Friday, October 31, 2014

A Tribute to Harry Brelsford and SMB Nation

Happy Anniversay to SMB Nation - 15 years old today.

Over at the SMB Nation Blog, Harry's celebrating fifteen years.

As I've said many times, I believe Harry is the true founder of the SMB IT community. Fifteen years ago he wandered all over the U.S. meeting with people who had read his books and wanted to talk about their business - and about the newest version of Small Business Server. Many of the SBS User Groups grew out of Harry's efforts.

Harry's work with Microsoft on many projects brought them into the conversation at a much higher level than ever before. People at Microsoft grew to know more and more people in the SMB community. And more of us grew to know people within Microsoft.

As for other vendors, Harry's SMB Nation conferences have introduced thousands of small I.T. providers to a wide variety of vendors for the last twelve years.

Since SMB Nation's first conference, many other organizations are now holding annual events. On one hand this is a little sad because the community has been divided up into pieces. On the other hand, this is a sign of a strong and growing community, with many specialized interests.

I was grateful to see a large increase in attendance at the most recent SMB Nation Fall conference - due in large part to the focus on Office 365 and hybrid cloud. And Harry's 12th Fall event coincided with our own 10th annual pre-day event.

And of course I will be eternally grateful to Harry for helping me to promote my first book, and for involving me in many projects and speaking engagements over the years.

In the last few years I got the opportunity to work with Jennifer Hallmark and "Team Jenny" at SMB Nation events. Harry really has put together an amazing organization.

Congratulations to SMB Nation. I look forward to the next fifteen years!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Forget About Replacing SBS - Move to the Next Generation Instead

I've been addressing the demise of SBS (Small Business Server) for about six years now. In 2008, my brother Manuel and I put on a major training event on the topic of "Zero Downtime Migration" of SBS. Immediately after that, we started retooling our business for a world without SBS.

I was pleased when SBS 2011 came out. I was grateful that we had one more shot at the market. My brother and I came out with a revision of our Network Migration Workbook. And immediately, Microsoft nuked the product and lured the world over to Server 2012 Essentials.

During my SMB Preday shows for 2009-2913, I spent a LOT of time on alternatives SBS. Let me be very clear about that: Alternatives to . . . Not replacements for SBS.

Think about it this way: If you start by saying that you want to replace SBS, you will look for a solution that looks like SBS. That has some obvious coolness.

- One server with
- Exchange onsite
- File Storage onsite
- SQL onsite
- SharePoint onsite
- Active Directory onsite
- Backup onsite
- Centralized control of remote acess
- Embedded monitoring and reporting

Now. Please come to a full stop.

If you were to create the ultimate small business technology environment today, what would it look like? For me, it's no longer SBS.

It's more like . . .

- A small server onsite
- Exchange hosted in the cloud
- Local file storage
- Backed up to the cloud
- SQL either onsite or in the cloud, depending on which is most appropriate
- SharePoint either onsite or in the cloud, depending on which is most appropriate
- Active Directory onsite
- Remote access managed locally or in the cloud, as appropriate
- Monitoring and Reporting via top-quality Remote Monitoring and Management tool

The bottom line is that you need to right-size your solution. You need to put the email where it belongs. And the storage where it belongs. And the SQL where it belongs. And so forth.

Introducing the Zynstra Cloud Appliance

For several months I've been working with a British company called Zynstra with regard to their partner advisory panel. Zynstra has developed a great substitute for SBS. Not a replacement. A 21st Century substitute.

On Thursday (October 30), Harry Brelsford from SMB Nation presents the third webinar in his series on replacing SBS. His guest will be Rhett Ryder from Zynstra and Daniel Langton from TelcoMSP.

Join this webinar to find out about . . .
- Migrating customers from SBS/WS2003 to on-premises Hybrid Cloud IT as a service
- Using Office365 discussions to migrate to a Hybrid Cloud IT solution
- Meeting this challenge and much more with the Zynstra solution
- The TelcoMSP advantages and increasing your enterprise value

Zynstra's Cloud Appliance was the absolute hit of SMB Nation. Find out why. Sign up at

This is my favorite new solution to sell where we used to sell SBS. Check it out Thursday.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The ASCII Group Awards Datto the Coveted ASCII Cup 2014

Got a note over the transom from my friends at ASCII . . .

