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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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Microsoft LogoMicrosoft this week released the findings of a survey of worldwide financial institutions and how they use technology, particularly security technology, in their organizations. This week’s results are slated to be part of a four-section blog series from the technology giant, which will later include results from government, healthcare and retail sectors. Data for this survey was collected from over 12,000 respondents, all of whom used Microsoft’s Cloud Security Readiness Tool (CSRT) between November 2012 and February 2014. Let’s take a look at a few of the key findings of this report.

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continuumContinuum recently announced that it will be the exclusive sponsor for all of HTG Peer Groups’ monthly online meetings for 2014. This is a great expansion in the current partnership between the two organizations. Continuum has been a long-time partner and sponsor of HTG’s quarterly Centralized Meetings.

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By Rene Reinsberg, General Manager/Vice President of Product, GoDaddy

 

I am in Boston on a business trip and as I am walking down the street between meetings, my smartphone suddenly vibrates with a notification:

 

“Rene, it’s been 4 weeks since your last haircut. You have 1.5h until your next meeting. 5-star rated Judy’s Hair is nearby and is available right now. Say “book appointment” and get a $10 discount.”

 

Of course I go ahead. The above scenario from the not-too-far-away future is just one of the many examples and use cases that will impact how the world’s small businesses, in particular brick-and-mortar businesses like Judy’s Hair, will attract and retain customers. It’s a radical change from how customers used to connect with businesses; it is the Discovery Marketing revolution.

 

What has changed? I would have traditionally noticed looking in the mirror in the morning that my hair is getting too long and hence concluded that I need a haircut soon (‘intent to purchase’).

 

Assuming that I was happy with my usual hair salon and they had availability, the ‘discovery’ and ‘selection’ steps would have been limited. However, I may have heard or read about a better place (‘discovery’) or in a scenario where I was not satisfied with my usual choice or where there was no availability, I would actively engage in ‘discovery’, leveraging a variety of signals (local search, social, ads, coupons) that eventually lead to a decision (‘selection’) and booking of an appointment (‘purchase’), likely via phone.

Illustration 1 below shows how the typical customer journey is changing.

Guest 4.29.2014

Illustration 1: Typical Customer Journey – Traditional vs. Discovery Marketing


A New Category

The ways consumers find information about businesses and connect with them is changing. It has always been clear that ‘discoverability is key – both offline and online’, particular for brick-and-mortar businesses like Judy’s Hair. Forrester was among the first to use the termDiscovery Marketing to acknowledge how consumers’ behavior has been changing with respect to discovering businesses online:

 

“Where natural search results once were the primary way users discovered content or websites, now non-search engine media such as mobile apps, social networking sites, and consumer review hubs are veritable contenders in consumers’ paths to discovery. […] To ensure that SMBs are “findable” across all different types of media, we believe that we must shift the scope of our work (on behalf of the SMB) from just buying paid search ads and conducting SEO projects to enabling brand discovery — a practice we’ve dubbed “discovery marketing”

 

Having been helping local businesses get found with Locu, and now GoDaddy, I couldn’t agree more. I want to take this a step further and extend the framework by calling out five principles that my colleagues and I see at the heart of Discovery Marketing: mobile, multi-channel, actionable, controllable and measurable. GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving gave a sneak preview of this framework during his keynote at the recent BIA/Kelsey conference in San Francisco.

 

While I have no doubt that we will see a lot of great innovation around new self-serve marketing products in the industry, these five principles should provide a long-term framework for any business running marketing campaigns and any vendor building discovery marketing products by taking into consideration a mix of consumer behaviors as well as the business’ standpoint.

 

Mobile

94 percent of smartphone owners look for local information on their phone, according to a study by Televox. Due to the rise of smartphones and smart devices – think Google Glass, navigation system in cars, smart watches - the time between intent and purchase is being compressed; often intent is sparked and satisfied in close-to real-time. Another recent study reveals that when consumers use mobile search to help make a decision they are 57% more likely to visit a local store and 39% more likely to call a business.

 

Mobile goes hand-in-hand with local. Geo-targeting, i.e. the ability to advertise to consumers based on their location, as well the real-time consumption aspect allow for easier customization and optimization of marketing campaigns.

