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.

How to Build Employee Engagement in Your Small or Medium Business

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SMB Tech 

 

 

Companies of all sizes often have difficulty understanding the importance of developing trust and engaging employees in their organizations. CEOs will sign off on a serverless API because someone has shown them that it can save cloud computing costs, but the value of employee engagement, employee collaboration and trust often goes uncalculated.

That is not to say that companies don’t see problems that result from the lack of employee engagement and collaboration. A survey by Forbes and Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends revealed that 76 percent of survey respondents (2,500 organizations in 90 countries) believe that they have a significant retention and engagement problem. Ninety percent of these leaders think an engagement strategy will have an impact on business success, but barely 25 percent of them have such a strategy.

How Employee Engagement Can Affect Your Bottom Line
There is a direct and tangible added business benefit to organizations that invest in their employees. In fact, Gallup (via Dale Carnegie) claims that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent.

On the flip side, there is a measurable cost to having unengaged employees: higher turnover (estimates show employee turnover equals about 150 percent of an employee’s salary), lower productivity while on the job, and increased employee absence. American businesses lose approximately $500+ billion per year because of disengaged workers, according to Gallup1 and Office Vibe.

How to Build Employee Engagement
Trust is a necessary ingredient of both engagement and innovation. If the people in your company are innovating, producing sustainable results, and building exceptional work relationships, they are also building trust in each other, and your company, in the process.

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Keeping Up with the Releases

There are a lot of great things to say about the faster release cycles we see with software these days. Bugs are fixed and features become available to us sooner, security issues are resolved quicker too. In a lot of cases, our operating systems and software packages are smart enough to check themselves and let us know updates are available or automatically install themselves.

I work between two different machines regularly and depending on my schedule sometimes favor one software updatemachine over the other for several weeks at a time. For better or for worse (mostly for the better), Windows 10 takes care of itself for me, as does Visual Studio Code and Docker for Windows. This means I often find myself sitting down at the “other” machine and once again waiting for those updates to install. While sometimes I admit to rolling my eyes in frustration every time I get an update alert, I do appreciate that I don’t have to think about those updates otherwise.

But for software that doesn’t automatically update, I will sometimes find myself wondering why demo notes I’ve drafted on one machine suddenly aren’t working when I try them on the other machine or worse, blaming documentation for being incorrect when the commands don’t work as instructed.

When it comes to documentation freshness vs software freshness… Let’s not go there today. I generally always start with docs.microsoft.com when I’m looking for information about Azure and other Microsoft products. While nothing is above being error free and sometimes out of date, more often than not my problems exist between my keyboard and monitor – in the form of some piece of software needing an update.

The top two things on my machines that I have to manually update regularly are:

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New SMB Channel DevOps extends Slack/Autotask

 

Wise minds are always innovating. That’s exactly what’s occurred with long-time SMB Nation member Grace Schroeder (remember the Idea2 CRM?) with her new company Slingr.

Schroder and team have launched a supporting actor application in a category I just made up called SMB channel partner ecosystem extenders. Essentially Slingr found a gap that needed to be filled. In particular this blog concerns Slingr’s integration of Slack to the Autotask professional services automation (PSA) solution.

I spoke with Slingr executive Thomas Beck at a recent cloud computing event in the Seattle area to learn  slingr thoms beckmore. “Essentially Slingr is a low code, high productivity application platform as a service combined with an integration platform as a service capability. Our value proposition is that you can build and integrate apps much more efficiently than starting app development/integration from scratch.” Beck shared. “We’re so efficient that , on average, you save about 80 percent of time on labor and resources when building from a platform basis versus the alternative of building from scratch.”

 

With Thomas Beck (right) from Slingr.

Autotask Integrations with Slack

I asked about Slingr’s new Autotask/Slack integration solution. “We build a lot of apps and integrations for our customers. Sometimes we have ideas or requests from customers like ‘Hey – we wish this was something that did this’ and one of those requests came from a friend in the MSP community who shared a lot of MSPs are using Slack and Autotask.” Beck said. “The basic request was could you make Slack and Autotask work together. We determined it was a broad enough market profile and that exactly what we’ve done: integrate Slack and Autotask.”