Congratulations to Datto, GFI Max, and all the winners!!!

- - - - -

Bethesda, Maryland - October 24, 2014 -- The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent MSPs, VARs and Solution Providers, is pleased to announce the winners for its annual ASCII Cup, where awards are given for the ASCII Cup winner, Top Contenders and Esteemed Noble Partners.  The awards are presented each fall to technology companies that have showcased channel goodwill and a commitment to helping ASCII members grow their businesses more efficiently.  Winners are voted upon by ASCII members at regional events, and the Cup and awards were presented at the ASCII Success Summit on October 23, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The humble beginnings of the ASCII Cup are unknown; some say it was discovered after packing up the last box of the final Comdex show, while others think it was discovered in the secret tunnels under a certain campus in Redmond.  Some even believe it has been handed down by the Knights Templar.  Regardless of its origins, the ASCII Cup has power.  As the legend goes, for those who are bestowed to guard it, they will prosper from its keeping.  For those who drink from it, they will flourish from its power.

ASCII Success Summit attendees vote for the vendors in 11 different categories: Best Software Solution; Best Hardware Solution; Best New Product; Best Cloud Solution; Best Revenue Generator; Best Channel Incentive; Best Channel Program; Best Partner Commitment; Best Customer Support; Best Distribution Sales Support; and Best in Show. The winners at each show are selected based on the votes by the solution providers; at the end of the year the winner of the ASCII Cup is determined from the results of all the shows.  The 2014 winners of The ASCII Cup, Top Contenders and Esteemed Noble Partners were announced at a private industry gathering at Dusk Night Club.

The ASCII Group is pleased to honor the recipients of this year's ASCII Cup, for they exemplify the principles on which the Cup was established.

The 2014 ASCII Cup Vendor of the Year is Datto.

Knighted as the Top Four Contenders for The ASCII Cup are GFI MAX, HP, Lenovo and LogMeIn.

Knighted as The Distributor of the Year was D & H for getting the most votes throughout the year in this category.

Recognized as Esteemed Noble Partners are AVG, HIPAA Secure Now, JetStream Networks, RapidFire Tools, and StorageCraft.

"The ASCII Group and its community wholeheartedly congratulate Datto as this year's ASCII Cup recipient.  We would also like to recognize the Top Contenders, Esteemed Noble Partners, and all of the companies featured at our Success Summits, for remaining committed to delivering value and significance to the channel," said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group, Inc.

Photos and video of the celebration will be made available on The ASCII Group and The ASCII Cup Facebook pages.

For more information, please visit
GFI Max team honored by Best Revenue Generator

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers.  Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction.  ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities.  You can learn more at or by calling 800-394-2724.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bering McKinley Holds Service Manager’s and Dispatcher’s Workshop - Chicago

My good friend Josh Peterson is holding a great two-day workshop. Josh is a great coach and a great instructor in the Managed Services community.
You're guaranteed to get your money's worth from this program.
From the web site of Bering McKinley (
- - - - -

Service Manager’s and Dispatcher’s Workshop
 December 4 & 5, 2014     Chicago, IL
We are offering our very popular Service Fundamentals Workshop in Chicago on December 4th and 5th here in Chicago. We cover:
1. Measuring department performance. 10 KEY METRICS to ensure you are delivering excellent AND profitable service
2. Centralized Dispatch. What it is, how to do it AND how to roll it out without losing your entire service team.
3. Time entry – You will learn how to stop fighting this battle TODAY. No more fighting. The struggle is over. Your staff will enter time as they go and you will capture your true costs and more invoicable hours
4. How to hire, retain, measure, and replace staff. You’ll be an HR expert by the time we are done with you.
5. How to deliver a Signature Experience that your clients will love
Who should attend?
Owners who need formal training on delivering service
Dispatchers on their way to being Service Managers
Service Managers who have never received any real training
Experienced Managers new to the industry
How much?
$950 (special discounts for current Bering McKinley Peer Group Members and for members of competitive Peer Groups) – This includes a work book for future reference and a library of sample documents including sample contracts, job descriptions, and scope of work samples.
As an owner, you can’t be all things to all people, hard as you may try. Utilize the experience and expertise of Bering McKinley to train your staff. 1000’s of your peers have trusted Josh Peterson to train their staff. You’ll be in great hands.
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Price of Admission: Knowledge

I had a very interesting interchange on LinkedIn the other day.