The rise in mobile devices – think of the number of local businesses who now use internet-connected tablets as point-of-sale - is also helping bring business data online, enabling the above scenario where appointment availability is accessible in real-time to consumers.

 

Multi-Channel

According to a recent report by Black Box Media, 92% of consumers use online directories to research businesses in their local areas. The average searcher uses 2.5 different types of sources when looking for local business information. For local business owners, getting found on search engines, directories and social sites, like Facebook, has become de facto mandatory. Given the numerous platforms and channels, aggregation is important to streamline efforts and help SMBs save time.

 

Actionable

In the above example of the haircut, I was able to book the appointment right after finding out about the business. When consumers search for local information online, 70 percent end up connecting with the business. The increasing availability of (internet-) connected devices in small businesses, fueled by rapid growth of tablet-based Point-of-Sale and loyalty systems, is making it increasingly possible to connect consumers and businesses, beyond the phone call.

 

Controllable

Describing a scene from the movie Minority Report, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving highlighted the importance of the user being in control and surfacing content based on a set of events and criteria, such as time of day, calendar entries, and location. “The way we actually intelligently filter [content] and allow the user to be in control is going to be a necessity for [Discovery Marketing] to take off”, said Irving during his keynote speech at the recent BIA/Kelsey conference in San Francisco.

 

Measurable

Coming from a world of $10,000 newspaper ads with limited ability to track performance, small businesses want simple metrics to track campaign success; there is a trend of replacing brand dollars with metric-based spending.  A significant portion of local businesses interviewed by Street Fight as part of their Local Merchant Report 2013, said that ‘direct ROI is the No. 1 most important factor in deciding to run a local marketing campaign’[8] .  Simply put, Judy’s Hair should have an easy way to see how well marketing campaigns work, e.g. how much it costs to acquire me as a customer or what an incremental $500 per month mean in terms of new customers.

 

Conclusion

We are at the beginning of an exciting, new chapter in the history of marketing. During the last decade, companies like HubSpot reinvented marketing for larger SMBs, coining the term ‘Inbound Marketing’. The next decade is about enabling smaller SMBs, the hair salon at the corner and the car repair shop down the street. In a recent survey, 76% of SMBs said ‘attracting new customers’ is the #1 topic that keeps them ‘up at night’. We believe Discovery Marketing products will help SMBs grow their businesses without losing sleep

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vmwareEarlier today, VMware and Forrester released the results of a late 2013 survey about the virtualization habits of SMBs. In particular, this survey was run between November and December 2013, and includes responses from 389 SMB IT Professionals from the US, UK, France and Germany.

One of the foremost findings of this survey was that 71% of respondents said they expected their virtual environment to grow within the coming year, but only 34% of those SMBs will be able to hire the additional staff to manage the growth in infrastructure. In addition, the survey showed that 53% of applications are virtualized in the SMB sector, but that only 45% are “very satisfied” with the ROI of Virtualization.

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Pronto 4.28 1While content marketing has gone mainstream in the past couple of years, MSPs and other technology providers understood the importance of educating prospects long ago. Explaining the value of new technology and what it can do for a business has always been the foundation of marketing for MSPs.

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The Week that was – April 27, 2014

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Dimension Data dramatically expands U.S. Presence with Nexus acquisition

dimension-data-logoThe biggest news of the week was far and away the next (and possibly final) phase in Dimension Data’s growth-through-acquisition strategy. The global ICT solution provider announced the acquisition of Valencia, Calif.-based Nexus. Along with an additional 40 percent of the US market, and near 50 percent jump in US revenues, Dimension picked up 19 Nexus offices throughout the West, Southwest and Southeast regions, where Dimension is looking to grow. Valued at $471 million, Nexus offers clear synergies for Dimension. Both companies are prominent Cisco partners. In fact Nexus, which has nearly doubled its sales since 2011, was named the 2014 Cisco Global Americas Partner of the Year, 2014 Cisco Nationals Services Partner of the Year and 2014 US Cisco Capital Partner of the Year.Just a few months ago, Dimension Data expanded its European footprint with the purchase of NextiraOne. Company executives say they expect most of their projected growth (the company wants to double revenue globally and triple US revenue) to now come organically, with some small acquisitions still possible. The terms of the Nexus deal were not disclosed.

