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SMB Nation Blog

Small business IT and technology news for the SMB channel VAR, MSP, and IT professional.

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Ray Vrabel HeadshotBy Raymond Vrabel, Director, Technical Account Management, Continuum Managed IT Services

Part 6 of a monthly blog series examining tips on how MSPs can work to break “bad” business habits that they might unknowingly fall into as a result of just wanting to get things done.

In the previous installment of “Breaking Bad,” I discussed why you shouldn’t miss your mid-year business check-up. In this month’s blog, I offer a how-to guide on navigating the upcoming busy trade show/events season. Our industry is a bevy of event activity throughout the year, however the fall season seems to be the busiest with “back-to-school” mode following summer break. There are various considerations behind an events plan, including objectives for attending specific events, budgeting time and money, and the plan of attack on-site.

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HP’s Forward Strategy

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HarryB HeadshotHP is capitalizing on the chaos in the server market right now with its new Smart Choice campaign. It’s aimed at educating and encouraging HP partners to sell into IBM server-side accounts. Why? Earlier this year, IBM stated its intentions to leave the server market. This follows its departure from the PC market in the 2005/6 time frame. It’s part of IBM’s reboot to become a cloud and services company. One man’s loss (IBM) and another man’s gain ((HP).

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ManageEngine Releases WiFi Monitor Plus

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Manage Engine logoRecently, ManageEngine announced the latest app available for its existing FreeTools program, which currently has 40+ apps available. The WiFi Monitor Plus app is a free, easy-to-use tool that IT Admins can use to monitor and analyze available WiFi networks in their area, all from an Android device.

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IBM Board of Directors Elects Two New Members

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ibm logoThe IBM board of directors elected Alex Gorsky and Peter Voser to the board, beginning September 1, 2014 and January 1, 2015, respectively. After their elections take effect, the board will have 14 members.

“We are delighted that Alex and Peter will be joining the IBM board of directors. Both are accomplished international business leaders. Alex and Peter each have deep and successful experience running information-intensive global enterprises and both are well known as pacesetters in innovation. Their expertise and insights will be extremely beneficial to IBM and our shareholders.”

Gorsky is the chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson and held multiple executive positions with Johnson & Johnson prior to being named CEO. He also serves on boards of the Travis Manion Foundation and the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.

Voser is a retired CEO of Royal Dutch Shell plc. He held various executive positions at the Dutch global energy and petrochemicals company and also served as CFO of the Asea Brown Boveri Group of Companies. He serves on the boards of a variety of organizations including Catalyst and the St. Gallen Foundation for International Studies and is the director of Roche Holding Ltd.

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TES Global Acquires Blendspace

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TES Global, a network of teachers worldwide with nearly 6 million registered teachers, has acquired Blendspace. Blendspace is a strategic acquisition for TES Global, as its web-based tools enable teachers to create self-paced digital lessons for students.

The Blendspace business and team will become part of Wikispaces, acquired by TES Global in February 2014. Previous Blendspace customers can continue to use Blendspace and premium features will now be available for free.

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According to Ancestory.com: “In general, we think of a generation being about 25 years - from the birth of a parent to the birth of a child.” With that understanding, by the end of this blog, you’ll either concur or dissent that we’re going to see the elimination of software piracy within the next 25-years. I look at Office 365 as a piracy elimination tool as Microsoft’s third greatest move. The first was acquiring the MS-DOS operating system from the north Seattle computer shop on the cheap (see the book “GATES” for details). The second was the creation of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program where the best minds in the business provided no-cost technical support to customers on forum board and other “community goodness” vehicles.

This is how it will work:

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Site24x7 Launches Partner Program

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site247Cloud infrastructure monitoring service Site24x7 introduced its partner program that will enable cloud, platform and service providers to deliver website, server and application performance management.

Site24x7 provides low cost, robust application performance monitoring, which is ideal for SMBs and customers looking for comprehensive and customized solutions.

