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.

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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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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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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