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.

2016 Salary Survey Results – Part II: F/T, Salaried, Six Figures

2016 Salary Survey Results – Part II: F/T, Salaried, Six Figures

As our 2016 salary survey journey continues, we are getting closer to what matters most: money. Last time, in Part I, we established you are well-experienced, educated and the owner. All highly desirable demographic characteristics. Let’s go a layer deeper.

You are full-time in your company. In fact, you’re likely working overtime! Very few were part-timers. With that said, you’re a W-2 employee in the US (this was nearly 60% of your income) followed by additional income in the form of owner draws and dividends (30%). Makes sense for anyone who has run a small business.

Looking more specifically at compensation, the most common response was salary with bonus (39%). Very few of you were working for an hourly wage. And only one respondent had a commission-only position. Your actual compensation clusters in the range of $91,000 to $150,000 USD. Impressive. The exact average (mean) compensation was, wait for it, was $91,000 to $100,000 which is consistent with prior years of survey. The most frequent response (mode) was exactly tied in the range of two categories: $91,000 to $100,000 and $101,000 to $125,000. All of this supports our long-running narrative that “our people make $100,000 USD per year.”

Company Revenue
Vendors and sponsors, in an eternal quest to turn geeks into resellers, are always seeking out the “big guys” at the expense of not showing love to the little guy. Our survey results offer both. The most popular response (mode) for company revenue was $1-million to $3-million, a full 29% above the next category. The average (mean) response was $251,000 to $300,000. Why is this? That’s because we have a double bell curve. We have a cluster of responses in the $51,000 to $200,000 company revenue range that is dragging down the overall average. I’d offer this is the one-person shop. But the cluster between $500,000 and $10,000,000 ($10M) represents50% of the responses (OK actually 49.99%). Something for everyone.

So what’s it all mean. A “B” grade that you’re hanging in there during changing times, transforming compensation models and shifting technology paradigms. Staying even is the new win. Congratulations.

Next week we will look into forward looking statements. Join us right here in the SMB Sunday paper!

PS – Want to make more? Attend our Office 365/Windows 10 Roadshow! Phoenix is May 10th following by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Learn more at

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Ken and Keith Redo with Channel EQ

Ken and Keith Redo with Channel EQ

It’s been too long since I caught up with Ken Thoreson and Keith Lubner. We’ve teamed in numerous initiatives over the years. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of their latest entrepreneurial endeavor, Channel EQ. Essentially Ken and Keith are pivoting a lifetime of sales, business and technology content into an Adaptive Partnering curriculum for channel organizations (vendors, distributors, etc.). It’s a smart move in a transformative time.

Let me put vendor enablement training in context. I speak with a lot of non-partisan, independent SMB channel thought leaders each month. This past week I had a confidential conversation with one well-known figure who offered that the population of resellers is declining even faster than predicted. Meanwhile the number of vendors is growing dramatically. All of this suggests that vendors need to be more efficient and effective in connecting with a contacting population. In other industries, you’d use predictive lead scoring to focus on the top converters. In the SMB channel, Channel EQ seeks to align, leverage, and optimize the four elements most critical to channel performance: Channel Partner (external), Channel Manager (internal), Sales, Service and Support (internal) and Customer (external).

So how do they do it? It’s a behavioral-based approach that focuses on the interpersonal skills of channel personnel. Without naming names, it’s long overdue as many channel leaders aren’t exactly known as nice people. It all comes down to people do business with people they like. Channel EQ hits it head-on.

The learning platform is delivered under the brand name Channel University with the tagline “Peak Channel Performance. Fast.” The delivery vehicles include:
• Self-directed online video-based modules and tutorials
• A mobile app for anywhere, anytime learning
• Live Virtual Classroom training programs facilitated by certified instructors
• Interactive and experiential classroom training programs

Concerns? Channel EQ, while having a unique approach, enters a crowded market with many players ranging from ChannelEyes to CompTIA. And don’t forget to add business coaches who burned out the MSP community and are now kissing vendor’s asses. I’ll keep you posted on how Ken and Keith do.

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Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Over the next couple blogs, I’ll review AttachedApps, a contact management system for small businesses (and I’d assert Start-Ups in particular). I’m qualified to have this conversation with you. I use AttachedApps. And I use it in a start-up. Let me use this blog for the proper context and later I’ll rock the speeds and feeds.

There is a popular philosophy about being a lean start-up.

Just as the name implies, you keep it simple stupid. I’m currently involved in a Big Data start-up in Seattle in addition to my ownership role at SMB Nation. I’ve learn a lot over the past year about what a real investor-backed start-up looks like. It’s been like earning a second MBA. One decision relevant to this conversation with to use AttachedApps as our “baby CRM” system. I can now say that I’ve used nearly every major CRM solution including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 (“Dynamics CRM”) and NetSuite. I still use a couple programs daily supporting the Big Data clients we have.

But internally, the decision was made to roll with AttachedApps from day one. Why? Simplicity! Essentially instead of being consumed with the complexity of Saleforce et al, the prevailing sentiment was to just get stuff done. I get it. When I work with the big boys (Salesforce, Dynamics CRM), you find yourself spending more time just trying to figure out how to do something. You know it can be done, you’re just not sure how to do it. Then there is the notion that most people use a fraction of the power in the big boy CRM packages. With AttachedApps, using it daily, I can honest say I’m using the majority of the horsepower that comes standard! 
Bottom line: Rethink the technology you deploy in a start-up. Complexity is overkill. Consider simplicity like AttachedApps.

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Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Start-up; Poverty and Entrepreneurs

Harry here and be forewarned. I’m about to go intellectual on you. This is an interesting New York Times article about how entrepreneurial communities do and do no develop in non First World countries. Hint: It has to do with savings and capital.

Laura Doering was at a rest stop in Panama about five years ago, waiting for her bus to refuel, when she saw six vendors clustered together selling almost exactly the same snacks. She wondered: Why doesn’t anyone sell something different?

Read on here 

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SMB Salary Survey for 2016 is OPEN!


Wonder how you measure up? Here is your chance to both provide community data and then discover the results in a future blog. Think of it as training data for a BIG DATA experiment in SMB. You can participate confidentially and contribute to the data set. The more participants we have, the greater the value of the data. Again, we’ll happily share the results with you.

Thank you in advance and participate in the survey here:

We appreciate the generous support of Atera ( in underwriting this community survey.

salary survey artowrk

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Breaking News – 2016 Readership Results!

Thank you for participating in our 2016 Readership Survey – it’s good for us and good for you. Here are the results:

Nearly 2/3 of you defined yourself as MSPs at 62.84%. The remaining responses included break-fix, consultant, system integrator, business consultant and ISV.

Technical content areas you are interested in, in order of strength, are: Office 365, Windows 10, and Windows Server. As you can see in the figure, AWS, Azure and Skype are less popular topics for you.

Not surprisingly, with respect to segments, you want coverage on the small and medium business (SMB) area. You are not interested in government and education. Enterprise, home and consumer were all tied for a distant second.

In terms of general areas, you were very interested in more coverage of SECURITY! Second was legacy technologies and third was cloud. Losers included Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) with both topics tied for last.

Your interests in “styles” was won by the “How To…Business” category followed by a tie with “How To…Technical” and stories on products and services. The notion of “Best of” contests finished a distant last.

When it came to social topics, you want more coverage on Start-ups, Shutdowns and Start-overs. The good news is that we’re closely listening to you and intend to make these area(s) pillars of our coverage in 2016! Tied for second was industry hiring and firings and gossip (lawsuits, etc.). Last place goes to political coverage. I thought political coverage might be a bit higher with the 2016 election year in the US.

Finally, a couple of standout comments included desire for an improvement in our newsletter being displayed on mobile devices, Hybrid Exchange/O365 articles and more technical content. There was also a shout-out to SharePoint. One person shared that “I expect this to provide content related to my work and revenue streams.”

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This Isn’t Your Father’s Online University!: Part II of III

In my last installment, I painted the picture about the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities’ (APSCU) annual convention held in Denver, Colo. in early June. I also shared my interview with Lauren Weymouth, vice president of business development at Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute on the East Coast. You can read that here.

This installment speaks towards the observations on the state of private colleges and universities from the perspective of Jim Hutton, publisher of Career Education Review and director at Keiser University

For those of you that don’t recognize his name, suffice it to say he is a well-respected industry veteran, having served as executive chairman of the board and channel CEO for Anthem Education until 2012 and co-founded Education Corporation of America (Virginia College) and served as its CEO until 2006.WP 20150604 12 38 32 Pro

What Hutton suggested was a recurring theme I’ve heard in my journey to understand how learning institutions are recruiting students.

“I concur with others that have expressed that referrals and relationships are still the best customers,” Hutton said.

He fancies himself as an old-school player where too much emphasis is being placed on pay-per-lead and he offers that schools are generally unhappy. Point well taken, but it could well reflect that said schools are in their infancy of implementing effective predictive lead scoring programs.

Shifting the conversation away from leads, Hutton said that schools are engaged in a flight to quality.

“The measurement today is how many graduates there are,” Hutton said.

What was unique about my conversation with Hutton was looking into his role as a publisher. Hutton is now the publisher of Career Education Review, which holds itself as a journal born as a way for school owners to exchange ideas.

Today, the Career Education Review has evolved into the comprehensive source of news, best practices, research and commentary that anyone involved with the career college sector needs and wants. In its own words, the Career Education Review is dedicated to providing top management, owners, investors, sector leaders and suppliers with the in-depth information required to survive and prosper in today's education arena.

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WPC Wrap

I’ll take one last look back at the recently completed Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) held in mid-July in Orlando, Fla. Then it’s forward to the future.

First the fun, and then the facts.WPC Wrap Harry Posing

As usual, it was non-stop merriment clouded only by the summer humidity. As always, there were too many parties to attend. I didn’t have to pay for nourishment for nearly a week as I ate my way through the WPC party circuit! The party scene is worth the price of admission alone and not just for the fun. I’d offer it’s where relationships start, strengthen and legends are born. I often say that it’s the evening where I do “business” best!

Interestingly – the “best booth” I personally observed was the simple IBM booth with no accessories. A lady sitting in a chair was handing out job listings. She was poaching Microsoft employees and partners right on the show floor carpet, a smart move in light of the Microsoft layoffs. I’m sure her $50,000 investment in a double-wide booth was worth it!

The most interesting solution is Dell’s CloudRunner solution. Essentially, it’s a marketplace offering similar to Ingram’s Cloud Marketplace (which I wrote about here) and Odin’s CSP marketplace infrastructure (which Patrick Houston wrote about here). It’s interesting how Dell is achieving a certain degree of synergy with its vast portfolio of software and services. It can now support a comprehensive marketplace for CSPs as a one-stop shop. You can read editorial assistant Kate Hall’s coverage of CloudRunner here, and I will blog on this soon as it deserves standalone treatment.

My blue badge friend Diane Golshan is an oracle of all things Microsoft SMB Partner and the person behind the tweets and Facebooks posts. She has written THE blog summarizing WPC and listing worthy highlights and resources! Read here:, the numbers as I know them. I heard WPC was down 25 percent in real attendance before I left Seattle, but vendors were told it was 15,000 to 16,000 attendees, much like last year in Washington, D.C. It was difficult to tell what the real number was as Microsoft WPC “wore it well,” arguably having a smaller floor (pole-and-drape pulled in), a smaller Commons area making all tables FULL and the same with the dining area. I’m in show business and know the tricks of the trade. My compliments to Microsoft for being dressed to the nines out on the exhibit floor!

Bottom line – the show worked for me. I returned with over 100 leads. And that’s what it’s all about! I will repeat next year in Toronto but I’m frustrated it’s going back there for the third time in 10 years. I was hoping for San Francisco with Microsoft’s new “openness,” but the event planners didn’t ask for my opinion.

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WPC report: Ingram cloud insurgency continues

Some readers will recall with interest Ingram’s early bleeding edge cloud marketplace attempts before the Great Recession and the Obama Administration. It was 2008, and Ingram’s Seismic initiative was way ahead of its time at our SMB Nation Fall 2008 conference in downtown Seattle. Industry leader Justin Crotty spearheaded the initiative and started a long journey to change a culture, something that typically takes a generation.ingram wpc 2015 edited

Suffice it to say, one technology generation has now passed and Ingram’s early evangelical missionary outreach is now resulting in conversions with its now-branded Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace. I caught up with Dan Shapero, Director, Global Cloud Marketing Ingram Micro and his team at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this week in Orlando, Fla. for an update on how Ingram intends to maintain momentum on its early cloud adopter, now cloud leader status.

Shapero shared Ingram is capitalizing on two Microsoft cloud strategies.

Advisor to Cloud Services Provider (CSP) Program

Ingram is taking an opportunity to help resellers transition away from the legacy Microsoft cloud advisor program, which was essentially a referral program wherein MSPs felt they gave up client control.

“We’re helping the CSP take control back of customers with the new CSP program,” Shapero said. “The CSP can manage the end customers, do the billing, provide support and select the pricing.”

The new role allows the Microsoft partners to "repurchase customers," which on the surface seems like an odd concept. An example best illustrates the situation: You are Joe the CSP, and you have 50 Office 365 E3 customers. That would be 50 licenses and on the advisor model today. In order to move to the new CSP program, you would allow the legacy advisor-based Office 365 E3-liceneses to expire and then purchase the equivalent Office 365 E3-licenses under new CSP program. On the surface, this isn’t nearly as complicated as a debt repurchase program on Wall Street LOL!

But I was appropriately skeptical. Having been the victim of Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM programs where partner licenses were “transferred” to a new program such as internal use right, I immediately thought of the service interruptions that I have personally experienced and the staff downtime my company, SMB Nation, has suffered. Shapero asserted that there is no interruption in service.

“We launched that motion on May 15, and 120 opportunities converted in first month and no interruption,” Shapero trumpeted.

