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.

Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

Skype for Business Book from Two O365 Nation Alums!

For those of you looking to start-over with Office 365, there is good news. Two independent Microsoft consultants from opposite ends of the planet came together to write the most comprehensive end user guide on Skype for Business.

Robert Crane and Greg Plum collaborated on the document, which morphed into over 200 pages of screen shots and step-by-step commentary, aimed at the segment of the market who needed it the most… the end user! They have announced the release of Getting Started with Skype for Business Online.

Robert is the principal of CIAOPS, located in Australia. He is a recognized author, speaker, and Office 365 expert. Greg is the principal of PlumUC, a unified communications practice in Newark, DE, with a focus on collaboration services and voice options for Skype for Business.

Robert and Greg first met in 2014 at Harry’s first O365 Nation Conference at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Fast-forward 12 months and add the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business, creating the impetus for this project.

‘We are excited to offer a complete recipe for success for Skype for Business, one of the industry’s hottest communication services,” explains Greg Plum. “Robert is a tenured author, who provided the guidance needed for my freshman writing endeavor.”

Greg and Robert have already enjoyed some early success with book sales. In addition to direct sales, Velis4, a Pennsylvania-based UC company providing PSTN voice-enablement of Office 365 and Skype for Business, gives a hardcopy of Getting Started for Skype for Business Online to every new Skype for Business customer.

Get your own copy of Getting Started with Skype for Business:


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What’s the real value behind Unified Communications?

I’m continually impressed by the good work coming out of Mitel with respect to community conversations. I think everyone agrees there’s no home for speeds and feeds BS content at SMB Nation. Rather – you want unique insights into matters that interest you. You want the community sponsors to be respectful; they want to be top of mind when you are ready to move forward. I think Mitel’s recent outreach to the SMB Nation community meets this high bar.


Mitel has embarked on a journey to act as your guide by the side when it comes to your communications strategy. In particular, Mitel’s new communications landscape white paper that you can (and should) download here (“Making Smart Communications Decisions – an SMB Buyers Guide”) present the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) concept. Essentially ITC refers to the view that technology is an enabler. We used to call it data + voice but Mitel’s ICT concept is about the premise that today’s IP-based phone systems are gateways to this new world focused on applications.

Other topics in the white paper are:

  • Small business IT staff are more and more becoming cloud and applications managers. The assertion is that ICT staff are becoming more strategic and less break-fix.
  • Spending growth for a mobile world. Budgets are facilitating smartphones and applications to deliver a flexible work experience to employees who are becoming more mobile and geographically distributed.
  • Re-imagining work. The new workspace requires a new communications approach. I previously covered this conversation in my late December 2015 blog titled “I Love Work” that you can read here
  • Premium on protection. It goes without saying but you need to say it: security is important!
    Incremental, integrated solutions approach. This not only relates to cloud solutions but OPEX vs CAPEX financing.
  • Reshaping the customer experience. This is my favorite part of the Mitel white paper. There is a strong marketing conversation currently underway that with search, customers are doing much of their own research before ever speaking to a salesperson. So true. I’ve seen another report that nearly 70% of the decision has been made before customers speak to you. Google calls it the zero moment of truth. True that!

So you’ll have the read the rest of the report to get the good stuff. Highly recommended!

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What’s the real value behind Unified Communications?

If you asked 10 IT Directors or Managers for their definition of UC, you’d probably get 10 different answers so let’s simplify it to “An easy way to work together via voice, video, online collaboration and mobile devices”.

That easy way to work together is really what Unified Communications should be about.

In this sense Unified Communications is simply a way to describe what business has always needed – communications and collaboration working in harmony to achieve tangible benefits for the bottom line and for the user experience.

Defining the ‘what’ of UC is good but we also need to ask why businesses need Unified Communications.

“Using Mitel’s suite of UC and collaboration solutions, we can close about 10-15 sales a day at the end of the month, and can get the money into the bank account faster.” Paul Whiting, IT Manager, Revolution Tea

Mitel works with businesses across the world and here are five of the most common reasons these customers cite for choosing UC technologies.

Productivity Enabling better ways for people to get more done together.

Continuity Ensuring the business is always available to do business.

Mobility Supporting a connected workforce demanding 24/7 access from anywhere and using any kind of mobile device.

Integration Leveraging, rather than stranding, existing and potential IT investments.

Future Proofing Being ready for future challenges and developments in technology.

This customer feedback is covered in depth in a guide which explores the most popular reasons for Unified Communications deployments and shares real-life feedback from businesses about the potential value of UC.

