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.

Fall Security Survey - Please Participate!

Not on is it back-to-school but it’s Fall with everyone madly back to work. Would you be able to spare a few moments to assist us in assess your security-related attitudes and preferences? Your contribution to this crowded sourced survey helps keep our community alive and thriving!

We are curious
about your emphasis on security as an MSP practice and vendor preferences.

It’s all very simple. Complete the survey HERE.

Security Survey

 

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

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Knowledge is Power: Small Business and Five Cyber Security Myths

By: Steven Bearak, CEO of IdentityForce

Building an effective cyber security strategy is critical for all small business owners. When running a lean operation, it’s common for a small business to do more with less. IT resources can be scarce, even for those small to mid-sized Cyber Securitycompanies that are in the high-tech and IT fields. In fact, when 600 IT leaders from small and mid-size businesses were surveyed for a 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, only 14 percent of the companies indicated that they were highly effective at mitigating cyber risks, vulnerabilities, and attacks.

The first step to protect your small business is to really understand perceived myths versus the truth around cyber security protection. So, let’s get started:

Myth #1 - A Strong Password Keeps Everything Secure
Strong passwords are important, but they won’t fully protect you. Consider using a password with two-factor authentication, and make sure that your team never leaves passwords lying around the office or their homes. Instead, encourage them to use a password manager.

Myth #2 – I’m Prepared! I have an Antivirus Program
Many businesses, including small business owners, believe that an antivirus program will keep their data safe and secure. While it helps, there’s a lot more to cyber security than installing a simple piece of software. And, more people than ever before are also using smartphones and tablets on unsecured networks without installing the proper antivirus software on those devices.

Myth #3 - A Good Firewall Will Keep the Bad Guys Out
In the same way that antivirus software won’t fully protect your business from a cybercriminal, firewalls won’t either. Gaps remain even if you are using both firewall and antivirus software. In today’s work environment where Bring your own Device (BYOD) and telecommuting are prevalent, many of the risks come from a lack of communicating and enforcing best practices with your employees. Other solutions such as identity theft protection can further protect your employees’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Myth #4 – Cyber Attacks Don’t Happen to Small Companies
Cyber threats are very real and becoming more prevalent. This can also include ransomware – or malicious software – that threatens to publish the data on your device, or lock down your device, unless a ransom is paid. Your business can be a target 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, according to a 2017 IT Risk Report by Netwrix, 73 percent of small businesses don’t have a dedicated function to handle information security, therefore making them an appealing and easy target to cyber criminals.

Myth #5 – I Don’t Know Any Cybercriminals, Therefore I’m Safe!
Even if it accidental, many cybercrimes can be traced back to internal events. This can be an unintentional phishing email sent by a vendor or partner, or in the case of ransomware, the attack can happen when your employees visit malicious or compromised websites. Often spam in the form of email attachments forwarded among colleagues can leave your business vulnerable.

Protecting your small or mid-sized business starts with knowledge. Always keep security in mind, research and install security software on your computers and devices, and conduct ongoing training with your employees. And, it’s not a one and done effort; you must refresh your practices every few months or at least twice a year to ensure you are keeping up with the latest cyber threats and attack methods.

Steven Bearak is the CEO of IdentityForce, a company commercialized from nearly four decades of in-depth experience around personal identity and security services and products. IdentityForce is a leading provider of proactive identity, privacy, and credit protection for individuals, businesses, and government agencies. In May 2017, IdentityForce introduced a secure mobile app to help members stay protected anywhere, anytime. For more information, visit www.identityforce.com

 

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How to Reduce Your Business Energy Costs

Owning and running a business is an epic feat.

by: Trevor McDonald

As a business owner you have a task at hand every day: producing an agenda of the day’s workload, assigning projects that will be managed by trusted colleagues, sending quick-fire responses to an endless stream of emails, Reduce Energypromoting your next marketing tactic, and frankly, so much more. Consequently, it is almost impossible to remember every single responsibility, which can cause you to occasionally overlook some major details - such as making sure that the business energy costs are not unexpectedly skyrocketing.

When was the last time you thought about your energy business costs? This money enables you to run a business in the first place, thrive in a productive and comfortable space, and operate technology. Hence, it is imperative to prioritize strategizing methods of reducing business costs and creating an energy-efficient environment in your workplace.

Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of your business and make careful note of these pivotal ways to reduce your energy costs.

1. Implement the use of “green” technology

Businesses are rapidly upgrading their old office equipment into greener and environmentally-friendly alternatives. That’s due to two main reasons: one, is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy and recycles it, thus reducing excess energy consumption and saves money; the second is to shrink their business’ carbon footprint on the earth and prevent any additional harm to it.

