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.

Top 2018 Employee Engagement Learning Trends

The New Year is right around the corner, and most employees are thinking about one of three career-related decisions. It is time to search for a new job, stay with my company or go back to school to improve their education.

A complicated reality to accept for most business owners is retaining top talent to save the expense of hiring new employees. Have no fear. We researched the latest employee engagement trends for you to use at your company in 2018.

1. Flexible Workplace Options
Think about the convenience you will add to non-customer facing employees lives such as accountants or telephone customer service reps with work beat the odds 01from home option. It can be a once per week or month program that can be beneficial to single mothers, students, or employees with disabilities. According to Forbes, a recent study by CTrip stated: “remote workers ended up making 13.5 percent more calls than their comparable office workers, which is the equivalent of almost a full extra day’s worth of work in a given week.” Employees working from home feel valued by their employer. The pressure of meeting a quota motivates them to work harder.

2. Healthcare Tailored to Employee Needs
Imagine what your employees will think if you introduce healthcare benefits that will suit their lifestyle. You can lower healthcare costs for employees that exhibit financial hardship. An example of a successful launch is Schneider Electric that noticed a decrease in healthcare claims after implementing an employee program where workers can select personal options that will meet their healthcare benefit needs.

3. Performance Management Technology
The day of paper surveys handed out to employees is a thing of the past. In 2018, companies will use online feedback platforms such as 360-degree feedback to discover their thoughts on improving products and the appearance of your shop. The feedback they offer to your competitors and how to improve the customer service experience will help companies succeed. It might appear to be an expense you would prefer not to spend, but employees speak with customers every day. They are the ears and eyes of your business.

Another trend in technology will be online invoicing platforms that help employees focus on important work versus entering mundane spreadsheets that consume their time.

4. Mobile Fosters Employee Engagement
The workforce attracts employees of all ages. The age of technology through smartphones will change the way employers communicate with their team. Most people prefer to receive information from text because emails can accidentally be deleted or end up in junk mail. Human resources departments will connect with employees with the following strategies:

  • Onboarding documents sent via SMS versus email
  • Friendly reminder of upcoming training or workplace events
  •  Connect with employees on payroll inquiries versus phone calls, emails

5. Time Off Programs
The popularity in Silicon Valley with some start-ups is granting unlimited vacation to help ease stress most people experience with heavy workloads. A few examples include a full day paid off for your birthday, half work days on Friday’s or a day off on the weekend if your state football team has a game. You can be creative or send a poll to employees to find out if 1 Personal Day per year will help with studying for exams, taking their child to the dentist or a day to relieve stress. If you notice your team is burnt out, it will negatively impact your bottom line.

A productive employee is one that will spend a few hours after their shift ends to do a good job cleaning up inventory.. It means an employee that will go the extra mile to put a smile on disgruntled customers face. The more productive employees are, the result can be increasing your profit.


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Six apps and trackers to find your lost gadgets


app trackers

© Depositphotos So that's where you left it ...

Finding yourself out and about without your smartphone can make you feel naked. We rely on these devices so much that losing them creates a huge problem, preventing you from messaging friends for aid or mapping your way back home.

Losing any similarly essential device, like your laptop, creates an equally huge headache. To rediscover these lost gadgets, we've collected tech that finds your tech. These six apps and trackers can plot your devices on a map, force them to make audible sounds, and perform other tricks to help you reunite.

For Apple: Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac
Apple wants you to keep its devices safe, and to that end, it built a phone and tablet tracker into iOS and a laptop finder into macOS. Enable the feature on all your Apple hardware, and you'll be able to see the current location of any device on a map.

To set it up on an iPhone or iPad, open Settings and tap your Apple ID at the top. Then pick your device and select Find My iPhone (or Find My iPad) to switch on the feature. On a computer, open System Preferences and click iCloud. Then tick the Find My Mac box. During this process, Apple may prompt you to sign in with your Apple ID credentials, so make sure you have your password close to hand.

Once you've enabled the tracker, you can forget about it until you need it. If you do lose a device, grab your remaining machine(s) and open the appropriate app: Find My iPhone on a phone, Find My iPad on a tablet, or the iCloud web app in any browser window. Sign in, click the All Devices menu, and pick a device to see its location on a map. Within this app, you can also select a device and prompt it to make a sound, lock itself, or erase all its data.