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Open Source is Ready for Business

By Pete Engler


The business climate has changed drastically in the last decade. The volatility of current global economic conditions reinforces the need for business owners to save money wherever possible, including making strategic investments in technology solutions for the 

best ROI (return on investment). Adopting an open source software solution is one way to save businesses a great deal of money.


Open source is software that can be freely used, changed and shared, in modified or unmodified form, by anyone. Its approach to the

Digium logo

 design, development and distribution of software offers practical accessibility to a software's source code. If you’re not familiar with open source terminology, “source code,” written by programmers, is what instructs the computer to perform tasks according to the specified goals. If open source solutions are open or “free” for use, as a reseller, you may be wondering why you should ever recommend it to your customers. While open source is technically “free,” resellers can become integrators who offer customization services, integrations and support services to those using an open source solution. Even with businesses sometimes investing in these additional development and support services, open source is often more cost-effective than a proprietary solution (and for specialized projects, proprietary solutions usually do not offer the flexibility of being customized, without a huge expense - if, at all).


Will your customers consider an open source solution if you present it? It’s true that using open source was not as readily embraced in the past. Businesses were hesitant to use it due to the perceived risks with the stability and security of an “open” platform. Today, open source is viewed as a reliable and affordable alternative to proprietary technology solutions, also championed for its flexibility or customization, as mentioned earlier. In PC World’s eighth annual Future of Open Source Survey (2014)68 percent of businesses surveyed stated that open source helped improve efficiency and lower costs. The same PC World survey showed that open source is considered to be an extremely reliable, high-quality and secure software solution, with 80 percent of businesses acknowledging they chose open source because of its quality, even over proprietary alternatives.


The primary reason for the quality and reliability of open source is the community of contributors. The software is quickly and vigorously tested by its many users (including developers who contribute to the project on a regular basis). While these users are testing the software and reporting any bugs found, the sponsor begins to work on bug fixes to ensure the software continues to be stable after the release.


While the degree of availability of the software’s source code is beneficial for creating a reliable solution, the open code has also caused many businesses to scrutinize the security of open source. However, the greatest security risks are often outside the open source project. Hackers generally do not need the source code to breach a system. The primary reason software can be unsecure is the method or programming of security settings by the administrator. Basic passwords, holes in firewalls and many other settings can leave a system vulnerable. The PC World survey found 72 percent of companies believed open source provides stronger security than proprietary software.


The flexibility of open source software is a unique benefit over proprietary solutions. When building a solution using a toolkit, it can be special purposed for an organization from the ground up. No need to hassle with a proprietary solution that has feature gaps. Open source software, because of its toolkit nature, helps to create new products and services when put in the hands of skilled developers. As mentioned above, open source can be extremely cost-effective and self-developed solutions can significantly cut the proprietary solution cost.


A great example of open source software that has changed an industry is Asterisk, sponsored and maintained by Digium. Asterisk is a communications toolkit that allows developers to build solutions from a simple PBX to a complete call center solution. Asterisk, with its source code made available to anyone, is completely open. It helped change the way organizations approached telecommunications. PBX solution costs, for example, have been cut drastically for businesses due to the many different vendors and integrators building solutions with Asterisk. This has opened up the market for businesses to purchase business phone systems and other telecommunications solutions outside of the once typical proprietary options only offered by a handful of large vendors.


If a business is considering open source software solutions or you are an integrator looking to offer it as a solution to your customers, the decision should be easy. Choose an open source company with flexible support options, such as a free community forum and flexible pay-for-support options. There is no reason that developers of solutions cannot find the answer to any configuration or support issue with adequate sponsor resources. Significant progress has been made by open source companies to ensure their software is the highest quality possible, making the decision to use open source software a cost-effective option for SMBs.


Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.

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Jabra expands SPEAK series to simplify collaboration

Jabra announced today availability of Jabra SPEAK 810, a speakerphone solution designed to mitigate traditional difficulties of conference collaboration and eliminate poor sound quality.  Jabra long

"Businesses are becoming more focused on creating working environments and cultures that better enable them to compete,” Holger Reisinger, Head of Business Solutions, Jabra, said. “As a result, office environments are changing and becoming more dynamic, demanding and technology-enabled. New ways of working are adding flexibility to working spaces, practices and hours. Yet productivity must also remain a priority for business success and for this reason so should enabling effective collaboration and concentration.”

Important features include a directional microphone with a 15 foot range; connectivity through USB, Bluetooth and 3.5 mm jack cables; USB charge out for charging mobile devices; and a Kensington lock slot option.