2. Prevent colleagues from changing the thermostat temperature

Everyone is prone to the discomfort of weather. In an office, it’s easy to get up and change the temperature of the thermostat and get back to work by thriving in a “perfectly” conditioned space. But minutes later, someone else stands up and shifts the number just a smidgen so that the air feels “just right” to them instead - and unfortunately, the cycle continues with another person right afterward. Did you know that adjusting the thermostat uses more energy than simply allowing it to function and change naturally? The solution: lock up the thermostat and limit the number of individuals allowed to set temperatures, or set it on an automatic setting that adjusts to the seasons and weather accordingly.

3. Maximize the use of natural light

Being stuck inside a building with artificial lights all day gets tiring and uncomfortable. If you are in the process of redesigning your building, look to build large windows and diminish the use of light bulbs as much as possible. Studies show that employees who work in a naturally-lit space are shown to be more productive and happy in the workplace. Also, you can expect employees to come to work lively and awake almost every morning since the constant exposure to natural light helps them sleep better at night.

4. Go digital when distributing or sharing information

Filtering through stacks of paper in a drawer of endless files not only wastes time, but is overwhelming and obsolete. Use a cloud system to store data, engage customers and employees with media outlets, and distribute information. By using a cloud system, you are able to hone in all the business plans, goals, and collaborations into one digital space which keeps you consistently organized.

5. Invest in energy-saving appliances

While energy-saving appliances are expensive, investing in them will serve you more benefit than harm with chronic use, such as gradually decreasing your expenses on bills and reducing the business’ impact on the environment.
Energy-saving appliances also perform better than normal appliances, cultivate a “cleaner and greener” atmosphere, and inspire your employees to take their part in saving energy both in the office and at home. The prime appliances to invest in first are computer monitors because they never stop running throughout the workday. Other examples of energy-efficient appliances to consider are printers, microwaves, and refrigerators.

6. Properly seal areas that allow air to escape from the building

In the summer, one of the leading causes of business energy bill spikes is the increased use of air-conditioning. You must check to see that air emitted from the air-conditioner does not escape the building due to an unknown draft. Not to say you should aggressively barricade the building or put it on lockdown when the AC is in use. Rather, you can set aside time to check problem areas that release air, such as windows and the space underneath doors, seal them accordingly, refrain from opening windows all-together when the AC is on, and ensure that the air is circulating in its designated area.

7. Switch out current light bulbs into either CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs

CFL and LED light bulbs are incredibly energy-efficient: they last longer than normal incandescent light bulbs and rarely need to be replaced. Additionally, CFL and LED are easy on the eyes, and not as invasive or hazardous as incandescent light bulbs.

Paying for unwanted finances is always a hassle. Therefore, make sure you are equally prioritizing the use of energy within the workspace alongside the dedication to optimizing productivity within the office and finding new ways to market the brand. Now that you’re equipped with vital ways to keep business energy bills at an all-time low, you can invest more time into expanding your business and propelling it forward to greater heights.

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101 Small Business Marketing Ideas

By Alyssa Gregory
Updated July 31, 2017


TatOne universal small business goal is to sell the business's products and services. This is usually best accomplished by positioning the business in front of the target audience, and offering something that solves a problem or that they can't refuse or find elsewhere.

To this end, one of the smartest things a small business owner can do for his or her business is to take the time to develop a small business marketing plan that will set them apart from the competition.

A marketing plan clearly outlines how you will reach your ideal customers by effectively implementing your marketing strategy.

There are thousands of ways you can promote your small business. With the right mix of activities, you can identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business. Here is a list of 101 small business marketing ideas to get you thinking about all of the different ways you can promote your business.

Marketing Planning
1. Update or create a marketing plan for your business.
2. Revisit or start your market research.
3. Conduct a focus group.
4. Write a unique selling proposition (USP).
5. Refine your target audience and niche.
6. Expand your product and service offerings.

Marketing Materials
7. Update your business cards.
8. Make your business card stand out from the rest.
9. Create or update your brochure.
10. Create a digital version of your brochure for your website.

11. Explore a website redesign.
12. Get creative with promotional products and give them away at the next networking event you attend.

In-Person Networking

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SMALL BUSINESS INDICATOR: WEB DEVELOPER MARKET BOOMING, WITH RETAIL AND TRAVEL LEADING THE WAY, ACCORDING TO NEW GLOBAL RESEARCH STUDY

80 Percent of Web Professionals Report Client Growth of 25 Percent or More a Year, According to Study of United States, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Mexico

Web Designers Leading Indicators of Small Business Growth: Retail, Travel, Health and Fitness Industries Growing Fastest Globally

Growth Creates Pain Points: Web Developers Report They Have to Play Too Many Roles and Struggle Managing New Clients

Constant Need for Learning/New Skills: Web Developers Report Strong Support for Certification Program to Create Standards

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., August 10, 2017 – A survey of web developers and designers – a leading indicator of small business growth - finds that the web professional industry continues to boom two decades after the emergence of the Internet. Rapid growth in clients is fueled by the retail and travel industries, according to a new global research study commissioned by GoDaddy.