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Harryblog 7.29A common question and concern in the vendor community is the impact of Office 365. On the surface, Office 365 facilitates the notion of doing more with a lot less. That’s not good for OEMs selling servers and other vendors whose business models are predicated on growth. But there bright spots:

Pictured: IT Pros looking at Office 365-ready devices at a Windows 8.1 device bar at a recent workshop in Toronto, Onatrio Canada

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SkyKick lands $3M in financing

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SkyKick 300x300Like the Cloud technologies fueling the market, cloud migration is creating major opportunities for IT services companies and their investors. Thus it is unsurprising that SkyKick, a Seattle-based start-up that specializes in Office 365 migrations, has secured $3 million in funding – bringing total investment in the company to $7.2 million.

“This round will help us reach thousands more partners around the globe,” said SkyKick co-Founder and co-CEO Todd Schwartz in a statement.

The company plans to use the money to double its staff from 40 to 80 people and to seize the global opportunity for automating Office 365 migrations, including the sales, planning, migration and management.

To date, SkyKick has helped thousands of IT solution providers and distributors like Ingram Micro and SYNNEX Corporation move thousands of businesses to Office 365. Its founding team consists of co-CEOs Evan Richman and Todd Schwartz, who held various leadership positions on Microsoft's Office and Bing teams, and CTO Brad Younge, a member of the founding team at Drugstore.com.

This rounds also adds several strategic private equity investors as well as some notable angel investors such as investor/advisor to Facebook, Twitter and Urber, Tim Ferris, former Qwikki COO, Navin Thukkaram, and Ironfire Capital.

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ricohRicoh Americas Corporation announced the release of the Ricoh App for Google Cloud Print web printing services, which will make its business-class printers and multifunction products compatible with Google Cloud Print.

This application allows organizations to print from devices with Internet access without the need for costly print servers and drivers, lowering the cost of business-class document services.

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Microsoft LogoEarlier today, Microsoft announced that it has expanded its recent Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) to include two new military bases in the Southwest. The two additions are Camp Pendleton in California, and Fort Hood in Texas, which are two of the largest bases in the country.

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ABIABI Research analysis indicates that OEM and Aftermarket Telematics will become dominant sectors for cellular M2M connections, growing to at least a 40 percent connection.

As OEM and Aftermarket Telematics become dominant, advanced metering infrastructure and remote monitoring and control are expected to lose their positions as top market share for cellular connections.

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As a small business owner, you probably know a thing or two about marketing. After all, getting word out and spreading the message about your goods and services is how you grow your business. So here's a question for you: What does potato salad have to do with your marketing? The chances are, unless you're running a salad bar, relatively little. But now there's a marketing lesson to be learned from this popular side dish thanks to a young, and hungry man, called Zack Brown.

Zack started a Kickstarter campaign, perhaps half jokingly, to raise the money to make a potato salad. He was only seeking $10 but his savvy campaign has now raised $52,000 in donations to date. That's a lot of green stuff going into just one salad!

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that attracts entrepreneurs, musician, artists, designers, authors or anyone else looking to raise some money for their project. In exchange for a donation, users receive a reward. For example, if a band is trying to record a new album, a small-time donor might receive a digital download of the album while someone investing more could be offered an autographed vinyl version of the album.

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Parallels Shakes Up O365 SMB Delivery

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toddcarter harryblog 7.28Seeking to bring order to chaos, Parallels recently launched SmartStart for Office 365 to help resellers, VARs and MSPs provision, implement and manage Office 365 and other services. But more on that in a moment.

Pictured: Todd Carter from Parallels demonstrating his company’s solutions

In meeting with John Zanni, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), he sees the market suffering from a service provider sprawl problem. SMBs are consuming more cloud services, with up to half of those purchases being direct. So you have SMBs having to manage different technologies from different companies with no integration. That’s causing SMBs to focus more on IT than running their business. “We need to get back to the VAR/trusted advisor model” Zanni stated. “Parallels’ mission is to help solve the service provider sprawl problem.”