Okay. I asked how would I use the Slack/Autotask integration in the day in the life as an MSP? “Think of it this way. If you use Slack, you tend to start living in it; Slack becomes your windows to the world. You stop wanting to get out of Slack and you don’t want to swivel chair to another app to get something done because that’s inefficient and loses productivity.” Beck shared. With the Sling bot for Autotask/Slingr integration, you can do 90% of what you need to do in Autotask by staying inside Slack. All within ten commands. You can open, assign/reassign, check and fetch tickets, etc. all with in Slack.

Get the App and Costs
Download from the Sling.io app store.
Free ten (10) day trail
Costs are $9.99 per user per month

Roadmap
I asked if the Datto acquisition of Autotask has impacted the integration. “No – nothing has been broken.” Beck said. “Everything is still full operational. Based on the success with the Autotask/Slack integration, we expect that we’ll expand into the other PSAs such as ConnectWise. Everything is driven by customer feedback.”

Finally, I asked how MSPs can work with Slingr? “We do have a partner program for MSPs that want to work with clients. Take an two or even ten applications and you can partner with Slingr to build integrations. We can work with the MSPs and clients to be an enabler on digital transformation. All in the cloud; partially in the cloud, etc." Beck stated.

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February is Channel Education Month!

 

Just a short note to invite you to join me in a complimentary 5-session online conference during February 2018. I'm supporting my good friends Peter Jensen, Marie Wiese, Jim Hamilton (Yay!), Julian Lee and Marc Gordon. Discover more about this complimentary conference here. I consider this a startup/start over topic as we should all be educating, transforming and reinventing ourselves – continuously!

Here is the back story. This online conference is based on the Office 365 CSP/MSP community. sherweb accelerate

Topics are both technical and business - so something for everyone. In fact, it's entirely reasonable that you might only attend a couple lectures that are of interest to you (e.g. security). or perhaps you are interested in all five lectures. Make no mistake - the lectures are "pure content" and made possible with the generous financial support of Sherweb, an Office 365 CSP.

Want to see if this is the right fit? You can watch a short Accelerate conference video here.

What’s interesting about this particular online conference offering is that it’s outcomes-based. You will receive a participation certificate at the end of the five lectures. How cool is that?

Again - you can sign-up for the complimentary conference here. I’ll see you there (and thanks for supporting the SMB MSP community).

Here is a lecture summary to review!

SESSION 3: MARKET INTELLIGENCE SESSION: TRENDS IN IT SECURITY
PRESENTED BY: JIM HAMILTON DURATION : 30 MINUTES
1 PM EST


As technology becomes a critical component for digital organizations, security becomes an even higher priority. Most companies know that security is important, but they aren’t sure which steps to take as they change their IT approach. This market intelligence session, based on CompTIA’s latest research, lets you know which new technologies, new processes and end-user education you should be looking out for.
Key takeaway: The three key areas that every business should focus on.

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D&H DISTRIBUTING OFFERS SMB “MESH” WIFI SOLUTIONS FOR THE MODERN WORKPLACE

Cutting-edge WiFi Distribution Solutions Accommodate Consistent Bandwidth Performance for More Seamless, Flexible, and Collaborative Wireless Small Business Environments —

HARRISBURG, PA – January 22, 2018 – D&H Distributing, a major provider of SMB and consumer technologies to the North American high-tech channel, wants its SMB resellers to take advantage of powerful “mesh” computing solutions. These offerings are making their way from the enterprise to Meshsmall office environments in the form of affordable, easy-to-install and manage solutions.
“Mesh” computing technologies feature a series of access points, or hubs, that distribute and balance a company’s WiFi signal throughout a facility. The systems reduce connectivity “dead spots” so an SMB network can perform more seamlessly, accommodating the roster of wireless and IP-based devices associated with an increasingly more sophisticated small business workplace—even across multiple floors of a single building.
Many regional offices have been forced to locate equipment and workstations within a certain proximity of their WiFi routers to ensure consistent connectivity. Yet today’s modern workplace involves workers who depend on a plethora of wireless devices, ranging from Bluetooth headsets, to tablets and smart phones, to portable speakerphones and high-performance notebook computers. In addition, bandwidth-heavy amenities such as IP surveillance systems or cloud-based storage and printing services create additional demands on bandwidth.
The same office environments often feature open floor plans and ad-hoc conference areas that can be set up on-the-fly, to encourage collaboration between personnel. SMB mesh computing solutions support this trend, allowing workers to take advantage of the collaborative communication these new open-office environments were designed to inspire.