I wanted to gain access to a closed group. I am not "really" part of the group. They are my perfect audience (which is why I wanted access). But I am not one of the target members.

When I requested permission to join, I received an interesting proposal: 1) I need to write a 500 word post of interest to the group; 2) I need to engage members in a discussion of the topic.

In other words, I need to participate and be part of the community. No one wants a spammer to jump in, promote their stuff, and then disappear. This is the long-standing ethic of communities online.

It is a good thing for me that my entire history among online communities has been a history of participation. I remember the early days of the Yahoo Groups that were at the core of the SMB community ten years ago.

Those groups are still going strong, such as . . .

SMB IT Support for the 21st Century
(formerly SBS2K)

Managed & Cloud Services for SMB IT

Small Biz IT

So it's easy for me to commit to participating in this group. After all, it's the industry I love and the community I love. I'm just amazed at how many hundreds of groups are out there having their private conversations.

My most recent books - The Managed Services Operations Manuel and Project Management in Small Business - represent the results of my conversations over the years. Why? Because it's the never-ending conversations in all of these online communities that help me to see what I.T. professionals need the most.

My books are not the definitive truth about how to run a Managed Service business. They simply represent my opinions and my experiences. I am now working on my second Managed Service business. In addition, I have worked closely with a dozen or so businesses owned by my coaching clients.

But the really big picture comes from interacting with thousands of business owners every year. YOU and others who want to work really hard on your business are the people who help me figure out what people need next.

Participating in the community is good for your business. Sometimes you're the one asking the question, so you get immediate rewards. But you ALSO get great information when you participate in helping others. The discussion - the exchange of ideas and opinions - will open up your mind to new ways of doing everything! And even if you don't change your business right away, learning how other people run their businesses will help you in the long run.

Yes I'll participate!

I encourage you to do the same.


Friday, October 17, 2014

The 10th SMB TechFest Event is Here!

From my good friend Dave Seibert . . .

I've been to the SMB TechFest. I've spoken there. It's an AWESOME event with great attendees, great speakers, and great vendors.

If I wasn't in Australia at that time, I would go to this event.

Check it out. Amazing deal at only $99.

- - - - -

The 10th SMB TechFest Event is Here!

Learn with the best with hours of expert Technical and Marketing training

Friday and Saturday
November 21-22th, 2014

A week before Thanksgiving!

Sign-up now
Includes IT Mixer and After Party with free Beer, Wine and Food 
Don't miss this great jam packed event.

A $2195 Value

Option 1 just $99
Includes Sessions, IT Mixer, and After Party

Option 2 is Free
Attend just the IT Mixer and After Party

This event sells out so sign up now!

Here are the event highlights:

Incredible content
- Track 1 -Technology
- Track 2 - Business/Marketing
- You will receive both tracks content/recordings
- You may also mix/match your track sessions

Also Included:  
- Breakfast and Lunch
- Parking for 2 days
- Food, drinks, beer, wine, etc.
- Peer-to-peer networking time  
- High speed wireless Internet available throughout the day
Sign Up Now for just $99 
or attend the IT Mixer and After Party totally Free

See you at the Event!

Dave Seibert
SMB TechFest
Tel: 949-266-1650
Email dseibert at

A few selected sponsors . . .


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Browser Wars: How Do Prospects See Your Web Site?

If you haven't checked out the blog on SitePoint, it's worth a look. Here's their October browser update report:

This is based on the excellent stats you can see in real time at StatCounter -

Every month someone tells us that the entire world will soon be mobile. For example, this story from earlier this week: "There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world."

Like you, I sit at my desk, with my real keyboard an real big monitor, and read this news. And maybe like you, I wonder whether this applies to me. The global trends will affect us all eventually, of course. But what about MY real world today? How mobile are MY clients, viewing MY web sites?

Let's look at the global stats first. Here's the division of browser usage globally on desktops:

And here's what it looks like when we include mobile browsers. The lines from above about the same, but they now represent a smaller share of the overall pie.

One of the great confusions about "advice" for businesses is the difference between B2C and B2B. Business-to-Consumer includes all those mobile device. Business-to-Business includes a lot fewer mobile devices. BUT when the business owners go to lunch, or stand in line at the DMV, they pull out their iPhones and start cruising the Internet.