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The week that was – July, 28th, 2014

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Good news for the IT channel in Spiceworks’ State of IT Survey

SpiceWorksAccording to the most recent edition of Spiceworks’ annual State of IT report IT budgets are on the rise and will drive increased adoption of the cloud – and especially Backup and Disaster Recovery services – over the next year. More than 1,100 IT pros from North America and EMEA responded to the survey by the Austin, Texas-based IT support company, which found that almost half of respondents (42 percent) plan to increase their annual spending over the next year, while only 16 percent expected a decrease in spending. This will lead to hiring for 40 percent of respondents. The survey also dug into what trends are currently driving business and presenting the most promising opportunities in the IT industry. Cloud services are at the top of the list with 65 percent of North American respondents saying they use the cloud while the number for EMEA was 56 percent. Furthermore, eight percent of companies plan to adopt cloud services within the next six months. Only 27 percent of respondents indicated that the cloud is not going to be part of their immediate future. The survey also found that mobility is not losing any momentum, with 68 percent claiming they already have corporate BYOD policies in place. Of those, 60% supporting employee-owned smartphones, 51% support employee-owned tablets and 38 percent support employees’ laptops.

Latest Catbird release provides OpenStack security integration

catbirdScotts Valley, Calif.-based Catbird released the latest version of its eponymous security policy automation and enforcement suite. While previous iterations of the solution only offered logic-based security for VMware networks, the 6.0 release adds the ability to protect OpenStack powered cloud services. The Catbird solution is designed to work with the virtualized infrastructure typical of today’s networks and clouds – filling a hole the company says is left by firewalls and intrusion detection systems that still function the same way they did 10 years ago. According to the company this is typical of 90 percent of its customers. The company expects the next five years mark a major shift from physical to virtual security systems that can match the automation, agility and awareness of the rest of the data center stack, delivering reduced costs more effective security and flexibility. Catbird is currently recruiting VARs and MSPs as it builds a channel program.

Microsoft CEO Nadella talks transition

microsoft logo-100029828-galleryThe conversation during Microsoft’s Q4 earnings call was all about transition as the company posted strong growth numbers. "On an operating basis, we grew revenue 10 percent and operating income 12 percent," said CEO Satya Nadella. "We accelerated our commercial cloud business to a $4.4 billion annual run rate. And perhaps more importantly, we made bold and disciplined decisions to define our core as a productivity and platform company for the mobile first, cloud first world."

The company reported revenue of $23.38 billion for Q4, up more than 17 percent year on year, while net income dropped more than 7 percent to $4.61 billion. The numbers for the fiscal year end were also strong, with revenues of $86.83 billion, up more than 11 percent from the previous year, generating net income of $22.07 billion for the year, up 1 percent.

Last week the company announced it would lay off 18,000 workers – 12,500 from Nokia, which it acquired before Nadella took over and over his rumoured objections. This will lead to a restructuring charge of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion which it will be realized in fiscal 2015.

Nadella made several product announcements during the call. For example, the company will not be divesting its Xbox division, something called for by some investors. Of particular interest to the channel, Nadella announced plans to "streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one, single converged operating system for screens of all sizes." The company currently sells and supports different OS’ for PC’s (Windows 8.1), The Surface tablet (Windows RT) and smartphones (Windows Phone).

VMware beats street with strong license, services

VMware logo blk RGB 72dpiLike several other tech companies that recently announced their numbers (e.g.: Blackberry) VMware beat analysts’ performance expectations with strong revenues for Q2 2014. The results were led by strong growth in both licensing and services and continue to lay the foundation for VMware's three targeted growth areas: software-defined data centers, hybrid clouds and end-user computing. Q2 revenues were $1.46 billion, up 17 percent from a year earlier and significantly higher than the 1.35 billion expected by Wall Street analysts. VMware also reported GAAP earnings of $167 million (38 cents per share), down from $245 million (57 cents per share), a decline the company attributed to its acquisition of mobile device management developer AirWatch in February.