For example, D&H carries the HPE OfficeConnect OC20 802.11ac, which can cluster up to eight access points. It’s a sophisticated yet cost-effective wireless solution that’s easy to set up and administer without significant technical expertise, allowing SMB companies to deploy robust and flexible WiFi of their own accord. The system is installed via a no-cost, straightforward mobile application that can be deployed in minutes, either via cell phone using an Android or iOS app, or through a cloud-based portal. Both the app and the web-based portal also facilitate easy remote network monitoring for the reseller.
The HPE OfficeConnect OC20 allows the business owner to conduct Internet filtering, regulating what sites employees may access and/or restricting adult content. And the solution’s simple remote management capability allows resellers to offer monitoring and troubleshooting via a managed services contract, creating incremental revenue opportunities, and allowing VARs to transition into a basic, hosted services offering.
In addition, D&H offers the popular Cisco Meraki family of wireless access solutions, which incorporates cloud-managed mesh networking into its powerful wireless access points. The Meraki products extend WiFi coverage to hard-to-wire areas and supports resilient, high-performance routing across facilities. These access points “self-configure” to automatically establish a high-performance, robust, and resilient network, without manual intervention or provisioning from the reseller.
The Meraki solutions offer a cloud-based controller interface that can be managed from anyplace with Internet access, and similarly offers an Android or iOS app for administration. This makes the solutions easily accessible, as well being a powerful and versatile mesh networking option.
D&H offers services to support customers in selecting the most appropriate solution for their business models, including assessment services; pre-sales support; and specialized training sessions including live trade show sessions, streaming webcasts, and on-demand presentations. Plus, resellers can take advantage of brandable brochure templates from D&H’s Partner Services Marketing library, including a dedicated piece on the Cisco Meraki products. VARs can use these materials to communicate the benefits of these high-performance WiFi solutions.
“Bandwidth requirements continue to grow as the contemporary SMB workplace incorporates more connected devices and platforms, and as we transition toward the delivery of digital services in almost every facet of business, from email exchange to storage to cloud-based printing and collaboration,” began Peter DiMarco, vice president of VAR sales at D&H. “Manufacturers such as HPE-Aruba and Cisco are now delivering robust, reliable, and cost-effective WLAN WiFi distribution to the small business community. Mesh computing is becoming a necessity in these work environments, to accommodate the increasingly mobile and digital paradigm we all enjoy. In the process, it’s creating ongoing opportunities for VARs and MSPs.”

About D&H Distributing
D&H Distributing believes the most important element of doing business is developing relationships for mutual success. The company continues to build upon its 100-year-old culture by providing its manufacturers, co-owners, and partners with the utmost customer care, consultative guidance, and multi-market expertise. As one of North America’s leading technology distributors, it delivers a wealth of enablement resources and hands-on support services that empower resellers in the IT channel.
The company engages with solution providers, integrators, and VARs to meet current business challenges, as well as forecast their evolving, real-world needs and prospects for lucrative growth opportunities. D&H maintains a special focus on independent VARs expanding their competencies in areas such as hosted and cloud services, the modern mobile workplace, comprehensive SMB server networks, and cross-market expertise across the small business, education, healthcare, and government verticals, to name a few. The company's value proposition includes professional marketing resources, a new transactional service model, dedicated Solutions Specialists, and a highly-lauded webcast training venue; plus reseller engagement events such as technology trade shows, roundtable opportunities, training “track” sessions, and hands-on "lab" sessions.
The distributor is headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, in the US and in Brampton, Ontario, in Canada. Additional warehouses are located in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Fresno, CA; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. Call D&H toll-free at (800) 340-1001, via www.dandh.com, or follow the distributor’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, https://www.facebook.com/DandHDistributing/ and @dandh.

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