It's still not clear that that affects you. After all, are they watching cat videos or shopping for a new service provider? I'm a firm believer that any business looking to do business with another business is probably using a desktop computer. We consume products on mobile devices. We watch cat videos on mobile devices. But we do serious research on our desktops when we need to make an important business decision.

My Own Logs

I manage several dozen web sites for my own businesses. Most of them (like most small businesses) are very low volume. In the small business space, "high" volume is probably anything over 1,000 hits a day. By that standard, I have three high volume sites.

Without getting into the details of Chrome vs. IE vs. Firefox, I lumped together all the desktop browsers with at least 1% of the total and all of the mobile and tablet browsers with at least 1% of the total for my own sites.

The pattern I see for my sites seems to be divided between content-focused larger sites and product-specific smaller sites. The Small Biz Thoughts blog, SMB Books store, and the Great Little Book sites are viewed by desktop browsers about 80-90% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 6-10% of the time.

Note that these are also the three "high" volume sites.

Product-specific sites with few pages (Managed Services Operations Manual, Great Little Seminar, and Managed Services in a Month) are pretty consistently viewed by desktop browsers about 60-66% of the time and by mobile/tablet browsers about 25-30% of the time. That's a significant difference.

Relax Focus Succeed is basically in the middle. You might say it's product-specific since it does promote one book. But there are lots of articles there discussing a variety of topics. So with a split of 62% to 34% it's much closer to the product-specific sites than the other content-focused sites.

What Does It Mean -- If Anything?

For me, the big message is that my audience might do some quick reading about a specific offering on their mobile or tablet device. But when it's time to dig in and spend time on a site, folks do that from the desktop. The length-of-visit statistics bear this out. Excluding bounces (5 seconds or less) and forgotten visits (60 minutes or longer), the average length of visit for the product-specific sites is seven or eight minutes. With the larger content sites and the book store, the visit lengths are in the range of 10-24 minutes.

What I don't track is whether people showed up on a phone and then came back to "stay" from their desktop. I'd like to think that's true.

As for YOUR site, you need to do some investigating. If you're not tracking your logs, I recommend you start. If you want a free tool that's easier to use that Google Analytics, I recommend Yes you have to pay some money when you have larger log files. But it's easy to get truly usable statistics.

There will always be mobile users and there will always be desktop users. More and more, you can expect clients and prospects to use mobile as well as desktop. So the next question is, what should you DO about it?

Luckily, I think the answer is pretty easy. You should make sure your site looks good with "flexible content" browsing. Don't just set the width to 900 and assume it will look good on any device. Sometimes a tiny little version of your web page is impossible to use. With a flexible content template, menus are converted to be usable on a very small screen.

I think is a great example. In fact, I've been told that it looks better on the phone than on the desktop! If you're not sure what is meant by flexible content, check out the menus on SMB Books.

The bottom line is that your prospect might give your site a 20 second tour on their mobile device. If you "pass" that test, they may come back on a desktop browser. If you don't pass the test, they'll be gone for good. That's not fair, but that's the way the world works sometimes.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Woman UP! - Recommended Reading for Microsoft's Female Employees

Timing is everything. Yesterday Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recommended that women in tech let Karma be responsible for their raises. Of course Karma is dealing with him today.

In the meantime, I got some great seasonal advice from career guru Aimee Cohen, author of the new book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success. So I thought I'd pass along the following Tips to Transform Your Negotiating Skills article.

These tips are written from Aimee's experience as a successful career coach and shared in her book. This is recommended reading for my female friends at Microsoft (and the entire industry, unfortunately). Available at Amazon here:

Thanks to Aimee for permission to print this article:

Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success

Instead of a Trick, Treat Yourself to a Powerful Negotiation

By Aimee Cohen
Halloween is a holiday that prides itself on promoting a battle between trick or treat; good or evil. People either gravitate towards the darker side of haunted houses and vampire costumes, or the lighter side of pumpkin patch parties and dressing up as angels and fairy princesses.

Even the idea of parading around a neighborhood as a zombie or a doctor ringing multiple doorbells is filled with mystery and uncertainty. Will you get a "trick-or-treat"? And the rules are such that you're not allowed to ask for what you want. You either get a mega-Twix bar, a bag of peanuts, or some new number-two pencils, and then the swapping and negotiating begins once you get home and evaluate your loot.

