-through all increased disproportionally in a region when consumers there were also exposed to TV ads. This experiment motivated the firm to start better coordinating their marketing campaigns across media channels.

Stage 3: Apply statistical models

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Better Call an MSP Part 7: How to Best Navigate MSP M&A Activity

By Shannon Mayer, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed IT Services

The seventh installment of a monthly blog series offering tips and best practices on various ways MSPs can help their SMB clients work through the most challenging daily business issues.

In the last installment of, “Better Call an MSP,” we offered tips on staying ahead of the game when it comes to malware and virus attacks. Let’s switch gears and discuss the recent M&A activity that’s occurring on the enterprise and SMB levels. This type of activity is becoming more prevalent with both vendors and MSPs as they grow with the market. For instance, just recently, Dell acquired EMC, Barracuda purchased Intronis, and Solar Winds was acquired by two private equity firms. The same goes for the various MSPs that have been acquired or have joined forces to merge into one larger company to better serve clients.

What does all this mean for MSPs? First and foremost, transformation, now more than ever, is a necessity, rather than a proactive measure because as the market consolidates, competition increases. As an IT solutions provider, it is critical to deep dive into your business, looking at where you can add opportunities to set yourself apart from your competitors; this includes everything from offerings and services, customer service and value proposition. Let’s examine this closer.

1.) Increase Services/Increase Value Proposition: This is a good starting point, especially since there are specific focuses currently on certain services. For instance, security is currently at the forefront, and there are many opportunities in this area, such as password management, managed print and telecom. One way consolidation can be a positive for MSPs is by partnering with another firm that has the expertise and resources you want to add. For instance, if you want to add managed print, but don’t currently have a solution, seek out one of your peers who might have this area solidified. I have heard of several MSPs (including Continuum partners) who have partnered to add telecom and vice-versa; all of which have led to positive results.

When it comes to value proposition, separate yourself from your competitors to stay current and unique. This is especially important as you don’t want your services to sound too much like everyone else’s. How can you overcome this hurdle? One way is to perfect your “elevator pitch.” Can you honestly tell a potential customer what your value proposition is in 30 seconds or less? If not, then think about how you can be clear, concise and to the point without any added jargon or “filler” material.

2.) Build Customer Service: Regarding commodization of the MSP space, customer service is critical to your success. Did you know that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one? Think about the financial aspect of this, not to mention the time it takes to obtain and then onboard a new customer.

We’ve also spoken about pricing in this blog series, specifically when it comes to competitors trying to undercut each other. However, if your customer service goes above and beyond expectations, then you are more likely to retain your current customers (and also add new ones at the same time). In fact, according to global management consulting firm Bain & Company, “A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related rather than price or product related.”

3.) Cultivate Relationships: Aside from always ensuring your customers are well taken care of, also show your appreciation for their business—not just when they have a problem that needs to be addressed. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive if you want to be unique in your business model. Don’t wait for a customer to call you when they are at the point of their system shutting down. Set up monthly check-ins to see how things are running; get to know them and what their needs are for both the long and short term.

Another way to do this is by “showing” rather than “telling” them, possibly on a quarterly basis. Lay out on paper what you as the MSP have done to support their IT efforts; numbers speak louder than words, and if there are specific instances of ROI that you can share, then make sure to highlight those components. This way, they can visibly see where their money is going and how it’s being utilized toward their business. If you need guidance in mapping out a strategy for these types of reports, look to your vendor partners for guidance and tools that can help. Many MSPs often are not aware that their vendors are always there to help and educate them, as well as providing products and services.

Letting your customers know you appreciate them doesn’t always have to be all about business. You could also let them know they are important by holding a local “meet and greet” type of event where you can socialize and they can get to know you and your staff in a casual setting. Other gestures like a special gift during the holidays or other company milestones can go a long way as well. You could also establish a loyalty program in which customers earn points that they could use toward services and product discounts.

Whether you start with implementing one of these components, or all three, remember that the key is to think of areas where you can position yourself as a unique market leader, ensuring you stay competitive, while providing the highest level of customer service to both current and new clients.


Shannon Mayer is Continuum's Senior Product Marketing Manager and is directly responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging as well as business intelligence. She manages the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonjmayer.

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The Evolution of The Way We Work

Story by Mitel -

Changes in the interplay between technology, location, culture and business are transforming where, when and how we work.

Workers are taking control of their work / life balance with traditional ‘nine to five’ commuting patterns changing. Employees are also seeking more control over the communications devices and applications they use.Big Mitel

There is also an interesting sub-trend involving the development of portfolio based careers.

These trends are confirmed by evidence from SMB Group about the changing use of business communication technologies with 92% of SMBs using at least one cloud solution, 60% saying that mobile solutions are critical and 86% using mobile applications.

Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group said “As a company we are moving towards keeping and managing everything in the cloud…Whatever we need, whenever we need it, accessible from whichever device is most suitable and available at the time.”

Small and medium sized business today face the challenge of providing workers with flexibility while at the same time maximizing their productivity, controlling costs and ensuring that teams retain good interaction.

Stephen Tanner, Founder of OfficePOD Ltd commented “An organization cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair in a spare room. Employers have a duty to provide staff with the tools they need to work effectively and productively; this should include a suitable working environment, wherever that happens to be.”

To explore these issues further the team at global business communications vendor Mitel asked business users, leaders in innovation, architects, psychologists and human resource experts for their perspectives in four key areas:

• How technology trends are setting the agenda
• Next generation workplaces
• The impact of a global market
• Cultural changes and the impact on work.

To discover more insights download the full guide at http://www.mitel.com/knowledge-hub

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