So, how does this motion occur? This partner motion happens via the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace where the process enables the repurchase and the CSP functionality.

More Marketplaces

The second pillar message at WPC was the introduction of four new Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplaces. These “marketplaces” are by geography and now exceed 13 territories with language and currency support.

The baseline marketplace experience is a business-to-business experience between Ingram and the CSP. As an extension of the marketplace, any reseller has access to the ability to set-up a business-to-customer (B2C) storefront to serve end customers. This B2C storefront includes brand integration (the customer would not know the name Ingram Micro) and a web store to allow end customer to purchase solutions directly from the CSP and even in self-service mode.

Additional features and benefits include the ability to set-up promos, cross-sell and upsell. A sophisticated shopping cart feature dynamically features promos and specials links after point of check-out. Let me explain. When you are nearly done shopping at Amazon, you are often presented with additional offers and incentives to add to your cart. If you purchased a camera, you are contextually offered the opportunity to add camera lens and a tripod. It’s a bona fide retail motion that can add incremental sales revenue, of course.

“The CSP, can even add his or her own service SKUs as a recommended cross-sell option,” Shapero said. “For example, perhaps the customer would like to bundle a managed service option with the Office 365 licensing purchase at check out. The managed services SKU would be unique to the CSP’s own market conditions, pricing, services provided, etc.”

Bottom Line: Put Ingram Micro on your watch list, as it seeks to extend its lead among major distributors in the cloud marketplace.


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This isn’t your father’s online university!: Part I of III

In a prior life, I was a college professor. True that!

So when I was recently offered the opportunity to check in on the state of private colleges and universities, I flew the jump seat down to Denver. I attended the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities’ (APSCU) annual convention in early June. It was an amazing experience as an outside analyst looking in.

A bit of historical context. After finishing graduate school in the mid-1980s, I immediately went to the front of the room to serve as an instructor at Alaska Computer Institute (ACI) in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. I taught computerized accounting at essentially the vocational/technical-level and loved it. My experience in that position led to a 12-year run of teaching for many universities, including Central Washington University and Seattle Pacific University. I observed that ACI benefits from being a counter-cyclical “product” in Alaska’s mid-1980s oil recession. The classroom was packed and student funding was readily available to retrain people. While I wasn’t directly involved in recruiting students, I recall the old-school tactics used included radio and TV ads, print ads, direct mail and open houses. Lead scoring wasn’t a “thing” yet.

First of all, I’d offer that the individuals attending the APSCU annual conference are switched-on thought leaders. My first victim that I cornered to learn more at APSCU was go-getter Lauren Weymouth, vice president for business development at family-owned Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute with seven campuses in the North East. Like many private learning institutions, Ridley-Lowell is focused on in-demand offerings such as health care. One of its infographics on its LinkedIn page concerns “Vocational Skills in High Demand Today."

laurenforblogMy conversation with Weymouth wasn’t about triathlons, although she races, but about student recruitment. She shared that she still feels an affection for old-school open houses to recruit students.

“It’s a positive way to recruit, have attendees meet with instructors and see the campuses,” Weymouth said. “What’s different today is the way that we communicate about open houses. We used to run print ads in the newspaper. Now we use social media such as Facebook.”

Digging deeper, I discovered that Weymouth still runs TV and radio spots as a branding exercise highlighting student’s success stories as testimonials.

“Referrals are still the highest convertor,” Weymouth shared. “No. 2 is relationships that the admissions teams have developed in the community.”

What was noticeably absent from our conversation was an in-depth conversation about lead scoring. Not that Weymouth and her team aren’t overtly and subliminally doing that already, but my takeaway is that the data science surrounding predictive lead scoring is still relatively new in the EDU space. It’s probably going to grow in popularity as private educational institutions have to adjust to compliance realities and a changing student marketplace.

With respect to Weymouth’s leadership activities, she is on the APSCU board and really enjoys the dialog about what’s working and not working with private institutions.

Stay tuned to for “This isn’t your father’s online university!: Part II” to see analysis on the state of private colleges and universities.

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MSFT hires one, fires 7,800 = 7,799 Net

Welcome to Christmas in July. It’s like clockwork: With the start of Fiscal 2016, heaps of Microsoft minions have been axed. Early today, Microsoft announced 7,800 layoffs worldwide, primarily related to the Nokia mobile phone business. It makes sense, as the new CEO Satya Nadella found Ballmer’s legacy telecom tattoo to be repugnant and outside his vision for a new Microsoft. Believe it or not – I support Microsoft’s right-sizing strategy as it’s still too top heavy with people running around having meetings to plan for more meetings. Throw in the new efficiencies associated with cloud computing and you can anticipate additional layoffs in the future. I’m attending the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference next week in Orlando and I’ll report on this topic again including who’s been saved by a lifeline and who’s out.

melanie gass msftRight: Melanie Gass having fun as a lead presenter on our Office 365 Tour this past winter and spring. We'll miss her on our fall tour circuit!

The facts are:

  • In July 2014, Microsoft started laying off 18,000 people with the bulk from the Nokia phone business.
  • Today, Microsoft announced it is cutting 7,800 more jobs.
  • Microsoft is taking an $8 billion charge against earnings.
  • Microsoft’s $8 billion charge exceeds the purchase price of the Nokia acquisition, which was just over $7 billion.
  • In early trading in the NASDAQ today, Microsoft is UP a fraction with heavy volume.
  • In fact, Microsoft is the lone gainer as Dow industrials sustain a 200+ point decline
  • I recommend this thoughtful coverage from GeekWire, found here.

One bit of good news this week is the hiring of Melanie “Microsoft Princess” Gass in the US SMB business group as Sr. Business Development Mgr - National Strategic Influencers, MCC . She will carry the Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) torch. I’m an active MCCer hosting more than 25 MCC events annually. Think of Melanie as one of us working for them. In her now prior life, Melanie owned and operated CenterPoint Solutions in the New York City-area. A civic leader, she was recognized as a leading MCCer and an award-winning partner. Undeniably, she’ll do fine and we look forward to her representing our best interests.

What’s interesting about the Gass hire is that I can count on one hand the number of leading partners Microsoft has brought in-house to, well, talk to partners. By my guestimate, this first happened about 15 years ago when Microsoft hired Eric Ligman in its Chicago office. Later, he relocated to Redmond and today he is Microsoft Senior Sales Excellent Manager. That was followed by the hiring of Dr. Thomas Shinder who ran the community site. Today, he is in-house as a Program Manager Azure Security Engineering inside Microsoft. Microsoft typically hires for a different resume than Ligman, Shinder and Gass have. I’ve worked with countless traditional MBAs from Kellogg School who are intellectually fantastic but lack the street cred. In fact, years ago a friend inside Microsoft told me that they shy away from hiring outsiders such as active Microsoft Partners because of a perceived goodness of fit problem.

So think of the Gass hire as one small step for Microsoft, one large step for the SMB IT Pro community.

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Is Amazon Evil?

A prominent Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer has just sent me an unapologetic missive that doesn’t take ownership for service degradation. Read on.

The Crime

This customer has a dependency on with its core line-of-business knowledge application. I’ve been told some of its features and functionality disappeared recently (a widget). While investigating “what the hell happened…,” as the client put it, an unsolicited excuse amazonpicarrived from AWS that I have reprinted below. What concerns me is that Amazon doesn’t say “we’re sorry” and it hardly takes ownership of the malady. Here is the bottom line: Amazon has had a service failure, likely on a server farm, and it’s being less than helpful in assisting my client in restoring its LOB to full functionality. As I read it, the excuse looks as if lawyers run technical support at AWS. It deftly avoids responsibility and promotes its right to retire instances. Where is the redundancy (ummm…RAID or other approaches?)?


My advice to this loyal reader? Move to AZURE! I’m hearing more and more AWS horror stories. In the case of this reader, it should qualify for the generous BizSpark program at Microsoft whereby it can receive up to $60,000 of Azure credits as a start-up. And that’s not small potatoes, lemme tell you.

Men Read!

Computer guys are notorious for not reading (e.g. RTFM). The Amazon storyline below is juicy. As a special reward for reading, I have a secret below. Here is Amazon’s notification:

We have important news about your account. EC2 has detected degradation of the underlying hardware hosting one or more of your Amazon EC2 instances in the us-west-2 region. Due to this degradation, your instance(s) could already be unreachable. Running instances will be stopped or terminated after 12:00AM UTC on 2015-07-10. The affected instances are listed below:


You can see more information on your instances that are scheduled for retirement in the AWS Management Console (

How does this affect you?

* If your instance’s root device is an instance store volume, the instance will be terminated after the specified retirement date. When the instance is terminated, all data stored on the instance store will be deleted and can’t be recovered. Depending on the nature of the hardware degradation, you may be able to connect to your instance and migrate any data from instance store volumes. Unfortunately, in the case of disk failure the instance store data cannot be recovered.

* If your instance's root device is an EBS volume, the instance will be stopped after the retirement date, and you can start it again at any time.

In either case, since EC2 instance store volumes are physically attached to the host computer, any data on these volumes will be lost when the instance is stopped or terminated.

To check whether your instance’s root device is an instance store or EBS volume, go to the AWS Management console (, select your instance, and view the Root device type information in the details pane.

What do you need to do?

If you can still access the instance, we recommend the following:

* If your instance's root device is an instance store volume, launch a replacement instance from your most recent AMI and migrate all available data to the replacement instance, or migrate your data to an EBS volume, which you can back up with a snapshot.

* If your instance's root device is an EBS volume, you can replace the instance by creating an AMI of your instance, and launching a new instance from the AMI. For more information please see Amazon Machine Images ( in the EC2 User Guide. In case of difficulties stopping your EBS-backed instance, please see the Instance FAQ (

* If you've registered the instance in EC2 Classic with a load balancer, the load balancer will not be able to route traffic to your instance if you stop and start it, due to the new IP address associated to the instance. You must deregister the instance from the load balancer after stopping the instance, and then re-register it after starting the instance. In EC2 VPC, the IP address does not change, but the abovementioned deregister and register actions will speed up the time that it takes for the load balancer to recognize the instance. For more information, see De-Registering and Registering Amazon EC2 Instances ( in the Elastic Load Balancing Developer Guide.

Why retirement?

AWS may schedule instances for retirement in cases where there is an unrecoverable issue with the hardware on an underlying host. For more information about scheduled retirement events, please see Monitoring Scheduled Events in the EC2 user guide ( To avoid single points of failure within critical applications, please refer to our architecture center for more information on implementing fault-tolerant architectures:

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact the AWS Support Team on the community forums and via AWS Premium Support at:


Amazon Web Services


As your reward for reading the above, I have a secret phone number that is extremely hard to get. It’s the Amazon general support telephone number: 866-216-1072. This is how you avoid e-mail hell configuring your Kindle or other Amazon products. Bon Appétit!

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Rebel with a Cause – How to Extend W2k3S EOS > 07142015


We’re one month away from the end of support (EOS) for Windows Server 2003 (W2k3S), and I’ve found several observations of note.

The Buzz. Similar to Windows XP, I’m seeing a lack of overall excitement about the impending deadline. The messaging was overwhelming at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. last July, but the topic quickly dropped with the next news cycle.

Procrastination. A recent communication from the BBC media outlet shared that one in four people procrastinate. I’d offer it’s at least that with the W2k3S EOS, as such is the attitude of the SMB IT Pro.

Real opportunity. Here is the irony. The people I have conversations with are “switched on” and don’t have clients with W2k3S devices. They’ve already migrated said clients years ago. The challenge is reaching the clients that need the help the most. It’s like managing global hunger—getting the food to those who need it most is vexing. This ongoing challenge continues to haunt SMB IT Pros. Near the end of the Windows XP migration motion with its April 2014 EOS, some SMB IT Pros would call small businesses randomly asking if they had Windows XP. That’s a very expensive way to acquire customers and akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

MSFT Extension? No. My sources inside Microsoft are indicating there is no appetite to extend the W2k3S EOS deadline of July 14, 2015.

Hedge Strategy. LogicNow is promoting an interesting approach to extend the W2k3S EOS deadline as a last resort for procrastinators or a must-do out of necessity. Let me expand on the latter statement. The idea is that there are certain sites that must run W2k3S for backward compatibility purposes. In speaking with Allister Forbes, GM at LogicNow (formerly GFI), he shared that his firm is on record with a deadline extension strategy that offers prescriptive guidance on how to run W2k3S after July 14, 2015. It’s the type of communication that Microsoft Redmond cannot, will not and probably should not offer. I coined this as the “Rebel with a Cause” hedge strategy. An associated white paper details this approach ranging from security hardening to isolation. If you’d like to receive a copy, you’ll need to complete the form here to download the white paper.

So, as your Microsoft ombudsman, I’ll wrap this blog for now with a commitment to revisit the topic in mid-July. I predict planes will fly and the sun will rise in the east on July 14.

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Applause: Harrybbb is 20/20!

Totally appreciate the recognition from Channel Pro SMB in the recent 20/20 SMB Visionary Awards in its May 2015 magazine issue. There are a couple thoughts I’d like to share in being honored as a Visionary Channel Player.

Freeman got it right

In this era of anonymous lead generation and other spreadsheet tactics, it’s refreshing to see the deeply personal touch and research applied by Rich Freeman, the writer to get it right. Such lists are hard to construct as you have to wade through the scum bags, sleazy players and narcissists found in any industry. I’d offer 80 percent of the 20 Visionary Channel Players are ethically legit and for that, Freeman has my praise. In baseball, he’d be the all-time hitter with that average. Yes – ethics and good citizenship are essential success factors in my book of business. This list a capable representation of that.harry2020

The Meek shall share…

The second category of 20 Visionary Channel Pros presents the real power players in my eyes. These are people who get sh-- done, as one of my favorite Microsoft executives in the operations area likes to say! These aren’t necessarily the public figures on the list of 20 Visionary Channel Players, the list I’m included on. Rather, these are the work horses. More importantly – Freeman’s batting average goes up to 95 percent on this list as I can see only one bad actor. Shout outs to the SBS Diva, Microsoft Princess and especially cover girl Amy Babinchak.