Birch Communications announces plans to buy Cbeyond, prompts investigations

BirchNational MSP Cbeyond will be acquired by telecom services provider Birch Communications in a deal worth $323 million, but the announcement was met by raised eyebrows and has prompted numerous investigations by law firms concerned that the deal was undervalued and that alternatives may not have been fully considered. Combined, the two companies, which are both based in Atlanta, GA, would form a national organization focused on communications, cloud and managed services with annual sales of about $700 million. If the current deal goes through Cbeyond shareholders will receive between $9.97 and $10.00 per share. News of the acquisition prompted Cbeyond shared to jump 38 percent to $9.83, up from closing price of $7.08 on the previous trading day.

 

New Microsoft CEO puts his spin of company in first earnings call

microsoft logo-100029828-galleryIn Satya Nadella’s first earnings call since taking over the hotseat as CEO of Microsoft, the company announced earnings that beat Wall Street's profit expectations for Fiscal Q3. Nadella then shared details of how he is going to steer the ship going forward. For the quarter ended March 31, the company reported a profit of $5.66 billion on revenue of $20.40 billion. That’s 68 cents per share, which was up from Wall Street analyst expectations of 63 cents per share on revenue of $20.49 billion. Microsoft's Commercial division saw revenue rise 7 percent year on year, while Devices & Consumer division revenue jumped 12 percent. Microsoft's Commercial Licensing business increased sales by 10 percent during the quarter, generating around half of the company’s overall revenue. Office 365 sales were up, driving adoption of the Azure cloud offering. Even the Windows Surface tablet is showing signs of market growth, posting $500 million during the quarter, up 50 percent year on year though still well down from the $893 million it made over the holiday season. Nadella claimed Microsoft will continually evaluate its plans for becoming a "mobile-first, cloud-first" company and suggested that the software giant would not hesitate to jettison products and services that underperform or which don't fit the mobility and cloud-based vision.

TigerDirect joins Huawei channel program

TigerDirectTigerDirect, one of the largest online resellers of IT equipment to business and end-user customers, is continuing to expand its B2B offerings with the addition of Huawei's server, storage and networking products. Miami-based TigerDirect has been aggressively pursuing the B2B market for almost two years and has been fielding requests for Huawei products, so the move was a natural one, said the company. For Huawei, the new partnership accelerates its recently announced US-based SMB drive, adding 500 more salespeople in a market the company has identified as a specific target.

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CompTIA Launches Dream IT Initiative

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comptia logo smallEarlier this week, CompTIA announced a new initiative to encourage women to pursue careers in the IT Industry. The program, called Dream IT, is a speaker outreach program through which women and men currently employed in IT fields will visit schools to share their experiences and inspire young women to get degrees in technology.

Nancy Hammervik, Senior Vice President, Industry Relations, CompTIA, said this about the new program in a press release this week: “Our goal is to create a grassroots movement and reach 10,000 women and girls with information about the opportunities, rewards and value of IT professions.”

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David Gerhart, an IT Consultant with over twenty-five years of experience, recently contacted us with information on an interesting article he posted to his blog.

In this article, titled “Social Media — New Economy Opportunity,” he draws parallels between the first twenty years of internet occupations, and the recent boom in roles designed for social media experts

Writes Gerhart:

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Attend.com recently released a free app for event coordinators to manage attendee check-in and seating. This app is currently available on iOS devices, with Android availability to come later in 2014.

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bob vogel augustBy Bob Vogel, B2 Marketing

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to generate honest-to-goodness qualified leads – that is, having an opportunity to pitch your services to organizations actually ready and able to do business with you.

Most service providers and MSPs I know find marketing and sales to be the hardest part about running their businesses. In fact, most have resigned themselves to relying almost exclusively on word-of-mouth referrals for new clients.

If you’re in that boat, then you certainly can’t afford to squander those precious few opportunities. You need to “bat 1000” when it comes to closing those leads and turning them into clients.

There’s some great free information available for you in an information-packed 16-minute webinar presented by noted IT Sales Guru, Gil Cargill.