The lock option is particularly useful because you can make the lost device display a custom message. For example, if you lose your iPhone, make the gadget share a message requesting its safe return and providing an email address where finders can contact you. And to prevent those finders from snooping further, locking the screen will protect your data.

For Android: Find My Device
Like Apple, Google has included a device-locating tool, called Find My Device, on Android. To enable it, open Settings and tap Security & location. Turn the feature on to start tracking your phone or tablet. Then install the Find My Device app on a backup phone or tablet.

To see where your gadget is, you have a few options. Open the app on your backup device, visit the Find My Device web portal, or just sign into your Google account and then type "where's my device?" into the search engine. As with the Apple service, you can make the lost machine play a sound (even when it's in silent mode), lock the device while its screen displays a message, or completely erase your information. Check out a map to view its last known location, battery level, and even the name of the Wi-Fi network it's currently connected to. Based on this information, you can decide whether it's gone forever or still can be retrieved.

Unfortunately, Google doesn't offer similar protections for Chromebooks — at least for the time being. So if you lose one of these Chrome OS-powered laptops, you won't be able to find it through Google. However, keep reading to learn about a third-party app that may be able to do the job.

For Samsung: Find My Mobile
Samsung owners can use the aforementioned Google tracker or Samsung's built-in Find My Mobile tool, which works very similarly. To access it, first set up a password-protected Samsung account.

Next, enable the tracker by opening Settings, tapping Lock screen and security, and choosing Find My Mobile. On this menu, make sure to toggle the Remote controls switch to On so that you can operate your phone or tablet from another device.

If your gadget goes missing, head to the Find My Mobile website and sign in with your Samsung credentials. Here, you can check out the last known location of your phone or tablet on a map. Like with the other tracker apps, you can ring your device even if it's in quiet mode, lock it so nobody else will be able to access it, and wipe it remotely if you don't think you're going to get it back.

From the same website, you can perform other useful tasks, such as unlocking a device whose PIN you've forgotten and backing up data. Just pick the relevant option from the list on the right-hand side of the site.

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WeWork is buying Meetup



WeWork has agreed to buy Meetup for an undisclosed amount, the coworking company announced. It’s a natural fit between WeWork, valued at $20 billion, and Meetup, a community platform with 35 million members that has hosted more than 300,000 “IRL” events (in real life), Mashable notes. WeWork has continued to rapidly expand its empire — including purchasing Lord & Taylor’s flagship New York store, opening a private kindergarten, and leading a $32 million investment in a women’s coworking space. Meetup will stay a standalone company for now, but will go on a hiring spree, per Wired.

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ClearCenter Acquires Minebox IT Services GmbH



ClearCenter to integrate Minebox blockchain-based decentralized technology with ClearOS open source Security, Cloud, Server, Network and Gateway IT management offerings

MADRID, Spain, OREM, Utah and VIENNA, Austria - (Nov. 30, 2017) - ClearCenter today announced that it has acquired Minebox IT Services GmbH in a move to round out ClearCenter’s Hybrid IT Linux-based IT management operating system, ClearOS. Minebox is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, and today’s announcement was made at the HPE Discover 2017 show in Madrid, Spain. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Both Minebox and ClearCenter have existing partnerships with HPE and each have optimized their solutions for HPE’s new Gen10 line of ProLiant servers.

"The escalation of general interest in the blockchain has produced a spike in security concerns around protecting blockchains and associated technologies," said Michael Proper, ClearCenter Founder and CEO. "By integrating Minebox with ClearOS and ClearCenter’s Gateway.Management security layer, we will provide the most secure method to manage decentralized hybrid on-premises and cloud-based storage.”

Minebox is based on an open source decentralized cloud backend. It stores files locally like Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems do, but also keeps encrypted pieces of each file on multiple nodes around the world. This eliminates any single point of failure, ensures redundancy and offers the highest possible uptime. With Minebox, users hold the encryption keys and own their data. No outside entity can access or control a user’s files.

"ClearCenter is a perfect fit together with Minebox's employees and customers," said Vlado Petrushev, CEO and COO or Minebox. "By joining forces with ClearCenter, we will be able to support a larger audience, expand into new markets and build new products to serve data storage needs for the coming decades."

ClearCenter's ClearOS is a next-generation open source server operating system that includes critical gateway, network and cloud security features. It delivers a powerful Hybrid IT management solution with an elegant user interface that is completely web-based. A key service within ClearOS is the Gateway.Management security layer. ClearCenter plans for a tight integration with Gateway.Management and Minebox technology to aid in protection from ransomware, viruses, malware and IoT-targeting threats.