Success brings enormous responsibilities. These awardees, I’m assuming, take their leadership roles seriously and are typically here to help. Think of these power players as the hand in the window signs indicating a safe house ( It’s something a lot of us grew up with!

The full list is shown below and you can review the entire article here.

Visionary Channel Players

Carolyn April: Senior Director, Industry Analysis, CompTIA Inc.

Scott Barlow: Vice President of Sales, Reflexion Networks Inc.

Arnie Bellini: CEO, ConnectWise

Tiffani Bova: Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Gartner Inc.

Harry Brelsford: CEO, SMB Nation Inc.

Jason Bystrak: Executive Director, Americas, Ingram Micro Cloud, Ingram Micro Inc.

Len DiCostanzo: Senior Vice President of Community and Business Development, Autotask Corp.

Ted Hulsy: Vice President of Marketing, eFolder Inc.

Jerry Koutavas: President, The ASCII Group Inc.

Jay McBain: Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, ChannelEyes Corp.

Austin McChord: Founder and CEO, Datto Inc.

Karl Palachuk: Owner, Small Biz Thoughts

Gary Pica: President, TruMethods LLC

Joe Quaglia: President, Americas, Tech Data Corp.

Erick Simpson: Vice President, SPC International Inc.

Dave Sobel: Director of Partner Community, MAXfocus

Arlin Sorensen: CEO and Founder, Heartland Companies

Todd Swank: Senior Director of Product Marketing, Equus Computer Systems Inc.

Ken Thoreson: President, Acumen Management Group Ltd.

Larry Walsh: CEO and Chief Analyst, The 2112 Group

Visionary Channel Pros

Luis Alvarez: President and CEO, Alvarez Technology Group Inc.

Amy Babinchak: Owner, Harbor Computer Services and Third Tier

Steven Banks: President, Banks Consulting Northwest Inc.

Susan Bradley: Partner, TSH&B Inc.

Michael Cocanower: President, itSynergy

Ed Correia: Founder and CEO, Sagacent Technologies Inc.

Melanie Gass: President, CenterPoint Solution LLC

Joe Gleinser: Founder and President, GCS Technologies Inc.

Stephen Hall: CEO, District Computers

Michael Klein: President, Computer Directions Inc.

Ro Kolakowski: CEO, Founder, Sales and Marketing Director, 6th Street Consulting

Carl Mazzanti: Founder and CEO, eMazzanti Technologies

Robert Nitrio: CEO, Ranvest Associates

Kevin Royalty: Managing Partner, Total Care Computer Consulting LLC

Steven Rutkovitz: President, Choice Technologies Inc.

David Sagraves: Executive Vice President and Partner, Claris Networks LLC

Dave Seibert: CIO, IT Innovators Inc.

MJ Shoer: President and Virtual Chief Technology Officer, Jenaly Technology Group Inc.

Vince Tinnirello: CEO, Anchor Network Solutions Inc.

Jamison West: CEO, Arterian Inc.

I end on a lighter note. Receiving this award, always a pleasure and another logo to paste on the SMB Nation site, prevents me from having to buy my own beer like a single Dad on Father’s Day LOL! :)

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Revenge of the Nerds!

The folks behind the support scam featured in this blog probably don’t use social media monitoring tools like Blab, Social Ears or a variation called Might Call. It’s highly unlikely they truly care about their reputation. That’s because these shadowy support scamers are scum! Read on.revenge of the nerds

I recently slightly mis-typed the URL for a popular social media site I use all day, every day: LinkedIn. It was frustrating in that I had my Firefox browser hijacked by the bad guys. Took Task Manager to close it. The persistent pop-up message you see here was annoying to say the least. In fact, it made me angry. And when I’m in mad mode, I often borrow the 2x4 from the SBS Diva, Susan Bradley!

Here is my ask. The best thing we can do to combat this nonsense is the call the number in the pic and consume their time. Now we’re costing them real money and perhaps they’ll STOP IT. That’s right. Call them and tell them to STOP IT NOW. If you need a primer on such a call, watch a few John Oliver clips from his popular show “Last Week Tonight“ here and call those scammers and tell them (after taking up A LOT of their time) to:

“Stop it! Stop it now!”

Thanks for keeping the IT community safe where we can let the kids play in the streets again!


And yet more support scams are emerging! After initially publishing my findings, this hijack occurred when I mis-typed another social media site URL (in this case it was Facebook). So call out these guys too!

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Win10 July Availability Announced

Coming in ahead of schedule, Microsoft announced general availability (GA) for its highly-anticipated Windows 10 desktop operating system as of July 29, 2015. This is significant, as I had heard Windows 10 was going to release-to-manufacturing (RTM) in July 2015 and that suggested that GA would have been late August or early September.

Here is the flaw in my old-school RTM thinking: In an agile cloud-based world, there is NO manufacturing to worry about. The product will be downloadable for installation on desktops, laptops and tablets July 29. I’m still checking on when Windows Phones will receive Windows 10.

BTC Large

With retail SKUs gone gone gone, there isn’t the whole MRP-based manufacturing cycle to contend with (think about packaging, etc.). July 29 is it for consumers. I’ve been running Windows 10 on a gest machine and it’s a #win, in that it’s not Windows 8 LOL. Much more context surrounds Windows 10 that I can’t go into know, but interested readers can attend one of five independent Windows 10 pilot workshops in June produced by SMB Nation with Onuora Amobi (Windows 10 Update editor) as the lead presenter and subject matter expert. Early today, Onuora broke the news here:

Learn more and sign up for the tour here:

Finally, the small matter of OEMs and devices remains. I’m hearing that it will be 4Q before OEMs such as Lenovo ship devices with Windows 10. That’s fine, as it’s the holiday shopping season and past the summer vacation season. Windows 10 will miss the back to school surges in August and September, but that’s OK in the grand scheme of things. One other positive is that our 13th annual fall conference October 1-3 at Microsoft Redmond will feature Windows 10 as a pillar conversation and should offer OEM device bars available for attendees to play with.

PS – the official Microsoft announcement about Windows 10 and its general availability July 29 can be found here:

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Weekly Webinar: Should You Trust Skype for Business?

As part of our independent community ombudsman role at O365nation, we can candidly espouse that Lync was a Vista, no? So keeping with our “invest forward” mantra, join us for peek at what is under the covers with the new Skype for Business.  We will show you how it compares to our old frienime, Lync, and how it breaks the mold from anything seen to date.  But, don’t tune in for that…. You need to tune in to learn how Skype for Business can have a positive impact on your business with proper planning and execution.greg plum2

Registration URL:
Webinar ID: 137-730-939

Time and Date: Thursday, June 4, 2018 at 10:00am Pacific (PST) (GMT-7)

In our academic webinar, we will cover delta improvements including (but not limited to):

  • New look and feel
  • Call from Skype for Business using your desk phone for audio
  • Integration with the Skype directory
  • Call Monitor
  • Rate My Call
  • Quick access to call controls
  • Emoticons

Join unified communications (UC) expert Greg Plum and Harry Brelsford as they bury Lync and grant Office 365 citizenship to Skype for Business. And we’ll answer the proverbial question: Is Microsoft really a telecom player yet?

 Time and Date: Thursday, June 4,2018 at 10:00am Pacific (PST) (GMT-7)

Registration URL:
Webinar ID: 137-730-939

Kindly note that this webinar is possible with the generous support of Ingram Micro!

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Harry’s Pick: Addressing the Five (5) Pivot Challenges in a Cloud Practice Transformation Strategy (including Office 365)

idc studyGood morning – Harry here with out-of-band special edition article concerning an amazing IDC study I have just reviewed. As part of my daily activities as your Office 365 ombudsman and independent community advocate, I take my responsibilities very seriously. So when I read Marilyn Carr’s “Building a Cloud Practice: Challenges and Rewards” article, I hit the POST button to get it to you as soon as possible. This is a MUST READ! I’d offer it defines a generation of SMB IT Pros much like the classic book “In Search of Excellence” defined a generation of MBAs (present company included).

Essentially, Carr hits the topic head-on and doesn’t sugar coat the challenges of going from a server-side on-premises world too often defined by break-fix to an Office 365 or cloud consulting practice. Here conversation on the danger of the revenue trough is classic. As I’ve said before and we’ve validated with our Office 365 Nation workshop tour this spring, the business model surrounding Office 365 consulting is very different from my beloved Windows Small Business Server (LOL – RIP).  

You can download the white paper here:

To give you a quick view into Carr’s landmark work, some of the change agent topics include:

  • The Shift to Recurring Revenue
  • The Changes in Sales Model
  • The Changes in Delivery Model

My bottom line. My job is to peruse the body of knowledge concerning Office 365 as an analyst and share with you the most relevant and interesting information and conversations. In a sense, I’m an analytical filter. This study has my endorsement for you to read. Agree with me or not – lemme know what you think: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can download the white paper here:

 ANAYST DISCLAIMER: This white paper study by Marilyn Carr was prepared by IDC and funded by Ingram Micro and Microsoft. I do not own any stock in IDC, Ingram Micro or Microsoft.

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Save the World! GoDaddy’s Improved Email System

First the end of the story, then the context. Today, GoDaddy has delivered an improved email marketing experience that integrates with its website builder solution in five languages. It’s leveraged its Mad Mimi acquisition, completed just under a year ago, to foster more friendly functionality into its small business portfolio. For example, GoDaddy clients can collect contact information on a form on their website and then populate their email marketing machine to send out newsletters to customers.

GoDaddy used words like seamless, easy-to-use and integrated to describe this less friction-like email marketing experience that puts GoDaddy on par with Constant Contact and MailChimp. I’ll keep an eye on this solution as your SMB ombudsman and report further enhancements in its features and functionality when warranted. In fact, I used the solution a few months ago (before the latest features) and I intend to revisit GoDaddy Email Marketing over the summer for use by SMB Nation and

GEM image2

Now the back story. In speaking with Steven Aldrich for this blog, I was struck how he exposed the GoDaddy mission “…to radically shift the global economy toward small businesses by empowering people to easily start, confidentially grow and successfully run their own ventures.” It’s the same type of language used by third-world micro-lending NGOs and SMB Nation. Witness our time in the trenches with Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (when we advised Peace Corps on its PeacePacks, SeaLand containers stuffed with technology to the Microsoft Response Point phone system in a time when we believed the world would be a better place if everyone had a phone!).

GoDaddy resembles those remarks with its commitment to a holistic customer experience that makes money for the small business and GoDaddy. It’s a win-win good for you, good for me business approach that, quite frankly, is appreciated in this era of detached anonymous lead scoring as the customer acquisition flavor of the month.

Now the rest of the GoDaddy Email Marketing story.

GoDaddy Email Marketing is easy-to-use, allowing small business customers to create email marketing campaigns without the complicated set-up they might get from other email marketing platforms.

“Consumer expectations are high in today’s always connected world and businesses of all sizes need to engage with customers effectively and professionally. To remain competitive, small businesses must look to email marketing as an effective and inexpensive way to build lasting relationships with customers—and generating new business,” said Steven Aldrich, GoDaddy senior vice president of business applications. “At GoDaddy, we’re constantly working to make the business of business easier for customers. Integrating our products for the most holistic, end-to-end experience possible, is just one step we’re taking to deliver world-class human-scale technology solutions for small businesses.”

A simple, affordable way for small businesses to stay competitive, as Aldrich mentioned, the service was quietly rolled out in March, stemming from the acquisition of Mad Mimi in August 2014. The former Mad Mimi team leveraged its substantial experience serving small business customers with world-class marketing solutions and applied the same level of expertise to GoDaddy Email Marketing.

“Since the Mad Mimi team has become a part of the GoDaddy team, we’ve been able to combine efforts to provide small businesses with the perfect email marketing product,” said Gary Levitt, who founded Mad Mimi and now guides email marketing at GoDaddy. “Having access to GoDaddy’s 13 million customers, most of them small businesses, has allowed us to think more comprehensively about small business email marketing—leading to strategic product integrations and expanded capabilities for customers.”

The GoDaddy Website Builder integration offers a seamless experience for customers who want to collect email addresses on a website and use those contacts to grow their businesses. Customers can simply log in and start using the applications together – one integrated service from one provider. This contrasts the complications and time required of a small business to stitch together products from multiple companies, a process which requires importing and exporting customer lists and making changes to numerous platforms.

With the Website Builder integration, customers can turn on a sign-up form on their websites and instantly begin collecting email addresses from site visitors. The new contact management functionality enables customers to add and edit contacts from within the Website Builder interface. Contacts collected from the sign-up form flow directly into the contact management feature, and when the small business owner is ready, they can simply start sending newsletters by clicking “send newsletter” to begin communicating with their contacts. As a bonus, the integrated email marketing service is free for the first 500 emails sent.

“Email marketing is a proven tactic for small business and one that continues to be heavily used despite the rise of numerous other channels," said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at Local Search Association, “yet business owners need to step up the sophistication of their campaigns in the midst of mobile migration, increased complexity and competitive noise in the broader market.”

GoDaddy Email Marketing is available for small businesses in international markets. The product is now offered in 26 countries and five languages: English, Spanish, German, French and Brazilian Portuguese, making it simple for small businesses around the world to engage and retain customers.

Analyst Disclaimer: I do not own stock in GoDaddy, which recently went public with a March 2015 IPO.

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LAUNCHED: Independent Windows 10 Preview Tour


We are pleased to announce today we are working with Microsoft and to conduct a pilot preview tour in five U.S. cities during June 2015.