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dandhjpgD&H Distributing recently announced that it has signed an agreement with Google to offer the company’s Chrome Management Console to D&H SMB business and K-12 education resellers. In fact, D&H is currently one of the only companies with permission to sell this particular solution in the Channel. D&H resellers may either offer this solution as a total package, or as a “management-as-a-service” offering.

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RFTRapidFire Tools, Inc. recently released the Network Detective HIPAA Compliance module, a comprehensive compliance tool designed to help MSPs navigate the often-choppy waters of HIPAA. Mike Mittel, President of RapidFire Tools, took some time to speak with me today about the new module, as well as the current HIPAA environment in the IT field.

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Matt KP event14It was recently announced that Matt Makowicz will be joining SMB Nation’s Harrybbb at Karl Palachuk’s third annual SMB Online Conference. This event, taking place June 24-26 allows attendees to listen live and/or gain access to recorded sessions for later review.

Matt, who was a speaker on last year’s IT Business Reboot 2013, will bringing 20 years of sales and marketing experience, 17 of which have been in the IT field, to this year’s event. As of this writing, his session will cover the best M&A practices for Small IT, for which he will be utilizing his extensive knowledge in the areas of IT company evaluation and mergers/acquisitions to present.

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Earlier today, Manta and Dell released the results of a March 2014 survey titled “Money v. Happiness” that showed some surprising trends about how SMB owners think and what they find important. To be exact, this report is a collection of 3025 Manta SMBs from between March 24 and March 27. The most intriguing finding was that 37% of those polled said that their motivation for being successful is the sense of personal achievement, while 28% said that they were driven to be financially stable.

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Happy Earth Day 2014!

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earthday flagAs many of you know, today marks the 44th year of Earth Day. This day of action, which began in the US in 1970, featured peaceful demonstrations for environmental change. Originally observed on university campuses and in communities across the US, Earth Day went global in 1990, and is currently observed in 192 countries.

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Facebook Graph Search for MSPs - Part 1

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pronto 4.21 1Social networking sites have become a significant marketing platform, especially for all small businesses. For many businesses, these platforms are the easiest and most inexpensive way to reach out to customers. You cannot even imagine a marketing program that does not include social networking platforms like Facebook. Who would not make use of a top social site that has over a billion users? In fact, a Facebook Page is already a must-have for pretty much every business. The best thing about using it is that Facebook's developers continue to think of ways to improve features and service, benefitting all of its users.

One of the key components to Facebook is the all-important Graph Search, first introduced almost a year ago. Graph Search was a significant change to the social networking site, yet many businesses are still unaware as to how it works and how it can benefit their business.

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The week that was – April 18, 2014

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Happy Easter everybody! Here is your long weekend edition carrying the news you don’t want to miss from the past week.

SAP reports positive performance in Q1 with cloud, HANA leading the way

sap-logoThe first quarter was a decent one for SAP, a fact that the company is crediting to positive performances from its cloud, its HANA in-memory computing platform offerings and to its channel. Now with more than 900 VAR and OEM partners and more that 1200 ISVs, SAP is continuing to push its cloud and HANA offerings through the channel. For the quarter ending on March 31, SAP reported revenue of $5.12 billion, up three percent from the same period in 2013. After-tax profit was $740 million, also up three percent from last year. Software revenue declined five percent to $863.3 million, but software and software-related service revenue climbed five percent to $4.23 billion. The real win came in cloud subscriptions and support revenue, which grew 38 percent in the quarter pushing the company’s annual run rate for cloud revenue to near $1.5 billion. SAP is now boasting approximately 36 million users.

Riverbed rebrands its Granite, eyes greater converged infrastructure play

riverbed logoConverged infrastructure vendor Riverbed Technology has announced plans for an updated and rebranded version of its Granite platform that will have more play in branch offices and distributed enterprises. The company is calling the new offering SteelFusion 3.0 – a solution that combines branch servers, storage, networking, WAN optimization and virtualization infrastructure, making it possible to host and manage branch office information in a centralized data center without compromising the locally hosted feel for end users. SteelFusion is an evolution of Granite, and thus built around a central appliance in the data center and an edge appliance in the branch or remote office. The data stored in the central data center is transmitted to the branch via the central appliance which feeds data to the edge device with high enough performance that users won't realize they are actually working with data located off site. According to the company the new SteelFusion brand will reposition the product as a full, converged infrastructure stack, rather than a platform primarily identified with storage, like Granite.