The same is true when women try to negotiate for a raise or promotion. They never know if they're going to get a "trick-or-a-treat", and they don't feel empowered or prepared enough to ask for exactly what they want or what they rightfully deserve. It's often not until they get home (or back to their desk), and they've had a chance to evaluate their "loot", that they realize they've received a "trick-not-a-treat".

The other challenge women face is that they walk into the negotiation as one extreme or the other. They show up with either the vampire or fairy princess costume and attitude, and struggle to live up to that "too nice or too mean" persona if it's not authentic.

Part of the problem is that women are never taught how to effectively negotiate, and don't do it very often. They fear walking into a negotiation and assertively standing their ground, because they don't want to be perceived as the "B-word". Women are also notorious for committing the "Disastrous Triple-D" where they routinely, and often subconsciously, downplay, dismiss, and diminish their accomplishments. It's very difficult to negotiate for more money if you describe what you've done as "no big deal", or "anyone could have done that".

The following "12 Tips to Transform Your Negotiating Skills" will take the mystery out of negotiating and will keep the "trick-or-treating" to Halloween. These tips are written from my experience as a successful career coach and shared in my book, Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success:

1. Be Yourself - don't be an angel in the office, and then all of the sudden show up as a devil in the negotiating room. Nothing is more off-putting or confusing to a boss or hiring manager than having your alter-ego do the negotiating for you.

2. Get a Goal - know what you're trying to achieve before the negotiation even begins.

3. Know Your Bottom Line - figure out ahead of time how low you'll go and when you'll walk away from that new job or opportunity.

4. Be Realistic - do your homework and set realistic expectations. If you know the position only pays $100K, then asking for $250K is probably not going to happen.

5. Script It Out - everyone gets flustered and nervous in stressful situations, so scripting out what you want to say beforehand, and practicing saying those words can mean the difference between a trick or a treat.

6. Anticipate Objections - proactively think about any and all reasons why the other person would say "no", and plan out your responses accordingly.

7. Bring Alternatives - come prepared with your first choice, your ideal outcome, but also bring alternatives to keep the conversation going until you reach a successful compromise.

8. Avoid Emotion - Tom Hanks said, "There's no crying baseball", and there is also no crying in negotiations. Keep your emotions in check and save the tears or squeals of joy for the bathroom afterwards. This is when you need a poker face.

9. Practice Makes Perfect - don't expect to be a negotiating guru if you only do it once every few years. It takes practice. Go to a garage sale and practice negotiating for junk before you try to negotiate for something more meaningful.

10. Seek Support - it takes a village to raise a child, and it can also take a village of support and encouragement to raise an assertive woman. Rallying support of your efforts is an effective way to create accountability. There's no backing out and no retreat.

11. Think of a Third Person - women can find negotiating for themselves painful and difficult, but thinking of who else would benefit from a successful outcome is often the motivation they need to get the job done.

12. Celebrate Success - instead of thinking of negotiating as an all or nothing proposition, find a way to celebrate what you did gain.

The reality is that women don't like to ask, and would rather have root canal surgery without anesthesia than negotiate a higher starting salary, a bigger raise, or a more advanced promotion.  Not negotiating is not an option, and it will ultimately end up killing their careers. It's time to pull on those "big-girl panties" and learn how to negotiate with power and confidence.  Woman UP! and find a way to get that "treat" and not a "trick" when it comes to negotiating.

About the Author

Aimee Cohen is a career expert, veteran speaker, and author of Woman UP! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success.  She is owner of Cohen Career Consulting where, for more than 20 years, she has a nearly 100% success rate empowering women to achieve career success.  Aimee provides strategic step-by-step action plans to clients during personalized one-on-one consultations.  She leads outplacement transition seminars for Fortune 500 companies and is a contributing writer for the Denver Business Journal. She facilitates the LINK to Leadership program for The Leadership Investment, has appeared as a career expert on television and radio shows, and in print media such as Glamour magazine, the Denver Post, and Denver Woman magazine, and she was a past nominee for Outstanding Women in Business Award from the Denver Business Journal.
Aimee lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband of 22 years. She has two teenage children. Her son is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and her daughter is in high school.

Woman UP! is available at as well as other online booksellers.  

To learn more visit her on: 
Twitter: @WomanUpPower