Join us on this webinar as we describe the tour, the Windows 10 opportunity, and answer all your questions.
Please register for An Exclusive Look at Windows 10 May 28, 2015 at 10 a.m. PDT at

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

We want to emphasize the INDEPENDENT nature of this learning opportunity. As an outsider looking in, we will take you behind the curtain, allowing you to discover the “real” Windows 10 in advance of everyone else. Attendance is limited to 50 qualified participants, so sign up immediately!

Sponsored by Microsoft, these events are FREE and will be held at Microsoft locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Redmond and Austin.

Who should attend?
•    Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
•    Partners
•    Consultants
•    IT Pros

What will you discover?
The content is primarily technical in nature. As a BONUS, you will participate in a focus group exercise that will help shape Microsoft’s Windows 10 strategy. This is a rare opportunity to influence a product as a real-world professional.
We will cover the following:
•    Intro to Windows 10 and a Full Overview
•    New Features in Windows 10
•    The Windows 10 Mobile Story
•    The Windows 10 Developer Story
•    Windows 10 Security
•    Universal Applications
•    Cortana
•    Microsoft Edge
•    Continuum for Phones
•    Windows 10 and Office 365 – Success Together
•    Windows 10 for the Internet of Things
•    Deploying Windows 10
and much more…

You will enjoy learning from our expert trainer, Onuora Amobi, the editor at

Where are the events?
Click on the city closest to you to learn more:
•    New York City, New York – June 2, 2015
•    Los Angeles, California – June 9, 2015
•    Fort Lauderdale, Florida – June 23, 2015
•    Redmond, Washington (info coming soon)
•    Austin, Texas (info coming soon)


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Webinar: Quarterly Briefing: “Independent” Office 365 Updates and Analysis

o365 logoJoin us for this impactful and informative quarterly briefing hosted by Office 365 Nation (O365nation) that delivers specific news you can use to keep abreast of the Office 365 platform. This webinar is for MSPs, Consultants and Partners.

You will:

  • Hear the latest Office 365 numbers
  • Discover the latest Office 365 chatter and gossip (layoffs in July at MSFT?)
  • Why is Office 365 emerging as a platform
  • Who are the Top 25 Office 365 Influencers in the World and why you should care?
  • Who are the latest ISVs to build Office 365-specific solutions?
  • Question and Answer session

Hosted by O365nation founder Harry Brelsford and includes special guests including one big surprise.

Sign up:

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One Week Later: Looking Back at One Lenovo, Part One

I’ve finally recovered from the robust Lenovo Accelerate conference in Las Vegas a week ago. Something about that city.

With the passage of time, as an ardent analyst, I’ve got the benefit of reflection on my side. I’d offer my insights were fortified and this much more impactful than if I had been in breaking news mode.WP 20150427 16 30 42 Pro

One Lenovo

Speaking with Chris Frey (pictured), vice president of North America commercial channels and SMB at Lenovo, he shared very few people thought that Lenovo could do what it did throughout the past decade as he celebrated Lenovo’s 10th anniversary.

Reflecting back, he highlighted the integration of the PC cultures in integrating the IBM PCs and, more importantly, the ThinkPad.

“It’s a classic business case study of bringing two brands together,” Frey said. “Moving forward, if history is any indicator, Lenovo will continue to be number one! Lenovo’s staff is energized and our people want to be great.”

I sensed the hunger. “We’re a culture of DO’ERS and we get stuff done!”

Concerning One Lenovo, Frey shared some operational thinking. The intention is to treat the channel with more respect by managing one Profit & Loss statement.

The “not my department” barrier is coming down. Generalist will manage the partner relationship with an overlay of specialists that can be called in from time to time.

“I hope everyone gets excited about One Lenovo,” Frey said. “One coverage model, one distribution model.”

Frey concluded with a peek into the ANY strategy, which signifies any products to any customer at any time. “We don’t care about routes.” Frey added.


In other news, Lenovo continue to expand its brand with multiple celebrities including Kobe Bryant. Lenovo will return as an official sponsor for Super Bowl 50 when the Seattle Seahawks will claim victory.


Next up, I’ll discuss Lenovo’s education play and its success producing Chromebooks—Wintel buster? We’ll also take a peek at phone! Look for my installment shortly.

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O365 SMB Channel Harmony

Israel-based (pronounced “harmony”) announced yesterday at Microsoft Ignite its new channel partner program for the Office 365 community.

This product essentially brings a single pane of glass to access all Office 365 data stores from Microsoft Outlook or a mobile interface.

I’ll blog about my experience using its product another day, as it gives me simple access to SharePoint instead of the dreaded browser interface. Think of the Outlook snap-in as akin to running Microsoft Dynamics CRM from the CRM snap-in in Outlook and tagging/saving every e-mail, etc. More on the functionality later.

Back to the issue at hand. As I learned more in an interview last week before Ignite, I realized is striking a balance between its intellectual property and its community relations.

I also saw a tacit understanding on the continued need for an intermediary between the ISV and the customer. Products such don’t install themselves, although the 30-day trial I’m running was an easy install.

The affiliate—or partner—opportunity will add more value on top of Office 365 to better use SharePoint et al. Heck, that’s something I can benefit from with my ten-person staff!

"As the adoption of Office 365 accelerates, individual experts and smaller consultancies have an opportunity to play a bigger role in this new 'mobile-first, cloud-first' world," CEO Yaacov Cohen said. "Our Affiliate Partner Program empowers these consultants to have quick and easy access to the collaboration suite of connected apps to help their clients succeed in this new cloud and mobile era."

Office 365 and evolving application technology was discussed last week at the Build Conference by industry professionals including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“Applications that you build will now be capable of ‘showing up’ throughout Office so that they do more than any single application on their own,” Nadella said.

Translated, this means Office 365 is being viewed as a platform that will have ISVs delivering apps and tools on top of it. Case in point:

Then, there is the economics of it all. Consultants can quickly obtain a partner ID and then submit purchase orders directly on the partner portal for deals ranging from 15 to 200 users.

All business is sold through, with the referring partner receiving a 15 percent commission upon receiving payment from the customer. For deals involving more than 200 users, Affiliate Partners will work directly with a representative to ensure customer success.

"We are committed to helping companies of any size overcome evolving digital workplace challenges. This is the first of our many partner program enhancements, as we actively cultivate the partner ecosystem in 2015 and help drive this revolution," Cohen said.

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Traffic is our Biggest O365 workshop competitor!

Making of SelfieThe fact is, our current roadshow featuring independent Office 365 workshops in a handful of NFL cities is going swimmingly. We’re ahead of our plan for 100+ engaged and excited IT Pros per city, soaking up the fountain of knowledge from our hot shot speakers. ‘Nough said.

But we’ve had some learning along the way. One lesson is that traffic in every major city is a problem. It’s our biggest competitor to having you attend our workshop. So, we have a simple solution: a Connected Event that you can participate in from your office (even your home office!). Our online event is interactive, with video streaming from a Puget Sound studio, featuring live experts before a small studio audience, and YOU online. Your participation, including questions and comments, is paramount to the success of the connected event format!

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In 90-days W2K3 EOS Hits! Next Step: O365 and Hybrid

o365 cover pic editedNow it’s real. In just 90-days, the end-of-support (EOS) deadline for Windows Server 2003 will arrive. That milestone represents both a threat, and an opportunity. The threat is that, much like Windows XP, you’ll ignore the deadline for both time convenience, and the belief you don’t have any Windows Server 2003 machines in your portfolio. For MSPs, this is compounded by managing multiple sites and/or should you go hunt down W2K3 Server sites? Part of this deadline arrogance (and ignorance) is based on recent history, where “nothing bad happened” after the Windows XP EOS (ummm…just ask Home Depot how well that worked out).

Clearly, you know the talking points concerning W2K3 Server EOS. Now the opportunity. What are you going to do? There are two realistic migration paths: Cloud (Office 365 for example) and Hybrid IT.

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Heaven’s gained a Good One: Dino White Passes

WPC2010 Dino White and Eric LigmanSadly, we’ve lost a pivotal member of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) IT Pro community. Read on, as this isn’t your normal mention of someone’s passing. This is about Dino White who, earlier this week, succumbed to the effects of a major stroke suffered approximately 18-months ago.

Some readers will recall we originally reported on Dino’s stroke in late October 2013 here and here.  

Pictured: Dino White with Eric Ligman

Dino was an SBSer (a Small Business Server enthusiast). He attended several SMB Nation workshops and conferences, and he was one of our leading customers. He had the perfect bi-lingual balance between business acumen and a technical skill set. One day you’d see Dino in an Intel-branded vPro golf shirt and the next day he’d be wearing a collared shirt in his hometown of New York City attending a business marketing symposium at the Harvard Club (I was there with him). Dino, as a small business owner himself (owned and operated Dicyn Solutions for over ten years) also held the entrepreneurial attributes of being a finder (get the business), minder (manage the business) and grinder (do the work) that is an extremely rare skill set. Turns out Dino, who was soft spoken and humble, was also a star football player in college at Eastern Carolina University (Go Pirates!) and went on to earn a Master’s in Communications at Emerson in the early 1990s.

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Did you know? Top Office 365 site welcomes you!

o365nation editedOver the past year, we’ve discretely developed what we hope has become one of the world’s leading Office 365 independent portals ( And we want, and need, you to participate to make it better!

First some context. We’re not the only Office 365 portal in the world. In fact, we’re not the biggest. Microsoft itself can lay claim to hosting the largest go-to Office 365 portals. For your benefit, I’ve listed three here that you should consider participating in:

To understand Microsoft’s role in the community, I’ll share a recent conversation:

A vendor asked: “what is the best site in the world for having a conversation with Microsoft channel partners/MSPs about Windows Server?” My response was easy: The punch line is that Microsoft sites don’t accept vendor sponsored advertising. LOL.

What makes our Office 365 Nation (aka community different from Microsoft’s leading site? It’s very simple. We are INDEPENDENT. We’re staffed with like-mind IT Pros who are bilingual (geek and business). We’re analysts. We are your Office 365 community ombudsman. Being Seattle-based, we’re ready, able and willing to represent your best interests by putting our independent foot forward. We frequently share your questions and concerns with Microsoft on its carpet in Redmond!
Next steps!

Visit and just read our independent content. Offer up your feedback. And then SIGN-UP to participate in our community. The link is right at the top: SUBSCRIBE!

See you there and enjoy the Office 365 ride.

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GoDaddy IPO: Office 365 Category Killer in SMB

godaddy stacks up editedThis week GoDaddy is going to join the volatile public equity markets as a listed company via its initial public offering (IPO). It’s the natural step for a company that has grown very quickly in the online consumer, small and medium space. It’s known for its “chippy” attitude, with its racy advertisements and NASCAR sponsorship. I would offer it’s also poised to dominate the Office 365 conversation moving forward in 2Q 2015.

All sins forgiven

As I researched GoDaddy for this blog (for example, here), I found it behaving like many retails facing tech titans. Analysts appear to be giving it the Amazon exemption for cumulative losses exceeding well over a half-billion in the past 36-months. It’s clearly a case of investing forward and overall analysts are surprisingly optimistic about its $18/share range. Think of the IPO as a balance sheet angel that forgives all sins and arms GoDaddy to practice the art of war in the battle for Office 365 dominance.

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I Can’t Wait! Parallels Releases Office 365 APS Package!

parallels I cant wait pic edited 2Everyone has had the childhood experience of waiting (impatiently) in a running car outside the house for a parent before you can depart on a journey. I’d offer that’s the position Parallels found itself in recently with Microsoft. Instead of waiting for Microsoft to (finally) issue the APIs necessary for Cloud Solution Providers (CPS) to automatically provision Office 365 customers end-to-end, Parallels has innovated a, well, parallel provisioning tool. Announced last week at the respected Microsoft Hosting and Cloud Summit in Bellevue, WA, the solution will have general availability in Q2 2015.

So what is the CSP APS package? It’s for Office 365 and IT provides Microsoft CSP partners with a solution for automating customer on-boarding, service delivery, bundling related cloud services and building a reseller channel.  It’s a big deal.

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SkyKick snags a solid via MSFT’s O365 Internal Use Rights Program

 skykick iur breakFinally I can let the cat out of the bag. Seattle-based SkyKick has deftly inserted itself into Microsoft Action Pack (MAPS) and Silver/Gold Partner program motion as a benefit. I’m jealous. Many readers will recall our old SMB PC magazine, that we published for the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) in the 2007-2012 time frame. I tried for the first few years to have the magazine inserted into the quarterly Action Pack mailer, a feat that would have dramatically boosted our circulation. SkyKick has done the impossible and inserted itself into this motion in what I believe is the first occurrence of third party inclusion.

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Parallel Lives: Company Spins out New Brand

OdinThis one makes sense. Many people don’t realize that Parallels has two lines of work. Many know Parallels for its early role in desktop virtualization – primarily on the Macintosh platform. Most SMB IT Pros know Parallel’s other line of work – providing a cloud platform ecosystem. The two activities are distinct lines of work and it seemed the synergy, while it existed, was not a leading success factor internally.

So Parallels is splitting into two. The new “Odin” brand will house the company’s service provider unit and the cloud platform as we know it. The “Parallels” brand will host the cross-platform and desktop virtualization products.

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March Migration Madness Continues: Dell Large Attachments

DashboardIt’s incredibly interesting to watch how large OEMs are pivoting into the world of Office 365. Such is the case with Dell’s diversified portfolio strategy to provide solutions, tools and services in addition to hardware. With roots back to its Quest acquisition, Dell has a migration solution that can be used with Office 365. To learn more about Dell’s migration play in Office 365, I sat down with Chad Lindley, Senior Product Manager, Office 365 Migration, Dell.