IBM emphasises channel partners in SoftLayer cloud play

IBM-logo1IBM is turning to channel partners to help it step up its SoftLayer cloud services business and offset the significant setbacks the company has been experiencing on the hardware side. Big Blue is making a major cloud services push, including an updated channel program for SoftLayer that will boost reseller margins, make more channel co-marketing money available, and expand in-person partner training. At the heart of the new SoftLayer partner program are bigger partner discounts on recurring SoftLayer business. IBM is promising five to 20 percent increases on discounts for deals worth between $15,000 and $100,000 in recurring revenue. SoftLayer's existing referral program – which pays 10 percent the first year, 8 percent in year two, and 6 percent thereafter – will continue without change. According to the company, IBM would ultimately like to see the number of channel-led accounts increase from 40 percent to 50 percent by the end of the year.

Trend Micro simplifies product choices for SMBs

TrendMicroAware of the complexity of its growing product portfolio, Trend Micro wants to make it easier for partners to make sure they are selling the right solutions to the right customers – i.e.: not selling stuff to people who won’t use it and who will thus wind up dissatisfied with their ROI. According to the company, providing the right mix of products is critical in markets with restricted IT budgets and thus it has unveiled a new strategy that will simplify packaging, especially between SMB and enterprise markets. The new product packaging gives customers the ability to mix on-premise and cloud versions of the security solution, thus supporting hybrid deployment strategies --- something the company has seen increasing. Endpoint protection functionality can be purchased separately or bundled with mail, web, and collaboration server and gateway security.

Other changes from Trend Micro include:

  • A new promotion called Switch To Trend which is aimed at displacing Symantec, McAfee, Sophos and Kaspersky Lab with license portability.
  • Application Control, a new whitelisting option which enables IT teams to set policies on types of software applications, like restricting the installation and use of P2P file-sharing apps.
  • It also boosted its hosted email security suite to support both inbound and outbound protection for Microsoft Office 365.

Google fires next salvo in cloud services price war with Amazon, Microsoft

google logoSearch engine giant Google announced lower than expected first quarter financial results, but that didn’t deter the company from announcing plans to increase its investment in cloud computing infrastructure to continue to drive down costs for enterprise customers. The company, which is the midst of a price war with rivals Amazon and Microsoft, said it would pass savings from lower digital storage costs directly to customers in order to attract more users to its infrastructure as a service offerings. Google reported net income was up three percent in Q1, hitting $3.65 billion and a 19 percent increase in sales to $15.4 billion. Google’s biggest capital expense is increasing data center capacity as the company ensures it is capable of handling the anticipated demand for cloud services.

VMware expands its public cloud with BDR-as-a-Service

VMware logo blk RGB 72dpiVMware finally launched the cloud-based disaster-recovery-as-a-service offering it hs been talking about. This marks the second product offering to go live on Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor’s public cloud in a matter of weeks. The new service, which starts at $835/month for one TB of storage and 20 GB of RAM, backs up virtual machines running in VMware private clouds to the vCloud Hybrid Service public cloud at intervals ranging from 15 minutes to 24 hours. The company is highlighting the ease of deployment and management, and the lower cost of entry the service – which VMware is targeting at midsize companies – offers. Channel partners can generate additional revenues from the new service by advising customers on which apps should be protected by the service or by running the service on behalf of those customers.

IRS misses Windows XP Deadline, buys extended support from Microsoft

IRS logoIt appears that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service didn’t get the memo about Microsoft’s end of support for Windows XP in time to migrate and has now signed a deal with the software giant for the provision of custom support and security patches for the obsolete operating system. According to a report in the Washington Post, the IRS says it has migrated 52,000 of its 110,000 XP PCs to Windows 7 so far and expects to complete the transition by the end of the year. In total the migration will cost the agency $30 million. Moreover, the agency insists that the situation will have no impact on the processing of individual tax returns. The cost of the special deal with Microsoft was not disclosed, although the IRS claims it is lower that $500,000. This isn’t the only special support deal Microsoft has with its large government clients. The U.S. Department Of Defense is also still in the process if migrating its XP fleet and negotiated extended support while the British and Dutch governments are paying millions for extended support.