Juniper Networks to divest Junos Pulse suite for $250 million

JuniperJuniper Networks announced it will sell its Junos Pulse mobile security portfolio to Siris Capital for $250 million. "Pulse is a good asset. The issue is that it's not in line with our strategy, which is very much focused on cloud and High-IQ networks and how those markets are shaping," Juniper CEO Shaygan Kheradipir said during an earnings call with analysts. New York City-based Siris Capital is a private equity firm concentrated on technology investments. Both companies promised to work together to ensure customers and partners are fully supported through the transition. Juniper posted Q2 sales of $1.2 billion, a 7 percent increase from the same period last year, while net income for the quarter increased 125 percent to $221.1 million. Product revenue for Junos Pulse fell 21 percent from $19.3 million to $15.9 million, while the portfolio raked in and additional $15.5 million in services.

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Provincial Development Group, Inc. announced its president, Blain Wease will be a presenter at CompTIA ChannelCon 2014. His presentation will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 4.

“The IT space is in a tremendous season of opportunity and transition,” says Wease. “I look forward to discussing tangible ways of navigating transformation and transition with business leaders who are walking through these waters in real time.”

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Unvired-LogoUnvired, Inc. today announced the release of its Application Development Platform for Wearables, allowing developers to build applications for Wearables including smart glasses and smart watches.

Along with the release of this platform, Unvired launched its first Glass and Wear applications that integrate SAP, bringing information from SAP onto Wearables.

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Registration Link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/363612904

Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:00 - 11:00 AM PDT

Presented by: David Maffei, VP, Global Channel Sales, Carbonite and Harry Brelsford, Founder and Chairman, SMB Nation

Carbonite is very excited to announce its new Partner Program designed to help you differentiate yourself from your competitors and provide you with the programs and tools to make the most of every sales opportunity. As we evolve our channel first strategy, we set out to re-design the partner program to help support and grow both our respective businesses. Join us to learn more about new:

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Can SMBs engage customers better?

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Stijn PhotoBy Stijn Hendrikse, CMO of MightyCall

As customers get in touch through multiple channels, SMBs are turning to cloud-based call center technologies to create deeper, more meaningful engagements.

Companies big and small know how a momentary lapse in customer service can have huge consequences. Keep a customer too long on the line and he hangs up. After that, he goes on to Facebook and Twitter to share his poor experience with hundreds of followers.

While companies with sizeable budgets can hire entire teams to handle voice calls at a call center and still respond quickly to customers on social media, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are often constrained by cost, manpower and know-how.

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level3Level 3 Communications, Inc. announced it was selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to deliver a comprehensive suite of local area network managed services for the agency within the National Capital Region under the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 3 contract.

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continuumTony Scott, VMware CIO and senior vice president, has joined the Board of Advisors for channel-exclusive managed IT services solutions provider Continuum. He previously worked as a CIO at Microsoft and The Walt Disney Company and was General Motors Corporation’s CTO of Information Systems & Services.

Tony Scott will also speak at Continuum’s first user conference, Navigate 2014, which will take place September 21-23 in Boston.

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Pronto Logo2Local SEO focuses on searches within a defined geographic area. You’ve probably already experienced local search by typing something like “best restaurants in Seattle” into Google which will return a list of local restaurants along with a map showing their locations.

Appearing in these local search results is very important for small businesses because the majority of their customers are located in a set area around their business. So what do you need to do to appear in these search results? Here are 4 basic steps that all small businesses should be taking to improve their local search results:

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About PowerSource Online

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PowerSourceOnline.com is the largest B2B computer, printer, networking and telecom exchange that connects buyers and sellers of IT parts. The online marketplace for buyers and sellers of telecom systems and parts, networking equipment, computers and laptops and other IT equipment is the largest online network for the secondary telecommunication and IT marketplace. Since its creation in 1997, PowerSource remains committed to providing quality sourcing and disposition solutions of hard-to-find, excess, discontinued, obsolete and end-of-life computer parts and systems. With a global member base of over 2000 members consisting of Dealers, Resellers, Brokers and Service Companies, locating computer parts, systems, telecommunication equipment, peripherals, printers and networking equipment has never been easier! In 2010, Telecom Finders joined the PowerSource Online website and community to add telecom parts and equipment to the already expansive IT and computer parts and equipment database.