“The On Demand Migration for Email is really about ‘many to Microsoft’ platform mapping.” Lindley offered. “Based on Microsoft Azure, there are only a handful of screens that need to be completed to run the migration tool.” I then asked Lindley how the solution is being positioned. “So the solution set has a broad audience, depending on the solution itself. The one we are speaking about today was designed specifically for SMB market. Quest software has had a lot of migration tools, and we were trying to fill the hole in the SMB market.”

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Calling All Puget Sound Microsoft Partners!

go global2There are a couple of seats left to participate in an innovative pilot program this June. Titled “Working Vacations,” the program is akin to a student exchange program for Microsoft Partners and MSPs. The idea is that like-minded professionals from the Microsoft Nordic/Baltic region will be visiting for a one week period, spending a few days with YOU, the Puget Sound partner/MSP. This is by invitation only and we’re almost at capacity, so it’s essential you raise your hand to say YES!


  • Intention: To engage in an exchange of best business practices between non-competing partners concerning contemporary Microsoft solutions. The program runs June 8-12, 2015.
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Atera Disrupts RMM/PSA Market with All-in-One IT Service Management Solution

Atera teamIn visiting with Gil Pekelman, CEO of Atera, I was struck by how this new market entrant in the established RMM/PSA space for MSPs wasn’t shackled by legacy roadblocks. Built from the ground up and born in the cloud, Atera is now available in the US as of today (March 23, 2015) at The solution promises to be disruptive in the SMB space, especially the “S” sector.

Showing the “S” the love is the raison d’être for Atera. It’s able to offer a comprehensive IT server management tool for a fraction of the cost of the established RMM/PSA players. While legacy vendors are expressing disdain for the “little guy” in the SMB MSP community, that where Atera is intent on disrupting the market.

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Ready…Set….REDMOND: Fall 2015 Conference OPEN!

bannersmall fall15With the belief of “Discere Faciendo” (Learn by Doing!), it’s time to register for the annual Fall conference. This year the conversations include Office 365, Windows 10 and Azure. The core conference is October 2-4 with a pre-day on October 1st. The details are at

I guess my thoughts are this. You have rebooted your way out of the recession. Done. So now it’s essential that you add fuel to the fire. There is a perfect storm brewing of:

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IBM Partner Program Talk with Dave Carlquist

Harrybbb IBM 2At the recent IBM PartnerWorld, I was able to meet with Dave Carlquist, Vice President, Worldwide Channels, IBM Systems. We had a nice chat about the key demographic at PartnerWorld 2015, and the IBM partner program.

To start, there were1500 partner attendees at the recent PartnerWorld event in Las Vegas. Dave explained that the key audience at this particular event was the C-level executive looking to get more info on the bigger picture of today’s technology landscape. Dave also explained that the IBM Interconnect event, taking place here soon, will have about 4000 of the company’s technological partners.

“A big part of our strategy is about moving to value and selling value. IBM builds its partner programs around selling value,” said Dave in our interview.

With that quote, I’ll jump into the IBM partner program conversation. Dave mentioned that there were about 100,000 people certified last year through IBM’s partner program, on various solutions. For SMB partners, Dave said that IBM has a two-tier distributor strategy, so partners can get support from both the disty and IBM.

So how do IBM partners make money? Dave said that it depends on the solution sold, and that most partners see a bigger payout on the front end, as opposed to recurring revenue. If IBM partners sell both hardware and software, there’s an added bonus.

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I’ll take a very small cup of coffee with my Office 365

small cup of coffeeLife on the road breeds great war stories. A couple of years ago, while conducting a 44-city Windows XP Migration tour, I stopped for coffee one morning at a Starbucks. Ahead of me, a customer was a bit “short” in being able to pay for a cup of coffee. Unable to pay the full amount, he asked if he could buy a very small cup of coffee. The lady behind him paid it forward and covered his coffee costs. I guess you had to have been there, but it was both a comical and touching scene.

It got me thinking about pricing out Office 365 E3 and the return of the coffee shop story. First, the current story, and then the back story.

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Laura Guio Talks Shop with Harrybbb at IBM PartnerWorld 2015

Harrybbb and Laura GuioI recently attended the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2015 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. While I was there, I had the chance to speak with a couple of IBM execs about the company’s plans for the future, and how they view the SMB opportunity.

My first meeting was with Laura Guio (pictured), Vice President and Storage Business Line Executive, IBM Systems. Laura managed the overall investment and strategic direction of IBM, and she had some very interesting things to say about the current tech environment. Read on for our interview:

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Office 365: Dollar a Holler!

dollarYears ago, to promote the Microsoft 70-282 certification exam, we ran some low cost radio ads inviting IT Pros to an exam cram workshop. It’s where I learned the phrase “dollar a holler.” Over this past weekend, I was thinking about Office 365 pricing, and that phrase crept back into my mind. The following is not a perfect analogy, but its close enough. LOL.

Basically I’m looking at how you can inspect the value of the Office 365 E3 Plan. I need to make a few assumptions for my academic “dollar a holler” thesis to work. Assumptions are:

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Net New Friends at Cloud Summit 2015

ingram micro cloud summitThere’s nothing like tapping into a new community and making new professional friends. Such was the case this week at the Cloud Summit 2015 conference in Phoenix, AZ. Visually, there were over 800 attendees who were mainly SMB resellers (I was told this number was up from 500 last year). Throw in 30 vendors supporting the cloud play (e.g. Parallels) and heaps of well-known speakers (yours truly, Howard Cohen, Ken Thorsen, Keith Lubner) and you’ve got the formula for an impactful event. I will repeat.

Because Office 365 is my niche, I heard what I wanted to hear. In the Cloud Selling Best Practices panel, my colleagues Tommy Wald and David DeCamillis did a masterful job of expanding the conversation to be a broader cloud discussion. Left to my own devices, it quickly would have turned into “How to Make Money with Office 365” speech. More importantly, the event was very diverse, with participation of vendors beyond Microsoft, such as IBM, VMware, Cisco, and a host of others.

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Catching up with Carbonite

CARBONITE logoI had a few moments this week to catch up with David Maffei, Vice President of Global Channel Sales and Jim Crook, Sr. Communications Manager, Carbonite, and we discussed the company’s server backup product updates, customer acquisition, and the recent corporate move.

David began our call by letting me know that Carbonite recently added hybrid backup for Microsoft Exchange Online in Office 365 to their server backup product. Why? Well, as David explained, they received a lot of requests from partners and customers, wanting more functionality. Carbonite’s server backup product is currently their most popular solution, and David described the latest upgrades as: “We basically had a bonfire and threw some gasoline on it.”

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Hansen speaks out about MSFT Enterprise Mobility Suite

“Every day is another sunny day as we do our best each day to make sure there are updated features.” Thomas Hansen, Vice President of Worldwide SMB, Microsoft, shared in a far reaching interview this week. “A couple of years ago it was ‘how are we going to transition to cloud, how will we make money?’ Today, through effort of people like you, we have a large ecosystem. One of largest in the world. Every cloud solution from MS is available in various channel models. The Channel is now putting its weight behind cloud.” I would concur. The favorable ratings on cloud are skyrocketing in 2015, as the hostility subsidies.

“Customers are speaking with their wallet. Millions of companies are running on Office 365. That business has reached critical mass. Whenever we have a channel partner involved, customers and the partners are getting a higher-end SKU and customer satisfaction is higher.” Hansen said. Bottom line is that the channel adds value for customers.

So now for the reason we were meeting.

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Next Office 365 Community Workshop – March 26 NYC

 LA sessionroomThe caravan continues with our first east coast meeting being held end-of-March in Manhattan. This is the mid-point of our current independent Office 365 workshop road show. If you are not aware – be sure to mark your calendar to attend the *independent* Office 365 community meeting and workshop on March 26th in the New York City area. We expect an overwhelming response and we are limiting enrollments to 100-attendees, so sign-up today (we have over 75 already committed).

Pictured: Last week’s tour stop in Irvine, CA

Learn more here:

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Revisiting Partnerships: IAMCP

IAMCP feb meetingFor many years, I’ve watched from afar as the IAMCP has “hung in there” through various Microsoft generations. I was active in the late 1990s, when I worked at Clark Nuber, a Pacific Northwest accounting firm that had a robust Great Plains accounting practice. Fast forward the movie to present times, and we’re working closer with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IACMP) than ever before. It serves all parties well.

Pictured: Long-time Microsoft SMB executive Arnie Mondloch speaks to the monthly Puget Sound IAMCP lunch meeting. Readers will remember Arnie from his leadership role several years ago in the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC).

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Meet Harry Next Week – Cloud Summit (PHX)

ingram cloud summitYou don’t send me roses anymore, so I’m delivering them to you. With the dramatic business transformation in our SMB IT Pro community, new conversations require new outreach approaches. So I’m covering the Cloud Summit event, March 8-10 at the amazing Arizona Grand Resort and Spa. It’s just what the Doctor ordered – cloud content, spa and a seven acre water park. I need this “working vacation,” and I’d like you to join me.

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Community Relations

datto dinner editedIt’s been said the only reason you would ever engage in lead generation is because it’s a last resort. That is, you would grow by referral based on your reputation. When that doesn’t work, you’ll see companies go metric and engage in big data lead generation activities with little regard for business relationships. It’s more than apparent in the SMB IT community.

But there are a few exceptions. Datto is one of them. If you research the company, you can get your speeds and feeds fix and learn about its young wunderkind founder. That’s not what this blog is about. Instead, it’s about Datto going old school, and hosting a series of community gatherings across the US. This past week, I attended thE Datto event at a local restaurant, Duke Chowder House, with the Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) group. This night did double duty as the group’s monthly meeting as well.

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All Together Now!

lenovoBeing part of the analyst and blogger community grants one access to leading thought leaders in our professional community. So I always look forward to a chit-chat with Chris Frey, long-time Lenovo executive. Let’s start there.

Up and Not Out

Chris’ new position is as VP of the North American Commercial business, overseeing a combination of Channel, SMB and Corporate sales that will simplify Lenovo’s relationship with the Channel and better leverage our partners to acquire new customers in the commercial space. Essentially, that is good for us, the SMB Nation community member. Chris is “one of us,” who has responsibilities up the entire segment (up through retail, enterprise), but he thinks SMB first.

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I’m only here because I want to make money with Office 365!


skykickFeeling like an underpaid superstar in the Office 365 community? The question I receive every day is: “how can I make more money as an MSP with Office 365?” It’s a fair question. The money motion surrounding the Office 365 opportunity is clearly different from the server-side, on-prem old school rock ‘em sock ‘em dance.

Enter SkyKick’s new Office 365 migration offer. Right now, you can think of the Office 365 opportunity life cycle as being in the early stages. So the type of work you can, would and should perform concerns migrations. Arguably in a couple of years, there will be less migration work, as the Office 365 product matures. So that’s why it’s important to understand and capitalize immediately on the SkyKick Office 365 migration offer.

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Get Modern and New Starts! SMB Nation Moves to SoundLine Communications

sound communicationsYesterday, SMB Nation entered into an agreement for SoundLine Communications to be the exclusive telecom provider for SMB Nation! This is part of our strategy to continuously “get modern” using the latest technologies. In this case, we’re super excited about the HD sound quality offered by Sound Communications. We are also seeing an upgrade in our telecom functionality including the “park” feature that I had, to be honest, forgotten about. So we’re also excited for our links into Office 365.

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Win10 Hunger – Are You Starved For Information?

win10siteA trending topic in the IT Pro community is Windows 10. Whether you fancy other communities, such as Office 365, Windows Server 2003 end-of-support (W2k3 EOS), post-SBS or hybrid, everything circles back to the desktop operating system. Love it or hate it, you can’t leave it.

I interviewed Onuora Amobi, the guy behind the Windows 10 Update site (where you can discover a primer on “What is Windows 10” here). He is a former Microsoft MVP for Windows, and he has been writing about Windows since Vista in 2007. Since that time, he has been following the Windows product development very closely. He has built an audience in excess of 250,000 followers. “It’s a lot of enterprise people on site and receiving the newsletters, lots of executives and tech people. The geography is 55 percent North America and 25 percent Europe with the rest varied.” Amobi shared.

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Helping Handy Andy!


handyandyI’ll never forget the first time I spoke with Handy Andy. It was in the late 1990s, just before the Y2K New Year’s Celebration. We had been connected by, if memory serves me right, Meredith Lynch at Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft's vaunted PR agency. The magazine, owned by Penton, had a Small Business Server newsletter for several issues. I had just finished skiing for the day with my family. Instantly, I knew Andy Goodman (Handy Andy) was one of the good guys.

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Resistance is Futile!

O365 Tour RoomI’ve written far too many words for far too long preaching about business transformation topics surrounding Office 365. I’m now breaking away from my prepared comments, and the teleprompter, to promote a new way of thinking. Out with the old scare tactics and looking in the rear view mirror. Instead – time to look forward and understand and appreciated Office 365 on it stand alone merits.

If you’re with me, there is a community meeting in late February in SoCal (Irvine, CA) where you can endeavor to expand your Office 365 knowledge in a safe, secure and INDEPENDENT environment. It’s the Office 236 Nation community meeting tour visiting seven NFL cities. The first two events held in January were amazing and exceeded expectations.

So here is the “411” you need to know so you can attend this event.

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Selfie Stick

selfie stickOn the one hand, I’m holding a “Selfie Stick” that takes the business photography I do for SMB Nation to a whole different level. On the other hand, I’m trying to suppress my inner narcissist who wants to come out and play.

As you know, every article and blog at any of our sites (SMB Nation, and has to have a piece of art before we will publish. It’s typically a photo related to the story. For years I could be seen with a Nikon DL-5000 camera. Today I carry the Nokia Lumia 1020 phone with the 41 megapixel camera based on the Carl Zeiss “PureView” lens. More on that in a moment.

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Super Bowl Payoff

lost super bowl betI’m a humble bumble today.