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Idaho Technology CouncilWe received news from the Idaho Technology Council that Idaho’s Governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, this week signed a piece of legislation, HB 598, that will better define how Software-as-a-Service fits within the state’s tax law, and will support growth of SaaS, as well as other budding technologies in Idaho. HB 598 passed the Idaho Senate by a 33-0 majority and the Idaho House of Representatives by 58-12. This week’s legislation is the answer to a series of challenges raised by an Idaho Tax Commission bill in 2013.

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The Power of Thank You

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CAVUI was contacted by Harrybbb on Tuesday evening with the news that Cavu Networks, a long-time SMB Nation Community member (and neighbor!) posted two very nice “thank you” comments on its Facebook page. John Benjamin, Managing Director and CTO, Cavu Networks, graciously took some time out of his busy day to discuss just how far a simple “Thank you” can go.

To begin, I asked John if he felt that “thank yous” and positive comments were becoming rarer in today’s environment. He replied that he and his team actually see positive comments increasing. He attributes this to existing comments driving new customers, who then send in “thank yous” and other positive comments of their own.

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dandhjpgEarlier this week, D&H Distributing announced that it has sold over 39 million Green products since its launch of the “Go Green” campaign in 2010. Company representatives said that although this program was originally meant to foster awareness in the IT Community, and to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, it has taken on a mind of its own.

The D&H “Go Green” Program features a special “green” product filter for resellers to use in their searches, as well as a dedicated “Think Green” link on the reseller site menu, which features special offers and facts about D&H’s current green efforts.

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Continuum Launches MSP Radio Podcast

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continuum logoEarlier this month, Boston, MA-based Managed Services company, Continuum, launched a new podcast series called “MSP Radio.” Podcasts will be broadcast weekly, and community members are encouraged to subscribe for instant streaming to their iTunes lineup.

The first session, titled “The Future of Managed IT Services,” presented by the company’s VP Sales, Mark Connolly and VP Channel Sales, Mark Zahar, aired on April 10, and was a 35 minute cast focusing on industry expectations for 2014 and beyond. You can listen to a recording of this cast on the blog here. Listeners of MSP Radio are encouraged to ask live questions by using Continuum’s twitter handle: @FollowContinuum and the tag #MSPRadio.

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Plastics…err….Robots

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robots editedEveryone of a certain age reading this blog remembers the famous dialogue between Benjamin (Dustin Hofffman) and Mr. McGuire in the 1967 hit movie “The Graduate.” It goes like this:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Now in 2014, substitute the word “Robotics” for “Plastics” and you’ve got the right context to proceed.

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Systematic-Success-2014Harry has been named as one of the nine consulting IT and business experts for Karl Palachuk’s well-respected annual online conference. This year’s theme, as you can view above, is “Systematic Success,” and conference sessions will focus on the best procedures and processes SMBs need to thrive in a changing environment. This online conference, now in its third year, will take place June 24-26, 2014.

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SMB Advantage Program Ends in 6 Weeks

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Microsoft LogoWe recently received news that the Microsoft SMB Advantage Program, designed to offer SMB partners subsidies for selling qualifying Microsoft services, will come to an end on Saturday, May 31. In particular, SMB partners can offer Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Office 365, CRM Online and SQL Server Premium.

The SMB Advantage Program is a three-step process:

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Intronis Announces Spring Release ’14

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IntronisToday, Intronis, Inc. announced that it has launched the Spring Release ‘14 for its data protection platform. Notable updates include support for new platforms, such as VMware vSphere 5.5 and Exchange 2013, Hyper-V backup capabilities and physical imaging support.

“The Spring ’14 Release is a transformative announcement for Intronis and positions our partners to deliver higher-value services and enterprise-grade support,” says Chuck DeLouis, Intronis vice president of product management. “It’s extremely rewarding to see the enthusiasm our partners have for Intronis’ new Spring Release ’14 and the solutions coming shortly on our strategic roadmap.”

Tagged in: backup cloud Intronis
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