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.

Check out our new look!

BiggerBrians

Check out our new look!

A few weeks ago we announced we were rolling out Bigger Brains v3 to our MSP / IT Service Pro resellers.  The update is mostly in place now (there are a couple of small issues the team is still fixing), and next week we'll host a webinar to show off the new features AND how you can use Bigger Brains to boost your MSP/CSP/IT Service Pro business.  


What's New?

  • New Discussion Forums for Resellers (Look for the "Discussion Forum" tab in your reseller portal).  Great for sharing ideas on how to best use Bigger Brains within your IT business.
  • New Course Discussion Forums (Inside the Classroom, inside each course).  Great for your users to ask questions and get answers from our teachers as well as their fellow students.
  • New Terms & Conditions.  Not something we'd usually brag about but check out section 2 - it explicitly prevents our sales team from working directly with your clients, plus guarantees you a commission even if you add a client who was already using Bigger Brains!
  • Modern portal interface.  Updated and hopefully easier to navigate - still a few changes coming.  Plus updated course graphics and classroom icon.

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Start Over Strategy: Vitamin R!

Start Over Strategy: Vitamin R!

As our journey towards enhanced partner profitability continues, I want to make a turn at the intersection of professional life. I’d like you to reflect on creating a new niche focused on ransomware (ergo the Vitamin R reference).

First – what is a niche? It’s a focused subset of a market. And that old saying is “there are riches in niches” still holds true.

However, being a nicher myself, I would offer that you don’t want to spend more than half of your time in a single niche. A niche doesn’t imply you do one thing 100% of the time. Got it?

Second – let’s talk ransomware. For the purposes of this audience, I don’t need to provide a thesis on “ransomware” and what it is. The oracle of all truth, Wikipedia, share the following insights: “Ransomware is a type of malware that can be covertly installed on a computer without knowledge or intention of the user that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. Some forms of ransomware systematically encrypt files on the system's hard drive, which become difficult or impossible to decrypt without paying the ransom for the encryption key, while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying. Ransomware typically propagates as a Trojan, whose payload is disguised as a seemingly legitimate file; thus, ransomware is an access-denial type of attack that prevents legitimate users from accessing files.

While initially popular in Russia, the use of ransomware scams has grown internationally;in June 2013, security software vendor McAfee released data showing that it had collected over 250,000 unique samples of ransomware in the first quarter of 2013, more than double the number it had obtained in the first quarter of 2012. Wide-ranging attacks involving encryption-based ransomware began to increase through Trojans such as CryptoLocker, which had procured an estimated US$3 million before it was taken down by authorities, and CryptoWall, which was estimated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to have accrued over $18m by June 2015.”

Bottom line: Users are held hostage and have to pay the ransomware terrorist to become whole again, often using untraceable currency such as Bitcoin. In conducting my research, I bumped into a cool start-up focused on ransomware. WinPatrol is a group of industry veterans responding to the ransomware threat with its security solution. It has recently come to market. I’m going to track this company over the summer to see how it fares. One asset already in its corner is Beth Hanneken from Sunbelt Software fame.

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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.

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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-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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Cloud marketplaces: Can channel partners make money?

 

by Lynn Haber
Senior Writer

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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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