A few weeks ago, I made a friendly bet with Boston-based Continuum, concerning Super Bowl 49. If my beloved Seattle Seahawks won, I was to receive two Lobsters as my payoff from Shannon Kohn Mayer, who recently moved from LogMeIn to Continuum and has a channel role. If the New England Patriots won (which they did 28-24 late in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl game), I am obligated to deliver Pacific Northwest salmon and coffee to Shannon’s desk in downtown Boston on my next trip. This will likely be in mid-August when I attend the D&H New England Show. You can see in the pic that I’m posing with the booty while wearing a Belichick hoodie.

shannon continuum lobster bet

Shannon Kohn Mayer, Senior Marketing Programs Manager at Continuum.

Mayer, shown in the picture, commented: “Recently, our #Boston office had a friendly competition with SMB Nation Founder, Harry Brelsford. If the Seattle Seahawks beat the New England Patriots, we would have had to send him TWO lobsters from James Hook and Company... Sorry, Harry! These guys are staying put!”

So what’s the take away from this? Not much really in terms of IT business but a lot in terms of relationships. Have fun. Enjoy the ride. And as for the game, congratulations to the Pats for a comeback victory. Everyone loves a comeback. For the Hawks, I’d offer being a risk taker got us to the Super Bowl but if not for that last play, I’d be enjoying two lobsters!


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Jenny and Edna 12th ManAs many of you know, SMB Nation has its HQ in western, WA, just outside of Seattle. This means that we are throwing our support behind our own Seattle Seahawks to win the 49th annual Super Bowl, taking place this Sunday at 3:30 pm PST.

Pictured: Jenny and Edna showing 12th Man Pride



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Launched! Independent O365 Community Group Tour!

jan 27 o365 tour bellevue1Welcome to new world of Office 365 critical mass. Yesterday at Microsoft Advanta, over 100 IT Pros gathered for the kick-off Office 365 Nation community group workshop. Bright and early, subject matter expert Grant Thompson started with well-received lectures on Click-to-Run Deployments and Line of Business application deployments and Migrations. Later in the day, Melanie Gass delivered speeches on Office 365 Licensing, SharePoint and OneDrive. She concluded later with a “night school” session on how MSPs can make money with Office 365.

The “Best of Show” award went to SkyKick with its audience wowing academic conversation on the hot topic of the day: Office 365 migrations. Other highlights included a largely paperless conference experience where surveys and alerts were handled by a dedicated mobile app.

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I Can’t Wait For Win10

win81 crahsBy now, you are familiar with the Windows 10 conversation that reached a new peak a week ago Tuesday with a public-facing webinar. Shouts out included product features and function, such as the Start button, and a conversation about Windows as a Service (think in some ways how Google Chromebooks works). I’d implore you to read this PC Magazine article for your Win10 speeds and feeds fix.

What I want to do with this blog is provide more context.

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Check out new Office 365 Nation Mobile App!

It’s been asked of many: “given the chance to do it again, would you do it differently?” The answer is a resounding yes. The idea of building an independent Office 365 community is now a reality with Office 365 Nation ( And our momentum is accelerating. There is a hunger for an “outside looking in view” of the Office 365 world. Thus, we have a mobile app to accelerate the experience.

First – scan the QR code pictured and download the mobile app for your Android, Apple or Windows phone. Okay – now that you have done that, we can continue.

Today the application is focused on our seven city independent Office 365 tour traversing NFL cities. It all starts next Tuesday, January 27th followed by the Silicon Valley on January 29th. Wanna learn more, “old school” style? Then visit our traditional tour site at But we’d actually prefer you use the mobile app.

Tomorrow, the application will be an integral part of the day-to-day Office 365 Nation community motion. We’ll have the ability to alert you to important news. We can survey you on the fly, as we want to be your independent Office 365 Ombudsman, keeping a watchful eye over Microsoft. Imagine that I’m in a meeting with the Office 365 product team in Redmond and I instantly survey the community about some pending proposition or initiative. You get the point, I hope. The Office 365 Nation mobile app is an enabling technology bringing us closer together to accomplish more goodness.

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Free Good!

BI RideIn the study of economics, there is an academic debate as to whether a “free good” truly exists. It’s not that something is just “free,” but there is the discussion of the whole opportunity cost.

But I’ve discovered what I’d consider to be a free good, and you should take advantage of it if you live in my community of Bainbridge Island. Think of it as a publically-financed UBER. It’s called BI Ride (pictured) and I recently used it. The driver told me he wishes more people would use it.

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Hybrid Right Here, Right Now

fac-jan2016 editedLast week, I spoke with Zynstra executive Andrew Morlidge, days before the company’s US launch of its SMB Hybrid IT solution (and just days before the Seahawks won the NFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl). In a wide-ranging conversation, we focused on a few core conversations: demographic, segment and opportunity.


I offered that Zynstra, who previously announced its forthcoming SMB hybrid solutions at our SMB Nation Fall 2014 conference last October, stands to benefit in this way. If you look at the SMB Nation community as a whole, I believe it breaks down this way today:

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Office 365 Ombudsman

ombudsmanA common question that we receive every day concerns “who/what is O365nation?”

It’s a very simple answer. We are an Office 365 Ombudsman, committed to independent analysis, events, research, advocacy and outreach to make the Office 365 community a better place. It’s a very necessary role that we take incredibly seriously. We optimistically awaken everyday driven by a “Blue Ocean” abundance philosophy. We reject “Red Ocean” negativity, espoused by critical curmudgeons (you know who you are!)

Here’s our essential raison d’etre:

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Starting The New Year Properly – Updated Office 365 Nation site!

O365NATION updateDigital presence always feels like an exercise in continuous updates. I’d offer it’s that way more and more, speaking as someone raised on printing books and magazines. The good news is that updates can add more value and correct mistakes quickly. The bad news is that it’s a 7x24 world!

With that said, I wanted to give a shout out to the updates at We are building an independent community committed to Office 365 advocacy and outreach. It’s what we done in different realms for over 15+ years. And it’s déjà vu all over again here!

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Office 365 Community Group Kick-Off Meeting – Coming Soon To Your Community!

O365tour 2logoSEATTLE – Be sure to mark your calendar to attend the inaugural *independent* Office 365 community meetings occurring in seven NFL cities in the first part of 2015. Already we are experiencing an overwhelming response and we are limited enrollments to 150-attendees so we encourage you to sign-up today. Learn more here:

Who should participate?

  • Office 365 IT Pros
  • Office 365 MSPs
  • Office 365 Consultants
  • Segments: Enterprise, Government, Education, SMB

What will you learn!

Help form an on-going Office 365 community that is independent and professionally managed so you can accelerate your discovery journey about the amazing Office 365 platform and share your experiences. You will rapidly advance your Office 365 migration, deployment, administration and troubleshooting skills.

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In the time it took you to read this…for MSPs (Part 2 of 2)

time it took 2With the business community fully engaged post-holiday, it’s time to share part two of our “by the numbers” series, concerning the performance of Office 365. Part one was published here. This installment concerns the MSP community. As we’ve discussed in prior blogs, the term MSP includes resellers, consultants, VARs, partners and old-fashioned computer guys and gals that serve business customers. We don’t typically discuss the consumer-side of Office 365 at our site.

What we’re talking about here is how partners are capitalizing on Office 365. It’s arguably a work in progress. Partners are defining the profitability paradigm surrounding Office 365. Partners are outnumbered in the Office 365 community 4:1 when compared to in-house IT Pros. That said, here are the facts concerning partner performance (and spoiler alert: the news is good).

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Mimecast hits the Office 365 ground running for 2015

boston -3-2 jpg  2The first day of real business in a new year is always exciting. It’s all about resolutions, hope and looking forward. Speaking for the Office 365 Nation community, we’ve used the long holiday break to recharge and move forward with ENERGY into the New Year. But one major Office 365 ISV hardly rested over the holidays, saving that for another day.

Bright and early this week (Monday, January 5, 2015) in Seattle, I spoke at length with Orlando Scott-Cowley, Director of Technology Marketing at Mimecast. He enjoyed one advantage out of the gate. His day was trending to sunset in London as I was “coffee-ing up.” The interview revealed a few interesting factoids about the $100m company with over 12,000 customers serving 3-million customers. Earlier today, to kick off the New Year, Mimecast engaged in some “rebranding” to better describe its Office 365 services. This is part of an on-going effort to build out is Office 365 branding. I’d offer this “work in progress” mentality is consistent with the entire industry, as we define the Office 365 paradigm in the early days of its service.

Pictured: The Mimecast US Headquarters in Boston, MA

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Kick-off 2015 properly: Easiest Way to Office 365 Webinar!

SkyKick migration imageMoving a business to Office 365 is no small task. IT providers need a more holistic approach to move their customers to Office 365. Discover a new category of migration software called Migration Project Automation - designed to help IT providers manage all the details of a project from sales to Outlook setup. The technology is designed to address the wide variety of migration scenarios that exist across the SMB and Enterprise landscapes. The result? Reduced time and risk. A seamless migration project. Happy customers. It’s the first step to a long and successful relationship with Office 365. It’s going to be a ten year run, so jump on now.

Join us for an in-depth discussion this Thursday, January 8 from 10-11am PST!


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CenturyLink’s Office 365 Drip Campaign

clink2 editedDue to the declining volume of traditional postal mail, it’s easy to witness the few organizations who still have direct mail campaigns. Such was the case over the past month, as I’ve monitored the CenturyLink Business Office 365 drip campaign in the Pacific Northwest. Here are the details.

Every ten days for the past month, I have received an oversized CenturyLink postcard (pictured). The cards are in order. The first card posed the question “What do you call a laptop, tablet or phone with our High-Speed Internet and Microsoft Office 365?” The answer is “Call it our office.” This specific offer is very cost-effective. The CenturyLink High –Speed Internet service for $29.95/month includes up to 12Mbps speed (that means DSL) for 12-months with a 36-month term. The rates, starting in month 13, escalates to “the then current standard rate” which is undefined in the offer. CenturyLink deftly promotes that it also “Includes Microsoft Office 365 at no extra charge,” which is a nice way to present that Office 365 costs are being amortized into the offering price. I applaud this initiative.

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The Updated Office 365 Community Wish List for 2015! - Part Two


o365wish 2By Harry Brelsford, Founder and Chairman, SMB Nation, Inc.

Hey folks, and welcome to Part Two of the Office 365 Community Wish List for 2015. I can honestly say that I was surprised by the amount of replies I received from our community on the Office 365 Wish List. Here’s the rest of the list!

  • John Benjamin, CTO, Cavu Networks
    • “1. Better access to log files for troubleshooting SharePoint services. Being able to find out more info from Correlation ID’s without requiring support would really be great. This is tough in a multi-tenant environment but it would be nice to have so i’ll add it to a wish-list.
    • 2. More options for two-factor authentication.
    • 3. The ability to rename the internal SharePoint URL after a tenant changes their company name so they show the change across the all the services. Currently, changes to the domain names which reflect a company name change can be handled in Exchange (multiple domains are easy) and Lync (requires PS but is well documented) but not for the SharePoint URL. This means the old name is reflected in any of the services which run on-top of SharePoint such as Project On-Line or Power BI.
  • Keith Bucknall Technologist / Lead Technical Architect at ERS
    • “1. additional sub tenants under a single tenant for additional ShrePiint environments.2. new features for Lync on auditing and restrict file sharing with federated partners.


3. 2 form factor without the need of Azure AD and only work on DirSync or ADFS.”

  • “An ability to pull back email sent if it has not been opened or accessed. I used to able to do that in GroupWise. I don’t see a similar function in Office 365 when you want make corrections to an email that was just sent. When you resend the email, the recipient user often can’t tell what the latest version is.” – Daniel Lark, Oracle DBA (ITS(Database)) at NYS Office of Information Technology Services
  • “Sort out confusion between Microsoft accounts (liveid) and Office 365 accounts, especially for Windows phone corporate users.” Simeon Lewis, Head of IT at World Society for the Protection of Animals
    • “I would like to have the ability to immediately prevent a terminated employee’s account to be inaccessible to him/her. We have found that changing passwords does not prevent a terminated employee from accessing their account from a smartphone after they have been terminated or have quit. This, to me, is a huge security vulnerability.”Marc Lighter, Senior Consultant at Infinity Business Consulting
    • “Stop tying One Drive for business to accounts. Add the ability to easily map One Drive for business as a network drive. Allow partners to setup E1 trials instead of E3. Stop calling customers after they have been setup assuming it has been setup by a certified partner it just causes confusion.”Jason Marrow, President, Work IT Solutions
  • Joseph Palarchio, Lead Technical Consultant at Perficient
    • “1. The ability to split a tenant’s location across geographies for clients that have compliances restrictions.2. More granular RBAC such that it’s not global admin for all services (a Roadmap item but I would like to see it implemented).

3. Support for cross-premises delegations in Exchange hybrid.

4. The ability to migrate email attachments larger than 25 MB during onboarding even if they could not be forwarded post-migration.

5. More transparency around changes which includes making sure the Roadmap is updated more consistently.”

  • “With all of the changes (positive) happening with OneDrive for Business….going from 1TB and moving towards unlimited storage, is there any chance that the same thing will happen with SharePoint – 1TB or unlimited storage in SharePoint (no additional storage costs past what they are granted initially)?Because there is better collaboration within SharePoint, we hope that is the case. Right now companies get 10GB of storage plus ½ Gigabyte for each user, then it’s $0.20/GB thereafter. In order to help companies adopt the use of SharePoint, that would help.”

Shawn Sailer, Empact IT

Thanks again, folks!


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Updated Office 365 Community Wish List for 2015! – Part One

wish listHear ye! Hear ye! The Office 365 community has spoken and here is the crowd sourced wish list, just in time for Microsoft to make New Year’s Resolutions. Before I jump into it, I first want to thank everything who helped socialize this topic by making sincere contributions. Power to the people!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM (online 2013) integration. This was from yours truly. I’m in CRM all day every day and would like it to better leverage Office 365 all the way from authentication to untold new nuggets I can’t think of.