The industry study, conducted in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Mexico by the research firm Evans Data, found that web developers and designers – many of which are relative newcomers to the industry - at times struggle to keep up with demand for services from industries such as retail, travel, health and fitness.

Seventy-nine percent of web developers and designers reported client growth of 25 percent or more a year – with more than 1 in 3 saying growth was 50 percent or more. Nearly half reported they have been in business less than 5 years, but revenue was still high: a majority had revenue of $250,000 or more and 1 in 3 reported revenues of over $500,000.

“Two decades after general internet adoption, this research indicates that the ‘Golden Era’ of web development and design shows no sign of slowing down,” said Raghu Murthi, SVP of Hosting and Pro at GoDaddy. “But the research also provides lessons to new web professionals on the importance of continued learning and the need to manage growth and focus on looking where your next clients will come from.”

Regionally, the industries that were driving growth varied:

 US  DE/UK  INDIA  BRAZIL  MEXICO
 Retail  Retail  Creative  Retail  Travel
 Travel  Food  Education  Travel  Retail
 Health/Fitness  Creative  Health/Fitness  Real Estate  Food


The primary drivers of business globally are:

  • Selling new services to existing clients: 40%
  • Providing support to existing clients: 31%
  •  Finding new clients: 21%
  • Reselling 3rd party products/services: 7%

The research also shows key differences between more mature markets, such as the United States, German and the United Kingdom, and other regions. For example, in more developed markets, developers and designers are more likely to work for a small firm and concentrate their work on fewer clients who provide larger retainers. That has enabled them to focus more time on securing new clients and growing their business.

As the industry continues to mature, the study finds a strong desire for continued learning and support for certification programs. Overall, 83 percent of developers and designers support a certification program that focuses on improving the skills and expertise of web professionals.

The research found that developers and designers grapple with how to keep up with technical and business skills to serve clients – but how they do that often differs based on where they are from. While online training courses are universally used, industry publications are much more popular in the United States (60 percent) than Mexico (32 percent) or Brazil (31 percent). Conferences and meetups are popular in India, but not as popular in Mexico, Germany, or the United Kingdom.

“Web pros are clearly looking for help in managing their client base, so they can maintain quality while expanding their business,” said Raghu Murthi, SVP of Hosting and Pro at GoDaddy. “That is why integrated services that help them manage multiple clients and sites from one place, are in such demand.”

Overall, the study provides insight into an industry that is integral to small business growth[DCR4] and the overall health of a digital economy. For example, two in five respondents said they now tailor web pages specifically for mobile devices, with the majority reporting they spend most of their time on mobile. It also shows key differences between how web professionals operate globally:

· Length of time in business varied among the regions, varying between more and less mature markets. The newest web professionals are in Mexico, India and Brazil.

 Time in Business  US   DE/UK  INDIA  BRAZIL  MEXICO
 0-12 Months  1%  5%   5%   4%   6% 
 1-2 Years    5%    9%    12%    11%    11% 
 2-5 Years  26%  30%  32% 40%  36%
 5-10 Years  54%  43%  35%  33%  40%
 10-plus Years  14%  13%  15%  13%  13%



Revenue per client can vary widely based on where the web professional works. In India, for example, only 1 in 3 clients provides revenue of at least $10,000, while in Mexico and the United States the majority of clients provide that amount.

The skills needed to be a successful web developer or designer varied by region, with technical and creative skills viewed as most important in India and Brazil.

 Most Important Skills  US  DE/UK  INDIA  BRAZIL  MEXICO
 Technical   Creative  Technical   Creative  Creative
 Project Management  Technical   Creative  Technical  Managing Clients
 Business  Managing Clients  Project Management   Managing Clients  Technical



Where web professional work can vary. Those in India, Germany and the United Kingdom are most apt to work in an outside office. While 72 percent of U.S. developers and designers report that they work out of their home (either in a home office, at a table, or on a couch). That is also reflected in how they view their work environments: over half of German, UK and Indian web professionals called it “conventional,” while the majority of U.S. workers said it was “loose.”

New tools such as video apps and services such as Slack are popular in the United States, with 56 percent reporting they primarily use them to stay in touch with clients. But email remains the primary source in other countries, with India and Mexico reporting only 1 in 3 use those new tools to communicate with clients.

The research project surveyed 1,500 web professionals in May 2017. The margin of error of the research is +/- 2.6 percent. A summary of the data is available upon request.

To learn more about GoDaddy Solutions for Web Professionals visit www.GoDaddy.com/pro.

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