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Why UC is the Secret Tool for Building and Maintaining Your Brand

Brian Ferguson DigiumBy Brian Ferguson, Product Marketing Manager, Digium

Having a well-known and reputable brand is vital to a company’s overall success, today. Companies are increasingly dedicating more dollars to building and maintaining their brand, and it usually comes out of their marketing budget. Larger brands are shelling out millions of dollars to support brand building; but, for SMBs, an Unified Communications (UC) phone system is often an overlooked – and affordable – tool to help not only build their brand, but compete with the big guys.

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The Cloud vs. Premises PBX War: Is Prem Dead?

Brian Ferguson DigiumBy Brian Ferguson, Product Marketing Manager, Digium

By now you obviously are aware that “Cloud” is a buzzword that has made its way into every corner of the tech industry, including telephony. Hosted PBX deployments are all the rage. The perception in the market is that everyone is running to vendors as fast as possible and putting their Unified Communications (UC) phone systems in the cloud. So does that mean that the premises-based PBX model is dead? Assuming the demise of the on-site PBX may be a reach.

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ConnectSolutions Releases Upgrade to Lync-Enabled UC Solution

CoSo logoToday, ConnectSolutions announced an upgraded version of its ConnectSolutions Next UC solution, a program that provides collaboration services such as IM, video, audio and web conferencing via Microsoft Lync. The upgrade now allows users to connect their ConnectSolutiosn Next UC system to the recently-released Microsoft Lync 2013 Multitenant Hosting Pack, which enables the use of richer features.

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snom To Demonstrate PC Pairing Deskphones at Microsoft WPC 2013

snom LogoEarlier this week at Microsoft’s WPC 2013, snom technology AG announced that their UC edition phones will feature updated firmware, which will allow users to access expanded Lync features.

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DoubleHorn Doubles up on Avaya’s Trunking, Platforms for Simplified UC

DoubleHorn Communications said that it is now offering an Avaya-centric Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solution. The offering combines DoubleHorn’s Avaya-compliant managed SIP Trunks with either Avaya Aura Communication Manager 6.2, Avaya Aura Session Manager 6.3 or Avaya IP Office 8.1, and includes the MyDoubleHorn Communications Platform, providing additional control over the UC&C environment. DoubleHorn is a Technology Partner in the Avaya DevConnect program.

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ShoreTel Dock Designed to Transform iPads, iPhones into Desk Phones

ShoreTel earlier this week announced a business-grade docking station that transforms iPhones and iPads into desk phones when paired with ShoreTel Mobility, fusing the convenience of mobile devices with the power of a business communications system.

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Infonetics Research Finds: VoIP and UC Market on the Rise

Infonetics Research yesterday released key findings from their most recent VoIP and UC Services and Subscribers forecast report. This report, which tracks vendors such as AT&T, Comcast, NTT, Shaw Communications and Time Warner Cable, found that the overall VoIP services market saw a 9% increase from 2011 to 2012, which works out to a $63 billion market for both residential and business subscribers.

Additional key findings include:

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ConnectSolutions Expands Presence in SMB Market with Acquisition of NextUC

ConnectSolutions LogoConnectSolutions today announced that they have acquired provider of Microsoft Lync-based UC solutions, NextUC. This acquisition will allow ConnectSolutions to expand their market to include service offerings for the SMB niche.

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snom Releases Devices with Out-of-the-Box Provisioning for Microsoft Lync

snom LogoThis morning, snom technology AG announced a series of updates to their snom UC edition 7xx and 821 business phones. These updates, which include an auto-configuration feature for Microsoft Lync, are designed to help organizations simplify their enterprise deployments.


Additional updates announced this morning include:

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Novus Set to Distribute Sennheiser VoIP Headsets

Novus logoThis morning, Novus, a Connecticut-based telephony distributor, announced entry into a distribution agreement with award-winning recording and transmission device manufacturer, Sennheiser. Today’s announcement will pull a wide variety of Sennheiser’s wired and wireless devices into the Novus Endpoint Affiliate Program.

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Polycom Enters Into Partnership with Cloud Enabler, Meetrix Communications

polycom logoThis morning, Polycom, Inc. announced a partnership with cloud enabler and integrator, Meetrix Communications, Inc., to offer a social video collaboration solution via the cloud. Polycom is currently demonstrating this new offering at the IBM Connect 2013 event in Orlando, FL.

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8x8 Brings Biz Class Cloud-Based UC to Canadian-Based SMBs

8x8, Inc. today launched its suite of cloud-based business communications services across Canada. The launch is the first in a series of expansions outside of the U.S. where 8x8 has been ranked as a market leader in cloud-based IP telephony and unified communications by industry research firms including Gartner, Frost & Sullivan and Infonetics.

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