Here’s the first part of what you, the community, asked for in 2015:

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Support the Office 365 Community!

supportO365nationWith the end of year at hand, much mischief is afoot. Accountants are helping business owners move funds to and fro to lock-in tax benefits. Others are making end-of-year purchases to expense items in 2014. And others, myself included, are crossing-off the resolution list to get stuff done before midnight, New Year’s Eve.

With all this activity, I wanted to present an opportunity for you to support our community, Much like the way you support Public Radio and Public TV, you can sign-up for an Office 365 service offered by one of our supporters, SkyKick, for free with no commitments (this is a migration solution to Office 365). It’s simple. You sign-up and for each sign-up, SkyKick makes a generous donation to so we can continue our independent advocacy and outreach efforts you’ve come to depend on.

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How Distributors Play With O365…


Disty-HDWith this blog, I am starting a series of contributions exploring how Distributors will work with Office 365 and its unique solution sales motion(s). Over the next few weeks, I’ll reach out to each of the major distributors as part of my comprehensive, primary research. My intentions are to gift you in the season of giving some fantastic analytical content that educates you on a huge part of the IT segment: distribution.

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Last Minute Holiday Geek Gifts

multitoolThere was a time when I faked it until I made it – a tired old saying of both the business and theatrical communities. Basically, I signed up each year for the Nieman-Marcus holiday catalog. Each issue always had some outlandish gift for the well-healed person had literally had it all. These gifs, recommended by the Dallas-based retailer, were often hundreds of thousands of dollars, such as a personal submarine.

Back to reality, I want to dial down those “one percent” elite expectations and recommend a few items I think would make great gifts. More importantly, I engaged in CROWD SOURCING this list on the popular Facebook group “You know you grew up with SBS if…” where old SBSers still have fun. Here are my findings:

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Best Office 365 Vid Ever – Happy Holidays!


office365 xmasThe one thing you can count on with Microsoft’s overseas subsidiaries is that outside the box creativity flows more freely that the good folks at the Redmond HQ (no offense guys). Such is the case one again. Microsoft Ireland has produced an Office 365 holiday video that is just frinkin’ good! Enjoy the sleigh ride on this one folks. Click here:


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OT: XP and O365

xp2 editedAs much of the world enters the holiday season, I bumped into a blog I didn’t think I’d ever write. It concerns Windows XP (yes – you read correctly). I am taking my last trip of the year, and find myself in Denver, CO staying at a business hotel. In the business center, I found that the public PCs are running Windows XP. Not only does this open the hotel chain up to extreme potential liability in the Post-Sony hacking era (imagine if your Gmail account, accessed from its browser, was infiltrated) because the world has been put on legal notice about end of support (EOS).

So that hotel motion got me thinking. What is the implicit opportunity to Office 365 for businesses still running Windows XP on the desktop? If you think about it – the opportunity is strong. When you are considering moving the desktop operating system to “get modern,” wouldn’t it be strategically prudent to consider upgrading the front office components of Microsoft Office to the latest and greatest version? And if that decision point is on the table, wouldn’t you want to use the new-new of Office 365 instead of the FPP SKU for Office 2013 Professional? I’d assert the answer is YES!

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Old Friend Exclaimer Launches O365 Managed Email Signature Software

Exclaimer team smallWow – it’s always great to hear from old friends as the holidays approach. Exclaimer, an SMB ISV, was a deep friend of the family in the mid-2000s with our parent company, SMB Nation. After a river boat ride in 2007 at Jeff Middleton’s IT Pro SBS migration conference, I even crafted a cover story in our SMB PC magazine. Time passed until today when I received this reach out. Long story short – this SMB ISV has deftly pivoted to Office 365 while sticking to the knitting. It’s a win-win. Read on.

Here’s a bit of background about Exclaimer, Ltd. It is based in the UK and it was incorporated in 2001. It has achieved the Microsoft Gold Application Developer Certification, and it has also received industry recognition for its Signature Manager Product line.

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Help Needed: Bona fide Small Businesses Implementing Office 365


typing shopWe’ve been retained by Microsoft to assist in forming an SMB advisory group of actual small business customers (NOT CONSULTANTS). The challenge is that most small businesses use an MSP or consultant to implement Office 365, which is fine. However, we are seeking to speak with small business customers directly, such as the small business owner who is a “Do It Yourself” (DIY) scenario.

Such small businesses might include an office supply store, a small real estate firm, a law firm, butcher, baker and candlestick maker. It could even be the typing shop pictured in this blog. If you are a computer retailer or consider your SMB MSP practice to itself be a small business, we’d kindly ask that you decline this polite offer.

Specifically, we are interested in having on going SMB advisory group that will:

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Goodness Time: Hour of Code Week is HERE!

hour of code hereQuickly – it’s time to move “fast fast” if you want to participate I the worldwide Hour of Code project. I wrote about its meaning here a couple of weeks ago. Bottom line is that you use pre-planned curriculums to deliver an Hour of Code lecture to students to get them excited about computer science and engineering! How cool is that?

Learn more here:

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HP Snubs Small Business IT Resellers

Small Business Saturday (November 29th) was a day to both celebrate and do good business with your local small business on “Main Street.” As I wrote this, I was hosting a Small Business Saturday event at Bainbridge Technology Solutions, a local computer storefront reseller .

brandonSo time for some Small Business Saturday storytelling . Brandon Byron is the owner/operator of Bainbridge Technology Solutions. Earlier this year, Byron received notification from HP that it was terminating the wholesale motion of its printer ink to smaller resellers who didn’t meet a annual quota of $30,000 USD in sales. The same fate also awaited the stationary store on downtown “Main Street” (really known as Winslow Way) called Paper Products. The sales termination date was November 1, 2014 (or about a month ago). HP had a procedural exemption step called the “Small Town Exemption.” This was an appeals process that Byron undertook showing community need, demographics. He even submitted photographic evidence depicting the character of the community. Sadly his request “ask” was denied. Even sadder was Byron’s belief that HPs decision will lead to Paper Products closing as it has a greater dependency on its HP ink sales than Byron. He will survive with a diversified practice that includes managed services for local small businesses.

I continued my investigation by going up the food chain. Bainbridge Technology Solutions is a reseller partner for D&H Distributing, one of the top five distributors in the US. I reached out to D&H Distributing who confirmed the scenario but further declined comment. I get that but, translated, there was nothing D&H Distributing could do.

So what’s it all mean? Small town customers will likely purchase their HP ink from online retailers and LARs such as CDW. I found an interview from HP’s Steve Sakumoto, VP and General Manager, US Supplies Sales Organization in OPI magazine. It’s actually a good article you can read here. Basically, it amounts to brand protection from HP’s point of view. But it sits wrong with me when an enterprise business tries to unsuccessfully understand small business. It’s a different dialect and culture.

I’ll continue to pursue this story – stay tuned for updates. And please support your local small business IT services provider and reseller.

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O365 Community Survey Results (Part 2 of 3)

o365 community survey part iiThe Office 365 journey continues. And with this second installment of the Office 365 community survey, I have good news for MSPs: the more things change, the more things stay the same. In reviewing the results with industry thought leaders, I found that our survey results were validated by industry observations. That is, the MSP business model isn’t necessarily shrinking, but changing. That is because MSPs are really selling customer service, support and human interaction. And that will continue with the pivot to Office 365.

When asked “What percentage (estimate ok) of your client base has dedicated IT staff?” you overwhelmingly replied less than 5 percent. If you extend up to the next range (up to 25%), the combined response is in excess of 2/3 of all respondents. The point is this to MSPs: don’t give up your day job anytime soon. Your services are in-demand irrespective of the technology.

The next question was: “What are the most common business challenges that your clients hope O365 solves?” The replies, in free-form text entries, focused on lowering costs, sharing and collaboration. Other “mentions” included storage and ease of management. In the next survey, I’ll ask this as a rate/stack question instead of freeform so I can better tally percentage results.

Understanding the question immediately above, the next question was a follow-up: “Does Office 365 effectively address these challenges?” The overwhelmingly affirmative response (at 76%) was YES! It’s important to understand that this specific response is arming you for business development. If you probe in your discovery phase with a client that can benefit from collaboration (for example), then you can fortify your sales pitch with the feedback that over 76% of IT Pros believe that Office 365 can solve your problems.

The final question for this installment is: “What is the greatest difficulty your clients experience using O365?” Again, it was a free form response field so that narrative varies dramatically. But a few highlights include “too many ways to do the same task in SharePoint v. OneDrive.” Another frequent mentions were:

  1. Understanding all the features
  2. What if the Internet goes down
  3. Lack of training (e.g. getting staff to use OneDrive)
  4. Hybrid deployment complexity
  5. Slowness
  6. Letting go of the old traditional hardware and starting the change process in how the cloud can solve common problem
  7. Hitting restrictions: SharePoint file limits, types
  8. Mac users want everything on their desktop, not web-based file systems
  9. The major headaches are working with more than one domain (possible, but requires customization)
  10. Not ready for change, uncomfortable with cloud

In my next blog installment, I’ll share you get help with your Office 365 questions.


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Happy Cyber Monday Y’all!

Cyber Monday PoliteHere we go again – it’s Cyber Monday. Today actually marks the 10th anniversary of this holiday, created by marketers to spur online sales. Known for double-digit increases each year (2013 saw over 20 percent growth), the event is lauded as, in the eyes of many, “shop from your desk at work” day. You can learn the history of Cyber Monday here: Also, check out my video to the right!

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How to Get an O365 Job!


growth - get a job at bittitanA lot of O365ers forget that LinkedIn originally started as something of an employment site before the world really thought “social media.” I’m active in several Office 365 groups on LinkedIn, including the “Microsoft Office 365” group, which is fast approaching 45,000 members. So given I post often on O365 topics to these LinkedIn groups, it’s only fitting I divulge how you can get an Office 365-related job! Read on.

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World Launch: LinkedIn Cocktail Mixer Party

linkedin party2 editedI have always thought that LinkedIn should hold events to connect the people within a community. Wouldn’t you like to meet some of the people you are intertwined with and discover good business? Of course you would.

Last night, LinkedIn held its first-ever event at a hip-and-cool art gallery in the Downtown Seattle area, inviting approximately 200 professionals (pictured right). I was impressed. High-end appetizers, top-shelf open bar, profile “makeover consulting” at kiosks on the floor, and professional glamour headshots (with make-up professionally applied). It was a win. I believe the company’s intent is to hold similar events in other cities.

linkedin party 3I listened intently to the panel presentation, which was about 30-mins of the nearly 3-hour reception. Two experts joined two LinkedIn employees. The takeaway of this session? The morning after, you should have a meeting with someone you met the previous day, send a LinkedIn request, and make it a “thank you for meeting with me” message. During the Q&A portion, I was able to ask the LinkedIn employees about creating a certification title, as well as a partner program. The reason behind my question is a rise in the trend of people wanting to be LinkedIn consultants to small businesses.

linkedin party 4 edited

Other conversations I had with attendees included job hunting (LinkedIn is still a vehicle for finding work opportunities), event photography and relationships (one attendees noticed that there were more women than men and made an off-handed remark about I also spoke with an attendee about how great it was that Seattle was selected for the global kick-off. I get that. I grew up in a small town and, no such events occurred there.

So keep your eyes open for future LinkedIn events in your area. They are highly recommended and I will definitely be attending the next one in the Seattle area.

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Status Check: MSFT Office 365 FastTrack Funds

My esteemed colleague Kevin McLaughlin at CRN has broken a story that Microsoft has exhausted funding for its controversial FastTrack program.

But let’s back up. Microsoft now provides free remote onboarding services to customers that buy 150 seats or more of Office 365, as part of an update to its Office 365 Fast Track program. Microsoft also offers customers free email migrations to Office 365 as part of a special adoption offer that runs from September 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. According to McLaughlin, this last part has many Microsoft partners upset because they charge money for their email migration services. Anything more complex than a basic email migration will still be handled by Microsoft partners, Microsoft’s Phil Sorgen reported to McLaughlin.

In these cases, Microsoft will provide funding to customers to defray the costs of the partner engagement. Microsoft partners can get $15 per seat for up to 1,000 seats and $5 per seat after that, with a cap of $60,000 per customer. You can read that entire interview here.

The Office 365 Fast Track changes stand to impact Microsoft's “born in the cloud” partners the most, as many of them got into Office 365 early on and have made significant investments in building service capabilities.

Now back to the main point. The above funding of $15 per seat, $5 afterwards with the $60K cap is still intact. What’s exhausted is another funding category, called Microsoft Partner Investment Engine (PIE) used to fund high-end pilots and deployments. It’s that funding that has been depleted faster than expected but, to clarify the confusion, the rest of the Office 365 Fast Track program is still operating.

Geeman Yip, CEO at BitTitan, offered the following observations in this video interview I conducted recently. Click here.

Gman interview

“While Microsoft funding is currently allocated, I think it’s important to remember the value of a customer engagement with a Microsoft Partner. The goal of the partner is to ensure all facets of the migration are seamless as possible to the customer, and to add value in providing the missing pieces in a proactive manner. The funding from Microsoft may not be available, but the partner and the value they bring to a customer is plentiful.” Melanie Gass, president of Center Point Solutions shared.

“What’s encouraging with this news is that FastTrack support, as well as the Office 365 Deployment Offer, continues. Our partners have told us they’re getting big leads from the FastTrack support center, so partners should view FastTrack as a solid lead source for 150+ seat deals, as well as Tier 2 support for partners. What’s exciting is when partners combine the Office 365 Deployment Offer of $15/mailbox with the 20-30% deployment savings of the Microsoft Turbo Offer which automates entire migration projects for partners at a discount, there is a big opportunity to drive significant partner profitability and end-customer savings for Office 365 migrations.” Said Todd Schwartz, co-CEO at SkyKick.