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AttachedApps SidebarAd rev3The growth of Office365 is enabling solution providers to extend their reach into the SMB customer segment in ways never possible before. However, there are some gaps in Office365 functionality, and Microsoft is increasingly looking for partners to fill them. One of the main areas of opportunity is to address the #1 business pain point for SMB’s: retaining, managing and growing customers. attachedapps are uniquely designed to enable partners to take advantage of that opportunity, while increasing their level of service to customers and driving incremental revenue. The apps are hosted on Microsoft Azure, and are sold on a subscription basis. Each app is designed to be very simple and inexpensive, yet flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of customer types and needs.

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Get ready for SysAdmin's Day

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SpiceWorksIt pros, especially those who provide any measure of tech support to “regular” people, are usually an underappreciated lot. I have a friend who regularly fills her Facebook wall with rants about how stupid “regular” people are and about how they blame her whenever they screw up their technology.

“Of course your keyboard stopped working when you spilled your coffee in it.”

“No you didn’t delete the Internet.”

“It means any key not the any key.”

“You utter and complete dolt!”

I made that last one up, but I’m sure she thinks it every day. I’m equally sure it’s common throughout the tech support community.

Anyhow, there is some evidence suggesting that IT people, especially tech support, occupy a rung on the social and professional ladder somewhere between Comcast retention reps and lawyers.

That’s why several IT focussed companies, including Symantec, Rackspace, Canon and Spiceworks, have been trumpeting SysAdmin Day. In fact, Spiceworks has expanded the concept into a Christmas-like season with a 12 Days of Sysmas concept, complete with daily giveaways and contests.

Founded in 2000 by Ted Kekatos, SysAdmin Day is an annual day of appreciation for IT pros.

“My inspiration for the holiday was a print ad that HP was running showing their new model at the time, an HP LaserJet 4000 printer,” Kekatos told Spiceworks in a 2011 interview. “I had just bought several of them. The ad showed a sysadmin sitting in his cube. Outside of his cube was a line of users bringing fruit baskets and flowers. I tore out the ad and showed it to my coworkers. I thought ‘Hey this is great! A sysadmin is getting flowers, fruit and wine from his users!’ So that was how System Administrator Appreciation Day 1.0 got started.”

Kekatos went home and registered the name and put up a simple website picking the last Friday in July because it “seemed like a good day to have a company party with ice cream and cake.”

“We’re all about IT pros,” says Jen Slaski, Exec. Director, Marketing Communications for the Austin, Texas-based Spiceworks, adding that the company which provides networking and solutions for IT staffers has been doing something to celebrate the event every year since it opened its doors in 2006.

This year you can download all kinds of cool SysAdmin Day things from Spiceworks, including:

sysmas-shirt-renderThe company also ran a contest for a funny T-shirt (they ordered 250 and had 4000 entries in the first day), is running a streeter called IT Ambush – one of those go-out-and-interview-the-common-man features like Jay Leno used to do (or Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans if you live north of the 49th Parallel) – on itsYouTube channelthat asks those “regular” people what their SysAdmin does for them, and will live stream a special SysAdmin Day edition of its next CTRL+ALT+TECH episode at 10am CDT Friday, July 25th. (You can find out how to tune in here or, if you’re in Austin, you can attend in person and be part of the live studio audience. Lunch will be served.)

It’s not shocking that Spiceworks has embraced the event so vigorously. Today there are about 5 million IT workers in the Spiceworks network (out of a total of about 15 million sys admins globally), collectively supporting about 104 million workers in 1.8 million companies, and influencing about $570 billion of the global $3.8 trillion IT industry.

The whole thing has been a huge success for the company, which provides networking and management solutions for the IT community. “That’s one of the cool things about this,” says Slaski. “We came up with the whole concept for our existing users. But now we are getting new people coming into our community and participating. We’ve also seen other tech vendors jumping on the bandwagon and doing their own promotions around it.”

So, to everyone who has provided me with tech support over the years, Happy Sysadmin Day. It’s your day so kick back with a beer and put your feet up. But make it a quick one okay? My computer keeps showing me this unhappy face emoticon on a blue screen and a “your computer needs to restart” message:

BSoD in Windows 8

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