Gateway.Management uses full egress control and Machine Learning-based whitelisting. These features allow customers to protect networks, machines and users without expensive hardware, subscriptions, or labor costs.

"The one layer of security that consistently mitigates modern threats, even during zero-day periods, is egress control," said David Redekop, ClearCenter Security Architect and Gateway.Management creator. "From an endpoint device, this Zero-trust Model means that all outbound access is denied unless approved."

About ClearCenter
ClearCenter creates simple, secure and affordable products for managing Hybrid IT. ClearCenter's ClearOS is a Linux-based open source operating system for managing Cloud, Server, Network and Gateway layers. It is designed for homes, small-to-medium size businesses and distributed environments. ClearOS has more than 430,000 deployments serving more than 10.4 million users. It is available in multiple languages and being used in 154 countries around the globe today. Visit for more information.

About Minebox IT Solutions GmbH
Minebox is building data storage, archiving and backup solutions using NAS computers, blockchain technology, peer to peer networks, public-key cryptography and open source, decentralized data storage systems. Visit for more information.

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5 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Will Doom Your Business

Success for modern small businesses depends on the effective use of digital marketing channels. Unfortunately, many companies have failed, despite their effort to engage their online audience.

To help your company gain the most from online opportunities, learn about the following five digital marketing mistakes and use the tips that follow to help you avoid them.

1. Lack of Planning

Before you do any marketing, you should thoroughly understand your business and its mission. Afterward, you can plan your digital marketing strategy in a way that is consistent with the other parts of your operation.

By spending time understanding your goals, you can stay focused and avoid wasting resources on unnecessary and counterproductive activities. So, before moving forward take some basic steps:

  • Identify and understand your operational environment. This includes your customers, competitors, industry, and logistics.

  • Write down what you want to accomplish via digital marketing.
  • Break down your objectives so you know what you need to do with each of your marketing channels.

As soon as you have a plan, you can start promoting your brand.

2. Irrelevant Content

Companies that lose their focus face all-but-certain doom. Avoid that mistake by sticking with your marketing plan. As part of that focus, make sure that everything you either publish or post has relevance to your business.

Both poorly defining your market and creating low-quality content can contribute to a loss of focus. You can avoid these problems by first understanding your audience and then send the right messages.

As part of your effort, remember that relevance has much to do with channel selection and timing. Even the most valuable content will fall flat if you fail to get it to the right people when they most need it.

3. Focusing on Social Media Alone

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter attract millions of daily users. For this reason, many companies make the mistake of focusing on social media and ignoring their website.

Without a website, your prospects and customers have no way to expand their knowledge of your brand and products. So, after reading your social media posts, people have nowhere else to go.

Rather than using social networks to replace your website, use them to funnel qualified traffic to your website. That way, people who want to learn more about your brand can click links that lead to your website.

4. Missing Out On Automation

Many growing companies fail to capitalize on their opportunities because the needs of customers exceed their support capabilities. Businesses in this predicament are doomed unless they embrace automation. Many never do.

When you use technology to perform repetitive tasks and distribute information, you expand the capabilities of your staff. As a result, you can control expenses while improving service. In other words, automation is a win-win option, so never ignore it.

In addition to reducing the number of manual actions required in your daily operation, automation can improve accuracy. After all, every time either you or your team manually enters data, you can make a mistake. Meanwhile, automated tools can without error repeatedly enter the same data all day, every day.

5. No Genuine Email Personalization

Email is a powerful weapon in your digital marketing arsenal, so make sure you use it properly. However, successful email marketing involves much more than sending out promotional notices.

Personalization can make a big difference with your email campaigns by tailoring your messages to individual recipients and audience segments. For starters, you should use an email tool that can insert first names into the text and mention the last products that recipients have bought.

In the end, email personalization gives you a chance to make your customer relationship data work for you. As you include more data points in your messages, you can expect to see more conversions. Additionally, every message you send should include new content.

Final Thoughts

Many companies before you have met their doom because of the above five marketing mistakes. Act now to plan your digital strategy and follow that action with relevant content and an effective website.

Furthermore, by using automation, you can boost your ability to support customers and create personalized email messages. Ultimately, these tips can lead to operational stability and long-term growth.

Author bio: Ashley Wilson is a freelance writer interested in business, marketing, and tech topics. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. Connect with Ashley via Twitter.

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