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GridVision Rolls Out Office 365 Management Automation-as-a-Service Platform

GridVision Main DashboardGridVision has released its multi-tenant automation and IT management platforms for SMBs. As you may remember from my last article with GridVision, in which I saw the beta launch, their technology is based on Azure, uses a web-based portal (pictured), and allows users to create custom policies to best-fit their needs.

Currently, many SMBs are using a variety of solutions, including manual processes to manage their infrastructure. The GridVision release is designed to offer a more broad coverage option for IT Pros to manage Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Windows servers and Office 365 from a single platform.

I caught a few more moments with Christian Ehrenthal (pictured) today, where he answered a few of my burning questions:

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Hey Lync – Don’t Let The Door Hit You On the Way Out!


Ummm…Redmond – we’ve got a problem. I’ve taken the position forever that Lync was the weakest link in Office 365. I don’t like it. I’ve had more messed-up meeting inside and outside Microsoft using Lync. It was a case of the “not ready for prime time players” (yea – kids won’t get that). Bottom line – I never felt Microsoft was a telecom and I have Response Point wounds to prove it. Lync only extended my belief.

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The Coming O365 Talent Shortage

will workAnother leading, not lagging, indicator of the success of Office 365 is an emerging talent shortage to do the work. While the current administration in Washington DC hasn’t been able to capitalize on the (technically) robust US job growth (over 214,000 jobs were added in October and 2.3 million jobs created in 2014), you can leverage your Office 365 expertise for more goodness. The goodness could be in the form of higher pay, a better work environment, or a better work location. Basically so goes Office 365, so goes its talent market. You heard it here first – good times dead ahead.

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Bon Voyage Karl – Let’s Send Him Off Properly


karl fundingLong-time leading SMB influencer Karl Palachuk is about to go down under to Australia with this staff for an SMB IT roadshow and a wee bit of personal vacation time. Last week I caught up with Karl to “check-in” before his departure, and it turns out Karl has big news. He has just released a comprehensive four-book set (Karl reports he has written over 15-books now). The book set is a turnkey, I’d offer almost franchise approach, to running a business from the front office to the back office. To be honest, this book series would make a great one-year, two semester local college series of courses.

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Microsoft’s Election Predictor

bing predictsAs it is Election Day in the US, I can’t let the opportunity to discuss the following pass by. Assuming you are an IT Pro out in the wild and want to improve your leadership skills, you really should get involved in Microsoft’s non-partisan Voices for Innovation political trade association. The short story is you’ll meet leaders and thereby improve your leadership skills along the way.

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SMB MVPs descend into Redmond!


mvp summit dinner nov 2014 editedMicrosoft’s annual MVP Global Summit is currently underway! The MVP Global Summit is a multi-day event that is hosted in Bellevue, WA and at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA. With a large catalog of technical sessions (offered only in English), and a variety of networking opportunities, the MVP Global Summit enables MVPs to connect with other MVPs, build relationships with Microsoft product managers, and provide feedback on Microsoft products and technologies. Translated, this means the best and brightest SMB IT technical minds are receiving “behind closed doors” confidential briefings on SMB-related products, so that they can return home and better support the community and prosper.

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Living Theology: Taking Fun Seriously – SMB Nation Turns 15!

smb nation 15-years old editedHow do you celebrate something as big as SMB Nation’s 15th anniversary? I think its part reflection, part forward planning and part celebration. As the founder, I’m very proud that we created a company that supports ten families. These jobs simply didn’t exist before, and I appreciate, daily, the staff that we have and the long tenures amongst them (my key employees are approaching eight years). So first and foremost on my gratitude list is a huge THANK YOU to these staff members:

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Are you kidding me? O365 Unlimited OneDrive storage

OfficeUNLIMITED SISU finalBrandedWhatever you say, you gotta hand it to Microsoft that they are in it to win it with Office 365. But the win for customers will put extreme pressure on competitors both near and far. The nearby competitors are Google, Box and DropBox who will have to respond with adding more value or lower prices LOL). The ramifications extend to the financial markets where online storage IPOs will instantly look less attractive to investors. How do you compete with a free good? You don’t. Investing to a race to the bottom is insane.

Competitors further afield will have to truly continue to innovate to add value to distinguish offerings above that of OneDrive. One vendor, eFolder, already does this by providing better security, features and functionality.

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First Quarter Score: O365=1, Luddites=0, Amazon-1

microsoft windows new logo-2560x1024Early this week Microsoft released it FY Q1 earnings (its fiscal year starts July 1st) and it exceeded expectations with respect to cloud revenues (overall earnings were down as expected because of the Nokia hit). The Wall Street Journal perhaps said it best that Microsoft is bucking the trend as revenues rose 11%, while competitors like IBM, Oracle and H-P are posting slow or shrinking sales growth. “Microsoft may not be cool, but its sales continue to defy expectations…” wrote Shira Ovide at WSJ.COM. MarketWatch reported that CEO Satya Nadella pitched that Microsoft’s strengths in cloud-based business services – primarily Web-friendly Office 365 and Azure – had resulted in double cloud revenue. That could spell double trouble for Amazon (more on that in a moment).

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Harry for Hire! It’s all Dana and Larry’s Fault


harryselfieThis is a story about the popular book, the E-Myth Revisited [Michael Gerber, Harper Business], the best-selling MBA program mainstay gifted to me by Dana Epp (Microsoft Security MVP and Scorpion Software founder – recently acquired by Kaseya) nearly ten years ago. The premise is that a small business owner (e.g. pie shop owner) should work ON the business but not necessarily IN the business full-time after a certain duration. So I followed Dana’s advice, and have built a company over the past 15+ years that can run without me being involved day-to-day. For that, I credit Jennifer Hallmark, who has served SMB Nation for the past eight years. She has built “Team Jenny” with an average tenure of five years inside a small business (rare and something she should be proud of). About 18-months ago, I promoted her to President of the company, and I’ve used the duration since to mentor her on the finer points of running a ten person company. Next up was the promotion of Marianne “CRM Machine” Poulos to Director of Sales eight months ago. Not a single CRM entry is missed with her team of four and her friction-free management style. Plan A is in effect for me to focus on more strategic initiatives and participate in industry opportunities while the SMB Nation trains run on time.

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Urgent: Participate in 1st Office 365 Community Survey!

Office365logoOrange WebWorking side-by-side with the Office 365 product team in Redmond, we’re delighted to present the first community “needs” survey to you. Your participation is paramount in helping the Office 365 team shape the direction of its product support resources. In particular, what you share from the real world, will allow me to engage in deeper conversation about what type of learning assets are needed now to make you more technical successful with Office 365.

To be more specific, this survey will allow you to weigh in on how Office 365 has helped your organization/customers, and how/where you get help for any Office 365-questions! This is your chance to drive the innovation of the Office 365 solution.

BONUS: One lucky respondent will win an ActionTec ScreenBeam WIDI device (HDMI wireless display – very cool)*

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Manufacturer Adaptation: Lenovo’s Chris Frey on Channel Partner Success, Recent Acquisitions and Combat Kits

Combat kit weightI caught a moment with this past week with Lenovo’s Vice President North America Commercial Channels and SMB, Chris Frey. During our interview, we touched base on the company’s recent acquisition of IBM’s x86 server unit, as well as Combat Kit updates, and the driving philosophy behind the company’s evolving channel program.

The main item Chris and I discussed was the recent acquisition of the IBM x86 server unit. Here’s where the Lenovo team starts to shine. As Chris explained, Lenovo is working hard to be the first to intersect people and program into channel, resulting in a new credo: “One Lenovo, One Channel.” What does this mean? Well, for starters, there’s a consistency here that all partners will share, whether they are PC resellers or working on the Server side. In fact, Chris told me that within the first 10 days of the acquisition, Lenovo had already started work on the following:

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Renee and Charles 2I like to lead by example. So I attended the Western Washington Summit 2014 event hosted by the West Sound Technology Association (WSTA) in the Seattle-area. My point is that, once a week, you need to engage in some form of professional outreach to remain relevant in your career. The choice of this outreach is yours; it’s the attitude to get out there that’s important.

Pictured: Renee Radcliff Sinclair and Charles Keating

Specific to the Western Washington Summit 2014, organizers Charles and Dona Keating held a mid-day event highlighted by speeches from Congressman Derek Kilmer, Olympic College Dean, Norma Whitacre, and Renee Radcliff Sinclair (who recently directed Strategic Initiatives at Apple). Sinclair just happens to live in the area and she spoke eloquently about technology in education. In a lighter moment, her Windows-based laptop display stumbled with an errant right-click context menu and this Apple executive needed Charles’ assistance in escaping out of it. Welcome to Seattle, Renee!

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New York Startup, GridVision and the Rise of Office 365/SaaS

GRID Christian Ehrenthal headshotIt’s finally happening. Start-ups such as GridVision, based in New York, NY, are emerging to capitalize on the pivot to Office 365 and the cloud world. GridVision launched both its company and its SaaS-based beta IT management and automation platform solution earlier this week. I was able to sit down and talk with GridVision CEO and Co-Founder, Christian Ehrenthal (pictured), and he walked me through the basics of his company’s solution.

So what does GridVision do? I’d start with they have a lack of legacy on-premises “baggage” as a born in the cloud startup. So that gives them a lot of agility and flexibility. It’s like a country devastated by a hurricane and rebuilding its telecom infrastructure with wireless, not landlines. A fresh start is, well, refreshing!

This timing couldn’t be better with Office 365 finally validating the cloud paradigm for even the most discrimination MSP. And yes – they hook Office 365, which I’ll get to in a moment.

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Friendly Divorce (Part I of II)

hpThe disruption drumbeat continues to march in the technology community. A day doesn’t end without some blockbuster technology news such as a break-up or hack. The sea of change brought by mobility and cloud computing is really playing out. In this contribution, I focus on two recent break-ups and speculate on others. Part One will focus on HP and Part Two will cover my observations on the recent Symantec separation.


I’ve got to hand it to HP. It’s doing something to adjust to the new-new world of cloud computing. But for several years, HP has had its challenges. It took log positions in its server-side, on-premise portfolio starting in the early 2000s. (HP, of course, is a mature company 1939 and has had countless acquisitions dating back to 1958 as seen here).

  • Compaq (2001/2) which itself had acquired DEC in 1998.
  • 3COM (2010)
  • Palm (2010)

The point is, HP is built for client/server and other on-premises technology paradigms. It thrived in our SMB community in the SBS 2003 era, as it was a top-of-mind solution for an SBS deployment. People loved HP! But starting a few years ago, it started to look a bit awkward at industry events promoting some legacy pillar server solution messaging. Numerous layoffs, executive management changes and mixed signals (initial tablet dropped; PC business exit/re-entry) have swung the perception meter in our community to ambiguous. As the old saying goes: “Every cloud has its silver lining.” I’ll deliver the good news from all of this in a moment.

On the services side – HP’s best acquisition was EDS in 2008, which instantly made it a player in the services business. Ummm…let’s not go there about Autonomy in 2011 LOL.

This brings us to the fast fact check concerning HP. The break-up mirrors the “bad bank” strategy in the Great Recession, used to clear toxic assets off the balance sheet. The two companies are now HP (printers and PCs) and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (will incorporate HP's current server, storage, networking, software, services, and financing operating segments). The nuts-and-bolts of the friendly divorce are better covered by my friends, The Motley Fool, here).

Not completely sure what the future holds for HP’s SMB strategy as it’ll be part of the “enterprise group” which is a whole different crowd. Also – I’d offer there will be an extended period of caution in the SMB-area, as my friends and yours seek to avoid making mistakes. You have to remember that a corporate career is a different path from that of an entrepreneur. In general, risk taking is not rewarded at the enterprise level.

I also wonder aloud if HP, which hasn’t exhibited an Office 365 strategy, is being disrupted by Office 365. I’d offer the answer is yes. I’ll continue to monitor this angle.

Finally – it’s the children that are hurt most in a divorce. I’ve got some great friends inside HP in the server area and they have been extremely supportive over the years to the SMB community. These are good people working inside a big company that is being disrupted. I get that and I’ll continue to defend my brethren!

BTW – is there really such a thing as a friendly divorce? Or will this get messy? Can co-parenting work at HP?

Next time I delve into the Symantec breakup.

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Phone Unlock Legislation Signed, New Policies for US Cell Consumers

unlockriverI recently came across an article on the Tech Times site, written by Joseph Mayton, on a new piece of legislation signed in by US President Barack Obama, known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which allows consumers to legally unlock their phones and purchase unlocked phones. I had a few questions about this, so I also spoke with an old friend, Steve Hilton, who helped me better understand the changes to getting and using unlocked phones.

Let me put this into perspective: at SMB Nation, we recently needed to unlock a phone for one of our employees. I went through a program called and paid $42.50 for an unlock code. The new legislation, signed in early August, makes this legal in the US. Now, here’s the kicker. Even under this legislation, cell phone companies are neither required to offer unlocked phones, nor are they being forced to unlock any phone without a valid reason.

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RapidFire Tools Releases Inspector Appliance


RapidfireGood morning, SMB Nation Community, and welcome to the autumn season in the northern hemisphere. I just wanted to pass along an interesting bit of news from RapidFire Tools! I was recently able to speak with Michael Mittel, President and CEO, who gave me the rundown on his company’s latest offering: Inspector.

Let’s start with a bit of product background. The RapidFire Tools Inspector Application was released mid-September 2014, and its subscription has been designed to support more sophisticated IT assessments, such as internal vulnerability scans and layer 2-3 discovery. Interestingly, Inspector is an Application-as-a-Service with Software-as-a-Service attached, and is available to MSPs via an annual subscription.

I asked Michael about that particular model, as well as more about the application features:

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